Saturday, June 12, 2010


Like the book of Numbers, it took me quite a few months to get through the book of Deuteronomy, some of which can be attributed to the busyness of the holiday season back when I started this book, as well as events in my personal life, but also partially because commenting on the book of Deuteronomy required a lot of comparing and contrasting to chapters in past books of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), considering that Moses references and repeats a lot of things and events we've already encountered, and often embellishes upon his retelling of them.

The book of Deuteronomy mainly is about Moses laying down the laws (and the extreme punishments) for the Israelites, but can also be looked at as Moses' parting words to them as well. There's not a lot of narrative story in the book of Deuteronomy, and most of it is simply direct quotations of Moses addressing the Israelites, so it can also get rather tedious to read at times as well.

Moses begins his speech to the Israelites in Mid-February forty years after the exodus from Egypt. He primarily repeats to them events covered in Exodus: Chapter 17, Numbers: Chapter 13, and Numbers: Chapter 14. Moses retells various stories from these chapters and changes or embellishes many of the details - from minor details such as who ordered the spies to be sent to search out the land of Canaan, to major discrepancies such as blaming the people of Israel for his own fatal mistake of striking a rock instead of talking to it.

Moses then recounts another story where he insists that the Edomites did in fact allow them to pass through their land on their journey - which directly contradicts the story originally told in Numbers: Chapter 20 where the Edomites mobilized their army preventing them from passing through their land. Moses also insists that they passed through the land of Moab peacefully, which will be contradicted by a passage in the book of Judges. He then starts telling the people about the races of giants that used to live in the land of Moab and Mount Seir until the Edomites and Moabites destroyed them, Moses comparing this to what the Israelites will do to the giants living in Canaan.

Moses then states that it took 38 years to wait for the previous generation of Israelites - who were not allowed to enter the "promised land" - to die off before they could continue on their journey to the land of the Ammonites - who are the incestuous offspring of Lot and his youngest daughter. God tells them not to disturb the Ammonites, because he will not allow the Israelites to take their land since the Ammonites are descendants of Lot, and the land was "given" to them by God. This land too was also originally inhabited by giants before the Ammonites destroyed them and took their land.

He then recounts the story of slaughtering King Sihon and his kingdom with a major difference from the account in Numbers: Chapter 21. Instead of Sihon's destruction being retaliation as it was described in the book of Numbers, Moses now insists it was God's plan to attack and destroy them to instill fear into the surrounding nations.

Moses next describes the massacre against King Og, who was apparently the last of a race of giants in Bashan, and that his bed was apparently 13 feet long by 6 feet wide. He also recounts the story of the tribes of Gad and Reuben, as well as Manasseh, getting their land outside the "promised land" in Gilead; and the appointment of Joshua as his successor, both with different key details from their original treatments in Numbers: Chapter 32 and Numbers: Chapter 27 respectively.

Next Moses tells the Israelites that God's laws are unchangeable - they are not to be added to or subtracted from. He also posits that other nations will be impressed by God's laws, but warns them against creating idols like those "heathen nations" do. He then picks out three "cities of refuge" in the lands that he's given to Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh outside of the "promised land".

Moses retells the "ten commandments" to the people of Israel, and again reminds them that they're not to be added to or subtracted from.

Moses then stresses the importance of obedience and tells the Israelites that they are to love God and his laws, and are to teach them to their children and repeated adnauseum - including by writing them down and tying them to your hand, and writing them on the posts of their houses. He also tells them to fear God and not to tempt him again, like they did when they whined about not having any water in Exodus:Chapter 17.

Moses then turns his attention to how the Israelites are to deal with the seven nations (the Hitites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites) currently living in the "promised land", telling the Israelites to utterly destroy them and to show them no mercy. He adds that they are not to intermarry with the women of these nations, because those women would corrupt the Israelites and cause them to worship other gods. He furthers that they should destroy their religious idols, break their altars, and set fire to their graven images. He again reminds them not to leave any survivors, and that God himself would deliver any last "heathen" to the Israelites should they attempt to flee or hide. Moses explains that God will destroy the "heathen nations" little by little so that the land doesn't become "infested with wild animals".

Moses now tells the Israelites that God making them wander around the desert for forty years wasn't so much a punishment as it was a "test", adding that God deliberately let them go hungry so that he could feed them "manna" - the magical food that God created in Exodus: Chapter 16 (which some theorize might actually be referring to hallucinogenic mushrooms). Moses then boasts about how wonderful the "promised land" will be once they commit genocide against its inhabitants, but warns them not to get too cocky and take credit for anything that they acquire because not giving God credit for their acquisitions will cause them to worship other gods, which in turn will "force" God to destroy them.

