Deut 10.17 hits at the heart of paganism, which we discussed in Concepts in Exodus. If it didn’t rain it wasn’t because “Mowt” the sea god was defeating “Baal.” It was because God was angry with Israel (1 Kings 8.35-36). He could not be bribed like the false gods could. He was not aloof from mankind like the false goods, he was involved with the redemption of mankind. This was the concept Yehovah was trying get Pharaoh to see in the Exodus. Pharaoh thought he was a god and he was not going to admit that he had no power, and neither did the other gods. He was not going to submit to an unknown God named Yehovah. So, Pharaoh resisted and he died. What the Lord did was to show that Monotheism was superior to Polytheism, and there was only one God. This is what this verse is saying. Yehovah is the God of gods (Deut 10.17).
Deut 11.1-32 gives us the rewards for obedience. We know we have physical needs, but we have spiritual needs also. It was estimated that a large portion of those involved in the cult movements in the 70’s and 80’s were Jewish. Israel without the Torah is like a fish out of water. The Torah gives meaning to life (Deut 30.6) and we will either fill that space with real substance or with “substitutes.” If we needed food to elevate our mood, we may be failing to fulfill our spiritual needs. In other words, if food (or anything) is our stimulant it is because life isn’t very stimulating. We need to do more “thinking” about what we are truly looking for. Now, let’s talk about the land they are going into.
Yehovah said in Deut 8.6-9 that the land was good and was watered with brooks, fountains and streams. But in Deut 11.10-11 he says Egypt was watered “with your foot” meaning with irrigation canals. Which land was better? Watered with “the foot” is done with ditches opened up by kicking away dirt. To stop the water you kicked the dirt back to make a dam. Israel lacked a mighty river like the Nile. The fields depended on rain and that was always more risky. Egypt and the Nile made life more secure. However, God takes direct control over the rain. To survive in Israel you must depend on God, not the pagan deities like Mowt and Baal (1 Kings 18.1-46). In short, the land of Israel was going into was not better than the land of Egypt, but it is different because it increases your level of “Yirat Yehovah” or the “fear of Yehovah.”
Deut 11.17 tells us that rain is a barometer of Israel’s faithfulness, and a vehicle of judgment. So, which is better? That depends on what we are really looking for. If we are looking for a land to be closer to God, then Israel is the place. If we want a life without such dependence, than Egypt is the place. The people who came into the land were commanded by Moses to bless the Lord after they ate their meals in Deut 8.10. This one of the few blessings specified in the Torah. In abundance we tend to be lulled to sleep, celebrating our own talents and powers. Our gifts from God contribute, but they are empty if we believe we are a “self-made man.” There is a nothing more basic than food and it is easy to forget the source. A brief word of thanks after our meals is simple and rich. This comes from the thankfulness for the land God was giving them.
These words in Deuteronomy are telling us through Moses that God judges us on Emunah (faith/action/confidence) and our basic desire to follow the Torah, not on our ability to keep every point of it. It never came down to that, and faith and spirit (desire) are inseparable. These verses contain all that is necessary for fulfilling the will of God, especially Deut 10.12-13.
A parent will tell their children not to run around barefoot. This is to prevent injury by stepping on something harmful. The reason the children obey depends on age and maturity. A young child has no idea that going around barefoot is risky. He only fears the consequences if he doesn’t. But an older child already understands that various things appear safe and harmless, but in reality can hurt him in the end. He also knows his father knows the dangers better than he does and he obeys in appreciation of his father, not to avoid punishment. At that point, there is no difference between the fear of the father and that of the child.
Man was created in the image of God and he had a kedusha on him. Kedusha means to designate or set something apart for the service of God by formal, legal restrictions and limitations. The kedusha of periods of time (like the Sabbath) are marked by limitations on man’s activities of work and construction. Man was to do certain things and had limitations placed on him by the Lord, that is kedusha. But man lost that kedusha due to sin. The world does not understand this concept. Israel’s commission was to bring kedusha to the world by living out the commandments, which also has a kedusha. The land they were going into had a kedusha on it. The world was to look at Israel and see what kedusha means (Deut 4.1-8). God gave the Torah to protect us from our involvement with the world, a world that did not understand God, the commandments or kedusha. The world is involved in things that will hurt us.
Deut 11.13-25 talks about consequences as the people stood on the banks of the Jordan, ready to meet their destiny. They were to love, walk and hold fast to the Lord. By doing this, they will get the benefits. They will have rain, victory over their enemies and material blessings. But they were to also realize that they were not the cause of all this. Every place on which the sole of their foot would tread would be theirs, from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon, from the river Euphrates in the east to the Mediterranean Sea. No man would be able to stand before them because Yehovah will lay the dread and fear of Israel on all the land on which they would set their foot.
In Part 11 we will pick up with the next Torah portion called “Re’eh.”