פָּרָשַׁת וַיֵּלֶךְ | Parashat Vayelekh (Deuteronomy 31:1-30), color-coded according to its narrative layers

According to the poetry of the Midrash Tanḥuma, Bereshit 1:1, the words of the Torah were inscribed “black fire on white fire.” For many years, I’ve wanted to look deeply into the black fire and visualize the full spectrum of the Torah’s sources, hidden within the black fire but revealed through a critical analysis of its layers of redaction. Below, I’ve set the text of the first Torah portion in the annual Torah reading cycle, using color-coding to distinguish the stratigraphic layers forming the composition of the Masoretic text according to the Supplementary Hypothesis presented by Tsemaḥ Yoreh in his Kernel to Canon series of books (2013-2017) and his website, the Sources of Biblical Narrative. As Dr. Yoreh explains,

The Supplementary Hypothesis asserts that the Pentateuch was composed by several different writers. This reflects an overwhelming academic consensus on Biblical authorship, even among scholars who do not subscribe to the Supplementary Hypothesis in particular.[….] According to the Supplementary Hypothesis, Biblical narrative is layered. No editor took a blowtorch to the parts of the Bible he disagreed with and destroyed them; if he had, we would not find these repetitions and contradictions. Instead, Biblical narrative began with a coherent, foundational bedrock, which over time accreted more and more storylines. Unlike geological processes, though, this process of addition was deliberate. What happened if one author disagreed with his predecessor’s storyline or worldview? He did not simply take an axe to the narrative; instead, he attempted to bury his predecessor’s point of view by repeating his own over and over again, thus skewing our understanding of the story in new ways. Every generation of readers sees the world differently, and thus every generation of writers seeks to adapt their predecessors’ cultural heritage to their own situation. We are not meant simply to dismiss earlier stories; rather, the intention of later writers is to transform our understanding of those stories via their additions.

Legend

⬛ Most of the book of Deuteronomy (sefer Devarim) is considered the composite of three layers of redaction, ‘D1,’ ‘D2,’ and ‘Dp.’ Together, these layers (commonly referred to as the ‘Deuteronomist’) are thought to have formed by a complex process that reached probably from the 7th century BCE to the early 5th. This strata is primarily responsible for incorporating the law code of Deuteronomy into the Pentateuch. D1, as it is called, also adds a layer of redaction concerned with theodicy in the books of Joshua-Kings. D1 appears here in BLACK text.

⬛ This strata, called D2, shares a particularly non-Judean perspective following the split between the north (Ephraim/Yisrael) and the south (Yehudah) after the reign of Shlomo haMelekh, a perspective that was ignored by D1 (and successive authors). In Deuteronomy, D2 adds hortatory (sermons) to D1’s narrative introduction at the beginning of Deuteronomy (the focus of which is the observation of the commandments and divine justice), and otherwise supplements D1’s work. (A few verses in Parashat Bo in the book of Exodus are also attributed to D2.) D2 appears here in RUST-BROWN text.

⬛ This strata is thought to have been composed in the late 8th or early 7th century BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah. This layer, commonly known as ‘J’, is indicated with a BLUE text. This is the first appearance of J in sefer Devarim. The previous appearance of J in the Pentateuch occurs in parashat Balaq in the book of Numbers.

Parashat Vayelekh (Deuteronomy 31:1-30) in the annual Torah reading cycle is the ninth parashah in Sefer Devarim. It is preceded by parashat Nitsavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20). Parashat Haazinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-52), follows it.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

