Once Upon the Doorposts

August 15th, 2018

Read the original article at Medium

The season of Passover celebrates the freeing of the Hebrews from their years of slavery in Egypt.

There was only one reason they were able to make a safe exodus from their onerous servitude. The Bible says the Lord instructed them to smear the blood of lambs on the doorposts of their houses. The purpose was to protect them from a contamination, often called “plague,” that was passing over the land and killing those who did not have that protection. (This was the final warning to the Egyptian Pharaoh to free the Hebrews, which he then hurriedly did.) read more

Another Look at Moses

January 12th, 2018

As characterized in the Hebrew Bible, Moses was a giant but anguished character. The Lord’s commission to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Canaan, in effect, caused Moses to sacrifice most of his adult life.

After the meeting at the miraculously Burning Bush, Moses spent almost all his existence in a totally barren, inhospitable Wilderness. He had not one minute of respite since leaving the luxury of the Egyptian royal court and tending his father-in-law’s sheep. And, given the Israelites’ constant rebellions and recalcitrance, he really had not one minute of happiness. In fact, having almost entirely forsaken family life, he was unable to experience a satisfactory life of his own. It is possible that he felt some contentment or pride in his encounters with the Lord, but nothing in the Bible indicates that this was the case. read more

The Language of the Ten Plagues

April 10th, 2017

As we enter the Passover season, millions of people around the world are telling the story of the Hebrews’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt and remembering a series of remarkable events that define the Jewish people and faith. As part the Seder (the celebratory Passover meal), Jews recount the Ten Plagues that ravaged Egypt and finally convinced Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from bondage. The historicity of the Exodus has been debated, analysed, rejected and rethought countless times. While large scale archaeological evidence has not yet been uncovered, clues do indeed exist. Outside of archaeology, are there any hints that there was an Exodus and that it did indeed occur at the time reported in the Bible, rather than being a later invention as some scholars assert? One way to approach the answer is to determine if there are similar words in both Hebrew and Egyptian that might have required interactions between the two peoples in order to develop. A scribe creating a fictional narrative during the Babylonian Captivity and Post-Exilic Period would have been far less likely to use these types of words than words arising from the Babylonian and later Persian culture that surrounded him. read more

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


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. read more

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) read more


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. read more


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. read more


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….’ ” read more

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.



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