It was thus Moses spoke to the people of Israel while they were still on the other side of Jordan, in the desert plain that looks towards the Red Sea, with Pharan and Thophel and Laban and Haseroth, a country where gold abounds, for its frontiers; the plain that is spanned by a journey of eleven days from Horeb to Cades-Barne, by way of mount Seir. It was the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year, when Moses handed on to the Israelites the commands which the Lord had entrusted to him. He had now given them victory over Sehon, king of the Amorrhites, that lived at Hesebon, and Og, king of Basan, that lived at Astaroth and Edrai, still beyond the Jordan, in the Moabite country.
Moses, then, began to expound the law, with these words: We were still at Horeb when the Lord our God said to us, This mountain has been your home long enough; it is time for you to turn back, and make your way to the hill country of the Amorrhites and its neighbourhood. Low ground and high ground, southern plain and sea-coast, all Chanaan including mount Lebanon, right up to the great river Euphrates, I have given it all (said he) into your hands; go in and take possession of it; it is the home the Lord promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their posterity after them.
It was at this time, too, that I said to you, The charge of you is too heavy for my own strength, such increase has the Lord your God given you. To-day, you are countless as the stars in heaven; may the Lord, the God of your fathers, add many thousands yet to your number, and grant you the blessing he has promised! But I have not strength to bear, alone, the weight of all your affairs, all your quarrels; you must give me men of ripe wisdom and quick minds, high in repute among their fellow-tribesmen, to be appointed your rulers. And when I had your answer, approving my design, I chose out of all your tribes men of wisdom and repute, and I appointed them to be your rulers, with powers over a thousand men, or a hundred, or fifty, or ten together, issuing commands to you as need arose. And this was the charge I gave them: Listen to the pleadings of each man, and give a just award to citizen and to stranger alike. Listen impartially to great and small, without undue regard for any man; it is God's justice you are administering. If any quarrel seems hard to decide, refer it to me, and I will take cognisance of it myself. At this time, too, I gave you all the commandments you were to follow.
So we left Horeb, and traversed that wide desert whose terrible aspect is well known to you, on the way to the hill country of the Amorrhites, as the Lord bade us. And when we reached Cades-Barne I told you, Now you have made your way to these mountains of the Amorrhites, which the Lord means to give you for your own. The land you see before you is the Lord's gift to you, a divine gift; march in and take possession of it, in fulfilment of the promises he made to your fathers; let there be no cowardice, no shrinking here. Whereupon you all preferred a request to me that men should be sent out to view the land, and bring back word how best to approach it, what cities you should first assail; and I, listening to your words with approval, chose out twelve such men, one from each tribe. These set out, and traversed the hill country as far as the Valley of Grapes; viewed the whole land, and brought back with them such sample of its fruits as would show us how fertile it was; This is a fair land, they said, that the Lord means to give us. But you had no heart for the enterprise, put no trust in the promises of the Lord your God. The whisper went round in your tents, The Lord wishes us ill; that is why he has brought us away from Egypt, to leave us at the mercy of the Amorrhites, and so make an end of us. What enterprise is this? The messengers we sent have taken the heart out of us, with their tales of a great multitude of men, taller in stature than we are, of cities walled up to the skies, of the sons of Enac they saw there. And I reasoned with you, Do not be afraid, do not shrink before them; will not the Lord God who is your leader fight on your side, as he did in Egypt for all to see? Your own eyes have witnessed how the Lord your God carried you through the desert as a man carries his little son, all the long road you have travelled to reach this spot. But even so you had no confidence in the Lord your God, that had led you on the march and marked out your encampments for you, guiding you on your journey in fire by night, in cloud by day.
Listening to this talk of yours, the Lord was angry with you, and he took an oath that none of that worthless generation should live to see the fair land that was his promised gift to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephone. He was to see it, he and his sons should have the gift of the ground his feet had trodden, because he had carried out the Lord's will. And what marvel that the people should feel his displeasure, when the Lord was angry with me too for your sakes? There is no entering there, he told me, for you either. Josue the son of Nun, your servant, shall go in instead of you; bid him take heart and play the man; it shall be for him to apportion Israel its lands. These little ones of yours, that were to pass, you thought, into captivity, these sons of yours, that cannot yet discern right from wrong, shall have leave to enter; theirs the land shall be, my promised gift. As for you, turn your steps back towards the Red Sea again, back into the desert.
Ah no, you answered me, we confess our fault against the Lord; we ourselves are ready to set forth and do battle, as the Lord our God would have us. And even as you were on your way to the hill country, all armed, the Lord gave me a message for you, Do not march to the attack, or you will be overthrown by your enemies; I am at your side no longer. My warning went unheard; puffed up with pride, you disobeyed the Lord's word and marched on into the hill country, till the Amorrhite mountain-dwellers came out to meet you, and chased you away, thick as a swarm of bees, cut you down all the way from Seir to Horma. Many were the plaints you uttered in the Lord's presence when you came back, but he would not listen to you, and long you waited in idleness, there at Cades-Barne.
So we went back towards the Red Sea, back into the desert, as the Lord had bidden me, and for a long time the centre of our wanderings was the hill country of Seir. Then the Lord said to me, You have spent long enough roaming about these hills, you must go northwards now. And give the people this message, Your way lies by the frontiers of your own brethren, the sons of Edom. They will be alarmed at your coming, and you must take good care not to assail them. These mountains of Seir are the portion I have given to Esau, and you are not to have a foot of ground there for your own. Food you may have, but it must be bought at a fair price; you may draw and drink their water, but not without payment. Do you grudge that, when the Lord has so prospered all your enterprises, watched over your journey through this wild wilderness, secured you from want by forty years of his companionship?
So we passed beyond these brethren of ours, the Edomites of Seir, taking the road that leads over the level plain, from Elath and Asiongaber. And when we reached the path that leads into the desert of Moab, the Lord said to me, Do not levy war against the Moabites, or attack them; I do not mean to give you any of their lands. Ar is the territory I have given to the sons of Lot for their home. The earliest inhabitants of the country were the Emim, a great race of warriors, so tall in stature that they might have come of Enac's family; and indeed men held them to be giants of Enac's breed, but the Moabite name for them is Emim. (So, too, Seir had its earlier inhabitants, the Horites, but they were dispossessed and destroyed by the sons of Esau, who took possession of the land just as Israel took possession of the land which the Lord gave him.)
So we moved forward, and reached the brook Zared, minded to cross it. Between our departure from Cades-Barne and the crossing of the brook Zared lay thirty-eight years of wandering, till all the fighting men of that generation had passed away from this camp of ours, as the Lord swore they should; on all of them his hand fell, and they were lost to our ranks. And when all those warriors were dead the Lord had a command to give me: To-day you shall pass beyond the frontiers of Moab, at the city called Ar, and reach the neighbourhood of the Ammonites. Do not levy war against them or threaten battle; I do not mean to give you any of the Ammonites' land; here too the children of Lot must dwell. (This, too, was reckoned a land of giants; it was a giant race that lived there once, the Zomzommim, as they are called by the Ammonites, a people great and powerful, tall in stature as the Enacim themselves. But the Lord dispossessed them to make room for the Ammonites, and these made their dwelling there instead. Just so he had destroyed the Horites, that once lived in Seir, and given their land to the Edomites, who enjoy it to this day: the Hevites, too, that dwelt in Haserim, right up to Gaza, were dispossessed by the Caphtorim; these left their home and settled in the land of the Hevites, whom they destroyed.) March on, then, and cross the ravine of Arnon; here is the prey I have given you, Sehon, the Amorrhite king who reigns at Hesebon. Join battle with him, and set about the conquest of his land. To-day I will begin making your name a name of terror, so that every nation on earth, hearing it, shall be overcome with fear, sudden as the throes of a woman in travail.
So, from the desert of Cademoth, I sent an embassy to Sehon king of Hesebon, with peaceful overtures. We will pass through your land, I said, by the common highway, not turning aside to right or left. Sell us food to eat, and we will pay for it; allow us water to drink, and we will pay for it. Only grant us leave to pass through, like the Edomites in Seir and the Moabites in Ar, so that we can reach the Jordan, and cross over it into the land which the Lord our God is giving us to be our home. But Sehon, king of Hesebon, would not let us pass; the Lord your God gave him a hard heart, a stubborn will, so as to put him at your mercy; and it has happened under your eyes. I am ready, the Lord told me, to deliver him into your power, and his land with him; set about the conquest of it; and when Sehon offered battle at Jasa, coming out to meet us with all his forces, the Lord our God gave us the victory over him. We made an end of him and of his sons and of all his people, took all his cities there and then, putting all that dwelt there, men, women, and children, to the sword, and spared nothing except the beasts we drove off for our use, and such plunder as captured cities yield. From Aroer on the bank of Arnon, where it lies in its valley, right up to Galaad, there was no town or city but came into our hands; the Lord our God put all in our possession except the Ammonite country we might not enter, and all that lies in the ravine of Jeboc, and the mountain cities, and those other lands from which he bade us turn away.
Then we marched on by the road that leads to Basan, and Og, that was king of Basan, came out to meet us with all his forces, and offered battle at Edrai. Do not be afraid of him, the Lord said to me; both he and his people and his country are at your mercy, and you must treat him as you treated the Amorrhite king Sehon, who reigned at Hesebon. So the Lord our God gave us a fresh victory over Og, king of Bann, and all his people, and we exterminated them, there and then laying waste all his cities, all the sixty cities of Argob in Basan, where Og reigned; not a town escaped us. All sixty were fortified with high walls, gates and bars; and there were other, unwalled towns past numbering. We made an end of them, as we had made an end of Sehon, that reigned in Hesebon, destroying all the inhabitants of their cities, men, women and children, plundering their cattle and all the plunder their cities yielded. The territory we wrested at this time from the power of the two Amorrhite kings was the land beyond Jordan, from the Arnon ravine up to mount Hermon (which the Sidonians call Sarion, and the Amorrhites Sanir); all the lowland cities, and the whole of Galaad and Basan up to Selcha and Edrai, where Og, king of Basan, reigned. (This Og, king of Basan, was the only one left of the old giant breed; at Rabbath, in the Ammonite country, they still shew his iron bedstead, nine cubits long and four cubits broad, as we lesser men reckon the size of a cubit.)
The land thus conquered, from Aroer on the Arnon to the middle of the hill country of Galaad, I gave, with its cities, to Ruben and Gad. There was room, too, for half the tribe of Manasses in the rest of Galaad and in Basan, that is, the country of Argob; (Basan is also called the Land of Giants. It was Jair, a descendant of Manasses, that won possession of Argob, right up to the borders of Gessuri and Machati, and called Basan after his own name, Havoth-Jair, that is, Jair's villages, which is the name they bear still.) The Machirite clan of Manasses found their home in Galaad as well as in Basan; but the rest of Galaad I gave to Ruben and Gad, reaching half-way up the Amon ravine, with the borderlands that run up to the river Jeboc, where the Ammonites have their frontier, the wild plains, too, and the eastern bank of Jordan from Cenereth as far as the desert sea called the Sea of Salt, and the spurs of Phasga. At the same time I charged you of the three tribes, The Lord your God is giving you this territory for your home, but all of you that are fighting men must march in the van with the other tribes of Israel, your brethren, leaving your wives and children and cattle behind you; I know well that you are rich in cattle. These must be left in the cities I have assigned to you, until the Lord grants to your brethren, as to you, peaceful possession of their lands, the lands he means to give them across the Jordan. Then you can go back, and each shall enjoy the portion I have assigned to him.
Then, too, I said to Josue, your own eyes have witnessed what light work the Lord your God made of these two kings; it will fare no better with the kingdoms you will find beyond the river. Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God means to do battle for you.
Then, too, I pleaded with the Lord, and this was my prayer: Lord God, you have given your servant proof already of your greatness, of the strength your arm can wield; what other god in heaven or on earth can rival your deeds, can match his power with yours? Let me go across, then, and have sight of this fair land beyond the Jordan, of its noble hills, and of Lebanon itself! But the Lord, through your fault, was angry with me, and would not listen to me. Enough, he said, speak to me of this no more. Go up if you will to the top of Phasga, and turn your eyes west, north, south and east; the sight of it you may have, but you shall not cross yonder stream of Jordan. Give charge to Josue, bid him take heart and play the man; he it is that shall march at the head of this people of mine, and distribute to them the land you must be content with seeing. So we lay encamped, there in the valley, opposite the shrine of Phogor.
And now, Israel, pay good heed to the laws and the decrees I am making known to you. It is yours to observe them, if you would have life; if you would find your way into the land promised you by the Lord God of your fathers, and take possession of it. There must be no adding to this message of mine, no retrenching it; the commands I lay upon you are the commands of the Lord your God; keep them well. Your own eyes have witnessed what sentence the Lord passed against Beelphegor, purging out from among you all that worshipped at his shrine, while you, who remain faithful to the Lord, have lived to remember it. Be well assured that the laws and decrees I have given you come from the Lord himself, and must still be observed when you have taken possession of the land that is to be yours. Keep them in honour and live by them; these are to be the arts, this the wisdom, that you teach the world, as men come to hear of these laws, and say to themselves, Surely they must be wise, surely they must be discerning folk, that belong to so great a nation as this! And indeed no other nation is so great; no other nation has gods that draw near to it, as our God draws near to us whenever we pray to him. What other nation can boast that it has observances and decrees so rightly ordered as we have in this law of ours, this law which I am setting before your eyes to-day?
