Monday, July 30, 2007

Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6: Love the LORD Your God

Synopsis

In the last chapter, Moses reiterated for the Israelites the 10 Commandments, that God had handed down from Mount Horeb. In this chapter, you could say that he’s trying to get them to focus on their priorities. (That is, put God first.) He starts by summing up the reason that they should have been given any laws/rules at all:

These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. (verses 1–3)

But the next verses are the ones that sum up this chapter—and are probably pretty familiar to you, since Jesus quoted them as the most important commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (verses 4–5). (The footnote for the first part of this indicates that it could also have been translated as “The LORD our God is one LORD,” or “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one,” or “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” In my mind, each of these translations boils down to the same thing, but with different shades of meaning.)

Moses tells the people that the laws and rules and regulations that he’s handing down to them are not just to be written down in the rulebooks, to be consulted when necessary; they’re to be written on the Israelites’ hearts. They are to teach the rules to their children; they are to be constantly thinking about them, and discussing them with each other. In verses 8–9 he even says, “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Moses warns the Israelites that when God brings them into the land—“a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant”—they are to be careful not to forget Him. They were to fear the LORD, serving only Him; they were not to follow other gods, including the gods of the people around them. If they did, God—who would be among them, and is a jealous God—would let His anger burn against them, and He would destroy them from the face of the land.

Moses finishes the chapter by saying this:

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (verses 20–25)

Thoughts

When Moses tells the Israelites to tie the LORD’s commands on their hands and bind them to their foreheads, modern-day Christians usually assume that he was speaking metaphorically, but the Israelites did it literally; they created little boxes, called “philactories,” in which they would place verses of scripture, and they would then strap these philactories to their arms. I don’t know if this was in Moses’ and/or Joshua’s time, or if this was something that the Pharisees started doing hundreds of years later—in fact, a quick search on the web turned up very little information about philactories, so I’m going completely on memory.

The fact that God presents the Israelites with the book of Deuteronomy—an entire book devoted to pleading with the Israelites not to forget the LORD, and warning them as to what will happen if they do—should be considered one huge act of foreshadowing. In one sense, it seems sad; you read through some of these Old Testament books thinking to yourself “If only they had listened! If only they had obeyed! Imagine what the nation of Israel could have been like, if they’d followed God like they were supposed to!” But then, on the other hand, from a Christian perspective, it’s good that the world was created in the way that it was; that we aren’t able to obey God, or get to Him, but because of the death of His Son, He gives us the ability.

There are, of course, lessons for us, in this passage, as well. Moses is warning the Israelites not to forget God, once they have entered the Promised Land, and, specifically, once they “eat and are satisfied” (verse 11). This is something that hasn’t changed since the world was formed, and never will: It’s when everything is going well that we’re most likely to forget God, because we feel that we don’t need Him.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Deuteronomy 5

Deuteronomy 5: The 10 Commandments

Synopsis

In the last passage, Moses gave an introduction to the laws he was about to reiterate for the Israelites. In this chapter, he begins giving them those laws, appropriately enough, with the 10 Commandments, that God had handed down on Mount Horeb. He begins thusly:

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) …

(verses 1–5)


These are the commandments that were handed down:

  1. They were not to have any gods before (or besides) God
  2. They were not to create idols, of any form, and they were not to bow down or worship idols. A reason is given for this commandment:

    … for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (verses 9b–10)
  3. They were not to “misuse” the LORD’s name (verse 11). The ESV translates this as “[y]ou shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” which is probably the way most of us are used to hearing this.
  4. They were to observe the Sabbath, keeping it holy, by doing no work on that day. Nobody in the land was to do any work; not sons or daughters, not servants, not livestock, not even any visitors to the land. Again, a reason is given for this command:

    Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (verse 15)
  5. They were to honour their parents, that their days would be long, and that it would go well with them in the land that the LORD was giving them.
  6. They were not to murder
  7. They were not to commit adultery
  8. They were not to steal
  9. They were not to “give false testimony” against their neighbour (verse 20); the ESV translates “give false testimony” as “bear false witness.”
  10. They were not to covet things that other people had

Moses reminds the people that God had given them these commandments, “in a loud voice” (verse 22), and then written them on stone tablets—and that the people, upon hearing the LORD’s voice, were very afraid, and therefore asked if God would please stop speaking to them directly, and instead direct His messages to them through Moses. (That is, obviously, my own paraphrasing of the conversation.) Then God’s response is given:

The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

“Go, tell them to return to their tents. But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess.”

(verses 28–31)


With all of this in mind, Moses entreats the Israelites to obey the LORD’s commands, so that they will live and prosper in the Promised Land.

