Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six



Midrash six concludes the exegesis on the verses discussing the city seduced into idol worship.


Mishnah Six

1)                     “And you shall gather all its spoil into the public square” (Deut. 13:17):  if it had no public square, one is made for it; if the public square was outside of [the city], it is brought within it.

2)                     “And you shall burn with fire the city, and all its spoil as a whole burnt offering for the Lord your God” (ibid.):  “And all its spoil”, but not the spoil of heaven. From here they said, the holy objects in the city must be redeemed and the heave offerings (terumoth) allowed to rot; and the second tithe and the sacred writings hidden.  

3)                     “A whole burnt offering for the Lord your God”:   Rabbi Shimon said:  “The holy Blessed One declared, ‘If you execute judgment upon the seduced city, I will ascribe merit to you as though you had sacrificed to me a whole offering.’”

4)                     “And it shall remain an everlasting ruin, never to be rebuilt”: it may not be made even into gardens and orchards, according to the words of Rabbi Yose the Galilean.

a)                                           Rabbi Akiva says: “Never to be rebuilt”: it may not be built as it was, but it may be made into gardens and orchards.

5)                     “Let nothing that has been doomed stick to your hand, in order that the Lord may turn His blazing anger and show you compassion” (Deut. 13:18):  as long as the wicked exist in the world, there is blazing anger in the world; when the wicked perish from the world, blazing anger disappears from the world.



Section one:  The Torah states that the spoil must be brought into the public square.  If the city did not have a public square, or the public square existed outside of the city limits, the court must build one before the sentence is carried out.

Section two:  The spoil that is to be burned is property that belongs to people and not property that has in some way been sanctified.  Therefore, things that were dedicated to the Temple are redeemed with money and the money is brought to the Temple.  After having been redeemed the object is no longer holy and may be burned.  The terumoth may not be burned while they are edible and therefore must be allowed to spoil.  The second tithe and holy books may never be burned.  In order to prevent people from using them they are hidden. 

Section three:  The verse states that the spoil must be entirely burned.  Rabbi Shimon compares this burning with the sacrificial burning of whole burnt offerings (olah).  Although the burning of the spoil of a seduced city is not literally a sacrificial offering, since it is not offered on the altar, and most of the things being burned will not be fit to be offered on the altar, nevertheless Rabbi Shimon states that God will reward those who burn the spoil the same as He rewards those who offer sacrifices.

Section four:  Rabbi Yose the Galilean and Rabbi Akiva disagree with regards to the interpretation of the words, “never to be rebuilt”.  According to the former nothing may ever be again built on that site.  Rabbi Akiva understands the verse in a more minimalist fashion.  The city may not be rebuilt exactly as it was; however, gardens and orchards may be built in its place.

Section five:  The mishnah finishes with an exhortation stating that until these laws are fulfilled, God’s anger cannot be fully assuaged.  According to the Talmud, the “wicked” refer to those who take from the spoil of the seduced city.  For an illustration of how serious a crime taking from illegal spoil was considered to be read Joshua, chapter seven.  There Achan takes from the spoil, and as a punishment God causes Israel to lose an important battle.  It is not until Achan is executed that God’s anger is assuaged (see verse 26).


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      Why was taking from illegal spoil considered to be such a serious crime?  Can you think of other Biblical stories that illustrate this point?