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Old Testament Essays

versión On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versión impresa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.34 no.1 Pretoria  2021

http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2312-3621/2021/v34n1a8 

PART I - GENERAL CONTRIBUTIONS

 

YHWH's "Greatness," "Mighty hand," "Deeds" and "Mighty Acts" in Deuteronomy 3:24

 

 

Albert Coetsee

North-West University

 

 


ABSTRACT

This article investigates the four words or phrases used in Deut 3:24 to describe the uniqueness of YHWH, namely "greatness" (גֹּדֶל), "mighty hand" (יָד הַחֲזָקָה), "deeds" (מַעֲשֶה) and "mighty acts" (גְּבוּרָה). Commentary on these four words or phrases is usually limited to a brief discussion of their possible referential background. Virtually no attempt is made to distinguish between the meanings of these words. Secondly, little conclusive proof is provided for the assumed referential background of the words, and thirdly, scholars are silent on the distinctive contribution of Deut 3:24 to Deuteronomy's overall theme of the uniqueness of YHWH. This article aims to address these three lacunae.

Keywords: Deuteronomy 3:23-29, Deuteronomy 3:24, uniqueness or incomparability of YHWH, ,גְּבוּרָה .גֹּדֶ ל ,יָד הַחֲזָקָה ,מַעֲשֶה


 

 

A INTRODUCTION

The uniqueness or incomparability of YHWH is a primary theme in the book of Deuteronomy (cf. 4:35, 39; 6:4; 10:17; 32:12, 17, 39; 33:26).1 The first explicit reference to this theme is found in Moses' fervent prayer to enter the Promised Land in Deut 3:23-29. Preceding his petition, Moses prays:

This paper was initially written for and presented at the e-Conference "Deuteronomy Today: Memory and Transmission, Then and Now" hosted by the South African Theological Seminary 2-3 April 2020.

"O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your might; what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds and mighty acts like yours!" (Deut 3:24)2

Four words or phrases are used in this praise to describe the uniqueness of YHWH: "greatness" (גֹּדֶל) "mighty hand" (יָד הַחֲזָקָה; "might" [NRSV]), "deeds" (מַעֲשֶה) and "mighty acts" (גְּבוּרָה). While various scholars briefly refer to the possible referential background of these words,3 this is almost the only commentary provided on these words. Consequently, three lacunae can be identified. First, virtually no attempt is made to distinguish between the meanings of these words. Secondly, little conclusive proof is provided for the assumed referential background of these words.4 Thirdly, scholars are silent on the distinctive contribution of Deut 3:24 to Deuteronomy's overall theme of the uniqueness of YHWH. This article aims to address all three lacunae.

The discussion to follow starts by giving an overview of the literary and historical context of Deut 3:24, briefly commenting on the content of the passage. Next, the four words or phrases used in Deut 3:24 to describe the uniqueness of YHWH are investigated in detail in order to distinguish them from one another, and as part of a preliminary deduction of various possibilities concerning the referential background of each. This is followed by a synthesis of the findings in order to confirm the referential background of the words. Finally, the article concludes by reflecting on the distinctive contribution of Deut 3:24 to Deuteronomy's overall theme of the uniqueness of YHWH.

 

B CONTEXT AND CONTENT OF DEUT 3:24

In Deut 1:1-3:29, which is part of the first speech of Moses (Deut 1:1-4:43), "Moses gives a historical overview of the events of the past forty years" to the people "standing on the brink of entering the Promised Land."5 Deuteronomy 3:23-29, which can easily be identified as a pericope from its content and the markers in the Hebrew text,6 is the final passage within this overview. Structurally, this passage forms the conclusion to Moses' historical overview before the climax of his first speech is reached in Deut 4:1-40, in which Moses exhorts the present generation to obey YHWH wholeheartedly.

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 contains Moses' passionate plea to YHWH to allow him to enter and see the Promised Land (3:24-25), and YHWH's answer (3:26-28). The passage is framed by indications of time (3:23) and space (3:29).7

The background of this prayer is the events at the waters of Meribah, recorded in Num 20:1-13. The people quarrelled with Moses because of the lack of water and other resources. In answer to this, Moses was commanded by YHWH to tell a rock to yield its water. Instead, Moses asked the assembled people if he and Aaron should bring water out of the rock, and then (presumably in frustration) struck the rock twice with his staff. Though water came out abundantly, YHWH reprimanded Moses and Aaron for their conduct:

"Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them." (Num 20:12)

Moses' sin seems to be that he struck the rock instead of speaking to it,8although the exact nature of his sin is a matter of debate among scholars.9

In Deut 3:23-29, some time has passed since the tragic events of Meribah. Deut 3:23 refers to Moses pleading with YHWH "at that time" (ב עתהַ הִ֖וא), which, viewed in the immediate context, refers to a moment in time after the defeat of Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan (cf. Deut 2:26-3:22). This triumph over the enemy seems to have renewed Moses' desire to enter the Promised Land.10 Moreover, from experience, Moses has learned that "through the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person, God's disposition may be changed" (cf. Exod 32:11-14; Num 14:13-20).11 This is what he hopes for in Deut 3 by pleading with YHWH.

Moses' plea starts with a vocative followed by a declaration of YHWH's uniqueness or incomparability (Deut 3:24). By means of a rhetorical question, Moses insists that no god in heaven or on earth (a merism) can do what YHWH has done. Blended with these descriptions of YHWH's uniqueness Moses subtly and tactfully tries to convince YHWH to change his mind about his non-entry of the Promised Land. This Moses does masterfully by expressing his conviction that YHWH has only "begun" (חָלַל in the hip'il, derived from the idea of "opening")12 to show his "servant" (עֶֶ֫בֶד) his greatness and mighty hand. This is followed by the explicit plea in verse 25 to YHWH to "please" (נָא) allow him to go over and see the Promised Land, which Moses, keeping to his rhetorical strategy, calls "the good land" (אֶת־הָאָָ֣רֶץ הַטּוֹבָָ֔ה) and "that good hill country" (הָ הר הַטּּ֛וֹב הַזִֶ֖ה).13

YHWH, however, refuses. Moses states that YHWH became furious with him "because of you" (לְּמַָ֣עַנְּכֶָ֔ם), indicating that he blames Israel for his predicament (cf. Deut 1:37). YHWH forbids Moses to speak on the matter again,14 but does grant the second part of his plea by allowing him to go up to the top of Pisgah to "see" (רָאָה) the Promised Land. In addition to this, Moses had to charge, encourage and strengthen Joshua, who would lead the people into the Promised Land, indicating that the conquest would continue despite the absence of Moses. The passage ends somewhat abruptly in verse 29 with a geographical reference providing some historical background.15

The key concepts of the passage are the verbs רָאָה ("to see") and עָבַר ("to pass over," or with the secondary and rare use of the verb [in the hitpa'el],16"to become furious").17 Both verbs are found four times in this short passage-Moses states that YHWH has only begun to show him his uniqueness (3:24) and therefore prays to go over and see the Promised Land (3:25). In reaction, YHWH becomes furious (3:26) with Moses, and commands him to go up to the top of Pisgah to see the Promised Land, knowing that he will not go over to it (3:27). Joshua, on the other hand, will go over and lead the people to take possession of the land that Moses will see (3:28).

