The reason I am blogging about the song in Deuteronomy 32 is that doing so seems to make sense as a follow up to my series on the Psalms of Asaph. Deuteronomy 32 has some things in common with the Psalms of Asaph. I already talked about Psalm 81:16 and Deuteronomy 32 :13. Only in those verses do we encounter the strange idea of “honey from the rock.”
Also Mark Smith and others who think the idea of monotheism evolved in ancient Israel commonly link Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32:8-9 as passages that reflect the old polytheistic mythology of Israel.
Here are quotes from Deuteronomy 32 and the first Psalm of Asaph:
Deuteronomy 32:1 Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; Let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
Psalms 50:4 He summons the heavens above, and the earth below, that he may judge his people.
(see also Isaiah 1:2)
I am not saying that one of these two verses depends on the other. I am saying that in context they reflect the same idea. The Message paraphrase captures the sense of Psalm 50:4, “He summons heaven and earth as a jury, he’s taking his people to court”. God’s court case against Israel describes the song in Deuteronomy 32.
For a long time scholars have noticed a covenant lawsuit pattern in Deuteronomy 32 (Wright, G.E. “The Lawsuit of God: A Form-critical Study of Deuteronomy 32.” In Israel’s Prophetic Heritage. ed. B.W. Anderson and W. Harrelson. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962). This means that God has made a covenant with Israel like a great king would make a treaty with a vassal. But now he brings a complaint against his vassal and calls witnesses about how she has broken her commitment.
At the same time Deuteronomy 32 is a song. They used it in worship. They may have used it in some kind of covenant renewal ceremony. They used it to remind themselves of their commitment to God and warn themselves of the consequences of unfaithfulness.
Those of us today who would use this song in our own spiritual lives might ask if we have a commitment to God and if God might have a complaint to bring against us or the communities to which we belong..