The Word Made Fresh
1Moses and the elders of Israel encouraged the people to be faithful. Moses said, “Obey all the rules I’m giving you today. 2When you cross over the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones there. Plaster them 3and write on them all these laws. The land is fertile and good as the LORD has promised. 4So, when you have crossed over set up these stones on Mt. Ebal. 5Build an altar there made of natural, undressed stones, 6and offer burnt offerings there to the LORD. 7Bring sacrifices of thanksgiving and eat them there and rejoice before the LORD. 8Make sure to write all these laws on the stones so they can be easily read.”
9Then Moses with the Levitical priests told the people, “Be silent and listen! Today you have become the people of the LORD your God. 10Obey the LORD your God and keep all the commandments and rules I am giving you today!”
11That same day Moses gave the people this charge: 12“When you cross over the Jordan, the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin will stand on Mt. Gerizim for the blessing of the people. 13The tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali will stand on Mt. Ebal for the curses.
14“Then the Levites will call out with a loud voice for all the Israelites, 15‘A curse on anyone who makes an idol or a representation of anything the LORD hates and privately displays it.’ And all the people will say, ‘Amen!’
16“‘A curse on anyone who shames father or mother.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
17“‘A curse on anyone who moves a neighbor’s boundary marker.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
18“‘A curse on anyone who misleads another who is blind.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
19“‘A curse on anyone who withholds justice from a foreigner, an orphan, or a widow.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
20“‘A curse on any man who violates his father’s wife.’ All the people will say ‘Amen!’
21“‘A curse on anyone who mates with an animal.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
22“‘A curse on anyone who violates his sister or half-sister.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
23“‘A curse on anyone who violates his mother-in-law.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
24“‘A curse on anyone who kills his neighbor in secret.’ All the people will say, ‘Amen!’
25“‘A curse on anyone who accepts a bribe to kill another.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
26“‘A curse on anyone who does not keep these laws.’ And all the people will say, ‘Amen!’
1-8: This presentation is different from the previous ones in that here both Moses and the elders of Israel are making the charges to the people – perhaps a signal that Moses is preparing to pass the mantle of leadership. They tell the people that, once they have crossed over the Jordan, they are to build a monument inscribed with the Law Moses has just outlined for them; then they are to make sacrifices and have a feast to rejoice that the Lord has given them the land.
9-10: Now Moses and the Levitical priests tell the people that “This very day you have become the people of the Lord your God.” The “this very day” refers to the day they cross the Jordan.
11-26: Moses outlines a ritual they are to follow: half the tribes should gather on Mt. Ebal, the other half on Mt. Gerizim. The Levites should then declare aloud 12 curses – 1) on idol makers, 2) on dishonoring parents, 3) on moving boundary markers, 4) on misleading the blind, 5) on discriminating against aliens, widows, and orphans, 6-9) on sexual immorality, 10) on murder, 11) on bribery, 12) on any disobedience.
There is an old tale about a preacher who had a simple outline for his sermons: 1) tell them what you’re going to tell them; 2) tell them; 3) tell them what you’ve told them. That old story comes to mind as I review Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. By the time they finally cross the Jordan they certainly should know what God expects of them; they’ve heard it often enough. That won’t keep them from making mistakes, however, any more than our parents’ coaching keeps us from making mistakes as we grow.