THE PENTATEUCH PART V: DEUTERONOMY
Lesson 6: Chapters 8-10
Moses' Second Homily: The Ethical Stipulations of the Covenant Treaty Continued
We pledge our undivided loyalty to Christ who is our King of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary. We will reject allegiance to all earthly rulers and governments that require us to fail in our covenant obligations to Jesus Christ because we are His faithful vassals and His warriors against sin and evil in the world. Our goal is not earthly pleasures or goods but the imperishable blessings of the heavenly Kingdom. Give us the strength of character, empowered by Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to stand against the evils that modern society applauds and to persevere as Your faithful remnant-an island of righteousness in a worldly sea of sin. Send Your Spirit to guide us in our study of the covenant renewal of Israel's new generation of holy warriors. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+ + +
One who possesses
the Word, who is almighty God, needs nothing and never lacks any of the things
he desires, for the Word is an infinite possession and the source of all our
wealth ... The Word, who acts as our educator, gives us riches. There is no need
to envy the wealth of others with those who have gained freedom from want
through him. He who possesses this sort of wealth will inherit the kingdom of God.
St. Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator 3.7.39-40
This is why Moses
fasted for forty days, and Elijah, and the Mediator himself, our Lord Jesus
Christ: because in this time-bound state of ours restraint from bodily
attractions and allurements is very necessary. The people also spent forty
years wandering in the desert, and forty days of rain produced the flood. The
Lord spent forty days after his resurrection with his disciples, to convince
them of the reality of his risen body. This suggests that in this life, in
which we are in exile away from the Lord, the number forty stands, as I have
just said, for our need to celebrate the memorial of the Lord's body, which we
do in the Church until he comes.
St. Augustine Bishop of Hippo, Sermon 51.32.
Continuing with his second homily, the focus of this part of Moses' message is that the Israelites should live a life of constant vigilance if they want to remain obedient to the commands of the Sinai Covenant. They are to "hear," to "remember," and to not "forget." The command to "Hear, Israel" [Shema Ysrael] is given five times (5:1; 6:3, 4; 9:1; 20:3). The command to "remember" [zakar] is repeated thirteen times in Moses' second homily (5:15; 7:18, 8:2, 18; 9:7, 27; 15:15; 16:3, 12; 24:9, 18, 22; 25:17) and again in the final homily (32:7) for a total of fourteen times. The command not to "forget" [shakach] is repeated nine times in Moses' homilies, with six of those warnings in his second homily (4:9, 23, 31; 6:12; 8:11, 14, 19; 9:7; 25:11). The Israelites must remember and not forget the experience of the Exodus liberation, the covenant formation and oath of obedience to the Law of Yahweh their Great Suzerain at Sinai, and Yahweh's faithful protection of His people in the forty years of wilderness wandering.
In this part of his second homily, he also warns the people that they must not attribute their success in conquering the land of Canaan to their own merits, nor should the people be anxious about their future in the Promised Land. If God protected and cared for the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, preserving even their clothing and shoes, feeding them bread from heaven, and quenching their thirst with water from the Rock, surely He will care for them and protect them in the land of promise.
Question: St. Paul wrote that what happened to the
Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land are lessons that are relevant
to our own generation. See 1 Cor 10:6-13. What can we learn from Moses'
teaching in this part of his homily?
Answer: When we ascribe our successes only to our own efforts, we are ungrateful and lack faith in God. We should acknowledge and be thankful for the gifts God gives us to help us both in our material blessings and in helping us grow in virtue by sharing our material benefits with the less fortunate in acts of charity which demonstrate our love for God by acts of love for our neighbor. We should also not be fearful for the future. If God cared and guided Israel in the forty years of wandering, providing them with protection from the elements and nourishment for the journey, surely He will care for us on our journey to salvation as He provides us with the Living Bread from heaven and Christ's Precious Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist.
According to the Church Fathers, the preservation of the Israelites' on their journey to the Promised Land prefigures both the resurrection (St. Ambrose, On The Christian Faith 2.2.23), and the promise of our immortality (St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage 2.2).
