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

This week- Section 25
Name- צו (Give an Order) (Command!)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 6.1(8)-8.36
Torah Portion: Leviticus 6.1(8)-8.36

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 34.11-27.

– – – – –

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 various complexities of the Ten, referring to Leviticus 19.3-18, and two different passages in Exodus: 1) Exodus 20.1-14, which some call the Ethical Decalogue; 2) Exodus 34.11-27, which some call the Ritual Decalogue.

In this Essay, I want to discuss additional concepts regarding the Ten, and close out my essays regarding the Ten.

Since the Ten is a complex issue, far more complex than I was first led to understand or perceive, in the previous Essay I only mentioned that some students of the Scriptures interpret Leviticus 19.3-18 as containing the Ten.

I will correlate the Leviticus passage to the Ten as found in Exodus 20.1-14 and Deuteronomy 5.6-18.

some say the first of the Ten is found in Leviticus 19.3:
Leviticus 19.3c JPS- I the LORD am your God.

the same phrasing is also found in the following JPS verses:
Leviticus 19.4b JPS- I the LORD am your God.
Leviticus 19.10d JPS- I the LORD am your God.
Leviticus 19.25c JPS- I the LORD am your God.
Leviticus 19.31c JPS- I the LORD am your God.
Leviticus 19.34d JPS- I the LORD am your God.

the second of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.4a JPS- Do not turn to idols or make molten gods for yourselves:

the third of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.12 JPS- You shall not swear falsely by My name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.

the fourth of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.3b JPS- and keep My sabbaths:

similar phrasing is also found in the following JPS verse:
Leviticus 19.30a JPS- You shall keep My sabbaths

the fifth of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.3a JPS- You shall each revere his mother and his father,

the sixth of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.16b JPS- Do not profit by the blood of your neighbor

the seventh of the Ten is more difficult to see, but is aligned with the following verse:
Leviticus 19.29 JPS- Do not degrade your daughter and make her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land be filled with depravity.

the eighth of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.11 JPS- You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another.

and seems continued in the following verse:
Leviticus 19.13 JPS- You shall not defraud your neighbor. You shall not commit robbery. The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning.

the ninth of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.15 JPS- You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.

and seems continued in the following verse:
Leviticus 19.16a JPS- Do not deal falsely with your fellows.

similar concepts are also found in the following verse:
Leviticus 19.17 JPS- You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor, but incur no guilt because of him.

the tenth of the Ten:
Leviticus 19.18 JPS- You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself:

From that itemization, it is seen that the concepts of the Ten (Exodus 20.1-14, Deuteronomy 5.6-18) can be found within Leviticus 19.

Personally, for me, I can see how some students of the Scripture find the Ten in Leviticus 19. The difficulty is always how to establish and prove the following: a) which part of Scripture came first; b) who is the author of the Scripture; c) a myriad of other questions.

The answer, largely, depends upon one’s personal perspective. For me, I see Redactor work in Deuteronomy, with a different Redactor working in Exodus, and I will postulate that there is another different Redactor working in Leviticus.

What is the solution? To accept that the final form of the Five Books of Moses is final, but we, as students, do not have ample evidence to do anything other than speculate as to how the final form came to be.

As for Exodus 34 and the Ten, this gets more than just interesting, because, for me, the narrative of Exodus 34 seems to indicate that Exodus 34 could possibly hold important concepts that need to be considered with studying the Ten.

Consider that Exodus 34 JPS begins:
1The LORD said to Moses: “Carve two tablets of stone like the first [tablets], and I will inscribe upon the [replacement] tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered. …”

From that passage then, it can be known that Exodus 34 refers to the first set of tablets (cf. Exodus 31.18) and Moses and his destruction of that set of tablets (Exodus 32.15-19), because Exodus 34.1 seems to plainly reveal that Jehovah expects Moses to prepare a second set because Moses broke the first set of tablets.

With that then, Exodus 34.4 JPS states:
So Moses carved two tablets of stone, like the first, and early in the morning he went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, taking the two stone tablets with him.

34.4 and 34.1 correlate, and express to us that Jehovah required Moses to replace the two tablets that Moses broke, all in order for Jehovah to reissue what had been already given.

From studies then, it becomes somewhat difficult to ascertain what exactly was inscribed on the first tablets.

