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Cover image: “The Death of Moses” via Wikimedia Commons.¬†

Deuteronomy 6, 8, 11, 32

Deuteronomy is the record of Moses’ last words to Israel before they entered the Promised Land[1]. Israel would be leaving the wilderness, where they had been in humble dependence on the Lord, for the literally green pastures of Canaan. Knowing that he would not be joining them, Moses warned Israel against spiritual amnesia. This great prophet repeatedly exhorted them not to forget the covenant they made with God. In fact, Moses employed the words¬†remember,¬†forget¬†and their variants in Deuteronomy more times than in all the rest of the Pentateuch combined (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers).

If Israel would remember their deliverance-even “all the great acts of the Lord” (Deut. 11:7), then they would continue to receive “power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto [their] fathers” (Deut. 8:18). Yoseph Yerushalmi, an authority on Jewish memory, has written, “Only in Israel and nowhere else is the injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people. Its reverberations are everywhere, but they reach a crescendo in the Deuteronomic history and in the prophets.”[2]

To reinforce and continually nurture Israel’s covenantal memory, Moses employed various mnemonic methods throughout the book of Deuteronomy. These tools of remembrance are collected as a whole only within that book, literally making Deuteronomy a how-to handbook for Israel’s memory. The memory-aiding methods Moses marshaled in Deuteronomy include repetition, types and symbols, the Sabbath, seasonal feasts and festivals, significant years, circumcision, altars and monuments, religious attire, the “song” of Moses, and culture.

Repetition

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Repetition is a key to learning. Our sons need to hear the truth repeated.”[3] The English appellation of the book, Deuteronomy, means “repeated law,” “second law,” or “copy of the law.” This alludes to the fact that Deuteronomy is a selective revision of the Mosiac law and history found in Exodus through Numbers. “It is not a mere repetition, however. As Leviticus was for the priests and Numbers for the Levites, so Deuteronomy was for the people. Therefore, while it is not so detailed nor technical as the books which precede it, it contains all the essential elements which the individual must obey to insure continual blessings associated with the covenant life.”[4]

Repetition and recitation help us to remember. Deuteronomy, as a book, was to be taught in the home to the children (4:4-9; 6:7). It was to be meditated upon constantly (6:7). It was to be studied by Israel’s king on a daily basis (17:18-19; also Joshua 1:8). It was to be rehearsed to the entire population of Israel, including the resident gentiles, every Sabbatical year, during the feast of Tabernacles (31:10-13). Repetition is utilized within the book of Deuteronomy as well. The Shema, or Jewish daily prayer, consists of passages from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41. These references have the Lord’s injunctions to teach the law in the family, as well as, to talk of and ponder on the law continually. One translation of Deuteronomy 4:7 renders “talk” as “recite” and notes that Moses’ instruction “involves recitation and reading or murmuring” as an aid to remembering.[5] On this point, another biblical scholar has written, “Consideration of the memory passages in Deuteronomy suggests that the mode of the remembrance was preaching or¬†sacred recital¬†in the sanctuaries and¬†it is so prominent as to amount to a Deuteronomic presentation of remembrance.[6]

Moses also stressed significant parts of their immediate history within the book of Deuteronomy. These specific historical references reminded Israel of the Lord’s delivering hand in their past.

Not only is Israel under no obligation whatever to remember the entire past, but its principle of selection is unique unto itself. It is above all God’s acts of intervention in history, and man’s responses to them, be they positive or negative, that must be recalled”. For the real danger is not so much that what happened in the past will be forgotten, as the more crucial aspect of¬†howit happened.[7]

In this way, Israel would always be reminded of the Lord’s miraculous measures in their behalf. “Memory of God’s past course of action and anticipation of his future course of action provide the framework for the present commitment to God in the renewal of the covenant.”[8] So critical is this historical awareness that Yerushalmi declares, “Ancient Israel knows what God is from what he has done in history. And if that is so, then memory has become crucial to its faith, and, ultimately, to its very existence.”[9] Thus, memory of the Lord’s temporal deliverance would serve to point Israel to ponder their greater eternal salvation only available through their true deliverer.

