Deuteronomy 30: Faithfulness in the refugee camps of Moab, Babylonia, and beyond

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The Pentateuch, the books of Genesis to Deuteronomy, narrates the great epic of the formation of a people, their rescue from slavery and their promises of a land of their own. But the promises are given in Genesis, the rescue happens early in Exodus, and by the end of Deuteronomy the Israelite community are still refugees, camped on the edge of the promised land but not in it. In this context a renewed call to covenant and faithfulness is issued (Deuteronomy 30). Words preserved in scripture are relevant to faithful readers in any location. But this paper will argue that the words of Deuteronomy 30 are especially applicable to a particular refugee community today ' the Karen refugees in the Kawthooli Bible School at the Mae La camp on the Thai-Burmese border. This group live on the edge of their traditional land but are unable to return to their homeland and often wait for long periods before being accepted as refugees in a new location. How does a refugee community hold on to the promises of God when circumstances suggest such promises cannot be fulfilled? How do people living in adverse circumstances in confined quarters live peacefully with each other? How is cultural identity maintained outside of one's own land? How is the urgency of the exhortation to choose this day sustained when in reality refugees are subjected to years of waiting for either a resolution in the political situation of their home country or an invitation to settle in a new land? These questions will be explored through a reading of Deuteronomy 30 in the light of my experience of time spent with the Kawthooli Bible School refugee community. The notion of scripture re-enacted for new settings will also be explored as this ancient text is brought into dialogue with a contemporary situation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBible, borders, belonging(s)
Subtitle of host publicationEngaging readings from Oceania
Editors Jione Havea, Elaine E Wainwright, David Neville
Place of PublicationAtlanta
PublisherSociety of Biblical Literature
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781589839557
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

Name Society of Biblical Literature. Semeia studies

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