Courts and Jurisdiction

Stubborn and Rebellious son

In parashath Shofetim [Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9], we learned that we were to take any case- which was too wonderful for the local magistrates- to the place YHWH chose to set His name- to the Kohanim and Judges presiding in those days and in that place [Deuteronomy 17:8-13].

 

In parashath Khi Theitzei [Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19], we are given the example of a case concerning a son who will not obey his parents- even after they have corrected him. In this case, the parents were told to seize the child and take him to the gates of his city and to the elders of his city and explain the case. The child is then stoned to death [Deuteronomy 21:18-21].

Here is a clear case which was investigated and the accused was clearly guilty; the child was not taken to the Place and to the Kohanim and Judges, but to his own city and to his own elders. The people of his city would have been familiar with the case and knew that the parents were speaking truthfully and the child- indeed- was stubborn and rebellious.

In last parashath Shofetim, we were given the example of an accidental death; the one which killed his neighbor had the opportunity to flee to the city of refuge [Deuteronomy 19:4-13]. In the city of refuge, he was afforded the right to trial and present his case. The Kohanim were to take the man to that Place and to the Kohanim and Judges in those days who were to diligently examine the case. If found guilty, the man was delivered to the redeemer of blood for execution. If found not guilty, he was remanded to the custody of the city of refuge until the death of the Kohen Gadhol [Numbers 35:25, 28].

In this last case, the accused was taken to the High Court and tried. This is because, in the case of accidental murder, there would be no partiality due to familial relations in the city in which the accused and his neighbor might have lived. He would be given a fair trial.

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Blasting the Shofar

Psalm 81: 4 reads: תקעו בחדשׁ שׁופר בכסה ליום חגנו׃

Blast the shofar on [at] the hodesh; on [at] the keiseh, for the day of our hag.

Hodesh and keiseh were speaking of the same day- the first of the month. The prepositional phrases “on the hodesh” and “on the keiseh” identified the time when the shofar was to be blasted; the final prepositional clause identified the reason for such a blast “for the day of our hag.”

This was explained:

כִּ֤י חֹ֣ק לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל ה֑וּא מִ֝שְׁפָּ֗ט לֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹֽב׃

For it is an ordinance [hoq] of Israel; a judgment of the Deity of Jacob. Psalm 81:5

The preposition לְ can indicate a dative or a genitive relation- that is, it can be either to, for, or of. The hoq mentioned is most definitely the hoq of Pesah as it was mentioned at the origin of this institution

וְהָיָה֩ הַיֹּ֨ום הַזֶּ֤ה לָכֶם֙ לְזִכָּרֹ֔ון וְחַגֹּתֶ֥ם אֹתֹ֖ו חַ֣ג לַֽיהוָ֑ה לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם חֻקַּ֥ת עֹולָ֖ם תְּחָגֻּֽהוּ׃

And this day shall be for you as a memorial, and you shall celebrate it, as YHWH’s celebration; throughout your generations, an eternal statute [huqqath ‘olam], you shall celebrate it. Exodus 12:14

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאַהֲרֹ֔ן זֹ֖את חֻקַּ֣ת הַפָּ֑סַח כָּל־בֶּנ־נֵכָ֖ר לֹא־יֹ֥אכַל בֹּֽו׃

Then YHWH said to Mosheh and Aharon, “This is the ordinance of Pesah; no foreign son may eat of it.” Exodus 12:43

וְשָׁמַרְתָּ֛ אֶת־הַחֻקָּ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את לְמֹועֲדָ֑הּ מִיָּמִ֖ים יָמִֽימָה׃

Thus you shall observe this ordinance- at its appointed time; from days to days. Exodus 13:10

At the giving of the Torah, this ordinance was included among the mishpatim given

וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּשִׂ֖ים לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃

So these are the judgments which you shall set before them. Exodus 21:1

אֶת־חַ֣ג הַמַּצֹּות֮ תִּשְׁמֹר֒ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִים֩ תֹּאכַ֨ל מַצֹּ֜ות כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוִּיתִ֗ךָ לְמֹועֵד֙ חֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֔יב כִּי־בֹ֖ו יָצָ֣אתָ מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וְלֹא־יֵרָא֥וּ פָנַ֖י רֵיקָֽם׃

The celebration of the Matstsoth you shall observe- seven days you shall eat matstsoth as I commanded you, in the appointed month of the Aviv, for in it you came out of Egypt; and you shall not appear before me destitute. Exodus 23:15

It was the final clause of Psalm 81:4 [ליום הגנו leyom haggeinu- for the day of our celebration] which was intended as the hoq and mishpat which was given by the Deity of Jacob to Israel when they left out of Egypt- as well as the cause to blow the shofar in the month, at the new moon [the time when the moon is nearly completely covered with darkness]. It was the month of the Aviv which we were commanded to observe in its proper time- along with its ordinances and judgments

וְיַעֲשׂוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-הַפָּסַח בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ
בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר-יוֹם בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה בֵּין הָעֲרְבַּיִם תַּעֲשׂוּ אֹתוֹ בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ כְּכָל-חֻקֹּתָיו וּכְכָל-מִשְׁפָּטָיו תַּעֲשׂוּ אֹתוֹ

So let the children of Israel do the Pesah in its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, between the two evenings, you shall do it in its appointed time- according to its ordinances and according to its judgments shall you do it. Numbers 9:2-3

The blowing of the shofar, at the hodesh of the Aviv, ensured that all of Israel knew when the month began and could observe the ordinance, judgment, and commandment of the Pesah and celebrations of the days of matstsoth.

That the word keseh indicated the new moon can be determined from the use of the word in other ancient Semitic societies surrounding Israel. Kusuh was an ancient Hurrian moon deity whose number was thirty- corresponding with the number of days in a lunar month; in Hittat hieroglyphics, his determinate was the sickle moon.

In early Semitic writing, the root KSH meant to cover, to conceal. In the early lands of the Semitic peoples- Akkad, Sumer, etc., there was a lunar deity called KuSuH. His day was the 30th of each month- when the moon was covered nearly completely. His determinate sign was the sickle moon- the crescent moon. This means the day known as KuSuH was the day the moon was covered except for the smallest sliver- the crescent. The early Hurrian name for the month is KuSuH- named after the lunar deity.

One final comment; in 81:5 the words hoq and mishpat are qualified by the masculine pronoun הוא. This indicated that the subject was a masculine word. In the preceding verse [81:4], the verbal form for blowing a shofar is T-Q-A’- the substantive would be תְּקִיעָה ; this demonstrated that it was the hag- a masculine noun- and not the blowing of the shofar which was qualified by the words hoq and mishpat.

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The Sons of Adam and the Fallen Line of Cain

The Biblical narrative of the fall of humanity, original sin, the first murder, etc. present some questions which have puzzled Bible readers for centuries. Some of the most often questions I receive are “Where did Cain get his wife?” and “Who were the nefilim?”

Answering these questions requires an understanding of Hebrew grammar and syntax- especially of narrative structure. The first thing to understand is that the Bible is not always written in a chronological sequence; this means that when a narrative is read, it must not demand that what came first in the narrative was always the first in the narrative sequence.

An easy explanation of this can be drawn from the first two verses of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” When one reads this in English, or many other translations, one might think the first two verses are in the same narrative sequence; this, however, is incorrect.

In Hebrew, the conjunction and [Waw וְ ] has several functions; the conjunction can be a temporal modifier signaling a transition from an imperfect to perfect- this is with verbs. The conjunctions can signal a continuation of a narrative sequence- the most common use of the conjunction. The conjunction can also be used as a disjunctive- a break or pause in a narrative sequence. In this case, the conjunction signifies a parenthetical narrative in the narrative sequence or a break in the prior narrative sequence and the beginning of a new narrative.

As a disjunctive, the Hebrew and [וְ -Waw] is prefixed to a non-verb in the beginning of its clause; this is what occurred in the second verse above- “And the Earth was…” This construction indicated a disjunction from the preceding verse. The creation narrative, then, actually began with the second verse and not with the first verse. This use of the disjunctive Waw [and] is employed in the narratives which followed the creation narrative: Genesis 3:1 “And the serpent was…;” Genesis 4:1 “And the man knew…;” Genesis 4:4 “And Abel brought…” In each of these cases, the use of the disjunctive Waw [and] indicated a break from the previous narrative sequence.

Genesis 3:1 indicated the break in the creation narrative sequence; it began a new narrative sequence from the point of view of the initial sin of Eve. It was not a chronological sequence but could have been up to 130 years after the events of the creation of man. Later, in Genesis, it is explained that Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born- after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In the midst of this narrative, Genesis 4:1 presented a new, parenthetical narrative sequence. This, too, is irrespective of time- when this took place was never clearly mentioned. The use of the disjunctive Waw here indicated that before the temptation of Eve, the children were born; this is the natural understanding of the Hebrew Text when the first commandment God ever gave Adam and Eve was to be “fruitful and multiply.” That they could have spent as much as 130 years in the Garden of Eden without procreation meant that they spent up to 130 years disobeying God’s first commandment. This use of the disjunctive clearly demonstrated that the children- who were twins- were born in the Garden and were not expelled with Adam and Eve [1]

The expulsion of Adam and Eve was not a simple command to leave the Garden but was a rather forceful and possibly a violent act. Neither of the two wished to leave the Garden of God. This is indicated by the use of the two verbs sent [שָׁלַח- shalah] and drove [גָרַשׁ- garash] in 3:23 and 24. The verb sent indicated that they were requested to leave and that they were, possibly, accompanied to the border of the Garden. The verb drove indicated that this was not a consensual leaving on the part of Adam and Eve, but they were compelled to go; this is made even more clear by the fact that the way back was guarded by cherubs wielding flaming swords.

