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After shirat hayam the people grow concerned about water and God instructs Moshe in how to satisfy their needs. Then Shemot 15:26 says:

וַיֹּאמֶר אִם שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע לְקוֹל | יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינָיו תַּעֲשֶׂה וְהַאֲזַנְתָּ לְמִצְו‍ֹתָיו וְשָׁמַרְתָּ כָּל חֻקָּיו כָּל הַמַּחֲלָה אֲשֶׁר שַׂמְתִּי בְמִצְרַיִם לֹא אָשִׂים עָלֶיךָ כִּי אֲנִי יְהֹוָה רֹפְאֶךָ:

And He said, If you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, and you do what is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, the Lord, heal you

Note that the capitalization of "He" is from the translation. This morning in our study group we saw that some translations capitalized it, some left it ambiguous, and one wrote "[God]" (with brackets).

This pasuk struck most of us as odd because it begins with third-person references that sound like Moshe is speaking, and then switches to first person without any sort of break (like an intervening vayomer to signal a new utterance). Clearly it's God talking at the end.

If God is speaking, as most translations seem to interpret, then why does He use third person ("his eyes", "his commandments", "his statutes")? The "the Lord your God" construct doesn't bother me; it feels like we've seen that elsewhere coming from God. But God referring to "his statutes" as opposed to "my statutes", etc, seems unusual.

If Moshe is speaking, why does he not indicate when he starts quoting God (as I assume he would be from "all the sicknesses that I visited...")?

We didn't find anything that explains this in Rashi or the chumashim we had available.

  • 2
    Ramban might help. – MTL Jan 18 '15 at 3:45
  • Offhand, I think G-d is talking. My reasoning is based on the preceding verse. It says, G-d showed Moses a tree, etc, it refers to Moses in 3rd person as throwing the tree into the water, and finally it ends by saying "There HE placed for him (Moses) a statute and there He (G-d) tested him (Moses)." So, this seems a continuation of that idea by G-d saying, "If you listen to G-d ..." - (not uncommon for G-d to use 3rd person) I.e., what G-d says now is a continuation or explanation of the "test". – DanF Feb 9 '17 at 18:44
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Chizkuni says that the one who spoke is Moshe and the first-person references are quotations that Hashem told him to transmit to the people.

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See the middle of Ramba"n on that verse (about 12-13 lines down from the top of the commentary on that page) (kudos to @Shokhet). It is G-d talking.

To paraphrase what Ramba"n states, he is connecting this verse to the previous one. In the previous one, it says that G-d tested the people. What was the test? It is explained in this verse, namely when G-d states "if you will listen to G-d's voice..." etc.

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