Moses’ Farewell Speech: History marching to the beat of its drum

Moses’ Blessings & Curses in Deuteronomy

Moses lived about 3500 years ago and he wrote the first five books of the Bible – known as the Pentateuch or the Torah. His fifth book, Deuteronomy, contains his last proclamations made just before he died. These were his Blessings to the people of Israel – the Jews, but also his Curses.  Moses wrote that these Blessings and Curses would shape history and should be noticed, not just by the Jews, but also by all other nations. So this was written for you and me to think about. The complete Blessings and Curses are here. I summarize the main points below.

The Blessings of Moses

Moses began by describing the blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Law.  The law been given in the earlier books and included the Ten Commandments.  The blessings were  from God and would be so great that all other nations would recognize His blessing. The outcome of these blessings would be that:

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)

… and the Curses

However, if the Israelites failed to obey the Commands then they would receive Curses that would match and mirror the Blessings. These Curses would be seen by the surrounding nations so that:

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you. (Deuteronomy 28:37)

And the Curses would extend through history.

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (Deuteronomy 28:46)

But God warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from other nations.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

It would go from bad to worse.

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:63-65)

These Blessings and Curses were established by a covenant (an agreement) between God and the Israelites:

…to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath … also with those who are not here today. (Deuteronomy 29:12-15)

In other words this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact this covenant was directed at future generations – both Israelites and foreigners.

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it. … nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. … All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

And the answer will be:

“It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt….Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. … the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:21-27)

Did The Blessings and Curses happen?

Nothing neutral about them. The Blessings were delightful, but the Curses were utterly severe. However, the most important question we can ask is: ‘Did they happen?’ The answer is not hard to find. Much of the Old Testament is the record of the history of the Israelites and from that we can see what happens in their history. Also we have records outside the Old Testament, from Jewish historians like Josephus, Graeco-Roman historians like Tacitus and we have found many archeological monuments. All of these sources agree and paint a consistent picture of the Israelite or Jewish history. A summary of this history, given through the building of a timeline is given here.  Read it and assess for yourself if the Curses of Moses came to pass.

The Conclusion to Moses’ Blessings and Curses

But this Farewell Speech of Moses did not end with the Curses. It continued. Here is how Moses made his final pronouncement.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)

After Moses, successive writers in the Old Testament continued with this promise that he first stated – that there would be a restoration after the Curses.  Ezekiel used the image of dead zombies coming to life to paint a vivid picture of this for us. These later writers made bold, troubling and detailed predictions. Together they make an astounding set of predictions that are happening today.

Passover Sign of Moses

After Abraham died his descendants were called Israelites.  500 years later they have become a large tribe.  But they have also become slaves  of the Egyptians.

The Exodus

The Israelite leader is Moses. God had told Moses to go to Pharaoh of Egypt and demand that he free the Israelites from slavery.   This began a struggle between Pharaoh and Moses producing nine plagues against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Even so, Pharaoh had not agreed to let the Israelites go free so God was going to bring a deadly 10th plague. The full account of the 10th Plague in the Bible is linked here.

The 10th plague was that every firstborn son in the land would die that night from God’s Angel of Death – except those who remained in houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the door frames of that house. If Pharaoh did not obey, his firstborn son and heir to the throne would die. Every house in Egypt that did not sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood on the doorposts would lose a firstborn son. So Egypt faced a national disaster.

In Israelite (and Egyptian) houses where a lamb had been sacrificed and its blood painted on the doors the promise was that everyone would be safe. The Angel of Death would pass over that house. So this day was called Passover.

Passover – A Sign for who?

People think that the blood on the doors was only for the Angel of Death. But notice what the Bible says

The LORD said to Moses … ” … I am the LORD. The blood [of the Passover lamb] will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. (Exodus 12:13)

Though the LORD was looking for the blood on the door, and if He saw it Death would pass over, the blood was not a sign for Him. It says that the blood was a ‘sign for you’ – the people, including you and me.