Keep anxious guard, then, Israel, as you love your own life. Never let the memory of what your own eyes have seen fade from your heart, as long as you live; hand it on to your sons, and your sons' sons, the memory of that day when you did stand in the Lord's presence at mount Horeb. Summon the whole people, the Lord said to me, so that they may hear these words of mine, and learn, and teach their children after them, to fear me all their life long. And you, as you came close to the spurs of the mountain, found it sending up flames high as heaven, all wreathed in darkness and cloud and mist. From the heart of those flames the Lord spoke to you, so that you could hear his voice, but had no vision of his form. He told you of his covenant, that you were to keep; uttered ten warnings, which he wrote down on two stone tablets; bade me, at that same time, hand on to you the observances and decrees you were to follow in the land that should one day be your home.
Be watchful, then, at the peril of your lives. When the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the flame on mount Horeb, there was no outward shape you saw. And will you be deluded into carving some outward image or likeness, of man or woman, of beasts that roam on the earth or birds that fly in the air, of creeping things on land or fish that dwell in the waters, down at the roots of earth? Will you be led astray as you look up at the sky, at sun and moon and all the host of stars, into making gods of them, worshipping those creatures which the Lord your God has made, to be the common drudges of every nation under heaven? Why else did the Lord choose you out, deliver you from Egypt's furnace of iron, but to make you a people all his own, as you are this day?
What though I, through your fault, have incurred the Lord's anger, so that he has sworn never to let me cross Jordan, and see the fair land he means to give you? What though I must die here, still on Jordan's further bank? You will cross over it; that fair land will be yours. Never forget, then, the covenant the Lord your God has made with you; never fashion yourself those images the Lord has forbidden you to fashion; the Lord your God is a fire that burns all before it, loves you with a jealous love. Sons will spring from you, and beget sons in their turn; what if you should go astray, when you have been long settled in the land, fashion yourselves some idol, and rouse the Lord your God to indignation at the sight of your evil-doing? I call heaven and earth to witness this day; the land which now lies within your grasp, beyond Jordan, will soon be yours no longer. Your enjoyment of it will be cut short, and the Lord will make an end of you, scattering you over the world and leaving but a few of you to live in a land of exile, where you must needs worship the gods which men's hands have made, things of wood and stone that cannot see or hear, cannot taste or smell. There, if you will have recourse to the Lord your God, if you will but have recourse to him with all your heart, in the bitterness of your tribulation, you will find him again. Yes, when all these threats have come home to you, you will turn back to the Lord your God at last, and listen to his voice. The Lord your God is a God of mercy; he will not forsake you, will not utterly destroy you, and will not forget the sworn covenant he made with your fathers. Search the history of the days that went before you, far back as the time when God made man on the earth, wide as earth's end from earth's end; is there any other record of such happenings? That a people should hear the voice of God speaking out of the heart of the flames, as you did, and live to tell of it? That God should intervene, and single out for himself one nation above all the rest; that he should try men's hearts with portent and with marvel, fight against them with constraining force, with open display of his strength, with plagues terrible to see? All this the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, and your own eyes have witnessed it; proof to you that this Lord is God, that no other can compare with him. From heaven he uttered his warnings, and on earth his voice came to you from the heart of that dread fire he shewed you; and all because he loved your fathers, and had chosen out their posterity. He rescued you from Egypt, and marched on before you with the great power that is his, ready to dispossess proud nations that were more than a match for you at your coming, and make their lands yours; it has happened here under your eyes. Be sure, then, of this henceforward, and keep it before your mind, that the Lord is the God who reigns in heaven above and on earth beneath; there is no other. His laws and decrees you must observe, as I have proclaimed them to you, if you and your sons after you are to prosper, and have long enjoyment of the land the Lord your God means to give you.
Then Moses set apart three cities on the east of Jordan, as a place of refuge, if he could but escape to one of them, for the man that had killed his neighbour unwittingly, without having any feud against him in times past. These were Bosor, out in the desert, in the plain that belongs to Ruben, Ramoth in Galaad, for Gad, and Golan in Basan, for Manasses.
Here follows the law which Moses proclaimed to the sons of Israel; these are the commandments and decrees and awards he gave to the Israelites that had marched with him out of Egypt. It was beyond Jordan that he gave them, opposite the shrine of Phogor, in the country that once belonged to the Amorrhite king Sehon, who reigned in Hesebon. But now Moses had defeated him, and the sons of Israel, coming back from Egypt, had overrun both his territory and the territory of Og, king of Basan. These were the two Amorrhite kings that reigned east of the Jordan, from Aroer, on the banks of Arnon, to the hill of Sion, that is, of Hermon; ruled all over the plain that lies east of Jordan, down to the Desert Sea and the spurs of mount Phasga.
Here, then, Moses called the whole of Israel together, and said to them, Listen, Israel, to the observances and the decrees I now proclaim in your hearing; learn them well, and live by them. When we were at Horeb, the Lord our God made a covenant with us, such a covenant as he never made with our fathers, but kept it for us, who stand here, living men, to-day. Face to face he spoke with us on the mountain, out of the flames; and yet I must be your representative all the while, a mediator between the Lord and you to tell you what his commands were, such dread of those fires kept you back from the hill-side.
And thus he spoke: I am the Lord your God, it was I who rescued you from the land of Egypt, where you did dwell in slavery. You shall not defy me by making other gods your own. You shall not carve yourself images, or fashion the likeness of anything in heaven above, or on earth beneath, or in the waters at the roots of earth, to bow down and worship it. I, your God, the Lord Almighty, am jealous in my love; be my enemy, and your children, to the third and fourth generation, shall make amends; love me, keep my commandments, and so mercy shall be yours a thousand-fold. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God lightly on your lips; if a man uses that name lightly, he will not go unpunished. Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has bidden you. Six days for drudgery, for doing all the work you have to do; when the seventh day comes, it is a sabbath, a day of rest, consecrated to the Lord your God. That day, all work shall be at an end, for you and for every son and daughter of yours, your servants and serving-women, your ass, too, and your ox, and all your beasts, and the aliens that live within your city walls. It must bring rest to your men-servants and your maid-servants, as to yourself. Remember that you too were a slave in Egypt; what constraining force the Lord used, what a display he made of his power, to rescue you; and now he will have you keep this day of rest.
Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord God has bidden you; so shall you live long to enjoy the land which the Lord your God means to give you.
You shall do no murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour's wife.
You shall not set your heart upon your neighbour's house or lands, his servants or handmaids, an ox or ass or anything that is his.
All this the Lord proclaimed to the whole multitude of you, there on the mountain, speaking aloud from the heart of the flames, the cloud, and the darkness; this and no more. And he wrote it down on two tablets of stone which he entrusted to me. And you, what thoughts were yours, when you listened to this voice that came out of the darkness, saw the mountain all aflame? You came to me, elders and chieftains of the tribes, and pleaded with me; The Lord our God has given us sight, now, of the splendour and the greatness that is his, we have been able to listen to his voice coming out of the heart of the flames; to-day has proved to us that a man may see God and live to tell of it. Must we court death, with this raging fire ever ready to devour us? Die we surely must, if we hear the voice of the Lord God again. Frail mortality cannot listen, as we have listened, to the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the flames, without incurring death at last. Do you go near, and listen to all the commands the Lord your God has for you; you shall proclaim it to us, and we will obey.
Hearing this, the Lord said to me, I have listened to the plea this people of mine has made to you, and all they have said is well said. Ah, had they but hearts so true that they would always fear me, always keep my commandments! Then it should go well with them, and with their sons for all time. Go and bid them return to their tents; and do you remain here at my side while I make known to you the laws and observances and decrees I would have taught, the laws of that country which I am giving them for their home.
It is for you, then, to observe the commands which the Lord has given you, never swerving to right or left, but still treading the path which the Lord your God has marked out for you; so that you may enjoy, in long prosperity, the land which shall be yours.
To me, then, the Lord your God entrusted the proclaiming of those laws, and observances, and decrees, so that you would have a rule to live by, yonder in the land that is to be your home. Go in fear of the Lord your God; here is a lifelong task for you, and your sons and your grandsons after you, to observe all the laws and decrees I here make known to you; so you will keep what you have won. The Lord your God, Israel, has promised you a land that is all milk and honey; but if you are to prosper and multiply there, you must needs listen to his commands, and mark them well, and live by them.
Listen then, Israel; there is no Lord but the Lord our God, and you shall love the Lord your God with the love of your whole heart, and your whole soul, and your whole strength. The commands I give you this day must be written on your heart, so that you can teach them to your sons, and keep them in mind continually, at home and on your travels, sleeping and waking; bound close to your hand for a remembrancer, ever moving up and down before your eyes; the legend you do inscribe on door and gate-post.
A time will come when the Lord has granted you entrance into the land which he promised to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; when he has given you possession of cities great and fair, not of your building, houses that abound in wealth, not of your making, wells not of your digging, vineyards and oliveyards not of your planting; when you have eaten of these and taken your fill. Then beware; then you will be in danger of forgetting that it was the Lord brought you out of the land of Egypt, where you had dwelt in slavery. You shall worship the Lord your God, to him only shalt you do service, and swear by no other name than this. All the neighbouring peoples have their own gods; do not fall away into worship of them; the Lord your God, who dwells so close to you, is jealous in his divine love, and if he is roused to anger with you, he will sweep you off the face of the earth. You shall not put the Lord your God to the proof, as you did at the Place of Challenge; it is for you to live by his commandments, by the decrees and observances he has enjoined on you, to obey the Lord's good pleasure. So shall you prosper, and the fair land which the Lord promised to your fathers shall be yours to have and to hold; he will be true to his word, and dispossess all those enemies of yours at your onslaught.
And so, in time to come, when one of your sons asks you what is the meaning of all the decrees and observances and awards which the Lord your God has given you, this shall be your answer: We dwelt in Egypt once, as Pharao's slaves, and the Lord our God rescued us from Egypt by his constraining power, subduing Pharao and his court with portents and marvels, great and grievous, under our eyes. So rescued, he brought us here, and gave us entrance into this fair land which he had promised to our fathers; warning us that we must observe all these laws of his, and go in fear of the Lord our God. Then the prosperity that is ours to-day will be ours all our life long; he will have mercy on us, if he sees us ever faithful to his commandments, ever obedient to his will.
Here then, is the land you are to invade and conquer. To make room for you in this land, the Lord your God means to dispossess a multitude of nations at your onslaught, Hethite, Gergesite, Amorrhite, Chanaanite, Pherezite, Hevite and Jebusite; seven nations you are no match for, in number or in strength, but the Lord your God will give you victory over them. Your part is, to exterminate them, never parleying with them, never pitying them. There must be no bonds of marriage between you; as you would deny your daughter to any son of theirs, so you must deny your son to any daughter of theirs, or she will tempt him away from his allegiance into the service of alien gods, rousing the Lord's anger, to your speedy destruction.
This, rather, you must do; overthrow their altars, break their idols, cut down their sacred groves, set fire to their carved figures, to shew that yours is a people set apart for its own God, chosen by its own God, out of all the nations on earth, as his own people. If the Lord has held you closely to him and shewed you special favour, it was not that you overshadowed other peoples in greatness; of all nations you are the smallest. No, it was because the Lord loved you, because he was true to the oath which he had sworn to your fathers, that he delivered you by force, reclaimed you from the slave's life you were living in the power of Pharao, king of Egypt. And you will find it ever the same; the Lord your God is God almighty, is God ever faithful; if men will love him and keep his commandments, he is true to his word, and shews mercy to them while a thousand generations pass; if they make him their enemy, his speedy retribution overwhelms them, brings them, without more ado, the reward they have deserved.
Remember, then, all the laws and observances and decrees I proclaim to you this day, and live by them. Listen to those decrees, be true to them, and live by them, and the Lord your God will be true to his covenant with you, to the merciful promise which he made to your fathers. He will prove his love by granting you increase, blessing womb and soil alike with fertility, corn and wine and oil, herd and flock, in the land which that promise has made yours. You shall be blessed as no other people is blessed; man and woman, sire and dam shall breed, and the Lord will keep every kind of sickness far from you; the fierce afflictions of Egypt, you know them well, he will send not on you but on your enemies. All the nations the Lord means you to conquer shall fall an easy prey to you; and for these you shall have no glance of pity; beware of worshipping their gods, to your sure destruction.