One final note on the virtue of repetition for memory as provided for in Deuteronomy is that the eighth chapter is arranged as a chiasmus. Chiasmus is an ancient form of poetry that serves to enhance its message through its form. John Welch notes that in a chiasmus “the repeating of key words in the two halves underlines the importance of the concepts they present”. The repeating form also enhances clarity and speeds memorizing.”[10]

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† a-Obedience to God’s commands insures life (8:1)

                        b-Wandering in the desert (8:2-6)

                                    c-Richness of the land (8:7-10)

                                                d-Do not forget the Lord (8:11)

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† c’-Richness of the land (8:12-13)

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† b’-Wandering in the desert (8:14b-16)

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† a’-Apostasy insures destruction (8:19-20)[11]

The central idea of not forgetting the Lord highlighted by this chiastic form is further emphasized by the repetition of the words “remembers” and “forget” (8:2, 11, 14, 18, 19).

Types and Symbols

The Lord has instructed his people throughout time with types and symbols.

Types may be defined as “persons, events, or things” which are real “and at the same time point to qualities of Christ or his kingdom.”[12] Symbolic representations are particularly proficient, says one, because “the principles of human nature render TYPES as a fit method of instruction. It tends to enlighten and illustrate, and to convey instruction with impression, conviction, and pleasure, and to help the memory.”[13] It is true that Jehovah had not yet condescended as Jesus at this point in Israelite history, they still were in need of remembering the Lord and his coming sacrifice “even as though he had already come among them” (Jarom 1:11; Mosiah 3:13).

Deuteronomy contains several significant types for Christ. Moses himself had the supreme opportunity to be a type of the Savior. “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet”-in direct contrast to the charmers and wizards of their day-“from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken” (18:15; see also v. 18 where the Lord confirms this remarkable comparison). In Deuteronomy 25:15 the Lord interestingly commands Israel to remember their battle with Amalek recorded in Exodus 17:8-14. It was during this combat that Moses had to keep his hands elevated for Israel to win. Justin Martyr wrote that Moses actually foreshadowed the Messiah’s redemptive work on Calvary by holding his hands horizontally, thus symbolizing Jesus’ future crucifixion.[14] As a reflection of the Savior, Moses provided a way for Israel to see the deliverance available through Jesus in the anticipation of his coming.

Also, being the “repetition of the law,” Deuteronomy contained the text of the Law of Moses, which in itself served as a type of Christ. Throughout the book Moses reminds his people that “the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always,¬†that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” (Deut. 6:24; see also 4:10, 40; 5:16, 33; 6:2-3; 8:20; 11:8-9, 22-23; 16:28; 17:20; and 20:7). What Moses was referring to was the symbolic meaning in the manna that had sustained wandering Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 8:3, 16). This unprecedented symbol of Christ as the “bread of life” (John 6:35) was to teach Israel that they must come unto Him daily-not relying on yesterday’s portion, nor hoarding today’s helping. Communion with Christ requires constant care. Obedience to the laws associated with the manna had preserved Israel. This clearly pointed to the supreme salvation available only from their faithfulness to the covenant with Jehovah-the giver of the law.

As a whole, the sacrificial ordinances described in the Mosaic Law display significant features designed to point to Christ. There could be no broken bones in the animals offered-typical of Jesus’ literal fulfillment of Psalm 34:20 (see also John 19:32-36). The sacrifice had to be without blemish-representing the purity and sinlessness of the Son of God (Deut. 15:21; 17:1; also Hebrews 4:15; 7:26 (25-27); 9:14 (11-15); D&C 45:4). On the most holy day in Israel, Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, the priest laid his hands on the animals and dedicated them to God as his representatives and substitutes (cf. Lev. 16:21; Num. 8:12; also Lev. 1:4; Numbers 8:10), this pointing to the fact the Jesus was the Anointed One to perform the great atoning sacrifice (Isaiah 61:1-3).[15] The blood was the means of atonement (Exodus 30:10; Lev. 8:15; 16:18; 17:11; also Mosiah 3:11, 14-18; and 1 Nephi 12:10-11) and was applied to all people and things in order to purify them (Exodus 24-6-8).

