Levites are to get a portion of the sacrificial offerings (the shoulder, two cheeks, and the stomach of an ox or sheep, the first fruit offering of grain, wine, and oil, and the first fleece from sheep). The context is a little unclear, but it seems to be saying that all priests are entitled to this whether they serve at the Temple or not, but it’s unclear how that would actually work in practice.

In addition, all Levites have the option of packing up and serving in the Temple instead of in their local communities – though, again, the context is a little unclear. Previously, we’ve read that Levites can serve in the Temple but not the sanctuary. Is this now allowing any Levite (and not just the descendants of Aaron) to serve in the inner sanctuary?

Either way, I imagine that this would put additional strain on an already tenuous relationship. We’ve seen evidence throughout the books of Moses of the little put downs between the Levites and the Aaronide priests.

False Prophets

Still concerned about false prophets, Moses gets back to the subject.

When the people finally reach the Promised Land (whenever this marathon of a speech finally ends), Moses tells them not to follow any of the local practices. The resident cultures, he warns, practice all sorts of nasty things, such as burning their children in sacrifice, divination, soothsaying, auguring, sorcery, wizardry, and necromancy. “For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you” (v.12).

It’s worth noting that “burn[ing] his son or his daughter as an offering” (v.10) may not actually refer to a “kill them dead” sort of sacrifice. My study Bible gives an alternate translation: “Makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire,” and notes: “The meaning of the first practice is uncertain but probably refers to an ordeal of passing through the fire as a test of devotion of Molech, the god of Ammon” (p.238). In other words, it would be something more of a symbolic sacrifice, like circumcision. If that’s the case, it casts some doubt on most (all?) of the strong anti-human sacrifice passages that we’ve read so far.

falseprophetsMoses promises that “the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren – him you shall heed” (v.15). It’s unclear who Moses (or, you know, the future scribes writing as Moses) is referring to, or even what kind of timeline he has in mind. Does he mean Joshua? Does he mean Jesus? Does he mean someone in between?

Either way, it’s a dangerous assertion for social order. Surely, the authors (even if we take that author to be God) would want the right prophet(s) to be recognized and acknowledged, but without leaving the population vulnerable to scam artists and missionaries from other religions. So they have to qualify it – how can the people know that someone claiming to be a prophet actually is one?

In Deuteronomy 13, we were told that anyone claiming to be a prophet for another God was a liar, and that making accurate predictions was just God’s way of testing the faithful.

Here, we’re told that the people can tell that a prophet is false if “the word does not come to pass or come true” (v.22).

It feels like God/Moses is trying to have it both ways. If a prediction comes true and person claims to be from God, it’s a legitimate sign of God’s power. If a prediction comes true but the person claims to be from a different god, that’s totally not a sign of that god’s power.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on hit/miss ratios or how vague/specific the prediction needs to be. Try as they might, the authors left plenty of room for charlatans.