Certain Biblical paragraphs are stated in an example form.
In other words an example of a law is stated rather than the full
general rule. The reader's task is to generalize the example.
The idea that all Biblical laws should be perceived as examples (unless
otherwise indicated) is explicitly stated by Rashi (Pesachim 6.).
This is a rule of style since the rule requires that a text be perceived
as an example rather than interpreted literally. The Rabbi Ishmael style
rules govern the interpretation of style.
an initial offer of peace, prior to declaring war on Sichon,
And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying,
Let me pass through your land; .....
I will purchase food that I eat...
But Sihon ... would not let us pass by him; for the Lord your God hardened his spirit, ....
And the Lord said to me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before you; ....
Then Sihon came out against us,...
And the Lord our God delivered him before us; and we struck him, and his sons, and all his people
Rashi commenting on the underlined phrases states:
Moses generalized from God's dealing with Pharoh. Although Moses knew that Pharoh's heart would be
hardened and God would defeat him nevertheless God initially offered Pharoh peace and the right to repent.
Based on this incident Moses inferred that even though he knew that God would harden Sichon's heart and he
would be defeated, Moses sent an initial offer of peace and good will.
We read the rest of Rashi as follows From God's dealing with Egypt we also infer that when God gave the Torah,
even though he knew that the world would reject it, He initially offered the rest of the world the Torah in peace. In this
reading of Rashi we have taken Rashi's second explanation and made it primary. Since the 2nd explanation states
that the basic driving force for Moses' inference was Egypt we therefore feel justified in inferring that the Midrashic
statement that God offered the Torah to all nations was in fact inferred from a generalization of God's dealing
I might hasten to add that there is some faint scriptural support. A famous controversy on the Rashi at Ex18-01
Jethro heard ...all God did to Moses and to Israel... is whether Jethro heard only about the incidents
prior to Ex18, the manna and the defeat of Amalayk, or whether Jethro also heard about events mentioned later
in the Bible, such as the receipt of the Torah.
Everyone knows that Scriptural order does not imply temporal order. But why should anyone suspect that the
Revelation happened before Jethro came! A possible answer is that Jethro brought back to Moses his wife and children.
But at the Revelation all Jews separated from their wives! It would not make logical sense that Moses reunited with
his wife prior to the Revelation where all people separated! So it would be reasonable that Ex18 the reunision
of Moses and his family happened after Ex19 the Revelation.
Why then did the Bible deliberately place Ex18 Jethro's visit to Moses, prior to Ex19 the Revelation!
It would appear to me that the Bible did that to juxtapose Ex17 the attack of Amalayk and Ex18 the coming
of Jethro. The Bible is making a contrast: Amalayk rejected the Exodus and the Jewish God and attacked the Jews while
Jethro accepted the Exodus and converted to Monotheism, founding the society of Kainites who were monotheistic.
This contrast supports the Midrashic statement that God offered everyone the Torah. Most people ignored the offer.
Amalayk did not like the invasion of their personal space and attacked the Jews, while Jethro embraced monotheism.