BIBLE STUDY SERIES #449, 450 and 451

2 July, 2000

INTRODUCING DEUTERONOMY - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Today we continue our approach to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the five Books of Moses called the Pentateuch. On Part I in this sequence, we had mentioned a number of suitable references which provide the reader with scholarly outlines of this work. Briefly, the general thrust of the Book of Deuteronomy is given in a quote by Keil and Delitzsch from the words of Luther: "The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much 'a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers', ... as 'a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know'." We had then passed to a consideration of various introductory thoughts and discussions imparted by several standard sources which would serve to outline some of the mainline scholarly views of the background and contents of the Book of Deuteronomy.

In the second Study we sorted through some notes provided by different references which would provide a brief over-view of the actual contents of the Book, in order to have a brief survey in mind as we approached the work.

In our third Study in the series, we considered the varied background experiences in the life of the aged Moses which had been provided by The Almighty, in order to prepare this man of God for the task of leadership through the one hundred and twenty years of his eventful life, and having these in mind, we further considered how God might have use these memories to give the personal touch to his narrative as Moses now approached the delivery of his final summary message to the people of Israel. This aged Prophet had sought both to learn and to teach the manner of the work which Yahweh was doing in His people, and he had served The Almighty faithfully through many a stress-filled experience over the years.

Now, Yahweh, the God of Israel would have drawn upon those experiences of life in forming the words of this oration, and in the preparation of the written record contained in Deuteronomy, the Fifth Book of Moses. Doubtless Moses himself would have reviewed many themes in his life and teachings as he approached the subject matter, and these would doubtless have been brought to mind as he prepared to receive with prayer-filled diligence the final message which was to encapsulate for the common man and woman in Israel those insights which he would with quiet seeking, receive for transmission to the multitude.

Perhaps, now, we might turn our attention to another aspect of the matter. How were the people prepared to receive this message? Perhaps we ought to attempt to set ourselves among the people of Israel as they actually gathered in the plains of Moab within a somewhat distant view of the Promised Land to hear this final great address by Moses. The multitude must have been stilled to a complete hush for the voice of one man would hardly reach far enough to be heard and understood, and the press of the people would be perhaps thinned somewhat as mothers stilled babies and children and moved them from the assembly to a slightly farther distance, that their husbands might be enabled to approach closer to receive the sound of the words more distinctly and relate their import later back at the tent. Perhaps a natural ampitheatre, might have been selected, formed of a valley which would permit sound to travel to greater distance unimpeded. Perhaps there would have been those who stayed apart to tend the flocks and guard the people from strangers in this erstwhile hostile land, where brigands and foreign bands might seek revenge for defeats already inflicted by Israel upon their tribes.

Their fathers had related to them the stories of their Patriarchal ancestry and both the unity of their heritage in Abraham and Sarah, in Isaac and Rebekah, and in Jacob, and also the distinctions which marked out each Tribe from the rest would have become common tribal lore for every family in this distinctly genealogically conscious multitude. They would also approach that history with the perceptions which would derive from their particular Patriarchal Tribe-Father among the sons and grandsons of Jacob. Those Tribe-Fathers had been men who, though brothers or half-brothers and, in the case of Joseph, his two sons, yet had been born out of four different wives of Jacob, so that there would be, at the same time both a sense of unity in the nation, with common descent from Jacob (Israel) and yet also a consciousness of contending points of pride and envy, of claims to precedence among the others of the nation, and perhaps also drawn by certain affinities of closer relationships among some of the Tribes holding closer blood connections among themselves.

These all were gathered to receive a final deposition of the greatest national importance, as their Tribe-Fathers had gathered generations before, around the bed of the dying Jacob, to receive, each one, the blessing for his Tribe, of which we read in Genesis 49. But on this occasion they were to hear the last great address by the Prophet of The Almighty who had been the human link with Yahweh through the entire lifetime of the majority of those assembled. Only those who had been less than twenty years of age at the first approach to The Promised Land, the approach which had been aborted with disastrous consequence forty years before, might yet have childhood memories of the experience of the initial Passover in Egypt, the Exodus experiences, and that fearful false report of those tribal princes who had spied out the land and caused the nation to endure the years of wilderness endurance. That whole older generation had gradually passed away as year followed year, and it was not until the new generation took their places in the ranks of the nation that Israel was again drawn to the time when entrance to the Land of Promise was in prospect, and indeed had actually begun for the lands east of Jordan had already begun to be occupied by Israel.

