I would be remiss if I didn’t at least finish up the story of Moses.
Deuteronomy is an interesting book even though most of it is review of the previous three books. As the people prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminds them of the hardship they have gone through, the complaining they did both to God and to Moses and the consequences of the complaining, the laws that God has outlined for them, the glory that awaits them if they follow God and the horror they will face if they don’t. The 10 Commandments are repeated as are many of the laws from Exodus and Leviticus. There is new stuff as well.
There are good things in Deuteronomy. You should look after people in need for example and you should not return runaway slaves. Those are the kind of rules that you would expect in a holy book. At the same time, however, this is also a text written specifically for a group of people 3000 or so years ago. How closely are we expected to follow all of them?
For example, “You shall have a place outside the camp …and you shall have a stick with your weapons; and when you sit down outside you shall dig a hole with it … and cover up your excrement.” This is excellent advice for a group of 600,000 wandering in the desert but we may wonder why it is included in a holy book. That’s because the advice is not just about hygiene. They were to do this because “the Lord walks in the midst of your camp … that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.”
“If you have a rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother … all the men of the city shall stone him to death.” The modern debate on the appropriateness of spanking pales in comparison.
If a woman marries, but “the tokens of her virginity cannot be found”, she will be stoned to death. There are several statements regarding virginity, and they have little to do with morality and a lot to do with possession. If an engaged virgin is raped, the man is stoned to death. If the virgin is not engaged then the rapist pays the father 50 shekels and marries the girl.
Several people are not allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord, including “he whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off”. Leaving aside the method of proving your wholeness as you enter the assembly, why would anybody of faith be denied entrance?
There is also a rule that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (among others) ignored. If a couple divorces and the woman remarries and then is either divorced or widowed, she may not go back to her first husband because “she has been defiled”. I am a bit lost here. If the second marriage defiles her for the first husband, wouldn’t the first marriage have defiled her for the second husband?
And finally, a warning to loyal wives. If two men are fighting and the wife of one of the men tries to rescue her husband and ‘puts out her hand and seizes [the other guy] by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand; your eyes shall have no pity.”
This is the trouble with reading the Bible. There may very well be logical explanations for these laws. However, we need somebody else to explain/translate them for us. Once we do that, we are in the human domain and who is to say their interpretation of the “word” of God is correct?