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Tina M. Sherman





After the Golden Calf, Is the Covenant Renewed with a Ritual Decalogue?





APA e-journal

Tina M. Sherman





After the Golden Calf, Is the Covenant Renewed with a Ritual Decalogue?








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After the Golden Calf, Is the Covenant Renewed with a Ritual Decalogue?

YHWH instructs Moses to carve a second set of tablets and come up the mountain (Exodus 34). YHWH then presents a set of laws, including: Don’t intermarry with the Canaanites; don’t make idols; and do observe Matzot, Shabbat, Shavuot, Ingathering, and Passover. What is the nature of this collection of laws?


After the Golden Calf, Is the Covenant Renewed with a Ritual Decalogue?

Moses breaking the tablets of the law; Israelites worshiping the golden calf. f.262v-263r, Bible illustration, 1445. NYPL

After Moses destroys the first set of tablets in anger over the Golden Calf incident (Exod 32), YHWH instructs Moses to ascend Mount Sinai again with a new set of tablets upon which YHWH will reinscribe the laws:

שמות לד:א וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה פְּסָל־לְךָ שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים וְכָתַבְתִּי עַל הַלֻּחֹת אֶת הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ עַל הַלֻּחֹת הָרִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר שִׁבַּרְתָּ. לד:ב וֶהְיֵה נָכוֹן לַבֹּקֶר וְעָלִיתָ בַבֹּקֶר אֶל הַר סִינַי וְנִצַּבְתָּ לִי שָׁם עַל רֹאשׁ הָהָר.
Exod 34:1 YHWH said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke. 34:2 Be ready in the morning and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain.[1]

Moses goes up the mountain with the tablets (vv. 3–4), and YHWH descends and reveals to him the 13 attributes (vv. 5–7). Moses then asks for forgiveness for Israel (vv. 8–9) and YHWH responds by declaring (seemingly for the first time)[2] that He will make a covenant with Israel:

שמות לד:י וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת בְּרִית נֶגֶד כָּל עַמְּךָ אֶעֱשֶׂה נִפְלָאֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא נִבְרְאוּ בְכָל הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל הַגּוֹיִם וְרָאָה כָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בְקִרְבּוֹ אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה יְ־הוָה כִּי נוֹרָא הוּא אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי עֹשֶׂה עִמָּךְ.
Exod 34:10 He said, “I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth or in any nation, and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of YHWH, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”

At this point, YHWH delivers a set of laws focusing on separating from the Canaanites and a festival and ritual calendar (vv. 11–26; more on this later). YHWH then commands Moses to write these laws down as the words of the covenant:

שמות לד:כז וַיֹּאמֶר יְ־הוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה כְּתָב־לְךָ אֶת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה כִּי עַל פִּי הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה כָּרַתִּי אִתְּךָ בְּרִית וְאֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל.
Exod 34:27 YHWH said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

The passage ends with a statement identifying these laws as עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים, “the ten commandments/statements” or Decalogue:[3]

שׁמות לד:כח וַיְהִי שָׁם עִם יְ־הוָה אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה לֶחֶם לֹא אָכַל וּמַיִם לֹא שָׁתָה וַיִּכְתֹּב עַל הַלֻּחֹת אֵת דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים.
Exod 34:28 He was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Although the narrative describes itself as a covenant renewal, the laws that YHWH gives Moses are not those presented in the first covenant. Source critical scholars suggest that the core of Exodus 34 was originally an independent covenant ceremony that was edited into its current position, with the tablets presented as replacements of those destroyed in the Golden Calf story.

The Two Decalogues

Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918) suggested that there were originally two Decalogues, each serving as the law text for an account of the theophany:

J’s Ritual (or Cultic) Decalogue, given this name by scholars because it addresses issues of cultic requirements and rituals.[4]

E’s Ethical Decalogue, which begins with exclusive worship of YHWH, but focuses primarily on issues of moral and ethical behavior.[5]

When J and E were edited together, J’s theophany was integrated with E’s (in Exod 19),[6] but its Ritual Decalogue was shifted and edited to fit its new setting as a covenant renewal ceremony (Exod 34), leaving E’s Ethical Decalogue in the Sinai theophany.[7] Attributing Exodus 34 to J solves the documentary problem of J’s missing legal collection, making it consistent with the other documentary sources.

