Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Deuteronomy 20-22

Deuteronomy 20 contains instructions from Moses to the Israelites on behavior when going to war. He urges them not to be afraid, even against "an army greater than yours" because God "will be with you." He outlines some of the things for the officers to say to get the right troops in the right attitude and then tells them that when they go to attack a city, they should first make an offer of peace. If the inhabitants accept, then they will be subject to the will of the Israelites. If they refuse, kill all the men and take the women and children, and goods, as plunder. This only applies to distant cities however, as the cities in the nations that God is giving the Israelites, those of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, are to be utterly destroyed - "do not leave alive anything that breathes."

Deuteronomy 21 and 22 have several different shorter sections of law. First, there are instructions for dealing with a slain man outside of a city "if it is not known who killed him." The elders of the town closest to the body must make a sacrifice and declare, "our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done" in atonement. Then, there are instructions related to capturing an enemy woman and marrying her after her period of mourning. The Israelite must "let her go wherever she wishes" is he doesn't want to keep her as a wife, because "since you have dishonored her." A man with two wives must honor his first-born son with the birthright (double portion) of the firstborn even if he prefers the other wife to the first-born's mother. A rebellious son, who will not obey his parents' discipline, can be taken to the elders and then stoned to death by the community, for "you must purge the evil from among you." And anyone put to death and hanged on a tree must not be left overnight, but buried the same day, "because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse."

Chapter 22 starts with several verses of law which do not appear to have a signficant common theme, including laws forbidding cross-dressing, taking mother birds, planting two kinds of seed in your vineyard, wearing wool and linen woven together and yoking an ox and a donkey together. Positive laws include requirements to help "if you see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen on road," to build a parapet around the roof of a new house so that no one will fall from the roof, and to wear tassels on the corners of a cloak. The rest of the chapter gets back to marriage and sexual matters, including dealing with various forms of adultery. For all of the concern about double standards (which might include the section in this chapter on female virginity), "if a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die." There's another interesting regulation on rape, whereas an unmarried girl is raped in a town, they are both to be stoned, because she could have yelled, but if an unmarried girl is raped in the country, "only the man who has one this shall die," the girl "has committed no sin deserving death...though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • The instructions with regard to the Canaanite tribes are harsh and unambiguous. There is obviously a great concern about the example that those tribes will set, the influence they may have on the Israelites, if they are not destroyed.
  • The passage on unsolved murders is very interesting. Murders form, for many of us, a high percentage of our entertainment, because there's always (or almost always) a clear right or wrong resolution. So we're very interested in "whodunnit," in books and movies and television shows. There is no consideration in this section whatsoever for "whodunnit." The primary concern is that someone needs to take responsibility for making the appropriate sacrifices. I'm positive that there's a good theological statement to be made here, based on it, but I'm not sure what it is at the moment.
  • The crucifixion had special meaning for the Jews, because "anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." In this way, Jesus takes God's curse for all of us. Again, it's all preparation for the incarnation and resurrection.
  • I wonder at the term rape. It almost seems, at times, as if it is being used to describe consensual but non-married and thus illegitimate, activity.

Psalms 44

This is a fascinating psalm. For the first eight verses, the psalmist praises God, praises what "our fathers have told, what you did in their days." He makes it clear that he knows that "it was not by their sword that they won the was your right hand, your arm and the light of your face." "In God we make our boast all day long."

But the rest of the psalm is a lamentation. "Now you have rejected and humbled us." He insists that "we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant...our feet had not strayed from your path...or spread out our hands to a foreign god."

we can understand the lament, as we've all felt it. Which of us has not cried into the darkness, "how long, O Lord, how long?" We want things done on our time. We want answers, we want them immediately, and we want the answers that we want. But sometimes, we don't get those, and the answers take forms that confuse us. The psalm ends with a plea, a plea that we've all made, "Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love." And we have faith that he will, as the psalmist still has faith, else would he not be making the plea. But the answers may not be answers we like, and they'll come in God's time, not ours.

Psalm 44
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil.
1 We have heard with our ears, O God;
our fathers have told us
what you did in their days,
in days long ago.

2 With your hand you drove out the nations
and planted our fathers;
you crushed the peoples
and made our fathers flourish.

3 It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.

4 You are my King and my God,
who decrees victories for Jacob.

5 Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.

6 I do not trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;

7 but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.

8 In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever.

9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.

10 You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.

11 You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.

12 You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.

13 You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.

14 You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.

15 My disgrace is before me all day long,
and my face is covered with shame

16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

17 All this happened to us,
though we had not forgotten you
or been false to your covenant.

18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.

19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals
and covered us over with deep darkness.

20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

21 would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?

22 Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?

25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.

26 Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of your unfailing love.

No comments:

Post a Comment