Some students believe that Exodus 20.1-14 and/or Deuteronomy 5.6-18 were on the tablets. Yet, when reading the passages of the Ten, it becomes clear that Jehovah *spoke* the Ten (cf. Exodus 20.1), which is not the same as writing down the Ten, even Moses states that those words were spoken (cf. Deuteronomy 5.19). Words spoken as opposed to words written, there is a difference, and the Exodus 20 narrative and the Deuteronomy 5 narrative specifically mention that detail.

Also, there are some students who question whether or not Moses actually broke the first tablets.

For argument’s sake, even if Moses did not break the tablets, the congregation of Israel broke the covenant that Jehovah had made with them, so the symbology of the breaking should not be missed.

Personally, for me, from the Exodus 34 narrative, Moses broke the first two tablets. Why? Perhaps frustration, or dismay.

Either way, the break of the tablets whether actual or symbolic reveals the spiritual issue with what Israel had done, they broke the covenant.

As for the Exodus 34 narrative, it itself is difficult. Why? It begins with Jehovah stating that Jehovah will do the inscribing (34.1), yet the narrative reveals that Jehovah spoke to Moses (34.10), and that Jehovah told Moses to write down the commandments (34.27).

There are probably as many solutions to this as there are students of Scripture. For me, I see the actions of “I will inscribe” (34.1) and “He [Jehovah] said” (34.10) and “the LORD said to Moses: write down” (34.27) as three different actions, which are difficult to correlate to what occurred with the second tablets.

For me, while this solution is rather simplistic, I will assign this impossible resolution to the Exodus Redactor, and to the possibility that back when this information was first being transcribed and transmitted they did not see a functional difference among the three declarations.

But I will admit that possibility does not provide the best possibility. The text is the text and there are times that it is difficult to reconcile and/or even speculate as to why the text does what it does. For me, this is one of those moments, but that doesn’t destroy my faith that Jehovah delivered information to Israel through Moses.

However, I will offer another possibility, Jehovah actually inscribed the second tablets.

Under that auspice then, when the Exodus Redactor uses the phrase “He said” (cf. 34.10), the Exodus Redactor is not referring to Jehovah speaking, but the tablet speaking on behalf of Jehovah, whereby the Exodus Redactor is not referring directly to Jehovah, but is directly referring to the Tablet which has Jehovah’s words inscribed.

Functionally, that is no different than when a modern reader refers to someone’s published document . For instance, a news reporter reads a published statement that came from someone like a political leader, and the news reporter reads aloud that published statement by saying, “He said…” and from there the news reporter goes on to read the statement that had originally been published in written form as opposed to reading a transcript of a political leader’s speech.

Under the auspice of Jehovah having actually inscribed the tablets, then when the Exodus narrative has “the LORD said to Moses: Write down…” perhaps what was occurring at that moment is that Moses was to take the information from the Jehovah inscribed tablets, transferring that inscribed information to another medium like potsherds or papyrus. Why? Because the two tablets themselves were to be placed inside the Ark, but the information itself needed to be available to Israel.

With those possibilities then, it becomes possible for Jehovah to have inscribed the replacement tablets, the Exodus Redactor refers to the information found inscribed on the tablets, and the Exodus Redactor reveals that Moses was then required to transfer that inscribed information to another media for conveying that information to the people.

Here are the Ten as presented in Exodus 34.10-26 JPS:

first of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.10-16:
I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will work such wonders as have not been wrought on all the earth or in any nation; and all the people who are with you shall see how awesome are the LORD’S deeds which I will perform for you. Mark well what I command you this day. I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanties, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst. No, you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down their sacred posts; for you must not worship any other god, because the LORD, whose name is Impassioned, is an impassioned God. You must not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for they will lust after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices. And when you take wives from among their daughters for your sons, their daughters will lust after their gods, and will cause your sons to lust after their gods.

second of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.17:
You shall not make molten gods for yourselves.

third of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.18:
You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread -eating unleavened bread for seven days, as I have commanded you- at the set time of the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you went forth from Egypt.

fourth of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.19-20a:
Every first issue of the womb is Mine, from all your livestock that drop a male as firstling, whether cattle or sheep. But the firstling of an ass [donkey] you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. And you must redeem every first-born among your sons.

fifth of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.20b:
None shall appear before Me empty-handed.

sixth of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.21:
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor; you shall cease from labor even at plowing time and harvest time.

seventh of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.22-24:
You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of the wheat harvest; and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations from your path and enlarge your territory; no one will covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times a year.

eighth of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.25:
You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened; and the sacrifice of the Feast of Passover shall not be left lying until morning.

ninth of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.26a:
The choice first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God.

tenth of the Tablet Ten, Exodus 34.26b:
You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

When I read through that, I find information similar to what I discussed regarding Deuteronomy 5.6-18 and Exodus 20.1-14, in that it appears that there are times that the LORD speaks from a third-person point of view.