The narrative of the birth of Cain and Abel is an interruption in the sequence of the expulsion of Adam and Eve; it explained an event which occurred prior to Adam and Eve being expelled- the birth of the twins. This narrative is immediately interrupted by the last of the disjunctive Waw clauses- Genesis 4:4 “And Abel brought…”

The new narrative began from the point of view of Cain and Abel who were adults and still living in the Garden after the expulsion of their parents. The disjunctive interrupted the narrative from the clause, “And in process of time it came to pass.” The phrase “process of time” is [מִקֵּץ יָמִים -miqqets yamim] in Hebrew and meant the end of an age. Sometimes, it was translated as “end of days.” To what end of the age is being referenced is clear- the end of the age of innocence. At the conclusion of this narrative sequence, there would be none left who had not sinned against God.

To know, for sure, that Cain was born in a natural state of perfection, it is simple to point out that the Erbsünde [inherited sin] could not have applied to Cain. This is made clear by the statement of God, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). The final clause is written in the imperfect in the Hebrew [וְאַתָּה תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ -weAttah timshol-bo; yet you, you rule over it]. This is not permissive nor an offer of advice, but a statement of fact; at this point, Cain ruled over sin- it had no power over him just like it had no power over his parents. After this, God said this to no other person.

A comparison of the two narratives- that of the expulsion of Adam and Eve and the expulsion of Cain- will explain to where they were all expelled. Adam and Eve were expelled, rather forcefully, to the East of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3;24). It was outside the Garden of Eden which came to be known as the Land of Nod [נֹוד -nod meaning wandering]. As opposed to his parents, Cain willingly left from the presence of God- which was in the Garden (Genesis 3:8). This is demonstrated by the lack of the two verbs sent and drove; rather it stated that Cain “went out.” The direction of travel, as in the case of his parents, was to the East- to the Land of Wandering (Genesis 4:16).

Cain left from Eden and went to the same land where his parents had been sent; this raises the question, “How long were Adam and Eve in the Land of Nod?” We already know that Adam was 130 years at the birth of Seth; before he was born, Adam had already given birth to many other children- including women. It is from the women born to Adam that Cain took his wife; this marriage and mixture led to the events of Genesis 6 and the deluge. It was Cain’s lineage who invented weapons of war (Genesis 4:22), instruments of pleasure (Genesis 4:21), and were the first to take possessions (Genesis 4:20); his children followed his example as explained from the confession of Lamech- who had also killed many people. Adam’s line- through Seth- were sorry for their sins and tried to amend their ways and walk with God; Cain’s line, however, was unrepentant and spread violence and corruption over the face of the Earth. The Godly line was called the sons of God while the sinful line was called the sons of Adam [men].

The events of Genesis 4 and 5 led to the events of chapter 6. There have been volumes of wasted ink on this subject- most of which ignore the contextual backdrop to the chapter and invent fairy-tales of some sort of inbreeding between humans and angels.

Most of the speculation surrounds verses 1-4 with a strong emphasis on verse 4 in particular.

Gen 6:1 Now when humankind [הָאָדָם -haAdam; the man] began to multiply on the face of the ground and daughters were born to them,

Gen 6:2 and the sons of God [benei haElohim] saw that the daughters of men were good and they took for themselves wives, any they chose.

Gen 6:3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not quarrel [2] with humankind [baAdam- with the man] forever, since they are flesh. So their days will be 120 years.”

Gen 6:4 The nephilim [הַנְּפִלִים] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward when the sons of God came to the daughters of men and gave birth to them. Those were the mighty men of old, men of renown.

Adam [אָדָם] is the name that God called humanity- both female and male- in the day He created them.

Gen 5:1 This is the Book of the Genealogies of Adam [אָדָם]: When God created Adam, in the likeness of God He made him.

Gen 5:2 Male and female He created them, and He blessed them and called their name “Adam” when He created them.

The humans which followed God and sought to amend their ways were then, and thereafter, referred to as sons of God [בְּנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים -benei haElohim]:

Ye are the children of the LORD your God Deuteronomy 14:1

it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Hosea 1:10

The idea behind the phrase benei haElohim [בְּנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים – sons of God] is not one of absolute sinlessness, nor of being always on the side of right; the idea is and always has been one of contriteness and a readiness to do what is right in the face of bad decisions. After the birth of Seth, in the days of his son Enosh [mortal man], the line of Adam began to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). In Genesis 5:22, it stated that Enoch [Hanokh- dedicated] walked with God. The verb used for “walk” is hit-halek [הִתְהַלֵּךְ] in Hebrew; this is both a reciprocal verb stem as well as a reflexive and meant that one did this for or to themselves as well as in conjunction with another. The idea is that Enoch sought to amend his ways, by walking in the path of God, and God blessed him for it.

