Saturday, May 15, 2010


Chapter 34
Summary:Moses went up from the plains of Moab and ascended Mount Nebo, at the top of Pisgah across Jericho. God then showed Moses all the land of Gilead given to Dan; the land given to Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all of the land given to Judah to the utmost of the sea; the southern plain of the valley of Jericho; and the city of palm trees out to Zoar.

God said to him, "This is the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and which I told them I would alsi give to their descendants. I have allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you shall not go over there."

Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, according to the God's word. He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, across from Bethpeor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old* when he died, but neither his eyesight nor his strength had diminished.

The people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; as Moses had laid his hands upon him, and the people of Israel hearkened to him, and did as God had commanded Moses.

There has never been a prophet in Israel since then like Moses, whom God knew face to face, with all the signs and wonders which God sent him to do in the land of Egypt to the Pharaoh, and all of his servants, and to all of his land, and in all of his mighty hand, and the great terror which Moses had shown before the eyes of all of Israel.
Notes:1.) This is not a typo. The bible lists Moses' actual age as 120 years old. Although technically not impossible, it is highly unlikely that without the aid of modern medicine (or "miracles") that Moses could have achieved such an advanced age, especially given how mentally and physically active he is claimed to have been at such an age in this chapter as well.
Thoughts:This final chapter in the book of Deuteronomy basically tells the story of Moses' death at the ripe old age of 120 years old - in which it is noted that neither his strength or his eyesight had diminished over the years, which should probably be considered a good thing when his last duty that he was expected to do at 120 years of age before dying was to climb a mountain.

After climbing the mountain God shows Moses the land he is giving to the the tribes of Dan, Naphtali, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), and Judah, which he could see from the top of the mountain. He tells Moses that this is the "promised land", and that he is not allowed to enter it, before Moses dies atop the mountain. God himself apparently buries Moses in a valley in Moab, but it's noted that no one knows where he is buried.

Considering that the Pentateuch (the Jewish Torah, or the first five books of the Old Testament) is supposedly attributed to Moses, it raises the question who supposedly has written this chapter describing Moses' death and mysterious burial, and if this took place only between God and Moses, how was this information known to the author?

The Israelites mourned Moses' death for 30 days, and Joshua took over their leadership as appointed by Moses.

The chapter, the book of Deuteronomy, and the Pentateuch closes out by stating that there has never been a prophet like Moses, who knew God face to face, nor performed the sort of "miracles" like the ones Moses performed in Egypt - which Moses apparently terrified the Israelites with.


Chapter 33
Summary:Moses, "the man of God", gave the people of Israel a blessing before his death:
"The Lord came from Mount Sinai, and rose up from Mount Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints - from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

"He loved his people; all of his saints are in his hand, following in his footsteps, every one of them receiving his words. Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob. He was king in Jeshurun*, when the leaders of the people and of the tribes of Israel were gathered together.

"Let the tribe of Reuben live, and not die; and let his men not be few."
He then blessed the tribe of Judah, saying:
"Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people - let his hands be sufficient for him, and help defend him from his enemies."
Of the Levites, Moses said:
"Let the Thummim and the Urim be with these holy ones, whom you tested at Massah, and with whom you strove against at the waters of Meribah. They spared not even their father, mother, siblings, nor their children; instead, they kept their word and your covenant. They shall teach Jacob your judgments, and your law to Israel. They shall place incense before you and burnt animal sacrifices upon your altar. Lord, bless them, their skills, and the work of their hands. Smite through the loins those who rise against them, and do not allow those who hate them to rise again."
Of Benjamin he said:
"The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover them all day long, and they shall dwell between his shoulders."
Of Joseph he said:
"May the Lord bless their land, from the precious dew from the sky, to the deep waters beneath; for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon; for the choice materials of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills; for the precious things of the earth and its fulness; and for the good will of the Lord who dwelt in the burning bush - let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, the crown upon his head that separated him from his brothers. His glory is like a firstborn bull, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns - with them he shall gore his enemies to the end of the earth - they are the tens of thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manasseh."
Of Zebulun and Issachar he said:
"Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and you Issachar, in your tents. They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness - for they shall feast upon the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hidden in the sand."
Of Gad he said:
Blessed be he that enlarges Gad's land - he dwells there like a lion, and tears the arm with the crown of his head. He chose the best land for himself, because he was seated as the lawgiver. He lead the people and executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel."
Of Dan he said:
"Dan is a lion's cub - he shall leap from Bashan."
Of Naphtali he said:
Naphtali is satisfied with his favor and blessing from the Lord. They will possess the land in the south west."
Of Asher he said:
Let Asher be blessed with many children and be favored by the other tribes, and let him dip his feet in oil.