לא א וַיֵּ֖לֶךְ מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיְדַבֵּ֛ר אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶל־כׇּל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ב וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֗ם בֶּן־מֵאָה֩ וְעֶשְׂרִ֨ים שָׁנָ֤ה אָנֹכִי֙ הַיּ֔וֹם לֹא־אוּכַ֥ל ע֖וֹד לָצֵ֣את וְלָב֑וֹא וַֽיהֹוָה֙ אָמַ֣ר אֵלַ֔י לֹ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֥ן הַזֶּֽה׃ ג יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ ה֣וּא ׀ עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֗יךָ הֽוּא־יַשְׁמִ֞יד אֶת־הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֛לֶּה מִלְּפָנֶ֖יךָ וִירִשְׁתָּ֑ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ ה֚וּא עֹבֵ֣ר לְפָנֶ֔יךָ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָה׃ שני ד וְעָשָׂ֤ה יְהֹוָה֙ לָהֶ֔ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֗ה לְסִיח֥וֹן וּלְע֛וֹג מַלְכֵ֥י הָאֱמֹרִ֖י וּלְאַרְצָ֑ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר הִשְׁמִ֖יד אֹתָֽם׃ ה וּנְתָנָ֥ם יְהֹוָ֖ה לִפְנֵיכֶ֑ם וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֣ם לָהֶ֔ם כְּכׇ֨ל־הַמִּצְוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוִּ֖יתִי אֶתְכֶֽם׃ ו חִזְק֣וּ וְאִמְצ֔וּ אַל־תִּֽירְא֥וּ וְאַל־תַּעַרְצ֖וּ מִפְּנֵיהֶ֑ם כִּ֣י ׀ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ ה֚וּא הַהֹלֵ֣ךְ עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹ֥א יַרְפְּךָ֖ וְלֹ֥א יַעַזְבֶֽךָּ׃
31 1 Now Mosheh went and spoke these words to all Yisra’el, 2 he said to them: “A hundred and twenty years old am I today; I am no longer able to go-out and to come-in, and YHVH has said to me: ‘you are not to cross over this Yarden!’ 3 YHVH your elo’ah, he will cross over before you, he will destroy those nations from before you, so that you may dispossess them;[1]The narrative frame of Deuteronomy resumes in Chapter 31, with Moses’ final days. Yehoshua, he will cross over before you, as YHVH has promised.[2]To tie his added appointment of Joshua in vss. 7-8 to Moses’ original oration, Dtr 2 adds that Joshua will lead the Israelites into the land. (This is clearly a gloss since the first part of the verse states that the Lord will defeat the nations – not Joshua.) 4 YHVH will do to them as he did to Siḥon and to Og, the kings of the Emori, and to their land, that he destroyed them. 5 YHVH will give them before you[3]The Lord defeated these nations not Moses or Joshua, in contrast with the gloss to vs. 3. and you will do to them according to all the command that I have commanded you.[4]An allusion to the martial laws of Deuteronomy 20:16-18, which command the annihilation of the resident nations, tying this narrative section with the laws that it is framing. 6 Be strong, be courageous, do not be overawed, do not be terrified before them, for YHVH your elo’ah, he is the one who goes with you, he will not let-go-of you, he will not abandon you!”[5]The nation is commanded to be strong not Joshua who was added here by Dtr 2.

שלישי (חמישי) ז וַיִּקְרָ֨א מֹשֶׁ֜ה לִיהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֵלָ֜יו לְעֵינֵ֣י כׇל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָץ֒ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תָּבוֹא֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְהֹוָ֛ה לַאֲבֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֣ת לָהֶ֑ם וְאַתָּ֖ה תַּנְחִילֶ֥נָּה אוֹתָֽם׃ ח וַיהֹוָ֞ה ה֣וּא ׀ הַהֹלֵ֣ךְ לְפָנֶ֗יךָ ה֚וּא יִהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹ֥א יַרְפְּךָ֖ וְלֹ֣א יַעַזְבֶ֑ךָּ לֹ֥א תִירָ֖א וְלֹ֥א תֵחָֽת׃
7 Then Mosheh called Yehoshua and said to him, before the eyes of all Yisra’el: “Be strong, be courageous, for you yourself will enter with this people the land about which YHVH swore to your fathers, to give them; you yourself will allot-it-as-inheritance to them. 8 And YHVH, he is the one who goes before you, he will be with you; he will not fail you, he will not abandon you; you are not to be overawed, you are not to be shattered!”

