The Top 5 Most Ridiculous Verses in Deuteronomy

One of the most popular and most searched-for types of post on this site has been our series of the most ridiculous things in scripture. The series serves as a sort of round-up post on each book of the Bible that we have analyzed. Thus far we have examined some of these absurdities in GenesisExodusLeviticus, and Numbers. Now, we finish up the Pentateuch with our look at the most ridiculous things in Deuteronomy. Spoiler alert: this one is just as ridiculous as the others. Consider the following in no particular order of ridiculousness, although it’s hard to top #5:

  1. God Doesn’t Follow His Own Laws (Deut. 28). In Deut 24:16, God instructs that: “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.” Okay—good. After all, central to any system of justice is individual responsibility for one’s actions. But then, only four chapters later, God violates his own rule. If you don’t follow God’s law, He will ensure that somebody will rape your woman (Deut. 28:30) and kidnap your children (Deut. 28:32). Sounds like others are sure paying for your crimes.
  2. If Raped, an Unmarried Woman Must Marry Her Rapist (Deut. 22:28-29). This one’s a doozy. If a unmarried virgin is raped, and discovered, the rapist must pay the victim’s father a fine. Deuteronomy prescribes that the woman  is required to marry her rapist with no chance of divorce. Yes: she must marry her rapist. (I don’t want to excuse this verse, but it does bring up an important point: the Israelite society was such that, if a young woman was unmarried, not betrothed, and raped, she was—sadly—unlikely to ever find a husband. Any stigma, though, was still wrong, and it seems a horrible punishment to an innocent woman that she would have to marry her rapist.) Punishing a woman simply for being raped is, in no way, just or fair.
  3. Moses Narrates From Beyond the Grave (Deut. 34). Tradition holds that Moses himself, and by himself, wrote the first five books of what Christians call the “Old Testament,” otherwise known as the Pentateuch. There are many reasons why this tradition is wrong. Perhaps the most simplest, though, comes at the end of the Pentateuch: near its last book, Deuteronomy, Moses dies. How, one should ask, could he have written the first five books if he had died? He must then have written them from the grave, or perhaps predicted his own death. If the latter is true, he must have certainly thought highly of himself: “For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deut. 34:12).
  4. God is Really, Really Jealous (Deut. 4:24 Deut. 5:9Deut. 32:16). While we have seen, in the Pentateuch, God being described as “jealous” before, nowhere in these fives books is this description more often used than in Deuteronomy. This is ridiculous. Of whom would God be jealous? Why? Wouldn’t God being “jealous” instantly make him, well, not really God? This verse shows that, at that time, the ancient Israelites had a very different—and probably non-monotheistic—conception of God.
  5. God is a Mass Murderer (Deut. 2). I’m just going to let this verse speak for itself: “When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The LORD our God gave us all of them.” (Deut. 2:32-36). If you’re interested in some commentary on this section—and wonder about some possible ambiguities—we posted earlier about it.
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