Dec 27, 2010

Judges chapter 16, December 6, 2010

Samson starts out (vv. 1-2) spending the night with a zonah, with a harlot.  Except that, true to his nature (he can’t seem to connect with women in a sustained way), he jumps up in the middle of the night (v3), grabs the doorposts of the Philistine city, and carries them 35 miles up the mountain to Hebron.  Score one for Samson as he shames the Philistines who were plotting against him.  From here it is all down hill. 
Samson loves Delilah (v 4) – the only women he loves.  It’s not clear if Delilah is Philistine or not, but her Philistine friends lean on her to help them capture Samson.  They want to degrade him (afflict him – also “make him helpless” – not a good translation).  The verb used here (v 5 and 6)  is ahnah (‘nh) [there is another ‘nh meaning answer].  We see the same verb used in Jud 16:19, as well as Gen 16.6 (Hagar) Gen 34.2 (Dinah), Jud 19.24 (wife and daughter), Jud 20.5 (Levite’s pilgesh). 
Q: Why does Samson attract women who get him into trouble?

Dec 5, 2010

Judges 14-15, November 15

Though the story of Samson’s birth has commonality with the biblical births of heroes, it is somewhat comical and might predict that as a hero, Samson will not be up to snuff.   In this light, what does it mean that Samson was an involuntary Nazirite?  He did not take on the role of deliverer which seemed to be thrust upon him.  Remember, too, that a Nazirite was not a hero in the Bible.  Rather, a person who chose to set him/herself apart from the community.   Sacrifice was required in order to return.  Being apart from community was not an end in itself.  As a heroic ideal, a reluctant Nazirite falls short.
The Philistines, in this story, are the rulers over the Israelites.   While Samson kills some of them, he never leads the Israelites in battle to win over them.   He is the last of the Judges and despite 20 years in this role (15:20), he does not conquer the enemy.

14:4         A bit ambiguous – is it God or Samson who is seeking an occasion to stir up trouble with Philistines?

Nov 2, 2010

Judges November 1: Intro and Chapter 13

Recap of Joshua, Introduction to Judges, Study of Judges 13 (Manoah’s wife and birth of Samson)

Key points to remember about Joshua

The people are set apart and defined  by
Covenant – focus on covenant is central to Joshua
Circumcision and Passover mark entry into land – two traditions that became defining practices of Judaism
Cherem = proscribing the natives
Prominence of Ark of Covenant along with priests, altars and sacrifices – foreshadows centrality of synagogue Ark.   

Review verses:
23:11-13 – The Israelites must observe the covenant or YHVH will not drive out the inhabitants of the land
24:14-28 – Israelites affirm the covenant.   Joshua ends with people in compliance with God’s commandments.

Intro to Judges

Oct 1, 2010

Evening Torah Study Begins with Judges: Nov 1 and 15

Evening Torah Study             
Book of Judges 
Led by Penina Weinberg 
Eitz Chayim             
1st and 3rd Mondays
7:30pm to 8:45pm

Inaugural two part session November 1 and 15
Introduction to Judges
Study of Judges 13-16
After an introduction to Judges, including its relationship to Joshua, we'll dig in to the narrative of Delilah and Samson
including the following
Manoah and his wife (parents of Samson)
the Timnite woman and the zonah of Gaza
Reading Judges 13-16 prior to class is recommended.
Through close reading and active discussion, we will explore the intersection of gender and politics.  Later sessions will study Deborah the judge, Gideon,
Jephthah and his daughter, the Levite and his wife,
the Benjaminites and the daughters of Shiloh

Neither prior text study nor knowledge of Hebrew is required.
Being on time is requested.  Feel free to bring brown bag dinner, snacks, wine.

Please bring your own Tanakh (Bible).
JPS Tanakh is Hebrew and English – no commentary
JPS Study Bible is all English – includes good commentaries
You can print the 1917 JPS Hebrew/English at

Sep 6, 2010

Starting again after High Holy Days

After High Holy Days we will complete Joshua in one sitting and get right into Judges. Format will be more like the summer classes. We will not go through the book verse by verse, but will focus on a few notable people, ideas and events. We will meet on 1st and 3rd Mondays with occasional skips or reschedules for holidays.   More details later.  I look forward to getting back in study mode!

