Saturday, June 27, 2009

Devarim Is Just Different (Part 1)

I would like this blog to become a resource of sorts for textual errors, contradictions and mistakes. Not because you can't get some of this information elsewhere (check the right bar if you're not sure) but because most resources online are not comprehensive, not built for Jews (what do I care about contradictions in the New Testament?) or don't package the information effectively enough.

Rather than starting from scratch, I asked David A. if I can post his exhaustive list of differences between Devarim and the rest of Chumash on my blog, and he has graciously agreed.

Note that there are both disadvantages and advantages to making a list of discrepancies. The disadvantage is that we humans tend to lump things together. Too much information presented at once is seen as less convincing, just as statistics about high casualties are less touching than a single human story. On the other hand, presenting a single problem at a time is too time consuming and easier to kvetch, since the kvethcer doesn't need to make his kvetch work with all the other information. The ideal way to go through this list is one problem at a time, letting it build up so one realizes the gargantuan nature of the problem and indeed, how clear it is that the text is multi-authored. I hope to be able to focus on specific issues in the future.

David A: When i did this exercise (and it took months to complete) i broke the exercise it into 2 parts.

A. A posuk by posuk review of Devarim vs the corresponding (if any) in Shemot, Vayikra and Bamidbar.

B. A general summary of the hashkofot of D vs rest of Chumash (ROC).

The meforshim have many explanation, some sensible, some so lame you wonder if they believed them themselves.

Deut 1:1
The first posuk has several oddities:

1. The term "Ever Hayarden" would only be used by someone writing the text and physically sitting on the opposite side of where the action is taking place. So if the writer calls the east bank “Ever Hayarden” then obviously he was standing on the west bank when he wrote these words. And that makes sense for the hypothesis that Devarim was written by a resident of the land. He would refer to Moshe, who at the time was on the east bank as being at Ever Hayardein. (Obviouly the author didn't realize he was giving himself away at the time he write it, or maybe he didn't think that his text would be attributed to God or Moshe by later generations.)

2. The places listed in the text are not mentioned anywhere else in Nach.

3. The next oddity in this verse (and also in the rest of the core of Devarim) is that the most important geographic name in Chumash, i.e. Sinai, is missing. This verse, as throughout the narratives in D, always calls the mountain Choreb.

4. This is our first contradiction. As Rashi points out and calculates from the text in the prior account, (Num 10:11) it actually only took the Israelites three days to travel from Sinai/Khoreb to Kadesh, an obvious contradiction to the verse here, that specifies a travel time of eleven days.
Note: The commentaries reconcile this by saying that although the actual distance between these two points as measured by a normal travel time is eleven days, and that, by a miracle the Israelites accomplished this trip in only three days. But one would expect that such a miracle would be have been reported.

Deut 1:6-8 In these verses we find several minor points of difference worth mentioning and one outright contradiction to other texts in Chumash.

5. Nothing that resembles the quote in verse 6 appears previously, anywhere.

6. The name “Amorite mountain”, as a place name is never mentioned previously.
Some commentators say it is not a place name but it refers to the mountainous region wherein the Amorites dwelled. Still it is unique to Devarim.

7. Neither the name Lebanon nor the Euphrates is found anywhere in the previous wilderness passages. .

8. Contradiction: the text seems to imply here the Euphrates River is to become one of the borders of the Promised Land. However the borders of the future Land of Israel had already been delineated in Num 34:1-15 and the territory of Israel as defined in that text clearly was not to extend so far east.

Deut 1:9-18 Appointment of Elders and Judges
Verses 1:9-18 provide the first repeated event in the wilderness experience that is retold in Deut. And it appears to correspond to the incident that resulted in Moshe appointing judges and leaders to assist him in his leadership and adjudication roles. The corresponding passage for this is found in Ex. 18:13-27.

9. Before comparing the passages between Deut & Ex., it is important to note the text of verse 1:9 I said to you at the time, saying “I cannot carry you alone”…… The phraseology in this verse is also found in Num. 11:14, which apparently is a different incident, implying that the passages here in Deut. is likely a confluence of 2 separate events.

