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.

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