That younger generation had the advantage of the knowledge of both the loving care which obedient service to their national God and "husband" of the Sinai contract would impart, and likewise the very strict discipline with which The Almighty had treated with both their enemies when Israel served under His direction and, moreover, with themselves when any portion of the people had shown rebellion or evil inclinations. Left untended, such trends would otherwise endanger the whole seed-bed of God's Kingdom should they not be rooted out with severity, as a gardener might treat with the weeds which would otherwise infest his cultivated plot of soil, driving the desired crop to wilt and choke amidst the invaders and the disease-afflicted stalks. That severity was not inflicted at the caprice of God, but rather as a wise parent might act, for eventual blessing to all humanity. That is a point frequently missed by those otherwise good folk who cannot abide such a seemingly "vicious" and "vindictive" God, and seek to sever Him from a picture of a soft-hearted and loving Jesus with Whom they might feel themselves more comfortable.

Laws which our own generation might view as "too strict" were, and still are, God's merciful loving kindness expressed in guidance to His people, so that they might exercise the terrible potency and power of individual free-will choices within the context of an implacable array of natural laws of cause and effect which will, by the normal course of events, yield no mercy to the transgressor thereof. God's Law is, so to speak, a map marking out hidden shoals and rocks, both natural and human, on which we would otherwise sail and come to shipwreck. Sin, we read in I John 3:4 is the transgression of the law., but the foolish choices which bring disasters and death in the environment of that natural law are thought "normal" by human experience, and we don't look for "mercy" from a brick wall if we run towards it and smash headlong into it! Why do we accept a law which exhibits uniformity of severity in the natural world, yet blame God, who is the author of all such laws for being "severe" when he acts to effect the eventual lesson that only His way will bring peace and enjoyment?

We shall begin a more detailed approach to the words of Deuteronomy on the next Study in this present sequence.

9 July, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Today we continue our approach to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the five Books of Moses called the Pentateuch. On Part I, we had mentioned a number of suitable references which provide the reader with scholarly outlines of this work. Briefly, the general thrust of the Book of Deuteronomy is given in a quote by Keil and Delitzsch from the words of Luther: "The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much 'a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers', ... as 'a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know'."

On part three of this Deuteronomy sequence, we looked at the personal life of Moses, which would have formed the "memory substance" from which The Almighty might draw experience and wise insights to blend with Moses' own characteristic delivery and the ever-present Holy Spirit oversight, in addressing the multitudes of Israel's Tribes upon the Plain of Moab and in distant view of their Promised Land across The Jordan River.

In part four of this Deuteronomy sequence, we turned from the "Valedictory" nature of Moses' preparatory prayerful setting forth of the elements which would come down the millennia to ourselves under the name "Deuteronomy", and took up, instead, the memories of the people of this nation of Israel, as they assembled to hear the last great bequest from their national leader, included in his final words of wisdom, prophetic insight, and presentation of potential blessings and curses, which would apply in accordance with God's decree and the agreement therewith of the people of Israel.

Lest this talk of Moses, and of the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy mislead any of our listeners, we ought to repeat, as on some recent Studies, the reminder from the last Study that we, of the British-Israel-World Federation, present the view, with strong evidences, that today the vast majority of those descended from the Tribes of the Children of Israel of Old Testament and New Testament times are now recognized to be the great populations of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred nations in the world today. This is so because the ancient prophetic words of many Scriptures point to the enlargement of the progeny of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, (re-named Israel in Genesis 32:28), and the sons of Jacob with particular attention to the birthright descent through Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph in Genesis 48:20.

We shall now begin a more detailed approach to the message of Deuteronomy with this Study. As we had read some words from the first few verses only, of chapter one, by way of an opening thought. Let us read that first chapter from the beginning so that we can understand more of what was in the mind of Moses as he began his address to the nation, and insert comments where these may be helpful.

