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Posts Tagged ‘Numbers’

When Moses ‘undertook to expound’ the Law that the Pentateuchal narrative places into his hands by means of a private encounter with YHWH on Mount Horeb/Sinai, his first words provoke a movement towards risk-laden opportunity:

The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.’

The destination is clear, promising, and potentially lethal:

Resume your journey, and go into the hill country of the Amorites as well as into the neighboring regions—the Arabah, the hill country, the Shephelah, the Negeb, and the seacoast—the land of the Canaanites and the Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.

The context for this collective recalling of the people’s history is both important and dramatic. Israel stands on ‘the plains of Moab’, on the cusp of entering into the land that YHWH had promised to them. Moses, the Lawgiver, now takes leave of his people. His role in the Israelites’ cowardice forty years earlier is now given without explication as the reason that YHWH will not allow Moses’ footsteps to fall on the land of promise. His last act of leadership over the tribes of the sons of Israel is to deliver a series of valedictory speeches that come into our hands as the book of Deuteronomy. (more…)

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Full of the dizzying details of land allotments and legal code, the Pentateuch can land hard atop the Bible reader’s aspirations to ‘read the whole thing’. The legal and inheritance sections of the ‘five books of Moses’ rarely appear in the most thumbed pages of the Bibles on our shelves and bedstands. (more…)

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Threat and danger concentrate the mind exquisitely. They bring matters of life and death to the fore. Lesser arguments drop away.

Israel’s constitutional narrative considers through the lens of threat and danger the fledgling nation’s trek out of servitude in Egypt, into the still lethal wasteland of wilderness, and then into a land of promise that was—importantly—a place possessed by others who were not eager to hand it over to a wannabe people and their peripatetic god. (more…)

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