Aug 8, 2010

Song of Songs: Black and/but Beautiful

After the last class, Sam wrote, saying: I have a feeling that skin color must have “meant” something in Biblical times; there may be no way to figure out what it was. In the Song of Songs, while the female narrator calls herself "black and beautiful," in the very next sentence, says "Don't look at me as black," and then goes on to say that she's just tanned from sitting out in the vineyards. What's that about?”
Here is some research into that question.  No answer is being given, just material for thought.  Maybe too much material.  

There verses to which Sam is referring are in Chapter 1: 5-6.  Here is the JPS Tanakh translation

5 I am dark, but comely,
O daughters of Jerusalem –
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the pavilions of Kedar,
Like the pavilions of Solomon
6 Don’t stare at me because I am swarthy,
Because the sun has gazed upon me.

Jul 28, 2010

The Cushite Woman - August 2

Summer Tanach Studies
Monday, August 2, 2010, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Eitz Chayim Community Room
Topic "The Cushite Woman"
Zipporah, the Cushite Woman, Miriam and Moses
Review Zipporah (previous blog)
Num 11:35-12:9 and Related Texts
Bring wine and food as desired.
Bring your own Tanach if possible

Notes from Zipporah and Bridegroom of Blood

It may be useful to look over the notes prior to the class on Cushite woman.   In the discussion, some suggested that since God had decreed circumcision with Abraham, Moses was not in compliance and therefore Zipporah needed to circumcise  Moses.  In this view, it was not Gershom who was circumcised.   My notes  contain an alternate view.

Keturah and Midian
Ø      Gen 25:1-2  After death of Sarah, and Rebekkah moves into Isaac’s tent – Moses takes Keturah for wife– one son is Midian.  (nomadic desert tribes) –
Ø      Gen 25:6 sons of Abraham’s concubine (pilagesh) are sent eastward.  (Perhaps Keturah’s sons.).  I Chron 1:32 states “Sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine (pilagesh).   Pilagesh is between wife and slave, technically independent, sustained by man, yet free to leave.  (TWC p 125)

Jul 2, 2010

Summer Tanach Studies July 19

Summer Tanach Studies 
Monday, July 19, 2010, 7:30 pm - 8:45 pm 
Eitz Chayim Library
Topic is  
The Midianites: Priests?  Monotheists? 
Zipporah, the Cushite Woman, Miriam and Moses
Ex 4:24-26 "The Bridegroom of Blood"
Num 11:35-12:9 "The Cushite Woman" 
And Related Texts 
Please do not bring food as this is the beginning of the fast of Tisha B'av. 
If anyone would like to stay after class and read Eicha (Lamentations) together, we can do so

Jun 24, 2010

The formation of the Israelites

To those who were in the Canaanite class, thanks for sending me back to check on my comments about the Iron Age being responsible for cisterns and creating terraces. 

Although a huge number of cisterns were required, along with clearing the wilderness and creating the terraces in the settlement in the hills of Palestine in the time of Joshua (about 1200 BCE), the evidence that iron tools made this possible is thin.   What is certain that there was a huge amount of physical labor involved in the settlement, in creating the irrigation systems and the vineyards etc.  Carol Meyers says "The role of the Israelites as inventors of technology is a moot point.  What stands out is the presumably unprecedented and widespread use of cisterns in the pioneer period [time of Joshua circa 1200 BCE].... The number of implements made of iron in proportion to bronze does not rise significantly in the Iron I period.  Whether iron or bronze tools, the physical effort involved was sustantial."  Discovering Eve, pg 55.   See also the PBS Nova series "The Secrets of the Bible."

Jun 22, 2010

Texts for Canaanites – from Curse to Conquest

Topic Text Notes

Appearance in Text

Gen 9:20-27 Curse of Canaan by Noah - Ham saw father's nakedness = ervah ערה

implies shameful exposure - BdB 788

rainbow right before this in text

Adam & Eve nakedness = arumim - Gen 2:25, 3:7,10 - not ashamed ערמ

Who "they" are
exposed - bare

Gen 10:15-10 List of Canaan's descendents - Jebusites, Amorites, Gergishites, etc

Ex 3:8,17, 34 List of tribes, Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites

What is wrong with them?

Lev 18:3,6,7 Do not be like Canaanites - do not uncover ervah - implies act of rape ערה

Lev 18:24-30 do not defile yourselves like them - Canaanites as sexual degenerates.