For the purposes of this study, it should be noted that Moses' declaration in Deut 3:24 that YHWH has only begun to show him his uniqueness forms part of the main argument of the passage.

 

C WORDS DESCRIBING YHWH IN DEUT 3:24

As indicated above, four words or phrases are used in Moses' prayer to describe the uniqueness of YHWH, namely גֹּדֶל ("greatness"), יָד הַחֲזָקָה ("mighty hand"), מַעֲשֶה ("deeds") and גְּבוּרָה ("mighty acts").18 The aim of this section is to distinguish between the meanings of these words and to deduce various possibilities concerning the referential background of each. Since this is the primary aim of the study, the bulk of the article is devoted to this endeavour.

The meaning of each word or phrase is determined by,

providing an overview of the occurrence and use of the root and/or word or phrase in the Hebrew Bible according to Hebrew dictionaries;

doing an independent analysis and categorisation of how the root and/or word or phrase is employed in Deuteronomy;

comparing similar usages of the word or phrase in the Hebrew Bible; and

concluding (in the light of all the data) what the specific nuance of the word or phrase is in Deut 3:24.

1 גֹּדֶל ("greatness")

1a Overview of the occurrence and use of גדל in the Hebrew Bible

With roughly 670 occurrences in the MT,19 the Hebrew root גדל is one of the most common roots found in the Hebrew Bible. The root forms the basis of the verb גָדַל ("to be great"), the nouns גְּדוּלָה ("greatness") and גֹּדֶל ("greatness" or "great deeds"), the adjectives גָדוֹל ("great") and גָ דל ("great"), and a number of personal names. By far the most frequent occurrences of the root are found in the form of the verb גָדַל (±117x)20 and the adjective גָדוֹל (±524x).21 The less frequent forms of the root גדל in the Hebrew Bible are the nouns גְּדוּלָה (12x) and גֹּדֶל (13x), and the adjective גָ דל (4x).

For the purposes of this study, closer investigation of the adjective גָדוֹל and the noun גֹּדֶל is necessary:

The adjective גָדוֹל is usually rendered as "great," and in reference to persons or things, it largely corresponds to the use of the English equivalent.22 It "can be connected with very different concepts."23 Most often, it "describes the size or magnitude of the word it modifies."24Among others, the adjective is used with abstract terms (like "great things" or "great signs"), as a description of prominence or importance of men or God, as a description of an emotion or phenomenon and as reference to loudness, the devastation of war, and age or status (e.g. "older," "younger").25

The noun גֹּדֶל is used to refer to "greatness" as attribute in a positive or negative sense.26 When referring to God, it refers to his "greatness" or "magnificence,"27 especially as "manifested in his historical acts."28

When applied to man, it is used in a negative sense (in combination with לבָב) to refer to "pride," "arrogance" or "insolence" (Isa 9:8; 10:12).29

1b Analysis and categorisation of גדל in Deuteronomy

Two of the five forms of the root גדלare found in Deuteronomy, namely the adjective גָדוֹל and the noun גֹּדֶל. Strikingly, there are no occurrences of the verb גָדַל in Deuteronomy. The adjective גָדוֹל, however, is found an astounding 44 times in the book (±8% of the total occurrences in the MT). This is the second largest concentration of the adjective in a single biblical book.30 Moreover, five of the thirteen occurrences of the noun גֹּדֶל in the Hebrew Bible are found in Deuteronomy (±38%), by far the most of any biblical book. An overview of the occurrence of these words in Deuteronomy can be seen in Table 1.

A closer investigation reveals that the adjective גָדוֹל and the noun גֹּדֶל are used in eleven different ways in Deuteronomy, of which a summary can be seen in Table 2.

For the purpose of this study, four of these eleven different employments of גָדוֹל and גֹּדֶל in Deuteronomy need further elaboration:

An attribute of God: "Greatness" is depicted as an attribute of God, shown to both Moses (3:24) and the people of Israel (5:24), and made especially visible in the redemption from Egypt (9:26; 11:2). Consequently, God is called a "great God" (7:21; 10:17), and "greatness" is ascribed to him (32:3).

God's activity at the exodus: While God's activity at the exodus is described in a variety of ways in the book of Deuteronomy, the coupling of the exodus and the word-group "great" is striking. It is said that the exodus was accompanied by "terrifying (lit. great) displays of power" (4:34; 26:8; specifically done through Moses as agent [34:12]), "great signs and wonders" (6:22; 29:2b) and "great trials" (7:19; 29:2a). God brought them out of Egypt with his "great power" (4:37; 9:29). Together with the wilderness period, the exodus is called God's "great deed" (11:7) - a period in which they saw the "great [and awesome] things" God did (10:21). What God has achieved with the exodus is called "great" (4:32).

God's activity at Sinai: At Sinai, the people of Israel saw God's "great fire" (4:36) and they heard God's "loud (lit. great) voice" (5:22), both of which they feared would lead to their death (5:25; 18:16).

God's judgment: Four references to God's judgment as "great" are found in Deuteronomy. On the one hand, Moses explains to the people that God will throw the inhabitants of the Promised Land into "great panic" with the conquest (7:23). On the other hand, Moses warns the people of Israel in the elaboration of the curses associated with covenant disobedience that they can expect "lasting (lit. great) afflictions" (28:59), YHWH's "fierce (lit. great) anger" (29:23) and being uprooted from their land in his "great wrath" (29:27).

The following deductions can be made concerning the use of גָדוֹל and גֹּדֶל in Deuteronomy:

The majority of references to גָדוֹל or גֹּדֶל (27 of the 49 occurrences [±55%]) are used to refer to the attribute of God's greatness or activities that reveal his greatness. In other words, the majority of references to "great" in Deuteronomy are used to refer to who God is and what he does.

The noun גֹּדֶל is solely used in Deuteronomy to describe the attribute of God's greatness. Four of the five occurrences of גֹּדֶל are used to refer to his "greatness" (3:24; 5:24; 9:26; 11:2) while in the Song of Moses, the people "ascribe" (יָהַב) greatness to their God (32:3). Where the adjective גָדוֹל is used to describe the attribute of God's greatness, it describes God's greatness attributively, either stating that he is "a great and awesome God" (7:21) or "the great God, mighty and awesome" (10:17).

Almost two-thirds of all references to גָדוֹל and גֹּדֶל in Deuteronomy occur in passages that refer to the exodus (16x; ±33%)32 and the conquest of the Promised Land (15x; ±31%).33 This is striking, although unsurprising

if two of the major themes of Deuteronomy are taken into account, namely historical reflection and the imminent conquest. Closely linked to this are the number of references to גָדוֹל or גֹּדֶל in passages that refer to the Sinai theophany (5x),34 and the wilderness-wanderings (6x).35

Taking all of the above into account, it seems that the noun גֹּדֶל in Deut 3:24 is most probably used to refer to "greatness" as an attribute of YHWH, witnessed primarily by Moses (and the people of Israel) in the exodus events, and secondly in the Sinai theophany.

