PART THREE – NUMBERS AND DEUTERONOMY
We’ve covered quite a few well-known and entertaining stories in these first 3 books. But that’s only a small fraction of the OT! So just a heads up – from now on, familiar stories will be fewer and further between. There are still a few to come, like David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah, Joshua and the battle of Jericho. But from Numbers until the end of Malachi, most of the readings will be either boring, brutal, or bizarre (or some combination of these). Forewarned is forearmed. This is when most people who try to read the bible give up, so make sure you’re not one of them! Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Next up is the book of Numbers. It’s not a fun book. The Israelites are charged with the task of taking up the Promised Land and enumerated for the march. Most of the first few chapters are spent describing the various tribes and the rules for the journey. It will get pretty boring as all the tribes are counted. God does a lot of punishing and killing, smiting people with leprosy and fiery serpents, and creating plagues and fires. There are detailed instructions about how to deal with an unfaithful wife. This is also the book with the talking donkey and the man who was stoned for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.
After that we will tackle Deuteronomy. This book consists of three sermons or speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. It contains the famous Shema Yisrael, the definitive statement of Jewish identity: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Later quoted by Jesus in Mark 12 as part of the Great Commandment.)
In chapters 12–26 God lays out the Deuteronomic code – laws governing Israel’s worship, the appointment and regulation of community and religious leaders, social regulation, and confession of identity and loyalty. A few examples: Kill rebellious or disobedient sons and everyone with religious beliefs that are different than your own. Women who wear men’s clothing are an abomination unto the Lord. Don’t wear garments of wool and linen woven together. A rapist must buy his victim from her father for 50 shekels. And if you don’t obey all of these laws, God will smite you with hemorrhoids, madness, blindness… and worse.