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Source: (consider it) Thread: DEUTERONOMY: The Bible Non-stop
Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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Moses looked at his notes. "Um, Lord" he said, "some of this looks awfully familiar. Do I really have to say it yet again?"

"Come off it Moses, you've led this people for forty years and you still don't recognise the need for repetition if they're going to have any chance of getting it?"

"Good point," says Moses "I'll best be getting on with it then".

So, in the wilderness east of the Jordan, Moses stood up and proclaimed "The Lord has something to say to you. Now listen carefully, I don't want to have to say it again.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin"


Deuternomy 1:1-5

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Nigel M
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Deut. 1:6-46

“Master Scribe. I've reached that age of life when it is appropriate for you to write my memoirs.” Moses plonked himself in an easy chair, positioned his fingers in steeple form and considered his life.

Master Scribe hastily wrote out an order for 34 more slates and a fifth crate within which to contain them. Then he prepared for a draft scribble.

“Where should we begin?” He asked Moses. Moses mused and his finger tips tapped each other in steepled rhythm.

“I was born the son of a Levite...”

“What I mean is,” interrupted Master Scribe, “Who is your audience for this tome? What would they need to know?”

“Ah. Audience, eh? Hmmm. Well, I suspect we are limited to The People, really, seeing as we've miffed everyone else.”

“Very Good. Then I suggest we leave The People to read the first four crates of slates to catch up, then we pick things up with our journey from Horeb, which in the vulgar is known as The Dry Bump, cover off I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You's motivational call to get us going towards the territory of the Amorite, which in the vulgar is known as Moutaineer, with the aim of mapping out the entire land IAIVTWY promised to our ancestors, to wit, Abraham (Profligate Father in the vulgar), Isaac (Bit-of-a-Sport in the vulgar), Jacob (Heel-Grabber in the vulgar)...”

“Skip on.” Suggested Moses, aware that genealogies were for crates.

“...and to their descendants.” Summarised Master Scribe. “Then there's the episode where you realised that The People were being profligate all over the place and you delegated covenantal authority to the tribal leaders and judges, leaving you free to act as Supreme Court and Chief Point of Contact with IAIVTWY. I'd say that was worth mentioning. If there 's one thing The People took to heart in their relationship with IAIVTWY it's the biological blessing bit. You set the delegates up in military style, well organised. Worth slipping in something about their need to be impartial, I think. Yes. That would work.

“And then there's the journey. Dry and thirsty work, that was, all the way to Kadesh Barnea (which in the vulgar is too vulgar to mention). That didn't really end in glory, what with the mix up over the assessment of our land. We sent 12 spies out and despite climbing all over the Vine-Tree Valley and bringing back lovely grapes...”

“And the pomegranates” interposed Moses. “Don't forget the pomegranates.”

“...All the lovely fruit” amended Master Scribe. “Still The People were afraid. They focussed on the negatives, including the Big-Necked tribe, which in the formal is People of Anak. You tried to persuade The People to take the land, but there was a lack of confidence. We know to where that led. IAIVTWY decreed that no one would live long enough to see the land. Except of course Caleb (Doggie in the vulgar) son of Jephunneh (Are-We-There-Yet? In the vulgar). He's a loyal fellow, can always trust him. IAIVTWY was even angry with you, Moses.”

“My Master” breathed a voice from behind Moses' right ear.

“And don't forget Joshua” yelped Moses, rather glad to get off the subject of IAIVTWY's anger against him.

“Absolutely, Joshua Son-of-a-nun will get to the land, too. In fact, he'll be at the forefront of activity, so you'll need to train him well. The People's children will inherit the land, but The People of that generation were told to wander across the wilderness. Not before they arrogantly decided to attack the land anyway. You tried to reason with them again, but they just wouldn't listen. Of course, they got a thumping and were left at Kadesh for ages trying to get over it. We pretty much used up all the generation at Kadesh.”

Aware that he had rather hogged the conversation, Master Scribe pulled himself back to the present and asked, “Does that outline sound good to you?” And he prepared his slate for dictation.

“Excellent.” Pronounced Moses. “Carry on.” And Moses toddled off to find some lunch.

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 2:1-37


[Later that evening, Moses settled down in his favorite well-cushioned chair. Talking with the Master Scribe tired him out, but it was pleasant to walk the pathways of memory:]

We had left Kadesh and headed toward the desert land, just as the One of Many Tenses instructed. We detoured around Mount Shaggy (the Scribe insisted on calling it Seir). And around. And around. Until IAIVTWY called a halt and told us to head north. He also told us that we would be crossing the boundary of the land of Esau’s descendants. Talk about shaggy, they were a hirsute bunch. Still, they were nice enough. We bought food and drink from them.

After we left our relatives (it is so easy to out-stay one’s welcome if you aren’t careful), we went from the port of Elat --Solomon used to use that port. I wonder if that fancy-robed Master Scribe knew that. He probably did. He struck me as being an intellectual pack rat. Anyway, we left Elat, went to Ezion-Geber. What did Aaron always call it? “Man’s Wood” or something like that. We went by the wastelands of Dad’s Seed (or “Moab”). The Boss told us not to harass them because He had given the city of Ar to Lot’s descendants. Truly, they were the salt of the earth. (What was the Scribe babbling on about? Something about, pre-Dad’s Seed, Emites or Rephaites or something living there. And Horites at Mount Shaggy. I think he was making a point about how IAIVTWY cleared the way for the families of Esau and Lot. True, true. Same as He would for us.) And then after that we got up and crossed that brook, the Wadi Zered--it took us 38 years from the time we left Kadesh. Enough time for all the military men alive at Kadesh to die, as we were told would happen.

And after the last one died, IAIVTWY gave us leave to cross the border of Ar, but still not to provoke Lot’s seed.

[Moses sighed and snorted a little. The Master Scribe had insisted on writing more about the Rephaites and Zamzummites and Horites and Avvites and some Cretens...all footnote stuff. The lad probably did his doctoral thesis on the stuff. Moses then went back to wallowing in his memory pool.]

Then IAIVTWY told me to take the People across the Wadi Rejoicing, promising that we could defeat King Sihon and start our reputation as being a force to be reckoned with. Still, I thought it best to give Sihon a chance to let us pass peacefully. I should have known better. IAIVTWY is never wrong. But I did send a messenger stating that we just wanted to cut through to reach the Jordan and that we’d stay on the road and would happily pay for food and water. But, as foretold by IAIVTWY, Sihon would not cooperate. We had a big battle and we killed Sihon and his sons and, well, everybody else. Not even their women or children survived. The ground was well trodden down by the time we were finished. So much blood. So much death. But I did try to do it peacefully. I did.

Anyway, from there we conquered all in our path going all the way to Gilead. It was a balmy day, I remember, when we got there. “Balmy Gilead” I called it. I just followed what the Lord told me to do, and avoided any confrontations or battles that He forbade us to do. I, at least, had learned the lesson: Do what the Lord commands.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 3:1-39

Joshua had been listening intently to the ongoing discourse. He had a particular interest in ensuring that the record was straight regarding certain military engagements and felt obliged to state – for the record – who exactly had been straightened out and why. He would do this now because his Master had dozed off and might not record anything in his defence.

“Bashan!” He bellowed. “We bashed Bashan!” After a pause during which Master Scribe had clutched his heart to see if it was still operational, the venerable scrivener picked up his etcher and slate from where they had fallen, looked to see if Moses had stirred (he hadn't) and addressed the issue at hand.

“Ah, yes; Light Soil, or as you say in the Formal, Bashan. If I remember it aright, the King...”

“Og” Punctuated Joshua.

“As you say, Og, declared war on us...”

“With his army” Punctuated Joshua.

“With his army, declared war on us and attacked us at the town of Strong-Arm. I believe the word from I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You to Moses at this point was...”

“FEAR NOT!” Pretty much Accentuated Joshua.

[Ed. note: It is rather difficult to render capital letters in cuneiform. One can detect, however, increased stress by the depth of chisel compared to surrounding text, or heightened inflection by use of the remains of pigment. Bright red ochre on a lapis lazuli background works particularly well, as evidenced in the modern era by many early web pages of a strident tendency. The authors of those web pages were also prone to use capital letters and hosts of exclamation marks as well.]

“Yes; a catchy little phrase that. Worth bearing in mind for the future. Anyway....”

“FOR I HAVE ALREADY GIVEN OG TO YOU!” Joshua was marching round the inside of the tent by this stage. “HIS WHOLE ARMY! HIS WHOLE LAND! DO EXACTLY TO HIM AS YOU DID TO SIHON OF THE AMORITES!”

“Quite; the Mountain People of the city of Logic. And so it was...” A faint hope that this episode could be dealt with in brief was quashed easily by the three dots...

“WE OBEYED AND CRUSHED THEIR ARMY! WE OBEYED AND STRUCK THEM DOWN! NOT A SINGLE SURVIVOR SURVIVED! WE OVERRAN ALL THEIR SETTLEMENTS – EVERY ONE OF THEM! THEIR CITIES WERE FORTIFIED BUT WE CRUSHED THEM! WE SWEPT ASIDE THEIR VILLAGES!”

“Oh Dear.” Master Scribe considered how much editorial license he might have with this exercise, but suspected there wouldn't be enough. “Well, of course the socio-economic setting at the time and the cultural context provided conditions whereby....”

“WE OBEYED AND IMPOSED THE JUDGEMENT OF THE DIVINE COUNCIL'S SUPREME PUNISHMENT ON THEM! JUST AS WITH THE ARCH-REBEL SIHON OF LOGIC! ALL THE CITIES! ALL THE WOMEN!! ALL THE CHILDREN!!!”

“Well, good to know at least we kept the cattle alive, then. I'll tidy up the rest – and please don't march round the inside of the tent like that; one more round and the vibrations will bring the whole place down.”

Joshua pondered that. Useful tactic, potentially, for one day. He marched out to inspect his troops.

Meanwhile Moses had stirred. “Where were we?” He enquired, having emerged from a dream where thunder and earthquakes had predominated.

“Ah. We were just running over the list of places visited on our journey. Let me see – the two Mountain lands from the Roaring Stream to Holy Hill...”

“Where?” Queried Moses, who found the boundaries between Formal and Common tongues a difficult one to tread.

“That would be the Amorites' territory in Transjordan from Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon...”

“Who calls them that? I thought the traditional terms were Hermon Sirion and Senir.”

“Well, in the Ugaritic and Phoenician, perhaps, but we have to move with the times it seems. Anyway we moved in time through the high plateau including Witness Hill, Light Soil, Salecah* and Stronghold – in fact pretty much all the cities of Og...”

“Aha! Yes, Og. I remember him. Big lad, that. Did you know that his coffin had to be made of iron and was nine cubits long? What's that in old money?”

“Err – nine cubits, well, let's see; that would be – rounded up – take away half a palm – about 4 metres long. Yes, I believe the coffin was also four cubits wide, which would be – divide by an ell – subtract another palm – about 2 meters wide. A substantial King, indeed.”

“Pretty sure that the coffin is still over in the city of Massive where the Incest-ites have moved in.” And Moses lapsed back into reverie land. Master Scribe decided this was a golden opportunity to get some work done without the use of three dots, so he carried on etching. What followed was a pretty erudite and precise list of geographical entities that encompassed the region and that had been allocated to the tribes that would remain on the nearest side of the Jordan River. He felt it important to include the instructions to those tribes to join in with any military assault on The Land.

Now. What to do about Joshua? Master Scribe adopted the scribal pose – etcher end in mouth, head tilted on one side, squint at upper right corner of room. Then he added the next line.

“IAIVTWY also commanded Joshua to note everything IAIVTWY, the Supreme God, had done to the two kings. God would do exactly the same thing to all the kingdoms that Joshua would come across.” And just to make Joshua happy, Master Scribe added an elegant “FEAR NOT! I, IAIVTWY, YOUR SUPREME GOD, WILL PERSONALLY FIGHT ON YOUR SIDE!”

Master Scribe next considered Moses. He should really make the break with Joshua and let him take the lead on things. Accordingly he wrote:

“Moses asked IAIVTWY to be allowed to enter The Land. 'What a supreme God you are, master; such power! Such strength! Way beyond the capabilities of any other god on the divine council. Could I please cross over to The Land?' The answer was emphatic. 'Not on your Nelly, Moses; I'm very angry with you for The People's disobedience. Don't mention it to me any more. If you want to see The Land, go up to the highest peak around here and look all around. What you must do now is to commission Joshua. Encourage him. Strengthen him. He's the one who will lead The People to inherit The Land.'”

Moses stirred. “How are we doing?” He asked, rose, stretched, and gazed out of the tent at the hilly countryside.

“Fine” replied Master Scribe, “Pretty much up to date now. I've got us to this valley and mentioned the hills all around.”

“Ah. Hills.” Moses sighed. “I've been up and down pretty much all the mountains on our journey. Really, these hills will be the death of me.”


* [Ed. The common tongue form of this place appears to have been lost in the mists of time]

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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Deuteronomy 4:1-2.

"Right", said Moses, "that seems to have summarised the history bit. What's next? Oh, yes, decrees and laws.

"These are IMPORTANT. You should keep all these laws, but just these laws mind - don't go and start adding even more to them. Then everything will go swimmingly in the land you're going to inherit."

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 4: 3-31

Moses went on (and on). "You People™ saw what the Lord did to those who dallied with the Master of the Hole! And those of you who remained faithful to the One of Many Tenses remain alive today. Coincidence? I think not! I have taught you the statutes and ordinances of the Lord so that you can carry them with you into the Land of Promise. Get wise to yourselves and follow them. Then everybody will think you wise. And…”

Moses blinked at the crowd in front of him. He stared hard to his right and to the left. He hissed back to his favorite scribe: “Barnable!”