Chapter 8: The Warning to Remember the Ordeal of the Wilderness Years and to Avoid the Temptations of the Promised Land
In chapter 8 Moses continues to address the challenges to their faith, their loyalty to Yahweh and to His covenant that the Israelites will face after they take possession of the Promised Land. He returns to the theme that he first opened in 6:10-15 that prosperity in Canaan might lead the Israelites to believe that they are self-sufficient, that they no longer need to depend on Yahweh, and will be seduced into worshipping the false gods of neighboring peoples. In his call to "remember" and to "not forget" (vs. 2, 11, 14, 18, 19), Moses bases his appeal in this section on the memory of God's provisions for Israel in the ordeal of the wilderness years, when He provided their food in the manna and water from the Rock. The plea to "remember" and "not forget" when they take possession of the Promised Land is made at the beginning and the end of this section, and the word "land" in the Hebrew text is repeated seven times between verses 1 and 10. This section can be outlined in a reverse chiastic pattern:
A. Keep the Law so you will live and prosper; remember God (verses 1-2)
B. The wilderness and the manna (verses 3-4)
C. Keep the commandments and prosper in the land (verses 5-10)
C* Do not forget God in your prosperity in the land (verses 11-14)
B* The wilderness and the manna (verses 15-16)
A* Remember and do not forget God or you will perish (verses 17-20)
Remembering the Ordeal in the Wilderness
1 'You must keep [samar] and put into practice all the commandments [mitsvot] which I enjoin on your today, so that you may survive [live] and increase in numbers and enter the country [land] which Yahweh promised on oath to your ancestors, and make it your own. 2 Remember [zakar] the long road by which Yahweh your God led you for forty years in the desert, to humble you, to test you and know your inmost heart-whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, to make you understand that human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Yahweh. 4 The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet were not swollen, all those forty years. 5 Learn from this that Yahweh your God was training you as a man trains his child, 6 and keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and so follow his ways and fear him. [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page X)
Moses presents the years spent in the wilderness as a test of Israel's faith and trust in God (Dt 8:2, 16) as Yahweh disciplined His people in the hardships they experienced like a father disciplines his children (Dt 8:5). God's discipline is always meant for spiritual profit (see Prov 3:11-12; 1 Cor 11:31-32; Heb 12:5-13). The wilderness experience taught the new generation of Israelites to have faith and trust in God and to develop the virtue of perseverance, a virtue New Covenant believers will need on their journey to salvation (Eph 6:18-20; Heb 12:7; Rev 3:10). The prophets wrote of the wilderness years as a golden age and a time of Israel the Bride's complete dependence upon her Yahweh her Bridegroom who provided for her every need (i.e., see Ez 16:8-14; Hosea 2:16).
Question: The wilderness experience was both a
judgment and a test. It was a judgment for the Exodus generation's refusal to
have faith and trust in God to give them victory over their enemies in the
conquest of Canaan, but how were the forty wilderness years also a test? Why
does God "test" His people then and now?
Answer: God tests His people by giving them trials to humble their proud and selfish hearts and to teach them to turn to Him, to depend upon Him, and to trust Him to provide for their wants and needs, material and spiritually. He knows how we will fare in His test, but the purpose of the test is for us to discover for ourselves how much we need God.
God knows our innermost feelings, even those secrets we cannot admit even to ourselves. The psalmist writes in Psalm 44:22 that God knows the secrets of the heart, and he writes in 94:10-15: Shall he who instructs nations not punish? Yahweh, the teacher of all people, knows human plans and how insipid they are. How blessed are those you instruct, Yahweh, whom you teach by means of your law, to give them respite in evil times, till a pit is dug for the wicked. Yahweh will not abandon his people, he will not desert his heritage; for judgment will again become saving justice, and in its wake all upright heats will follow. Temporal judgment is meant to be redemptive. In those times of divine judgment, personal suffering is meant to bring the sinner back to God. Even when we are deeply embroiled in sin, He does not abandon us but patiently waits for our repentance and our willing return as righteous sons and daughters of a loving Father.
Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you, he made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, to make you understand that human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Yahweh.
The manna, first given to God's newly created people in Exodus 16:4-36, is presented here as a test of obedience.
Question: In what other event did God give the gift
of food as a test of obedience? See Gen 2:16-17.
Answer: In Eden God gave man every fruit to eat in the garden with the exception of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Israel's test in the manna was their willingness to gather and eat it only according to God's commands (Ex 16:4). They were not to hoard the manna over night nor were they to search for the manna on the Sabbath (Ex 16:4-5). Like the comparisons that can be made between God's promised blessings for the Israelites in the Promised Land and the blessings God gave to the first couple in Eden earlier in this homily (Dt 6:3 and 16-19), Moses describes the Promised Land and God's bountiful blessings for Israel living there in terms that are similar to what God provided for Adam and Eve living in Eden in Genesis:
|... so that you may survive [live] and increase in numbers and enter the country [land] which Yahweh promised (Dt 8:1).||... 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it (Gen 1:28)|
But Yahweh your God is bringing you into a fine country
[good land], 8 a land of streams
and springs, of waters that well up from the deep in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines, of
figs, of pomegranates, a long of olives, of oil, of honey ... (Dt 8:7).
10 You will eat and have all you want and you will bless Yahweh your God in the fine country [good land] which he has given you (Dt 8:10).
|Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. From the soil, Yahweh God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed from Eden to water the garden ... (Gen 2:8-10a).|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2010 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
Scholar John Sailhamer writes: If Moses is intentionally linking the gift of the manna and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then it is all the more significant that in this text he also links the manna with the Word of God (The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 441). Moses brings the events in the first book of the Pentateuch together with the events in the last book of the Pentateuch. In his allusion to the events in Eden, Moses links God's test of the men and women of Israel in the wilderness when they first received the manna with the first man and woman's test of obedience concerning the forbidden tree in Eden. But he goes further; Moses not only links these events to the past but to the future by his statement identifying the manna with God's Word.
