Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 1
SECTION 6: SACRED WRITINGS AND COMMENTARIES
SECTION 6 Sacred Writings and Commentaries
T...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 2
which were usually attached to Temple or place but possibly also private houses of
the w...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 3
Joshua: Relates the invasion of Canaan under Joshua and the distribution of the
land to ...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 4
Psalms: 150 poetic writings of various types (praise, petition, lament,
thanksgiving, et...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 5
2. Based on the outline of the Hebrew Bible above, construct a loose chronology
of memor...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 6
ABRAHAM (Genesis 12 and following)
Abraham is the father of the nation and recipient of ...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 7
Abraham as the leader of the nation is shown to be resourceful in famine. He
goes to a f...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 8
SARAH (Genesis 12-21)
Genesis 12-50 is generally termed the ‘patriarchal narratives’ the...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 9
assurance, and I went forth with faith; Abraham is without this prison while I am
within...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 10
WOMEN JUDGES AND LEADERS
DEBORAH/DVORA (Judges 4 and 5)
Exceptional leaders share certa...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 11
G-d takes part in the actual battle, causing a sudden flood storm: “The stars
fought fr...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 12
MIRIAM (Exodus/Numbers/Micah)
Miriam’s Name
Miriam was a leader of the Hebrew people du...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 13
“Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s
sister took a tambourine in her hand,
and all the wom...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 14
Miriam cursed by Leprosy
Later we meet Miriam at Hazeroth, as the Hebrew people wandere...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 15
VOICE OF THE PROPHETS
ISAIAH THE PROPHET (740-681 BCE)
Isaiah 3:1-15 A Commentary
Isaia...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 16
4. And I will give children to be their princes,
And babes shall rule over them.
5. And...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 17
people will scorn and fight each other; there will be no mutual respect.
3:6 Thou hast ...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 18
3:9 The show of their countenance. The Hebrew literally is "the recognition of
their co...
Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 19
interrupt the sequence, Krauss agrees with modern scholars that they are a later
insert...
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  1. 1. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 1 SECTION 6: SACRED WRITINGS AND COMMENTARIES SECTION 6 Sacred Writings and Commentaries Topic 6.1 The Hebrew Bible Structure and content of the Hebrew Bible Description of Topic The main structure of the Torah and its components The main events of Israelite history as presented in the Torah The Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the Matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah), and the great leaders, Moses, Aaron and Joshua The roles of women in the Hebrew Bible as judges, prophetesses, military and logistical strategists, teachers, moral leaders and mothers; The key messages conveyed in one of the Books of the Prophets or in another sacred Hebrew text, e.g. the book of Job, the book of Psalms Learning Outcomes Sketch the general structure and content of the main Jewish writings and commentaries; construct a time line to show the main events of Israelite history as presented in the Torah; explain briefly the role of the Patriarchs, Matriarchsand leaders in the Hebrew Bible; discuss and assess the different roles of women in the Hebrew Bible; give a brief account of the key messages conveyed in one of the books of the Prophets or in another sacred Hebrew text. TANAKH SYNOPSIS PART ONE: TORAH (Instruction, Teaching) The Torah is the collective memory of a society expressing its self-understanding and faith through its belief in a deity G-d. Call to mind how a society, group, community, remember their history. It is recalled through story (written and oral), myth, legend, poetry, song, some historical narratives which are verified by other soucrces e.g. archaeology. Ancient scribes and priests of the Jerusalem Temple - an elite group of society because they could read and write in a time when about 2% of the population were literate – were those who wrote it. Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora and in the land remembered and preserved it. The process by which Torah took place was through oral tradition: story-tellers pass on stories through the generations. Oral tradition is flexible, can be adapted, embellished, made relevant to the needs of specific individuals, villages, tribes. It was probably written on potsherds or small clay tablets; on tablets stored in ancient libraries