A close reading of Exodus 34, however, shows that it includes several parallels to the Covenant Collection (Exod 21–23), and post-Deuteronomic additions and adjustments, as a verse-by-verse review will demonstrate.

The Ritual Decalogue, Verse-by-Verse

Canaanites—YHWH introduces the laws with a promise to remove the natives from the land:

שמות לד:יא שְׁמָר־לְךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם הִנְנִי גֹרֵשׁ מִפָּנֶיךָ אֶת הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי.
Exod 34:11 Observe what I command you today. See, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

If YHWH is removing the inhabitants, why then does the next verse—the first law—warn Israel not to make a covenant with the Canaanites?

שמות לד:יב הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן תִּכְרֹת בְּרִית לְיוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בָּא עָלֶיהָ פֶּן יִהְיֶה לְמוֹקֵשׁ בְּקִרְבֶּךָ.
Exod 34:12 Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you.[8]

As scholars have long noted, early sources assume that the land is filled with natives, while later, Deuteronomistic sources present Joshua as removing them all.[9] this suggests that the opening verse is a Deuteronomistic expansion,[10] as is the next verse:

שמות לד:יג כִּי אֶת מִזְבְּחֹתָם תִּתֹּצוּן וְאֶת מַצֵּבֹתָם תְּשַׁבֵּרוּן וְאֶת אֲשֵׁרָיו תִּכְרֹתוּן.
Exod 34:13 Rather, you shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles.

The law may draw on Deuteronomy 7, as it presents the command to destroy the Canaanite altars, pillars, and sacred posts in the same order:[11]

דברים ז:ה כִּי אִם כֹּה תַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם מִזְבְּחֹתֵיהֶם תִּתֹּצוּ וּמַצֵּבֹתָם תְּשַׁבֵּרוּ וַאֲשֵׁירֵהֶם תְּגַדֵּעוּן וּפְסִילֵיהֶם תִּשְׂרְפוּן בָּאֵשׁ.
Deut 7:5 But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire.

A Jealous God—The next verse explains why the Canaanite cult sites must be destroyed:

שמות לד:יד כִּי לֹא תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לְאֵל אַחֵר כִּי יְ־הוָה קַנָּא שְׁמוֹ אֵל קַנָּא הוּא.
Exod 34:14 For you shall worship no other god, because YHWH, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Here we have a parallel to the Ethical Decalogue, which also prohibits worship of other gods due to YHWH’s jealousy:

שמות כ:ג לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל פָּנָי... כ:ה לֹא תִשְׁתַּחְוֶה לָהֶם וְלֹא תָעָבְדֵם כִּי אָנֹכִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵל קַנָּא...
Exod 20:3 You shall have no other gods before me…. 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I YHWH your God am a jealous God.

Wellhausen posited that this prohibition against worshipping other gods was originally the first law of J’s Ritual Decalogue, while the material that precedes it was a later addition.[12]

Intermarriage with Canaanites—The passage then returns to the problem of mixing with Canaanites:

שמות לד:טו פֶּן תִּכְרֹת בְּרִית לְיוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ וְזָנוּ אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶם וְזָבְחוּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם וְקָרָא לְךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ מִזִּבְחוֹ. לד:טז וְלָקַחְתָּ מִבְּנֹתָיו לְבָנֶיךָ וְזָנוּ בְנֹתָיו אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן וְהִזְנוּ אֶת בָּנֶיךָ אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן.
Exod 34:15 You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice, 34:16 and you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.

These verses again may draw on language and themes in Deuteronomy 7:

דברים ז:ג וְלֹא תִתְחַתֵּן בָּם בִּתְּךָ לֹא תִתֵּן לִבְנוֹ וּבִתּוֹ לֹא תִקַּח לִבְנֶךָ. ז:ד כִּי יָסִיר אֶת בִּנְךָ מֵאַחֲרַי וְעָבְדוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים.
Deut 7:3 Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 7:4 for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods.

