Review: The Gospel According to Moses

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Although a name like Deuteronomy, which translates as “second law,” is scarcely inviting to modern readers, the book we know by this name may yet hold the key to rediscovering the gospel in the Old Testament (xii).

Deuteronomy has been likened to the Romans and Gospel of John of the Old Testament. It is a reflection on God’s actions in saving a people for himself while presenting a full theology of the Old Testament. Not many scholars know Deuteronomy better than Block (880 pages in the NIVAC series, and an upcoming 1,800 page, 3 volume work on Deuteronomy seen here and here). This companion volume to How I Love Your Torah, O Lord! is made up of nine essays and three excursus on theological issues in Deuteronomy.

Summary

Chapter One is a theological introduction to Deuteronomy where Block briefly covers the book’s history of interpretation, its message, its canonical status, and its theology.

Chapter Two works to “recover the vote of Moses.” While many critical scholars think of Deuteronomy as being written by an anonymous writer or that it was put together in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 22-23). While agreeing that there was an editing process, Block shows how Moses’ words were authentic and that they became canonical quite quickly. Some might wonder about the importance of this chapter. Given that many think the Ten Words in Deuteronomy are incorrect and that the author/editor/Moses wrote/spoke in error (this topic is dealt with in chapter five), one quickly sees the importance of a chapter on the authoritative voice of Moses in Deuteronomy.

  • Excursus A gives us the texts dealing with the different voices in Deuteronomy: those of Yahweh, Moses, and the narrator, along with the first (5-26; 28) and second (31.1-32.47) editions of the Torah of Moses.
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  • Excursus B gives evidence of the Ten Commandments (“Words”) having been already written down and to the canonization of Moses’ speeches in Deuteronomy.

Chapter Three explores the role and ministry of Moses. Rather than Moses simply being the lawgiver in the eyes of Israel (and present days readers), Moses should be likened to a pastor who, knowing he is about to die and leave his congregation behind, gives them his final goodbyes in a series of sermons to provoke them to continue on in following Yahweh, the one true God. 

Chapter Four shows the reader how to preach the OT law to NT believers. It’s not a matter of distinguishing between moral, ceremonial, and civil laws. The solution isn’t found by asking “Do I have to keep these laws?,” but “How can I as a Christian keep these commandments?” (132). Block shows how the laws were supposed to be understood in the life of the believing community, then and now. 

Chapter Five compares the two versions of the 10 Words found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, and reflects on the significance of the differences in matters of theology and life in Israel. How do these laws apply to a new generation, soon to enter the promised land, growing up 40 years after the Decalogue was first given?

  • Excursus C compares how the Reformed tradition numbers the Decalogue (“Ten Commandments”) with how the Catholic and Lutheran traditions number them.

Chapter Six gives us a theology of animals. We are to love God and our neighbor, but we shouldn’t forget the rest of God’s creation.

Chapter Seven covers other religions in OT theology. Rather than incorporating pagan ideas into their theology, the OT authors “thoroughly demythologized” the pagan notions and showed Yahweh to be the God of gods (213).

Chapter Eight is about bearing the name of Yahweh in a world that follows other gods. Israel had YHWH’s stamp on them, one intolerant to other brands and allegiances (267). To have the name of God on you meant to live according to the ways of God, not that of the Canaanites. “These things were written down for our instruction” (10.11).

Chapter Nine is on the Mosaic vision of worship to the living God. It is the human response to God’s redemption, calling, and revelation, and it is worship from the heart expressed in physical actions. This chapter is a work to reconnect the Old Testament, that Bible read by Jesus and the apostles, back to the New Testament in the eyes of church-goers today.

The Milk

As with all of Block’s writing, this is a solid work. I am always amazed (or bewildered) by the amount of information that Block is able to write about (and even remember). Though my views don’t line up with all of his (he’s a covenant theologian, something I’m not completely on board with), there is always much to learn from Block (see my Posts section below on the differences between the 10 commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy, along with the Law’s view of women).

My one complaint is aimed toward the title and description. It seems nitpicky, but the book wasn’t exactly what I expected. Though it is titled “The Gospel of Moses” with the articles being “concerned with broad hermeneutical and theological issues raised by Deuteronomy,” and it seems to appeal to a broad audience, these essays were not written for a broad audience.

