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

This week- Section 14
Name- וארא Va’era (I Appeared)
Parashah/Parsha- Sh’mot 6.2-9.35
Torah Portion: Exodus 6.2-9.35

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 5.11 and Exodus 20.7.

Deuteronomy 5.11 JPS
11You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

Exodus 20.7 JPS
7You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

– – – – –

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 second of the Ten.

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

Whether Deuteronomy 5.11 JPS or Exodus 20.7 JPS, the third of the Ten reads the same:
You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

There is an interesting grammatical issue with the third of the Ten, and has received several explanations trying to answer the grammatical issue.

The issue is that the third of the Ten shifts from being delivered as first person to being delivered as third person.

As I have been addressing, these types of voice patterns matter to our understanding of Torah.

One commentary[1] states:
The LORD your God: The grammatical perspective here shifts from direct reference to God by God Himself (i.e., “those who love Me and keep My commandments”; v.10) to a reference to God in relation to Israel by a third party (“your God”).

The same commentary goes on to state:
Using different paradigms, both ancient rabbinic interpreters and modern scholars have sought to explain this shift.

The same commentary offers one explanation stating that:
…the inconsistency was resolved by claiming that it was only the first two commandments that God revealed directly to the people (in the first person). In response to the people’s fear (v. 5), Moses then mediated the remaining commandments to the people, now logically referring to God in the third person”.

The commentary offers another explanation for the inconsistency, saying:
…the explanation for the shift [might reside] in the nature of the text as divine decree: Many [Ancient] Near Eastern royal inscriptions reflect the same inconsistency in the monarch’s reference to himself.

Then the commentary offers another explanation:
The shift [from first person to third person] may also point to different layers of composition.

For me, the first explanation does not correlate literarily to Moses’ retelling of events (Deuteronomy 5.19): “The LORD spoke those words -those and no more- to your whole congregation at the mountain, with a mighty voice out of the fire and the dense clouds.”

So when one reads the way in which Moses tells the narrative, one could arguably say that Moses delivered Deuteronomy 5.11b (…your God… by His name.) speaking in the third person as God relates to Israel.

The problem with that is that Deuteronomy 5.11 JPS matches exactly the phraseology of Exodus 20.7 JPS.

So which is it? From God? From Moses? A Redactor?

The second explanation offers a possibility.

The third, however, is where I fall. There is more going on in the text than an initial reading provides.

I postulate that the LORD, Jehovah, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, said to Israel only these words: You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD.

I postulate that the remainder of the third of the Ten is sourced in another redactor. As such, some redactor at some point in time, even when found in Exodus 20.7, redacted the third of the ten and that redaction became the basis of that which was record by the Deuteronomy Redactor in Deuteronomy 5.11.

Why do I postulate such?

Moses is not so ignorant as to move from quoting first person to moving into third person without some type of transition, as evidenced by Deuteronomy 5.19.

Therefore for some reason, even as the ancient students recognized, Deuteronomy 5.11 contains a shift from the first person to the third person.

The question is: why?

I offer my explanation and it resides on the third possibility offered by the commentary, “different layers of composition.”

That is what I have been describing anyway.

What that means is that the Deuteronomy Redactor is presenting Moses’ words. As such, the Deuteronomy Redactor is one of, obviously, several layers of textual transmission, conveyed through, at least, two redactors: one, the Deuteronomy Redactor; two, the redactor who gives the phrasing “your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.”

This poses an issue for those who advocate that the text of Deuteronomy is directly inspired or indirectly inspired by God, and they have to find methods that seem reasonable in order to explain the grammatical shift.

For me, things like these reveal to me that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses and that Deuteronomy was not written by God, especially when one opens the Book of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomy Redactor penned in Hebrew, which was translated to English as:
These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan.

That opening line makes two things clear.

One, the line itself makes it clear that neither Moses nor God are the authors of the presentation of Deuteronomy even if/when Moses and/or God are quoted and those two voices are included in the contents within Deuteronomy.

Two, the opening line of Deuteronomy opens students to the possibility that there are answers as to why there is a shift from first person to third person in Deuteronomy 5.11.