While Moses prepares the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and defeat the race of giants living in Canaan, he stresses that God is not helping them win their battles because they are a "righteous" people, but only because the Anakites (the "giants") are instead a "wicked" people. Moses continues to recount every "stubborn" and "unruly" act they've committed against God - worshiping Aaron's golden calf, complaining about the food, complaining about being thirsty, gluttonously dining on quails that God had sent them, and being afraid of the giants living in the "promised land". Basically, Moses is telling them that they're not "righteous" because they whine and complain a lot, and also reminds them that he had to talk God out of committing genocide against them, because he reasons, that it "would have looked bad to the Egyptians".

Moses next retells the story of receiving the stone tablets containing the "ten commandments", and then takes credit for having built the ark of the covenant (as opposed to Bezaleel) while stating that he had to talk God out of killing them all while he stayed atop a mountain for 40 days. He tells the Israelites to fear God and to stop being such a stubborn group of people. He adds that God cannot be reasoned with or bribed, and that he favors the "underdogs" such as orphans, widows, and foreigners - reminding them that they are to be loving towards foreigners, since they themselves were foreigners in Egypt - of course, barring perhaps these foreigners, of whom are better impaled with a spear.

Next Moses tells the Israelites that they should obey God because of all the "great acts" that they've witnessed - despite also acknowledging that so few of them were actually alive and old enough to have witnessed the events forty years prior. He then brags to them about how they won't even need to irrigate their crops once they inhabit the "promised land", and that God himself will tend to the land - but only if they remain obedient, otherwise he'll halt all the rain and let the Israelites starve to death. Moses repeats that the Israelites should write the commandments down on a card and tie the card to their wrists, adding that God will drive out all of the "heathen nations' before them - regardless of their might or size - as long as they remain obedient.

After telling the Israelites that they are to ransack and destroy every last religious remnant belonging to the previous inhabitants of the lands they are invading, Moses then states that once they must build a "sanctuary" for God (in an area of land that God himself will pick out) to pay tithes and perform animal sacrifices at. He adds that if the "promised land" expands to a point where a trip to the "sanctuary" is too far away to travel to, then the Israelites may slaughter animals on their farms, but they are to drain the animal's blood first, as they are not permitted to consume the "life" of an animal. However, Moses adds that any tithes or sacrifices made to God must still be made at the "sanctuary", because sacrificing animals to God elsewhere would be a behavior akin to the "abominable heathen nations" who Moses claims "sacrifice their children by fire".

Moses then turns the discussion to more violent matters when he states that any prophet or "dreamer of dreams" that tries to coax the Israelites into worshiping other gods must be put to death by stoning, adding that if perchance that whatever they're predicting comes true, that it is just God allowing this to "test" the Israelites. Furthermore, anyone regardless of whether they're your brother, or even your children, who tries to tempt you into worshiping other gods must be stoned to death, and you must not show them any pity or mercy while you are mandated to strike the first blow against them. Finally Moses states that if an entire city has been coaxed into worshiping other gods, then every living thing in that city - people and livestock alike - are to be killed by the sword and the city is to be burned to the ground and is never to be rebuilt again.

Moses then tells the Israelites that they are forbidden from "cutting themselves" or shaving their eyebrows in regards to funeral customs, because these apparently are things that the "heathen" nations do, and that the Israelites being a "holy people" should not lower themselves to emulate people that are apparently below them. After recounting again which animals are deemed "clean" and "unclean", Moses tells them that they will have to bring their tithes and firstborn animal sacrifices to the "sanctuary" and to eat them there. If they happen to live too far away to carry the full amount of their tithes to the sanctuary, Moses says that they will be allowed to sell their tithes and to use the money crops and/or animals to sacrifice nearby the "sanctuary" when they arrive there. He also reminds them that they will have to share their feasts with the Levites, of whom own no property, and also that every third year they are to divide up their tithes to give to the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the strangers in town.

Next Moses tells the Israelites that every seven years that they are to cancel all debts owed by fellow Hebrews (debts owed by foreigners are still valid). He also warns them that they are never to refuse to lend to an Israelite in need, for it would be a "sin" to refuse. He then recounts the laws of Hebrew slavery from Exodus: Chapter 21 and states that when a Hebrew slave is released from his enslavement, that his master must supply him with a generous helping of crops, wine, and livestock upon his release. Although if the Hebrew slave decides he prefers to remain enslaved, Moses reminds them that the slave can have his ear bored with an awl, branding him a permanent slave for life. He then adds that firstborn animals are to be sacrificed, slaughtered, and eaten at the "sanctuary", unless the animal is defective - then it is be eaten at home, but the animals blood is not to be consumed.