“I’m not Barnable,” said Not-Barnable, as usual.

“No, of course not,” agreed Moses. “Tell me, Barnable, do you see what I don’t see?”

“I……….don’t………think………so,” said Not-Barnable, cautiously. “But perhaps, just to be sure, you should tell me what it is that you don’t see.”

“Children, Barnable! Where are the children? And grandchildren, for that matter?”

“Ah,” nodded Not-Barnable, “I also do not see children here. Or grandchildren.”

“This won’t do at all,” Moses said loudly, again addressing the crowd. “The Law of the Lord is to be handed down to future generations. We have to tell it to the children and grandchildren from childhood. Let me show you how it is done.”

There was a short delay as the children were gathered. They sat around Moses' feet and he sat down on a comfortable log and began to teach.

“There we were, your ancestors and I, in the mountains of dried-up ground, and I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You…you know who He is, of course?” asked Moses.

“He is the One Lord,” said a little girl, proudly.

“Right!” beamed Moses. “Anyway, the Lord told me to assemble the People™ before Him—and I did, because you should always do what the Lord commands. They stood at the foot of the mountain and the sky blazed like it was on fire, yet was still dark with a thick cloud!”

“Oo-ers!” said a young voice.

“Oo-ers indeed!” agreed Moses. “And then the voice of the Lord came from the middle of the fire!”

“Did you see Him?”

“No! It was just a voice! And he gave us the Agreement—you have all seen those two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them? He gave us those!” Moses decided that now was not the time to explain who actually carved those particular tablets. “And the Lord gave me more statutes and ordinances to tell you.”

“But be very careful, children,” said Moses, putting on his scary deep voice. "Remember always that we saw no body when He spoke. No form. No image. That is why we must never ever make any image of any kind of the Lord. Not male. Not female. Not an animal (like a calf). Not a bird (like a duck). Not a snake (like a...well, a snake). Not a fish. Not even a stylistic decal of a fish to attach to the bumper of your wagons. The Lord has no such form and it would be wrong to depict Him as having one.”

Moses noticed some of the children looking up at the sky. Uh-oh, he thought. I better nip that in the bud right now.

“When you look up and see what the Lord has made—the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole of heavenly creation—do not make the mistake of worshiping them! The Lord has created them for all the peoples who are on this world, but they are not the Lord. The Lord has made you—yes, even you!”--Moses playfully poked the tummy of a little boy near him—“to be his special People™. He brought us from the furnace that men call Egypt, and he gave/is giving/will give...many tenses, you see...the Land of Promise to you, where there is both milk and honey!”

“Oo-ers!”

“Now,” said Moses, putting on his sad voice, “I won’t be joining you there because I was wrong and did not do what the Lord told me to do.”

There was the sound of young gasps all around. The story was going down a treat.

“I will die here, on this side of the river. Remember that, all of you, always! Do what the Lord has commanded. That is our Agreement—we get the Land of Promise if we do what He directs. Never, ever, make an image of Him of any kind. Remember, when we got the stone tablets, the sky was blazing—our Lord is a consuming fire if we stray from Him. “

“But,” asked a very scared voice, “what if we do make an image or do evil things that upset Him?”

Time to be stern, thought Moses. Oh, it will cause them some nightmares, but better that than to displease IAIVTWY. “If you do that,” he told the children (and such adults as were still listening), “he will surely brush you off the Land of Promise! You will be thrown out, evicted! And you will be scattered among all the other non-special people of this world, and they will expect you to worship those silly idols they make with their own hands—wood and stone that cannot see, hear, feel or smell.”

Moses paused. That was only four senses. What was the last one? Oh! Right! Taste. “Or eat,” he added.

Moses saw a few trembling lips and little eyes beginning to brim with tears. “But!” he said with a broad, comforting smile, “if you seek the Lord from there--seek Him with all your heart and soul--then you will surely find Him again and, in your distress, if you return to Him and do as He commands, He will save you, because He is a merciful God. While we might forget and break the Agreement, He never forgets and will remember you!”

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 4:32-49

“Where do you come from?” asked a little girl, with that sense of logic that causes adults, who are trying to impart Important Things to children, to consider giving up the art of pedagogical condescension in favour of 2 by 4 paddles.

Moses blinked as his brain struggled to switch from the theme of covenant to ancestry. “Well, I errr... Egypt.” he finished, not sure whether this met the need and also wondering how to get back to Law. “The Most Powerful Nation in the World” he clarified.

“Where did He-Jipped come from?”

Moses knew when not to follow down the pathway of a child's logic, because that way led to the eternal highway of “Why?” Instead, he decided to persist with pedagogical condescension.

“Well you may ask.” He beamed. “Once upon a time a long, long, time ago, El created Adam in the world. Since that day, no matter where you go, you will not be able to hear of things happening like those we have seen. What do you think? Have you ever heard of El speaking out of the middle of a fire?”

General shaking of heads in the crèche. Sagacious nodding of heads among the adultery [Ed.: Is that right word for a collection of adults?].

“Or have you heard of any other occasion when El snatched one nation out of another, using all those steps he used – the signs, wonders, war, strength... just all of the incredible power he has?”

More shaking and nodding, accompanied now by some agreeable Hmmm-ing among the sagacious.

“You have been taught, have you not, that I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You is in fact one and the same as that El. So there is no equal on the divine council of gods to our God, is there?”

Moses' voice was rising in timbre, as he began moving from the mode of pedagogical condescension to that of tub-thumping rhetorician. Usually at this point in a talk the crèche loses interest as its members realise the story was becoming a sermon, so less shaking on the scale of reaction as the adult nodding increased in fervour and the agreeable noises upped the ante towards verbal affirmation.

“Both from his Home, but also here on earth using the massive fire, it was El / IAIVTWY who told you his Guide To Life. In fact, it was because he had that covenant commitment with your predecessor leaders that he chose those who came later, to take them out of The Most Powerful Nation in the World with more power than it had. He has a plan!”

Bursts of “Yes!” and “Oh Yes!” and “That's Right!” and “Amen!” from the adults. Turning of heads among the crèche, the contents of which were wondering when the dancing would begin.

“Yes He has a plan! He is going to overpower all those nations over there and give the land they occupy to us. It will be ours for ever!”

Enthusiastic clapping, shouts of ecstasy, roars of approval... and all this before Pentecost.

“So now, think very carefully and never forget that if El is in his Home in heaven, and IAIVTWY is the God of our nation on earth, and the two are in fact One, then both heaven and earth belong to him alone!

“You must keep his Guide for Life and case law that I have been and will be giving to you so that you do indeed keep the land that your El, IAIVTWY , is giving you for ever. Here endeth the sermon go in peace.”

And Moses grabbed his stick and stalked off to the Tent. And the dancing began.


Later, as Moses mused over the contents of chests 2 and 3 of tablets – those that he was aiming to run over again with The People – he realised there were contextual gaps.

“You see,” he mused to God's-Little-Helper and Master Scribe, “all this law relates to a people on the move in a wilderness and on the edges of trading routes. What about the situation when they move in to the land? They need to know what to do in face of fixed pasture, boundaries, iron implements, cities...”

“And pomegranates” noted God's-Little-Helper.

“We need to do something now, given that some of the tribes will be staying here on this side of Falling River. I need to update the case law a bit.”

So Moses selected three cities – one for each of the three tribes that would be settling in the local region. These would be designated Safe Cities for those who were responsible for accidentally killing someone. They were Gold-Mine in the desert plateau for the tribe of Look!-A-Son!, Heights in Stony-Region for the tribe of Fortune, and Exile in Sandy-Soil for the tribe of Forgotten.

This was a clue for Master Scribe, who realised that if Moses was going to update the case law then there would need to be a new tablet sub-set. He set about devising a suitable heading:

TITLE: The Law for Israel (the descendants of God-Struggler in the vulgar), According to Moses (Drawn-Out in the vulgar)

Master Scribe really couldn't help himself. He was, after all, a polyglot with legal icing on top.

SUB-TITLE: Or, The Canonical Collection of Evidences, Rules, and Judgements Delivered by Moses to Israel Following the Deliverance From Egypt

Master Scribe was just getting into his stride by now.

SUB-SUB-TITLE: To Wit, The Second Edition adding Relevancies Appertaining to The Modern Era as Situate in Beyond-Falling-River, Such Particular Being Located in the Valley of the House-of-Cleft, Positioned in the Kingdom of King Sweeping-Away of the Mountaineer People, Living in the City of Reason

A footnote was in order here:

SUB-SUB-SUB-TITLE: That King Being He Who Was Attacked by Moses and the Israelites Following Their Exit From Egypt When They Occupied His Land and That of King Long-Neck of Sandy-Soil Both Being Kings of the Mountaineer People Living in Beyond-Falling-River Which is to the East and Whose Territory Ran From Naked at the Edge of the Roaring Valley as far as Mount Ruin Which is Called Sacred and Including all Desert of Beyond-Falling-River in the East over to the Desert Sea Beneath the Fragment Spring

Master Scribe ran his eyes over this to check for completeness and accuracy. Moses had been getting fidgety while all this was going on. “Have you finished yet?” He asked. “Yes? All done? Right. Then I'll begin.”

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 5:1-33

“We really should start at the beginning,” said Moses.

“With The Word?” asked the Master Scribe.

“Oh, don’t get us involved in that discussion,” said Moses hastily. “No, I meant we should start with the Core of the Covenant--the Big Ten.

“On it!” said the Master Scribe:

ARTICLE I: Commandments of the Covenant, as delivered personally by I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You, also known as the Lord, the One, the Voice-From-The-Flame to the tribes of Israel, also known as The People™:

Section 1
  • (a): I Am the Lord your God, you shall not have false gods before me, or behind me, or on either side of me;
    (b): This includes not making any images of anything in the heavens, or on the earth, or in the sea, in order to worship it;
    (c): Not of anything, including calves or clouds or whatever;
    (d): For a violation of this section, I shall punish the future generations of the hater to the fourth generation;
    (e): I will maintain faithfulness for those that love me and keep Article I.

Section 2
  • (a): Do not use the Lord’s name for worthless or meaningless purposes;
    (b): This includes not using the Lord’s name in an oath for no purpose other than to make it sound impressive;
    (c): I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You will not exonerate those who take up His name in emptiness.

Section 3
  • (a): Rest on the Sabbath day, for you are to work on six days of the week and do your tasks, but on the seventh day you must not do any work;
    (b): Nor your son;
    (c): Nor your daughter;
    (d): Nor your slaves, male or female;
    (e): Nor your animals;
    (f): Not even the foreigners living with you.
    (g): In other words, REST!!!
    (h): This period of rest is to remind you that you once were slaves in Egypt and the Lord’s power saved you. Honor His day.

Section 4: Do honor your parents or you will not enjoy the Promised Land.

Section 5: Do NOT murder.

Section 6: Do NOT engage in hanky-panky with somebody not your spouse.

Section 7: Do NOT take the property of another (by which is meant another of The People™--of course, you can take the property of your enemies, including those you will find Beyond-Falling-River).

Section 8: Do NOT provide false testimony against your neighbor (by which is meant anybody else).

Section 9: Do NOT lust after your neighbor’s wife; cf. Section 6 and the definition of “neighbor” provided in Section 8, supra.

Section 10: Do NOT crave the goodies of your neighbor; cf. Section 7 and the definition of “neighbor” provided in Section 8, supra, again.


“Mmmmmmmmmm!” said Moses, happily. “Do-NOTs!”

The Master Scribe coughed quietly and, when he had Moses' attention again, the Scribe observed: “You know, sir, these could do with a bit more explanation. The last five don’t even have punishments assigned to them.”

“Not needed,” said Moses. “If you state the punishment, then some idiot will start doing a cost-benefit analysis and decide whether it is worth risking. IAIVTWY just tells us not to do those things. Period. No bargaining.”

“I still think a little clarification...” began the Master Scribe. But it was too late. Moses was back into reminiscence mode.

“I remember when the Lord gave us those Commandments,” said Moses, waxing his nostalgia. “The Voice of Him from the middle of the fire and the clouds and the darkness. And that was all He said. And then He inscribed it on two stone tablets. He did, not me! And The People™ heard the Voice and saw the mountain ablaze and the tribal heads came to me trembling in their sandals! Ha! It was precious to see! All these hard men sweating in terror! And they begged me that they be excused from hearing the Voice of IAIVTWY or coming any closer to the flames! “Please,” they trembled “you be the middle man for us!” Ha! It was a hot time in the old encampment that night! And then the Lord heard them and He said to me--in that big bold-faced voice He uses [and here Moses’s voice dropped lower in a passable impression]: ”They are right. I don’t feel like talking to them any more either. If only it was really their desire to continue to fear me and keep my commandments in the future...but I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Spoilers!” And, of course, it was. The People™ didn’t really desire that. But, anyway, IAIVTWY told me to dismiss The People™ and have them return directly to their tents while He continued to give the rest of the rules and regulations to me. And all we have to do is follow them and all will go well with us. Simple!”

But, really, he knew it wouldn’t be.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deut. 6:1-25

Moses reversed out of his reverent reverie. “A covenant core of ten is good,” he reflected, “but what I really think we need is a single core; the core of the core as it were, to sum it all up. Something pithy that even the most obtuse of The People can remember for generations – or at least fit as an etching on their wristbands. Something that will recapitulate all of the commandments, statutes, and case law. Something that would sink in so that they will reap all the benefits of The Land.