While sacrifice symbolized fulfilling the requirement for reunion with God, Paul taught, “the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect”. But in those sacrifices there is a¬†remembrance¬†again made of sins every year” (Heb. 10:1-3). President Kimball mused, “I suppose that is the reason the Lord asked Adam to offer sacrifices, for no other reason than that he and his posterity would remember-remember the basic things that they had been taught.”[16] All of these sacrificial shadows, repeated over and over in the Israelites daily, weekly, and yearly ritual, were to remind them of Christ and cement him in their consciousness.

The Sabbath

Moses required Israel to observe both weekly and seasonal festivals as a method to keep them in remembrance of the Lord. The weekly reminder came in the Sabbath. Earlier in Exodus Moses had taught that the Lord had ordained that day as a reminder of the creation of the earth. “In it thou shalt not do any work”. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:10-11). Rabbi Abraham Heschel comments that the Sabbath is “the day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”[17]

What is noteworthy about Deuteronomy’s recitation of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) is that Moses changed the rationale for their observance from the once in Exodus. “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15). Elder McConkie explains,

Thus when Moses received the Ten Commandments the second time, as part of the Mosaic law rather than as part of the fulness of the gospel, the reason was changed. No longer was it to commemorate the creation (at least not that alone), but now it was to keep the children of Israel in remembrance of the glory of their deliverance from Egypt”. For nearly fifteen hundred of the four thousand years that passed between Adam and Christ, the purpose of the Sabbath was to commemorate, not the creation (except incidentally), but those events of deliverance from Egyptian bondage that so exulted the feelings of all Israel.[18]

This change in Deuteronomy from Exodus further points to Israel’s need to remember the Lord-to recall their deliverance from temporal bondage in Egypt as a type of Jehovah’s ultimate power to redeem them spiritually. Having been freed from temporal concerns, then, how essential it was for them neither to work, nor pine away for their work on that day. For within the Deuteronomic conception temporal labors symbolically correspond with slave labor in captivity! If not, preoccupied with their occupation, Israel would be substituting the mundane for the Messiah, truly missing the mark of Christ.

Seasonal Feasts and Festivals

Israel’s seasonal reminders came in the triennial festivals of Passover (Pesah), Weeks (Shavuot, or Pentecost), and Tabernacles (Sukkoth).¬† These were held in the spring and fall-naturally timed with the agrarian cycle of planting and harvesting (Deut. 16; see also Deut. 11:13-17). Not only was the timing significant, but the activities themselves “commemorated the great events of Israel’s history, the occasions when in an unmistakable way God had stepped in the deliver his people”[19]. Neusner observes that these three festivals typify three roles of the Messiah. “Passover is the festival of¬†redemption¬†and points toward the Torah-revelation¬†of the Feast of Weeks; the harvest festival in the autumn celebrates not only¬†creation, but especially, redemption.”[20]

The Passover, with its accompanying feast of unleavened bread, specifically commemorated the great deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. It was to be held in the first month of spring, or Abib, which corresponds with late March or early April. This pointed back to Israel’s exodus that occurred during this same month (Deut. 16:1, 6). Passover was to begin and end on Sabbath days, marked by solemn assembly (Deut. 16:8). Thus, bracketed by Sabbaths, the people had a double opportunity to contemplate the covenant. The center of this festival was the Paschal sacrifice. Killed and roasted in the evening, the lamb signified that their temporal deliverance had depended on the death of Egypt’s firstborn. This would lead to the continual recognition and remembrance of a future and more profound deliverance through the sacrifice of the Messiah-God’s Firstborn. The meal consisted of the roasted lamb along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, tokens of their “affliction” in Egypt and subsequent departure in “haste” (Deut 16:3). They were to eat at least a part of the meal standing with their sandals on as if prepared for travel, reminiscent of the night before the historical exodus (see Exodus 12:11). The eating of the unleavened bread continued all week until the closing Sabbath, further reminding them that God governs their release from bondage.