In any case, assuming that Moshe here is referring to the incident of the appointment of judges in Exodus, and comparing the text in D with Ex 18:13-27, we find the following notable differences:

10. In D, Moshe recognizes (on his own) that he needs help in his leadership role and in administering justice for the people. In Ex., it is Yitro that brings it to Moshe’s attention.

11. In D, Moshe recommends to the people to appoint “Shoftim” (translated as judges or tribal leaders) and “Shotrim” (translated as officers). Yitro is not mentioned in the narrative at all. In Ex., Yitro recommends to Moshe to appoint “Shoftim” (translated as judges or tribal leaders) with certain leadership capabilities. No mention is made of tribal officers (“shotrim”)

12. In D, The people agree to the plan. In Ex., no mention is made that the people are consulted.

13. The qualifications for being selected are defined quite differently.

14. In D, Moshe instructs the new judges. In Ex., no instructions are given.

Deut 1:19 As Hashem our God, commanded us and we came to Kadesh-barnea.

15. Since the text that follows this passage is the story of the spies, which was likely initiated from outside the Land, it would appear then, that the place name Kadesh-barnea mentioned here is outside the territory of Israel. This contradicts Num 34:4 which situates Kadesh-Barnea inside the future boundaries of the Land.

Deut 1:22-44: The Spies
This passage now has moshe retelling the mission of the 12 spies. While the basic elements parallel the previous depiction in Num. 13-14, a closer reading easily reveals several seeming contradictions, dozens of details that don’t match, as well as omission of elements that are important yet not retold.


16. In Devarim, the Mission is proposed by the People to Moshe vs by God in the Numbers-version.

17. In Devarim, the scope and purpose of mission is more limited (seems only a military scouting party) vs a more extensive tour in purpose and territory to be covered in the Numbers-version.

18. In Devarim, the definition of the mission in (Hebrew) va-yachperu and then later va-yeraglu (Deut. 1:24) vs v’yesuru (likely means different purposes)

19. In Devarim, the conscripts are 12 seemingly ordinary men vs 12 “distinguished men/leaders”. This prominence is emphasized in the text twice and the individuals are named giving them even more prominence.

20. In Devarim, the actual destination and itinerary is stated that the spies ascended the “Mountain” (likely, Har Emori) until arriving at Nachal Eshkol. The text seems to imply only one destination. The text in Numbers seems to imply that the spies covered at least five territories.

21. Upon return, the recipient of the spies’ report is the people, vs Moses and Aaron in Numbers.

22. In Devarim, the sequence of events upon the spies’ return is very different in detail from the version in Numbers.

23. In the Post episode war, the Israelites are beaten by the Amorites vs by Canaanites and Amalekites in Numbers.

- In addition there are several important elements in the Numbers-version that are omitted in Devarim:

24. Aaron is ignored in Devarim (which is consistent with all of Devarim)

25. Joshua is not mentioned in Devarim as one of the spies

26. The post incident plague is not mentioned in Devarim

27. In Devarim no mention is made that God wanted to destroy the people

28. In fact Moshe’s entire dialogue with God post incident, is not even referenced.

Deut 1:37 has Moshe saying: “with me as well, God became angry because of you saying: you too shall not come there”.

So it is quite clear that because Moshe sent the spies he will be punished with not getting to lead the people into the Land.

29. This statement is not in the Numbers version.
30. This statement is overtly contradicted by Num 20:12 which tells us that Moshe's punishment of not entering the Land was because of the hitting the rock to extract water 38 years later.

31. Numbers 3 and 4 describe the separation of the Levites for the priesthood and temple service (including care of the ark of testimony) while the Israelites were camped at Mt. Sinai in the second year after the exodus, but Deut 10:7-8 claims that the separation of the Levites occurred at a place called Jotbathah: "From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water. At that time Jehovah set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, to stand before Jehovah to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day."

32. Deut 10:6 records the death of Aaron, who died "in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt" (Num. 33:38); hence, this passage also claims that the separation of the Levites took place 38 years after the account in Numbers 3 and 4.

Deut. 2:2-8 The encounter with descendants of Esau
The Seir region was populated by the descendants of Esau, who is also called Edom. Thus, this passage would seem to correspond to the report of the event as given in Num 20:14-21.

There are several differences and some, albeit minor, contradictions.

