The publication of the commentary on the book of
Deuteronomy is a moment for students of the Bible and for the educated Hebrew
reader to celebrate. Now, for the first time, we have a critical Hebrew
commentary on the book of Deuteronomy.
The author, Jeffrey Tigay, is emeritus professor in
the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of
Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The commentary is part of the series Mikra Leyisrael
(Bible for Israel), a series of critical commentaries on the Bible whose
authors are recognized scholars at universities in Israel and abroad. The commentaries make extensive use of the
best of traditional Jewish exegesis of the Bible and modern Biblical
scholarship and the disciplines that contribute to understanding the Bible in
the context of the cultures of the ancient Near East – philology and the
history and archaeology of the region – and literary scholarship.
The book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the
Torah, is also known as “the Repetition of the Torah.” It is essentially a
lengthy speech that Moses delivered to the Israelites on the Plains of Moab
just before they entered the land of Canaan. But the book is not simply a
review of the four preceding books. It sometimes adds to what they say or
presents their contents from a different perspective, or even presents a
contradictory version of what they say. According to 2 Kings chapter 22, the
book was found in the course of renovations to the Temple during the reign of
Josiah, king of Judah, in 622 BCE. Deuteronomy contains the most fully
developed expression of the Torah’s concern for law and justice and for the
welfare of the poor and disadvantaged. What is unique about Deuteronomy is its
absolute demand for centralization of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem, that
is, the abolishment of all local places of worship elsewhere – a demand that
would be the equivalent of abolishing all synagogues and limiting the worship
of God to single central synagogue in Jerusalem. A truly revolutionary demand!
Jewish scholars throughout the generations sought to
resolve the contradictions between the commandments and ideas of the first four
books of the Torah and Deuteronomy. This kind of harmonizing exegesis is
already found in the Bible itself, in the book of Chronicles, from the end of
the Persian period. The present commentary deals with these contradictions,
evaluates the traditional explanations, explains the contradictions in the
light of modern critical scholarship, and explains how the laws of Deuteronomy
developed in later Jewish tradition. The commentary deals with the historical
background of Deuteronomy, its language and literary form, and explains the
text in accordance with its peshat, or original/intended, plain meaning.
Prof. Tigay’s commentary is a must for all who wish
to study the book of Deuteronomy and deepen their understanding of it.
This new commentary benefits from
Biblical research that has taken place during the more than 20 years since the
first edition of this commentary (by the same author) was published in
English by the Jewish Publication Society of America as the final volume
of their Torah Commentary, and it deals with numerous additional matters of
interest to Hebrew readers.
Commentaries on the following books have appeared to
date in Mikra Leyisrael: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (2 volumes), Isaiah 40-66 (2
volumes), Jeremiah (2 volumes), Ezekiel (2 volumes), Joel and Amos (together in
one volume), Obadiah and Jonah (together in one volume), Nahum, Habakkuk and
Zephaniah (all together in one volume), Proverbs (2 volumes), Song of Songs,
Ruth and Esther.
Mikra Leyisrael (Bible for Israel) is jointly
published by Am Oved Publishers (Tel Aviv) and the Hebrew University Magnes