Saturday, October 25, 2008

Morality of Deuteronomy and Joshua

I read the Torah portions for the entire year, starting over yesterday on Genesis 1 again. Instead of just starting on Genesis 1, I decided to continue reading forward in addition to the portions this year, so I read the beginning of Joshua.

In my readings, I have come to the conclusion that the ethics presented in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are superior to those presented in Deuteronomy and Joshua (thus far.)

Deuteronomy appears to be a much later book, attempting to convince the Israelites that they have fallen astray, and get them to abide by a much harsher law. I don't think Deuteronomy really contradicts Torah much if at all, it just extends it in a dark way.

Joshua, curiously, begins where Deuteronomy left off, and seems to be using its opening passages as an argument to persuade people to believe in Deuteronomy.  I see this as evidence that Deuteronomy and Joshua are nearly contemporary, Joshua following because Deuteronomy may not have picked up much traction at first.

The purpose of Deuteronomy seems to be to build up the kingdom, (or, if it is retrospective, to explain how it was built, in possible hopes that it can be built even larger) to give more authority and power to the Priests, to abolish formal worship outside of the official national sanctuary and to promote certain theological points.

I feel pretty good about Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but Deuteronomy remains unconvincing to me as a "good book." Although, it does have certain passages that could be considered cherished and are very good by their own merit, but as a complete work, it just doesn't add up.

It seems a shame to end the Torah reading each year with such a "forgery" to the good name of Moses, and such an ethically challenged book.