Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Deuteronomy 5:1-7:26


Sixty days into this project we are nearly 1/6 of the way through our reading of the Protestant canon and 1/5 of the way through the Tanakh (the Old Testament). Yet we are still in the Pentateuch (Genesis -Deuteronomy). This is, I think, an indication of the relative importance of the five books of Moses for the entire Bible. 

 For Bible lovers it doesn't get much better than Deuteronomy 5 and 6. Chapter 7 is another matter. 

In chapter 5 Moses reminds the generation of Israelites who are about to settle in Canaan of the 10 Commandments. These laws, he says, were not just for your parents. They are for you and your children.  The renewal of the covenant and the handing on of traditions are themes of Deuteronomy. 

As always in Deuteronomy, the mountain known as Sinai in Exodus is here called Horeb. Why the difference? Different sources. Different traditions.

The 10 Commandments are repeated here with small variations. The Sabbath commandment, tied to creation in Exodus, is here related to the period of slavery in Egypt. In the commandment(s)* concerning coveting your neighbor's wife is listed before his house. Yes, the Commandments are addressed to men. In Exodus, the wife was treated as part of the household property. Here, perhaps, she is seen as a person in her own right. 

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 expands on Exodus 20:18 ff.  The Israelites, afraid of God's voice, insist that Moses be their intermediary. 

Chapter 6 begins with the Shema, the great monotheist creed still used in Synagogue services today: Shema Yisrael. Adoinai Elohenu. Adonai echad. (Hear, O Israel. YHWH your God, YHWH is one).

These words are to be passed on from generation to generation. Each generation is to appropriate them for themselves. They are "for us." Not you. Not them. Us.

Chapter 7 takes an ugly turn. YHWH orders genocide against the inhabitants of Canaan. It might be good to keep in mind that Deuteronomy was written well after the time it portrays. The woes of Israel and Judah were seen as punishments for the people's apostasy. From the Deuteronomist's point of view, had the original inhabitants of Canaan been utterly annihilated (they weren't), The Isaraelites would not have lapsed into the worship of idols. 

Typical of Deuteronomy, blessings are promised in return for faithful obedience. Disobedience will bring punishment.

*Different traditions number the 10 Commandments differently. In some traditions the prohibitions against coveting are considered 2 commandments.. Other traditions treat the same prohibitions as 1 Commandment. 
Next: Deuteronomy 8-10

No comments:

Post a Comment