The Ophel Inscription Debate

March 18th, 2014

Last year’s discovery in Jerusalem of an inscription on a broken piece of a ceramic jar has been greeted with much excitement and the usual arguments within the archaeological community as to its significance. In an effort to clarify the various positions presently taken, I’ve asked Adam Hemmings, who is doing postgraduate work in archaeology at the University of London, to give his explanation of the background of this enigmatic find. Roger Isaacs

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by Adam Hemmings

The practice of archaeology, and biblical archaeology especially, is a controversial one. The layers of history that lie beneath our feet are laden with interpretation, claims and counterclaims. When archaeologists unearth this history, it is no wonder that such a mix of emotions greet their discoveries: wonder, awe, curiosity and, judging by the number of times I’ve been asked about the Curse of the Pharaohs, fear. Mysteries fascinate humans sometimes more than the hard work it takes to unravel them—but for this work we need an interdisciplinary toolkit that covers many subjects, from ancient literature and philosophy to radiocarbon dating and palynology.

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Yom Kippur: Not for Atonement or Fasting

September 10th, 2013

Yom Kippur has only one purpose: rest. In this respect it joins the other festivals of Passover (Pesach), Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), Festival of Booths (Succot), and the first day of the seventh month (Rosh Hashana). Here is the traditional translation:

“In the tenth day of the seventh month, you will afflict your souls and do no work… for on this day he [the priest] will atone for you to cleanse you from all your sins before the Lord, and you will be clean. It is a Sabbath of rest to you, and you will afflict your souls and any work you will not do … and he [the priest] will atone for the holy sanctuary and the tent of meeting and the altar and for all the people … to make atonement for the Israelites from all their sins once in a year.” (Leviticus 16:29-34)

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Incense Protected Biblical Israelites from Radiation Burn

July 1st, 2013

Today, the sweet, smoky fragrance of incense is used in mystical rites, but the ancient Israelites used it for a completely different purpose. For them incense had a very practical, protective function relative to the Ark of the Testimony.

Urim and Thummim

April 20th, 2012

In biblical times there was a peculiar apparatus that the Israelite High Priest wore. It consisted of a robe to which was attached to an apron-like garment called an ephod. Fastened on the ephod was a breast-piece, which contained twelve precious and semiprecious stones in front and two more at the shoulders, abnay zeekawrone in Hebrew. In a pocket of the breast-piece were two items called the urim and thummim.

There are many ideas about the purpose and function of the ephod’s urim and thummim, but the Bible says little. The urimare mentioned a grand total of four times in the Five Books of Moses and only three more times elsewhere. (I distinguish between the Five Books and the others because there is no evidence that the ephod operated after King David‘s reign.) The thummim are found three times in the Five Books, twice elsewhere.

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The first Passover and 4 clues to its existence

April 4th, 2012

Was the story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt after years of slavery history or myth? Were there really 10 plagues that became so progressively terrible that they forced the Pharaoh to finally release all the Israelite slaves? Was there really a leader named Moses, and did he guide this “mixed multitude” for 40 years in the wilderness of the Sinai desert? These questions have puzzled biblical scholars, archeologists, and all those interested in solving one of the Old Testament’s most intriguing mysteries.

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Rosh Hashanah A Day of Rest, Not the New Year

September 21st, 2011

Rosh Hashanah is called the Jewish New Year, and this year it begins at sundown, September 28th. The words Rosh Hashanah (head of the year) are not found in the Five Books of Moses at all. They are used just once and that is in Ezekiel 40:1, but there it is only in reference to a Jubilee year, not a New Year. The ordinance that is called Rosh Hashanah today is found in Leviticus 23:24. It is in the seventh month, called Tishri:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the Israelites, saying in the seventh month on the first of the month you will have a Sabbath…a holy gathering. You will do no work of service….’ ”

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How Did the Biblical ‘Glory’ Change from a Dangerous Substance to Praise for the Lord?

August 17th, 2011

Read my latest article exploring the puzzle of the word “glory.” In it I ask how the biblical glory changed from a dangerous substance to “praise for the Lord.” I’d enjoy reading your thoughts.

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Are Biblical Sacrifices ‘Hocus Pocus’ or Unknown Science?