"The bolts of your gates shall be of iron and brass; and your strength shall equal your days.

"There is none like the God of Jeshurun*, who descends from the heaven to help you from his majesty in the sky. The eternal God is your refuge, underneath his everlasting arms. He shall thrust out your enemies before you and shall say 'Destroy them.'

"Israel shall dwell safely alone - the fountain of Jacob shall prosper in a land of corn and wine; and the heavens will drop dew. You should be happy, Israel, for who else is like you? People saved by the Lord, by the shield of his help and the sword of his excellency. Your enemies will be found to be wrong, and you shall tread upon their highest places"
Notes:1.)As noted in the previous chapter, "Jeshurun" is an alternate poetic equivalent for "Israel". It can mean the people of Israel (as it is used here), the land of Israel, or as an alternate name for Jacob/Israel.
Thoughts:This chapter sort of reads out like a will for the twelve (or thirteen, depending on how you're counting) tribes of Israel, with Moses giving each of them a final blessing before he prepares to die.

Some of the tribes, such as Reuben, who gets the first blessing, are short and to the point - he blesses the tribe of Reuben "to live, and not die" and for their numbers to not be few; and the blessing which follows that for the tribe of Judah goes similarly - to bless their handiwork and to help defend them from their enemies. Whereas Moses rambles on much longer with his blessing for other more important tribes like the tribe of Levi.

When giving his blessing for the tribe of Levi, Moses again mentions the Thummim and the Urim - two stones that basically serve as a sort of Magic 8-ball to answer "yes" or "no" questions, that we first encountered in Leviticus: Chapter 8. I've discussed my numerous problems with these Magic 8-Ball stones in my commentary for both Leviticus: Chapter 8 and Numbers: Chapter 27, so I don't feel that I need to go into further detail here.

Continuing on with his blessing for the Levites, he references God "testing them" at Massah (which the name is said to mean "tempting God to kill us all") when the Israelites were whining for water and almost stoned Moses to death until he drew water from a rock, and the second time that they complained about not having any water where Moses struck the rock like he had done before instead of "speaking to it". He then commends the Levites for not even sparing their own families - parents, siblings, and children - when they were ordered to slaughter them to prove their allegiance to God. He states that they are the ones chosen to teach the people God's laws and judgments, burn incense, and sacrifice animals upon the altar of the sanctuary. He asks God to bless them in their works and deeds, and to "smite through the loins" anyone who opposes the Levites, and to ensure that such people aren't allowed to "rise again".

Although Moses states that the tribe of Benjamin is "beloved" to God, they only get a short blessing asking God to keep them safe.

Next Moses blesses the "half tribes" of Ephraim and Manasseh under the blanket of the single tribe of Joseph. Because the Levites are included in these blessings, the half tribes must be counted as the single tribe of Joseph to preserve the bible's obsession with the significance of number twelve. When the tribe of Levi is omitted from a count or census, such as when they are prohibited from possessing land in Canaan, the "half tribes" are treated separately as if they were "full tribes". Moses asks God to bless the land of the two "half tribes", as well as everything contained and that grows within it. One odd thing Moses mentions in his list of things are "precious things put forth by the moon", which the only possible thing that I'm aware of that this might be would be mushrooms. This is interesting in light of the role that hallucinogenic mushrooms have played in many early religions - some have even theorized that manna may actually have been describing psilocybe mushrooms. The use of hallucinogenic mushrooms by the Israelites could certainly better explain some of the more bizarre occurrences such as God's appearance as a burning bush (which is also coincidentally mentioned in this blessing) or the intense fear of the Israelites due to God's appearance as a smoking, lightning encrusted, mountain top. Moses asks that the tribes of Joseph are blessed due to the "crown" that separates them from the other eleven tribes, reasoning that the glory of Joseph is like a firstborn bull, and that his "horns are like those of a unicorn(!)" that will gore the enemies of Israel to the ends of the earth, for there are tens of thousands of people belonging to the tribe of Ephraim (32,500 according to the census taken in Numbers: 26), and thousands of people belonging to the tribe of Manasseh (52,700 according to the census taken in Numbers: 26). Even though the tribe of Manasseh outnumbers the tribe of Ephraim in the previous census, Moses seems to imply the opposite here.

