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

This week- Section 53
Title- האזינו (Hear) (Give Ear)
Parashah/Parsha- D’varim 32.1-52
Torah Portion- Deuteronomy 32.1-52

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 11.8-12.

8Keep, therefore, all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today, so that you may have the strength to invade and occupy the land which you are about to cross into and occupy, 9and that you may long endure upon the soil which the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.

10For the land which you are about to invade and occupy is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come. There the grain you sowed had to be watered by your own labors, like a vegetable garden; 11but the land you are about to cross into and occupy, a land of hills and valleys, soaks up its water from the rains of heaven. 12It is a land which the LORD your God looks after, on which the LORD your God always keeps His eye, from year’s beginning to year’s end.

– – – – –

 
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 11.8-12 when Moses utilizes the third-person to speak of God by name, the LORD (as mentioned previously “the LORD” is a substitute for the Tetragrammaton); and when Moses used the third-person pronoun (his).

That is also seen when Moses utilizes the second-person pronouns (you, your) to refer to Israel.

The evidence of Moses speaking from his own authority is displayed again, when Moses uses the third-person nouns (fathers, Egypt).

Perhaps the best evidence of Moses speaking from his own authority is found when Moses said, “Keep, therefore, all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you”. From that statement it becomes clear that Moses is speaking from himself referring to himself yet directing his statements toward Israel regarding matters about their forthcoming efforts to cross over the Jordan, regarding the promises given to the fathers of Israel, and regarding matters of comparing the land across the Jordan against the land of Egypt.

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.

In Essay 50, I began looking at Deuteronomy 11, and stated that Moses presents a three-part conclusion, and I provided an organization of Deuteronomy 11.

But after spending some time in the text, considering it, and thinking about the text, I am leaning for a different organization. It still maintains a three-part conclusion, but where the conclusions are made differ.

Consider that:
– Deuteronomy 11.1 could conclude 10.12-22;
– Deuteronomy 11.8-12 could conclude 11.2-7;
– Deuteronomy 11.18-25 could conclude 11.13-17.

Yet, at the same time Deuteronomy 11.8-25 can work together as a section when interpreting the discussion of those verses as obtaining, inhabiting, and retaining the land which Israel was being given.

Importantly, this Essay continues the discussion of Essay 52.

In Deuteronomy 11.8 JPS, Moses said “Keep, therefore, all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today”.

In Deuteronomy 11.9 KJV, Moses said “Therefore shall you keep all the commandments which I command you this day”.

So which is it? Instruction? or Commandments?

So which is it? Enjoin? or Command?

The English words “instruction” and “commandments” translate the Hebrew word mitsvah (H4687), where the KJV predominately translates this Hebrew word using commandment, and when plural with the word commandments.

The English words “enjoin” and “command” translate the Hebrew word tzavah (H6680), where the KJV predominately translates this Hebrew word using a variant of command (e.g. commanded).

For English readers, the word “enjoin” and the word “command” could convey two differing ideas, yet it is known that the word “command” is a synonym for the word “enjoin”.

However, the word “command” conveys an authoritative order, where the word “enjoin” conveys an urging to do something.

Consider that urging someone to do something is different than commanding someone to do something. When a person is urged to do something, that person is not necessarily required to do that thing; yet when a person is commanded to do something, the concept of command conveys that the person is required to do that thing.

Also for English readers, the word “instruction” and the word “commandment” could convey two differing ideas, yet it is known that the word “commandment” is a synonym for the word “instruction”.

The word “instruction” can convey a direction or an order. But the word “instruction” also conveys the idea of providing detailed information telling how a thing is to be done.

Consider that when a teacher gives an instruction, the teacher can be informing a student about how to conduct a project. But a teacher can also give an instruction to a student where the instruction moved from guidance to explicit authority, which seems to be how the word “commandment” would be more readily understood.

So which translation is proper?

For an answer to that question, it seems the answer depends upon how emphatically one reads the Hebrew words mitsvah, and tzavah.

Was Israel required to do exactly as Moses instructed, without wavering?

Was Israel permitted to understand Moses’ mitsvah as a guideline?

These are difficult questions to answer, for how one answers the questions, reveals, in part how one views Moses, and the instructions Moses gave to Israel.

