Genesis 31:44-31:47 בראשית לא מד-לא מז "Now therefore come, let's make a pact, you and me, so that it can be for a witness between us." So, taking a stone, Jacob set it up for a pillar. Saying to his brothers, "Gather stones," they took stones, and made an cairn; then they ate there on the heap. Laban called it Yegar Sahadutha: but Jacob called it Gal`ēd. וְעַתָּה לְכָה נִכְרְתָה בְרִית אֲנִי וָאָתָּה וְהָיָה לְעֵד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ׃ וַיִּקַּח יַעֲקֹב אָבֶן וַיְרִימֶהָ מַצֵּבָה׃ וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב לְאֶחָיו לִקְטוּ אֲבָנִים וַיִּקְחוּ אֲבָנִים וַיַּעֲשׂוּ־גָל וַיֹּאכְלוּ שָׁם עַל־הַגָּל׃ וַיִּקְרָא־לוֹ לָבָן יְגַר שָׂהֲדוּתָא וְיַעֲקֹב קָרָא לוֹ גַּלְעֵד׃
"Yegar Sahadutha" are the only Aramaic words in the Torah; they mean "heap of witness," as does "Gal`ēd" in Hebrew. However, Josephus renders (I.19.322):
So he made a league with Jacob, and bound it by oaths, that he would not bear him any malice on account of what had happened; and Jacob made the like league, and promised to love Laban's daughters. And these leagues they confirmed with oaths also, which the made upon certain as whereon they erected a pillar, in the form of an altar: whence that hill is called Gilead; and from thence they call that land the Land of Gilead at this day. Now when they had feasted, after the making of the league, Laban returned home.
Gal`ēd (Galeed) is spelled the same as Gil`ād (Gilead) in Hebrew, but normally vocalised differently; only the former, however, directly means "heap of witness". I had not connected the two in my mind until I read this in Antiquities. (FWIW, though, Wikipedia thinks they are the same.)I.15:
Abraham after this married Keturah, by whom six sons were born to him, men of courage, and of sagacious minds: Zambran, and Jazar, and Madan, and Madian, and Josabak, and Sous. Now the sons of Sous were Sabathan and Dadan. The sons of Dadan were Latusim, and Assur, and Luom. The sons of Madiau were Ephas, and Ophren, and Anoch, and Ebidas, and Eldas. Now, for all these sons and grandsons, Abraham contrived to settle them in colonies; and they took possession of Troglodytis, and the country of Arabia the Happy, as far as it reaches to the Red Sea.
"Arabia the Happy" is Yemen—that's what the name means—but Troglodytis? The country of the cave dwellers!? Wikipedia clarifies: the name was altered by folk etymology from Trogodytes. The country is thought to be on the African side of the Red Sea... but both this and Yemen are in the south (compared to Israel), and the Bible says Abraham sent his children from Ketura into the east (along with the ithryn luin and Saruman, evidently, where they founded Hinduism*); where did Josephus get the tradition to override the Scriptural direction from?
* You will find Orthodox Jews who genuinely believe this. I mean, about Hinduism, not the ithryn luin.In 2.1.4, Josephus writes:
these were the sons of Esau. Aliphaz had five legitimate sons; Theman, Omer, Saphus, Gotham, and Kanaz; for Amalek was not legitimate, but by a concubine, whose name was Thamna.
I'm not sure what "legitimate" means in Graeco-Roman terms; in the ancient Israelite world, however, being the son of a concubine is, AIUI, just as legitimate as being the son of a married couple, though one's inheritance rights might be lower. We see the same problem in Modern Hebrew today, where פִּלֶגֶשׁ means not "concubine" but "mistress". I had an argument with someone whose identity I can't remember (though wasn't Israeli) over this; I couldn't get them to see the difference.In 2.16.347, after the dividing of the Red Sea, Josephus writes:
As for myself, I have delivered every part of this history as I found it in the sacred books; nor let any one wonder at the strangeness of the narration if a way were discovered to those men of old time, who were free from the wickedness of the modern ages, whether it happened by the will of God or whether it happened of its own accord;—while, for the sake of those that accompanied Alexander, king of Macedonia, who yet lived, comparatively but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them a passage through itself, had no other way to go; I mean, when it was the will of God to destroy the monarchy of the Persians: and this is confessed to be true by all that have written about the actions of Alexander. But as to these events, let every one determine as he pleases.
It did? (I don't know much about this period of Alexander's conquests; it came between the period covered in Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy.)
