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Zev Farber

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2016

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The Missing Speeches in the Plague Narrative and the Samaritan Pentateuch

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TheTorah.com

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https://thetorah.com/article/the-missing-speeches-in-the-plague-narrative-and-the-samaritan-pentateuch

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Zev Farber

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The Missing Speeches in the Plague Narrative and the Samaritan Pentateuch

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TheTorah.com

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2016

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https://thetorah.com/article/the-missing-speeches-in-the-plague-narrative-and-the-samaritan-pentateuch

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The Missing Speeches in the Plague Narrative and the Samaritan Pentateuch

Before several plagues, God commands Moses to warn Pharaoh. Moses delivers this warning, but his actual words are not recorded. In the plague of locusts, the opposite occurs, and God’s wording is not recorded while Moses’ warning is. The SP fills in these lacunae by recording each instance.

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The Missing Speeches in the Plague Narrative and the Samaritan Pentateuch

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh. Benjamin West, late 18th c. Wikimedia

As already noted by the Rashbam (1085-1158), the first nine plagues in the exodus narrative contain the pattern where twice God warns Pharaoh, followed by a plague with no warning. This repeats three times.[1] Yet, the narratives that fit this pattern contain a significant problem: with one exception, Moses never conveys God’s warning to Pharaoh.[2]

Moses’ Missing Speech in the Plague of Blood

In the blood plague in Exodus 7:14-18, God tells Moses what he is to say to Pharaoh as a warning or introduction to what is to come:

שמות ז:יד וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְ-הֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה כָּבֵ֖ד לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֑ה מֵאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלַּ֥ח הָעָֽם: ז:טו לֵ֣ךְ אֶל פַּרְעֹ֞ה בַּבֹּ֗קֶר הִנֵּה֙ יֹצֵ֣א הַמַּ֔יְמָה וְנִצַּבְתָּ֥ לִקְרָאת֖וֹ עַל שְׂפַ֣ת הַיְאֹ֑ר וְהַמַּטֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁר נֶהְפַּ֥ךְ לְנָחָ֖שׁ תִּקַּ֥ח בְּיָדֶֽךָ: ז:טז וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו יְ-הֹוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י הָעִבְרִים֙ שְׁלָחַ֤נִי אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת עַמִּ֔י וְיַֽעַבְדֻ֖נִי בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וְהִנֵּ֥ה לֹא־שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ עַד־כֹּֽה: ז:יז כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְ-הֹוָ֔ה בְּזֹ֣את תֵּדַ֔ע כִּ֖י אֲנִ֣י יְ-הֹוָ֑ה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י מַכֶּ֣ה׀ בַּמַּטֶּ֣ה אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדִ֗י עַל הַמַּ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּיְאֹ֖ר וְנֶהֶפְכ֥וּ לְדָֽם: ז:יח וְהַדָּגָ֧ה אֲשֶׁר בַּיְאֹ֛ר תָּמ֖וּת וּבָאַ֣שׁ הַיְאֹ֑ר וְנִלְא֣וּ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִשְׁתּ֥וֹת מַ֖יִם מִן־הַיְאֹֽר:
Exod 7:14 And Yhwh said to Moses, “Pharaoh is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go. 7:15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is coming out to the water, and station yourself before him at the edge of the Nile, taking with you the rod that turned into a snake. 7:16 And say to him, ‘Yhwh, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let My people go that they may worship Me in the wilderness.” But you have paid no heed until now. 7:17 Thus says Yhwh, “By this you shall know that I am Yhwh.” See, I shall strike the water in the Nile with the rod that is in my hand, and it will be turned into blood; 7:18 and the fish in the Nile will die. The Nile will stink so that the Egyptians will find it impossible to drink the water of the Nile.’”

According to this, Moses is supposed to meet Pharaoh the following morning at the Nile, and deliver the speech in vv. 16-18. We would expect the next verse to describe this scene, or at the very least, to say “and Moses did as Yhwh commanded.”[3] And yet, the next verse (7:19) is God’s command to Moses and Aaron to perform the miracle and bring about the plague.[4]