Rejection of idols—Next the laws turn to prohibition of making idols:

שמות לד:יז אֱלֹהֵי מַסֵּכָה לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ.
Exod 34:17 You shall not make cast idols.

This is a second parallel to the Ethical Decalogue:

שמות כ:ד לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה לְךָ פֶסֶל וְכָל תְּמוּנָה אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וַאֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ מִתַָּחַת וַאֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ.
Exod 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.

This prohibition against making idols connects thematically with the prohibition against worship other gods (v. 14), leading Wellhausen to suggest that this was the second law of the original Ritual Decalogue. Thus, only verses 14 and 17 in this section of chapter are attributed to J.[13] The remaining material (vv. 11–13 and 15–16) is generally regarded as postdeuteronomic expansions.[14]

The Ritual Decalogue’s Festival Calendar

The rest of the Ritual Decalogue deals with the Israelite festival calendar and other ritual requirements. These laws are very close to the festival calendar and ritual laws found in the Covenant Collection (Exod 21–23), but the Ritual Decalogue also includes expansions or deviations that connect its laws to other biblical legal compositions.[15]

Matzot—The first festival is Matzot (Unleavened Bread), which was originally unconnected to Passover:

שמות לד:יח אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת תִּשְׁמֹר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצּוֹת אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ לְמוֹעֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב כִּי בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב יָצָאתָ מִמִּצְרָיִם.
Exod 34:18 You shall keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.

This law is nearly identical to the Matzot law in the Covenant Collection, with only slight variation in the phrasing about the exodus from Egypt:[16]

שמות כג:טו אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת תִּשְׁמֹר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצּוֹת כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ לְמוֹעֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב כִּי בוֹ יָצָאתָ מִמִּצְרָיִם וְלֹא יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם.
Exod 23:15 You shall observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed.

The command not to appear empty-handed appears later in the Ritual Decalogue, after its law of the firstborn in the next two verses.

Firstborn—All firstborn animals and children be given to God:

שמות לד:יט כָּל פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם לִי וְכָל מִקְנְךָ תִּזָּכָר פֶּטֶר שׁוֹר וָשֶׂה. לד:כ וּפֶטֶר חֲמוֹר תִּפְדֶּה בְשֶׂה וְאִם לֹא תִפְדֶּה וַעֲרַפְתּוֹ כֹּל בְּכוֹר בָּנֶיךָ תִּפְדֶּה וְלֹא יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם.
Exod 34:19 All that first opens the womb is mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 34:20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. No one shall appear before me empty-handed.

The requirement to offer firstborn animals does not appear in the Covenant Collection.[17] Scholars have argued that Exodus 34:19 either drew on, or was a source for, the firstborn law in Exodus 13:[18]

שׁמות יג:יב וְהַעֲבַרְתָּ כָל פֶּטֶר רֶחֶם לַי־הוָֹה וְכָל פֶּטֶר שֶׁגֶר בְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה לְךָ הַזְּכָרִים לַי־הוָה. יג:יג וְכָל פֶּטֶר חֲמֹר תִּפְדֶּה בְשֶׂה וְאִם לֹא תִפְדֶּה וַעֲרַפְתּוֹ וְכֹל בְּכוֹר אָדָם בְּבָנֶיךָ תִּפְדֶּה.
Exod 13:12 You shall set apart to YHWH all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn offspring of your livestock that are males shall be YHWH’s. 13:13 But every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. Every firstborn male among your children you shall redeem.[19]

Shabbat—The seventh-day rest law is presented as part of the Ritual Decalogue’s festival calendar, implying that it is a festival day and emphasizing its importance, even in the face of economic pressure:

שׁמות לד:כא שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי תִּשְׁבֹּת בֶּחָרִישׁ וּבַקָּצִיר תִּשְׁבֹּת.
Exod 34:21 Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in plowing time and in harvest time you shall rest.

