Sunday School Lesson #17

April 21, 2006 | 42 comments

Lesson 17: Deuteronomy 6; 8; 11; 32: 1-4, 15-18, 30-40, 45-47


I am not generally in favor of bringing much scholarly discussion into Sunday School lessons, especially not scholarly discussions of the origins of the Old Testament texts. I don’t think those discussions have much relevance to our understanding of the Bible as a religious text or our application of its teachings to our lives. We can assume that the final editor, whoever he was or they were, had a purpose in mind and that the final text represents that purpose. The King James Translation is what we have accepted as canon according to the principle of common consent (D&C 28:13), so it is the text that we should engage—though it is not possible to do so without referring to particular texts which means it is impossible to ignore all scholarly questions.

I make somewhat of an exception to my general rule for the book of Deuteronomy because it is a particularly problematic text. The problem is that it repeats the content of Exodus. Joseph Blenkinsopp compares Exodus and Deuteronomy in this way (Jerome Biblical Commentary 1:102):


1-18                From Egypt to Sinai

19-20:21         Covenant and 10 Commandments

20:22-23:33    Book of the Covenant

24                    Concluding Ceremony

32-34              Aaronic Apostasy, Intercession of Moses, renewal of Alliance


1-4:43             From Sinai To Moab

4:44-5:22        Covenant and 10 Commandments

12-26              Deuteronomic Code

27-28              Concluding Ceremony

9:7-10:5          Aaronic Apostasy, Intercession of Moses, Tablets Rewritten

Blenkinsopp’s chart shows that, except for moving the Aaronic apostasy and the renewal of the covenant to earlier in the story, Deuteronomy has the same basic structure as Exodus. Of course, it is possible that is exactly what happened, that the book is what it claims to be. I take that possibility seriously. However, most biblical scholars have been skeptical. They have often linked Deuteronomy to the book of the law found in during the Temple’s renovation at the time of King Josiah (2 Kings 22, especially verse 8 ) or with one of the other 7th century BC reforms. It has also been linked with Israel’s return from exile as a reinterpretation of the Law based at least partly on their experiences in Babylon. (See Nehemiah 8 ).

From a theological or exegetical point of view, however, the problem with the scholarly view is that Deuteronomy is frequently quoted in the New Testament, particularly in Matthew and Hebrews. If we take Deuteronomy at face value, then, using Blenkinsopp’s chart, we get this chart of Israel’s history:

            From Egypt to Sinai (Exodus 1-18)

First dispensation of the Covenant

            Covenant and 10 Commandments (Exodus 10-20:21)

            Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:22-23:33)

            Concluding Ceremony (Exodus 24)

Aaronic apostasy, intercession of Moses, and second dispensation of the Covenant (Exodus 32-34, Deuteronomy 9:7-10:5)

            From Sinai to Moab (Deuteronomy 1:4-43)

            Covenant and 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 4:44-5:22—note also 29:1

            Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomy 12:26)

            Concluding Ceremony (Deuteronomy 27-28)

I think that this understanding of the text is most easily accommodated to our understanding of what happened when Moses received the covenant and law of the Melchizedek priesthood but, because of the apostasy of Israel, that covenant was replaced with the covenant and law of the Aaronic priesthood. However, a number of Latter-Day Saint biblical scholars accept some version of the standard scholarly view, so we can assume that scholarly view is not incompatible with our understanding of the first covenant and the second.

The title, “Deuteronomy” is the result of a 3rd century BC Greek mistranslation of Deuteronomy 17:18. “A copy of this law” in Hebrew gets translated as “the second law”: to deuteronomion. The Hebrew title is simply “These are the words,” in other words, “the words of Moses,” but it is also referred to as “Mishneh Torah,” meaning “second law,” like the Greek title. As you can see from either diagram, the book has the form of a farewell speech by Moses: he bids them farewell and binds them with covenant, calling on them to remember the Lord. (Compare King Benjamin’s speech in Mosiah).

Moses’ audience is composed primarily of those born in the wilderness, and only Joshua and Caleb remain of those who had known Egypt. The oldest in the group, with the exception of these two and Moses, would be sixty years of age (Numbers 14:29), so the entire camp of Israel would be relatively young. Moses, now 120 years old, would be twice the age of the oldest among them. Deuteronomy is Moses’ final plea to the children of Israel to abide by the laws of God and especially to remember the Lord’s hand in their deliverance. The key word throughout is “remember.” Compare the Sacrament prayers, where that is also the key word. Why is remembrance so important? What should we remember?

Study Questions*

Deuteronomy 6

Verse 1: Perhaps the word translated “judgments” in verse 1 is better translated “ordinances.” How are judgments and ordinances related in such a way that either could be used to translate the same Hebrew word?

Verse 2: The use of the word “fear” to describe our attitude toward God is, I believe, unique to Hebrew. We use that word to describe our emotional state when we anticipate something bad or evil, and so does Hebrew (e.g., Genesis 31:31; Deuteronomy 5:5; 1 Samuel 7:7). However, Hebrew uses the same word also to describe the attitude we should have toward our parents (Leviticus 19:3), holy places (Leviticus 26:2), and God, his name, and his work (Psalms 112:1, 86:11; Habukkuk 3:2), though we would probably describe that attitude as “reverence.” Why do you think that attitudes of fear and reverence were understood as variations of the same thing by the Hebrews? How are our days prolonged when we keep the commandments?

