The Fiery Law from YHVH’s Right Hand
Little is known that Torah of YHVH is “a fiery law” since it appears only in one place of the Scripture where the Torah is referred to as such. And since the term “a fiery law” appears only once in the Scripture, it will be challenging to derive a conclusive evidence of its meaning.
Yehovah came from Sinai, and rose from Seir for them. He shone forth from Mount Paran, and came with ten thousands of set-apart ones, from His right hand a fiery law for them. (Deu 33:2-4)
YHVH loved all His people who were in His hand, they sat down at His feet, and He gave them the Torah — His Word from His right hand — the fiery Law. On that day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain. And a voice of a horn was very strong, and all the people who were in the camp trembled.
In the verse above, the expression “Yehovah came from Sinai…from Seir…from the Mount Paran” does not refer to three different manifestations of Elohim, but to the one appearance of YHVH at Sinai. (Read more)
And indeed, as the sun when it rises and fills the whole horizon with its rays, so the glory of YHVH, when He appeared, was not confined to one single location but shone on the people like a streaming light not only from Sinai, from Seir, and from Paran, but also from heaven, from the midst of the thousands of messengers who surrounded His throne (1Ki 22:19; Job 1:6; Dan 7:10).
Then, Mosheh said to the people that “from His right hand [came out] a fiery law for them”. Here, “for them” the Israelites are intended, to whom this fearful manifestation referred.
The word in question in our verse and the object of our study is the Hebrew word אֶשְׁדָּת eshdat, or its alternative spelling: דַּת אֵשׁ eish dat, as they both appear in Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC).
If this word is read as two words, דַּת אֵשׁ from אֵשׁ eish, fire, and דָּת dat, a royal edict or statute, (a Semitic word, probably from Chaldean origin, see for instance Ezr 7:12, Ezr 7:21, Ezr 7:25-26), then it gives the suitable sense of “fire law”, or “fiery law”.
We may inquire as to how a Chaldean word would enter Hebrew in such early stage, because it appears (except in Deu 33) only in the exilic and post-exilic scriptures of Daniel, Esther, and Ezra, and that it is only by the Gentiles that it is ever applied to the Law of YHVH.
We do not know, but it suffices for now to say that in the thirty-eight-year Arabian exile, the Israelites had a contact with the Ishmaelites (a Semitic people) from whom they might have adopted this word.
If read as one word in the form אֵשְׁדָּת, eshdat, (in the marginal note in WLC), then it is composed from אֵשׁ, eish, fire and דַּת dat, probably from the root יָדָה, yadah, literally to use the hand (יָד yad, a hand) to throw a stone or an arrow, and its figurative description is of the flashes of lightning, in the sense of throwing fire by Elohim.
So, if this word is read as two words, it will be “fiery law”, but if read as one word, it is “flashes of lightning”.
Either way, these translations are favored by the fact that, according to Exo 19:16, the appearance of Elohim on Mount Sinai came with thunders and lightning; and flashes of lightning are often called the arrows of God.
And it came to be, on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightning, and a thick cloud on the mountain. And a voice of a horn was very strong, and all the people who were in the camp trembled. (Exo 19:16)
And Yehovah shall appear for them, and His arrow go forth like lightning, and the Master Yehovah will blow the horn. And He shall go with whirlwinds from the south, (Zec 9:14)
To this we may add the parallel passage, Hab 3:4, “rays out of His hand’,
And the brightness is as the light, He has rays from His hand, and there His power is hidden. (Hab 3:4) (also see Deu 4:11 and Exo 3:2)
All these instances of YHVH’s appearance in thunders, lightnings, and fire, render this explanation of eshdat a very probable one: a fiery law. No wonder then that the first word of the Torah בראשית “in the beginning is composed of the letters of ברית אש — Covenant of Fire.
This is the Torah of YHVH — a fire in His right hand.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.