Monday, March 29, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 24-26

Chapter 24

A prayer for the festival of first fruits. It basically recounts Abraham's story, then the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt and their journey to the promised land.

Every third year, you have to tithe your crop to the Levites, the poor and widows. Oh, and no offering food to the dead.

Chapter 25

When the Israelites cross the Jordan river, they are to set up stone pilars, then cover them in plaster. When the plaster dries, they are to write the laws on them. Next, they have to build an altar out of unhewn stone, also with the laws written on it. This altar is for sacrifices.

Then Moses tells the tribes to split up and go to two different mountains. The tribes of Levi, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin are to go to Mount Gerizim to shout blessings, the people of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali are to go to Mount Ebal to shout curses. Because punishments are more fun to hear about than rewards, we don't get to hear the blessings. And oddly, even though they are on the blessing side, the Levites are going to cry out the curses. The people are to respond to each one with 'Amen!' so you can assume that's what they're doing. I do believe this is the first time the book says amen.

Anyway, here are the things that bring down curses: making graven images and hiding them, dishonouring your parents, moving your fences onto your neighbours' property, leading the blind astray, injustice to strangers, widows and orphans, having sex with your stepmothers, bestiality, sex with your sisters and half-sisters, sex with your mother-in-law, killing your neighbour in secret, contract killing, not following the laws.

Chapter 28

Oops! The blessings are laid out, crammed into 14 verses, followed by 54 verses of curses. Hey, that rhymes!

Okay, here are the carrots: favoured by god, prosperous cities and farms, children, increased herds and flocks, your stores won't rot, you'll be blessed when you go out and when you come back, god will protect you from your enemies and scatter them about, other people will fear you, riches, good rain, no need to borrow from other nations and you'll always be on top.

Then the sticks: well, the opposite of the above (what was that about not punishing kids for the sins of their parents? what?), plus pestilence, consumption, fever, inflammation, scorching heat and droughts, mildew, bronze skies, iron earth, dustbowls, your corpse will be carrion, boils, hemorrhoids, sores, incurable itch, madness, blindness, panic attacks, daytime blindness, oppression, ruination, cuckoldery of your wife, house, field and livestock, enslavement of your children, crop destruction, boils on the knees and legs, and all the way from feet to head (yes, it gets repetitive, as anyone ranting does), exile, worship of other gods, becoming a joke amongst other people (and considering they aren't mentioned in Herodotus...), locusts, worms, fruitless olive trees, foreigners will take over and control the wealth, cursed and enslaved children, enslavement, attack by barbarians, who will eat all the livestock and besiege the cities, cannibalism, women will turn on their families and eat their babies, plagues and diseases onto their descendants, scattering to the ends of the earth, hostility from neighbours, generalised anxiety disorder, a wish for night in the morning, and morning at night, return to Egypt, where they'll be enslaved, but no one will buy them.

Whew! Well, if that doesn't convince you, nothing will.

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