The feast of Weeks was held seven weeks from the benedictory Passover Sabbath (Deut. 16:9-12). It was also called the “feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labors” (Exodus 23:16) where they were to offer a “tribute of a freewill offering” according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee” (Deut. 16:10). This festival was to be held on one day. It celebrated the beginning of Israel’s harvest season. During this prosperous season it would be particularly tempting for the people to fall prey to pride, forgetting the God had provided the land, given the rain, and flourished the crop (Deut. 8:7-17).[21] Therefore, Moses again commanded Israel to “remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt” (Deut. 16:12). Sheaves of wheat were additionally placed on the sacrificial altars to remind the participants that God had given the increase. Additionally, the number of animal offerings during Weeks was increased over the single Passover lamb (thirteen animals altogether: nine lambs, a young bull, one kid goat, and two rams; Lev. 23:18). In this way the increased repetition of offerings again point to that future, ultimate sacrifice of the Savior himself.[22] Included in the celebration were meal offerings of two loaves of leavened wheat bread, representing a return of a portion “according as the Lord thy God hath blessed” them (Deut. 16:10).

At the end of the harvest season, Israel was to hold their third and final feast, the feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 16:13-15). This was a full seven-day festival where the people were to rejoice in the bounty afforded by the Lord.

If the beginning of the harvest had pointed back to the birth of Israel in the Exodus from Egypt, and forward to the true Passover-sacrifice in the future; if the corn-harvest was connected with the giving of the law on Mount Sinai in the past, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; the harvest-thanksgiving of the Feast of Tabernacles¬†reminded¬†Israel, on the one hand, of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest when Israel’s mission should be completed, and all nations gathered unto the Lord.[23]

One of the significant aspects of Tabernacles was the construction of booths, or frail huts, which the people would live in for the seven days of the festival. During this time they rehearsed the law as noted above.[24] “Ye shall dwell in booths [constructed of branches, flowers, leaves, and fruit]” that you generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Lev. 23:42-43). This was a time of bounty; a time described by Moses as when “thou hast eaten and art full” (Deut. 8:12). Comfort breeds complacency and forgetfulness. Therefore, living in crude huts would offer them the opportunity to remember their constant dependence on the Lord. It is noteworthy that the number of sacrificial offerings ordained during this week eclipses the earlier two feasts. Israel was to participate in nearly two hundred animal offerings through those seven days.[25] Obviously the richness of this sacrificial repetition offered Israel a way to indelibly etch into their hearts the coming offering of Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Living in these booths served a double function: first, the memory of past trials through dramatically re-enacting the forty year wandering was designed to give Israel proper perspective during Canaan’s prosperity; and second, this booth-dwelling would also point Israel’s minds forward to the time when, if they have been faithful to the covenant, the Lord will say “there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father” (Enos 1:27).

The extraordinary nature of these seasonal celebrations is truly remarkable. In the words of two Jewish scholars,

Whatever memories were unleashed by the commemorative rituals and liturgies were surely not a matter of intellection, but of evocation and identification, there are sufficient clues to indicate that what was suddenly drawn up from the past was not a series of facts to be contemplated at a distance, but a series of situations into which one could somehow be existentially drawn.[26]

To be a classical Jew is to be intoxicated by faith in God, to live every moment in his presence, to shape every hour by the paradigm of Torah. The day with its worship morning and evening [reciting the¬†Shema], the week with its climax at the Sabbath, the season marked by nature’s commemoration of Israel’s sacred history-these shape life into rhythms of sanctification.[27]

These instructions in Deuteronomy concerning Israel’s feasts and festivals form another of Moses’ prescriptions against spiritual amnesia.

Thus, even their weekly and yearly calendars provided a way for Israel to remember the Lord.

Significant Years

Moses also reiterated the command to celebrate a Sabbatical year while in the Promised Land (Deut. 15:1-18; see also Exodus 21:2; 23:11; Lev. 25:2, 20). Every seventh year was to be observed similar to a Sabbath-the fields were to receive a rest; unplowed, unplanted and therefore unharvested during the Sabbatical year. Israel was to have faith in God for their needs rather than labor by the strength of their arm. Slaves were freed and debts cancelled. The symbolism is unmistakable. Israel is to recall, just as on the weekly Sabbath, that God is powerful to save and deliver them. Israel must totally rely on the Lord as they had done when they were “[bondsmen] in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee” (Deut. 15:15).

