Since I’ve decided to make a thing of this, before I get to the meatier theological stuff, Moses is forgetting things again. Namely, he’s forgetting Korah, the leader of the rebellion in Numbers 16. That’s a pretty big omission; the whole uprising is attributed to Dathan and Abiram, who are only Korah’s accomplices in Numbers. One supposes that Moses, in his old age, just forgot the names, but I know I’d remember the name of the guy who tried to overthrow me, and who got swallowed up by the earth.
So maybe my in-universe explanation of the inconsistencies doesn’t really work here, and yeah, the only way to resolve the contradiction is that either (1) there were two versions of the events, one where Dathan and Abiram were in charge, and the other where Korah was in charge, with Numbers trying to merge them and Deuteronomy only have the first, or (2) Korah was added into Numbers or taken out of Deuteronomy. The NOAB thinks that Korah was added later, though it doesn’t say why. Flipping back to chapter 16, the notes say it reflects a controversy over who should be priests from later on, so I guess I’ll keep an eye out for mentions of Korah to see if that theory makes sense.
This chapter is setting up a choice for the Israelites: follow God and what he has and is about to command, and they will prosper; disobey God, follow other deities, and pay the consequences. These are entirely tied up with fertility. The land they’re about to receive will only be any good for farming and living if they keep their covenant with God. Because Israel relies on rains rather than river irrigation like in Egypt (v 10-11) the people have much less control over drought (hence why everyone goes to Egypt in hard times).
I suppose, psychologically, you could argue that this kind of dependency isn’t necessarily a good thing. Isn’t it better to have control over whether your crops grow, rather than being at the whim of nature? Is the idea that they can control the rains by pleasing God a kind of projection, trying to regain control over the uncontrollable?
What this made me think of was Jesus saying in the Sermon on the Mount that God “sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). He’s not quoting anyone, and when you compare that to Deuteronomy’s statement that God most definitely sends the rain only to the righteous, that’s suddenly a lot more revolutionary than I ever realized.
This chapter also make a brief mention of placing a blessing on Mt. Gezirim and a curse on Mt. Ebal (v 29-30). Mt. Gezirim I know as the sacred mountain of the Samaritans. Apparently their version of the Pentateuch has an insertion at this point saying that a temple must be built there. The traditional Jewish version that’s used in Christian Bibles doesn’t mention why these two mountains are singled out for attention, at least not here. Put them both on my growing list of things to look for in upcoming chapters…
The Japanese: kou o tomo ni suru “to accompany on a journey” (v 6), shubiyoku “successfully” (v 8), uruosu “to moisten, to enrich (soil)” (v 11), hitasura “earnestly, honestly” (v 13), haeru “to grow, to sprout” (v 15), samonai to “or else, otherwise” (v 17), nissuu “number of days,” oou “to cover, to spread over” (v 21), kyoui “threat, menace” (v 25), muen “unrelated, irrelevant” (v 28), tsuranuku “to pierce, to penetrate,” kaidou “highway,” zenbou “front,” kashi “oak” (v 30).
A quick translation note: the NRSV has verse 28 describing other deities as “other gods that you have not known.” In the NCT, it’s anata-tachi to wa muen deatta ta no kamigami,” or “other gods who are irrelevant/unrelated to you.” But that word muen is often the term used for graves or dead souls without any living relatives. When you remember that the Japanese to this day venerate and give offerings for their ancestors, this means that the Japanese has the implication of “gods who are unconnected to your family, gods you have no obligations to by your connections with them.”
God, on the other hand, is a deity with whom they have a connection, to which they are related, as a result of all the things he’s done for them. Hence they should owe God, but have as little connection to other deities as a Japanese person has to somebody else’s ancestors. It’s not your responsibility.