28.6. Laws Related to the Covenant (34:10-26)

 (10) He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will work such wonders as have not been wrought on all the earth or in any nation; and all the people who are with you shall see how awesome are the Lord‘s deeds which I will perform for you.

(11) Mark well what I command you this day. I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

(12) Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst.

(13) No, you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down their sacred posts;

(14) for you must not worship any other god, because the Lord, whose name is Impassioned, is an impassioned God.

(15) You must not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for they will lust after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices.

(16) And when you take wives from among their daughters for your sons, their daughters will lust after their gods and will cause your sons to lust after their gods.

(17) You shall not make molten gods for yourselves.

(18) You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread — eating unleavened bread for seven days, as I have commanded you — at the set time of the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you went forth from Egypt.

(19) Every first issue of the womb is Mine, from all your livestock that drop a male as firstling, whether cattle or sheep.

(20) But the firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. And you must redeem every first-born among your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.

(21) Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor; you shall cease from labor even at plowing time and harvest time.

(22) You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of the wheat harvest; and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.

(23) Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel.

(24) I will drive out nations from your path and enlarge your territory; no one will covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times a year.

(25) You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened; and the sacrifice of the Feast of Passover shall not be left lying until morning.

(26) The choice first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

(10) He said: I hereby make a covenant: This “renewal of the covenant” portion is quite similar in structure to the account of the concluding of the covenant at the giving of the Torah. The similarity includes the prohibition of approaching Mount Sinai, and the giving of the two tablets on which were inscribed the Ten Commandments. The system of essential commandments as presented here is likewise analogous to that of the Mishpatim portion (vv. 11-26 here closely resemble 23:10-23 there).

However, the emphasis now is not on social commandments (as in the Mishpatim portion), but on the prohibitions of idolatry and the foundations of the festivals, since the story of the golden calf indicates that the people have problems with those.

I hereby make a covenant: By virtue of the second tablets, the covenant made before the sin of the golden calf is completely restored.

Before all your people I will work such wonders … and all the people who are with you shall see how awesome are the Lord‘s deeds which I will perform for you: The Jewish people at this initial stage of development needed miracles to strengthen their faith in Moses.

(12-16) Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst … for they will … invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices … And when you take wives from among their daughters for your sons, their daughters … will cause your sons to lust after their gods: This corresponds to the commandments concerning the conquest of the Land of Israel in the Mishpatim portion (23:20-33). However, there is also an addition: the prohibition of entering into mixed marriages, because they lead to assimilation and idolatry.

(17) You shall not make molten gods for yourselves: This prohibition is specially emphasized in light of the incident of the calf.

(18) You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread: As in the Mishpatim portion (23:15 onwards), the Sabbath and the three pilgrimage holidays are discussed, but some details are added.

(19) Every first issue of the womb is Mine: The obligation to dedicate the firstborns to the Almighty is stressed. The nation’s firstborns, who previously had usually performed the Divine service, were not able to resist the temptation of idolatry in the incident of the calf. This is one of the reasons that the Levites replaced the firstborns for performing the service in the Temple.

(21) Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor; you shall cease from labor even at plowing time and harvest time: Here the Torah stresses the strict obligation to observe the Sabbath even during periods of urgent agricultural exigency. The Jewish people, while waiting for Moses, could not hold out even one additional day. That haste and impatience is corrected by the cessation of all labor on Shabbat, regardless of socio-economic considerations or any other factors.

(23-24) Three times a year all your males shall appear … no one will covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times a year: This passage is quite similar to the parallel verse in portion Mishpatim (23:17). But here the Torah adds the Almighty’s promise to protect the land from enemy nations while the entire Jewish population is gathered at the Temple on the three pilgrimage festivals every year. One of reasons behind the creation of the golden calf was the people’s fear of being left without a leader and without protection. God therefore promises here that the people will be able to meet with Him on those occasions without fear.

(25-26) You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened … The choice first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk: These final commandments of the renewal of the covenant are identical to those of the final commandments in the legislation of the Mishpatim portion (23:18).

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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