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

This week- Section 26
Name- השׁמיני (Eighth)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 9.1-11.47
Torah Portion: Leviticus 9.1-11.47

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 12.2-7.

2You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to disposes worshiped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree. 3Tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site.

4Do not worship the LORD your God in like manner, 5but look only to the site that the LORD your God will choose amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there. There you are to go, 6and there you are to bring your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes and contributions, your votive and freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. 7Together with your households, you shall feast there before the LORD you God, happy in all the undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

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In the previous Essays, I established that I believe the Deuteronomy Redactor is presenting what Moses spoke to Israel, and that Moses is speaking from his own person, where Moses is being personally volitional in his choices of words and giving his individual exhortation, exposition, and oration to the Israelites, which means I do not believe that Moses is speaking on behalf of Jehovah, not even if Moses is directly quoting Jehovah.

I established that premise by looking at the constructs of the text. The constructs are the literary nature of the text, where Moses utilizes the first person pronouns (e.g. I, me) to refer to himself; where Moses utilizes second person pronouns (e.g. you, yours) to refer to Israel; where Moses utilizes third person references (e.g. the LORD, God, gods) to reference not only Jehovah, but also to reference other deities, peoples, and places.

Those types of things are found within Deuteronomy 12.2-7, and is why Moses is the speaker, who is speaking from himself, for himself, on behalf of himself, giving exhortation, exposition, and oration to Israel to remember the instructions the had received, which ultimately are sourced in Jehovah, even though the presentation is from Moses.

In a sense, the style of the information found in Deuteronomy 12.2-7 is akin to a teacher teaching and/or preacher preaching to the people where the teacher or preacher exhorts about, expounds upon, and/or orates the dictates of God.

Therefore, like any leader of God’s people, Moses took the opportunity to speak to the people, which means Moses would have been working from his past experiences and interactions with God, where Moses was recalling what Moses himself had been given, and where Moses was possibly even working from some type of cognitive outline in order to present the material to Israel, or Moses simply had each section of information come to his mind as he was presenting the information, which is quite common for those who exhort, expound, or orate upon God to a gathered people.

But back then, they didn’t have audio and video equipment. Therefore, someone must have been taking scrupulous notes in order for us to have a copy of what is essentially an ancient sermon.

It is also possible that the contents of Deuteronomy can also function essentially as a witness, testifying to the powerful nature of the intellectual and spiritual recollection of the ancient Israelites of the information and instruction which they had been given and then had passed down verbally, until the Deuteronomy Redactor heard, collected, and then presented those things in written format.

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Deuteronomy 12.2-3 JPS:
2You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to disposes worshiped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree. 3Tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site.

This is Moses instructing Israel what must be done when they enter the land of their inheritance.

It is important to note that the land that Israel inherited is not the entirety of the land promised to Abraham. The land promised to Abraham in essence encompasses from the Euphrates to the Nile, and from the Mediterranean to the Sand (cf. Genesis 15.18 JPS).

Within that land resides many nations not descended from Abraham.

An example is the Moabites, descended from Moab, a son of Lot (Genesis 19.37).

Also the Ammonites, descended from Ben-ammi, also a son of Lot (Genesis 19.38).

But by the time the Israelites had come up out of Egypt through the exodus, the land that had been promised to Abraham did have some descendants of Abraham residing in the land.

For instance, the Ishmaelites, descended from Ishmael, a son of Abraham (Genesis 16; 37.25).

Another example, the Edomites, descended from Esau, son of Isaac, a son of Abraham (Genesis 25.25, 25.30; 36.1ff).

Also the Midianites, descended from Midian, a son of Abraham (Genesis 25.2; 37.28).

All of that means that Israel was apportioned part of the land promised to Abraham, and Israel did take up residence within that apportioned land, which was one apportionment amongst several, like Edom (Deuteronomy 2.4-5).

So, even though the land promised to Abraham had been apportioned to some of his descendants (e.g. Edom, cf. Deut. 2.4-5), the Edomites did not receive the instructions that God had given to Israel through Moses, and therefore the Edomites were not governed by the Torah that God gave to Israel through Moses.

However, with Deuteronomy 12.2-3, Moses is making it clear that Israel has to conduct some difficult to read and difficult to understand things.

Moses stated “You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to disposes worshiped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree. Tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site.”

From that it sounds as if the Israelites are to have no appreciation and compassion for those who previously inhabited the land.

However, in Jehovah’s covenant with Israel, Jehovah instructed Israel to tear down any and all worship centers found within the land promised to Israel (Exodus 34.10, 34.13).

Therefore, what Moses was presenting to Israel was something that Jehovah had already given to Israel.

So the question is why would Moses make the statements found in 12.2-3?

The answer resides in 12.4-5a, where Moses makes a contrast.

12.2-3 not only was instructed from Jehovah but becomes a practical solution for issues that could pose dilemmas to Israel.

If Israel did not do 12.2-3 then the success of Israel establishing one place for worship would be reduced.

Why?

The previous inhabitants had established multiple sacrificial worship centers, but the context of this passage is that Israel is to worship Jehovah at one location.

Therefore, 12.2-3 not only is something directed from Jehovah (Exodus 34.13), but also serves as a practical matter to ensure that 12.4-5a came to pass.

While Israel is prohibited from creating idols and worshipping them (Exodus 20.4-5a; Deut. 5.8-9a) neither Exodus 34.13 nor Deuteronomy 12.2-3 convey an indictment from Jehovah against the worship practices of the former inhabitants.

Exodus 34.13 and Deuteronomy 12.2-7 simply convey to Israel what Israel is to do.

The difficult thing is that while such practices were not permitted in Israel, the prohibition within Israel’s national tribal inheritance is not an indictment against nor a requirement of the nations outside the boundaries of the tribal land assigned by Jehovah to the nation of Israel.

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