It is the same idea behind King David being called a “man after God’s heart” even though he committed murder and adultery; after the crimes were committed, David was genuinely sorry and sought to reform his ways and make restitution for his bad decisions. Repentance [תְּשׁוּבָה -teshuvah] is the key:

“Now when all these things come upon you—the blessing and the curse that I have set before you—and you take them to heart in all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return [וְשַׁבְתָּ -weshavta] to the Lord your God and listen to His voice according to all that I am commanding you today—you and your children—with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity and have compassion on you, and He will return and gather you from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.

Deuteronomy 30:1-4 [see also Deuteronomy 4:24-31]

“Do I delight at all in the death of the wicked?” It is a declaration of Adonai. “Rather, should he not return [בְּשׁוּבֹו -beshuvo] from his ways, and live? Ezekiel 18:23

In contrast to the godly line of Adam, the line of Cain was not sorry and sought no reform; on the other hand, they continued in their murderous ways and developed the art of pleasure and war. This line was called the nephilim. Nefilim is a plural passive participle from the verb NaFaL- to fall; the passive participle is used, more often than not, as an adjective in Hebrew. The nephilim are those people who were in a fallen state. The choice of word used in this narrative echoed back to the fall of Cain himself:

Cain became very angry, and his countenance fell [וַיִּפְּלוּ -wayYippelu]. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen [נָפְלוּ -noflu]? Genesis 4:5-6

The idea behind the verb NaFaL [נָפַל]- when applied to humans- can have several meanings; the most common meaning, when applied to humans, is that of death, or one fallen in battle. The nephilim in Genesis 6:4, however, was alive and not dead; the meaning in this case, then, is that of a person from one camp defecting to the people of another camp- they changed sides. Consider the following verse:

Then the remnant of the people who were left in the city—the deserters [הַנֹּפְלִים -haNofelim] who had defected [נָפְלוּ -noflu] to the Babylonian king and the rest of the populace—Nebuzaradan captain of the guard exiled them. 2 Kings 25:11

The nephilim in Genesis 6:4, then, were those who were formerly godly but fell to the wicked ways of the sons of Cain. This is easily proven when considering the verse:

The nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, whenever the sons of God came to the daughters of men and gave birth to them. Those were the mighty men of old, men of renown.

The last clause of this verse, in Hebrew, is actually a bit different than what is commonly translated:

הֵמָּה הַגִּבֹּרִים אֲשֶׁר מֵעוֹלָם אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם

These were the gibborim [גִּבֹּרִים] which were from ancient times [מֵעוֹלָם -me’Olam] men of God [אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם -anshe HaShem].

Gibborim [גִּבֹּרִים], in Hebrew, represented men of war, or men of great valor; David’s warriors were called gibborim (2Samuel 23:8)- so too was Nimrod called a gibbor [גִּבֹּר] (Genesis 10:8). The line of Cain was responsible for spreading violence in the Earth and the mixture of the godly line of Adam ensured that their wicked ways would dominate the world. These wicked men spread violence and war; in the end, God saw the world destroyed from these people:

God saw the earth, and behold it was destroyed because all flesh had destroyed their way upon the earth. Genesis 6:12

Only Noah was a righteous man and always sought to walk with God; for this reason, God spared the life of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man. He was blameless among his generation. Noah continually walked with God. Genesis 6:9

For you only do I perceive as righteous before Me in this generation. Genesis 7:1

This narrative dealt with the consequences of the fall of humanity, the faith and righteous acts of the men of God, and their deliverance and reward for their faithfulness to God’s law. It never had anything to do with fallen angels fathering hybrid children with humans and creating a race of giants or supermen. In fact, angels are not mentioned in this narrative nor were they the objects of divine wrath.

 

[1] Rashi,  the medieval Rabbi and Torah commentator Shlomo Yitzchaki, explained concerning this verse:  והאדם ידע AND THE MAN KNEW already before the events related above look place — before he sinned and was driven out of the Garden of Eden. So, also, the conception and birth of Cain took place before this. Had it been written, וידע אדם it would imply that after he was driven out children were born to him (Genesis Rabbah 22:2).

