Deuteronomy 4 – Reading Note

  • The Israelite’s taking possession of the land God was giving them was dependent on their keeping God’s laws (4:1, 2).
  • Moses said that the laws he was giving to the Israelites were better than those of the surrounding nations and so would prove the Israelites wise if they kept them (4: 5 – 8).
  • To remember: Moses told the people that “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (4: 24).
  • Moses told the people that if they disobeyed God and began to make idols once they were living in Canaan, they would quickly perish and be destroyed. God would scatter them among the peoples (4: 25 – 27). This supports my earlier suggestion in my reading note on Deut 2 that driving people out of their land in this text is not necessarily incompatible with destroying them.
  • Also, recall that God previously promised to do to the Israelites what he was doing to the Canaanites if they did not obey his laws (Numbers 33: 55, 56). This means that if the Israelites punishment was to be driven out, that was the Canaanites’ too.
  • God is kind and merciful. He promised that if he exiled the Israelites and they eventually repented and returned to him, he would take them back. He would not destroy them (presumably, the word ‘destroy’ there means something different from the way it was used in verse 26) (4: 29 – 31)
  • If one generation of Israelites were to abandon God’s laws and God sends them into exile as a result, then their grandchildren in exile consent to serving God wholeheartedly again, calling it ‘returning’ sounds strange. The grandkids never left God. It seems the laws are talking about the Israelite community as a whole, and not individuals. If the Israelite community were to sin against God, and in exile, the community (even if it then comprised of only the grandkids) returned to God, he would take them back. But in what sense is a community still the same community if all the people in it have been replaced? And in what sense can a community sin? Is it not the individuals that sin?
  • Moses said that none of what God had done for them (the rescue from Egypt by plagues, speaking from a mountain, etc.) had been done before (4: 32 – 34).
  • The Lord is God, and there is no other (4:35, 39)
  • God spoke to the Israelites in person on Mount Sinai on order to discipline them (4: 36).

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I’m Tracy

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