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

This week- Section 48

Title- שׁפטים (Judges)
Parashah/Parsha- D’varim 16.18-21.9
Torah Portion- Deuteronomy 16.18-21.9

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 10.19.

19You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

– – – – –

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 seen in Deuteronomy 10.19 when Moses utilizes the second-person pronoun (your) to refer to Israel.

That is also seen when Moses utilizes the third-person noun (stranger) to refer to a third-person whom no Israelite knows.

Importantly, 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 47, where I discussed Deuteronomy 10.18 JPS “but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.”

In that Essay, I discussed the contents of that verse, and why I thought I would wait until this Essay to discuss 10.19.

In the previous Essay, I discussed that Moses expressed that Jehovah shows no favor, but the statements of 10.18 and various aspects of the remainder of Torah and the Prophets, show that Jehovah does, in fact, show favor, at least from a human perspective.

It seems then, that from Moses’ perspective, Jehovah sees the plight of those itemized in 10.18 and with 10.19, Moses expects not only the nation of Israel but also the individual Israelite to see the plight of, at least, one specific group – that group being the stranger.

Moses’ reason for that is contained within 10.19, because “you” each Israelite and the nation of Israel were “strangers in the land of Egypt”.

That becomes a vital mechanism by which Israel is to cut away the thickening about their hearts and to stiffen their necks no longer against Jehovah.

Since, each Israelites and thus the entirety of Israel were treated as strangers while in Egypt, they were to recognize and remember that specific experience, a plight of a personal type.

In the JPS, the English word “befriend” (other editions and other versions “love”) translates the Hebrew word ahab.

Brown-Driver-Briggs states that Hebrew word carries the “act of being a friend” but also conveys the idea of “human love for another [human]” which includes family, and “human love for [God]” or “[human love] to God”.

So there is a complex idea that resides in that particular Hebrew word. Moses is expressing that because Jehovah showed ahab toward both the individual Israelite and also toward the nation of Israel, that they are to embody ahab toward other strangers.

In essence, the Israelite is to not simply “befriend” the stranger, becoming friendly toward the stranger.

Instead, it seems that this Hebrew word conveys the idea that the stranger is not really a stranger but someone with like minded attitudes.

That is because the Torah governs the specific land given to Israel, and the stranger is required to follow the same rules as the Israelite (e.g. Exodus 12.49, Leviticus 24.22, Numbers 15.16). A possible example of that befriending could be found with Rahab, and with Ruth.

In the JPS, the English word “stranger” translates the Hebrew word ger.

Brown-Driver-Briggs states that Hebrew word conveys the idea of a sojourner. A stranger/sojourner could be a person who is “a temporary inhabitant” of the region, the land promised to Israel. Yet, the Hebrew word also conveys the idea that a stranger/sojourner is “a newcomer [who is] lacking [the] inherited rights [of the Israelites]. Furthermore, the Hebrew word conveys the idea “of foreigners [non-Israelites being] in [the land promised to] Israel, [and those strangers are] conceded rights”. Each of these conditions could apply, depending on the situational necessity or life of the stranger/sojourner.

That means that to the Israelite, whether the stranger was simply traveling through the land, or the stranger had become a temporary resident within Israel’s land, or the stranger had taken full residence in the land promised to Israel, the Israelite and the nation of Israel were to treat the stranger with kindness and respect.

Yet, as mentioned above, the stranger, while in the land of Israel, was required to observe the same governing laws that the Israelite was to follow.

In essence, then, each Israelite and the nation of Israel had to recognize that they had been a stranger.

Therefore, because Jehovah befriended the stranger, Israel, then each Israelite and the nation of Israel is to embody, on a personal and national level, the very befriending that they personally and nationally received.

In doing that, the individual Israelite and the nation of Israel actively recall their previous plight, and thus are helping remove the burden of the stranger who lives within their midst.