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