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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Twelve curses - Mount Ebal

In Deuteronomy 27, Moses instructed the people about a particular mass worship service, affirming their covenant with God, that they were to carry out after they crossed the Jordan River. As part of this service, the Levites were to intone twelve wrongs, that, if done, would lead to being cursed:
15 “‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’
16 “‘Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
17 “‘Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor's landmark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
18 “‘Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
19 “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
20 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his father's wife, because he has uncovered his father's nakedness.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
21 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with any kind of animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
22 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
23 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his mother-in-law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
24 “‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
25 “‘Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
26 “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (ESV)
This is a very interesting list. Although it was given for the Israelites, this list seems quite compatible with Christianity. It does not include, except by implication in the last curse, any of the Jewish dietary laws, or tabernacle/temple ritual, such as the yearly feasts and sacrifices. Five of the curses were about justice. Five of the Ten Commandments, those about making a graven image, theft, false witness, murder, and adultery are at least partly covered.
Four of the curses were about sexual misconduct, and none of those were about homosexuality. That, of course, does not mean the God approves of homosexual conduct. But it seems to mean that it wasn't an important issue, at least for the Israelites at that time, and it may mean that some of us have blown its importance way up in our time. I don't know.
Surely, these aren't the only types of behavior that God didn't want the Israelites to take part in. For example, there's nothing about coveting or Sabbath-breaking in this list. But surely these 12 bad behaviors were of considerable importance.
Thanks for reading.

2 comments:

Keetha said...

Little "edit" note - - - check your last paragraph. I believe you wanted to say "Surely these aren't . . . "

Martin LaBar said...

I surely did.

Thanks.