Book of Deuteronomy
|Light iron-age reading
|Gabbin' with God
Deuteronomy isn't really a story, but a very large and inspiring speech about the Promised Land as well as a sort of a list of silly laws (along with Leviticus) that some Israelites wrote back in the day. It ties with the Book of Revelation and Genesis as the craziest shizznit in the whole Bible. It is also the oldest book in the Torah, having been first compiled in abbreviated form under King Josiah, and one of the oldest parts of the Bible (though the Song of Deborah in Judges is older).
The Hebrew name is דְּבָרִים devarim — literally things — in Hebrew, the books of the Torah are all named after their first words (technically this is an incipit rather than a title). The English title comes from the Greek deuteronomion (via Latin deuteronomium), meaning "second law," deriving from a Septuagint mistranslation of chapter 17 verse 18.
Deuteronomy has some pretty interesting laws. Among these are:
- A limit of six years on holding people as slaves—but only if the other person is a Hebrew (Deuteronomy 15:12)
- A call for genocide against not one but seven different nations (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)
- The restriction against wearing fabric that is interwoven with wool and linen. (Deuteronomy 22:11)
- Telling women not to grab men by the balls during fights, which is punished by cutting off the woman's hand. (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
- Not letting castrated men enter "the congregation of the LORD". (Deuteronomy 23:1)
- Banning anybody who happens to have a bastard within their tenth generation (i.e. 2,000 most recent ancestors) from heaven (Deuteronomy 23:2)
- Worshipping other Gods is punishable by death. (Deuteronomy 13:6-11)
If you don't follow all these laws and other commandments, then there's a whole host of curses in store. The list starts at Deuteronomy 28:15 and goes on for over 50 verses, and includes punishments such as plagues, swarms of locusts, bad harvests, invasions and war, madness, blindness, slavery, your spouses cheating on you—Big Guy in the Sky does not play around, it seems.
In summary, Deuteronomy contains a lot of the crazy stuff that makes modern, sensible humans want to slap a baby out of frustration. But near the end of the book God says, I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live which affirms that the Israelites do have free will and they are not predestined for destruction, if they so choose. This is completely repudiated by Calvinism.
Spoiler alert: Moses dies at the end.
Moses, who ultra-traditionalist Jews and Christians alike insist is the sole author of all five books in the Pentateuch, manages to describe his own death in chapter 34, and asserts, somewhat bizarrely, that his tomb has been lost, "So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." Martin Luther credited the prologue and epilogue of Deuteronomy to Joshua, son of Nun.
Pulled out of Josiah's nether regions?
Deuteronomy may be the earliest example of an "ancient" holy book that was "conveniently discovered" by a later proselytizer.
From 2 Kings 22:8 and again from 2 Chronicles 34:14, we are given an account of a "book of the law" that was discovered in the Temple, which had gone completely unnoticed by all the previous generations. Many modern scholars believe that this refers to the book of Deuteronomy. Conveniently, the commandments laid out in this newly discovered book — supposedly authored by Moses himself — corresponded almost exactly to the sweeping reforms Josiah wanted to impose on the Kingdom of Judah.
Interestingly, if the words of Hosea are anything to go by, many of the reforms seem to correspond to precepts mostly held among the people of the Kingdom of Israel to the north (where Hosea had performed his prophecy), which Assyria had recently desolated for its rebellion. Many refugees made their way into Judah's upper class, and were responsible for placing Josiah on the throne after Amon was murdered. Meanwhile, Isaiah, an earlier, pre-refugees prophet of Judah, never made any mention of Deuteronomy-style covenants, or for that matter the Exodus. The important part is that whereas Israel had been monolatrous, Judah was still henotheistic, willing to give a measure of honor to divinities besides still-the-foremost YHWH. The upper-class refugees apparently couldn't have that, and since Josiah probably felt indebted to them, and may have wanted their support anyway to help kick away the remaining influence of Assyria.
- Actions which demand the death penalty in the Old Testament
- List of actions prohibited by the bible
- RationalWiki:Annotated Bible/Deuteronomy
- Garrett, Don (1996). The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521398657. p. 387.