[b-hebrew] Numbers 6:27; Exodus 20:7
Bryant J. Williams III
bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Sun Jul 11 19:10:40 EDT 2010
A colleague spoke in services today referring to an article written in Modern
Hebrew by Rabbi Meier Bar-Ilan,
'So shall they put My name upon the people of Israel (Num 6:27)', HUCA, 60
(1990), pp. 19-31 (Hebrew, English Abstract).
The English Abstract,
'So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel'
The aim of this paper is to analyze Num 6:27 by focusing on the meaning of the
verb 'samu' in context. First the 'concrete' interpretation, putting a kind of
amulet on the body of the blessed person will be rejected. It is suggested to
see here the double way of transmission of tradition: orally - 'say', and
written - 'put my name'. That is to say that the priestly blessing included two
stages: first the priest blessed, and then he wrote down the Lord's Name on the
(hand or forehead), of the blessed. The Name of God on the body as an apotropaic
device is already known from Cain (Gen 4:16) 'And the Lord put a mark on Cain',
where in Hebrew there is the same root 'vaYasem'.
The second part of the paper deals with one of the commandments: (Exo 20:7; Deut
5:11) 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain'. It is argued
that the traditional view of this commandment as denoting a false oath has no
basis. However, the root 'tissa' as 'bearing' the names of the tribes (and the
Name of God), is known from the High Priest (Exo 28:9 ff). From the first part
of the study together with this custom and late Rabbinic interpretations, it is
assumed that the third commandment intended to prevent those people who bear the
Name of God from misbehaving (which might become a Hilul HaShem).
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It appears from the abstract that the Aaronic Priestly Blessing is given, then
YHWH is "put", i.e. written on the forehead/hand of the person coming before the
High Priest. It this is so, then the 3rd Commandment, "Thou shalt not 'take' the
name of the LORD thy God in vanin: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that
taketh his name in vain" refers NOT to the speaking of the name, but to the
actual practice of "taking" and "writing = putting" the name of the LORD as a
means of personal identification and dedication (QADOSH) to the LORD (Hebrew:
TISHSHA; LXX: LAMPSHi). No where that I know of is TISHSHA nor LAMPSHi (from
LAMBANW) mean "to speak." This would also mean that Ezekiel 9 and Isaiah 44:5
are describing the setting apart of those totally dedicated to the LORD. See
also the use of "vows" made to the LORD in Psalms 65:1; 66:13; 67:1 (Blessing
with reference to Numbers 6:22-27); Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.
Therefore, the one who puts the name of the LORD on his forehead or hand and
does NOT behave in a manner that represents the LORD is a hyprocrite and has
broken his vow. This would also indicate that the 3rd Commandment is reflecting
more on what a person does than what is said (does not preclude speaking, but
the emphasis is on behavior).
Is this a correct conclusion? If not then why is the idea of blasphemy is
usually connected with Exodus 20:7?
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III
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