 

[2] My Spirit will not quarrel with humankind forever, since they are flesh. The verb used I translated as quarrel is יָדוֹן- yadon from the verb root [דין] D-Y-N; this word is used in reference to quarreling or disputing over a case of law or a matter of controversy- similar to trying a case in court. Consider the following:

Open your mouth, judge righteously, plead [וְדִין -wedin] the cause of the poor and needy. Proverb 31:9

All the people throughout all the tribes of Israel were at strife [נָדוֹן -nadon] saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and he saved us from the hand of the Philistines. Yet now he had to flee from the land because of Absalom, 2Smauel 19:10

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The Egyptian Background of the Exodus

MoshehThis is a project I am working on regarding the Egyptian setting of the Exodus; this is a section in which I explained the naming of Mosheh (AS). I had to make a screenshot since WordPress has no Hieroglyphic formating.

This is still in the rough draft stage, so pardon any mistakes in grammar.

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The Aramean of Deuteronomy 26:5

You shall then recite as follows before YHWH your God: “My father was a perishing [אבד-oveid] Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. Deuteronomy 26:5

There has been, over the centuries, much speculation over the meaning of this command- which has to do with the offering of the firstfruits once the Land of Israel was taken as a possession. Most Rabbinical authorities speculated that the meaning of perishing [oveid], in the above text, referred to the act of Laban- under whom Jacob served for more than 20 years for his two wives, children, and flocks. One of the more famous Rabbis explained this as follows:

ארמי אבד אבי. מַזְכִּיר חַסְדֵּי הַמָּקוֹם, אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי — לָבָן בִּקֵּשׁ לַעֲקוֹר אֶת הַכֹּל כְּשֶׁרָדַף אַחַר יַעֲקֹב, וּבִשְׁבִיל שֶׁחָשַׁב לַעֲשׂוֹת חָשַׁב לוֹ הַמָּקוֹם כְּאִלּוּ עָשָׂה, שֶׁאֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם חוֹשֵׁב לָהֶם הַקָּבָּ”ה מַחֲשָׁבָה כְּמַעֲשֶׂה (עי’ ספרי):ארמי אבד אבי

A SYRIAN DESTROYED MY FATHER — He mentions the loving kindness of the Omnipresent saying, ארמי אבד אבי, a Syrian destroyed my father, which means: “Laban wished to exterminate the whole nation” (cf. the Haggadah for Passover) when he pursued Jacob. Because he intended to do it the Omnipresent accounted it unto him as though he had actually done it (and therefore the expression אבד which refers to the past is used), for as far as the nations of the world are concerned the Holy One, blessed be He, accounts unto them intention as an actual deed (cf. Sifrei Devarim 301:3; Onkelos). [1]

This commentary, in reality, had nothing to do with the context, the Text, nor with the story of Jacob’s service to Laban and his journey into Egypt; this is, in reality, nothing more than a jab at the Aramean by Rashi.

The lands of Aram stretched from the eastern border of Israel to the Zagros mountains in the East. Aram was the dominant son of Shem- the only one worthy to have lineage mentioned in Torah- aside Arfaksad from whom the Israelites descended. Aram was such a dominant family that Nahor, Avraham’s brother, named his sons after Aram and his son Uts. Since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not a nation, until the birth of the Nation of Israel, it seems natural that Abraham and his sons would have been considered Arami- just like his brother’s family. Jacob, the Aramean, was indeed perishing- there was a famine in the land which caused him to send his sons to Egypt- setting up the events of the Exodus.

For this reason, we were commanded to remember this when we deliver our first-fruits. A miracle from start to finish.

וַיַּ֣רְא יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב כִּ֥י יֶשׁ־שֶׁ֖בֶר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹב֙ לְבָנָ֔יו לָ֖מָּה תִּתְרָאֽוּ׃

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר הִנֵּ֣ה שָׁמַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֥י יֶשׁ־שֶׁ֖בֶר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם רְדוּ־שָׁ֨מָּה֙ וְשִׁבְרוּ־לָ֣נוּ מִשָּׁ֔ם וְנִֽחְיֶ֖ה וְלֹ֥א נָמֽוּת׃

The idea of the participle, Oveid [אבד], carried the same meaning in Arami Oveid as is used among the Arabs when referring to the vanishing/perishing tribes of Ancient Arabs of Qahtan (Yoktan)- [العرب البائدة] al-Arab al-Ba-idat (a participle). The alef in the Arabic is a metathesis- which happened in many North Semitic to South Semitic roots.

Laban was the uncle of Jacob, the brother of Rebekka, Jacob’s mother. He was from the same paternal line as Abraham- neither were descended from Aram, but were from Arfaksad, the brother of Aram. Although Laban tricked Jacob into working longer than Jacob planned, he never sought to harm Jacob.

The passage above referred to an event, long after the time Jacob left the service of Laban- just after Joseph was sold to Egypt as a slave. There was a famine in the Levant and there was no food in Canaan. Jacob, seeing his remaining sons idle, asked:

Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do you look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: go down there and buy for us from there; [that we may live, and not die]. And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Genesis 42:1-5 brackets are mine for emphasis.

