A Warning Against Idolatry

Deuteronomy 3:23-4:49

The portion opens with Moses recounting how he beseeched God to allow him to enter the land of Israel, but was denied. The Israel Bible points out that Moses was motivated not by arrogance or a desire to continue leading the people, but rather by a desire to step into the Holy Land and breathe its air.

 

Moses then goes on to warn the people of the dangers of idolatry. As witnesses to the incident at Ba’al Pe’or, the Israelites standing before him should understand the gravity of such a crime. He tells them to heed the law which he has taught them, and to pass it on to their children when they dwell in the land, for it will make them seem wise in the eyes of their neighbors.

 

Moses reminds them that, when they stood before God at Mount Sinai, their fathers did not see any image. Why, then, should they or their descendents create graven images to worship? They should also refrain from imitating the sun, moon, or any creatures in heaven, earth or the sea. No other nation has merited to hear God’s words directly and the people should appreciate the magnitude of that honor.

 

Should the Israelites fail to live up to God’s expectations on the matter of idolatry, Moses warns, they will be removed from the land which God has given them. They will suffer in exile until such time as they return to God and He brings them back to their land.

 

Moses reminds the people of their unique heritage. No other nation was ever taken by God from the midst of another and brought close to Him. The Israelites were shown all these wonders that they may know God. As the Israel Bible indicates, the Hebrew word used for “knowing” here is da’at, a word that connotes intimacy. Thus, Moses tells the people they are meant to forge an intimate connection with God.

 

Moses then sets apart six cities of refuge for accidental killers, three on each side of the Jordan river. These cities, first mentioned in Numbers 35, are to be used by manslayers to escape the wrath of their unintended victims’ families.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Twice during this passage, Moses notes that he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land because of the people (3:26, 4:21). Yet in Numbers 20, it seems Moses and Aaron were punished for failing to sanctify God’s name. What do you think Moses means when he holds the people responsible for his punishment?

Comments ( 10 )

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  • Don Mueller

    Moshe’s reaction does harken back to Adam/Eve [in contrast to Judah & David (admitting responsibility for their errors when confronted)] and seems inherent to us all. Therefore, we need to be especially on guard against such errors. The adversary loves to set us up when we’re most vulnerable.
    Many of the people Moshe was addressing hadn’t experienced the multitude of miracles their elders had; so their faith/believing/trusting in God and obedience to God was now going to be tested. So God via Moshe was giving last minute instructions. The utter destruction of the inhabitants was for their good; especially of their idols (see Nu 33:55, Deut 7:25,26 & Josh 6:18) which sadly happened in the case of Achan.

  • Hector Zuniga

    Is very sad, that Moses wasn't allow to enter the promesed Land, after so much strugle, the people indeed had the very deep part on this sad part. Still i think that G-D protect Moses from farther lost of temper, caused by the people he was guiding according to His will. Moses reaction was a normal reaction as any other human being, after one and another one, many times the people sin against G-D by their blind stubborn. Those action are the result of unreconized the True Santification of been in from of the Holy One, they probably as human beings in their unconciuos mind where still thinking that they was deal with any human entity like pharo, pure blind indeed. Note: I repeat the words one day, a rabbi said; "Becareful, don't play with G-D, G-D is very, very Smart."

  • Damian Sco

    I would agree with you with a subtle difference. Yes, Moses is trying to offset the blame from himself, which from God's point of view must be another sin in and of itself and yet He allows Moses to see the Promised land. It strikes me that there is an act of "seeing" that is being completely missed here, by both Moses and the People Israel. Humans are capable of looking without seeing. I believe this is what God is allowing Moses to do for the REAL reason he is not allowed into the Promised Land. The rock from which water came to irrigate and fertilize the desert the People travelled through was something God told Moses NOT to strike and yet he did!. In this instance Moses looked and yet did not see that another would come after him that would also spread over the Land of israel Living Waters, and yet when He came, very few saw Him, despite looking right at him. This Rock that brought forth water and yet was not to be struck could easily be a metaphor for the Messiah who was also brutally struck according to Is.53. So no, the reason Moses gave for not being allowed to enter the land is that he disobeyed God with something very precious to God, namely The Mesiaich, the Rock of the Nation to come!

  • Ronald G. Rundio

    We are all being Duped by the False Religions all around us especially, "Islam" where all of the Mosque Prayer Rooms are oriented toward Saudi Arabia where they all Pray to Allah a Moon god (or, Dark Lord) and a Black Cube that is an Idol. The reason that Moshe (Moses) gave us the Ten Commandments is because the Father Creator gave them to Moshe on Mt. Sinai, and that they were to be given to all of Mankind!

  • Hanne

    I think that Moshe did what we are all inclined to do (and have done since Adam) — blaming others for our propensity to sin. We alone are responsible for the actions and reactions that we engage in. However, even still, Adonai allows him to see the promised land, even though he cannot enter it. He allows Moshe to see that He fulfills His promises. And in this we see that despite our sins, Adonai loves us, forgives us, and brings us into relationship with Him.

    • Damian Sco

      I would agree with you with a subtle difference. YEs, Moses is trying to ooffset the blame, which from God's point of view must be a sin in and of itself and yet He allows Moses to see the Promised land. It strikes me that there is an act of "seeing" that is being completely missed here, by both Moses and the People Israel. Humans are capable of looking without seeing. I believe this is what God is allowing Moses to do for the REAL reason he is not allowed into the Promised Land. The rock from which water came from to irrigate and fertilize the desert the People travelled through wqqas something God told Moses NOT to Strike and yet he did!. In this instance Moses looked and yet did not see that another would come after him that would alsso spread over the Land of israel witg Living Waters, and yet when He came, very few saw Him, despite looking right at him. This Rock that brought forth wataer and yet was not to be struck could easily be a etaphor for the MEssiah wh was also brutally struck. So no, the reason Moses gave for not being allowed to enter the land is that he disobeyed God with something very precious to god, namely The Meshich, the Rock of th Nation to come!

  • Moshe holds his own fate for the eyes of the people. D not murmur or rebel against the Almighty because it might go with you as with Aron and me. Not entering the promised land and dying outside the by G/d designated country. ending up in the diaspora.

  • I think it is because they (the people) suggested that he chooses spies to go out and check out the land, majority of whom brought back a bad report on which the people depended. It accordingly follows that the spies' failure became Moshe's failure too hence he couldn't enter the land.

  • Diana Brown

    He felt provoked by the people whom he referred to as rebels. He was still grieving over Miriam’s death at the time. When you are too hungry, angry, lamenting, or tired, your evil inclination will arise and cause you to sin. The Lord God held Moses responsible for his actions. Moses was recounting that he held the people responsible for his actions. God was correct. Moses came to see that his temper was his un-doing. Still, God’s love for Moses was intact. You notice that the walk-talk relationship with the Lord and Moses continued to the last breath….and continues today in paradise.

  • Kimberley

    that perhaps moses is holding them responsible not to make the same mistake as he did….In ch 4: 1-2, Moses is telling them to LISTEN to the decrees and the Ordinances which he is teaching so that they (the Israelites) can posses the land God is giving them, Moses also makes mention not to ADD to the word or take away..Perhaps Moses was inferring that when he added by striking the rock? Moses is perhaps holding them responsible to be obedient to God’s commandments….

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