Sunday, February 22, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 11

To live always in response and choice
peaks and the chasms
Consequence arrayed before you.

[For full chapter, click here
From Sinai and the wilderness, Moses moves to the upcoming entrance to the Land, subtly redefining the interaction between them. The path through the wilderness is not simply a literal progression towards the Promised Land. Rather, the exodus and its aftermath are here see as a trial by fire (literally) in the price and rewards of closeness to God: “your eyes have seen all the great works”—be they the devastation of Pharaoh, or the  destruction of the rebellious Datan and Abiram. The uniqueness of the Promised Land is now seen to lie not in its fecundity as a land of “milk and honey” but rather in its borderline sterility. The Land of Israel is a land on the edge, continuously dependent on its relation to the heavens. It is “not like the land of Egypt…where you plant your seeds, and water by foot, like a garden of greens. The  Land that you are crossing over to inherit is a land of mountains and chasms, it drinks water to their fall from the heavens. It is a land that God studies; His eyes are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the aftermath of the year.” Entrance to the land is to give the wilderness experience of encampment permanence. Just as Israel was continuously “tested” in the wilderness by scarce food and water, dependent on God’s bread that would fall from the sky, so too in the land will Israel be continuously judged, dependent on  God’s rain fall from the sky. No placidity here, but the continued “mountains and chasms” of a roller coaster relationship. “And it will be if you harken to my commandments… I will give rain of your land in its season… Take heed of yourselves, lest your heart be seduced, and you worship other gods… And the anger of God will be kindled against you, and he will shut the heavens, and there will be no rain.”
The land and its rain will become a physical barometer of relationship. “Curse” and “Blessing” will be given concrete form and actually placed on the mountains of the land: “ And it shall come to pass, when God your Lord will bring you the Land that you go to possess, that you shall set the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal.” The land will unfurl before before Israel, consequence incarnate.]

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