It was this event which prompted the children of Jacob to enter Egypt and which fulfilled the dream Joseph had- that his family would serve him. This was also the beginning of the prophecy God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 15- that his children would serve a nation for 400 years and return to Canaan in the 4th generation. Basically, this was the event which led to the miracle of the Passover and Exodus story.

This commandment, which demanded we speak these words when we offered the firstfruits, was intended that we remember the fulfillment of God’s promises, prophetic fulfillment, and the miracle of the Passover. Jacob, the Aramean, was not wandering astray, nor was he being pursued by an Aramean who wanted to destroy him; on the contrary, Jacob, the Aramean, was in danger of starvation and the annihilation of his family.

 

 

  1. Sefaria. https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.26.5?lang=bi&p2=Rashi_on_Deuteronomy.26.5.2&lang2=bi
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Meat and Milk- Is It Really a Matter of Kashruth?

Most Jews- Conservative, Liberal, and Orthodox- avoid eating dairy and meat products together; depending on how strictly they wish to observe the Kashruth, some will have separate utensils. This all stems from three commandments found in the Torah:

רֵאשִׁ֗ית בִּכּוּרֵי֙ אַדְמָ֣תְךָ֔ תָּבִ֕יא בֵּ֖ית יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ לֹֽא־תְבַשֵּׁ֥ל גְּדִ֖י בַּחֲלֵ֥ב אִמֹּֽו׃

The first of the first-fruits of your ground shall you bring [to] the house of YHWH your Deity; you shall not [boil?] a kid in the milk of its mother. Exodus 23:19

רֵאשִׁ֗ית בִּכּוּרֵי֙ אַדְמָ֣תְךָ֔ תָּבִ֕יא בֵּ֖ית יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ לֹא־תְבַשֵּׁ֥ל גְּדִ֖י בַּחֲלֵ֥ב אִמֹּֽו׃

The first of the first-fruits of your ground shall you bring [to] the house of YHWH your Deity; you shall not [boil?] a kid in the milk of its mother. Exodus 34:26

and finally

לֹ֣א תֹאכְל֣וּ כָל־֠נְבֵלָה לַגֵּ֨ר אֲשֶׁר־בִּשְׁעָרֶ֜יךָ תִּתְּנֶ֣נָּה וַאֲכָלָ֗הּ אֹ֤ו מָכֹר֙ לְנָכְרִ֔י כִּ֣י עַ֤ם קָדֹושׁ֙ אַתָּ֔ה לַיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ לֹֽא־תְבַשֵּׁ֥ל גְּדִ֖י בַּחֲלֵ֥ב אִמֹּֽו׃

You shall not eat any carcass- to the ger which is in your gates you shall give it and he shall eat it, or sell it to a foreigner- for you are a sacred people to YHWH your Deity; you shall not [boil?] a kid in the milk of its mother. Deuteronomy 14:21

There is a running joke among Rabbinic Jews when commenting upon these verses; it goes something like:

G-d: And remember Moses, in the laws of keeping Kosher, never cook a calf in its mother’s milk. It is cruel.
Moses: Ohhhhhh! So you are saying we should never eat milk and meat together.

G-d: No, what I’m saying is, never cook a calf in its mother’s milk.
Moses: Oh, Lord forgive my ignorance! What you are really saying is we should wait six hours after eating meat to eat milk so the two are not in our stomachs.

G-d: No, Moses, what I’m saying is, never cook a calf in it’s mother’s milk!!!
Moses: Oh, Lord! Please don’t strike me down for my stupidity! What you mean is we should have a separate set of dishes for milk and a separate set for meat and if we make a mistake we have to bury that dish outside…

G-d: Moses, do whatever you want….[1]

All jokes aside, when considering the context in which these verses are found, it is interesting to note that in all cases, they were no more than a verse before or in the same verse with the offering of the tithes and the first-fruits. Context should be the first priority in understanding difficult passages.

Rabbi Joseph ben Isaac, a 12th century Rabbi of Orlean, France, believed that the phrase as its classically understood is a mistranslation. In Bekhor Shor he wrote:
לפי הפשט, “בישול” לשון גידול וגמר, כמו “הבשילו אשכלותיה ענבים.” והכי קאמר: לא תניחנו לגדל ולגמול בחלב אמו, שתאחרנו עד שתגדלנו האם בחלבה, אלא בראשית תביאנו, דומיית תחילת הפסוק שאמר: “ראשית בכורי אדמת

According to the plain meaning, the term “bishul” here means grow or complete, as it is used [Gen. 40:10)]: “its clusters ripened (הבשילו) into grapes.” This is what the verse is saying: do not allow it to grow up and be weaned from its mothers milk. [In other words, do not] wait until [the kid]’s mother grows it with her milk, rather bring it at the beginning. This fits with the context of the first part of the verse, “the choice first fruit of the ground.” [2]

The verb was written תבשׁל and vocalized by the Masoretes as תְבַּשֵׁל – a pi’el, but could actually be vocalized as תַבְשֵׁל which is hiphil defective imperfect.