The tribes of Zebulun and Issachar get a combined blessing, where Moses asks God to bless them in their outdoor activities of camping and hunting.

For the tribe of Gad, Moses asks God to enlarge their land, and states that they had picked out the best land for themselves since they were "seated as the lawgiver", meaning that they had been selected to enforce criminal punishments.

The tribe of Dan gets the briefest blessing with Moses simply stating that they are "a lion's cub - and [they] shall leap from Bashan".

The tribe of Naphtali gets the most boring blessing stating that they're basically happy with what they've got and will inhabit the south west portion of the "promised land".

Finally, Moses blesses the tribe of Asher by asking God for them to be blessed with fertility, to be favored by the other tribes, and for them to wash their feet in oil.

Moses then states that the defense of the Israelites shall be strong, and that their strength will last through their lifetimes. He adds that God will help them in battle, bringing their enemies before them to destroy. Moses states that they will be safe and unbothered in their dwellings, and will prosper in crops. He finishes off stating that the enemies of Israel will be proven wrong, and that the Israelites will dominate over them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Chapter 32
Summary:(Note: Because of the way this chapter is written - with the majority of the verses being song lyrics - I'm going to change up my approach to summarizing this chapter by leaving the verses in their original King James translation, and then commenting every so often between them, with my comments written in italics.)

Moses recites the lyrics to God's song:

 1Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

 2My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:

 3Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
These first three verses basically see Moses setting up metaphors implying that these lyrics will hit the listener like rain and dew hits the grass, and that they are intended to explain how "great" God is.

 4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Moses is claiming here that both God and all of his works are "perfect", that he is a god of truth, and that he is without "sin".

 5They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

 6Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
Moses is implying here that the Israelites have corrupted themselves and are no longer "God's children", but instead have corrupted themselves. Moses calls them foolish and unwise for doing so, considering that God brought them here from out of their Egyptian slavery and made them into the mighty nation that they became.

 7Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.

 8When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
Moses tells people to "remember" the stories of the "days of old", by asking their elders to recount the stories to them. Moses claims that when God (the Most High) divided up the people of the world (the sons of Adam) into their separate nations (presumably after the Tower of Babel incident) that he set the borders of these nation in accordance to the population of the people of Israel. This seems suspect considering that the entire population of "Israel" at the time of their migration to Egypt - an already well established nation - was 70.

 9For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

 10He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
It is important that a distinction should be made between Jacob/Israel the person and Jacob/Israel the people. While Jacob/Israel himself found favor with God, God wanted to destroy the people of Israel not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but distinctly four times so far in our story so far alone - which Moses had to talk God out of each time. Although perhaps Jacob himself, along with Moses, may have been, the people of Israel were hardly the "apple of [God's] eye".

 11As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

 12So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
Although it may be arguable that outside of the various mass killings, plagues, and violent anger towards the Israelites that God did take care of them somewhat, it would be impossible for the Israelites to be certain that God alone - without the aid of other "strange gods" - lead them, aside from taking Moses' word for it. According to the story found in Exodus: Chapter 20, the Israelites begged Moses to not have God speak to them directly, fearing that the voice of God would kill them.

 13He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;

 14Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.

 15But Jeshurun* waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
These three verses are prophetic, where Moses tells how God will provide the Israelites with all a wealth of good food, meats, and wines, but that the Israelites (referred to by an unusual poetic variant, "Jeshurun") would simply become gluttonous and forsake God's generosity and their own "salvation". It's unclear whether this might be a case of self-fulfilling prophecy; whether God is simply stating predestination, which is not alterable, and thereby negating what many believers claim as people having free-will; or whether God might be manipulating the Israelites into behaving this way.

 16They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.

 17They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
Moses again places heavy emphasis on the "sin" of worshiping other gods being a justification out of jealousy for the extremities of God's violence against the Israelites. Curiously this also marks the second occurrence of the term "devil", this time in reference to the "other gods" the Israelites have turned to. Moses also adds that these will be gods that the Israelites have never encountered before, and ones that have been newly invented.

 18Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.

 19And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.
Moses states here that the Israelites (by worshiping other gods) will become ungrateful to the god that supposedly "created them", and that they in turn will provoke God into detesting them.

 20And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.

