Monday, November 23, 2009


Chapter 4
Summary:Moses continues his speech to the Israelites, saying,
"Now therefore heed, O Israel, to the laws and judgments which I teach you. Obey them so that you may live and enter the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you. You are not to add to or subtract from the laws which I command you. You are to keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

"Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baalpeor. God had destroyed all the men who followed Baalpeor from among you, but those that followed the Lord your God are still alive to this day.

"Behold, I have taught you laws and judgments as the Lord my God has commanded me, that you shall do in the land when you arrive to possess it. Keep these laws and obey them, for this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of [other] nations, which will hear these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation are wise and understanding people.' For what nation is there so great, who has God amongst them, and that the Lord our God is in all things that we can call upon him for? What nation is there so great that has laws and judgments so righteous as this law, which I set before you this day?

"Take heed of yourselves, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things you have seen, and lest they depart from your heart for the rest of your life - teach them to your sons and grandsons; especially the day that you stood before God on Mount Horeb, when the Lord said to me, 'Gather the people together before me and they shall hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.'

"And you came near and stood under the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire into the heavens, and was covered in dark clouds and thick darkness. When the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire, you heard his voice, yet did not see him. He declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to obey - the ten commandments - which he wrote upon two stone tablets.

"The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you laws and judgments for you to obey when you arrive in the land you are going to possess. Therefore take heed - as you had not seen any manner of image [of God] on the day that the Lord spoke to you in Mount Horeb from out of the midst of the fire - lest you corrupt yourselves by creating any graven image, the likeness of any figure, male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps along the ground, or the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth.

"Lest you look up into the heavens, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars - all that appear in the heavens - should you be driven to worship and serve them, which the Lord your God has commanded against - to separate you from the other nations under the heavens. The Lord has taken you and brought you out from the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as you are this very day.

"The Lord was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I shall not cross the Jordan River, nor may I enter the land which the Lord your God has given you for an inheritance. I must die here in this land instead, but you shall go over without me and posses that good land.

"Take heed of yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and create a graven image, or the likeness of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you - for the Lord your God is a consuming fire and a jealous God. When you have resided in the land long enough to produce children and grandchildren, and corrupt yourselves by creating a graven image - or the likeness of anything [forbidden by God] - and thereby do evil in the sight of the Lord your God, provoking his anger, I shall call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon after utterly perish from the land where you are headed. You will not live any longer in the land, but shall be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you amongst the nations, and you will be left few in number amongst the heathens, where the Lord will lead you. There you will serve gods created by men from wood and stone, which neither see, hear, eat, or smell.

"But if from then you you shall seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things have come upon you, even in the latter days, if you turn to the Lord your God, and shall be obedient to his voice - for the Lord your God is a merciful God - then he will neither forsake you, nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your forefathers which he promised unto them.

"Ask now, even since the beginning of time, since the day that God created man upon the earth, in all of heaven from one side to another, whether there has ever been - or has ever been heard of - any such thing as great as people hearing the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you [all] have heard, and lived [to tell of it]? Or has anyone heard of God having taken our nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, signs, and wonders, as well as by war, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm, and by great terrors, such as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

"This was shown to you so that you would know that the Lord he is God, and that there is no other beside him. Out of the heaven he made you hear his voice so that he could instruct you, and upon the earth he showed you his great fire - and you heard his words from out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your forefathers, he therefore kept his covenant with their offspring and brought them out of Egypt using his mighty powers. He drove out nations greater and mightier than you are, to give to you their land as an inheritance, as it is this day. Know therefore this day, and know in your heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath - there is none else. You shall therefore obey his laws which I command to you today, that you and your children after you may prolong your days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God has given thee forever."
Moses then set aside three cities on the east side of the Jordan River to be used as "cities of refuge". He picked Bezer (a city in the
wilderness in the plain country, given to the Reubenites), Ramoth (a city in Gilead given to the Gadites), and Golan (a city in Bashan given to the Manassites).

Moses set the law before the people of Israel, on the east side of the Jordan River, in the valley near Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon - king of the Amorites - whom Moses and the Israelites had slain. They possessed this land, as well as the land of Og - king of Bashan.

They had destroyed the two kings of the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan River, and occupied the land from Aroer - which is by the bank of the Arnon River - to Mount Sion (which is also called Mount Hermon), and the plains on the east side of the Jordan River, even unto the sea, under the springs of Pisgah.
Thoughts:Moses' speech continues taking on less of an air of recounting specific events and more of an establishment of God's law. He tells the Israelites that they are to obey the laws and judgments which Moses taught them and to practice them in the "promised land".

Moses specifically states that God's laws are not to be changed in anyway - they are not to be added to, nor are any laws to be subtracted, which seems to be in contrast with modern religious practice, else we would see a lot more public stonings.

Moses then mentions the Moabite/Midianite conflict in Mount Peor from Numbers: Chapter 25, reminding the people about God's wrath over the situation, and claims that every person who behaved themselves during that time is still alive today.

