D'varim/Deuteronomy 1:39 and your children who today do not know good and evil
These are HaShem's words at the time that the Israelites received the bad report of the ten spies and refused to enter the Land, being played back by Moshe nearly forty years later. The people he is speaking to are the children thatHaShem was describing. At the time of the refusal, these (now) adults were children, below the age of twenty - the lower age of being counted as fighting men in the army - and took no part in the decision not to obey and trust G-d. The concept of knowing good and evil is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible as a way of denoting age or the passage of time; for example: "Behold, a maiden will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel. He will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken" (Isaiah 7:14-16, NASB). The text speaks of the child's diet at a particular age, and uses that diet and age as a sign to King Ahaz that the king of Aram and the king of Israel would not prevail against the kingdom of Judah but themselves be laid waste.
More than that, the reference to good and evil here at the start of the last book of the Torah points to the beginning of the first book. When Adam and Havah ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, humankind acquired knowledge of good and evil and, at the same time, mortality and death entered the world. As Rav Sha'ul wrote: "it was through the one individual that sin entered the world, and through sin, death; and in this way death passed to the whole human race, in as much as everyone sinned" (Romans 5:12, CJB). The knowledge of good and evil brings with it life and death, for the knowledge enables a choice, and that in turn gives the responsibility for making that choice. Hence HaShem's words to the people who heard the report of the spies: if the spies had never gone into the Land, the people could simply have entered and taken the Land then, trusting G-d and following His instructions. By sending a reconnaissance mission, the people gained knowledge of the good and bad in the Land - they were both there - and the responsibility for taking a decision: whether to listen to the ten spies with the bad report and assessment of the Land or the two spies with the good assessment. They chose to receive the bad assessment and decided to sin against G-d by doubting His words and rebelling against His instructions to enter the Land; by so doing, they chose death for themselves. Their children - the people Moshe is now addressing - were below the age of formal responsibility so did not receive the knowledge of good and bad; they now have the option of going into and possessing the Land.
At the end of D'varim, Moshe is going to say to the people: "See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil" (D'varim 30:15, RSV) thus showing how firmly linked the two things are: good and evil, life and death. He goes on to show that choosing the good - obeying G-d's commandments and walking in His ways - is choosing life and, conversely, that disobeying G-d and worshipping other gods is choosing death. He finishes that section of his speech by urging the people: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live" (D'varim 30:19, RSV). They now have the knowledge of good and evil, they know which is which and how G-d measures them, so they have a choice between one and the other - good and evil - and will have to face the consequences of their choice - life and death.
Using the healing of the man who had been blind as a springboard, Yeshua said, "It is to judge that I came into this world, so that those who do not see might see and those who do see might become blind" (John 9:39, CJB). As Yeshua came as light into the world, bringing knowledge and greater clarity of good and evil, and demonstrating the kingdom of G-d by performing miracles, everyone who saw and heard now had a choice as to how they would respond: by accepting or rejecting Yeshua. Some of the Pharisees ask rather sarcastically if Yeshua was implying that they were blind and Yeshua calmly responds, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin. But since you still say, 'We see,' your guilt remains" (John 9:41, CJB). If they were blind, so did not see, they would have no choice to take and no responsibility for its taking; as they claim to see, yet have chosen to reject Yeshua as Messiah, they confess themselves to be guilty.
Further Study: Jeremiah 2:34-35; James 4:17; 1 John 1:6
Application: What do you see? What do you know? As G-d reveals the truth about Messiah Yeshua in your life and the lives of those around you, everyone has to make a choice of whether to obey G-d and accept Yeshua or whether to disobey G-d and refuse Yeshua. Make sure you take the right choice today!
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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