Deuteronomy 6; 8; 11; 32
Death of Moses
Background: Israel has spent its forty years in the wilderness. The old rebellious slaves from Egypt have died, leaving the young Israelite people to enter into the Promised Land with Eleazar the high priest, Joshua the prophet, and the faithful Caleb. Israel has destroyed the enemies east of the Jordan River, including some Canaanites, Moabites, and Amalekites. They are now ready to enter into the Promised Land, but first will be given final counsel by Moses, whose mission is now complete.
The Book of Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy contains the final words of Moses to Israel. While many believe that Moses wrote the Book of Deuteronomy, there is evidence that at least some of it comes to us second hand. For instance, chapter 34 tells us that God buried Moses in the mountain, and Joshua led Israel from that time forth. Clearly, Moses did not write such a line before his death.
The Documentary Hypothesis, discussed in previous lessons, suggests that the current book of Deuteronomy was not written by Moses, but by the Deuteronomists (known as "D"). These were the temple priests in the days of King Josiah, who found the "book of the law" in the temple as the temple was being restored ( http://scriptures.lds.org/en/2_kgs/22 ). It is believed by many scholars that fragments of Deuteronomy were found, and that Hilkiah the priest and Shaphan the scribe rewrote it, based upon the current beliefs of the temple priests. This was the foundation for the Josian reforms, the reforms that occurred during King Josiah's reign. These included destroying all the altars and high places, not only to idols, but also those for Jehovah. All worship was then centered solely in the temple.
According to Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker, the Deuteronomists changed the temple ceremony. The First Temple originally had a Tree of Life, the belief in angels, prophesy, and miracles. These were discarded by the Deuteronomists, who sought to forcibly bring all worship to the temple in Jerusalem. This required enforcing the idea of strict monotheism. As we've seen in previous lessons, the early Hebrews and patriarchs did believe in many gods, but worshiped only Elohim and Jehovah. The Deuteronomists combined the two Gods into one, removed the ability of people to worship him outside the temple, and established their power base.
This reformation would later go against prophetic teachings of Jeremiah and Lehi, who would both praise the worship of God in the wilderness, the belief in miracles, current prophesy, and ideas like the Tree of Life. Jeremiah would bring in the Bedouin-like Rechabites as a perfect example of righteousness for Israel to follow ( http://scriptures.lds.org/en/jer/35 ). Lehi would build altars in the wilderness and offer sacrifice to God on them, contrary to the Deuteronomist insistence that sacrifices and worship only occur at the Temple.
Suffice it to say, Deuteronomy is highly focused upon the concepts of the Deuteronomists, but while they rejected many teachings, those included in the Book of Deuteronomy are valid and important to us today.
Moses recites Israel's short history
In these two chapters, Moses recites for Israel their 40 year history. It includes their successes and failures. Moses proclaims a partial fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. "The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude" (Deut 1:10). By this time, the tribes of Israel spread out for miles across the desert sands. From the view from Sinai's summit, they would definitely seem like a nation of ants, or as the stars of heaven.
Moses explained that because they were so numerous, he called Judges to help him manage the people. The Judges were chosen by the people themselves. The requirement of the job was, "Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you" (1:13). Wouldn't it be wonderful if we chose rulers today who were men/women of wisdom and understanding?
Stephen Covey remarked in his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that today we tend to focus more on personality than character in the people we elect and choose to focus on. We live in a nation where the person who looks best on television gets elected. Issues are not discussed, at least not in detail anymore. And an individual's character and past mean nothing to us as we consider who to elect. The Gadianton Robbers and other evil people among the Nephites gained power by flattery and deceiving the people (Jacob 7, Alma 30). They created personality cults for people to follow. In days past in America, these personality cults tended to be among small groups of people, but now spread across all parts of the nation through the Internet and media. Small town kids used to not worry about wearing the fancy styles of New York and Los Angeles. Now, those fashions and celebrity heroes are beamed into homes daily. We do not care anymore if our "heroes" are violent or unfaithful. We do not care if our sport stars are on drugs. We do not care if our politicians are in the pockets of groups we approve of, or pass laws on issues they do not comprehend, because they are men of flair and power, not wisdom.
