Cook-the passionate God

In his introduction to Reading Deuteronomy, Stephen L. Cook has already argued that there was a post-exilic edition of Deuteronomy that added some references to the Babylonian exile.  We find some of these in chapters 29 and 30.  Deuteronomy 29:28 has Moses project this comment on to a future generation:

So the Lord has uprooted them from their land in anger, wrath, and great rage and has deported them to another land, as is clear today (NET Bible).

The first ten verses of chapter 30 also come from the post-exilic edition.

The effect of this is to extend the inclusive language of Deuteronomy to future generations.  Deuteronomy was already using very broad language to extend the covenant:

You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord your God – the heads of your tribes, your elders, your officials, every Israelite man, your infants, your wives, and the foreigners living in your encampment, those who chop wood and those who carry water (29:10-11 NET Bible).

But in their current form chapters 29-30 go beyond this to include also “those who are not here with us today” (29:15).

Another specific feature of these chapters is the move to say that the curses of Deuteronomy may target individuals as well as the society as a whole.  Deuteronomy 29:21 has God “single out” individuals who have disobeyed the covenant precepts.

Cook is quick to say that this has a context.  The individual’s sin has to be one that threatens the larger community, not just a private peccadillo.  Also God’s judgment is mysterious, not mechanical.  There are “secret things” that belong to God and are beyond human ability to figure out (29:29).  But what everyone does know, thanks to Deuteronomy, is exactly how to avoid God’s wrath.

Deuteronomy shows God becoming ever more passionately involved in Israel’s journey. That is what the talk of wrath and “fierce anger” is about.

 As we approach the end of Deuteronomy, Israel’s  journey has proven to lead to many dead ends.  This is true of the original journey of the Moses host in the wilderness. which has arrived at the point of Moses’ death.  And it is even more true of the journey of Israel and the Davidic monarchy, which by the time of the additions to chapters 29 and 30 has led to the downfall of the monarchy and the exile of Israel.  But this does not mean that the journey was not worth it.

The journey is not over and God is still at work sculpting their hearts (30:6).  The journey is not too difficult for them.  Keeping the commandments is not too hard (30:11-14).  The whole point of Deuteronomy is to make the torah accessible and realistic as a lifestyle.

Thus the call to ratify the covenant and “choose life” in 30:15-20 rounds out what has been the third speech of Moses.  Cook says that there is an almost shocking intimacy in verse 20 where Israel “clings” to God.  The Message gets it right when it says “firmly embracing him”.  This language goes beyond that of the vassal treaties that lie behind the literary form of Deuteronomy.

There is a passionate personal connection between Israel and God.

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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