Deuteronomy 28:1-68 discusses the benefits of following YHWH’s commands and the consequences and wrath people will face if they do not follow YHWH’s commands. The passage explains that YHWH’s commands are found in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 28:58: If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book..). The Book of Deuteronomy is presented as a series of addresses Moses is giving to the people of Israel before they reach the promised land. Further, according to Bandstra, the English word for “you” could be either singular or plural, however there were two different forms of “you” being used here: “you” meaning individual, and “you” meaning collective body. This is important to note, because the author of the book was trying to target every individual when giving these rules for how they should behave and what their attitudes should be towards YHWH. The author of the Book of Deuteronomy lays out the state of the union (if you will) by stating whether the nation suffered or prospered by explaining whether YHWH was pleased or displeased with them at the time. From this we can get a glimpse of what was going on in Israel at the time the author is referring to. By using this source, among others, we can start to get a better understanding of the social and political issues at play over a long period of time in Israel and surrounding territories.
In this passage, Joshua is at an advanced age and is preparing to die. He gathers the leaders of the people of Israel and tells them to remain faithful to YHWH and not to fall into traps that will lead to the destruction of them and their nation. In this passage, he also states that the people have seen YHWH build up and tear down great and mighty nations, therefore they must not intermarry amongst those tribes, or the wickedness will be spread to them and they and their nation will be torn down by YHWH. According to Claude Mariottini, the intention of the writers of the Deuteronomistic history was not to show the weakness of YHWH when Israel was torn down, but to show the power of YHWH; that YHWH could build up, but also destroy if the people did not follow YHWH’s commands.
1 Samuel 12:1-25
In this passage, Samuel is old and at the end of his time. This is his “farewell address” and in it he recounts to the Israelites what has happened to them thus far. In doing this, he recounts how when they were faithful to YHWH, they were saved and they prospered. However, when they were not faithful to YHWH, they had troubling times and were under the reign of kings who oppressed them. Recounting this history is meant to be a warning to the people of Israel, that if they do not follow YHWH and YHWH’s commands, they will faith the wrath of YHWH and the nation will be oppressed again. This is an interesting part of the Deuteronomistic History, because the writer of 1 Samuel gives us a chronological list of the rise and fall of Israel. The writer gives this information as a warning to the nation, and blames the rise and fall on the people not being faithful to YHWH, which shows the power that YHWH has.
2 Kings 17:5-18
This passage is a history of what has happened to the people of Israel. In the passage YHWH tells them not to do certain things and when they do it anyway, they incur the wrath of YHWH and the nation falls. The way this passage is laid out, the writer tells us what happened to the people, and then goes on for many verses to explain what the people did to provoke YHWH. The list of things done wrong is pretty large and the action taken against the people is seemingly justified because of this list of wrongs. Nijay Gupta writes in his blog that according to Provan’s essay, we have to accept the fact that the Bible and other historical writings about the past are trying to make a stance or to explain some sort of “virtue.” This is interesting to think about with regards to this passage, because the writer of this passage was trying to get across to the people “Hey! Look what you did! Don’t do it again or this is all going to happen again!” (I imagine “meanie face” to be inserted in there somewhere, as well). By using YHWH as the reason for the destruction of the nation, it is easier to make a virtuous stand against the “wrongs” the people of Israel have done and YHWH’s actions seem to be justified, because the people kept screwing up.
2 Chronicles 36:11-21
This passage chronicles the fall of the House of Israel at the hands of the people and Zedekiah. The people did terrible things in the sight of YHWH, however the difference between this passage and the other four passages mentioned above is that this one mentions multiple times that the people scorned the prophets of YHWH. This seems to be the theme throughout this passage; the people scorned the prophets of YHWH, which made YHWH angry and thus YHWH allowed another king to come in and enslave and kill them. When the people make YHWH angry, YHWH allows and/or causes (it’s a bit unclear in some areas) destruction, enslavement, etc. to happen to the people, because they violated YHWH’s commands.
This exercise was very interesting to me, because it allowed me to think in light of morality and virtues when it comes to the wrath of YHWH. I mentioned before in a previous post that I have often had people tell those going through a hard time “This is all in God’s plan; God will take care of you!” When we see that and compare it to YHWH in the Hebrew Bible, God’s plan does not look very good. However, after reading Gupta’s blog post, which described Provan’s essay on virtues within the context of telling stories and recounting history, I really began to think about how these separate passages were telling a story to the people. The passages told the story of what happens when you cross YHWH; YHWH does not allow things to happen because YHWH is weak, YHWH allows things to happen to show its power. This is a very interesting idea and I compared it with how I tell stories about the past and how often I find myself using it as a teachable moment for myself and/or who I am speaking to.