ז:יט וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְ-הֹוָ֜ה אֶל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֱמֹ֣ר אֶֽל אַהֲרֹ֡ן קַ֣ח מַטְּךָ֣ וּנְטֵֽה יָדְךָ֩ עַל מֵימֵ֨י מִצְרַ֜יִם עַֽל נַהֲרֹתָ֣ם עַל יְאֹרֵיהֶ֣ם וְעַל אַגְמֵיהֶ֗ם וְעַ֛ל כָּל מִקְוֵ֥ה מֵימֵיהֶ֖ם וְיִֽהְיוּ דָ֑ם וְהָ֤יָה דָם֙ בְּכָל אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וּבָעֵצִ֖ים וּבָאֲבָנִֽים: ז:כ וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵן֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה וְאַהֲרֹ֜ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוָּ֣ה יְ-הֹוָ֗ה...
7:19 And Yhwh said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: Take your rod and hold out your arm over the waters of Egypt—its rivers, its canals, its ponds, all its bodies of water—that they may turn to blood; there shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.” 7:20 Moses and Aaron did just as Yhwh commanded…

What happened to the speech and the warning to Pharaoh? The Torah, as we have it in the Masoretic Text (MT), never says. The Samaritan Pentateuch (SP), however, has an extra paragraph between God’s first command to Moses to speak to Pharaoh and God’s second command to Moses and Aaron to perform the plague:

The SP’s Addition in the Blood Plague

וילך משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויאמרו אליו י-הוה אלהי העברים שלחנו אליך לאמר שלח את עמי ויעבדני במדבר והנה לא שמעת עד כה כה אמר י-הוה בזאת תדע כי אני י-הוה הנה אנכי מכה במטה אשר בידי על המים אשר ביאר ונהפכו לדם והדגה אשר ביאר תמות ובאש היאר ונלאו מצרים לשתות מים מן היאר׃
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and they said to him: “Yhwh, the God of the Hebrews, sent us to you to say, ‘Let My people go that they may worship Me in the wilderness.’ But you have paid no heed until now. Thus says Yhwh, ‘By this you shall know that I am Yhwh. See, I shall strike the water in the Nile with the rod that is in my hand, and it will be turned into blood; and the fish in the Nile will die. The Nile will stink so that the Egyptians will find it impossible to drink the water of the Nile.’”

The speech is a perfect rendition of what God told Moses (and Aaron) to say to Pharaoh. The SP provides the same missing speech for all six plagues about which Moses was commanded to warn Pharaoh. (For the text of the other four – frogs, swarms, pestilence, and hail, see the appendix.)

God’s Missing Instructions in the Plague of Locusts

For the plague of locusts, we find the inverse phenomenon. As with the other plagues, the Torah begins this section with a speech from God to Moses:

י:א וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְ-הֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל פַּרְעֹ֑ה כִּֽי אֲנִ֞י הִכְבַּ֤דְתִּי אֶת לִבּוֹ֙ וְאֶת לֵ֣ב עֲבָדָ֔יו לְמַ֗עַן שִׁתִ֛י אֹתֹתַ֥י אֵ֖לֶּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ: י:ב וּלְמַ֡עַן תְּסַפֵּר֩ בְּאָזְנֵ֨י בִנְךָ֜ וּבֶן בִּנְךָ֗ אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁ֤ר הִתְעַלַּ֙לְתִּי֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם וְאֶת אֹתֹתַ֖י אֲשֶׁר שַׂ֣מְתִּי בָ֑ם וִֽידַעְתֶּ֖ם כִּי אֲנִ֥י יְ-הֹוָֽה:
10:1 Then Yhwh said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them, 10:2 and that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and of your sons’ sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them—in order that you may know that I am Yhwh.”

Here God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh, and even tells him why Pharaoh won’t listen to him (God is making Pharaoh’s heart heavy), but what is it that Moses is supposed to say exactly? This is not recorded; nonetheless, Moses and Aaron seem to know what to say, since their speech to Pharaoh immediately follows:

