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Children in Deuteronomy: The Partisan Nature of Divine Justice

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image of Biblical Interpretation

It is sometimes argued that the god of Israel has a universal concern for children. Like adults, they are made in his image. Abortion and exposure seem relatively unattested in ancient Israel and the law forbade parents from passing their children “through the fire” (Deut. 18:10). Children are among the most vulnerable in the ancient world and, like the poor, the widow and orphan, God's justice displays particular concern for their care. Using theories of childhood development, this paper proposes perspectives of children on how divine justice affects children in Deuteronomy. This paper argues that for children in Deuteronomy, the god of Israel can be a source of protection and sustenance for some, while a source of terror and death for others. Concern for children is not universal. Deut. 6:7 and 6:20-25 stipulate that Israelite parents nurture and educate their children in the law, ensuring their protection and sustenance in the land God gifted them. By contrast, for children in Deut. 20:14 the god of Israel means terror, sanctioning the destruction of their households and their enslavement. The children in Deut. 20:16-17 receive no mention. They are collateral damage in the laws of Deuteronomy.

Affiliations: 1: University of Denver


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