Verses 4-6: These are called the Shema, the passages of scripture placed in the phylacteries bound on the foreheads and arms (8b), and the mezuzots, placed on their door posts (9a). (See the information on each in the Bible Dictionary.) Why do you think that these were chosen for daily reminders? How can we be commanded to love someone, even God? Love is not something that I exercise will to do, so how can it be commanded? How are verses 5 and 6 related to each other? For example, does verse 6 repeat the same idea as verse 5 but differently? What does it mean for the words that God commands to be in our hearts? Are “heart,” “soul,” and “might” three different things or are they a poetic way of saying one thing? If the first, what is each? If the second, why does the Lord say this poetically?

Verses 7-9: Does the admonition of Moses in verse 7 still apply? How? If the commandment of verse 7 applies, why doesn’t the commandment of verse 8? We do not use phylacteries and mezuzots today. Why not?

Verse 13: Why does Moses tell the Israelites to swear (make oaths) by God’s name, when Christ tells us not to make oaths at all in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 33-34)? Why do you think that part of the Mosaic law was done away with? In what context did Jesus refer to verses 13 and 16? (See Matthew 4:13 and 4:7. Note that he also quotes Deuteronomy 8: 3 on that same general occasion—Matthew 4: 4.)

Verse 20: What were the Israelites instructed to reply when their children asked them the meanings of the testimonies and statutes and ordinances? Is there anything akin to this in our own family practices? Should there be? What events in our Church past might be cited that would be equivalent to these?

Deuteronomy 8

Verse 2: Why does the Lord desire to humble us? Why does he want to prove or test us? Doesn’t he already know what is in our hearts? What does verse 16 add to our understanding of why he says he intends to prove us?

Verses 3 and 10: Do these verses have any connection with the sacrament? In verse 3, the Lord speaks of manna as a test? How was it a test?

Verse 4: Note the information given in verse 4 that we haven’t been given earlier. How is it relevant here?

Verses 7-10: How do you think a people who had spent their life in the desert to the Lord’s description of the land would react to this description?

Verses 11-17: Why does the description of the bounty of the land end with a warning? Why do you think God’s concern is justifiable? Do we react that way? Is there any connection between this and the story of Balaam (Numbers 22-24)?

Verses 19-20: In what ways do we perish when we do not obey the voice of the Lord?

Deuteronomy 11

Verses 10-12: What is different about the land of Canaan, which is not true of Egypt? Why does the Lord feel this way about this land?

Verse 17: Notice the Lord’s warning about the rain. What is the connection between this passage and the tithing revival associated with Pres. Lorenzo Snow, as depicted in the film “Windows of Heaven”? Is there a connection between idolatry and the failure to pay tithing?

Verse 24: Note the boundaries that the Lord places on the promised land. Where is Lebanon? Where is the Euphrates? Israel would have to wait until the time of David before they would control this much land.

Verses 26-29: What does the Lord mean when he says “I set before you this day a blessing and a curse”? Verse 29 is obscure, but when Israel crossed over into the promised land, Joshua read the blessings from one mountain and the curses from the other. (See Joshua 8: 30-35.) What is the significance of doing so?

Deuteronomy 32

Verses 1-43: This is a song or poem of Moses. Here is a PDF file of a modern translation that shows the poetic structure: NAB translation of Deut 32. Why would the prophet address Israel in poetry? Those interested in looking at this song more closely might enjoy reading pages 332-350 of Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Devarim (Deuteronomy), translated by Aryeh Newman (Jerusalem:1993). There are, of course, also many other scholarly commentaries on and analyses of the song. Note for those with scholarly interests: there is considerable divergence for this song among the manuscripts, with the Masoretic text (that on which the KJV is based) probably being in the minority.

Verse 2: What is the image of rain and dew used her for doctrine, in other words, for teaching?

Verse 4: In what way is God a rock? Some have argued that “rock” is metonymic for “mountain.” If we accept that, what does it suggest?

Verse 6: This shows that the understanding of God as our Father is not a late invention. What do we learn by understanding that God is our Father, our Ancestor?

Verse 8: Why refer to God as “the most High”? What did that title tell the Israelites? What does it tell us?

Verses 12-18: In verse 15, the name “Jeshurun” means “the darling.” What story do these verses tell? What are they doing in this song, a song given by Moses prior to the entry into the Promised Land?

Verses 26-27: What change in the story of the poem occurs here? How is that important to the poem as a whole?

Verses 30-38: What is the difference between “their rock” and “our Rock”?

Verses 32-33: Why would Moses switch from the metaphor of the Rock to the metaphor of the vine? What would a rock do for one? What would a vine do for one? How does Jesus later play upon the metaphor of the rock (Matt. 7:24-27)? on the metaphor of the vine (John 15: 1-16)?