  2. 2. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 2 which were usually attached to Temple or place but possibly also private houses of the wealthy. Only around 300 BCE did scribes begin to use scrolls which could facilitate the production of longer narratives. Genesis: Chapters 1-11 relate G-d's creation of the world and the first humans, the stories of Adam, Eve Cain and Abel, the flood, the tower of Babel, and the invention of various human arts and industries. Chapters l2-50 contain the stories of the patriarchal and matriarchal ancestors of the Israelites: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah and Rachel. The descent of the Jacob's son Joseph into Egypt, his rise to power and the eventual arrival of all of the Israelites in Egypt Exodus: Contains the story of Moses who is charged by G-d with leading the Israelites from Egypt where they have been enslaved. At Mount Sinai in the wilderness, G-d enters into a covenantal relationship with Israel, imparting divine instructions which the Israelites promise to obey. Includes instructions for the construction of G-d's tabernacle. Leviticus: Contains instructions concerning the sacrificial cult and other priestly rituals, the initiation of Aaron and his sons as priest, as well as laws concerning purity and impurity (both ritual and moral). Numbers: Continues the narrative of the Israelites as they wander in the wilderness. Further instructions are given in this period. Deuteronomy: A set of three speeches delivered by Moses on the plain of Moab on the eastern side of the Jordan river, as the Israelites are poised to enter the promised land. Moses reiterates the divine instruction delivered at Sinai and charges the people to be faithful to G-d so as not to incur his displeasure. Moses dies without entering the Promised Land. PART TWO: NEVI'IM (Prophets) Subdivided into the books of the Former Prophets (Joshua through 2 Kings, consisting of historical narratives featuring kings and prophets and the books of the Latter Prophets (containing the oracles of the classical or literary prophets from the mid 8th to 5th century). A. Former Prophets
  3. 3. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 3 Joshua: Relates the invasion of Canaan under Joshua and the distribution of the land to the Israelite tribes. Judges: Stories that center around heroic "judges" who led the people in military victories over a variety of enemies. 1 Samuel: Samuel, the last judge and a prophet, reluctantly anoints a king at the behest of the people. Stories about the first king, Saul.and his rivalry with David. 2 Samuel: The story of King David. The rich Court History tells of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the revolt of his son Absalom. l Kings: Relates David's final years, and the reign of David's son Solomon who builds a Temple to G-d in Jerusalem. Succession of the ten northern tribes to form the kingdom of Israel, leaving 2 southern tribes as the kingdom of Judah. The prophet Elijah zealously promotes Yahwism in the north and comes into conflict with King Ahab. 2 Kings: Stories about Elijah and his disciple prophet Elisha. Relates the overthrow of Ahab, the succession of kings in Israel until the final destruction by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.Traces the history of the southern kingdom until the final destruction by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. B. Latter Prophets Isaiah: Oracles by and narratives about the late 8th century northern prophet Isaiah (chapters 1-39). Chapters 40-66 are from a later period. Jeremiah: Oracles, poems and narratives of the late 7th early 6thc prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah witnessed the end of the southern kingdom. Ezekiel: Oracles and narratives of the early 6th century prophet Ezekiel, delivered in Babylonia. The Book of the Twelve: a collection of shorter prophetic books spanning 3 centuries. 1. Hosea -late 8th century northern prophet 2. Joel- postexilic oracles focusing on a day of divine retribution 3. Amos – mid-8th century northern prophet 4. Obadiah - post-destruction (post 587) prophet 5. Jonah - a short story about the prophet Jonah who is sent by G-d to Ninevah 6. Micah -late 8th century Judean prophet 7. Nahum - a poem on the fall of Ninevah (late 7th c) 8. Habbakuk - latter part of the 7th century 9. Zephaniah -- latter part of the 7th century 10. Haggai -late 6th century prophet, living at the time of the return from exile II. Zechariah - combines late 6th century visions with later postexilic materials 12. Malachi - 5th century prophet. PART THREE: KETUVIM (Writings)
  4. 4. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 4 Psalms: 150 poetic writings of various types (praise, petition, lament, thanksgiving, etc.) Proverbs: A collection of sayings and aphorisms, including tributes to wisdom Job: The tale of a righteous man afflicted with suffering is the prose framework for a length poetic dialogue on the question of divine justice, human suffering, and the value of righteousness. The Five Scrolls 1. Song of Songs – a multi-voiced love poem 2. Ruth - story of a foreign women's faithfulness to her Israelite family by marriage set in the period of the judges 3. Lamentations - Dirge on the destruction of Jerusalem 4. Ecclesiastes - Musings on the vanity of life 5. Esther - Story of a Mordechai and Esther who save the Jews of Persia from a planned slaughter. Daniel- Written in the 2nd century BCE, this book contains the adventures of the Israelite Daniel and his friends residing in the royal court of 6th century Babylon. The latter part ofthe book contains apocalyptic visions. Ezra - Relates the return of the Babylonian exiles to Judea at the end of the 6th century and the reforms of Ezra, a Babylonian priest and scribe, in the 5th century BCE. Nehemiah - Relates the activities of Nehemiah, governor of Judah under Persian rule, in the mid-5th century BCE. 1 Chronicles - A recapitulation of the history of Israel down to the reign of David, with different emphases and themes. 2 Chronicles - A continuation of I Chronicles relating the reigns of the kings of Judah down to the Babylonian exile. Exercise 1. Draw a table outlining the main structure of the Hebrew Bible.
