Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Death of Moses

(Deuteronomy 34:1 - 34:12)
From the plains of Moab, Moses climbed Mount Nebo to the summit of Pisgah, across the river from Jericho.  Jehovah revealed to him the entire land from Gilead as far as Dan, all the territory of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah extending to the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev, the whole region of the Jordan Valley from Jericho, the city of palms, to Zoar.  Jehovah said to him, “This is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I swore, ‘I will give this to your descendants.’  I have let you see the land with your own eyes, but you won’t go over there.”

And so Moses, the servant of Jehovah, died in the land of Moab, according to the will of Jehovah.  Jehovah buried him in Moab in a valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows the exact location.  Moses was 120 years old when he died, but neither his eyesight nor his vitality had diminished.  The Israelites grieved for Moses on the plains of Moab for 30 days, until the customary period of mourning had ended.

Joshua son of Nun was now instilled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid hands on him.  So the Israelites now obeyed him as Jehovah had commanded Moses they should do.

There has not arisen in Israel a prophet to compare with Moses, whom Jehovah knew personally.  Jehovah sent him to perform miracles and wonders in Egypt against the Pharaoh, his officials, and the entire country.  And with his awesome power Moses wrought these horrific acts of terror before the eyes of all Israel.

1. Moses was apparently in good health when he died.  He needed to be, in order to be able to climb Mount Nebo, which is well over 2000 feet above the Jordan Valley.  Of what then did Moses die?  Did Jehovah, finished with him, simply put him down like an aged family pet?

2. While the text insists that Moses was 120 years old when he died, we have seen that the Books of Moses consistently give preposterously, if not impossibly long life spans for the Hebrew forefathers.  The chronology of events and mere common sense suggest that Moses would have been many decades younger, even granted that the Israelites did wander as much as 40 years in the desert.  The time between Moses’ exile from Egypt and his return as Jehovah’s emissary and the Israelites’ spokesman could not have been more than a few years, not the many decades suggested in the biblical text.  If Moses had been 120 years old, he would have been 80 years older than any of the people he led (excepting Joshua and Caleb).

3. The view from Mount Nebo remains impressive, south to the Dead Sea, west to Jericho and even the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem.  However, the entire land can by no means be seen, irrespective of atmospheric conditions.  If Moses could see the Mediterranean and the territory of Dan, he must have been granted superhuman vision.

4. Moses is unique among biblical figures in that his burial place was purposely kept secret.  Apparently Jehovah buried him himself so that none of the Israelites would know the location of the grave.  (Did the Israelite god use a shovel?)  The only explanation for this would be to prevent the grave site from becoming a site of idolatrous veneration.

5. Joshua becomes the new leader of the Israelites.  He is, after Moses’ death, inspired in some way because Moses put his hands on him.  Was this merely ceremonial, or was something real, some power, some  wisdom, some aptitude for divine communion conveyed to him by Moses’ touch?

6. Moses would be the last prophet that Jehovah would know personally.  Is this due to Jehovah’s unwillingness to have direct relations with any of Moses’ successors or to Jehovah’s physical absence from the earth?

Moses' Final Blessing

(Deuteronomy 32:48 - 33:29)
On that very day Jehovah told Moses, “Ascend Mount Nebo of the Abarim range in Moab, across from Jericho.  There you can look out upon Canaan, which I am giving to people of Israel to occupy. There, on the mountain you have ascended, you will die and join your ancestors, just as your brother died on Mount Hor and joined his ancestors.  Because you broke faith with me in front of the people of Israel at the oasis of Meribah-Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and failed to show the reverence due to me as a god, you will only be able to view from a distance the land I am giving the Israelite people. You will not enter it!”

This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the Israelite people before his death:

“Jehovah came up from Sinai, he dawned over us in Seir and shone upon us from Mount Paran.  He arose in the midst of his myriad devotees and his law was a fire in his right hand.  Indeed he loved his people and his worshipers were under his protection.  They knelt at his feet and listened to his teachings.  The law given to us by Moses will always belong to Jacob’s congregation.  Jehovah became the king of dear Israel when the tribal leaders assembled and all the tribes gathered together as a single nation.”