Verse 47: What does Moses mean when he says, referring to a study of the law, “it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life”? What does it mean to treat the scriptures as a vain thing, rather than our lives? Are we sometimes guilty of this in our attitude toward scripture reading?

Verses 49-52: What ultimately happens to Moses, according to the KJV? What actually happened to Moses? (See the Bible Dictionary in the back of your Bible, under “Moses.”) Why was it necessary for him to be translated, in other words, taken to heaven without death? Why was he not allowed to enter the Promised Land (verse 51)?

Deuteronomy 34

This chapter is not only the conclusion of Deuteronomy, it is the conclusion of the entire Pentateuch. Can you see things in this chapter that make it an appropriate conclusion to the “Five Books of Moses”? Many scholars believe that there has been considerable tampering with this chapter? Can you think of reasons why that might be so?

Verses 1-4: Where does Moses go when he leaves the Israelites (1-4)? (Remember Deuteronomy 32:52.)

Verses 5-6: According to the KJV, what finally happens to Moses. Knowing what we now know from latter-day revelation about his transfiguration (Alma 45:19; Moses 7:21-23), what are we to make of the KJV’s account ?

Verses 10-12: Compare this tribute to Moses with the tribute paid to the Prophet Joseph (D&C 135).

*Once again, I am indebted to Art Bassett for many of these study questions. Because I have edited them and added to them I take responsibility for them in their present form.


42 Responses to Sunday School Lesson #17

  1. Kimball L. Hunt on April 22, 2006 at 8:16 pm

    Re whether textual origins’ are of “relevence to our understanding of the Bible as a religious text or our applications of its teachings,” Jim –

    Does the particulars of any particular text’s canonization say anything at all about relevence for this purpose?

    Could the, What? Perssian? religious texts perhaps looked to by the Magi who visited baby Jesus have intrinsically possessed such relevance? How does the bits of text from other cultures’ being found to parallel smidgeons here and there in the Bible play into our understanding of canonicity and authoritative relevance?

  2. Jim F. on April 22, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    Kimball L. Hunt: I don’t deny that there are lots of books out there that are spiritually and religiously relevant, but if they aren’t canonized, then they don’t have religious authority over believers. That is true by definition. The interesting thing, to me, is that Mormons explicitly recognize that texts get their authority over us by the fact that we, as a group, agree to accept them as authoritative–the principle of common consent. I think it is true that all canonical texts are true because believers agree to accept them as canonical, but I think few are as up front about that fact as Mormons are. So: Why is the Bible in its present form, including the Song of Solomon, canonical? Because we have agreed that it is, in spite of the fact that we know there are various problems with the text that we have.

    So, I am interested for scholarly and curiousity reasons in all sorts of texts that bear on the Bible and other scriptures–though I have to confess that one residue of the fact that I’m a convert is that I tend to be more interested in the Bible than in the other scriptures. It isn’t that I don’t like the Book of Mormon. I like it very much. But I still find the Bible more interesting personally. But back to the point: I’m interested in a lot of other texts, the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writings of the Church Fathers, the Quran, . . . . I read them and learn from them, and what I learn is sometimes relevant to my religious life. However, if I am teaching a Sunday School class, my job is to teach from the authoritative texts, those we have agreed to accept as canon. In general, I don’t think that doing so is helped by forays into textual criticism and similar scholarly matters. Sometimes such things are hanging about in the back of my mind or showing up in the ways that they’ve influenced my thinking. I recognize that and don’t have much trouble with it, but those things ought not themselves to be an important part of my lesson.

    I also fear bringing in the other things because my experience of those who bring the scholarly and the parallel into class regularly has not been good. With few exceptions, perhaps none, I have found them pretentious or at least anxious to show off their learning more than to learn, from the scriptures and with the class, how to live more Christ-like lives. I don’t claim that my experience is universally generalizable. There are those reading this who may be doing a great job of bringing in other things without implicitly putting down their audience, treating them as uneducated. Nevertheless, it hasn’t been my experience and I don’t know that I could do it without showing off. Sunday School is not for showing off. The model for Sunday School class is D&C 88:122 and 132-133, rather than the university.

    Finally, I don’t, as a rule, bring other things into class because only 40 minutes are available for it. That is hardly time to deal with such things adequately.

  3. Kimball L. Hunt on April 23, 2006 at 12:26 am

    I’d noticed your saying that the KJV’s canon is true per … re, qua & due? … our common consent. A pretty neat hat trick to deal with textual problems for us to be so up front about. Or in proper British English: so up front about are we. — And while the Qur`an (through its inspiration) leaves out any details of biblical stories of the prophets interpretable as their being unethical; from the get go of my reading it, the BoM just lacks the amount of the fancifulness and fantastic of the bible and throughout’s just so — straightforward. And I’m rather attracted to the complication of the biblical narratives and in fact, absent the truly fantastic, anyway I usually rather like dryness in things… I just love the D&C though. It has so much subterranean stuff going on with it, so much waves and forces of true life underneath its lacelike patterns of surface froth of God’s explicit reactive directives being given, from which line upon line, precept upon precept we the faithful are to accept as a guide in all things: just wonderful. But sorry this ramble is so long, Jim. And the Christlike ideal you extol is inspiring. – K.

