Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Deuteronomy 10-12

Deuteronomy 10-12

Deuteronomy 10-12 Skeptic Annotated Bible

We get more recapping of past events and more orders from God for the Israelites to kill everyone they come in contact with.
God also repeats the need to fear and obey him, or else.  And stay away from those other, inferior gods.
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  1. As there has been discussion recently about God's names here is an essay about that:

    In the modern world, a person’s name can be merely an identifying label; it does not reveal anything about the person. Biblical names, however, have their background in the widespread tradition that the personal name gives significant information about the one who bears it. The Old Testament constantly celebrates God's making His name known to Israel, and the psalms again and again direct praise to God’s name (Ps. 8:1; 113:1-3, 145:1-2, 148:5,13). “Name” here means God Himself as He has revealed Himself by word and deed. At the heart of this self-revelation is the name by which he authorized Israel to invoke Him—commonly rendered "the LORD" (for the Hebrew Yahweh, as modern scholars pronounce it; or "Jehovah" as it sometimes written).

    God declared this name to Moses when He spoke to him out of the bush that burned steadily without being burned up. God first identified Himself as the God who had committed Himself in covenant to the patriarchs (Gen. 17:1-14); then, when Moses asked Him what he could tell the people who asked what God’s name was (the ancients assumed that prayer would only be heard if its addressee was named correctly), God answered first “I AM who I AM,” then shortened it to "I AM.” The name "Yahweh" ("the LORD") sounds like "I am" in Hebrew, and God finally called himself “the LORD God of your fathers” (Exod. 3:15, 16). The name in all its forms proclaims His eternal, self-sustaining, self-determining, sovereign reality—that supernatural mode of existence that the sign of the burning bush had signified (Ex. 3:2). The bush that was not consumed was God’s illustration of His own inexhaustible life. In designating "Yahweh" as "My name forever” (Ex. 3:15), God indicated that His people should always think of him as the living, reigning, powerful King that the burning bush showed Him to be.

    Later Moses asked to see God’s “glory.” In reply God proclaimed "the name”: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, but how will by no means clear the guilty" (Exod. 34:6,7). At the burning bush God had answered the question of the manner of His existence. Here He answered the question. How can we describe His actions? This foundational announcement of His moral character is often echoed in later Scriptures (Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; Joel 2:13; John 4:2). These revelations are all part of His “name,” His disclosure of His nature, for which he is to be revered and glorified forever.

    In the New Testament, the words and acts of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, are a full revelation of the mind, character, and purposes of God the Father (John 14:9-11; cf. 1:18). “Hallowed be your name” in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9) expresses the desire that the first person of the Godhead will be revered and praised as the splendor of His entire self-disclosure deserves.

  2. 10:6-9 is a weird out-of-place insertion. It says Aaron died at Moserah, but Numbers 20:28 says that happened at Mt. Hor. Also, this is a reversal of the itinerary in Num. 33:30-31:

    Numbers 33:


    And from Deut. 10:


    Draw your own conclusions.


    "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart" needs to be a more common metaphor. (It also appears in Jeremiah ch. 4)

    Chapter 11 recounts the famous Re(e)d Sea incident. It matches JE's account. (I wondered if "as they [Pharoah's troops] pursued you" was a reference to P, where the Israelites were followed through the split sea, but it could just mean the general pursuing out of Egypt.)

    Likewise, the account of Dathan and Abiram matches JE, with no mention of Korah.

    vv. 18-21 is an (older?) version of the Shema, from chapter 6.

    Chapter 12 begins the "Deuteronomic Code", the kernel of legislation at the heart of Deuteronomy and the histories that follow. Some think this (not the entire Deuteronomy) was the "book of law" King Josiah "found".

    (Josiah reigned c. 639-609 and the Deuteronomical Histories were mostly done up by 586.)

    You'll notice that D's obsession is the destruction of all sanctuaries and altars except the Temple in Jerusalem ("the place the LORD your God will choose"). P took centralization at the Tabernacle/Temple for granted.

    We encounter another major difference between D and P right off- D says you can BBQ anywhere you want. P had a strict policy:

    Lev. 17:3 Any Israelite who slaughters an ox, a sheep, or a goat, either inside or outside the camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of the Presence to present it as an offering to the LORD before the Tabernacle of the LORD should be held guilty of bloodshed: that man has shed blood and shall be cut off from his people.

