I’d meant to do this last night, but my dad turned the internet off early without telling me. Turning everything back on would be too much of a hassle. I’m just reminding myself that, in about a month, I’ll have my own place and won’t have to put up with this. Thus I’m going to try to do another entry this evening if possible.
I thought of another possible meaning to the passage I discussed yesterday: maybe God is “one” in the sense of being single, unmarried. Because this chapter has the first message of Asherah, the Canaanite goddess who we know from archeology was made the wife of YHWH by some Israelites. Deuteronomy is, obviously, not keen on that, and blames the whole issue on the Israelites not thoroughly wiping out everyone in Canaan.
Because they didn’t. It’s not just archeology that proves this (there’s no sharp dividing line that shows one culture coming in and displacing another, like you find with the Yayoi/Jomon divide in Japan), it’s also the text itself. The notes in my NOAB helpfully point out that a number of the tribes that Moses tells them to eliminate show up much, much later in the narrative, showing that, no, they really did just move in next to them, make pacts with them (v 2), marry into their families (v 3), keep their religious sites in place (v 5), and kept their images for their gold and silver (v 25).
Regardless of whether Moses actually commanded these things, or whether Moses was one person or a movement, Deuteronomy is giving a postmortem on why Israel is in serious trouble. If only they’d wiped out all their connections to outsiders who worshiped other gods! If only they’d been faithful to their pledge to only worship YHWH!
I’ve noticed before that there are two struggling trends within the Pentateuch: the idea that there are good people in other nations who can be allied to and welcomed by the Israelites; and the idea that all the other nations are a dangerous influence, an impurity, a temptation, and must be eliminated. These chapter of Deuteronomy are deep into trend #2. I’m not a fan of xenophobia (hello living two years in Japan!) but I suppose if I was a nation in exile, surrounded by a nation that had literally uprooted me from my homeland and dragged me across hundreds of miles as a slave, I might be way more receptive to trend #2 as well.
I find it amusing how this passage twice talks about other nations being more numerous than Israel. It’s not clear whether v 1 and 17 mean the nations of Canaan collectively, or whether each nation is larger than Israel. Either way, given the absurdly huge number derived from the census in Numbers, you’re again facing the idea of millions of people – a huge chunk of the world population at that time – crammed into a tiny, tiny area.
Since I’m finally at home where I can find the book, I looked up the alternative translation of the census that I’d read about a long time ago. It’s presented in Donald E. Knuth’s 3:16: Bible Texts Illuminated, which examines the 3:16 passage of every book of the Bible that has one. Noting how “thousand,” “hundred,” and “fifty” are literally used as subdivisions of the military in other passages, the alternative translation comes up with a mere 5,550 warriors (vs over 600,000), with a total population of about 15 thousand – extremely reasonable for what we know about at the time. Knuth also notes, however, that Numbers seems to treat the terms as if they were numbers rather than regiment units, which probably indicates that, again, you have two layers: the original, written when the numbers were used as military terms, and the redacted version, where those terms had been forgotten.
Not much else to say here, but Deuteronomy so far is very interesting. I hadn’t read much of it, and reading it after reading the other books is giving me a lot to talk and think about in terms of comparisons.
The Japanese: i no mama ni “at will,” ashirau “to treat,” kyoutei “agreement, pact” (v 2), engumi “marriage, adoption, alliance” or more generally, “a family bond” (v 3), sumiyaka ni “speedily, soon” (v 4), hinjaku “poor, meager, lean” (v 7), inamu “to refuse, to deny” (v 10; I swear I will remember this word someday), urotaeru “to upset, to dismay, to panic” (v 21), jojo ni “gradually,” ikki ni “all at once,” gai suru “to hurt, to injure” (v 22), toujiru “to throw, to cast” (v 23), tettei suru “to thoroughly enforce, to to see to it that something is carried out,” shirizokeru “to turn away, to reject”(v 26).