Question: According to 8:3, how does Yahweh give life
to Israel? What is the comparison to the first Creation event?
Answer: God does not give life to Israel only by perishable bread. He who creates by His word (Gen 1:3), gives life to Israel by the spoken words of His divine Law-the commandments that come from His mouth which He speaks to Moses and Moses teaches to Israel. It is obedience to God's commandments that ultimately gives life.
What was lost in Eden through man's disobedience will be restored to Israel through obedience to the words of the Law God gives Israel. The Law of God gave Israel life (see Neh 9:29; Prov 9:1-5; Ws 16:26; Sir 24:19-21; Amos 8:11). But the test of obedience is the same for Israel as it was for Adam and Eve-it is Israel free will choice to obediently live the Law of God that gives life or to choose disobedience and death, like Adam and Eve when they ate from the forbidden tree: But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat; for, the day you eat of that, you are doomed to die [die die] (Gen 2:17).
Man's free will choice of life and prosperity in Eden or death and disaster is the same choice that will be presented to the Israelites at the conclusion of Moses' third homily: Look, today I am offering your life and prosperity, death and disaster. If you obey the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I am laying down for you today, if you love Yahweh your God and follow [walk in] his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws and his customs, you will live and grow numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the country which you are about to enter and make your own (Dt 30:15-16). Sailhamer writes: Obedience to the Torah is seen as the key to enjoying once again the blessings of the good land and of avoiding the curse of death (The Pentateuch as Narrative, page 442).
Question: Why does Jesus respond to Satan by quoting part
of the verse from Deuteronomy 8:3 when He says: Human beings [man] lives not
on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'... ? How
can the context of Deuteronomy chapter 8, which links the manna from heaven back
to the test in Eden and to the "word of God" (Dt 8:3) give us greater insight
into Jesus' reply to Satan? Also see Ex 16:1a and Jn 6:28-35, 47-58 where
Jesus refers to the manna of the fathers and to Himself as "the bread which
comes down from heaven." Remember, when a part of a verse from the Old
Testament is quoted in the New, the reference is to the entire verse in
Answer: Jesus' reply is that it is not material bread that ultimately gives life, but the Word of God. In the Old Covenant "life" meant obedience to the Law of God, but there is more in what Jesus responds to Satan than the meaning of "life" in the Old Covenant. Jesus is Himself the Living Word. It is He who ultimately gives life that lasts to eternity, and the "bread" that He will give to provide eternal life is not like the manna that only gave temporal life, His "manna" is His Body, "the Living Bread," in the gift of the Eucharist. Jesus' Body becomes the true Tree of Life that sustained man's immortality in Eden.
Deuteronomy 8:4 The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet were not swollen, all those forty years. More evidence of God's special care for Israel during the wilderness years is that He controlled nature so that their clothes and shoes did not wear out, nor were the people physically disabled in the journey.
Deuteronomy 8:5-6 Learn from this that Yahweh your God was training you as a man trains his child, 6 and keep the commandments of Yahweh your God, and so follow his ways and fear him.
Moses encourages the people to learn from their experiences because Yahweh is training His people as an expression of His fatherly love. Many parents love their children, but not all parents are willing to take the time and effort to discipline and train their children. Good parents are not permissive-good parents discipline their children so that they will learn to choose what is right as opposed to what is wrong. Israel's hardships are a paradigm for all God's disciplinary actions. His aim is educational so that they will learn to keep His commandments and remain in covenant with Him.(1)
The Blessings of the Promised Land
7 But Yahweh your God is bringing you into a fine country [good land], 8 a land of streams and springs, of waters that well up from the deep in valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines, of figs, of pomegranates, a land of olives, of oil, of honey, 9 a land where you will eat bread without stint (mold), where you will want nothing, a land where the stones are iron and where the hills may be quarried for copper. 10 You will eat and have all you want and you will bless Yahweh your God in the fine country [good land] which he has given you. Emphasis mine; [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 482)
Deuteronomy 8:7 But Yahweh your God is bringing you into a fine country [good land]...
In this passage, the word "land" is repeated seven times (see the underlined words above). The seventh repetition is verse 10 in the phrase "the good land," which echoes the same phrase in the beginning of this passage in verse 7. The phrase "the good land" is repeated ten times in Deuteronomy (Dt 1:25, 35; 3:25; 4:21, 22; 6:18; 8:7, 10; 9:6; 11:17) and is a reminder of the goodness God has promised Israel when they inhabit the land of Canaan. What Moses tells the Israelites in verses 8-10 is a graphic description of that promised goodness.