Thoughts

On an unrelated note, I don’t know if I’ve been consistent on this blog about writing “The Ten Commandments” vs. “The 10 Commandments,” but I don’t think it’s a very big deal.

I’ve decided, based on all of the context in Deuteronomy, that Mount Horeb must be the mountain where God handed down the 10 Commandments to the Israelites. In Exodus 19:10–11 it states that the Israelites were at Mount Sinai, but I am now concluding that Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai must be two names for the same mountain. (And, in fact, I looked up “Horeb” on Wikipedia, and was told the same thing.)

The ninth commandment is phrased in pretty legalistic terms; the Israelites were forbidden from “giving false testimony,” or, as other translations put it, “bearing false witness.” We generally understand this to be a more general commandment, not to lie, rather than one that only applied during legal proceedings. But I have to wonder; why didn’t God just say “don’t lie,” instead of saying “don’t give false testimony?” I’m just posing the question; I don’t pretend to have an answer.

I also find it very interesting that the fifth commandment is a commandment for the Israelites to honour their parents, and the tenth commandment is not to covet. “Don’t kill,” “don’t steal,” even “don’t commit adultery,” these all seem like no-brainers—but to have a commandment against coveting seems very… well, very personal. How can you police a commandment like that? You can’t; but the 10 Commandments were not about creating enforceable laws, they were about creating a relationship between the Israelites and their God. On a personal note, think how much closer to God any of us would be if we didn’t covet things we didn’t have; if we could be satisfied with what we have. Paul learned this; in the letter to the Philippians he writes:

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10–13)

I had always thought of the Old Testament rules as being more legalistic, and the New Testament paradigm being more of a personal relationship with God, but as I’m blogging through the Bible, and going through the Old Testament rules, I’m finding that this isn’t really the case. (Or, at the very least, that the truth is more complex than that.) The Old Testament rules are already pretty personal, between the Israelites and their God. I find it unlikely that any other nation—before or since—had a rule that they weren’t allowed to covet.

I’m tempted to start writing about the fact that covetousness is a way of life, in our possession-driven North American society, but I’ll leave that tangent aside…

Friday, July 20, 2007

Deuteronomy 4:41–49

Deuteronomy 4:41–49: Cities of Refuge, and the Law

Synopsis

I’m sort of combining two short sections together, for this post.

Verses 41–43 outline the cities of refuge that Moses set aside in the land East of the Jordan. (You can refer back to Numbers 35, for information about cities of refuge.)

Then in verses 44–49 there is an introduction to the laws that Moses is about to reiterate for the Israelites. Since a good portion of the book fo Deuteronomy will be Moses reminding the Israelites of the laws that the LORD has handed down, these verses are basically saying “here is where Moses started setting the laws before the Israelites.”

Thoughts

There’s not much to say about these passages, they’re both pretty straightforward.

I’m 99% sure that none of the laws given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy are new; they’re all rules that were already handed down, in the books of Exodus and Numbers.

Deuteronomy 4:32–40

Deuteronomy 4:32–40: God is the Only God

Synopsis

In this passage, Moses tries to demonstrate to the Israelites not only that there is no “god” other than God, but that the Israelites also have a very special relationship with Him. He starts by reminding them what God has done for them:

Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? (verses 32–34)

Moses tells the Israelites that the reason God has shown them these things is so that they would “know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other” (verse 35). He spoke to them from heaven, and He gave them a pillar of fire to see. And He did this because He loved the Israelites’ forefathers. Therefore, He is going to bring them into the Promised Land, and give it to them as an inheritance, even though the people currently living there are stronger than the Israelites.

Moses sums up thusly:

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. (verses 39–40)

Thoughts

There are two, related, arguments that Moses is making in this passage:
  1. There is no other “god” besides God Himself
  2. The Israelites should remember all that God has done for them, thus far, and therefore continue to trust Him going forward
I don’t know how well modern-day Christians feel they can relate to the first point. I think there’s a common understanding between us that there is only one God; we don’t worship Baal, or other “gods.” In fact, we tend to look down on the Old Testament Israelites, for what we consider to be their stupidity—“how could they possibly worship a golden calf?!? How backwards!”

When we’re tempted into idolatry, it’s not usually in the sense that we’re building physical idols, or specifically worshipping other gods. Instead, our idolatry is the type of idolatry where we put money ahead of God, or our own desires ahead of God, or that type of thing. But the same concepts apply; God (through Moses) was saying to the Israelites, in effect, “Why would you ever worship another god? What other god has done the things that I have done?” And you could ask the same question of money, or your own desires: could money ever do for you all of the things that God can do? Even if you had all the money you’d ever want, could it do for you what God could do?

