Too many cooks make light work – looking at Proverbs

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

All cultures have proverbs. They often contradict each other, like the two I’ve jumbled up in the title of this post. Too many cooks spoil the broth; many hands make light work. Part of the wisdom of using proverbs is working out what the appropriate saying for any particular situation is. The biblical book of Proverbs contain a number that fall into the same category as our English proverbs. However, it also contains some more extended reflections on the nature of wisdom, which work rather better as readings.

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Hey, say it again, Moses – the book of Deuteronomy

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

The name Deuteronomy in Greek means second law: it catches something about the nature of the book. It is a retelling of the story of the previous three books, Exodus through to Numbers. It is, in that sense, a republication of the law – a second edition. It takes the stylised form of a very long farewell address by Moses at the end of his life, looking forward to what he will not see: the final entry of the people into the promised land.

It serves also as a pivot in the Bible, looking back to the other books of the law, and forward to the history which will follow, Joshua through to Second Kings. That history has clearly been edited by someone (or some people) who wanted to draw attention to some of the themes of Deuteronomy. Key to those themes is a presentation of two ways: a way of life and a way of death. The idea of constructing moral instruction around two ways is a common theme of the ancient world.

Two ways: “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity” Deut 30:15
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