In the Preface Block states that the essays

range in focus from an introductory consideration of the theological message of the book to its original audience and to modern readers, to the theological message of the book, to how it might have been produced, to a consideration of how the book might aid Christians in their life of faith and enrich their worship of our gracious Redeemer (xiii).

Particular texts in Deuteronomy could be found in the How I Love Your Torah, O Lord! volume. Yet even in this volume there is an immense amount of detail in these essays, along with the use of untransliterated Hebrew without always giving its English translation. The topics are important, but they are not easy to read.

The back cover of the book reads,

Unfortunately, for many Christians, Deuteronomy is a dead book, because we have lost sight of the gospel. The essays in this collection arise from a larger project driven by a passion to recover for Christians the life-giving message of the Old Testament in general and the gospel according to Moses in particular.

Unfortunately, as well-written, informative, and astute as this book is, many churchgoers will struggle to get through this book, much less find its relevance. 

Recommended?

As with How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!, By the River Chebar, and Beyond the River Chebar, this volume is packed with information, not only details but insights into the overall text of Deuteronomy. For academics, seminary students, and to the knowledgeable layperson, Block’s volume is a goldmine for textual details, but the average pastor may have a hard time mining out enough application for Deuteronomy. For that they should go to Block’s Deuteronomy commentary in the NIVAC series. But for those who want to dig deeper into Deuteronomy past Block’s commentary, this is where they should look.

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Buy on Amazon or at Wipf & Stock 

[Special thanks to Wipf & Stock for allowing me to review this book. I was not required to give a positive review in exchange for this book].

Is Deuteronomy Pro-Woman? Part 2

 

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Having now looked at the Sabbath command between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, I want to turn to women and Deuteronomy. This section in Daniel Block’s The Gospel According to Moses comes from the same chapter that dealt with the Sabbath commands.

Many find the OT laws troubling and oppressive since they come from a patriarchal culture. I have trouble figuring out the laws in their context too as I don’t know the cultural context of the time, or why a certain law was given. In Deuteronomy Moses is giving instructions to a new generation of Israelites. One of Moses’ aims was to prevent the abuse of power by Israel’s rulers: kings, judges, elders, and priests. But there is also a large concern for “those contexts that concern the relationship of a man with his family, particularly the women of the household” (159).

Block gives eleven examples of laws in Deuteronomy that give consideration to women. Many of these laws are strange to our ears, and so this section is an important one. I gave the first seven examples in Part One, and the next four in are found here in Part Two.

The Facts, Jack

  1. The Wife Falsely Accused of Lying About Her Virginity (22-13-21)
    • This section divides into two parts:
      1. A primary case involving a false accusation (vv 13-19)
      2. A counter-case where the charges prove to be true (20-21)
        d
    • The former situation “goes to great lengths to protect a women from false accusations by an abusive husband who first turns against her and then trumps up and publicizes charges of immorality against her” (162).
      • Her parents are invited to come to her defense
      • There is a public hearing before the elders. If this man is wrong, all will know and he won’t get away with it.
      • “It invites the presentation of objective evidence to counter the false accusation” (162).
      • It’s an opportunity for the tables to turn on the accuser.
      • It calls for a public discipline of the man.
      • “It secures honor of the woman’s parents by forcing the man to pay compensation for having charged them with providing him with ‘damaged goods'” (162).
      • He cannot divorce the woman and is forced to provide for her a life of economic well-being (lest he divorce her and the Israelites have to provide for her, as in Point 1).
        d
    • But wouldn’t divorce be better for the woman than having to live with such a man? This text assumes that the punishment will bring a rehabiliative effect on the husband.
    • Ideally…
      • The husband will assume his responsible role as husband and live out his days protecting providing for, and, hopefully, loving his wife.
      • The wife can rest assured that she will have care and security in this normal household.
      • The parents may keep the bride price and the fine, but “they can relax because their daughter is restored to a protective environment” (162).
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  2. The Victims of Rape (22.23-29)
    • There are, again, two scenarios
      1. The rape of a virgin engaged to be married (vv23-27)
        • This provision assumes that if the rape is done in town, the woman would cry out for help (also, don’t imagine NYC as being their types of towns. Israelites were communal people and lived pretty close to each other in non-concrete reinforced houses). If she cried, someone would rescue her.
        • If the rape occurs in the country, and there is no one to hear her cry, “it gives her the benefit of the doubt and assumes her innocence” (163). The offender would be executed.
        • In this time, a non-virgin who wasn’t married was considered to be sexually promiscuous and would most likely end up not married. When a virgin was raped, it would not only dishonor her and her family, but it could end up meaning that she would not get married. Thus, she would have no provider and protector once her father passes away. This isn’t to say she couldn’t do any work herself, but it would be much more difficult.
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      2. The rape of a virgin not engaged to be married (vv28-29)
        • Exodus 22.17 considers the man’s actions to be seductive, but the text here speaks of the man seizing her, lying with her, and being caught in the act. He has degraded her, and so he must pay the woman’s father 50 shekels. This payment is a bride price, and the woman then becomes his bride. This doesn’t not seem like a pleasant law for a woman who has just been violated. Yet there is more to it than this.
        • As in verse 22, the present text concerns the righteous response to forced sex involving a virgin. The regulation seems to assume thee father’s and daughter’s rights of first refusal provided for i nthe earlier text. The point here is that if the man pays the bride gift and if the father agrees to accept his as a son-in-law, the man must fulfill all the marital duties that come with the rights to sexual intercourse, and in doing so guarantee the security of the woman (164).