But it may be the thought will come into your mind, These nations outnumber me; shall I have the strength to dispossess them? Away with these fears; remember what the Lord your God did to Pharao and to the rest of the Egyptians, the great plagues which your eyes witnessed, the portents and the marvels, the constraining force the Lord your God used, the display he made of his power, to rescue you. It is thus he will deal with all these nations you dread; nay, the Lord your God will send hornets among them, to destroy the very fugitives that are in hiding from you. No, do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God fights in your company. Little by little, now here, now there, he will dispossess these nations; you could not destroy them all at once without letting the wild beasts breed, to your hurt. But deliver them over he will at your coming, beating them down till he makes an end of them, leaving all their kings at your mercy, till at last the very names of them are forgotten on earth; none shall be able to resist your victorious onset.
All their images you shall commit to the flames, with no eye for the gold and silver they are made of; keep nothing for yourself, or it will lead you into sin; the curse of the Lord your God rests upon it. Never must you bring any relic of an idol into your house; it is a forfeited thing, and your life too shall be forfeit. Shun it with loathing, turn away from the corruption of its touch; it is a forfeited thing.
Life, increase, entrance into the land the Lord promised to your fathers, secure possession of it, all shall be yours if you will take good heed to follow the commandments I am giving you this day. Do not forget the long journeying by which, for forty years, the Lord your God led you through the desert, testing you by hard discipline, to know the dispositions of your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He disciplined you with hunger, and then sent down manna, food unknown to you and to your fathers; he would teach you that man cannot live by bread only, there is life for him in all the words that proceed from the mouth of God. Never did the garments that covered you wear out with age, never were you footsore, these forty years. And do you doubt that the Lord was chastening you, as a man chastens his own son, training you to keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and follow the path he chooses, and live in fear of him?
And now the Lord your God means to settle you in a fair land, a land that has water coursing down in streams, and deep wells that break out from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vine and figtree and pomegranate and olive, a land where oil flows, and honey. Here without fear of want you may win your livelihood; all shall be yours in abundance; the very stones of that land yield iron, and there is copper to be mined from its hill-sides; here you may eat your fill and bless the name of the Lord your God for the fair land he has given you. You will be in danger, then, of forgetting the Lord your God, of neglecting the laws and decrees and observances you have learned this day. You will eat your fill, you will build yourself fair houses to dwell in, you will have herds and flocks, gold and silver and all good things shall be yours; oh beware lest your heart should swell with pride, and forget the Lord your God! He it was that rescued you from your bondage in Egypt, and led you through a wide wilderness full of terrors, where there were serpents with fiery breath, and scorpions, and vipers, and no water to drink. He it was that brought out streams from the solid rock, and fed you, in that desert, with manna, the food unknown to your fathers. So he disciplined and tested you, and then at last shewed mercy to you. Never were you to flatter yourself that valour of your own, strength of your own, had won you wealth; rather to bethink yourself of the Lord your God, and the strength he gives you. How faithful he is to the promise he made your fathers, you can see this day. Forget the Lord your God, betake yourself to other gods as their slave and worshipper, and I warn you, here and now, that it shall be your utter ruin. If you pay no heed to the voice of the Lord your God, you shall be swept away no less surely than these nations the Lord means to sweep away at your coming.
Listen, Israel; this day you are to cross the Jordan, and beyond it there are great nations to be dispossessed, more than a match for you, with huge cities walled as high as heaven; a strong folk and tall, the breed of Enac, that you have seen or heard tell of; none can withstand them. And this day will prove that it is the Lord your God that passes on before you, like fire that swallows up and consumes all before it, beating them down and making an end of them, scattering them before you all in a moment, in fulfilment of the promise he gave you. But do not flatter yourself, when the Lord your God destroys them thus at your onslaught, do not flatter yourself it was for any merit of yours he gave you possession of this land you have invaded, when in truth it was the wickedness of those other nations that brought them to ruin. No, if you do invade and conquer their lands, it is for no merit of yours, no right dispositions of yours; they are to perish at your onslaught in punishment of their own ill-deeds, and because the Lord must needs fulfil the promise which he made on oath to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Be well assured you had no claim to the possession of this fair land the Lord your God is bestowing on you, a stiff-necked nation as you are.
What, has memory failed you? Remember what provocation you did give the Lord your God, out in the desert. From the very day of your leaving Egypt, all the way to the place where you stand, there has been nothing but rebellion against the Lord. At Horeb itself you did challenge him, and in his anger he would have destroyed you. I went up to the mountain where I was to receive the two stone tablets that recorded the covenant the Lord was making with you and on the mountain, without food and drink, I spent forty days and forty nights. There I received two stone tablets, inscribed by his own divine fingers with all those commandments he gave you on the mountain, from the heart of the flames, when the people met there in full assembly. Forty days and as many nights had passed when he gave me the two stone tablets that recorded the covenant, and said, Bestir yourself, go back down the mountain with all speed; they have been quick to leave the paths you did shew them, this people you did bring out of Egypt with you, and have made themselves a molten image. This, too, the Lord said to me, Here is a race that will not bear the yoke; let me have my way, and efface their very memory on earth, and you yourself shall be at the head of a greater people, a stronger people than this.
So I went down the mountain, that was all aflame, with one stone tablet in either hand; and when I saw what sin you had committed against the Lord your God, forsaking all at once the path he had shewn you, and making yourselves a molten calf, I flung down the two tablets from my hands and broke them, there in your presence. And now for another forty days and forty nights I lay at the Lord's feet, without food or drink, in amends for the sin you had committed against the Lord, your defiance of his displeasure; so great was my fear of that vengeful anger of his, roused now and ready to destroy you. And once again the Lord listened to me. Aaron, too, he would have destroyed in his grievous anger, and for him, too, I must offer entreaty. As for this abomination of yours, this calf you had made, I took it up and gave it to the flames; then I cut it in pieces and ground it all to dust, which I threw into the stream that flows down the mountain side.
At the Place of Burning, too, and at the Place of Challenge, and at the Graves of Greed, you roused the Lord's anger; and when he sent you out to battle from Cades-Barne, bidding you go and take possession of the land he had given you for your home, you defied the will of the Lord your God, and refused to trust him or listen to his commands; always you have been rebels since the day when I first knew you. And I spent forty days and forty nights lying at the Lord's feet, praying him not to carry out his threat of destroying you. Lord God, I said in my prayer, do not make an end of this people of yours, this dear possession you did claim for yourself so signally, when you did rescue them from Egypt in the Egyptians despite. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; turn away your eyes from the sin they have committed, this stubborn, rebellious people of yours. Will you let it be said in the land from which we escaped, The Lord was their enemy; he promised them a home, but had no power to win it for them, and only led them out so as to make an end of them in the desert? They are your people, your dear possession, rescued by you so signally, with such display of your power!
Then it was the Lord said to me, Carve two tablets of stone, like those others, and come to meet me at the top of Horeb. Make an ark of wood, and put these tablets in it, when I have inscribed them with all the contents of those other tablets you did break. So I made an ark of acacia wood, and carved two fresh tablets like the old; these I bore in my hands as I went up the mountain, and on these the Lord wrote down, as he had written down before, the ten commandments he gave you out of the heart of the flames, when the people were assembled there. These, when I had come back from the mountain top, I laid up in the ark which I had made, as the Lord had bidden me, and there they remain. (It was when the Israelites had moved their camp from Beeroth in the Jacan country to Mosera that Aaron died, and his son Eleazar became high priest instead; then they went on to Gadgad and to the well-watered valley of Jetebaatha.) And now the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi, to carry the ark that bears record of his covenant, and to minister in his presence, and to impart blessing in his name, as they still do; that is why the Levites have no lands assigned to them like their brethren, the Lord your God has promised them that he himself will be their portion. Forty days and nights, then, as before, I remained thereon the mountain top, and once more the Lord listened to me, and spared you from destruction. March on, he said, put yourself at the head of my people; they shall enter and take possession of the land which was my promised gift to their fathers.
What return, then, Israel, does the Lord your God ask of you? This, that you should fear the Lord your God, and follow the path he chooses for you, and love him, and serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and keep those divine commandments and observances I enjoin on you this day, as the conditions of your happiness. This Lord God, that is master of the heavens, and the heaven above the heavens, of earth, too, and of all that they contain, would yet knit your fathers closely to him in his great love, and make choice of you, their sons, above all other nations in the world; the proof of it is before you. It is for you, then, to rid your hearts of defilement, a stiff-necked people no longer; the Lord your God is God of all gods, Lord of all lords, how great a God, how strong, how terrible! He will not flatter the great, or take bribes from the rich; he gives redress to the orphan and the widow; he is a friend of the wanderer, and gives him food and clothing. You too must befriend the wanderer; were not you strangers yourselves in the land of Egypt?
You shall fear the Lord your God, and serve none but him, hold close to him, and make your vows in his name; he is all your renown, this God of yours whose marvels and whose judgements your own eyes have witnessed. When your fathers made their way into Egypt, they were but seventy souls, and now see what increase the Lord has given you, so that you can vie with the stars in heaven for number.
Yours, then, to love the Lord your God, and be true at all times to every decree and observance, every award and command of his; yours to remember those past things which do not lie within the memory of your children. They were never warned by the sight of those marvellous things the Lord your God did, that constraining force of his, that display of his power. What portents were done in Egypt, to humble king Pharao and all his subjects, the army, too, of the Egyptians with their horses and chariots, all drowned in the Red Sea when they went in pursuit of you, and never heard of again to this day! In the desert, on your way to this place, you saw strange things, when the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed up Dathan and Abiron, the sons of Eliab, that was son of Ruben, with their households and their tents, and all that belonged to them, alone among the sons of Israel. If your eyes have witnessed all these great acts the Lord did, it was so that you might learn to keep all those laws of his which I now proclaim to you. So you will take possession of the land that awaits you yonder, a land all milk and honey, a gift which the Lord promised on oath to your fathers and their sons after them; so will you live long to enjoy it.
You must know that the land which lies before you is not like Egypt, where you lived formerly, a garden watered by sluices wherever the seed is sown; it is a country of hill and dale, that waits for rain from heaven to water it, so that the Lord your God himself must be at pains to tend it, watching over it from year's end to year's end. And if you obey the commands I am giving you now, by loving the Lord and serving him, heart and soul, then he will send your land rain in autumn, rain in spring, to give you a harvest of wheat, and wine, and oil; your beasts will have grass to graze on in the countryside, and you food to your hearts' content. But do not let your hearts be led away into forsaking the Lord your God, and enslaving yourselves to alien worship; or the Lord, in his anger, will shut the doors of heaven; no rain will fall, earth will yield no crops, and soon the fair land the Lord means to make yours will know you no longer.
Keep these words of mine in memory, treasure them up in your hearts, let them be bound close to your hands as a remembrancer, let them hang before your eyes. Teach them to your sons, thoughts to be pondered well, at home and abroad, sleeping and waking, the legend you inscribe on door and gate-post. So this land which the Lord promised to your fathers, to be their own as long as there is a sky above us, shall be held by you and your sons in long possession. Remember the commandments I am giving you, live by them, love the Lord your God, be true to him, follow all the paths he has chosen for you, and the Lord will scatter all these nations at your coming, and you shall dispossess them, though you be no match for them in number or in strength. All shall be yours, wherever your feet shall tread; the desert, and Lebanon, and the western sea, and the great river Euphrates shall be your frontiers. None shall be able to withstand you; such fear of you, such dread of your coming will the Lord, in his faithfulness, spread abroad wherever you go.
Such is the choice I set before you this day, blessing or curse. A blessing, if you will obey the commands I now give you from the Lord your God; a curse if you disobey those commands, and forsake the path I am shewing to you, and follow the worship of other gods, untried till now. When the Lord has given you entrance into the land which is to be your home, you will proclaim the blessing from mount Garizim, and the curse from mount Hebal. (These lie beyond Jordan, on its western side, in the territory of those Chanaanites who hold the plain near Galgal, where a long valley stretches up into the hills.) Cross Jordan you will, to conquer the land which the Lord your God means you to have and to hold; and look well to it that all the observances and decrees I proclaim before you to-day are carried out faithfully.
Here follow the laws and decrees you must observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers means to give you, if you are to have lifelong enjoyment of it. The nations you will dispossess have gods of their own, and build shrines for these on some high mountain, some hill, under the first green tree they can find. All these shrines you must overthrow, demolish their altars, break their monuments, burn their sacred pillars, hew down their idols, and abolish the very memory of them from the places where they stood. It is not such worship as this that you will offer to the Lord your God; the Lord your God will choose out one tribe among you, and one place in that tribe, to be the sanctuary of his name, the shrine of his presence; to that place you will go, when you would bring burnt-sacrifice and offering, tithe and first-fruits of your labour, vowed gifts and unvowed, first-born of cattle or of sheep. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your households shall eat, glad at heart, what your own hands have reaped with his blessing to aid them.
No, it will not be for every man, there as here, to worship when and where he pleases. So far, you have not reached your resting-place, that secure way of living which the Lord your God will then grant you. But when you have crossed Jordan, and are living in the land he has destined for your home, looking round you with fearless eyes, no enemy to molest you, then the Lord your God will choose a place to be the sanctuary of his name. There you will present before him all that I now enjoin, burnt-sacrifice and offering, tithe and first-fruit and choice things vowed to his honour. There you shall regale yourselves in the Lord's presence, with sons and daughters, men-servants and maid-servants, and the Levites, too, that dwell in your cities, with no part and lot of their own such as you have.