“Let the tribe of Reuben prosper and survive, although they are few in number.”

And of Judah, Moses said this, “Hear, O Jehovah, the plea of Judah, and reunite him with his people.  Use your power to defend him and to support him against his enemies.”

Of Levi he said, “His Thummim and Urim belong to his faithful god that he tested at Massah and opposed at the oasis of Meribah.  To his father and mother, he shows no bias.  He gives no preferential treatment to his relatives nor does he do special favors for his children; he upholds your word and preserves your contract.  He teaches your instructions to Jacob, your law to Israel.  He offers incense to you and makes the burnt sacrifices upon the altar.  Bless, O Jehovah, his ministry and receive with acceptance his handiwork.  Whack in the groin those that rise against him, his enemies, so that they may threaten him no more.”

Of Benjamin, he said, “The beloved of Jehovah lives in safety by him, for Jehovah protects him all day long and carries him on his shoulders.”

Of Joseph he said, “May Jehovah bless his lands with the precious dew of heaven above and the waters of the deep below, with the bounty of the sun and the harvests of the moon, with the produce of the ancient mountains and the fertility of the eternal hills, with the finest fruits of the earth and its abundance.  Let the favor of the one who manifested himself in the burning bush rest upon the head of Joseph; let it be like a crown upon the brow of he who was separated from his brothers.  He has the majesty of a firstborn bull with horns like those of a wild ox.  He will gore nations, even those at the ends of the earth.  Thus are the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh.”

Of Zebulun he said, “May you prosper, Zebulun, when you go out to journey and Isacchar, when you remain at home in your tent.  They will summon the people to their mountains so that they may make the proper sacrifices.  They will nourish themselves with the wealth of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Of Gad he said, “Blessed is he who enlarges Gad, who is crouched like a lion ready to tear off an arm or a head.  He took the best land for himself, reserving a captain’s share.  When the tribal chieftains were assembled, he carried out Jehovah’s justice and enforced his regulations among the Israelites.”

Of Dan he said, “Dan is like a lion cub that leaps out of Bashan.”

Of Naphtali he said, “Naphtali is highly favored by Jehovah and enjoys his full blessings.  He will settle on the land in the south and the west.”

Of Asher he said, “May he be blessed above the other sons.  Let him be held in respect by his brothers.  May he dip his feet in olive oil.  May the latches of his gates be of iron and bronze so that he may be strong all of his days.

“There is no one like the god of dear Israel who comes to your aid from the sky, flying majestically through the clouds.  The everlasting god is your refuge.  Under you are his everlasting arms supporting you.  He expels the enemies before you and cries out, ‘Destroy them!’  So Israel will dwell in safety; Jacob’s abode is his alone, a land of grain and new wine nurtured by the dew that drops from the heavens.

“How blessed are you, Israel.  Who else is like you, a people saved by Jehovah.  He is your protective shield and conquering sword.  Your enemies will kowtow before you, but you will stomp on their backs!”

1. There are two accounts in the Books of Moses of an incident that occurred in Meribah.  In Exodus the people complain to Moses about the lack of water.  Moses appeals to Jehovah and at his behest strikes with his rod a rock, out of which water gushes.  In Numbers there is a similar story, but in it Moses does not follow Jehovah’s instructions precisely.  Instead of addressing the rock, he addresses the Israelites and strikes the rock twice.  A rush of fresh water results, but Jehovah is angry and insulted that Moses did not obey him.  For his lack of respect to his divinity Moses is denied entry into the Promised Land.  In Deuteronomy it is suggested that Moses is being punished not for his own lack of respect, but for that exhibited by the Israelites, the people he is leading.  Meribah was likely located near Kadesh-Barnea on what is now the western border of Israel midway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.  The Desert of Zin lies to the east, southwest of the Dead Sea.  Mount Paran and the Desert of Paran lies in western Arabia near Mecca.  Seir was a mountain range that extended from the Dead Sea to Aqaba.  Mount Hor (not the northern Mount Hor that defined the northern boundary of Israel) was the place of Aaron’s death.  Located in this mountain range, it is now called Mount Harun.  Bashan was a kingdom on the west bank of the Jordan ruled by Og until the Israelites defeated him.  What Bashan had to do with the tribe of Dan is not explained.  Bashan was given to Manasseh, not Dan, whose portion was along the Mediterranean coast and couldn’t have been farther away from Bashan.

