So … it’s been like, what, 2 months since my Numbers review? Well, I’m back now with Deuteronomy, finally. I will confess, it didn’t actually take me 2 full months to read it. You were probably too busy with the holidays to even notice my absence, but if you happened to be wondering why I’ve been taking so long with this damn review, you can find out here.
O.k. so let’s get to Deuteronomy, shall we? This book was … well … if I thought Numbers was tedious, little did I know that I had another thing coming when I got to Deuteronomy. It was a bit of a drag. Why is that? Well, here is the synopsis of Deuteronomy:
The book is 34 chapters long, and for the first 30 chapters, absolutely NOTHING happens. Literally, physically, nothing. The Israelites don’t go anywhere, they don’t DO anything, they just sit there and listen to Moses talk – counseling them and reminding them of all God’s laws and commandments. It picks up I think shortly after where Numbers left off, “the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month.” The Israelites are in the desert east of Jordan in the plains of Moab, and I believe they are basically getting ready for the “big game,” which is when they’ll cross over Jordan and into the promised land, and steal that land from the current inhabitants. I picture these first 30 chapters to be like one loooong pep talk from a coach (Moses) to his football team (the Israelites), right before the Superbowl. Only this particular pep talk includes not only positive/inspiring words to pump up the team, but also loooots and lots of threats of the calamities that will befall the players if they don’t make the RIGHT plays that the coaches have laid out for them in the playbook.
So it’s like, you’re about to play in the Superbowl, and if you do everything just right like the coach says, you’ll get the Superbowl ring and fame and future football success and endorsement deals and life will be forever awesome. But if you f*ck this up, you will get horrible diseases that will involve boils and tumors and insanity and blindness and agony, you will fail at everything you do in life, you’ll be poor and destitute, your enemies and/or disease will kill you and vultures will peck away at your carcass. Make sense? It’s basically your typical feel-good sports story.
During Moses’ reaaaally long pep talk, there’s a lot of re-hashing of things that happened in Numbers, with some different/extra details thrown in. Most of the laws and commandments are the same things we got in Numbers and Leviticus and earlier books as well, but Moses is just reviewing it with the Israelites to be reeaally really sure they get it, and also because God purposely made them wait 40 years wandering the desert so the original generation would die off. Moses needs to make sure all the next generation young’ns are up to speed, and he also tells them that they need to do a ceremonial reading of all the laws and commandments to all the people every 7 years once they’re in the promised land. And then in the last 4 chapters of the book, Moses dies and Joshua (one of the very few who made it through Numbers with his reputation and life unscathed) takes over for him. Remember, God punished Moses to see the promised land but to never ENTER it, because of that time he screwed the pooch on that magic rock trick however many years ago. Oh and also, God warns Moses and Joshua that the Israelites are going to majorly go astray after they get into the promised land, so there will be hell to pay (at some point in a future book, I’m assuming).
That’s the synopsis, now let’s get to what I liked and what I didn’t like:
There is a decent little helping of good stuff in Deuteronomy, but unfortunately, almost all of it is a complete re-hash of what we’ve already gotten in earlier books, since this entire book is mostly just a summary of all God’s laws and commandments for the people. You’ve got your “love they neighbor” and “be kind to strangers” commandments, the refuge cities (which are peppered with lots of demented laws so it’s still a bit of a stretch), be generous to the poor, don’t take bribes, etc., which have all been discussed in earlier books. So here I’ll just list out the things that either seemed new or were stated with slightly different details in Deuteronomy than I remember from the earlier books:
- There are instructions about tithes in chapter 14 which have one nice twist to them: “28. At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29. so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
- Chapter 15 talks about how every 7 years should be a “year of release,” in which you release people of their debts to you. “15:7 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: 15:8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” And don’t hold back on your loan if you know the 7th year is close by. 😉
- Chapter 15 also says that you should let your slaves go once they’ve served you 6 years, and you should give them lots of things to help them start a new life when they leave. BUT if they decide they want to stay with you, “15:17 Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.” Haha umm, o.k.
