BIBLE STUDY SERIES #503, 504 and 505

15 July, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 11: WARNINGS - PART XIV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 11, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great oration to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River and their military entry into their Promised Land.

In the previous Study, we read Moses' review of how all had thus far been accomplished, from their existence in the land of Egypt, through The Exodus, their own failure to enter The Promised Land, and subsequent existence and experiences in the arid wilderness, from which they of this younger generation are now to go in and to possess that Land; an achievement which their parents had failed to do.

We are now approaching for today's study, Deuteronomy 11:26-32, a passage which I only had time to read at the end of the last Bible Study, and to add therewith a very minor comment from The Companion Bible.

26. Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
27. A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
28. And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
29. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal.
30. Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh?
31. For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein.
32. And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.

I had explained that The Companion Bible notes, at verse 24, that the word translated "river" is not Hebrew "nahal", a Wady, but "nahar", a flood, while "coast" = "border". To that information, we might now add the following: at 27, "a blessing = the blessing", and at 28, "a curse = the curse." At 29, Gerizim is located "North of Shechem. Both mounts here named for first time. Not mentioned after Judges." At 30, the words "Are they not...?" and "other side" bear the note "These particulars connect this place with the rehearsing of the law to Abraham. Cp. Gen. 12.6." Also at this verse, "champaign = plain Heb. 'arabah." "Gilgal = enclosure." and, differing from another commentary's affirmation, "Not the Gilgal near Jericho." "beside = near. Hence thirty miles from the Gilgal of Josh. 5. 9". The reference to "Moreh" draws the note "Cp. Gen 12. 6, 7; 35. 4."

Under the sub-heading "A Blessing and a Curse", The New Bible Commentary says of this portion of Scripture: "There is a strict impartiality in the justice of God (Ezk. xviii. 25-29, xxxiii. 17-20). The whole of Israel's subsequent history bears out the truth of the principle here enunciated by Moses. Other gods, which ye have not known (28) (is) Repeated xiii. 2, 6, 13, xxviii. 64, xxix. 26. The thought behind this phrase is that they are altogether alien." Of Gerizim ... Ebal (29) the Commentary gives the reference xxvii. 12, 13, then goes on to say "From the plains of Moab (xxxiv. 1) the traveller can see the twin mountains of Gerizim and Ebal to the west across the Jordan valley, and the sun setting behind them (30). They stand as a witness to the necessity of the choice between right and wrong." Concerning "Gilgal, beside the plains (RV 'oaks') of Moreh (30)" we read "At Sichem in the plain of Moreh God had first promised the land to Abraham (Gn. xii. 6, 7). The name Gilgal is still attached to a spot in this area about one and a half miles east of Jacob's well. there are, however, a number of places which bear this name and some think the reference may be to the Gilgal near Jericho which is mentioned in Jos. iv. 19 as the first camping site after the crossing of Jordan."

Keil and Delitzsch give their views on this passage with their customary details, but before examining what they have to say, it may be useful to consult The New Bible Dictionary on the two mountains, Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Regarding Mount Gerizim, we learn that it is "The more southerly of the two mountains which overshadow the modern town of Nablus, 2 miles north-west of ancient Shechem. It has been called the mount of blessing, because here the blessings for obedience were pronounced at the solemn assembly of Israel described in Jos. viii. 30-35. ... A ledge halfway to the top is popularly called 'Jotham's pulpit', from which he once addressed the men of Shechem (Jdg. ix. 7). On the summit are the bare ruins of a Christian church of the 5th century. Still earlier there stood there a temple of Jupiter, to which a staircase of 300 steps led up, as shown on ancient coins found in Nablus. Now called Jebel et-Tor, Gerizim remains the sacred mount of the Samaritans; for they have worshipped on this mountain (Jn. i. 20) for countless generations, ascending it to keep the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. According to Samaritan tradition, Gerizim is Mt. Moriah (Gn. xxii. 2) and the place where God chose to place His name (Dt. xii. 5)."