As already mentioned, Moses' description of the Promised Land is similar to the description of Eden in Genesis chapter two. The Promised Land is a new Eden and Yahweh's holy Sanctuary is the new garden Sanctuary where man and God fellowshipped together.
Warnings not to forget God's Mighty Acts
11 'Be careful not to forget Yahweh your God, by neglecting his commandments, customs and laws which I am laying down for your today. 12 When you have eaten all you want, when you have built fine houses to live in, 13 when you have seen your flocks and herds increase, your silver and gold abound and all your possessions grow great, 14 do not become proud of heart. Do not then forget Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the place of slave-labor, 15 who guided you through this vast and dreadful desert, a land of fiery snakes, scorpions, thirst; 16 who in this waterless place brought you water out of the flinty rock; who in this desert fed you with manna unknown to your ancestors, to humble you and test you so make your future the happier. 17 Beware of thinking to yourself, "My own strength and the might of my own hand have given me the power to act like this." 18 Remember [zakar] Yahweh your God; he was the one who gave you the strength to act effectively like this, thus keeping them as today, the covenant which he swore to your ancestors. 19 Be sure: if you forget Yahweh your God, if you follow other gods, if you serve them and bow down to them-I testify to you today-you will perish. 20 Like the nations Yahweh is to destroy before you, so you yourselves will perish, for not having listened to the voice of Yahweh your God.'
[..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, pages 482-83)
Moses addresses the dangers to faith that might confront the Israelites in the Promised Land.
Question: What dangers does Moses mention? Also see
Answer: Prosperity in the new land might lead the Israelites to forget their dependency on God and to think the victory over their enemies was entirely from their own efforts. This failure might lead the Israelites to neglect God's Law and their loyalty to the covenant by worshipping false gods.
Question: How does Moses remind the Israelites of
God's faithfulness and their dependency on God in this passage?
Answer: His argument is based on Israel's past history:
Deuteronomy 8:18 Remember [zakar] Yahweh your God; he was the one who gave you the strength to act effectively like this, thus keeping them as today, the covenant which he swore to your ancestors.
Israel's divine election is based on God's loyalty to the covenant He swore to the Patriarchs, made out of His own loving will (Dt 4:37; 8:18; 9:5; 10:15). Israel as God's choice-a nation set apart from the other nations of the earth (Num 23:9)-is based on the former covenant with Abraham and was ratified as a new covenant in the Sinai Covenant Treaty which made the Israelites a people consecrated and dedicated to God (Ex 19:3, 6; Dt 5:2-3; 8:6-9; 26:19).
Question: Through their divine election as a people
consecrated to God, the Israelites are set apart from the Gentile nations, but
what do the prophets foretell that the Israelite's witness of her dedication to
Yahweh will mean for the Gentile nations? See Is 45:14; 49:6; Zec 14:16.
Answer: The recognition of Israel's God by the Gentile nations, will being about an age of universal salvation.
Deuteronomy 8:19-20 Be sure: if you forget Yahweh your God, if you follow other gods, if you serve them and bow down to them-I testify to you today-you will perish. 20 Like the nations Yahweh is to destroy before you, so you yourselves will perish, for not having listened to the voice of Yahweh your God.'
Question: What is Moses' warning to the Israelites?
Answer: Moses commands the Israelites to "remember" that their strength and salvation comes from God, but if the serve pagan gods that their fate will be the same as the nations they have driven out of Canaan.
Question: What earlier warning in the first book of
the Pentateuch is similar to this warning and possible punishment to the
Israelites? Gen 2:15-17; 3:1-5, 21-24.
Answer: It is essentially the same warning and the same choice God presented to Adam and Eve in Eden-disobedience means death and exile. If Adam and Eve were obedient, God promised good life in the Garden of Eden, but if they were disobedient and ate from the forbidden tree, of their own free will they would choose a double death: physical death and spiritual death. Adam and Eve's exile from the earthly Sanctuary that was the Garden of Eden became a break in the perfect fellowship they had enjoyed with God.
For the Israelites, the Law of God gives life, but disobedience to the Law produces death. In verse 20 Moses warned the Israelites if they failed in their vow of covenant obedience to the Law, they would suffer the same fate as the sinful people who were cast out of the Promised Land; they would be exiled from the land like Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden. It is also significant that when Satan tempted Adam and Eve he promised that eating from the forbidden tree would make them gods (Gen 3:1-5). Included in Moses' warning is that the Israelites must serve no other god except Yahweh. One consequence of covenant failure that Moses doesn't mention is that in their judgment exile the Israelites, like Adam and Eve, would be cut off from worship in Yahweh's earthly Sanctuary. The desert Sanctuary and its replacement the Jerusalem Temple was the first earthly Sanctuary of Yahweh since the Edenic garden.