  4. Jim F. on April 23, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Kimball: Just one quick note: I don’t take “true” and “canonical” to be synonyms.

  5. Sarah on April 23, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Brother F,
    Thanks so much for always posting these. I read them on Sun. mornings, and they make that second hour of church so much more enjoyable. I really appreciate your insights.

  6. Jim F. on April 23, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Sarah, thanks. I’m always glad that people find these helpful.

  7. annegb on April 23, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    Jim, sometimes I read the lesson and you don’t post. Why?

    I didn’t get to study this lesson, well, that’s not true, I could have, but I was teaching primary, so I didn’t study it. But when I get a chance, I’ll look this over. And let you know if I find any “crocks” in it :).

    Sigh….I’m trying to be quiet in class since I yelled at the teacher for criticizing Lot’s wife. Giving Bill and my friends some peace and quiet.

  8. Ben S. on April 23, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    “the problem with the scholarly view is that Deuteronomy is frequently quoted in the New Testament, particularly in Matthew and Hebrews”

    Is this problematic because NT quotations are viewed as supporting the traditional scenario over the scholarly one?

    If so, I disagree. (I just don’t think Jesus or the apostles had supernatural text-critical knowledge, nor that such quotations establish authorship.) If not, please expand and expound :)

    (I had a fuller discussion on this with a very Biblicist fellow Bibleworks user on their board.

  9. Bryce I on April 24, 2006 at 10:50 am
  10. Jim F on April 24, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Annegb: sometimes I read the lesson and you don’t post. Why?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the question you are asking. I’ve posted something on the each of the first 17 of this year’s lessons. Perhaps your class is ahead of me, but I think I’m far enough ahead to cover anyone who is sticking to the schedule, regardless of stake conferences, etc. Clarify your question for me and I’ll try to answer it.

    Ben S.: No, I don’t think that the writers of the NT had any better critical tools than we do. In fact, since textual criticism in our sense hadn’t been invented yet, I would be willing to say that they didn’t have any critical tools at all. Their use of Deuteronomy doesn’t tell us much about the provenance of Deuteronomy. My point was a very small one: the NT citations of Deuteronomy create a tension between scholarly investigation and homiletic exegesis. I think Sunday School is about the latter, so I think that the scholarly point is not particularly relevant to teaching Sunday School.

    By the way, I don’t have a particular opinion about Deuteronomy (or many of the other scholarly issues), mostly because I don’t have the scholarly training and background needed for me to make a decision. What scholarship I have read on the issue seems sound. I didn’t intend my remark to be a dismissal of the view that Deuteronomy is a late document.

  11. Jim F. on April 24, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Bryce I: Thanks again. These will be useful to many, but I think they will be especially useful to people who are having trouble reading the text and understanding it. Sometimes it makes more sense heard than read. I find that when I am having difficulty making sense of the KJV, reading it aloud or hearing it read aloud as I read along helps a great deal.

  12. Robert C. on April 24, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    Jim, I’d be curious to hear more about what you mean by common consent above. Interestingly, in Julie’s recent post on the KJV, I didn’t see anyone frame the issue in terms of common consent like you have.

    I’m guessing you’re essentially implying that since we raise our hand to the square in sustaining the church leaders, we should study and teach from the KJV inasmuch as church leaders have offered it as our canon (I think the KJV has been recently endorsed in General Conference, though I’d be curious to read the phraseology of official statements on this topic: Do we just accept the KJV as what we’ll use in studying together, or is it more than that? To what extent is the JST canonical? If, say, a passage is punctuated differently in other translations, to what extent are we bound in Sunday school to the KJV? Regarding punctuation, Kevin Barney raised an interesting issue regarding Isaiah 28:9-13 which is discussed here).

    Here is what the LDS Guide to the Scriptures has to say about common consent. I also think common consent is a key issue in understanding Church authority a la Nate’s post yesterday.

    (I really don’t mean this as a thread-jack. I think authority issues are best posted on Nate’s thread, and I think KJV-specific issues are more appropriate on Julie’s thread, so perhaps the only thing appropriate on this thread is any elaboration you care to make regarding your statement about common consent above….)

  13. Jim F. on April 24, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    Robert C: Give me a little bit. I’m in the midst of grading papers right now. When I need a break, I’ll try to put something together. It is an interesting question, and this is as good a thread to jack as any other.

  14. Jim F. on April 26, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    Robert C: I’m not sure how the King James Version of the Bible came to be our canon. Most of my past thinking about the canon has been in the context of thinking about the Doctrine and Covenants, and the issues aren’t quite the same.

    Was the canonization of the King James translation something that just happened over time, or did someone make a decision to use it and ask us to agree, either by consenting to the decision or by consenting to the person who made that decision? We accepted the most recent additions to the Doctrine and Covenants by explicit common consent, but I wonder whether we’ve ever been asked about the KJV. I wouldn’t be surprised if we haven’t, if it started out as the only available Bible and then, over time, became the only one we used.* However, even if the KJV is canonical by tradition rather than by a vote or a prophetic declaration, I take it that it is still canonical by common consent. We don’t have to explicitly agree to something in order to agree to it, and we’ve used it long enough to have implicitly agreed to do so.