2. Moses blessings of the various tribes of Israel are muddled and disjointed, making little real sense.  There are few actual benedictions; some tribes merit only comments.  Simeon is left out, perhaps because their land lay within that of Judah.  (Still, it does seem an unaccountable slight.)  The blessings reflect the relative importance of the tribes from a much later date, which is not surprising since the entire book is highly anachronistic and represents the point of view of later priests, not of Moses.  Some of the text is garbled and many verses are generally thought by scholars to be a later additions to the book.

3. The reference to Jehovah flying through the sky supports the theory that Jehovah was an extraterrestrial whose “pillar of cloud” was an aerial vehicle.

4. The blessings, such as they are, never go much beyond having bountiful harvests and being triumphant over enemies.  These are still quite primitive times and the thinking of Moses (and Jehovah) never goes beyond the elemental.  There seems to be no aspirations to build magnificent cities (like the Egyptians), to develop creature comforts (like the indoor plumbing the Minoans had), to create an efficient government (as the Persians and Romans would do), or to cultivate the civilized disciplines, such as philosophy, science, literature, art, and music (as the Greeks did).

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Song of Moses

(Deuteronomy 31:30 - 32:47)
Moses then recited the words of this song from beginning to end so that the entire people of Israel could hear them:

“Listen, O Heaven, and I will speak.
Hear, O Earth, the words from my mouth.

“Let my teachings fall upon you like the rain,
Let my words settle upon you like the dew,
A gentle sprinkling upon the new grass,
A soft shower upon the budding plants.

“I will proclaim the name of Jehovah,
I will declare the greatness of our god.
He is the Rock; his deeds are perfection;
In all his actions he is just and fair,
A god who does no wrong, faithful and true,
So honorable and equitable.

“But have they not dealt with him honestly.
Corrupted, how can they still be his children,
This deceitful and perverse generation?

“Is this how you repay Jehovah,
You obtuse and doltish people?
Is he not the creator god,
The father who sired and reared you?

“Remember the days of long ago,
Consider the generations past.
Ask your father, he will show you,
Ask the elders, they will tell you:
When the Most High gave each nation
Its inherited portion of land
And divided the human race,
He established the boundaries
For his people according to
The number of Israel’s sons.
For the people of Israel
Is Jehovah’s inheritance
And Jacob, his assigned legacy.
For he found them in the desert,
In a barren, wind-swept wasteland.
He protected and looked out for them
Guarded them as he would guard his own,
Like an eagle that stirs its nest
And flutters over its young chicks,
Bearing them aloft on its wings.

“Alone, Jehovah guided them;
No foreign god accompanied him.
He made them ride over the highlands
And feast on the crops of the field.
With honey from the rock and oil
From flinty stones he nourished them.
With yogurt from the herd he fed them
And milk from the flock and fattened lambs,
The choicest rams from Bashan and goats,
Wheat of the finest quality,
And drank the foaming juice of the grape.
But Israel, stuffed and sated,
Grew fat, flabby, and defiant.
They deserted the god who made them
And scoffed at the Rock that saved them.
With foreign gods they made him jealous
Angering him with hated idols.
They sacrificed to godless demons,
Deities they had never known,
Gods of recent derivation
That your ancestors respected not.
You deserted the Rock your father,
Forgot the god that gave you birth.
Jehovah saw this and spurned them,
Angered by his own sons and daughters.