Chapter 9: Teaching the New Generation Using Illustrations from Israel's Past
In this part of his second homily, Moses will use examples of past historical events to support the main theme of his address that the Israelites must be vigilant in their obedience to Yahweh and their allegiance to His covenant to avoid the kinds of rebellion they were guilty of in the past:
The reference to Massah (Ex 17:107) probably also includes the later rebellion at Meribah (Num 20:2-11). The references to rebellions are in chronological order except the rebellion at Massah/Meribah.
In contrast to the five negative historical events, Moses will conclude this section of his second homily by reflecting on five positive historical events, beginning and ending with Moses' second forty day period on Mt. Sinai after the sin of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the first set of stone tablets of the Decalogue (these events not in consecutive order):
Yahweh is the Source of Israel's Victories
1 'Listen [Shema], Israel; today you are about to cross the Jordan, to go and dispossess nations greater and stronger than yourself, and cities immense, with walls reaching to the sky. 2 A people great and tall, these Anakim, as you know; you have heard the saying: Who can stand up to the sons of Anak? 3 Know then today that Yahweh Your God himself will go ahead of you, destroying them like a devouring fire, and that he himself will subdue them before you so that you can dispossess and quickly make an end of them, as Yahweh has already said. 4 Do not think to yourself, once Yahweh your God has driven them before you, "Yahweh has brought me into possession of this country because I am upright," when Yahweh is dispossessing these nations for you, because they do wrong. 5 Your are not going into their country to take possession because of any right behavior or uprightness on your part; rather, it is because of their wickedness that Yahweh is dispossessing these nations for you, and also to keep the pact which he swore to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Be clear about this: Yahweh is not giving you possession of this fine country [good land] because of any right conduct on your part: for you are an obstinate people. [ ] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page ).
In verses 1-2 Moses' refers to the same fears of the Exodus generations after the reconnaissance of Canaan in Numbers 13:33. The Anakim were the descendants of their legendary ancestor Anak. They were very tall people like the Rephidim who had once inhabited the Transjordan.(2)
Question: What is Moses' warning to the Israelites in
this passage? It is a warning that has been repeated previously.
Answer: Israel's possession of he Promised Land was not a reward because of Israel's righteousness.
Question: For what two reasons does Moses say that
God is driving out the residents of Canaan? According the verse 6, what is
God's gift of the Promised Land based? To whom is this message directed?
Answer: The residents of the land of Canaan will be dispossessed of the land because of their wickedness and because of God's promise to the Patriarchs. In verse 6 Moses gives the people (and the reader) the clear understanding that the gift of the Promised Land is based on God's grace and not on the righteousness of the Israelites.
It is God's plan to drive out the other nations from Canaan, but His ultimate plan is to fulfill His promise to the Patriarchs to provide a world-wide blessing, a blessing that will extend to all the nations of the earth (Gen 12:3b). Therefore, dispossessing the inhabitants of Canaan is part of that plan so that their descendants will become the beneficiaries of the future world-wide blessing in the Advent of the Messiah (see Gal 3:8-9).
A Reminder of Israel's Failure in the sin of the Golden Calf
7 'Remember [zakar]; never forget how you provoked Yahweh your God in the desert. From the very day that you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebels against Yahweh. 8 At Horeb, you provoked Yahweh, and Yahweh was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. 9 I had gone up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that Yahweh was making [cut] with you. I stayed forty days and forty nights on the mountain, with nothing to eat or drink. 10 Yahweh gave me the two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God, exactly corresponding to what Yahweh had said to you on the mountain, from the heart of the fire, on the day of the Assembly. 11 After forty days and forty nights, having given me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant, 12 Yahweh said to me, "Get up, go down quickly, for your people whom you have brought out of Egypt, are corrupting one another. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have cast themselves a metal idol." 13 Yahweh then said to me, "I have seen this people, and what an obstinate people they are! 14 Leave me, I am going to destroy them and wipe out their name under heaven; and I shall make you into a mightier and more numerous nations than they are!" [..] = literal translation (The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, vol. I, page 484-85).
In his first example of Israel's past rebellions, Moses lists for the new generation a summary of the events of Israel's sin in making the idol of the Golden Calf. It is an event that took place in Exodus chapter 32.
Question: What is Moses purpose in retelling the
story of the Golden Calf?
Answer: The purpose in retelling the story is to emphasize the necessity of constant vigilance, using the example of Israel's covenant failure at Sinai in the event of the Golden Calf as an illustration of how quickly the people can be seduced into the sin of idol worship.
If they could sin so quickly at Mt. Sinai, after witnessing the great visual and acoustical display of Yahweh's divine glory, what will happen when they enter the land of Canaan if they fail to remain vigilant and adopt the practices of their pagan neighbors?