        • Being a communal people, the man and his “unfortunate” wife are not going to move far away and live just the two of them away from friends and family so that the new husband can remain as he is and live according to his own wishes. There are stipulations to being this woman’s husband, and her entire family, friends, and tribe will ensure that this man fulfills his duties as husband.
        • This law would also be a warning to those who are considering rape, and it would be a deterrent against it.
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  3. The Divorced Woman (24.1-4)
    • The Issue: A man divorces a woman. She remarries another man. That man divorces her (or) that man dies. Her former husband cannot remarry her, for he has already forced “her to declare herself unclean” (166).
    • Basically, when the first husband divorces his wife, he must produce a document as legal proof for the divorce of the marriage. Without that document the husband could demand his wife back at any time (since, in theory, without the ‘proof’ document she would still be his). If she had been married during the divorce, the husband could accuse her of adultery. Thus, Moses says that a document must be made so that the husband can not abuse the wife in this way
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  4.  The Levirate Marriage (25.5-10)
    • The main purpose of this marriage was “to secure the integrity of families and inherited estates, which were threatened when a married man died without having fathered an heir” (166). Thus, the widow would marry the man’s nearest unmarried male relative to make sure everything stayed within the family. But sometimes this near relative didn’t want to marry the widow. What should she do now?
      • The widow presents her complaint before the elders at the community gate.
      • The elders speak to the brother-in-law and allow him to speak for himself.
      • If he refuses to perform his duty the widow can perform a ritual and publicly humiliate him.
        • She removes the sandal from his foot and spit in his face.
        • She declares, “This is what shall be done to the man who will not build his brother’s house.”
      • The elders are to stand by the widow against the brother-in-law who doesn’t take his responsibilities seriously.

Conclusion

While there are many unjust situations and scenarios that we come across in the Bible and in our world today that we do not have an answer to, we do have a future to look forward to. There will come a day when Christ is united with his bride, the Church, and we live together in the new creation. All will be pleasing and perfect. But until then, we now look in a mirror dimly. We long for the day when the world will be set right, when we will see Jesus “face to face” (1 Cor 13.12). Until then we are to seek his example, both as a Husband (Eph 5.25-27), and as one who suffered unjustly (1 Peter 2.21-25).

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Posts about Slavery

Outline

My review here

Is Deuteronomy Pro-Woman? Part One

 

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Having now looked at the Sabbath command between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, I want to turn to women and Deuteronomy. This section in Daniel Block’s The Gospel According to Moses comes from the same chapter that dealt with the Sabbath commands. Many find the OT laws troubling and oppressive since they come from a patriarchal culture. I have trouble figuring out the laws in their context too as I don’t know the cultural context of the time, or why a certain law was given. In Deuteronomy Moses is giving instructions to a new generation of Israelites. They were the children of those who were rescued out of Egypt, and they will soon enter the Promised Land (which happens in Joshua).

