Monday, January 25, 2010

Deuteronomy 11-19: You'd Think These Laws Would Be Organized Better

I'm behind in my blogging again, so I'm going to lump several chapters together again.  Deuteronomy turns out to be really interesting.  The majority of the information has already been given in Exodus through Numbers, but there is stuff in here that I don't remember reading before (but then again, I don't even remember reading it from the last time I read Deuteronomy, so it could very well be in one of the other books and I just can't remember that far back).

Here's an overview of what goes on here:

  • 11:1-32 Rewards for obedience
  • 12:1-27 Instructions on where to offer sacrifices
  • 12:28-32 Don't follow the religion of the other nations
  • 13:1-18 Idolatry is punishable by death
  • 14:1-22 Clean and unclean animals
  • 14:23-29 Tithes
  • 15:1-19 Slavery and the Sabbatic Year
  • 15:20-23 Firstborn animals
  • 16:1-17 Holidays
  • 16:18-22 Appointing Judges
  • 17:1-7 Punishing idolatry again
  • 17:8-13 Difficult cases to be judged by Levites
  • 17:14-20 Laws for appointing a king
  • 18:1-8 Providing for the Levites
  • 18:9-14 Sorcery, spiritism, witchcraft, etc forbidden
  • 18:15-22 Prophets, true and false
  • 19:1-13 Cities of refuge; manslaughter versus murder
  • 19:14-21 False Witnesses
 As you can see, those are a lot of different topics, and it really kind of jumps around a lot.  There are a couple of one-sentence laws tucked in there too that I didn't list.  As something of an organization freak, this sort of drives me crazy, and I wonder if there's a reason for ordering it all like this, or if Moses is just speaking as he remembers something, or what.

So here are some things that I find interesting:

1.  Location of offering sacrifices.  Burnt offerings, it appears, could not be offered just anywhere; the people would have to go to a designated location.  Judging by the context, it seems that the purpose of this was to prevent people from using the pagan places of worship (and we'll find out why later on).  They were supposed to completely destroy every pagan altar and votive and object of worship so they wouldn't be tempted to start using those things.

2.  I think tithing, as it is described in the Bible, has been really misunderstood.  In chapter 14 it says that the tithe is a portion of a person's harvest, which that person is supposed to take to the designated place of worship and eat, or if they couldn't carry it all, they could exchange the crops for money or oxen or wine or anything they wanted and take that to the designated place of worship and eat it there.  Then every three years they were to take that tithe and give it to the Levites in their town for them to eat.  That sounds very different to me from the 10% of our income given to the church every month that I've heard about all my life.  I'm not saying it's bad to give money to the church - I think it's very important - I just don't think it's the same thing as a tithe.

3.  Slavery.  Slavery in ancient Israel, at least according to the Law, was really different from modern slavery like what we practiced before the abolition.  Slavery among Hebrews was a temporary state; ever seven years, the slaves were to be set free - and more than that, their owners were supposed to load them with money and livestock so they wouldn't have to start over with nothing.  Every time the Law mentions slaves and the poor and orphans and stuff like that, it says, "remember that you were slaves in Egypt."  I think maybe God let Israel be in slavery so long so that they would learn to have compassion on the poor once they became rich.  I don't know if it worked out that way, but that was the idea.

4.  God knew that Israel was going to want to have a king eventually, so He even made provisions for that.  He said the king wasn't supposed to accumulate wealth or possessions or wives or anything that would turn his heart away from God or make him think he was better than his countrymen.  Yeah, none of those rules were kept.  It also says that the king was supposed to have the Law written on a scroll to be kept next to him so he could read it every day his whole life - now if that rule had been followed, maybe the Hebrew monarchy would have turned out better than it did.


Michelle said...

I am totaly fasinated by numbers 2 and 3! THank you for pointing those points out so when I re-read it I will understand it better. I wonder how the whole 10% to church thing got started? Maybe it's somewhere in the New Testament when the Christian church got started. And I am very glad to hear that slaves were treated more fairly than I originaly thought, it is nice to know they at least got a severance pacakge!

Zoe said...

I know, I've been finding a lot of surprising laws in my reading. I'll post more of them tomorrow. Now, I think the slavery laws only applied to slaves who were Hebrews - the people could also take prisoners of war as slaves, and I think they were slaves permanently, but I'm not sure.