Master Scribe cast a worried look at the four and a bit crates of tablets that were constituting The Law, and wondered how on earth he was to pitharise all that. “Well,” he hazarded, “I suppose we could set up a working party to consult on the options and report back with recommendations for consideration by...”

“Oh don't bother with all that.” Brushed off Moses, “We'd end up with a summary that was longer than the entire law. No, what we need is an Executive Decision.” Pause. “Something inspirational now.” Pause. Pregnant Pause.

“Right.” Moses concluded. “I'm off to The Tent to consult.” And off he tramped.

“Something Pithy?” Reflected IAIVTWY back to Moses, who nodded. “Something that even I could etch on my wristband?” More nodding. Anthropomorphic niceties didn't come into it. There was a Divine Sigh, which nicely balanced things from a theomorphic angle. “All right then, how about this?”

“LISTEN UP AND PAY ATTENTION, YOU REBELLIOUS PEOPLE! I-AM-IN-VARIOUS-TENSES-WITH-YOU IS YOUR EL – THE UNIQUELY ONE AND ONLY I-AM-IN-VARIOUS-TENSES-WITH-YOU! YOU MUST REMAIN ABSOLUTELY LOYAL TO I-AM-IN-VARIOUS-TENSES-WITH-YOU – YOUR EL – WITH EVERYTHING YOU ARE!”

“Does that suffice, do you think?”


Moses struggled back to his feet, finding the lower portions of his Everything-You-Are somewhat wobbly. Having agreed that, on balance (albeit a rather wobbly balance), the summary was a fair piece of pith, he tottered back to his tent and summoned the tribal elders in order to deliver said pith over to them.

“And don't forget to teach that to your children.” Moses concluded.

“When?” Queried the astute minds of the collective Voice of the People.

“Well, when you dangle them on your knee at home.” Suggested Moses, who then realised that dangling had not formally been part of The Law. “Or” He quickly went on, “As you walk with them on the journey.” Collective frowning. “Or when you put them to bed at night.” Conceptual dissonance. “Or when you wake them up.” Cultural Conflict.

“Oh for heaven's sake,” Countered Moses, “Don't you ever interact with your children? Don't tell me you leave it all to the women folk?” Culturally conditioned and collectively conceptual apprehension. Moses hadn't had much practice in trying new tacks, but he now showed admirable jibing skills.

“Or, Etch it on your wristbands.” Instant cognition.

“Can we also put it in those little boxes that some of us like to pop under our hats with notes in case we forget things?” Moses acceded to this request. He'd forgotten that he had one of those under his hat as well.

“Write it on your postboxes and gates for all I care, but just don't forget it. It's important because we are about to take over our father's land with all its accoutrements, and if we forget this important thing then IAIVTWY – our El – will turf us out of the land again. Don't try it on with El like our fathers did at the Town of Temptation, or life will not go well. Now; if your children ask you why on earth we have all the commandments, statutes, and case law that we have, what will you say?”

“Tell the little buggers not to be so cocky and to clip 'em round the ear?” Tribal Law ran deep.

“OK” adapted Moses, “If your children ask your womenfolk why on earth we have all the commandments, statutes, and case law that we have, what will they say?”

But not that deep. So Moses helped them out. “They must say this: 'We were Pharaoh’s slaves in The Most Powerful Nation on Earth, but IAIVTWY slapped him about and brought us out. And he brought signs and great, devastating wonders on that country, on Pharaoh, and on his whole family right before our eyes. He took us out from there so that he could give us the land he had promised our Fathers. He ordered us to obey all these laws and to revere him so that life may always go well and he may protect us, as he has to this day. We will be innocent if we carefully keep all these commandments before IAIVTWY – our El – just as he demands.'”

“But if they don't ask us?” Asked the Tribal askers.

“Just keep it under your hat.” Suggested Moses.

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Alan Cresswell

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Deuteronomy 7:1-6

So Moses continued. "IAIVTWY is going to drive out seven powerful nations from the land"

"Hallelujah!" shouted Joshua, giving a loud blast on his rams horn trumpet. "Those nations will tumble before us!".

"Quite" said Moses, "can I continue? Keep that trumpet handy though

"When they've been defeated you are to totally destroy those nations. Show no mercy".

Moses looked up as he heard a far too familiar sound. "Hasn't forty years taught you not to moan? What is it this time?"

"Did you really say 'destroy them totally?', are you sure that's what IAIVTWY told you?" the elders of the people asked, "That's a bit excessive isn't it? Why don't we just not help them fight their enemies. Oh, and what about not marrying any of them? Of course, we'll smash up their holy places and burn their idols. But, to destroy everyone is just too much"

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 7:7-26

“Why?”

Not for the first time Moses rather wished he did not have the kindergarten present when he was briefing The People on the intricacies of Divine Election.

“Think about our history.” He suggested. “Were we chosen because we were the biggest nation on earth?” Swiftly Moses ploughed on before those uninitiated in the arts of rhetoric went 50/50 on the answer to that. “Of course not! In fact we were the smallest nation. No. It was because I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You remained devoted to his covenant with our ancestors that he retained his obligation to us. That's why he brought his fist crashing down to free us from the slave house, from the leader of the greatest nation on earth. And that's why you must remember that I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You, your Supreme God, is El-The-One-And-Only top God, he who loyally keeps his covenant with those who are loyal to him. He will stay loyal for as far as your family line goes if you are loyal.

“But.” Moses felt – based on empirical evidence – that a word of warning would not go amiss with The People here. “Beware. Those who set their faces to rebel against him will be destroyed. He will not hesitate to repay those who hate him, just as they deserve. So this is why you must pay attention to the Principles, Laws, and Legal Judgements that I have been giving you.”

Time for the good news. “In sum: if you obey all the rules, paying careful attention to them, then I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You, your Supreme God, will loyally keep his side of the bargain. You will become a big nation after all, with loads of children.”

Moses beamed, thinking that this was a good place to end. Not for the first time, however, he failed to move off stage quickly enough.

“What about the crops?” Voice from the crowd. Probably a farmer. “Will we have enough to eat what with all them kids around?”

“Yes of course, you'll have plenty of crops.”

“What? Grain as well?”

“Yes, yes, yes; grain and fresh wine.” That should keep them happy.

“Olive oil?” Someone who cooked.

“I'm sure you'll have plenty of that as well.”

“Beef? I'm partial to a succulent steak.” God's-Little-Helper was not being a help here.

“Oh for goodness sake; check the details in the promises El made to our ancestors. Cows, Sheep – the whole set of things. You'll have more than any other nation, I'll be bound. The young will be frolicking all over the place.”

“Yes, but what about measles?”

“What?”

“And the Pox. And the Plague.”

“Good grief! Look; El will be too busy inflicting them on your enemies to spend time infecting you. BUT!” Moses felt it time to drag the conversation back to a higher level. “You must overwhelm all those peoples that I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You, your Supreme God, is handing over to you. You must not show any pity, or any deference to their gods, for if you do you will be trapped.

“Don't worry about the fact that they may be bigger nations that you. Keep remembering how small you were in the Greatest Nation on Earth and how that didn't stop I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You, your Supreme God, from sorting things out. He wasn't flustered; he has great power. Remember the signs he used. He's more than capable of sending diseases on your enemies until they all die. So don't worry. I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You, your Supreme God, is with you. El is the biggest God of the lot! He will take the nations apart bit by bit so that you don't end up with places inhabited only by wild animals. He will hand them over to you, sending them into such a panic that they can easily be destroyed. Their leaders will fall into your hands so completely that no-one will ever remember their names. You will be unstoppable.

“You will throw the images of their gods into furnaces. You won't want to keep the gold and silver that covers them, because that desire would trap you and you know how I-Am-In-Various -Tenses-With-You, your Supreme God, just hates that sort of thing. Don't even consider keeping stuff like that for your own use or El's hatred will land on you as well. Hate it, because El hates it.”

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 8: 1- 20

Moses felt like he was on a roll now: “So follow The Rules given us by IAIVTWY and live happily, increase in number and occupy the Land of Promise! Remember how well He has brought you through the desert wilderness these past forty years!”

“What took Him so long?”

“It didn’t take Him long,” Moses articulated with surprising clarity, considering that he was saying it through tightly clenched teeth. “He was testing you to see if you would follow The Rules. When you didn’t, he humbled you by making you hungry, but then gave you unfamiliar manna to eat. This was to prove to you that you cannot live by bread alone…”

“The occasional steak is nice,” murmured God’s-Little-Helper.

“…but also by everything that comes from the mouth of IAIVTWY, if we anthropomorphically envision Him having a mouth.”

If there was ever proof that Moses was chosen by God, it was in the fact that he could manage to clearly articulate the phrase “anthropomorphically envision” while firmly gritting his teeth and growling out the side of his mouth at God’s-Little-Helper. It isn’t easy! Try it for yourself!

Moses continued: “Your clothes did not wear out nor your feet swell all these forty years…”

“My feet swelled sometimes,” said a plaintive voice from the rear.

“Not for all these forty years—although it could be arranged for the next forty if you really want to test it out,” Moses snarled.

Silence fell in the assembly. Well, silence except for the giggling of children who were running here and there amongst the crowd in a complicated game of tag.

“Do you discipline your children?” asked Moses, in exasperation.

Silence.

Of course, thought Moses. Now they understand rhetorical questions. But he decided to get back on to his point. “Of course you do!” he said with a confidence he didn’t really feel. “So too the Lord will discipline you if you fail to keep The Rules. So keep them; live according to His design; revere Him. The One of Many Tenses is bringing you to a good land: brooks, springs, fountains! Wheat, barley, grape vines, fig trees, pomegranates!”

“Steaks?” And it shall be recorded officially that it really might very well have been a pure accident that Moses, swinging his arms enthusiastically in his description of the Land of Promise, just happened to strike God’s-Little-Helper in the mouth right then.

“Olive trees and honey!" continued Moses while some attendants tried to revive God's-Little-Helper. "A land where there is no lack of anything. A land of iron ore and copper! Praise the Lord who gives you this land and do not forget Him by not keeping The Rules. As you eat your fill, as your herds and flocks increase, as you amass wealth, do not feel self-important and think it has anything to do with you! It is the Lord, IAIVTWY, who brought you out of slavery, through the snake-filled desert. Who gave you water in the arid wastes, gave you manna. Your skill and talents did not give all this to you, but rather the Lord, your God.

"But if you forget this, if you forget The Rules, if you worship other gods, then IAIVTWY shall surely annihilate you, just as he does the Nations that stand in your way right now. He will destroy you, too, if you do not obey Him!”

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 9:1-29

“Blimey. They're big.” This was the considered and in-depth assessment by a member of Joshua's Reconnaissance Unit, who had crept up to a viewing position near the River Jordan in order to look over to The Land on the other side. He now reported back to Moses and Joshua.

“Blimey. They're big.” He said. Continuity in reporting – the One Truth – is so important in these affairs.

“What, exactly, is it that is Big?” Asked Moses, who felt that although he should really be focussing on more strategic issues, couldn't resist a need to refine the issue at hand somewhat. “The cities?”

“Oh Aye, well of course they're big, too. Walls up to the skies sort of thing. But I saw them Anaks, you know, the ones what came from the Nephils. Giants, every one of 'em. Unstoppably big types, you know.”

Moses recognised immediately the need for something in the way of a pep talk, given the history of Israel's reaction to news from the front. Moses for one was not keen on another 40 years wandering in the wilderness, just because spies focussed on Big. He summoned Master Scribe to draft the proposed pep talk, and suggested some broad strategic themes to cover. “Something anti-Big, please.” Then off to lunch.

Master Scribe sighed, and scribbled some bullet etchings:
Item. Accept the truth – there are big walls and big men
Item. Play to one's strengths – IAIVTWY will eat them up like a bushfire
Item. Focus on outcomes – once IAIVTWY has reduced them to stubble, The People have only to mop up (Master Scribe did muse about the advisability of mixing metaphors this way – how does one mop up after a bushfire? - but then Moses was prone to mixing)
Item. Warn against weaknesses – Don't fall into the trap of thinking that playing by the rules led to the success. Success was defined by IAIVTWY's need to punish the enemies
Item. Remind audience of strategic context – this outcome was promised oh so long ago. The Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were promised this
Item. Put the audience in its place – Israel is a stubborn people

Master Scribe was not so sure about the advisability of that last point in a speech, but it was something Moses would have stressed anyway, so again, why buck a trend? He set off to find Moses for his sign-off on the speech, only to find that Moses – burger in one hand (because he didn't want to stop his lunch just in order to get something off his chest) – had already stomped out to the elders and was unburdening himself in front of them (which really, really spoiled their lunch).

“And another thing. Never ever forget that you stubbornly made IAIVTWY angry in the desert. You were stubborn all the way from the Greatest Nation in the World to here. Nothing but stubbornness all the way.” Munch.

“Remember how (spittle spit) you made IAIVTWY angry at Horeb? Remember how angry he was? How he nearly destroyed you all? It was when I had to go up that mountain (wipe mouth with back of hand) and had to go without food for 40 days.” Munch Munch. “40 days, mind you. Only at the end of that did IAIVTWY give me the two covenant steles, written by El's very finger.” Ferret around inside mouth with finger to dislodge something. “Goodness; but they were Big. Heavy, too.” Pause – Burp. “Very heavy I tell you. And he wanted me to lug them all the way down the mountain, for crying out loud. And just why, I ask you, did he want me to do that? Eh?” Munch. “I'll tell you why. BECAUSE YOU WERE A STUBBORN, STUBBORN, PEOPLE!” Clear throat – pause – spit. “You'd only gone and made a metal image. Against all advice, mind. IAIVTWY told me to my very face that you were a stubborn lot and that he had to destroy you. He was going to get rid of the lot of you and begin again!” Double tap on the chest to assist in the migration of fast food.

