Finished reading Deuteronomy tonight, which ends the five books of Moses, known as the Pentateuch. The word Pentateuch evidently comes from the Greek "pent teuchos" meaning "five-volumed book" after the Jewish "five-fifths of the law." Jews would refer to it as the Torah ("instruction"), Christians call it the first part of the Old Testament.
Deuteronomy is known in Hebrew as "The Book of Love," because it's a reiteration of God's covenant with the people of Israel (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's descendants) and his expression of His love for His people. This last of the five books is basically a repetition of all the rules and laws God teaches in the first four books. (Don't drink blood, don't sleep with your sister, don't steal, etc.) There is much about killing other nations, which I really don't follow, but there are also some beautiful verses about God's love for his people:
"But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God); he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of they fathers which he sware unto them." -- Deuteronomy, 4:29-31
Overall, I'd say I am a bit disturbed by all the God-sanctioned violence towards other nations, but there is definitely some very beautiful (though graphic) poetry in this, the fifth book of Moses:
"If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgement; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh;" -- Deuteronomy 32:41-42
In the end, Moses goes up onto the mountain, from where he can see the promised land, and dies. God Himself buries this prophet, and no one knows to this day where his remains were interred. I don't understand how Moses could have written about his own death, but then I have to remember that not everything in the Bible so far has made sense. Consider the talking donkey in Numbers.
Now that I'm finished Deuteronomy it's on to the book of Joshua, who was a good friend of Moses, and the man who will lead the people of Israel across the River Jordan and into Canaan, the promised land. There's been a lot of hype about this place, so I'm looking forward to finding out what the Israelites will do with all their newfound milk and honey.
After all the travelling around through the desert for so many years, it'll be nice to find out what these folks do once they settle down. Speaking of travelling around, I couldn't help but notice a strange parallel between the scenery described in Numbers and the scenery described in The Lord of The Rings. The Israelites, like the group of nine brave heros in Tolkien's epic novels, move from mountains to planes to forests and come across all kinds of dangers during their travels. It makes so much sense to me, having read the very epic, long tales in the LOTR trilogy, that Tolkien was a reader of the Old Testament.
Everything comes back to the Bible. I wish I'd read it before I studied English Literature at university. Might have understood a lot more about all the allusions and inspirations so many Western writers have had, since, well, biblical times.