No, do not present your burnt-sacrifice in the first place that offers; bring your victims to one place, in one tribe, of the Lord's own choosing, and there carry out all that I enjoin upon you. Would you eat meat? Slay, then, and eat, there in your own city, whatever the bounty of the Lord your God has given you. Marred by blemish or by wound, whole, unblemished, and fit for sacrifice, it is all one; eat boldly as you would eat the flesh of red deer or roe, so long as you do not eat it with the blood; that must be poured out like water on the ground. But where tithes of corn or wine or oil are in question, or the first-born of herd and flock, gifts to the Lord vowed or unvowed, or the first-fruits of your crops, these you may not eat in your own city. Take them to the place the Lord your God has chosen and eat them there in his presence; make good cheer and regale yourself, there before the Lord your God, with all the good things your labour has earned; let son and daughter, man-servant and maid-servant, share it, and the Levite, too, that has his dwelling in your city; never neglect the Levite, all your days on earth.
Wide lands the Lord your God means to give you, as he has promised; and often you will be fain to indulge appetite, and eat flesh-meat, when the place the Lord has chosen for his name's sanctuary is far away. Slay, then, and eat what beasts you will, out of your herd or your flock, there in your own city as I bid you. Have no scruple; eat such meat as if it were the flesh of red deer or roe, let the undefiled and the defiled alike be your guests; only do not eat it with the blood, it is the blood that animates living things, and this life of theirs must not be eaten with the flesh, but poured out like water on the ground. So shall it be well with you and with your sons after you; you have done all the Lord requires of you. But all that you have consecrated or vowed to the Lord you must take with you to the place the Lord has chosen, and make due offering, of flesh and blood both, on the altar of the Lord your God; all the blood of your victims you must pour away on the altar, and be content with the flesh for your food. All these commands of mine you shall remember and obey; well for you and for your sons in perpetuity, if you do ever what is the Lord your God's good pleasure.
When the Lord your God has routed the nations you are to dispossess, and they give way before you, and you are dwelling in the land that once was theirs, do not imitate the folk you have conquered; do not hanker after their observances, and say, Why may I not worship as these worshipped before me? Not so shalt you approach the Lord your God; all that the Lord hates most, these did, very abominably, sacrificing their own sons and daughters by fire to these gods of theirs. In worshipping the Lord, you shall do only what I bid you, neither more nor less.
Prophet or dreamer may arise, of your own race, and foretell some signal event which afterwards comes about; even so he must not persuade you to follow the worship of alien gods, untried till now. Do not listen to such words from prophet or dreamer; it means that the Lord your God is putting you to the proof, to see whether he has the love of your whole heart and your whole soul or not. Follow and fear the Lord your God, obey no commands, listen to no voice but his; serve him and be true to him. The punishment of such a prophet or dreamer shall be death; he has counselled rebellion against the Lord God, who delivered your race from its slavery in Egypt; he would tempt you away from the path the Lord your God has marked out for you; rid your company of such plague as this.
Suffer none to whisper that counsel in your ears, brother nor son nor daughter, nor the wife you do cherish in your bosom, nor the friend you love as your own self. Whoever bids you follow the worship of alien gods, unknown to you and to your fathers, gods of any other nation in the wide world, near or far, do not consent, do not listen. Have no glance of pity for them, throw no merciful cloak over their guilt; put them to death without parley. The hand of every Israelite must be lifted against them, but yours first of all. One who would so tempt you away from the worship of the Lord your God, that rescued you from slavery in Egypt, must die by stoning; so that all Israel may be apprised of it, and take warning, and none dare to do the like thenceforward.
Or it may be, when the Lord your God has given all of you cities to dwell in, word will reach you of such happenings, not in your own city but in some other. Somewhere, unworthy sons of Israel are seducing their fellow-citizens, bidding them follow the worship of alien gods untried. Careful and anxious be your search, to find out the truth of the matter; and if it proves that the report was true, and the foul deed has been done, then without delay, put all the inhabitants of that city to the sword, and destroy it, with all that is in it, even the cattle in its byres. Make a pile in the streets of all its household store, and burn that with the city itself, as forfeit to the Lord your God. Let it be a ruin for all time, never to be rebuilt. It is all forfeit, be sure you do not treasure any relic of it. So the anger of the Lord your God will relent, and he will have mercy on you, and make a great nation of you, as he swore to your fathers; let him find you attentive to his voice, observant of all these commands of his, ready to do his will.
Learn to carry yourselves as the children of the Lord your God. Do not disfigure yourselves or shave your heads bare when a man dies, you, a people set apart for the Lord, chosen out of all nations on earth to be his very own. Do not eat any food which brings defilement. You may eat such beasts as the ox, the sheep, and the goat, red deer and roe, gazelle and wild goat, addax and oryx and zemer; any creature which has cloven hoofs and chews the cud. You must not eat those which have the hoofs single, even though they chew the cud; the camel and the hare and the rock-rabbit, and all other ruminants that do not divide the hoof, you must count unclean. And the sow, which has cloven hoofs but does not chew the cud, is also unclean; you must not eat the flesh of such beasts, or touch their carcases.
Among the creatures that live in water, you may eat those that have fins and scales; whatever lacks fins and scales is unclean, not for your eating. There are birds you may eat without fear of defilement; others which you must avoid as unclean, eagle and griffon and osprey, kite and falcon and vulture and all else of their kind, anything that belongs to the raven tribe, ostrich, night-owl, sea-mew, and hawks of every kind, stork, swan, ibis, cormorant, coot, night-jar and pelican, with curlews of every kind; the hoopoe, besides, and the bat. Creeping things that have wings are unclean, and must not be eaten. Any meat that is not unclean may be used for food, except what has fallen dead; make a present of this to some neighbour, not of Israel's race, or sell it to an alien, it is not for your eating, a people set apart for the Lord your God.
Seething a kid in its dam's milk is a rite forbidden you.
Every year, you will set apart a tenth of all the crops your land yields, and come to the place the Lord your God has chosen for the sanctuary of his name, to feast on it there in his presence; a tenth part of your corn and wine and oil, and the first-fruits of your herds and flocks; so you will learn to fear the Lord your God continually. But perhaps the journey will be too long, the place which he has chosen too far distant, and the load too great, so bountiful has the Lord your God been to you. Why then, sell all this tithe of yours, and bring the proceeds of the sale with you to the place he has chosen. With this money you may buy all you will, oxen and sheep, wine and mead, to your heart's content; and on these you shall feast in the presence of the Lord, you and all your household making good cheer together, and the Levite, too, that dwells in your city; do not neglect the Levite, that has no part or lot such as you have. Every third year, you will set apart a fresh tithe of all the revenue you then have, and lay it by at home, so that the Levite, who has no part or lot such as you have, and the wanderer and the orphan and the widow that are your fellow-citizens, may eat and have their fill. So, to whatever employment you do turn your hand, the blessing of the Lord your God shall be with you.
As each seventh year comes round, there shall be a cancelling of debts, and thus it shall be ordered; now that the Lord has granted discharge, no one shall demand repayment of money lent to his fellow-citizen, his fellow-Israelite. From an alien that has come to dwell in the land you may exact it, but your own fellow-countryman must be granted discharge. No one among you must be destitute, begging his bread, if the Lord is to grant you his blessing in the land he means to give you for your own. Bless you he will, as he has promised, if only you will listen to his voice and observe all the commandments I enjoin upon you this day; so that many nations shall be your debtors, and none your creditor, many your servants, and none your master.
It may be that one of your brethren, your fellow-citizen in the land the Lord your God means to give you, will fall on evil days. Do not steel your heart and shut your purse against him: be generous to his poverty, and lend him what you see he stands in need of. And here a base thought may come into your mind, which you must put away from you; that the seventh year, the year of discharge, is too close at hand. Do not, at such a time, turn your back on this brother of yours, and refuse to lend him what he would fain borrow; his plea will come before the Lord, and you will be held guilty. Lend freely, and use no craft in relieving his necessities; so at all times, to whatever employment you do turn your hand, the blessing of the Lord your God will be with you. For indeed there will be no lack of poor men in the land that is to be your home; I must needs warn you, then, to be open-handed towards your brother, your fellow-countryman, when he is poor and in want.
When any of your own race, Hebrew men and women, are sold to you as slaves and have worked for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set them at liberty. And the freed slave must not be allowed to go away empty-handed; make provision for him out of flock and threshing-floor and winepress the Lord has blessed for you. Do not forget that you too were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God ransomed you; there is good cause for the command I now lay upon you. But it may be he will refuse to leave you, for the love he bears to you and to your household, and for the happiness he finds in your service. Take an awl, then, and bore through his ear with it into the door of your house, in token that he is your slave in perpetuity; and for a maid-servant do the like. But if you do let them go free, do not turn your back on them; for six years they have been earning a workman's hire. So the Lord your God shall bless all your enterprises.
You shall set apart for the Lord your God all the first-born of your cattle and sheep; the calf must never feel the yoke, the lamb never be shorn; year by year you will come to the place the Lord has chosen, with all your household, and feast upon such offerings in the presence of the Lord your God. But if any beast has a blemish, or is lame or blind or misshapen or maimed in any way, it cannot be offered to the Lord your God; eat it, then, within your own city gates, and bid whom you will, defiled or undefiled, to share it with you, as if it were the flesh of red deer or roe, being careful only not to eat the blood with it; that must be poured out like water on the ground.
Mark well that first spring month when the crops are yet green; it is time to celebrate the pasch in the Lord's honour. In that month, at dead of night, the Lord your God rescued you from Egypt. In the place which the Lord your God has chosen for the sanctuary of his name, flock and herd alike must provide their paschal victims. At this feast, no bread must be eaten that has leaven in it; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, the food of perilous times, when you did escape from Egypt in fear; never as long as you live shall the manner of your departure from Egypt be forgotten. No leaven, then, must be found in all your domain during those seven days; and of the victim slain on that first evening nothing must remain till the morrow. This paschal victim is not to be immolated in a city here, a city there, among all the cities the Lord God means to give you; no, the Lord your God will choose out one place to be the sanctuary of his name, and there you will immolate the paschal victim at set of sun, the time of your escape from Egypt. In this place of the Lord's choice it must be cooked and eaten; then, when morning comes, you will make your way back to your own dwelling-place. For six days you will eat unleavened bread; on the seventh you will keep holiday in the Lord's honour, and rest from work.
From the day when the sickle is first put to your crops, count seven whole weeks, and then keep the Feast of Weeks, honouring the Lord your God with an offering freely made out of the fruits your labour has earned, in that measure in which the Lord has prospered you. Make good cheer in the presence of the Lord your God, with son and daughter, serving-man and serving-maid, with the Levite who dwells in your city, wanderer and orphan and widow that are your neighbours, in the place the Lord your God has chosen for his name's sanctuary. Never forget that you too were a slave once in Egypt; the more reason why you should obey this order I give you.
The Feast of Tent-dwelling you shall observe for seven days, at the time when corn and wine are all gathered in, keeping holiday again and making good cheer, with son and daughter, serving-man and serving-maid, Levite and wanderer, orphan and widow that are your neighbours. For seven days, in the place he has chosen, you shalt keep holiday in honour of the Lord your God; so greatly will he prosper your harvest and all the enterprises you do set your hand to, that you will have good reason to rejoice. Three times a year, then, all your men folk shall present themselves before the Lord your God in the place of his choice; at the three feasts of the Pasch, of Weeks, and of Tent-dwelling. No one shall present himself before the Lord empty-handed; each will have a gift to bring, in that measure in which the Lord his God has prospered him.
In all the cities the Lord your God gives you, you shall appoint judges and magistrates among your fellow-tribesmen. And these are to settle their neighbours' quarrels by just award, and listen to both parties, not moved by influence or bribery; such power a bribe has to rob even the wise of clear vision, to alter the sentence even of the just. Right is right, and ever you must keep it in view, if you would live long in the enjoyment of the land which the Lord your God means to give you.
There must be no sacred wood around the Lord's altar, no tree of any kind, nor must you make yourself an image and set it up there; all such worship is hateful to the Lord your God.
Never shall you offer in sacrifice sheep or ox that has any blemish or defect; such impiety is hateful to the Lord your God. It may be that, in one of the cities the Lord your God gives you, men and women of your race will be found so defiant, so false to his covenant, that they will forsake him, and enslave themselves to the worship of other gods, the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, in contempt of my commandment. If this news is brought to you, make careful enquiry into what you have heard; and if it proves that the report was true, and the foul deed was done among your fellow-Israelites, away with such recreant men or women to the city gate; there let them be killed by stoning. But there must be two witnesses or more if the death penalty is inflicted; one witness will not suffice when a man's life is in question. First the witnesses, then the rest of the people must put a hand to the deed, and so you will rid yourself of the plague that infects your company.