    The early Christian Church didn’t have a canon and got along well without one for a long time. We have a canon because we need one, partly in order to explain ourselves to those outside the Church, partly to simplify teaching many people in a wide variety of cultures, partly for the same reasons that the early Church finally came to need one, namely to deal with questions of heresy. There are probably also other reasons for needing a canon.

    However, I don’t think we ought to put too much stock in what it means for something to be canonized, whether formally or informally. It means that we have agreed to accept certain writings as the minimum standard for our self-understanding. As D&C 91 makes clear, it doesn’t mean that we can’t accept the Apocrypha, and I assume that what section 91 says about the Apocrypha applies equally to other writings as they are discovered. Indeed, I assume that something like D&C 91 could be said of the Bible as a whole.

    On the other hand, that something is a standard means that it is a standard: we have agreed that our standard for the Bible is whatever the rough equivalent of the King James Bible’s original is, so that is the standard which we should use. I don’t think that means that the KJV is itself canonical. It is a translation of what is canonical. So, in practice, it seems to mean that something like the Masoretic text of the Old Testament is canonical, but it is less clear what text we are translating for the New Testament. Few have been insistent that the Greek manuscripts known to the KJV translators are the canon for the New Testament, but it would also seem odd to say that the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek text is canonical (and the existence of the Masoretic text merely masks a host of similar problems).

    I find it very interesting that it is not easy to identify just exactly what stands behind the Bible. There are similar issues for the Doctrine and Covenants, though not as difficult. I assume that if we had some knowledge of the original, texts of the Book of Mormon, prior to their redaction by Book of Mormon prophets, we might have similar questions, and the same goes for the Book of Abraham.

    So, ignoring the textual difficulties (as we do for the canon), I take the Hebrew and Greek texts to which the contemporary Bible refers to be canonized, in other words, to be part of the standard we use in matters of faith, and I take them to be canonical because we have agreed to take them as such. In Sunday School, Relief Society, and Priesthood, in preaching, and in our other practices of faith, I assume that the standard to which we should adhere are the scriptures we presently find in The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.

    Various elements of that canon can change. During the lifetime of many at T&S, some have. We could decide to open the Bible and to include some of the books that were previously uncanonized, though I think we are unlikely to do so, both because there are few books that one could easily argue should have been included but were not and because opening it up would make preaching to the world that much more difficult.

    *Irrelevant note: When I was baptized the missionaries specifically told us that we used the KJV because it was the translation most commonly accepted by other churches, which was probably true then though probably not true now. I heard that more than once, so I doubt that the missionaries were making it up. It seems to have been at least “common knowledge” even if not official doctrine.

  15. Keith on April 26, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    It’s probably set early on in the Restoration that the King James Version was a kind of standard. Much language in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the Restoration in general reflects the language there (which I think is pretty good reason that the KJV won’t be supplanted soon). Additionally, Joseph works his translation of the Bible off of the KJV. All of this is not exactly common consent in the sense of actually voting, though it comes with the weight of authority and tradition of text that are closely bound to it–as Jim says, a kind of common consent.

  16. Jim F. on April 26, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    Keith is right: history has wed us to the KJV.

  17. Robert C. on April 27, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Jim (#14): Thank you very much, that’s a very enlightening response. I esp. like your point about how the historic need for establishing a canon may have arose, for some reason I hadn’t thought about that, at least in the context of commen consent in the organizational structure of the church.

    I’m making very slow progress on this week’s lesson. The question on Deut 6:1 is largely to blame: The best connection I could find between the words judgment and ordinance is through the word dictum which is descended from the same Indo-European root as judgment (see details/links here) and seems fairly similar to ordinance. To keep forcing the outstretched arm imagery, I think a connection between the words could be conceived in terms of God’s outstretched arm establishing order (same root as ordinance) and meting out judgment.

  18. Robert C. on April 29, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Regarding the historical need for canon to be established, this essay makes some interesting points about the role that the book of Deuteronomy may’ve played in establishing the canon during the life of Christ. The essay focuses on the political implications of establishing a written canon, which probably isn’t very useful for Sunday school teachers here, though I did like this quote regarding Christ quoting Deuteronomy in his 3 temptations (see Jim’s Deut 6:13 notes above): “The narrative [in Matthew 4] suggests that the scroll [i.e. canon] is the best “weapon” against every assault on faith, even against the power of the devil who seeks to undermine the radical claims of faith embodied by Jesus.”

