Deuteronomy 22

More misc laws, with the theme of community. You are bound to care about other people’s property, so if you find lost property, you need to try and return it.

There is an odd ban against transvestism that uses a condemnatory word that is usually reserved for pagan temple practises… Scholars think that is what that is about. 

Some more sharing and caring community rules… Make fences on balconies, don’t take a greedy share of the wild bird life to eat. 

Then a bunch of “anti mismatch” rules that seem metaphorical about not adding the local culture. 

Then some rules about marriage relationships that are horribly harsh by today’s standards, but have a certain rough justice to them in a society where women would have otherwise had very few rights. It’s a society where which already pretty much discarded women who weren’t virgins at marriage… From that starting point this makes sure there is some fairness.

So to a remarkable degree of detail we have a model society of the time which is to care for every member like one large family, and is to keep itself distinct. Is the larger themes of God’s plan for Israel, down to a level of detail.

Deuteronomy 17

Another warning against other Gods, this time nature worship, the sun and moon.  

And another layer of the legal system. Impossible cases can go to the levites, the priests. Strangely enough our legal system still has a vestige of that, a branch of the law, equity, is based on the church courts in England where people could go to relieve the hardship of the civil courts. 

Two capital offences, for worshipping other Gods and not accepting the Law.

Then a page on how an Israelite king should be, one of the people, not amassing great wealth and many wives. I didn’t even think God wanted them to have a king… They went through the period of judge/leaders and kings were given to them as a second best. But here as they are about to enter the promised land is assumed they will have a king. .

Maybe it was like the walk to the prmised land, they had to drift for a while with no king because they ignored God’s word.

It’s a picture of a society with God over all that doesn’t place is trust in great men. It’s a society with lots of capital offences, yes, which is troubling. But within that, it’s one of equality, justice, rights and humility. It’s strikingly different even in our world, let alone the ancient.

Deuteronomy 5

Obedience. Moses recounts the drama of the fire and darkness out of which God spoke and gave the ten commandments, which he quotes in full.

I was struck by the universal, profound nature of them. Not killing, stealing, taking your neighbours property. I mean the are very very ancient rules, we haven’t progressed beyond acknowledging them as true, and regularly breaking them, in 1000s of years. They are still an accurate mirror of our ideals and weakness.

He recounts how right the reaction of the people was. They were overwhelmed at hearing God’s voice, they were afraid to see him. They backed off and let Moses complete the interaction.

He calls them to have this respect again, to the law, to the words of God. He’s reminding them that the law came from the living God who is awesome and that is why it should be obeyed.

Numbers 36

It’s like to say it came to a climactic end but I can’t… It’s a bit of business revisiting the quite liberal law that allows women to inherit land where a family only has daughters. It enters the land doesn’t thereby move out of Israel possession of they may non Israelites or even non clan.

It emphasises again the God given nature of the land and the relationship the nation has with God.

You can’t miss from this book: God chose them, God gave them the land. The did their darnedest to reject his promises, and a generation was wasted, but here they are.

Numbers 7

All the tribes’ offerings at the dedication of the temple. A long list chapter. The tribes’ offerings are much the same… It’s not the most freewheeling religion. 

At the end there are 12 Silver Bowls full of flour, 12 gold Bowls of incense, 12 goats, 12 lambs etc etc.

Moses enters the holy place and hears God’s voice. God is in the space between the two cherubim atop the ark of the covenant.

It’s a different dynamic than the many times Moses has heard​ God’s voice since the burning bush. Then he was a messenger, he was being personally commissioned to act and soak for God. Now he is representing the people. From God’s chosen man to God’s chosen people, the transition is complete.

Numbers 2

Gives us a picture of how the nation camped. In a big wheel around the tabernacle. The levites were in the middle, around the holy tent, the 11 tribes were in blobs around that, always in the same order.  God’s presence at the centre, like heaven.

Family is all. Within the tribes, you camp in your clan and in your family.

And when they moved on, they left in the same order each time, and set up camp the same as before.

Numbers 1

Ok the first number of numbers is 603550. The number of fighting fit Israelites they had after a year or so if leaving Egypt.

And that’s about it for this chapter.

The focus of the census telegraphs that the promised land is going to require a fight.

Commentator speculated that the whole number of the Israelites including aged, women, children and priests… None of whom are in the fighter list, would be 2 million or so.

They have their freedom from slavery (Exodus) they have their God’s presence (Leviticus). As do I.

Now what, Father?

Can’t have me wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, right? Right?

Leviticus 26

This chapter talks about the consequences of the Israelites’ behaviour.  The blessings that will come if they are obedient, and the progressively worse disasters that will befall them if they are not. Its pretty much the story of the next 10 or so books of the bible.

I like that the blessings are instant, and repentance is always within reach, but the curses come as a series of ever more serious consequences… slow to anger and quick to bless.

I still practically subscribe to this punishment and reward model in quite a literal way.  Its probably superstitious, theological balderdash.

If I feel guilty about something I have done and have a setback, I think its God punishing me.  I don’t think so much good things are a reward though.  I get that more the other way around: I try do the right thing because I have been blessed. And when they happen unfairly, I say “why god why”.  So every outcome is covered by my spiritualising.  Is such a simple cause and effect real?  Is god real?  If the second question’s answer is “yes”, why not the first, eh?

Anyway from this prediction the sadness and glory of the Old Testament flows.  They will have high highs of gods revelation and blessing, and low lows of his suffering for their ignorance of him.

They will take the promised land, make it great, watch it get corrupted, be thrown out of it and return. They are the chosen race – chosen to exemplify god’s character, and to provide the ancestry for god in human form.  As an earthly imprint of the heavenly pattern they were always an imperfect copy, but the messiah did come through the line.

 

Exodus 40

And they all lived happily ever after. Well this old testament book ends on a high, unlike so many that seemed to chart decline and fall before the Messiah.

The tabernacle is done, and it is to the pattern God required, and his cloud of presence descends on it. 

They are in a state of grace, such as we always are who believe these days. 

Exodus 26

The tabernacle, an incredibly fancy tent designed in detail by God. Ditto yesterday really.

I found myself wondering at the Israelites ability wandering in the desert to be able to make the metal bits required, bronze & gold clasps, the embroidery, the large wood poles. 

And the logistics of moving with all those materials to hand, carrying the tent, the workshop equipment. It’s a nightmare.

I wonder how often they moved. Did they pack up and resettle every day? Surely not more than once a week?

They spent 40 years or something wandering like this. There is something powerfully symbolic about the ephemeral nature of it all. 

I wonder if the tabernacle wasn’t closer to god’s ideal for worship than the temple they would everythings make under Solomon at the height of their influence.