Deuteronomy 7 1-11 the Fifth Book essay

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This again stresses that God's love has nothing to do with Israel's attractiveness and everything to do with God's grace.

"Kept the oath" (v. 8). God's love is faithful. We should not be surprised that God chose Israel in its weakness. This is exactly what God did in Genesis 12:1-3. The promise of children and a land made to an old, childless couple seemed impossible. Yet they conceived, and the promise of land is about to be fulfilled for Israel now, on the verge of the Jordan, attesting to God's faithfulness.

"Covenant loyalty" (v. 9) is an excellent rendering of the hendiadys "the covenant and the loyalty." (Hendiadys consists of two nouns joined by "and," expressing a single idea.) The word for "loyalty" (hesed) is of the essence in covenantal situations, since it refers to the mutual commitments pledged by each of the parties. On the human side, it becomes synonymous with "obligations." But here, it is God who pledges faithfulness to Israel. The passage concludes with a stern reminder that though God's love may be unswerving, relationship requires the response of a partner, a response demonstrated in the observance of "the commandment" (vv. 9-11). The singular "the commandment," of course, refers to the whole complex of torah.

As an historical document, though, Deuteronomy varies from Number in terms of political history. Additionally, credit for the military exploits on the way to the promised land moves from "Israel sent," to "Moses sent." Listing of kingdoms, other kings and rulers, and armies are given in Numbers as pieces to conquer, while a more crafty, diplomatic approach is given in Deuteronomy. Historical mandates are also in evidence; Deuteronomy (20:19-20) prohibits chopping down fruit trees during a siege, the sensible approach to this is if all the trees are used as siege weapons, there will be no food left; so, the decision is removed from any potential "general" and placed into a biblical pronouncement from God. The complex nature of tribal warfare and rivalry is also in evidence in Deuteronomy -- always using the idea that God was on the side of the chosen people, there was simply no other argument available, nor was one seen as necessary; "YHWH spoke" was enough.

It was clear that the scholars who wrote Deuteronomy no intention of fabricating the history of the Israelite people. He wished to present it objectively and base it upon the material to which he had access. Like an honest broker he began by taking, in principle, a favorable view of the material in the traditions. In describing the various historical events he spoke in his own person only at exceptional points, letting the old traditions speak for themselves instead. He did so even when these old traditions told of events that did not fit in with his central ideas…. Deuteronomy was not a redactor trying to make corrections, but a compiler of historical traditions and a narrator of the history of his people.

Cultural Context - The cultural context of Deuteronomy is dependent on two things: when we believe it was written, or, when the writers actually placed it in context. One of the conundrums is the so-called Covenant Code (Exodus 20:22-23) supposedly written prior to Deuteronomy, yet dependent upon Deuteronomy, with evidence that it was composed during the Babylonian Exile. This is a continual cultural debate, both regarding scope and depth. However, if one strips away that particular argument, one finds that the very central nature of the book (Deuteronomy), is more of a cultural response to a way of living, and, now that we know more about genetic diversity, public health, disease transmission, etc., we can make more cultural sense out of the edicts that God might provide for a wandering culture.

Similarly, in the earlier books of the Pentateuch, God guides all historical events, so much so that history can be interpreted to determine God's will. In this particular example, the covenant is central: Israel's fate is approached in terms of reward for conventional fealty and punishment for disobedience to it. In the earlier books of the Pentateuch, values are conveyed through narrative, most often in ways that must be interpreted by the reader. Here it is made explicit on all counts; history's meaning is here pre-interpreted in clear and consistent terms. It is also more self-contained than the earlier books, one that may be read, if needed, out of context and the meaning and establishment of law remains viable. This, in fact, is one of the most interesting aspects of Deuteronomy, that which law is reinterpreted, For example, if one does a simple textual analysis of Exodus and Deuteronomy and focuses solely on the issue of law, one finds almost a complete repetition in tone, timbre, and often in wording. Similarly, taken a step further, one can extrapolate historical and cultural reasons for these laws in moving toward societal justice.

Table 2 -- Reinterpretation of Law in Deuteronomy

Exodus 20

Deuteronomy 5

Possible Socio-

Cultural Meaning

2. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of bondage.

6. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Establishes the hierarchy of God, and his primacy on events in the world. Sets up who was in charge and why.

3. You shall have no other gods before me.

7. You shall have no other gods before me.

So much of the ancient world was animistic, this is setting the rules that the focus should be on the one "true" God.

4. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

8 "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth

See above.

5. you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I

the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

9 you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I

the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

See above. Sets up the hierarchy.

6. But showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Conviviality and fidelity to a common theme, a common goal.

7. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

11 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

A law about honesty is important so that individuals can band together in society and trust each other.

8. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

12 "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.

Brings the community together.

9. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work;

13 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work;

See above.

10. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your

God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;

14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your

God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.

Provides commonality and conviviality so that there is no jealousy with one family working, one not; everyone rests.

11, for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it

15 You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Provides a communal spirit in which a common sense of rest and holy…[continue]

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