Moses Reminds the Israelites of His Intersession at Sinai
15 "I went back down the mountain, which was blazing with fire, and in my hands were the two tablets of the covenant. 16 When I looked, I saw that you had been sinning against Yahweh your God. You had cast yourselves a metal calf; you had been quick to leave the way marked out for you by Yahweh. 17 I seized the two tablets and with my two hands threw them down and broke them before your eyes. 18 Then I fell prostrate before Yahweh; as before, I spent forty days and forty nights with nothing to eat or drink, on account of all the sins which you had committed, by doing what was displeasing to Yahweh and thus arousing his anger. 19 For I was afraid of this anger, of the fury which so roused Yahweh against you that he was ready to destroy you. And, once again, Yahweh heard my prayer. 20 Yahweh was enraged with Aaron and was ready to destroy him too; I also pleaded for Aaron on that occasion. 21 That work of sin, the calf you had made, I took and burned and broke to pieces; having ground it to the finest dust, I threw its dust into the stream that comes down from the mountain.
Moses recounts the events that took place in Exodus 32:15-20.
Question: How was Moses' act in breaking the two
tablets of the covenant a sign of the consequences of Israel's sin?
Answer: The breaking of the tablets, which Moses described as the "tablets of the covenant", symbolized the breaking of the covenant treaty.
Notice that Moses mentions that he pleaded for both Aaron's life and the lives of the Israelites (see Ex 32:10-14). The fact that he also pleaded for Aaron's life is new information.
Deuteronomy 9:21 That work of sin, the calf you had made, I took and burned and broke to pieces; having ground it to the finest dust, I threw its dust into the stream that comes down from the mountain.
Question: According to Exodus 32:20, after the dust
of the idol was thrown into the water, what happened next?
Answer: All the Israelites were forced to drink the water containing the idol's dust.
Question: In Scripture the worshipping of any god
other than Yahweh is viewed as a breach of the covenant that is judged as an
adulterous act. Drinking the dust of the idol as a punishment for Israel's idolatry is reminiscing of what punishment in the Book of Numbers? See Num 5:11-18, 27-28.
Answer: A woman accused of adultery by her husband was forced to drink the dust from the flood of the Sanctuary mixed with water. It was called the judgment of "bitter waters." That judgment is reminiscent of the bitter water of the dust of the Golden Calf that the Israelites were forced to drink. The ordeal for a woman accused of adultery was a reminder of Israel's sin of adultery, and the judgment in the case of the Golden Calf was probably meant to separate the innocent from the guilty as in the ordeal of bitter water for a woman accused of adultery.
A Review of Some of Israel's Other Failures
22 'At Taberah too and at Massah and Kibroth-ha-Taavah, you provoked Yahweh. 23 And when Yahweh, meaning you to leave Kadesh-Barnea, said, "Go up and take possession of the country which I have given you." you rebelled against the command of Yahweh your God and would not believe him or listen to his voice. 24 You have been rebels against Yahweh from the day he first knew you. 25 So I fell prostrate before Yahweh and lay there those forty days and forty nights, Yahweh having said that he was going to destroy you. 26 And I pleaded with Yahweh. "My Lord Yahweh," I said, "do not destroy your people, your heritage whom in your greatness you have redeemed, whom you have brought out of Egypt with your mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; take no notice of this people's stubbornness, their wickedness, and their sin, so that, in the country from which you have brought us, it may not be said, 'Yahweh was not able to bring them to the country which he had promised them. He hated them; that was why he brought them out-to slaughter them in the desert.' 29 But these are your people, your heritage, whom you yourself have brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm."'
Moses mentions three past rebellions without going into the details of Israel's failures in those events except for the failure to advance the conquest at Kadesh-Barnea. Then he returns to his intercession for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf. His prayer of intercession is very much like his intercessory prayer recorded in Exodus 32:11-14.
Question: What arguments did Moses make in pleading
for Yahweh's mercy? What was the focus of his petition?
Answer: Moses did not stress Israel's righteousness (9:6b); instead he focused his petition upon God's righteousness, pointing out:
Moses' Positive Historical Examples and the Appeal to the Israelites to Circumcise their Hearts
In this section (10:1-11), Moses gives three positive historical signs of Israel's covenant with Yahweh: the Ark of the Covenant, the two tablets of the covenant treaty documents that are kept in the Ark, and the Levitical ministers-the priests of Aaron's line and the lesser ministers of the Levites who serve Yahweh in the holy Sanctuary.
The Tablets of the Covenant
1 'Yahweh then said to me, "Cut two stone tablets like the first ones, and come up to me on the mountain. Make an ark of wood; 2 on the tablets I shall inscribe the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke; put them in the ark." 3 So I made an ark of acacia wood, cut two stone tablets like the first and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. 4 And he inscribed the tablets, as he had inscribed them before, with the Ten Words which Yahweh had said to you on the mountain, from the heart of the fire, on the day of the Assembly. 5 Yahweh then gave them to me. I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark I had made, and there they stayed, as Yahweh had commanded me.
Moses is retelling events that occurred in Exodus 34:1-29
Question: What is different concerning the tablets of
stone in Moses second forty day period on the mountain? See Ex 24:12 and Ex 34:1.
