Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Chapter 11
Summary:Moses' speech continues:
"You shall love the Lord your God, obey him and his statutes, judgments, and commandments - always. You are aware that I'm not speaking now to your children, of whom haven't known or seen the chastisement of the Lord your God - his greatness, his mighty hand, and his out stretched arm; his miracles and his acts that he performed in the midst of Egypt unto the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt and all his land; what he had done to the Egyptian army, to their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red Sea overflow and drown them as they pursued after you - and how the Lord has destroyed them - rendering them powerless against you - to this day; what he had done to you in the wilderness until you arrived at this very place; and what he had done to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, in turn the son of Reuben, and how the earth swallowed them up, along with their households, tents, and all their possessions, in plain view of all of the people of Israel.

"But you have seen all the great acts that the Lord did, and therefore you shall keep all of the commandments that I command to you this day, so that you may have be strong and possess the land you are about to enter; that you may prolong your days in the land which the Lord swore unto your forefathers - a land that flows with milk and honey. The land you are about to possess is not like the land of Egypt from where you came from - where you needed to irrigate your crops - as the promised land is a land of hills and valleys, with drinkable water raining from the heaven. It is a land which the Lord your God cares for and watches over year round.

"It shall come to pass, if you diligently heed the commandments which I command to you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and soul, that I shall give you the rain of your land in its due season; the first rain and the latter rain, that you might harvest your grain, grapes for your wine, and olive oil. I will also flourish your field with grass, so that your cattle may eat until they are full.

"Take heed that your heart not be deceived, and you turn aside and serve and worship other gods. For the Lord's wrath will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that there shall be no rain, and the land will not yield her crops, and lest you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord has given you. Therefore you shall keep these commandments in your heart and in your soul, and write them upon a sign and tie them to your hand, that you may remember them. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you are sitting at home, when you are out walking, when you are lying down to sleep, and when you rise in the morning. Write them upon the door posts of your house and upon your gates, so that your days may be multiplied, as will the days of your children, in the land which the Lord swore unto your forefathers, as the days of heaven upon the earth.

"If you diligently obey all of these commandments, to love the Lord your God, to walk in in his ways, and to cling to him, then the Lord will drive out all of the nations before you, and you shall possess nations greater and mightier than yourselves. Every place where the soles of your feet tread shall be yours - from the wilderness and Lebanon, to the Euphrates River, and even unto the Mediterranean Sea. No one will be able to stand before you - for the Lord your God shall lay the fear and dread of you upon all the land that you shall tread upon, as he has promised.

"Behold, I set before you on this day a blessing and a curse. A blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day; a curse if you will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but instead turn aside away from what I command you today, to go after other gods, which you have not known.

"It shall come to pass when the Lord your God has brought you into the land that you are to possess, that you shall put the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal - they are on the other side of the Jordan River to the west, in the land of the Canaanites, whom live in the wasteland near Gilgal, next to the plains of Moreh. You shall pass over the Jordan River and possess the land which the Lord your God has given you, and you shall live therein and observe and obey all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today."
Thoughts:Moses' speech continues with him imploring the Israelites to obey all of God's laws and commandments - always.

Next it becomes difficult to discern exactly who Moses begins to address, as he states:
11:2 "And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm..."
following that up with:
11:7 "But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which he did."
Moses begins by acknowledging that the "children" obviously wouldn't be old enough to recall all of the events of the Exodus - specifically, the plagues against Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea (however he also claims that they also wouldn't recall the plagues in the wilderness and Korah's rebellion, which both occur later on in the 40 year journey through the desert.) In Numbers: Chapter 14, God decrees that no-one over the age of 19 except for Caleb and Joshua would be allowed to enter the promised land. Then Moses specifically states in Numbers: Chapter 26 that Caleb and Joshua were the only two men alive from the counted in the previous census that were counted again in the census taken in Numbers: Chapter 26. Chronologically, this would make those young and spry 19 year olds that were exempt from God's punishment in Numbers: 14 now aged to 59. Obviously, this would only leave a small subset possibly aged as young as 8, but no older than 19 at the time of God's curse - now being aged 48 to 59 - that would be the only people reasonably able to recall these events in detail.