 21They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
Moses states that God's punishment to the Israelites for making him jealous of their new gods will be to take away his blessings to the Israelites, and will make the Israelites themselves jealous by giving those blessings to other nations who are not "God's people", which will provoke their own anger.

When we examine what's being said in these verses a lot closer, we realize that what is most likely really going on here is psychological manipulation to further vilify the religions of other cultures. Broken down, we see that in order for the Israelites to receive God's blessings they have to jump through all sorts of hoops: they have to meticulously follow and obey numerous and complex commandments, rules, animal sacrifices, and laws to appease God or else they will be killed or excommunicated. Whereas the only thing that the enemies of the Israelites have to do to receive these same blessings are to get the Israelites to worship "idols" - whether they are their own or they encourage the Israelites to create their own. The enemy nations don't have to follow any of God's complex rules and regulations to benefit from God's blessings, all they have to do is lead the Israelites to worship other gods - ANY gods.

Imagine you were given a mansion to live in rent free, but in order to live there you had to do all sorts of complex tasks, follow strict rules, and follow your landlord's religion. If you fail at these tasks your landlord will give your mansion away to your neighbors, who can live there without having to follow all of the strict rules that you have to abide by. When your neighbor stops by with his copy of the "Book of Mormon" - even if he might have no idea about your landlord's rules - you're apt to act out even more defensively, angrily, and perhaps violently, out of fear of your neighbor's motives. Clearly you're being psychologically manipulated regardless of whether whether your landlord's or your neighbor's intentions are meant in good will or not.

 22For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

 23I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.

 24They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

 25The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.
Now God also dishes out the nasty stuff. Not only will he give his blessings to your enemies, but his anger will be so intense, that he will consume the "promised land" with fire, shoot the people with arrows, starve them, burn them, have wild animals tear them apart, and have poisonous snakes bite them. He will not spare any children (neither male nor young virgin girls), babies who are still nursing, or the elderly; despite the fact they're probably not able to properly convince the able adults not to worship other gods, leaving them helpless to their own destruction - not to mention that babies have no protection against their own destruction at God's hands.

Also interesting of note is that this is the first mention of "hell" in the bible.

 26I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:

 27Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the LORD hath not done all this.
God now appears to have second thoughts about scattering the Israelites all over to distant lands, thinking that the enemy nations might believe that they destroyed Israel by their own might, and denying that God had anything to do with it.

28For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.

 29O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

 30How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?

 31For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.

 32For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:

 33Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
God "reasons" that the enemies of Israel are "unwise" for thinking that they themselves could drive out an army of 1,000 Israelites with a single one of their soldiers, or that an army of 10,000 Israelites with two of their soldiers, without realizing that God was punishing the Israelites; positing that even they know that their gods aren't genuine like Yahweh, the god of the Israelites. God reasons that this should be evident because their vineyards are the "vine of Sodom" and that their "fields of Gomorrah" produce sour and poisonous grapes, their wine is the "poison of dragons" and the "venom of [snakes]". Therefore, apparently if you can't harvest edible grapes, it serves to reason that your gods are false.

34Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?

 35To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
God now states that the people of Israel will always be "among [his] treasures", and that he will have vengeance and retribution against the enemies of Israel, and that their good fortune will run out in due time.

36For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
Once God sees that the Israelites have been "beaten up" enough, he'll repent himself.

37And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,

 38Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.
In these two verses God taunts the enemies of Israel by asking them "where are your gods now?"

39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

 40For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.

 41If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.

 42I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.

 43Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
God claims that he is the only "real god", that he is the arbiter of life and death, and the one who wounds and heals, and that none can do what he can do. God continues, saying that he is eternal, and lifts his "sword" in judgment, delivering vengeance to his enemies and repaying those who oppose him. God says that his arrows with be bloodthirsty, his sword will devour flesh, fueled by the blood of the slain and captive Israelites becoming the beginning of God's revenge upon their enemies. God finishes out by stating that he will avenge the Israelites and have revenge on their enemies - showing mercy to the "promised land" and the Israelites.

Moses and "Hoshea"*, the son of Nun, recited these lyrics to the people of Israel.