Moses then goes over the rules for celebrating "passover", the "Festival of Weeks", and the "Festival of Tabernacles". He then instructs the people that the tribes must appoint a judge to rule over each city, and also that they are not to plant any trees near "God's altar", nor construct an image that God "hates".

After once again stating that all animal sacrifices need to be free of defects (for they are "abominations",) Moses reminds the Israelites yet again the punishment for anyone worshiping other gods is death by stoning. However, Moses adds that there must be two witnesses to the persons guilt, and that these two shall be the ones to cast the first stones. Moses next states that any case too difficult for a judge must be brought to the priests to decide, and that anyone who won't abide by their verdict is to be put to death, which Moses posits will cause people to keep in line out of fear. Moses then states that kings must be "selected by God", must be an Israelite and not a foreigner, and must not amass excessive amount of wealth or wives.

Moses then notes that because the Levites do not inherit property, that choice parts of the animal sacrifices and the first harvest sacrifices will be given to the Levites to eat. Yet again, Moses warns the Israelites not to worship other gods, nor to sacrifice their children by fire, use divination, become a fortune teller, an enchanter, a witch, a charmer, a spiritual medium, a wizard, or a necromancer. Anyone who does such a thing is an "abomination" to God, and must be put to death. He adds that God will speak to them through prophets, but that anyone falsely claiming to be a prophet must be put to death. Moses states that in order to verify if a prophet is genuine or not is dependent on whether his prophecy comes true.

Moses tells the people that when they arrive in the "promised land" they are to pick out three "cities of refuge" - in addition to the three he already picked out outside of the "promised land" in chapter 4. Moses makes a rather dumb analogy about how to assess a person's guilt on whether they committed murder based upon their past animosities toward another. He adds that if someone ambushes their neighbor and attempts to flee to a "city of refuge", then the city's elders are to deliver the person to the victim's "avenger of blood" for a revenge killing. After briefly commanding that the Israelites are not to cheat their neighbors out of land by moving their boundary markers, he states that there must be a minimum of 2 or 3 witnesses to bring a case against a person's "sin". In addition, Moses also states that anyone who falsely brings a case against another, will receive the punishment of the "sin" they accused the innocent person of - adding that they should not be pitied, and the punishment shall be an "eye for an eye".

After Moses states that any soldier that is engaged but not married, built a house but hasn't lived in it, planted a vineyard but haven't eaten from it, or is simply afraid, is excused from having to enter battle, he lays out his plans for conquering cities outside of the "promised land". First the Israelites are to offer a "peace treaty" - which consists of enslaving the inhabitants of the city - which failing that, they are to kill every male within the city, but the women and young girls may be "kept for themselves"; however when conquering cities within the "promised land", every single breathing thing is to be killed. They are also not allowed to harm any fruit trees.

Moses then states that if the body of a murdered man is found in the fields and his killer is unknown, then taking a heifer that's never been worked in a field, and breaking its neck will somehow absolve the land of Israel from the guilt of the victim's murder. Next, Moses states that if there's a pretty woman amongst the prisoners of war, that after she's grieved for a month, you can have sex with her, making her your wife. However, if you come to find out that later that you don't actually like your new wife, then you can kick her out of your home, but you mustn't sell her into slavery. Next, Moses says that if a man has two wives and favors one over the other, he can't give his birthright to one of his oldest son from his favored wife if his firstborn belongs to the wife he doesn't like. Next, if you have an unruly son, you are to drag him out to the elders of the city, stating that he is a "drunk and a glutton", and then all the males of the city are to stone him to death. If you hang a person, you are not to let the body stay up overnight, as this will "defile" the "promised land".

Moses next states that if a person loses an item - whether it be livestock, donkeys, or clothing - that it is to be returned to its owner. If the owner is not known, the item is to be kept until the owner comes looking for it. Moses then calls transvestites "abominations"; states that if you find a bird's nest that you can keep the eggs and the young, but must leave the mother bird; when building a house you must put up a guardrail on the roof so that no one falls off; forbids sowing a vineyards with other seeds, lest both the fruit and the grapes become "defiled" from doing so; forbids plowing a field with both a donkey and an ox at the same time; forbids wearing a garment with mixed fibers; and commands that the Israelites must make fringes upon their clothes.