On Mount Ebal, in the Dictionary, we read "The northern, and higher, of two mountains which overshadowed Shechem, ... It lies north of the Vale of Shechem, 1,402 feet above the valley and 3,077 feet above sea level. The space between Ebal and its neighbour Gerizim, south of the vale, provides a natural ampitheatre with wonderful acoustic properties. At the close of his discourse in Dt. v - xi Moses points to the two mountains on the western horizon beyond Gilgal and Moreh (Shechem) and announces that when they have entered the land a blessing shall be set on Gerizim and a curse on Ebal. After the laws of Dt. xii - xxvi the narrative is resumed, and Moses gives detailed directions. First, great stones were to be set up, covered with cement. and the law inscribed upon them. After this an altar of unhewn stones was to be erected and sacrifices offered (Dt. xxvii. 1-8). In a further address (Dt. xxvii. 9-xxviii. 68) Moses ordered that six tribes should stand on Gerizim to pronounce blessing on obedience and six should stand on Ebal to lay curses on disobedience (xxvii. 9-13). Following upon this, the Levites shall call down curses on the tribes for sins against God or man, many of which could be done in secret (xxvii. 15-26). By their response of 'Amen', the people are to condemn such practices openly. After victories in the centre of Palestine, Joshua gathered the people at Shechem, where these ceremonies were duly performed (Jos. viii. 30-35). "

We might, before closing, turn now to the Commentary by Keil and Delitzsch, to see what they may offer us regarding verses 26-32. The verses 26-28 form a concluding summary. "I set before you this day the blessing and the curse." The blessing, if ... ye hearken to the commandments of your God; the curse, if ye do not give heed to them, but turn aside from the way pointed out to you, to go after other gods. To this there are added instructions in vers. 29 and 30, that when they took possession of the land they should give the blessing upon Mount Gerizim and the curse upon Mount Ebal, i.e. should give utterance to them there, and as it were transfer them to the land to be apportioned to its inhabitants according to their attitude towards the Lord their God. The two mountains mentioned were selected for this act, no doubt because they were opposite to one another, and stood, each about 2,500 feet high, in the very centre of the land not only from west to east, but also from north to south. Ebal stands upon the north side, Gerizim upon the south; between the two is Sichem, the present Nablus, in a tolerably elevated valley, fertile, attractive, and watered by many springs, which runs from the south-east to the north-west from the foot of Gerizim to that of Ebal, and is about 1,600 feet in breadth. The blessing was to be uttered upon Gerizim, and the curse upon Ebal; though not, as the earlier commentators supposed, because the peculiarities of these mountains, viz. the fertility of Gerizim and the barrenness of Ebal, appeared to accord with this arrangement: for when seen from the valley between, "the sides of both these mountains are equally naked and sterile ... ." While they continue with the suggestion that Gerizim, lying to the south, thus lay "towards the region of the light", and was more suited as a situation for blessing, I might add a geological note that the bedded rocks in both are reported to dip down towards the north, and hence there might possibly have been variation in the absorption of rain on the two slopes which face one another across the valley.

We shall continue our studies next week.

22 July, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 12: STATUTES & JUDGMENTS - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 12, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great oration to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River and their military entry into their Promised Land. Moses' First Discourse has been recorded in Deuteronomy 1:6 to Deuteronomy 4:40. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

In the previous Study, we read to the end of Deuteronomy 11, which continued Moses' focus upon his review of how all had thus far been accomplished, from their existence in the land of Egypt, through The Exodus, their own failure to enter The Promised Land, and subsequent existence and experiences in the arid wilderness, from which they of this younger generation are now to go in and to possess that Land; an achievement which their parents had failed to do.

We are now approaching for today's study, Deuteronomy 12:1-32, a passage which relates the statutes and judgments which now follow on after the review which Moses has been covering to this point.

The New Bible Commentary, writing of Deuteronomy 12, begins a commentary note under the heading "Religious, civil and domestic laws and precepts" which it applies to the whole Scripture passage from Deuteronomy 12:1 to Deuteronomy 26:15, thus placing all the verses contained therein as being of related substance. Keil and Delitzsch likewise, in their approach to Deuteronomy 12 head their introductory paragraphs with the words "Exposition of the Principal Laws. Chap. xii.-xxvi. The Companion Bible doesn't go quite so far, in its introductory heading, taking together Deuteronomy 12:2 up to Deuteronomy 14:29, which it then further sub-divides in regard to subjects covered, into "Sacred Places", and "Meats", of which Chapter 12 is designated "Sacred Places." Let us read the first fourteen verses of Deuteronomy 12 with a short break after verse 3.

1. These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.
2. Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
3. And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.

Here, in verse two, The Companion Bible mentions that this is the first appearance of the word "green", and then at verse three, "break = smash", "pillars" are "menhirs", (of which many are still found), "groves = asherah" and "graven images = sculptures." Continuing at verse 4:

4. Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.
5. But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:
6. And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:
7. And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.
8. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
9. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you.
10. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;
11. Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
12. And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.
13. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:
14. But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.

At verse 11, the "place" mentioned would be, according to The Companion Bible, the ark of the covenant until the temple was built, and at verse 12, the word "gates" is put for the whole city. Remember that the Levites had duties scattered among all the other Tribes, rather similar to those which a civil service and, in some cases, a priesthood might be called to perform. This was the case even though there were certain cities which would be designated for their use instead of a land allotment granted by lot in one particular part of Canaan, as were those which were to be designated for, and settled by, each of the other Tribes of Israel.