It may be that some matter of law will be too hard for your unravelling; was it killing or murder? Is this claim just or that? Was the infection leprous or not? There is no agreement between the judges at your own city gate. Up, then, make your way to the place the Lord your God has chosen, and have recourse to the priests of Levi's race, to the judge who then holds office; you have but to ask them, and they will make the right decision known to you. You must needs give effect to the sentence they pronounce, these officers of the Lord's chosen sanctuary; when they have told you what the divine law prescribes, you shall abide by their award, without swerving to right or left. If anyone is contumacious, rejecting the authority of the priest who then ministers to the Lord your God, and the judge's sentence, his life must pay for it. Rid Israel of this plague, so that all the people may take warning when they hear it, and there may be no contumacy thenceforward.
When you reach the land the Lord your God is giving you, and make it your own, and settle in it, you will resolve to have a king of your own, like the nations about you. The king you appoint must be the man the Lord your God chooses, one of your own race; you must not let an alien, who is not of your blood, bear rule over you. Once appointed, he must not raise troop after troop of horsemen, and turn his people's eyes back towards Egypt, flushed with the pride of horsemanship; the Lord strictly enjoins you never to tread that way again. He is not to wed a multitude of wives, that will seduce his heart from its loyalty; he is not to amass great treasures of silver and gold. And now he sits enthroned in his kingdom; let his first act be to borrow this schedule of the law from the priests of Levi's race, and have a second copy made of it. And that scroll he will keep by him, studying it all his life long, so that he may learn to serve the Lord his God, and follow all the rules and observances which the law enjoins. Never let his heart, puffed up with pride, disdain his brethren; never let him swerve from these commandments to right or left, if he and his sons are to enjoy long dominion over the race of Israel.
The priests that are of Levi's race, having no part or lot of their own such as the rest of Israel have, will share the burnt-sacrifices and offerings that are brought to the Lord, that is all the claim they have upon the revenues of their fellow-Israelites; has not the Lord told them that he is to be all their portion? When the whole people or some one Israelite offers sacrifice, be the victim ox or sheep, the priests can claim the gift of shoulder and maw; they can claim the first-fruits, too, of corn, and wine, and oil, and part of the wool that is brought in at sheep-shearing. Out of all your tribes, the Lord has chosen Levi and his children to stand up and minister in the Lord's name for ever. If a Levite gives up his home in any city of Israel, for love of the place the Lord has chosen, and comes to dwell there instead, he shall have a right to minister in the name of the Lord his God among the rest of his Levite brethren who then wait on the Lord's presence, and to receive the same portion of food as the others, the sale of his patrimony notwithstanding.
When you reach the land which the Lord your God means to give you, take good care not to imitate the abominable ways of the men who dwell there. None must be found among you to consecrate son or daughter by making them pass through the fire, to consult soothsayers, or keep watch for dream-revelations and omens; there must be no wizard, or enchanter, none who consults familiar spirits and divinations, and would receive warnings from the dead. All such things are hateful to the Lord; it is to punish them for such evil doings that he means to destroy these nations at your onslaught. Yours to stand before the Lord your God perfect and unreproved; let them listen to soothsayer and diviner, these other nations you will dispossess; not such is the schooling you have received from the Lord your God. No, the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, of your own race, a brother of your own; it is to him you must listen. Was it not your own plea, that day when all were publicly assembled at mount Horeb, that you might hear the voice of the Lord your God no longer, have sight of that raging fire no longer, lest it should be your death? And the Lord told me, All that they have said is well said. I will raise up for them a prophet like yourself, one of their own race, entrusting my own message to his lips, so that he may instruct them at my bidding. Whoever refuses obedience to these commands which he gives in my name, shall feel my vengeance. If anyone is so presumptuous as to prophesy in my name when I have given him no message to deliver, or prophesy in the name of alien gods, his life must pay for it.
Perhaps your unspoken thought would ask, how you should recognize those messages which do not come from the Lord? I will give you a test; If the prophet foretells something in the Lord's name, and it does not come about, this was no message from the Lord; it was the prophet's vain conceit that imagined it; let no word of his strike terror into you.
When the Lord your God has dispossessed those other nations, and you have overspread their country, and all its cities and houses are yours, set apart three cities in the midst of the territory he has granted you; cities that may be reached by well paved roads, and so placed as to divide up the whole of your land into three districts. One of these must be near at hand, when blood has been shed and the slayer would take sanctuary. Such a man must be granted his life, on these conditions; the blow must have been struck unwittingly, and there must be no proof of a feud between the two men in time past. A man, for instance, may have gone out with a friend of his, in all innocence, to cut wood; and as he is cutting the axe may fly out of his hand, or the iron come loose from the handle, striking the other and killing him. The author of such mischance will fly for his life to one of the cities aforesaid. It may be the dead man's next of kin will set out in pursuit, to take revenge; and if the distance is great, he may overtake and kill this innocent man, who cannot be shewn to have borne ill-will to the dead kinsman. That is why I bid you set apart three cities each at an equal distance from the next. In years to come, the Lord will enlarge your domain, as he swore to your fathers he would, and give you the whole of this land where he has promised you a home; provided always that you do keep his commandments, and do all that I bid you this day, loving the Lord your God, and following continually the path he has chosen for you. Then it will be time to double the number of the cities aforesaid, adding three others, to prevent the blood of innocent men being shed, here in this land the Lord is giving you for your own, and the guilt of that blood defiling you. But it may be that someone who has a grudge against his neighbour will plot against his life, starting up out of an ambush and inflicting on him a mortal hurt, and then flee to one of these cities for refuge. Then let the elders of that city send and dislodge him from his place of retreat, and so hand him over to the dead man's next of kin, to die. Have no mercy on him; it shall go ill with you, if you do not rid Israel of that defilement which the blood of an innocent man has brought on it.
If your neighbour's domain is bounded by same landmark, set up by men of old time, where your home is in the land the Lord has granted you, do not take it up and remove it elsewhere.
Whatever be the offence or crime a man is charged with, it shall not suffice for one witness to appear against him; every question must be settled by the voice of two witnesses or more. It may be that a false witness will appear, accusing a man of this or that misdeed. When such a claim is made, the two parties will be brought forward in the Lord's presence, before the priests and judges then in office and if these, after careful examination, find that the witness gave false evidence against his fellow-Israelite, they must inflict on him the same punishment he would have brought on this brother of his. You must rid yourself of the plague, so that others may be warned by hearing of it, and none dare to do the like again. No pity must be shewn him; life must answer for the life he would have sworn away, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
When you do go out to war against your enemies, never be daunted by the sight of horsemen and chariots, and a host greater than your own arrayed against you; the Lord your God, who rescued you from Egypt, fights on your side. When the hour of battle draws near, the high priest will take his stand there in front of the ranks, and say to the people, Listen, Israel; as you join battle today with your enemies, there must be no faint hearts among you, no flinching, no yielding, no trembling here. The Lord your God is here in the midst of you, and will fight on your side against your adversaries, to deliver you in the hour of peril. And then, in the hearing of the whole army, each chieftain will make this proclamation to the men of his own company: Is there anyone here who has built a new house, and not yet handselled it? Let him go back home; shall he be slain in battle, and leave another to handsel it? Is there anyone here who has planted a vineyard, and not shared the first vintage of it with his neighbours? Let him go back home; shall he be slain in battle, and another take his place? Is there anyone here that is betrothed to a maid, and has not taken her to himself? Let him go back home; shall he be slain in battle, and leave her to wed another? And when so much is said, let them add this further proclamation: Is there anyone here whose spirits are daunted by terror? Let him go back home, or he will daunt the spirits of his brethren, and make them cowards too. And now, having said their say, let the chieftains keep silent, and let each of them set about marshalling his company for battle.
When you do lay siege to a city, first of all you shall offer terms of peace. If these are accepted, and the gates opened to you, the lives of all the citizens shall be spared, and they shall become your subjects, paying you tribute. But if they refuse to listen, and offer battle, go forward to the assault; and when the Lord makes you master of it, put only the men folk to the sword, not the women and children, not the cattle or anything else that the city contains. Divide the spoil among the host, and enjoy as you will all the plunder the Lord your God has allowed you to take from your enemies. All this, when you are concerned with some city far away from you, not one of those in which you are to find a dwelling. But in the cities that are to be your own, no living thing must be left. All of them must be put to the sword, Hethite and Amorrhite and Chanaanite and Pherezite and Hevite and Jebusite, as the Lord your God has bidden you; or they will teach your race to perform such detestable worship as they perform in honour of their own gods, and be false to the Lord.
When a city must be taken by force of arms, and you have been a long time besieging it, do not lay waste the whole countryside with your axe, and destroy the trees that yield food. Trees are not men, to increase the number of the city's defenders. Spare the fruit-trees, and be content to cut down such wild trees as are fit for other use and so build engines to reduce the city that defies you.
When, in this land of yours a dead man's body is found and; here is no knowing who slew him, elders and judges must betake themselves to the spot where he lies, and find by measurement which of the neighbouring cities is nearest at hand. It is for the elders of the nearest city to do what must be done. They will choose out from the herd a heifer that has never borne yoke or ploughed furrow, and in some wild and rugged glen that was never ploughed or sown, this heifer must have its neck broken. Priests must be there, of Levi's race; these are the men whom the Lord your God has chosen to minister to him, and give their blessing in his name, and also to decide between right and wrong, clean and unclean. And the elders of this neighbouring city, close to the dead man, will wash their hands over the heifer that lies slain in the glen, protesting, Not ours the hand that shed this blood; our eyes never witnessed the deed; be merciful, Lord, to Israel, the people you best claimed for yourself; do not charge Israel, your own people, with guilt because it is stained with an innocent man's blood. So shall they be quit of all blame for the murder. Do my bidding, and the guilt of blood wrongfully shed shall never rest upon you.
When the Lord gives you victory over your enemies in battle, and you bring back prisoners, do you see among them a woman so fair that she wins your heart, and you would marry her? Take her, then, into your house; and there she must shave her head and pare her nails close and lay aside the garb of a captive, that she wore till now. Let her have a month, dwelling in your house, to bewail the loss of her father and mother; then you may take her to your bed and make her your wife. But if afterwards, she does not answer your mood, she must go free; you have no power to sell her or exercise lordship over her, when once you have robbed her of maidenhood.
If a man twice married loves one wife and is weary of the other, and has children by both, but his first-born by the wife he spurns, how shall he divide up his possessions between them? He shall have no power to make the son of the loved wife his heir, in preference to that other. Recognize the first-born he must, though of the mother he be weary; a double share of all his goods belongs to the son that was engendered first; the birthright is his.
Is there a son so rebellious and unmanageable that he defies his parents' bidding, and will not brook restraint? Such a son they must bring by force to the city gate where the elders are assembled, and make complaint to them, This son of ours is rebellious and unmanageable; he pays no heed to our remonstrances, but must ever be carousing, ever at his wantonness and his cups. Thereupon the citizens shall stone him to death, so that you may be rid of this plague, and every Israelite that hears of it may be afraid to do the like.
When a man is guilty of a capital crime, and his sentence is to hang on a gallows, his body must not be left to hang there on the gibbet, it must be buried the same day. God's curse lies on the man who hangs on a gibbet, and the land which the Lord your God gives you for your own must not suffer pollution.
If you see ox or sheep that belongs to your fellow-Israelite going astray, do not hurry past; take it back to its owner, if he is a neighbour of yours, and known to you. If not, shelter it yourself till he enquires, and restore it. And so with an ass or with a garment or any other lost thing that belongs to your fellow-Israelite; do not leave them where you find them, as if it did not concern you. If his ox or his ass falls down by the wayside, do not hurry past; help him to lift it up again.
A woman must not wear man's clothes, or a man go clad like a woman; all such doings are hateful to God.
If you find in your path, in a tree or on the ground, a mother bird sitting on her nestlings or her eggs, do not carry her off with her young; let her go, and be content with her brood; so shall you prosper and live long.
When you build a new house, make a parapet about its roof; if anyone should lose his footing and fall to the ground, your house is polluted with blood, and the guilt is yours.
Do not sow your vineyard with a second kind of seed, or both the crop you have sown and the fruit of your vineyard are forfeit. Do not plough with an ox and an ass together; or wear garments woven of linen and wool together.
You shall wear tasselled strings at the four corners of the garment you wear.
It may be that a husband will grow weary of the wife he has taken, and look about him for pretexts to put her away. Such a man will perhaps fasten an ill name on her, by complaining that when he bedded her she was found to be no maid. Thereupon her father and mother must bring her before the elders at the city gate, and the proofs of her maidenhood with her; and the father will say, I gave this man my daughter in marriage, and now he is weary of her; that is why he would fasten an ill name upon her by telling me he found my daughter no maid. And here are the proofs of my daughter's maidenhood. With that, he will spread the cloth out in sight of the elders; and these will lay hold of the man and beat him, fining him, moreover, a hundred sicles of silver, for fastening an ill name on a maid of Israel. He must pay them to the woman's father, and must keep her as his wife; as long as he lives he may not put her away. If the charge he made was true, and the woman was found indeed to be no maid, then the citizens must cast her out of her father's door and stone her to death; this was a foul deed done in a woman of Israel, to play the wanton in her own father's house; rid your company of such a plague as that.
