Deut. 27 notes


וְהָיָה בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן תָּקִימוּ אֶת־הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיֹּום בְּהַר עֵיבָל   27:4

וְשַׂדְתָּ אֹותָם בַּשִּׂיד

Deut. 27:4  “So it shall be upon your crossing over the Jordan you shall raise up these stones that I am commanding you today on Mount Ebal and you shall plaster them with plaster.”

The use of second-person pronouns in these first four verses of this chapter seems strangely haunting.

In v. 27:1 and in this verse the phrase “I am commanding you” contains a plural pronoun, but the phrase “you shall plaster them with plaster,” which appears essentially in v. 27:2 and this verse, contains a singular pronoun.  By the first phrase Moses is referring to the people as individuals; he is commanding each of them.  By the second phrase, Moses is telling the people that it should plaster the stones; in other words, not all the people need plaster, only as many as necessary. 

And in v. 27:2 the term for “you shall raise up” has a singular pronoun while in this verse the same term has a plural pronoun. 

In v. 27:3 the term for “upon your crossing over” uses a singular pronoun, while in this verse the same term uses a plural pronoun. 

There seems to be no apparent pattern to, or purpose for, these last two variations.  However, if the number pattern of second-person pronouns is examined in sequence, a relationship does emerge, and the message is clear.  Moses is addressing the people when it is appropriate and the individuals when it is appropriate.  There’s method here, although its complication is more than I care to explain in detail.  Suffice it to say, as always, so far, the number of the second-person pronouns appears consistent and meaningful.

If you’re particularly interested, the pattern of second-person pronoun numbers in the four verses is as follows, with (s) being singular and (p) being plural:  For v. 27:1 it is (s) (p) (already explained above); v. 27:2, (p) (s) (s) (s) (s) (s)(everyone is crossing over, but not everyone will be raising stones or plastering them), v. 27:3, (s) (s) (s) (s) (s) (s) (s) (all refer to the people as a whole); v. 27:4, (p) (p) (p) (s).(a little problem here -- the third (p) should be more appropriately (s), as in v. 27:2), but the other pronouns have already been addressed in this summary)  Does that help?

Another aspect of this verse deserves some attention.  The stones, which contain the words of the Torah, are to be placed on Mount Ebal, the mountain of curses.  Isn’t the Torah a blessing?  Therefore, shouldn’t the stones have been placed on Mount Gerizim instead?                                      [Back]