Why does Deuteronomy alternate singular and plural so often?

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by JTB.SDG, Jan 9, 2018.

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  1. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Has anyone noticed this (surely)? Or studied it? Just one example is Deuteronomy 6:1-3. It goes back and forth from singular "you" to plural "you" several times. The KJV makes it easier to see. It happens throughout Deuteronomy. What to make of this? What is the Holy Spirit (through Moses) trying to teach us in this?
     
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    You might consider the switch from v1, ref. to all of the persons "you/ye," to a personal "each one thou/you/your" in v2.

    Sing. in v3 is in relation to the communal subject, Israel, "Hear" (2ms) and "keep" (2ms), for "you" (2ms); switches to plural to move from a collective singular to the massed whole, "you (2mp "all of you") may increase. Then its back to a singular collective: "God of your (2ms) fathers promised to you (2ms)," against with reference to the Israel as a unit.

    I just think one needs to judge what antecedent is in view, and if Moses speaks to the mass (plural), the whole (singular), or even the individual part of the whole at moments in the delivery. I think the movement is indicative of the bona fide rhetorical nature of these Mosaic sermons.
     
  3. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bruce,

    What is the difference between the mass plural and the mass singular? Or no difference, just two ways to refer to the same group, like Jacob could also be called Israel? If no difference, is there any significance to it, or not necessarily? Also, what did you mean by "the individual part of the whole"? Thanks.
     
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    If the President speaks to the nation "America," he may refer to the "whole land" as she, or address the land as "you," as in "America, isn't she great?" Or "America, you are great." That's the singular "you," but a man in the audience identifies with the collective, and thinks "I am the America he's talking to."

    I didn't use the term "mass singular" at all, only "massed whole," the idea in my head being that in v3, what begins as that address to Israel as a single entity using two imperatives, gives way to a "mass whole" reference, where the speaker stops referring to singular "Israel" (in the middle of the sentence) and concludes his thought by addressing plural "the Israelites," "y'all."

    Yes, I think its the same group; the car, and the collection of 5000 parts that combined make up the motor vehicle, are the same basic thing. "Go, car! Man, I hope these rusty parts get me home."

    To your last question, this is the shift from v1 to v2. He begins by addressing the Israelites, plural; then addresses "one man" (each man separately and all at the same time) in the crowd, "God commanded me to teach y'all, ...so you [O man] might fear."

    It is rhetorical cadence. It is a preachers delivery. It's not a literary product first, all polished up; each sentence, paragraph, and section using consistent terms, as an editor might prepare a document.
     
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