In any event, Moses insists to the Israelites he's addressing, that because they've witnessed all the "great acts" that God did, that they're obliged to follow all of God's laws that Moses has given them.

He tells the people that the "promised land" is unlike Egypt in the regards that the land doesn't have to be irrigated to grow crops, as it is rich with drinkable rain water. He also adds that God personally cares for and looks after the land year round. Moses then follows this up by either attempting to blackmail or bribe the Israelites into obeying God's commandments - basically, if the Israelites behave themselves, obey God, and show him love, then God will give plenty of rain for the Israelites crops to flourish; but if they don't step in line, and apparently especially if they begin worshiping other gods, then God will halt the rain and let everyone starve to death.

Whether Moses (and by proxy, God) is attempting to blackmail or bribe the Israelites is dependent on the natural state of the land. Either:
  • The land is naturally too dry for farming crops: Would seem most likely, considering that Moses states that God looks over the land personally and ensures that it gets enough rain. In this case, it would seem that God would be bribing the Israelites into obeying, by doing a service (by watering their crops with rain) in return for obedience. Without God's part of the bargain, the land would revert back to its natural state, and to which God would do nothing to prevent this leaving the Israelites with the choice to either step back in line or all die off.

    This would also have to mean that if God wasn't purposely preventing it from raining as a punishment, then God is either still carefully maintaining the rain in the land to this day, or that he dropped off maintaining it gradually, otherwise there would be some obvious geological evidence to support a drastic shift in climate - to which there is none to my knowledge.
  • The land is naturally well suited for farming crops:This would have to imply that God is blackmailing the Israelites into obedience by threatening to tamper with the weather and withhold the rain needed for their crops if they apparently start worshiping other gods. This certainly has darker implications, but would explain as to why the land remains fertile regardless of who inhabits it - thereby negating having to provide evidence for a supernatural explanation regarding the climate of the region.
  • The answer lies somewhere in between: The problem with this angle is that we have both of the ethical problems of God - as he would have to be both bribing (enticing the Israelites into obedience by providing plenty of rain) and by blackmailing (threatening not to simply stop aiding the weather, but actively preventing it from yielding crops) - as well as the problems with evidence that plague both scenarios.

    While it's possible for the apologist to skirt around the lack of evidence, the ethical dilemmas are only magnified in this scenario.
Moses then goes on to further stress the importance of remembering God's commandments, repeating almost verbatim what he had said in Deuteronomy: Chapter 6 about tying a card containing the commandments to your hands. While Orthodox Jews have tended to observe this in a literal sense, I tend to believe that Moses was simply stressing how important it is to remember these laws in a metaphorical sense.

Moses tells the Israelites that if they obey God's commandments, love him, and "walk in his ways", then God will drive out all of the heathen nations before them - regardless of whether they're greater in number, might, or strength than the Israelites. He tells them that everywhere they set foot - from Lebanon, to the Euphrates River, to the Mediterranean Sea will become their possession. God will make the inhabitants of these lands fear and dread the Israelites.

Moses now tells the Israelites that this day he sets before them both a blessing and a curse - a blessing if they obey God's commandments, and a curse if they turn away from God and begin worshiping other gods. He further tells them that they are to put a blessing upon Mount Gerizim and a curse upon Mount Ebal - both mountains located on the west side of the Jordan River. While this seems rather confusing as to what this is supposed to mean, we'll find out later on in Deuteronomy: Chapter 27 that Moses is commanding that the Israelites give blessings and curses upon altars built upon the respective mountains.

Moses ends the chapter with yet another reminder that the Israelites are to pass over the Jordan River into the "promised land" and are to observe and obey all of God's statutes and judgments that Moses is giving them on this day.

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