    I actually stumbled on this essay trying to answer the question I know my kids will ask me, “Why is it called the book of Deuteronomy?” (This was an easier question for me to answer for the first 4 books of the OT….) Although I’m sympathetic to Jim’s point above about this being a mistranslation (i.e. a word connoting “copy” would be better than “second”), I’ll probably take a slightly different approach. Since I’ve already talked about the symbolic baptism in crossing through the Red Sea and the associated Sinai/Horeb covenant, and since I’ve talked about how this murmuring/idol-making generation of Israelites were forbidden to enter the promised land, I will talk about Deuteronomy as being a new/second covenant-making associated with the new symbolic baptism (crossing the river Jordan) for the children of Israel who will enter the promised land. Too bad the chapters that focus on the covenant aspect (Deut 28-29—the WBC has a good discussion of 29:1 in particular) are not part of the SS reading; I esp. like how the warning/prophecies in Deut 28 seem to sort of balance out the violence we’ve seen so far—that is, the plagues and destruction inflicted by Moses and the children of Israel will be turned against Israel if they are not obedient, establishing that although God can be violent at times, he is not a respecter of persons…).

  19. Kimball L. Hunt on April 30, 2006 at 7:37 am

    Wow — thanks Robert! and way to go doctor Brueggemann!

    OF COURSE — well since what the scholars so well-frame always sounds so obvious — the “deuteronomic” enterprise was authored by members of some priestly caste learned in/ producing of scripture, having the objective to perpetuate the observance of rites to the Lord and to thus impose a highly evolved, scriptorial, religious worldview even upon the Israelite or Judaic king. And — continuing on in this tradition, Jeremiah’s SUBVERSIVELY (good word) cursing the Davidic line and facilitating proper cultic practice by Jeremiah’s helping to position Shaphan to be a regent under a coming Babylonian hegemony.(…)

  20. Robert C. on April 30, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    Kimball (#19): And I think it gives an interesting framework to think about the D&C passages regarding allegiance to God vs. allegiance to the laws of the land….

    For anyone interested, I put a scripture chain with a few more notes regarding the loving vs. fearing God theme in the book of Deuteronomy here at the Feast wiki.

  21. Robert C. on May 1, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Taking a procrastinating grading break, I added some more scripture chains and notes (mostly from the Anchor Bible) based on Deut 5, mostly regarding the phrase “I am a jealous God” in light of the 2nd of the 10 commandments (God’s love in light of the jealous husband metaphor), and taking the Lord’s name in vain (does “in vain” mean falsely or so frequently it becomes commonplace?). Again, not directly part of the reading, but provides interesting context I think, and many people I know are trying to read all of the OT instead of just the assigned readings….

  22. Jim F. on May 2, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    Robert C: Thanks very much for adding so much good material to these study materials.

  23. BrianJ on May 6, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Jim F: I just wanted to add a couple questions (keeping Deut 4:2 in mind….) I’d be happy to discuss them or follow your example and leave them unanswered.

    In Deut 4, Moses retells the history of the Israelites, and he talks as though his audience was present throughout that history; eg. “ye came near,” “the LORD spake unto you,” etc. As Jim has pointed out, however, only two people in Moses’ audience were actually present for those events. Why does he talk as though they were present?

    Deut 6:23 Moses uses a neat phrase, “brought us out…that he might bring us in.” How does that happen in our lives? As a Church/individuals?

    Deut 11:29 Is there any significance to Mount Ebal (the cursing mount) being taller than Mount Gerizim (the blessing mount)? (The difference is approx 200 ft.) Why are both mounts within what will become Israel instead of leaving the cursings outside? Why choose two mounts that are right next to each other rather than on opposite ends of Israel?

    Deut 30:15-20 These verses are a nice follow-up to the blessing/cursing verses in Ch 11.

  24. BrianJ on May 6, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    “The use of the word “fearâ€? to describe our attitude toward God is, I believe, unique to Hebrew.”

    Jim F, I am not sure I follow your thoughts here. The word “fear” is used throughout our scriptures and very often in this same context, ie. fear God. Just a few examples: Matt 10:28; many verses in Acts; Mosiah 15:26 and 29:30; 3 Nephi 24:16; D&C 3:7, 10:56, 45:39. (I don’t mean to ambush you here, but this came up in a Gospel Essentials class I was teaching.)

  25. BrianJ on May 6, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    One last comment, from a chapter that was skipped in this reading. According to some Jewish friends of mine, no other prophet can compare to Moses. His words, therefore, are above the words of all other prophets and cannot be changed. You might guess why this issue came up: my friends were asking how I, as someone who believes in the Old Testament, can change its laws and ordinances (we were talking about Sunday vs Saturday as the Sabbath). So in my friends’ minds, if God wants to change a Mosaic law, then he has to send someone greater than Moses.

    Numbers 12:6-8 and Deut 34:10 support their view:

    If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
    My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold.

    And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.

    Now read Deut 18:15, which depicts Christ as a prophet like Moses. I never understood the importance of this comparison until talking with my Jewish friends.

    As for how this applies specifically to Mormons, read 2 Ne. 3: 9. Moses, Jesus, and Joseph Smith were all lawgiving prophets.

  26. Jim F. on May 6, 2006 at 7:45 pm

    BrianJ: Interesting observation at #25, and good questions for 23, though I’m going to leave them stand for at least a little while. But I can give a quick answer to your question at 24: I don’t take the use of the word “fear” for “reverence” in the scriptures to be an example of standard English usage since those uses in the scriptures are translations of the Greek and Hebrew–and the Greek use of the word for “fear” in the New Testament is a result of translating the Old Testament into Greek.

