Gospel Doctrine Podcast, Lessons 16-17

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Podcast notes and references

Lesson 16- Numbers 22–24; 31:1–16, on Balaam and Balak (names are unrelated)

2 Kings 5:17 (Naaman requests Israelite dirt so he can sacrifice to Yahweh outside Israel.)  “please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the LORD.”

Psalm 137- “By the rivers of Babylon– there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion….
3 For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?

Balaam is only OT prophet named outside the Bible, in the Deir ‘Alla texts which begin like this-

“The misfortunes of the Book of Balaam, son of Beor. 2A divine seer was he. 3The gods came to him at night, And he beheld a vision in accordance with El’s utterance. 4They said to Balaam, son of Beor: “So will it be done, with naught surviving, No one has seen [the likes of] what you have heard!””  Wikipedia. Text from Deir ‘Alla.

Lesson 17- Deuteronomy 6; 8; 11; 32

Gr. Deuteros nomos or Deuteronomy means “second law,” a misunderstanding of “copy of the law” in Deu 17:18. “When he [the king] has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests.”

1) The book of Deuteronomy  is structured like a covenant or treaty

2) it strongly resembles non-Biblical treaties. Is it  more like early Hittite treaties (1450-1200) or more like Assyrian treaties, in particular the Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon (abbreviated VTE) c. 8th century? (VTE excerpt here.)

Heb. bərīt (buh-REET)= covenant/treaty/contract, a binding agreement.

Parts of a covenant

1) Preamble- who are the people/groups involved?

2) Historical Prologue- What is their relationship?

3) Stipulations/commandments/terms

4) Deposition of the bərīt document (if there is one)- made available to the parties concerned.

5)Witnesses

6) Blessings and cursings- the cursings are often longer than the blessings, and this is the case in both Deuteronomy (blessings in Deu 28:2-14 vs cursings in Deu 28:15-68 ) and in the VTE (cursings are several hundred lines)

(For more on this pattern, see the references here and short essay here.)

Curses- Sometimes involve a simile curse in which a ritual object or gesture symbolizes the curse to come upon whomever violates the covenant.

Sefire- “Just as this wax is burned by fire, so may Mati[ʿel be burned by fi]re! Just as (this) bow and these arrows are broken, so may Inurta and Hadad break [the bow of Matiʿel], and the bow of his nobles!… [Just as] this calf is cut in two, so may Matiʿel be cut in two, and may his nobles be cut in two!

From a different treaty, but man with the same name. “This head it is not the head of a spring lamb; it is the head of Mati-ilu, it is the head of his sons, his magnates, and the people of [his la]nd. If Mati-ilu [should sin] against this treaty, so may, just as the head of this spring lamb is c[ut] off, and its knuckle put in its mouth, [...] the head of Mati-ilu be cut off…. This shoulder is not the shoulder of a spring lamb, it is the shoulder of Mati-ilu, it is the shoulder of his so[ns, his magnates, and the people of his land. If Mati<-ilu] should sin against this treaty, so may, as the shou[lder of this spring lamb] is torn out…

From a land-grant treaty, not at Sefire- “Abba’el  swore the oath to Yarimlim, and cut the neck of a lamb, <saying:> “If I take back what I have given you <may I be cursed.>”

Exodus 24- “Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an baltar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they… sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has 1made with you 2in accordance with all these words.”

(Anchor Bible Dictionary 1:1185 “Covenant.”-  This sprinkling of blood was a “symbolic action in which the people were identified with the sacrificed animal, so that the fate of the latter is presented as the fate to be expected by the people if they violated their sacred promise (i.e., it is a form of self-curse). Thus the ratification ceremony was, in effect, the pledging of their lives as a guarantee of obedience to the divine will.” )

Alma 48:21-22 And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments. 22 Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

(See here for more on simile curses in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and elsewhere.)

Moses puts the curses on Mt Ebal and blessings on Mt Gerizim, Deu 11:29, 27:13, etc.

On the Preamble and Stipulations- Deu 6:4-5 “Hear O Israel, The LORD is our God, the LORD is one. And thou shalt love the LORD they God with all thy heart, soul, and might” Heb. shema’ yisra’el, adonai elohenu, adoni echad. Called “The Shema.”

Quoted in Matt 22:37-39. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Quotes Deu 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, but LDS KJV has no Old Testament footnotes there.

On Stipulating Love for one’s Lord in Deu 6:5 and VTE

In both Deuteronomy and VTE “the word love means loyalty, and subjects are commanded to love their lord with all their heart and soul.”

Deu 6:4 revamped as “Hear o Israel, the Lord is our God and the Lord alone.”

Deu 6:4 “is not a theoretical assertion of monotheism. It is an assertion of allegiance. Other gods may exist, but the loyalty of the Israelite is pledged to YHWH alone.” The Lord alone they will obey.” John J. Collins (Yale), Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.

Who knew about Deuteronomy and When?

There are laws in Deu that contradict those elsewhere in the Law of Moses.

2 Kings 22-  The workers of King Josiah (640-609 BCE)  find the “book of the law” in the temple

Exodus 12:9 “Do not eat any of it… boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire” vs Deu 16:7 “You shall boil and eat [it]…” (trans. of Marc Tvi Brettler, Brandies, How to Read the Bible)

2Ch 35:13 has it both ways- “They boiled the passover sacrifice in fire, as prescribed…”

Some laws as set forth in Deuteronomy seem to be an adaptation to a more urban form of society than those in Exodus and Leviticus and they also appear to have been entirely unknown in earlier periods.

Deu 12 centralizes all sacrifice. Samuel knows nothing about this (see 1Sa 9:14, for example.) Can slaughter animals for meat away from the sanctuary. (Deu 12:15, 20-24)

Israelites had it late. Likely didn’t know about it earlier.

Deuteronomy as updated version of CHI? Maybe.


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  • mephibosheth

    These podcasts and posts are AWESOME. Thanks for putting in the time to do them. There appears to be an issue with the audio on this one. It goes silent after about 16:30.

  • Ben Spackman

    ok, all fixed now. Thanks!

  • James

    I love these podcasts….but AAAHHHH!!!!…..you are about 2 weeks behind my class!