Was Devarim 32:1-43 a Duet sung by Moshe & Yehoshua?

After reading verses 1-43, we learn in Deuteronomy 32:44 [MT]:

וַיָּבֹ֣א משֶׁ֗ה וַיְדַבֵּ֛ר אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֥י הַשִּׁירָֽה־הַזֹּ֖את בְּאָזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם ה֖וּא וְהוֹשֵׁ֥עַ בִּן־נֽוּן

And Moshe came and spoke all-words of this-Song into-ears of the-people | He and-Hoshea son of Nun.

  • why do you assume it was sung if the text says "spoke"?
    – rosends
    Sep 22, 2020 at 15:54
  • @rosends - Why would a Song (שִּׁירָֽה) recited by 2-people not be "sung"? Does "וַיְדַבֵּ֛ר" remove the assumption that Moshe & Yehoshua sang together? Sep 22, 2020 at 15:59
  • calling something a song (a questionable translation) doesn't always mean "sung" (do you have the sheet music for The Song of Hiawatha?) The Hebrew word for "poem" is Shir. Maybe the label "shir" here isn't about singing but about the poetic structure.
    – rosends
    Sep 22, 2020 at 16:44
  • @rosends - Thank you! You make a good point. Sep 22, 2020 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


No it wasn't a duet. Yehoshua was summoned to be with Moshe as he has recently been appointed as the new leader subject to Moshe's death. Refer to Sotah 13b.

The Netziv in Ha'amek Davar writes:

והושע בן נון. כבר ביארנו לעיל ל״א כ׳ אשר יהושע לא נצטוה ע״ז כלל ורק משה קרא שירת האזינו בס״ת ואח״כ כשבא עוד לבאר להם וכבר כָּהָה אורו ולא היתה שכינה מדברת מתוך גרונו. ע״כ כשבא לבאר הי׳ יהושע עוזרו בשליחות משה. כדי להכין ולהשכיל לכל העם ומשום הכי כתיב כאן הושע ולא יהושע. משום שלא עשה זאת בשביל שהוא יהושע רבן של ישראל אלא בשביל שהוא הושע תלמידו של משה רבינו שנקרא הושע:

And Hoshea bin Nun - We already explained previously in chapter 31 that Yehoshua was not commanded on this and only Moshe read out the song (Shiras Ha'azinu) in the sefer Torah and after that when he came to explain to them and his light was already dark and there was no Shechina (Divine presence) speaking from his throat. Therefore when he came to explain it, Yehoshua was a helper in the mission of Moshe in order that he prepare and educate the entire people and that is why it writes Hoshea and not Yehoshua - Because he did not do it because he was Yehoshua the leader of Israel but rather because he was a disciple of Moshe Rabbeinu called Hosea.

So it would seem that Yehoshua was there to shadow Moshe and to be present so that the Jewish people saw him clearly as the successor.

In a similar vein, the Ohr HaChaim writes:

הוא והושע בן נון. פירוש היה עומד עמו אבל הדיבור לא דיבר אלא משה כאומרו וידבר, וכן אמר ה' ולמדה את בני ישראל שימה בפיהם לשון יחיד אל משה, ואומרו והושע ולא אמר ויהושע כמו שקרא לו משה, לפי שתוספת היו''ד היא ליקר וגדולה כרמוז במאמר (במדבר י''ג ט''ז) ויקרא משה להושע וגו' וכשהשוום הכתוב ואמר הוא והושע בן נון הסיר היו''ד, על דרך אומרו (ישעי, י, טו) היתפאר הגרזן וגו'

הוא והושע בן נון, "he and Joshua son of Nun." Although Joshua stood beside Moses, G'd's word came only to Moses, as is plain from the words וידבר ה׳ אל משה in verse 48. Although Moses had added the letter י to Joshua's name in Numbers 13,16, this was in order to lend him prestige vis-a-vis Israel. When G'd mentions Joshua's name, it remained unchanged as it was not appropriate to make him look prestigious vis-a-vis his teacher (Compare Isaiah 10, 15: "Is the axe going to boast in the presence of the wood cutter?").

  • Oh shoot @Robev you beat me to the ohr hachaim by a few seconds
    – Dov
    Sep 22, 2020 at 16:01

It seems to be a dispute.

Ohr HaChaim says that it's clear from the grammar of the verse that only Moshe spoke the song.

פירוש היה עומד עמו אבל הדיבור לא דיבר אלא משה כאומרו וידבר, וכן אמר ה' ולמדה את בני ישראל שימה בפיהם לשון יחיד אל משה

Meaning, [Yehoshua] stood with [Moshe], but only Moshe spoke message. As it says, "He spoke" (and not "they spoke"). Similarly, Hashem said "teach [this song] to the Jewish people, place it in their mouths", which was a command in the singular to Moshe.

Although it's interesting that the verse also says "He went", in the singular, so I'm not sure how to pick which one is specific and which one isn't.

Others understand that Moshe told Yehoshua the song, and Yehoshua transmitted it to the Jewish people (known as a meturgeman). This is suggested by Rashi, Aderes Eliyahu.

Rashbam and Chizkuni goes so far to say that they both were commanded to tell it to the people (unlike the inference of the Ohr HaChaim).


הוא והושע בן נון - שהרי לשניהם צוה הקדוש ברוך הוא, כדכתיב: קרא את יהושע והתיצבו באהל מועד ואצונו וגו'‏


הוא והושע בן נון שהרי לשניהם צוה הקב״‎ה כדכתיב קח את יהושע וכתיב ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל.‏

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