  5. 5. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 5 2. Based on the outline of the Hebrew Bible above, construct a loose chronology of memories of events which have taken place over time, i.e. Creation, the Flood etc… WRITTEN TRADITION TORAH PROPHETS WRITINGS ORAL TRADITION TALMUD Tosefta - MISHNAH – Baraita MIDRASH HALAKHAH MIDRASH AGGADA Mechilta on Exodus (Compendium) Midrash Rabba Sifre on Leviticus Tanchuma Sifre on Numbers Pesikta Palestinian GEMARA Babylonian GEMARA EXPANSIVE MEANING OF THE TORAH Key to Diagram: 1. TORAH: Five Books of Moses 2. Torah: Entire Bible: Pentateuch, Prophets, Writings 3. Torah: Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara) and Midrash 4. Torah: Commentaries, Codes, homilies and all teachings based on the Bible, Talmud, Midrash PATRIARCHS 1 432
  6. 6. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 6 ABRAHAM (Genesis 12 and following) Abraham is the father of the nation and recipient of G-d’s promise. Faith in G-d means taking a risk, losing everything, becoming landless. The Torah is all about the theme of reaching the promised land but the first step is to become landless. Abraham sets out from Ur in Babylonia (present day Iraq). The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.’ I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ (Gen 12:1-3) 1. The Land Promise: ‘A land that I will show you.’ 2. The National Promise: ‘A great nation.’ 3. The Spiritual Promise: ‘All the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ The Patriarch as Obedient Leader ‘So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he set out. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.’ (Genesis 12:4-5) He establishes the Boundaries of the Land ‘Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ (Genesis 12:6-7) The Patriarch establishes Sanctuaries, sacrifices and prays on behalf of the people So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 12:7-8)
  7. 7. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 7 Abraham as the leader of the nation is shown to be resourceful in famine. He goes to a foreign land conscious of dangers for Israelites among foreigners. This leads to the acquisition of wealth. Sarah, his wife, is obedient and cooperative. When Abraham met the Pharaoh, he passed Sarah off as his sister. This ‘deceit’ was important to survival and the growth of the Israelite people. The theme of tricking the great Egyptian Pharaoh was popular. From 2000 BCE on, people from the Ancient Near East went to Egypt in times of warfare (seeking shelter) and famine (seeking food) and they were often put into forced labour. The Patriarch is the recipient of the Covenant command for circumcision Then G-d said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep. Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner – those who are not your offspring… My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.’ (Genesis 17:9-14) The Promise made to Abraham is fulfilled through Isaac ‘For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.’ (Genesis 26:3-5) ABRAHAM: SUMMARY BOX Story is in Genesis Chapters 11-35 Abram was born in Ur of Mesopotamia (near Iraq) At 75 years of age he was commanded by G-d to leave his home place He travelled with Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his nephew, and their households, from Haran to Shechem in Canaan (See map) Famine in Canaan so they headed to Egypt. Back up then to Bethel and Hai (See map) Entered into covenant with G-d: descendants would be as many as the stars of heavens etc. No children yet. Abraham+Hagar (Sarah’s maid servant)=Ishmael At 99 years of age, G-d gives Abram a new name: Abram to Abraham and Sarai becomes Sarah He is declared by G-d to be father of many nations and the covenant is expressed through circumcision of the male line. 100 years old Abraham and Sarah have child: Isaac Akedah: The binding of Isaac, the test of Abraham’s faith Promise from G-d about line continuing through Isaac Abraham died at 175 years of age. Abraham is one of the patriarchs of Judaism MATRIARCHS
  8. 8. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 8 SARAH (Genesis 12-21) Genesis 12-50 is generally termed the ‘patriarchal narratives’ these are the chapters that focus on the founding fathers of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph but Genesis also tells another story – that of the great matriarchal figures – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah. Sarai comes from the verb ‘serar’ meaning ‘to rule’ and is translated as ‘my princess’. We see that she was young enough to attract the Egyptians and in Gen 12:4 we are told that Abram was 75 years old which would make Sarai (who was 10 years younger cf Gen 17;17) 65. According to Genesis 12 Sarai and Abram they are living in Haran, north western Mesopotamia. Haran means ‘highway’ or ‘crossroads’ – so G-d spoke to Abram at the ‘crossroads’ of his life. Sarah is barren ‘Now Sarai was barren, she had no child.’