Some might interpret a strict adherence to those Hebrew words, and provide reasoning as to why a strict adherence permits 11.9 to be accomplished.

Some might interpret a less strict adherence to those Hebrew words, and provide reasoning as to why a less strict adherence permits 11.9 to be accomplished.

For me, I offer a counterpoint.

Perhaps, and it is only a perhaps, the focal point should not be limited to a strict or less strict adherence to Moses’ instructions.

Instead, perhaps the focal point should be whether or not Israel had sufficient enough confidence that Jehovah would go in front of Israel and aid Israel in Israel’s movement through the land (Deuteronomy 11.23a).

That is not to set aside or forsake the instructions/commandments of Moses that he enjoined/commanded Israel, no, not in the slightest.

But it does permit breathing room. In the sense, it permitted Israel to hear and/or read Moses’ instructions, understand those instructions to the best of their ability, and carry out what they understood those instructions to be, without having to have the crisis of conscience as to whether or not they had understood exactly what Moses was conveying.

In other words, modern students of Scripture often spend time emphasizing the need for exactness, thus a strict adherence to the letter, and seem not to see the greater focal point that being that Jehovah really wanted Israel to trust Him to deliver on their behalf.

That doesn’t excuse Israel to behave poorly and/or break the covenant, no, not in the slightest. But it does permit both the nation of Israel and the individual Israelite to do the best they can to understand the instructions/commandments of Moses and to do those instructions to the best of their ability, especially when we accept that Moses declared that the Levites and the elders of Israel were to instruct Israel about the law during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) once every seven years (Deuteronomy 31.9-13).

With that in mind, it then makes it far more likely that Israel could accomplish 11.9 “so that you may have the strength to invade and occupy the land which you are about to cross into and occupy, and that you may long endure upon the soil which the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Neither the early Israelite nation nor the early Israelite citizen had the Books of Moses, even if in a Scroll form.

Neither the early Israelite nation nor the early Israelite citizen had the books of the Prophets or the books of the Writings.

So those early Israelites experienced their faith in Jehovah in a far different way than did the later Israelites, even those Israelites under King David. Yet those early Israelites did find both success and failure in their movement into the land, and where able to have land apportioned to all the tribes.

Perhaps, though, it is just as important to see the comparison that Moses made between the land that was promised to Israel and the land that Israel had left.

In Deuteronomy 11.10 JPS, Moses offers a reason as to why Israel needs to be attentive to the instruction/commandment that Moses had given – the reason: because “the land which you are about to invade and occupy is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come.”

The start of Moses’ reason is that the land areas are not the same, and Israel needed to not interpret the land they were about to go into as being anything like the land of Egypt.

To make that comparative contrast, Moses continued “There [in Egypt] the grain you sowed had to be watered by your own labors, like a vegetable garden; but the land you are about to cross into and occupy, a land of hills and valleys, soaks up its water from the rains of heaven.”

From that then, what can be seen is that in Egypt, the Israelites did the labor of watering, but Moses is conveying that in the land promised to the fathers of Israel, the land itself will be watered by the Divine.

How is that seen? Moses added “[the land promised] is a land which the LORD your God looks after, on which the LORD your God always keeps His eye, from year’s beginning to year’s end.”

So, from Moses’ perspective, Jehovah takes special care of that property, providing that particular area of land with what it needs.

This is important in at least one way. From Moses’ perspective via Moses’ description, it seems that it is possible that while Jehovah is described as being from one end of the earth to the other (Deuteronomy 10.14), Jehovah is specifically blessing and/or residing in the land that Israel is to inhabit.

As odd as that might sound to the modern reader, that perspective would be quite common for the ancients, where nations of people believed that gods ruled their particular land structure, which explains why Naaman wanted dirt from Israel (2 Kings 5.17-18).

Moses’s statement is important in, at least, one other way. When Moses stated “from year’s beginning to year’s end” Moses declared when Israel was to count the year. The year began in Abiv (Exodus 12.1-2), the beginning of the year commemorated not only Israel’s deliverance but also commemorated Jehovah’s power.

As such, from Moses’ perspective, Jehovah’s power reigns over and nourishes the land promised to Israel, from Abiv (the beginning of the year) until the next Abiv, and Jehovah did not provide that power and nourishment to the land from which Israel was taken.

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