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

This week- Section 24
Name- ויקרא (He Called)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 1-5.26 (6.7)
Torah Portion: Leviticus 1-5.26 (6.7)

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 Exodus 19.16-20.18.

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Since Year 2 Essay 09 I have been discussing the Ten Commandments as found in Deuteronomy 5.6-18.

In those Essays, time was given to comparing and discussing the differences and similarities between Deuteronomy 5.6-18 and Exodus 20.1-14.

During those Essays, I firmly established that I believe that Moses and/or the Deuteronomy Redactor presented the Ten as found in Deuteronomy 5.6-18, which is how I account for the differences from the Ten as presented in Exodus 20.1-14, which is presented by the one I identified as the Exodus Redactor.

As I discussed in Year 2 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 discussed the tenth of the Ten.

In this Essay, I want to discuss additional concepts regarding the Ten.

The interesting thing is the Ten is a complex issue, far more complex than I was first led to understand or perceive.

For instance, there are students of the Scriptures that interpret Leviticus 19.3-18 as containing the Ten.

For instance, there are students of the Scriptures that interpret Exodus as containing two instances of Ten. The first occurrence being the familiar Exodus 20.1-14, referred to by some as the Ethical Decalogue. The second occurrence being in Exodus 34.11-27, referred to by some as the Ritual Decalogue.

For instance, there are students of the Scriptures that interpret Exodus 34.28 as referring to a fully functional and different list of commandments that exist or once existed.

Since that is the case, what is to be made of this?

For me, it becomes a complex issue, one that does not have an easy answer, but perhaps the answer sets within the literary context of the information as it was presented.

When Exodus 20.1-14 is read as continuing the literary context of Exodus 19.1, then it seems to be seen that the Ten found in Exodus 20 are the Ten delivered by Jehovah at Mt. Sinai, the place described as Mt. Horeb in Deuteronomy 5.2.

Yet, as one reads through the presentation of Exodus 19.1 through Exodus 20.18, one can see that Exodus 20.1-14 seems to be presented in a manner not having the same type of literary cadence as Exodus 19.1-25 and Exodus 20.15-18, almost making it feel like the Ten were inserted by the Exodus Redactor interrupting their own narrative.

The feeling makes Exodus 20.1-14 not necessarily a footnote, but an explanative, by giving the Ten, and when they occurred at Sinai (Horeb).

Yet, while inserted where the event chronologically occurred, literarily it feels out of tune with the surrounding passages, and could be a reason why the JPS places the Ten within their own narrative block.

To help explain what I am describing, read the narrative moving from Exodus 19.16-25 then jumping to Exodus 20.15-18 and one can see what I am saying.

19.16On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17Moses led the people out of the camp toward God, and they took their places at the foot of the mountain.

19.18Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the LORD had come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As Moses spoke, God answered him in thunder. 20The LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain and Moses went up. 21The LORD said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people not to break through to the LORD to gaze, lest many of them perish. 22The priests also, who come near the LORD, must purify themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” 23But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and sanctify it.’ ” 24So the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come back together with Aaron; but let not the priests or the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.” 25And Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.

20.15All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance. 16″You speak to us,” they said to Moses, “and we shall obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.” 17Moses answered the people, “Be not afraid; for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.” 18So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.

What is difficult is even that passage is impressively difficult.

For me, the JPS punctuates 19.21-22 and 19.24 in a manner that makes the LORD seem to speak in third person, which I simply cannot find reasonable.

To shorten my explanation, consider Exodus 19.24. For me, I see this verse as containing two major pieces of information, where each piece is presented by the Exodus Redactor. One, is what Jehovah stated to Moses. The other is the Exodus Redactor’s reasoning for what Jehovah said.

The Exodus Redactor’s presentation of what Jehovah said to Moses:
“So the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come back together with Aaron; but let not the priests or the people break through.”

The Exodus Redactor’s reasoning for why Jehovah spoke that to Moses is presented by the Redactor as:
“to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.”

In the ancient days there were no Redactor notes written on the pages conveying where the Redactor provided clarity or insight to the text, which is why it is so difficult to read through the Torah, the Pentateuch.

So for me 19.24 could be presented similar to the following:
So the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, and come back together with Aaron; but let not the priests or the people break through.” Why? because if the priests or the people break through to come up to the LORD, the LORD will break out against the priests and the people.

That is what is being conveyed.

But that is not what the Hebrew Text has. Therefore for me to change the presentation of the Text, even of the English, causes some to believe that the Text itself has been altered and thus is unacceptable.

However, I am articulating that the Hebrew Text is not without redactions. I am articulating that at least one redactor but it seems that several redactors had their hands in the presentation of the Hebrew Text.

I am therefore articulating that the Torah, the Pentateuch, contains what Moses presented to Israel, but at the same time the final form of the Hebrew Text that we have is not exactly what Moses presented to Israel; instead the final form we have is from redactors, people other than Moses, who presented the contents of what Moses gave to Israel but presented those things in a way that is difficult, at times inconsistent, and creates lots of questions for us as students.

I am therefore articulating that the Redactor(s) of Exodus are not the Redactor(s) of Deuteronomy and is why we have inconsistencies, where those inconsistencies lead some to believe that Jehovah refers to himself (gender retained for sake of brevity) in third person giving problematic moments of intonations of megalomania.

Since I believe that Jehovah is both self-aware and rational in discourse, I simply cannot accept that Jehovah would refer to himself (gender retained for sake of brevity) in a megalomania fashion.

That along with the known and observable inconsistencies, I am led to no other conclusion than that the Ten, whether found in Exodus 20, Exodus 34, Leviticus 19, or Deuteronomy 5, are there because of Redactors whose names and faces have been lost to history, as have their reasons for presenting the Text of the Torah, the Pentateuch, in the manner in which we find it.

In the next Essay, I will discuss the Ten as found Exodus 34.