Moses continues to share the history of Israel in the desert. He reminds them on how they sent spies into the land, who returned and said that they would be unable to overcome the inhabitants. Such disbelief after all the miracles given made them unworthy servants to enter into the land. Only a righteous people could cast the inhabitants of the land out of their strongholds. It would take the new generation of Israel, those not raised with the fleshpots of Egypt nor the mindset of slaves, to enter into the new land.
After conquering the nations east of the Jordan River, the Israelites were prepared to enter into the Land of Promise. Moses asked to go over and see the land before his death, but is denied by God. Instead, he is allowed to climb up Mount Pisgah, east of the Jordan River, and look upon the land from a distance.
With this only look, Moses is now ready to give guidance and direction to Joshua and Israel.
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses lays out the law to the people. He explains that it is because of the statutes and commandments that God has given them, Israel is now choice above all nations. However, this will remain true only so long as they keep the commandments given them by God.
"1 Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.
2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
3 Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal-peor: for all the men that followed Baal-peor, the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you.
4 But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.
5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons."
Moses explained that the law which was given made them a "nation of priests" or a "city on a hill" for all other nations to see. These laws, especially the Ten Commandments, set Israel apart from all other nations. Other nations dwelt under the fear of a capricious local god, whose commands and whims could change at any time. Jehovah, on the other hand, was consistent. If the children of Israel kept the basic commandments, they would be greatly blessed in the land, and other nations would look up to them.
However, those that disobeyed did not have God's promise of blessing and protection. The Israelites who ran off to worship Baal-Peor and mingle with the harlots at the god's temple were all destroyed for their sinfulness. Yet, those Israelites who were faithful to Jehovah during that temptation were blessed, remained alive, and were then able to go forth and destroy King Balak's wicked nation.
Perhaps Moses' primary theme began here and throughout all of Deuteronomy is "Remember". This is a theme that we also see reoccur in the Book of Mormon. Nephi retrieved the plates of brass in order to keep his descendants from forgetting the commandments and promises of God (1 Nephi 3-4). Alma and other prophets frequently reviewed Nephite history to remind the people of the promises and blessings for the obedient, and the trials and destructions that fell upon the wicked (Alma 5).
23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee.
24 For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God" (Deut 4).
The Danger of Disobedience
Moses foresaw the day when Israel would ostensibly forget Jehovah and begin to go after other gods.
"25 When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the Lord thy God, to provoke him to anger:
26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
27 And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you.
28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell."
In other words, if Israel goes after other gods and corrupt themselves as some of them did with the god Baal-Peor, they would lose the blessing placed upon them by Jehovah. They would become weak and undefended by miracles. They would become fodder for other nations to overrun and to enslave. In effect, they would return to the conditions they experienced in Egypt.
Interestingly, Moses makes a distinction between Jehovah and the gods of other nations. These other gods are unable to see, hear, eat, nor smell. This is strong evidence that Jehovah is anthropomorphic: man-like. Many believers in the Bible have lost the understanding that man is literally made in God's image (Genesis 1:25-26). They do not understand what it means when the Bible says that Noah walked with God, Jacob saw God's face, or Moses spoke with God face to face. Some Christians today believe that God is without "body, parts or passions" as described in the Westminster Confession, chapter II, verse1 ( http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ ). Clearly it would seem hard to explain how they could believe God is anything like the gods described by Moses, who cannot see, hear, eat, nor smell, because he has no body parts and is "immutable." Immutable means that he is "unable to be changed without exception" ( http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/immutable ). Such a being would be unable to truly eat, because eating would cause a necessary change. So would seeing, hearing, or smelling.
The Promise of Repentance/Obedience
On the other hand, God is quick to bless if we do our part:
"29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
31 (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them"
It does not matter if we wallow in the fleshpots of Egypt as slaves, or as the Prodigal Son eat the feed tossed to the unclean swine, if we turn fully back to God with all our heart and soul, we will be accepted and restored. As the Savior's voice resounded from the heavens to the stricken Nephites:
"15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
16 I came unto my own, and my own received me not. And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.
17 And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled.
18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
21 Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved (3 Nephi 9)."
