Torah Study Notes 1-24-15

NOTICE TO READERS. THESE NOTES ARE TO BE READ IN CONJUNCTION WITH PLAUT’S THE TORAH – A MODERN COMMENTARY

January 24, 2015, page 408 The plagues continued. Now we are at the account of the 10th plague.

10:24 Negotiations over the terms of letting the people go. P wants them to leave their flocks behind but Moses refuses. A great dramatic scene here where P says “…take care not to see me again, for the moment you look upon my face you shall die.” And Moses replied, “You have spoken rightly. I shall not see your face again.” There are undertones of the scene of Abraham and the burning bush where Abraham is enjoined not to look upon the face of God. P considers himself to be a God.

11:1 Now God tells Moses what will happen. LL: I have recently been reading Schniedewind’s book How the Bible Became a Book wherein he addresses when certain Books were written.( http://www.jhsonline.org/reviews/review172.htm) He also recites a conflict between the proponents of  orality and the written word. He links this conflict to the Josianic Reforms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah) and the writing of Deuteronomy – which effectively circumscribed the authority of the monarchy. “When the king has taken the throne of his kingdom he shall have a copy of this Torah written for him in the presence of the Levitical priests.” (Deut. 17:18) PG: It is very difficult to tell when things were actually written based on any kind of stylistic analysis. Some things are purposely written in an anarchic style. See: David Aarons,  Etched in Stone. (http://www.jhsonline.org/reviews/reviews_new/review269.htm)

see p 98 (Gen: 15-13) re God’s promise to Abram “Know now that your descendants shall be strangers in a land not theirs; they shall be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years.” This is remarkably prescient and gives rise to speculation as to the story of Moses being an elaboration of this text – or the possibility that the text was inserted into Genesis at a later date. The promise is fulfilled by Moses -who has the responsibility of carrying it out. Note the word “please” or “na” in the Hebrew which does not appear in the translation. The suggestion is that here Moses is not commanded but asked. Moses must take responsibility. This relates to the original covenant which is clearly a two way street: God has certain functions and Abraham and his descendants have certain functions. Note that P had no sense of responsibility and in that way had no real connection with his people.

The 10th plague is the one that works – all else has been prologue. Up until now Israel has done nothing but now they are called upon to borrow gold etc from the Egyptians. This is extraordinary. The issue suddenly becomes not what God will do but what the people are willing to do in order to establish their freedom.

11:4 The first born shall die – and there shall be a loud cry in the land of Egypt such as will never been and  shall never be again.” LL:  Does this fit into our concepts of justice? PG: What is the penalty of enslaving a people for no good reasons.? LL: This is violence that would not have been acceptable to MLK Jr. But to what extent is the center moved by the action of extremism? CL: The real power leading to civil rights was the morality of the American people. PG: See the work of Taylor Branch on the civil rights movement. The model is not just Gandhi – it is also Exodus. It has been said that “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” That was the way the Johnson used Selma. The Voting Rights Act had to be proposed in Congress. Johnson ws concerned about his legacy and recognized that he could do something that would change the future. The Israelites never take up swords but they do confront power.

11:8 And he left P’s presence in hot anger…

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