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

This week- Section 32

Title- בהר On Mount (On This Mount)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 25.1-26.2
Torah Portion- Leviticus 25.1-26.2

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 12.20-25.

20When the LORD enlarges your territory, as He has promised you, and you say, “I shall eat some meat,” for you have the urge to eat meat, you may eat meat whenever you wish. 21If the place where the LORD has chosen to establish His name is too far from you, you may slaughter any of the cattle or sheep that the LORD gives you, as I have instructed you; and you may eat to your heart’s content in your settlements. 22Eat it, however, as the gazelle and the deer are eaten: the unclean may eat it together with the clean. 23But make sure that you do not partake of the blood; for the blood is the life, and you must not consume the life with the flesh. 24You must not partake of it; you must pour it out on the ground like water: 25you must not partake of it, in order that it may go well with you and with your descendants to come, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the LORD.

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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 12.20-25. These verses will be discussed in two parts. This Essay is part 1 of 2.

Importantly, this passage continues that which Moses was discussing since Deuteronomy 12.13. Within that discussion Moses made mention that the Israelites could non-ritually sacrifice an animal within their settlements for purposes of personal dietary consumption (Deut. 12.15-16).

Just as importantly, when Moses arrives here, at what we consider verse 12.20, Moses returns back to the concept of eating within the settlements, again drawing a distinction between animals sacrificed (slaughtered) for dietary needs versus animals sacrificed unto Jehovah.

For a discussion on my word play of the word ‘sacrifice’, see Year 2, Essay 30.

As this passage opens, notice that Moses speaks “When the LORD enlarges your territory, as He has promised you”. In Deuteronomy 19.8, similar phraseology will be found.

So this begs the question: what does it mean to enlarge the territory?

Some interpret this as Israel being able to expand from their tribal allotments to encompass the entire land promised to Abraham.

For me, it seems that interpretation interprets the promise going from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, whereby the Israelites inherit the entire land promised to Abraham.

That interpretation points to passages like Exodus 34.24 as God’s promise to Israel and that Jehovah would accomplish that interpretation and would do that interpretation through a process, little by little, giving the land to Israel (Deuteronomy 7.22).

For me, I know I will stand at odds with that interpretation, but I am not convinced that Israel was intended to receive the entire land promised to Abraham.

It is true that the kings of Israel helped expand Israel’s territory.

But after the Assyrian Invasion, Israel’s land expansion ceased. Since then, Israel has not been able to reclaim the amount of land that God granted to Israel as inheritance when established during the days of Joshua.

In previous Essay(s), I discussed that the land promised to Abraham was between the river Euphrates and the Nile river, and between the Mediterranean Sea and the Desert.

The covenant promise is found in Genesis 15.18-19, and includes the word “offspring”.

As I have discussed in previous Essays, Abraham has more offspring that just Isaac. Abraham also has as offspring: Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, Shuah, and sons from his concubines.

So the issue is the concept of covenant and offspring.

According to Torah, the covenant passes from Abraham to Isaac then to Jacob, and the descendants of Jacob do receive a land which was given as inheritance to them.

The question is: does the covenant of land also go from Abraham down to Jacob?

Some interpret the scriptures as yes, and thus interpret the word “offspring” (Genesis 15.18) as a singular term referring to Jacob.

If Abraham had never had additional sons, then I would not be discussing this.

The issue is that the Torah itself reveals that Abraham did not have one male offspring, but many males as offspring.

Therefore, the term, even if found in the singular within the Hebrew, the singular is not referring to one male offspring, because the word is a collective term referring to that which issues forth from Abraham’s reproduction.

Yes, Sarah was the mother of the promised son, but that does not necessarily convey that the land covenant only applies to the descendants of Isaac, which would then apply only to Jacob.

For me, here is the issue with the offspring argument: the word is offspring, but Abraham had many offspring, as did Isaac, as did Jacob; yes, the covenant was transferred to Jacob, but Jacob himself has many male offspring. Therefore, for me, how can it be reasonably understood that the word offspring in Genesis 15.18 refers to one son but somehow when it comes to Jacob that interpretation of one male (Genesis 15.18) applies to Jacob’s twelve sons?

It seems grammatically incongruent to have that interpretation, even though that is the common interpretation.

Therefore, when I read Torah and see that other descendants of Abraham lived within the land promised to Abraham, I cannot reasonably read Genesis 15.18 as pertaining or referring to only one male offspring, instead I read offspring as a collective term referring to multiple male offspring, of which Abraham had many.

Therefore, when Jehovah promises to enlarge Israel’s territory, I have difficulty interpreting that promise as relating to the entire land promised to Abraham, which means I tend to think that when Jehovah promised to expand Israel’s territory, Jehovah was referring to the gradual process by which Israel would come to occupy all of the land specifically given to them, which is only one part of the entirety of the land promised to Abraham’s offspring.

Could I be mistaken?

Yes.

However, I tend to examine the land promise and what I think is a particular allotment to Israel against the manner in which history has unfolded.

Although Israel has a modern national state of history, the history of Israel reveals conquest, inhabitation, expansion, then extraordinary contraction, and has remained contracted ever since the Roman Empire.

For me, since Rome squashed Israel, I don’t see that the nation of Israel ever actually stopped existing, but the power of nationhood certainly was not recognized as influential until Israel was recognized as having state power in 1948.

At the core of this discussion is the interpretation of the covenant which included the land promise.

I admit that I offer a counter-interpretation, but when I examine Israel’s nationalistic history, I have difficulty being convinced that the land promise given to Abraham was intended as meaning that Israel would occupy the entire land.

But, I do think that Israel was given a specific portion of land within the larger land which Jehovah promised to Abraham, and Israel seems to have rights to that specific allotment of land.

For me, the historical development of Israel seems to be a plausible divine mechanism to reveal that Jehovah intended for Israel to have only one particular portion of land within the entire land promised to Abraham.

I will complete my discussion of this passage in the next Essay.

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