Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky | Go to book overview

19 / Revelation Revealed: The
Doubt of Torah

2002

The institution of torah and the appropriate attitude toward and use of torah is so well established in Jewish tradition that it is hard to imagine that its use in the Bible is not as well established or as simple as we might have believed. The priestly books of the Pentateuch speak only of “the torah of x” (where x is the issue), a usage shared by the later part of Ezekiel, as in 43:10 (torot of Temple). This usage accords well with the root meaning of the term “divine instruction,” the Hebrew equivalent of the Akkadian tertu, “oracular instruction,” in technical literature, the liver omen. The expression “torah of Y” (where Y is a person) never appears in these sources, but it is the standard use in Proverbs (for example, “the torah of your mother”) and in Psalms. In the prophetic literature, the phrase “Torah of God” appears in the eighth-century prophets and continues as the dominant form in the prophetic corpus, although the “Torah of Moses” also appears (Mal. 3:22).

The written Torah, the book of the Torah, appears prominently in the Deuteronomistic history in such phrases as “the book of the Torah of Moses” (Josh. 8:31; 23:6; 2 Kgs. 14:6), “the Torah which Moses wrote” (Josh. 8:32) and “the book of Torah of God” (Josh. 24:25–7) with the clear understanding of fulfilling it (2 Kgs. 23:24; see also Dan. 9:13) and doing as written (Josh. 1:8; 23:6). This, of course, reflects Deuteronomy's emphasis on writing down the Torah (Deut. 31:19–28; 17–18). Deuteronomy provides for public reading to the people (Deut. 31:9–13), a provision reiterated by Joshua (Josh. 8:30–4; 24:25–8) and, much later, by Josiah (2 Kgs. 23:1–3), and much later still, by Nehemiah (Neh. 8). These public readings were occasion for a renewal of commitment, a renovation and reinstitution of the conventional relationship.

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