Remembering Egypt

 The book of Deuteronomy is also called “the second time of the Torah” – Mishneh Torah – משנה תורה. The reason is that after 40 years, Moses repeats and explains the Torah to the people of Israel with a few changes to the laws of God. Those who hold the source theory suggest that what we read in Deuteronomy reflects a different time of writing – approximately 622 B.C.E – when King Josiah decided that he would abide by the laws that were in the book that was found in the temple.

Whether it’s 40 years or more, the remembrance of Egypt, and especially the time of slavery there, is a topic that can be found in the book of Deuteronomy in the same formula -

“וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם”

“And remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt”

In webinar 163 we discussed the widow in the Hebrew Bible and we noticed that in order for the people to remember that they need to help the widow and other poor populations, they must remember that they were slaves in Egypt.

The commandant is in the male singular, but it’s actually for all of the people of Israel – both male and female. Let’s see other places that mention this commandment:

The first appears in the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy-

“But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.”(Deuteronomy 5:14-15-KJV version)

 וְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי-שַׁבָּת לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ:  לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כָל-מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ-וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ-וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְשׁוֹרְךָ וַחֲמֹרְךָ וְכָל-בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ-לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ כָּמוֹךָ.  וְזָכַרְתָּ כִּי עֶבֶד הָיִיתָ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַיֹּצִאֲךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִשָּׁם בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה; עַל-כֵּן צִוְּךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת”

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Some Answers to Your Questions

As a Biblical Hebrew teacher, one of my favorite experiences in this long and endless journey is trying to answer questions posed by my students in our courses and in our Biblical Hebrew Webinar, always a lovely way to start the weekend at the Dahan family. Since I can’t answer all of the questions in the webinar, I’ve decided to share my thoughts in our Biblical Hebrew blog.

Before I start, I’d like to thank you all, dear readers and webinar participants, for making the last few weeks so profound for me both as a teacher and scholar of the Hebrew Bible. You are more than welcome to send me more questions, as many as you like!

The first question is from Jeremy Anderson, one of our Facebook fans:

“In the account of Rahab living in the walls of Jericho. How did she and her house survive?”

Well, dear friend, let’s see what Rahab said when she met the spies that were sent by Joshua:

“And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land… For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt… And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”(Joshua 2:9-11)

“וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל-הָאֲנָשִׁים-יָדַעְתִּי כִּי-נָתַן יְהוָה לָכֶם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ …כִּי שָׁמַעְנוּ אֵת אֲשֶׁר-הוֹבִישׁ יְהוָה אֶת-מֵי יַם-סוּף מִפְּנֵיכֶם בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם….  וַנִּשְׁמַע וַיִּמַּס לְבָבֵנוּ, וְלֹא-קָמָה עוֹד רוּחַ בְּאִישׁ מִפְּנֵיכֶם:  כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם-הוּא אֱלֹהִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל-הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת”

The reason that Rahab and her family were saved was because she acknowledged the power of God, and to me she was somewhat of a prophet in that she predicted the future – the conquest of the promised land by Joshua and his army with the help of the Lord. If you read Joshua 6:23-25 you can see that her request from the spies was fulfilled by Joshua. For more information you can read about Rahab here

The second question is from Betsy Delozier and here it is:

“Can you explain who the sons of G-d are in Genesis 6:2?”

In a nutshell I would say that the expressions “the sons of God” could be explained in two different ways. In the Hebrew Bible this expression can also be found in Job 1:6:

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

“וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם-וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים לְהִתְיַצֵּב עַל-יְהוָה; וַיָּבוֹא גַם-הַשָּׂטָן, בְּתוֹכָם.”

 

By reading Job we can surmise that the sons of God, including Satan, were the angles of God, and their sin in Genesis 6 was a sexual relationship with the daughters of man, and for that reason the giants (Nephilim) were created. However, the word “Elohim” in the Hebrew Bible, does not always mean “one God”. Sometimes the meaning is “ruler” or “leader”, for example in Exodus 4:16 when Moses is named as “the God of Aaron”. In that case, the sons of God could be rulers that were sinners since they each took a woman they chose as written in the verse you mentioned in your question. Another option, which is less common, is that the sons of God are the descendants of Shet, since in his sons’ days there was the first usage of the name of the Lord. The daughters of man are actually the daughters of Adam, who was the father of Cain, and maybe for that reason there were sins in that time that caused the flood!

