Study Guide

Book of Deuteronomy Quotes

  • Fear

    "See, the Lord your God has given the land to you; go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you; do not fear or be dismayed." (NRSV 1:21)

    Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. (KJV 1:21)

    "Do not fear." What do you think—are these supposed to be comforting words, or are they just a cold command? Remember, Moses is talking to a bunch of Israelites whose ancestors never made it to the Promised Land because of fear.

    "This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under heaven; when they hear report of you, they will tremble and be in anguish because of you." (NRSV 2:25)

    This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that areunder the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee. (KJV 2:25)

    Fear is a pretty powerful weapon, and God knows how to use it—not just against the Israelites, but against his enemies, too. He's going to give the Israelites a reputation that will instill the fear of God (literally) in their enemies. Want more of the action? Continue reading in the book of Joshua.

    "Do not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you." (NRSV 3:22)

    Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God he shall fight for you. (KJV3:22)

    Teaming up with Superman? Good. Having God on your side? Priceless. The writer of Deuteronomy surrounds this command with a bunch of national stories (like Moses parting the Red Sea) to prove God's power.

    "How you once stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, 'Assemble the people for me, and I will let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me as long as they live on the earth, and may teach their children so.'" (NRSV 4:10)

    Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. (4:10 KJV)

    What does "fear" mean when it comes to fearing God? Is it actual fear? Respect? Loyalty? Something completely different? Remember that God wants to be feared and loved at the same time. If you're feared, people will do what you want, and if you're loved, people will agree with what you do. It's a wrap.

    [S]o that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. (NRSV 6:2)

    That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. (KJV 6:2)

    Translation: fear God and have a long life. Taking your vitamins won't hurt either. The average life span was significantly shorter in the ancient world, so long life was a pretty big deal.

    "So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (NRSV 10:12)

    And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul (KJV 10:12)

    Oh, just that? No big deal. Maybe Moses is trying to make the Israelites think that serving God is simple—in spite of that long list of laws. Sure, the nitty-gritty legal stuff is important and holds the community together practically, but it's the fear of God that holds them together emotionally.

    "In the presence of the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose as a dwelling for his name, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always." (NRSV 14:23)

    And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always. (NRSV 14:23)

    If God has to prove himself, the Israelites do, too. How do you prove your fear of God? By bringing 10% of your belongings to the temple for him. In return, he'll, um, be your god.

    "When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes" (NRSV 17:18-19)

    And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them (KJV 17:18-19)

    Does reading the Bill of Rights make you fear the government? No? Well, this book of laws is intended to make even kings fear God. One thing you shouldn't do? Lose the book—tell the people in 1 Kings 22 that.

    "Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way, when you were faint and weary, and struck down all who lagged behind you; he did not fear God." (NRSV 25:17-18)

    Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou faint and weary; and he feared not God. (KJV 25:17-18)

    The Amalekites are the perpetual enemies of Israel. And when you're writing a piece of literature, anxieties of the time are bound to seep into your writing. The Bible just does it a little more explicitly.

    "Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you." Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: "Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it." (NRSV 31:6-7)

    Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. (KJV 31:6-7)

    Never fear, God is here! When the book of Joshua opens, God will continue to give Joshua this advice. As much as the Israelites are supposed to fear God, they're not supposed to fear anything else. Or else.

  • Memory and the Past

    "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day." (NRSV 5:15)

    And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (KJV 5:15)

    Translation: I scratched your back, now you scratch mine. A lot of the covenant language in the Bible resembles language of the Suzerain-Vassal treaties of the time period. These were agreements with more powerful states for protection and money in return for servitude and loyalty. Sounds familiar, right?

    [D]o not be afraid of them. Just remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. (NRSV 7:18-19)

    Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the Lord thy God brought thee out: so shall the Lord thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid. (KJV 7:18-19)

    Reputation really packs a punch here. God is out to prove himself, and he's doing it by getting the Israelites, his people, what they want and need. That's something you never forget.