The freeing of the Hebrew slaves and indentured servants during this special year also suggested the need for greater benevolence and charity of heart. The slave owners were to “not let him go away empty; Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy [harvesting] floor and out of thy winepress” (Deut. 15:13-14). This would remind the people of their own exodus out of Egyptian bondage when Israel took with them the treasures of Egypt (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:35-36). This recollection of personal and ancestral slavery was calculated to keep the people mindful of the One who had unlocked their prison, and also help generate the feelings and attributes of their Savior.

Circumcision

Another method of reminding Israel of her covenant with God was the rite of circumcision. This was an outward ordinance, which directed attention to the inward covenant. The surgery served no revealed intrinsic value, its meaning came only as it indicated and facilitated an inner change of heart. Moses conveys the real meaning of this rite by bidding Israel to “circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut. 10:16). Deuteronomy is the only book of Moses that contains this clarification. The people were to humbly submit to God’s commands-that was their part of the spiritual circumcision-and when they did, in a latter day, Moses promised that “the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of they seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and will all thy soul” (Deut 30:6). Thus, when an Israelite submitted to the physical requirement he agrees to remember the transcendent agreement he had made with God, and as he strives in humility to uphold his covenant God promises to effect a literal change in his heart. This was symbolized by the giving of a new name at the time of circumcision (Gen. 17:5; see also Luke 1:59; 2:21).[28] Paul taught the Romans that “he is not a Jew, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit” (Romans 2:28-29). “The covenant between God and Israel is not a mere theological abstraction, nor is it effected only through the law of community and family life. It is quite literally engraved upon the flesh of every male Jewish child through the rite of circumcision,¬†brit milah, the covenant of circumcision.”[29]¬†¬† In the latter-days we similarly typify our inward conversion to Christ by the outward ordinance of baptism and mark it by receiving His name.

Altars and Monuments

Another tangible reminder of the Lord’s saving relationship with Israel was called for in Deuteronomy. Upon entering the Promised Land, Moses commanded Joshua to “set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law” (Deut. 27:2-3). These were to form an altar of sacrifice unto the Lord (Deut. 27:5-8). Further, these stones were not to be chiseled or shaped with iron tools, as this would pollute it (Exodus 20:25).[30] Moses called for this amaranthine memorial to jog Israel’s memory every time they saw it. Joshua obeyed this command as recorded in Joshua 8:30-32. When the people crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, with Joshua at their head, they took twelve men-representing each tribe-who gathered twelve stones from the “midst of Jordan” to make this monument. In the years to come when Israelites would naturally inquire about this memorial their fathers were to rehearse the Lord’s miraculous stopping of the river when Israel was granted entrance into their inheritance. “Not the stone, but the memory transmitted by the fathers, is decisive if the memory embedded in the stone is to be conjured out of it to live again for subsequent generations. If there can be no return to Sinai, then what took place at Sinai must be borne along the conduits of memory to those who were not there that day.”[31] It should not be lost that this miracle of passing through Jordan is but a repetition of the Lord’s powerful deliverance through the Red Sea when their exodus actually began. Memorials like these altars and monuments serve as reminders to the observer that the Lord’s mighty hand can and will deliver his children who are faithful to him.

Religious Attire

When Moses recounted the Decalogue and the great commandment he admonished that “these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart”. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes,” (Deut. 6:6-8), and also, “thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (6:9; also 11:18-20). As noted earlier, Moses required parents to teach the law in the family and to talk of and ponder on the law continually (Deut. 4:9). While there is some controversy as to whether Moses meant this figuratively or literally, mnemonic devices did develop out of these instructions. Israelites began to use frontlets or phylacteries on their foreheads and arms (tefillin), and the¬†mezuzot¬†or small containers attached to their home’s gate or doorway. These were “ordinances of remembrance” (Deut. 6:8, 9 footnotes). Inside these little boxes were tiny written portions of the law-quotations of Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41. The use of them on a daily basis reminded the people of the law and their covenant to obey it. Also, Israel was to “make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture” (Deut. 22:12). Deuteronomy contains the command to construct them, and the book of Numbers explains them as a mnemonic tool: “that ye may look upon it, and¬†remember¬†all the commandments of the Lord, and do them (Num. 15:39; emphasis added). Even the number of the fringes on each prayer shawl was mnemonic; numbering 613, exactly the number of Mosaic laws.

