The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Deuteronomy
Listen, you heavens, while I have my say; earth, be attentive to the words I utter;
here is teaching big with import as the rain, here are warnings that must soak in like the dew, wholesome as showers are to the grass, as moisture to the growing crops.
The renown of the Lord shall be my theme; to our God belongs majesty;
the God who shelters us, how perfect is all he does, how right are all his dealings! God, faithful and unerring, God, holy and just!
And these, his sons, are lost to him, his sons no longer in their defilement; a generation of false aims and rebellious will.
What, reckless still, inconsiderate still! Is this the return thou wouldst make to that father who calls thee his own, that creator who fashioned thee?
Cast thy mind back to old days; nay, trace the record of each succeeding generation; ask thy father what news he has to tell, thy forefathers, what word they have for thee.
The Ruler of all has divided the nations apart, sundering Adam’s children and giving to each people its own home, peoples as numerous as the sons that sprang from Israel;✻
but one was the Lord’s treasured possession, his own people; it was Jacob he had marked out for his own domain.
He sought them out in the wilderness, there in the fearful desert spaces, gave them the guidance, taught them the lessons they needed, guarded them as if they had been the apple of his eye.
(So the eagle that would incite its young to venture in the air now hovers above them, now spreads its wings and takes them up to rest on its own shoulders.)
None but the Lord was their guide on that journey, there was no alien god to be found then in their company.
And afterwards he settled them in a country of high hills, where they could eat the food their own lands yielded. Honey oozed from its rocks, on its barren uplands the olive could flourish;
cheese from the herd, milk was theirs from the flock, the flesh of well-fed lamb and ram, cattle of Basan’s breed, and he-goats; they ate the choicest wheat, drank the heady juice of the grape.
A people so well loved! And now, pampered, they would throw off the yoke. Pampered, full-fed, swollen with pride, they forsook that divine creator, revolted against their deliverer.
He must endure the rivalry of alien worship, must look on indignantly at their detestable doings.
Not to their God they offered sacrifice, but to devils, to gods yet untried, upstart gods of yesterday, whom their fathers never held in awe.
What, forsake the sheltering Power that gave thee birth, forget the very Lord who created thee?
The Lord was roused to anger when he saw it, saw his own sons and daughters defying him.
I will turn away from them, he said, and see what comes of it; here is a rebellious race, a thankless brood.
They have deserted me for a god that was no god, phantoms have been my rivals; now I will desert them in my turn, for a people that is no people of mine; their rivals shall be men as impious as themselves.
My anger shall be like a raging fire that burns down to the depths of the abyss, that consumes earth and all that earth yields, scorches the very roots of the hills.
I mean to heap all my plagues upon them, exhaust all the arrows of my vengeance.
What famine shall gnaw them, what winged terrors eat them up with destructive fangs! I will send wild beasts, too, to prey on them, poisonous serpents shall creep upon them through the dust.
Havoc without, terror within doors; for man and maid, for infancy and old age, the same doom!
Indeed, I had thought to make away with them altogether, blot out their very name from all human remembrance;
but no, I held my hand; were these enemies of theirs to provoke me with taunts? Should the victors boast it was their own power, not mine, that had won the day?
How lost they are to right judgement, this people of Israel, how slow of discernment!
Ah, if they would only take thought, and read their lesson, and foresee what is still far away!
When they see their thousands put to rout by one man, ten thousand fleeing with two men in pursuit, can they doubt what is the cause of it? It means their own God has relinquished them; that the Lord’s decree has given their enemy the mastery;
that enemy himself will bear witness that his gods are no match for our God.
Does he enjoy my favour? No, says the Lord,✻ he is but a wild vine, such as grows in Sodom, or in the purlieus of Gomorrha, yielding grapes like gall, clusters of bitterness,
yielding wine like the adder’s venom, the rankling poison of the viper.
Be sure that I keep the record of his wickedness stored away under seal in my treasure house;
vengeance is for me; I will repay when the time comes. A slip of the foot, and ruin is upon them; little waiting now before the appointed day comes.
Never doubt it, the Lord will give his people redress, will take pity on his servants, when he sees their strength so spent, the number of them so dwindled, whether bond or free.
He will ask, What has become of those gods of yours, once so well trusted,
that shared, once, the fat of your victims, the wine you poured in libation? Will they not bestir themselves, and come to your aid, protect you in your hour of need?
Now you shall learn that I alone am God; there are no others to rival me; it is mine to kill and to quicken, mine to smite and to heal; from my power there is no deliverance.
See, I lift up my hand, and swear by my own eternal being
that I am whetting this bright sword of mine, to execute speedy judgement; I mean to take vengeance, now, on my enemies, requite them for all their malice.
Now to glut my arrows with their blood, now to flesh this sword of mine with the slaughter of my enemies, warriors slain in battle and unhelmeted captives!
Do honour, you nations, to the Lord’s people; he means to avenge the blood of his servants, to punish their enemies, to be reconciled once again with the land of Israel.
So when Moses had performed his errand, reciting the whole of this song in the hearing of the assembled people, with Josue the son of Nun at his side,
he made an end of all his long discourse to the Israelites,
in these words, Pay good heed to the appeal I have made to you this day, and hand it on to your children, bidding them hold fast to all the terms of this law and carry them out faithfully.
These duties are not lightly enjoined on you; to every man of you they are life itself. Only by performing them can you hope for long enjoyment of this land across Jordan which is to be your home.
It was on the same day that the Lord said to Moses,
Climb this mountain of Abarim (that is, of the Further Side; it is the same as mount Nebo, in the Moabite country opposite Jericho), and view the land of Chanaan, which I mean to give the sons of Israel for their own. On that mountain thou art to die.
This height climbed, thou must needs become a part of thy people, as thy brother Aaron died and became a part of his people on Mount Hor.
You disobeyed me, in full sight of the whole people, at the Water of Rebellion in the desert of Sin, when you did not vindicate my holiness before the sons of Israel.
Thou shalt have sight, nevertheless, of this land which is my gift to the Israelites, the land it shall not be thine to enter.
The Holy Bible