Moses then dishes up a bunch of misogynistic laws:
  • If a man suspects that his bride was not a virgin on their wedding night, it's up to the bride's father to provide "tokens of [her] virginity" (blood stained bedsheets) to prove her innocence.
    • If the husband has falsely accused his wife, he is flogged with a whip, must pay his wife's father 100 shekels of silver, and may not divorce his wife.
    • If the father cannot prove his daughter's innocence, she gets dragged out to her father's house, and is stoned to death for "being a whore" and shaming her father's family.
  • If a man (regardless of his own marital status) sleeps with a married woman, they are both to be stoned to death.
  • When a woman is a virgin and engaged, and is raped by a man in the city, they are both to be stoned to death. The man for depriving the husband-to-be of consummating his marriage, and the woman for not screaming loud enough to prevent her own rape.
  • When a woman is a virgin and engaged, and is raped by a man out in the country, then only the rapist is to be stoned to death. Moses reasons that being out in the countryside it would be difficult to determine whether the woman screamed out or not during the rape, so that it must be assumed that she did scream, but that no one had heard her.
  • If a woman is a virgin, yet isn't engaged to be married, and is raped, then the rapist must pay the woman's father 50 shekels of silver, the rapist must marry his victim(!), and he is not allowed to divorce her for he has "devalued" her.
Moses also states that a man is not to marry his father's wife, nor "dishonor his father's bed".

Moses states that the following undesirables are not to enter the "sanctuary": anyone with testicular damage; anyone whose penis has been cut off; a bastard, including his descendants ten generations later; or the Ammonites or Moabites, because they were the races that hired Balaam and his talking donkey to curse the Israelites. He adds that they are not to discriminate against the Edomites or the Egyptians, however. A soldier that has a "wet dream", is to leave camp, wash himself, and not return until sundown. Also a "toilet area" must be set aside outside of camp, and all waste must be buried, for God will not tolerate anything "unclean" in his camp. Moses then states that a runaway slave is not to be returned, nor oppressed. Next Moses states that there are to be no prostitutes among the Israeli women, nor "sodomites" among the men, nor are the proceeds from prostitution - male or female - to be brought into the "sanctuary", for such proceeds are an "abomination" to God. Then Moses states that interest is not to be tacked onto any loans made to am Israelite, but is okay for loans made to foreigners. Moses then warns that if one makes a vow to God, then they are compelled to fulfill it, or they have committed a "sin". Next he tells the Israelites that if they pass by a neighbors vineyard or crops, that they may eat all they want until they are full, but they are not to collect any to bring home with them.

Moses next states that if I man doesn't care for his wife, he can kick her out of his home, but if she remarries and later becomes single again - either by divorce or being widowed - that her former husband is not to remarry her because she has been "defiled", and God considers this an "abomination". He adds that a newly-wed husband is not to be sent out to battle, nor given any major responsibilities in his first year of marriage, since it is his duty to "cheer up" his new bride. Moses then states that a person is not to take as collateral the tools which a man uses to earn his living, and condemns kidnapping. Moses next tells the Israelites to heed the laws concerning leprosy and wrongly brings up his sister Miriam as an example - Miriam was stricken with leprosy not because she failed to heed the laws concerning leprosy, but instead as a punishment from God for pointing out Moses' marriage to an Egyptian woman violates God's law. Next, Moses states that when giving out a loan that the recipient and not the person giving the loan is to pick out an item for collateral. Moses next states that it is a "sin" for an employer not to pay his workers promptly, especially if he is poor and in need of the money. Next Moses states that a man is not to be put to death for the "sin" of his ancestors. Moses then states that judgment is not to be skewed against foreigners, orphans, or widows - nor may a person take a widow's garment for collateral - and that people are to leave some surplus crops for them.

Moses next states that if a person has been judged "worthy" of a beating, he is to lie down and be beaten in front of the judge who orders his beating - the amount of lashes he receives is to be in accordance to the severity of his crime and is not to exceed forty lashes. He then states that an ox working in a cornfield is not to be muzzled. Moses then states that when a man's brother leaves behind a widow without any children, the man is to marry his brother's widow and appoint the firstborn child as his dead brother's heir. When a man refuses to marry his brother's widow, the widow is to complain about the man to the elders of the city, who in turn have to try and talk him into marrying her; if he still refuses, the widow gets to remove one of the man's shoes and spit in his face - which from that point on the man's house will be known as 'The house of him that had his shoe removed'. Next he adds that if two men get into a fight, the wife of either man may not grab the testicles of the other man - if she does then she should be shown no pity while her hand is chopped off. After telling the Israelites that they are to be fair in their use of weights and measures, he states that as soon as they are finished fighting the enemies surrounding the promised land, that they are then to commit genocide against the Amalekites as revenge for them attacking the slow, sick, weak, and injured amongst the Israelites - and for not "fearing God".

