Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

This week- Section 54

Title- הברכה וזאת (This Is The Blessing)
Parashah/Parsha- D’varim 33.1-34.12
Torah Portion- Deuteronomy 33.1-34.12

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 11.13-17.

13If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the LORD your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul,14I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil- 15I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle- and thus you shall eat your fill. 16Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. 17For the LORD’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the LORD is giving you.

– – – – –

This Essay will discuss something that proves to be an interesting issue within this particular passage. That interesting issue is the way in which Moses is portrayed as speaking in first-person for the LORD, Jehovah, which the JPS has occur in 11.14 and 11.15.

How one interprets this issue, helps establishing how one interprets Moses as speaking from himself or speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

I have already established that I believe that Moses, except where I have noted (e.g. The Deuteronomy Redactor – 1.1-5, 10.6-9; Jehovah – 5.6-18) that Moses is speaking on his own.

As I have mentioned in previous Essays, Moses utilizes pronouns that indicate that Moses is speaking from himself. For example, in Deuteronomy 11.13-17, Moses uses the:
– third-person pronouns (he, him) to refer to the LORD, Jehovah;
– second-person pronouns (you, your) to refer to Israel;
– first-person pronoun (I) to refer to himself.

The question is: In the JPS and the KJV, in 11.14 and 11.15 is the first-person pronoun (I) referring to Moses, or is the first-person pronoun referring to Jehovah?

One commentary[1] answers that in 11.14 and 11.15 “Moses is speaking in God’s name” which means that the commentary interprets Moses as speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

Another commentary[2] tells the student to “see translators’ note a” then adds “Moses as speaker here shifts from referring to God in the third person to speaking directly on God’s behalf, in the first person”.

As my reader can see, two different commentaries are directly upholding the concept that Moses seemlessly moves from talking about himself in the first person to talking from Jehovah as first-person.

That is their interpretation. I don’t uphold that interpretation, for two primary reasons.

One, to have Moses shift from himself to then speaking from Jehovah as first-person is inconsistent with how the Deuteronomy Redactor presents Moses. Recall, that Deuteronomy has been edited and redacted, at least in part, by the Deuteronomy Redactor, the voice that opens the book of Deuteronomy (1.1-5).

To present Moses as moving back and forth between first-person voices reveals that Moses is not in control of his dialogue, which is at variance with how Moses is being presented.

Moses knows when he speaks about himself. For example, Deuteronomy 10.10:
    “I had stayed on the mountain, as I did the first time, forty days and forty nights…”

Moses knows when he speaks for Jehovah. For example, Deuteronomy 10.11:
    “And the LORD said to me, ‘Up, resume the march at the head of the people…’ ”

Within Deuteronomy 11.14 or 11.15 as literature, or as oratory, or as rhetoric, Moses employs no transition mechanism to change from speaking from himself to speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

If that transition mechanism had been found in Deuteronomy 11.14 or 11.15, the verses would read similar to the following:
    And as the LORD said to me, “I will grant the rain…” (11.14),
    or
    And as the LORD said to me, “I will also provide grass…” (11.15).

But neither of those occur, which is why it is critical to give attention to the commentary that stated “see translators’ note a“.

What is the “translators’ note a“?

From that commentary[2]: I.e., the LORD; Samaritan reads “He.”

So that comment begins by saying that the first-person pronoun (I) refers to Jehovah, which is what we are discussing, but then adds an important note: Samaritan reads “He.”

To help clarify Samaritan, I turn to a third commentary[3] that provides the following commentary on 11.14 “Moses speaks in God’s stead. However, the Samaritan text has ‘He will grant.’ ”

The word “Samaritan” and the phrase “Samaritan text” both refer to the Samaritan Torah (Samaritan Pentateuch), which is the Samaritan version of the Five Books of Moses.

From that link to the Samaritan Torah, it states that “Some six thousand differences exist between the Samaritan [Text] and the Masoretic Text.”

Importantly, the Masoretic Text is the text used by the JPS, and the Masoretic seems to be the base text used for the KJV translation.

The same link says “Most [differences] are minor variations in the spelling of words or grammatical constructions, but others involve significant semantic changes…” and goes on to specify a difference regarding the altar.

However, for 11.14 and 11.15, the grammatical construction difference between the Masoretic and the Samaritan Text seems to be one of the “significant semantic changes”.

The three commentaries that I referenced are based on the Masoretic Text. As such 11.14 reads “I will grant…” and 11.15 reads “I will also provide grass…” which has the Masoretic Text having Moses assume a first person voice in order to speak on behalf of Jehovah.

However, as noted in the third commentary, the Samaritan Text renders 11.14 as “He will grant…” and by inference of reference 11.15 as “He will also provide grass…”. This indicates that the Samaritan Text retains the literary nature that I am discussing.

For translation purposes, the Masoretic Text is considered the standard from which an English translation originates, and the Samaritan Text is not considered the standard.

Yet, two of the commentaries on Deuteronomy 11.14 reference the Samaritan Text, which indicates that the commentators found the variation between the Masoretic Text and the Samaritan Text worth mentioning.

Those commentators did not altar their presentation of the text within the English, but at least they made note that the variation exists.