Lev 20:22-26 do not follow their practices - you shall possess the land

Jun 20, 2010

Summer Tanach Series "We Have Met the Enemy and S/he is Us"


MONDAY, June 21 – Canaanites – from Curse to Conquest

MONDAY, June 21 – Canaanites – from Curse to Conquest
TUESDAY, July 6 – topic tbd
MONDAY, July 19 – topic tbd
MONDAY, August 2 – topic tbd
7:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the Eitz Chayim Community Room
136 Magazine Street, Cambridge
Feel free to bring brown bag dinner and/or wine

Through a close and intertextual reading of selected Biblical texts, we will explore the intersection of gender and politics in the ancient Israelite love/hate relationship with the outsider/other.

Each session will be completely stand-alone. Come to any or all.

Neither prior text study nor knowledge of Hebrew is required. Penina will supply the text choices. Bringing your own tanach (Bible) will be very helpful.

Topics may include
• Moabite women (and Ruth and David) – the permeable boundary between insider and outsider
• The Cushite woman (and Miriam and Moses)
• The Adam and Eve - is Creation in the image of God androgynous? Is YHVH gendered?

Joshua June 6 2010 – Chaps 14 - 15

Sources are in bold (if any) and described at end.
Think about Num 14:44 where people defied YYVH and went to battle and were routed with Ai.
Caleb and Joshua represent those who are willing to fight for their land.  The 10 spies who died of plague showed themselves willing to fight – but not sure about the need to do so, and not trusting in God.

14:1------------- Eleazar the priest  ELEAZAR (Heb. אֶלְעָזָר; "God/El-has-aided"), high priest after *Aaron . Eleazar was Aaron's third son (Ex. 6:23); his older brothers Nadab and *Abihu perished after offering strange fire before the Lord (Lev. 10:1–7; Num. 3:4). During his father's lifetime Eleazar served as the "head chieftain of the Levites" (Num. 3:32) and performed some of the functions of the high priest (ibid. 19:4). After Aaron's death, Eleazar was appointed high priest in his father's place (ibid. 20:28; Deut. 10:6).  "Eleazar." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 298. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 May 2010.
------------------ Moses can invest Joshua, but priest has to seek instructions from Unim.  In Num 34:17: Eleazar is priest, not prophet – he carries on Aaronic tradition while Joshua carries on Mosaic.

May 24, 2010

Joshua May 16 2010

Notes on Chaps 11-13

11:6------------- YHVH says “I will deliver them up all slain before Israel
11:12----------- utterly destroyed (herem) as Moses the servant of YHVH commanded
11:14----------- they took spoil – destroyed men (not herem = sh m d instead)
11:15----------- as YHVH commanded Moses etc
11:20----------- YHVH hardened their hearts l’chazek et libam  (Ex 4:21 I will stiffen his heart: aychazek et libo) so they could be destroyed (herem)
11:23----------- as YHVH spoke to Moses – Joshua took the whole land.  And the land had rest from war.

CHAPTER 12 – list of the 31 kings

13:13----------- Geshur and Maacath dwelt in the midst of Israel unto this day
13:22----------- Balaam is slain (see Jos 22:17) – he is hakosem the soothsayer (BdB = diviners) – (see Deut 18:10: divination is prohibited and associated with the abhorrent practices of the nations that will be found in the land) (see Num 24:1-2 “and the spirit of God came upon him” [Balaam] ruah elohim;   and see Num 24:14-24 when Balaam foresees the future).  But Balaam is not an Israelite, so why is he slain?

May 8, 2010

Joshua May 2 2010

Notes on Joshua Chaps 9- 10
Sources are in bold (if any) and described at end.

Consider the differences/similarities between Rahab and the Gibeonites as outsiders accepted by Israel,  vs Achan who is an insider who transgresses.

Lev 20:22-24
You shall faithfully observes all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spew you out.  You shall not follow the practices of the nation that I am driving out before you.  For it is because they did all these things that I abhorred them and said to you:  You shall possess their land, for I will give it to you to possess..

Lev 20:26 
You shall be holy to Me, for I YHVH am holy and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine.

