Friday, March 19, 2010


Deuteronomy 5-7

Deuteronomy five continues the summary and review of the law that Moses is giving the Israelites who will take the promised land. It starts with the ten commandments, as previously set forth in Exodus 20, which were then written on stone tablets and given to Moses. He tells them that they "heard the voice out of the darkness" and responded that they would "listen and obey." So they must "walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." These reminders are followed, in chapter six, with repeated exhortations to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." And they were to teach their children about God bringing them out of Egypt, and if they were "careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."

In chapter seven, Moses tells them that when they take the promised land, and drive out (with God's help) the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, they must utterly destroy those nations, their altars and idols and every remnant of their civilization. "Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you." He emphasizes the importance of the "commands, decrees and laws I give you today," and stresses that God will bless them if they do that, and punish them if they do not.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • One of things that's interesting in the first seven chapters of Deuteronomy is that the voice being heard is Moses'. We're not getting "the Lord said to Moses" at all, just "Moses said to the Israelites." Now, much of what he's saying is, "remember that the Lord said..." but it's specifically Moses attributing it, and the author attributes to Moses rather than the Lord directly.
  • This is, again, a repetition of earlier material. We don't learn, generally, on being told something once, so here God's word is repeated for the Israelites. Moses is not going to cross the Jordan with them, and everyone knows it, and he's the one who has been in direct communication with the Lord. It is important for everyone that he highlight and emphasize the important parts of the message, and repeats it in such a way that they will be able to remember it when he's gone.
  • Thus far, there's been no "action," if you will, and no new law or even commentary. This is the summary of the lessons of the forty years in the wilderness.

Psalms 39

Many of the psalms read like proverbs. This reads like a passage from Ecclesiastes. The teacher says many things like "you have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath." And here, the psalmist is aging and, in the words of Dylan Thomas, "rag[ing] against the dying of the light." It's interesting in that this one ends with a plea for God to turn away. There's a strong sense of alienation, and it isn't the joyful or penitent prayer that so many of the psalms are.

Psalm 39
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.
1 I said, "I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
as long as the wicked are in my presence."

2 But when I was silent and still,
not even saying anything good,
my anguish increased.

3 My heart grew hot within me,
and as I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:

4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.

5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.

6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.

8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.

9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.

10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.

11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
you consume their wealth like a moth—
each man is but a breath.

12 "Hear my prayer, O LORD,
listen to my cry for help;
be not deaf to my weeping.
For I dwell with you as an alien,
a stranger, as all my fathers were.

13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more."

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