33. In D, Moshe says God told him …, in N there is no mention that God told Moshe anything concerning Seir and the text seems to indicate that Moshe acted on his own initiative.

34. In D, there is a specific command from God not to antagonize Edom (i.e. Seir). There is no such directive in N.

35. In D, the text says “they will fear you”, while in N it is clear that the Israelites are the ones that fear Edom. The text clearly says that the Edomites chased off the B"Y.

36. In D, God advises Moshe to request passage and the purchase of provisions, while in N, Moshe (no mention of advice from God) asks the king simply for passage promising not to touch anything, but later promises to pay for any damages.

Deut 2:10-25 The encounter with Moab and Ammon
Moshe recalls a warning that God gives him about BY not harassing Moab and Ammon. Differences are:

37. There is no such incident in the earlier part of Chumash, except a short verse (Num 21:24) that states that BY stayed away from Ammon because they were deemed too strong.

38. The contradictory nature of this passage is that in D, God talks about a friendly relation with Moab, in total contrast to the problems B"Y had with Moab. See Num. chapters 22-24.

Deut 2:26-37 The War with Sihon (& the Amorites)
This appears to correspond to Num 21:21. The stories are very similar.

The details provide in the comparative passages have some minor differences, enough to be notable, although not necessarily contradictory.

39. In D the text goes out of its way to describe the destruction and the booty as a result of the war. There is no indication of any specific booty mentioned in the N version, except to say that the Israelites won the battle and occupied the land controlled by Sihon.

Deut 3:1-7 The War with Og (& the Amorites)
Moshe recounts the victorious battle against Og and his Amorite people. This corresponds to the event and passage as given in Num. 21:33-35. The text in D (verses 1 to 3) parallels very closely the text as given in Numbers. But as in every other “repeated” section in D, there are minor variations.

40. Moshe elaborates a little more on the events and provides additional details (verse 5 to 11), particularly mentioning some very odd observations about Og.

41. In Num. 32:34 it says that Aroer was built by the tribe of Gad after the land was captured from the Amorites.

Deut 3:21-22 says I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, “your eyes have seen everything that Hashem , your God, has done to these two kings, so will Hashem do to all the kings where you cross over. You shall not fear them, your God – He will wage war for you"

42. In the corresponding accounts as given in Num. 27:18, it is at this point that God, in response to Moshe’s complaint about leaving the people leaderless, tells Moshe to formally appoint Joshua to succeed him. This "induction ceremony” is not mentioned in D.

43. On the other hand, D doesn’t recount the great victory that the Israelites had over the Midianites, after the Bilaam incident (Num. 31:1-12), and just prior to Moshe’s demise. The text (Deut. 4:3) does, however, recall the punishment that the Israelites received for worshipping the “Baal Peor” , the incident that provoked the war with Midianites.

44. Also, D does not indicate here why God was angry at Moses “At that time”.

Deut 3:26-29 Hashem said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter. Ascend to the top of the cliff……But you shall command Joshua etc.

These verses, together with the three earlier ones, seem to correspond to a similar conversation that Moshe has with God, found in (Num. 27:12-23). The basic content of these comparative passages is the same.

Because Moshe is not destined to enter Eretz Canaan, God tells Moshe to go up to some heights to be able to view the Land, and that Joshua will become the new leader of the people. This dialogue is followed by the formal appointment of Joshua as leader.

However, when examining the details of the event and the language at least seven differences are readily found:

45. Moshe pleads with God to let him see the Promised Land. (Moshe uses the term “Good Land”, terminology never found in the ROC. ) No such pleading is reported in the ROC.

46. Moshe says that God was angry at him because of the people. However, no reason is given. God reminds Moshe that he “rebelled” against God at Meribah, the well-water incident.

47. Note that this is a possible internal D contradiction with 1:37.

48. Moshe reports that at that time God admonished him not to make this request ever again. No such admonishment is mentioned

49. God instructs Moshe to go up the mountain of Abarim to view the land.
No mention of any complaint by Moshe of potentially “leaderless” people..

50. Moshe complains to God that if he is to die soon, the people will be left without a “shepherd”.
God instructs Moshe to appoint Joshua as his successor. The language used to describe this aspect of the story differs substantively from that in found in Numbers.

