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

This week- Section 05
Name- חיי שׂרה (Sarah’s Life) (Life of Sarah)
Parashah/Parsha- B’resheet 23.1-25.18
Torah Portion: Genesis 23.1-25.18

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 11.26-28.

26See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: 27blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I enjoin upon you this day; 28and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn away from the path which I enjoin upon you this day and follow other gods, whom you have not experienced.

– – – – –

It seems like all of the Essays are leading up to this major moment – the blessing and curse that is placed upon Israel. Who is this blessing and curse from?

How one answers that question reveals not only what they believe the source of that blessing and curse is, but the manifestations of the results of the blessing or the curse.

The most common interpretation is that this blessing and curse is sourced in Jehovah and that Jehovah delivered that through Moses to Israel.

As I have established with my previous Essays, the literary narrative itself reveals that Moses is the one who is speaking, Moses has quoted Jehovah, and Moses has quoted Israel, but it is the Deuteronomy Redactor who is presenting these words from Moses, and it was Moses himself who spoke to Israel.

Throughout many of the previous Essays, I have established that is the perspective that I see, and is the perspective that I maintain, even though this passage is challenging.

One of the literary structures found within the Torah is the chiasmus. The chiasmus is a device used within literature and other types of presentations where author and/or speaker utilizes the chiasmus as a rhetorical device, where the author and/or speaker uses the power of language to focus the reader and/or audience on the topic at hand in order to persuade the reader and/or audience to a course of action.

The chiasmus literary device is important and crucial to understand, because the rhetorical device of this chiasmus structures the contents of this portion of Deuteronomy, having its opening at Deuteronomy 11.26 and not finding the closing of the chiasmus until Deuteronomy 28.69. All together, this chiasmus functions as the bulk of the contents of the Book of Deuteronomy.

The Chiasmus:
– Opening: the initial concept of the blessing and the curse (Deuteronomy 11.26-32)
– – Center: the law and rules as presented by Moses (Deuteronomy 12.1-26.19)
– Closing: the final concept of the blessing and the curse (Deuteronomy 27.1-28.68)
– Post Chiasmus comment by the Deuteronomy Redactor (Deuteronomy 28.69)

Since I am composing these Essays as I read and study through Deuteronomy, there will be many Essays between the initial concept of the blessing and the curse and the final concept of the blessing and the curse.

Therefore, it will be a long time before I address the final concept of the blessing and the curse. The reason for that is because I will compose my Essays as the presentation of Deuteronomy unfolds, it is the Deuteronomy Redactor who established the narrative and that is the narrative I will follow.

For now, suffice it to say that Deuteronomy 27.1-28.68 goes into extreme detail about the blessing and the curse.

As I compose this Essay and continue to support why I believe that Moses is still speaking from himself requires an examination of the Post Chiasmus comment offered by the Deuteronomy Redactor.

After the Chiasmus, the Deuteronomy Redactor added:
“These are the terms of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to conclude with the Israelites in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.” (Deuteronomy 28.69)

The tone of that verse is completely from the Deuteronomy Redactor.

The contents of that verse is delivered from the Redactor’s perspective, and serves as a means of moving forward the narration of the Book of Deuteronomy.

Additionally, that verse helps establish that the Deuteronomy Redactor is another voice within the Book of Deuteronomy.

Undoubtedly, the Deuteronomy Redactor is part of the narration and presentation of the Book of Deuteronomy.

Therefore, when the Deuteronomy Redactor is accepted as a crucial voice within the Book of Deuteronomy, the Redactor affects the way in which one reads and studies not only the presentation of Deuteronomy but also the contents of Deuteronomy.

With that in mind, the contents of the Deuteronomy Redactor’s comments reveal that it is Moses who did the presentation of that information to Israel.

Some will counter argue in order to maintain the common interpretation that Moses is speaking on Jehovah’s behalf, operating from the presumption that Moses had been given authority directly from Jehovah to make these statements.

The arguments that support that common interpretation simply no longer persuade me.

