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

This week- Section 11
Name- ויגשׁ Vayigash (He Approached)
Parashah/Parsha- B’resheet 44.18-47.27
Torah Portion: Genesis 44.18-47.27

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 5.6 and Exodus 20.2

Deuteronomy 5.6 JPS
I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage:

Exodus 20.2 JPS
I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage:

– – – – –

In the previous Essay, I addressed the tonal differences between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, and provided some reasoning why Deuteronomy is presented by the Deuteronomy Redactor who is presenting Moses as speaking from his own first-person point of view.

In this Essay, I want to discuss the Ten and how the Ten matters.

Some interpret Deuteronomy 5.6 and Exodus 20.2 as representing the first commandment.

Personally, I do not interpret this as part of the Ten.

As for gender reference, I retain the masculine gender because of the verbiage of the Torah. Personally, I do not believe that Jehovah is either masculine or feminine, but from Jehovah came both masculine and feminine.

I do not interpret Deuteronomy 5.6 and Exodus 20.2 as part of the Ten, because Deuteronomy 5.6 and Exodus 20.2 reveal Jehovah introducing himself as deity to the Israelites.

Literarily, the statement itself is self-identification, not a command, which makes it stand unique to the other information presented within the Ten.

Consider the following commentary[1] about Deuteronomy 5.6:
This verse is a self-presentation formula that substantiates the divine proclamation that follows. … Such self-presentations are common in the openings of royal inscriptions in the ancient Near East and serve as introductions to treaties. The concept of a covenant between God and [the nation of] Israel is modeled on ancient treaties in which a weaker king accepted a more powerful one as his superior and [is modeled] on royal covenants in which a population accepted a king. Such covenants established relationships that were inherently exclusive: A subject population or [subject] king could have only one sovereign ruler, and ancient oaths of allegiance and treaties explicitly prohibit subjects and vassals from accepting another [sovereign]. Subjects entered into such relationships on the basis of past benefits realized through the [non-subject] king or [non-subject] ruler, often his having delivered them [the subjects] from enemies.

From that information about historical contracts, what the student is able to see is that accepting the incident as divine to human, which I do, then what is seen is that Jehovah can utilize human motifs in order for humans to understand that which is occurring. That is similar to how Jehovah used a covenant motif with Abram (Genesis 15) where that motif was relevant to Abram so that Abram could understand the promises of the covenant.

Therefore, what was occurring at Mount Sinai (Horeb) is that Jehovah was presenting himself to his subjects, who had no royal king at that moment. So the presentation was from sovereign to citizen subjects. But those citizens were accustomed to having some type of mediator between them and whoever their sovereign was, for they had been slaves in Egypt and had to have mediators take their case and cause to the sovereign Pharaoh.

So in this instance, the sovereign Jehovah stands in opposition to sovereign Pharaoh, where sovereign Jehovah liberates and establishes the liberated as a people for Jehovah’s court instead of Pharaoh’s court.

Just as Pharaoh demanded allegiance from the Israelites, so does Jehovah. Yet the events present themselves in a manner that sovereign Jehovah is shown to be mightier than sovereign Pharaoh, classic tussle between kings, vying for the allegiance of the people. Except in this case, Jehovah is unseen, whereas Pharaoh is seen. When understood that the ancient sovereigns considered themselves gods, then the narrative is a tussle between gods, to determine who is mightier.

Since the ancient sovereign to subject treatise was common, and loyalty to the stronger sovereign was part of the experience, then it becomes quite the literary motif that Jehovah is commanding and demanding allegiance from his subjects, which is absolutely no different than what any other sovereign would have done.

For instance, while in Egypt, Israel was loyal to Pharaoh. That is seen through Joseph. That is also seen because the Israelites do not fight against Pharaoh, either before or after the Israelites became slaves. That can also be seen because early in the exodus, there were those Israelites who were still in allegiance to Pharaoh because they were speaking about the types of food they were able to receive from their sovereign while in Egypt.

A Pharaoh provided for the Israelites when they traveled down into Egypt, giving the Israelites the land of Goshen. Even as slaves, the Israelites were provided for, not in the same manner, but their sovereign Pharaoh did provide. Therefore, Pharaoh commanded and demanded allegiance.

Jehovah walks into Egypt, demands his people, delivers his people, giving the people the opposite of slavery. Trials and struggles ensue. But as victor, Jehovah presents himself at the mount, and will deliver his terms and conditions from the superior to the inferior.

Conceptually, that is no different than what occurred to Israel in Egypt, when the inferior hungry 70 traveled down into Egypt and received a bountiful deliverance from starvation. Except Jehovah liberates an inferior people enslaved to a sovereign who doesn’t truly care, to where the enslaved received a bountiful deliverance from enslavement to empowerment.

I will continue my discussion of the Ten in my next Essay.

[1] – Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, commentary for Deuteronomy 5.6, p.1017, ISBN: 0-8276-0804-7.