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D'varim/Deuteronomy 12:30 Take heed to yourselves lest you be ensnared after them
There appears to be some disagreement among the commentators as to the exact meaning of derivation of the verb in this verse. Although it appears to be a straight-forward Nif'il, prefix 2ms, from the root , meaning "to be ensnared or enticed", its usage and context generate a variety of opinions. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon goes for "thrust towards";Targum Onkelos chooses the Aramaic word which is related to the Hebrew word , meaning "a snare", but Rashi strongly disapproves, accusing Onkelos of being imprecise with his language, preferring the meaning "distracted by". Hirsch, after pointing out that could be phonetically related to the root , "to approach", suggests that has the sense of strong movement towards someone or something; he cites Psalm 109:11 and Psalm 38:13, saying that Sifrei also takes it the same way - he opts for "drawn towards".
Whichever translation we adopt it is clear that Moshe recognises that the practices and lifestyle of the current, about to be previous, inhabitants of the Land may prove something of a threat to the Israelites - as indeed history and the biblical text tell us was the case. There is a certain fascination about something that is forbidden that makes it almost irresistible to many people; the mere fact that it is proscribed generates curiosity: why shouldn't I do this? what exactly should I not do? and so on. Rav Sha'ul writes: "sin found a way to pervert the command, making a piece of 'forbidden fruit' out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong" (Romans 7:8-11, The Message). Early anthropological studies into the lifestyle and behaviour of primitive tribes quickly found that the researchers became like the people they were studying if they didn't have proper supervision and 'time-off'.
Moshe knows that the people will be at risk if they start looking at the religious practices of the people of the Land, who are being displaced at least partly because of those practices. Rav Sha'ul recognises the way that a prohibition make the very thing that is forbidden appear attractive - he concludes, "Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from the body of this death? Thanks be to G-d through Messiah Yeshua our L-rd!" (Romans 7:24-25, NASB). It is only by focusing on Yeshua Himself that we are able to resist the temptations that come our way each day. Anti-smoking and abstinence campaigns use the slogan "Just say no!" but this is not enough without the active involvement of the Spirit of G-d in our lives to keep us moving in the right direction. Looking away when we see something inappropriate is already too late; instead of looking around, "following after you own heart and your own eyes" (B'Midbar 15:39), we must "fix our eyes on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). It is only when we have Yeshua always before us that we can know His victory.
Further Study: Psalm 17:13-15; Isaiah 45:22-25
Application: Do you struggle to filter all the images and messages that the world constantly throws at you? Do you find yourself where you know you shouldn't be after your interest or imagination get caught by something? Don't allow yourself to become distracted and focus clearly on Yeshua - He will see you through every time!
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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