The second point is easier to relate to our own, modern-day lives. Based on all that God has done, for the Israelites and throughout the rest of history, we have all the reason in the world to trust Him. Moses was trying to prod the Israelites to worship Him properly, and avoid other gods, but the message still applies to us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Arguments Christians Should Not Use

I found this article, Arguments Christians Should Not Use, on the Skeptical Christian site. (Actually, I found the link on the Withering Fig blog, and followed it from there.) I think it’s a good article, so I recommend it.

I should note that I’ve never been to the Skeptical Christian site before, so I don’t know about the rest of the site, but this article at least was worth reading, so perhaps the rest is, too…

Deuteronomy 4:15–31

Deuteronomy 4:15–31: Moses warns against idolatry

Synopsis

I’m tempted to simply quote this entire passage, as I did the last one, but I won’t, because I feel I’ll get more out of it by paraphrasing it. As always, of course, I suggest you click on the link above and go and read the passage yourself, before reading this post.

In this passage, Moses warns the Israelites not to be ensnared by idolatry. He reminds them that they saw “no form” (verse 15), when the LORD spoke to them out of the fire at Mount Horeb; therefore, they should not create any kind of an idol, “…whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below” (verses 16–18) He also warns them not to be enticed into worshipping the sun, the moon, or the stars, which are things that the LORD Himself created. Moses also reminds the Israelites that the LORD is the one who saved them out of Egypt, “the iron-smelting furnace” (verse 20).

After this, Moses tells them, again, that he will not be joining them in the Promised Land—and, once again, he says that it is because of them—and entreats them once again not to forget God’s covenant with them, nor to create any type of idol. And then he tells them something that they would be wise to remember:

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (verse 24)

Moses then warns the Israelites: If, after time passes in the Promised Land, they begin to worship idols, the LORD will destroy them. He will leave only a few Israelites left, and those few will be scattered among other nations. But, if they later repent, God will not abandon them:

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. (verses 29–31)

Thoughts

Moses tells the Israelites not to create any type of idol, because when God had spoken to them, He had shown them no form. That is, He didn’t come down looking like a man—not even an old man with a big white beard—nor did He come looking like a lion, or a bull, or anything else. One of the things that this tells us is that any image, even if it were intended to look like God, would be a poor representation, and not do Him justice. There would be no idol—no painting, no sculpture, no image of any kind—that could passably represent God. (Yes, I meant to say “passably,” not “possibly.”)

It may seem odd to us, to have the Bible refer to God as being a “jealous” God, as in verse 24 above. We don’t think of jealousy as being a godly emotion; jealousy can be—and I would say usually is—petty and sinful. However, there are cases where jealousy is not only acceptable, it’s the right reaction. If you see your spouse talking to someone of the opposite sex, and get jealous, that’s probably sinful; but if your spouse actually commits adultery, then not only can you feel jealous, you should feel jealous. He or she did something that was supposed to be reserved only for you; if you don’t feel jealous, there’s something wrong with your marriage. I purposely use marriage as an example, because God so often does in the Bible. When the Israelites worship false gods, God calls it adultery. The Israelites were to worship God, and God alone; when they didn’t, He reacted with a “holy jealousy.”

Finally, the Israelites in the Old Testament provide an interesting study in human psychology. Here in Deuteronomy, Moses clearly tells the Israelites that if they don’t follow the LORD’s commands properly, if they fall into idolatry, that God will kick them out of the Promised Land. And yet, hundreds of years later, the Israelites would abandon God, and worship other gods—but they felt that they would never be punished by God, because they were His chosen people. It was easy for them to selectively remember parts of God’s covenant with them; to remember that they were His chosen people, but not to remember the rules they had to live by, to maintain that relationship. And many modern-day Christians do the exact same thing; they believe certain parts of the Bible, but don’t know or don’t remember other, more inconvenient parts. The only cure I can think of for that is to continually read it, day after day—and not just certain parts, but the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blog Template

There’s a very good chance that I’ll be changing the template for this blog; I’ve noticed some strange things happening with it, for the last couple of days, and I think the problem is that some pieces of the template (CSS files, images, JavaScript, etc.) are hosted on someone else’s site. (See this page, from the person who created the template—or at least parts of it—for an explanation, but basically, his servers are getting overloaded.) It’s too bad, because I kind of liked this template, but I’m sure I’ll find another one that I also like.

So my main point is this: if you notice strange problems with the site, just bear with me, until I get a chance to use a new template, and hopefully they’ll go away.

