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

This week- Section 8
Name- וישׁלח Vayishlach (He Sent)
Parashah/Parsha- B’resheet 32.4-36.43
Torah Portion: Genesis 32.4(3)-36.43

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 12.1.

These are the laws and rules which you must carefully observe in the land that the LORD, God of your fathers, is giving you to possess, as long as you live on earth.

– – – – –

Throughout the previous and numerous Essays that I have penned on Deuteronomy, I have firmly established that I cannot escape the literary nature of Deuteronomy – the Deuteronomy Redactor narrates the information found within Deuteronomy; through the information, the Deuteronomy Redactor reveals that Moses is the primary speaker, and in speaking Moses is delivering the bulk of the information within Deuteronomy from his own person, which means that for the bulk of the material, Moses is speaking from his own authority as Israel’s elder statesman.

From that basis I study the laws and rules that Moses presented to Israel (Deuteronomy 12.2 – Deuteronomy 26.15).

That creates an interesting situation.

It seems the common interpretation is that Moses is speaking on behalf of Jehovah, and thus that which is in Deuteronomy is sourced in Jehovah.

But I am presenting the concept that Moses is speaking on his own authority as Israel’s elder statesman, which means that Moses is speaking as a man, a person, yet Moses is a person anointed by Jehovah to be in that elder statesman position, yet while in that position, in this discourse, Moses, as a person, is speaking from himself and not speaking from Jehovah.

As such that which is the bulk of Deuteronomy is not from Jehovah, but from Moses as presented by the Deuteronomy Redactor.

That creates an interesting issue because there are things in Deuteronomy that are not found in Exodus, that are not found in Leviticus, and that are not found in Numbers.

For instance, Deuteronomy 24.1-4.

Deuteronomy 24.1-4 recognizes that bill of divorcements occur and stipulate actions in such instances.

But within the body of work known as the Five Books of Moses (Pentateuch, Torah) there is no place that provides instructions as to the contents of the writing of the divorcement, just as there is no instruction that permits divorcement, just as there is no instruction that prohibits divorcement.

Because some interpret Deuteronomy as Moses speaking on behalf of Jehovah, then it is interpreted that Jehovah sanctions divorce.

Yet, since, I am articulating that Moses presented the laws and rules of Deuteronomy and that Moses is speaking from his own authority, which means that Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers do not contain law and rule code from Jehovah about divorce, then what is the situation?

Does Jehovah permit or prohibit divorce?

I offer two speculations.

One, Jehovah either did not address the topic of divorce, which means that Deuteronomy 24.1-4 offers some insight as to what is permitted because Jehovah did not directly prohibit divorce.

Two, if Jehovah did address the topic of divorce through Moses to Israel, then that information has been “lost” to history, because it is not found in the books that constitute the Five Books of Moses, which means that Deuteronomy 24.1-4 could reference information about divorce that Jehovah had presented to Israel through Moses, but since that information was “lost” then all that remains is Deuteronomy 24.1-4.

As students of the text, we are left with this interpretative issue.

For those who want to make the Five Books of Moses have equal authoritative weight, those students appeal to the concept that Jehovah authored the Five Books.

Yet, the literary nature of Deuteronomy reveals that Moses is speaking from his own person, speaking to Israel about issues that God had delivered to Israel through Moses.

As a student, that reality informs me of two things.

One, that Deuteronomy 12.2-26.15 presents Moses as appealing to and/or referencing things that Jehovah had addressed to Israel through Moses at previous intervals but prior to this moment of Moses’ preaching to Israel, which means that Jehovah could have addressed divorce but that information has been “lost” and has become unavailable to us.

Two, that Deuteronomy 12.2-26.15 presents Moses as providing exposition (unpacking) regarding the laws and rules that Jehovah had given to Israel through Moses, which means that Moses was revealing applications of what Jehovah had given, which means that like any sage, rabbi, or, preacher Moses is speaking from his own authority to reveal intended meaning, which means that Moses presented those things as Israel’s elder statesman, even though Moses had been appointed and anointed by Jehovah.

With those things in mind, consider Deuteronomy 12.1. This verse begins this chapter, and it begins the section for the laws and rules for Israel as preached by Moses before Israel crossed the Jordan.

But it is my thinking that Deuteronomy 12.1 works with the previous two verses (Deuteronomy 11.31-32) to establish the movement into the laws and rules:
“For 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, take care to observe all the laws and rules that I have set before you this day. These are the laws and rules which you must carefully observe in the land that the LORD, God of your fathers, is giving you to possess, as long as you live on earth.”

Those verses work in conjunction with Deuteronomy 26.16-19 as a means to bookend the presentation of the laws and rules.

Deuteronomy 11.31-12.1 is Moses’ transition into the presentation of the law and rules.

Deuteronomy 12.2-26.15 is Moses’ presentation and expounding (exposition, unpacking) of the laws and rules.

Deuteronomy 26.16-19 is Moses’ transition out of the presentation of the law and rules.

Since the corpus of Moses’ presentation and exposition is bookended by the transitions, what can be seen within Moses presentation and exposition is a typical trait of a community’s spiritual leader.

Whether Jewish or Christian, a community’s spiritual leader provides their thoughts about how the spiritual community is to respond to God’s leading.

This helps explain why the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 do not exactly match the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5.

That also helps explain why Deuteronomy 24.1-4 can exist, yet there is no record in other material about divorce.

Yet with Deuteronomy 12.1, Moses is making it clear to Israel that he expects Israel to “carefully observe” what he, as Moses, is saying, which is no different than any leader of a spiritual community, when the leader is wanting the people to be focused on demonstrating their fidelity to upright behavior because of their deliverance by Jehovah.

It is also important to notice that in Deuteronomy 12.1 Moses referred to Jehovah as the God of their fathers. Doing such is an appeal to family lineage and family tradition, a tradition that, for that audience, predated their exodus and their about to experience crossing of the Jordan.

Moses is appealing to that family tradition in order to add weight to his presentation that Israel should be mindful of their behavior, because the insinuation is that Israel’s fathers behaved themselves properly before Jehovah in order to have been blessed, especially with reference to the land that was being given to the twelve tribes.

 
Before I begin my Essays about the laws and rules, I am going to back up and return to Deuteronomy 5 and discuss the Ten Commandments, and reveal why the Ten Commandments set the foundation for us to understand the laws and rules. That will be the topic of my next few Essays.

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