ט וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב מֹשֶׁה֮ אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֣ה הַזֹּאת֒ וַֽיִּתְּנָ֗הּ אֶל־הַכֹּֽהֲנִים֙ בְּנֵ֣י לֵוִ֔י הַנֹּ֣שְׂאִ֔ים אֶת־אֲר֖וֹן בְּרִ֣ית יְהֹוָ֑ה וְאֶל־כׇּל־זִקְנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ רביעי י וַיְצַ֥ו מֹשֶׁ֖ה אוֹתָ֣ם לֵאמֹ֑ר מִקֵּ֣ץ ׀ שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֗ים בְּמֹעֵ֛ד שְׁנַ֥ת הַשְּׁמִטָּ֖ה בְּחַ֥ג הַסֻּכּֽוֹת׃ יא בְּב֣וֹא כׇל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֵֽרָאוֹת֙ אֶת־פְּנֵי֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בַּמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִבְחָ֑ר תִּקְרָ֞א אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את נֶ֥גֶד כׇּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּאׇזְנֵיהֶֽם׃ יב הַקְהֵ֣ל אֶת־הָעָ֗ם הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֤ים וְהַנָּשִׁים֙ וְהַטַּ֔ף וְגֵרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶ֑יךָ לְמַ֨עַן יִשְׁמְע֜וּ וּלְמַ֣עַן יִלְמְד֗וּ וְיָֽרְאוּ֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֔ם וְשָֽׁמְר֣וּ לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־כׇּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃ יג וּבְנֵיהֶ֞ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־יָדְע֗וּ יִשְׁמְעוּ֙ וְלָ֣מְד֔וּ לְיִרְאָ֖ה אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם כׇּל־הַיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֤ם חַיִּים֙ עַל־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֜ם עֹבְרִ֧ים אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֛ן שָׁ֖מָּה לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ׃
9 Now Mosheh wrote down this Torah/Instruction and gave it to the kohanim, the Sons of Levi, those carrying the Arōn of the Covenant of YHVH, and to all the elders of Yisra’el. 10 And Mosheh commanded them, saying: “At the end of seven years, at the appointed-time of the Shmitah/Year of Release, on the pilgrimage-festival of Sukkot, 11 when all Yisra’el comes to be seen at the presence of YHVH your elo’ah, at the place that he chooses, you are to proclaim this Torah/Instruction in front of all Yisra’el, in their ears. 12 Assemble the people, the men, the women, and the little-ones, and your sojourner that is in your gates, in order that they may hearken, in order that they may learn and have-awe-for YHVH your elo’ah, to carefully observe all the words of this Torah/Instruction; 13 and (that) their children, who do not know, may hearken and learn to have-awe-for YHVH your elo’ah, all the days that you remain-alive on the fertile-earth that you are crossing over the Yarden to possess.”[6]Dtr 2, sets the stage for the final J section in the Pentateuch by introducing Joshua as the new leader. As we saw in the first chapters of the book, one of Dtr 2’s aim is to harmonize between J and E’s traditions and the book of Deuteronomy which he brings into the Pentateuch. Note also his command to read out the laws once every seven years which coincides with the reading out of the song in the subsequent J section.

חמישי (ששי) יד וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה הֵ֣ן קָרְב֣וּ יָמֶ֘יךָ֮ לָמוּת֒ קְרָ֣א אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וְהִֽתְיַצְּב֛וּ בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וַאֲצַוֶּ֑נּוּ וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ מֹשֶׁה֙ וִיהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֖וּ בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד׃
14 YHVH said to Mosheh: “Here, your days are drawing-near to die. Call Yehoshua and station yourselves at the Ohel Mo’éd, that I may command him.” So Mosheh went, along with Yehoshua, they stationed themselves at the Ohel Mo’éd.

טו וַיֵּרָ֧א יְהֹוָ֛ה בָּאֹ֖הֶל בְּעַמּ֣וּד עָנָ֑ן וַֽיַּעֲמֹ֛ד עַמּ֥וּד הֶעָנָ֖ן עַל־פֶּ֥תַח הָאֹֽהֶל׃ טז וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה הִנְּךָ֥ שֹׁכֵ֖ב עִם־אֲבֹתֶ֑יךָ וְקָם֩ הָעָ֨ם הַזֶּ֜ה וְזָנָ֣ה ׀ אַחֲרֵ֣י ׀ אֱלֹהֵ֣י נֵכַר־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר ה֤וּא בָא־שָׁ֙מָּה֙ בְּקִרְבּ֔וֹ וַעֲזָבַ֕נִי וְהֵפֵר֙ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּרַ֖תִּי אִתּֽוֹ׃ יז וְחָרָ֣ה אַפִּ֣י ב֣וֹ בַיּוֹם־הַ֠ה֠וּא וַעֲזַבְתִּ֞ים וְהִסְתַּרְתִּ֨י פָנַ֤י מֵהֶם֙ וְהָיָ֣ה לֶאֱכֹ֔ל וּמְצָאֻ֛הוּ רָע֥וֹת רַבּ֖וֹת וְצָר֑וֹת וְאָמַר֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא הֲלֹ֗א עַ֣ל כִּי־אֵ֤ין אֱלֹהַי֙ בְּקִרְבִּ֔י מְצָא֖וּנִי הָרָע֥וֹת הָאֵֽלֶּה׃ יח וְאָנֹכִ֗י הַסְתֵּ֨ר אַסְתִּ֤יר פָּנַי֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא עַ֥ל כׇּל־הָרָעָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה כִּ֣י פָנָ֔ה אֶל־אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֲחֵרִֽים׃
15 And YHVH was seen at the Ohel Mo’éd, in a column of cloud, and the column of cloud stood over the entrance to the Ohel Mo’éd. 16 Now YHVH said to Mosheh: “Here, you are about to lie beside your fathers; now this people will proceed to go whoring after the elohim of the foreigner of the land that they are entering in his midst, they will abandon me and violate my covenant that I have cut with them. 17 And my anger will flare up against them on that day. I will abandon them and I will conceal my face from them; (they) will be (ripe) for devouring, and there will befall them many and troubling ills. And they will say on that day: ‘Was it not because my elo’ah was not in my midst (that) there have befallen me these ills?’[7]As in E (Numbers 24:14-25), the final section of J’s Pentateuch is a prophecy of what the future holds. The Lord predicts that the Israelites will worship idols in a direct abrogation of the commandment in Exodus 34:15-17, part of the second covenant between the Lord and the Israelites. Joshua is appointed as the new leader, since Moses is about to die from old age, not because of any sin he committed, (contra P in Numbers 20:12, and. Dtr 2 in Deuteronomy 1:37). 18 But I, I will conceal, yes, conceal my face on that day, because of all the ill that they have done, for they faced-about to other elohim!”