One reason Moses gave this second address was because

“male head of households [unlike Christ in Eph 5.25-27] are prone to exercise their authority in the interests of their own honor and status. One of the primary functions of the Decalogue  is to restrain the potential abuse of power by the heads of households” (159).

One of Moses’ aims was to prevent the abuse of power by Israel’s rulers: kings, judges, elders, and priests. But on the “grassroots level” (as Americans would say), there is also a large concern for “those contexts that concern the relationship of a man with his family, particularly the women of the household” (159).

Block gives eleven examples of laws in Deuteronomy that give consideration to women. Many of these laws are strange to our ears, and so this section is an important one. I give the first seven examples in Part One here, and the next four in Part Two.

The Facts, Jack

  1. The Concern for Widows (10.17-18)
    • Deuteronomy shows a large concern for those marginalized in the community. They are those who are vulnerable because they do not have a father or a husband, ones who would provide food and security. Beginning in 10.18 and nine more times in Deuteronomy, Moses declares a responsibility for the Israelites, and the heads of household, to seek out the well-being of the orphan, widow, and foreigner.
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  2. Invitations to Participate in Worship (12.12)
    • Unlike the segregation that would happen in Herod’s temple in the New Testament, women were invited to worship YHWH at the sanctuary (12.12, 18; 16.11, 14; 31.12).
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  3. The Manumission of Female (Indentured) Slaves (15.12)
    • While Exodus 21.2-11 speaks only about male slaves, Deuteronomy 15.12 speaks about both males and females.
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  4. Military Exemption for New Husbands (20.7)
    • When it comes to war, there were a few reasons men wouldn’t have to join and fight: if they had a newly constructed house, a newly planted vineyard, if they were afraid, or if they had just married. This isn’t just in the interest of the man, but in the woman too. She would want to enjoy their new marriage too! Verse 7 says, “Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.” Part of the issue here would be protecting her from another man.
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  5. The Captive Bride (21.10-14)
    • This text, strange as it is to our minds, is at least trying to squelch the “potential for male abuse of women in such contexts” (161). It is an “appeal to Israelites to be charitable in their treatment of foreign women, who, through no fault of their own, are forced to become a part of the Israelite community” (161).
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  6. The Second-Ranked Wife (21.15-17)
    • “Bigamous and polygamous marriages provided fertile soil for the mistreatment of women” (161). The text here assumes that one of the wives will become the favored wife (just think of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah) which means her son will be favored too (just like Jacob, Joseph, and Benjamin, two sons who came from Rachel, the favored wife of Jacob). This provision secures the well-being of the son of the not-loved-as-much wife, which will provide a means for the son to live and help his mother when she is in her old age.
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  7. The Mother of a Rebellious Child (21.18-21)
    • While the text starts off with a man having “a stubborn and rebellious son,” the mother is included in the authority and discipline of the rebellious son.

Conclusion

While there are many unjust situations and scenarios that we come across in the Bible and in our world today that we do not have an answer to, we do have a future to look forward to. There will come a day when Christ is united with his bride, the Church, and we live together in the new creation. All will be pleasing and perfect. But until then, we now look in a mirror dimly. We long for the day when the world will be set right, when we will see Jesus “face to face” (1 Cor 13.12). Until then we are to seek his example, both as a Husband (Eph 5.25-27), and as one who suffered unjustly (1 Peter 2.21-25).

Lagniappe

Posts about Slavery

Outline

My review here

Don’t Covet Your Neighbor’s…?

phillipe-de-champaigne-moses-with-the-ten-commandments

Having last looked at the two versions of “keeping the Sabbath,” now I want to turn our attention to the tenth commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Covet Your Neighbor’s….” which will seque into my next post.

