Torah Study Notes 1-17-14

January 17, 2015

  1. 385 The beginning of the ten plagues. See page 398 which contains psalms referencing the plagues – but they don’t add up to ten. The number of plagues is never mentioned in the text. If one has a song in scripture as well as a narrative the song is probably older. The Hebrew Bible with 39 books as we have it today was likely partially assembled as late as 200CE. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain all of the books except the Book of Esther. See Joel Hoffman – The Bibles Cutting Room Floor. The Psalms are very old but new in terms of being part of Scripture. Most Psalms are definitely pre- 70 AD and the destruction of the Temple. Most of the Torah was assembled about 500 – 450 BCE. The canonical books of the twelve Prophets – Hosea through Malachi plus Jeremiah and Ezekiel – are all considered to be from the same period – and have been found on a single scroll. The ordering of the scrolls is inherently random and only becomes significant when assembling a Codex. This explains why the Christian Bible is ordered differently for the Old Testament than the Jewish version. Note also that some of the merger and redaction process was going on well prior to 450 BCE.

7:8  The rod becomes a serpent. What is the role of Aaron? This is a place where according to Richard Elliot Friedman, there is an amalgamation of two traditions . There is never a standalone Aaron story but his presence is introduced so that there is a basis for him and his progeny becoming priests. The Aaronite priestly line eventually becomes dominant and hence is able to write the history.

7:14 The Egyptians will find it impossible to drink the water of the Nile. The fish will die and stink. But again it would appear that extra material has been added.

7:19 There shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt. But the Egyptian magicians did the same with their spells. How can they be doing this if it has already been done? The Pharaoh seems unconcerned as to the plight of the people – including his own.

7: 25  The plague of frogs. This sequence of events could have a biological/scientific basis. In the 18th and 19th C there was enormous effort to try and explain all of this scientifically.

8:1  Those magicians do it again. Note that frog is in the singular. The rabbinical analysis assumes one really big frog. See footnote indicating that in Egyptian mythology frogs were considered to have life giving powers.  This all suggests that magic existed – or was believed to exist – at this time. In the animation Prince of Egypt they did not allow the magicians to perform magic. This use of magic is a common literary trope – it existed, we pretend, but no longer does so. There are plagues today but we “walk sightless” among them. Over two thousand people die every day from malnutrition. We wear blinders in order to survive – to get through the day without contemplating the horrors around us. LL: That is the downside of modern communications – we see and hear so much more than we used to so assume that everything is worse than it was.

8:4  Once the frog problem is cured Pharaoh again stiffens. In a sense this is a competition between a God-King and the Eternal.

8:n12  Now the vermin. The magicians cannot duplicate this. Why “the finger of God” rather than “the hand?”  Both are metaphorical uses imaging God as a human being. Metaphors only work because there is a connection between the words and the objects. The use of a finger suggests something done easily.

8: 16 Let my people go or swarms of insects will come. But only for the Egyptians – the Pharaoh’s house and those of his courtiers. MS: Was all of this cumulative?

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