From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
The rules continue. This time, it's smash anything idol-related and burn sacred poles.
Sacred poles are associated with the goddess Asherah, and some inscriptions from the ancient Near East refer to "Yahweh and his Asherah." In some ancient Near East cultures, Asherah was actually God's wife. In Deuteronomy, God is a bachelor.
The writers probably wouldn't take time out of their days to tell people not to do something they weren't doing anyway, right? Translation: people all over were worshipping these sacred poles, and the writers weren't happy about it.
Next rule: bring sacrifices and offerings to the place where God will choose to dwell (i.e., what will be the temple). What the text doesn't say is that worshipping other gods and going to other temples cuts down on revenue for the Levites. That's why it's in the Levites' best interest for the Israelites to worship one God in one place (5-14).
Even if you live far away, some offerings must come to the temple. (26-28).
Don't do what the other nations are doing—God hates their practices. In fact, some of them burn their children as offerings to their gods (29-32).
The basic takeaway is that the ancient world was a culturally diverse place. For the Israelites, circumcision was a means of worshipping God during the birth portion of the life cycle; for other cultures, that meant child sacrifice. Because all of these cultures were influencing each other, we can understand them all better through little shout-outs like these.