A chapter about outsiders
It is the recognition of holiness, not one’s nationality, suggests this story, that identifies one with God’s people.  Rahab and Gibeonites are outsiders, whereas Achan and his family are insiders who do not recognize holiness.  Whereas Rahab, a Canaanite woman, saves her whole family, Achan, an Israelite man, is instrumental in destroying his (Jos 7).  (WBC – Fewell)

Look at Rahab and Gibeonites together – seems like an attempt to show that boundaries between Israelite and non-Israelite are more permeable than one might think. (WHC – Myers)

Apr 5, 2010

Joshua April 4 2010

Joshua Chapter 7-8 in detail
A few major themes are
• Corporate vs individual responsibility
• The Israelites as of end of Chap 8 seem to be quite faithful overall to covenant
• Herem – the wiping out of native peoples


7:1-----Violation of proscription (2x cherem) – Achan is introduced. Narrator says YHVH is incensed – before we see YHVH take any action
7:2-----More spies to check out Ai
7:3 - 4-Spies say 2-3 thousand men is enough – but they are routed – presumably the routing is what makes them “turn their backs on their enemy” – see Jos 7:8 and 7:12 – the enemy forces them to turn.
7:7----Joshua says “Why did you lead this people only to deliver...? If only we had been content.” This is different from Ex 16:3 If only we had died in Egypt when we sat by the fleshpots.

Mar 21, 2010

Notes on Joshua March 21 2010

Sources are in bold (if any) and described at end.
See separate blog page on Joshua historiography and text.

cherem (translated here as “proscribe” or “doom”)
Lev 27:21                 land shall be holy to YHVH as land proscribed
Lev 27:28-29            “..every proscribed thing is totally consecrated to YHVH.  No human being who has been proscribed can be ransomed: he shall be put to death.”
Num 21:1-2              Canaanites were proscribed, specifically “king of Arad who engaged Israel in battle and took some of them captive” = per JPS footnote = “utterly destroy – reserving no booty except what is deposited in the Sanctuary”
Deut 2:24                 King Sihon would not let the Israelites pass through safely so they fought and the Israelites “doomed every town – men, women and children, leaving no survivor” JPS footnote – “annihilation of the population
Deut 7:1-2                God will deliver the nations to the Israelites in the land and they must “doom them to destruction: grant them no terms and give them no quarter” (Ex 34:12-16 is similar but is about smashing idols and not making covenant rather than cherem)
Deut 20:12-18          towns belonging to nearby nations must be proscribed – not a soul can live (17) – towns lying very far away they can take women, children, livestock and spoils
Josh 2:10                 Sihon and Og were doomed.  JPS footnote = annihilation of the inhabitants
Cherem = “dedicated things.  Clearly connoted the idea of consecration to God in many places including Jos 6.17
Cherem not consistent – sometimes voluntary as a vow (Lev 27.28; Num 21.2), in more cases commanded by God (Deut 20:17, Josh 6:17-18).  In Deut and DHist, never appears as vow and often explicitly ordered by God.  Sometimes keep some booty (Josh 8.2), other times everything destroyed.  In Josh 7 cherem is absolutely dedicated and commanded by God, although not everything had to be always destroyed. (see pg 79 for comparison of Deut and Josh 6:17a).   It may be that some texts are of different time periods but equally possible that different levels of cherem applied at different times.  Texts make it clear that cherem implies consecration or dedication in an almost sacrificial manner.

Covenant binds Israelites to laws which are not purely human but divine imperatives.    Israel unites law and religion and retribution comes about when the contagious nature of sin deprives God of God’s required state of holiness.  Therefore there is a punishment for those who violate the bans, because they put the whole nation at risk.  Without a holy state (a proper ritual state), God cannot be present and will abandon the people


BDB = Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon
CRHB = Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible.   Chapter 4  Joel S. Kaminsky.
JPS = JPS Tanakh

Joshua Chapter 6- and beginning of 7 in detail

Joshua is standing near Jericho – is the holy ground Jericho?
5:13 -15  “Remove your sandals” Read with Jacob and angel (Gen 32:25-31) burning bush (Ex 3:1-10 – “Remove your sandals”) and Balaam (Num 22:22-23) What makes the ground or the land holy?


