The analysis of Deut 30:1-3

Trevor Peterson 06PETERSON at
Sat Mar 9 06:36:12 EST 2002

>===== Original Message From Moon-Ryul Jung <moon at> =====
>I found out that the NRSV translation and RSV translation of Deut 30:1-3,
>shown below, are followed by several other translations. I wonder what
>of analysis underlies them.
>RSV groups 30:1b and 30:2 into the KI (WHEN) clause. NRSV makes 30:1b and
>30:2 the condition of a conditional statement. Both are similar in that
>the main statement begins at 30:3.
>WHY is the most straightforward rendering as shown below not taken?

Why do you think your reading is the most straightforward? You basically have 
a string of converted perfects, which can function grammatically as future 
conditions of the protasis or future results of the apodosis. This is one of 
the nagging interpretive problems in biblical Hebrew syntax. How did they get 
through life without marking endings? They didn't tend to mark the end of 
direct speech or of conditional protases, at least not in any way that we can 
observe. Maybe they just did it with voice inflection when they were speaking, 
but it would be nice if they had an orthographic representation. (Then again, 
English actually makes a clearer distinction with quoted direct speech in 
print than in audible speech; so it's not too hard to understand why a 
language would lack any convention at all for such marking.)

Anyway, I ask, because I tend to think that the break between protasis and 
apodosis here is not all that straightforward, at least not grammatically 
speaking. I would be inclined to think that the readings you cite are actually 
more natural, since I would personally expect a condition to divide neatly 
between what one person or group does and what another does in response. Your 
reading has the repentance of the people assured by divine promise, 
conditioned only upon the event of captivity. As I recall, one of my teachers 
suggested that this was a better reading, because the writer did in fact think 
the response of the people was being assured. I'm not saying that I would rule 
out the possibility, but if we're going to begin from what seems most natural 
in reading a conditional statement, before we get to theologizing, I still 
think the longer protasis makes more sense.

Trevor Peterson

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