Moses finished speaking to the people of Israel telling them:
"Take these words that I testify to you today to heart, and teach them to your children, for them to obey all the words of these laws. It is not vain for you to do this, because it will prolong your days in the land when you cross the Jordan River to possess it."
God spoke to Moses that same day telling him:
Go up into the mountain of Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab across from Jericho; and gaze upon the land of Canaan which I gave to the people of Israel as a possession. You will die up in the mountain and will be join your ancestors, just as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor. Because you trespassed against me in front of the people of Israel, at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin. Because you didn't sanctify me in the midst of the people of Israel, you will be allowed to see the land spread out before you, but you will not enter the land which I give to the people of Israel."
Notes:1.) "Jeshurun" is an alternate poetic equivalent for "Israel". It can mean the people of Israel (as it is used here), the land of Israel, or as an alternate name for Jacob/Israel.
2.) "Hoshea" is yet another spelling of "Joshua", similar to "Oshea" as seen in Numbers: Chapter 13 prior to Moses renaming him "Jehoshua", or Joshua. It's unclear why this form of Joshua's name is used here, but it might possibly be further evidence for the documentary hypothesis.
Thoughts:After Moses (and Joshua, or is it Hoshea?) recite the song lyrics to God's #1 hit single to the Israelites, he tells the people to take the lyrics to heart, and to ensure that they teach them to their children - adding that it's not "vain" for them to do so, since it will prolong their lives in the "promised land"

Next God tells Moses to climb Mount Nebo and to take a good look at the land of Canaan - the "promised land" - since he won't be allowed to enter it. He tells Moses that he will die upon the mountain, in a similar fashion to his brother Aaron, due to both of them messing up that whole striking a rock instead of speaking to it that somehow didn't "sanctify" God in the presence of the people of Israel.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Chapter 31
Summary:Moses spoke the following words to all the people of Israel:
"I am one hundred and twenty years old today and I can no longer perform my duties to lead you, and also the Lord has said to me that I shall not cross over the Jordan River. The Lord your God will lead you over and he will destroy the nations before you, and you shall possess them; Joshua shall lead you as the Lord has said.

"The Lord shall do to these nations and unto their land as he had done to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed. The Lord shall bring them to you face to face, that you may do to them according to what I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid of them for the Lord your God will be with you, and he will not fail or forsake you."
Moses then called to Joshua and spoke to him in the presence of all of Israel:
"Be strong and courageous, for you must lead these people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their forefathers, and you shall ensure that they inherit it. The Lord will lead you and will be with you. He will not fail you, nor forsake you, so do not be afraid nor dismayed."
Moses then wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant, and also to the elders of Israel.

Moses commanded them saying:
"At the end of every seven years, in the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all of Israel is to come and appear before the Lord your God in the place which he shall choose, you are to read these laws to the entire population of Israel. Gather the people together, men, women, children, and the stranger in town, that they may hear, that they may learn, and that they may fear the Lord your God; for as long as you live in the land you are about to possess across the Jordan River."
God said to Moses:
"Behold, the day of your death is approaching. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tabernacle, so that i may give him his orders"
Moses and Joshua went and entered the tabernacle of the congregation, and God appeared as a pillar of cloud standing above the tabernacle door. God said to Moses:
"Soon, you shall rest alongside your forefathers; and the people will then rise up and go a whoring after the gods belonging to the strangers of the land. They will go to be among them and will forsake me, breaking my covenant with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them. They shall be devoured and many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say, 'Aren't these evils that came upon us because our God is not among us?' And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they have wrought, because they turned to other gods.

"Now therefore write down the words to this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Make them remember these words, so that this song may serve as a warning to the people of Israel. For when I will have brought them into the land that I swore to their forefathers - that flows with milk and honey - after they have eaten and filled themselves until they become fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, provoking me and breaking my covenant. When many evils and troubles befall them, this song shall testify against them as a witness, for it shall not be forgotten throughout their generations. I know their imagination which they go about, even now before I have even brought them into the land which I promised."
Moses therefore wrote down the words to the song and taught it to the people of Israel. He then gave Joshua (the son of Nun) an order, telling him:
"Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land which I swore to them; and I will be with you."
Moses finished writing the words of the law into a book, and commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant, saying:
"Take this book of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a warning to you. For I know how rebellious and stubborn you all are - look at how rebellious against the Lord you have been while I've been alive; how much worse will you be after my death?

