Follow the law if you want to live
Moses talks to the grownups1So, love the LORD your God. Do what he says. Obey his laws. Keep the rules. When he tells you to do something, do it. 2Okay, I’m talking to the grownups now. I’m not talking to your children. They weren’t around to see how the LORD disciplined you when you needed it. They didn’t see the awesome displays of his power, either. 3They weren’t there in Egypt to see the miracles he did, and how they affected Pharaoh and all the Egyptians.
4They didn’t see what he did to Egypt’s army when they were chasing us. He destroyed their entire army and swallowed their horses and chariots into the Reed Sea. Egypt never threatened us again. 5Your children didn’t see what the LORD did to keep you alive during your time in the desert wasteland. 6They didn’t see how he punished Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab in Reuben’s tribe. The ground opened beneath their feet and swallowed them alive, with everything dear to them: tents, family, servants, and livestock. 7You grownups, however, have seen it all. You’ve seen the awesome power of the LORD.
How to survive in Canaan8Here’s the point: you need to obey every one of the orders I’m giving you today. Do it so you’ll be strong enough to take the land you’re about to invade, across the river. 9And do it so you can live a long time in this land that the LORD promised to your ancestors. It’s a good land where milk and honey flow like rivers. 10This isn’t like the land you left behind in Egypt. There, you had to irrigate your crops like you have to water a vegetable garden.
11But now you’re about to cross into a land of hills and valleys watered by the rains of heaven. 12God takes care of this land. He looks after it all year long, beginning to end. 13Here’s what’s going to happen. If you obey these laws I’m giving you today—if you love the LORD your God with everything you’ve got in you, heart and soul, and if you do what he says, 14he’ll send the rain when the time is right. Early enough to water springtime grain fields. And late enough to water vineyards and olive orchards for harvest at the end of summer. 15He’ll give you grass in the fields so your cattle can graze all they want. 16So, don’t get tricked into worshiping other gods. 17If you do, the LORD will get angry with you. He’ll turn off the rain and he’ll dry up the land. You won’t survive long under those punishing conditions. You’ll die in that land the LORD gave you.
Take the law seriously18Take these words of mine seriously. Wear them like gloves on your hands and a hat on your head. 19Teach them to your kids. Talk about these laws at home or traveling. Talk about them when you’re lying down or up and about. 20Attach them to gates or doorways that lead into and out of your house. Do it so you’ll remember them when you’re coming and going. 21If you do this, you and your children can live in this land that the LORD promised your ancestors. In fact, you can live there for as long as there’s a sky above the earth.
22Obey all the laws I’m giving you. Love the LORD your God and stay close to him. 23If you do, the LORD will drive out all the nations living in the land. These nations are bigger and stronger than you are. 24Anywhere you step will become your land. You’ll own all the land from the deserts in the south to Lebanon in the north, and from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 25No one will be able to stop you. The LORD will put the fear of God in them; they’ll be terrified of you everywhere you go. That’s his promise.
Blessing or curse: pick one26I’m giving you a choice—a blessing or a curse. 27The LORD your God will bless your lives if you follow the law. 28The LORD will make life hard for you if you ignore the law and start worshiping other gods. 29The LORD your God will take you into this land you’re about to claim. When you get there, go to the twin hills of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Stand on Mount Gerizim and remind everyone about the LORD’s blessing. From Mount Ebal, remind them about the curse. 30You’ll find those mountains across the Jordan River Valley in Canaan territory. They’re west of the road near the city of Gilgal and the sacred trees of Moreh.
Follow the law31It’s almost time for you to cross the Jordan River and claim the land the LORD your God is giving you. When you do that and then get settled there, 32be careful to follow the law. Obey all the rules I’m telling you about today.
Many Bibles say “Red Sea.” But the Hebrew words are yam suph, “sea reeds.” Moses and the Hebrew refugees escaped through a path God made in this body of water. Scholars usually track Moses and the Hebrews escaping Egypt by walking southeast, out of the Nile Delta fields and toward the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. They would have passed through lake regions along what is now the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. These lakes and ponds reportedly had reeds growing along the banks, like the ones the Bible says grew along the Nile River and helped anchor Baby Moses in a basket (Exodus 2:3).
Verses 18-20 point back to what Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, one of the most important Bible passages to many Jewish people. Christians have creeds—short, bulleted statements that sum up their key beliefs. Like the Apostles Creed. Or the Nicene Creed. People in the Jewish faith don’t have that. But if they did, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 would be it. Jews call this section the Shema. That’s Hebrew for “hear,” or something similar: listen, pay attention, wake up. Jews often title sections in the Bible after the first word in the section. Not especially creative, but respectful.
This boundary deep into what is now Syria seems to track with the land the Israelites controlled during the time of King David and his son, King Solomon (2 Samuel 8:3). See also Deuteronomy 1:7.
Gilgal’s location is unclear. Joshua 4:19 puts it on Canaan’s border and identifies it as Israel’s staging camp before they launched the attack on Jericho. But the description here seems to put it near the center of Canaan, in the neighborhood of Shechem and the sacred oaks of Moreh that Abraham passed by, as reported in Genesis 12:6.
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