    [D]o not be afraid of them. Just remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. (NRSV 7:18-19)

    Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt; The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the Lord thy God brought thee out: so shall the Lord thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid. (KJV 7:18-19)

    Reputation really packs a punch here. God is out to prove himself, and he's doing it by getting the Israelites, his people, what they want and need. That's something you never forget.

    "Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you. Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him." (NRSV 8:2-6)

    And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. (KJV 8:2-6)

    This is only a test. Please stand by for forty years. Yozwa. Forty years in the wilderness isn't something you strive for. Moses is reminding his people so they don't make the same mistakes their ancestors did.

    "Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place. Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you." (NRSV 9:7-8)

    Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord. Also in Horeb ye provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry with you to have destroyed you. (KJV 9:7-8)

    Moses really likes to remind the Israelites of their faults. Even when it was their ancestors screwing up, it's up to the current generation to learn from their mistakes. In fact, those words "remember and do not forget" seem to be saying "learn and do not forget."

    "I prayed to the Lord and said, 'Lord God, do not destroy the people who are your very own possession, whom you redeemed in your greatness, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; pay no attention to the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin'" (NRSV 9:26-27)

    I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin (KJV 9:26-27)

    Moses is always telling the Israelites to remember. But now he tries the same strategy with God. And guess what? It works. God decides not to annihilate the Israelites.

    Remember today that it was not your children (who have not known or seen the discipline of the Lord your God), but it is you who must acknowledge his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and to all his land; what he did to the Egyptian army, to their horses and chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued you, so that the Lord has destroyed them to this day; what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place (NRSV 11:2-5)

    And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm, And his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land; And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day; And what he did unto you in the wilderness, until ye came into this place (KJV 11:2-5)

    This generation of Israelites is in a unique position because they have the benefit of hindsight and foresight. They have seen God's deliverance and wrath, and they will see the fulfillment of God's promises in the Promised Land.

    You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt. (NRSV16:3)

    Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. (KJV 16:3)

    Even some Jewish rituals, like eating matzah, are meant to help people remember. Because the Israelites were in a hurry to leave Egypt, they didn't have time to add yeast to their bread and wait for it to rise. Moses wants his people to remember? Well, it looks like he succeeded—because Jewish people are doing it even to this day.

    Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on your journey out of Egypt. (NRSV 24:9)

    Remember what the Lord thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt. (KJV 24:9)

    And… more remembering. This time, it's not so pretty. Because Miriam badmouthed her brother Moses, God gave her leprosy (Numbers 12:1-10), which separated her from the rest of the Israelites. Lesson? Be careful how you talk about your siblings. But really, Moses is using the "don't let this happen to you" strategy once again.

    "[Y]ou shall make this response before the Lord your God: 'A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.'" (NRSV 26:5-9)

    And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous: And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, evena land that floweth with milk and honey. (KJV 26:5-9)

    Biblical scholars refer to this saying as "The Little Credo," and many a Sunday School teacher will have you memorize it. It pretty much sums up all of Israelite history up to this point in Deuteronomy.

  • Foreignness and the Other

    "I charged your judges at that time: 'Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.'" (NRSV 1:16)

    And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that iswith him. (KJV 1:16)

    Right off the bat, we get the feeling that the Israelites are a fair bunch, judging "rightly" between people, no matter who they are.

    [A]nd charge the people as follows: You are about to pass through the territory of your kindred, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, so, be very careful not to engage in battle with them, for I will not give you even so much as a foot's length of their land, since I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. (NRSV 2:4-5)

    And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession. (KJV 2:4-5)

    Here, the Israelites encounter Esau's descendants—remember him from Genesis? When God says don't mess with people, you don't mess with people. If they're okay in God's book, they're just okay.

