The book of Deuteronomy follows Numbers, and opens with the Israelites camped on the east side of the Jordan. Moses "spoke to all Israel in the desert" and for the first three chapters, he reviews with them the events which have followed the Exodus, as they have wandered the desert. In chapter one, he talks about the command to leave Horeb (Num 10), the appointment of leaders among the Israelites to help Moses (Num 11), the spying excursion into Canaan (Num 13) and the rebellion when the people would not go into the promised land (Num 14). Chapter two talks of how they wandered in the desert for thirty-eight years while "that entire generation of fighting men [who rebelled and refused to take the promised land] had perished from the camp," and how they defeated Sihon, the King of Heshbon (Num 21). Chapter three covers the defeat of Og, King of Bashan (Num 21), the division of the land on the east side of the Jordan (Num 32), and of Moses being forbidden to cross the Jordan (Num 20, 27).
Chapter four begins a restatement of the law, starting with admonitions to be obedient to the law of the Lord as he has given it to them. "Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb...He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow." Idolatry is forbidden, and if the Israelites "become corrupt and make any kind of idol...you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess." The Lord is God - "acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other." After setting aside three sanctuary cities east of the Jordan, Moses reiterated the "stipulations, decrees and laws Moses gave them when they came out of Egypt."
Thoughts, questions, issues
Deuteronomy five continues the summary and review of the law that Moses is giving the Israelites who will take the promised land. It starts with the ten commandments, as previously set forth in Exodus 20, which were then written on stone tablets and given to Moses. He tells them that they "heard the voice out of the darkness" and responded that they would "listen and obey." So they must "walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." These reminders are followed, in chapter six, with repeated exhortations to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." And they were to teach their children about God bringing them out of Egypt, and if they were "careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."
In chapter seven, Moses tells them that when they take the promised land, and drive out (with God's help) the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, they must utterly destroy those nations, their altars and idols and every remnant of their civilization. "Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you." He emphasizes the importance of the "commands, decrees and laws I give you today," and stresses that God will bless them if they do that, and punish them if they do not.
Thoughts, questions, issues
Deuteronomy eight is an exhortation from Moses for the Israelites to remember the Lord, to "remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you...as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you." And remembering the Lord means observing his commands, "walking in his ways and revering him." He extols the virtues of the land that has been promised them, and tells them to praise the Lord "when you have eaten and are satisfied," to be careful not to forget. Because "if you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods...you will surely be destroyed."
In chapter nine, Moses warns the Israelites not to attribute God's promises to them to their own righteousness. They are going to drive out the larger nations currently holding Canaan with God's help because of the wickedness of those nations, not the righteousness of the Israelites. He reminds them of the Golden Calf at Mount Horeb, and how "you also made the LORD angry at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah," and how, when the Lord sent them out from Kadesh Barnea to take the land, they had rebelled and angered him again. He told them how he has stood between them and the Lord's wrath on many occasions and reminded God that the Israelites are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm."
In chapter ten, he tells them that he chiselled out two tables, like the first ones which he had destroyed, and the LORD wrote on them. And how they made the ark and the tablets with the Ten Commandments lay within. He reminded them how the LORD had set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark and to minister and pronounce blessings in his name. And again, he reminds them to fear the Lord, "to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good." He reminds them that Israel went into Egypt as seventy men "and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky."
Thoughts, questions, issues
You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.There are a lot of people, myself as much as anyone else, who need to remember that.
Deuteronomy chapter 11 contains an extended exhortation to love and obey the lord and "keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always." Moses reminds the Israelites that they need to remember that "your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt." He warns them to be careful "or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD's anger will burn against you."
In chapter 12, Moses reiterates the command to completely destroy the nations that they will be driving out of the land, all of their altars and idles and "wipe out their names from those places." The Israelites must not be seduced into the worship practices of those nations. And once they have taken possession of the promised land, "the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name" and all sacrificed must be brought there. "Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose." If the place is too far distant, the sacrifice can be converted to money and then exchanged at the place for the appropriate sacrifice, but they must not worship as the other nations do.
In chapter 13, he emphasizes yet again the importance of not worshipping other Gods. For example, if a prophet should announce a miraculous sign which takes place and then urges them to follow other Gods, "you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul."
Thoughts, questions, issues
I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods
Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.Presumably, the LORD ended up telling them to do it in Jerusalem, they built the temple, and that's where the sacrifices were done. And then the Romans destroyed the temple, and now the place where they needed to do the sacrifices isn't there anymore. The interesting question now is, if they were to rebuild the temple, would the ritual sacrifices re-commence?
Chapter 14 of Deuteronomy includes a repeat of the dietary laws from Leviticus chapter 11, which explain that the Israelites "may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud." It also tells them not to "cook a young goat in its mother's milk." Moses also tells them to "set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year" as a tithe for the LORD. He tells them, if the place set aside for the making of offerings is too far away, to convert the offerings to silver and carry that, then convert it again at the other end of the journey. And they are told to bring all of the tithe's and "store it in your towns" every three years, to provide for the Levites "(who have no allotment or inheritance of their own)" and also for the "aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns."