Answer: In the first ascent of the mountain, God provided the tablets of stone, but in the second ascent Moses was required to bring two precut tablets. In the first event God provided everything, but in the second event Moses had to cooperate with God's plan by providing the tablets.
Some scholars have suggested that although the new tablets reaffirmed the continuance of the Sinai covenant and God's continuing relationship with Israel, the relationship was not restored to what it had once been and there was still an accounting to be made as penance for Israel's sin.
The wooden box in verse 2 may have been a temporary box to house the tablets until the Ark of the Covenant/Ark of the Testimony was build, or it was Moses' wooden box that was later covered in gold (Ex 25:11; 37:1-9). Since the passage does not say that Moses took the wooden box with him, it is possible he instructed Bezalel to make the box and after he returned Bezalel completed the box to receive the tablets (Ex 37:1; 40:20).
The "Ten Words" are the covenant documents we call the Ten Commandments. They were the visible sign of God's covenant with Israel in the same way the Sabbath obligation and the Sanctuary were a visible sign of Israel's covenant union with Yahweh as Israel's one true God and great King (see CCC 2056, 2058; 2060-61).
The Priesthood of Aaron, the Levitical Ministers, and the departure from Sinai
6 'The Israelites left the wells of the Bene-Jaakan for Moserah, where Aaron died; he was buried there, and his son Eleazar succeeded him in the priesthood. 7 From there, they set out for Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah for Jotbathah, an area rich in streams. 8 Yahweh then set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of Yahweh's covenant, to stand in the presence of Yahweh, to serve him and to bless in his name, as they still do today. 9 This is why Levi has no share or heritage with his brothers: Yahweh is his heritage, as Yahweh your God then told him. 10 And, as before, I stayed on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. And again Yahweh heard my prayer and agreed not to destroy you. 11 And Yahweh said to me, "Be on you way at the head of this people, so that they can go and take possession of the country which I swore to their ancestors that I would give them."
Some of the place-names mentioned in verse 6 are also mentioned in Numbers 33:30-31, except they are in reverse order in this passage. Jotbathah is also mentioned in the list of campsites in Numbers 33:33-34, but the encampment prior to Jotbathah is listed as Hor-Gidgad. Since the list in Numbers chapter 33 is contrived to make a list of 42 sites, it is possible the Israelites retraced their steps and visited a campsite more than once. Numbers 33:38 records that Aaron died at Mt. Hor, seven campsites after Moseroth (Num 33:31-38). It is uncertain if Moserah in verse 6 is an alternate spelling or a different site at the foot of Mt. Hor. Gudgod is Hor-Hagidgad in Numbers 33:32. It may be an alternate name; the Septuagint and several Hebrew manuscripts read har haGidgad "the mountain of Gidgad" (Weingeld, Deuteronomy, page 420). The location of these sites has not been identified.
Just as the tablets were restored after the sin of the Golden Calf with the renewal of the covenant with Israel, the priesthood of Aaron was restored and when he died his son was appointed to succeed him as High Priest. In addition, the Levites, who consecrated themselves in the blood of the rebels in the Golden Calf revolt, served Yahweh in the Sanctuary as His lesser ministers (Ex 25:25-29; Num 3:11-13; 8:5-22; 18:5-7).
Deuteronomy 10:8-9 Yahweh then set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of Yahweh's covenant, to stand in the presence of Yahweh, to serve him and to bless in his name, as they still do today. 9 This is why Levi has no share or heritage with his brothers: Yahweh is his heritage, as Yahweh your God then told him.
The tribe of Levi was given the special position as servants of the chief priests for their heroism in putting down the rebellion of the Golden Calf (Ex 32:25-29), thereby replacing the first-born sons who should have been the first to rally to Moses (Num 1:50; 3:6-8, 12; 8:16). The Levites were separated from the other tribes of Israel and dedicated to God in a ceremony in Numbers chapter 8 in which the other Israelites gave up their claim on the tribe of Levi, giving them over to Yahweh's service, no longer to be counted among the twelve tribes (Num 8:9-11)(3)
After their dedication, the three clans of Levites were given the privilege of transporting the Sanctuary and the sacred items of furniture (Num 4:1-33). The events in Numbers 4 took place after the events of the Levite dedication in Numbers 8 and before the tribes left Mt. Sinai; therefore, what is mentioned in Deuteronomy 10:8-9 took place prior to what is mentioned in verses 1-7.
Question: What is the significance of Moses' final
statement in verse 10?
Answer: God was gracious in forgiving His people and in keeping His promise to the Patriarchs. In other words, God's past dealing with His people, despite Israel's rebellions, has become the basis for the new generations' trust and in God to be fair and merciful to them in the present and in the future.
