In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine


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This commentary includes an extensive scholarly introduction, generous bibliographic and critical notes, and other explanatory material. Simon refers to traditional rabbinic commentaries and the Mishna, Midrash, and Talmud. His commentary also makes use of literary analysis, comparative Semitics, and evidence from modern archaeological discoveries. The moving story of Ruth, with its themes of loyalty, lovingkindness hesed , and redemption, is one of the great narratives of the Bible.

Socially, the Israelites were aware of their responsibility to protect the weak and unprotected among them. Redemption secures the life of the people as a community, not just as individuals. In this story, Boaz fulfills the familial obligation to marry the widow of a deceased relative who never was able to father children, both to continue the family line and protect an otherwise vulnerable woman. Prior to her professorship, she had been on the faculty of the University of Denver, directed the Institute of Interfaith Studies, and cofounded the Jewish Women Resource Center in Denver.

Her areas of specialization included Assyriology and Sumerology, biblical studies, Jewish studies, and women and religion. Sample Pages: 1 2 3 4. The author succinctly presents the consensus of modern thought on Ecclesiastes: that it is a fairly late production as books of the Bible go and that it is a series of philosophical reflections, not a systematic work of philosophy.

Michael V. Fox received his rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College. He is the Jay C. The commentary approaches the Book of Esther from a fresh literary point of view. Adele Berlin is a scholar of biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature. She is the Robert H. Berlin has designed and taught courses on biblical narrative and poetry, ancient Near Eastern culture and literature, and methods of biblical interpretation. The haftarot are an ancient part of Hebrew liturgy.

Noted Bible scholar Michael Fishbane introduces each haftarah with an outline and discussion of how that passage conveys its meaning, and he follows it with observations on how it relates to the Torah portion or special occasion. Individual comments—citing classical rabbinic as well as modern commentators—highlight ambiguities and difficulties in the Hebrew text, which appear in concert with the JPS translation. The haftarot are also put into biblical context by a separate overview of all prophetic books except Jonah that are excerpted in the haftarah cycle.

The Passover Haggadah enjoys an unrivaled place in Jewish culture—both religious and secular. Jews continue to rewrite, revise, and add to its text, recasting it so that it remains relevant to their lives. He is also an ordained Orthodox rabbi. He has written many articles, and he is the author of two major volumes in Hebrew, one on the history of Jewish festivals The Passover Haggadah , upon which the JPS Torah Commentary on the Haggadah is based and one on the history of the Passover Seder.

Fox , Adele Berlin. Publisher: Jewish Publication Society. Pastors will appreciate its brevity and clarity, and scholars will respect its depth and thoughtfulness. If genuine, this would be the next oldest block of text. Third, the depiction of the second temple's construc- tion, i. Nehemiah's Memoir I begin with the first person account of Nehemiah, governor of Yehud in the mid 5th century. If it is genuine, it is perhaps the earliest of the writings which comprise our book. This narrative speaks very little of the temple, 4 For this division into sources and for the relative order of the sources, see the standard commentaries.

Torah of God but when it does, it appears to recognize the sacredness of the site Neh 6. And could someone like me go into the tem- ple and live? I will not go in! Exod The text supposes on the other hand, however, that Nehemiah's entrance into the temple would somehow lead to his death, that his entrance into the di- vine sphere would enrage Yhwh enough to kill him cf. Ex Ra- ther, the implication is that Nehemiah would be killed by God.?

This sug- gests that its author, perhaps Nehemiah himself, believed that Yhwh dwelt in his temple and would be there during the night to defend it. Ezra's Memoir Ezra 7.

If genuine, and if the date given in Ezra 7. Beyond this the earliest extra-biblical reference is in Herodotus 1. Fried some sacred vessels over to the priests to be installed in the temple Ezra 8. On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver, the gold, and the vessels were weighed into the hands of the priest Meremoth son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui, The total was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.

One might interpret this as an indication that Yhwh has entered his temple, not that he existed in the form of the vessels, but rather that if he were al- lowing his vessels to enter the temple, he must have been willing to take up residence in it. Clearly the author of Deutero-Isaiah connected the real- ity of the temple vessels with Yhwh's physical presence lsa Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see Yhwb's return to Zion.

Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for Yhwh has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. Yhwh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God: Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves, you who carry Yhwh's vessels. For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for Yhwh will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Second Isaiah speaks of the return to Zion under Cyrus, so the text as- sumes here that the priests were to carry the actual vessels which Nebu- chadnezzar had confiscated from the first temple and had installed in the temple of Marduk in Babylon. Those vessels are ex- plicitly stated not to have been from the first temple, but to have been do- nated to the temple by Artaxerxes, his ministers, and by the people of Israel who still remained in Babylon Ezra 8.

Most notably, moreover, the first person account stops after the items are delivered to the priests. According to the first person account, there is no celebration, no cere- mony, and no cloud enters the temple. We have here a matter-of-fact retel- ling of events. I thank Prof. Hurowitz for making his unpublished manuscript available to me. See also Bob Becking's article in the present volume.

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Torah of God his receipt, and that is it. His first person account does not provide a sense that anything out of the ordinary has happened, and cannot inform us about whether or not its author considered God to have inhabited the temple. Ezra's first person account continues in Ezra 9, with Ezra in mourning and in prayer. This too cannot inform us about whether the author assumed that God dwelled within the temple since we have seen that the Judeans of Elephantine also prayed to God in sackcloth and ashes even though they believed that God had abandoned it.

Ezra's first person account therefore gives no indication - yes or no - about whether its author assumed the presence or absence of the divine in the second temple. The Construction of the Second Temple in Ezra The third section to be examined consists of portions of Ezra which deal with the construction of the temple: that is, chapters minus the lists, the letters, and the stories narrating various attempts to prevent the temple from being built.

I have previously compared this temple building story in Ezra with that of typical temple building stories of the ancient Near East. These temple building stories adhere to a welI-defined form which has been elucidated by the work of Victor Hurowitz. V and devel- oped more recently in a handbook of temple building edited by Mark Boda and Jamie Novotny. P The articles in the handbook show that ancient Near Eastern temple building stories follow a fixed template, which I have out- lined in Column I of the following table.

JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection (JPSTC) (11 vols.) - Verbum

Ezra A. Brief History - Why was Missing or 2 Chronicles Building materials are Wood is brought from Lebanon and floated down to brought from the ends of the Yaffa Ezra 3. Ezra D.

Foundations are laid and In the second year of their arrival in the second the site is prepared. The temple is being built. It is being built of hewn stone, and timber is laid in the walls; this work is being done quickly and prospers in their hands. Tattenai's Letter; Ezra 5. A ceremony for later In the seventh month, Jeshua and Zerubbabel set up the building stages is held e.

They the dedication of the altar. The description of the And tbis bouse was finished on the third day of tbe completed temple and a month of Adar in the 6th year of Darius Ezra 6. The dedication ceremony The people celebrated the dedication with joy Ezra of the finished building. The god enters his temple. Missing J. Celebration to welcome the They offered at the dedication of this house of God one god into his temple.

Presentation of gifts and They set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in appointment of temple per- their courses for the service of God at Jerusalem Ezra sonnet. Prayer or Curses If anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, he shall be impaled on it, and his house made a dunghill. May the god The sequence of the elements of the second temple's building story is pre- sented in Column II of the Table. By and large, the ancient Near Eastern template is followed. There are a few discrepancies however. There is no description of how the temple came to be in ruins, a gap that is possibly filled by the end of 2 Chronicles.

Element E, a description of the building process, and Element L, the final curse, are present not in the narrative, but in Tattenai' s and Darius' letters, respecti vely. What we are completely missing, however, is element H, the element in which the god takes up residence in his temple. The story of the second temple's dedication con- tains no statement that Yhwh has entered his house. Nor is there mention of the temple vessels that Sheshbazzar has brought with him from Baby- lon; they disappear from view. Why is that? It is clear that some of the elements are out of order.

If we look at the order of the passages in Ezra as they appear in Column 2. We have first of all, the king's decision to build: Ezra 1. Then in 3. Element E appears later in the text, and placed in the mouth of Tattenai. But then we notice that Element F, the dedication of the altar, which should be late, appears in Ezra 3.

More startling is the fact that sacrifices are offered on it even before the temple is built.

