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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Deuteronomy

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14.1–29 :

The obligations of holiness.

1–21 :

The special status that the covenant grants Israel as a people consecrated to the Lord entails special obligations upon them, one focus of which is dietary. The affirmation of holiness (vv. 2, 21 ) therefore frames the list of permitted and prohibited foods (vv. 3–21 ). That the nation's holiness requires special selectivity regarding food is also evident in earlier biblical law (the “holy” of Exod. 22.30 ).

1 :

Children of the Lord, the first of three metaphors used in vv. 1–2 to emphasize the special relation between God and Israel. The divine parent has special custody for the child (Exod. 2.22–23; Hos. 1.10 ) but, equally, special indignation at wrongdoing ( 32.5–6, 19–20; Isa. 1.2 ). Gashʾshaveʾdead: Gashing and head shaving were customary mourning rituals within Israel and the larger Near East (1 Kings 18.28; Jer. 16.6–7; 41.4–5; 47.5; Amos 8.10 ). The rationale for their prohibition (see also Lev. 19.27–28; 21.1–6 ) may be their association with foreign religion. More likely, such rituals were associated with ancestor worship or cults of the dead, an aspect of Israelite popular religion rejected by Deuteronomy (see 18.10–11 ).

2 :

For you are a people consecrated to the Lord: Just as priests observe more stringent purity rules than other Israelites, so must Israel distinguish itself from other nations by observing the special requirements of the Torah. This second metaphor of election departs from the idea of Israel's status found in the other biblical legal collections. Both the Book of the Covenant and the Holiness Collection understand the nation's holiness as a goal to be achieved in the future (“you shall be”: Exod. 22.30; Lev. 19.2 ). In contrast, Deuteronomy affirms Israel's present status as already holy. His treasured people: The third metaphor is political. Just as the monarch is entitled to a “private hoard” of treasure not in the public domain (1 Chron. 29.3 ), so does God single Israel out for a special relationship. Both the second and third metaphors (consecrated; treasured people) derive from God's affirmation just prior to Sinai (Exod. 19.5–6 ).

14.3–21 :

The word “kosher” is never used in the Bible in reference to food. Nor is there in the Torah a comprehensive set of rules, similar to the later rabbinic system of kashrut, which covers permitted and nonpermitted foods, combi‐ nations of foods, means of preparation, rules for slaughter, etc. Deuteronomy nevertheless begins to build toward such a system. In contrast to Priestly law (Lev. ch 11 ), it brings together a list of creatures that may or may not be eaten (vv. 3–20 ), which it combines with laws implicitly concerned with slaughter and food preparation (v. 21 ). Deuteronomy's dietary restrictions abridge and revise the more detailed list of permitted and prohibited foods provided by the Priestly source (Lev. 11.2–23 ). For example, contrast the land animals prohibited by vv. 7–9 with the fuller list, including individual explanations, of Lev. 11.4–8 . Similarly, vv. 9–10 offer a précis of Lev. 11.9–12; and v. 19 issues a blanket prohibition against insects in contrast to the lengthy distinctions between permitted and prohibited insects of Lev. 11.20–23 . This textual relationship, where Deuteronomy uses and revises Priestly material, is highly unusual; by and large, it seems unaware of these texts. The classification of creatures as permitted or nonpermitted employs unexplained criteria to establish three basic divisions of species: creatures of the land (Deut. 14.1–8 ), water (vv. 9–10 ), or air (vv. 11–20 ). The same tripartite division occurs in the Priestly creation account (Gen. 1.20–25 ). Species that fail to satisfy the defining characteristics established for each category are not permitted: the pig (v. 8 ) and shellfish (v. 10 ). It is important to recognize that the classification system reflects the desire to imprint a human system of categorization upon nature and is based on a concern for systematic order rather than on hygiene or health. Thus, the term unclean (v. 8 ) does not imply that an animal is dirty. Ritually “impure” conveys the idea more clearly.

21 :

Anything that has died a natural death: Israelites may not eat carrion (Exod. 22.30 ) or any other animal that is not slaughtered according to Deuteronomy's stringent requirement that the blood be drained ( 12.16, 23–25 ). The motivation is not hygiene but the enforcement of rules for slaughter. Carrion may therefore be donated to resident aliens or sold to foreigners, since the laws of slaughter apply only to Israelites. Boil a kid: This law is repeated three times in the Torah (here; Exod. 23.19; 34.26 ). The rabbinic assumption that no law in the Bible is redundant led to the postbiblical generalization that prohibited the consumption of meat and milk products together. On its own terms, the law seems to have had a more restricted application. It originally applied specifically to the pilgrimage festival offerings (Exod. 23.19; 34.26 ). Deuteronomy now reinterprets it as a general law of food preparation. Philo viewed it as directing the mind away from the body; Maimonides viewed it as directed against idolatry. Some moderns have viewed the prohibition as directed against Canaanite religious rituals; others view it as concerned to prevent the abuse of animals.

14.22–29 :

The requirement to set aside every year a tenth of crops and livestock as a tax or honorarium paid to a monarch is common (Gen. 14.20; 28.22; 1 Sam. 8.15, 17 ). Here the rule signifies that Israel is God's steward, working but not owning God's land.

23 :

The standard rules of the tithe (Lev. 27.30–33; Num. 18.21–32; cf. Exod. 22.29 ) are revised to direct offerings to the single sanctuary. Later rabbinic norms for tithing do not recognize this, and attempt to harmonize these various laws. You shall consume: Whereas Deuteronomy assigns the tithe to the landholder, Lev. 27.30 directs it to the sanctuary and Num. 18.21 to the Levites.

24 :

In light of centralization, sanctified crops (designated for the sanctuary) may be converted into money (v. 25 ) to facilitate the journey. That firstlings (v. 23 ) may also be sold for cash is at variance with Lev. 27.32 . Distance be too great, as in 12.21 (“too far”).

28–29 :

Every third year the tithe is shifted away from the central sanctuary to focus on the needs of the disadvantaged and the marginalized in the local community, to ensure that they too may eat their fill.

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