This requirement to abstain from work on the seventh day aligns with Priestly law, which sees Shabbat as a festival and depicts Sabbath observance as representative of the covenant with YHWH.[20]

In contrast, in the Covenant Collection, the seventh-day rest law appears as an independent requirement, not part of the festival calendar, and it emphasizes concern for human and animal welfare as its motive:

שׁמות כג:יב שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲשֶׂה מַעֲשֶׂיךָ וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי תִּשְׁבֹּת לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ שׁוֹרְךָ וַחֲמֹרֶךָ וְיִנָּפֵשׁ בֶּן אֲמָתְךָ וְהַגֵּר.
Exod 23:12 Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest so that your ox and your donkey may have relief and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

Shavuot and Ingathering—In the Covenant Collection, the second festival is חַג הַקָּצִיר, “the Festival of Harvest,” and it occurs at the beginning of the harvest period:

שׁמות כג:טז וְחַג הַקָּצִיר בִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע בַּשָּׂדֶה וְחַג הָאָסִף בְּצֵאת הַשָּׁנָה בְּאָסְפְּךָ אֶת מַעֲשֶׂיךָ מִן הַשָּׂדֶה.
Exod 23:16 You shall observe the Festival of Harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.

In contrast, the Ritual Decalogue calls the second festival חַג שָׁבֻעֹת, “the Festival of Weeks,” aligning with the festival calendars in Deuteronomy (16:9–10) and Leviticus (23:15–16), which situate this festival seven weeks (or fifty days) after the harvest begins:[21]

שׁמות לד:כב וְחַג שָׁבֻעֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה לְךָ בִּכּוּרֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים וְחַג הָאָסִיף תְּקוּפַת הַשָּׁנָה.
Exod 34:22 You shall observe the Festival of Weeks, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

As for the time of Ingathering, it is possible that Exodus 34’s use of “turn” of the year, rather than the Covenant Collection’s “end” of the year, reflects the change from an ancient calendar beginning in autumn to a postexilic calendar beginning in spring.[22]

Pilgrimage—Like the Covenant Collection,[23] Exodus 34 follows Ingathering with a requirement to observe the three pilgrimage festivals:

שׁמות לד:כג שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה יֵרָאֶה כָּל זְכוּרְךָ אֶת פְּנֵי הָאָדֹן יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
Exod 34:23 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord YHWH, the God of Israel.

The next verse, however, has no parallel in the Covenant Collection:

שמות לד:כד כִּי אוֹרִישׁ גּוֹיִם מִפָּנֶיךָ וְהִרְחַבְתִּי אֶת גְּבוּלֶךָ וְלֹא יַחְמֹד אִישׁ אֶת אַרְצְךָ בַּעֲלֹתְךָ לֵרָאוֹת אֶת פְּנֵי יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה.
Exod 34:24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land when you go up to appear before YHWH your God three times in the year.[24]

YHWH’s reassurance that the people need not fear outside invaders when they must leave their homes to observe pilgrimage festivals suggests that they are traveling not to a local cult site, but to a more distant centralized site. Since the prohibition of local cult sites is an innovation introduced in Deuteronomy, verse 24 must be post-deuteronomic.[25]

Paschal Offering—The Covenant Collection follows its festival calendar with a general law about festival offerings:

שמות כג:יח לֹא תִזְבַּח עַל חָמֵץ דַּם זִבְחִי וְלֹא יָלִין חֵלֶב חַגִּי עַד בֹּקֶר.
Exod 23:18 You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning.

In the Ritual Decalogue, this law has been transformed into a law about the paschal offering:

שמות לד:כה לֹא תִשְׁחַט עַל חָמֵץ דַּם זִבְחִי וְלֹא יָלִין לַבֹּקֶר זֶבַח חַג הַפָּסַח.
Exod 34:25 You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, and the sacrifice of the festival of the Passover shall not be left until the morning.