1c Comparison of similar usages of גֹּדֶל in the Hebrew Bible

As indicated above, the noun גֹּדֶל is found 13 times in the Hebrew Bible. In this section, the eight occurrences of the noun outside the book of Deuteronomy are briefly investigated in order to determine whether these occurrences shed some light on the use of the noun in Deut 3:24.

Closer investigation reveals that these eight occurrences of גֹּדֶל are used to refer to either God, man or nations. When used to refer to man, it refers to his arrogance (Isa 9:8; 10:12). When used to refer to nations, it refers to the splendour of Egypt and Assyria (Ezek 31:2, 7, 18). When used to refer to God, it is used in the following manners:

As an attribute of God: In Ps 150:2, the psalmist calls on everything to praise YHWH "according to his surpassing greatness" (כְּרָֹּ֣ב גֻדְּלֹֽו). The noun is used to refer to the attribute of God's greatness in general, without any specific background like the exodus events.

Adjectivally to emphasise another attribute of God: Twice the noun גֹּדֶל is found in a prepositional phrase (כְּ גֹּדֶל) used adjectivally to emphasise another attribute of God, namely "the greatness of" his "steadfast love" (חֶֶ֫סֶד; Num 14:19) and his "great power (lit. "arm")" (זְּרוֹ ע; Ps 79:11).

1d Conclusion: גֹּדֶל in Deut 3:24

In conclusion, the noun גֹּדֶל in Deut 3:24 most probably refers to "greatness" as an attribute of YHWH. The nuance of the noun here is not so much on what YHWH does (like some occurrences of the adjective גָדוֹל in Deuteronomy), but rather on who YHWH is. He is "great."

2 יָד ה חֲזָקָה ("mighty hand")

2a Overview of the occurrence and use of יָד and חזק in the Hebrew Bible

Occurring more than 1 600 times, the noun 7' is one of the most common words used in the Hebrew Bible.36 In the book of Deuteronomy alone, it is found 82 times.37

In the majority of cases, 7' refers to the human hand.38 Although a number of secondary or expanded usages of 7' are quite common in the Hebrew Bible,39 the second most general usage of 7' is where the noun is used figuratively to refer to "power" or "strength." In this regard, 7' "often stands for a person's power or capacity to rule over others" or "to exercise force."40

Strikingly, the noun יָד is found more than 200 times in the Hebrew Bible in reference to God. Used anthropomorphically, the "hand" of God is used mainly to refer to his "power" and "might."41 References to God's "power" or "might" are found in contexts that refer to his acts in creation, his maintenance of the world, his salvation and his judgment.42 The greatest concentration of references to God's power, however, are found in texts that refer to his redemption of his people from Egypt.43 In fact, Dreytza argues that the "theological metaphor of God's hand... seems to have its roots in Israel's experience of God redeeming them from slavery in Egypt" [my emphasis, A.J.C.],44 although Van der Woude rightly questions this.45 Nonetheless, references to God's hand is closely linked to the exodus events.

The verb חָזַק, the adjectives חָזָק and חָ זק, the nouns חזֶק , חֶזְּקָה , חֶֹּ֫זֶק and חָזְּקָה, and a couple of personal names (including Hezekiah and Ezekiel) are all derived from the root חזק. The root and all its derivatives have the basic meaning of "be/become strong."46

The adjective חָזָק is found 56 times in the Hebrew Bible.47 Although it "has a variety of meanings, depending on the context,"48 the basic nuance is being or becoming "strong" or "mighty."49 It is mostly used in reference to men (individually or collectively) or anthropomorphically to God, and in reference to bodily strength.50

2b Analysis and categorisation of יָד and חזק in Deuteronomy

A closer look at the 82 occurrences of the noun יָד in Deuteronomy reveals that while the majority of references to יָד in Deuteronomy refers to various concepts linked to or derived from the hand of man (±79%), a sizeable amount of references refers to the hand of God (±18%). The results of this investigation can be seen in Table 3.

The 15 references to God's hand are all used in a single fashion; all of them refer to the "might" or "power" of God. This is mainly expressed anthropomorphically in the phrase "the mighty hand" of God (two-thirds of the time a form of בְָּ י ד חֲזָקִָ֖ ה), which invariably refers to God's power as revealed in the exodus from"Egypt (3:24; 4:34; 5:15; 6:21; 7:8, 19; 9:26; 11:2; 26:8). References to God's "hand" are also found without the coupling with the adjective "mighty" to refer to his judgment (2:15; 32:41), omnipotence (32:39), trustworthiness (32:40) and protection (33:3, 7).

To the 15 references to God's hand referring to his power can be added eight references to YHWH giving someone over into the "hand" of someone else (1:27; 2:24, 30; 3:2, 3; 7:24; 20:13; 21:10). The phrase, which consists of the noun יָד in combination with the verb נָתַן, expresses the concept of delivering someone into someone else's power.

The verb חָזַק is found nine times in Deut (1:38; 3:28; 11:8; 12:23; 22:25; 25:11; 31:6, 7, 23), but never with God as subject. The adjective חָזָ is found ten times in Deuteronomy, and strikingly, always within the phrase יָד הַחֲזָקָה ("mighty hand"). Nine of the ten occurrences of חָזָק in Deuteronomy refer to God's "mighty hand," all of which have the exodus event as background (3:24; 4:34; 5:15; 6:21; 7:8, 19; 9:26; 11:2; 26:8). The only exception in this regard is Deut 34:12, which, upon closer inspection, is no exception at all. Although it explicitly mentions Moses' "mighty hand," it refers to Moses' agency in the exodus events as enabled by YHWH. By implication, Moses' "mighty hand" can indirectly be interpreted as God's "mighty hand."

2c Comparison of similar usages of יָד הַחֲזָקָה in the Hebrew Bible

References to the "strong" or "mighty" hand of man or God are quite common in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, 28 of the 56 occurrences of חָזָק in the Hebrew Bible are found in combination with "hand," as can be seen in Table 4.

Although ambiguity in some contexts makes an exact number difficult, it seems that of the 28 occurrences of חָזָק in combination with יָד , at least 22 refer to the mighty hand of God. A breakdown of this can be seen in Table 5 below.

To this count should be added other derivatives of חזק in combination with יָד, namely חֶֹּ֫זֶק (Exod 13:3, 14, 16) and חֶזְּקָה (Isa 8:11). Consequently, it seems that there are 26 references to God's "mighty hand" in the Hebrew Bible. Viewing these references together, the following becomes clear:

The "mighty hand" of God emphasises YHWH's superiority.52

About three quarters of the references to God's "mighty hand" have the exodus from Egypt as backdrop. This is the case with probably 19 of the 26 references (±73%).53 The assumption that the phrase "the mighty hand" of God refers primarily to YHWH's deliverance of Israel from Egypt54 is therefore proven. To this can be added the intriguing hypothesis of Hoffmeier, who argues that the phrase "mighty hand" may consciously be used polemically in the exodus narratives against the Egyptian concept of the "mighty" or "conquering hand" (arm) of Pharaoh.55 It is not Pharaoh who is god and king; YHWH is.

All the references to God's "mighty hand" in the Pentateuch refer to the exodus from Egypt. Those outside the Pentateuch may refer to this as well, but it is not always the case. Strikingly, a number of references are used to refer to the return from exile (Neh 1:10; Ezek 20:34), which can be viewed as modelled on the original salvific act, namely the exodus.

