Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bible Commentary - Deuteronomy 11

In this chapter, Moses again warns the people to obey the LORD and sets before them the blessings of obedience and the curses of rebellion.

At this point, Moses is largely just repeating himself.  We have already read so many warnings, so many commands to obey the LORD, so many threats and promises, and this chapter is just more of the same.

This chapter shows a lot of parallels to Deut 6 (for instance, compare vv. 18-20 here with Deut 6:7-9), which I think is intentional.  I think Deut 6 and 11 are meant to open and conclude a subsection of Deuteronomy.  Deut 6 is not the first "warnings" chapter (Deut 4 also contains many warnings), but Deut 6 is the first full chapter after the ten commandments, so the five chapters from Deut 6-11 probably have some sort of pattern or significance.  The parallels between Deut 6 and 11 suggest some kind of chiasmus.  After a brief review I can't find any suggested parallels within Deut 7-10, but I suspect that closer examination would reveal more interesting results.  Certainly there appears to be a shift that happens between chapters 8 and 9, as Moses begins to specifically accuse the Israelites of betraying their obligations to the LORD.

Overall, there isn't much I want to comment on for this chapter.  I think a lot of my remarks about Deut 6 are applicable here, including the discussion of tefillin and mezuzah.  This chapter also includes a threat of drought, which shows that the various famines during the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remain a substantial problem in the days of Moses.  Protection from famine is one of the biggest promised blessings that we have seen.

The second thing I want to discuss is the "blessings and curses" that we read about in verses 26-32.  This is just a formalization of the blessings and curses that have been enumerated in the past 5 chapters, but it's also another part of the Hittite suzerainty treaty.  The vassal agrees to punishment if it disobeys its suzerain, while the suzerain agrees to bless the vassal if the vassal obeys and keeps the covenant.  In the case of Deuteronomy, the blessings and curses of the treaty are pronounced from Gerizim and Ebal, and we will read about this later when this part of the treaty is formally announced.  This chapter is really more of a prelude to the "official" blessings and curses.

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