He said, ‘I will conceal myself from them
And merely watch what may become of them,
For they are a perverse generation
Of children who are faithless and disloyal.
They made me jealous with their worthless gods
And angered me with their foolish idols.
I will make them jealous with worthless people
And anger them with a foolish nation.
For a fire will be kindled by my wrath,
And burn to the depths of the netherworld,
Consuming the earth and all of its crops,
Setting afire the base of the mountains.
I will heap upon them calamities
And pick them off with shots of my arrows.
I will wear them down with famines and fevers,
And devastate them with plagues and pestilence.
I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts
And the venom of slithering creatures.
From the outside, war will bring bereavement
While inside, a reign of terror will ensue,
For the young man and young woman alike,
For nursing infant and the gray-haired man.

‘I might have said, “Let’s obliterate them,
Erase their name from human history!”
But I feared the taunts of her enemies
Who might misread what has happened and boast,
‘It wasn’t Jehovah who accomplished this,
But our own power that is triumphant.

‘Israel is a nation without sense;
Its people are ignorant and dull-witted;
If they possessed any understanding
They would realize what their fate will be.

‘How could one man put to flight a thousand,
Or two make ten thousand beat a retreat,
Unless their Rock had delivered them up,
Unless Jehovah had handed them over?
For their rock is not like the Rock of ours,
As even our enemies will concede.
Their vine has sprung from the vine of Sodom,
Nurtured in the vineyards of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are poison, their clusters, bitter;
Their wine is like the venom of vipers,
The deadly toxin of cobras and asps.’

“Jehovah says, ‘Am I not keeping these things,
Sealing them securely in my storehouse?
I will seek vengeance and compensation.
For the time will come when they will stumble.
The day of their calamity is nigh.
Their doom and destruction will come swiftly.’

“Jehovah will pass judgment on his people,
But will have pity upon his servants
When he sees their strength has been depleted
And there is no one remaining, slave or free.
He will say to them, ‘Where are your gods now?
The gods who were the rock that was your refuge,
Who ate the flesh of your sacrifices,
And consumed your drink offerings of wine?
Let them come forth to save and shelter you!

‘Behold I am the only one:
There is no other god but me!
I put to death and bring forth life,
I am the one who wounds and heals,
And no one can be delivered
From out of my powerful hands.
I lift my hand to the heavens
And swear, as I live forever,
When I sharpen my flashing sword
And prepare to mete out justice,
I will revenge myself on my foes
And repay those who reject me.
My arrows I will make drunk with blood
And my sword will gorge itself on flesh,
The blood of the slain and captured,
And the heads of the enemy leaders.’

“May the heavens rejoice and worship him,
For he avenges the blood of his people
And takes vengeance upon his enemies.
He pays back those who have rejected him
And makes atonement for his land and people.”

Moses, accompanied by Joshua son of Nun, recited all the words of this song in the hearing of people.  When he had finished speaking the words of the song, he said to the people of Israel, “Keep in mind all the warnings I have given you this day, so that you may pass them on as lessons to your children so that they will obey every word of these instructions.  These are not meaningless words; they impact your very life, for by obeying them you will live long and prosper in the land you are crossing the River Jordan to occupy.”

1. The song is quite long and one doubts that it was set to a catchy tune.  It is amazing that a man of Moses’ years could have recited it, let alone memorized it.  Expecting future generations to remember it is asking a lot.  The people would have been illiterate and thus would have had to consign the whole thing to memory.  And, quite frankly, is simply ain’t that good.  Thematically it’s all over the place and, as is usual with the Books of Moses, it is annoyingly redundant.  But the memorization of Jehovah’s laws and instructions is the key element of the Jehovah religion.  It furthers the indoctrination of the youth, who must accept the traditional teaching and learn not to question them or give in to the temptation of thinking for themselves.

2. Throughout much of the song Jehovah trashes his own people and reiterates how unworthy they are.  This hardly seems like an effective sales strategy.  And again Jehovah the psychopath glories in bragging about the horrendous things he’s going to do to his errant worshipers.  The only reason he gives for not completely obliterating his unfaithful people is that Israel’s enemies might take credit for its destruction.  Mercy, compassion are not major factors, although he does cite them.