We would expect this law to appear at the beginning of the calendar (with the other spring festivals) rather than the end, further highlighting that the text is following the structure of the Covenant Collection. The addition of the reference to the paschal offering in the Ritual Decalogue may represent an attempt to align its festival calendar with Deuteronomy 16’s combination of Matzot and Passover, which effectively presents the paschal offering as the festival offering for Matzot.[26]

Firstfruits and Animals—The final law of the Ritual Decalogue, dealing with the requirement to bring firstfruits and animals to the altar, is identical to that of the Covenant Collection:

שמות לד:כו [=כג:יט] רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ תָּבִיא בֵּית יְ־הוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ.
Exod 34:26 [=23:19] The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of YHWH your God. You shall not allow a kid to grow fat on its mother’s milk.[27]

The fact that the Covenant Collection and the Ritual Decalogue end with exactly the same laws hardly seems coincidental.

The sheer volume of updates to the laws of the Covenant Collection, the post-deuteronomic expansions, and the consistency with which the festival and ritual laws in Exodus 34 transform Covenant Collection laws to align with later legal collections have led to a reevaluation of the traditional source critical view. Many contemporary scholars now reject Wellhausen’s claims that Exodus 34 contains an ancient Ritual Decalogue with later expansions and argue instead that it, as a whole, represents a late compilation that draws on earlier laws.[28]

Forging a Postexilic Israelite Identity

The laws in Exodus 34 serve their current narrative context well—responding to the sins in the Golden Calf story of worshipping an idol and celebrating an unsanctioned festival before it.[29] Whether Exodus 34 was composed to conclude the Golden Calf story, or whether it was an an originally independent narrative that was subsequently incorporated into that story, the final form of the laws and the covenant also fit well in a postexilic context.

The prohibition against intermarriage with non-Israelites and the concern to ensure proper observance of the public cult parallel the concerns of Israelites who returned to Judah in the Persian Period, as they sought to define themselves as a community and distinguish themselves from those they considered outsiders.[30]

Exodus 34 contributed to that process of identity formation by offering a particular vision of Israel—of the ancestors of those who had gone into exile and, by extension, of their descendants who had returned or would return from exile. The text establishes the Israelites’ claim to the land that was given to them by YHWH, and it obligates them to recommit themselves regularly and publicly to their covenant with YHWH through the proper observance of Shabbat and the annual cultic festivals, presumably to ensure that this time, YHWH would allow the Israelites to keep possession of the land.


Is the Ritual Decalogue a Decalogue?

Exodus 34 defies simple division into ten laws.[31] To identify the Decalogue form in the text requires viewing significant portions of the text as subsequent expansions. Wellhausen’s list, which includes only the following laws, is one such attempt:

  1. Prohibition against worshipping gods other than YHWH (v. 14a);
  2. Prohibition against molten idols (v. 17);
  3. Festival of Unleavened Bread (v. 18a);
  4. First issue of the womb is YHWHs (v. 19a);
  5. Festival of Weeks (v. 22a);
  6. Festival of Ingathering (v. 22b);
  7. Prohibition against offering sacrifices with anything leavened (v. 25a);
  8. Requirement not to leave Passover sacrifice overnight (v. 25b);
  9. First fruits shall be brought to YHWH’s house (26a); and
  10. Prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother’s milk (26b).

He also considered the commands to cease work on the seventh day (v. 21) and for all Israelite males to appear before YHWH three times per year (v. 23) to be later additions.[32]

This solution is not definitive; at least thirty-six different proposals have been offered for finding only ten laws here.[33] The difficulty has led some scholars to view the reference to עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים (v. 28) as a later addition to the text, perhaps intended to reinforce the idea that the covenant with YHWH is based on the Decalogue.[34]


March 7, 2024


Last Updated

March 31, 2024


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Dr. Tina M. Sherman is an editor for TheTorah.com. She holds a Ph.D in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and she lectures in Bible at the University of Minnesota. Her first book, Plant Metaphors in Prophetic Condemnations of Israel and Judah (SBL 2023), examines how the prophetic authors used plant metaphors to portray the condemnation and punishment of Israel and Judah in terms of the everyday work of crop farming and plant husbandry. She is also the author of the “Biblical Metaphor Annotated Bibliography” (2014) and co-author, with Bernard M. Levinson, of “Law and Legal Literature” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel (2016).