June 7th, 2011

This question came to me from Debby, and it’s an interesting one. See what you think.

Roger:

I’m still reading your book but very often while looking up specific passages in my Bible, I get sidetracked.  Case in point:  After consulting Lev. 13 to see the NIV translation compared to your account of radiation burn, I ended up continuing through Lev. 14 to find the treatment for it.  And though I agree that radiation burn symptoms as you describe them are similar to what’s described in the 13th chapter, the cleansing process in the 14th chapter fall back into the “hocus pocus” category for me.  That’s where guilt offerings, wave offerings or sin offerings, come into play – with priests required to dip one finger into oil and then touch an earlobe, or kill one bird and let the other one fly away.  These things seem irrational in my rational world and I don’t see how this procedure would cleanse anyone of anything…

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More Thoughts About Anger

May 25th, 2011

Blog Sparks Interest in Anger Management, Control and Causes

Friends, I’m pleased to report that my latest article, “Was ‘the Anger of the Lord’ a Natural Phenomenon?” has attracted much interest online. I’m also curious. Why such a strong interest? Are readers drawn to the topic of the Lord’s anger or just anger in general? Do we fear the anger of the Lord or the anger that lurks within us? Are we seeking the causes of anger? Or the management of it?

This topic brings to mind the well-known story of Cain and Abel. The sons of Adam and Eve, these two brothers just couldn’t get along. Cain had a terrible anger management problem, and for reasons that are detailed in Genesis, he murdered his brother. (By the way, I talk about this incident on page 170 of Talking With God as it relates to the dangerous atmosphere that Cain created by spilling his brother’s blood.)

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Was ‘the Anger of the Lord’ a Natural Phenomenon?

May 19th, 2011

In my book, Talking with God: The Radioactive Ark Of The Testimony, I explore several key biblical terms associated with the ark that have either been mistranslated or not clearly understood over time. One phrase found in several verses of the Old Testament is “the anger of the Lord.” There has never really been a satisfactory explanation as to how the Lord’s “anger” worked as it is described in the Bible.

In the Old Testament there certainly are instances when anger (Hebrew verb, kawtsaf, noun, ketsef) means just that, anger, but often, when the word is used in relation to the Lord, it is followed by a strange reaction relating to the verb to glow, or more specifically, glowed. When the anger of the Lord glowed, the result was that the person(s) at whom this phenomenon was aimed contracted a “plague.”

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Praise for The Golden Ark

Praise for The Golden Ark

Rabbi Robert Marx

"You continue to confound the "biblical establishment" even as you offer creative insights into our ancient religious literature. You offer a naturalistic explanation to what others insist upon calling supernatural. Or perhaps, more accurately, your work might be described as supra-natural. At any rate, it represented innovative, if inevitably, controversial thinking. And we need that."

Robert J. Marx, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Hakifa, Glencoe, IL, Founder and a past president of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Francesco Licheri

"Now the 'substance' of Talking With God will be very easily understood by EVERYONE! The Golden Ark, A Pictorial History represents an excellent inventive to read Talking With God in order to fully realize in details its richness of highly scientific arguments."

Francesco Licheri, Archaeologist & Sociologist

Robert Wolf

"...it's an excellent exposition of your thesis. The text is concise and clear, the illustrations are bold and inviting."

Robert Wolf, Author and Executive Editor, Free River Press

Praise for Talking With God

Praise for Talking With God

Rabbi Jacob Milgrom

"An enormous, imaginative work. I think I would call it a modern midrash."

The Late Rabbi Jacob Milgrom, Biblical Scholar, U.C. Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies

Dr. Byron Sherwin

"This work…represents a novel and substantive approach to biblical study and understanding."

Dr. Byron Sherwin, Distinguished Service Professor, Director of Doctoral Programs, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.

Robert Wolf

"Roger Isaacs has written a book that is sure to arouse controversy … but the arguments that comprise the bulk of the book have 40 years of scholarly research backing them."

Robert Wolf, Author and Executive Editor, Free River Press

Peter Gingiss

"Isaacs' use of etymology to redefine many words in the Hebrew Bible has resulted in a fascinating hypothesis."

Peter Gingiss, Associate Professor of Linguistics Department of English, University of Houston