3. Jehovah presents himself here as the sole true god.  The gods of other countries are false, that is, they don’t even exist and, therefore, cannot help their people when appealed to.  Elsewhere, there is the impression given that these other gods do, in fact, exist, but are either inferior or else inappropriate objects of worship for the Israelites.

4. Jehovah is called here and elsewhere, the Rock, that is, the foundation, the bulwark, the mainstay and refuge of his worshipers.

5. Jehovah boasts how magnificently he fed his people.  What is he talking about?  Weren’t the Israelites of the Exodus fed nothing but manna?

Reading the Law

(Deuteronomy 31:9 - 31:29)
Moses wrote down the law and delivered it to the Levite priests who were in charge of Jehovah’s Chest of Sacred Records and to the Israelite elders.  Moses charged them, “Every 7 years, in the year that debts are canceled, during the Festival of Tabernacles when all the people of Israel appear before the altar of Jehovah your god at the designated place of worship, you should publicly read the law in their hearing.  Assemble the entire population, men, women and children, as well as foreign residents of your towns, so they can listen and learn to revere Jehovah your god and carefully follow the details of the law.  Do this so that your children who are not familiar with the law, may hear it and learn to revere Jehovah your god.  Do this as long as you dwell in the land you are crossing the River Jordan to occupy.”

Jehovah then told Moses, “The time has come for you to die.  Call Joshua and come to the entrance to the Tabernacle so that I may instruct him.”  And so Moses and Joshua presented themselves at the Tabernacle.  Jehovah manifested himself within the Tabernacle as an elongated cloud standing before the entrance to the tent.

Jehovah spoke to Moses.  “You are about to pass over and join your ancestors.  After you are gone, these people will begin to worship alien gods, the gods of the land to which they are going.  They will betray me and violate the contract I have made with them.  My ire will then be aroused against them.  I will abandon them.  I will conceal myself from them.  And they will be devoured.  Many misfortunes and disasters will fall upon them and when that happens they will say, ‘These disasters have befallen us because Jehovah is no longer among us.’  At that time I will surely hide myself from them, because of the great evil they have done by worshiping other gods.

“Now write down the words of this song.  Teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may serve as my testimony against the people of Israel.  For after I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I swore I would give to your forefathers, and when they have have eaten their fill and have grown fat, they will turn to other gods and worship them, disrespecting me and breaking my contract.  But when disasters and calamities will overtake them, this song will remain as a testimony against them, for it will not be forgotten by their descendants.  Even before I am to bring them into the land I swore to give them, I have been made aware of the inclinations of these people.”

So, on that very day, Moses wrote down the song and taught it to the Israelites.

Jehovah charged Joshua the son of Nun, “Be brave and strong, for you will lead the people of Israel into the land I swore I would give them.  I will be at your side.”

When Moses had finished writing down in a book the entire body of law, he gave this order to the Levites who were in charge of carrying the Chest of Sacred records: “Take this book of law and place it inside Jehovah’s Chest of Sacred Records so that it may remain there as a testimony against the people of Israel.  I know how stubborn and rebellious you are.  If you are rebellious to Jehovah while I am alive and still among you, how more rebellious will you be after I am dead.  Now convene all the tribal elders and officials so that I may speak with them directly and call upon the heaven and the earth as a witness.  For I am aware that after my death you will corrupt yourself and act contrary to the ways I have commanded you.  In the future, evil will befall you, because you will have done what is evil in the sight of Jehovah, arousing his ire by your actions.”

1. Again it must noted that Moses could not have written down the law, since there was no alphabet and no writing except for cuneiform and hieroglyphics.  It is always assumed and it is certainly inferred that Jehovah’s law was written down in Hebrew, but it would be many centuries after Moses before that could become possible.  It is also unclear whether a written record of every utterance, every law and statute, is to be housed in the Chest of Sacred Records, which is thought of as a receptacle for the Ten Commandments, traditionally both the Moses tablets and the broken pieces of the tablets Jehovah gave him.  It also should be noted that if a record, a book, refers to a stone tablet and not, say, a papyrus scroll, there is a storage problem.  (How many stone tablets could the chest contain?  Its outside dimensions were 45 x 27 x 27 inches.)