(Gen 11:30) Sarah has no history in a world where a woman’s worth is calculated by her fruitfulness Sarah is empty, without future. The very words ‘Sarai was barren’ mask a hidden story of personal pain and suffering. As we begin the Sarah story we are faced with a kind of death, a dying. The natural rhythm of life is broken by an absence. The promise depends on Abram having a child – a boy- since in ancient Israel inheritance was passed through the male line. So Abram must have a child but Sarai is barren so either G-d will have to heal her barrenness or Abram will have to find another wife. Yet at this point the one obstruction to G-d’s plan is Sarai’s barrenness and moreover although G-d repeats and expands his promise to Abram seven times he never addresses them to Sarai. Sarai the Protector of Abraham Sarai will be enslaved like the Israelites but it is Abraham rather than the Pharaoh who is the cause of enslavement.Abram is vulnerable as he approaches the borders of the mighty lands of Egypt – with famine behind him and the might of a powerful nation in front of him he is like so many refugees in our world today. ‘He said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live.” Say please you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you and that my life may be spared on your account.’ (Genesis 12:11-13) The inevitable happens – the Egyptians are stunned by Sarai’s beauty and sing her praises to the Pharaoh. The result is that Sarai is ‘taken’ into the Pharaoh’s household.And the whole of that night Sarah lay prostrate on her face, crying, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Abraham went forth [from his land] on Thine
  9. 9. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 9 assurance, and I went forth with faith; Abraham is without this prison while I am within!’ Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to her: ‘Whatever I do, I do for thy sake, and all will say, " It is BECAUSE OF SARAI ABRAM'S WIFE.’" (Midrash) But G-d steps in on the side of Sarai and sends plagues on Pharaoh and his household. The Pharaoh realises the reason for the plagues and that he unwittingly has committed adultery:“What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife? Why did you say ‘She is my sister’ so that I took her for my wife?” The Pharaoh spares Abram’s life. Sarai’s name changes as she is called from G-d through Abraham In Chapter 17:5 we hear that G-d changes Abram’s name to Abraham and then makes a solemn promise:“As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Sarah’s matriarchal role is vital in the foundation of the people and their establishment of their relationship with G-d. Abraham fell flat on his face and laughed, thinking ”Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah who is 90 years old bear a child?” What else does the laughter of Abraham indicate than that he no longer sees a vision but a joke. They have become fixated with what is: they have stopped dreaming of what can be; they have become obsessed with their own poverty, emptiness and the huge absence that now dominates their life. G-d responds to Abraham’s mockery by repeating the promise and naming the child:‘Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, you shall name him Isaac.” The name Isaac means ‘he laughs’ so Sarah will bring laughter into the world. SARAH: SUMMARY BOX Story told in the Book of Genesis Root of her name comes from verb ‘serar’ to rule, and means ‘my princess’ Wife of Abraham Travelled with Abraham on his journeys (See Abraham) Sarai was 65 when she left Ur with Abraham In Egpyt, Abraham asked her to pose as his ‘sister’ in order to protect himself She was held captive by the Pharaoh and given many gifts. G-d sent plagues on Pharaoh’s household. Abraham and Sarai had to leave Egypt She suggested that her maid-servant, Hagar, and Abraham should have a child because she herself was barren for so long. Tension between Hagar and Sarah Sarai gets a new name, Sarah, given by G-d to Abraham She was to bear a child and laughed at the prospect of how ridiculous that sounded! Abraham and Sarah had one child: Isaac Sarah died at Kiryat Arba (Hebron) at 127 years of age As husband of Abraham, she is a matriarch of Judaism
  10. 10. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 10 WOMEN JUDGES AND LEADERS DEBORAH/DVORA (Judges 4 and 5) Exceptional leaders share certain qualities like a strong personal ethic and a compelling vision of the future. Frequently, great leaders emerge in response to a crisis as they attempt to achieve a bold new vision. Deborah is one of the major judges (meaning charismatic leaders, rather than juridical figures) in the story of how Israel takes the land of Canaan. The only female judge, and also the only judge to be called a prophet, Deborah is a decisive figure in the defeat of the Canaanites, a victory told in two accounts, a prose narrative in Judges 4 and an ancient song known as the Song of Deborah, probably composed not long after the original events, possibly by Deborah herself, and preserved in Judges 5. In Judg 4:4, Deborah is identified as eshet lappidot, which may mean “woman of [the town] Lappidoth,” “wife of [the man] Lappidoth,” or “woman of torches” (that is, “fiery woman”). As the story opens in