References to God's "mighty hand" is often coupled with other words or concepts,56 as is the case in Deut 3:24. This includes the following: "greatness" (Deut 3:24; 9:26; 11:2), "works/deeds" (Deut 3:24; 11:2-3), "trials" (Deut 4:34; 7:19), "signs" (Deut 4:34; 6:21-22; 7:19; 11:2-3; 26:8; Jer 32:21), "wonders" (Deut 4:34; 6:21-22; 7:19; 26:8; Jer 32:21), "outstretched arm" (Deut 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8; 1 Kgs 8:42; Jer 32:21; Ezek 20:33, 34; Ps 136:12; 2 Chron 6:32), "(a) terrifying display(s) of power" (lit. "great [deeds of] terror"; Deut 4:34; 26:8; 34:12; Jer 32:21), and "(great) wrath" (Jer 21:5;57 Ezek 20:33, 34).

2d Conclusion: יָד הַחֲזָקָה in Deut 3:24

Taking all of the above into consideration, it becomes clear that the reference to יָד הַחֲזָקָה in Deut 3:24 refers to YHWH's great or superior might, almost certainly as revealed, demonstrated, or expressed in the exodus events. Placed alongside גֹּדֶל in Deut 3:24, יָד הַחֲזָקָה refers to the attribute of YHWH's great or superior might.

3 מעֲשֶה ("deeds")

3 a Overview of the occurrence and use of מַעֲשֶה in the Hebrew Bible

The noun מַעֲשֶה is derived from the root עשה, which principally refers to the action "to make" or "to do." The verb עָשָה is found approximately 2 627 times in the Hebrew Bible,58 which makes it "the third most common verb in the OT."59

As could be expected of such a common verb, "[t]he semantic field of עָשָה "is very large, the range of nuances extraordinarily broad."60 Nonetheless, in the qal the verb "conforms pretty much to the meanings to make or to do, with many nuances of each of these meanings employed."61

When used in a theological sense, the verb עָשָה refers to YHWH's action in all realms. The verb is used to refer to his activity and control over history, nature and people,62 or put differently, to his activity "at a national, universal, or personal level."63 The verb עָשָה is also "the most general word used to describe" God's "creative acts."64 The use of the verb in reference to God's activity in history includes all major national events, including the exodus from Egypt and the exile,65 as well as specific events in the lives of individuals.

The noun מַעֲשֶה, which is found about 221 times in the Hebrew Bible,66 is a "noun of action of the verb עָשָה," namely "that which any one makes or does."67 Consequently, it mostly refers to a "work", "deed," "action," "act" or a variety of handiworks or products, of both man and God.68 When used to refer to man's deeds or work, it often has an ethical connotation.69 When used for the works of God, it can refer to his governance in history and divine providence in creation.70

3b Analysis and categorisation of מַעֲשֶה in Deuteronomy

The verb עָ שָה is found 160 times in Deuteronomy.71 Since the meaning and use of the verb is extremely broad and context-specific, it does not seem fruitful to classify and categorise the occurrences of the verb in Deuteronomy. Since the aim of this study is to investigate the meaning of מַעֲשֶה in Deut 3:24, the investigation that follows will focus on the meaning and occurrence of the noun in Deuteronomy. It should be noted, however, that the verb עָשָה is used in combination with the noun מַעֲשֶהin Deut 3:24.

The noun מַעֲשֶה is found 13 times in Deuteronomy. A closer look at these 13 occurrences reveal that the noun is mainly used in three ways, of which a summary can be seen in Table 6.

In three occurrences in Deuteronomy, the noun מַעֲשֶה refers to YHWH's work in history. Apart from Deut 3:24, the noun is found twice in Deut 11 to refer to God's activity during the exodus-Israel is called to reflect on YHWH's acts during the exodus (11:3), and also on all his acts since (and including) the exodus up to the specific point in time that Moses directs the words of Deuteronomy to them (11:7). Forming a parallel with Deut 3:24, God's acts in history are linked in Deut 11:3 to his "discipline," "greatness, "mighty hand and outstretched arm" and "signs." Consequently, it seems that the noun מַעֲשֶה in Deut 3:24 could be interpreted as YHWH's deeds in history, specifically, during the exodus.

3 c Comparison of similar usages of מַעֲשֶה in the Hebrew Bible

Based on the 221 occurrences of the noun in the Hebrew Bible identified by Lisowsky,72 a survey reveals that the noun is mostly used to refer to the "works" or "deeds" of man, or derivatives associated with man (±70% of all occurrences). In almost a quarter of the occurrences (53 of the 221 [±24%]), however, the noun is used in reference to God. An overview of the different usages of the noun in reference to God can be seen in Table 7.

From the above it becomes clear that the noun מַעֲשֶה is often used to refer to the deeds of God in general (including references to his providence and nonspecific references to his deeds in history) and God's creation. Of importance for this study are the occurrences where the noun refers to specific deeds of God within Israel's history, as seems to be the case in Deut 3:24. An overview of the specific events referred to in these cases is found in Table 8 below.

Consequently, the noun מַעֲשֶה can be employed to refer to the exodus events, the wilderness period, the conquering and division of the Promised Land and the deliverance from exile. The possibility of interpreting מַעֲשֶה in Deut 3:24 as YHWH's work in the exodus events, or even from the exodus up to the point where Moses prays the words of Deut 3:24, seems justified.

3d Conclusion: מַעֲשֶה in Deut 3:24

Taking all of the above into consideration, מַעֲשֶה in Deut 3:24 seems to refer to YHWH's deeds in history, especially, as witnessed in the exodus events (and possibly subsequent events up to the time just prior to the conquest of the Promised Land). This is strengthened by the fact that the verb עָשָה is used in combination with the noun מַעֲשֶה in Deut 3:24. Here מַ עֲשֶה refers to concrete, visible and perceptible deeds that YHWH has done.

4 גְּבוּרָה ("mighty acts")

4a Overview of the occurrence and use of גבר in the Hebrew Bible

The verb גָבַר, the nouns גֶבֶר ("man," "male"), גְּבוּרָה ("strength," "powerful deed"), גְּ ביר ("lord," "master") and גְּ בירָה ("lady," "mistress"), and the adjective גבוֹר ("manly," "vigorous," "powerful") are all derived from the root גבר73which has the basic meaning of "to be superior" or "to be strong."74

The noun גְּבוּרָה is found about 61 times in the Hebrew Bible,75 of which 11 are in the plural form.76 The basic meaning of the noun is closely related to the verb, and can be rendered as "superiority," "strength," "might" or "power."77 It is used to refer to the physical strength of animals and man,78 and often refers to military might.79 The noun can also refer to "ability" in the more general sense,80 or to man's spiritual strength, which is linked to his power, wisdom and understanding.81 The word is also employed to refer to God's power and ethical strength, especially in connection with his justice, righteousness, grace, faithfulness, wisdom and understanding.82 In the Rabbinic age (as reflected in Rabbinic literature), when the name YHWH was no longer uttered, the noun was used "as a substitute for the proper name of God."83

4b Analysis and categorisation of גברin Deuteronomy

Analysing and categorising the root גבר in Deuteronomy does not produce notable results. The verb גָבַר does not occur in Deuteronomy, and the noun גְּבוּרָה (Deut 3:24), the adjective גבוֹר (Deut 10:17) and the noun גֶבֶר (Deut 22:5) occur once each. Excluding the occurrence in Deut 3:24, the only real significant occurrence of the root גבר is the use of גבוֹר in Deuteronomy 10:17. Just like Deut 3:24, Deut 10:17 emphasises YHWH's uniqueness and describes a number of his attributes. He is called the "great" (גָדוֹל), "mighty" (גבוֹר) and "awesome" (יָ רא) God.