י:ג וַיָּבֹ֨א מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאַהֲרֹן֘ אֶל פַּרְעֹה֒ וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו כֹּֽה אָמַ֤ר יְקֹוָק֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָֽעִבְרִ֔ים עַד מָתַ֣י מֵאַ֔נְתָּ לֵעָנֹ֖ת מִפָּנָ֑י שַׁלַּ֥ח עַמִּ֖י וְיַעַבְדֻֽנִי: י:ד כִּ֛י אִם מָאֵ֥ן אַתָּ֖ה לְשַׁלֵּ֣חַ אֶת עַמִּ֑י הִנְנִ֨י מֵבִ֥יא מָחָ֛ר אַרְבֶּ֖ה בִּגְבֻלֶֽךָ: י:ה וְכִסָּה֙ אֶת עֵ֣ין הָאָ֔רֶץ וְלֹ֥א יוּכַ֖ל לִרְאֹ֣ת אֶת הָאָ֑רֶץ וְאָכַ֣ל׀ אֶת יֶ֣תֶר הַפְּלֵטָ֗ה הַנִּשְׁאֶ֤רֶת לָכֶם֙ מִן הַבָּרָ֔ד וְאָכַל֙ אֶת כָּל הָעֵ֔ץ הַצֹּמֵ֥חַ לָכֶ֖ם מִן הַשָּׂדֶֽה:י:ו וּמָלְא֨וּ בָתֶּ֜יךָ וּבָתֵּ֣י כָל עֲבָדֶיךָ֘ וּבָתֵּ֣י כָל מִצְרַיִם֒ אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא רָא֤וּ אֲבֹתֶ֙יךָ֙ וַאֲב֣וֹת אֲבֹתֶ֔יךָ מִיּ֗וֹם הֱיוֹתָם֙ עַל הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה עַ֖ד הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה
10:3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says Yhwh, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go that they may worship Me. 10:4 For if you refuse to let My people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts on your territory. 10:5 They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the surviving remnant that was left to you after the hail; and they shall eat away all your trees that grow in the field. 10:6 Moreover, they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your courtiers and of all the Egyptians—something that neither your fathers nor fathers’ fathers have seen from the day they appeared on earth to this day.’”

The SP’s Addition in the Plague of Locusts

When did God tell them to say all this? The MT (and the LXX) doesn’t record this information, but the SP does, right after the speech recorded in Exodus 10:2:

ואמרת אל פרעה כה אמר י-הוה אלהי העברים עד מתי מאנת לענות מפני שלח את עמי ויעבדני כי אם מאן אתה לשלח את עמי הנני מביא מחר ארבה בגבולך וכסה את עין הארץ ולא יכל לראות את הארץ ואכל את יתר הפלטה הנשארת לכם מן הברד ואכל את כל עשב הארץ ואת כל פרי העץ הצמח לכם מן השדה ומלאו בתיך ובתי כל עבדיך ובתי כל מצרים אשר לא ראו אבתיך ואבת אבתיך מיום היותם על האדמה עד היום הזה׃
And you shall say to Pharaoh: “Thus says Yhwh, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go that they may worship Me. For if you refuse to let My people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts on your territory. They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the surviving remnant that was left to you after the hail; and they shall eat away all your trees that grow in the field. Moreover, they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your courtiers and of all the Egyptians—something that neither your fathers nor fathers’ fathers have seen from the day they appeared on earth to this day.’”

Again, in the SP only we find a perfect match to Moses and Aaron’s actual speech.

The Samaritan Pentateuch: An Expansive or Harmonistic Edition

Why are these sections in the SP but not in the MT or the LXX (the two main other ancient versions of the Torah)?

The Samaritan Pentateuch is often referred to as a full or expansive version. The reason for this is that one of the key differences between the SP on one hand and the Masoretic Text (MT) or Septuagint (LXX) on the other is that various editors responsible for producing the SP smoothed out many of the rough edges in their Torah by adding or revising text.

This process did not begin with the Samaritan community itself, and similar texts are already found in a number of Dead Sea scrolls.[5] They show the same sort of harmonizing tendencies (and even sometimes exactly the same harmonizations) found in the Samaritan Pentateuch; these are sometimes called proto-Samaritan texts.[6] During the Second Temple period, scribes did not relate to the text as static, the way we do today. Rather, they may have felt that they were doing honor to the text by harmonizing it and making it more consistent.

The inclusion of the missing speeches to Pharaoh warning him about the (five!) plagues God commanded Moses to warn him about, as well as the reverse phenomenon of writing the speech for God that Moses delivers, are classic examples of harmonizing expansions. In all six cases, the implied scene is missing in the MT and the LXX, and the SP provides it based on cutting and pasting from God’s/Moses’ speech.[7]

Appendix

Moses and Aaron’s Other Missing Speeches to Pharaoh in the SP

Frogs (Exod 7:29)

ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה וידברו אליו כה אמר יהוה שלח את עמי ויעבדני ואם מאן אתה לשלח הנה אנכי נגף את כל גבולך בצפרדעים ושרץ היאר צפרדעים ועלו ובאו בבתיך ובחדרי משכביך ועל מטתיך ובבתי עבדיך ובעמך ובתנוריך ובמשארתיך ובך ובעמך ובכל עבדיך יעלו הצפרדעים׃
Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and spoke to him: “Thus says Yhwh: ‘Let My people go that they may worship Me. If you refuse to let them go, then I will plague your whole country with frogs. The Nile shall swarm with frogs, and they shall come up and enter your home, your bedchamber and your bed, the houses of your courtiers and your people, and your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your courtiers.’”

