Friday, January 8, 2010


Chapter 12
Summary:Moses now explains to the Israelites the statutes and judgments that they are to observe in the "promised land" for "all the days that [they] live upon the earth".
  • The Israelites are to destroy all the places that the "heathen nations" previously inhabiting the land had worshiped their gods - whether from high upon the mountains, upon the hills, and under every green tree.
  • All of the "heathen nations'" altars are to be overthrown, their pillars are to be broken, and their groves are to be burned with fire. The graven images of their gods are to be destroyed, along with the eradication of even their names from out of the places.
  • The Israelites are not to offer animal sacrifices anywhere they choose like the "heathen nations", but instead they are only to sacrifice in places where God himself has chosen to "put his name" (making the people build a "sanctuary" in God's name).
It is at this chosen place where the Israelites are to bring their "burnt offerings", other sacrifices, tithes, "heave offerings", "freewill offerings", and the firstborn of their herds and flocks.

Moses continues his speech, adding:
"And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all that you have put your hand into, and your households, wherein the Lord your God has blessed you.

"You will no longer live your lives your own way, as you do now, when you enter the land of your inheritance, which the Lord your God has given you. When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land which the Lord your God has given you to inherit, and when he gives you rest and safety from your enemies, then there which God will choose a location for you to build him a sanctuary, and there you shall bring him burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, heave offerings, and all of your voluntary vows to the Lord. There you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, along with your sons, daughters, and slaves; also you are to invite the Levites to feast with you, for as they have no land of their own.

"Take heed not to sacrifice animals by fire in just any place that you see fit, but only in the sanctuary that the Lord shall choose amongst the territories of one of your tribes. Only there shall you offer burnt offerings, and there that you should do all that I command you. However, you may kill and eat the flesh of animals anywhere within the land according to the blessing of the Lord, regardless of whether you are clean or unclean - as you do now with the roebuck and the hart. However, you may not to consume the animal's blood and must pour it upon the earth as you would water.

"None of your offerings are to be eaten at home - not the tithe of your crops, wine, or oil; the firstborn of your herds and flocks; nor any vows, freewill, or heave offerings which you have vowed to give to the Lord your God. You must eat them before him in the sanctuary he has chosen, along with your children, slaves, and the Levites, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you do. Remember not to forsake the Levites from these feasts as long as you live upon the earth.

"When the Lord your God enlarges your borders, as he has promised, you may eat whatever animal meat you desire. If the sanctuary that God has chosen becomes too far away, then your flock may be butchered on your own land, just as you do now with the roebuck and the hart, and the clean as well as the unclean may eat of the flesh alike. You are to be certain however to never consume the blood; for the blood is the life, and you may not eat the life within the flesh. You are not to consume it, but are to pour it upon the earth like water. You are not to consume it, so that you and your children may be right in the sight of the Lord.

"Only the holy things which you give, your vows you shall take, and your burnt offerings need to be taken to the sanctuary which the Lord will choose. You shall offer your burnt offerings - both flesh and blood - upon the altar of the Lord your God. The blood of your animal sacrifices shall be poured upon the altar of the Lord your God, and you shall eat the flesh.

"Observe and obey these words which I command you, that you and your children may live well forever when you do what is good and right the eyes of the Lord your God.

"When the Lord your God casts out the heathen nations before you, and you go in to succeed them and possess their land, take heed not to be tricked into following after them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you are not to inquire after their gods. Do not question how those nations served their gods and attempt to do likewise. You are not to do unto the Lord your God those abominations that he hates, that they have done for their gods - for they have even sacrificed their children by fire to their gods. The things that I command you, you are to observe and obey. You are not to add nor subtract from these commandments."
Notes:1.) A more modern translation of "the roebuck and the hart" would be "the deer and the gazelle".
Thoughts:Moses begins this chapter by enforcing how strictly the Israelites must be intolerant towards the religions of the heathen nations they are about to invade. He tells them that they are to destroy every last altar that they have built - no matter how remote or out of the way it might be located; they are to break the pillars of these altars; burn down their groves; smash their religious images; and eradicate the names of these gods from out of the land.

With the amount of repetition this particular law is given throughout the Old Testament, it makes one question to how easily people - especially the Israelites - were able to be persuaded into abandoning their religions for someone else's despite having witnessed so many purported "miracles". As we've read previously, we did have both that golden calf incident as well as the Moabite/Midianite incident at Mount Peor, but were the Israelites really all that stupid and gullible to fall for any random cult leader strolling by? Even in my brief early childhood years as an indoctrinated Catholic, I never recall having ever had the idea to become Protestant or Jewish like many of my friends at school - even after occasionally accompanying them to their church or temple services. However it must have been some sort of major temptation for the ancient Israelites despite apparently witnessing all these breath taking "miracles" and deadly plagues wiping out vast numbers of them every time they violate God's laws, as evidenced by the vast repetition of warnings to stay away from the gods of other religions.

Moses segues into his next topic of conversation by stating that the Israelites are not to just perform animal sacrifices wherever they please like he presumes the "heathen nations" do, but are instead to only sacrifice animals at a sanctuary, which God himself will pick out once they reach the "promised land". However, it would seem that if these "heathens" took the time to construct all of these altars and pillars that the Israelites were told to destroy, they probably weren't just sacrificing animals "just anywhere", and most likely had specific areas and sanctuaries mandated by their religion just like the Israelites.

He tells the Israelites that once they arrive in the "promised land" that God will pick out a location for them to build him a "sanctuary", and it is there that they are to perform their animal sacrifices and give their tithes. He adds that when they do so, that they are to eat their spoils there, alongside their children and their slaves, and in addition, they have to invite the Levites to dinner as well, for they aren't allowed to own their own land and therefore can't enjoy the spoils of animal sacrifice themselves.

Moses adds that whenever God enlarges their borders and the Israelites find themselves now located too far away from the "sanctuary", that they may be allowed slaughter their flock on their own farms, and the meat may be eaten by both the "clean" and the "unclean" alike - but that they are under no circumstances to ever consume the animals blood. Instead, the blood is to be poured on the ground - likening this to how one would water their crops. Moses reasons that the blood is the "life" of an animal, and that the people are not to consume the "life" within the flesh of an animal. Today, we know that blood is not in any practical sense the "life" of a being anymore than a vital organ may be, and that this was just a common superstition derived from a lack of biological knowledge and understanding.

Moses notes that none of the Israelites "offerings" to God (such as the mandatory animal sacrifices of firstborn animals, tithes from the first crops, or any freewill offerings) can be offered at home, but are only to be offered at the location of God's chosen "sanctuary", eaten alongside of their children, slaves, and the Levites.

Moses stresses again, that the blood of animals eaten at home is to be poured onto the ground and not consumed, and that when offering "burnt offerings" to God, that the blood is to be poured upon the altar in the sanctuary.

If the Israelites can obey these laws, Moses says that they will live well forever in God's eyes. He then warns them yet again not to be tricked into worshiping the gods of the "heathen nations" they're about to invade, nor are they to even question or inquire about these gods. He continues to tell them that they are not to follow these "abominable" customs that God hates, implying that these "heathens" sacrifice their children by fire.

Moses ends the chapter by reiterating that these commandments are not to be amended or revised in any way.

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