After telling the Israelites to bring the first of their crops down to the sanctuary in a basket and give them to the priest on duty, Moses gives a long rambling speech about how the Israelites grew into a great nation while being enslaved and mistreated by the Egyptians. He then declares another ceremony, the "Year of Tithing" - where the Israelites are to give their tithes of crops every third year to the Levites, foreigners, widows, and orphans. Yet again, he also reminds the Israelites to be obedient because God has deemed them his chosen people, better than any other nation upon the face of the earth.

Moses then commands the Israelites to construct a monument out of uncut stones, which they are to write God's laws upon once the arrive in the "promised land", adding that no iron tools are to be used in shaping the stones. The monument is to be set upon Mount Ebal along with an altar for the people to sacrifice animals upon. Next Moses then commands that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali are to stand upon Mount Ebal proclaiming curses. Among those he wants to be "cursed": anyone who makes a graven or molten image and tries to hide it; anyone who dishonors his mother or father; anyone who moves his neighbor's property marker, anyone who leads the blind in the wrong direction; anyone who twists judgment against a stranger, orphan, or widow; any man who sleeps with his father's wife; any man who commits bestiality; any man who sleeps with his sister; any man who sleeps with his mother-in-law; anyone who secretly kills his neighbor; anyone who becomes hitman; and anyone who does not obey these laws.

After briefly telling them the nice things that God will bestow upon them if they obey, Moses then states a long list of all the horrific things that God will do to the Israelites if they do not obey him.

Moses then addresses the entire congregation of Israel and tells them that although they witnessed all of the "miracles" and plagues that God unleashed upon the Egyptian people, God apparently has not given them the ability to understand the significance until this day. However only a small fraction of Moses' audience could have possibly been old enough to recall any of the "miracles" in Egypt after God killed off most of the older generation by making them wander around the desert for forty years - which laughably Moses notes that none of their clothes or shoes had worn out during. He adds that the reason the Israelites were not given any wine or hard liquor during their forty year excursion was so that they would know that Yahweh was their god, and that every single one of them - men, wives, children, slaves, servants, and even the stranger in town - must enter a covenant with God, which will establish them as "God's people". Next, Moses once again forbids them from worshiping other gods, stating that in addition to all the curses laid out in the previous chapter, that their names will be "blotted out from under heaven", and that their children and descendants will rise up against them while foreigners will marvel at the punishments God dishes out against the Israelites - that the whole land will be covered in brimstone, similar to the fates of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He then states that "prophecy" belongs only to God, and that those that have been revealed belong to the Israelites - which justifies the condemning and execution of "fortune tellers", "diviners", and "mediums".

Moses states that should God curse the Israelites for worshiping other gods, should the Israelites "return to God" and obey him, then he will again show them compassion and turn the curses around upon their enemies. Moses then tries to state that this coerced obedience is somehow a "choice".

Moses next tells the Israelites that he is 120 years old(!) and that he is forbidden from entering the "promised land", so that soon Joshua will succeed him as their leader. He tells the people that they will soon cross the Jordan River and begin committing genocide against the "heathen nations" living there. Next, he tells the Israelites to be strong and courageous because God will accompany them in battle as he addresses Joshua in front of the congregation. Moses then writes down God's laws and instructs that they should be read every seven years during the "feast of tabernacles" to the entire population of Israel - including strangers that are in town - for as long as they live within the "promised land". God then tells Moses that he shall die soon, and predicts that the Israelites will go "a whoring" after other gods and provoke his anger, so he has Moses write down some song lyrics. After giving the Levites the "book of laws" that he wrote down, he tells them to place them beside the "ark of the covenant", then proceeds to chastise them for being rebellious, stating that they will become even worse after he has died.

Moses teaches the song lyrics to the Israelites and tells them to teach them to their children. God then tells Moses to climb Mount Nebo and gaze upon the land of Canaan, and states that it will be atop the mountain that Moses will die because Moses didn't follow God's directions and therefore "didn't sanctify God" to the Israelites.

Finally, Moses gives his blessings to each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and then ascends Mount Nebo and dies at the age of 120(!). The Israelites wept for thirty days, and it is noted that there "has never been a prophet in Israel since then like Moses, whom God knew face to face".

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