Deuteronomy marks our final foray in the Torah, the first major section of books in the Bible. Sure, God just told Moses that he was going to die soon, but fear not! Our favourite prophet/maniac is able to squeeze another 34 chapters of random rules and regulations in before he kicks the bucket, oh goody! The entire book is in fact one long monologue from Moses. It basically repeats just about everything he’s said before, with some new pieces added in at random times. It really is terribly organised, but luckily I’ve sifted through it all to show you the interesting parts.
Deut 5, Verses 13-14: Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.
While obviously nothing new, I still can’t get around how seriously the Sabbath is taken. We saw back in Numbers 15 that something as little as gathering wood is punishable by death, which is extreme to say the least. Is it really all to do with God resting on the 7th day? Or is it a safeguard to stop people overworking themselves or their workers/slaves? If the latter is the case, then surely the death penalty defeats the purpose of the law in the first place?
Deut 6, Verse 5: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Isn’t it a bit wrong to command someone to love you? Surely you have to earn their love and respect, not just expect it? If it’s love which is commanded, it’s not really love then, is it?
Deut 6, Verse 13: Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Especially if it’s love brought on by fear, then it becomes something of a sadomasochistic relationship. I don’t know about all the Jews/Christians etc. but I’m not into that.
Deut 7, Verse 1: When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you
This is something else I have a problem with. If each of these seven nations is larger and stronger, why destroy all of them? Lets assume for a second that it’s ok for God to evict people from their home because the Israelites need one, surely they don’t need seven homes? If each nation is larger than Israel, surely one would suffice?
Deut 7, Verses 2-3: And when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your son.
The usual vitriolic xenophobia/racism, nothing new here.
Deut 7, Verse 12: If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors.
“If you do what God says, he will love you!” Again, I’m skeptical about this book’s definition of what love is. If God was truly loving, he would love people (all people, not just one group) for who they are, not just for following his rules. It’s easy to see why later on Christians felt the need to change the record (or pretend to, at least).
Deut 8, Verse 5: Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many fathers that have disciplined their sons by having them stoned/afflicting them with plague/burning them alive/having the earth swallow them up/drowning them along with literally everyone else.
Deut 10, Verse 17: For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome,who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.
. . . except partiality to one tribe of people, disregarding the basic human rights of everyone else in the region. Also don’t use the term bribe guys, God prefers the word ‘sacrifice’.
Deut 11, Verses 5 & 7: It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, (…) but it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.
And a few thousand odd years later we’re still expected to believe these same miracles. Seriously God, would it really hurt you so much to give us a recap of what you can do? We have video cameras now, one miracle would be enough for the entire world, don’t you want that? You’ve called yourself a jealous God numerous times, so why don’t you prove your divinity to everyone? You’re certainly capable, or so you’ve told us.
Deut 12, Verse 31: You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.
Imagine expecting someone to sacrifice their own child to a higher power!
Deut 13, Verses 1-3: If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
This is almost comical, what a wonderful fail-safe. “Even if what they’re saying is right/true, it’s just a test!” These are the types of passage which allow creationists to believe that all the evidence in favour of an old earth is just ‘a test’.
Deut 13, Verse 5: That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God
Lets not forget our duties.
This next quote is long, but please bear with, it’s important.
Deut 13, Verses 6-10: If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God.
This is so tragic. There are no doubt millions of people in the world who feel entirely trapped by religion, and with passages like these it comes as no surprise. That you are expected to cast the first stone against your loved ones (people who you actually know are real) is a horrific expectation. Obviously in the Western world, you (hopefully) won’t be stoned by your family if you decide to go against their religion, but the precedent is set that if you do, the family should at the very least exile you.
Deut 13, Verses 12-14: If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods”, then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly.
We all know what comes next of course. At least it says you have to investigate thoroughly, to be absolutely certain sure that the people are filthy heathens.
Deut 13, Verses 15-16: And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt.
So yeah, even if there’s anyone innocent inside, fuck em, they have to go too. And I never quite understand why all the animals have to be killed too, not to mention the destruction of possessions. The sheer revulsion of other religions that this book preaches is shocking.
Deut 17, Verse 12: Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.
Another example of the priesthood attempting to make themselves infallible. The Pentateuch was almost certainly written by Hebrew priests, so by writing it in scripture that they are correct about everything, and even disagreeing is punishable by death, it’s obviously going to work in their favour.
Then there’s a short section which says a King must be appointed:
Deut 17, Verse 17: He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
He must not take many wives. I’m sure 5 or 6 is alright. Isn’t it funny how we never hear of any women with more than one husband?
Deuteronomy 20 is all about going to war, and contains some ‘interesting’ ideas.
Deut 20, Verses 5-8: (Before a battle) The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it.
Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it.
Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.
Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.”
You’d have no bloody army left by the end of that!
Deut 20, Verses 10-11: When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you.
Enforced slavery, brilliant, just what we’re used to. What if they say no?
Deut 20, Verses 12-14: If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.
So what happened to the Midianites in Numbers 31 wasn’t just a one off after all? It wasn’t because they were specifically evil? It’s just something to do against anyone who opposes Israel, ok.
Deut 20, Verses 16-17: However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.
How terrifying. Leave nothing that breathes. It really is disgusting to see such vitriolic hatred. I cannot state enough the severity of this statement: kill all the men, the women, the children, the babies, the horses, the cows, the sheep, the dogs, the rats. Everything, all for the crimes of living where God wants the Jews to live, and worshiping other Gods.
Deut 21, Verses 10-11: When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.
Obviously this is beyond surprising at this point, but do go on.
Deut 21, Verses 12-13: Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
The poor girl, first she gets taken as a slave, and then is forced to have her hair and nails removed. But it’s all ok! She gets a month to mourn! She gets all that time before being forced to sexually submit to a man who could well have been the very person to kill her father/brother.
Deut 21, Verse 14: If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.
The use of the word ‘dishonoured’ here is slightly confusing to me. Is it trying to say that by having sex with her then rejecting her you’re dishonouring her? Or is the point that just the act of having sex with a woman leaves her dishonoured? Either way, the fact that this is even up for discussion is disgusting.
Deut 21, Verses 18-21: If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.
It is genuinely a marvel that this tribe survived more than a decade, given that just about everyone would be guilty of a crime punishable by stoning at some stage.
Chapter 22 covers the gender equality haven of marriage violations, starting off with a new brides virginity (obviously):
Deut 22, Verses 20-21: If the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
And I’m sure the only reason there is no law in effect for men is just because it’s harder to check, right? It’s certainly not due to any institutionalised misogyny right?
Deut 22, Verses 23-24: If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife.
What if he threatened her with weapons or otherwise? What if he covered her mouth over, or physically abused her so she was too fearful to scream?
Deut 22, Verses 28-29: If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
So lets get this straight, he has to pay her, but then marry her. Given that he becomes head of the household, doesn’t that mean he ends up paying himself? Even if it’s the case that the money goes to the girls father, she still gets nothing from it. And of course, the real issue here is that a rape victim is forced to marry her rapist, and can never be free from him as long as he lives. Top marks for misogynistic cruelty.
No summary today, not really much point as this is all a bit of a mish mash. The next entry will summarise Deuteronomy, so tune in then to find out.
By Rory McDowell