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

This week- Section 31

Title- אמר (Speak) (Say!)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 21.1-24.23
Torah Portion- Leviticus 21.1-24.23

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 12.17-19.

17You may not partake in your settlements of the tithes of your new grain or wine or oil, or of the firstlings of your herds and flocks, or of any of the votive offerings that you vow, or of your freewill offerings, or of your contributions. 18These you must consume before the LORD your God in the place that the LORD you God will choose -you and your son and your daughter, your male and female slaves, and the Levite in your settlements- happy before the LORD your God in all your undertakings. 19Be sure not to neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.

– – – – –

This Essay continues my commentary on this section of Moses’ presentation to Israel, which began back with Deuteronomy 12.2. See my Year 2 Essays, beginning with Essay 26 for my comments on those verses.

In previous Essays, I have established that I interpret Moses as presenting these things to Israel from his own individual, personal, volitional perspective.

I recommend my reader to read Year 2 Essay 29, which includes some explanation of why I hold that view.

I now move into my discussion about verses 17-19.

Moses includes the information of verses 17-19 as a means of clarifying the permissions given in verses 15-16.

Therefore, Deuteronomy 12.13-19 works as a type of chiastic structure, describing what each member of the Israelite community, within Israel’s allotted land, is not permitted to do and what they are permitted to do within their dwelling and community.

The chiastic structure (inclusio), regarding one’s personal dwelling and community:
    A – 13-14 prohibitions and exhortations
    B – 15-16 permissions and clarifications
    A’ – 17-18 additional prohibitions and exhortations

Verses 13-14 specifically refer to sacrifices and where those sacrifices are permitted. These are sacrifices for Jehovah.

Verses 15-16 exist in order to clarify that Moses is not referencing the “sacrificing” of animals for daily or weekly dietary needs. These are “sacrifices” for the person.

Verses 17-19 specifically refer to sacrifices and where those sacrifices are permitted. These are sacrifices for Jehovah.

Why am I doing a word play on: sacrifice?

My answer to that question is given in Year 2, Essay 30.

As I have discussed in previous Essays, I don’t interpret Moses as presenting new concepts to Israel during this event.

For instance, consider that while 12.17 speaks of “tithes of your new grain or wine or oil” the concept of tithing had already been addressed in Leviticus 27.30:
All tithes from the land, whether seed from the ground or fruit from the tree, are the LORD’S; they are holy to the LORD.

Grain is seed from the ground. Wine is from grapes that grow on the vine and therefore are not from trees even though grapes are considered a fruit, so grapes come from the ground. Oil was most likely taken from olives, olives grow on trees, so oil is from olives that is fruit from the tree.

Another instance, consider that while 12.17 speaks of “tithes… of the firstlings of your herds and flocks” the concept of tithing from the herds and flocks was addressed in Leviticus 27.32-33:
All tithes of the herd or flock -of all that passes under the shepherd’s staff, every tenth one- shall be holy to the LORD. He must not look out for good as against bad, or make substitution for it. If he does make substitution for it, then it and its substitute shall both be holy: it cannot be redeemed.

The important thing to remember about tithing is that tithing not only belongs to the LORD but the LORD shared that tithing with the Levites, and the LORD required the Levites to give a tithe from the tithing that was presented. From Numbers 18:

1The LORD said to Aaron: … 2You shall associate with yourself, your kinsmen, the tribe of Levi, your ancestral tribe…

6I [the LORD] hereby take your fellow Levites from among the Israelites; they are assigned to you in dedication to the LORD, to do the work of the Tent of Meeting…

8The LORD spoke further to Aaron: I hereby give you charge of My gifts, all the sacred donations of the Israelites; I grant them to you and to your sons as a perquisite, a due for all time. 9This shall be yours from the most holy sacrifices, the offerings by fire… .

11This, too, shall be yours: the heave offerings of their gifts, all the wave offerings of the Israelites, I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you…

12All the best of the new oil, wine, and grain -the choice parts that they present to the LORD- I give to you. 13The first fruits of everything in their land, that they bring to the LORD, shall be yours…

19All the sacred gifts that the Israelites set aside for the LORD I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you… 20And the LORD said to Aaron: You shall, however, have no territorial share among them or own any portion in their midst; I am your portion and your share among the Israelites.

21And to the Levites I hereby give all the tithes in Israel as their share to return for the services that they perform, the services of the Tent of Meeting.

25The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 26Speak to the Levites and say to them: When you receive from the Israelites their tithes, which I have assigned to you as your share, you shall remove from them one-tenth of the tithe as a gift to the LORD. 27This shall be accounted to you as your contribution.

Importantly, notice that the above passage from Numbers is attributed to Jehovah.

Again, I bring a notation to that because Deuteronomy ascribes the words to Moses, not Jehovah, which means that in Deuteronomy, the parts that I am currently discussing, is not Moses speaking on behalf of Jehovah.

Instead this Deuteronomy passage is Moses speaking on behalf of Moses himself, giving a sermon to Israel, which provides exposition, exhortation, along with some instruction, all based on previous experiences that Moses had experienced with Jehovah and Israel.

Importantly, notice that the above passage from Numbers is directed to two individuals. The first person is Aaron. The second person is Moses.

Therefore, that revelation was given to the Levites and the priesthood from Jehovah through Aaron.

Therefore, that revelation was given to the Levites and the priesthood from Jehovah through Moses.

That attributive style is significantly at variance with the manner in which the Deuteronomy Redactor is presenting the words of Moses.

From that then, and from Deuteronomy 12.19 “Be sure not to neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.” we can see that, in Deuteronomy, Moses is reiterating to the Israelites that they have a responsibility to the Levites.

What is that responsibility. The tithes are to be taken to the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle), whereby the Levites receive their portion from the LORD, and whereby the Levites can actually then tithe unto the LORD.

So while the Israelites were to “tithe” their tithing was supporting the Levites, their specific individual and family needs, along with the needs of the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle). From the tithes the Levites received, the Levites were to give the LORD a tithe.

From that then, all thirteen tribes were to give tithes unto the LORD.

But the Levites could only give their tithes when the Israelites came to the Tent of Meeting to give their tithes.

Therefore, this is revealing the interdependent nature of the Levities and the other twelve tribes, which is why Moses stated: “Be sure not to neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.”

Additionally, in this Deuteronomy section, Moses again referred to “the place that the LORD you God will choose”.

In Year 2 Essay 27 and Year 2 Essay 29, in those Essays I discussed what the phraseology “the place that the LORD you God will choose” indicates.

Additionally, in this Deuteronomy section, Moses again referred to “you and your son and your daughter, your male and female slaves, and the Levite in your settlements”.

In Year 2 Essay 28, I discussed what the phraseology “you and your son and your daughter, your male and female slaves, and the Levite in your settlements” indicates.

As I stated in Year 2 Essay 30, Moses is providing sermonic exposition and exhortation about information that Jehovah had already presented to Israel during previous events.

That means, that I am articulating that Moses is not necessarily covering new territory, doctrinally.

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