2. The record of the law exist only as a rebuke to the Israelites it seems and not a positive inspiration or a guide for behavior.  Jehovah seems to maintain a threatening, adversarial relationship with his Chosen People and expresses no confidence in their loyalty.  (He of course knows what is in their hearts and also presumably knows the future.)  One repeatedly asks, if the Israelites are so unworthy and so faithless, why did Jehovah pick them as his Chosen People?  Was it because other peoples already had gods to represent them and national god of the Israelites was an open post, so to speak?

3. And again we are reminded that the ultimate sin, the greatest evil, is not any sort of moral depravity, but merely deserting Jehovah and worshiping other gods.

4. Moses doesn’t really pass muster as a successful leader.  He was barely able to control his people in his lifetime and he despairs that his will and wishes will be followed after his death.  He apparently has little faith in Joshua, who is his successor.  (One gains the impression here that Joshua will be much more of a military than a spiritual leader.)  No Mosaic dynasty has been established.  In fact, there is no mention of Moses’ sons, Gershom and Eliezer; they disappear from the chronicle.  Did they die?  Perhaps they were unworthy in character, although that hardly seems disqualifying, judging from past history of the Hebrews in which all manner of scoundrels, mass murderers, cheats, and adulterers were exalted.  Perhaps they were unworthy owing to the fact that their mother, Sephora, was a Midianite, a Hebrew, but not an Israelite.

5. Jehovah appears in the Tabernacle as he is wont, manifesting himself as an elongated cloud.  This is a better translation, I think, than “pillar of cloud,” since a cloud does not have a defined and delineated shape and, therefore, can only approximate the shape of a pillar or column.  An elongated cloud would veil Jehovah’s form, if he was a humanoid.  Why he hides himself is a manner of conjecture -- to create a mystique? to conceal an appearance that humans would find repellent?  (In Exodus it is asserted that Jehovah does have a physical and humanoid form.  Moses is allowed to view him from the rear.)      

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Moses Introduces Joshua as His Successor

(Deuteronomy 31:1 - 31:8)
Moses continued to address his people, saying this to the whole nation of Israel, “I am now 120 years old and am no longer capable of leading you.  Jehovah has told me, ‘You will not cross the River Jordan!’  Jehovah will make the crossing before you.  He will destroy the nations ahead of you so that you can take possession of their lands. You will be led across the river by Joshua, as Jehovah has ordered.  Jehovah will treat them as he did the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, when he defeated them and conquered their countries.  Jehovah will deliver into your hands the native inhabitants and you must deal with them as I have instructed you.  Be strong and brave!  Do not fear or hold them in dread, for Jehovah your god accompanies you and he will never forsake or desert you.

“Moses summoned Joshua and before all the people of Israel, he exhorted him, “Be strong and brave, for you must lead this people into the land that Jehovah swore to their ancestors that he would give them.  You must see to it that they receive their inheritance.  It is Jehovah who will precede and accompany you.  He will not forsake or desert you, so do not be afraid or discouraged.”

1. Moses reiterates the assurances that Jehovah will be there for the Israelites when they enter the Promised Land and will do their fighting for them.  The Israelites are never enjoined to rely upon their own courage and prowess, just as they are never allowed to use their own judgment.

2. Moses, now a paltry 120 years old, admits that he is too old and decrepit to lead his people across the Jordan.  (He is not too old to make an interminable speech, however, and having himself heard by an audience numbering in the millions.)  Earlier, Jehovah asserts that Moses is being punished for his disobedience and that that is the reason why he is not permitted to step foot in the Promised Land, not that he is necessarily too old.  Remember that Abraham lived to be 175.  (Coincidentally, men in the Bible keep dying younger and younger as we move forward in time.)