Essays in Honor of Jacob Neusner

IS This is totally anomalous when compared to every other ancient Near Eastern temple building inscription and also when compared to what we have seen at Elephantine. In the ancient Near East, the temple was the place where the daily life of the gods was carried out. There they were washed, clothed, and fed their two meals daily, morning and even- ing. That passage ex- presses the same ideology of the divine as existed everywhere in the an- cient Near East.

Even as late as Malachi, we read that Yhwh complains that the people are offering him polluted food. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if 1 am a master, where is the respect due me? You say, 'How have we despised your name? And you say, 'How have we polluted it? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor? The rabbis state Zevachim 62a that special testimony was needed to authorize the bringing of these sacrifices. One of the three prophets who returned with them from the Babylonian exile must have testified that the sacrifices may be offered on the altar if it is on its original site even m the absence of the temple.

Other rabbis suggest that curtains were set up along the projected boundaries of the temple wall, and that these stood in for the temple. Fried Yhwh compares himself to the Persian governor, as you would not offer polluted food to your governor, how can you offer it to your god? The pa- rallel is informative. Food for the governor is equated with food for the god. It is difficult therefore to understand, against the background of the an- cient Near East and Judean thought manifest elsewhere in the TaNaK and at Elephantine, how the altar could have been built before the temple, and how sacrifices could have been offered on it when there was as yet no god present in his temple to consume them.

Temples in Greek Thought This apparent anomaly can be understood however against the background of Greek thought and the Greek cult. It is reasonable to look to the Greek period to understand this text.

The final version of Ezra-Nehemiah could not have been completed before the conquest of Alexander, since the list of priests in Neh The text was likely finalized under the Ptolemies. Ancient Greeks prayed and made offerings to their gods in each god's sanctuary, like other ancient peoples. Unlike in Mesopotamia and Egypt, however, the sanctuary most common throughout the ancient Greek world consisted simply of an altar with a surrounding fence marking out the te- menos, the sacred district, with no temple present at all.

In fact, the altar was the only essential ingredient in the Greek cult, and sacrifice the only es- sential form of worship.


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The gods did not require a house to live in, rather, most lived in the sky or on Mount Olympus. As Levine recognizes, both of these have buildings associated with them however, which may be assumed to house the god. Levine bases his discussion primarily on the open-air sanctuaries described in Genesis. At the time of his writing , these texts were associated with the J and E writers, and dated to [be monarchic period. Such an early dating is no longer maintained by scholars see e.

Moreover, the comparison of these descriptions of isolated altars in Genesis with the typical Greek sanctuary may warrant a date for them later than the Priestly pentateuchal texts. An investigation into these matters is beyond the scope of the present article, however. Torah of God have been built primarily to shelter the many votive offerings dedicated to the god, one such offering being perhaps a statue of the god himself, but it was not built to house the statue. The statues, moreover, were the work of famous artists, known by name, and were simply gifts in which the god delighted.

He was not considered present in his statue; the statue was simply another, albeit more grandiose, offering to him. There was no rite like the 'opening of the mouth ceremony' to give life to the cult image, and because the god was not present in his statue, there was no ceremony to induct it into the temple.

Temple Building at Epidaurus The great temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus is typical, and the presence there of a large number of inscriptions which record the course of temple building enables us to understand the temple building process in the Greek world? The first step in establishing a cult in the Greek world, and the first step at Epidaurus, was to set up an altar to the god and to begin conducting sacrifices on it. It was closed on three sides, but open on the west facing the altar.

It is thought that it contained an upper story on the three closed sides with galleries for the sick to sleep. It was not until around , however, that a decision was made to build a temple to Asclepius, and not until that the foundations were laid. This is reminiscent of the temple building process described in Ezra 1- 6.

First the altar and the sacrifices, then after a period of several years, the foundations for the temple are laid. I have suggested elsewhere that Ezra was based on the second temple's original building inscription but that Ezra 3. Levine for calling this work to my attention. Fried process to its present location in the text. This together with the absence of any statement at all of any representation of the god entering the temple suggests that the author of Ezra did not assume that Yhwh actually inhabited the temple or indeed that it was the temple's purpose to house him.

Rather, the arrangement of these passages reflects a Greek religious sensibility in which the gods, including Yhwh, lived in the sky.

In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine
In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine In Pursuit of Meaning: Collected Studies of Baruch A. Levine

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