There was one elder who had had legal training of a sort. “Strictly speaking it wasn't us.” He suggested, “It was our fathers.”

“VICARIOUS LIABILITY!” Bellowed Moses; and no one could accuse him of not having received legal training during the past 40 years. “I had to drag those steles down the mountain, but when I saw what you had all done, I was so angry that I tossed them over the edge of a cliff in front of your eyes.” Moses was pretty sure it was that, rather than his having given up on dragging two heavy, big, stone tablets around, that was the motivating factor in the action. He was pretty sure, that is.

“And blow me down, if I didn't then have to go all the way back up and not eat again for another 40 days.” Moses started at the half eaten burger, which was half way to his mouth, decided that it was no longer palatable, chucked it down in much the same way as he had tossed over the steles, and grabbed a nice-looking bowl of falafel from in front of the wannabe lawyer elder and resumed operations.

“Do you know how close you were to annihilation, eh? How angry IAIVTWY was with you all? Even I nearly gave up under the towering wrath of Almighty IAIVTWY. Fortunately,” Pause while a falafel negotiated its way from lips to gullet, “Time passed and IAIVTWY calmed down. I had to plead even for Aaron's life, that's how bad things had got. Hmmm.” (An appreciative comment on the quality of the food, followed by a moment's meditation as a second falafel followed the first). “I had to melt down that image, grind the remains to dust, then toss the dust into the mountain's stream.” Moses wandered meditatively away to ponder his memories of the event, with the aid of some deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas, leaving the elders to ponder their lunches, which had practically turned to dust as well. Actually, they thought they had got off relatively lightly this time and were just striving to get up and go back to their tents, when...

“And another thing!” The elders sagged back down. “As if that wasn't enough, you continued to make IAIVTWY angry at Burning, at Temptation, and at Fit-To-Burst. Even when IAIVTWY told you to invade The Land, you rebelled. My goodness, the more I think about it, the more I realise that you have been stubbornly rebelling from the first day I knew you!”

Moses turned and wandered in the general direction of nowhere in particular, while he meandered with his thoughts. “I remember that time. I lay flat on the ground to 40 days and nights, while IAIVTWY gave serious thought to destroying you.” Moses swung back to face the elders, who wisely had decided not to move away. “You were that close.” Finger and thumb held reasonably close together, prevented from closing only by the presence of a falafel, which was conveniently transferred to the mouth. “That close.” Finger and thumb more realistically close together. Quick lick of said finger and thumb. Moses resumed his wanderings. “I had to intercede really, really, hard that time, I can tell you. I told IAIVTWY that he should think of The People as an asset, something he had purchased and which was liable to depreciation over time. He should think strategically and remember his promises to our ancestors. Otherwise, I said, what will the people in The Land think? Eh? They'll assume that IAIVTWY was too weak to bring The People into The Land, so in his anger he pushed them out into the desert to kill them. Yes, these People are assets. Fixed Assets. Valuable, even if fixed in their ways. Saved by sheer power, really.

“Ah, Master Scribe.” The meander had brought Moses into the orbit of his faithful amanuensis. “What have you got there?”

“No, nothing really,” replied the scribe; “Just some jottings for your speech.”

“Oh yes – did you mention that The People are stubborn?”

“Well, actually, yes I did”

“Excellent! Carry on then; write it up for me.”

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 10: 1-22

The tribal elders sighed heavily. It was clear that Moses was going into full “Memory-Lane mode.” It wasn’t as if they hadn’t heard all these stories before. Like, for example, at every single dinner party that Moses came to! Still, he was their leader, so they acted like they were interested. And to keep an intelligent look on their faces, they quietly worked on a crossword puzzle as one of the elders (Herman) whispered clues to them:

Moses: “And lugging those steles down the mountain was the easy part! Do you know what I had to do then? Carve out new ones! Out of stone, no less! Not these cheap paper things they use nowadays..”

Herman (whispering): “ ‘Put back the remainder with something from mine.’ Seven letters.”

Moses: “Restore those tablets to me, said the Lord, and so I had to lug those things up the mountain again. Heavy as they were going down, at least then I had gravity on my side! But, for you people I did it, and got them up there for El to inscribe them with the exact words that were on the original set. And do you think I could rest then?”

Herman: “ ‘Hung around to find everything faded away around it.’ Seven letters.”

Moses: “Dallied? Certainly not. I had to make an ark for the stone tablets—out of acacia wood, no less. And when I lugged those things back down the mountain again I placed them in the ark. Well, of course, after that, we started travelling again. We went from the wells of the sons of Jaaqan, heading in an…”

Herman: “ ‘Point away behind, or in one direction?’ Seven letters, for a change.”

Moses: “…Eastern direction until we got to the Bond, where Aaron died and his son, God’s-Little-Helper, became priest. Then we went to our Happy Place (although some referred to it as the Slashing Place) and then to the place of flowing streams. Remember them? At this…

Herman: “ ‘Last? Well, last with not quite everything!’ And, oh, surprise, it is seven letters.”

Moses: “…Endmost spot, IAIVTWY set aside the tribe of Levi to carry that ark I made. You know, the one of real acacia wood and holding those stone tablets? Did I tell you how I made those? Another time, perhaps. The point is that the Levites were set aside to serve the Lord and formulate blessings in his name. And may I say they do a great job of it. I, of course, had to stay at the mountain just like the first time: 40 days, 40 nights. Consecutive. No weekends off. I had to convince You-Know-Who not to destroy you. But He finally gave us the Word and you are now allowed to go possess the Land of Promise. That in…”

Herman: “ ‘It makes a thing what it is.’ Seven letters. I’m sensing a theme.

Moses: “…Essence is how we got to this point. And what does our One and Only Lord ask in return? Just that you obey his commandments. Love him. Serve him. IAIVTWY created the heavens and the earth and…well, everything, really, but it was your ancestors that gained his loving favor and he chose their descendants—you lot—to bless. So STOP BEING SO STUBBORN! IAIVTWY has done everything for you. Don’t let your devotion…”

Herman: “ ‘Fade away, like a breeze led astray around it.’ Seven letters. Of course.”

Moses: “…Dwindle. IAIVTWY is fair and unbiased, treating justly widows and orphans, loving the resident foreigner and giving them food and clothing and shelter. You, the People™, must also love the resident foreigners and not close your borders or forbid them entry, because you were once such foreigners yourself, back in Egypt. Don’t let some fatheaded politician tell you otherwise. Revere the Lord, your God. Praise him only. He is the one who has done these great and awesome things you have seen. When your ancestors left Egypt, they numbered only 70, and now you are as countless as the stars!”

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 11:1-32

That last quip had been prompted by the fact that kindergarten was out and tribes of little whippersnappers were now running between the feet of the wise elders, who hastely put their crossword scribbles in their...

Pockets.

“Heavens, is that the time? Best be off to sort out the, er, things and whatnots.” Assorted elders made 'excuse-me' type noises and made to rise in the manner of good Presbyterians with plenty of meat to think on following a sermon of brimstone and exceptional Sabbath Hell Fire.

“Which brings me to my next point.” The fires of hell were not quite stoked enough for Moses' taste, apparently. “I'm not addressing the Sabbath School here, mind. Ignore the children. They haven't seen your IAIVTWY El in action. They won't have noticed how subtly El smacked the leader of the Greatest Nation in the World and his people. They weren't there when the armed forces of that Nation chased us all and were wiped out in the Sea of Reeds. Neither were they present when IAIVTWY dished out punishment by means of earthquake against Well-Place and Dad-of-Biggie, the sons of Me-Dad's-El, from the Look!-A-Boy! tribe. No; the children weren’t there to witness all of that. You were. So pay attention! In case I haven't mentioned this before, you must remain constantly loyal to your IAIVTWY El and follow all his rules on ways of worshipping, ways of behaving, and ways of walking through life.

“In sum, understand and obey all of those commands I gave you.” Moses waved vaguely at the five crates of chiselled wisdom that had been building up over time. “Only that way will you be able to take over The Land and keep it.” Moses waved vaguely in the opposite direction at where The Land lay. “After all, that land is not like the one you came from, where you had to grow food with the sweat of your brow. No. The Land has been cared for by your IAIVTWY El, it has all the water you need. He has been looking after it every day and will continue to send rain at the right time for crops and animals. You won't have need for anything.

“If, that is, you are loyal to your IAIVTWY El. And not just by way of lip service either, mind. Give it all.

“So what do I mean by that? Watch your ways, is what I mean. If you choose to turn down a different path and become loyal to any other god on the divine council, realise what IAIVTWY will do. He will be a tad annoyed. There will be no rain, your crops will fail, and then you will chucked out of The Land. You will lose everything.

“So nail my words into your brain. Write them on your hands. Chisel them into your forehead if you need to. Teach them to these children. Mutter them while you sit at home, as you walk along the paths, before you go to bed and again when you get up. When you get houses in The Land etch them onto the door frames and gates. The future of your life in The Land depends on this. If you get this right and do exactly as I tell you, IAIVTWY will throw out the countries in your way, including the Big ones. Remember these words and make choruses out of them if you have to.

“Every place on which your foot shall stand will be given unto you. Your Land will stretch from the desert all the way up to the Snowy Mountains, and from Sweet-Water over to the Western Sea. Nobody will be able to stop your progress. Your IAIVTWY El will create terror all over The Land as you walk through it. Remember that he promised he would.

“See – this is what you face today: a choice. On the one hand a Benefit; on the other, a Welfare Cut. Just like other covenant treaties. Benefits if you listen, obey, and stay loyal to your IAIVTWY El. Welfare Cuts if you have affairs with other gods.

“In fact,” Moses was developing a theme here, “once you have taken over The Land, go up to the two mounts, Desert-Dweller and Rocks, and hand over the blessings on the former and the Welfare Cuts on the latter.” Clearly he had the advantage of reconnaissance reports.

“Where?” Asked the puzzled elderly assemblage (which drowned out the more important “Why?” from the kindergarten).

Moses blinked a couple of times. He turned to Joshua, who was hovering in the vicinity of Moses' left ear (which meant Moses had to turn again to the correct direction). “Where?” He queried. Joshua pulled a detailed map out of a pocket and unrolled it.

“Grid Square TQ407622.” He announced, rolled up the map and replaced it in his pocket. There was a pause.

“So, translated Moses, “It's over the Running River. Over there.” Vague wave of hand. “Where the Merchants live.” Vague nod of the head. Pause.

“In the arid place.” Whispered Joshua into Moses' left ear.

“In the arid place.” Yelped Moses. Pause.

“Opposite Rolling-Town.” Whispered Joshua

“Opposite Rolling-Town.” Pause

“By the Rebellious Trees.”

“By the Rebell... You'll know it when you get there.” Pronounced Moses. “Just don't forget the important thing here: understand and obey all of those commands I gave you. Don't forget them.

“Now. Where was 1?”

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 12: 1-31

“So where was I?” Moses asked again.

The tribal elders all gave a collective start as they realized he actually was expecting an answer to the question. They all looked at each other nervously, each hoping the other had been paying attention and could respond.

Finally, one said: “You were talking about obeying IAIVTWY.” The others nodded. As guesses go, the percentages were very good that that was the right answer. Encouraged by this, he went on to say: “And to worship him properly, which will be easy! Those who are currently in The Land have built lots of temples and altars and such that we can use once we drive them out. It’s a real turn-key type of operation!”

Do you know how, sometimes, as soon as the words come out of your mouth, you know it was the wrong thing to say? Moses glared at him and, if looks could kill, Moses would have broken one of the Commandments. Under the circumstances, that would have been ironic, but not particularly funny. As it was, history does not tell us what name the unfortunate elder was called prior to his comment. We do know that, afterwards, he was known as “Dog’s Breakfast.”

“YOU WILL NOT!” thundered Moses.

That was not entirely a metaphor. There was a distinct rumble of thunder as Moses spoke. The elders stood as silently as one can while trembling uncontrollably.

“You will destroy every place where those people worshipped their gods, tear down every altar, shatter their sacred pillars, cut down every image of their gods—in short, cleanse every aspect of their worship. You will only worship your Lord in the place where He indicates, only there will you give your various offerings and tithes, only there will you and your household feast before your Lord.”

Dog’s Breakfast whimpered: “But we don’t even do that now!”

“YOU AREN’T TO DO IT LIKE WE DO NOW!!!!!!! Now everybody does what seems best to him. That is chaos. Now that you have reached your inheritance, you are settlers. You have reached a place of safety. So you must come to the spot IAIVTWY chooses for his name to reside and offer burnt offerings where He indicates.”

There was an awkward silence for quite a long time. Moses breathed deeply a few times and felt his blood pressure get down to its normal level. Thinking back on his tirade, it occurred to him that maybe he had confused people a little.

“Look,” he said, scratching himself behind his left ear, “I am talking about the big thrice-annual celebrations, the celebrations of the whole community. Otherwise, you can worship at local altars—but not on any of the things that are there now. They all have to be destroyed and we will build new altars dedicate to our God alone.

“Oh, and another thing. We will be done with wandering and will have settled down. In the Land of Promise, you will be allowed to slaughter and eat meat as you please as IAIVTWY blesses you in the villages. Both the ritually pure and the impure can eat the meat. But this does NOT mean that you can eat blood. Don’t do it. Do not become vampires. Just pour the blood out out on the ground. Blood is life itself and you must not eat the life with the meat! Also, you must not eat your offerings (the tithe of grain, wine, olive oil, firstborn of the herd and flock, votive offerings and so on). Those can only be eaten in the presence of IAIVTWY, in the places that He designates.”