יט וְעַתָּ֗ה כִּתְב֤וּ לָכֶם֙ אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את וְלַמְּדָ֥הּ אֶת־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל שִׂימָ֣הּ בְּפִיהֶ֑ם לְמַ֨עַן תִּהְיֶה־לִּ֜י הַשִּׁירָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את לְעֵ֖ד בִּבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ ששי (שביעי) כ כִּֽי־אֲבִיאֶ֜נּוּ אֶֽל־הָאֲדָמָ֣ה ׀ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֣עְתִּי לַאֲבֹתָ֗יו זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ וְאָכַ֥ל וְשָׂבַ֖ע וְדָשֵׁ֑ן וּפָנָ֞ה אֶל־אֱלֹהִ֤ים אֲחֵרִים֙ וַעֲבָד֔וּם וְנִ֣אֲצ֔וּנִי וְהֵפֵ֖ר אֶת־בְּרִיתִֽי׃ כא וְ֠הָיָ֠ה כִּֽי־תִמְצֶ֨אןָ אֹת֜וֹ רָע֣וֹת רַבּוֹת֮ וְצָרוֹת֒ וְ֠עָנְתָ֠ה הַשִּׁירָ֨ה הַזֹּ֤את לְפָנָיו֙ לְעֵ֔ד כִּ֛י לֹ֥א תִשָּׁכַ֖ח מִפִּ֣י זַרְע֑וֹ כִּ֧י יָדַ֣עְתִּי אֶת־יִצְר֗וֹ אֲשֶׁ֨ר ה֤וּא עֹשֶׂה֙ הַיּ֔וֹם בְּטֶ֣רֶם אֲבִיאֶ֔נּוּ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּֽעְתִּי׃ כב וַיִּכְתֹּ֥ב מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־הַשִּׁירָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֑וּא וַֽיְלַמְּדָ֖הּ אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
19 “But now, write yourselves down this song, teach it to the Children of Yisra’el, putting it in their mouths, in order that this song may be for you as a witness against the Children of Yisra’el. 20 When I bring them to the fertile-earth about which I swore to their fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey, and they eat, and are satisfied, and grow fat, and they face-about to other elohim, and serve them, spurning me and violating my covenant:[8]Vs. 18, is a gloss upon vs. 17, answering the rhetorical question, ‘Have not these troubles come upon us because our God is not in our midst? Vs. 19, offers a different explanation for the reciting of the song – as the Lord’s justification for what he’s doing rather than as comforting the Israelites in J (vs. 21 And when many terrible troubles come upon them, this song will be as a witness to them, because it will not be lost from the mouths of their descendants. This verse, as well vs. 20 (20For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I promised on oath to their ancestors, and they have eaten their fill and grown fat, they will turn to other elohim and serve them, despising me and breaking my covenant.) allude directly to the non J song of Deuteronomy 32, and compare Deuteronomy 32:15: “Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You grew fat, bloated, and gorged! He abandoned God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation” (J’s comforting song appears in chapter 33), and thus are Dtr 2’s addition to help harmonize between the addition of the song and the original J context. 21 it will be, when there befall them many and troubling ills, this song will speak up before their presence as a witness, for it will not be forgotten from the mouths of their seed.[9]See the immediate comment above (on Deuteronomy 31:20), J’s song appears in Deuteronomy 33:25-29. Indeed, I know the plans that they are making today, (even) before I bring them into the land about which I swore!”[10]Dtr 2, once again emphasizes Israel’s sin which plays a big part in Deuteronomy 33, even though J moved on to the comfort motif in the previous verse. 22 So Mosheh wrote down this song on that day, and he taught it to the Children of Yisra’el.[11]Verse 22 concludes the J section and the Yahwistic narrative in the Pentateuch.

