The opening line of the last book of the Torah gives us a clue as to why this book is called Deuteronomy. In Greek, Deuteronomy literally translates “second law.” But the Hebrew name of the book is actually Sefer Devarim, which means “These are the words…” Thus, the opening line of Deuteronomy, “These are the words of Moses…” The book is the final three sermons Moses preached before his death.
Moses ends his final sermon with a challenge to the children of Israel. He tells them they have a choice to make. They can choose life, or they can choose death. They can choose to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, mind, soul, and strength, or they can choose to worship foreign gods, idols. If you read the last few chapters of Deuteronomy, you will learn that Moses believed they had to choose one or the other. For him, it was a black and white issue; there was no in-between. There was no room for mugwumps.
Okay, so maybe the original Hebrew didn’t use the name “mugwumps.” But I believe that if there had been a Hebrew word for mugwump, Moses would have called the people that. After all, that is what they were.
Ahh…maybe you have never heard of a mugwump. The word comes from the Algonquin Indian tribe, referring to an important person or a war leader. But during the 1884 presidential election, the word took on a whole new meaning. Mugwumps were Republican political activists who bolted from the Republican Party candidate and supported the Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland. They switched parties because they rejected the financial corruption associated with Republican candidate James G. Blaine.
During the campaign, a political cartoonist sketched a man sitting on a fence with the word “mugwump” written underneath. It became a name for those people who refused to make a decision; they sat on the fence with their “mug” on one side and their “wump” on the other.
Thousands of years ago, Moses told the people not to be mugwumps but to make a choice. He encouraged them and us to CHOOSE LIFE!