God’s Little Helper moved near Moses and whispered briefly in his ear. “And another thing!” said Moses like somebody who had forgotten something, “don’t forget to look after the Levites in your villages. They don’t have land. They are your responsibility.”

Apparently, as a result of this interruption, Moses forgot where he was because he then went on to explain to them (again) about eating meat, and the ritually pure and impure, the blood thing, the offerings and all that.

“Remember this,” he said, moving on to a semi-new topic, “When IAIVTWY eliminates the nations from the Land of Promise and you settle there and they have been rooted out from your presence, be careful not to become like they were. Do not follow their gods (the losers) or decide to worship IAIVTWY like they worshipped their gods. You have your one Lord, the One of Many Tenses. Do not worship Him like they worshipped their gods. Everything they did your Lord hates, abhors, abominates. He really doesn't like it. They even went so far as to burn up their own sons and daughters. That is no way to worship the one true God.”

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 12:32-13:18


“Three cases before your court today” announced Master Clerk to Moses.

Master Clerk had reconstituted his jurisdiction from that of Master Scribe to Master Clerk for the day. Moses had reconstituted his jurisdiction from that of Most Senior Prophet to Most Senior Judge for the day. For both this meant a change of clothes.

There was always a steady trickle of cases transferred from the lower courts for Moses' attention, cases that the custom law could not accommodate without guidance. He flipped his robe across the back of the Most Senior Judge's Bench and plunked himself down with a grunt. He then got back up with an “Oooof!”, shovelled a cushion across to the focal point of his judicial seat and re-plunked himself.

Master Clerk took the opportunity during this hiatus to adjust the hanging emblem of justice with its legend: “The Whole Judgement Which I Myself Have Adjudicated For You, Each Of You Shall Follow Exactly. Thou Shalt Not Fiddle With It.”

Master Clerk was rather proud of this piece of pith, although the length and weight of the wording did cause regular slippage of the emblem. He gazed at it with a certain sense of pride until he saw a bit of smudge on the edge, requiring burnishing with his sleeve. Next he re-adjusted the emblem and only then became aware that the court was staring at him.

“Do stop fiddling with that please.” Commanded the Most Senior Judge. Master Clerk turned his attention to the daily list. He drew a deep breath.

“Oyez-And-Oyez-And-All-Persons-Having-Anything-To-Do-Before-The-Most-High-Judge-Of-I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You-Draw-Near- And-Give-Your-Attendance.” There was a whoop as he caught his breath.

“Causes-Pending-As-Transferred-From-The-Court-Of-The-Elders-For-The-People-Shall-Now-Be-Adjudicated-And-Those-Convicted-Await ing-Sentence-Shall-Enter-The-Box.” A series of hacks and coughs from Master Clerk, while there was a general shuffling around the area marked with sticks in the ground, demarking the area constituted as the Supreme Court for the day. Elders, People, Ushers, Priests, all moved in random motion, staring at the ground in a vain attempt to find “The Box” and make sure they were not personally in it. After a minute or so of this, Master Clerk grabbed his staff, pushed his way to the middle of the random throng and drew an oblong in the sand. He tapped the inside.

“The Box.” He announced. There was a quick shuffle of humanity out of it. Master Clerk returned to his seat, whispering hurriedly to one of his acolyte scribes, “Make a note: When we get into the land, there will be A Box.” From his seat in front of Most Senior Judge he directed the Ushers to place the convicts in the box, which they did so with enthusiasm. From left to right (or in most semitic languages, from right to left) they were: [1] a man accused of being a disloyal prophet; [2] a member of a family who had been the subject of a falling out; and [3] an elder of a community that had drawn lines in the sand and called the inside A City.

“Right,” Commenced Moses, “Where are the indictments?”

Master Clerk indicated a table in the corner of the sticks that was on its last legs, wheezing precariously with the weight of several tablets of stone that had been engraved for the occasion. Moses blinked at them.

“Summarise them for me, would you?”

“MeLord, the convicts stand before you – Stand Up would you please?” The accused were enthusiastically raised to their feet by the Ushers. “- and face the charges of having attempted to entice, contrary to the commandments in the four crates of tablets in The Tent. The charges have been investigated most thoroughly by the judges of custom and found to be founded. Those convicted have been sent to you today for a decision as to whether these are matters deserving of a sentence of death or whether something more onerous would do.”

Moses surveyed the convicted before him. He addressed the first in line. “So you claim to be a prophet, do you?” The elderly man shook his head violently and then jerked his head in the direction of the other end of the queue. Moses turned to look at the other first in the line. “So you claim to be a prophet do you?”

The other first adopted a prophetic pose. “By the White Whiskers of Wotan, I proclaim a sign and...”

At a sign from Moses the Ushers enthusiastically suppressed him. Moses leaned over to Master Clerk and asked, “The Wide Whippers of Who?”

“Not one we have come across so far, MeLord,” advised Master Clerk, “But I suspect from the onomastic derivation of the word that Wotan is one of those gods that came to the lands by the sea from Northern areas with the Pelel people of Gaza and related cities. I'll add the name to the list of proscribed deities.”

“That is getting to be a rather long list.” Observed Moses. “Right.” He turned back to the court area and stood to give his judgement. “It matters not that a sign from a prophet comes about. What matters is the content of the enticement. El will be testing you all to see if you remain totally loyal to him, but we must crack down on this tendency to divide loyalties left, right, and centre. El brought you out of the Most Powerful Nation in the World and you must not forget that. Wandering away from El's path must be discouraged. Accordingly the death penalty is appropriate in the type of case.” Moses sat back down with a grunt.

The jaw of the prophet dropped. “Well blow me down.” He said. “I never saw that coming.” He was enthusiastically dragged away by the Ushers.

Moses turned his attention to the other two. “Now then, who's next?” There was no real exuberance on the part of the remaining firsts to volunteer, so Master Clerk took the initiative.

“MeLord,” He promulgated,” The next case is that of the errant family member.” The elderly man in The Box jerked his head again in the direction of the remaining convict. Master Clerk continued, “In this case the family was enticed by the convict to follow another god.”

Moses glared at the errant. “Which god did you want your family to follow?” He asked. The family member raised his arms to heaven and declared, “I have been enlightened by the great god of heaven, Wu Tan. His spirit ennobles me and I call upon him to...”

Moses called upon the Ushers to enthusiastically nobble the convict in question. While that was underway Moses leaned over to Master Clerk and asked, “Who Who?”

“Another foreign entity, MeLord. I gather this one comes from the other end of the earth.”

Moses returned his glare to the convict. “How did you hear of that god?” He asked.

“Missionary merchants from beyond the Euphrates.” The errant replied.

“We'll have no mystery insurgents here.” Declared Moses. He stood up to deliver his judgement. “It matters not that someone even in your close family is an enticer. What matters is the content. Show no favouritism to anyone in your family who tries to entice you to follow another god. You must take the initiative to ferret out this evil from your homes. Accordingly the death penalty is appropriate in the type of case.” Moses sat back down with a double grunt.

The family member looked indignantly at his close relatives. “Scabs!” He cried.” “You've destroyed my karma. I'm going to cut you out of my will, see if I don't.” And he was dragged away by the Ushers with enthusiasm.

Moses started at the last first in The Box, who desperately looked for someone else he could jerk his head at. “And what is this person guilty of?”

Master Clerk drew Moses' attention to the pertinent facts of the case. “MeLord, this elder did separate his people from The People and attempted to set up a city where he could form a separatist apocalyptic movement not in accordance with the aforesaid Commandments.”

Moses turned to the elder. “What on earth is A Pock Lip Tic?” He asked. The elder twitched nervously, grabbed a stick in the ground and drew a circle around him. “I am protected by the god Woe Time, who declares this world to be evil beyond redemption. It is about to be destroyed and only his faithful will be carried safely to his arms for eternity. Behold! The End is Nigh! Now is the end! You are all doomed to the eternal fire that crackleth in the hearth mightily and is not overcome by water. You will all be swallowed up by the wind that roareth and leveleth the mountains and all things save those inside my circle.”

After a pause, Moses remembered to blink, but realised he had forgotten to instruct the Ushers to mightily leveleth the convict. There was a certain fascination about this character. “So,” pursued Moses, “When, exactly, are these events to come about?”

The elder glanced at the sun and did a few quick mental calculations. “Behold, it has been vouchsafed to me that The End will be in three, two, one...”

Pause.

“What time zone are we in?” The elder queried. Moses stood to give his judgement.

“It matters not that there be cities. In the land there will be plenty of them. What matters is the content. If any city decides to follow the sort of thing we have witnessed here today, you must purge that city and decontaminate the land it stands on. El's commandments must be followed everywhere in The Land so that he will not be angry. It is important to do this so that he remains loyal to us. Accordingly the death penalty is appropriate in the type of case.” Moses sat back down with a triple grunt.

The Elder waved his little stick at the Ushers. “You cannot pass my circle. Right. I saw that. You're in big trouble now.” He swiftly drew another circle as the Ushers enthusiastically grappled with him. “That's my final circle and warning. Fire will come down on you if you cross it. Right, I warned you. Put me down. That's my stick. Let go of it.”

Most Senior Judge and Master Clerk carried their jurisdictions with them by retiring to the robing room to change clothes, Master Clerk adjusting the emblem on the way past. The Ushers adjourned the court by rubbing out the lines and removing the sticks in the sand. Justice had moved on that day.

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 14: 1-29

Now it was true that the number of chiseled tablets had increased rapidly, making it difficult to look things up until a decent index could be chiseled. To promote public education, Moses and God’s Little Helper would hold weekly Q&A sessions so that the People could ask first rather than have to keep an eye out for divine fireballs later.

Question: A close family member has died. Is it okay to wail and rend my garments?

God’s Little Helper: That would be fine. Sorry to learn of your loss.

Q: If rending garments feels like it doesn’t have enough zip to it, can I shave my head and cut myself with a sharp implement?

Moses: No. That will make you look like a foreigner. We can’t have that.

Q: When we get to the Land of Promise, I am thinking of opening a chain of restaurants--“David’s Diner: Just a Stone’s Throw Away to Slay Your Goliath Appetite!” What sort of foods can I put on the menu?

GLH: Ox, sheep, goats, various types of antelopes. They are all yummy.

M: The rule is simple: you can eat any animal that BOTH has hooves divided in two parts, and which chew the cud.

Q: Camel? Hare?

M: They only chew cud. They don’t have hooves. Off the menu.

Q: I have some nice pork barbecue recipes...

GLH: No.

Q: Ham...

M: No.

Q: Bacon-wrapped....

GLH & M: NO!

M: Look, a pig has divided hooves, I grant you. But it doesn’t chew its cud. It’s off the menu. Don’t eat it. Do not even touch its remains.

Q: Seafood okay?

GLH: Fish are find. Salmon, trout, cod...

Q: Oysters?

M: No. Look for fins and scales. Those can be the blue plate special. Anything else is not acceptable.

Q: I was hoping for some nice poultry dishes.

GLH: Chicken soup is always welcome.

M: Ritually clean birds are okay. Avoid things like vultures, kites, hawks, crows, ravens, owls, falcons, storks, bats...

GLH (sotto voce): Bats aren’t actually birds...

M: ...which aren’t actually birds, but avoid them anyway. Also winged insects are bad. If there is any in the restaurant, the health department will close you down.

Q: So it would be okay to cook up that old pheasant that died the other day?

GLH: No. Actually, this rule applies to all animals: if they died by themselves (rather than slaughtered), don’t eat it. If you want to sell it to a foreigner, go right ahead, but do not feed it to any of the People.

Q: Thank you! I have to run now. I’m getting ready to boil a goat in its mother’s milk...

M: Hold it! Don’t do that!

Q: But...but...you said goats are okay to eat!

M: Not cooked that way.

Q: Now about this whole tithe scheme... isn’t it a waste of food to give up a tithe of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn of the herds and flocks?

GLH: But you do get to eat them in the Special Place that IAIVTWY chooses, so that you learn to revere Him.

Q: Yeah, look, what if the Special Place is far away? Bit of a problem to carry that stuff a distance.

M: You can exchange the tithe for money and then carry the money to the Special Place. When you get there, you can then use the money to buy oxen, sheep, wine, whatever you desire, and then partake of that food in the presence of IAIVTWY.

GLH (clearing his throat noisily): Now about the Levites...

Q: I didn’t ask abou....

GLH: Do not ignore the Levites! After all, they do not have an allotment or inheritance like the rest of you. At the end of every third year, bring out all the tithe of your produce and store it up in your villages. The Levites....

M: ...and the resident aliens, and the widows and the orphans...

GLH: ...and the Levites may come and eat their fill, and then the Lord, IAIVTWY, will bless you in all that you do. Everybody likes a well-fed Levite.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 15:1-23


A Drop For I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You

“Now then.” Moses went into Word mode. “Much has been said...”

“Amen.” From the assembled elders.

“...about seven,” (Moses chose to ignore the ill-timed intervention) “the seven sevens, the seven-seven-sevens, the seven-seven-seven-sevens...” Moses considered how this approach might play out. He turned to Master Scribe. “How many times should a Dropping occur? As many as seven times?”

“No, seventy seven times.” Ruled Master Scribe and thus established a principle for mathematical believers in the future. Moses on the other hand thought that once would be enough for his purposes.

“As you get to the end of every seven years, make a Drop.” Thus Moses imparted another principle. Being a law-maker and supreme judge, however, had taught him to anticipate the question that was on the point of emerging from the mouths of the Elders. The furrowed brows always gave them away.