The New Bible Commentary, leading into these first fourteen verses of Deuteronomy 12, under the sub-heading "i. Idolatry to be destroyed (xii. 1-14" states "Chapters xii-xxvi are sometimes separated from the rest of the book and spoken of as the Deuteronomic 'Code', but they are better considered as a continuation of the previous discourse. Moses here proceeds to lay down rules and ordinances for the religious, civil, social and domestic life in Canaan, with encouragements and warnings." Concerning the words "in the land", in verse 1, it notes : "The immediate entry of the children of Israel into the land of promise governs all that follows (Cf. xii. 10, xxvi. 1.) Where material considerations seem to predominate, this is the reason." Of the words "ye shall utterly destroy" (RV) in verse 2, they comment "Their first and most important task will be to cleanse 'the land' of all traces of idolatry, that it may be 'holy unto the Lord' (cf. Lv. xi. 44, 45). This duty is implicit in the first and second of the ten commandments."

Here I might interject that if we are to compare the physical occupancy of the Promised Land by those ancient Israelites with the circumstances in the lands which today are occupied by the modern descendants of these same Israelites, who are of Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred extraction, we must also compare that statement with a New Testament prophetic quotation from Matthew 13:41. That Scripture speaks thus: "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity", thus the prophetic promise is that at Christ's Second Advent, angels are to cleanse the land in which His people are to dwell of all similar antagonistic, unseemly or objectionable objects and practices, and conflicting religious obstructions through the removal of all things which are unclean and offensive, and them which do iniquity. Surely that prophecy will be of comfort to many, but possibly exceedingly uncomfortable in the minds of others who wish to live an unguided lifestyle which cares for little but selfish aspirations and thus rebels against any supreme authority, especially one, the teachings of which, would interfere with their passions. and interests.

Keil and Delitzsch begin their comments on the passage thus: "The statutes and rights which follow in the second or special half of this address, and which consist in part of rules having regard to circumstances not contemplated by the Sinaitic laws, and partly of repetitions of laws already given, were designed as a whole to regulate the ecclesiastical, civil, and domestic life of Israel in the land of Canaan, in harmony with its calling to be the holy nation of the Lord."

Here, Keil and Delitzsch now seek to outline the sub-divisions of the passages which follow. They state "Moses first of all describes the religious and ecclesiastical life of the nation, in its various relations to the Lord (chap. xii.-xvi.17); and then the political organization of the congregation, or the rights and duties of the civil and spiritual leaders of the nation (chap. xvi. 18-xviii. 22); and lastly, seeks to establish upon a permanent basis the civil and domestic well-being of the whole congregation and its individual members, by a multiplicity of precepts, intended to set before the people, as a conscientious obligation on their part, reverence and holy awe in relation to human life, to property, and to personal rights; a pious regard for the fundamental laws of the world; sanctification of domestic life and of the social bond; practical brotherly love towards the poor, the oppressed, and the needy; and righteousness of walk and conversation (chap. xix.-xxvi.). Keil and Delitzsch have much of value on this chapter, but our time is too limited to include it all.

We may relate some further thoughts as we look at the rest of this chapter on our next Bible Study.

29 July, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 12: STATUTES & JUDGMENTS - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 12, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood. The aged Prophet, Moses, is, in this chapter, carrying forward his last great sequence of addresses to the Tribes of Israel prior to their crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. We are presently at about the mid-point of Moses' Second Discourse which began at Deuteronomy 4:44 and continues onward to Deuteronomy 26:19

In the previous Study, we read to verse 14 of Deuteronomy 12, which continued Moses' focus upon his review of how all had thus far been accomplished, from their existence in the land of Egypt, through The Exodus and subsequent experiences in the arid wilderness, from which they of this younger generation are now to go in and to possess that Land of Canaan. However, we had left some details on those first fourteen verses which might add to the information available to us in that study. Perhaps we might quickly read the first 14 verses again, to make the further comments more meaningful.

1. These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.
2. Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
3. And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
4. Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.
5. But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:
6. And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:
7. And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.
8. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
9. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you.
10. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety;
11. Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:
12. And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.
13. Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:
14. But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.

We can see that The Almighty God of all the earth is not interested in catering to false religions prevalent in the land of Canaan which Israel is now to occupy. They are to be totally eradicated, by God's unmistakable edicts.