The story had not changed from the time of Moses. While the lower laws given to Israel under the Law of Moses were now fulfilled by the resurrected Christ, yet they still had to bring forth an appropriate sacrifice: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. These are the same requirements given by Moses to Israel for them to be truly redeemed from their enemies. These enemies can be both physical and spiritual. Either can enslave us and keep us from reaping the true blessings and promises given to the children of God. Moses promised Israel physical liberation from the neighboring kingdoms. Jesus promised spiritual rewards that would liberate mankind from the enslaving sins that held them bound in chains.
Cities of Redemption
"41 Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
42 That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live"
The conquered lands east of Jordan had been given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and part of the tribe of Manasseh. Among these tribal states would be established 3 cities of protection. Others would later be established west of the Jordan. If a person were to commit manslaughter, he could flee to one of these cities. While he remained in that city, he would be safe from any recourse taken against him. It was a safe place for those who accidentally caused grievous sins. Those found guilty of murder would be dragged out of the city and given to the harmed person's family for proper judgment. However, we see again that God provided a way for handling major issues without requiring the life of every person who did wrong.
For those of us who do sin, either out of ignorance or purposely, there is a place we can go for spiritual safety. Christ can heal all pains and sins through the atonement. While we may have to face the music in front of judges for any crimes to society, Jesus offers us redemption still. These sins do not have to remain upon our souls throughout eternity. We can latch onto his mercy seat, and he will lift us up, protecting us from eternal hell and damnation.
The Deuteronomist's Ten Commandments
Here, Moses reviews the Ten Commandments originally given on Mount Sinai. While the commandments are essentially the same, there are some differences. For example, here Moses is reviewing the commandments, and so reminds Israel "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" (5:15). Again, one of Moses' main goals in Deuteronomy is to teach the people to remember Jehovah and his commandments.
The Lord Our God is One Lord
Frontlet or phylactery on forehead
What does it mean when Moses proclaims that God is "one Lord" (6:4)? Many take this verse and others and presume it means that Israel believed in strict monotheism. However, their history shows that they believed in several gods, including Elohim and Jehovah. Yet, Israel only worshiped Jehovah. Jesus is the one Lord and God over Israel. Unlike the nations they were about to conquer that worshiped many gods and idols, Israel was to worship only one. God commanded in chapter 5, "thou shalt have no other gods before me." This tells us that there were other gods, perhaps some that were recognized by Jehovah as valid and worthy gods. Yet he was to be preeminent.
"5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
Israel was not only to love God, but to love him more than anything else. The word "all" means we cannot have room to worship or love any other. Not only was Israel to keep the Ten Commandments and love God completely, they were expected to teach it to their children. And they were expected to teach their children frequently, not just once a week at Family Home Evening. Parenting is a full time requirement, and teaching the children faith in the Lord and obedience to his word requires constant and consistent reminding.
Reminders are also part of the program. Frontlets, or miniature scrolls with scripture on them were actually placed as a bracelet on the wrist, or as a covering for the forehead. Scripture was also placed on the door posts and on the gates leading to their homes. In other words, there were reminders of God and obedience to his word everywhere you looked. You saw your friend's face, and you saw his frontlet. You looked at your hand, and saw the binding on the wrist. You went to any home or building and saw scripture displayed on the doors.
Today, our prophets encourage us to have similar reminders. Pictures of the Savior, the temple, scripture scenes, or the prophets are often found in LDS and Christian homes. Scriptures should be set out in a prominent place, a reminder to read them frequently. Some people use a "prayer stone" as a reminder to pray in the mornings and evenings. In the morning, the stone is placed on the pillow to remind one to pray at night, and in the evening is placed next to the bed in a slipper to remind one to pray in the morning. Each of these mnemonic devices can be remarkable in helping us to develop and maintain a good habit of prayer, scripture study, meditation, worship.
Do Not Forget Nor Tempt God
"16 Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah."