51. No mention is made of Elazar’s involvement (consistent with D’s desire to minimize the importance of the Kehuna and the Ohel Mo-ed). Elazar (the High Priest) and Moshe, anoint Joshua as leader in/near the Ohel Mo-ed.

Deut. 4:10 to 4:13 Revelation at Sinai and the Decalogue
Moshe describes the lead up to “matan Torah”, corresponding to Ex. 19. The depiction has a few differences.

52. The elaborate preparation depicted in Ex. is left out.

53. The description of the mountain in Deut 4:11 is different than in Ex.

Deut 4:12 “Hashem spoke to you from the midst of the fire”.

54. This latter phrase is repeated often in D, as is not found in Ex.

Deut 4:21 “Hashem became angry with me because of you, and He swore that I would not cross the Jordan”

55. As this verse is part of a continuation of text re-telling events at Sinai, a literal reading implies that God became angry at Moshe because of the events at Sinai. No such characterization is found anywhere else.

Deut. 4:41-42 Sanctuary Cities
Moshe sets aside aside three cities on the bank of the Jordan as safe heaven for person accused of accidental murder.

56. The sudden digression and placement of these verses is odd and the text switches from first-person Moshe to third-person Moshe

57. This passage contradicts text in the Book of Joshua (20:7) that says Joshua built these cities.

Deut. 5:6 to 5:17 The Decalogue
Moshe here repeats the “Ten Words (Aseret Hadibrot)”.

58. The text in D of the Aseret Hadibrot has over one dozen variations from the same text in Exodus 20 with only one (the reason for keeping Shabbat) of these dissimilarities having possibly any substantive meaning. Which text was the official version kept in the "Aron"?

Deut: 6:22. Moshe reminds the people of the wonderous escape from Egypt.

59. Oddity. No mention of the famous Ten Plagues is found in D.

Deut 7:1 Moshe mentions the nations of that will be displaced in the Promised land.
60. Moshe lists 7 nations here. Everywhere else in the Chumash, the textual list is only six nations

Deut. 8:2 “You shall remember the entire road on which Hashem, your God, led you these forty years in the Wilderness so as to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would observe His commandments or not.

61. This passage seems to contradict Num. 14 , which clearly states that the journey in the desert for forty years was as a punishment for the lack of trust in God during the incident of the “Twelve Spies”.

Deut. 9:8 to 9:21 The Golden Calf
Generally the passage in D is quite similar (for a change) in terminologies and details. However, there are a few important differences. The major ones that differ from the depiction in Ex. 32 are:

62. Nowhere does it state in the D version that the B"Y actually worshiped (bowed and offered up sacrifices) the calf.

63. Aaron’s role is left out (consistent with D’s ignoring him almost completely in the entire book), except to mention that Moshe prayed for him, but for why is not stated.

64. Role of tribe of levi is not reported.

65. The punishing plague, post incident, is not mentioned. This is consistent with D never mentioning divine “plagues” as punishments in contradistinction to the rest of Chumash having at least a half dozens plagues inflicted on B"Y.

66. Moshe's dialogue with God is hardly recounted.

Deut 10:1-3 The Cedar wood Ark
Moshe builds an ark to house the tablets of Aseret Hadibrot. This is one of the most remarkable contradiction to the rest of Chumash.

67. Absolutely no mention is made in Devarim of the elaborate construction of the Sanctuary and particularly of the gold plated ark to house the tablets.

68. Nowhere is it reported in Exodus that Moshe built such a "simple" ark.

Deut 10:6 “The children of Israel journeyed from Beeroth-bene-jaakan to Moseroah”

69. Text contradicts Num 33:31.

Deut 10:4 “And what he did to the army of Egypt, to its horses and its riders, over whom He swept the waters of Sea of Reeds when they pursued you”.

70. Why does Moshe not mention the splitting of the Sea?

Deut 10:6 “And what he did to Dathan and Aviram the sons of Eliab, when the earth opened its mouth wide and swallowed them, and their households, and their tents”.

71. The rebellion of Korach (Num. 16:1 to 17:15) and Datan and Aviram is one of the longest passages about any particular episode in the Chumash. Yet the story receives only a passing reference in D.

72. In N the entire incident is reported as being mostly instigated and led by Korakh. Why is there no mention of Korakh when recalling the event?