12 April 2014

Sixth Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Sixth Commandment:

 "Thou shalt not kill." Deuteronomy 5:17 (KJV)

The first five commandments, although not specifically described this way, generally referr to relations between Yahweh and his people. Even the fifth commandment, honoring one's father and mother, can be construed that way. Many ancient societies conceived of parents almost as gods.

The next five commandment refer to relations among the Hebrews themselves. The commandments supposedly contain divine wisdom allegedly transmitted through divine revelation Some Christians argue that these commandments should be posted in public places for public benefit. These next commandments actually reveal nothing beyond the common sense rules of any society.

I supposed it would not hurt to post them in the annexes that link local jails with the court in which defendants are tried. Lawbreakers might find the Ten Commandments a useful reminder.

The first commandment forbids murder.

Well, every other organized society also has the same prohibition. No need for divine revelation here.

Now some liberals criticize this passages as contradiction those other passage that call for the death of Hebrews for certain crimes such a murder, blasphemy, or violation of the Sabbath.

The Bible clearly distinguishes between murder as the taking of innocent life and capital punishment, manslaughter, and war.

10 April 2014

Fifth Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Fifth Commandment:

"Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." Deuteronomy 5:16 (KJV)

This is the first commandment that comes with a promise--a long life and well being in their promised land.

Indeed, those promises seem to summarize the whole point of the law and the requirement  of Hebrew obedience to it: Yahweh will prosper them in the land.

At least at this stage, there appears no notion of an afterlife.

09 April 2014

Fourth Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Fourth Commandment:

"Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.  Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:  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." Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (KJV)

Interestingly, Moses provides a different reason behind the sabbath regulation in this text than he does way back in the original text of Exodus 20. When Yahweh dictated his original Ten Commandments, he directed the Hebrews to rest on the seventh day of each week because he the Lord rested from his labors of creation on the seventh day. Now, however, Moses directs the Hebrews to rest from their labors on the seventh day of each week as a memorial of sorts to their days in Egypt when they works as slave without any rest. Yahweh asserts that this is the reason he commands them to keep the sabbath day.

Specific case law examples guide the Hebrews on how to obey this commandment. This commandment has proven to be perplexing to Christians. Some argue that they are bound to keep the traditional Hebrew seventh day sabbath--on Saturday, the seventh day. Others argue (with little scriptural justification) that the day was moved to Sunday, the resurrection day. And still other argue that Christ's fulfillment of the law and death on the cross abolished the law, including the sabbath day commandments.

So much for the perspicuity of scripture.

08 April 2014

Third Commandment Reviewed

Moses reviews the Third Commandment:

 "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."  Deuteronomy 5:11 (KJV)

I am not sure what this means--nor does anyone else.

Moses forbids the Hebrews from using the name of their god for vain or empty purposes.

Does this mean cursing when the physical properties of the universe.inhibit actions that we plan by virtue of our free will?

Does this mean telling the truth when under oath? That option seems to be covered by another commandment.

Who knows.

07 April 2014

Second Commandment Reviewed

Moses' review of the Second Commandment follows from the first. In addition to the prohibition of worshiping other gods along side of Yahweh, the commandments forbid the creation of idols of these other gods.

" Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:  Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments."
Deuteronomy 5:8-10 (KJV)

For the last three centuries or so, Christians as well as non-Christians have labeled idol worship as superstition. Christians characterize it as not only a violation of their god's revelation, but also in conflict with Christianity as a "reasonable faith." Non-Christians dismiss idolatry as a primitive belief void of reason itself.

The superstitious original authors of scriptures, however, were not so dismissive.

In the first century BCE, Paul the apostle writes to his followers in Corinth regarding the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols and then sold for consumption. He asserts that idols are nothing in the world and that, although there are many gods, to believers there is only one god.

"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.  For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)  But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 (KJV)

He goes on to say, however, that those sacrifices were, in fact, offered to demons:

 "What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?  But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 (KJV)

For those ancient and superstitious writers of scriptures, demons  and other spiritual entities are real and that worship of them through idols constitutes a serious sin against Yahweh?

How serious?

So serious that, as Moses warns in the last portion of the passage at the top, Yahweh will punish idolaters to the third and fourth generation.

Now later on in this same book Moses asserts the sound general principle of just that "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." Deuteronomy 24:16 (KJV)

Now because idolaters were to be put to death, but not their children, Yahweh abides at least by the letter of his word.

The fact that Moses promises some kind of undefined affliction brought by Yahweh to the descendants of idolaters says something else.

05 April 2014

First Commandment Reviewed

So Moses begins his review of the Ten Commandments, often identified in scripture as The Old Covenant:

" I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have none other gods before me." Deuteronomy 5:6-7 (KJV)  

Most evangelical Christians interpret the passage as saying that Yahweh is the only supreme being and that he forbids the Hebrews from worshiping any false deities of the heathen.

A minority of interpreters, usually outside the evangelical camp, suggest that the Hebrews believed in the existence of  more than one deity. Yahweh happened to be their own--the one who called them to himself. Other peoples have their own deities, which they may rightfully worship. They point to such passages as Ex. 15:11--"Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods?"  or to Ex. 18:11--"Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods."

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between. An ambiguity surrounds the word, "gods." The Hebrew word "Elohim" is translated god, gods, lords, judges, and angels, in the English Bible. The best translation might be "lord," suggesting the older European notion of someone in authority. Such entities may be physical, as in earthly authorities, or spiritual, as in angels, demons, etc. The text might simply recognize the existence of other "spiritual authorities" like angels, demons, etc. that are worshiped by foreign peoples. Moses, or Yahweh if you will, assert the Yahweh is above these other entities and warns the Hebrews in this text about worshiping these other entities instead or or along side of Yahweh. 

I suppose it all makes sense if one believes in a parallel spiritual universe of disembodied "spirits" or "minds" that intervene in this physical world of particles and forces.

03 April 2014

Mosaic Covenant Reviewed

Returning to the on-going project of "blogging the Bible" . . .

Moses reminds the Hebrews of the covenant made with them by Yahweh back at Mt. Horeb . . .

 "And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them.  The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.  The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.  The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,  (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) . . . Deuteronomy 5:1-5 (KJV)  

He invites them to hear the law read to them, so that they may learn and do the commandments of that law.

Perhaps this opening remarks of Moses serve some ritualistic purpose in this public assembly,but it makes one wonder what they have been doing in the desert for nearly four decades. The law commands that parents teach their children the law. Does this statement imply that Hebrew parents have been neglectful? If the children have Israel have been receiving instruction in the law from their parents, why the injunction to hear the law now? Maybe the Hebrew parents have been neglectful.

Moses follows by alluding to the special nature of the covenant--that Yahweh made it with them and not with their fathers. What does Moses mean by "fathers"? 

It could mean Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc. The Mosaic covenant, which spells out the law of the land when the Hebrews enter the land, differs from the Abrahamic promises to the land itself. In this view, Yahweh made this covenant with that generation of Hebrews which Moses addressed, in contrast to the "fathers"--Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps that explains the phrase of Moses alluding to "the fathers" as those who where not living today.

It could also mean the immediate "fathers" of the Hebrews--that previous generation that perished in the wilderness. On this view Yahweh did not make the covenant with them, because they never made it into the land. Yahweh made the covenant only with those living today, listening as Moses explains that covenant.

The first view makes more sense, Yahweh offered the covenant to the previous generation of Hebrews. They affirmed it. They just did not fulfill it.

 And so they became the first victims of the covenant curses-death and exclusion from the land--before they ever made it to the land. They serve as the example--completely ignored by later generations of Hebrews--of the covenant curses.