Judges 4, Deborah is already a judge, settling disputes brought to her while she sits under the “palm of Deborah” in the hill country of Ephraim (4:5). Most of the major figures in the Book of Judges are acknowledged as leaders after military victory; Deborah is a judge before the battle, but the narrative does not include the story of how she became judge, why she is called a “prophetess,” or the way in which G-d commanded her to begin the battle against Jabin, the Canaanite king of Hazor, and his general, Sisera. Deborah summons Barak to be her general, relaying G-d’s command to take ten thousand men to Mount Tabor to begin the battle. When he responds that he would go only if she will, she agrees to go, but informs him that Barak will get no glory from the victory, for “the Lord will deliver [NRSV, sell] Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9). The reader naturally assumes that the woman will be Deborah. Sisera deploys his army against Deborah, and Barak and the troops near Mount Tabor in Galilee. Deborah announces to Barak that the day of victory has come, and “the Lord is indeed going out before you.” Barak and his warriors destroy all the Canaanites except Sisera, who flees from the battle and seeks refuge with a Kenite woman, Jael, who kills him; Jael is in fact the woman who seals Sisera’s fate. The Song of Deborah, preserved in Judges 5, tells more about this final battle. It describes the chaotic conditions that exist until “you arose, Deborah,/arose as a mother in Israel” (5:7). The poem hints that the battle against Canaan was instigated by the people, who call, “Awake, awake, Deborah!/Awake, awake, utter a song!/Arise, Barak, lead away your captives,/O son of Abinoam” (5:12). Deborah’s job would not be to fight. As the prophetic leader, her job would be to sing encouraging war chants and a victory song (such as Judges 5); the actual fighting would be Barak’s job.
  11. 11. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 11 G-d takes part in the actual battle, causing a sudden flood storm: “The stars fought from heaven,/from their courses they fought against Sisera./The torrent Kishon swept them away” (5:21). This disabled the Canaanite chariots, enabling Israel’s infantry to win. The Song of Deborah concludes with a heroic depiction of Jael as a woman warrior and with a taunt of Sisera’s mother, waiting anxiously and in vain for Sisera to return after the battle. Deborah does not show sympathy toward another woman, Sisera’s mother. Quite the contrary—she portrays her as the quintessential enemy woman, already anticipating the riches that the fighters will bring as spoil when they return. These riches would include both materia1 wealth and captive women—“a girl or two [Hebrew, a womb-girl, two womb- girls] for every man” (5:30). The battle is between Israelites and Canaanites, and the women align solidly with their own group. There is no other heroine like Deborah in the Hebrew Bible, but other women did have some of her many roles. She is called a “mother in Israel” (Judg 5:7) perhaps because she was a biological mother. This would be important, showing that mothers might attain political prominence. More likely, the phrase may indicate that her arbitration powers as judge were parental, even maternal. “Mother,” like “father,” can be an honorific title for an authority figure or protector in the community (compare 1 Sam 24:1 and Isa 22:21). Another possibility is that she was a strong administrator of G-d’s plan, like the matriarchs in Genesis. As a respected politico-judicial authority, she has a counterpart in the wise woman of Abel, who spoke for and rescued the city of Abel where, she said, the people of Israel brought their disputes to be settled (2 Sam 20:15–22). As a singer of victory songs, she echoes Miriam and foreshadows latter women who celebrate David’s military success (1 Sam 18:6–7). And as a prophetess, like Miriam, she anticipates later female prophetic figures, such as Huldah, who prophesied the end of Israel’s time in Canaan, and Noadiah, who appeared during the restoration from exile. But there are differences in these roles. Women singers and prophets continue throughout Israel’s history, but with the consolidation of the Israelite monarchy, politico-judicial authority of the type enjoyed by Deborah and the wise woman of Abel was handed over to the royal bureaucracies. And except perhaps for some queen mothers, they apparently did not include women. DEBORAH: SUMMARY BOX Story is told in Judges Chapters 4 and 5. Deborah in Hebrew ‘Dvora’ means ‘bee’ Wife of Lappidoth The only female judge mentioned in the Bible Proclaimed her judgements under a palm tree somewhere between Ramah and Bethel in Ephraim (Israel) Warrior: She encouraged Barak, military captain of the Israelites, to wage an attack against against Jabin, King of Canaan, and his military commander Sisera 10,000 Israelites under Barak battled with 900 chariots under Sisera. The Israelites were victorious, and Deborah and Barak sang a victory hymn She is called a mother in Israel because of that victory hymn. She is both leader and prophetess.
