W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 08-11-2021
As the people of God are preparing to cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land Moses renews the covenant with God and there is a recitation of the law to remind the people of what they are committing to live by. What is unusual is that there are differences between the law as recorded in the other books of the Torah and the law as reiterated by Moses in Deuteronomy. Why? I’m not sure.
Did Moses decide that the people didn’t need to hear the whole law recited? That they only needed to hear select verses of the law? That answer is unsatisfying to me. The reason for the recitation is to remind them of what they were agreeing to.
Had the law changed in the 40 years in the wilderness? Perhaps. Were some provisions of the law from Leviticus intended only for the “Levities” the priestly clan of the 12 tribes; Leviticus 21 is clearly written to the priests. Some have suggested that Deuteronomy is Moses’ summary of the law, not God’s actual words, but it’s not just phrased differently, some things are skipped or seemingly omitted. Might the law in the other books have continued to expand even after Deuteronomy, even after the people entered the promised land? Maybe, but we don’t usually think of the law as a work in progress, though that may be our misconception.
The stories and events of the Torah were told in oral tradition in story form, before they were written down. Many Bible scholars believe that the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) was compiled from several sources and authors. The most widely subscribed to theory is that there are four distinct writing styles: 1) An author who always refers to God as “YHWH” (Jehovah/LORD), 2) and author who always refers to God as “Elohim” (God), 3) the author of Deuteronomy, and 4) an author who was concerned with priestly matters as the primary author of Leviticus. That theory is called the JEDP Theory; it asserts that someone, at a later time, combined and compiled these four different sources into the complete Torah that we have today.
For some this is a new and strange way to understand the scriptures; for others it may help them understand the Bible in a new way. Either way, God’s word is given as a light for our path, and God’s promises are shown to be trustworthy and true.
Pastor Rob Nystrom