Reading 50/341, Deuteronomy 1-2

[A] Deuteronomy is Greek for "Another Law". It is given to us in the form of a retrospective speech by Moses before he dies. He will sum up everything we have read over the last month. You may notice that some details are different than when we read them the first time. Scholars believe that, originally, Deuteronomy was a different community's copy of the law. Later editors, not wanting to discard anything, framed it as a speech to fit it together with the other law. The law that we have read is called the "Levitical Law" because it is obsessed with the work of the Levites. Deuteronomy is almost completely uninterested in the details of sacrifice. While still an ancient text, the sensibilities of this book are more friendly to modern readers. God is more "reasonable".
[B] How a person chooses to reconcile Deuteronomy with the Levitical Law means a lot for their understanding of God. Either Deuteronomy is correct and Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were the corruption of the good law by the priests, or the Levitical Law is correct, and Deuteronomy is a updating of it as the people began to see that history as too harsh. If we believe that God inspired both books, we might say that each serves its proper purpose, and, since both versions of the old law have been superseded by the new law in Jesus Christ, we do not need to be too concerned. We read both and let each one be what it is.
[C] Protestant sects have divided over smaller issues than the difference between the Levitical Law and Deuteronomy. It is significant that at some point, the Jews decided to keep both rather than picking a side.
[D] There is reference in today's reading to the Rephaim. Some translations will translate this word as "giants". The general sense of this reading is that God has been working to replace various lands full of Rephaim with relatives of Abraham. This is the justification of the genocide we have seen and will see. The people who were dwelling in the land were beyond help. They simply needed to be destroyed. When we see what happened in the Americas, where human sacrifice was a daily reality, this genocide becomes somewhat understandable. The most important point is that God can make that decision even if no human being can.


These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the desert, in the Arabah over against Suph, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. It happened in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them; after he had struck Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth, at Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to declare this law, saying, “The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying, ‘You have lived long enough on this mountain, turn, and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all the places near there, in the Arabah, in the hill country, and in the lowland, and in the South, and by the seashore, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. Behold, I have set the land before you.’ Go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their seed after them.

I spoke to you at that time, saying, ‘I am not able to bear you myself alone. The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day as numerous as the stars of the sky. May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are, and bless you, as he has promised you! How can I myself alone bear your encumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take wise men of understanding, well known among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ You answered me, and said, ‘The thing which you have spoken is good for us to do.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise men, well-known, and made them heads over you, captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties, and captains of tens, and officers, according to your tribes. I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the foreigner who is living with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's, and the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ I commanded you at that time all the things which you should do.

We traveled from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible desert which you saw, on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, as the Lord our God commanded us, and we came to Kadesh-barnea. I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God gives to us. Behold, the Lord your God has set the land before you, go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you; be not afraid; be not dismayed.’ You all came near to me, and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search the land for us, and bring back word of the way by which we must go up, and the cities to which we shall come.’ The thing pleased me well, and I took twelve men from among you, one man for every tribe, and they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol, and spied it out. They took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down to us, and brought us word again, and said, ‘It is a good land which the Lord our God gives to us.’ Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and you murmured in your tents, and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us, he has brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up to? Our brothers have made our heart to melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to the sky, and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.”’ Then I said to you, ‘Dread them not, nor be afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you, will fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the desert, where you have seen how the Lord your God bore you, as a man bears his son, in all the way that you went, until you came to this place.’

Yet in this matter you did not believe the Lord your God, who went before you on the way, to seek out for you a place to pitch your tents: in fire by night, to show you by what way you should go, and in the cloud by day. The Lord heard the voice of your words, and was angry, and swore, saying, ‘Surely not one of the men of this evil generation shall see the good land, which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he has trodden on, and to his children’, because he has wholly followed the Lord. Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, ‘You also shall not go in there, Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover your little ones, whom you said would be a prey, and your children, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there, and to them I will give it, and they shall possess it. But as for you, turn, and take your journey into the desert on the way toward the Red Sea.’ Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the Lord, we will go up and fight, according to all that the Lord our God commanded us.’ You girded on every man his weapons of war, and presumed to go up into the hill country. The Lord said to me, ‘Tell them, Do not go up, nor fight; for I am not with you, lest you be struck before your enemies.’ So I spoke to you, and you did not listen, but you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, and were presumptuous, and went up into the hill country. The Amorites, who lived in that hill country, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and beat you down in Seir, to Hormah. You returned and wept before the Lord; but the Lord did not listen to your voice, nor gave ear to you.

So you dwelt in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you dwelt there. Then we turned, and took our journey into the desert on the way toward the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me, and we circled Mount Seir many days. The Lord spoke to me, saying, ‘You have circled this mountain long enough, turn north. Command the people, saying, “You are to pass through the border of your brothers the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir, and they will be afraid of you, take good heed to yourselves therefore; do not contend with them; for I will not give you their land. No, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, for I have given Mount Seir to Esau for a possession. You shall purchase food from them for money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them for money, that you may drink.”’ For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand; he has known your walking through this great desert, these forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.

So we passed by, away from our brothers the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir, away from the road of Arabah from Elath and from Ezion-geber. We turned and passed by way of the desert of Moab. The Lord said to me, ‘Do not bother Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you his land for a possession; because I have given Ar to the children of Lot for a possession.’ (The Emim lived there before, a people great, and many, and tall, like the Anakim. They also are counted as Rephaim, like the Anakim; but the Moabites call them ‘Emim’. The Horites also lived in Seir before, but the children of Esau succeeded them, and they destroyed them before them, and lived in their place; as Israel did to the land of their possession, which the Lord gave to them.)

‘Now rise up, and cross over the brook Zered.’ We crossed over the brook Zered. The days from when we came from Kadesh-barnea until we had crossed over the brook Zered, were thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war were consumed from the midst of the camp, as the Lord swore to them. Moreover the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the midst of the camp, until they were consumed. So it happened, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people, that the Lord spoke to me, saying, ‘You are this day to pass over Ar, the border of Moab, and when you near the children of Ammon, do not bother them, nor contend with them; for I will not give you the land of the children of Ammon for a possession, for I have given it to the children of Lot for a possession.’ (That also is accounted a land of Rephaim, Rephaim lived therein before, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, a people great, and many, and tall, like the Anakim, but the Lord destroyed them before them, and they succeeded them, and lived in their place; as he did for the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites from before them, and they succeeded them, and lived in their place to this day, and the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed them, and lived in their place.)

‘Rise up, take your journey, and pass over the valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread of you and the fear of you on the nations who are under the whole sky, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of you.’ I sent messengers out of the desert of Kedemoth to Sihon, king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, ‘Let me pass through your land, I will go along by the highway, I will turn neither to the right nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink, only let me pass through on my feet, as the children of Esau who dwell in Seir, and the Moabites who dwell in Ar, did to me, until I shall pass over the Jordan into the land which the Lord our God gives us.’ But Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into your hand, as is true this day. The Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to deliver up Sihon and his land before you. Begin to possess it, that you may inherit his land.’ Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. The Lord our God delivered him up before us, and we struck him, and his sons, and all his people. We took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed every inhabited city, with the women and the little ones; we left none remaining, only the livestock we took for plunder to ourselves, with the spoil of the cities which we had taken. From Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, and from the city that is in the valley, to Gilead, there was not a city too high for us. The Lord our God delivered up all before us, only to the land of the children of Ammon you did not come near; all the side of the river Jabbok, and the cities of the hill country, and wherever the Lord our God forbade us.

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