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The Bible In A Year: Day 86

Deuteronomy 26-28
Psalm 86
Luke 10

Deuteronomy 26-28

The people are instructed to give their first fruits as a tithe when they come into the land and have cultivated it. God doesn’t need portions of their harvests, this isn’t about satiating his appetite, it’s for the people to keep God in the forefront of their minds. Even the words they are instructed to say to the priest when they bring this offering references the fact that God has given them this land, freed them from slavery, and blessed them abundantly. They’d being told to never forget that and always remember it was from God.

Moses ends his recounting of the laws at the end of chapter 26 and a new part of the book begins. Here we see a memorial of the law bing commanded and liturgy that will be performed on two separate mountains in an area that will come to be known as Samaria in later years. Here the priests will pronounce blessings and curses, blessings for following the law and curses for disobedience.

They are thoroughly warned to not disobey all the commands and procedures they’ve been issued and have agreed to. Now they hear, in extreme detail, what will happen if they lose faith and worship other gods, or any of these commands. And if you know the history of Israel, they do exactly that, and all of this comes to pass when Nebuchadnezzar destroys the temple and most of Jerusalem, taking the survivors as captives to a foreign land for decades of exile.

Luke 10

Jesus sends out another batch of missionaries, this time though it’s 70 that are sent. This is another point of contact in Jesus claiming the mantle of the prophet who was promised, the new and greater Moses. In the desert, Moses appointed 70 elders to help him judge the people, and the Sanhedrin had adopted this number as 71 judges over Israel (Moses plus 70).

Another symbolic element here is the table of nations in Genesis 10 that lays out the 70 nations descended from Noah. This missionary trip being a foreshadowing of the eventual evangelization of the gentile nations.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most famous in all the Bible, and is even well known by non Christians. The important thing to note here is that Samaritans and Jews hated each other, and had almost no dealings with each other. The blood was so bad that Josephus records an account of an incident that took place around the time of Jesus, where Samaritans scattering human bones on the Temple Mount in order to desecrate it and ended up causing a riot. To say they hated each other is probably an understatement.

But interestingly enough, Samaritans and Jews had almost the exact same religion and were closely related ethnically. The differences in their religion can be seen in the few surviving Samaritans today. They worship God in the ruins of a temple that was built on the mountain mentioned in today’s reading from Deuteronomy and their scriptures are almost exactly the same, except they change the location of Solomon’s temple to Mt Gerizim in Samaria.

They aren’t completely off base, because Moses did instruct an altar to be built in this location, and even the later site of Shiloh (also in Samaria) was the location of the tabernacle and the site of worship for the Israelites until David captured Jerusalem and his son built the temple there. They get all that right, up until the temple is built in Jerusalem that is.

As far as their lineage goes, the short version is that when the kingdom split after Solomon, 10 norther tribes form their own nation and call it Israel. While the 2 souther tribes’ nation is referred to as Judah. Eventually the northern kingdom is conquered by the Assyrian empire and the inhabitants are driven out of the land. The Assyrians then send in five gentile tribes to reestablish the towns and cities destroyed in the warfare and begin to rebuilt the tax base. These foreigners eventually intermarry with the stragglers and Israelites allowed to remain for whatever reason. Their descendants come to be known as Samaritans.

With this backstory in mind, we can see that the least likely of the men to help the robbed traveler was the Samaritan, but he helped anyway. Jesus uses this parable to expand the Old Testament requirement to love your neighbor, and make it a requirement to love everyone, because if a Samaritan can be considered the neighbor of Jews then so can the whole world. And that was the point.

Tomorrow’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 29-30
Psalm 87
Luke 11:1-13

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