Most detractors of this interpretation point to Rabbi Isaac’s commentary on the same passage in Deuteronomy where he stated that the commandment was, indeed, concerning forbidden foods- completely reversing his former comment in Exodus. According to his opinion in the passage in Deuteronomy, it was in light of how the verse seemed to be connected with the preceding verses. However, on close examination, one can notice that this, again, is merely a traditional break provided by the Masoretes- who could have been moved by a traditional understanding of that verse in the 9th century when the Masoretic Text was prepared. In the MT, at the end of verse 21, there is an open space- which is signified by the Hebrew letter Peh and indicated the next verse began on a new line. This seemed to link the final clause with verse 21. The Masoretes were the ones who pointed the Text, and it was from them that the sof pasuq originated- meaning they decided where each verse began or ended [3]. In both of the prior two passages, this clause was clearly written in the context of the bringing of the first fruits- in this context, the clause was the opening of the bringing of the tithes of the land. In light of this, it is a fair assumption that the Masoretes, as was their custom, followed traditional understanding and practices when preparing their Text.

According to Torah, the young only need be with the milk of its mother seven days before being offered-hardly enough time to be weaned.

שֹׁ֣ור אֹו־כֶ֤שֶׂב אֹו־עֵז֙ כִּ֣י יִוָּלֵ֔ד וְהָיָ֛ה שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֖ים תַּ֣חַת אִמֹּ֑ו וּמִיֹּ֤ום הַשְּׁמִינִי֙ וָהָ֔לְאָה יֵרָצֶ֕ה לְקָרְבַּ֥ן אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַיהוָֽה׃

When an ox, or lamb, or goat is born, and when it has been seven days under its mother, then from the eighth day and onward it is acceptable for an offering, a fire-offering to YHWH. Leviticus 22:27

The phrase לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו might not have had anything to do with boiling or cooking- even less to do with eating. The verb B-SH-L carried a meaning of ripening; when considering how a plant ripens its fruit- by causing the fluid to cease flowing into it. The phrase could indicate a period in which the kid is brought to weaning from the mother’s milk. The meaning would be that at the time the firstborn are born, they were to be consecrated and handed over- weaned or not.

Consider the following

כִּֽי־לִפְנֵי קָצִיר כְּתָם־פֶּרַח וּבֹסֶר גֹּמֵל יִֽהְיֶה נִצָּה וְכָרַת הַזַּלְזַלִּים בַּמַּזְמֵרוֹת וְאֶת־הַנְּטִישׁוֹת הֵסִיר הֵתַֽז׃

For before the harvest, when the blossom is past, and the bud is ripening [gomeil] into young grapes, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. Isaiah 18:5

and

וּבַגֶּפֶן שְׁלֹשָׁה שָֽׂרִיגִם וְהִוא כְפֹרַחַת עָֽלְתָה נִצָּהּ הִבְשִׁילוּ אַשְׁכְּלֹתֶיהָ עֲנָבִֽים׃

And in the vine were three branches; and it was as though it budded, and its blossoms shot forth [hivshilu]; and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. Genesis40:10

In these two, speaking of plants coming to ripeness, there are verbs for weaning G-M-L and ripening B-Sh-L. The former is a pa’al active participle and the latter a hiphil perfect.

The shoresh carried the meaning of ripening as well as to boil. The piel- so it seemed- meant to boil, cook. The hiphil has a meaning of ripening. However, there are instances where the hiphil– written defective (with Tsere instead of the normal medial Yod)- resembled a pa’al or pi’el in the imperfect.

In every place the mitswah concerning the gedi appeared, it was in close relation- a pasuq before or after- to the giving of the bikhorim [first-fruits].

Concerning the giving of the bikhorim we are warned not to delay:

מְלֵאָתְךָ֥ וְדִמְעֲךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְאַחֵ֑ר בְּכֹ֥ור בָּנֶ֖יךָ תִּתֶּנ־לִּֽי׃ כֵּֽנ־תַּעֲשֶׂ֥ה לְשֹׁרְךָ֖ לְצֹאנֶ֑ךָ שִׁבְעַ֤ת יָמִים֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה עִמ־אִמֹּ֔ו בַּיֹּ֥ום הַשְּׁמִינִ֖י תִּתְּנֹו־לִֽי׃

 

There has been much discussion among the early 20th century scholars about the cache of Ugaritic tablets found at Ras Shamra and how they may lend new light to understanding vague verses of the Bible- among them is tablet UT52.14 (CTA23) in which was found a line which read- TBH.GD.BHLB

This phrase was rendered, Cook a kid in milk, by Virolleaud. Bible scholars jumped on board and declared that the Torah mitswah must have had something to do with ancient Canaanite religious practices. There are several objections which must be noted.