This variation does not just exist. This variation is significant.

Why?

Because this variation alters how we understand Moses. This variation leads me to my second reason.

Reason Two is established by the literary differences found in Reason One, and that the JPS Study Bible references the Septuagint.

In the JPS Study Bible, in the section Guide to Abbreviations and Terms, the JPS enumerates the Septuagint, and states the following about the Septuagint: “The oldest Jewish translation of the Bible, [taking the Hebrew] into Greek. The Torah translation dates from the 3rd century BCE; other books of the Bible were translated somewhat later.”[5]

From the notes in that section, the JPS Study Bible makes it known that it will reference the Septuagint (LXX).

Importantly, the JPS Study Bible does not reference the Septuagint and the reading of the Septugint Greek as it applies to Deuteronomy 11.14 and 11.15.

Even though the Septuagint Greek was not referenced, I examined one publication of the Septuagint Greek, and found the Apostolic Bible Polyglot interesting.

The Apostolic Bible Polyglot (ABP) is a Strong’s Numbered edition of the Greek translation of the Hebrew, providing an English translation. The ABP does not contain the Hebrew, but the ABP does contain the Greek and English.

When translating the Greek of Deuteronomy 11.14 into English, the ABP English is “then he will give the rain…”.

When translating the Greek of Deuteronomy 11.15 into English, the ABP English is “And he shall give fodder in your fields…”.

As it can be seen, the Septuagint Greek and the Samaritan Text agree.

This means that both the Septuagint Greek and the Samaritan Text convey “he” whereas the Masoretic Text conveys “I”.

This means that the Septuagint and the Samaritan remain consistent with the literary narrative, but the Masoretic does not, which gives credibility as to why the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translates 11.14 as “then he will give the rain…” and provides a footnote about why 11.14 is translated as such.

The NRSV does similar with 11.15 “and he will give grass…” and again provides a footnote.

Together these work as evidence to demonstrate that for Deuteronomy 11.14 and 11.15 that the Masoretic Text seems to be the odd one out.

 
My Thoughts:
While the Masoretic text serves as the basis for the Jewish translations, the Masoretic Text is not the only Jewish text. The Septuagint is no longer functionally used by the Jews, but is definitely a product of Jewish efforts.

The Jews reference the Samaritan text within their own work, and do so because the Samaritans and the Jews together have experiential history.

Here is what is known.

One, the Samaritan text is readily referenced by the Jewish translators from the Masoretic Text to English.

Two, the Septuagint is a Jewish translation of the Hebrew.

Three, while difficult to prove the actual history of how old the Masoretic Textual tradition is, the date of the Septuagint dates to the third century BCE/BC.

My conclusion is that in these two specific verses (11.14 and 11.15) the readings from the Septuagint are correct, and the Samaritan Text testifies to the Septuagint.

My conclusion is that in these two specific verses (11.14 and 11.15) the Masoretic Text was redacted.

That simply means that the Masoretic Text, like the Septuagint and the Samaritan Text has been edited.

Therefore, which text is correct? The Masoretic? The Septuagint? The Samaritan?

How my reader answers that question directly correlates to how the text of Moses is interpreted.

Personally, for Deuteronomy 11.14 and 11.15 when Moses “assumes” first person to speak on behalf of Jehovah, that “assumption” violates the remainder of the textual narrative context.

My postulation is that Moses was absolutely certain about when he was quoting Jehovah (e.g. Deuteronomy 5.6-18; 10.11), and when Moses was referring to Jehovah in third person (e.g. Deuteronomy 11.13, 11.17).

It seems wholly unnecessary for Moses to assume a first person voice (11.14 and 11.15) and “assumingly” speak for Jehovah, when Moses was quite adamant that he, as Moses, was declaring the importance that Israel should listen to what Moses was saying in order for Jehovah to give Israel blessings.

In other words, the literary nature of this portion of Deuteronomy makes it unnecessary for Moses to assume God’s voice.

Having Moses declare, as evidenced in the Septuagint Greek, the Samaritan Text, and the New Revised Standard Version, that God would provide rain and grass has consistency to the literary nature of the presentation, and also retains coherent and cogent capabilities to Moses, to where Moses retains his senses, knowing when Moses is speaking from himself and when Moses is quoting a third person, even when quoting the LORD, Jehovah.

 
Endnotes
1. Etz Hayim, commentary notes on Deuteronomy 11.14 and 11.15; 14. I will grant; pg. 1052; ISBN: 0-8276-0804-7.

2. Commentary on Deuteronomy 11.14; p.390; The Jewish Study Bible, Jewish Publication Society, Tanakh Translation; Oxford Press; ISBN: 0-19-529751-2.

3. Commentary on Deuteronomy 11.14; p. 1407; The Torah, A Modern Commentary, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York; ISBN: 0-8074-0165-X.

4. Wikipedia.com; Samaritan Torah; September 29, 2017; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritan_Pentateuch.

5. Guide to Abbreviations and Terms, pp. xix and xx; The Jewish Study Bible, Jewish Publication Society, Tanakh Translation; Oxford Press; ISBN: 0-19-529751-2.

Share