כג וַיְצַ֞ו אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֗וּן וַיֹּ֘אמֶר֮ חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָץ֒ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תָּבִיא֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֣עְתִּי לָהֶ֑ם וְאָנֹכִ֖י אֶהְיֶ֥ה עִמָּֽךְ׃
23 Now he commanded Yehoshua son of Nun and said: “Be strong, be courageous, for you will bring the Children of Yisra’el to the land about which I swore to them; and I myself will be-there with you.”[12]This verse doesn’t really fit well with the previous verse which deals with the song, and the subsequent verse which deals with the writing of the law, and thus was likely added by Dtr 2, and the glosses’ affinity with Dtr 2’s addition to vs. 3.

כד וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כְּכַלּ֣וֹת מֹשֶׁ֗ה לִכְתֹּ֛ב אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הַתּוֹרָֽה־הַזֹּ֖את עַל־סֵ֑פֶר עַ֖ד תֻּמָּֽם׃ שביעי כה וַיְצַ֤ו מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶת־הַלְוִיִּ֔ם נֹ֥שְׂאֵ֛י אֲר֥וֹן בְּרִית־יְהֹוָ֖ה לֵאמֹֽר׃ כו לָקֹ֗חַ אֵ֣ת סֵ֤פֶר הַתּוֹרָה֙ הַזֶּ֔ה וְשַׂמְתֶּ֣ם אֹת֔וֹ מִצַּ֛ד אֲר֥וֹן בְּרִית־יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה־שָׁ֥ם בְּךָ֖ לְעֵֽד׃ כז כִּ֣י אָנֹכִ֤י יָדַ֙עְתִּי֙ אֶֽת־מֶרְיְךָ֔ וְאֶֽת־עׇרְפְּךָ֖ הַקָּשֶׁ֑ה הֵ֣ן בְּעוֹדֶ֩נִּי֩ חַ֨י עִמָּכֶ֜ם הַיּ֗וֹם מַמְרִ֤ים הֱיִתֶם֙ עִם־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְאַ֖ף כִּי־אַחֲרֵ֥י מוֹתִֽי׃ מפטיר כח הַקְהִ֧ילוּ אֵלַ֛י אֶת־כׇּל־זִקְנֵ֥י שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֖ם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶ֑ם וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה בְאׇזְנֵיהֶ֗ם אֵ֚ת הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְאָעִ֣ידָה בָּ֔ם אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ כט כִּ֣י יָדַ֗עְתִּי אַחֲרֵ֤י מוֹתִי֙ כִּֽי־הַשְׁחֵ֣ת תַּשְׁחִת֔וּן וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוִּ֖יתִי אֶתְכֶ֑ם וְקָרָ֨את אֶתְכֶ֤ם הָרָעָה֙ בְּאַחֲרִ֣ית הַיָּמִ֔ים כִּֽי־תַעֲשׂ֤וּ אֶת־הָרַע֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה לְהַכְעִיס֖וֹ בְּמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יְדֵיכֶֽם׃ ל וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר מֹשֶׁ֗ה בְּאׇזְנֵי֙ כׇּל־קְהַ֣ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־דִּבְרֵ֥י הַשִּׁירָ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את עַ֖ד תֻּמָּֽם׃
24 And it was, when Mosheh had finished writing down the words of this Torah/Instruction in a document, until they were ended, 25 Mosheh commanded the Levi’im, those carrying the Arōn of the Covenant of YHVH, saying: 26 “Take this Sefer haTorah/document of Instruction and place it beside the Arōn of the Covenant of YHVH your elo’ah, let it be there among you as a witness. 27 For I myself know your rebelliousness, and your hard neck; here, while I am yet alive with you today, you have been rebellious against YHVH — even (more) so after my death! 28 Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officials, that I may speak in their ears these words, that I may call-to-witness against them the heavens and the earth. 29 For I know: after my death, indeed, you will wreak ruin, yes, ruin, turning-aside from the way that I have commanded you, and calling down upon yourselves evil in future days; for you will do what is evil in the eyes of YHVH, vexing him through the doings of your hands!” 30 So Mosheh spoke in the ears of the entire assembly of Yisra’el the words of this song, until they were ended:[13]Dtr 1’s introduction to the poetic section of Deuteronomy 32, which deals with Israel’s rebellion once they come into the land. Right after Dtr 1, concludes the giving of the law at the beginning of the chapter and here (note the fracture between vs. 22, 23, and 24, as was noted in the above comment), Moses recites this final poetic section. Dtr 2 “buffers” between Dtr 1’s song tradition and the J text by adding glosses throughout verses 14-23.

