As discussed in the Introduction to the Exodus Haggadah, the author’s view is that the Seder is the time to engage in national, religious dinner theater, at which we tell our ancestors’ story – the story of the exodus from slavery to freedom – in a moving way. There are other times in which we can give vent to our cynicism, explain why we don’t believe in God, or why the Bible is inaccurate. And, of course, there are times to criticize Romeo and Juliet. But not while we are watching a performance.
For two centuries, a popular sport among Biblical scholars known as “Minimalists” has been finding evidence that the Hebrew Bible has no historical value. In the mid-1900s, archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, famous for excavating Jerusalem, asserted that King David never existed, because Kenyon had not uncovered any artifacts dating to the period of his reign. In […]
“Upon all the ‘gods’ of Egypt, I will execute judgments – I – Adonai,” declares God in Exodus 12:12. The passage promises the utter destruction of the Egyptian gods, yet curiously, the Book of Exodus seems not to describe a single judgment against a god of Egypt.
For most of the 20th century, Hebrew teachers dutifully taught pupils that the Hebrew alphabet had two “silent letters,” aleph and ayin. While this may be true of Modern Hebrew, both letters were pronounced in Biblical Hebrew.
After a While, Crocodile. By expelling the Jews from England in 1390, King Edward I retarded Hebrew scholarship for centuries. So when King James I ordered a new translation of the Bible in 1604, Hebrew dictionaries and grammar books were rudimentary.
Ham and Wry. Linguists formerly used the term “Hamitic languages” to refer to ancient Egyptian and the Berber, Chadic and Cushitic languages of North Africa. The Hamitic languages are closely related to each other and distantly related to the Semitic languages.
Parts. An ideal translator exactly reproduces the meaning of a text from one language in a second language. Exact translations are possible when the author of a text and the translator are contemporaries in the same culture.
“He Wrestles Bears.” We would almost certainly scoff at a new neighbor who declared “When I wrestle a bear, people will know my name!” Boasting is unseemly and bear-wrestling is a poor way to teach one’s name, unless the name is He-Wrestles-Bears. Yet at least 11 times in Exodus, God declares that when he does […]
The Book of Exodus, narrating the events that occurred on the eve of the Israelites’ departure from Egyptian slavery, calls Egypt “בֵּית עֲבָדִים” (beit ’avadim). The phrase is usually translated as House of Bondage, yet it literally means House of Slaves.