From Genesis to Deuteronomy: Thoughts on the Old Testament Thus Far

When I was fifteen, I began my ten-week Driver’s Education class at my high school.  Some students were blasé about the whole thing, some were nervous, some were excited.  I was petrified that I would fail and never get my license.

One of the first things our teacher—also one of the PE teachers—did was hand out driver manuals.  This, he told us, in a very serious voice, is what you need to know to not only pass your driver’s tests but also to be a good and conscientious driver.

I studied it, and months later, I passed my written as well as behind-the-wheel test.  The first six months or so of my driving, I was terrible, often distracted by the radio or really anything else.  I eventually got a bunch of experience and became a good driver.

And like most drivers—both good and bad—I could tell you the important rules from the driver’s manual but not every single one.  I retained the ones that “mattered” and discarded the rest.

It’s hard not to see this same type of thing happen with the Bible and its devotees—even its well-meaning devotees.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy contain so many useful lessons and some remarkable stories, ones that are worth reading and retelling.  This is why so many people (I’m guessing) embrace the Bible.  The issue, for me, is when people rely on the Bible, they probably only recall the parts that stick out, the “important” parts. But these parts are set within and against a lot of shaky parts, parts that would probably give a person pause if he or she were told (or reminded) of them. For this reason, I still find it difficult to overlook them when people use the Bible as justification.

One thing I skipped in my earlier posts is mention of a concept that surfaces in Numbers: the Nazirite. This was a process by which an individual could be voluntarily separated from the Lord.  When said person decided to return to the fold, he made a series of offerings (Numbers, 6:13-15).

I had no idea that people could take a sabbatical from the lord. (Apparently this idea is explored in depth later in the Bible.)  I find the whole idea fascinating, for this policy suggests that questioning beliefs is welcomed. For if not, why allow it and why allow someone to return?  Therefore, there must be deep faith in the Lord’s teachings.

This makes me think of what the Amish encourage with their period between childhood and adulthood, called Rumspringa. (You can read more about here:  In that culture, this period allows individuals to choose what they believe, and after experiencing (sometimes) outside influences, the individual decides what to believe.  Apparently, this confirms their traditional beliefs, probably because they are afforded freedom, not coerced into believing.

This seems like a good lesson, something the mention of the Nazirite practice echoes.

Perhaps if more people were encouraged to explore more and arrive at their own ideas—rather than carrying on what they were raised to be—people would be more inclined to adopt a stronger organized faith? It might also allow for some of what is written here to be adjusted to fit to a modern culture.  After all, we don’t still stone people (do we?), so why still cling to so many other outdated rules (such as those related to homosexuals or merely people who choose to live differently than most (transvestites, etc.)?

About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: Follow his work at:
This entry was posted in Deuteronomy, Exodus, Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to From Genesis to Deuteronomy: Thoughts on the Old Testament Thus Far

  1. Cameron says:

    I am not sure I quite understand what this post is about. I have an older version of the NIV (which is being used here) which does use the word ‘separation’ but it says in the relevant passage ‘a vow of separation TO the Lord’ this is not the same idea as separation ‘from’ the Lord. In the updated NIV (2011) it clarifies by saying a vow of dedication to the Lord. The idea seems to me to be one of extra dedication and service for God, not time off from God.
    I think the idea of ‘separation’ is to separate yourself from all other distraction in your life to focus on God.

  2. virgowriter says:

    Thank you for this comment. I rechecked my edition and you are correct: the passage does read separation to the Lord not from the Lord. In my initial read 2 1/2 years ago, I missed that important preposition. To be honest, then, I don’t think I understood there being a difference in this context. Reviewing this, however, I can see the distinction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s