    Compare to:

    Deut. 12:15 On the other hand, you may freely kill for food in all your settlements, as the LORD your God blesses you.

    You can't really get any clearer than that.

  3. @Abbie: ""Circumcise the foreskin of your heart" needs to be a more common metaphor. Agreed. I love the anatomical imagery throughout the OT.

    "P took centralization at the Tabernacle/Temple for granted."

    Yeah, that's what was confusing be in reading Lev. 17. I was looking at it through the D lens of pro/con centralized Jerusalem Temple. Later P redaction took centralization for granted.

  4. Yeah for several reasons I'm starting to lean towards the standard late date for P... the main one being that the actual P law is completely unworkable for pre-exilic Israel. Pilgrimages were popular, but they were seasonal events. You couldn't pop down to Jerusalem every time you wanted a steak.

    Of course, it could just be the Levite's idealized law that was never actually enacted. But it does seem tailored towards a smaller community- and that would fit the Jerusalem-based returned-exile community.

    God answered first “I AM who I AM,” then shortened it to "I AM.” The name "Yahweh" ("the LORD") sounds like "I am" in Hebrew

    Very true, but this was probably a folk etymology.

    I am אֶהְיֶה
    Vague transliteration: ʔeh-yeh (ʔ being a glottal stop, eh like "bet".)

    YHWH יְהוָה
    Pronunciation famously lost. If we assume similar vowels, it would be something like yeh-weh.

    Oh, and the Hebrew אֶהְיֶה doesn't actually mean "I am", it is in the future tense! היה is the root and א is the future-tense prefix.

    Apparently a better translation is "I will be what I will be."

  5. I've heard that it is also ambiguous whether the term is first or third person, so it can be translated "I will cause to be what I will cause to be." Maybe that's YHWH with certain vowels. Anyone else heard this?

  6. I don't think so... 3rd person future is marked with י. The verb doesn't seem to be irregular: יהיה does mean 3rd person future.

    2nd Samuel 7:14 has a nice verse that uses both forms in question (each suffixed with ־לִּי)

    I will be his father, and he shall be my son.

    אֲנִי אֶהְיֶה־לֹּו לְאָב וְהוּא יִהְיֶה־לִּי לְבֵן

    The "I shall be" form is rarer and is most often used in phrases like "I shall be with you". But I never see it translated as 3rd person.

    There are a few exceptions. 2nd Sam 15:34 is an anomaly, translated as "I have been". (In the context, future tense is impossible.)

    Throughout Job (and once in Ruth) it seems to have a different meaning. I'd guess that Job is displaying a later evolution of Hebrew grammar, or a certain poetic mode.

    Finally, all verb conjugation seems to be recorded in consonants. (The vowels change, but they're never the only difference.)

  7. Am I the only one who sees a connection between the duplicated stone tablets and the golden plates in the story of Mormonism? The tablets/plates were created once, then destroyed because of sin, and then created a second time.

  8. Joseph Smith also bastardized the Urim and Thummin. In the OT, they are sacred lots, used by priests to divine God's judgement. (Seemed to give binary yes/no guilty/innocent type answers, basically a form of divination, but their exact form is unknown.)

    In mormonism, they are magic glasses (stones inset in frames) that allow him to translate the "Reformed Egyptian" off the golden plates.

    I.e., he made up something that sounded Bible-y but he hadn't read carefully enough to understand what U&T really were.

  9. Wait - Joseph Smith made something up???

    Okay, in a less snarky tone - I picked up a book at a used book store over the weekend called "How to Read the Bible" by James L. Kugel. Has anyone else come across this? I did a quick search through the blog and didn't find it, but I may have missed it, so apologies if I did.

    It's all OT (he was a professor of Hebrew at Harvard) and looks at traditional interpretations, modern scholar interpretations, etiological explanations, and even Christian interpretations (@Abbie - you'd love that part). I'm trying to catch up to where we are now, but it's taking some time. I've just reached Exodus and bring this up b/c he has a section about the name YHWH - much of what was covered here, but also a bit asking why God's name would suddenly change at all. Based on the geography and that this is the God of old who is not everywhere at once so should be somewhere north and west in Canaan, not in Midian, it is possible "that, at this moment on Mount Horeb, a new God walked into Israel's life, one who ultimately changed the world's thinking about divinity." (p. 216)

    Just another idea to toss in the basket!

  10. @BHitt - just realized you posted something similar to this idea on the previous entry. Apologies for the repeat!