In chapter fifteen, there is a reminder of the obligation to "cancel debts" among fellow Israelites every seven years (Lv 25), as well as admonitions not to abuse that. They are told that a Hebrew who "sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free." And they are reminded to set apart for the LORD "every firstborn male of your herds and flocks."
Deuteronomy 16 reminds the Israelites of the instructions to celebrate the Passover, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles, as they were told in Leviticus 23. They are also told to appoint judges "for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you," and warned, again, not to worship other Gods.
Thoughts, questions, issues
"It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.' " (Mt 21:13) And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: " 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations' ? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " (Mk 11:17) "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be a house of prayer' ; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " (Lk 19:46)Many of use, first encountering Jesus' anger in the temple, assume that there's no reason for the "moneychangers" and "those selling doves" to be there in the first place, and therefore, Jesus' anger is prima facie justified. After reading Deuteronomy 14, however, the story makes more sense culturally, but the anger is harder to explain. There must be something behavioral going on beyond the mere fact of the existence and presence of money changers and dove sellers in the temple. That presence is, if not demanded, at least explained and justified in Deuteronomy 14:24-26.
If that place [that the LORD orders for the sacrifices] is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish...So those merchants are necessary for Jews traveling too far to bring their sacrifices. Their mere presence should not cause the kind of reaction that Jesus had - there is more going on than that.
Deuteronomy 17 begins with a reminder that the offerings to the LORD must be without "any defect or flaw," and continues with instructions to stone to death "a man or woman living among you...found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD you God in violation of his covenant," specifically with regard to worshipping other Gods. The punishment is only to be imposed, however, on testimony of more than one witness - "no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness." Moses then discusses the judging of difficult cases, telling the people that if cases come to court which are "too difficult for you to judge," take them to the priests and they will give you the verdict.
He tells them that when they have taken possession of the promised land and say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," to be certain that the chosen king is the one that God chooses. He must be "from among your brothers." And then he says that the king must not "acquire great numbers of horses for himself...take many wives...[or] accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." The king must "write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law...He is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God."
In chapter 18, Moses reminds the Israelites that the Levites "are to have no allotment or inheritance with Israel," and that they "shall live on the offerings made to the LORD by fire, for that is their inheritance." He emphasizes, again, that they are not to "imitate the detestable ways of the nations" whom they are driving out of the promised land. He tells them that though the Canaanite nations "listen to those who practice sorcery or divination" but that the Israelites are not to do so. But the Lord "will raise up for a prophet like me from among your own brothers" and they must listen to him. But a prophet who would speak in God's name without God's word "must be put to death." They would know the truth or falsehood because "if what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken."
Deuteronomy 19 talks about the sanctuary cities, the "cities of refuge," which were first described in Numbers 35. Three of them are on the east side of the Jordan and there are to be three more in the promised land. They exist to offer a place of refuge for one who accidentally, "without malice aforethought," kills his neigbor. If Israel obeys the Lord and prospers, such that their territory is enlarged, they are to add three more. "Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land." And he tells them again that "one witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed." And if someone perjures himself in order to injure another, the man guilty of perjury should be punished the same way that he tried to have the other man punished. They are told to "show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."
Thoughts, questions, issues
Deuteronomy 20 contains instructions from Moses to the Israelites on behavior when going to war. He urges them not to be afraid, even against "an army greater than yours" because God "will be with you." He outlines some of the things for the officers to say to get the right troops in the right attitude and then tells them that when they go to attack a city, they should first make an offer of peace. If the inhabitants accept, then they will be subject to the will of the Israelites. If they refuse, kill all the men and take the women and children, and goods, as plunder. This only applies to distant cities however, as the cities in the nations that God is giving the Israelites, those of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, are to be utterly destroyed - "do not leave alive anything that breathes."
Deuteronomy 21 and 22 have several different shorter sections of law. First, there are instructions for dealing with a slain man outside of a city "if it is not known who killed him." The elders of the town closest to the body must make a sacrifice and declare, "our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done" in atonement. Then, there are instructions related to capturing an enemy woman and marrying her after her period of mourning. The Israelite must "let her go wherever she wishes" is he doesn't want to keep her as a wife, because "since you have dishonored her." A man with two wives must honor his first-born son with the birthright (double portion) of the firstborn even if he prefers the other wife to the first-born's mother. A rebellious son, who will not obey his parents' discipline, can be taken to the elders and then stoned to death by the community, for "you must purge the evil from among you." And anyone put to death and hanged on a tree must not be left overnight, but buried the same day, "because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse."
Chapter 22 starts with several verses of law which do not appear to have a signficant common theme, including laws forbidding cross-dressing, taking mother birds, planting two kinds of seed in your vineyard, wearing wool and linen woven together and yoking an ox and a donkey together. Positive laws include requirements to help "if you see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen on road," to build a parapet around the roof of a new house so that no one will fall from the roof, and to wear tassels on the corners of a cloak. The rest of the chapter gets back to marriage and sexual matters, including dealing with various forms of adultery. For all of the concern about double standards (which might include the section in this chapter on female virginity), "if a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die." There's another interesting regulation on rape, whereas an unmarried girl is raped in a town, they are both to be stoned, because she could have yelled, but if an unmarried girl is raped in the country, "only the man who has one this shall die," the girl "has committed no sin deserving death...though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her."