Deuteronomy 4:1–14

Deuteronomy 4:1–14: Moses begins recounting the law

Synopsis

In this passage, Moses begins recounting the laws that the LORD passed down to him. For this passage, since it’s his opening remarks, I’m going to break with tradition, and simply quote the whole thing, instead of doing a “synopsis.”

Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.

You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today.

See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

(verses 1–14)


When Moses mentions the “Baal of Peor,” he’s referring to Numbers 25, but when he mentions the Israelites standing before God at Horeb, I’m not sure which incident this is referring to. In Exodus 20 God hands down the 10 Commandments, but that’s at Mount Sinai; I see Mount Horeb mentioned when Moses encounters the burning bush, in Exodus 3, and again in Exodus 17, when the LORD brought water from the rock. Of course, it’s also possible that “Mount Sinai” and “Mount Horeb” are two names for the same mountain…

Thoughts

This passage pretty much sums up the purpose of the book of Deuteronomy, which is why I quoted it verbatim. As the Israelites are entering the Promised Land, Moses knows that he won’t be going with them, and he’s very anxious that they, as a nation, follow the LORD when he’s gone.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Deuteronomy 3:21–29

Deuteronomy 3:21–29: Moses Forbidden to Cross the Jordan

Synopsis

In this passage, we are given more of the story of Moses being forbidden to enter the Promised Land.

First, Moses reminds Joshua that the LORD has helped the Israelites, thus far, and will continue to do so.

At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.” (verses 21–22)

He then pleads with the LORD, one last time, to go into the Promised Land.

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: “O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” (verses 23–25)

However, the LORD is having none of it:

But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan.” (verses 26–27)

God then instructs Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua, who is going to lead the people into the land.

Thoughts

When Moses is pleading with the LORD to be allowed to enter the Promised Land, it may sound like he’s just flattering the LORD, trying to butter Him up. However, I don’t think this is the case; I think Moses really means all that he says, to God. And, what’s more, I think that he still continues to believe it, even when God turns down his request. What Moses understood, probably better than most of us, is that God is just.

He is still, however, clinging to the notion that God is angry with him because of the Israelites.

Deuteronomy 3:12–20

Deuteronomy 3:12–20: The “Transjordan” tribes

Synopsis

In this section, Moses recounts how the Reubenites and the Gadites took possession of the land East of the Jordan River.

I don’t see anything in this passage that wasn’t covered in the earlier passage, in Numbers 32. In verses 12–17, Moses goes over the land East of the Jordan which belongs to the Reubenites and Gadites, and in verses 18–20 he reminds them that they swore to go into the “main” part of the Promised Land, with the rest of the Israelites, to help them defeat the people currently living there, and take possession of it.

Thoughts

Because I’m not seeing anything in this passage that’s new from the Numbers passage, I don’t really have any further thoughts on it.

Deuteronomy 3:1–11

Deuteronomy 3:1–11: The Israelites Defeat Og

Synopsis

As Moses continues his recounting of the Israelites’ battles, thus far, he gets to the battle they fought with the king of Bashan, Og.

As the Israelites approached Bashan, Og and his whole army came out to meet them in battle. The LORD, however, reassured them:

The LORD said to [Moses], “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.” (verse 2)

So the Israelites did. Just as they’d defeated Sihon, they defeated Og, capturing all of his cities and leaving no survivors. They captured 60 cities, even though they were “fortified with high walls and with gates and bars” (verse 5).

Moses then recaps the territory that the Israelites had captured from Sihon and Og, which, I admit, I didn’t follow very well, since geography often causes my eyes to glaze over. (Even with the help of BibleMap.org I didn’t really follow it that well.) He also tells us that Og was a very large man; he had slept in an iron bed, which had been 4 metres long and 1.8 metres wide.

Thoughts

With the end of this passage, Moses is finished recounting the peoples that the Israelites have defeated, so far. And, so far, they have done a good job of following the LORD’s instructions; He tells them to completely “destroy” a nation, and they do. (According to the footnotes—which are included any time the Old Testament uses the word “destroy”—“The Hebrew term [‘destroy’] refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them.”)

The Israelites won’t always follow the LORD’s commands, like this; sometimes they won’t remove a people like they should, or sometimes they’ll keep plunder for themselves when they shouldn’t. Maybe that’s why I sense a certain tone from Moses, as he’s recounting these events; on the one hand, he’s warning the Israelites to follow the LORD, and oh the other hand, he’s reassuring them that the LORD has helped them before, He will do it again. He’s not just recounting history to them; he’s trying to get them to obey the LORD, when he’s gone.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Deuteronomy 2

Deuteronomy 2: The Israelites approach the Promised Land

Synopsis

In this chapter, Moses recounts some of the Israelites’ travels in the desert.