First: there is no mention of cooking or boiling as TBH, in Ugaritic, meant to slaughter.

Second: There is no mention of mother’s milk.

Third: the Ugaritic word divider appeared between the B and H of TBH which made any certain translation of the verb uncertain. Even if, as Virolleaud claimed, the verb is TBH, it would not mean to cook or boil. To base the meaning of the Torah’s mitswah on this partial evidence is premature- at best.

Fourth: the Ugaritic GD did not mean a kid [GDY in Hebrew]; this is the Semitic word for coriander which can be found in the Torah as well:

וְהַמָּ֕ן כִּזְרַע־גַּ֖ד ה֑וּא וְעֵינֹ֖ו כְּעֵ֥ין הַבְּדֹֽלַח׃

And the manna was like the seed of coriander [GD]; and its color was like the color of bdellium. Numbers 11:7

Lastly: Even if this was a pagan ritual, that in itself is not a sufficient reason to denounce the practice- all of the Israelite religious practices can be found in the pagan religious practices of the Near East; if the command was only to prohibit pagan practices, all forms would have been prohibited by Torah- this is not the case.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. http://kosher4passover.com/jokes.htm
  2. http://thetorah.com/meat-and-milk-origins-in-the-text/
  3. Wegner, Paul D.  The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible. Page 177. Baker Academic, 1999.
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Grammatical Plurality and Polytheism

Throughout the ancient world, there are many references to deities in the plural- Ba’alim [בעלים], Elohim [אלהים], Adonim [אדנים], etc. Most translators of ancient texts tended to make it normative to portray this as a polytheistic reference. I have been pondering the possibility that the plural in those texts may not have- always- represented polytheistic undertones.

In the Hebrew Text, there are many references to foreign deities- polytheism; the fact that the Hebrews worshiped only One Deity alone was sufficient grounds for many translators to overlook the plural usages of deity for the Deity of the Hebrews. However, there are many plural nouns used in the Hebrew Text which may suggest that those plural nouns were not always indicative of plurality, but of honored position or a high status. Further, there are clear passages in the Hebrew Text which used, in conjunction with plural nouns, plural verbs in reference to the Deity worshiped by the Hebrews; these plural noun/verb constructions demonstrate that by simple grammatical construction plurality is not always indicative.

And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander [hit’u oti Elohim-התעו אותי אלהים] from my father’s house, that I said unto her: This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me: He is my brother.’

JPS Genesis 20:13

And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el, because there God was revealed unto him [niglu elaw haelohim-נגלו אליו האלהים], when he fled from the face of his brother. JPS Genesis 35:7

And who is like Thy people, like Israel, a nation one in the earth, whom God went [haleku Elohim-הלכו אלהים] to redeem unto Himself for a people, and to make Him a name, and to do for Thy land great things and tremendous, even for you, in driving out from before Thy people, whom Thou didst redeem to Thee out of Egypt, the nations and their gods? JPS 2 Samuel 7:23

And men shall say: ‘Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily there is a God that judgeth [elohim shoftim-אלהים שׁפטים] in the earth’ Psalm 58:12.

The plural usage of Adon is also indicative of a non-plurality in meaning. With the 1st possessive pronoun- my, the plural Adonai [אדני-literally my lords] is used exclusively for the One Deity of Israel. There are many places in which the plural Adonim [אדנים]- with the 3rd possessive pronoun [ו]- was employed to refer to one person and never meant, in any way, a plurality of person.

And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master [אדניו-adonaw] and swore to him concerning this matter. JPS Genesis 24:9

And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master [אדניו-adonaw], and departed; having all goodly things of his master’s [אדניו-adonaw] in his hand; and he arose, and went to Aram-naharaim, unto the city of Nahor. JPS Genesis 24:10

These two verses lead to a possibility that the vocalization of the following verse may have originally been Adonai [אֲדֹנָי] and not Adoni [אֲדֹנִי]- the spelling, minus the vocalization, is identical in either case.

And he said: ‘O LORD, the God of my master [אֲדֹנִי -adoni] Abraham, send me, I pray Thee, good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. JPS Genesis 24:12

Even if the present vocalization is correct, this is sufficient proof to demonstrate the non-plurality of meaning in this juxtaposition.

A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master [אדניו-adonaw]; if then I be a father, where is My honour? and if I be a master [אדנים-adonim], where is My fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise My name. And ye say: ‘Wherein have we despised Thy name?’ JPS Malachi 1:6

These uses of grammatically plural nouns/verbs to indicate positions of greatness or honor demonstrate that not every usage of grammatical plurality in ancient texts may have- necessarily- held polytheistic meaning.

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