- Chapter 23 says that if you find a runaway slave, do NOT rat them out to their master. Let them go about their business and live wherever they want. For these couple examples I’ll try to ignore the demented fact that God is o.k. with people owning slaves to begin with.
- Chapter 24 says that when a man gets married, he can’t be sent off to war for one year, which I guess is kind of nice.
- Chapter 24 also has a few more verses about being kind/generous to the fatherless, strangers and widows. These three groups of people come up several times in this book in verses similar to these ones.
- Chapter 25 has the very first anti-animal-cruelty verse I’ve seen in the Bible so far: “4. Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”
That is the jist of the good stuff. Now let’s get to the bad and the ugly.
If there is a “decent little helping” of good stuff in Deuteronomy, then there is an OCEAN’S worth of bad stuff, as usual. But similar to the good stuff, a good chunk of the bad stuff is just a re-hash of what was in the other books. So again here, I’ll try to just focus on whatever was new or involved extra/different details than what was in the earlier books.
- Remember from my Numbers review, the story of how the Israelites tried to pass through the land of the Amorites peacefully, but the mean ol’ Amorites would not let them through, and then they attacked the poor innocent Israelites? Well in Deuteronomy they tell you something they DON’T tell you Numbers: God “hardened the hearts” of the Amorites on PURPOSE!! Just like he did to the Egyptians, so he’d have an excuse to destroy them!! And it specifically says that the Israelites “utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain” !! (Ch. 2)
- Chapter 20 lays out God’s instructions for how the Israelites are to overtake the promised land(s) in the most horrifying detail that we’ve seen yet:
- For the peripheral cities that might need to be overtaken on your path to the promised land(s), you should first give those inhabitants the option to peacefully serve you as slaves. If they don’t agree, then you should kill all the men and take all the women, children, cattle and goods for yourself.
- HOWEVER, for the cities that God has SPECIFICALLY PROMISED you (the cities of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites), “though shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: but though shalt utterly destroy them.” i.e., KILL EVERYONE. Old people, kids, babies, puppies, kittens, cute little cows and fuzzy bunnies. This is so that the people of these lands don’t try to tempt you with their evil gods (and their cute kittens I suppose).
- In this book we are given the instructions of what to do if someone in your community starts claiming he is a prophet for another god: Kill him. And if your buddy or family member tries to persuade you to worship other god(s) or switch religions: You need to personallystone them to death. And if someone in a different city is trying to start up a new religion, you need to MASSACRE THE ENTIRE CITY,
and burn it to the ground. (Ch. 13) Now we know what God thinks about your silly notion of “freedom of religion” and your so-called “Christianity”.
- Chapter 17 clarifies that you can only stone someone to death for worshiping other gods on the testimony of at LEAST TWO witnesses. Well, then. We see how well that worked out in the Salem Witch Trials.
- When you are raping and pillaging a town, and you find a chick there that you think is hot, you are allowed to take her for yourself and force her to be your wife. But she is allowed to mourn the death of her parents (who you likely killed) for a month first (how kind). (Ch. 21)
- If you have two wives and you hate one of them but love the other, and your bitchy wife gives birth to your firstborn son, then you have to still give your inheritance to this kid, because he is, after all, your firstborn. BUT, if that son (or any of your sons)
is a stubborn rebellious BRAT, THEN you can bring him to the town elders, and have all the men of your town stone your kid to death. (Ch. 21)
- Several groups of people have already been called out as “abominations” in the eyes of God in earlier books, but now we finally get to the cross-dressers, transvestites, and transsexuals. They are an abomination too.
- A damsel that is found guilty of having sex before marriage should be stoned to death. Lord help us all in that case. Err, oh right, the Lord is not the right entity to save us in this case, he’s the one we need to run away from to avoid being killed. (Ch. 22)
- If you have ANYTHING wrong with your testicles or penis, you cannot enter into the congregation of the Lord. Also if you are a “bastard” (i.e. born of unwed parents), neither you nor your next TEN GENERATIONS can enter it. And of course, gays, whores, and many other groups are barred too. (Ch. 23)
- Chapter 28 re-hashes all the good things that will happen to you if you follow God’s word in the promised land, and all the TERRIBLE things that will happen to you if you don’t. We already reviewed this in Leviticus, but it is rather funny that chapter 28 of Deuteronomy devotes 13 verses to the good stuff and 55 verses to the BAD stuff. If you need a quick refresher, here are just a few examples of what will befall you: your crops will all die, you’ll be barren, you’ll die from diseases involving boils and inflammation and scabs and itching and blindness and madness, you’ll be killed by your enemies, your cattle will all be killed, your kids will be kidnapped, your wife will cheat on you, birds and flies will eat away at your dead carcase, etc. etc. etc.