The first 23 verses don’t have much “action,” they just recount some of the Israelites’ travels.

  • They traveled around the “hill country of Seir” (verse 1)
  • They came to the territory of the descendants of Esau, but the LORD commanded the Israelites not to provoke them to war, for He had given the descendants of Esau that land. In fact, the Israelites were commanded to pay the descendants of Esau for any food they ate, or water they drank.
  • So the Israelites passed by the descendants of Esau, and came to Moab. Again, the LORD commanded them not to harass the Moabites, or provoke them to war, since He was not going to give the Israelites any of the Moabites’ land. (According to verse 9, the Moabites were descendants of Lot.)
  • Finally, when a generation of Israelites had died, the Israelites came to the land of the Moabites again, and again were told not to provoke the Moabites to war.

After this, the “action” begins:

“Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle. This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.” (verses 24–25; this is the LORD speaking)

So Moses sent messengers to Sihon with a peace offering, asking for permission to travel through his land:

“Let us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will not turn aside to the right or to the left. Sell us food to eat and water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through on foot—as the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, and the Moabites, who live in Ar, did for us—until we cross the Jordan into the land the LORD our God is giving us.” (verses 27–29)

But Sihon wouldn’t let them pass through, for “the LORD … had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into [the Israelites’] hands, as he has now done” (verse 30b) The LORD then reassured the Israelites that He had begun to deliver Sihon into their hands; all they had to do was conquer him, and take the land over.

And they did. They utterly destroyed Sihon, killing all of the men, women and children, and took the livestock and plunder as their own. But, in accordance with the LORD’s command, the Israelites did not approach the Ammonites, or try to take any of their land.

Thoughts

I don’t really have any thoughts on this, especially since it’s mostly review (except that Moses is giving this recap of the history a more personal feeling).

The one thing that confuses me is “Moabites” vs. “Ammonites.” Sometimes it seems as if both of those terms might apply to the same people; I really don’t have a good enough knowledge of all of the peoples of that day and age, to know the difference between a “Moabite” and an “Ammonite.”

Edwards on New Christians and Spiritual Growth

I found this series on the Pure Church blog, and decided to post links here.

From the first post, here’s the introduction:

On June 3, 1741, Jonathan Edwards wrote a letter to Deborah Hatheway. Mrs. Hatheway was converted during the awakening in New England and, since her church was without a pastor at the time sought Edwards’ counsel on how to grow as a new Christian. Edwards replied in a short letter with 19 things Hatheway should think and do. The letter is reprinted Michael A.G. Haykin’s A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards. For the next couple of posts, I’ll quote some of the advice that Edwards give.

And here are the actual posts in the series, from Pure Church:I found this very useful; I hope you will too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Deuteronomy 1:26–46

Deuteronomy 1:26–46: The Israelites refuse to enter the Promised Land

Synopsis

In this passage, Moses recounts the Israelites’ refusal to enter the Promised Land. (This is referring to the story which originally happened in Numbers 14, and continues on from the last passage.)

I guess the best way to start this passage off is to just quote Moses’ own words:

But you were unwilling to go up [into the Promised Land]; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’”

Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

(verses 26–33)


Because of this, the LORD became angry with the Israelites, and swore that nobody from the current generation of the Israelites would enter the Promised Land; they would all die in the desert—except for Caleb and Joshua—and the next generation would be the ones to enter. (The next generation being, of course, the people Moses are speaking to right now.) The LORD describes them thusly:

And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. (verse 39)


Moses also takes this chance to blame the Israelites, for the fact that he’s not allowed to go with them into the Promised Land:

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.” (verse 37)

I’m not sure if I agree with Moses when he says that he’s not being allowed to enter because of the Israelites; he has his own sin to account for, as well. But I can sense Moses’ bitterness through much of the book of Deuteronomy…

Anyway, on with the story. The Israelites changed their minds, and decided to go into the Promised Land anyway. But the LORD told them, through Moses, that He wouldn’t be going with them, so they would be defeated. But they didn’t listen, and went into the Promised Land anyway, whereupon the Amorites “chased [them] like a swarm of bees” (verse 44). They came back and wept before the LORD, but He paid no attention to their weeping—He turned a deaf ear.

Thoughts

Since this is a retelling of the story, from Moses’ perspective, it of course has his particular slant on the events. In fact, for much of the book of Deuteronomy, you can sense Moses’ frustration with the Israelites; “You had the opportunity to go into the Promised Land, and you screwed it up! Don’t let it happen again!”