Two Purposes of the Ten Commandments

As I’ve mentioned before, Block says that the Decalogue has a two-fold purpose:

(1) to provide the Israelites with a clear understanding of YHWH’s view of the appropriate response to salvation; and (2) to instill in the redeemed a respect for God and other members of the community. And herein we discover the Mosaic understanding of ‘love’: total commitment to the well-being of others, whether God or one’s fellow being, demonstrated in acts that seek the well-being of the next person — rather than self-interest (146-147).

The Tenth Commandment

Exodus 20.17

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

Deuteronomy 5.21

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Where’s the Beef?

A few questions you might ask after reading these might be, “Why isn’t ‘wife’ first in the Exodus command?” or “So it’s okay that the man owns everyone, even his wife? Even his servants?” or “Is this difference really that important?”

Exodus

Block says that there are actually two commands in the Hebrew. Here in the Exodus version one is not to covet “the house of your neighbor” and one should also not covet “a catalogue of items claimed by own’s neighbor: his wife, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, and his donkey, and ending with a catch-all expression, ‘anything that belongs to your neighbor’” (154).

As a result, these commands “distinguish coveting the neighbor’s real property (the house) from coveting the human beings who make up the economic unity, the household” (155).

Deuteronomy

In Deuteronomy, Israel (though really this is pointed to the men who are the head of their houses) is commanded not to covet, first and foremost, their neighbor’s wife. Now, the command not to covet “‘[y]our neighbor’s house’ is dropped down to the second command” (155). Now house is paired with field, male with female servant, and ox with horse.

But why would Moses switch these two words? Moses, being the pastor he is, wants to “ensure the elevated status of the wife in a family unit and to foreclose any temptation to use the Exodus version of the command to justify men’s treatment of their wives as if they were mere property, along with the rest of the household possessions” (156).

Egypt, the House of Slavery

Ending the Ten Commandments with this command might actually create a frame that reminds the Israelites of the freedom they have in worshiping YHWH. Switching the places of “wife” and “house” does not mean that they represent “the interchangeability of women with other items of property” (156). Block notes,

The opening preamble [Deut. 5.6] portrays the land of Egypt as [a] “house of slavery”… from which YHWH had rescued Israel. The last command refers to the home by the same term; this is the male head of the household’s domain, in which his style of leadership may be just as oppressive as the bondage under Pharaoh. Indeed, the Old Testament narratives are rife with accounts of abusive men who treat women as property that may be disposed of at will for the sake of male honor and male ego (156).

Cultural Glasses?

But could it be that Block is reading this commandment through 21st century gender-equality glasses? Would the Israelites really see Moses raising the status of all wives simply because “wife” is placed as the first object which is not to be coveted in the command? Though it is possible Block is wearing “women-first” glasses, I’m not so sure. Block reinforces his interpretation by saying, 

[Moses] reinforces this distinction [between wife and property] by reserving the verb [covet] for the illicit lust of a man toward another man’s wife and substituting it with [desire] when speaking of the desire a man might have for another man’s household property…. In Sivan’s words, the Deuteronomic version ‘elevates women as the most desirable objects of coveting. It also implies that covert coveting of other women’s wives is more pervasive and more complex than the rest of the listed inventory’ (157).

We just have to think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5.27-28,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Lagniappe

Posts about Slavery

Outline

Concluding Thoughts on the Fifth Commandment

Last time I summarized the meaning in of the fifth commandment in each of its contexts (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). Now I’ll answer the question, “On which reason was Israel supposed to keep the Sabbath? Because God rested on the seventh day? Or because God brought Israel out of Egypt?”

The Answer

In his essay “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” in The Gospel According to Moses, Daniel Block gives a few pointers on how we should view Moses’ transformation of the fifth commandment in Deuteronomy 5.

  • Moses acknowledges that beyond patterning human creative work after that of God the Creator of heaven and earth, the Sabbath is a gift, offering all who toil an opportunity to refresh themselves…
    .
  • Instead of calling on Israelites to remember the Sabbath, Moses calls on them to treasure the Sabbath by recalling their time in Egypt, when they labored for brutal taskmasters, without Sabbath or relief.
    • In addition to observing the seventh-day Sabbath by celebrating God’s work in the creation of the cosmos, the Israelites were to use it to celebrate YHWH’s special creative work in rescuing them from bondage with his strong hand and outstretched arm.

