It is about the year 1512 Before Christ’s Era [B.C.E.] After a stunning, and some say unbelievable victory against the Egyptians, the entire nation of Israel has disembarked on an epic journey to their ‘Promised Land.’ The ten commandments were given to the nation at the foot of Mt. Sinai, were they pledged themselves to only one god [In hebrew, YHWH, in English translated Jehovah’]
Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy were written by the first leader of Israel, Moses, who also wrote the first two books of the bible and the book of Job, as well as several of the praises in the book of Psalms.
In the beginning of the book of Leviticus, and all the way through it, the law is accounted for the first time; covering everything from religious ceremony, to theft, to moral and physical cleanliness. At the time, of course, the nations in the lands surrounding the Israelites had disgusting practices when it came to health, lifestyle, and morality. Among the practices of the nations were: human sacrifice, the treatment of wounds with such things as living serpents and animal dung, and massive public sex orgies.
The law of the Israelites, however, does have some interesting specifications, such as the command that human waste be burried away from the encampment, that sick people be quarintined until they were well, and even provisions for the poor and disabled.
In the book of Numbers; we come in as Moses counts the people [hence the name] and records the geneology of each family. The Jews [as Israelite’s are now called] kept a detailed system of their familes, right down to 70 C.E., when they, as well as most of the other historical Jewish documents, were destroyed when the Romans pilaged Jerusalem.
Afterwards, some of the law is recited once more, and the people move off. Soon, though, the people begin to murmur. There has been no meat in their diet since they left Egypt, and they long for meat.
According to the account, Jehovah blows in quail, by the thousands, to satisfy this need of theirs, and so the people are mostly satisfied.
Soon, the nations reaches the verry edge of the Promised Land; inhabited at the time by various ‘pegan’ nations, mostly Cananites.
Moses selects twelve men to go and spy out the land, to see if it is indeed a good land, and see what they are up against. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, bring back good reports. The other men say that the people are too strong, and that such an attack will fail.
Murmuring and weeping spread through the camp, and the people clamor to return to Egypt. Fighting arises between those who want to fight and those who want to return to Egypt.
Moses tells them that they shouldn’t go up, because Jehovah is not with them. The men don’t listen, however, and there is a great slaughter; the camp is scattered.
The situation only worsens when Korah, of the tribe of Judah, takes a stand against Moses, thinking himself better suited as a leader. Some of the other influential men follow his lead, stirring up resentment among the people. It all comes to an enormous showdown between Moses, and the rebel leaders.
The account at Numbers 16: 33-25 tells what happens to the rebels.
” 33 So down they went, and all who belonged to them, alive into SheÃ¢Â?Â²ol, and the earth went covering them over, so that they perished from the midst of the congregation. 34 And all the Israelites who were round about them fled at the screaming of them, for they began to say: “We are afraid that the earth may swallow us up!” 35 And a fire came out from Jehovah and proceeded to consume the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.”
The nation though, has grown stiff necked. For some forty years, the entire nation wanders in the wilderness, denied access to the Promised Land.
Dueteronomy starts up as these forty years come to a close. The nation is once again nearing the Promised Land, this time, they hope to make their home there.
Along the way though, some of the neighboring nations, particularly the nations of Moab and Midian, fear that the Israelites will wipe them out, as some of the other Cananite tribes have been wiped out.
Coming up with a plan to seduce the nation away from their course, Moab and Midian send women, their most beautiful women to invite the men of Israel to a dance. The dance is to honor their gods, Baal and Kimosh. Some fall for the trick, and go to this ceremony.
Of course, as a nation pledged to one god, such worship of other gods is against the law; and some twenty-four thousand Israelites are slain.
Soon, however, the Israelites near the Jordan river, and cross it, moving into the Promised Land. The native peoples for themost part, are wiped out to make room for the new population.
Moses, however, dies before crossing the Jordan, at the age of 120. Joshua then takes his place as leader to the Israelites, which is a hard task indeed.
That is where the account of Deuteronomy ends, thus ending Moses’s portion of the bible, sometimes called the pentateuch.
Whether you believe that these books are merely ancient history, or you see them as the devine word of god, is a personal choice.
In order to make any choice, however, that choice should be an informed one. Why not dip deeper into these fascinating books of the Bible? Any time you spend reading them is certain to pay out when you know what you believe.