  12. 12. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 12 MIRIAM (Exodus/Numbers/Micah) Miriam’s Name Miriam was a leader of the Hebrew people during the Exodus, the great founding event of Judaism. Her name has been interpreted many ways – if derived from Egyptian sources Miriam may mean ‘beloved’ a Hebrew interpretation might be ‘the one who sees water’ or ‘bitterness’. Her place among the leaders is attested to by the prophet Micah 6:4 when he says: ‘For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.’ Miriam, Woman of Courage 1. Miriam saves her brother Moses This event related in Ex 2:1-10 shows how the survival of the leader of the exodus, Moses, depended on the courage and dignity of his sister Miriam. Jewish Midrash relates that prior to Moses’ birth she had said to her father ‘In the end you will beget a son who shall deliver Israel from Egypt.’ (Mekhilta Ex 15:20). This prophecy convinced Amram to renew intimate relations, despite the danger involved because of Pharaohs decree against sons. We next see her standing on the banks of the Nile, life waiting on life, with all the emotion of watching her baby brother being found by the daughter of a hostile tyrant who had decreed that all male babies should be destroyed. Through her imagination, initiative and boldness Moses is returned to his mother. ‘She turns the compassion felt by the princess into deliverance.’ “Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a Hebrew nurse to suckle the child for you?’ and Pharaoh’s daughter answered ‘Yes’. 2. Miriam leads the dance The second episode when the text speaks of Miriam is when the Hebrew’s led by Moses’ Aaron and Miriam cross what was probably a large papyrus marsh, called the Sea of Reeds in the Book of Exodus. The Egyptians had commanded that Hebrew babies would be drowned. Now it was the Egyptians that were drowned, as the soggy ground of the marshland gave way under the hooves of the horses and the wheels of their chariots. When this happened, the Hebrews expressed their jubilation by composing songs of victory. A remnant of the song composed by Miriam is in Ex 15: 20-21. As leader of the Hebrew women, Miriam lead them in singing and dancing:
  13. 13. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 13 “Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing, And Miriam sang to them; Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.” Miriam’s Leadership and Initiative These verses provide important evidence of the independent action of women in biblical times. This passage attests first of all, to Miriam’s personal initiative: “Then Miriam… took a timbrel in her hand.’ This in itself occasions comment in the midrash: “Taking the initiative is the main thing” (Lekah Tov, loc. Sit.) Miriam sparks the women’s enthusiasm, and they stream after her, following her lead: “ and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels.” Scriptures underscores Miriam’s great influence by saying ‘all’ the women followed her lead, even though this is not a realistic description. Furthermore, thanksgiving to the Lord through song attains an additional creative artistic dimension, thanks to Miriam and the other women: musical instruments and dance. Thus the women’s camp had a deep and multi-faceted spiritual experience. In addition the song was also Miriam’s choice: “And Miriam chanted for them: Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; Horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.” It might seem that Miriam was merely repeating the words of her brother, Moses, but this is not the case. There is significant difference between her words and his. Moses began his song in the singular, ‘Iwill sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously,’ whereas Miriam addressed all the women around her and included them in the religious experience by saying, ‘Sing (all of you in the plural) to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously.’ Perhaps the Bible is thereby alluding to various types of leadership: that of Moses, who devoted a large part of his life to isolated communion with G-d and that of Miriam, who was with the masses, working on their behalf. Miriam is the first female figure who is active in public life and of whose family life the Bible says not a word. This song is recited every day by Jews in their prayers and publicly read in the synagogues twice a year: on the seventh day of Passover and on a mid-winter Shabbat in the course of the Torah reading cycle – a Shabbat known as Shabbat Shirah ‘Shabbat of Song’. The congregation stand for the reading – the only other reading that is given this honour is the reading of the Ten Commandments.