6:1 - 6:16------ March around Jericho – 6 days and then on 7th the walls will fall; 
Legends Vol II, pg 845 and note 22 regarding 7th day =  Sabbath and proscribing of first fruits – “they consecrate the first city conquered”
6:1-------------- Jericho is shut tight before the Israelites.
6:10------------- trumpets of priests but no voices of the people
6:12------------- vayishchem baboker = Joshua rises early on the second day of marching around
6:15------------- vayishchimu cha’aloat hashachar = rose at daybreak – on the seventh and last day – when the walls will fall – the only day they march around 7 times instead of 1.  Gen 32:25: Jacob wrestles with man until aloat hashachar
6:17------------- City to be proscribed (cherem) to YHVH and Rahab to be spared
6:18------------- Cherem 4 times
6:20------------- Wall collapses – not a siege – just march around and shout and wall collapses
6:21------------- They exterminated (vayicherimu) everything
6:22 - 25------- Rahab is spared and all else is burned.  Why such emphasis on Rabab sparing the spies?  Why is this so important?  Exercise in thinking like the sages – how to explain this emphasis in the text?
6:26----------------- Joshua pronounces oath (not a vow): Cursed be he who fortifies the city of Jericho and lays new foundations.  Alternate translation: Joshua proclaimed "Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn and with his youngest son he shall set up its gates" (Josh 6:26).”  


7:1-------------- Violation of proscription (2x cherem) – Achan is introduced.  Narrator says YHVH is incensed – before we see YHVH take any action
7:2-------------- More spies to check out Ai
7:3 - 4---------- Spies say 2-3 thousand men is enough – but they are routed – presumably the routing is what makes them “turn their backs on their enemy” – see Jos 7:8 and 7:12 – the enemy forces them to turn.
7:7-------------- Joshua says “Why did you lead this people only to deliver...?  If only we had been content.”  This is different from Ex 16:3  If only we had died in Egypt when we sat by the fleshpots.

7:8-------------- “Turned tail”  hafach (“turn”) Israel oreyph (“back of neck”) – Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law – same consonants
------------------ 7:12  oreyph (“back of neck”) yiphnu(“turn”) (BDB = “turn one’s back before a foe”)
7:9-------------- “What about your great name?”

Mar 11, 2010

Notes on Joshua March 7 2010

Notes on Joshua March 7 2010
I am here to introduce text and stimulate questions, but not to answer them all.   Good questions – you can research and bring back answers.
These are rough study notes – meant to both remind and to stimulate further thought.   Sources are in bold and described at end.
As we go into the land – the people are set apart and defined:  by covenant, Passover (memory), circumcision, proscribing the natives.

Various events and traditions have been reworked very substantially over time and ultimately included in the Bible in order to substantiate a particular picture of God.  Accounts were also changed by later tradents, authors and editors who revised in accordance with beliefs.
(JSB – Brettler)
Circumcision and Passover mark entry into land and provide didactic value in emphasizing two traditions introduced in Torah that were to become defining practices of Judaism.
(JSB – Meyers)
JSB = Jewish Study Bible.  Carol Meyers: “Joshua.”  Marc Zvi Brettler:  “Nevi’im” and “Canonization”
HCBC = Harper Collins Bible Commentary.  Walter E. Rast: “Joshua.”
WBC = Women’s Bible Commentary: Dana Nolan Fewell: “Joshua.”
Joshua Chapter 3-5 in detail

READ: 3:1-6
3:3 - 4------ The Ark of the Brit (Covenant) advances – borne by levitical priests – so the people know the route to march.  See cloud by day and fire by night which did not depart (Ex 13:21-22 and see Ex 14:19).  What is the difference between Priests leading and God leading
READ 3:7-17  
3:7---------- God exalts Joshua
3:10-------- God will dispossess
3:13-------- Jordan waters will dry up when priests feet touch water
3:15 - 17-- crossing of Jordan (see Ex 14:15-30 esp 21: Moses held out hand and YHVH drove..)
4:6 - 7------ Stones and tell the children Ark cut off waters;  repeated at Jos 4:20-22
4:14-------- YHVH exalts Joshua and Israel reveres him like Moses
4:23-------- YHVH dries up Jordan like Sea of Reeds (not priests here)
4:24-------- Thus all peoples of earth will know YHVH’s might and fear YHVH
READ 5:1-11: Defining of the people
5:1---------- Loss of spirit (because of Jordon, not like Reed Sea as with Rehab)
5:2 - 3------ Circumcision (see Gen 34 – Dinah)
5:4 - 6------ Never see the land because did not obey YHVH – see Numb 14:21-24 and 30-38, Deut 1:34-38
5:10-------- Passover celebrated after recovery from circumcision
5:12-------- The end of the manna – end of an era.
READ 5:13-15
5:13 -15--- “Remove your sandals” Read with Jacob and angel (Gen 32:25-31) burning bush (Ex 3:1-10 – “Remove your sandals”) and Balaam (Num 22:22-23) What makes the ground holy?