"Summon all of the elders of your tribes, as well your officers, so that I may speak to them, and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will utterly corrupt yourselves and turn away from what i have commanded you; evil will befall you in the days to come because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking his anger by your works."
Moses then recited to the entire congregation of Israel the words to the song he had recorded.
Notes:1.) This is not a typo. The bible lists Moses' actual age as 120 years old. Although technically not impossible, it is highly unlikely that without the aid of modern medicine (or "miracles") that Moses could have achieved such an advanced age, especially given how mentally and physically active he is claimed to have been at such an age.
2.) It's unclear whether Moses is truly referring to himself in the first person, whether this is actually God speaking, whether this might be another example of the documentary hypothesis, or whether this may be a mistranslation of Moses quoting God.
Thoughts:Moses addresses the Israelites (somehow all 600,000+ of them) and reminds them that he is now 120 years old(!) and also that he has been forbidden to enter the "promised land", so soon Joshua will succeed him as their leader. He adds that God will lead them over the Jordan River and will destroy the "heathen nations" that they encounter along the way, much the same way that he did to King Sihon and King Og - which means that not a single survivor will be left alive.

Moses tells the Israelites to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid of their enemies, because God will be with them in battle and will not forsake them - something Moses will repeat a few more times throughout this chapter. Moses summons Joshua and addresses him in the presence of the mass of people, telling him basically the same thing, and that it will be his job to lead the people of Israel.

Moses writes down all the laws that he has given to the Israelites and gives the writings to the Levite priests, telling them that every seven years during the feast of tabernacles that the priests are to read these laws to the entire population of Israel, including to strangers that are in town. Moses states that this is to be followed for as long as they live within the "promised land".

God then speaks to Moses and tells him that the day of his death is looming (which seems like a terrible thing to tell someone, even if they are 120 years old) and that he and Joshua need to meet with him at the tabernacle, so that God may deliver orders to Joshua. God meets them at the door of the tabernacle taking the form of a cloud, yet continues to talk to Moses.

God again tells Moses that soon he will die, and that afterward the Israelites will go "a whoring" after other gods, which of course will make God angry and "provoke him" to do all sorts of nasty things - like all of the things God threatens them with in Deuteronomy: Chapter 28. God says that the people will realize that all of these "evils" that came upon them are due to that God is no longer among them.

Therefore God has Moses write down some song lyrics that he says will serve as a warning to the Israelites, and tells Moses to teach them this song. God states that once the Israelites arrive in the "promised land" they will become greedy with prosperity and begin turning to other gods - which of course will "provoke" God to do all sorts of nasty things to them. He states that this song however will not be forgotten throughout their generations.

God concludes that he knows that the Israelites will fail him, which brings up a crucial point - God often posits that capital punishment will serve as a deterent from others committing the same crime - for example, Deuteronomy 17:12-13 states
17:12 "...even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel."
17:13 "And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously."
Yet obviously, death on massive scale do not dissuade the Israelites from worshiping other gods as seen from the 3,000 deaths (and an unspecified amount as the result of a plague) for worshiping Aaron's golden calf (for which Aaron went unpunished for creating an "idol"), and the 24,000+ deaths as a result of the Baalpeor incident (where God even ordered the corpses of the leaders of the tribes of Israel to be hung up on display) for "committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab". Therefore if capital punishment for worshiping other gods isn't an effective deterrent, and God knows that the Israelites will worship other gods after Moses dies, then we can't accept the lyrics to God's song as a "warning". For it to be a "warning" he couldn't have absolute certainty that the Israelites will worship other gods, and for capital punishment to be a deterrent it would have to at least cause a decrease in the amount of offenses - and considering that the number of deaths multiplied over eight times for both recorded incidents (3,000+ for the golden calf incident, to 24,000+ for the Baalpeor incident) that obviously isn't the case. This would lead to reason that either the Israelites were rock stupid which would make God killing them even more barbaric, or that the Israelites simply weren't afraid of the punishments for worshiping other gods possibly because the numbers in the bible are highly inflated, or that some or all of these events simply didn't happen at all. Any way you look at it it remains troubling that God does not seem very concerned about doing much to prevent the Israelites from committing an act that will result in God brutally decimating them.

Moses writes down the song lyrics and again Joshua is told to "be strong and courageous" because God will be with him.

Moses then gives the book of laws to the Levites who had the task of carrying the "ark of the covenant" telling them to put it beside the ark. He then chides them for being rebellious, and insinuates that because of how "rebellious" they have been while Moses has been alive, that they will become worse once he dies. I can't help but suspect that possibly Moses could be encouraging a self-fulfilling prophecy by telling them exactly what he thinks they will do, while berating and belittling them.

