Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

This week- Section 13
Name- שׁמות Sh’mot (Names)
Parashah/Parsha- Sh’mot 1.1-6.1
Torah Portion: Exodus 1.1-6.1

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 5.8-10 and Exodus 20.4-6.

Deuteronomy 5.8-10 JPS
8You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth. 9You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, 10but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Exodus 20.4-6 JPS
4You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, 6but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

– – – – –

As I discussed in Essay 10, the Deuteronomy narrative of the Ten is from Moses’ perspective. In previous Essays, I have given substantial reasons explaining why. For this Essay, I am not going to restate or summarize any of those reasons. Instead, I assume my reader to have read those Essays.

In the previous Essay, I addressed the first of the Ten.

In this Essay, I want to discuss the second of the Ten.

The second of the Ten (Deuteronomy 5.8-10 JPS and Exodus 20.4-6 JPS) read nearly the same:
8a – You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image,
4a – You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image,

8b – any likeness of what is in the heavens above,
4b – or any likeness of what is in the heavens above,

8c – or on the earth below,
4c – or on the earth below,

8d – or in the waters below the earth.
4d – or in the waters under the earth.

9a – You shall not bow down to them or serve them.
5a – You shall not bow down to them or serve them.

9b – For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God,
5b – For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God,

9c – visiting the guilt of the fathers upon the children,
5c – visiting the guilt of the fathers upon the children,

9d – upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me,
5d – upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me,

10a – but showing kindness to the thousandth generation
6a – but showing kindness to the thousandth generation

10b – of those who love Me and keep My commandments.
6b – of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 
For my purposes, I am examining the differences that can be found in the JPS English translation of the Masoretic Text, which means I am not discussing variations in the Hebrew, but discussing the differences in the English of the JPS.

One variance is found between Deuteronomy 5.8b JPS and Exodus 20.4b JPS, in that 20.4b begins with conjunction ‘or’.

Another variance is found between Deuteronomy 5.8d JPS and Exodus 20.4d JPS, in that 5.8d uses the word ‘below’ whereas the 20.4d uses the word ‘under’.

Other than those two variances, it appears that the JPS presents the English in a consistent manner, even in punctuation.

 
Regarding the English, how does one account for these variances?

Deuteronomy 5.8b has “any likeness”.

Exodus 20.4b has “or any likeness”.

It seems that the “any” (5.8b) and the “or any” (20.4b) translate the Hebrew word kol (H3605).

Since the JPS represents Deuteronomy 5.8a and Exodus 20.4a the same in the English:
    8a – You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image,
    4a – You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image,
it seems then that the addition of the ‘or’ in Exodus 20.4b is based upon translator preference.

But why add the word ‘or’ to Exodus 20.4b?

I surmise that it is to retain stylistic similarities for 20.4b, 20.4c, and 20.4d:
    4b – or any likeness of what is in the heavens above,
    4c – or on the earth below,
    4d – or in the waters under the earth.

Literarilly, the ‘or’ is an unnecessary addition, and thus it seems the translators do not continue that practice in Deuteronomy 5.8b.

What is understood is that Deuteronomy 5.8a states the general prohibition:
    8a – You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image,
then 5.8b, 5.8c, and 5.8d provide specific examples of what is prohibited:
    8b – any likeness of what is in the heavens above,
    8c – or on the earth below,
    8d – or in the waters below the earth.

That flow is also found in Exodus 20.4 JPS. Exodus 20.4a states the general prohibition:
    4a – You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image,
then 20.4b, 20.4c, and 20.4d provide specific examples of what is prohibited:
    4b – or any likeness of what is in the heavens above,
    4c – or on the earth below,
    4d – or in the waters under the earth.

Technically, in English, the manner in which Exodus 20.4b uses the word ‘or’ is unneeded, but appears to be there for stylistic ease and flow from 20.4b to 20.4c to 20.4d.

Unless the Hebrew requires it, it appears that Exodus 20.4b could be translated without the preposition ‘or’. If so, then translating it in that fashion would have Exodus 20.4 match Deuteronomy 5.8.

 
The other variance is found between Deuteronomy 5.8d JPS and Exodus 20.4d JPS:
    8d – or in the waters below the earth.
    4d – or in the waters under the earth.

As can be seen 5.8d uses the word “below” whereas the 20.4d uses the word “under”.

In Deuteronomy 5.8d, the English word “below” translates the Hebrew word tachath (H8478).

In Exodus 20.4d , the English word “under” translates the same Hebrew word, tachath.

Brown-Driver-Briggs states that the Hebrew word tachath refers to the under part, which can be referred to by the words: beneath, under. Both of those are functionally represented by the synonym “below”.

So which is correct?

In this case, it seems that which is correct depends upon what the translator believes best represents the idea.

So herein lies a particular issue with English Bible translations – inconsistency of English words translating the Hebrew words.

Is that a problem?

In one sense, yes. In another sense, no.