Covenant Union with God is Based Upon Love
12 'And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God ask of you? Only this: to fear Yahweh your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul, 13 to keep the commandments and laws of Yahweh, which I am laying down for your today for your own good. 14 Look, to Yahweh your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth and everything on it; 15 yet it was on your ancestors, for love of them, that Yahweh set his heart to love them, and he chose their descendants after them, you yourselves, out of all nations, up to the present day. 16 Circumcise your heart then and be obstinate no longer; 17 for Yahweh your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, triumphant and terrible, free of favoritism, never to be bribed. 18 He it is who sees justice done for the orphan and the widow, who loves the stranger and gives him food and clothing. 19 (Love the stranger then, for you were once strangers in Egypt.) 20 Yahweh your God is the one whom you must fear and serve; to him you must hold firm; in his name take your oaths. 21 Him you must praise, he is your God: for you he has done these great and terrible things which you have seen for yourselves; 22 and, although your ancestors numbered only seventy persons when they went down to Egypt, Yahweh your god has now made you as many as the stars of heaven.'
In the conclusion to this part of his discourse, Moses explains Israel's obligations to Yahweh, using the same phraseology found in secular Near Eastern covenant treaties:
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 'And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God ask of you? Only this: to fear Yahweh your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul, 13 to keep the commandments and laws of Yahweh, which I am laying down for your today for your own good.
In Deuteronomy 10:12, 15; 11:1, 13 and 22 Moses makes it clear to his people that a two-fold love lies at the core of Israel's covenant relationship with Yahweh. As in a marriage covenant, each party has covenant obligations to fulfill in the expression of that mutual love. The Israelites numbered seventy heads of families when the migrated into Egypt in Genesis 46:8-27, but now their numbers are far greater.(4)
Question: What are Yahweh's covenant-love
Answer: To fulfill the oath He swore to the Patriarchs that their descendants will inhabit the Promised Land and that Yahweh will be their God.
Question: What are Israel's covenant-love obligations
to her Lord?
Answer: To demonstrate her love and loyalty in the form of the reverent observance of her Lord's stipulations, the mitsvot (commandments) of His divine Law.
Deuteronomy 10:6 Circumcise your heart then and be obstinate no longer ... Circumcision of the male foreskin was a "sign" of the covenant with Abraham that was continued in the Sinai Covenant (Gen 17:10; Ex 12:48; Lev 12:3), but in this passage Moses asks for more than the physical sign of circumcision.
Question: What is Moses asking as the sign of
covenant loyalty? How does one accomplish "circumcision of heart"? See Jer 4:3-4, 9:24-25 and Rom 2:25-29 and use those passages in your answer.
Answer: He is asking for the spiritual obligation of whole-hearted commitment. In the Jeremiah passage, God asks His people to break the hardness of their hearts like a plough breaks hard ground. The remedy is to remove heart hardening sin so the seeds of God's commandments can be implanted spiritually in one's heart, to take root and grow, producing the fruit of righteousness. Those who stubbornly remain uncircumcised of heart will fail in living in obedience to Yahweh's commands. Physical circumcision was intended to be the outward sign of an inward condition. According to St. Paul, physical circumcision without spiritual circumcision is without value.
In the retelling of Israel's failures in the past forty years, Moses has shown that the Israelites have no cause to feel deserving or self-righteous. In the conclusion of this section of his homily in chapter 11, Moses will appeal to the Israelites to be totally obedient to God in the future by summarizing the principles that must guide the people's behavior if they are to avoid repeating past failures.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: In chapter 8 Moses appealed to the Israelites to "remember (verses 1-4, 18), to "learn" (verse 5), and to "not forget" (verses 11, 19). How are these key words and phrases relevant to the New Covenant member's walk of faith? What should we remember; what should we learn; and what precautions should we take to beware of forgetting least we stumble and fall on our journey to salvation?
Question: In chapter 9, Moses warned the new generation against the sins of self-righteousness, complacency and arrogance, warning that the right attitude is faithfulness, humility, and trusting in God and in His divine power (9:1-6). How do the sins of self-righteousness, complacency and arrogance damage the individual Christian, the covenant community, and those who hold positions of authority within the Church?
1. Scripture consistently teaches that God disciplines those He loves: My child, do not scorn correction from Yahweh, do not resent his reproof; for Yahweh reproves those he loves, as a father the child whom he loves (Prov 3:11-12). God's discipline, whether punitive or instructive, is always administered with love. Also see Jb 5:17; Heb 12:5-6; Rev 3:19.
2. The name of these giant people in Hebrew means "long-necks." They inhabited southern Canaan near Hebron (Num 13:22). Caleb's Israelite forces defeated them and destroyed their cities, driving the survivors westward to the coast where they settled in the land of the Philistines around Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Josh 11:21-22; 15:14). Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior who challenged David was from Gath (1 Sam 17:4).
4. See the census of Israelites fighting men above the age of 20 listed just prior to the departure from Mt. Sinai in Num 26:1-56 and the census of the Levite males above the age of one month in Num 26:57-65.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson: (*Scripture paraphrased or quoted in the citation)
CCC 2056*, 2058, 2060-61