Coming into a study of specific terms in greater detail, we can access The New Bible Commentary, which concerning "Places ... upon the high mountains (2)", explains "The word for 'places' is maqomoth, a purely general term, not bamoth or 'high places' which is used for local shrines. Cf. 1 Ki. xv. 14, (where "bamah" is used). The fact that the word bamoth never appears in Dt. xii - xxvi is sufficient to dispose of the theory that the chief object of the legislation was to prohibit the use of the 'high places'. See verse 5n." (That remark points to the fact that God can choose to place His name wherever He desires.)

The Commentary continues, of "Altars ... pillars ... groves (3) See Ex. xxxiv. 13 (Israel there ordered to destroy such); Dt. xvi. 21n (forbidding planting of a grove near God's altar)" and notes of "The place which the Lord your God shall choose ... to put his name there (5)," that "The same word for 'place' is used as in verse 2. The contrast lies between the false and the true, rather than between the many and the one; between those places which are connected with the name of the false god (3) and that on which Jehovah has put His name. (See v. 11n.)

At first the Tabernacle would remain the central place of worship (see Lv. xvii. 3-7n. (where this is enjoined)), but later on any place chosen by Jehovah ((as in) Ex. xx. 24n (which stipulates the form of an altar to The LORD)), such as the altar on Mount Ebal ((Deut.) xxvii. (4,) 5, 6) was His sanctuary and a gathering place for His people ((e.g.) Ex. xxiii. 19; (and) Dt. xvi. 6).

These words in verse 5 point forward to the temple (verse 11; (and as seen in) 1Ki. v. 5, (and) viii. 16) and to the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. i. 23' (and) Jn. ii. 19-21 (where Jesus spoke of the temple of His body)). The form in which this command is cast is an evidence of its antiquity; there is no hint concerning Jerusalem or Shiloh, or the vicissitudes through which the ark and the tabernacle were to pass before 'rest' (19) was attained. The words 'the place which the Lord shall choose' are repeated (in 14 subsequent references which are listed, from xii. 11 to, xxxi. 11).

Of "your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices (6)" they continue "Regulations concerning these had already been given in Lv. i - vii. (Of) Your tithes (6) .See (Deuteronomy) xiv. 22ff.; (and) Lv. xxvii. 30-33. The offering of tithes and firstlings was obligatory, the others voluntary. (Concerning) Heave offerings (6). - The word terumah (lifted off) probably signifies a portion taken off and separated for sacrificial use. It might have been part of an animal sacrifice (Lv. vii. 14, 32) or of bread (Nu. xv. 17ff.). They are again referred to in verse 17.

(Regarding) The firstlings of your herds and of your flocks (6). See (details in) Ex. xiii. 2n; Dt. xv. 19n." Moving to "there ye shall eat (7)" they comment "Chapters xii, xiv, xv deal mainly with the food of the people partaken in various ways. See verse 15n. The sanctuary, where the offerings and sacrifices were brought and the feasts held, was also a centre for the trial of hard cases (Deuteronomy) xvii. 8, 10).

Thus the tabernacle had already become a unifying centre of the national worship. Ye shall rejoice (7). Repeated (in 7 listed references from Deuteronomy) xii. 12, (to) xxvii. 7. Cf. (similarly) Jn. xv. 11; Phil. iii. 1, iv. 4. Joy is an essential element of the Christian religion. All that ye put your hand unto (7). (It says) The blessing of God is promised on the daily labour of His servants. (a statement) Repeated (in 9 listed references). Whatsoever is right in his own eyes (8). The months of warfare in Moab had rendered orderly worship difficult or impossible.

The same thing happened again in the troubled days of the Judges (Jdg. xvii. 6). When he giveth you rest (10). See (Deuteronomy) iii. 20n. Moses' prophetic soul anticipates this supreme blessing (in Deuteronomy) xxv. 19), realized under Solomon (1 Ki. viii. 56). To cause his name to dwell there (11). See verse 5n. The same thought is repeated in (7 listed references from) xii. 21 (to) xxvi. 2. The Lord caused the tabernacle to be erected that He might 'dwell' among His people ((as in) Ex. xxv. 8. Cf. Acts vii. 44-49).

The Levite that is within your gates (12). The 'gates' might be those of either a household or a city. As a tribe the Levites had no territorial portion, but certain cities with their suburbs were about to be assigned to them (Nu. xxxv. 1-8). Meantime the Levite was a sojourner, and was to be the object of their special care (see xii. 18, xiv. 7, xxvi. 11n.)

We are now approaching, Deuteronomy 12:15-32, a portion of a passage which relates the statutes and judgments which now follow on after the review which Moses has been covering to this point. However as our time has about expired, we ought to save that passage for our next Bible Study session.

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