In the light of the scarcity of data in Deuteronomy, an analysis and categorisation of all occurrences of גְּבוּרָה in the Hebrew Bible will be subsequently done.

4c Analysis and categorisation of גְּבוּרָה in the Hebrew Bible

As indicated above, the noun גְּבוּרָה is found 61 times in the Hebrew Bible. A closer look reveals that it is mainly used in four ways, as can be seen in Table 9 below.

A closer investigation of the 25 occurrences of the noun גְּבוּרָה to refer to the power or might of God reveals that it is mostly found in poetic texts (especially the Psalms, with 15 of the 25 occurrences [60%]), where the noun is employed to refer to the being of God (Pss 66:7; 89:14; Job 12:13),84 his awesome power (in general [Pss 21:14; 71:18; 106:8; 145:11; Job 26:14], or as reflected in his deeds [Pss 71:16; 106:2; 145:4,12; 150:2] and in creation [Ps 65:7]), and his unquestionable ability (twice by way of petition) to save (Pss 20:7; 54:3; 80:3). Outside the poetic literature, it is found four times in the prayers of individuals to refer to God's divine might (Deut 3:24; 1 Chron 29:11,12; 2 Chron 20:6), and four times in the prophetic literature to refer to God's awesome power (Isa 33:13; Jer 10:6; 16:21) and his being (Isa 63:15).

For the purpose of this study, the following should be noted concerning the occurrences of גְּבוּרָה as God's "strength" or "might":

"Might" as divine attribute in prayers: In all four occurrences of the noun in the prayers of individuals, God's "strength" is coupled with other divine attributes (Deut 3:24; 1 Chron 29:11, 12; 2 Chron 20:6). Excluding the reference found in Deut 3:24, all other occurrences of the noun in prayers seem to refer to "might" as an attribute of YHWH, especially his omnipotence and sovereignty. In Deut 3:24, however, גְּבוּרָה is preceded by the verb עָשָה, which suggests that in this context, the noun refers to tangible expressions of this attribute.

YHWH's "might" revealed in the exodus: In Ps 66:7 (see Ps 66:6) and Ps 106:2, 8 (see Ps 106:7-33) YHWH's "might" is linked to the exodus events, which supports the possibility of interpreting the exodus as the background of גְּבוּרָה in Deut 3:24.

4d Conclusion: גְּבוּרָה in Deut 3:24

In sum, it seems best to interpret the noun גְּבוּרָה in Deut 3:24 as referring to perceptible expressions of YHWH's awesome and surpassing might. This is suggested by the link between the noun and the verb עָשָה. Translating גְּבוּרָה in Deut 3:24 as "mighty acts" is therefore fitting. From the above and the context of the passage, these expressions of YHWH's might in Deut 3:24 most probably include (but are not necessarily limited to) the exodus events.

5 Summary

In this section, the four words and phrases used in Deut 3:24 to describe the uniqueness of YHWH were investigated in detail in order to distinguish between their meanings and to deduce primarily various possibilities of the referential background of each.

Given the conclusions of the previous sections, it seems that a distinction can be made between the first two and last two concepts found in Deut 3:24. While the verb רָאָה ("see") in Deut 3:24 suggests that all four words or phrases refer to concepts that were physically perceptible to Moses, from the above, it seems that the first two refer to attributes of God, namely his "greatness" and "might," while the last two refer to concrete expressions of these attributes, namely his "deeds" and "mighty acts." Put differently, גֹּדֶל and יָד הַחֲזָקָה refer to who YHWH is; מַעֲשֶה and גְּבוּרָה refer to what he does. A summary of this can be seen in Table 10.

One may be inclined argue that the four items form a chiasm (A greatness; B might; B' deeds; A' mighty acts) or an ABAB pattern (at least in English: A greatness; B might; A deeds; B mighty acts), but no convincing evidence for this was found. The conclusion above (arguing that the first two and the last two concepts go together) is supported by the word order in the Hebrew text.

 

D REFERENTIAL BACKGROUND OF WORDS DESCRIBING YHWH IN DEUT 3:24

In this section, the findings above are synthesised in order to confirm the referential background of "greatness" (גֹּדֶל), "mighty hand" (יָד הַחֲזָקָה), "deeds" (מַעֲשֶה) and "mighty acts" (גְּבוּרָה) in Deut 3:24.

The investigation above found that the exodus events form the most likely referential background of all of these words. Moses witnessed YHWH's "greatness" and "mighty hand" as attributes and his "deeds" and "mighty acts" as concrete expressions of these attributes in everything YHWH did pertaining to Israel's salvation from Egypt. The exodus served as the primary and most dramatic school in which Moses learned who YHWH is and what he does.

While the primacy of the exodus events is undeniable, the investigation above found that the background of these words are not necessarily limited to the exodus events. The referential background of these words may include subsequent events up to the time just prior to the conquest of the Promised Land.

These conclusions can be strengthened by tracing the occurrence and use of the root גדל, the phrase יָד הַחֲזָקָה, the noun מַעֲשֶה and the root גבר in the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy for specific events linked to them.85 The results of this investigation can be seen in Table 11.

The table above supports the interpretation that Moses' experiences of YHWH's attributes and expressions of these attributes first and foremost refer to the exodus events. Without a doubt, this is the primary referential context.

The table, however, also indicates that subsequent events may also be in view. Consequently, it may be that Moses' perception of who YHWH is and what he has done as expressed in Deut 3:24 should not be limited to the exodus events only. The fact that Deut 3:24 does not explicitly refer to a specific referential context may be deliberate to include various (if not all) of Moses' experiences of YHWH's attributes and expressions of these attributes, which would include all the events in his life since his calling up to the point in time where he prays these specific words.

 

E CONCLUSION

The preceding discussion will now conclude by reflecting on the distinctive contribution of Deut 3:24 to Deuteronomy's overall theme of the uniqueness of YHWH.

Various references to the uniqueness or incomparability of YHWH are found throughout the book of Deuteronomy (i.e. Deut 4:32-40; 6:4; 7:9; 9:26; 10:17; 11:2; 32:39; 33:26). Of these, the passages that have the most overlap with Deut 3:24 are Deut 9:26, 10:17 and 11:2. Focusing on the content of these references, Deut 11:2-3 forms the closest parallel. While Deut 9:26 uses the adjective "greatness" (גֹּדֶל) and the term "mighty hand" (יָד חֲזָקָה) to describe YHWH, and Deut 10:17 uses the adjectives "great" (גָדוֹל) and "mighty" (גבוֹר), Deut 11:2-3 refers to YHWH's "greatness" (גֹּדֶל), "mighty hand" (יָד הַחֲזָקָה) and "deeds" (מַעֲשֶה), along with his "outstretched arm" (זְּרוֹ ע הַנְּטוּיָֹֽה) and "signs" (אוֹת). Moreover, the exodus events are explicitly stated as the referential background of these words.

