Deuteronomy "After Strange Gods"


"After Strange Gods"

Context: When the book of Deuteronomy begins, Moses has arrived with his people at the threshold of the promised land. Behind them lie forty years of wandering, to which they were condemned by the Lord for their lack of faith. Moses recites the history of these years for them: their deliverance from Egypt and from the pursuit by Pharaoh, their idolatry in the encampment at Sinai, their sojourn in the deserts. He reminds them of the miracles by which they were fed, and of the angel they have followed. The Amorites, whom they once refused to attack when commanded to do so, have been defeated. So has Og, king of Bashan: much territory east of the Jordan now belongs to the Israelites. Now they must cross to the west bank of the river and destroy all who dwell there. At this point Moses preaches to his followers, setting forth a long and detailed code of laws by which they must live. Some of these laws deal with sanitation and the prevention of disease, and more than one present-day writer has found them remarkably sound in the light of modern discoveries. Again and again Moses warns his people away from any form of heathenism, and it is clear that this is his chief concern. Forty years of wandering have eliminated the older generation, that would always be likely to return to Egyptian ways; the few survivors will not be allowed to cross the Jordan. But even the younger ones, raised up under the laws of Moses, cannot be depended upon. They are like children, difficult to manage and forever running after some novelty. More than twenty times during his discourse, Moses reminds them of the Lord's promise to punish them severely if they take up with other gods. He reminds them at the same time that they are God's chosen people and will flourish if they abide by his commandments. Moses is now one hundred and twenty years of age; he will not live to cross the river and is ready to hand over the command to Joshua. He warns his people again and again, once angrily:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.
And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?
And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, . . .