KJ: After the doings of
the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of
the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk
in their ordinances.
BN: Do not do as they do in the land of Mitsrayim, in which you dwelt; and do not follow their laws, nor do as they do, in the land of Kena'an, to which I am bringing you.
Interesting to see how a people comes up with its laws; here, not by deciding what is right and wrong in the abstract, and establishing licenses and prohibitions accordingly, but by seeing what other people around them are doing, and determining which ones to allow and which to proscribe. And while we tend to think of Yisra-Eli law as a breaking away from Egyptian slavery, it is also preparation - entirely unsuccessful, as the remainder of the Tanach constantly repeats, in the Prophetic writings especially - for the future. 18:4 ET MISHPATAI TA'ASU VE ET CHUKOTAI TISHMERU LALECHET BAHEM ANI YHVH ELOHEYCHEM
KJ: Ye shall therefore
keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
BN: So you shall observe my statutes, and my ordinances, which, if a man does indeed do, he shall live by them: I am YHVH.
Where a few chapters ago we felt that we were reading a teaching manual for young medics, this has the tone and feel of a legal document, and it is YHVH's document, his laws as part of his covenant, signed by him line after line: ANI YHVH.
18:6 ISH ISH EL KOL SE'ER BESARO LO TIKREVU LEGALOT ERVAH ANI YHVH
KJ: None of you shall
approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness:
I am the LORD.
BN: None of you shall make approaches to anyone who is near kin to him, to uncover their nakedness. I am YHVH.
TIKREVU...LEGALOT ERVAH: Terms and phrases that will recur and recur in this chapter, and which we should probably regard as prudish euphemisms; there is, after all, a great deal of difference between "approaches" and "uncovering nakedness" on the one hand, and incestuous sexual intercourse - though self-evidently it is the latter that is being prohibited.
18:7 ERVAT AVIYCHA VE ERVAT IM'CHA LO TEGALEH IM'CHA HI LO TEGALEH ERVATAH
KJ: The nakedness of thy
father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy
BN: You shall not uncover your father's wife's nakedness: it is your father's nakedness.
"Your father's wife" was not, in those days, necessarily the same as "your mother". And of course we may have step-parents today too, but then more than one wife was the norm. Cf the story of Re'u-Ven and Bilhah in Genesis 35:22. samech break
18:9 ERVAT ACHOTECHA VAT AVIYCHA O VAT IMECHA MOLEDET BAYIT O MOLEDET CHUTS LO TEGALEH ERVATAN
KJ: The nakedness of thy
sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born
at home, or born abroad, eventheir nakedness
thou shalt not uncover.
BN: The nakedness of your sister, your father's daughter, or your mother's daughter, whether born at home, or born abroad, their nakedness too you shall not uncover.
MOLEDET CHUTS: Why does the place of her birth matter? Because, as we see throughout Genesis, the Beney Yisra-El appear to have practiced patrilocal marriage - the wife coming to join the husband's tribe - where the Beney Kena'an and Beney Edom practiced matrilocal marriage - the husband going to join the wife's tribe. IMECHA: Why was it IM'CHA in verse 7, and again in verse 13, but here it is IMECHA? ERVATAN: A variant form of the third person plural, feminine; normally we would expect ERVAT'HEN samech break - note the number of samech breaks, each one separating a legal clause
Have I noted somewhere that all these laws are given to men, for men, to protect women from men; how very surprising that there are no instructions of a similar kind to protect men against the sexual voraciousness of women (cf Genesis 39:7 ff).
18:10 ERVAT BAT BINCHA O VAT BIT'CHA LO TEGALEH ERVATAN KI ERVAT'CHA HENAH
KJ: The nakedness of thy
son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their
nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine
BN: The nakedness of your son's daughter, or of your daughter's daughter, their nakedness too you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness.
Now that we have read a few of these verses, it is time to ask the question: who is this addressing? The whole nation, or just the men, or sometimes the men and sometimes the women. You will need to read each verse carefully to answer this; and it is not always clear-cut.
samech break 18:11 ERVAT BAT ESHET AVIYCHA MOLEDET AVIYCHA ACHOT'CHA HI LO TEGALEH ERVATAH
KJ: The nakedness of thy
father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister,
thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.
BN: The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, fathered by your father, she is your sister, you shall not uncover her nakedness.
One seeming clue lies in the verb: TEGALEH, which is masculine singular. But is that just a grammatical convenience? And of course, without the pointing, it could just as easily be read as TEGALAH, which is feminine singular.
As above: is "uncovering nakedness" to be taken literally, or as a euphemism for sexual intercourse? I ask because, in speaking about brothers and sisters, there is very little taboo about them taking a bath together when they are five, six, seven, butLord Byron and Augusta Leighwas a criminal offense in Georgian England.
18:12 ERVAT ACHOT AVIYCHA LO TEGALEH SHE'ER AVIYCHA HI
I have asked about the masculine and feminine above for many reasons, one of which is the obvious, incest. But there is also the more complex issue of homosexuality, which has not yet been stated, but will be (verse 22). Is the opening of this phrase about the uncle, or about the aunt? Given that the aunt is the uncle's "property", and based on the phrasing of both verse 8 and verse 16, this may simply be a complex legal formulation: "whereas your aunt is both the property and the close kin of your uncle, and therefore your own close kinswoman too..." might be a modern equivalent. samech break
18:15 ERVAT KALAT'CHA LO TEGALEH ESHET BINCHA HI LO TEGALEH ERVATAH
KJ: Thou shalt not uncover
the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's
daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near
kinswomen: it is wickedness.