When it comes to form, however, Deut 9:26 has the closest parallel to Deut 3:24. Both contain prayers by Moses. In fact, Deut 3:24-25 and 9:26-29 are the only two prayers by Moses found in the book. Moreover, both are prayers of intercession, both begin with the same vocative (אֲ דנָָ֣י יְּה וִ֗ה; ["Lord GOD"]), and both start by describing the uniqueness of YHWH.87 As such, the words contained in Deut 3:24 and 9:26 are unique in the sense that they reflect Moses' personal convictions concerning YHWH.88

In these words, we hear the convictions of the prophet-lawgiver-leader of the Israelites; the man who was called by YHWH to lead his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land; the man who directly witnessed countless expressions of YHWH's being and conduct through forty years of active service. If anyone among the Israelites could have known (as far as is humanly possible) the intricacies of the being and conduct of YHWH, it was Moses.

The difference between Deut 3:24 and 9:26 has to do with both context and those prayed for. While Moses prays for the people in Deut 9:26 after the golden calf incident,89 in Deut 3:24 he prays for himself shortly before the conquest of the Promised Land. In Deut 3:24 the 120-year-old Moses grounds his personal prayer for access to the Promised Land in his personal convictions about YHWH. He is convinced that no other god anywhere is like YHWH or can do the things he has done, and that the things he has witnessed are but the beginning of the revelation of who YHWH is and what he can do.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Albertz, Rainer. A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period. 2 vols. Translated by J. Bowden. London: SCM Press, 1994.         [ Links ]

Block, Daniel I. Deuteronomy. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.         [ Links ]

Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren., eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. 15 Vols. Translated by John T. Willis. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975-2015.         [ Links ]

Brown, Francis, Samuel R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver- Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.         [ Links ]

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997.         [ Links ]

Brueggemann, Walter. Deuteronomy. Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.         [ Links ]

Christensen, Duane L. Deuteronomy 1:1-21:9. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.         [ Links ]

Coetsee, Albert. "YHWH and Israel in Terms of the Concept of Life in Deuteronomy." Old Testament Essays 32/1 (2019): 101-126.         [ Links ]

Craigie, Peter C. The Book of Deuteronomy. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976.         [ Links ]

Gesenius, F.H. Wilhelm and Samuel P. Tregelles. Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2003.         [ Links ]

Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology. 3 vols. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003-2009.         [ Links ]

Hoffmeier, James K. "The Arm of God versus the Arm of Pharaoh in the Exodus Narratives." Biblica 67/3 (1986): 378-387.         [ Links ]

Jenni, Ernst and Claus Westermann, eds. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. 3 Vols. Translated by Mark E. Biddle. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997.         [ Links ]

Labuschagne, Casper. J. The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament. Leiden: Brill, 1966.         [ Links ]

Lisowsky, Gerhard. Konkordanz zum Hebräischen Alten Testament. Stuttgart: Privilegierte württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1958.         [ Links ]

Lundbom, Jack R. Deuteronomy: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.         [ Links ]

MacDonald, Nathan. Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism. 2nd ed. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.         [ Links ]

Mann, Thomas. W. "Theological Reflections on the Denial of Moses." Journal of Biblical Literature 98/4 (1979): 481-494.         [ Links ]

McConville, J. Gordon. Deuteronomy. Apollos Old Testament Commentary. Leicester: Apollos, 2002.         [ Links ]

Merrill, Eugene H. Deuteronomy. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994.         [ Links ]

O'Kennedy, Daniël F. "Prayer in Moab (Dt 3:23-29): The Relationship between the Recorded Prayer and Its Historical Geographical Setting." Old Testament Essays 11/2 (1998): 288-305.         [ Links ]

Otto, Eckart. Deuteronomium 1,1-4,43. Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament. Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 2012.         [ Links ]

Tigay, Jeffrey H. The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996.         [ Links ]

VanGemeren, Willem A., ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. 5 Vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.         [ Links ]

Weinfeld, Moshe. Deuteronomy 1-11. Anchor Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1991.         [ Links ]

Wright, Christopher J.H. Deuteronomy. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.         [ Links ]

 

 

Submitted: 13/08/2020
Peer-reviewed: 08/12/2020
Accepted: 11/12/2020

 

 