3. Joshua, who is presented here rather casually, was one of the three Israelites from the Exodus who is still alive.  (The others are Caleb and the dying Moses)  Even if he was a youth at the time he accompanied Moses up the mountain in Sinai, he would be a fairly on in years when he succeeds Moses 40 years later.  Although Jehovah promises to defeat and destroy all the native peoples before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, Joshua will have to do a lot of fighting to secure it, enough to fill an entire book of the Bible.

Return to Jehovah

(Deuteronomy 30:1 - 30:20)
“In the future when the blessings and curses I have described have been imposed upon you and you are living in the country to which Jehovah our god have banished you, you may recall to mind my instructions.  If you and your children return to Jehovah your god and resolve to obey with all your heart and soul the commandments I have given you this day, then Jehovah will restore your fortunes.  He will have mercy on you and bring you back from all the nations to which he has scattered you.  Even though you may have been banished to the ends of the earth, he will fetch you and bring you back.  You will be returned to the land that belonged to your ancestors and you will occupy it again.  He will then make you more numerous and more prosperous than your ancestors.  Jehovah will purify your minds and those of your descendants so that you and your descendants will love him will all your heart and soul and survive.  Jehovah will transfer the curses to your enemies, those who have hated and persecuted you.  You will again obey the voice of Jehovah and keep all the commandments I have given you this day.  Jehovah your god will make you prosper greatly in all your endeavors, in your children, in your livestock, and in your crops.  He will take delight in your prosperity as he took delight in that of your ancestors, if you will obey the voice of Jehovah, keep the commandments and statues written in the book of law, and turn to Jehovah your god with all your heart and soul.

“The commandment I am giving you today is not hidden from you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in the sky so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into the heavens to bring it down to us and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’  Nor is it beyond the sea so that you must ask, ‘Who will sail across the sea to bring it back to us so that we may hear what it is and obey it?’  No, the word is near to you; it is on your tongue and in your heart that you may obey it.

“I am setting before you today a choice: life and prosperity or death and disaster.  I command you today to revere Jehovah your god, to act in obedience to him, and to keep his commandments, decrees, and statutes.  If you do so you will live and prosper and Jehovah your god will bless you in the land you are about to enter and settle in.

“But your heart turns away in disobedience and you are seduced into the service and worship of other gods, then I tell you today that you will then be destroyed.  You will not survive long in the land you are crossing the River Jordan to occupy.

“I call upon the heavens and the earth to be witnesses that I have offered you today the choice between life and death, between blessing and curses.  Therefore, choose life that you and your children may live, revering Jehovah your god, obeying his word, being faithful to him.  This is path to life.  In the land he swore to give to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jehovah will give you a long life.”

1. With what is becoming annoying redundancy, Moses presents to the Israelites the grand bargain of their contract with Jehovah: worship him and obey his laws and be blessed or else be destroyed, or at least be banished to some God-forsaken country.  Here the blessings are emphasized and a second chance is offered for the nation that rejects Jehovah, but will then consent to return to worshipful obedience.  It is suggested that the blessings will be greater for the nation that does so than for the nation that remains faithful.  It always seems to be such, the repentant sinner is more valued than one who has never strayed, but has always been pious.

A Review of the Contract with Jehovah

(Deuteronomy 29:1 - 29:29)
These are the words of the contract that Jehovah commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in Moab, in addition to the contract he made with them at Horeb.  Moses summoned all the Israelite people and addressed them:

“You have witnessed what Jehovah did to the Pharaoh of Egypt, to all his minions, and to his entire country; your very eyes saw the tests of might, the miracles and the fantastic wonders.  But up until this time Jehovah has never given you the mind to understand, the eyes to see, or the ears to hear.  I have led you 40 years through the desert.  Neither the clothes on your back nor the sandals on your feet have worn out with age.  You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, so that you would remember that Jehovah is your god.

“When you arrived here, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan came out to fight against us, but we defeated them.  We occupied their land and gave it to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh as their share of the inheritance.