Clearly the Lord God is a jealous God, as he often repeats this concept to Israel. He does not stand by while the chosen people choose something else. God understands that true happiness and orderly society come about by obedience to certain laws and expectations. One cannot fly like an eagle while dwelling among turkeys. This meant that Israel could not accommodate their enemies, but must "cast out all thine enemies" from the land. At Massah, Israel went worshiping other gods, tempted by the harlots of Baal-Peor. They could not give all their heart, mind and strength to Jehovah, if they were carousing elsewhere. They could not create a righteous nation, if they did not remain righteous.
All of the symbols given, on doorposts, frontlets, etc., became a constant reminder to not forget and turn away from the Lord. "20 And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord our God hath commanded you?
"21 Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand:
22 And the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:
23 And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.
24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.
25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us."
Teaching our children to understand the purpose for the commandments is important. We should not teach them obedience, "because I said so." Rather, we should spend the time to help them see the wisdom in each commandment, and the blessings promised for obedience to each one. We should also explain that as we are disobedient, God's blessing is withdrawn, leaving us vulnerable to temptation and destruction.
As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee
The Lord continues to remind Israel of the importance of obedience, keeping themselves separate from the apostate nations they are to destroy, and to remember that God took care of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. God will continue taking care of Israel, as long as they are obedient. However, if they forget and turn from Jehovah, God would straighten them out with tough love.
" 11 Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
Moses reminds Israel of all the dangers God protected them from. He fed them with manna, saved them from fiery serpents, and provided water in the desert. God can bring them great blessings and prosperity, if they will just continually remember Him.
"18 But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
20 As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God."
God does not offer a middle ground to his covenant with Israel. You are either ripe to receive all God's blessings, or ripe to receive destruction. Anytime Israel founders in the middle of these two, God will chasten them. Once they ripen in iniquity, they will be destroyed, just like the nations that preceded them in the land.
More Reminders Why Israel Should Be Obedient
Moses continues to share the history of Israel with the people, explaining to them why God blessed or cursed them and other nations. It all came down to obedience to basic laws.
The stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments are placed inside the Ark of the Covenant, which becomes the place where the holiest national treasures are stored.
Why did Jehovah give Israel so many commandments? "Keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" (10:13).
While the other gods were local gods, we are reminded, "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is" (10:14).
Abraham was the first to perform circumcision of all males. This was a covenantal reminder that his people would set themselves apart from other nations. Now, the Lord adds a new twist: "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked" (10:15). Now they not only needed to physically be circumcised, but had to soften their hearts before God.
"17 For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward." There is more than one god and one lord. Both Jehovah and Moses recognize this. However, of all the gods, Jehovah is the mightiest upon the face of the earth, and the only one worthy of worship."
I Set Before you this day a Blessing and a Cursing
Moses continues to tell Israel why they should be obedient. He reminds the older survivors that they have had the blessing of seeing the miracles in Egypt. They could remember what it was like to be slaves in Egypt. In the deserts of Egypt, one planted and then had to water each plant by hand. However, in the Promised Land, as they were obedient to God, he would bring rain to water the plants.
13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
17 And then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you."
We will later see that as Israel falls into apostasy, drought and famine often follow. We can learn from this that as we are extremely obedient to God, he is quick to bless us with many of the things we need and desire. However, when we disobey, God withdraws his blessing, and suddenly we find ourselves at the mercy of the elements. The rains do not come as they would, because God does not command them to come. Nature settles back down into its regular form, which in the dry areas of the land means drought and suffering. Only with repentance and a full return to Jehovah are his blessings restored, and the land becomes a blessing unto Israel again.
"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."
It is entirely up to us whether we are blessed or cursed. As a church, a nation, a family, and individuals, we are free to decide whether to follow God or not. However, when we pick up one end of the stick, we of necessity pick up the other end. We cannot choose nor avoid the repercussions of our choices. We obey, or suffer the exact same curse that falls upon all the wicked around us.