The Song of Moses

The Lord also commanded Moses to compose a song for Israel.

According to His directions the song would serve the following purposes: It would stand as a witness against wickedness (Deut. 31:19, 21); it would not be forgotten by the seed of Israel-indicating that a record of it would be had among them (Deut. 31:21); it contains the invitation to remember the pre-moral life through asking the fathers and elders who would teach them about it (Deut. 32:7-8); it indicts the people in regard to their forgetfulness (Deut. 32:18); it testifies that the Lord is the only power able to give and take away life (Deut. 32:39-40); and it was part of the larger law, which if abided by would “prolong [their] days in the land” (Deut. 32:46-47). According to one scholar, “the goodness of God is perceived in the gift of the song, for part of its function would be to warn the people of their emerging intentions and¬†turn them back to God¬†before it was to late.”[32] The song of Moses is also noted to have “more polished forms of poetic parallelism.”[33] We should notice that songs bracket the entire Israelite exodus. Their journey began with Moses singing the praises of the Lord (Exodus 15:1-22) and here in Deuteronomy concludes with Moses warning Israel not to be “unmindful” and forget the “Rock that begat thee” and the “God that formed thee” (Deut. 32:18). Songs have a truly powerful effect on the memory and Moses employs that at the close of his ministry as another mnemonic help for Israel in their new home.

Culture

Hugh Nibley has noted that Israel’s “cultural franchise is set down in Deuteronomy.”[34] As the “children of the Lord your God” they were not to do certain things, hence the “awareness of their heavenly parentage” would set “Israel apart¬†culturally¬†as well as doctrinally.”[35] Israel was to be “peculiar” and “holy” (Deut. 14:2, 21). The Hebrew word for peculiar is¬†segullah¬†and means “set apart,” “sealed,” “removed from the rest of the world.”[36] They were not to intermarry with Gentiles (Deut. 7:3). They were required to destroy all vestiges of gentile worship found in the Promised Land (Deut. 7:5; 12:2-8; 16:21-22). There were prohibited to worship in any way like their non-Israelite neighbors; in particular, they were neither to cut themselves in self-abasement nor to remove facial hair as part of a sacrificial ritual (Deut. 14:1). They had special dietary directives (see Deut. 14:2-21), as well as restrictions on sowing and planting (see Deut. 22:9-11). The effect would be that when Israel compared themselves with their gentile neighbors the recognition of the cultural difference would remind them of their covenants with the Lord.

Conclusion

In spite of Moses’ charge to remember, and although the Lord equipped them with these remarkable mnemonic devices, Israel forgot. They missed Mosaic mark-fidelity to their covenant with Jehovah. Two stumbling blocks impeded Israel’s ability to utilize the mnemonic structure of the Mosaic Law. On one hand, they fell short of the mark by allowing the mnemonic means to become the end itself (as with the brazen serpent and the law; see 2 Kings 18:4 and Mark 7:5-13; Gal. 2:16 respectively). On the other hand, Israel went beyond the mark as they “despised the words of plainness” (Jacob 4:14), missing their Messianic meaning because they became bored with repetition. The cornerstone of these stumbling blocks is pride. Pride stunts spiritual memory. President Ezra Taft Benson warned, “Pride¬†fades¬†our feelings¬†of sonship to God and brotherhood to man”[37] (also Deut. 8:10-14). Memory, however, can generate humility and invite us to “Awake! And arise from the dust” (2 Nephi 1:14).

