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This Study Series is being released according to the Torah Reading Schedule.

This week- Section 47

Title- ראה (See) (Behold)
Parashah/Parsha- D’varim 11.26-16.17
Torah Portion- Deuteronomy 11.26-16.17

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from the JPS edition of The Torah, The Five Books of Moses, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, according to the Masoretic Text, First Section. Copyright 1967 by the Jewish Publication Society of America, Second Edition.

This week I want to discuss Deuteronomy 10.18.

18but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.

– – – – –

In the previous Essays, I established that Moses is presenting things from his position as elder statesman. That means that since he is in that position, he speaks from himself, personally, utilizing first-person, second-person, and third-person references, which can only be done when Moses is speaking from himself.

That is somewhat more difficult to see in Deuteronomy 10.18, because this verse does not include a reference to either Jehovah or to the nation of Israel.

However, Moses does utilize the third-person pronoun (him) to refer to the stranger.

Through that pronoun, Moses is expressing that Jehovah is kind to the stranger a third-person group, but the third-person group is not limited to only the stranger.

That is known because Moses makes mention of two other third-person groups: 1) the fatherless, and 2) the widow.

So in this one verse, Moses has referred to three different third-person groups, which is not all together different than when Moses enumerates other nations by name (e.g. Deuteronomy 7.1, 9.2).

Yet, the elements of first-person, second-person, and third-person references continue to exist within this section (9.1 – 11.25), and cannot be dismissed when studying this presentation by Moses. These types of language markers reveal that Moses is speaking from his own person, speaking personally, addressing the nation of Israel.

In Essay 42, I began looking at the answer Moses gave to the question he asked Israel, which is discussed in Essay 41.

This Essay directly continues Essay 46, where I discussed Deuteronomy 10.17 JPS “For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe”.

In that Essay, I discussed that it is established both by Torah (cf. Essay 46) and by Prophet (Malachi 1.3) that God, at least as humanity views it, does show favor, and I gave a few examples.

I also expressed, that from Moses’ point-of-view, Jehovah does not show favor, and that from Moses’ perspective, then Moses must then be conveying that within the system that Jehovah had established with Israel, Jehovah does not show favor to anyone in particular.

From that I said Moses would give his explanation for that in 10.18-19, and that I would discuss that in this Essay.

So, for this Essay, after some rethink, I think Deuteronomy 10.19, while certainly there because of what is expressed in Deuteronomy 10.18, it seems that 10.19 aligns with the contents of 10.20.

That is because both 10.19 and 10.20 begin similarly 19 begins “You too must…” and 20 begins with “You must…”.

Therefore, in both 10.19 and 10.20 Moses is directing Israel to an action based upon the information provided in the previous verses (10.18 and earlier).

Considering those things, I will address 10.19 in the next Essay.

As for how I said that Moses seemed to be expressing that within a certain context, God does not show favor within that context, 10.18 becomes the mechanism by which Moses clarifies the context in which God does not show favor.

In Deuteronomy 10.18, Moses states that Jehovah “upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.”

While in 10.19 Moses will tell Israel to embody that type of attitude of showing no favorites, for this Essay it becomes necessary to see what Moses expressed.

In the larger narrative, Israel was subjected to the governance of the Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

But in their cry for help and deliverance, Jehovah, a different king, rescued them.

As such, at the time of Moses, Israel is learning that they are subjected to the governance of Jehovah.

Therefore in that larger context, to whom does Jehovah show favor? To those who are distressed.

In other words, kings, or those who are not orphans, or those who not widows, or those who are not strangers, receive a type of favor from humanity.

As such, the following is important.

Those who rule nations, kings, have power to do with as they wish.

A child who is not an orphan has a father (perhaps by extension a mother, but back when Torah was given the social constructs were dynamically different from today).

A woman who is not widowed has a provider.

A person who is not a stranger has been welcomed to the table of fellowship.

Considering that, then the following is important.

To Israel, Jehovah presented himself as a king, one who had power to do that which was proclaimed, but also one who used power to liberate the oppressed, the very people that kings (and by extension, those in seats of authority and power) trampled on and used for the kings’ own glory.

As king, Jehovah confronted another king, Pharaoh, and in that confrontation king Jehovah prevailed, certainly not in the ways that earthly kings would have expected, but king Jehovah was victorious.

As king, Jehovah made sure that Israel understood who they had become during their time in Egypt, the oppressed, but in that oppression, they prayed, begged, supplicated, cried for deliverance, and a king answered their cry for help.

As oppressed, they would have certainly had children who had no father, which in turn means that they had women who had no spouse, which means that they were people who were not accepted at table with the king who was oppressing them.

So to whom does Jehovah show favor? The oppressed.

When the oppressed (described as orphan, widow, and stranger) expresses a need for help and/or acceptance, Jehovah as king, and one who has the power to deliver, is there to respond, which is unlike most earthly rulers who inform their people to do more with less and to help themselves through their own oppressed, unliberated, and often limited, efforts.

Therefore, a child who is an orphan had no one to provide for their needs. As such, Moses expresses that Jehovah becomes a surrogate father to those who have no father.

Additionally, a woman who is widowed has no provider for her needs, which back in those ancient days would have meant that if she was widowed, she had very little to no economic power, and probably had no dwelling place. As such, Moses expresses that Jehovah becomes a surrogate spouse to the widowed woman, providing her with what she needs.

Lastly, a person who is a stranger has no table of fellowship, which meant they had no community, no one to accept them. As such, Moses expresses that Jehovah welcomes the stranger to his table of fellowship, giving them a place of community and fellowship.

From Moses that is a powerful testimony of the characteristics of Jehovah, and many find those characteristics welcoming.

However, for the Torah, there is a counterbalance. Importantly, remember the Torah governs in the land of Israel. But the counterbalance is that as king, Jehovah has his rules, and expects his people to follow those rules, even the orphan, widow, and stranger, as long as they live within the land that Jehovah gave to Israel.