False prophets, preachers and friends
We are told that there will come people into our lives, who will entice us to follow other paths. They will try logic, appeal to our natural senses, and even claim that it is the will of God! There is a standard that has been put into place. And that standard requires us to follow it always. Why are many LDS and Christians miserable? Often it is because they struggle between two masters, wanting to follow God, but also enticed by the world and other gods.
It isn't easy to attend Church when the Super Bowl, or Indy 500, or some other championship game is going on at the same time. Shouldn't it be okay to do a family outing on Sundays? Should we stay out of debt as the living prophets have told us to do, or go ahead and spend a "little" extra on a home, car, or vacation? Violence and sexual sin pervade our society, and many worship at the altars of pornography and violent video games.
It is easy to worship Christ one day a week. It is more difficult to choose to worship him daily, and to put God first in our hearts in everything. And the humanist and materialist prophets of today make it so difficult and distracting for us.
1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul."
Even if a proclaimed prophet, a movie star, politician, or sports star, performs what seems to be a miracle, we are not to follow them to the depths of hell. Don't be like the teenager who came up to me decades ago stating, "Ozzy Osbourne worships the devil, and so I do too!" We also shouldn't be like today's teenagers who think it is okay to date or have sex at a young age, because that is what everyone else does. We are to be a holy nation.
Moses commands the people to stone to death any family member or friend who tempts them to go after other gods. And if a city follows after Belial:
"15 Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
16 And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again."
Belial literally means "that which is without worth, worthless." So, if we follow after that which is of no worth, we set ourselves up for destruction. In order to prevent the cancer of apostasy from spreading, ancient Israel was commanded to destroy everything within the city. Only in this manner could they not only appease God, but ensure his blessing remained on the rest of them.
A Peculiar People
In Deuteronomy 14, we receive special instruction on the dietary law and other commandments. These laws are to keep Israel separate from everyone else, as well as seen as peculiar or different.
"1 Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
2 For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth" (14:1-2).
He has chosen Israel as his children. They are not to harm themselves when mourning for the dead. They are to set themselves apart. In so doing, the Lord explains his dietary law to them. Some animals, birds and fishes are "clean" or acceptable to God for Israel to eat. Other animals are considered "unclean." These are not evil animals. They just are not set apart as holy and special, as is Israel.
Israel is commanded to tithe all their increase. This is to ensure the tabernacle (later the temple) and the poor are provided for. It also helps Israel to remember that God has given them everything, and only requires a tenth back.
Deuteronomy 15 teaches us the concept of debt forgiveness. Every seventh year, all debts and contracts end, and the debtor must release the person who owes. If an Israelite has contracted himself to serve a person in exchange for anything, the contract ends in the seventh year. This seventh year, or "year of release" is set. If one man sets a debt in year one, then he is released in the seventh year. And the person who sets up a contract in the sixth year, must also set the person free in the seventh year.
Imagine such a concept today. People would not be forced to forever be held under a debt, or forced to declare bankruptcy, voiding their credit, and causing the lender to lose all his investment. Instead, if a person is heavily under many debts, he would only be expected to work hard for no more than seven years, before the rest would be released. No bankruptcy necessary.
The firstling born of the flocks belongs to the Lord. They could not be sold, eaten, nor worked. Instead, they were to be given to the priests of the sanctuary. The best we have should always be given to God for his work.
There were three key festivals for the Israelites: Passover (Pesach)/Feast of Unleavened Bread, Festival of Weeks/Pentecost (Shavuot), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). Let's look at each one of these. For these three festivals, all Israel was expected to make the pilgrimage to the Tabernacle or holy sanctuary, in order to celebrate.
Passover celebrated the release of Israel from Egypt's bondage. It is a 7-8 day festival, celebrated on the fifteenth day of Nisan, which is usually in March or April, and changes its exact date annually, based on the full moon's appearance. Among the things done in the celebration were to sacrifice a first born lamb, and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.