How is pride deflated and humility and faith generated? Moses consistently called Israel to reflect on and live by the word of the Lord. Both ancient and modern scripture is devoted to calling God’s people to remembrance-remembrance of his merciful deliverance and gracious covenant.[38] Elder Neal A. Maxwell has observed that the scriptures are “the moral memory of mankind.”[39] The Book of Mormon attests to this by telling the tragic history of an ancient people who lost not only their language, but eventually denied even “the being of their Creator” due to their lack of a scriptural record (Omni 1:14-18). The lesson in Israel’s manna should fund our modern meaning of scripture study, so there is not a “famine in the land” (Amos 8:11) of our personal and family lives. President Hinckley closed a general conference of the Church with these helpful instructions. “Perhaps out of all we have heard, there may be a phrase or a paragraph that will stand out and possess our attention. If this occurs, I hope we will write it down and reflect upon it, until we savor the depths of its meaning, and have made it a part of our own lives.”[40]

Finally, through the Savior fulfilled the Mosaic Law, making many of the Deuteronomic directives obsolete, the mnemonic qualities of the old law are encompassed in the new covenant’s renewal-the sacrament. This weekly meal serves as one of our modern reminders of the Redeemer. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “the Passover was a law given to Israel which was to continue until Christ, and was to remind the children of Israel of the coming of Christ who would become the sacrificial lamb” and that Passover “changed by the Savior himself” during the last supper, and therefore, “from that time forth the law of the sacrament was instituted. We now observe the law of the sacrament instead of the Passover because the Passover was consummated in full by the death of Jesus Christ.”[41] The sacrament also displays remarkable mnemonic properties, including the promise of the Spirit, which will “bring all things to [our] remembrance.”

We should feel renewal, not resentment, through our Latter-day religious rhythms of the sacrament, family home evening, daily prayer and scripture study, church and temple participation, and supping from our bi-annual General Conferences. President Kimball taught,

You will always be in your sacrament meetings so that you will¬†remember. When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be¬†remember. Because all of you have made covenants-you know what to do and you know how to do it-our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day-to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that they “may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.” Nobody should ever forget to go to sacrament meeting.¬†Remember¬†is the word.¬†Remember¬†is the program.[42]

It is our privilege to be reminded of the Savior and our covenants with him through these modern mnemonic tools provided by the Lord, so that we may receive from Him “the precious things of heaven” and the precious things of the earth and [the] fulness thereof” (Deut.¬†33:13, 16).


1 First speech, chapters 1-4, second speech, chapters 5-26, and third speech, chapters 27-30; Meservy, Keith H., “The Good News of Moses,”¬†Studies in Scripture, Volume Three: Genesis to 2 Samuel, Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1989, 206

2 Yerushalmi, Yoseph Hayim, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982, 9

3 Benson, Ezra Taft, “Worthy Sons, Worthy Fathers,”¬†Ensign, May 1985, 36.

4 Pearson, Glenn L., The Old Testament: A Mormon Perspective, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1980, 32.

5Anchor Bible: Deuteronomy 1-11, s.v. “Exclusive Allegiance to YHWH,” 1991, 333

6¬†Harper’s Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Memorial”; emphasis added.

7 Yerushalmi, Jewish History and Jewish Memory, 11.

8 Craigie, Peter C. The Book of Deuteronomy, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976, 40.

9 Jewish History and Jewish Memory, 9.

10¬†Welch, John W.,¬†Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, “A Masterpiece: Alma 36,” Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1991, 114.

11Lohfink, Nils, cited in Moshe Weinfeld, Anchor Bible: Deuteronomy 1-11, New York: Doubleday, 1963, 397.

12 Rust, Richard, Literature of Belief, ed. Neal E. Lambert, Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1981, 234.

13 Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of President Edwards, 1847; reprint edition 1968, 493; in Literature of Belief, 1981, 235.

14¬†“Dialogue with Trypho,”¬†Ante-Nicean Fathers, vol. 1, 244; see also Sibylline Oracles, 8:251-52; in Charlesworth, James,¬†Old Testament Pseudipigrapha, New York: Doubleday, 1983, vol. 1:424; of further symbolic interest, while Moses was symbolizing the Lamb on the mountain, Joshua, as captain of Israel’s army down in the field may be said to symbolize the Lord as a Lion-see Hosea 10:11.

15¬†See also the Bible Dictionary in the LDS edition of the KJV, s.v. “Anointed One.”

16 Kimball, Spencer W., The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, 112.

17 Quoted in Neusner, Jacob, The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism, Encino and Belmont, California: Dickenson Publishing Company, 1974, 38.