Mar 6, 2010

Prepare to share your teaching

Look ahead to the book of Judges.   Lots of very good stories there.  Pick your favorite and prepare a 10 minute presentation.   When we get to Judges anyone who wishes to will have an opportunity to teach.  Please signify which verses you would like to present by leaving a comment to this post.

Feb 27, 2010

Suggested advance reading for Class 2010 03 07

For study on March 7 read Joshua chapters 3-7 and if you have not read them yet, read Joshua 1-2 for background.   We may not get to chapter 7 until the following class.
In preparation for discussion of Jos 5:13-15, review Ex 3:1-6 "The Burning Bush"

Notes from Class 2010 02 21

Notes on Joshua February 21, 2010– this is not a paper – just rough study notes – meant to both remind and to stimulate further thought. Sources are in bold and described at end.

Josh 1:1-18 is haftarah for V’zot habrachah (last Deut 33:1 – 34:12)
Josh 2:1-24 for Shelach Lecha (Numbers 13:1 – 15:39 – spies)

People’s perception of God: Creator vs Legislator
Rabbi Isaac asks why Torah begins with Creation instead of Ex 12, 1 = “This month shall be onto you the first of months”, which is the first commandment. Works before laws.
I read Torah as people’s perceptions about God/universe not as what is God? Creator/nurturer or law-giver/judge?

Leha Dodi
Shamor v’zachor b’dibur echad
Ex 20:8 – zachor - Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy – Creation and God’s rest
Deut 5:12 – shamor – Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy – 7th day you do not work – God freed you from Egypt and therefore commanded you to observe the sabbath

The idea that historical writing should capture events “as they were” is relatively recent. Biblical writers use narratives about the past to illustrate various issues of significance to their earliest audience – the ancient Israelite community. They use Bible to substantiate a particular picture of God. Torah and Prophets developed simultaneously from a chronological perspective – not all Prophets know the Torah.
Jewish community had accepted Torah as central to its identity by Persian period (6th to 4th centuries). Probably Torah canonized in Persian period, Nevi’im late Persian or early Greek and Ketuvim around 70 CE (JSB – Brettler)

Deuteronomists set out to show how downfall of Northern and Southern Kingdoms was result of people’s persistent breaking of covenant, even thought Israel was at first loyal. According to D historians, every conflict was a contest between Israel’s God and its opponents. (HCBC– Rast)

Josh 1:1-18 Joshua has been groomed for leadership
(Ex) – leads people against Amalek
(Ex) – accompanies Moses to Sinai
(Num) – gives good report as one of the 12 scouts
(Num) – is only one of 2 men of his generation to enter the promised land
Torah does not mention anyone in Joshua’s personal life. BT Megillah says Joshua married Rahab and had children. 8 prophet/priests descended from Rahab. Rabbis have Rahab convert so she can marry Joshua (WHC – R Myers)

Joshua leads people of Israel across Jordan River into land promised to ancestors, takes possession of land, divides it among tribes, and leads them in swearing allegiance to covenant. Focus on covenant is central to Joshua. Joshua probably written not too far from Babylonian exile – 587 BCE. Some may be much older – town lists, battle stories.
Circumcision and Passover mark entry into land – two traditions that became defining practices of Judaism. Prominence of Ark of Covenant along with priests, altars and sacrifices – foreshadows centrality of synagogue Ark.
Joshua mirrors aspects of Moses
crossing Jordan         parting of Red Sea
spies                         spies
apportion land           apportion land
Exodus is thus replicated to a certain extent.
The unity of Israel in obeying Covenant is an ideal emphasized in Joshua as in Torah – it is an ideal which dissipates later – when tensions develop between ideal and reality
The moral horror of the story may be diminished by the historical fact that it did not seem to happen. So why all the violence? Why is this part of the story? Settlement of earliest Israel consisted of scores of new villages – settlements of previously unoccupied territory in central highlands – rather than rebuilt towns on destroyed Canaanite strongholds. In this understanding the herem is not historical but rather an ideological expression of divine ownership of land being transmitted to Israelites as the rightful heirs to their inheritance from God. This emphasized that the Canaanites were a religious threat. Non-Israelites did indeed survive in the land for generations to come.
(JSB – Meyers)

