Friday, September 02, 2016

Moses and intercession

Unlike Exod 32:11b-13, which never refers to the Israelites’ sin, the appeal in Deuteronomy [9] mentions their sin at a point of maximum prominence, the center of the chiasm (v. 27b). Such structural emphasis belies Moses’s appeal to YHWH in v. 27b, “Do not pay attention to (אל תפן אל) the stubbornness of this people nor to its wickedness nor to its sin.” If intended as anticipatory refutation, the reference to sin would have been better placed at the beginning of Moses’s appeal, as it is in Exod 32:31. The emphatic placement makes sense, however, as part of Moses’s message to the Israelites on the Plains of Moab in Deuteronomy 9. One aim of the chapter is to confront the Israelites with all the ways they had provoked YHWH since leaving Egypt (Deut 9:7, 8, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24; cf. 9:5, 6). The emphasis on their sin in Moses’s appeal makes sense in that context. Moses is also striving to persuade the Israelites of all he has done on their (undeserving) behalf: hence his emphasis on the 40 days and nights he spent prostrate while making this appeal (9:25). Thus it is fitting as well that no plague is mentioned; in Deut 9:19 Moses’s intercession with YHWH is presented as if it had been wholly successful.—Forestalling Doom page 183

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