18 McConkie, Bruce, R., The Promised Messiah, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981, 395-96.

[19] Alexander, David, and Pat Alexander, eds.¬†Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973, 180.

[20] Neusner, Jacob, The Way of Torah, 39.

[21] King Zbenjamin in the Book of Mormon helps us gain this perspective when he declares that the Lord even lends us breath! (Mosiah 2:21).

[22] Another significant feature of the feast of Weeks, apparently added later by the Jewish Rabbis, was that it marks the anniversary of the Lord’s giving the law to Moses on Sinai (Exodus 19:1). “The Pharisaic Rabbis held that the Torah was revealed on Mount Sinai on that day, and celebrated it as the time of the giving of our Torah,'” Hayyim Schauss, cited in Neusner,¬†The Way of Torah, 38; see also helpful discussion in Strassfeld, Michael,¬†The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985, 69-71. Although Deuteronomy does not mention the Torah in connection with Shavuot, there is an interesting tie in with the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:16-39. On that feast of Weeks symbols of Sinai’s supreme theophany were given-the fiery tongues were reminiscent of the Lord’s descent on the mount in flames (Exodus 19:18) and the sound of rushing waters represented the Lord’s voice (Exodus 19:19; 20:22). Further, Peter exhorted the people to enter the covenant through baptism (Acts 2:37-39; Exodus 24:3), an act which would facilitate their partaking of the same promises God had given his ancient “peculiar people” (Exodus 19:5).

[23] McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1979, vol. 1:171-72; emphasis added.

[24] “In 1972, I mentioned to President and Sister Harold B. Lee (then on a visit to Jerusalem) that our April and October conferences corresponded with the timing of the ancient festivals of Passover and Tabernacles. Sister Lee noted that she recalled, as a little girl, that the Salt Lake Tabernacle was always decorated with tree branches during October Conference. I have been yet unable to confirm this from other sources” (John Tvedtnes, “King Benjamin and the Feast of Tabernacles,” in¬†By Study And Also By Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company; Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1990, 230, n. 20).

[25] McConkie, Mortal Messiah, 174-75.

[26] Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, 43.

[27] The Way of Torah, 40.

[28] See also the LDS ed. KJV Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Circumcision,” p. 646.

[29] Ibid., 41.

[30] This may refer to the tendency of man to get confused over means and ends. In other words, as is so often the case, the vehicle to the Savior can become the object of adoration and worship itself. For example, the staff holding the brazen serpent became an object of worship by later Israel and had to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).

[31] Zahkor, 10.

[32] Craigie, Peter C., The Book of Deuteronomy, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976, 372.

[33] Ibid., 374.

[34] Nibley, Hugh, Temple and Cosmos, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company & Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992, 541.

[35] Ibid., 542.

[36] Ibid., 541.

[37] Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1989, 6; emphasis added.

[38] For how the Book of Mormon carries on this Deuteronomic charge to remember, see Louis Midgley, “The Ways of Remembrance,” in¬†Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, and Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991, 168-76.

[39] Neal A. Maxwell, “Shine as Lights in the World,”¬†Ensign, May 1983, 10.

[40]¬†Gordon B. Hickley, “An Humble and a Contrite Heart,”¬†Ensign, November 2000, 88.

[41] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Answers to Gospel Questions, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966, vol. 5:153-54.

[42] Kimball, Spencer, W., “Circles of Exaltation,”¬†Charge to Religious Educators, Second Edition, Salt Lake City, UT: Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 12.¬†

[1] First speech, chapters 1-4, second speech, chapters 5-26, and third speech, chapters 27-30; Meservy, Keith H., “The Good News of Moses,”¬†Studies in Scripture, Volume Three: Genesis to 2 Samuel, Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1989, 206

[2] Yerushalmi, Yoseph Hayim, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982, 9

[3] Benson, Ezra Taft, “Worthy Sons, Worthy Fathers,”¬†Ensign, May 1985, 36.

[4] Pearson, Glenn L., The Old Testament: A Mormon Perspective, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1980, 32.

[5] Anchor Bible: Deuteronomy 1-11, s.v. “Exclusive Allegiance to YHWH,” 1991, 333