Torah Study Notes 5-23-15

May 23, 2015

Page 902

The first presentation in the Torah of the existence of the tribes. Previously, there have only been hints. Why is Israel here broken down into units? It could be argued that there is greater power in being more homogeneous. Here the notion of differences and different roles is put forward as a model.

2:1 “ …Each man with his standard, under the banner of their ancestral house…” The term “eleph” is here translated as “one thousand” but some scholars have suggested it is in fact a group of soldiers of about 600. Taking the numbers at face value would suggest millions of people – which is highly unlikely. Walter Benjamin, the social philosopher has pointed out that every national group exaggerates the power of its enemy. Here, the size of this army is being exaggerated.

2:2  Judah in the east and Reuben in the south.

2:17  More numbers of those enrolled and their chieftains.  Note that the Levites have no troops and are stationed in the middle. See page 898 for a schematic of the troops and their locations. Judah is the largest group and Ephraim is the smallest. Judah becomes the most significant of the tribes – a separate nation. Ephraim and Menasha were the sons of Joseph. The number twelve appears again when Ishmael becomes the father of twelve nations. Esau is the progenitor of twelve kings. Twelve is the basis for much in horology and was adopted in the New Testament as the number of disciples. In  Greco-Latin there is a separate word up to fifteen. In French it is sixteen. There are twelve Zodiac signs, twelve lunar months etc. It is the lowest number you can halve, third and quarter. It is used for those things we wish to divide.

2:31 When the Northern Kingdoms disappear so does the tribe of Ephraim. It has also been suggested that Dan was a colonized group brought into Israel – probably during the reign of King David. They disappear as well. As to the cutoff of age twenty for military service – this is the same as the cut-off for marriage in the Mishnah. The Levites were likely individuals selected from the twelve tribes. The others are mustered into troops but the Levites will bear no arms. The Church up until Constantine made a virtue of never bearing arms. Once they are integrated into the Roman Empires they become the Church Militant. See:

The importance of dividing may be part a historical narrative but it is also a mode of geo-political instruction. There is a fundamental notion that this is reality – we naturally create affinity groups. Recommended Reading:, The Church is monolithic and stayed that way by generally staying out of politics. Doctrinal differences such as Purgatory was the basis for the creation of Protestantism. Note that this narrative describing the tribes assumes that there were ancestral families even in Egypt.

LL recommended reading:   The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture by Yoram Hazony See:

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture proposes a new framework for reading the Bible. It shows how the biblical authors used narrative and prophetic oratory to advance universal arguments about morals and politics, truth and being, struggle and faith.

On the way, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture provides a series of bold new studies of the biblical narratives and prophetic poetry, transforming forever our understanding of what the stories of Abel, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David and Solomon, and the speeches of Isaiah and Jeremiah, were meant to teach us.

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture is an interdisciplinary work accessible to scholars and educated readers of all backgrounds. It assumes no belief in God or other religious commitment. It assumes no previous background in Bible. It is free of disciplinary jargon.

Open the door to a book you never knew existed. You’ll never read the Bible the same way again.”

“A deep and lucid investigation of the connections between the two chief strands of our intellectual history. A great achievement.”

Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of ‘How the Mind Works’ and ‘The Better Angels of our Nature.’

A paradigm-shifting work of immense significance, arguing that the Hebrew Bible be seen as a work of philosophy and interpreted as such—alongside, though very different from, the Greek classics—and thus as a book of universal significance in relation to the great questions about the human condition. This is an important and pioneering work which deserves to be widely read and deeply discussed.”

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