09 November 2007

The Ten Commandments

From time to time I may post things I've written elsewhere, just to aggregate them under this new blog.

A couple of years ago I decided to try my hand at translating the Ten Commandments (from the Torah). Of course, there are three or four different versions. (The "or four" is because of one section that lists commandments, but more than ten.) The version people usually think of is probably a latter-day revision, presented in slightly different forms in two different parts of the Torah. But I was more interested in what is probably the oldest version.

And he [Yahweh] said, "So, I will cut a deal, making before all your kinsfolk exceptional things which were not created in all the land and in all the [lands of the] Goyim1, and all the kinsmen who are among you will see the deeds of Yahweh2, for it is a fearful thing which I will make your kinsfolk. Keep that which I command you this day. Lo, I will expel from before you the 'Emori3 and the Kana´ani4 and the Khiti5 and the Parizi6 and the Khiwi7 and the Yebusi8.
"[1] And keep yourselves, lest you cut a deal with dwellers of the land which you enter over, lest it turn to be a trap in your midst. For you are to pull down their sacrificial altars and break down their pillars and cut down their 'Asherah9 poles. For you are not to bow down to any other god10, for Yahweh the Jealous is his name; a jealous god he is; lest you cut a deal with dwellers of the land, and they whore themselves to their other Gods, and sacrifice to their Gods, and call to you to eat from their sacrifice, and you take from their daughters [wives] for your sons, and their daughters whore themselves to other Gods, and your sons whore themselves to other Gods.
"[2] Do not make for yourselves molten11 gods.
"[3] Keep the Feast of the Matsoh, seven days of eating matsoh, whose season, as I commanded to you, is the month 'Abib12, for in the month 'Abib you went forth from Mitsrayim13.
"[4] The firstlings of all wombs are for me: all your firstling male livestock, herdling14 and flockling15. But you are to redeem firstling donkeys with flocklings, and whenever you cannot redeem [one], break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons and do not face me emptyhanded.
"[5] You are to work for six days, and rest on the seventh day. You must rest [even] in plowing season and in harvest.
"[6] And make for yourselves the Feast of Sevens16 [with] the first crops of the harvested wheat, and the Feast of the Harvest Gathering at the turnings of the year.
"[7] Three times in a year all your males are to appear before the Lord Yahweh, God of Yishra’el17. For I will dispossess Goyim in front of you, and I will extend your boundaries, and no man will desire your land when you rise to appear before Yahweh your God three times in a year.
"[8] Do not slaughter to me with yeast [in the] blood of my sacrifice, and do not lodge a sacrifice from the Feast of the Passover through to morning.
"[9] [The] foremost first crops of your ground are to enter into [the] house of Yahweh your God.
[10] You are not to cook a kid18 in its mother’s milk."
And Yahweh said to Mosheh19, "Write for yourself these Statements20, for in accord with these Statements I cut a deal with you and Yishra’el." And he was there with Yahweh forty21 days and forty nights, not eating food nor drinking water, and he wrote upon the slabs22 the Statements of the Deal23: The Ten Statements.
—We'eleh Shemoth24 34:10–28
1. sometimes translated as "nations"
2. sometimes translated as "LORD", but this is a different word ('adon) whose vowel markings were used over the four letters of YHWH to signify that the name of the god of Israel should not be spoken
3. or "Amorite"—literally, "Speaker"
4. or "Canaanite" or "Phoenician"—literally, "Lowlander"; Canaanites were great sailors and inventors of the alphabet, formulating the script that the scripts for Hebrew, Greek, Latin, etc. derived from.
5. or 'Hittite"—literally, "Son of Heth", "Heth" meaning "Terror"
6. or "Perizzite"—literally, "Rural Villager"
7. or "Hivite"—literally, "Villager"
8. or "Jebusite"—literally, "Son of Yebus", "Yebus" meaning "Trampler"; Jebusites were the founders of Jerusalem
9. Sometimes translated as "groves", but 'Asherah is a goddess, known as 'Astarte in Babylon. Her name is related to the word "straight", hence the meaning here of "'Asherah poles". Although known as the consort of 'El, archaeological evidence suggests she was worshiped by Judahites as the consort of Yahweh.
10. I have render "'el" as "god" and "'elohah" as "God".
11. literally "poured"
12. the first month of Spring, roughly March and/or April
13. Egypt; this is a dual word, possibly reflecting the Upper and Lower Kingdoms
14. e.g., ox
15. e.g., goat or sheep
16. or "Weeks"
17. Israel
18. i.e., a young male goat
19. Moses
20. or, more popularly, "Commandments"
21. literally "fours"
22. or, more popularly, "tablets"
23. or, more popularly, "covenant"
24. "And These Are The Names...", also known as "Exodus"

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