Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

This week- Section 7
Name- ויצא Vayetze (He Went Out)
Parashah/Parsha- B’resheet 28.10-32.3
Torah Portion: Genesis 28.10-32.3(2)

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 11.31-32.

31For you are about to cross the Jordan to invade and occupy the land which the LORD your God is giving to you. When you have occupied it and are settled in it, 32take care to observe all the laws and rules that I have set before you this day.

– – – – –

For those readers following along with my Torah Essays, reading them in order, the reader is fully aware that I have articulated and established that I interpret these words of Moses being words from Moses as opposed to being words from Jehovah.

I cannot escape what I am seeing in Deuteronomy. The one I call the Deuteronomy Redactor* compiled Deuteronomy, and serves as the narrator of Deuteronomy. The Redactor moves the Book along its narrative line. Literarily, that is as acceptable, as it is necessary.

That means I recognize that in Deuteronomy, the Redactor narrates the narrative, but the Redactor reveals that:
– Moses quotes Jehovah;
– Moses refers to events with the Divine;
– Moses quotes the people of Israel;
– Moses refers to events with the people of Israel;
– Moses presents information and thoughts from himself to Israel;
– Moses presents his learning about faithfulness to Israel;
– Moses presents his thoughts about the laws and rules of Israel.

That does not seem to be the typical manner in which scholars and students interpret Deuteronomy.

But that is the manner in which I interpret Deuteronomy. Importantly, having accepted that the Deuteronomy Redactor is the author of Deuteronomy, and as author the Redactor is presenting Moses’ own words, Moses’ own authored words to Israel, these things have helped me to see that Jehovah permits, even the Prophets, to speak from their own personal authority.

The tone of Deuteronomy is largely unique, and that uniqueness must be taken into account as one studies the text.

For example, in other parts of the Torah, the tone is different. In places, the tone is directly from Jehovah.

Exodus 20.19 JPS
“The LORD said to Moses: Thus shall you say to the Israelites…”.

Exodus 40.1 JPS
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying…”

Leviticus 1.1-2 JPS
“The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: Speak to the Israelite people, and say to them…”.

Leviticus 27.1-2 JPS
“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them…”.

Numbers 1.1-2 JPS
“…the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, saying: Take a census of the whole Israelite community…”.

Numbers 35.1-2 JPS
“The LORD spoke to Moses in the steppes of Moab at the Jordan near Jericho, saying: Instruct the Israelite people…”.

Those types of statements reveal that Jehovah is the originator of the information that Moses delivered to Israel. That makes the information that Moses presented to Israel far more authoritative than if Moses spoke from his own self.

While it can be successfully articulated that Deuteronomy could be in that same vein, the literary nature of Deuteronomy is that Moses is doing the talking, presenting from himself at his own behest, whereas other sections of Torah reveal that Moses spoke to Israel at the behest of Jehovah.

That tone is not prominent in Deuteronomy.

The tone prominent in Deuteronomy is “These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of Jordan…” and is the reason that Deuteronomy has Moses speaking in the first-person, referring to himself with first-person pronouns (e.g. I, me).

As such, when I, as a student of Scripture, arrive at Deuteronomy 11.31-32, I can see the literary fingerprints that Moses is speaking from himself to Israel, at the behest of himself as Moses, which means Moses is not speaking at the behest of Jehovah.

Moses uses the personal pronouns “you” and “your” to address the people of Israel.

Moses refers to Jehovah (the LORD) in third-person, because Moses uses the name of the God of Israel.

Moses refers to the land that is given to Israel in the third-person.

Moses uses the first-person personal pronoun “I” to refer to himself as Moses.

These things are present in the text and affect interpretation.

When I arrive at these verses, the literary nature makes it clear that Moses is making a transition. Moses is transitioning from the previous statements, statements about Jehovah, statements about Israel, statements for Israel to love Jehovah, statements about Israel being faithful to Jehovah, to a moment where Moses is going to present the laws and rules.

But before Moses begins his presentation about the law and the rules, Moses gives one final push, “When you have occupied it and are settled in it, take care to observe all the laws and rules that I have set before you this day.”

Why? Because Moses had experienced Israel. On some days, Israel was quite faithful. Other days, Israel had its problems, especially when Israel experienced an absence of Moses.

So Moses is reinforcing the need to be faithful, and reinforcing that which he, as Moses, had presented to Israel in previous years.

In previous years, Moses was directed by Jehovah to address the people of Israel. At this moment, as an elder statesman, a man that Israel had grown to appreciate and a man that Israel grown to look up to, listened to him, as Moses, a man enlightened by Jehovah, a man guided by Jehovah, a man who spoke about Jehovah and Jehovah’s way when he was at home, when he was away from home, when he laid his head down to rest, and when he rose up in the morning.

At this moment, Israel looked to Moses as the embodiment of faithfulness, and from that embodiment Moses addressed Israel, addressing them as Moses, not Jehovah, but as Moses having proper orientation as one being and living faithful to Jehovah, the God that had delivered Moses and his brethren from bondage.

It is from that perspective that Moses presents his message, his exhortation. It is from that perspective that Moses expounds the laws and rules that Jehovah had given to Moses and to Israel.

*Deuteronomy Redactor – Scholars and Bible students speculate who the Redactor is, and have offered their studied conclusions. But for me, who the Redactor is matters not. That is because for me the Redactor can remain unknown and thus anonymous, yet I can still accept Deuteronomy for what it is. Personally, I don’t have to know who the Redactor is in order to read and study the material found within the Book of Deuteronomy, but I do accept that a Redactor is there and serves as a narrator for the Book.