It is a problem for the English student who believes that each English word fully translates a different Hebrew word.

So for those students, they might begin with the assumption that the English word “under” (20.5d) and the English word “below” (5.8d) translate two different Hebrew words.

But as we can see from a short study, the English words “under” and “below” translate the same Hebrew word tachath.

Therefore in a sense, for those who make the assumption that English fully represents different Hebrew words, there is a problem.

However, for those who see things as what this word study has shown, there is no issue.

But a difficulty remains: why is there a difference?

For that, I turn to translator preferences.

For me, it seems proper to conclude that a different translator or translation team worked on Exodus 20.5 than the translator or translation team that worked on Deuteronomy 5.8.

That conclusion is drawn simply because it seems proper to conclude that one translation team would choose to use the English word “under” while the other translation team would choose to use the English word “below”.

That conclusion of differing individual translators is further supported by the notion that it seems proper to conclude that if Exodus 20.5 and Deuteronomy 5.8 were translated by the exact same individual that the individual translator would have chosen to remain consistent with their word choice.

But either way, that is speculation.

The result we have, in English, is variances between Deuteronomy 5.8 and Exodus 20.5. The result is functionally insignificant, but is still there.

For me, the solution is to render the one Hebrew word (tachath) into one English word. Choose one: “under” or “below”. Then remain consistent, even when having differing translators or translation teams, because consistency assists the English reader.

 
As for the second of the Ten. It has two parts, which the JPS renders into English as two different commandments.
    8You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image… .
    9You shall not bow down to them or serve them… .

That rendering can lead an English reader to think there are two separate things, when actually they are conjoined in thought.

If I were the translator, I would render much differently, all in order to show that the second of the Ten has two parts:
8You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image [(not] any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth[);] 9[y]ou shall not bow down to them or serve them, [because] I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, 10but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

My changes are found within the bold brackets []. These are small changes, but potentially significant to the ease of interpretation.

Without doubt, the tone of the second is from Jehovah.

In Exodus 20, the tone and the speaker are the exact same established in Exodus 20.1.

However, as I have explained in previous Essays, in Deuteronomy the Deuteronomy Redactor is presenting Moses and in Deuteronomy 5.8-10 it is Moses who is doing the speaking.

Therefore, in Deuteronomy 5.8-10, the speaker is Moses, but the tone is Jehovah, which, literarially, are two different things.

In Deuteronomy 5.8-10 Moses is speaking, but Moses is not speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

Instead in Deuteronomy 5.8-10 Moses is quoting that which Jehovah had said (which is found in Exodus 20.4-6), which is why Deuteronomy 5.8-10 has the tone of Jehovah, yet reveals that it is Moses that is speaking, and Moses is speaking from his own personhood as established in Deuteronomy 5.1.

Therefore in Deuteronomy’s presentation of the Ten, Moses is recalling, remembering, referencing, and/or quoting the Ten as delivered by Jehovah at Mount Horeb (Sinai), which means the Ten in Deuteronomy are not directly spoken by Jehovah, but are being spoken by Moses himself, as Moses himself reveals through his own words in Deuteronomy 5.5 and 5.19.

 
As with the first of the Ten, to whom is this given?

The Israelites. No one else, no Gentile was ever given the Ten. The nations have read and studied the Ten, but Jehovah did not give the Ten to the nations.

Therefore, to whom is Moses speaking when quoting the second of the Ten?

The answer is evident in the narrative: Israelites (Deuteronomy 5.1).

Therefore, the heavy tone found within the second of the Ten is there because of what Jehovah did for the nation of Israel (delivering Israel and making a covenant with Israel), as such the second is making it known that Israel will experience a severity if/when Israel were to construct and bow down and serve an image, something that Jehovah has prohibited but prohibited only Israel from doing; yet if Israel remains without constructing, and remains without bowing down, and remains without serving images, then Jehovah’s covenant with Israel will have blessings reaching into the furthest reaches of generations, for them, yet to come.

Since, Jehovah only prohibited the nation of Israel from constructing, bowing down, and serving images, what does that mean for the Gentiles?

In short, nothing.

The Gentiles simply were not prohibited from constructing, bowing down, and serving images.

For many, this is difficult to accept for a conjoined reason.

It is difficult to accept because monotheism (that Jehovah is the one and only god) has become the predominate teaching from the first of the Ten (see my discussion in the previous Essay), and from that predominate teaching has arisen the idea that images are prohibited amongst the nations (Gentiles).

Such is not completely true for Israel. Why? Because Israel could and can choose to serve a god other than Jehovah, and Israel could and can choose to construct, bow down, and serve images.

Way back in Moses’ day, Jehovah permitted the Gentiles (Nations outside of Israel) to serve gods other than Jehovah and to construct images, bow down to them and serve them. Here in modernity, nothing has changed, the first and second still were only given to Israel, and thus apply ONLY to Israel.

Share