1. These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
2. (There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.)
3. And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;
4. After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei:
5. On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying,
6. The LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:

The two kings mentioned in verse 4, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of the more northerly Bashan, were leaders of the defeated Canaanites living east of the Jordan River, and the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh were now taking up occupancy in the captured areas.

In verses 2 and 6, at the references to Horeb, we should remember, that this is a reference to Mount Sinai, the location at which The Almighty God, was now, and henceforth, to be known by the name "Yahweh", or its shorter contraction "Yah", by the children of Israel, because that name means "The ever-existent", or the "I AM" of Exodus 3:14-15, (applied by Jesus Christ to Himself in John 8:58), and this was intended to indicate that in that name He would continue to interact with Israel down through history. (A later variation of the spelling was "Jehovah", created by insertion of vowels of the name "Adonay" which "was spoken in place of Yahweh in Jewish display of reverence" according to Strong's data for <0136>) Yahweh gave this as His name in association with Israel and it holds the sense of God being ever-present, to uphold His Law-Covenant with them. We might call it His Covenant of marriage to His people.

This name, in its shorter form, "Yah" is spoken by every Christian who says "Praise the LORD" in the word "Hallelujah" because it is the Hebrew term "ha(w-)lal Yahh (yaw)", found, for example, in Psalms 102:8, 115:18, 135:3 and 150:6. It is sung throughout the world in the great Hallelujah Chorus of Handel's Messiah, although some probably do not recognize that they are thus repeating an Hebrew term of praise. We continue at verse 7:

In the Authorised Version of The Bible, where the Hebrew name "Yahweh" was to be translated, the translators spelled the English translation by the word "LORD" with every letter a capital, in order to facilitate Bible Study. Thus the word "Yahweh" can be picked out by that difference from other Hebrew words which might also have to be translated using the same word, "lord." Reading at verse 7:

7. Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
8. Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.

Those promises to the lands of Canaan were, of course, given to Abraham in Genesis 15:16, and were the inheritance of Isaac in Genesis 26:3-4, and passed to Jacob in Genesis 28:13.

9. And I spake unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone:
10. The LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.
11. (The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!)

That important reference to the numbers of Israelites being "as the stars of heaven for multitude" was granted by God to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 and again to Isaac in Genesis 26:4 and, by its repetition in Exodus 32:13, we know that this prophecy is a part of the birthright blessing which passed from Abraham specifically down through Isaac and Jacob and on to Joseph's two sons in particular. Nehemiah makes obvious reference to these words of verse 10 in Nehemiah 9:23, but we see that Moses' words continue in the next verse, to impart much greater blessing on the descendants of Israel: "The LORD God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as ye are, and bless you, as he hath promised you!." Thus Nehemiah's statement can not be taken as the total extent and fulfilment of the promised enlargement of Israel.

12. How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?
13. Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.
14. And ye answered me, and said, The thing which thou hast spoken is good for us to do.
15. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes.
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 is with him.
17. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.
18. And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.

This organization of hierarchy in the judiciary of the nation of Israel was carried out in Exodus 18:13-26, with focus on verses 24-26. Moses then proceeds to remind the Israelites of the circumstances of the first approach to Canaan, by their parents, and how they lacked the faith to proceed.

At this point we will have to conclude our present Study, so let us take away in our imagination, for the coming week, the dramatic impression of Moses as he continues to address the vast, attentive assembly of Israel on this most significant occasion in the world's history. We shall continue examination of this passage in our next Bible Study.

16 July, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Today we continue our approach to the Book of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of the five Books of Moses called the Pentateuch. Briefly, the general thrust of the Book of Deuteronomy is given in a quote by Keil and Delitzsch from the words of Luther: "The book of Deuteronomy contains not so much 'a recapitulation of the things commanded and done, as related in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers', ... as 'a compendium and summary of the whole law and wisdom of the people of Israel, wherein those things which related to the priests and Levites are omitted, and only such things included as the people generally required to know'." We had then passed to a consideration of various introductory thoughts and discussions imparted by several standard sources which would serve to outline some of the mainline scholarly views of the background and contents of the Book of Deuteronomy.

The first section in this present study held in view the passage of Deuteronomy 1:1-18 and we had been reading portions of those verses with comments inserted as we read, seeking to amplify or explain certain matters mentioned therein. Briefly, we had found that Moses was beginning his great final oration before the massed Israelite tribesmen assembled to listen to his words on the Plain of Moab, prior to their crossing of the Jordan River to invade the portions of the Promised Land in which there still dwelt the Canaanites that were to be removed.