Funny, Weird, Inconsistent and/or Illogical Stuff
In addition to good and bad stuff, this book has a good helping of bits that are either funny, strange, interesting, illogical, or all four. Here are a few examples:
- Deuteronomy finally tells us why it is that God has chosen the Israelites above all other people in the world to be his “chosen ones,” and it has NOTHING to do with them actually being GOOD people. God tells the Israelites that it is NOT due to their righteousness or integrity that he has chosen them, but rather it is due to the wickedness of all the other nations. And also because he’s just upholding his promise to Abhraham, Isaac and Jacob (a promise which we don’t entirely know why he made in the first place). He also reminds the Israelites that they are a “stiff-necked” people, which is an odd term that may mean “stubborn” according to my Google search. (Ch. 9)
- In Leviticus, we learned that you should never eat an animal that you find already dead. But Deuteronomy tells us that you can SELL or give that disgusting rotten roadkill to foreigners and aliens. Let those losers suffer the consequences of eating the putrid meat. (Ch. 14)
- In this book we get convoluted rules on what to do if you find a dead body outside of the outskirts of town, and your detectives and CSI team can’t solve the case on who murdered the person. First, you have to measure the distance between the body and ALL the surrounding towns. Then, the elders of whichever town is closest to the body have to bring a young pristine heifer to the murder site. Then they have to kill the heifer by slicing its neck, and recite some verses to beg God for forgiveness for the incident, and try to convince him that not all your people are bad apples. (Ch. 21)
- In this book we also find out that God does NOT like poop. You need to have a
specific place outside the camp where you take dumps and always cover it up, because the the Lord walks around the camp and does NOT want to step in that shit. (Ch. 23)
- Chapter 25 gives us these instructions: “11. If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, 12. you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.”
- If a woman’s husband dies, then his brother (her brother-in-law) should then take her in as a wife. If the bro-in-law refuses to do that, then the wife gets to take him in front of the town elders, take off one of his sandals, and spit in his face, and say, “This is
what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” That man’s line will then be known in Israel as “The Family of the Unsandaled.” GASP!! The horror. (Ch. 25)
- When Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy and is buried in a valley in Moab, we find out that to this day, no one knows where his grave is. Seems convenient, no? (Ch. 34)
- What exactly are the 12 tribes of Israel? A perfect example of why the Bible is so confusing is this particular inconsistency – The tribes are listed slightly differently in every single book of the Bible where they are mentioned. Seemingly-minor-yet-important inconsistencies like this are all over the Bible. I haven’t mentioned most of them in my blogs so far because these blog posts are already long enough without listing out all these details as well. 😉
So there you go, that’s Deuteronomy in a nutshell. Kind of a mixed bag, with a lot of rehashing of things we already learned in earlier books. I rated Numbers the lowest so far out of all the books because I hated the general theme of purposely stealing other peoples’ land and massacring them (including all civilians) in the process. That may be a known tradition of many nations throughout history, but that doesn’t make it any less horrific and wrong, and I sure as hell don’t want my BIBLE telling me that it’s o.k. to do it. Deuteronomy was just a continuation of this same exact theme, with some even more disturbing details thrown in than what we got in Numbers. On the other side of the coin, at the very least, it wasn’t ALL doom and gloom like Numbers was – it had more good verses in there to lighten the mood a little. So since I gave Numbers a .8/10, I will give Deuteronomy a …
Next, we’re onto the book of Joshua. God has already promised that the Israelites are gonna go completely off the rails and start traipsing around like whores once they get into the promised land, so I’m sure that will prove to be entertaining. We’ll find out!