But how is it a sign? After this happened the LORD commanded them to:

Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for generations to come. When you enter the land … observe this ceremony… It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD’ (Exodus 12:27)

The Remarkable Passover Calendar

In fact we see at the beginning of this story that this 10th plague began the ancient Israelite (Jewish) calendar.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,  “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year… (Exodus 12:1-2)

Starting at this time, the Israelites began a calendar that celebrated Passover on the same day every year.  For 3500 years Jewish people have been celebrating Passover every year to remember how their ancestors were saved from death.  Since the Jewish calendar year is a little different from the Western calendar, the Passover day moves each year on the Western calendar.

Jesus and Passover

This is a modern-day scene of Jewish people preparing to celebrate Passover in memory of that first Passover 3500 years ago.
This is a modern-day scene of Jewish people preparing to celebrate Passover in memory of that first Passover 3500 years ago.

If we follow Passover celebrations in history we will notice something remarkable. Notice when the arrest and trial of Jesus happened:

“Then the Jews led Jesus … to the palace of the Roman governor [Pilate]… to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover” … [Pilate] said [to Jewish leaders] “…But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No not him…” (John 18:28, 39-40)

Jesus was arrested and executed on Passover of the Jewish calendar – the same day all Jews were sacrificing a lamb to remember those lambs in 1500 BC that caused Death to pass over.  Remember from Abraham’s Sacrifice, one of the titles of Jesus was:

The next day John (i.e. John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… ’”. (John 1:29)

Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, was sacrificed on the very same day that all the Jews alive then were sacrificing a lamb in memory of the first Passover that started their calendar.  This is why the Jewish Passover  occurs at the same time as Easter.  Easter is to remember the death of Jesus and since that happened on the Passover, Easter and Passover happen close together.  (Since the Western calendar is different they are not on the same day, but usually in the same week).

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

Think back to that first Passover in Moses’ day where the blood was a ‘sign’, not only for God, but also for us.  Think what signs do by considering these signs.

Signs are pointer in our minds to get us to think about the thing the sign points to
Signs are pointer in our minds to get us to think about what the sign points to

When we see the ‘skull and crossbones’ sign it makes us think of death and danger. The sign of the ‘Golden Arches’ makes us think about McDonalds. The ‘√’ on Nadal’s bandana is the sign for Nike. Nike wants us to think of them when we see this on Nadal. Signs are made to direct our thinking not to the sign itself but to something it points to.

God had said to Moses that the first Passover blood was a sign.  So what was God pointing to with this sign?  With the remarkable timing of lambs being sacrificed on the same day as Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God’, it is a sign pointing to the coming sacrifice of Jesus.

It works in our minds like I have shown in the diagram here about me.

The Passover is a Sign in that it points to Jesus through the remarkable timing of Passover with Jesus' crucifixion
The Passover is a Sign in that it points to Jesus through the remarkable timing of Passover with Jesus’ crucifixion

The sign is to point us to think about the sacrifice of Jesus. In the first Passover the lambs were sacrificed and the blood painted so that death would pass over the people .  This sign pointing to Jesus is to tell us that  ‘The Lamb of God’ was also sacrificed and his blood spilt so death would pass over us.

With Abraham’s sacrifice the place where the ram died so Isaac could live was Mount Moriah – the same place where Jesus was sacrificed 2000 years later.  That was given so we could ‘see’ the meaning of his sacrifice by pointing to the location. Passover is also pointing to Jesus’ sacrifice, but by using a different sign – by pointing to the day of the calendar – the calendar started by the first Passover.  In two different ways the most important stories in the Old Testament are pointing directly to the death of Jesus using sacrificed lambs. I cannot think of any other person in history whose death (or life achievement) is so foreseen in two such dramatic ways. Can you?

These two events (Abraham’s sacrifice and Passover) should show us that it is reasonable to consider that Jesus is the center of a Divine Plan.

But why has God placed these Signs in ancient history to predict the crucifixion of Jesus?  Why is that so important?  What is it about the world that requires such bloody symbols?  And is it important to us today?  To answer these questions we need to start at the beginning of the Bible to understand what happened at the start of time.