“Therefore, obey all the terms of the contract so that you will succeed in all you do.  You are standing today before Jehovah your god, among the tribal leaders, elders, and officers, indeed all the men of Israel, your women and children, as well as the foreigners who live among us, from those who chop wood to those who carry water.  You are standing here to enter into a contract with Jehovah your god, a contract that must be sealed with an oath to Jehovah your god.  It will confirm that you are his people and that he is your god, as he promised you and as he swore to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But you are not the only ones with whom this sworn contract is being made.  It is being made not only with those who stand before Jehovah your god today but with those who are not here.

“You remember how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the midst of nations on our way here.  And you saw their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, silver and gold.  Beware lest there may be among you, a man or a woman, a clan or a tribe, that may betray Jehovah your god and go and serve the gods of those nations.  Beware lest there be a root among you that will bear a fruit so poisonous and bitter.  Those who hear the warnings of this sworn contract, but arrogantly say to themselves, ‘I will be safe, even if I follow the will of my headstrong heart and sate my appetites,’  Jehovah will never pardon them; his jealousy and wrath will be inflamed against them.  All the curses written here will come down upon them, and Jehovah will blot out their names from under the heavens.  Jehovah will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for destruction and afflict upon them all the curses of the contract detailed in this book of law.

“Then, future generations, both your descendants and foreigners who will immigrate from distant lands, will witness the devastation of the land and the pestilences that Jehovah has inflicted upon it.  The entire country will be burned out by sulfur and salt, with nothing planted on it and nothing growing, not even a blade of grass.  It will be like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim that Jehovah in his intense anger destroyed.  All the surrounding countries will ask, ‘Why did Jehovah do this to the land?  What so aroused his fury?'  The people will reply, ‘This occurred because the people of this land violated the contract they had made with Jehovah, the god of their ancestors, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.  They strayed and served other gods, gods not known to them, gods Jehovah did not permit them to worship.  Consequently, Jehovah’s anger was inflicted upon this land, and he brought down upon it all the curses written in this book.  Jehovah, in anger and fury, uprooted them from the land and banished them to the country where they now dwell.

“There are secrets that belong only to Jehovah our god, but the things he has revealed to us belong to us and our descendants forever so that we may follow the words of this law.”

1. This contract or covenant that Jehovah has made with the people of Israel is the heart of the Books of Moses.  It seems however to be a very fluid agreement with Jehovah adding more and more conditions, more and more laws and statutes that his people must follow.  The benefits of adhering to the agreement do not increase, but the penalties, eg. the curses listed in Deuteronomy, become more severe.

2. Some explanation for the Israelites not needing to eat regular food has been previously suggested.  (Jehovah, being most likely an extraterrestrial, makes daily drops of synthetic food, manna, from an airship the guides the wandering Israelites and continually hovers over their camp.)  No explanation can, however, be offered for the Israelites not wearing out their clothes and sandals.  (Imagine wearing the same set of clothes every day for 40 years!  How was a tailor or a sandal maker able to make a living?)  This is, of course, preposterous.  Also, it should be mentioned that Moses is ignoring one salient fact.  With only a couple exceptions, all the people who had started on the Exodus had died off by the 40th year.  This has been repeated many times.  Moses, the old man, seems to have forgotten all about it and during this speech, he seems to be addressing the dead Israelites who departed from Egypt.  One would have thought such glaring contradictions, and there are many others, would not have escaped an editor’s notice, as they still seem to escape the notice of faithful believers.

3. The contract with Jehovah is binding upon future generations of Israelites.  In other words, those not yet born are bound to a contract completely without their consent.  And there seems to be no opt-out clause.

4. Jehovah again takes delight in bragging how he will destroy the land if any of his subject people disobey him.  Comparison is made to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Those cities were incinerated because the inhabitants were immoral, or, more likely, defiant of Jehovah.  There is no suggestion, though, that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had any sort of contract with Jehovah; he destroyed them anyway.  (Why didn’t Jehovah also destroy other countries whose immorality was egregious?)

5. Jehovah’s acts of destruction are motivated by his anger and not by his sense of justice.  Punishment is never corrective, merely vindictive.  There is no sense of using punishment to show the sinner the errors of his ways, only to make him suffer the most.  Jehovah is less the stern, reproving parent, than the cruel and sadistic prison warden.