Thoughts, questions, issues
Deuteronomy 23 addresses people who are to be excluded from "the assembly of the LORD," including those who have been "emasculated" ("he that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off" [KJV]), those of illegitimate birth (and their descendants), and Ammonites and Moabites. Edomites ("he is your brother") and Egyptians ("you lived as an alien in his country") are not to be "abhorred."
The next few verses deal with the issue of "uncleanness" when "encamped against your enemies," as the laws and regulations on uncleanness all deal with the tabernacle, and when encamped, they are some distance from it. They must set up a place outside the camp to relieve themselves, and they must keep the camp holy so that the LORD "will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you." The reset of the chapter contains some miscellaneous laws, including injunctions not to hand slaves back to their masters, not to become shrine prostitutes and not to practice usury with your "brother Israelite."
In chapters 24 and 25, the set of short and miscellaneous regulations continue, including the means and mechanisms for divorce, requirements that a recently married man "be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married" for one year, not to take millstones as security for a debt, to follow the priestly laws in the case of leprous diseases. There are a couple of these regulations aimed at protecting the "poor and needy...the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this." Disputes must go to court and judges decide the case, flogging must not include more than forth lashes, a man who's brother dies must "take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law" and "the first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel." They must use honest weights and honest scales and "blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."
Deuteronomy 26 is another reminder passage. First, he reminds the Israelites that the firstfruits of the harvest must be given to the LORD. They must set apart a tenth of all their produce in the third year to give to the Levite and the unfortunate. And again, he tells them of their obligation to follw the LORD's commands, "carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul."
Thoughts, questions, issues
If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity. (Dt 25:11-12)What the issue is here, I really have no idea. Is it purity/uncleanness? Womanly modesty? Is it considered grossly dangerous or unfair to attack a man that way? I don't know what to make of this one at all, but it made me laugh anyway. (Remember, this is Moses, not the LORD.)
As Deuteronomy moves into chapter 27, there's a change in voice, as Moses is now joined by "the elders of Israel" in commanding the people. Together, they tell them to keep all of the commands that they are giving them, and they tell them that, when they cross the Jordan, they are to set up some large stones on Mount Ebal, plaster them and write the words of the law on them. They should also build an altar there and "offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God." Moses then told them that the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin were to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali were to stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses on the people. And there were a list of curses for the Levites to recite, after each of which "all the people shall say, 'Amen!'" This is followed, in chapter 28, with a list of more blessings which would accrue to them for obedience to God's law, and a list of more curses which would befall them for failure to obey God's law.
In chapter 29, the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, "in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb." Moses reminds them of the things that they have seen, the way that the LORD brought them out of Egypt. He reminds them of their victory over Sihon and Og, and how they took their land and vave it to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. He tells them to "carefully follow the terms of the covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do." He makes it clear that the covenant is generational so that "I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you who are standing here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God but also with those who are not here today." They must be careful not worship the pagan gods of other nations. A person who does "invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, 'I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.' This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. The LORD will never be willing to forgive him." Disaster will come if they do not obey and they will be made an example of "because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers." And, in chapter 30, he continues to bless them with properity if they obey the covenant, and to curse them if they turn away. "I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed."
Thoughts, questions, issues
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses tells the Israelites that "I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you." He tells them that the LORD has told him that he will not cross the Jordan. He then tells that Joshua will lead them and that "your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Moses wrote down the law and gave it to the priests "and to all the elders of Israel," and told that every seven years during the feast of Tabernacles they should assemble all the people and "read this law before them in their hearing" because "their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." Moses and Joshua went into the tent of Meeting, and the LORD commissioned Joshua. Then the LORD told Moses that he was "going to rest with [his] fathers" and that the Israelites would "soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering." He taught Moses a song to write down and "teach...to the Israelites and have them sing it so that it may be a witness for me against them." Moses wrote "in a book the words of this law from beginning to end" and gave it to the Levites to carry inside the ark of the covenant.
And in chapter 32, Moses "recited the words of this song from beginning to end." The song praises the Lord, repeatedly calls him "the rock," and condemns the people who have "acted corruptly toward him; to their shame they are no longer his children, but a warped and crooked generation." It is a song of both praise and judgement. Then, that same day, the LORD told Moses to go up to Mount Nebo in Moas and view Canaan, and then he would die and "be gathered to [his] people," just like Aaron died on Mount Hor, because they "broke faith" with God at the waters of Meribah Kadesh.
In chapter 33, Moses blesses the tribes of Israel, each tribe by name. Then, in chapter 34, Moses climbed Mount Nebo, "to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho," and the LORD "showed him the whole land" and told him it was "the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Moses died and was buring in the valley "opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is." he was one hundred and twenty years old "yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone." The Israelites grieved for thirty days. And after that, Joshua "was filled with the spirit of wisdom" and the Israelites "listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses."
Thoughts, questions, issues