  14. 14. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 14 Miriam cursed by Leprosy Later we meet Miriam at Hazeroth, as the Hebrew people wandered in search of their promised land. Aaron and Miriam questioned Moses’ marriage to the Cushite because Hebrews condemned marriage with a foreigner and they question Moses’ authority over them: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also? And the Lord heard it and said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam ‘Come out you three to the tent of meeting.” But the incident serves to underline her status in the eyes of the people. Miriam was stricken with leprosy as punishment for speaking against Moses and her brother. The people, as the Torah stresses, showed loyalty to their great leader and halted their advance through the desert until Miriam could continue with them: “So Miriam was shut out of camp seven days; and the people did not march on until Miriam was readmitted.” (Num. 12:15) Miriam’s Death Miriam’s death is related in Numbers 20:1-2 “The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh.Miriam died there, and was buried there.” Water the symbol of life, had played quite a large part in Miriam’s life. She saved her brother from the water; she led the song of victory after the parting of the Sea of Reeds; she died in a waterless place. Immediately after her death, G-d gave abundant water to the people, in the form of a spring.Contemporary Jews have begun to reclaim Miriam as a model for biblical leadership. Many now dedicate a cup of water or wine during the Passover Seder to this woman who led the Jewish people out of slavery with song and celebration, and encouraged and nourished them as they journeyed for long years through the desert. MIRIAM: SUMMARY BOX Story is told in the Book of Exodus; She is also mentioned in Numbers and Micah Name means ‘Bitterness’ because she was born at a time of great oppression Daughter of Amram and Jocheved; sister of Moses and Aaron Her earliest prophecy was that her mother was going to give birth to a son who would free the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. This is one of the reasons why she was also called Puah, meaning "Whisperer," for she was whispering words of prophecy (Sotah 11b, 12b). Miriam watched at a distance when her mother hid baby Moses’s basket among the reeds Pharaoh’s daughter picked up the baby. Miriam came and got the wet-nurse, her mother, for the baby. 80years later that baby did free the Israelites from captivity. Miriam’s prophecy came through. Miriam and her brothers, accompanied the Israelites on their 40 year wanderings in the wilderness According to tradition, Miriam’s well – a rolling rock that accompanied the Jewish people on their wanderings – provided fresh water in the desert for people, cattle, sheep and plants. She led the women in dancing with song and tambourine at the Crossing of the Sea of Reeds. She was cursed with leprosy when she criticized Moses’s wife Miriam died at Kadesh, the day before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. She is considered a leader in Judaism
  15. 15. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 15 VOICE OF THE PROPHETS ISAIAH THE PROPHET (740-681 BCE) Isaiah 3:1-15 A Commentary Isaiah decries injustice by the elite against the poor. As a fit punishment, social order will be upset, leaving the people in leaderless chaos. Adapted from an article by Dr Solomon B. Freehof from http://www.myjewishlearning.com 
 
 
 
 The section of Isaiah discussed here comes from the early part of the book, written by Isaiah ben Amoz. It is a lesser-known passage, however, because it is not included in the cycle of haftarot (synagogue readings from the prophets). In this commentary, Dr. Freehof samples the major rabbinic opinions on the critical passages. This selection is excerpted from Book of Isaiah: A Commentary. Isaiah ben Amoz' Denounces the Elite The sin denounced here (in Isaiah 3) is social injustice: "Ye grind the face of the poor." (Verse 15) The money exacted unjustly from the poor enables the upper classes to live in ostentatious luxury. (The end of the chapter, verses 3:16-26, describes in detail all the ornaments of the pampered rich women of Jerusalem.) As punishment for this the whole social order will be upturned, the young will behave insolently to the aged (Verse 3), responsibility and moral leadership will cease. (Verse 7) Text: 3:1-6 Babies Shall Rule 1. For, behold, the LORD, the LORD of hosts, Doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah Stay and staff, Every stay of bread, and every stay of water; 2. The mighty man, and the man of war; The judge, and the prophet, And the diviner, and the elder; 3. The captain of fifty, and the man of rank, And the counselor, and the cunning charmer, and the skillful enchanter.