    "[T]he Lord said to me: 'Do not harass Moab or engage them in battle, for I will not give you any of its land as a possession, since I have given Ar as a possession to the descendants of Lot.'" (NRSV 2:9)

    And the Lord said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession. (KJV 2:9)

    Back in Genesis, Abraham and Lot got into a fight over land, but God refuses to let those shenanigans continue. No more arguments between the Israelites (descendants of Abraham) and the Moabites (descendants of Lot).

    "But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day." (NRSV 5:14-15)

    But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. (5:14-15 KJV)

    Ah yes, thine ass shalt not do any work. Folks, no one is working on the Sabbath, doesn't matter who you are. Even the animals get a day off.

    "When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you—and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire." (NRSV 7:1-5)

    When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, andutterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. (KJV 7:1-5)

    Gulp. We call this genocide today. And while we're at it, no mercy for your enemies sounds a lot different than caring about slaves and strangers in your land, right? Why the stark contrast?

    "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing." (NRSV 10:17-18)

    For the Lord your God isGod of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. (KJV 10:17-18)

    God for president! He is honest, cares about the poor, and will even take care of strangers. But wait, what about the ones he told the Israelites to kill in Chapter 7? Is there a difference between strangers and enemies?

    "As for the Levites resident in your towns, do not neglect them, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you." (NRSV 14:27)

    And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. (KJV 14:27)

    The Levites might seem like outsiders—they don't have any land, after all—but they probably wrote or edited a good chunk of the Bible.

    "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'" (NRSV 15:11)

    For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. (KJV 15:11)

    Poverty may be a perpetual problem, but compassion seems to be a perpetual solution. Do people still employ this attitude today?

    "And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today." (NRSV 15:13-15)

    Andif thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of thatwherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. (KJV 15:13-15)

    The memory of slavery in Egypt is pretty powerful in Israelite history. But here's a question: if they're so compassionate toward their slaves, why have slaves at all? What was different about ancient culture that made this practice more acceptable? Or was it?

    "When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this." (NRSV 24:19-22)

    When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean itafterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing. (KJV 24:19-22)

    Why do the writers of Deuteronomy use the figures of orphan and widow so often? Would we use the same examples today? What would be the equivalent in our society?

  • Visions of the Promised Land

    "Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you." (NRSV 6:3)

    Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. (KJV 6:3)

    A land that flows with milk and honey? Sounds ooey and gooey to us, but these are two products that take quite a bit of work to extract from nature. If they just "flow" in the Promised Land, that means a lot less work for the inhabitants. Sounding better and better, right?

    "When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." (NRSV 6:10-12)

    And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (KJV 6:10-12)

    Sounds like the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis are coming true. And because the other nations have already done all of the hard work for them, they'll just be able to enjoy. Oh, but that little warning at the end has us a little worried.

    "[H]e will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock, in the land that he swore to your ancestors to give you. You shall be the most blessed of peoples, with neither sterility nor barrenness among you or your livestock." (NRSV 7:13-14)

    And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. (KJV 7:13-14)

    The Israelites did not measure success in terms of money—it only mattered how many children, cattle, and crops they had. They don't call it the Promised Land for nothing.

    "The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you." (NRSV 7:22)

    And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee. (KJV 7:22)

    Excuses much? A lot of people read this as justification for why some nations are left out of the Promised Land. It has nothing to do with God's power—and don't you forget it.

    "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you." (NRSV 8:7-10)

    For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass. When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. (KJV 8:7-10)

    What would the equivalent of all these goodies be in the U.S. today?

    "It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the Lord made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people." (NRSV 9:5-6)

    Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. (KJV 9:5-6)

    The Israelites are a pain in the neck, but lucky for them, the other nations are even worse. Why does God want them to think that they deserve the Promised Land?

    "For the land that you are about to enter to occupy is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sow your seed and irrigate by foot like a vegetable garden. But the land that you are crossing over to occupy is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky, a land that the Lord your God looks after. The eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. (NRSV 11:10-12)

    For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. (KJV 11:10-12)

    The Promised Land looks even better when contrasted with Egypt, huh? We just hate watering things by foot.