The ancients could not answer why the voice shifted from first to third person. Modern scholars cannot fully answer why it shifted.

And yet, Exodus 20.7 and Deuteronomy 5.11 both record the same words, and the JPS presents into English the exact same thing for both verses:
You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

So how do I answer this dilemma?

Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey pronounced briefly the third of the Ten:
You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD.

I postulate that the Deuteronomy Redactor found a source (perhaps Exodus 20.7) of the third of the Ten, placed the source of the third of the Ten directly into the text that the Deuteronomy Redactor was presenting.

For the time period in which they were working, the Deuteronomy Redactor knew full well that they did not have the intense scrutiny of textual transmission and source documentation that we as moderns expect when engaging a text.

Those events occurred long before the ancient Rabbis studied the text to find the shift from first to third person. The Deuteronomy Redactor did not record their source, the original redactor did not record that they were giving a spiritual commentary on the third of the Ten.

Importantly, the phrase “the LORD” was not issued in the Hebrew, but the Tetragrammaton was (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey).

Additionally, that is because of the overarching supposition that Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey is ineffable and to be highly revered that Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey cannot even be placed into the Biblical text without some kind of markings to protect the name from misuse, and Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey is not to be translated into another language but should be represented by a substitute (e.g. the LORD).

Returning to my postulation that Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey delivered briefly the third of the Ten to Israel, I postulate the previous because students can clearly see that Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey delivered the following in brief statements:
    – You shall not murder;
    – You shall not commit adultery;
    – You shall not steal;
    – You shall not bear false witness.

All of that brings up an important point, asked as: if that is the case what is to be made of the extra information within the third of the Ten?

For me, it is the same as found in the fourth of Ten, and in the fifth of the Ten.

For me, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey also briefly stated the fourth of the Ten as: Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy.

For me, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey also briefly stated the fifth of the Ten as: Honor your father and your mother.

That means that I interpret Exodus 20.7b and Deuteronomy 5.11b “… your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name” as redactor commentary, where the redactor(s) provided their thoughts as to why Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey stated the commandment.

For me, I think similar occurs with the fourth and fifth. I will discuss those similarities and/or differences when I arrive at the Essay that discusses the fourth of the Ten, and the Essay that discusses the fifth of the Ten.

As for “…your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name”, I consider it added by a redactor who is unknown, but was at some point known, but the identity of this redactor has been lost to history.

The redactor uses the phrase “your God” to specify that Israel is to serve no other god (sovereign) other than Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey.

Again, that does not declare monotheism.

Instead it declares theistic-allegiance. As such, Israel was/is to be in allegiance with Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey and only in allegiance with Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, because it was only Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey who came to Israel’s rescue.

When comparing to ancient concepts, when a king rescued a people, the king demanded allegiance from those individuals the king rescued; similar is being done with Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey to Israel. Just as there were other kings to whom a rescued people could swear allegiance, there were other gods to whom Israel could have sworn allegiance.

As for the phrase “for [Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey] will not clear one who swears falsely by His name”, the Hebrew does not have a gender neutral for Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey. Without a gender neutral term, the Hebrew cannot convey whether Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey is gender neutral, as I have addressed in a previous Essay.

It simply means that in lieu of the ancient Hebrew not having a gender neutral pronoun, the masculine pronoun was assigned, giving a type of anthropological attribute to Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey that has been passed down through the centuries.

The phrase “to swear falsely” indicates that one could make an oath or swear, as in a promise to do something, and fail to carry out that oath or swear. This indicates that the redactor interpreted that Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey would not permit the name Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey to be associated with lies, which conveys that the name Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey is/was to be associated with truth.

Therefore, when Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey stated “You shall not swear falsely by the name of [Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey]”, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey wanted only truth to be associated with the name.

This type of statement is in similitude with the second of the Ten. Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey stated that no earth creature could adequately represent Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, and thus in the third of the Ten, no human in making a false statement of swearing/oathing could adequately represent the nature of Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, and thus Israel was prohibited from aligning false statements with the essence of truth for Israel.

[1] Commentary on Deuteronomy 5.11, The Jewish Study Bible, JPS Tankah, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-529751-2, p. 377.