Josh 2:1-24
Israelite spies keep promise to save Rahab and family, despite earlier Mosaic law in Deut 7:2 and 20:12-18 not to make agreements with any of the peoples of the land.
Nevertheless, spies make it clear that they are doing it for Rahab: Jos 2:17: We are guiltless.
Shittim, from where Joshua sends the spies was the place where Israelites became involved with forbidden Moabite women (Num 25:1)
Look at Rahab and Gibeonites together – seems like an attempt to show that boundaries between Israelite and non-Israelite are more permeable than one might think.
Rahab, like Shifra and Puah and Yocheved makes an exodus possible. Rahab lies to King just like midwives did. Note that Rahab sites the Exodus from Egypt. (WHC – R Wax)

Goaded by divinely ordained intolerance, Israelites are pitted against Canaanites in a struggle for differentiation. Joshua could be construed as a book about holy war (fought by men). It is the recognition of holiness, not one’s nationality, that identifies one with God’s people. Rahab and Gibeonites are outsiders, whereas Achan and his family do not recognize holiness. Whereas Rahab, a Canaanite woman, saves her whole family, Achan, an Israelite man, is instrumental in destroying his. Rahab saves the feeble spies (they go to a brothel for information rather than looking and overhearing for themselves – cavort with foreigners and with a woman whom they would have otherwise killed. Rehab’s faith and kindness raise serious questions about the obsession with holy war. How many Rahabs are killed in the attempt to conquer the land. How many people with vision and loyalty surpassing that of the Israelites are destroyed in the attempt to establish a pure and unadulterated nation?
Stories of Achsah and daughters of Z undermine Israel’s vision of itself as a monolithic, male centered institution.
Daughters of Z = men are not the only alternative
Achsah – male vision of what is necessary for survival and prosperity is limited – the women knows that land is dry and must have water. (WBC – Fewell)

JSB = Jewish Study Bible. Carol Meyers: “Joshua.” Marc Zvi Brettler: “Nevi’im” and “Canonization”
HCBC = Harper Collins Bible Commentary. Walter E. Rast: “Joshua.”
WHC = Women’s Haftarah Commentary. Rabbi Nancy Rita Myers: “Jos 1:1-18.” Rabbi Pamela Wax: “Jos 2:1-24”
WBC = Women’s Bible Commentary: Dana Nolan Fewell: “Joshua.”

Feb 21, 2010

Our first session

In our first study session we studied Joshua chapters 1 and 2.   Many thanks to Judy D, Steve A, Catherine, Dennis, Beth, Aimee, Lenny and Stanley who attended and asked such great questions and offered thoughtful comments.   
I was personally much buoyed up by the friendship in the study session.
Please stay tuned.   I may at any time need to skip a session, but an email will go out if so.   Please keep reading Joshua and we'll look at a few more chapters next time.
Comments on the blog are welcome.  If anyone would like to post class notes, let me know and I can set that up.

Beginning Joshua

As we study Joshua, we will focus on some specific chapters and verses.   Expand this post to see a list of the first few.  We will not necessarily cover all of these in one class - this is just to give you an idea of what to look for, and more will follow.  Please bring Tanakhs so we can compare with texts from other Books.  If you can be reading Joshua beforehand, the study session will be richer, but come even if you haven't had time for preparatory reading.

To start, we will be looking at how similar/dissimilar are Joshua and Moses and at how Joshua fulfills expectations set out in the Penateuch.   We will meet twice a month on the first and third Sundays and cover the books of Joshua through Kings at whatever pace will be comfortable.  There will be opportunities for those who wish to lead a study session(s).  Please contact me with any questions.

Jan 16, 2010

Starting a new study series

I am starting an new study series at Eitz Chayim, to be called Tanakh studies.   We will study Joshua, Judges,  I and II Samuel and I and II Kings over a course of many months.   We will meet on the first and third Sundays from 6:45 pm to 8:15 pm.   Prior to each session I will post here the verses to be studied.   It is recommended that everyone start out by reading the book of Joshua.  The first study session will be Sunday, February 21, 2010.