    "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (NRSV 16:20)

    That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (KJV 16:20)

    Famous line alert! And guess what the Israelites do? Totally ignore it.

    "When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you." (NRSV 18:9-12)

    When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. (KJV 18:9-12)

    Sorry, Hogwarts—no satellite campus in Israel. But really, these were real practices then, too—if they weren't, there would be no reason to prohibit them.

    "For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I promised on oath to their ancestors, and they have eaten their fill and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, despising me and breaking my covenant." (NRSV 31:20)

    For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. (KJV 31:20)

    Oops. Looks like the Israelites can't quite handle the success. Is this just what happens when stuff is handed to you on a silver platter? Or is there some specific deficiency in the Israelites? Whether they're wandering in the wilderness or set up all fancy in the Promised Land, they have a tough time being loyal to God.

  • Justice and Judgment

    "You shall not murder." (NRSV 5:17)

    Thou shalt not kill. (KJV 5:17)

    Pretty simple, right? But wait, didn't Moses kill a guy? So where do we draw the line?

    "Neither shall you steal." (NRSV 5:19)

    Thou shalt not steal. (KJV 5:19)

    Here's another one that seems pretty cut and dry. But then the Israelites are told to take everything from the people in the Promised Land. Does this not count as stealing?

    "Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor." (NRSV 5:20)

    Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (KJV 5:20)

    Even though not bearing false witness (i.e., lying) is only one of the Ten Commandments, it may be the linchpin for any legal system. After all, without truth the system falls apart, right?

    "Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor's house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (NRSV 5:21)

    Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's. (KJV 5:21)

    In the wayback ancient days, a man's wife was seen as his property. In modern speak, this law pretty much translates to "don't be jealous of the sweet new computer your friend just got." What do you think about having a law against envy? Can it be enforced?

    "If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, 'Let us go and worship other gods', whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Then all Israel shall hear and be afraid, and never again do any such wickedness." (NRSV 13:6-11)

    If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you. (KJV 13:6-11)

    Didn't we just see "Thou shalt not kill"? What gives? Well, we know that worshipping idols is pretty much the lowest low in Deuteronomy, so if there's going to be an exception, it would be here. Stone away, Israelites.

    "If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be." (NRSV 15:7-8)

    If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. (KJV 15:7-8)

    After all these nasty-sounding laws, it's nice to hear one about helping the needy. The Bible writers were well aware that humans can be greedy and selfish, and this law attempts to counteract those tendencies. Do we have any similar laws today?

    "You must not move your neighbor's boundary marker, set up by former generations, on the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess." (NRSV 19:14)

    Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it. (KJV 19:14)

    This law will be particularly important to the Israelites when they enter the Promised Land in the book of Joshua. They're basically saying, "don't move onto my side of the bed." Someone clearly violated this principle at one point—moving those pesky boundary stones—which led to the creation of the law.

    "If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? You may destroy only the trees that you know do not produce food; you may cut them down for use in building siege-works against the town that makes war with you, until it falls." (NRSV 20:19-20)

    When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege: Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued. (KJV 20:19-20)

    Don't get the wrong idea—this isn't some sort of proto-environmentalism. The Israelites probably just wanted to preserve the fruit-producing trees that were the rewards of their conquests.

    "You shall not watch your neighbor's ox or sheep straying away and ignore them; you shall take them back to their owner." (NRSV 22:1)

    Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. (KJV 22:1)

    Have you ever seen a shopping cart rolling through the parking lot and just let it go? Yeah, the same thing happened back in the day. This law is all about neighbors helping each other out and is probably designed to strengthen the Israelite community. We should totally make a shopping cart law.

    "If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity." (NRSV 25:11-12)

    When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her. (KJV 25:11-12)

    Um. We're going to go ahead and call this case law. In other words, someone didn't dream up this scenario. A woman actually tried to take, well, matters, into her own hands—and a law was born. Ah, the Bible.