The chapter ends with Moses beginning to recite the lyrics to the new hit song God wrote for them.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Chapter 30
Summary:Moses' speech continues:
"It shall come to pass, when these things have come upon you - the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you - which you shall remember as you live amongst the nations where the Lord your God has driven you. Should you return to the Lord your God, and you and your children obey his words according to all that I command you on this day, with all your heart and all your soul; then the Lord your God will release you from your captivity, have compassion upon you, and will gather and return you from all of the nations where he has scattered you. The Lord will gather and fetch you even if you have been driven out to the outmost parts of the world, and he will return you to the land which he promised to your forefathers, and you shall possess it. He will do good and multiply you more than your ancestors, and he shall circumcise your heart, and the hearts of your children, to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul, that you may live.

"The Lord will then put all of these curses upon your enemies, and upon those that hate you and have persecuted you, and you shall return and obey the word of the Lord, and follow his commandments which I give to you on this day. The Lord will make you plentiful in every work that you do, making fertile you, your livestock, and your crops; for the Lord will again rejoice over you, as he rejoiced over your fathers if you hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, keep his commandments and statutes which are written in this book of law, and if you turn unto the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul.

"The commandment which I command to you this day is not hidden from you, nor is it beyond your reach - it is not in the heaven nor beyond the sea, that you should need to ask for it to be brought to you - but it is close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.

"I have set before you on this day life and goodness, and death and evil, depending on whether you love the Lord your God, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments, statutes, and judgments, so that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God shall bless you in the land which you will go to possess. But if you turn your heart away, and will not listen, and allow yourself to be drawn away to worship other gods and serve them; I denounce to you on this day that you will surely perish, and that you will not live long in the land over the Jordan River that you are going to possess.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing - therefore choose life, so that both you and your offspring shall live. You should love the Lord your God, and should obey his voice, that you should cling to him - for he is your life, and prolongs the length of your days that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore unto your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
Thoughts:Moses begins this short chapter by stating that should God curse the Israelites according to the curses he laid out in Deuteronomy: Chapter 28, that should they "return to God" and obey him, then God will show compassion for them again and gather the Israelites back into the "promised land", and will bless them with fertility. In addition, God will also turn the curses around onto the enemies of Israel and will rejoice over the people of Israel.

Basically this is nothing more than threats and coercion to ensure compliance. God threatens the Israelites with all of these nasty things if they don't play by his rules, and will simultaneously reward their enemies; but if they decide once again to obey, then God offers to do all of these wonderful things, such as blessing them with fertility, and will instead inflict the nasty punishments that they received upon their enemies. A modern analogy would be a leader such as the President extorting obedience by giving citizens free food in return for compliance; but when met with disobedience, not only will he give the food to enemy nations, he'll also send the army in to ransack your gardens and your kitchens to prevent you from growing and storing your own food.

Moses then further complicates the issue by stating that God is giving the Israelites a "choice": either obey and live, or disobey and die - therefore, the Israelites should "choose" to obey God to avoid suffering death (and the curses laid out in.Deuteronomy: Chapter 28).

The problem here is that you can't truly consider lethal threats a "choice" by any means. If one were to place a gun to another person's head and tell that person that if they choose "A" instead of "B" that they will be shot dead, this would not be a true "choice" on the part of the victim, it would be coerced compliance for self preservation. Much like a mugging victim doesn't truly "choose" to fork over their cash to a mugger.

Of note, Moses puts emphasis on the Israelites who disobey God implying that they will be "drawn away" to worship other Gods. Again, this is appears to be God's biggest concern above all else - the worship of other gods.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Chapter 29
Summary:These are the words that God commanded Moses to give to the people of Israel in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant made in Horeb. Moses called upon all of Israel and said to them:
"You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto the Pharaoh, his servants, and his land. The great temptations which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles; yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive, eyes to see, or the ears to hear until this day.

"I have led you forty years through the wilderness, yet your clothes have not worn out upon you, nor have your shoes worn out upon your feet. You have not eaten bread, nor drank wine or strong drink, that you might know that I am the Lord your God.

"When you came to this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us in battle, and we smote them. We took their land and gave it as an inheritance to the Rebuenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh. Therefore, keep the words of this covenant and obey them, so that you may prosper in all that you do.

