Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Ten



Mishnah ten deals with those who incite individuals or whole towns to commit idolatry.


Mishnah Ten

1)                     One who incites [individuals to idolatry] — this refers to an ordinary
person who incites an individual who said, “There is an idol in such and such a place; it eats thus, it drinks thus, it does good [to those who worship it] and harm [to those who do not].”

2)                     For all who are liable for the death penalty according to the Torah no witnesses are hidden to entrap them, excepting for this one.

a)                                           If he said [these things] to two, they themselves are witnesses against him, and he is brought to court and stoned.

b)                                          But if he said [these things] to one, he should reply, “I have friends who wish to do so likewise [come and propose it to them too].”

c)                                           But if he was cunning and declined to speak before them, witnesses are hidden behind a partition, while he [who was incited] says to him, make your proposal to me now in private.

i)                                                       When the inciter says to him (repeats to him what he had already said), the other replies, “How can we abandon our God in heaven to go and serve wood and stones?”

ii)                                                      Should he retract, it is well.

iii)                                                     But if he answers, “It is our duty [to worship idols], and is seemly for us”, then the witnesses stationed behind the partition take him to court, and have him stoned.

3)                     He who incites [individuals to idolatry is one who] is one who says, “I will worship it”, or, “I will go and worship”, or, “let us go and worship”; or, “I will sacrifice [to it]”, “I will go and sacrifice”, “let us go and sacrifice”; “I will burn incense, “I will go and burn incense”; “let us go and burn incense”; or “I will make libations to it”, “I will go and make libations to it”, “let us go and make libations”; “I will prostrate myself before it”, “I will go and prostrate myself”, “let us go and prostrate ourselves”.

4)                     One who seduces [a whole town to idolatry] is one who says, “Let us go and serve idols”.



Section one:  Deuteronomy 13:7-11 discusses an Israelite who attempts to incite his fellow Israelite to worship idols.  According to our mishnah this is a regular individual (as opposed to a prophet) who attempts to incite another individual (as opposed to the entire town) to commit idolatry, by telling the other person about an idol that he intends to worship.

Section two:  Jewish law requires that all crimes, and certainly capital crimes, be witnessed by two people.  However, due to the subversive nature of idol worship, the Rabbis allowed entrapping of one who was trying to incite others to worship idols.  Such a form of entrapment was forbidden in all other cases.  The reason that this was allowed in this case was to prevent one from inciting many individuals privately, thereby circumventing any possible punishment by the court.  The mishnah now explains how this works.
If he had incited two people directly, the two of them may bring him to court and he can be tried based on their testimony.  If he incited one person, that person should first attempt to get the inciter to say the same thing to other people, and if he does they may bring him to court and testify against him.  Should the inciter be clever and not repeat the same words in front of more than one person, the person who has already heard what the inciter said may hide witnesses behind a partition and encourage the inciter to repeat his words.  Interestingly, the person who is being incited should even at this late stage try to get the inciter to recant.  Jewish law is more interested in having the person recant and return to being part of the Jewish people than having him stoned.  If he does not, however, recant, these witnesses may testify against him in a court of law, and if found guilty he will be stoned.

Section three:  This section lists all of the possible statements that are considered incitement.  Basically it doesn’t matter if he states that he is going to do the idol worship or suggests that other do it with him, nor does it matter what type of worship it may be worshipping, sacrificing, bringing incense, making libations or bowing down, in any case he is considered an inciter and is liable for the death penalty of stoning.  Note the similarity between this list and the list of forbidden types of worship in mishnah six.

Section four: In Deuteronomy 13:13-19 a different type of inciter is discussed, one who incites an entire city to worship idols.  The mishnah states that to be this type of inciter one must suggest in public that they all go and worship idols.  If he had used singular language than his incitement does not fall into this category.  We will discuss this case more when we learn chapter ten.