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Friday Bible Blogging - Deuteronomy 1 to Deuteronomy 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleDeuteronomy is the fifth and final book of the Pentateuch. It's actually a bit of an anomaly. According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), the first four books of the Pentateuch were probably all brought together as a single collection before Deuteronomy was added (the Quadrateuch?). Deuteronomy probably served as an introduction to the Historical books before those were combined with Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. At that point, Deuteronomy was grouped with those other four books to create the Pentateuch, possibly with a slight rearrangement to move Moses's death from the end of Numbers to the end of Deuteronomy. And of course, the book of Deuteronomy has its own history of changes and combining information from different sources.

Deuteronomy is grouped mainly as three sermons from Moses, with a few other 'appendices' thrown in. It is largely repetitious of elements from Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. However, having a different origin, it's not entirely consistent with those other books (nor with itself, for that matter), and has a few bits of information original to it. As I said in the introduction to this series, I don't want to get bogged down in too many details in these reviews, so I'm not going to focus too much on the inconsistencies. I'll point out a few of them, but if you want in depth analysis of contradictions in the Bible, then the Skeptics Annotated Bible is probably the resource you want to use.

Since this book is so repetitious of the previous three books, don't expect detailed summaries of everything that happened. I'm just going to hit on a few highlights.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 1

Deuteronomy begins shortly after the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites are camped at the base of the mountain where God gave them the Ten Commandments. However, this book refers to it as Horeb, as opposed to Mt. Sinai. Since Deuteronomy had a much different origin than the rest of the Pentateuch, this could either represents a different name used for the same location, or even a belief that the story took place at a different location.

This chapter covered the time from leaving Horeb until the spies returned from the promised land, prompting the 40 years of wandering the wilderness. In this telling, there was no mention of false reports from the spies - just the Israelites not wanting to fight such strong enemies.

Interestingly, this chapter ended with an incomplete sentence that was continued in the next chapter.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 2

This chapter briefly covered the wandering in the wilderness, pointing out that "the entire generation of warriors had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn concerning them." It moved on to the start of Israel beginning to conquer different lands. Whereas previous books called for a mix of destruction and driving out the previous inhabitants, this time it was all destruction, "in each town we utterly destroyed men, women, and children. We left not a single survivor. 35 Only the livestock we kept as spoil for ourselves, as well as the plunder of the towns that we had captured."

Deuteronomy appears to include more details than the other books on lands that weren't conquered because they either already belonged to descendents of characters mentioned previously in the Bible, or had been promised to them, such as the lands belonging to Esau and those belonging to Lot.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 3

This chapter covered from the conquering of King Og to God telling Moses that Moses would not get to enter the promised land.

There was one verse that was interesting from two points of view.

Now only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. In fact his bed, an iron bed, can still be seen in Rabbah of the Ammonites. By the common cubit it is nine cubits long and four cubits wide.

The first interesting part is the idea that Og was a giant of a man, whose bed was 13 1/2 feet long and 6 feet wide. Second is the statement that it "can still be seen". That's one of the clues that this book was written long after the supposed events it described had taken place.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 4

The first 43 verses of this chapter are traditionally included as the closing part of Moses's first sermon, but it's a little bit different from the first three chapters. While those earlier chapters were a 'historical' summary, this one was mostly exhortations to the Israelites to follow the law.

This chapter included some of the strongest language against idolatry, such as, "15 Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, 16 so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure--the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth."

As I wrote up in the introduction, Deuteronomy is not very internally consistent. For example, in verse 3, Moses describes another god, "You have seen for yourselves what the Lord did with regard to the Baal of Peor..." Verse 7 also hinted at the existence of other gods, "For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him?" And again, in verses 33 and 34, "Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?" (There are further hints of other gods in following chapters, but I'm not going to quote all of them.) But then, in verse 39, the book says that there is only one god, "So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other."

The final few verses are the introduction to Moses's second sermon, which begins in earnest in the next chapter.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 5

Here, Moses repeated the law to the Israelites. The Ten Commandments here are largely similar to, but slightly different, from when they were presented in Exodus.

This was supposed to have been Moses's retelling to the next generation of Israelites, after wandering the desert, but these next few chapters seemed to switch back as if Moses was addressing the generation that had been alive at Horeb, "Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today," and "When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders..."


Deuteronomy, Chapter 6

This chapter continued on with more rules, mostly repetitious of previous books.

There was one line that caught my eye, and will probably be familiar to most Christians, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah."


Deuteronomy, Chapter 7

This chapter contained rules on what the Israelites were to do once in the promised land. Again, it mostly repeated rules from other books, including telling the Israelites to "utterly destroy" the previous inhabitants. But even if the Israelites weren't completely successful in exterminating their enemies, God promised to help them, "Moreover, the Lord your God will send the pestilence against them, until even the survivors and the fugitives are destroyed."

There was an interesting verse explaining why the conquest wouldn't be too fast, "The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you."


Deuteronomy, Chapter 8

This was a short chapter. The first part consisted in telling the Israelites that their wandering had been to humble them, but also to trust in the Lord because he had continued to provide for them.

The second part was a warning to follow all the commandments, lest God destroy them like he had destroyed the other nations before them.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 9

This chapter was basically one long guilt trip on the Israelites. First, Moses told them that God was not taking them to the promised land because of anything good that they'd done, but because the previous inhabitants were so wicked, "Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people." The chapter then went on to describe several of the episodes that had provoked God's anger, giving the most detail to the story of the golden calf.


Deuteronomy, Chapter 10

Chapter 10 was back to Horeb, and describing God making the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. There was a bit of discontinuity describing the Israelites wandering before getting back to Moses spending forty days on the mountain.

I found these verses rather interesting:

12 So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being.

That's one heck of an 'only'.


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As I mentioned a few times above, the book of Deuteronomy is not very consistent. It has numerous inconsistencies within its own pages, and even more when compared to other books of the Bible. Other than that, there's not much for me to write here. So much of what I've read so far in Deuteronomy is simply a summary of what was written in other books.


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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