"All of you shall stand before the Lord your God - including the captains of your tribes, your elders, your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the strangers living amongst you, from the one who chops your wood, to the one that draws your water - that you should enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into his oath, which the Lord your God will make with you this day. That he may establish you on this day as his people, and that he may be your god, as he has said to you, and sworn to your forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not only with you do I make this covenant and this oath, but with him that stands here with us on this day before the Lord our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day.

"For you know how we had dwelt in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the nations we passed by. You have seen their abominations, and their idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold which were among them. Lest there be among you man or woman, family or tribe, whose heart turn away this day from the Lord your God, to go serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood; it shall come to pass when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, 'I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my own heart,' to add drunkenness to thirst. The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger and jealousy of the Lord shall smoke against that man, and all of the curses written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. The Lord shall separate him as evil out of the tribes of Israel, according to the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law; so that the generation to come of your children shall rise up after you, and the stranger that comes from far away lands shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sickness which the Lord has laid upon it. That the whole land thereof is brimstone, salt, and burning, that cannot bear crops or fruit trees, nor will the grass grow therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath. Other nations shall ask why the Lord has done this to the land, and what provoked his great anger? The men shall answer that it is because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt. For they went and served and worshiped other gods - gods whom they knew not, and whom were not given to them - and the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book; and the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation, casting them into another land, as it is this day.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."
Notes:1.) It is unclear whether this is an error of attributing to Moses what seems more likely to be a quote from God, or whether Moses is quoting God himself.

Thoughts:This chapter begins with Moses addressing the entire congregation of Israel (supposedly around two million people or more) and tells them that although they witnessed all the "miracles" and plagues that God unleashed upon the land of Egypt and the Pharaoh, that God has not given them the ability to understand its significance until this very day.

Aside from Moses, Aaron's sons, Joshua, and Caleb, few of the Israelites present during this chapter of the story would have been alive during the Exodus, as Moses states himself in Numbers: Chapter 26, that no one counted in the previous census conducted in Mount Sinai remained alive when he made a new census. This means that the few possible eyewitnesses would have been teenagers at the oldest during the events in Egypt, and it would be very likely that quite a few of them would be killed in the various ensuing plagues that God sent upon the Israelites, or possibly in battle, thereby thinning the pool even greater.

Moses claims that after the forty year excursion through the wilderness that neither the Israelites' clothes nor their shoes had worn out. I don't think I even need to bother commenting on how ridiculous that notion is.

He also states that the reason the Israelites haven't eaten bread, nor drank wine or hard liquor, is so that they would know that God was their god(?) What this is trying to imply is that by God giving the Israelites the bare minimal means for survival - manna and water - instead of luxury foods and wine, that this somehow proves that God is their god.

Like he's done throughout the book of Deuteronomy, Moses misrepresents the Israelite's slaughter of King Sihon and King Og, their kingdoms, as well as giving their land to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. Whether this is done for brevity or to bolster the appearance of "righteousness" is unclear.

He next tells the Israelites that every single one of them - including wives, children, slaves, servants, and strangers in town - must stand before God and enter into a covenant with him. Doing so, Moses claims, will establish that they will be "God's people".

Quickly Moses changes his speech into yet another tirade against worshiping other gods. He states that the Israelites have seen the "abominations" of idols crafted from wood, stone, silver, and gold, and if anyone - man, woman, or child - "turn their heart way from" God by serving these other gods, that God will not spare such a person, but instead visit upon them all of the curses laid out in the previous chapter, and that their name will be "blotted out from under heaven". He continues stating that the offender's children and future descendants wil rise up against them, and that foreigners will marvel at the curses God deals out as a punishment against the land of the offender. He notes that the whole land will be covered in brimstone, salt, and "burning", and that neither grass nor crops will grow there - similar to the fates of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Somehow Moses reasons that other nations will realize and equate the destruction of the land to the Israelites forsaking their covenant with God, and that God retaliated against them due to his anger.

Moses ends the chapter by stating that "secret things" (meaning "prophecy") belong to God, but that those of which God reveals to the Israelites, belong to them so that they may obey God's laws. Basically what Moses is implying here is that God reveals prophecy as "evidence" for his existence and authority. Moses also implies that "prophecy" itself belongs only to God, which thereby justifies the condemning and subsequent killing of "fortune tellers", "diviners", and "mediums" - which laughably the criteria of determining whether a self-proclaimed prophet is speaking the word of God is whether the prophecy comes true or not.