    The question is, “Where did our use of the word ‘fear’ to mean ‘reverence’ come from since–outside of the scriptures or language depending on scripture–that isn’t its meaning in English, either presently or historically?” The answer is, “It came from Hebrew.”

  27. BrianJ on May 6, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    Jim F: Thanks; I think I see your point about “fear = reverence” better now. I was confused by your use of the word “unique,” where I think you mean “orginated in.” I know that historically, the same meaning for “fear” was used for royalty, but that usage could have easily come from the Bible just as you describe for the NT. It’s a very interesting question: do other languages that are not familiar with the Hebrew Bible also use “fear = reverence”?

  28. Kathy J on May 7, 2006 at 4:19 am

    “How can we be commanded to love someone, even God? Love is not something that I exercise will to do, so how can it be commanded?”

    This is a very interesting premise. Love is most definitely something that I exercise will to do. It is perhaps the most deliberately chosen thing in my life. Who and what I love is absolutely a matter of will and choice, from my spouse, to my children, to my parents and siblings, there is always a choosing to love. Perhaps some people and things are easier to enjoy than others, because they are in some way more attractive or pleasurable.

  29. Kathy J on May 7, 2006 at 4:52 am

    Sorry, I was interrupted mid-ranting by my semi-sleepwalking 8-yr-old daughter who is up at 1:30 am with an anxiety attack about snails and slugs. No kidding, she is really terrified of these totally benign creatures. I tried to explain about them having no teeth, claws, stingers, etc. but soon found that there is nothing rational about anxiety attacks or childhood fears. Irrational fears and, to a large extent, which foods make us gag, are largely beyond our choice (or so my son tells me about his inability to eat cheese). Love, on the other hand, is completely volitional. That is why the phrase “fall in love” has always bothered me. One does not “fall” into love. One might “fall” into attraction, or infatuation, but one must definitely “climb” into love. Love is a matter of effort, sacrifice, faith, and prayer.

    In this sense, it is perfectly reasonable to command the Children of Isreal to love the Lord their God with all their heart might mind and strength. These words definitely suggest volition, and exertion. It is just as reasonable to command husbands to “…love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.” It is just our society’s skewed understanding of what love is (thank you Hollywood) that clouds what, to the Israelites, was quite possibly a crystal clear issue.

  30. Robert C. on May 7, 2006 at 9:31 am

    Brian, thanks for great thoughts and questions.

    Kathy (28 & 29): I’d like to echo your question. In what sense is love really beyond our ability to will/chose?

    Here’s one interesting talk supporting Kathy’s point: Lynn G. Robbins, “Agency and Love in Marriage,â€? Ensign, Oct. 2000, 16. I particularly like this quote: “Because love is as much a verb as it is a noun, the phrase ‘I love you’ is much more a promise of behavior and commitment than it is an expression of feeling.”

    And yet, I think Jim’s question raises a good point. At least for me, things like having patience, forgiving or loving others, softening my heart, etc. are all things that often feel beyond my ability to will or choose. Ultimately, I think these actions are something that are made possible only through the atonement, and although I think we have to make a conscious choice and other efforts in order to bring about a change of heart, I also think we may be downplaying the importance of the atonement when we think or talk only about choosing these changes….

    “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

  31. Kathy J on May 8, 2006 at 4:40 am

    Thank you Robert for making those important points about emphasis. I would never suggest that we could love perfectly without help from the Spirit or the atonement, only that love is in fact a verb as well as a noun and begins, persists and grows with a choice. We must make that choice, work at it, and pray for our abilities to be strenghthened and perfected through the atonement, repentance, humility, inspiration, and sometimes downright endowment from on high. Notice I included faith and prayer in my list above along with effort and sacrifice. I was merely disagreeing with the premise that we do not exercise will to love (and mostly with society’s persistent abuse of the term love–I had a friend who’s husband “fell in love” with someone else, ripped his family apart and ripped his wife’s heart out all the while firmly believing (or rationalizing) that he had no choice in the matter. I also have known people who “fell out of love” or “grew apart” and insisted there was nothing they could do about it). I think love is a lot like faith. First we must desire it, then work toward it with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, but all the while, it is a gift from on high. You know, pray like it all depends on God, then get up and work like it all depends on you. But before the prayer or the work, there must be an exercise of agency.

  32. Kathy J on May 8, 2006 at 4:52 am

    Robert, thank you for the link (30). Bro Robbins says it much better than I could.

  33. Jim F. on May 8, 2006 at 10:42 am

    Kathy J and Robert C: Thanks for a good discussion of the question. I think I will try to post something separately on it since it is worth talking about.

  34. Mark on May 10, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    Dear Kathy J:
    Thank you for your powerful words!!! As a single person these words have so much relevance to me as I contemplate making a life-long commitment and wondering if I’m really “in love.”

