Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Deuteronomy 4:1–14

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


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…


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.

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