BEIT MIKRA, JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE AND ITS WORLD Volume 63 (2018), No.1, The Bialik Institute, Jerusalem
|The Bialik Institute|
Bnayahu Bruner, ”You Shall Not Extradite a Servant to His Master" (Deuteronomy 23:15). Biblical Revolution Versus an Interpretive Containment. The Bible Versus the Sages
The long list of of Mitzvot (commandments) in the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy), includes the prohibition of extraditing slaves and the obligation to absorb them into Israelite society. This law was not implemented in fact in various cases cited in biblical texts and it stands out as a unique phenomenon in ancient Near-Eastern laws as well. In the ancient Near-Eastern world there was a clear moral obligation to extradite slaves and the bible presents a completely opposite scale of values. Our Rabbis in the Babylonian Talmud were aware of the problems involved in expanding the content of the law without setting limits. A situation such as this would flood Israeli society with escaping slaves - a phenomenon that is quite common in countries where slavery is the norm. So the Babylonian Amoraim (Talmudic sages) limited the law's applicability to specific situations only, thus limiting somewhat the revolutionary dimension of the law.
Elinora [Eliezra] Herzog , The Birth of the Hero in the Bible: Samson and Samuel
The Biblical birth stories of Isaac, Jacob-Esau, Joseph, Samson and Samuel, which belong to the 'Birth of the Hero' paradigm, have three main motifs in common, formed in various ways: distress (barrenness/old age), divine intervention and the birth of a destined child. According to the varaities within these common motifs I classify these stories into two main patterns: 1. 'Annunciation' (Isaac, Samson), which includes an annunciation announced by an angel/s prior to the birth and does not tell about special attempts of the man/woman to become pregnant. 2. 'Prayer' (Jacob-Esau, Joseph and Samuel), which does tell about special attempts made by the man/woman to become pregnant and does not include an annunciation scene.
In this essay I focus on the stories of Samson and Samuel, which belong to the 'Annunciation' and 'Prayer' patterns respectively, and try to explain the differences between them and answer the following questions: Why was an annunciation given specifically prior to Samson's birth, in distinction from Samuel's birth, for example? Why did Channah, Samuel's mother, pray for a son and vow to devote him to God while Manoach's wife, Samson's mother, did not do so? And what was the significance of Eli's blessing of Channah?
In these stories I distinguish between different kinds of barreness – 'absolute' (Manoach's wife) and 'secondary' accompanied by emotional distress (Channah). Based on this distinction and on Samson's and Samuel's characters, I explain the events prior to their births via the two significant factors of the hero's destiny and the mother's specific kind of barrenness - which correlate with each other.
I suggest that the angel and Eli fullfiled several roles important to mother and child: they pronounced a verbal message (annunciation, blessing); assisted the heroes to fulfill their destinies; and enabled the barren woman to conceive – by miracle (Monoach's wife) or by encouraging blessing (Channah).
The presented reading of the birth stories of Samson and Samuel is innovative regarding the woman's distress, the means which enabled her conception and the role of the angel or the cohen and it shows the correlation between the motifs in each story. In addition it sheds new light on the reason for the birth of Samson and Samuel to a barren woman and particularly to Manoach's wife and Channah respectively.
Samson was a Nazarite from birth, with superhuman powers, who had to be born to a woman aware of a Nazarite's prohibitions and he probably absorbed, via his mother, special powers from the angel. He was born to Manoach's wife, an 'absolute' barren, who needed to be informed about the unexpected birth and whose sterility required an angel's miracle in order to be able to conceive. And Samuel, Eli's follower, whose destiny required that he dwell in the leader's presence, was born to Channah, who experienced emotional distress, vowed to give her son to Shiloh, met the cohen, her son's future mentor, who encouraged her with his blessing and thus enabled her conception.
Bustenay Oded, Daily Life of the Exiles in Babylonia (6th-5th BCE) According to the Biblical Attitude vis-à vis the New Cuneiform Tablets from Mesopotamia.
Biblical historiographers and the prophets utilize the motive of Exile from theological point of view. Exile is a divine punishment because of "a covenant has been renounce" (Isa 33:8). God is righteous (theodicy). There is almost nothing about the exilic period (586-538 BCE) relating to the actual daily life of the exiles. The so-called "exilic gap" ends with the proclamation of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2-3). This essay focuses on the actual and historical reality based on contemporary new cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia. These documents from several private/family archives, many of them are promissory notes, provide important insight into the economic activities, social and legal status of the Judean exiles and their descendants in rural and urban Babylonia and thus fill a considerable part of the chronological gap, covering four generations, a considerable part of the period between the deportation in 586 BCE and the first document from Murashu archive (c. 450 BCE).
The Judean exiles interacted with non-Judeans in business transactions, paid taxes, inherited properties, etc. They were fairly free. The recently published new cuneiform material adds new anthroponyms (mostly with Yahawistic theophoric component) and toponyms. Most of the Judean exiles and their descendants adhered to their religious heritage, ethnic and self-identity. At the same time acculturation can be seen. All these details are illustrated by analyzing five documents.
Yair Zoran, Some Notes on YEFET ben ALI's Translation and Commentary on Malachy 1:1
In this paper I try to illuminate some points concerning Yefet's translation and commentary on Malachy 1:1. First I shall comment on his translation to the word. Secondly, I shall examine his attempt to determine Malachy's time and identity.
As we shall see, the commentary reflects Yefet's historical approach which has been much discussed in research. For this sake I shall use parallels in other commentaries of his and compare his attitude to that submitted in rabbinic literature.
On the basis of his historical analysis Yephet distinguishes between Ezra and Malachy. In this sense his attitude differs sharply from that of the Sages which is motivated by an exegetical-theological tendency. Furtheremore, his commentaries reveal a distinct 'feministic' approach which is so unusual in our sources. And finally, our study lets us dwell on a cross-referential exegetical method of interpretation which is so characteristic to Yefet.
Arye Zoref, Saadia’s Commentary on Psalms and its Syriac Background
The article deals with Saadia Gaon's Commentary on the book of Psalms. Saadia's introduction to the commentary was modeled after the introductions of two Syriac commentators of Psalms, Moshe Bar Kefa and Išodad of Merv. Saadia adopted the Syriac Nestorian concept that David wrote all the Psalms, but he also rejected some of the Nestorian concepts of Psalms, e.g. their disregard of Psalms' headings. Saadia wanted to stress the unity of the book of Psalms and its prophetic nature, and adopted only those concepts in the Syriac commentaries which were suited for his purpose.
Alexander Rofé, Lamentations 5: A Historical Document from Judaea in the Babylonian – Persian Period
Lamentations Chapter 5, unlike the other laments in this book, describes the plight of Judea after the fall of Jerusalem in 587/6 BCE. The chapter’s account is factual, devoid of metaphors or rhetoric. Various details fit in with circumstances attested by the book of Nehemiah. Hence, it is possible that Lamentations 5 evinces conditions extant in Judea in Persian times, before the rebuilding of the Temple or during the plight before the coming of Nehemiah. Association determined the order of the first half of the chapter, vss. 1 – 14, while the second part, vss. 15 – 22 has a logical disposition.