In the story of the Exodus, as Egypt suffered through the Ten Plagues, the final plague was the destroying angel of God passing through, slaying the first born. The only homes saved were those who performed the Passover requirements, which included painting some of the lamb's blood on the doorposts of the home. In this manner, these homes were "passed over", hence Passover.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread usually began immediately after the Passover festival, and continued the celebration for another week. It was often considered part of the Passover celebration. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus however tells us:
"The feast of unleavened bread succeeds that of the passover, and falls on the fifteenth day of the month, and continues seven days, wherein they feed on unleavened bread; But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first "partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them, (Antiquities of the Jews Book 3, Chapter 10, Section 5)." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover)
Today's Jews leave a place at the Passover dinner for Elijah the Prophet, who the prophet Malachi foresaw would be a forerunner for the Messiah's coming. It was during the Passover that Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias and Elijah appeared one by one to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple, giving necessary priesthood keys to prepare the world for the Second Coming (D&C 110 - http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/110).
Shavuot celebrates the day when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. It is celebrated in late May/early June. It is directly linked to the Passover, in that it is required to begin seven weeks after the second day of Passover, or a total of 50 days. This is why it is also called, Pentecost. They count down the days, showing anticipation of receiving the Law or Torah from God. This was the solemn assembly (Atzeret) that ended the holy days beginning with Passover.
Wikipedia states: "On Passover, the Jewish people were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God." ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavuot )
It was on the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts, when all the people were filled with the Spirit of the Lord and heard the apostles speaking in everyone's own language. ( http://scriptures.lds.org/en/acts/2)
In modern times, the LDS experienced their own Pentecost during the March 1836 dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Hundreds witnessed angels, spoke in tongues, and prophesied. Even people outside of the temple noted seeing beings in white walking on the roof of the temple, and some thought the temple was on fire.
Festival of Booths
Sukkot is the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles/Tents/Huts. It is also known as the Festival of Ingathering, a harvest festival. This celebration occurs in September or October.
The booths represented the fragile tents used by Israel through the forty years in the wilderness. Through the seven day festival, all Israel lives in the booths and eat their meals inside of them. It is believed by many Jews, and suggested in the book of Zechariah that the final Festival of Booths will usher in the Messiah's reign. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot )
The Festival of Ingathering foresaw the day when all Israel would be gathered together again, prior to receiving the coming Messiah. Interestingly, the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith during the Festival of Booths, symbolizing that the ushering in of the Lord's coming has begun in these last days.
More Rules for Israel
Deuteronomy 17 contains concepts that suggest at least part of this was written in the days of King Josiah, by Hilkiah the priest. We find rules for the future kings of Israel. Yet, from Moses down to Samuel, we find that the Lord did not allow kings, thinking it was a great evil, for Jehovah was their king! King Josiah was very young when he became king. His father was wicked, and sought after other gods. This was the chance for the temple priests to train up a king in righteousness. Josiah was trained by those seeking to follow God and worship in the temple. They were zealous to put away anything and everything that seemed to distract from that worship. It only made sense to provide a book to the king that included instructions especially for the king to study daily in the holy writings (Torah), and to remember that Jehovah is his king. The king is ordered not to "multiply wives" to himself, which in Josiah's day would have made a lot of sense, after the tragedies of David and Solomon regarding their harems.
In chapter 18, we read:
" 18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."
The prophet Moses did know about the coming Messiah. While many ignored or rejected Moses' words, anyone who rejected the words of the Messiah would have to stand before God and be judged. Why? Because we can be saved without the Mosaic Law, but we cannot be saved without faith and obedience to Christ.
In the following chapters, more rules and regulations are established. These included how to manage war and the armies, murder and manslaughter, rebellious children (put to death), marriage/divorce, clean/unclean, vows/covenants, leprosy, business, and property laws.
The Lord then tells them when they cross the Jordan River to build an altar for remembrance of their covenants with God as they entered into the Promised Land. Again, Moses explains that if they are obedient they will prosper, and if they rebel against God, they will be cursed. They are to be of good courage, and to read the Law (Book of Deuteronomy) in its entirety every seven years.
In Deuteronomy 32, we are told that Jehovah is the Rock. He is a solid foundation upon which Israel may build their kingdom.