“This” Anticipated Moses, “Is how to Drop a Drop.” Brows started to unfurrow. “Every person who has responsibility for managing a debt-loan shall cancel whatever has been loaned to a fellow-citizen. No debt-owner shall press a fellow-citizen. Why? Because we are talking about A Dropping For I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You.”

Brows started to furrow.

“Of course,” Forestalled Moses, “this doesn’t apply to citizens of other countries.” Mass unfurrowing. “Those debts continue to run. The rule here applies only to those in our community. For them, let it Drop. The key point to note here is that there must be no needy person among you. IAIVTWY will most certainly look after you in the land which IAIVTWY-your-El is giving you to possess as your inheritance. Every citizen must have his inheritance.”

Brows remained too relaxed for Moses' comfort.

“But only if you fully obey everything IAIVTWY-your-El has given you to follow. That includes all the commands I am giving you today. For IAIVTWY-your-El will bless you just as he has promised. You will lend to many nations, but will not borrow; you will provide direction for many nations, but they will not direct you.”


The Second Drop

Having got the essential principle out of the way, Moses decided that a deuteronomy would be in order, this time with a softer touch. Something for the kindergarten.

“Let's imagine that there is a really poor person in one of our towns. We must not be prejudiced towards him or her, we shouldn't hold back any aid. No, we must be open-handed and be sure to lend whatever is needed. We mustn't think to ourselves that just because the seventh year is approaching that it is too risky to lend. That would be naughty. If the poor person complains to IAIVTWY, IAIVTWY will decide you are disloyal to himself. You must give and not complain about it, and as a result IAIVTWY-your-El will bless you. You do need to be open-handed to your fellow-citizens all the time, because there will always be poor people among you.”

So inadvertently Moses set up an expectation about the poor that some in later generations would assume was another binding principle.


Practical Dropping

'Twas but a matter of time before the cases started to land in the Supreme Court and the rulings started to be etched.

“Yes, the principle applies to every citizen – all fellow Hebrews who are working off a debt are to be subject to the seven year debt drop. Next.”

“Yes, the term 'Fellow Hebrew' includes females and well as males. Next.”

“No, dropping doesn't mean sending away without any resource. You must make ample provision. Next.”

“The term 'ample provision' means you give from whatever you have been blessed with by IAIVTWY-your-El – sheep, bread, booze – whatever you've got. Don't forget the work you had to do in The Greatest Nation On Earth before IAIVTWY-your-El obtained your Drop. Next.”

“One of your debt workers doesn’t want to be Dropped? How unusual. Well, if he is loyal and doing well under your responsibility, then I suggest we follow the established routine of giving him one of your personal earrings. That will ensure he is identified as one of your full-time workers who is no longer eligible for the Drop. Next.”

“Yes, the term 'He' includes females and well as males. Next.”

“No. There is no economic liability owed in Dropping. A debt-worker is available all the time, whereas if you had a day worker you would only get the daily limit of hours out of him. Next.”

“Or her. Next”

And then, because the court list had exhausted the cases relating to Drop, the listing officer dropped in something completely unrelated. The listing officer was a great believer in the fact that there was such a thing as judicial diet and even Moses needed variety.

“The first-born males (and No, these do NOT include females) of your cows and sheep must be set apart for IAIVTWY-your-El and must not be used for anything else. These are to be eaten each year by everyone you have responsibility for in your house at the chosen place. If these first-born animals happen to be defective then you mustn't offer them up. Rather, you can eat them in your towns. Everyone can eat them, even those who are temporarily unclean for any reason, just as you would eat game meat. However let me remind you that you must not ingest the blood. Pour it away like water.”

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 16: 1-22

Being a small business owner has its own set of headaches, thought Leopold. For one thing, you have to make sure your inventory is up to snuff. Take that stand for greeting cards, for example. Did he have everything covered? Let’s see:

Of course, one couldn’t pass over IAIVTWY’s “My Protection” festival to commemorate leaving Egypt, along with the associated seven days of the Dough-less Bread Festival (or “No-Yeaster” as it is colloquially called). And, of course, everybody will be looking to celebrate and sacrifice in the places designated by You-Know-Who. Ah, yes, there were plenty of cards in stock for that: “My little Lamb, this holiday I don’t get a rise out of you!” That should be a big seller. (For the more risqué customers there is also “I’ll mark your lintel anytime!” ). Still, thought Leopold, card sales probably won’t make up for the loss of sales on yeast. Oh well. These are the sacrifices one makes for one’s God.

What is the next festival? It is almost harvest time, and, of course, seven weeks after that starts, there will be the Festival of Weeks. Ah, quite a party that (after, of course, making the voluntary offering to He-Who-Makes-Festivals)! That one will generate a lot of card sales, what with celebrating with one’s son, daughter, male and female slaves, even the Levites, resident aliens, orphans and widows! Well, okay, the widows and orphans probably won’t buy many cards, but they receive quite a lot of them! Yes, thought Leopold, he was well stocked with plenty of Happy Harvest cards. He looked forward to harvesting quite a crop of shekels from that.

Moving down the rack, Leopold saw the next week-long festival: the Feast of Shacks. That one fell during the grape and grain harvests, so more partying with the children, slaves, Levites, foreigners, etc. A nice selection of cards for that: "I'll shake your shack if you shake mine!"; "Let's cross palms together!" Hmmmm…might want to order a few Get-Well cards, too. With all the palm branches being waved around, somebody is bound to get hurt…

{We interrupt this solitary contemplation to bring you this breaking news: The One of Many Tenses has directed Moses, the Drawn-Out, to appoint judges and civil officers for each tribe in every village in which the People settle. Their job description is to judge people fairly. No favoritism, no bribes. Just justice. Thank you. We now return you to…

Oh, wait. No we don’t. A legal ruling has just come down. That was fast! It is so ordered: Do not erect a wooden Asherah pole (or, indeed, any tree that might be seen as such a fertility pole) next to any altar erected for IAIVTWY. Also, do not erect any sacred stone pillars (such as Baal-worshipers favored). I-Am-etc. detests those.

Now we return you to our regularly scheduled broadcast.}


Too late. Leopold has closed up shop.

{Sorry.}

Really, you couldn’t wait until next chapter to say all that?

{I said I was sorry.}

All I’m saying is that it is just going to confuse the heck out of somebody reading this a couple thousand years hence. Just saying.

{Did I mention the "sorry" part?}

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 17:1 – 18:22
 
The segue had been brilliant. Too quick and apparently natural to permit time to think and raise objections.

“There must be no sacrificing of flawed bulls or sheep to I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You your God” Spoke God to Moses. “That would be so grossly disgusting to I-Am-Etc. your God
 
“Yes,” Said Moses to I-Am-Etc., “Thank you for those rulings, but to get back to the bit about appointing judges in the towns, are they there to deal only with the minor cases? Like allowing a dog to be abroad without constraint, or racing a donkey in the high street without a licence?”
 
“No, Responded the great I. “They are to deal with the whole range of case-load, including treachery
 
“I see.” Moses was not convinced this was a good idea. For starters it would remove the need for his role.  “Treachery. But how are they to manage that very serious case to ensure compliance with the Law?”
 
“In the event that someone – anyone – is accused of treachery to me in any of the towns, the judge must investigate it properly. If it turns out to be really true and the evidence supports the fact that something grossly disgusting has been done in the state, then the convict must be taken to the court and stoned until he or she is dead. This must only happen on the testimony of more than one witness, though. No death sentence on the basis of just one witness.  The witnesses will begin the execution, then the other citizens will follow. This is how to ensure compliance
 
“So…” Moses felt he was re-applying for his job. “Supposing there was a case that was too hard for the town judge?  I mean, really hard. Complex claims and counter-claims, sort of thing. Novel point of Law, and all that?”
 
“I will choose a place where I can sit and where the Levitical priests and appointed senior judges are.  Those cases should be brought to them for judgement. Their ruling will be binding and if anyone ignores their ruling, that person must also die. Burn away that dross from Israel so that the people do not become arrogant
 
“So…” Moses still felt he hadn’t quite nailed down his role here. “If a case becomes too difficult even for them…?”
 
“A King
 
“A WHO???!!!”  Moses seriously hadn’t seen that one coming.
 
“Don’t forget that I am talking about the time when The People enter and settle in The Land. They are bound to take a look at how they compare with the settled neighbouring countries. They will notice that do not have a king and they will decide to have one. When they do, they must choose someone only I approve of. An Israelite citizen he must be, one of your own, not a foreigner. That king must not acquire for himself status symbols from the Greatest Nation on Earth – that way I have forbidden. Oh, and women: only in moderation in case he has a surfeit and gets heart burn. Same goes for his monetary policy.

“To drive all this home, when a new king come to power he must make a copy of all these chests of instructions on a scroll that the Levitical priests will give to him. That will be his copy and he must read it throughout his reign, so that he does not forget the Law and legislation. That’s a sure way to keep him under control


“But” Flubbered Moses, with scant regard for the niceties of textual division, given that he was still reeling from this latest divine innovation, “We’ve got priests – Levitical ones – for that sort of thing!”

“The priests – even the Levitical ones – indeed even the whole tribe of My Heart – will not have territory in The Land to own. They will serve me and can wander from place to place, reliant on the sacrifices for their health and wealth. You remember we talked about this and the share they are entitled to? Any Levite serving at the place I will choose is entitled to his share.

“The point is that there must be no disgusting practice going on in The Land I am giving The People. Things like human sacrifice, or reading offal for decisions, or black arts, or necromancy. Yuk. Uurrgh. Vomit. That’s the sort of thing going on in The Land at the moment and I am about to vomit them out before you. The People must remain innocent of all this before me. I do not give them permission to do those things


Moses must have looked really downhearted about his role, because I-Am-Etc. offered a Made-For-Moses role. Moses beamed and went out to deliver the good news. After the bits about stones, judges, chosen places, kings, and priests, he swelled out with pride, cleared his throat, and delivered the coup-de-grace.

“I expect you are wondering what will happen to my role.” That may have been a bit optimistic; the concept of ‘king’ was still swilling round the minds of the elders to the exclusion of pretty much all else.

“Well, fear not. PROPHET. Oh, yes. PROPHET. And one just like me, no less. God will promote one of our citizens to be a PROPHET like me. Just like me.” Moses rocked back and forth on his heels, smiling broadly at the importance of this golden nugget.

“And you must listen and obey him just like you listen and obey me.”

Pause.

“Are you listening to me?” Bellowed Moses, becoming aware that ‘king’ was forefronted in most minds. Attention snapped back to Moses.

“It’s your fault,” Moses continued, though with almost instant hindsight regretting that turn of phrase, because it made it sound as though he was an unfortunate outcome. “Back in the day you all wanted an intermediary who would stand between God and yourselves because you were so weak. I-Am-Etc. agreed with you. He said to me that he would create the post of Prophet and select an appropriate applicant – or possibly grab someone off the streets – and give him a message to tell The People how to live. And he will tell it just as God gives it.”

“Now it goes without saying that just as a traitor to God must die, so someone who fails to obey me – I mean the Prophet – will be hauled before God’s own Court.” Moses nodded in agreement to his speech and would have ended the sermon there had it not been for...

“So what happens if the prophet speaks rubbish?” Voice from the middle ranks, probably not making any connection between Prophet and Moses here. Probably.

Moses stared at the mid horizon. This had not occurred to him and he had not raised it as an issue before God. “A prophet speaking something not coming from God? Kill him!” Slightly miffed, Moses prepared to about face and head back to his tent, but...

“So how do we tell when it’s rubbish?”

Moses had to think on his feet here. “Well, obviously, if what he says doesn’t come true then it’s rubbish. Don’t be afraid of him.” And in order to avoid the fallout from this he made his exit quickly, thanking God that he had indeed been thinking on his feet and not while sitting down, as the time it would have taken to stand up would have been filed with tricky follow-up questions, such as: But that means we have to do things and then find out when it’s too late. Like leave Egypt. Like enter the Land. Etc. etc.

Sometimes it pays to be a systematic theologian. Sometimes not.

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 19: 1-21

So Moses made his quick exit. Unfortunately, the only exit available to him was back into the tent. And the tent was not exactly empty.

“Ah, Moses! Glad you are back. There are one or two other details to discuss!” said I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With You.

Moses sighed, grabbed a clean slate and said: “I’ll be with you just as soon as I put a fresh point on this chisel.”

Once the chisel was feeling sharper (even if Moses was not), He-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed went on:

“Once the People have entered the Land of Promise and everybody has settled in, divide the whole of the Land into three parts.”

“It takes a lot of gall to divide a whole into three parts,” thought Moses, classically.

“You do know that I can hear your thoughts, right? Anyway, back to the subject: build a roadway and divide the Land of Promise into thirds. Establish then three cities...well, okay, you are going to establish a lot of cities, far more than three, but establish three special Cities of Refuge.”

“Ummmm, refuge from what?”

“Didn’t I mention that? It is for killers to go to for safety.”

Moses had an inclination that property values in those cities were going to be a touch on the low side.

“Here are the ones who can go there for safety: somebody who accidentally kills a neighbor, with no malice or intention. For example, a man is cutting wood with an axe and his neighbor is standing nearby and, when swinging the axe, the head flies off...”

Moses looked a little green at this image.

“I meant the head of the axe, not the neighbor. But the end result is the same. The axe head hits the neighbor and kills him. Now, this is an accident, the killer had no hatred or animosity for the deceased, it just happened and the killer should not be put to death. However, the deceased’s Blood Avenger, in the heat of anger, is likely not to think of such niceties. As such, the accidental killer needs a place to flee to where he can live in safety.

“Now, I said three cities, but obviously if the territory controlled by the People grows, they will need to add three more Cities of Refuge. That future expansion, of course, will only happen if the People carefully follow the laws I have given them. These include loving the Lord your God always and...”


“Yes, yes,” said Moses hurriedly. “I have them all here”--indicating several piles of slates--“no need to repeat them all. Again.”

“So these Cities of Refuge will prevent the spilling of innocent blood. You need multiple cities so that the accidental killer does not have to run too far to get one. Otherwise the Blood Avenger might catch up to him before reaching refuge and innocent blood would be spilled.

“Now suppose a killer is not an accidental one but lays in wait to slay his neighbor, with malice and intent. That killer might also flee to a City of Refuge. In that case, the town elders of the place of killing should send for him and bring him back and turn him over to the Blood Avenger. Do not feel pity. An unavenged murder weighs on the whole community and peace is restored by just vengeance being carried out.

“Speaking of neighbors, warn the People not to monkey around with their neighbor's boundary markers.”


Moses was a remarkable man. Many others would have blinked at the apparent incongruity of jumping from cold-blooded planned murder to getting a few extra feet of land. But Moses understood. After all, what more likely cause is there for wanting to murder your neighbor than that neighbor swiping your property?

I-Am, etc. went on (as usual): “Trial procedure! A single witness is not enough to convict anybody of a crime or offense. A matter is only legally established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. You know that. But suppose somebody bears false witness an accuses another of a crime? What then? Simple! Have both stand in the presence of the Lord...”

“What!??!? Here?!?!?” spluttered Moses.

“...by which I mean, of course, before the priests and judges in office at the time. It is like being in front of Me. The judges will conduct a careful investigation--deerstalkers, magnifying glasses, Inverness capes; the whole bit--and if they determine that the witness was a liar, then do to that false witness what the false witness wished to have done to the wrongly accused. That’ll keep the People in line! Others will hear what happened and will stay on the straight and narrow. Show no pity: a life for a life; an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; a hand for a hand; a foot for a foot; a lung for a lung; a kidney for a...”

“Would it be okay if we loved our neighbor and prayed for those who persecute us?” asked Moses.

“Stop jumping ahead. You’ll confuse people.”

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 20:1-20


“There’s been a spot of bother in the divine council” Announced El (a.k.a I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You) to Moses, Joshua, and God’s-Little-Helper. “It all began with the rebellion, way back in Crate One, Slate 3

Master Scribe delved into the said crate, blew the dust off the said slate, and summarised the snake event.

“Ah,” Summarised Moses, “That had knock-on effects, eh?”

“As on Earth, so in Heaven.” Agreed El. “Some of my Council got uppity ideas, too, and have been in rebellion along with their human counterparts for quite some time. The time is nearly here, though, when we are both going to do something about that.

“Let me tell you about the subject of War
.” Joshua moved to front and centre sharply, causing the elderly trio of Moses, Eliezer, and Master Scribe to have a sharp elderly panic attack. “Normally if you go to war you will conduct yourselves in the normal manner. The key thing to remember is: Do Not Be Afraid, not even if you are outnumbered by armoured divisions and special forces, as you are likely to be

“DO NOT BE AFRAID!” Rehearsed Joshua, having scribbled that key theme of War on a slate.

“Quite” Affirmed the Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Forces. “I am the one who brought this people up from the greatest nation on earth, and I Am With You. What am I

“WITH YOU!” Bellowed Joshua (scribble scribble).

“Now for the priest’s role.” Pause. “Where is the priest?” God’s Little Helper emerged from a group of candlesticks where he had inadvertently landed from a leap following Joshua’s peal of thunder. “Ah, there you are. Now, as the army moves up to its starting line, the priest will address them, saying, ‘Pay Attention, El-Strugglers! Today is a day of war! Do not be soft! Do not be afraid! Do not tremble! Why? Because IAIVTWY your El will be fighting with you to defeat your enemy!

Joshua’s scribble: Fight. Defeat.

God’s Little Helper’s scribble: Soft. Afraid. Tremble.

Moses decided that a scribble of compromise was called for. “Not everyone is ready for war,” He said, “What with moving house, raising families, business projects, besotted with potential partners… after all, spring is when the nations go to war, yet spring is also a time-honoured time for – well – the sap rises and so forth.”

“This is where we begin to demonstrate to the other nations what my household is like. There shall be special leave for setting up a house, parental leave for parents, business leave for setting up a business, and sapiential leave for saps. Joshua, your officers are to follow this policy with their men

Joshua didn’t say it, but his thoughts on losing significant numbers of fighting men rose before his God.

“There’s more. If an officer detects that any one of his men is unfit to fight through fear, despite my exhortations on this subject, it is imperative that said man be released from service by said officer. I want only dedicated, faithful, men. Not one who might be distracted by other matters. Once you have a dedicated army, the officers can proceed to select subalterns and non-commissioned officers as leaders

Moses’ view was that this was, on balance, quite fair. After all, who needed a soldier who, just at the point of running through an enemy with his trusty blade, paused to wonder if his wife had remembered to prune the vines?

“Now for the rules of War. Normal rules apply, normally. In general, if you find yourself in a fight against a fortified township, do the usual thing and offer a covenant-peace relationship so that they come back into my household. If they agree, they will provide service for you and you will protect them. If, on the other hand, they refuse to end their rebellion, you will cut them off and IAIVTWY your El will hand them over to you. You must then execute all the men, though everyone (women and children) and everything else may be taken for you to own. IAIVTWY your El has given it all to you to manage.

“This norm applies to the nations generally. However, I have an exception you need to be aware of. A while ago a group of gods in my Council were jealous of the human ability to be fruitful and multiply. They took it upon themselves to engage in illicit sexual contact with human women and teach them illicit arts, no less. The consequences have been appalling. Violence, rebellion, idolatry, disease. Most of this has been brought about by how the human descendants used the illicit arts to seduce, make war, and to conduct sorcery, astrology, and weather forecasting. You know of whom I speak: the Giants


Master Scribe blew the dust off from Slate 6 in Crate 1.

“Ah,” Said Moses, “The Big Question. So how do we deal with these Anaks, the descendants of the Nephils, that so inconveniently inhabit the land you are giving us?”

“Destroy them utterly. Apply the Rule of Herem, not the Rule of Normal War. It is time for that appalling act of rebellion to be utterly erased from my creation. If you fail to do this, you risk being tempted to behave in the same way they behave, swearing allegiance to the rebel gods against me. I’m giving you this land because we are starting with the heart of the rebellion. First we take Armageddon, then we take Eden

“But the olive trees…?” God’s Little Helper had not quite caught up yet, He was still besieging cities a distance away.

There were a few divine blinks.

“Pardon?”

“The olive trees. If the army needs to take a city quickly to avoid spending the whole summer in camp, won’t they be tempted to chop down the olive trees and then the vines and may even do over the pomegranates? We’ll have nothing left to eat.”

“That’s ridiculous. Why would an army waste time attacking trees? Please feel free to keep the trees growing and eat their fruit. Other trees can be cut down for siege weapons against the township. Right. Dismiss

After such a strategic session, Moses wondered if The People could ever manage normal day to day living.

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Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 21:1-23

Elder Aharon stepped carefully over the crops and paused to look at the body. It was clear where the crops lay, because the farmer-owner of the strip of land had not only marked his territory with boundary markers (essential to ensure neighbouring houses did not encroach on his strip), but had also taken the trouble to mark a line around the body with chalk taken from a local outcrop so as to make it clear to all: Crops here, Corpse there; the latter is not mine and Cops stay off the Grass.

Aharon had recently reviewed the Supreme Court Judgement, in which Moses (Drawn Out in the vernacular) had pronounced on a case of Death by Unusual and Indeterminate Means, setting out the process to be followed. Aharon knew what he had to do. Being the local Elder reporting to his tribal leader, all the land and activities in his domain were his responsibility. He was Sage, Judge, Accountant, and – yes – Cop. He even had a dark blue turban to wear on occasions such as this, with an emblem on the front, its blazon being: Azure, Lion Or rampant, with Truncheon Bronze in Escutcheon. He was Cop of all he surveyed – well, at least as far as the territory of the next town, at the boundary of which he could see a crowd starting to form in the manner of crowds the world over when a Death by Unusual and Indeterminate Means has just landed in the neighbourhood. The tract of land in which he stood was also the attention of a crowd from his territory, and the farmer was skirting his plot, brandishing a hoe to ward said crowd off from treading on his Grass.

Aharon cleared his throat and addressed his Crowd. “Definitely Slain” He said. One had to start somewhere.

“So, does anybody know how he died? Anybody? No?” Metaphorical tumbleweed drifted across the plain.

“All right. Who killed him?” Always worth getting to the heart of the matter as soon as possible. “Oh come on, somebody did. Anyone? No?”

Clearly this was going to be a complex case, offering interesting angles of approach and lines of investigation, and a nuisance of the first order. Stepping carefully back to the edge of the tract, he organised his team (i.e., conscripted the yokels to work). Together with the Elder from the neighbouring town, he appointed a Forensics team to work the measurements. Laying down a sequence of ell sticks, they calculated the distance from the centre of the home town to the body, and the same from the neighbouring town. Aharon bent nervously over the resulting sums to see which town was closer to the body. Dang. His problem after all.

He addressed one of the yokels. “Those taxes you are in arrears for. I’m taking your new heifer in lieu.” Understandable reaction ensued, but the law was clear. He needed a heifer that had not yet been put to work, and they were few and far between.

He appointed the town’s butcher to take the heifer to the lower quarter of land by the stream that no one wanted to work, and to kill it there. Then he formally handed to case over to the local priest, who confirmed the finding of Slain by Hand Unknown, and they all formally washed their hands in the stream and pronounced the rite: “It was not one of us in this town; we did not slay nor did we witness. Do not blame our people for this Death by Unusual and Indeterminate Means.”

And thus they were exonerated and a new cold case added to the list.

Meanwhile back in the town, the farmer had returned home to sort out his domestics. Earlier that spring he had been leveed into the army and had taken part in a border dispute where he had prevailed over his enemies and found someone he thought would make a good wife. Having just killed her parents in the fight, he thought it only right that he should assume responsibility for her and besides, he needed a good cook and hoe sharpener.

The question was: How to stop her bewailing and bemoaning all the time. He approached the local priest with this problem to seek a resolution.

“What’s the problem with her?” Asked the priest.

“She keeps pulling out her hair in despair over her lot, and she has a lot of hair.”

The priest consulted the law scroll. “Well, shave all her hair off. That will stop that practice. What else?”

“She keeps scratching me with her nails when she hits out at me.”

Consult. “Hmm. Clearly you must trim all her nails. That takes care of that. Anything else?”

“She insists on living in the clothes she came in. Grubby and all.”

Consult. “Give her new clothes. You know, something nice and womanly from the market. It’ll cost, but it’s worth it. Are we done?”

“Well, she kind of misses her family, you know. Noisily.”

“So that’s what that noise has been. Thought it was a couple of cats in dispute. Why is she so upset?”

“Well, it was kind of me who caused the bereavements.”

“Ah. In that case I can see the cause of affront. I suggest just letting her get it out of her system for a whole month. Annoying, I know, but only fair. Right, off you go.”

“But what happens after the month?”

“For goodness sake man, go forth and multiply of course.”

“But what if we are not compatible?”

That was a concept new to the ancient Near East, but there was a ruling to cover it, thankfully. “If you cannot get on at all, you must divorce her and let her go wherever she wants. You cannot sell her and must not treat her as a slave. It’s your own fault, after all.”

Now the Priest had to turn to another problem. In the same town was an older man who had two wives. Quite how that had happened was an interesting case, but we are where we are and cannot rehearse the history. Suffice it to say that wife number one was a nag and drove him to drink. That no doubt had a bearing on the case. Still, the first son had been born from that union. Now the time had come to divide up the inheritance, given that the man was getting on a bit, but he wanted to devote most of the will to a son of his second and more favourite wife.

The priest consulted the law cases and made his pronouncement: “No, you cannot substitute a later son from your second marriage for your first-born son. The law is clear on this.”

However the man had that eventuality covered off. “Ah, but you see Mr. Cohen, my first-born son is a wastrel. He never obeys me, he is always down the pub either inside tanking it, or outside throwing it. Look at him over there on the track by the pub. That’s his normal splayed out manner. What use is he to manage the inheritance God has given us?”

The Priest had to admit that this was a powerful argument. And once again the law was clear. An execution party was formed and execution took place. One happy, elderly farmer trotted home to his wives, and one tired, sore priest arranged for the executed body to be hung from a tree so that it would not touch the ground while he then arranged for a burial spot. Burial had to take place by dusk to avoid El becoming ticked off and cursing The Land. So many things to think about when it came to managing people and land, what with all the bodies and all.

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Hedgehog

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Deuteronomy 22: 1-30

It had become a pleasant Spring day and the Chief Scribe decided that he had earned a bit of a rest. The Senior Assistant Scribe likewise joined him at the bar. That is why, when the courier dropped off a bunch of new priestly rulings to be formally documented for the archives, the office contained only two junior assistant scribes of untried skills. And they were named Dribbler and Scribbler.

Dribbler & Scribbler began a fresh scroll for the new rulings. It all started quietly enough:

Do not watch you countryman’s ox, sheep or goat straying away and just ignore it. Stop them and bring them back to your countryman. If your countryman lives too far away or if you don’t know who owns the livestock, then take the livestock to your own house and hold it until called for. This same principle applies to your neighbor’s donkey, clothes or any other possession that has been lost.

Dribbler & Scribbler smiled happily. One perfectly reasonable rule down in the books and they wrote it down neatly. What was next?

Do not watch your countryman’s donkey or ox fallen down along the road and just ignore it. Rather, stop and help your countryman to raise them up again.

The two junior assistants nodded. This scribe business was easy! Clearly, this particular scroll was dedicated to proper behavior towards your neighbor’s livestock. They began to have dreams of quick promotion for their excellent work. Onwards!

A woman shall not wear man’s clothes; nor a man a woman’s clothes, for such things are offensive to the Lord.

“Ummmmmmm,” said Dribbler. “That doesn’t fit. Did you mix up these cards?”

“They are just the way the courier gave them to me,” said Scribbler.

“But it doesn’t make sense. We were happily talking livestock and now...fashion advice?”

Scribbler pondered. “It is probably a...whatchamacall’em...alley gory. It probably really means don’t engage in forbidden fertility rites or something.”

“But in prior scrolls,” pointed out Dribbler, “if that is what they meant, they just said ‘Don’t engage in these rituals.’ They didn’t worry about any allegory. This is about clothing.”

“Maybe,” said Scribbler, “it is a caution against...” and here his voice went down to a whisper “...homosexuality.”

Dribbler: “Which, again, they could have said flat out, if that is what is meant. It is not like they don’t know the words. This is about clothing!”

Scribbler: “Well maybe it ...”

Dribbler: “IT’S ABOUT CLOTHING!!!!!!!”

Scribbler decided it was time to calm things down. “Look,” he said, gesturing at the pile of scrolls, “we are 22 scrolls into this book. And, frankly, for my money, this one is even more tedious than Leviticus. Which is almost hard to believe.”

Dribbler: “So what are you suggesting?”

Scribbler: “Forget about it. Nobody is ever going to actually read this far anyway. Let’s move on to the next rule.”

If you happen to find a bird’s nest...

“Aha!,” cried Dribbler, “Animals again! So what was the clothing thing all about?”

“Maybe bestiality?” suggested Scribbler.

“IT’S ABOUT CLOTHING!!!!!!!”

If you happen to find a bird’s nest along the road, in a tree or on the ground, and there are chicks or eggs and a mother bird sitting on them, do not take both the mother bird and the chicks or eggs, but just take the young and let the mother go. This will secure for you a long life.

“Don’t start,” said Scribbler quickly. “I don’t understand it, either. Maybe the priests were drunk at the time?”

If you are building a new house, put a guardrail around the roof so nobody falls off.

“That seems pretty sober,” said Dribbler.

“It might have been devised the next day. After they found themselves waking up on the front lawn, having fallen from the roof in a drunken stupor.”

“It scares me just how much sense that makes,” observed Dribbler.

Do not plant your vineyard with two types of seed, or else the entire yield will be forfeited. Do not try to plow by yoking an ox and a donkey together. Do not wear clothing made from wool and linen threads woven together. And put tassels on the four corners of the garments that you wear.

“More fashion advice,” grumbled Dribbler.

“The tassels thing was mentioned before,” recalled Scribbler. “It is a...whatchmacall’em...a pneumonia to remember that we are different.”

“I think you mean ‘mnemonic.’ And it is different all right. Who knew El was such a stickler about fashion?”

If a man marries a woman, has sex with her, and then rejects her by claiming that she was not a virgin when he married her, the woman’s parents must produce the evidence of her virginity for the Elders at the city gate by spreading out the bloody sheets from the wedding night.

Dribbler said, “This just proves my earlier point: when they want to talk about this sex stuff, they don’t hold back with any obscure allegories.”

“Is there any explanation of exactly how the woman’s parents are supposed to obtain the sheets from the husband’s house?” asked Scribbler.

The Elders, seeing the evidence, will discipline the man and fine him 100 shekels (payable to the woman’s father) for having besmirched the reputation of a young woman of The People™. The woman will remain his wife and the man will never be permitted to divorce her for as long as he lives.

“And THERE’S a recipe for a happy home life,” said Dribbler.

But if the accusation was true and she is found to not have been a virgin, then the men of the city will bring the woman to the door of her father’s house and stone her to death. That will teach the father a lesson about having a daughter who engages in such harlotry in his house and it will also purge the evil from The People™.

“Okay,” said Scribbler, “that covers the case of a woman having sex before marriage. What if she has sex with a Man-Not-Her-Husband after marriage?”

Dribbler, glancing through the notes, said “The priests are pretty sharp, now. They have rules for all sorts of permutations. Look!”

If a man is caught having sex with a Married-Woman-Not-His-Wife, kill them both and purge the evil from The People™.

If a virgin woman is engaged to be wed to a man and another man meets her in the city and they have sex together, kill them both and purge the evil, etc. She deserves it because she did not cry out in the city for help, and he because he violated his neighbor’s fiancee.

If a man comes across an engaged woman out in the countryside and overpowers and rapes her, then just kill the man. The woman has done nothing wrong because she could cry out and there still would have been nobody around to rescue her.


“I see what you mean,” said Scribbler. “So we have taken care of the case of a woman having sex before marriage and not telling anybody; having sex with non-husband after marriage; and having sex with another man when engaged and in the city; and, of course, the special countryside rape rule for an engaged woman. I guess that leaves...”

If a man comes across an unengaged virgin woman and rapes her, and they are discovered, then he must pay her father 50 shekels and she gets to live with her rapist happily ever after, and he cannot divorce her.

Dribbler shook his head wearily. “Remind me not to have any daughters. They get screwed.”

“Looks like we have room for one more rule for for this scroll,” said Scribbler.

A man shall not marry his father’s former wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s skirt.

“His skirt? Maybe this is where the cross-dressing rule was supposed to go?” asked Dribbler.

“I think it means a male skirt. But, thank you for pointing out that this is some of that alley stuff. It means that having sex with your father’s wife is icky and dishonors him. So the priest’s rules are not always blunt! I bet that cross-dressing rule WAS just them being coy about....something.”

“Like what? Tassels?”

And so Dribbler and Scribbler rolled up the 22nd scroll, filed it and headed off to the pub to argue about fashion.

As one does.

--------------------
"We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it."--Pope Francis, Laudato Si'

Posts: 2740 | From: Delaware, USA | Registered: Sep 2008  |  IP: Logged
Nigel M
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Deuteronomy 23:1-25 in the vulgar, or 23:2-26 in the Holy.


There is an invariable Law in the Scribal Profession, towit: For each and every minute spent in a pub, there is an equal and opposite reaction in scribal accuracy. So it was that the return of Dribbler and Scribbler to the Scribal Emporium (4th tent on the left hand side as you enter the outer precincts of the Tabernacle) was marked by a vague unfamiliarity with the leaving off point on the 22nd scroll, allied with a definite incomprehension as to the whereabouts of that scroll, combined with oblivion with regard to the picking up point for the next scroll.

Fortunately their bewilderment was eased by Master Scribe’s entry into the proceedings with a demand that they get themselves forthwith and post-haste to the Supreme Court (16th tent on the right hand side as you negotiate the offal dump to the north of the Tabernacle), where some important judgements were about to be handed down. “Start with verse two to be safe.” Muttered Dibbler to Scribbler.

Master Clerk had just finished making the final delicate adjustments to the Judicial Seat so that Moses could wedge himself into it. Clearly, the Seat had shrunk since the Exodus; that could be the only explanation.

Having occupied the Judicial Seat, Moses then had to stand to deliver that day’s Judgements. Standing was something of a drawn-out affair these days. Then he began.

“In the case of the son taking his father’s woman:
A man shall not take his father’s woman
and he shall not remove his father’s skirt


Master Clerk handed down the Judgement – which meant he slid a rather heavy tablet down the table. Dibbler and Scribbler shifted uncomfortably; that Judgement sounded somewhat familiar. “Better put that in as verse one, just to be safe.” Muttered Dibbler to Scribbler.

“In the case of the Euphemism:
No one with a Euphemism may enter I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You’s Council

Moses paused while Master Clerk slid down the Judgement, then leant over the bench to address the Clerk privily: “Remind me, which euphemism are we talking about here?”

“The, er, case of the state of a man.” Responded Master Clerk delicately.

“Which state?”

“The nether state of incapacity.”

“Oh come on,” Bellowed Moses – privy having gone to the wind – “The Court has a right to know the exact nature of the euphemism. Let the people know!”

Master Clerk sighed and would have advised the Coram in Chambers of the nature of the case, but now that the public gallery was all agog he had no alternative but to… “The case of the man with crushed or severed genitals.”

“Owwww! Ohhhhhhhhh!” Moaned the public gallery, with a general bending over double and empathetic clutching of the nether regions. Moses straightened back up and wiped the tears from his eyes. “I see. Very well. Good to have that sorted out. Carry on then; let’s not have any more diluting of language around here please.”

Master Clerk sighed again; judicial intervention never turned out well. Nevertheless, he was bound by the bench. He handed the next Judgement up to Moses.

““In the case of the Bastard.” Moses dropped the sheet. “What? Steady On! Less of that vulgar language in the script, please.”

Master Clerk sighed, scribbled a re-phrase to avoid euphemisms and vulgarity, and handed it up.

“In the case of the one born outwith the bounds of prescribed marital relations:
No one misbegotten may enter I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You’s Council.
Even unto the tenth generation his descendants shall not enter I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You’s Council


Slide.

“In the case of foreigners brought before this Court:
Sons of Ammon and Sons of Moab.” There was a hissing and booing from the public gallery.
“No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You’s Council. Not even after the tenth generation; they shall never enter I-Am-In-Various-Tenses-With-You’s Council.” Eruption of cheers from the public gallery.

“And you know why that is.” Diverted Moses, who was always up for a bit of demagoguery. “Those [vulgar language] people offered us no help at all on the road here. They even contracted that Foreigner, Son of Torch, the interpreter in High Rivers to come and curse us. But I-Am, your El, was not swayed by that; no, he actually changed the curse into a blessing! He did that because he is committed to you.” Cheers from the public gallery.

“So you must not seek peace and stability with them ever. Not ever, I say.” Whistles and stomping from the public gallery. Shouts of “Amen!” and “Stone them!”, which might well be synonyms. Just as things were settling down again there was a “Death to the Edomites!” from an inveterate in the gallery. Moses looked up sharply and pronounced ex tempore.

“What?! No! The Sons of the Red Peoples are our family for heaven’s sake! No hating them

“Death to the Egyptians?” Hazarded the inveterate.

Moses paused. This was a tricky one. He pursed his lips, frowned, and considered the matter in the light of all the evidence pertaining to the fact that he was, himself, technically an Egyptian.

“On balance, no; after all we lived with them as immigrants for a long time. We’ll give it to the third generation on this one

Slide and quickly handing up the next case before Moses could move on to the question of Sumerians.

“Regarding the principle of proscribed states in the military.

“Case one: Unexpected leaks in the night time.” Moses paused to consider whether there was a hint of euphemism in this one, but decided to get on with it. “Discharge from the force.” Moses paused again. Was that a eu…? Never mind. “However when the new day begins the leaker must wash and then he can return to the camp

“Case two: Where to put the latrines:
Definitely outside the camp. Soldiers will carry a Mark 4 folding military spade (short) at all times for a hole, digging of, when the need for a Number 2 arises or descends…” Moses pursed his lips. There just had to be a euphemism in there somewhere. Casting a withering look at Master Clerk just because he could, he mustered his dignity and carried on.

“Don’t forget that the reason for all this digging, dropping, and disguising is that I-Am, your El, will be active in the camp to defeat your enemies and he does not want to get anything of impropriety on his boots. The camp belongs to him, after all.”

Slide.

“In the case of the runaway servant:
A servant who has had to escape to you from his master must not be imprisoned back to his master. He is not to be oppressed. Let him live as he wishes in any of the towns of your land

Slide.

“In the case of the fee for shrine attendants:
There must be no shrine attendants who are Israelite men or women. At no point are you to pay a fee to the House of I-Am, your El, that has come from a prostitute or a dog and-in-case-anyone-is-wondering-that-is-a-euphemism, to pay for a vow. Anything along the lines of the above is totally unacceptable to I-Am your El

Slide.

“In the case of the interest charge on a loan:
If you are making a loan to a fellow citizen, then you must not charge interest. This applies to anything; money, food… anything. As an aside, Moses clarified his ruling. “You may lend with interest to a non-citizen. If you keep this command, I-Am, your El, will bless you in all you undertake in the land you are about to enter to possess.” He felt that was necessary to offset the fear that there would be a financial collapse.

Slide.

“In the case of vows:
It would be fitting for people to be cognisant of the importance of a vow that is taken to I-Am, your El. Do not make one unless you are prepared to see it through immediately. If you make one and delay keeping it, God will treat you as a traitor. Not making a vow is fine; there is no treachery in that.” If reading glasses had been invented by that time, Moses would undoubtedly be looking over the top of them.

Slide.

“In the case of the grape grasper:
While it is permissible for someone to meet their hunger needs by eating grapes in a neighbour’s vineyard, it is definitely not permissible to haul grapes away by the basket load. The same principle applies to the case of the grain grasper: a person may pluck grains of ripe corn from a neighbour’s field, but not wade through the field with a sickle

Slide.

Moses waved away the next scribble from Master Clerk. “Time for Lunch.” He announced. “Court adjourned and bring me some grapes and grain to my tent.”

The Court adjourned. Master Clerk sighed. Sighing was a clerical function, and Master Clerk was a professional.

“Did you get all that?” Queried Dibbler to Scribbler. “And what line count did you get to?”

Scribbler did a hazy count. “Err… around 25 or 26, I think.”

“Good enough; tuck it away and let’s get some liquid refreshment before the afternoon session.”

Posts: 2826 | From: London, UK | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged


 
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