Dr. Albert Coetsee, School for Christian Ministry and Leadership, North-West University. Email: albert.coetsee@nwu.ac.za. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5549-2474
1 The seminal study on the incomparability of uniqueness of YHWH in the Old Testament, including Deuteronomy, is the monograph of Casper J. Labuschagne, The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 1966). One of the most comprehensive recent studies on the uniqueness or incomparability of YHWH in relation to monotheism in Deuteronomy, is the monography of Nathan MacDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism (2d ed.; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 2012).
2 All quotations from the Bible are from the NRSV. References to chapters and verses of biblical books, however, are from the Hebrew Bible.
3 Various scholars briefly link the description found in Deut 3:24 to specific events in the life of Moses. Most link it to the exodus. See among others Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (New International Commentary on the Old Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 126, Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1-11: (Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 1991), 191, Eckart Otto, Deuteronomium 1,1-4,43 (Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament; Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 2012), 502 (by means of comparison with Deut 9:26) and Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013), 225. Jeffrey H. Tigay, The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 39, apart from the exodus events, also mentions Mount Sinai as possible background. In the same vein, Lundbom, Deuteronomy, 225, links these words to both the exodus and the wilderness wanderings. Craigie, Deuteronomy, 126 also briefly mentions the possibility of the conquest of the lands east of the Jordan as background, while Weinfeld, Deuteronomy, 191 and Lundbom, Deuteronomy, 225226 also refer to the triumph over Sihon the king of Heshbon and Og the king of Bashan. J. Gordon McConville, Deuteronomy (Apollos Old Testament Commentary; Leicester: Apollos, 2002), 95 and Christopher J.H. Wright, Deuteronomy (New International Biblical Commentary; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 41 take a more general route by referring respectively to "Moses' own participation in the events," which showed YHWH's unique power and "the incredible acts of God in two generations." Finally, a number of scholars are silent on the matter. See among others Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy (The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 110-111; Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy (Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 45; Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1-21:9 (Word Biblical Commentary; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 68-69 and Daniel I. Block, Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 104-105. The chosen methodology for the present study is synchronic in nature and thus excludes aspects pertaining to a more religious-historical nature, like the work of Rainer Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period (2 vols.; trans. J. Bowden; London: SCM Press, 1994). These aspects are indeed interesting and important, as are issues of a more theological nature related to the use of these words in related (i.e. Deuteronomistic History) as well as other parts of the Old Testament. See for example Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), and John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology (3 vols.; Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003-2009). However, these fall outside the scope of the current study.
4 In this article, "referential background" is used to refer to the historical events the words employed (in Deut 3) point to.
5 Albert Coetsee, "YHWH and Israel in Terms of the Concept of Life in Deuteronomy," OTE 32/1 (2019):105. This is the case if the text is taken in its present form, namely as prior to the conquest of the Promised Land. For discussion of the possible redactional layers and the dating of Deut 3:23-29, see Otto, Deuteronomium, 500-505.
6 See the setumah at the end of Deut 3:22, and thepetuhah at the end of Deut 3:29.
7 Cf. Otto, Deuteronomium, 499 who views 3:23 and 3:29 as "Rahmen."
8 Thomas W. Mann, "Theological Reflections on the Denial of Moses," JBL 98/4 (1979):483.
9 The problem lies on two fronts. The first is the nature of Moses' sin in Num 20:11-12, which various scholars argue is not clear. Wright, Deuteronomy, 41-42, could be taken as an example, arguing that Moses "failed in some unspecified way to uphold God's holiness among" the people [my emphasis, A.J.C.]. The second difficulty has to do with some differences between texts referring to Moses' denial of entering the Promised Land (cf. Num 27:12-14; Deut 1:37; 4:21; 32:48-52). Among others, Num 20:12 seems to indicate that Moses' exclusion is his own fault, while Moses states in Deut 1:37 and 3:26 that it is the people's fault. There are various ways of approaching these differences: (1) attempts can be made to harmonise the differences; (2) the differences can be explained as a reflection of different traditions (e.g. deuteronomic vs priestly source); (3) Moses can be blame shifting in Deuteronomy. For some explanations for Moses' denial of entering the Promised Land, see Tigay, Deuteronomy, 425 and especially Mann, "Theological Reflections," 481-494.
10 Tigay, Deuteronomy, 38. Cf. Block, Deuteronomy, 104.
11 Block, Deuteronomy, 111.
12 F. H. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel P. Tregelles, Gesenius'Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 281 and Francis Brown, Samuel R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 320.
13 Block, Deuteronomy, 105, however, is correct when he states that these words reflect Moses' great respect for YHWH, and are not mere flattery. Nonetheless, Moses' plea does seem to be purposefully structured to venture for a favourable answer.
14 The adverb
עִ֖וֹד seems to imply that Moses pleaded continually. See Craigie, Deuteronomy, 127 and Christensen, Deuteronomy, 69.
15 For the importance of taking this and other geographical references in the passage into account for interpreting the prayer, see Daniël F. O'Kennedy, "Prayer in Moab (Dt 3:23-29): The Relationship between the Recorded Prayer and Its Historical Geographical Setting," OTE 11/2 (1998): 288-305. Cf. Tigay, Deuteronomy, 40.
16 G.B. Struthers, "
עָבַר" NIDOTTE 3:317 indicates that the etymology of this secondary use of the verb is uncertain. In Deut 3:23-29, the difference of meaning forms a nice little word play. Moses begs to go over to the Promised Land (עָבַר), but YHWH gets furious (עָבַר). Christensen, Deuteronomy, 67 views this word play as portraying "a whimsical sense of humor."
17 These key concepts are also noted by Christensen, Deuteronomy, 66-67. Tigay, Deuteronomy, 38 indicates that the root
עבר is a leitmotif in Deut 2-3. To the verb רָאָה should be added the two occurrences of the noun עינַ ים ("eyes"; 3:272), and to the verb עָבַר the single occurrence of the noun עבֶר ("beyond; 3:25).
18 Deuteronomy 3:24 in the LXX contains six words or phrases to describe the uniqueness of YHWH (
ισχύς, δύναμις, ή χείρ ή κραταιά, ό βραχίων ό υψηλός, ποιέω and ισχύς [again]), presumably because of interpolation with Deut 11:2. Deut 3:24 in the Peshitta also contains an additional phrase, namely ܐܡܪ ܟܥܪܕ ("your uplifted/exalted arm"). The current article, however, focuses on and investigates the use of the four Hebrew words or phrases in the MT.
19 This total is reached by adding the number of occurrences of the verb, nouns and adjectives derived from the root
גדל given by E. Jenni, "גָדֹּול gädöl great," TLOT 302303. This excludes occurrences of מ גְּ דָל ("tower"), גְּ ד לים ("twisted threads"), and various proper names (e.g. מגְּדוֹל).
20 M.G. Abegg Jr., "
גָדַל (gädal I)," NIDOTTE 1:823 counts 117 occurrences of the verb גָדַל, Jenni, TLOT 302 118 and R. Mosis, "גָדַל gädhal; גָדוֹל gädhöl; גְּ דֻלָה gedulläh; גֹּדֶל gödhel; מגְּדָל mighdäl," TDOT2:402 121.
