If we were reading the Old Testament on Sundays, our reading this Sunday would be from Deuteronomy. The book, the fifth in the Jewish Torah, sets forth the history of Israel, and prescribes codes of conducts for its people.
Most scholars divide the book by speeches of Moses. The first section is Chapters 1 to 30. It includes the Law of Moses, the need and ways to follow Yahweh and the redemptive quality of repentance. Chapters 12 to 26 contain the Deuteronomic Code, the law by which Israel should be governed. Laws of religious observance, appointment of judges and civil and criminal law are within the Code, including the Ten Commandments (twice, after Moses smashed the first version). The final four chapters are the Song of Moses, the Blessing of Moses, the change in leadership from Moses to Joshua and the death of Moses.
Deuteronomy also contains the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:4): Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. This established a monotheistic standard for the Jewish people, and is still the definitive statement of Israel’s identity.
Our reading for Sunday is Deuteronomy 34: 1-12. Verses 11 and 12 say, “He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of Israel.”
It is a legacy that we can ponder.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington