April 20, 2012

Deuteronomy 27: The Downward Sprial

 

Do you ever think there is significance to the order in which things are listed in the Bible?

I’m not sure if Deuteronomy 27 qualifies, but I want to play with the idea for a bit. Humor me today. Okay?

The chapter contains a list of 12 curses that the entire Israelite society is supposed to agree with (Can I get an AMEN?! And this chapter might be the origin of that saying.). The list seems to be an odd one. Some of the curses I totally get and others make me think, “How did THAT make the cut?”

But, as I asked above, what if there is a reason for them?

So for your reference, I’ve listed the curses and assigned them a category.

Idolatry

  • ‘Cursed be anyone who makes an idol or casts an image, anything abhorrent to the Lord, the work of an artisan, and sets it up in secret.’

Family

  • ‘Cursed be anyone who dishonours father or mother.’

Justice/Compassion

  • ‘Cursed be anyone who moves a neighbour’s boundary marker.’
  • ‘Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind person on the road.’
  • ‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.’

Sex

  • ‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his father’s wife, because he has violated his father’s rights.’
  • ‘Cursed be anyone who lies with any animal.’
  • ‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’
  • ‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his mother-in-law.’

Murder

  • ‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down a neighbour in secret.’
  • ‘Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.’

Law

  • ‘Cursed be anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by observing them.’

The Progression

The first curse is about idolatry. Which, if I may be so bold, tends to be the first thing people get wrong. That is why there is so much mention of it in Deuteronomy before any of the other laws. The first sin we always commit is idolatry. We set up some false god or forget the True One.

From there, things start to fall apart.

Once we have lost sight of God, the next thing we lose is the next closest thing we have to God: our family.

And since our family is where we learn basic human decency and fairness, when it goes, so goes our collective ability to be kind to one another. We no longer live in the knowledge and experience of God’s provision or our family’s love, so we take it from others. We forget the gifts we have been given, and become unkind to those who need a gift.

We start to look out for ourselves because no one looked out for us.

And because that is the way the world works, we can take what we want, be it someone’s body or their life.

The last curse is a reminder. None of the previous curses have to happen.

It’s basically up to you.

Ben Emerson is blogging his way through the Bible one chapter at a time at The Whole Dang Thing with "irreverent reverence."

Image • Public Domain via Wikimedia

Originally Published: April 20, 2012
Category: Bible Study
Sign Up Today. Membership is free

Public Stream