  16. 16. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 16 4. And I will give children to be their princes, And babes shall rule over them. 5. And the people shall oppress one another, Every man his fellow, and every man his neighbor; The child shall behave insolently against the aged, And the base against the honorable. 6. For a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father: 'Thou hast a mantle, Be thou our ruler, And let this ruin be under thy hand.' Commentary on 3:1- 6 3:1 The Lord . . . doth take away ... stay and staff. Verses 1 to 5 are a list of punishments that G-d will send. Rashi (the 12th century French commentator), quoting the Talmud (Hagigah 14a), says that these curses mount up to a climax, the worst of all of them being: "The child shall behave insolently against the aged." (Verse 5). The contempt and the hostility of the young generation against the older is deemed by the prophet and the Talmud to be the worst curse that can come to a society. 3:3 The skillful enchanter. Ibn Ezra (12th century Spanish commentator) suggests that this may refer not only to a magician but to a clever orator, as we would say today, a spellbinder. 3:4And babes shall rule over them. The word translated "babes" (ta'alulim) is variously interpreted by the commentators. The Targum (the Aramaic translation/interpretation) says, "You will be governed by weaklings." Rashi takes the word to mean "mockers." The people will have so little respect for their leaders that there will be a general air of cynicism. Kimchi says it means the young since, as stated in the previous verses, the older leaders will all be killed in war and famine. The Malbim (Meir Loeb ben Jehiel Michael, 1809-1879) agrees that it means "young" but indicates that the word itself implies impulsiveness. In other words, "You will be governed by the young, who themselves will be motivated by wild impulses." Krauss offers a similar explanation: "You will be governed by youth, who will rule you with violence." 3:5 The people shall oppress one another. Kimchi (R. David Kimchi; also known as the Radak, a 12th century French commentator) elaborates and says that the
  17. 17. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 17 people will scorn and fight each other; there will be no mutual respect. 3:6 Thou hast a mantle. Rashi bases his comment on the Talmud (Sabbath 119b) in which knowledge of the law is compared to a garment, and therefore he says the verse means, "You have learning, so become our ruler." Kimchi says it means, "You look respectable; be our ruler." Ibn Ezra says, "We do not want anything from you; keep your clothes, just rule us." Let this ruin be under thy hand. The Hebrew word here means literally "let this stumbling…" Rashi says, "The people say to the man whom they have picked up on the street to be their ruler: 'Guide us in those commandments which we do not understand and which we stumble over."' Kimchi says, "Be our ruler because we are all stumbling and quarreling with each other." Ibn Ezra says that this stumbling simply means, "Rule thou over Jerusalem," because the same verb is used of Jerusalem in Verse 8 (see below), "for Jerusalem stumbles." In our translation the words are, "Jerusalem is ruined," but the Hebrew reads, "Jerusalem has stumbled." Text: 3:7-9 Chaos and Moral Degradation 7. In that day shall he swear, saying: 'I will not be a healer; For in my house is neither bread nor a mantle; Ye shall not make me ruler of a people.' 8. For Jerusalem is ruined, And Judah is fallen; Because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, To provoke the eyes of His glory. 9. The show of their countenance doth witness against them; And they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! For they have wrought evil unto themselves. Commentary on 3:7-9 3:7 In my house is neither bread nor a mantle. Kimchi says that this is the proof of poverty, that, even in the house of the respectable, there is a lack of decent clothing. 3:8 Provoke the eyes of His glory. Ibn Ezra: They provoke G-d publicly.
  18. 18. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 18 3:9 The show of their countenance. The Hebrew literally is "the recognition of their countenance." Therefore Rashi says that the meaning of the verse is connected with Deuteronomy 16: 19, which in our translation says, "Thou shalt not respect persons," but in Hebrew is "Thou shalt not recognize faces in judgment." Therefore Rashi says the prophet means that their perversion of justice, their recognizing of faces, testifies against them. Kimchi connects this phrase with "They declare their sin" in the next line and says that the verse means, "Their face betrays their sin and their mouth openly declares it." (So, too, Ibn Ezra, Malbim, and Krauss.) Text: 3:10-15 Because You Crush My People 10. Say ye of the righteous, that it shall be well with him; For they shall eat the fruit of their doings. 11. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him; For the work of his hands shall be done to him. 12. As for My people, a babe is their master, And women rule over them. My people, they that lead thee cause thee to err, And destroy the way of thy paths. 13. The LORD standeth up to plead, And standeth to judge the peoples. 14. The LORD will enter into judgment With the elders of His people, and the princes thereof: 'It is ye that have eaten up the vineyard; The spoil of the poor is in your houses; 15. What mean ye that ye crush My people, And grind the face of the poor?' Saith the LORD, the G-d of hosts. Commentary on 3:10-15 3:10‑11 Say ye of the righteous ... woe unto the wicked! Since these verses
  19. 19. Jewish Studies, DWEC, NCCA, DES 19 interrupt the sequence, Krauss agrees with modern scholars that they are a later insertion but they can also be described as having some connection with the preceding verses which speak of perverting justice. They condemn the righteous and vindicate the wicked; and the prophet therefore calls upon them to depart from this sin but to vindicate the righteous and condemn the wicked. 3:12 A babe is their master and women rule over them. The same word here is used for "babe" as in Verse 4, and the commentators translate it as either a symbol of weak rulers or of mockers and cynics. Kimchi adds that, because of their sexuality (it has been a common misconception, from ancient times up to the present day, that women are more sexually enticing, and more sexually motivated, than men are), the men will fall under the domination of women. Krauss calls attention to the fact that the word for "women" (nashim) can also be read as "creditors," and that all the ancient translations indicate that one of the misfortunes that will come to them is that they will be always in the hands of their creditors.

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