If a man beds with another's wife, both must die, adulterer and adulteress, and so Israel is rid of a plague.
A man has fallen in with a maid betrothed to some other, and mated with her. Was it done in the city? Then both must be taken to the city gate and stoned to death; she, because she made no outcry, with all the city close at hand, he because he robbed his neighbour's wife of her maidenhood. Or did the man fall in with this betrothed maid in the countryside, and force her to grant his will? Then he alone must die; no harm shall befall the woman. She has not deserved death; she was defenceless as a man suddenly attacked and killed by a brigand; cry as she might, far out in the countryside, no one could come to her aid.
If a man falls in with a maid still unbetrothed, and forces her to do his will, and the matter is brought to judgement, the man who mated with her must pay her fifty sicles of silver, and keep her as his wife, now that he has robbed her of her maidenhood; as long as he lives he may not put her away.
A man must not take his father's wife, and come between his own father's sheets.
The emasculate, the mutilated, are not to be admitted into the Lord's assembly. Nor is there any place in the Lord's assembly for a bastard, born out of wedlock, or for any of his descent, though ten generations have passed. Nor, though ten generations have passed, may one of Ammonite or Moabite descent be admitted to the Lord's assembly; this disability they have incurred for all time, by refusing to provide food and drink, when Israel came on their way from Egypt. Nay, they hired Balaam the son of Beor to come from Mesopotamia of the Syrians and curse you; only the Lord would not listen to Balaam, and transformed that curse of his into a blessing, so well he loved you. No peace with these, no friendly dealings with these at any time, while your life lasts; but for the Edomites you shall have no repugnance, they are your brethren, nor for the Egyptians, in whose land you did formerly dwell; their descendants in the third generation may be admitted to the Lord's assembly.
When you go out to war against your enemies, keep clear of all offence. Should any of you incur defilement at night in his sleep, he must leave the camp, and not return to it all day; at sunset, when he has washed, he may enter the camp again. If you would ease yourself, you must have a place to go to away from the camp, and carry a scoop at your girdle, so that when you are eased you can dig about you and heap loose earth over your excrement. In this camp of yours the Lord your God goes to and fro, waiting to deliver you and give you victory over your enemies; all must be holiness there, no defilement be seen in it, lest his presence should be withdrawn.
If a man escapes from bondage and takes refuge with you, you shall not give him back into the hands of his lord; let him settle where he pleases, and live at peace in some city of yours; leave him unmolested.
No Israelite, man or woman, shall be devoted to a life of shame; would you bring into the temple of the Lord your God the wages of a harlot, or the price of nameless sin? Either of these is hateful to the Lord your God.
Do not charge interest to your fellow-Israelite when you lend him money or grain or anything else of yours. Keep that for the alien; to your brother you shall lend without interest all that he needs; so the Lord God will bless every enterprise of yours in the land which is to be your home.
If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not defer payment of it. The Lord your God will hold you to your promise; you delay at your peril. Had you refrained from making the vow, it would have been no sin in you, but once the word has been spoken, it must be made good; your own lips pronounced it, and your will was under no compulsion, the promise must be kept.
When you are passing through your neighbour's vineyard, eat the grapes to your heart's content, but take none away with you. And when you are passing through a neighbour's corn-field, you may break off ears and rub them in your hands; but sickle put none to your neighbour's corn.
Does a man take a wife, and then, after making her his own, find some taint of defilement in her, so that he loves her no longer? He must draw up a writ of separation and hand it to her before he sends her away from his house. Does she, after parting from him, marry a second husband, who also wearies of her and sends her away with a writ, or perhaps is lost to her by death? Her first husband may not take her back again, now that she is contaminated, a thing detestable in the Lord's eyes. Do not bring guilt on the land which the Lord gives you for your home.
A man newly married will not serve in the wars, or have any other public duty enjoined upon him; he is free to abide at home and cheer his wife for a year's space.
You shall not accept mill or mill-stone as a debtor's pledge; that is to let a man pledge his whole livelihood.
If anyone is found leading his fellow-Israelite into a trap, and selling him as a slave for profit, he must die; rid yourself of such a plague as that.
Be on your guard against the visitation of leprosy. Do as the priests of Levi's race instruct you at my bidding, and be exact in the performance of it; never forget how the Lord your God punished Mary, on your way here out of Egypt.
When you would enforce a claim for debt against your neighbour, do not go into his house to wrest his pledge from him; stand without, and let him bring you what he can. A poor man's pledge must not spend the night with you; give it back to him before set of sun. When he calls down a blessing on you, glad to have his own cloak to sleep in, it will win you favour from the Lord your God. And if you have a hired servant that lives from hand to mouth, be he your fellow-Israelite, or some alien that shares your land and city, do not withhold his wages; pay him his day's wages before set of sun. It is all he has, in his poverty, to support life with; cries he to the Lord, you are a sinner manifest.
A father must not die for his son's guilt, or a son for his father's; no guilt but his own shall bring a man to death.
Do not refuse alien or orphan his rights at law; do not make the widow give you her cloak as a pledge; remember that you were once a slave in Egypt, and the Lord your God rescued you; with good right I enjoin so much upon you.
If you are harvesting the corn in one of your fields, and a sheaf lies there forgotten, do not go back for it; leave it for the alien, the orphan and the widow; so the Lord your God will prosper all your undertakings. Do not go over your olive-trees again, the fruit once picked, leave the rest to alien, orphan and widow; leave to alien, orphan and widow the clusters that hang on your vines when the vintage is over, still ungathered. Do not forget that you were once a slave in Egypt; not without reason I enjoin this upon you.
Not always will the judges be content, in settling a dispute, with giving the rightful claimant his due, and dismissing the other; it may be this other deserves a beating. If so, they will have him laid on the ground and beaten in their presence, and his punishment will be greater or less according to his guilt; provided always that the number of lashes must not exceed forty. Would you see your brother go away all mangled?
You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn on your threshing-floor.
When two brethren share the same house, and one dies childless, his widow must not take a husband elsewhere; the survivor must wed her, and beget children in his dead brother's name. And the first son she bears him he must account as the dead man's heir, so that his line shall not be lost to Israel. It may be he will refuse to take his brother's wife, although the law binds her to him. Then the woman will make her way to the city gate, and protest to the elders there, This brother-in-law of mine refuses to wed me and beget children in his brother's name. Thereupon they will summon and question him, and if he persists in refusing to take her, the woman will go up to him, there in the presence of the elders, and take off one of his shoes, and spit in his face. This, she will say, is for the man who would not continue his brother's line, and Barefoot Breed is the name by which he will be known in Israel.
If two men fall out and come to blows, it may be that the wife of the weaker man will come up to his rescue and lay hands upon the other, taking shameful hold of him. That hand of hers must be struck off, and no mercy be shewn to her. You shall not carry two different weights in your wallet, one heavy and one light, or keep two bushel-measures in your house, one great and one small. A just weight and a true, a full bushel-measure and a true you shall use always, if you would have long enjoyment of the land the Lord your God means to give you. All such knavery is hateful to the Lord your God; he is the enemy of wrong-doing.
Do not forget how Amalec treated you on your way here from Egypt. Reckless of the divine vengeance, he crossed your path and cut off the stragglers from your ranks, as they halted for weariness, faint with hunger and toil. When the Lord your God allows you to rest secure, master of all the nations that dwell in the land he has promised you, you shall blot out Amalec from human remembrance; keep this in mind constantly.
When you have reached the land which the Lord is to make your home and taken possession of it, and settled there, you will set apart first-fruits out of all your crops. These you will put in a basket, and then carry them to the place the Lord your God has chosen as the sanctuary of his name. And thus shall you address yourself to the priest who bears office at the time: I make acknowledgement this day before the Lord your God, that the land he promised to us in our fathers days is now my home. Thereupon the priest will take the basket from your hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. In that divine presence, you will continue your protestation: My fathers were wanderers, hunted to and fro in Syria, when they made their way into Egypt and began to dwell there, only a handful of them; but they grew to be a great people, hardy and numerous. Whereupon the Egyptians treated us ill and persecuted us, and the burden we must bear was insupportable; so we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and he listened to our plea, and took pity on our affliction, the toil and oppression we suffered; rescued us from Egypt by force, with his arm high uplifted to strike great terror, and perform great wonders and portents, and brought us here, where he has given us a land that is all milk and honey. That is why I am offering first-fruits, now, out of the land which the Lord has given me. So leave them there, in the presence of the Lord your God, and when you have paid worship to this Lord and God of yours, go home to feast on all the good things he has given you, with all your household, with Levite and wanderer that are your neighbours.
And when you have finished taking tithes of all your harvest, every third year, when tithe is due; when you have given them to Levite and stranger, to orphan and widow, in your own city, so that they can feast and have their fill, what prayer will you make before the Lord your God? I have stripped my house, you will tell him, of all that I had vowed away, given it to Levite or to wanderer, to orphan or to widow, as you bade me; I have not neglected your will, or forgotten your commands. None of it has been eaten when I was in mourning, or set apart when I was defiled, or devoted to the dead; no, I have obeyed the Lord my God, and done all your bidding. Look down, then, from that sanctuary of yours, that dwelling-place high in heaven, and bless your people Israel; bless the land you have given us, that land, all milk and honey, which you did promise to our fathers before us.
Here and now the Lord your God gives you these commands, these decrees, bidding you observe them and fulfil them, heart and soul. Here and now you are choosing the Lord to be your God, whose guidance you will follow, whose prescriptions, laws and commandments you will observe, whose rule you will obey. Here and now the Lord is choosing you to be his own people, as he promised you, living by his precepts; his will is to exalt you high above all other nations he has made, for his own praise and glory and renown, a people consecrated to the Lord your God, claiming his promise.
And now Moses, with the elders of Israel, gave the people this charge: Hold fast all the commandments I have been enjoining on you this day. When you cross the Jordan and reach the land which the Lord means to give you, raise up great stones, and smooth them over with plaster; on these, now that Jordan is passed, and the land I promised, all milk and honey, is yours, the whole tenour of this law must be written down. These plastered slabs, of which I am now speaking, must be set up on mount Hebal, on the further bank of Jordan; and there an altar must be built to the Lord your God, out of stones which no iron has ever touched, stones still rough and unpolished. On this, offer the Lord burnt-sacrifice, and slay victims for a welcome-offering; eat and make good cheer in the Lord's presence; and then write on the slabs, clearly and distinctly, the whole tenour of this law.
Then Moses, with the priests of Levi's race, said to the whole of Israel: Give heed, Israel, and listen; this day the Lord your God has made you his people. Obey his word, and live by all the commandments and decrees I am giving you.
And at the same time Moses gave the people this message: Jordan once crossed, six tribes must stand on mount Garizim for the blessing of the people, Simeon, Levi, Juda, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin, and six tribes must stand opposite, on mount Ebal, for the cursing, Ruben, Gad, Aser, Zabulon, Dan and Nephthali. And now the Levites shall cry this proclamation aloud to the whole of Israel, Cursed be the man who makes graven or molten image, a thing detestable to the Lord, however skilled its workmanship, however secret its hiding-place. And here all the people shall answer, Amen. Cursed be the man who refuses to honour father or mother, Amen. Cursed be the man who moves his neighbour's land-mark, Amen. Cursed be the man who guides the blind amiss, Amen. Cursed be the man who denies justice to alien, orphan and widow, Amen. Cursed be the man who mates with his father's wife, and comes between his own father's sheets, Amen. Cursed be the man who mates with any beast, Amen. Cursed be the man who mates with his sister, born of the same father or the same mother, Amen. Cursed be the man who mates with his wife's mother, Amen. Cursed be the man who wounds his neighbour secretly, Amen. Cursed be the man who accepts a bribe, to swear away an innocent life, Amen. Cursed be the man who does not hold fast to every word of this law, and live by it; and all will say, Amen.
And now, if you will listen to the Lord your God, carrying out faithfully all those commandments of his which I enjoin upon you, the Lord your God will make you greater than any other nation on earth; and all these blessings which follow shall come to meet you, if only you will obey his will. Blessed shall you be in town and country, blessed with fertility of womb and of soil, with increase of your stock in byre and sheep-fold, with rich store in barn and granary, blessed in your journey and blessed in your coming home. When your enemies raise war against you, the Lord will make them cower before your onslaught; the host that came out against you in one company shall flee away in seven. Upon all your store-houses, upon every enterprise of yours, the Lord will send down his blessing; a land of blessing shall be yours.
If only you will be true to the commandments of the Lord your God, and follow the paths he has chosen, he will fulfil his promise, and make you a people set apart for himself; so that all the nations of the world will go in fear of you, the people that is named by such a name as his. The Lord will make you rich in all good things; fruitful your own race, fruitful your cattle, fruitful this land, his promised gift to your fathers. The Lord will open to you the rich stores of heaven, and grant your land rain when the season comes for it; he will prosper all your enterprises, making you the creditor of many nations, the debtor of none; for you to lead, for others to follow; for you the heights, for them the lower place. All this, if you will obey the commandments of the Lord that I enjoin on you this day, holding fast to them and living by them, not swerving to right or left, not following the worship of other gods than yours.