21 Abegg, NIDOTTE 1:823 gives the count as 524, while Jenni, TLOT 302 gives it as 525. Mosis, TDOT 2:392 gives a relative number by stating that the adjective occurs a little over 520 times in the Hebrew Bible.
22 Jenni, TLOT 303.
23 Mosis, TDOT 2:392.
24 Abegg, NIDOTTE 1:824.
25 Cf. Ibid., 1:824-826.
26 Although the concept "attribute" can be an anachronistic misnomer in Old Testament studies, it is used in this article for the sake of discussion.
27 Jenni, TLOT 304. Cf. Abegg, NIDOTTE 1:826.
28 Mosis, TDOT 2:400.
29 Cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Enhanced Lexicon, 152.2 and Gesenius and Tregelles, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, 159.
30 Cf. Jenni, TLOT 302-303.
31 All tables in this article are my own composition, compiled with the help of Gerhard Lisowsky, Konkordanz zum Hebräischen Alten Testament (Stuttgart: Privilegierte württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1958) and the search function of Logos Bible Software. In the current table, the count of 44 occurrences of the adjective
גָדוֹל in Deuteronomy is supported by Jenni, TLOT 302 and Lisowsky, Konkordanz, 308.
32 Deuteronomy 3:24; 4:32, 34, 37; 6:22; 7:19; 9:26, 29; 10:17, 21; 11:2, 7; 26:8; 29:2ab; 34:12.
33 Deuteronomy 1:7; 2:21; 4:6, 7, 8, 38; 6:10; 7:21, 23; 9:1ab, 2; 11:23; 26:5; 27:2.
34 Deuteronomy 4:36; 5:22, 24, 25; 18:16.
35 Deuteronomy 1:19, 28ab; 2:7, 10; 8:15.
36 P.R. Ackroyd, ""
יָד yād; זְּ רוֹעַ zerôa'; יָ מין yāmîn; כַף kap; אֶצְּבַע 'eba',","TDOT 5:397 refers to a relative number by stating the יָד "occurs more than 1600 times" in the Hebrew Bible. A.S. van der Woude, "יָד yäd hand," TLOT 497-498 starts off by doing the same (he states that יָד has "over 1,600 occurrences" in the Hebrew Bible), but later ventures to give an exact count of 1 618. M. Dreytza, "יָד (yäd), hand, power, side," NIDOTTE 2:402 is somewhat more specific, referring to "some 1,617 occurrences of יָד in Hebrew and 17 in Aramaic in the Old Testament.
37 Van der Woude, TLOT 498 indicates that 7' appears 71x in the singular in Deuteronomy and 12x as dual, which makes a total of 83 occurrences. According to my count, the noun appears 82x in Deuteronomy.
38 Cf. Van der Woude, TLOT 499; Dreytza, NIDOTTE 2:402; Ackroyd, TDOT 5:400.
39 Cf. Van der Woude, TLOT 499 and Ackroyd, TDOT 5:400-403.
40 Van der Woude, TLOT 500.
41 God's "hand" is also used in other ways. See Dreytza, NIDOTTE 2:403-404 and Van der Woude, TLOT 501-502 for further details.
42 Cf. Van der Woude, TLOT 501.
43 Ibid., 501-502.
44 Dreytza, NIDOTTE 2:403.
45 Van der Woude, TLOT 501 correctly argues that references to the hand of God is "prefigured" in other Semitic expressions, and that it is therefore "questionable whether the strong emphasis of language concerning Yahweh's hand (and arm) derived impetus from the exodus narratives."
46 F. Hesse, "
חָזַק chäzaq; חָזָק chäzäq; חָ זק chazëq; חֶזֶק chezeq; חֹּזֶק chözeq; חֶזְּקָ ה chezqäh; חָזְּקָה chozqäh," TDOT4:301.
47 This count is supported by Hesse, TDOT 4:301 and A.S. van der Woude, "
חזק hzq to be firm," TLOT 404. R. Wakely, "חָזַק häzaq," NIDOTTE 2:64 is more tentative by stating that the adjective is found 56 or 57 times in the Hebrew Bible.
48 Wakely, NIDOTTE 2:79.
49 Cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Enhanced Lexicon, 305.2.
50 Hesse, TDOT 4:302, 305.
51 In my view, the presumably ambiguous "mighty hand" references in Exod 6:12 indicated by Hesse, TDOT 4:305 and Wakely, NIDOTTE 2:81 are not convincingly ambiguous. The text seems to refer to the "strong hand" with which Pharaoh would drive the Israelites from Egypt, emphasising his eagerness for them to leave. For an overview of different views, see Wakely, NIDOTTE 2:81. The only truly ambiguous reference is Exod 3:19, where the subject of the phrase
וְּלִ֖אֹּ בְּיָ ד חֲזָקָֹֽה is not clear.
52 Hesse, TDOT 4:305.
53 Exod 13:3, 9, 14, 16; 32:11; Deut 3:24; 4:34; 5:15; 6:21; 7:8, 19; 9:26; 11:2; 26:8; 34:12; Josh 4:24; Jer 32:21; Ps 136:12; Dan 9:15.
54 See Brown, Driver and Briggs, Enhanced Lexicon, 305.2; Van der Woude, TLOT 405; Wakely, NIDOTTE 2:81.
55 James K. Hoffmeier, "The Arm of God versus the Arm of Pharaoh in the Exodus Narratives," Bib 67/3 (1986): 386.
56 Cf. Wakely, NIDOTTE 2:81 and Hesse, TDOT 4:305.
57 Jeremiah 21:5 is unique in the sense that it mixes the usual nouns and adjectives. It refers to the "outstretched hand" and "strong arm" of YHWH.
58 E. Carpenter, "
עָשָה ( asä I)," NIDOTTE 3:547 and J. Vollmer, "עשה sh to make, do," TLOT 944. H. Ringgren, "עָשָ ma'aseh," TDOT 11:388 argues that "[e]tymological uncertainty makes it impossible to state the number of occurrences precisely."
59 Vollmer, TLOT 944.
60 Ibid., 945. Cf. Ringgren, TDOT 11:388.
61 Carpenter, NIDOTTE 3:547.
62 Vollmer, TLOT949-950. Cf. Ringgren, TDOT 11:392.
63 Carpenter, NIDOTTE 3:550.
64 Ibid., 3:547. Cf. Ringgren, TDOT 11:390 and Vollmer, TLOT 949.
65 See Ringgren, TDOT 11:396-397 for the verb in connection to YHWH's acts in history, as expressed especially in exilic and postexilic literature.
66 Vollmer, TLOT 945 gives the exact count as 235, while Carpenter, NIDOTTE 3:547, states that the noun is found 220 to 236 times in the Hebrew Bible. Counting the references in Lisowsky, Konkordanz, 843-844, results in a total of 221.
67 Gesenius and Tregelles, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, 497. Cf. Ringgren, TDOT 11:399.
68 Cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Enhanced Lexicon, 795.2.
69 Vollmer, TLOT 948.
70 Ringgren, TDOT 11:401-402.
71 Vollmer, TLOT 945.
73 V.P. Hamilton, "
גֶבֶר (geber I)," NIDOTTE 1:816, however, states that it is not certain whether the noun גֶבֶר is derived from the verb גָבַר or the verb from the noun.
74 J. Kühlewein, "
גבר gbr to be superior," TLOT 299. Cf. R. Wakely, "גָבַר (gäbar)," NIDOTTE 1:806.
75 Kühlewein, TLOT299 and Lisowsky, Konkordanz, 304-305 count 61 occurrences, while H. Kosmala, "
גָבַר gäbhar; גְּבוּרָה gebhüräh; גְּ ביר gebhïr; גבוֹר gibbör; גֶבֶר gebher·," TDOT 2:367 counts 64. My own investigation led to the same references and count as Lisowsky's.
76 Namely
גְּ בוּרַת Cf. Deut 3:24; Isa 63:15; Pss 20:7; 71:16; 90:10; 106:2; 145:4, 12; 150:2; Job 26:14; 41:4. According to Kosmala, TDOT 2:372, in all but one of these passages (Ps 90:10) גְּבוּרַת refers to the great acts of God, but this is challenged below. In my view, only nine of these occurrences refer explicitly to God's power (Job 41:4 refers to the power of the Leviathan, and indirectly to God's power), and only about half refer to his mighty "deeds."
77 Kühlewein, TLOT 300. Cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Enhanced Lexicon, 150.12.
78 Kosmala, TDOT 2:369.
79 Kühlewein, TLOT300. Cf. Gesenius and Tregelles, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, 154.
80 Kühlewein, TLOT 300.
81 Kosmala, TDOT 2:371-372.
82 Ibid., 2:369-370.
83 Ibid., 2:370-371.
84 As with the use of the word "attribute," the article takes cognisance of the complex nature of the concept "being" in biblical and philosophical theology. Nonetheless, as with the term "attribute," "being" is used for the sake of discussion.
85 The roots
גדל and גבר are investigated to broaden the scope of the search.
86 The absence of the root
גבר in reference to YHWH's being or conduct in the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy is striking (with the verb 13} in Exod 17:11 being the only possible exception). Cf. Kühlewein, TLOT 301.
87 Weinfeld, Deuteronomy, 191 indicates that beginning a prayer with the uniqueness of YHWH is characteristic of Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic literature.
88 Craigie, Deuteronomy, 125, fittingly states that this prayer gives us "new insight concerning the nature of Moses' "relationship with the Lord."
89 Although the context of the prayer seems to be at first glance the rebellion of the people at Kadesh-barnea (cf. Deut 9:23), closer investigation reveals that it refers to Moses' first intercession for the people on Mount Sinai after the golden calf incident (cf. Exod 32:11-14). See Lundbom, Deuteronomy, 374 and Block, Deuteronomy, 257.

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