The Exodus and Conquest

[Exodus - Joshua]

Preparing to enter the Promised Land

[Deuteronomy]

Moses reviews the wilderness wanderings

[Deut 1-3] Moses recounts the wilderness wanderings, how, when approaching the promised land, twelve men were sent to spy out the land and the people rebelled after hearing the report from ten of the men. As a consequence of this they were to wander in the desert for another thirty-eight years. After all this time they approached the plains of Moab and defeated Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan. Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh requested possession of this land on the east side of the Jordan River. It was granted to them providing the men took part in the battles to possess Canaan. Moses recalls how, from the top of Pisgah, he was shown the land to be possessed, but would not be permitted to enter it.

A call to obedience

[Deut 4:1-43] Moses reminds the people of the incidents with Moabite women and followers of Baalpeor, then calls them to obedience as they take possession of the promised land. They are to teach their children the laws given at Horeb, and they are not to make any form of idols for worship. Moses gives them a prophetic warning that if they become corrupt in future generations, they will be scattered amongst other peoples and only a remnant will survive and return in later days. Then Moses sets aside three cities of refuge on the east side of Jordan, one for each tribe, to which a person could flee if he had unintentionally killed another.

Commandments, statutes and judgements

[Deut 4:44-26:19] Moses summons all Israel to hear the laws given by God at Horeb. He first repeats the Ten Commandments, then gives further instruction before repeating the rest of the laws, which Moses calls commandments, statutes and judgements. They are to continually recall them to their children, and have them written in places where they will always be seen. Obedience is to be a condition of their prosperity and righteousness. Moses tells them that they are to possess the land, not because of their righteousness, but because of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for they are a stiff- necked people who have continually provoked God. Their need for obedience will be stated again when they possess the land, at which time they will be required to proclaim the blessings of obedience from Mount Gerizim, and the curses of disobedience from Mount Ebal. Their offerings are to be made only in a place God will choose and declare once they have settled in the land. Their love for God will be tested by some people who will tell of a sign or wonder that then comes true, suggesting that they should worship other gods. Even if this person is one they love, they are to be exposed and put to death. If they hear rumours of idolatry in another town, it is to be investigated and, if found to be true, all its inhabitants are to be executed and the town completely destroyed and burned, never to be rebuilt. Moses then recalls the laws concerning clean and unclean food, tithing and the feasts they are to keep. They are to appoint judges and set up courts, but anything too difficult for their courts is to be taken to the priests, whose decisions are to be binding. Kings and prophets will be raised and guidance is given concerning them. Instructions are given for: Cities of Refuge; the need for two or more witnesses; going to war; atonement for an unsolved murder; marrying a captive woman; the right of the firstborn; dealing with a rebellious son; cross-dressing; marriage violations and more.

Blessings and curses

[Deut 27-28] Moses instructs the people to build an altar on Mount Ebal when they have crossed the Jordan. This altar is to be finished in plaster and all the laws Moses has given them are to be clearly written on it. The tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin are to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people; the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali are to stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses. The Levites are then to recite twelve curses, all with the response of ‘Amen!’ from the people. Moses then tells them all the ways in which they will be blessed by God if they obey His commandments. He then gives them a lengthy list of terrible curses that will come upon them if they are disobedient.

Another covenant

[Deut 29-30] The people are about to receive another covenant. Moses prepares them by reminding them of the things they have seen God do, and that their obedience is equired to avoid His wrath. The covenant entered is a promise from God that they will be restored from any dispersion and will again prosper, but with their hearts circumcised. Yet Moses emphasises the choice is theirs, and they will remain in the promised land and prosper all the time they are obedient.

The succession and Moses’ last days

[Deut 31-34] At the age of 120 years, Moses announces Joshua as his successor to lead the people across the Jordan and take possession of the land. He tells them the law is to be read to all Israel every seven years during the Feast of Tabernacles, emphasising that their children, who do not know the law, must hear it and learn to fear God. God summons Moses and Joshua and speaks to them in the tabernacle. Moses is  told that the people will rebel and is given a song to teach the Israelites, a song that will testify against them and be remembered by their descendants. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, as it is he who will lead the Israelites into the promised land. Having finished writing the book of the law, Moses gives it to the Levites (who carry the Ark of the Covenant) to place in the ark where it is to be kept. Moses then recites the song to the people. Moses blesses all Israel by tribe, then climbs Mount Nebo where God shows him the whole of the promised land for the last time before burying him in Moab, in a place not known by any man. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.
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