" 7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
8 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
9 For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."
The King James Version of this text has an error in it. This error was made long ago, and other ancient copies of Deuteronomy show the original: instead of the most High separating the "sons of Adam", it states the "sons of God". The "Most High" is El Elyon or Elohim. Elohim divided the ancient nations, giving each of his sons an inheritance. The Lord Jehovah's portion is Israel. This has been discussed previously in the lessons, but shows again the Divine Council in Heaven, led by Elohim. Israel is the greatest of all nations, and given Jehovah, the greatest of God's sons, as its king and God.
In both the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), and the Dead Seas Scrolls Deuteronomy, we read this verse as follows:
"When the Most High [El Elyon] gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the LORD's [Jehovah's] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance."http://mormanity.blogspot.com/2005/10/deuteronomy-328-9-many-implications.html
Israel was very special. It was given specifically to Jehovah to be king and Lord over. In ancient Jewish tradition, Jehovah would eventually conquer the other nations of the earth, overcoming the inept sons of God who were assigned as kings of the other nations. Still, Israel still was the first inheritance for Jehovah, and the closest to his heart.
Moses Blesses the Tribes
In this chapter, Moses gives each tribe a special blessing. It is reminiscent of the blessing Jacob gave to each of his sons centuries earlier.
For Judah we read:
"7 And this is the blessing of Judah: and he said, Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him unto his people: let his hands be sufficient for him; and be thou an help to him from his enemies." While this is a blessing to the entire nation, it also foresees the coming Messiah. The Lord would be the "voice of Judah."He would be brought to his people, and sadly, crucified by them. He would need strength to endure what he would suffer under his own tribe's cruelty, and would need God's help to overcome his enemies throughout the eternities.
For Levi, Moses focuses on his responsibility in the priesthood, and especially in using the Urim and Thummim properly. It guided them before at Massah and Meribah (finding water), and it would be needed in the future. The Urim and Thummim was the high priest's oracle to God. Through it, he received revelation.
For Joseph, we read:
"13 ¶ And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,
14 And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon,
15 And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills,
16 And for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren.
17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh."
Joseph is tied to the "everlasting hills" and the "ancient mountains." For Mormons, this is a prophesy fulfilled in that a few descendants of Joseph fled the destructions of Jerusalem in 600 BC, and were led to the Americas, where the hills and mountains of the Rockies/Andes are impressive and definitely appear to be everlasting.
"Death" of Moses
Moses goes to the top of Mount Horeb, where he sees the Promised Land. He then dies, and Joshua takes over the work for Israel. Latter day revelation suggests that Moses was translated, or his body was renewed so that he did not taste of death, and then was taken into heaven in this fashion.
"10 And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" is evidence again, that the Book of Deuteronomy, or at least portions of it were written long after Moses. Otherwise, how would anyone know that no other prophet had seen the Lord face to face? We do know that prophets can see the Lord "face to face" according to the will of God. However, while many saw God in vision, few actually ever saw the Lord "face to face" as did Moses. Part of the reason is the "mystery of godliness" or knowing God is the key to the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 84:19-24). Only when the higher priesthood is present and the person is as righteous as Moses can man see God face to face and live.
Links to previous lessons that discussed the Documentary Hypothesis:
Lesson 15 : http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/04/gospel-doctrine-ot-lesson-15-look-to.html
Lesson 6: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/02/lds-gospel-doctrine-class-old-testament.html
Lesson 3: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/01/lds-gospel-doctrine-class-old-testament_12.html
Deuteronomists and the Temple Reform:
Margaret Barker on the Temple Reformation: http://www.thinlyveiled.com/barker/josiahsreform.htm
Kevin Christensen's review of Margaret Barker's Temple Reform: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/insights/?vol=23&num=2&id=344
Books by Margaret Barker on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Margaret-Barker/e/B001IQWG34/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1272316370&sr=1-2-ent
Margaret Barker's web page: http://www.margaretbarker.com/
Other discussions on Deuteronomists and the Temple Reform:
Stephen Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, pg 19: http://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People/dp/0743269519/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272398936&sr=8-1
Jim F's discussion on Lesson #17: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2010/04/ot-lesson-17-study-notes-deuteronomy-6-8-11-321-4-15-18-30-40-45-47/