As I have presented in previous Essays, and as I present in this Essay, these specific contents are specifically delivered from Moses, and Moses is the source of this information. Moses quotes Jehovah. Moses quotes Israel. And as I will discuss in later Essays, Moses seems to be referring to laws and rules that were known, but were not written in either Exodus, Leviticus, or Numbers.

For me, it could be adequately argued that Deuteronomy does not have Moses actually presenting anything new. Instead, Moses was reinforcing that which Israel had learned.

Additionally, for me, Deuteronomy is being told from the perspective of Moses making Israel pronounce a blessing or a curse on themselves in order to take seriously that which Moses is presenting.

That does not seem to be the typical interpretation, but after years of study and opening myself to the literary complexities of the Torah, I hold the perspective that Moses is speaking from himself, upon his own authority, unless otherwise directed by Jehovah.

For example, Deuteronomy reveals that Jehovah told Moses to record a poem and teach that poem to Israel (Deuteronomy 31.16a, 19). Deuteronomy then reveals that Moses taught Israel that poem (Deuteronomy 31.30-32.43).

But that type of narrative is significantly different than that which is taking place with Deuteronomy 11.26-28.69, which really reaches all the way back to Deuteronomy 4.

In Deuteronomy 4.41-49 it can be seen that the Deuteronomy Redactor narrates forward the Book of Deuteronomy, and the Redactor does so again in Deuteronomy 10.6-9, which is a moment closer to the passage under discussion.

In other words, the text of Deuteronomy itself reveals that the Deuteronomy Redactor is setting the pace of telling the events within Deuteronomy, which is established by the opening remarks (Deuteronomy 1.1-5) found at the very beginning of the Book of Deuteronomy, where the Deuteronomy Redactor establishes the pace and purpose of the narrative.

As the Deuteronomy Redactor gives the narrative, the Redactor has Moses teach Israel.

Without doubt, there are moments where the Deuteronomy Redactor directly specifies that Jehovah is the source for the material that Moses speaks (e.g. Deuteronomy 31.16a, 19).

However and importantly, when the Deuteronomy Redactor does not make that declaration, then the Deuteronomy Redactor is actually establishing that Moses is the source of the material (e.g. Deuteronomy 1.5), not Jehovah.

That concept is crucial to understanding the contents and narrative of Deuteronomy.

So how does that affect things?

Well, one’s answer to that question depends proportionally upon how they theologically interpret the contents of Deuteronomy.

For me, I can see that Moses is making the utterances, and even though Moses is a prophet, anointed by God, Jehovah still permits Moses to speak from Moses own self, and in those instances, Moses is utilizing his own human volition, his human sovereignty to address the people of Israel.

I know that sets uncomfortable with many believers, but as I study the text of Deuteronomy, I find myself becoming increasingly convinced of this literary and spiritual reality.

Does that make Deuteronomy unprofitable? Absolutely not.

But to understand Deuteronomy, and how it applies, and how we should interpret the text, it seems proper to read it as the Deuteronomy Redactor presented it.

The Deuteronomy Redactor presented Moses and what Moses said, unless the Deuteronomy Redactor specifies that Jehovah told Moses what to say.

That means I have had to re-think and re-examine the common theological assertion that Moses is speaking only by Jehovah’s direction. Personally, doing such does not bother me.

But that rethink has helped me see that the blessing and the curse that is given here in Deuteronomy 11.26-28, which later receives extensive detail in Deuteronomy 27-28, is Moses using his elder statesman position to compel Israel to a specific action.

Should Israel follow the instructions of Jehovah?

Should Israel be faithful to the covenant with Jehovah?

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

Was a blessing or a curse needed in order to make sure that Israel followed the instructions and was faithful to the covenant?

That has to be answered, not from my perspective, not from anybody else’s perspective, not even from Jehovah’s perspective, it has to be answered from Moses’ perspective.

From Moses’ perspective, it appears that Moses is adamant that Israel either accept the blessing or accept the curse. Why? Because Moses viewed Israel’s decision that dire.