Creation Accounts

In Deuteronomy, Moses is a pastor. He has been for the entire journey. Since he knows he will soon die and his time with Israel will soon be over, he gives them a last call to follow YHWH. Both Sabbath commands are rooted in creation. In Exodus 20 we have the creation of the world, and in Deuteronomy 5 we have the creation of Israel.

In Genesis 1-2 God created a people who were supposed to live eternally in his presence. They were to be fruitful and multiply, expanding the garden to the ends of the earth so that the earth would “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2.14). Adam was to work and keep the garden (Gen 2.15; Num 13.21).

But Adam and Eve failed. Then God graciously rescued the Hebrews out of Egypt, and He created a new people. He made them to be a kingdom of priests (Exod 19.4-6). Later the priests in Numbers were to guard their priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and… serve (Num 8.7). The priesthood was given as a gift from God. In Deuteronomy the nation of Israel itself was to “walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice,” and they would serve him and hold fast to him” (Deut 13.4).

Just as in the creation story with Adam and Eve, now Israel has been created as a new people for God, and they are given the same kind of tasks as Adam and Eve. As God’s people they are to serve God, obey his word, and be a light among the nations.

But… the Animals

Moses adds a few comments on animals and servants in the Deuteronomy command (5.14). Block says,

“It is not difficult to imagine that in ancient Israel the male householder might have been tempted to have his animals and hired hands continue working on the Sabbath even as he and his immediate family personally and smugly observed this ordinance. But this philanthropic sensitivity is not to be restricted to one’s family or even fellow Israelites. All who live within the towns and villages of Israel — animal and human — are to be granted one day in seven as a day for rest and recuperation” (153).

“On which reason was Israel supposed to keep the Sabbath? Because God rested on the seventh day? Or because God brought Israel out of Egypt?”

Both. In both instances we have a creation account. In both instances we have the creation of a new people who are to serve God and expand his kingdom to the rest of the world. In both instances there is an invitation to ascend the mountain of the Lord (Ps 15.1; 24.3; Exod 19.20).

Outline

Keeping the Sabbath: Because of Creation or Salvation?

In my last post in this series I showed the problem many have when it comes to the Ten Commandments: which ones did Israel follow? Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 give us the Ten Commandments. While most commandments remain the same, commandments 5 and 10 have some differences (with the basis for keeping the Sabbath being very different). In The Gospel According to Moses, Daniel Block gives his own answer to this “problem.” Though it is quite the academic book, with each chapter being a different article written by Block, there is still plenty from it that can be understood, and I hope to show you some of that in the coming posts. 

Here I’ll repeat both fifth commandments, summarize the meaning in its context, and say how I don’t see a problem here.

Two Purposes of the Ten Commandments

Block says that the Decalogue has a two-fold purpose:

(1) to provide the Israelites with a clear understanding of YHWH’s view of the appropriate response to salvation; and

(2) to instill in the redeemed a respect for God and other members of the community.

And herein we discover the Mosaic understanding of ‘love’: total commitment to the well-being of others, whether God or one’s fellow being, demonstrated in acts that seek the well-being of the next person — rather than self-interest (146-147).

The Fifth Commandment

Exodus 20.8-11

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Block notes that the “Exodus version of the Decalogue treats the Sabbath ordinance as a divine right to the Israelites’ time/life” (146, fn. 27). Here the God gives Israel the gift of rest. Just as YHWH created the heavens and earth in six days and rested on the seventh, so Israel shall work six days and rest on the seventh. And the heads of household are supposed to present this gift to all those who live in their household too.

Deuteronomy 5.12-15

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Block says the “members of the household have the right to humane treatment from the head [of household]” (146). As in Exodus 20, Israel was to work six days and rest on the seventh. Here, we need to remember that Moses is speaking to a new generation of Israelites. Most of those who came out of the Exodus, even though they saw the “mighty hand of YHWH,” rebelled against him by denying his promise to be with them as they entered into the Promised Land (Num 13.20-23). This new generation was to never forget how they as a people were rescued from back-breaking slavery in Egypt and brought into the land God had promised Abraham. They were once slaves, but now they were a kingdom of priests (Exod 19.4-6).

