Tuesday 04 September 2012

Bible Book:

a perverse and crooked generation." (vv. 3-5)

Deuteronomy 31:30 - 32:12 Tuesday 4 September 2012


I find it fascinating to see the different approaches to thisbeautiful poem.

In one corner we have the academic research into topics such asits date and authorship. (Some, for example, see it as a lateraddition to Deuteronomy and therefore not connected to Moses.) Ifind the way these arguments examine connections with other partsof Scripture particularly interesting (two examples are the openingand history of Psalm 78 and the thematic 'echoes' of Ezekiel 16).

In another corner are the translation challenges, in thissection particularly verses 5a (difficult Hebrew), and 6-7 (awkwardswitches between singular and plural). Our translations are so goodthat it is easy to forget how difficult that task is. Being awareof this is helpful in avoiding traps of building grand theoriesthat only work on a single translation. (Proverbs 29:18 from the King James Version is aclassic example.)

In the third corner are the theological questions, again twoexamples. Firstly, who are these other Gods in verse 8 and how dothey relate to Yahweh? Secondly, how significant is the lack of anyreference to the Exodus, does that mean this is from a differenttradition and does that affect my understanding of the story of thepeople of Israel?

In the last corner, there is the beauty and power of the poetry.That is what strikes me most and is what has inspired many hymn andsong writers.

All these are important, and I am sure we will differ aboutwhich corners we find most interesting (although spending a littletime in each corner would be good for us all).

However, I suggest that focusing too much on these issues,interesting though they are, can be distractions that we use toavoid allowing the text to challenge us. Verses 3-5 hit me hard asthey put the nature of God (perfect, just, faithful) in sharpcontrast to my nature and actions. They challenge the shallownessof the phrase 'God is my best friend' that I sometimes choose tobelieve.

To Ponder:

  • These verses highlight some key themes in Scripture (God'snature to be perfect, just, faithful, without deceit, justice,faithfulness, integrity) How relevant to your life do you findthese? Do they challenge you, and if so how? If not, then why?
  • Which ways of looking at this song do you find most/leastinteresting? Consider finding out a bit more about one of the waysyou don't normally use. What insights or challenges does itoffer?
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