Firstly, the phrase “the LORD” is a placeholder for the tetragrammaton, which makes an artificial third person point of view.

For instance, in the following (34.26): “shall bring to the house of the LORD your God.” the phrase “the LORD” replaces the tetragrammaton, YHWH.

Therefore, if the English text presented the following: “shall bring to the house of YHWH your God.” the third person point of view is reduced, possibility removed all together.

However, there is still the issue of third person.

For instance the following (34.10), “how awesome are the LORD’S deeds which I will perform for you.”

Therefore, because I cannot accept that Jehovah speaks in third person, I attribute this voice shift to the Exodus Redactor, who lived and worked in a time period that simply did not place the emphasis on the first, second, and third person as we do here in modernity.

With that in mind, I posit that it was found on the stone tablet as “how awesome are my deeds which I will perform for you.” but somewhere later the “my” was replaced with the tetragrammaton in order to differentiate these deeds from Moses’, making it clear to the audience that it was Jehovah who was making the deeds known, as opposed to Moses, which means that the voice change is a redaction done for clarity for the sake of the students of the Scripture.

As for the Tablet Ten, they are substantially different from the words spoken (cf. Exodus 20.1, Deuteronomy 5.19), and thus represent a difficulty.

Which is Israel to follow? One as opposed to the other? Both? Neither?

That is difficult to answer, and is why some postulate that Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are the Ethical Decalogue while Exodus 34 is the Ritual Decalogue.

That is made because of what Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5 each claim.

In the previous Essay I presented that Exodus 20 sounds like a Redactor inserted the information and broke up the flow of the information (see that Essay for my explanation), which if that is the case, then the Exodus narrative at one time did not have Exodus 20 within it, but did have Exodus 34 that revealed the contents of the tablets.

If Exodus 20 and Exodus 34 have always been part of the Exodus narrative, then Exodus itself was constructed informing the students of Scripture that there were not only two different tablets, but those two different tablets contained different information.

For me, while the Exodus Redactor can be fluid with first, second, and third person voice and delivery, it seems more than just difficult to accept that the initial composer of Exodus would include such drastic differences, which are clearly seen between Exodus 20 and Exodus 34.

That is why I posit that Exodus 20 is a later redaction to Exodus, that was an attempt to reconcile the Exodus narrative with the Deuteronomy narrative, which itself is difficult to reconcile with Exodus 34.

For me, when Exodus 20 is removed, the Exodus narrative flows where Exodus 34 reveals what was delivered at Mount Sinai.

As for both Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5 claiming that the information was on the tablets, that is something that I don’t know if I have an answer to, unless I work from the presumption that Israel confused the words spoken by Jehovah at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5) with the actual covenant written by Jehovah (Exodus 34).

Why is that presumption even a possibility?

For me, I have been presenting that Deuteronomy was presented by the Deuteronomy Redactor, and that the Exodus Redactor(s) presented Exodus, and the Leviticus Redactor presented another narrative.

As literature, those literary differences seem clearly evident. Some ascribe all of that being written by Moses by God’s inspiration and therefore seem to gloss over these difficulties.

I accept the difficulties, and accept that the literary narrative as presented in Exodus, as presented in Leviticus, and as presented in Deuteronomy are different, similar, but different, and those differences cannot be easily glossed over as God inspired.

Because of that, some ascribe all of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy (the entire Torah actually) as being nothing more than a product of humanity.

I accept the difficulties, and accept that the literary narrative as presented in Exodus, as presented in Leviticus, and as presented in Deuteronomy are different, similar, but different, and those differences cannot be easily glossed over as a product of humanity.

There has to be a solution. The solution is simple, but controversial: most if not all the information of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy was given by God to Moses, which Moses then presented to Israel. But it is Israel themselves, who altered the textual presentation of the information and therefore make it difficult for us as students of Scripture to ascertain which is which, and to ascertain where the changes came from and why the changes were made.

With that in mind, that seems to be why 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, which itself raises questions and issues.

The reality is that studying the Torah is complex, intricate, and detailed, and not easily resolved. There are actual dilemmas within the Text, but those dilemmas do not negate the importance of the Text or the events within the Text or the importance of Moses conveying the covenant, the rules, the regulations, and the laws to Israel.