BN: You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter; you shall not take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness: they are near kinswomen; it is lewdness.
no samech break on this occasion; the clause continues into the following several verses 18:18 VE ISHAH EL ACHOTAH LO TIKACH LITSROR LEGALOT ERVATAH ALEYHA BE CHAYEYHA
KJ: Moreover thou shalt
not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.
BN: And you shall not give your bed to your neighbour's wife, to defile yourself with her.
This needs some clarifying, because Rabbi Yishmael's hermeneutics, on which the 613 commandments are ultimately based, tell us to read a verse in the context of its predecessor and its successor. The previous speaks of a woman in her menstrual cycle, so is the defilement because she is menstruating, or because she is the neighbour's wife, at any time? Or both?
The King James translation needs looking at carefully; it does not appear to be rendering accurately what this verse is saying.
Also note that this is one of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:12 - 20:14 in some translations)
18:21 U MI ZAR'ACHA LO TITEN LEHA'AVIR LA MOLECH VE LO TECHALEL ET SHEM ELOHEYCHA ANI YHVH
KJ: And thou shalt not let
any of thy seed pass through the fire to
Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
BN: And you shall not give any of your offspring to be sacrificed to Moloch, nor shall you profane the name of your god: I am YHVH.
Does this mean that you should not take part in the orgiastic rites, or that you should not sacrifice your children (they also being your seed) to Moloch? King James and others prefer the former, but the Yehudit, both grammatically and syntactically, insists the latter. The reference to Moloch is anyway anachronistic and is one of the clues to the late writing of this book.
These last two ordinances sound like afterthoughts, or possibly late additions; the absence of samech breaks after each verse endorses that impression.
18:22 VE ET ZACHAR LO TISHKAV MISHKEVEY ISHAH TO'EVAH HI
KJ: Thou shalt not lie
with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
BN: You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is abomination.
The phrasing tells us that this is directed to men only; when something specific to women is included, as in the following verse, it is clearly stated as such. We can therefore safely assume that all the above, indeed the entire Torah, was directed to men only; women, being the property of their fathers until they became the property of their husbands, learned the rules at second-hand.
TO'EVAH: Understandable in a fertility cult; the purpose of intercourse was fertility, not pleasure, not sexual gratification for its own sake. But this should not be regarded as homophobia - the punishment for men who masturbated in private, or performed coitus interruptus (cf the story of Onan in Genesis 35:8-9), was exactly the same - the "sin" in each case being the misuse of the divine seed.
18:23 U VE CHOL BEHEMAH LO TITEN SHECHAVTECHA LE TAM'AH VAH VE ISHAH LO TA'AMOD LIPHNEY VEHEMAH LE RIVAH TEVEL HU
KJ: Neither shalt thou lie
with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand
before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
BN: And you shall not give your bed to any animal, to defile yourself with it; nor shall any woman stand before an animal, in order to lie down with it; it is perversion.
LO TITEN: Very strange phrasing: do not give your bed to any animal - as though it is the animal who makes the approach and you merely the one who yields to its powers of seduction! Women, on the other hand, are instructed not to stand before the animal, which infers that, while the man is the seducee, the woman is the seductress. TA'AMOD LIPHNEY: "Stand before an animal" is the most euphemistic phrase yet in this chapter. The grammatical form is the give-away. The Hiphil or causative form, not the Po'al, the standard active; it is not the woman who is, shall we say, upright before the animal, but the woman who is making the animal "upright" before her.
TEVEL: Defile here is clearly nothing to do with menstruation, so we can use it to apply Rabbi Yishmael's principle back to verse 20 and conclude that the "sin" is in the intercourse, regardless of the state of menstruation.
We have to assume that these practices, both the incestual and the bestial, were commonplace, or why the need to create laws against them?
And again, from the phrasing, we can see that this is addressed to the men, who will then provide instruction to the women.
18:24 AL TITAM'U BE CHOL ELEH KI VE CHOL ELEH NITME'U HA GOYIM ASHER ANI MESHAL'E'ACH MI PENEYCHEM
KJ: And the land is
defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself
vomiteth out her inhabitants.
BN: And the land was defiled, therefore I visited its iniquity upon it, and the land vomited out her inhabitants.
Continuing the anachronism, but also allowing for "manifest destiny" through the normal colonial-imperial practice of "inferiorisation" as a justification of conquest, occupation and ethnic cleansing.
The language here is very much that of the Prophets, and appears to be predicting the Joshuaic religious crusade that will begin after Mosheh's death. See my commentaries on the Book of Joshua to understand how far it was not a geographical or political conquest (because if it was, it failed) but a religious one, the taking over of "pagan" shrines in the name of the Beney Yisra-El deity.
18:26 U SHEMARTEM ATEM ET CHUKOTAI VE ET MISHPATAI VE LO TA'ASU MI KOL HA TO'EVOT HA ELEH HA EZRACH VE HA GER HA GAR BETOCH'CHEM
KJ: Ye shall therefore
keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these
abominations; neither any of
your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
BN: You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances, and you shall not commit any of these abominations; neither the home-born, nor the stranger who dwells among you.
One more thought on the dating; earlier texts speaking of the stranger used ASHER BE SH'EAREYCHA = "within your gates", where this uses HA GAR BETOCH'CHEM. The former is specific to an encampment or a walled town; the latter reaches out to a much wider space of habitation.
18:27 KI ET KOL HA TO'EVOT HA EL ASU ANSHEY HA ARETS ASHER LIPHNEYCHEM VA TITMA HA ARETS
KJ: Therefore shall ye
keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any oneof these
abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not
yourselves therein: I am the LORD
BN: Therefore you shall keep my observances, so that you do not commit any of these abominable practices, which were done before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by so doing: I am YHVH your god.
MISHMARTI: Not MISHPATAI or CHUKOTAI, as above, but now MISHMARTI; clearly yet another different source document.