Moses then states that if the people obey these laws, he believes that they will impress other nations with their wisdom and understanding(!) I don't think Moses could be more off the mark as he is here. Stoning unruly children, accusing your wife of unfaithfulness and making her participate in a magic ritual to prove her innocence, stoning people to death for picking up sticks on a Saturday, and justifying the fatal beating of a slave - providing he survives longer than two days after the beating are not ethical, moral, wise, "righteous", or "understanding" by any means. Anyone who admires such ridiculous laws are as amoral as those who follow them.

Moses continues to boast about the nation of Israel, stating that it's better than other nations since God doesn't live amongst and speak to the other nations. He also boasts again about God's laws calling them "righteous", and stating that other nations don't have these "righteous" laws that the Israelites do.

He then tells the people to remember the events of the exodus (especially everything that occurred at Mount Horeb, and to retell these tales to their children and grandchildren, lest they become forgotten. He tells the people most of all to remember the day God appeared as a cloud of flaming smoke upon the mountain (which seems more probable that this was most likely a volcano erupting), and begins to recount this event.

Moses remind the people that while they heard God's voice bellowing from the fire on the mountain, they did not see him. Moses continues and recalls that God made his covenant with the people of Israel there upon that mountain and gave it to the people written on two stone tablets - the ten commandments. Since the people had not seen God's image, Moses sternly warns them never to make any graven image of anything in heaven, as well as on earth, male or female, beast or fowl, insect or fish. Moses states that worshiping the sun, moon, or stars - like he asserts that other nations do - is also forbidden, as God doesn't want his "chosen people" acting like the heathens in other nations.

Moses again rubs it in that he believes it is the Israelites fault that God got angry with him for striking a rock with a stick instead of speaking to the rock, thereby God refuses to let Moses cross the Jordan River enter the "promised land". Once again this seems a bit at odds with the book of Numbers claiming Moses to be the "meekest man on earth", when Moses can't even seem to accept responsibility for his own mistakes, and preferring to blame others.

Moses returns to his topic against creating graven images, stating that God is a "consuming fire" as well as a jealous god. Moses' tone then becomes a bit ambigious as to whether he is making a prophesy or a supposition about the Israelites creating graven images within the "promised land" - promising that if the people do such in the land, they will utterly perish and will be destroyed, with any survivors being scattered across the surrounding "heathen" nations - where they'll be forced to worship false gods made from wood and stone, that don't see, hear, eat, or smell as apparently God (Yahweh) is able to do. However, if after God has doled out all these brutal punishments, Moses adds, if you seek God out with all your heart you will find him. Moses claims that this is because God is in fact a "merciful" god.

This method of thinking is simply not rational and has always personally bothered me. If a parent severely beats a child for breaking a rule, and the beatings and punishments continue until the child has sincerely apologized, we would not consider the parent a "merciful" parent simply because they stopped beating their child after receiving an apology. Most rational people would not be calling that parent "merciful" for stopping the beating, rather they would most likely call them sadistic for beating their child in the first place. Yet when we substitute God into the analogy instead of the parent suddenly the rules change and the believer justifies behavior such as setting priests on fire for using the wrong fire to light incense, and threatening their surviving family not to grieve over their deaths or they'll be killed as well. It simply does not matter what rule was broken - even if the child pushed his sister down the stairs - the appropriate response is never non-stop continual violence until an apology is made, this simply is not justifiable as "mercy" in any way, shape, or form.

Moses now challenges the Israelites to think of whether anyone in the history of the earth has ever experience or heard of a nation of people hearing the voice of God speaking out of the midst of fire as they had, and lived to tell about it. He also posits that no other nation had escaped the oppression of another nation by the manner of "temptations, signs, and wonders" in addition to God's might and his "great terrors", such as how God freed them from their slavery in Egypt. However, many religions posit that their "chosen people" have direct contact with god(s) and have many incredulous myths which they assert are true despite credible evidence.

Moses now states that the whole exodus was a display of God's powers to the Israelites to prove that God is the almighty god, and that there are no other gods beside him. Moses states that God had driven out nations of people mightier than the Israelites (such as the "giants" Moses discussed at length in Deuteronomy Chapter 2 and Chapter 3) and gave their land to the Israelites, so therefore God's laws are to be obeyed.

Again, this is an argument I simply cannot understand. Moses is stating here that because God rescued the Israelites from slavery, helped them destroy other nations in battle, and allowed them to take the land, that these three conditions justify unwavering and unquestioning obedience. Basically what Moses has argued is that "might makes right", meaning that God's powerful actions for Israel's benefit mandate obedience in return. If you were wrongly imprisoned in jail and a heavily armed vigilante militia came to your aid, broke you out of jail by overpowering the police, and then gave you a home to live in by forcefully removing the occupants, this does not mean by any stretch that you must be obedient and condone the actions of the militia. While the militia may have had sincere and honorable intentions, they also broke the law and displaced an innocent bystander out their home in accomplishing their task. While your freedom was deserved for being wrongfully imprisoned, this obviously is not the right or proper way to go about vindicating yourself.

The chapter then sees Moses picking out three "cities of refuge" outside of the "promised land". He picks one city from the possessions of each of the tribes living outside the "promised land" - Bezer (Reuben), Ramoth (Gad), and Golan (Manasseh). It's now noted that two of the Amorite kings had been slain, and the chapter close out with Moses setting God's law before the Israelites.

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