'Lest the Wild Beasts Grow Too Numerous': A D’var Torah on Parshat Eikev
9 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2021
Date Written: July 31, 2021
The book of Deuteronomy narrates Moses’s extended speech to the people of Israel at the end of their forty-year wandering through the desert. At the beginning of the portion of Deuteronomy called Eikev, Moses describes the land that the people are about to enter as a potential Eden. Yet his oratory seems to turn disjointed and disconnected. Moses rambles. And he contradicts himself.
A central theme of these passages is the importance of defeating the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, lest the Israelites be tempted to imitate their sinful ways. Yet it turns out that success creates its own perils, for prosperity can lead the people to become proud and forget God. Moses also suggests both that the conquest of the land will occur quickly and, in a decidedly odd line, that “You will not be able to destroy them quickly, lest the beasts of the field outnumber you.”
This D’var Torah suggests that the Canaanites, the war against them, and the image of the “beasts of the field” can all be read metaphorically. Ironically enough, the Canaanites are in a deep sense forces of civilization. They hold disorder at bay. Most important, they bear God’s image. To rid the land of them too quickly is to unleash the beast.
Keywords: Deuteronomy, Eikev, Canaanites, Biblical Metaphors
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