The next question was sent to me by Lucky Meyer, who asked about the significance of the people rising out of the graves. Well, dear friend, I assume that you are speaking about the dry bone visions in Ezekiel 37, as written:

“Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.(Ezekiel 37:12-14)

“לָכֵן הִנָּבֵא וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵיהֶם כֹּה-אָמַר אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה הִנֵּה אֲנִי פֹתֵחַ אֶת-קִבְרוֹתֵיכֶם וְהַעֲלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם מִקִּבְרוֹתֵיכֶם עַמִּי; וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל-אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל.  וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי-אֲנִי יְהוָה:  בְּפִתְחִי אֶת-קִבְרוֹתֵיכֶם, וּבְהַעֲלוֹתִי אֶתְכֶם מִקִּבְרוֹתֵיכֶם-עַמִּי.  וְנָתַתִּי רוּחִי בָכֶם וִחְיִיתֶם וְהִנַּחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם עַל-אַדְמַתְכֶם; וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי-אֲנִי יְהוָה דִּבַּרְתִּי וְעָשִׂיתִי-נְאֻם-יְהוָה”.

The graves that this vision speaks of are not physical graves for people who have died, but for people in the exile that perhaps have died mentally and need to be cheered up by the prophet. For that reason when you are reading about the graves and the new spirit in the people, it’s not resurrection. In fact, the idea of resurrection is from the time of Ezekiel, which is also something that we need to bear in mind. This nation was at a breaking point when they were exiled from the land that was promised to them, and this vision revived some the dry bones, that metaphorically died in exile, and brought them up to the land of Judah.

That’s all for today; more answers are waiting for you in this webinar: www.eteacherbiblical.com/webinar/questions-and-answers-iii

See you in class, Eli

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Did Moses really die? Part 1

According to Jewish tradition, the seventh day of the month of Adar is mentioned as the day when Moses died. When you speak of Adar, you need to remember that in a leap year there are actually two months of Adar. This year (2014), the day of death is the seventh day of the Adar Bet, which is the second month of Adar and not the first.

If you look at the title above and read the last chapter of the Torah, you might think that the question is out of place, since it’s written that Moses died as follows:

“וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד-יְהוָה בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב-עַל-פִּי יְהוָה וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בַגַּי בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב מוּל בֵּית פְּעוֹר; וְלֹא-יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת-קְבֻרָתוֹ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.”

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.”"(Deuteronomy 34:5-6)

 Is it possible that Moses didn’t die, even though it’s written that he did?  Well dear friends, it all depends on how we understand his death. Let’s pay attention to a few important details here

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The Exemptions from War

In the book of Deuteronomy, there’s one chapter that describes how the Israelites should behave when preparing for war against enemies. Chapter 20 gives the reader an insight of what a war was like in the days when people used their gods in order to win, as the Israelites and also other nations and religions did at that time.

One of the details that are revealed to us in this chapter is the exemptions, in Hebrew Petorim-פטורים. Some people didn’t want to go to war for several reasons- some are described in these verses-

“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it . And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? Let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it .And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? Let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.

And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.”(Deut 20:5-8)

“וְדִבְּרוּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים, אֶל-הָעָם לֵאמֹר, מִי-הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר בָּנָה בַיִת-חָדָשׁ וְלֹא חֲנָכוֹ, יֵלֵךְ וְיָשֹׁב לְבֵיתוֹ:  פֶּן-יָמוּת, בַּמִּלְחָמָה, וְאִישׁ אַחֵר, יַחְנְכֶנּוּ.  וּמִי-הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-נָטַע כֶּרֶם, וְלֹא חִלְּלוֹ–יֵלֵךְ, וְיָשֹׁב לְבֵיתוֹ:  פֶּן-יָמוּת, בַּמִּלְחָמָה, וְאִישׁ אַחֵר, יְחַלְּלֶנּוּ.   וּמִי-הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-אֵרַשׂ אִשָּׁה, וְלֹא לְקָחָהּ–יֵלֵךְ, וְיָשֹׁב לְבֵיתוֹ:  פֶּן-יָמוּת, בַּמִּלְחָמָה, וְאִישׁ אַחֵר, יִקָּחֶנָּה.  וְיָסְפוּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים, לְדַבֵּר אֶל-הָעָם, וְאָמְרוּ מִי-הָאִישׁ הַיָּרֵא וְרַךְ הַלֵּבָב, יֵלֵךְ וְיָשֹׁב לְבֵיתוֹ; וְלֹא יִמַּס אֶת-לְבַב אֶחָיו, כִּלְבָבוֹ.

 

The people there that are exempted from going to war are people that had new things in their lives – a house, a wife and a vineyard. Since they didn’t get the chance to enjoy their house, wife or vineyard, they cannot go to war, unless this war is a war against the seven nations of Canaan – this war is called “a war of commandment” – “Milchemet Mitsvah-מלחמת מצווה.

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