  35. BrianJ on May 13, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    I wonder if anyone could help me with Deut 11. The chapter is set up kind of chiastic, but I’m such an amateur at these things that I’m afraid I may be messing it up. Here is the basic structure as I see it:

    A. Keep the Lord’s charge, statutes, judgments, and commandments always (verse 1).
    B. How the Lord cursed Israel’s enemies (verses 3-7).
    C. How the Lord blessed the land of Canaan for Israel (verses 8-12).
    D. The consequences of “If ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day� (verses 13-17).
    HINGE: “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes� (verses 18-21).
    D’. The consequences of “For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you� (verses 22-25).
    C’. The blessing…
    B’. …and then curses the Lord has set before Israel (verses 26-31).
    A’. “And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day� (verse 32).

    Is anyone able to help me with this? Maybe it’s not supposed to be a chiasmus, but the first and last verse are just sitting there like bookends.

  36. Robert C. on May 13, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    BrianJ, I’d like to look at this closer—hopefully I’ll have time in several days, but no promises (besides, I’m not qualified enough for you to put much stock in what I’d say anyway). But I did finally by the Word Biblical Commentary disks as Ben S. and Jim F. recommended a while ago (and am loving them!). Here’s how they outline it. Notice they break it up, 11:10-25 as a chiasm, but the earlier verses and later verses have their own structure. Although, there’s a complex overarching structure comprising several chapters which seems to split down chapter 11 down the middle. You can see the details for yourself.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts if you get a chance to compare their structuring to yours—whether you think theirs makes more sense and you see holes in yours, or you think their both valid, or you think yours is better. I’ve only done a litte independent analysis of chiasm, and it’s been quite humbling. But I’ve learned the most when I try to outline the structure by myself before looking at scholarly work.

  37. BrianJ on May 13, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Robert C–Thanks! I posted expecting that you would have something helpful. I’ll spend some time looking at those structures and then respond to your questions.

  38. Robert C. on May 13, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Also, if anyone’s interested, I’ve started posting SS notes for Lessons 18 and 19 here. I figured Jim either had stake/ward conference (ours is next week), or he got bogged down grading or something. Not having Jim’s lessons sure makes me appreciate them more (maybe he’s purposely not posting for this very reason!).

  39. Kimball L. Hunt on May 13, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    Also patiently awaiting Godot, I mean Jim.

  40. Patty on May 16, 2006 at 11:45 am

    I know that Jim sometimes uses questions from the GD teacher in Utah.. I have his handout, so I will add a few

    Why does God tell Joshua to meditate on the law both day and night? Why would reading the scriptures be of help to a prophet who has direct contact with God?
    Josh 1 vs 8)

    Why does Joshua tell the Isrealites to prepare for THREE days?

    Which of the tribes were given the land of inheirtance on the EAST side of the river Jordan? If they already had theor inheirtance WHY did they have to cross over to the other side of Jordan? Who remained? Who crossed over?

    anyway.. not sure how long I can make a post

  41. BrianJ on May 17, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    Robert C:

    Just an update on my homework assignment (post 36). I didn’t like two of the structures (Deut 7:12-11:25 and Deut 11:26-16:17). The first seems too broad to be useful to a listener. I am thinking of chiasmus as a teaching tool for drawing attention to a central, important point. Most Jews would not be able to study the Torah, only hear it in synagogue (they might be able to read it, but wouldn’t own a copy). A chiasmus that spans so many chapters would, I think, be lost to just about any listener. It’s possible that editors adapted the text to form this giant chiasmus, but wouldn’t it only be noticed by a few select priests? So I’m not disputing that structure, I’m just not favoring it.

    The second one (Deut 11:26-16:17) is also too long for teaching a general crowd, and it also doesn’t match up well: B, X, and B’ are all lists of laws, so it’s hard for me to see them as mirroring each other. That leaves A and A’, and A’ also seems like part of a list of duties along with B, X, and B’.

    That leaves the other four structures you posted. After a relatively quick study, I still like all of the remaining four. Deut 10:12-11:9 cuts a big chunk out of the structure I proposed, but I don’t think that verses have to be exclusive to one chiasmus. I will really have to spend more time with this one.

    (Now down to three…)
    I think the last three structures might fit into the the structure I proposed (chiasma within a chiasmus). I’ll have to work through that. In fact, Deut 11:10–25 is almost a beginning- and end-truncated version of the one I proposed.

    I’m not wed to the structure I proposed, so I may end up changing it quite a bit. Thanks again for your input.

  42. Jim F. on May 25, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Patty: I do sometimes use questions from “the GD teacher in Utah” named Arthur Bassett, though I am also a GD teacher in Utah, along with a few others. And feel free to make your post as long as you wish. More than a page or two, however, sometimes overwhelms the thread.

    Robert C: Though I think that almost everyone is now past this lesson, I am interested in the chiastic patterns you mention. Thanks for pointing them out and pointing us to the Word Biblical Commentary discussion. However, like BrianJ, I’m skeptical. I agree with him that it doesn’t make sense to have extremely long chiasmuses in texts intended to be heard rather than read. Overlapping chiasmuses are even less likely. Of course, it is possible that texts have complicated chiastic structures for the few readers, as a kind of “hidden wisdom” for the priests who can study them more closely, so I don’t think that argument is decisive. Nevertheless, I think it should make us slow to accept chiasmuses.


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