Swarms (Exod. 8:19)

ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויאמרו אליו כה אמר י-הוה שלח את עמי ויעבדני כי אם אינך משלח את עמי הנני משלח בך ובעבדיך ובעמך ובבתיך את הערב ומלאו בתי מצרים את הערב וגם האדמה אשר הם עליה והפליתי ביום ההוא את ארץ גשן אשר עמי עמד עליה לבלתי היות שם ערב למען תדע כי אני י-הוה בקרב הארץ ושמתי פדות בין עמי ובין עמך למחר יהיה האות הזה׃
Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: “Thus says Yhwh: ‘Let My people go that they may worship Me. For if you do not let My people go, I will let loose swarms of insects against you and your courtiers and your people and your houses; the houses of the Egyptians, and the very ground they stand on, shall be filled with swarms of insects. But on that day I will set apart the region of Goshen, where My people dwell, so that no swarms of insects shall be there, that you may know that I Yhwh am in the midst of the land. And I will make a distinction between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall come to pass.’”

Pestilence (Exod 9:5)

ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויאמרו אליו כה אמר י-הוה אלהי העברים שלח את עמי ויעבדני כי אם מאן אתה לשלח ועודך מחזק בם הנה יד י-הוה היה במקניך אשר בשדה בסוסים ובחמרים ובגמלים בבקר ובצאן דבר כבד מאד והפלא יהוה בין מקנה ישראל ובין מקנה מצרים ולא ימות מכל לבני ישראל דבר[8] מחר יעשה יהוה את הדבר הזה בארץ׃
Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: “Thus says Yhwh, the God of the Hebrews: ‘Let My people go to worship Me. For if you refuse to let them go, and continue to hold them, then the hand of Yhwh will strike your livestock in the fields—the horses, the asses, the camels, the cattle, and the sheep—with a very severe pestilence. But Yhwh will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of the Egyptians, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites. Tomorrow Yhwh will do this thing in the land.’”

Hail (Exod. 9:19)

ויבא משה ואהרן אל פרעה ויאמרו אליו כה אמר י-הוה אלהי העברים שלח את עמי ויעבדני כי בפעם הזאת אני שלח את כל מגפתי על לבך ובעבדיך ובעמך בעבור תדע כי אין כמוני בכל הארץ כי עתה שלחתי את ידי ואכה אתך ואת עמך בדבר ותכחד מן הארץ ואולם בעבור זאת העמדתיך בעבור הראתיך את כחי ולמען ספר שמי בכל הארץ עודך מסתולל בעמי לבלתי שלחם הנני ממטיר כעת מחר ברד כבד מאד אשר לא היה כמהו במצרים למיום היסדה ועד עתה ועתה שלח העז את מקניך ואת כל אשר לך בשדה כל האדם והבהמה אשר ימצא בשדה ולא יאסף הביתה וירד עליהם הברד ומתו׃
Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: “Thus says Yhwh, the God of the Hebrews: Let My people go to worship Me. For this time I will send all My plagues upon your person, and your courtiers, and your people, in order that you may know that there is none like Me in all the world. I could have stretched forth My hand and stricken you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been effaced from the earth. Nevertheless, I have spared you for this purpose: in order to show you My power, and in order that My fame may resound throughout the world. You continue to thwart My people, and do not let them go! This time tomorrow I will rain down a very heavy hail, such as has not been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Therefore, order your livestock and everything you have in the open brought under shelter; every man and beast that is found outside, not having been brought indoors, shall perish when the hail comes down upon them!’”

Published

January 7, 2016

|

Last Updated

September 23, 2019

Footnotes

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Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber is a fellow at Project TABS and editor of TheTorah.com. He holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in Jewish Religious Cultures (Hebrew Bible focus) and an M.A. from Hebrew University in Jewish History (biblical period focus). In addition to academic training, Zev holds ordination (yoreh yoreh) and advanced ordination (yadin yadin) from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) Rabbinical School. He is the author of Images of Joshua in the Bible and their Reception (De Gruyter, BZAW 457) and the editor of Halakhic Realities: Collected Essays on Brain Death (Maggid).