In Deuteronomy 18:3, those of the 12 tribes who receive an inheritance are referred to as the people, them, and they. In verse 4, it would appear the same group is being referred to by thy thrice, thine, and thou. As far as I can tell, Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1) is the speaker in both of these verses.

Can we conclude certainly that the text is in fact referring to the same group of people in these verses, and if so is the change in voice a tell of a change in record keeper/transcriptionist in the original Hebrew, an error in translation, a literary device of some sort, an emphasis change that has a certain meaning, or something else?

I also notice that the priest goes from plural in verse 2, to singular in verse 3, but that change seems more common, at least in the translation I am looking at (King James Version), and I assume a Hebrew or translator manner of speech with little (intended) meaning.

1 Answer 1


I'm a Jewish to Catholic convert ... this is how the Hebrew reads for Deuteronomy 18:3-4

3. And this shall be the kohanim's due from the people, from those who perform a slaughter, be it an ox or a sheep, he shall give the kohan the foreleg, the jaws, and the maw. 4. The first of your grain, your wine, and your oil and the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him.

I don't know enough Greek to see how this compares to the Septuagint, but my guess would be that's where the initial problem begins. You can see here that the Lord is giving direct instructions through Moses. Also, priests plural is used in both verse [1] and 3 (kohanim), "the entire tribe of Levi."

In the Hebrew, there is no switch in speaker, or even a hint of a switch. Moses is speaking to the gathered Israelites.

Editg As you stated, Moses is the speaker, professing the word of God to the Israelites. There are about 50,000 of them, arranged by tribe. The kohanim all belong to one tribe--Levi. So Moses is up on a rock or a crest or something. First, he tells the kohanim what to expect. Then he turns and tells the farmers and shepherds what to give. These sorts of contracts had a set amount: about 1/50 of their grain and the first 5 sheep of a herd.

  • Thank you, I don't read Hebrew or Greek, so I appreciate your time. That said, your translation gives the people, those, and he in verse 3, but in verse 4 your 4x and you. This appears to be the same change in voice I noticed in the KJV. It seems that your answer is suggesting that the voice change is not a translation error, but do you have any insight as to what the voice change actually is?
    – CWilson
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 2:00
  • Ah, I see your question better now. At first it appears [God] is talking to the kohanim, and then it appears he's talking to the individual farmers and shepherds. I'll look into it and edit my response if I come up with something. The Pharisee (modern: Hasidic) website chabad.org allows anybody, Jew or gentile, to "Ask the Rabbi." If there are any on the planet who could answer this, it would be them.
    – Stu W
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 2:43
  • Interesting. So, if I understand your claim correctly, 1) Moses is actively turning and speaking to specific groups during this address, and 2) his speech was transcribed so faithfully that even those times where he slightly changes his audience and pronoun usage were retained. That seems to me to be both the easiest and the simplest answer to this question, but does the text for the whole of Deuteronomy match that viewpoint? I am not sure that chapter 10 (verses 6 and 7) fits that view, but I could be misunderstanding.
    – CWilson
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 3:22
  • Hmm. Jews believe God dictated the "Five Books of Moses" to Moses who dutifully wrote it down. The Torah is written the same today as 3200 years ago, letter by letter in animal blood on animal skin parchment. (Reading from an animal skin scroll at Bar Mitzvah is seriously cool.) The proof for this "apostolic succession" is the fact that each of the tribes, even the one that wandered to Ethiopia, had the exact same Torah, the one that Joshua ordered copied in Jericho before the tribes dispersed completely. There's a bit of historical question of accuracy, but Jews accept this as dogma.
    – Stu W
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 4:21

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