Thursday, December 17, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 29

The hidden and the revealed--
what came before
and what comes after
intertwined in covenant and oath

Walk between, and give your word
Will you grow and prosper?

[For full chapter, click here
This chapter follows seamlessly from the previous one, sharing many of its leitwords: the focus on seeing and eyes (r''e'a); on hearing (sh'm'a) and knowing (y'd'a); on giving (n't'n);  the idea of rising (k'a'm); and the shadowy presence of Egypt. Yet if in the previous chapter, Egypt is a source of threat , with the possibility that Israel might be force to "return on  the path" they had thought never to see again, in this chapter, Egypt is the source and bedrock of the relationship between God and Israel.  "You have seen what God did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh and onto all his servants and unto all his land." Rather than looming as a cursed future, Egypt is the proof of God's past faithfulness and care.
We continue the previous chapter's structure of binary oppositions. Here, covenant itself becomes dual. You shall "cross" between parts to create the covenant, which is always both a "covenant" and an "oath" (ala).  The covenant includes both "those who are here today" and "those who are not here today." Those who are "not here" include both the past--the promise to "your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"-- and also the future children who have yet to be born.
Thus, the binary structure is no longer one of opposition, but rather of inclusion. The parts are continuously related to a whole. Covenant is founded on a continuity between past and future, so that the past is always present, even within "the last generations, your children who will come after you."  The nation now becomes symbolized --for good and for bad--by "a root that bareth" (29:18): a single organic entity, whose roots reach downwards, and whose future can blossom in different directions.

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