The Old Testament reads like a great adventure novel, complete with betrayal and adultery and disease and death. Deuteronomy continues the story of the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land. We last left off with the Israelites standing on the banks of the Jordan River divvying up land they’d yet to even conquer. Moses was still alive, but we know his last day on earth is coming. God has promised a victory over the Canaanites, who occupy this land flowing with milk and honey. Who will lead them there, and what will happen next?
To begin the chapter, Moses, still going strong, recants the Israelites’ entire journey up until now. He gives the good, the bad and the ugly – mostly the ugly. He starts when they were in Mount Sinai and says they could have been to the Promised Land in 11 days, but noooo, people had to start moaning. He then goes over how the first system of justice and democracy started, reminds them they were scaredy cats and tells them why none of their ancestors are here with them today. Ouch, Moses.
Chapter 1 (and Deuteronomy in general) feels much like what covering an ongoing story as a reporter feels like. After the first story is written (Exodus, Numbers), any subsequent stories must contain recaps. That way, if someone picks the story up and is hearing about it for the first time, he has a background about what’s already happened. Is that story’s tone going to reveal the reporter’s mood or opinion about the situation? Probably. And that’s natural, but when writing, we must remember the tone carries the story, so we must be confident in the tone that is being conveyed. In this case, Moses seems a bit stressed and irritated. Ya think? He’s pointing out a lot of dumb things; he’s condemning and shaming. He’s basically pointing the mama finger at the whole crowd because he’s pretty darn miffed. Plus, he knows he’s going to die soon. I think he’s finally coming to terms with that. He says, “God got mad at me because of you people, and now I can’t even go over there with you!!! What’s more is I’m going to die, I don’t even know how or when!”
I also feel like he just threw up his hands and screamed, “Ugh! Forget it! Just kill me now! I don’t know why I’ve wanted to spend so much time with you anyway!”, then let out a big huff as he stomped away in a 10-year-old fashion.
Writing prompt: tone
The tone of a story is vital to its message.
Think of another tone in which Moses could have relayed the history of the Israelites and write it out. Does it have the same impact?