The Masoretic text presented here is from Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish’s Miqra al pi ha-Mesorah. For the translation in English, I have adapted the translation of Everett Fox in the Schocken Bible (1997), mostly to re-Hebraize divine names, place names, and personal names. Instead of “soil” for adamah, I say “fertile-earth” (as distinct from arets — earth, which includes non-arable land). Aside from these, I have made minor punctuation changes.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. The narrative frame of Deuteronomy resumes in Chapter 31, with Moses’ final days.
  2. To tie his added appointment of Joshua in vss. 7-8 to Moses’ original oration, Dtr 2 adds that Joshua will lead the Israelites into the land. (This is clearly a gloss since the first part of the verse states that the Lord will defeat the nations – not Joshua.)
  3. The Lord defeated these nations not Moses or Joshua, in contrast with the gloss to vs. 3.
  4. An allusion to the martial laws of Deuteronomy 20:16-18, which command the annihilation of the resident nations, tying this narrative section with the laws that it is framing.
  5. The nation is commanded to be strong not Joshua who was added here by Dtr 2.
  6. Dtr 2, sets the stage for the final J section in the Pentateuch by introducing Joshua as the new leader. As we saw in the first chapters of the book, one of Dtr 2’s aim is to harmonize between J and E’s traditions and the book of Deuteronomy which he brings into the Pentateuch. Note also his command to read out the laws once every seven years which coincides with the reading out of the song in the subsequent J section.
  7. As in E (Numbers 24:14-25), the final section of J’s Pentateuch is a prophecy of what the future holds. The Lord predicts that the Israelites will worship idols in a direct abrogation of the commandment in Exodus 34:15-17, part of the second covenant between the Lord and the Israelites. Joshua is appointed as the new leader, since Moses is about to die from old age, not because of any sin he committed, (contra P in Numbers 20:12, and. Dtr 2 in Deuteronomy 1:37).
  8. Vs. 18, is a gloss upon vs. 17, answering the rhetorical question, ‘Have not these troubles come upon us because our God is not in our midst? Vs. 19, offers a different explanation for the reciting of the song – as the Lord’s justification for what he’s doing rather than as comforting the Israelites in J (vs. 21 And when many terrible troubles come upon them, this song will be as a witness to them, because it will not be lost from the mouths of their descendants. This verse, as well vs. 20 (20For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I promised on oath to their ancestors, and they have eaten their fill and grown fat, they will turn to other elohim and serve them, despising me and breaking my covenant.) allude directly to the non J song of Deuteronomy 32, and compare Deuteronomy 32:15: “Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You grew fat, bloated, and gorged! He abandoned God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation” (J’s comforting song appears in chapter 33), and thus are Dtr 2’s addition to help harmonize between the addition of the song and the original J context.
  9. See the immediate comment above (on Deuteronomy 31:20), J’s song appears in Deuteronomy 33:25-29.
  10. Dtr 2, once again emphasizes Israel’s sin which plays a big part in Deuteronomy 33, even though J moved on to the comfort motif in the previous verse.
  11. Verse 22 concludes the J section and the Yahwistic narrative in the Pentateuch.
  12. This verse doesn’t really fit well with the previous verse which deals with the song, and the subsequent verse which deals with the writing of the law, and thus was likely added by Dtr 2, and the glosses’ affinity with Dtr 2’s addition to vs. 3.
  13. Dtr 1’s introduction to the poetic section of Deuteronomy 32, which deals with Israel’s rebellion once they come into the land. Right after Dtr 1, concludes the giving of the law at the beginning of the chapter and here (note the fracture between vs. 22, 23, and 24, as was noted in the above comment), Moses recites this final poetic section. Dtr 2 “buffers” between Dtr 1’s song tradition and the J text by adding glosses throughout verses 14-23.

Comments, Corrections, and Queries


בסיעתא דארעא