But if you do refuse to listen to him, and carry out faithfully all the commandments and observances I now enjoin on you, all these curses that follow shall come to meet you instead. Cursed shall you be in town and country, cursed with empty barn and bare granary, with barrenness of womb and of soil, with leanness of your stock in byre and sheep-fold, cursed in your journey and cursed in your coming home. Want and distress the Lord will send you, and failure in all your enterprises, to crush you down and make a quick end of you, still faithless, still following your own devices. The Lord will infect you with plague, till the land you have won knows you no more; the Lord will smite you with wasting, and fever, and ague, with burning heat, with blight and mildew, hunting you to the death. Heaven above you shall be bronze, and earth iron under your feet; dust will be all the rain he gives you, and ashes shall fall from the skies to overwhelm you. The Lord will make you cower before the onslaught of your enemies; the host that went out against them in one company shall flee away in seven, till your race is scattered over all the kingdoms of the world, and the carcase that is left of you will be left for every bird in heaven and every beast on earth to prey upon, with none to drive them away.
The Lord will smite you with the Egyptian scab, and swelling in the groin, and the itch; there shall be no curing you. The Lord will drive you distracted, all benighted and crazed in your wits, till you will grope your way at noon like a blind man in the dark, and lose yourself; never a day when you are not wronged and oppressed, and there shall be none to deliver you. Wed a wife, and another shall bed her, build a house, and you shall not dwell in it, plant a vineyard, and the vintage shall not be yours. You will see your own ox slain, and never a morsel for you, your ass carried off, and never restored, your sheep given to your enemies, and no help for it. Nay, your sons and daughters will be enslaved to alien masters, and your own eyes shall see it, and ache continually at the sight; no power left you to resist it. Your crops, too, the fruit of your own toil, will be carried off by a people till now unknown to you; always you will be suffering some wrong, always oppressed, till you are numb with terror at the sights your own eyes have witnessed.
The Lord will smite knee and calf of yours with the foul scab, till it covers you from head to foot, past all remedy. Exile awaits you, awaits the king you have chosen to rule over you; the Lord will carry you away into a land you and your fathers never heard of, where you must needs worship alien gods, of wood and stone; and to all the nations among whom the Lord bids you dwell, your name shall be a proverb and a by-word. Much sown and little reaped, where the locust has eaten; vines planted and dressed, and no vintage gathered, no wine drunk, because the weevil has ravaged them; olives everywhere, and no oil to anoint you, because they drooped and withered away; sons and daughters born, and no comfort to you, all carried away into exile. No tree of yours, no crop of yours, but the mildew shall spoil it. The aliens that dwell in your land will out-pass and over-shadow you, humbled now and no match for them; they shall be the creditors now, and you the debtor; it is for them to lead, for you to follow.
And other curses shall befall you, hunting you down until they overtake you, for your utter ruin; and all because you would not listen to the Lord your God, and hold fast to the commandments and observances he enjoined upon you. It shall be a warning and a prodigy, the fate that shall come upon you, and upon your race in perpetuity. Because you would not obey the Lord your God in happiness and content, when you had enough and to spare, you must learn, now, to obey those enemies the Lord will send out to conquer you; obey them in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and every kind of want; a yoke of iron shall be fastened on your neck, and shall crush you down. From far away, from the very ends of the earth, the Lord will send a nation to sweep down on you like a bird of prey; a nation whose very speech is unknown to you; hardhearted, with no respect for age, no pity for helpless children. All that your herds, all that your lands yield, they will take for food, careless of your ruin; neither wheat nor wine nor soil nor herd nor flock shall be left to you; all will be laid waste. In your cities, too, they will press hard on you, battering down everywhere those high walls, those strong walls; all over this land, which the Lord your God is now giving you, there shall be siege at your gates. You will be fain to eat your own offspring, the flesh of your own sons and daughters, the Lord's gift to you; so bitter the stress and the want these enemies of yours shall bring upon you. The man that lived softly hitherto, in all comfort, will grudge food to his own brother, to the wife that lay in his bosom, and that food the flesh of his own sons; nothing else is left him, so hard the siege is pressed against all your cities. The woman, so tender, so dainty, that would not put her foot to the ground, would not walk a single step, too delicately nurtured for that, will grudge the flesh of her own sons and daughters to the husband that lay in her bosom. She will eat what comes out from her own body, eat her own son that is newly born, there in secret; what else has she, hard pressed by the siege that is brought against these cities of yours? If you do not carry out faithfully every word of the law this book contains, going in fear of the great name, the terrible name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will send worse plagues still on you and on your posterity, heavy plagues and of long continuance, grievous and lasting visitations. The fierce afflictions of Egypt (you have dreaded them ere now) shall be yours instead. And all the sicknesses and plagues of which this book makes no mention the Lord will bring you, till he has crushed you down; only a few will be left out of a number that was countless once as the stars in heaven, because you would not listen to the Lord your God.
Hitherto the Lord had taken delight in blessing your race and increasing it; now he will take delight in destroying and overwhelming it, dispossessing it of the land he has given you for your home. This way and that, among all the nations from earth's end to earth's end, the Lord will scatter it; and in exile you will worship such alien gods as you and your fathers never heard of, gods of wood and stone. And even there you will find no rest, no sure ground under your feet. Nought will the Lord leave you but cowed spirits, and eyes that fail, and a heart eaten up with sorrow. You will see your life hanging on a thread; day and night you will go in fear, not counting life itself your own. In the morning you will say? Will it never be evening? and in the evening, Will it never be morning? such will be the terrors that daunt you, so cruel the sights that meet your eyes. The Lord will carry you back over the sea to Egypt, the Lord who once told you you should never see that road again. There the men and women of your race shall be slaves, on sale to their enemies, and find no master to buy them.
These are the terms of that covenant which the Lord would have Moses make with the sons of Israel, there in the country of Moab, in addition to the covenant he made with them on mount Horeb. Moses gathered all Israel round him, and said to them, Your own eyes have witnessed, in the land of Egypt, the Lord's dealings with Pharao and his court and all his kingdom; the challenge of all those wonders and portents, plain to your view. But to this day the Lord has not enlightened your hearts; yours are blind eyes, yours are deaf ears still. Has he not been your guide all through those forty years in the desert? And all that time the garments that covered you did not wear out, the shoes on your feet did not perish with age; you had no bread with you, no wine or strong drink, but you ate and drank your fill; and can you doubt that you have the Lord your God to protect you? And here, at our journey's end, it is still the same; Sehon King of Hesebon and Og king of Basan came out to give us battle, but we conquered them, and divided up their territory between Ruben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasses. Hold fast, then, to the terms of this covenant, and fulfil them if you would order your lives as wise men do.
You stand here, all of you, in the presence of the Lord your God, for a single purpose, leaders of tribes with their tribes around them, elders, counsellors, the whole assembly of Israel; your children, your wives, and the aliens that share your camp; servants, too, that hew wood and draw water at your bidding. It is to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a sworn covenant he would make with you this day; he would make you his people, and be himself your God; such is the promise he has made to you, such was the oath he took to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it is not only with you that I ratify this covenant, this oath; it is with others, too, that are not here to make it.
Ours is a race, as you know, that has dwelt in Egypt; since then, we have made our way through the midst of many peoples, and as we passed you saw detestable and shameful sights, saw how they worshipped idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. Pray God there may be no man or woman here, no household or tribe, that is false at heart to the Lord our God, ready to forsake him and serve those other, alien gods. From such a root as that, gall and wormwood must needs spring. Does such a man, listening to the terms of this oath, flatter himself with the thought that all will be well with him, and that he can go on in his perverse ways, till the damp ground imparts its moisture to the dry? Then the Lord will not spare him. The divine anger will burn high in indignation against such a man, and all the curses of which this book makes mention will fall upon him, till the Lord has effaced his memory among living men, singled him out among the whole people of Israel for a miserable end, for every curse that gives this law and covenant its sanction.
A warning that land will be, which the Lord so visits with plague and affliction; a warning to the next generation, and their children after them, and to strangers who come from far off to see it. Here is a land he has burnt up with brimstone and salty fumes, till it is sown no more and no green thing grows there, overwhelmed as he overwhelmed Sodom and Gomorrha, Adama and Seboim, when his anger raged fierce against them. And all will ask, Why has the Lord treated this land so? What means this anger, this terrible vengeance of his? And the answer will come, It was because they forsook the covenant which the Lord had made with their fathers when he rescued them out of the land of Egypt; because they enslaved themselves to the worship of alien gods unknown to them, gods that were no gods of theirs. That is why the Lord's vengeance fell heavy on this land, and he brought on them all the curses which the book of his law contained, so hot his anger burned, so fierce his indignation; dispossessing them of their own land and banishing them into a country of strangers, for all to see.
The Lord our God keeps his own secrets; what he will reveal, he has revealed to us, and to our children in perpetuity; ours to live by this law and by all the terms of it.
And perhaps when you have had experience of all this, and have met first the blessing and then the curse I have here pronounced before you, you will feel compunction of heart, there in your exile among the countries where the Lord has scattered you, and will turn back to him again. Once more you and your children will be true, heart and soul, to those commandments of his which I have enjoined upon you. And the Lord, in pity, will restore you from banishment, will gather in those sons of yours from the lands in which he has dispersed them. Yes, though they should be sundered far apart as pole from pole, the Lord your God will bring them back again, summoning them to return and take possession of the land where their fathers dwelt; granting them his blessing, till they are more in number than ever their fathers were. He will rid your heart, and the hearts of your children, of all defilement, and you will find life in loving the Lord your God, heart and soul; the curse he laid upon you he will lay upon your enemies instead, upon the men who would hate and persecute you. So you shall return to your obedience, listening to the Lord your God and carrying out all the commandments I am giving you this day; and the Lord your God will prosper you in all your enterprises, children born to you, your cattle and your lands fruitful, all things yours in abundance. Once more the Lord will take delight in blessing his people, as he did in their fathers' days; but only if you will obey him, and hold fast to the commandments and observances this law contains, returning heart and soul to him, your Lord and your God.
It is not above your reach, it is not beyond your compass, this duty which I am now enjoining upon you. It is not a secret laid up in heaven, that you must needs find someone to scale heaven and bring it down to you before you can hear what it is, and obey it. It is not an art, practised far overseas, that you must wait for some one to go voyaging and bring it back to you before you can learn to live by it. No, this message of mine is close to your side; it rises to your lips, it is printed on your memory; you have only to fulfil it.
See, I have set before you this day a choice between life and death, between good fortune and ill. You are to love the Lord your God and follow the path he has chosen for you, to hold fast by all his commandments and observances and decrees, if you would live and thrive and prosper through him in the land that is to be your home. If your heart becomes estranged from him, so that you do no longer obey him, but are tempted away into worshipping other gods and doing them service, then I warn you here and now that it will be your ruin; the land you are winning for yourself on the other side of Jordan will be yours only for a little. I call heaven and earth to witness this day that I have set such a choice before you, life or death, a blessing or a curse. Will you not choose life, long life for yourself and for those that come after you? Will you not learn to love the Lord your God, and obey him, and keep close to his side? You have no life, no hope of long continuance, but in him; shall not the land which he promised as a gift to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, be yours to dwell in?
All this Moses obediently proclaimed to the people of Israel; and then he said to them, Here am I, a man of a hundred and twenty years of age, no longer fit to lead you on your expeditions; and besides, the Lord has told me that I am not destined to cross yonder stream of Jordan. It is the Lord your God that will lead you across, it is he that will dispossess all these nations to make room for you; and he has chosen Josue here to march at your head. These nations are to fare no better than the Amorrhite kings, Sehon and Og; the Lord means to overthrow them, and you, when he gives you the victory over them, must remember what I told you, and make an end of them. Play the man, and keep your courage high; there must be no cowardice, no flinching before them. The Lord your God is himself your leader now; he will not play you false and forsake you. Then Moses summoned Josue, and said to him in the presence of all Israel, Play the man, and keep your courage high; it is your task to lead this nation into the land which the Lord promised to their fathers, and divide it up between them. The Lord goes with you to lead this army of yours; he will not play you false and forsake you; there must be no cowardice, no flinching here.
And now Moses committed this law to writing, and gave it to the priests of Levi's race, bearers of the ark that attested the Lord's covenant, and to the elders of Israel. Every seven years, he told them, when the year of discharge comes round, and with it the feast of Tent-dwelling, at the time when all Israel meets in the place the Lord has chosen, to present themselves before him, their Lord and God, the terms of this law must be read out in the presence and in the hearing of the whole people. All alike will be assembled there, not only men but women and children, and the aliens too that dwell among you; all alike must listen, and learn to fear the Lord your God, and carry out faithfully all the terms of this law. The very children, still all untaught, must listen now, and learn to fear the Lord their God, as long as this land you are winning for yourselves beyond Jordan is their home.