Conclusion

But how do these two ideas mesh together? As a commenter on the Holeybooks blog pointed out, the two accounts don’t mesh together.

Here, we have the reason why the Lord God ‘commanded’ them to observe the sabbath.

Exo 20:11 – because God rested on the seventh day, He blessed it.

Deu 12:15 – because God brought them out of Egypt, He commanded them to observe the Sabbath.

So on which reason was Israel supposed to keep the Sabbath? Because God rested on the seventh day? Or because God brought Israel out of Egypt?

I’ve laid out just enough facts to make you go, “Hmmmmm….” My concluding thoughts will be found in my next post.

Outline

The Twenty Commandments?

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If you grew up in church like I did, you probably memorized (or at least you were supposed to memorize) the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. I don’t remember much of what I was taught from those years (considering this was twenty years ago) beyond flannel graphs, sticky stars, and songs by a large donut and a (p)salty book. What I do remember was that in all of the pictures I saw, the Ten Commandments were pretty short.

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Regardless of what I did (or didn’t) remember, three things are wrong with this picture.

  1. The full list of Ten Commandments were actually written on both slates of stone.

    • Each stone represented each parties regulations, one for Israel, one for Yahweh. As long as Israel trusted in Yahweh (by faith) obeyed the commandments (out of love), Yahweh would fulfill his duties as their God, their Provider and Protector.

      • This is actually why Moses smashes the tablets in Exodus 32.19. That Israel had turned against Yahweh meant the brand spankin’ new covenant was broken. That they so quickly rebelled is what angered Moses.
      • By breaking the two tablets of stone, Moses presented Israel with a physical parable: their sin smashed the covenant.
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  2. About half of the commandments are much longer than in this picture, specifically #2, 4, 5, and 10.
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  3. The Ten Commandments are actually spelled out twice in the Bible: once in Exodus 20 and the other in Deuteronomy 5. However, as you’ll see in the picture below there are some significant differences between the two sets of commandments, specifically in commandments 5, 6, and 10, but mainly numbers 5 and 10.
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    (Click the picture to enlarge it)

10 Commandments

Is This a Problem?

As many will say, this is a problem. As the blogger Holeybooks says after commenting on the two accounts of the Ten Commandments, “Needless to say, it is quite odd that the Bible itself, if it is putatively a consistent work, would have two different versions.”

Christians are usually given only three options:

  1. “[T]he Pentateuch has involved two or more sources being combined into a single narrative” and apparently nobody bothered to smooth out the variations (Holeybooks). The same argument is put forth regarding the creation account in Genesis 1-2 and the flood story in Genesis 7 (again, I don’t agree with the conclusions found on that blog).
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  2. The biblical editors got something wrong (really, this could be combined with both Opt. 1 and/or 2).
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  3. Moses botched up God’s words. And God’s probably wrong too. And, while we’re at it, the Bible can’t be trusted either.

Other “problems” can be read about here, here, and here.

Conclusion

I propose a fourth option: I don’t think there is a problem between the two commandments. Again, a commenter on Holeybooks laid out the problem between the Sabbath commandments:

Here, we have the reason why the Lord God ‘commanded’ them to observe the sabbath.

Exo 20:11 – because God rested on the seventh day, He blessed it.

Deu 12:15 – because God brought them out of Egypt, He commanded them to observe the Sabbath” (quoted verbatim). 

So according to which reason was Israel supposed to keep the Sabbath? Because God rested on the seventh day? Or because God brought Israel out of Egypt?

In his book The Gospel According to Moses, Daniel Block takes issue with this theory. People can take the Bible and twist it into whatever they want it to say. Without the proper information, this puts many Christians in a tight spot. We believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, but yet we don’t know why these two accounts differ. Maybe one of these accounts really is wrong?

As I stated before, I think the problems here can be countered with a proper understanding both of who Moses was and of the situation he and Israel were in. I’ll give my thoughts on Commandments #5 (Keeping the Sabbath) and #10 (Don’t Covet) in a series of posts. And, since many of the biblical laws are so far removed from our culture today (which was influenced by Christian values), the final post will look at a few laws in Deuteronomy and how they were given to benefit and raise the status of women in Israel.

Outline