When the Israelites left Egypt, they were newly-manumitted slaves; however before they got to the Promised Land, they had fought battles against other peoples. Where did they get the weapons to fight from? The traditional answer relies on translating the difficult word חֲמֻשִׁים in Ex. 13:18 as "armed": "the Israelites went up armed out of the land of Egypt". However, this only pushes the question one level back.
Josephus, however, provides a more rational explanation (II.16.349):
On the next day Moses gathered together the weapons of the Egyptians, which were brought to the camp of the Hebrews by the current of the sea, and the force of the winds resisting it; and he conjectured that this also happened by Divine Providence, that so they might not be destitute of weapons.
A substantial chunk of Leviticus deals with a disease called צָרָעַת, which may affect a person's skin or beard, or a house. It's normally translated "leprosy", but this is a bad translation, as the symptoms do not match that of the disease we refer to by that name, as characterised by Hansen. However, this translation eviddently goes back a long way, as Josephus uses it.III.10.244:
Upon the fifteenth day of the same month, when the season of the year is changing for winter, the law enjoins us to pitch tabernacles in every one of our houses, so that we preserve ourselves from the cold of that time of the year
He thinks we go into our succahs to stay warm!?!? Surely something lost in translation here!III.10.252:
When a week of weeks has passed over after this sacrifice, (which weeks contain forty and nine days,) on the fiftieth day, which is Pentecost, but is called by the Hebrews Asartha, which signifies Pentecost, they bring to God a loaf, made of wheat flour, of two tenth deals, with leaven; and for sacrifices they bring two lambs
Actually, asartha doesn't mean pentecost (fiftieth day). I'd guess it's עצרתא, the Aramaic form of עצרת, meaning solemn assembly, the name by which Shavuos is known in the Talmud.On שעטנז (IV.8), Josephus gives a reason that is not in the Torah:
Let not any one of you wear a garment made of woolen and linen, for that is appointed to be for the priests alone.
The explanation I've otherwise heard given is that the Torah is against the mixing of unlike things (cf. different kinds of seeds, or yoking different kinds of animals, etc).IV.8.223 (and lots of other places):
Your high priest also Eleazar, as well as Joshua, with the senate, and chief of your tribes, will go before you,
Senate!? Playing it up for the Roman audience, somewhat...IV.8.238:
But for him that acts contrary to this law, let him be beaten with forty stripes save one by the public executionerThis limitation is post-Biblical; the Biblical limit is forty:
Deuteronomy 25:3 דברים כה ג Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. אַרְבָּעִים יַכֶּנּוּ לֹא יֹסִיף פֶּן־יֹסִיף לְהַכֹּתוֹ עַל־אֵלֶּה מַכָּה רַבָּה וְנִקְלָה אָחִיךָ לְעֵינֶיךָ׃
The Torah has come in for some criticism for the lex talionis: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, etc. Even if it were meant literally, it's an improvement on the disproportionate punishment some earlier law codes permitted. However, you can tell it's not meant literally from this other verse:
Numbers 35:31 במדבר לה לא Moreover ye shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, for he must be put to death. וְלֹא־תִקְחוּ כֹפֶר לְנֶפֶשׁ רֹצֵחַ אֲשֶׁר־הוּא רָשָׁע לָמוּת כִּי־מוֹת יוּמָת׃
No ransom is accepted for murder, therefore ransoms are accepted for lesser crimes. This is reflected in Josephus (IV.8.279):
He that maimeth any one, let him undergo the like himself, and be deprived of the same member of which he hath deprived the other, unless he that is maimed will accept of money instead of it for the law makes the sufferer the judge of the value of what he hath suffered, and permits him to estimate it, unless he will be more severe.About the death of Moses, Josephus introduced a midrash I am not familiar with (IV.8.326):
All those who accompanied him were the senate, and Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua their commander. Now as soon as they were come to the mountain called Abarim, (which is a very high mountain, situate over against Jericho, and one that affords, to such as are upon it, a prospect of the greatest part of the excellent land of Canaan,) he dismissed the senate; and as he was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God.As opposed to:
Deuteronomy 34:5-6 דברים לד ה-לד ו So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of [or: by the mouth of] the LORD. He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-Peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. וַיָּמָת שָׁם מֹשֶׁה עֶבֶד־ה׳ בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב עַל־פִּי ה׳׃ וַיִּקְבֹּר אֹתוֹ בַגַּי בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב מוּל בֵּית פְּעוֹר וְלֹא־יָדַע אִישׁ אֶת־קְבֻרָתוֹ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃
Which is a lesson–keeping the location of Moses' grave secret so it couldn't be made into a shrine–that has been largely lost on the Chasidim today.
Right; that's all I have time for today (can you tell the last part was written hurriedly?); good night!