After this the Lord said to Moses, you have not long to live; summon Josue, and take him with you to meet me at the tabernacle; I have a charge to give him. So Moses and Josue took their stand together beneath the tabernacle that attested the covenant, and there the Lord appeared in a pillar of cloud that rose above them at the tabernacle door. And the Lord said to Moses, you will be laid to rest among your fathers, and before long this people of mine, settled now in the land they have invaded, will begin to play the wanton, and to worship alien gods; will forsake me, and cancel their covenant with me. Then my anger will burn fiercely indeed; I will forsake them in my turn, and deny them my favour, and they will fall a prey to woes and afflictions of every sort, until at last they begin to say, It is because the Lord is no longer with us that we are encountering afflictions such as these. And still I will hide myself, and turn no glance towards them, to punish them for their wickedness in betaking themselves to alien gods. I would have you, then, set down a song in writing, and teach the people to know it by heart and sing it; a song that will vindicate me against the sons of Israel. I mean to settle them in this land that is all milk and honey, my promised gift to their fathers; and they will no sooner have eaten their fill and grown fat on it, than they will turn to alien gods and worship them; they will defy me, and annul their covenant with me. Woes and afflictions will come upon them, and it is then that this song, still remembered by their posterity, will vindicate me against them. So Moses put the song in writing, and taught it to the men of Israel.
The Lord also gave a charge to Josue, the son of Nun, Play the man, and keep your courage high; it is your task to settle the sons of Israel in the land I have promised to give them, and I will be with you in the doing of it.
And now, when Moses had finished his work of setting forth the terms of this law in a book, he gave orders to the Levites, that carried the ark of the Lord, what they should do with it. Take this book, he said, and lay it up by the side of the ark that bears witness of the Lord's covenant, to vindicate him against you. I know well how rebellious you are, how stiff-necked; even in my life-time, and in spite of my presence among you, you have always been rebelling against the Lord, and when I am dead, worse must follow. Summon the elders and counsellors among all the tribes, and let me say my say in their hearing; let me call upon heaven and earth to bear witness against them. I know well enough that when I am dead you will ruin all, and it will not be long before you stray from the path I have shewed you; and I know that when the Lord sees you living amiss, and provoking his anger by your doings, calamity will fall upon you in the end.
And so Moses, with the whole assembly of Israel listening to him, pronounced the words of the song which follows, never pausing until it was all finished.
Listen, you heavens, while I have my say; earth, be attentive to the words I utter; here is teaching big with import as the rain, here are warnings that must soak in like the dew, wholesome as showers are to the grass, as moisture to the growing crops. The renown of the Lord shall be my theme; to our God belongs majesty; the God who shelters us, how perfect is all he does, how right are all his dealings! God, faithful and unerring, God, holy and just! And these, his sons, are lost to him, his sons no longer in their defilement; a generation of false aims and rebellious will. What, reckless still, inconsiderate still! Is this the return you would make to that father who calls you his own, that creator who fashioned you? Cast your mind back to old days; nay, trace the record of each succeeding generation; ask your father what news he has to tell, your forefathers, what word they have for you. The Ruler of all has divided the nations apart, sundering Adam's children and giving to each people its own home, peoples as numerous as the sons that sprang from Israel; but one was the Lord's treasured possession, his own people; it was Jacob he had marked out for his own domain.
He sought them out in the wilderness, there in the fearful desert spaces, gave them the guidance, taught them the lessons they needed, guarded them as if they had been the apple of his eye. (So the eagle that would incite its young to venture in the air now hovers above them, now spreads its wings and takes them up to rest on its own shoulders.) None but the Lord was their guide on that journey, there was no alien god to be found then in their company. And afterwards he settled them in a country of high hills, where they could eat the food their own lands yielded. Honey oozed from its rocks, on its barren uplands the olive could flourish; cheese from the herd, milk was theirs from the flock, the flesh of well-fed lamb and rain, cattle of Basan's breed, and he-goats; they ate the choicest wheat, drank the heady juice of the grape.
A people so well loved! And now, pampered, they would throw off the yoke. Pampered, full-fed, swollen with pride, they forsook that divine creator, revolted against their deliverer. He must endure the rivalry of alien worship, must look on indignantly at their detestable doings. Not to their God they offered sacrifice, but to devils, to gods yet untried, upstart gods of yesterday, whom their fathers never held in awe. What, forsake the sheltering Power that gave you birth, forget the very Lord who created you? The Lord was roused to anger when he saw it, saw his own sons and daughters defying him. I will turn away from them, he said, and see what comes of it; here is a rebellious race, a thankless brood. They have deserted me for a god that was no god, phantoms have been my rivals; now I will desert them in my turn, for a people that is no people of mine; their rivals shall be men as impious as themselves.
My anger shall be like a raging fire that burns down to the depths of the abyss, that consumes earth and all that earth yields, scorches the very roots of the hills. I mean to heap all my plagues upon them, exhaust all the arrows of my vengeance. What famine shall gnaw them, what winged terrors eat them up with destructive fangs! I will send wild beasts, too, to prey on them, poisonous serpents shall creep upon them through the dust. Havoc without, terror within doors; for man and maid, for infancy and old age, the same doom! Indeed, I had thought to make away with them altogether, blot out their very name from all human remembrance; but no, I held my hand; were these enemies of theirs to provoke me with taunts? Should the victors boast it was their own power, not mine, that had won the day?
How lost they are to right judgement, this people of Israel, how slow of discernment! Ah, if they would only take thought, and read their lesson, and foresee what is still far away! When they see their thousands put to rout by one man, ten thousand fleeing with two men in pursuit, can they doubt what is the cause of it? It means their own God has relinquished them; that the Lord's decree has given their enemy the mastery; that enemy himself will bear witness that his gods are no match for our God. Does he enjoy my favour? No, says the Lord, he is but a wild vine, such as grows in Sodom, or in the purlieus of Gomorrha, yielding grapes like gall, clusters of bitterness, yielding wine like the adder's venom, the rankling poison of the viper. Be sure that I keep the record of his wickedness stored away under seal in my treasure house; vengeance is for me; I will repay when the time comes. A slip of the foot, and ruin is upon them; little waiting now before the appointed day comes.
Never doubt it, the Lord will give his people redress, will take pity on his servants, when he sees their strength so spent, the number of them so dwindled, whether bond or free. He will ask, What has become of those gods of yours, once so well trusted, that shared, once, the fat of your victims, the wine you poured in libation? Will they not bestir themselves, and come to your aid, protect you in your hour of need? Now you shall learn that I alone am God; there are no others to rival me; it is mine to kill and to quicken, mine to smite and to heal; from my power there is no deliverance. See, I lift up my hand, and swear by my own eternal being that I am whetting this bright sword of mine, to execute speedy judgement; I mean to take vengeance, now, on my enemies, requite them for all their malice. Now to glut my arrows with their blood, now to flesh this sword of mine with the slaughter of my enemies, warriors slain in battle and unhelmeted captives! Do honour, you nations, to the Lord's people; he means to avenge the blood of his servants, to punish their enemies, to be reconciled once again with the land of Israel.
So when Moses had performed his errand, reciting the whole of this song in the hearing of the assembled people, with Josue the son of Nun at his side, he made an end of all his long discourse to the Israelites, in these words, Pay good heed to the appeal I have made to you this day, and hand it on to your children, bidding them hold fast to all the terms of this law and carry them out faithfully. These duties are not lightly enjoined on you; to every man of you they are life itself. Only by performing them can you hope for long enjoyment of this land across Jordan which is to be your home.
It was on the same day that the Lord said to Moses, Climb this mountain of Abarim (that is, of the Further Side; it is the same as mount Nebo, in the Moabite country opposite Jericho), and view the land of Chanaan, which I mean to give the sons of Israel for their own. On that mountain you are to die. This height climbed, you must needs become a part of your people, as your brother Aaron died and became a part of his people on Mount Hor. You disobeyed me, in full sight of the whole people, at the Water of Rebellion in the desert of Sin, when you did not vindicate my holiness before the sons of Israel. You shall have sight, nevertheless, of this land which is my gift to the Israelites, the land it shall not be yours to enter.
And this is the blessing which God's servant Moses gave to the sons of Israel before he died. See where the Lord comes forth, he said, from Sinai, where he rises high above the hills of Edom before us, dawns on us from mount Pharan; thousands of his holy ones were about him and on his right hand his law shone to them like fire. How he loves those tribes of his! All his holy ones dwell in his protecting care, can gather at his feet, and partake of his instruction. We had a law given to us by Moses the heirloom of Jacob's posterity, and our king dwelt among us, his favoured people, with the chieftains and all the tribes of Israel assembled about him.
Let Ruben live on, never wasting away yet never growing populous.
And this was Juda's blessing. Listen, Lord, to Juda's plea, and restore him to his place among the people, so that he may fight for it and defend it against its enemies.
And of Levi he said, The touchstones of Wisdom and Truth are for the man you have set apart, testing him at the place of Challenge, proving his worth at the Water of Rebellion. This is one who said to his father and mother, You are no acquaintance of mine, and to his brethren, I do not recognize you. Here are men that treated their own children as strangers, paying heed rather to your warnings, keeping true to your covenant; Here, they said to Jacob, are the decrees you must obey, here, Israel, is the law that governs you. When you are angry, Lord, it is theirs to offer incense, and burn sacrifice upon your altar. Bless all he has, Lord, and prosper all he does; smite his enemies and put them to rout, never let them rise up again to plot against him.
Of Benjamin he said, First in the Lord's love, he shall dwell secure in that companionship. God will spread his pavilion over him at all times, rest on those hills.
Of Joseph he said, His is a land rich in blessing from the Lord, enriched with dew by the heavens above us, with springs by the depth beneath, enriched by ripening suns and engendering moons, enriched by every influence of ancient mountains and immemorial hills, enriched by earth and all the foison earth yields. Let the blessing of that God who once appeared in the bush light upon the head of Joseph, light on his brow who is separated like a Nazirite from his brethren. What is the pride of the first-born bull-calf, or of the wild ox, but his two horns? Such horns has Joseph, that can toss nations to the ends of the earth; the hordes of Ephraim, the legions of Manasses!
Of Zabulon he said, Happy are you, Zabulon, and you too, Issachar, at home and abroad. Peoples shall be their guests on the mountain height, where their solemn sacrifice is offered. The wealth of the sea shall foster them, the treasures that lie hidden in the sands.
Of Gad he said, Blessed is Gad in the breadth of his lands; he lies there like a lion, ready to take head and arm for his prey. He too has achieved eminence; did not those lands of his enshrine such a ruler as took his part among the chiefs of the people, executing the Lord's justice, his decrees concerning Israel?
Of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp; a torrent that comes down in full flood from Basan.
Of Nephthali he said, Nephthali shall enjoy great plenty, be rich in the Lord's blessings; seaward and southward he shall extend his frontiers.
Of Aser he said, Aser is a son highly favoured; let him stand well with his brethren; let him have oil to wash his feet in, iron and bronze to make shoes for him. Let your age be peaceful as your youth.
The beloved people has a God great as no other; he rides in heaven to deliver you, the clouds making way for his majestic coming; there, on high, is his dwelling, and yet the eternal arms reach down to uphold you. He will dispossess the enemy at your onslaught, and doom him to destruction; Israel shall live unmolested, Jacob shall see no rival near him, in a land full of corn and wine, under skies curtained with dewy mist. Blessed, Israel, you are, a people like no other, finding in the Lord your deliverance, the shield that protects you, the sword that wins you renown! Your enemies shall forswear their enmity, and you shall tread their pride in the dust.
And so Moses went up from the Moabite plain on to mount Nebo, the peak of Phasga that rises opposite Jericho. And the Lord shewed him all the territory of Gad right up to Dan, and all Nephthali, and the country Ephraim and Manasses were to hold, and the whole land of Juda, with the sea coast for its frontier; the south, too, and the plain that stretches from Jericho, among its palm trees, up to Segor. This, the Lord told him, is the land of which I spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promising to give it to their race. I have granted you the sight of it; enter it you may not.
There, then, in the land of Moab, Moses died, the Lord's servant, still true to the Lord's bidding. And there the Lord buried him, in a valley belonging to the Moabite country that looks towards Phogor; but where his tomb is, remains to this day unknown. He was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, and still his eyes had not grown dim, and his teeth stood firm. And the sons of Israel mourned for him thirty days, there in the plains of Moab.
And now the days of mourning for Moses had come to an end, and Josue the son of Nun, full of the gift of wisdom since Moses laid hands on him, took command of the Israelites; and they obeyed him, as the Lord through Moses had bidden them. There was never such another prophet in Israel as Moses; what other man was the Lord's familiar, meeting him face to face? Were ever such wonders and portents as the Lord empowered this man to perform in Egypt, till Pharao and all his court and kingdom obeyed the Lord's will perforce? Were ever such great miracles done as Moses did, for all Israel to see?