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This Study Series is being released according to the Torah Reading Schedule.

This week- Section 45
Title- ואתחנן (I Pleaded) (And I besought)
Parashah/Parsha- D’varim 3.23-7.11
Torah Portion- Deuteronomy 3.23-7.11

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from the JPS edition of The Torah, The Five Books of Moses, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, according to the Masoretic Text, First Section. Copyright 1967 by the Jewish Publication Society of America, Second Edition.

This week I want to discuss Deuteronomy 10.16.

16Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more.

– – – – –

In the previous Essays, I established that Moses is presenting things from his position as elder statesman. That means that since he is in that position, he speaks from himself, personally, utilizing first-person, second-person, and third-person references, which can only be done when Moses is speaking from himself.

That is seen in Deuteronomy 10.16 when Moses utilizes the second-person pronoun (your) to refer to Israel.

Those types of elements continue to exist within this section (9.1 – 11.25), and cannot be dismissed when studying this presentation by Moses. These types of language markers reveal that Moses is speaking from his own person, speaking personally, addressing the nation of Israel.

In Essay 42, I began looking at the answer Moses gave to the question he asked Israel, which is discussed in Essay 41.

This Essay continues Moses’ answer to Israel.

In Deuteronomy 10.16, Moses offers a conclusion, and serves as a conclusion to his statement in the previous verse, where Moses expressed that Jehovah chose Israel because of His love for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Since Jehovah loved Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and therefore from that love God chose the Israelites from among all the descendants of Abraham and Isaac, Moses is claiming that Israel has a response that they should make.

What is that response?

In Deuteronomy 10.16 JPS, Moses said “Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more.”

With that conclusion, Moses is saying that Israel needs to open themselves to the reality that even though they have experienced hardships with Jehovah, thirst, hunger, pain, loss of life, their experience of those things does not negate Jehovah’s love for them.

Moses is telling them that the way in which Israel sees that God is loving to them is to choose two things: stop thickening their hearts and stop stiffening their necks at what Jehovah is doing.

To do that requires a fresh, renewed, new, or different perspective, which is part of what Moses does beginning with Deuteronomy 10.17.

But to change a hardened or hardening heart is tough.

It is quite easy, perhaps even natural, to respond negatively to circumstances, especially when the circumstances are so profound, allowing one’s heart to grow calloused and resolving oneself to dig in the heels and not give in.

Israel experienced hunger and thirst, saw people die, saw punishment of their own people, saw some people be chosen to “lofty” positions while others were not, and a whole generation was told about the promise but was not able to see the promise come to pass.

It would be very difficult to come to terms with that experience, that entire experience, from crying for deliverance from the oppression in Egypt to experiencing deliverance but then endurance in the journeys.

It could look and feel like Israel went from one oppressor to another.

So Moses wants Israel to see that experience in a positive light, being something healthy instead of painful and tragic. And that has to be difficult. Yet, that is what Moses wants Israel to do.

To begin to see Jehovah in a positive way, Moses said that Israel needs to “Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more.”

That means that Moses is telling Israel that they have to experience an internal, personhood change, a type of spiritual change about their hearts, some might call it a circumcision of the heart.

This is difficult, but a change of heart about Jehovah and a change from resisting Jehovah, seem not only external to the person, but other people themselves seem incapable of helping another person have a change of heart toward Jehovah and to change from resisting Jehovah’s lead.

But here in Deuteronomy, for Moses, that change of heart and that change of resistance to Jehovah, begins with accepting certain things as true, which Moses will discuss in the following verses.

Since I have been articulating that Moses is speaking from his own personhood, what is found in these verses does not automatically mean that’s how each person would describe a change of heart and a change of resistance to God.

Instead, Moses is simply describing where he believes the change of heart and change of resistance begins.

In other words, in the coming Essays I will discuss Deuteronomy 10.17ff, and that these verses represent Moses’ perspective of how he believes one begins to change their heart and change their resistance to Jehovah.