Moses had begun this farewell message, filled with Godly reminders of the past and injunctions and further advice for the present and future by reminding them of the history of the experiences of the former generation in Israel, composed of their parents. Thirty-eight years before, that generation had balked at making any assault upon the Promised Land after hearing the adverse reports of the tribe-princes who had gone, one from each tribe, to spy-out, or reconnoitre the land. As a result of their lack of faith, they had failed, and thus the whole nation had been forced to wander in the wilderness of Sinai until age had removed all members of their people who had been above the age of twenty when this refusal had taken place. They had died out, and now this new generation of their sons and daughters, hardened by the testing of this wilderness experience, was to be granted by The LORD the opportunity, again, as Israel, and under The Almighty's direction, to make that invasion which their elders had refused. The younger generation would indeed accomplish what the older generation had failed to do. We begin today's Scripture passage at Deuteronomy 1:19 which picks up the review of the nation's more recent experiences in that Wilderness of Sinai after they moved on from Mount Sinai (which is also Horeb). Moses is continuing to remind the nation of its collective past:

19. And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible wilderness, which ye saw by the way of the mountain of the Amorites, as the LORD our God commanded us; and we came to Kadeshbarnea.
20. And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the LORD our God doth give unto us.
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.
22. And ye came near unto me every one of you, and said, We will send men before us, and they shall search us out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.
23. And the saying pleased me well: and I took twelve men of you, one of a tribe:
24. And they turned and went up into the mountain, and came unto the valley of Eshcol, and searched it out.
25. And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land which the LORD our God doth give us.

The magnificent samples of the fruit of the land which the spies had brought back with them on their return from their spy mission had included three noteworthy exhibits: grapes in a cluster so large that it took two men to carry it slung on a pole between them, and pomegranates and figs, these three being specifically mentioned. Those are very symbolic, for you might remember that the grape vine was the later symbol of Israel's Northern Tribes, which were to form, collectively, "The Kingdom" or "The Dominion" of Israel, while Pomegranates which, alternated with bells, formed the hem ornaments on the High Priestly Robe, and hence were a symbol of the Priestly function. The Fig Tree was later the symbol for the remnant House of Judah which would yet support the Davidic Monarchy when that later revolt of the Northern House of Israel would separate most of Israel from that Monarchy's control. Now let us continue the reading:

26. Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:
27. And ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.
28. Whither shall we go up? our brethren have discouraged our heart, saying, The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there.
29. Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
30. The LORD your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;

Here, Moses turns to review the resultant wilderness wanderings, wherein God was not only in process of winnowing out the rebellious factions, but teaching the respectful of His Law.

31. And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.
32. Yet in this thing ye did not believe the LORD your God,
33. Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
34. And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
35. Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,

We now find that Moses, in this, his final discourse to the people, is laying the groundwork to insure that the people recognize the faith which Caleb and Joshua showed at that time when the other spies gave such discouraging reports that the people were dismayed and refused to go forward.

36. Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD.
37. Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
38. But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
39. Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
40. But as for you, turn you, and take your journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea.

That turning away from their treasured hope of immediately inheriting The Promised Land would be a cause for further trouble. Now Moses reminds the people that their parents, on seeing the prospect of wilderness wandering till death which penalty had resulted from turning back, some had tried, without God's sanction, to make an advance, but they had totally failed when it was done in their own strength.

41. Then ye answered and said unto me, We have sinned against the LORD, we will go up and fight, according to all that the LORD our God commanded us. And when ye had girded on every man his weapons of war, ye were ready to go up into the hill.
42. And the LORD said unto me, Say unto them, Go not up, neither fight; for I am not among you; lest ye be smitten before your enemies.
43. So I spake unto you; and ye would not hear, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD, and went presumptuously up into the hill.

Some of the former generation had assailed the Canaanite strongholds, but failed miserably. Moses wants to show the present generation of the people that, to use a later Scriptural quote, taken from Zechariah 4:6, it is "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts." Perhaps that would be an excellent Scripture portion for our meditations this coming week.

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