Chastised for Past Sins
Moses tells the people to bear in mind it is not for the sake of their own righteousness that He is driving their enemies out of the land for them, but for the sake of the enemies’ wickedness and His love for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses reminds the people of their mistakes in the desert.
Moses tells the story of the Golden Calf from his perspective. While Moses was atop Mount Sinai, neither eating nor drinking for forty days while he received God’s Torah, the people angered God by creating a golden calf. God wanted to destroy them, but Moses interceded on their behalf, returning to the mountain for forty more days without food or water. Moses also prayed for Aaron, whom God wished to destroy as well, for taking an active role in creating the calf. Moses reminds the people that he destroyed the calf, burnt it and ground it to a fine dust, then threw the dust into the water.
Other incidents Moses mentions include sins at Ta’vera, Massa and Qivrot Hata’ava, as well as the sin of the spies. For the latter, Moses also prayed forty days and forty nights that God should not wipe out the nation, convincing Him that it would undermine His reputation in Egypt.
By the Golden Calf, Moses tells the people that God had him carve new stone tablets to replace the ones he broke. Moses also built an ark to store them, as they carried the word of God Himself.
Moses reminds the people, as well, of the death of Aaron and the selection of the Levites to minister to God.
This passage opens with the statement that the people are about to cross over the Jordan. The word Hebrew, Ivrit, comes from the same root as the word for crossing over, oveir. Likewise, the Israel Bible reminds us, Abraham was known as Avraham Ha’Ivri, because he came from the other side of the river and because his monotheistic notions were “other”. Today, his heirs continue to serve as the world’s moral compass, a role the modern State of Israel takes very seriously.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think Moses feels the need to remind the people of their past mistakes?