A midrash, seeking to explain why Yiftāḥ (Jephthah) did not have his vow annulled by the High Priest, Pinḥās b. El`azar (Phinehas), who was still alive then, explains both of them were unwilling to humble themselves by approaching what they considered an inferior, and were both punished for their arrogance.
When I first heard this, my initial reaction was: Was Pinḥās still around then? Then it occurred to me that this was in the period of the Judges, which happened after the time of Joshua, so maybe he was. It took until my reading of Josephus for me to realise the book of Judges has long periods of time concealed in its midst: Joshua died at 110, 45 years after the conquest, then the Israelites served Chushanrishathaim of Mesopotamia eight years; Othniel b. Kenaz delivered them, and the land had rest forty years. Then they served Eglon of Moab 18 years; Ehud b. Gera delivered them, and the land had rest eighty years (these periods of forty and eighty years are no doubt round figures); after the exploits of Deborah and Barak, the land had rest forty years; after Gideon b. Joash fought the Midianites, another forty years; Avimelech ruled three years, then Tola b. Puah, twenty-three, and Ya'ir 22; then the Philistines and Ammonites oppressed them eighteen years before the time of Yiftāḥ. In total, the Yiftāḥ incident was 337 years after the conquest. Now I'm wondering why the rabbis sought to attribute to Pinḥās such an exaggerated age, particularly in the light of:
Genesis 6:3 בראשית ו ג The Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. וַיֹּאמֶר ה׳ לֹא־יָדוֹן רוּחִי בָאָדָם לְעֹלָם בְּשַׁגַּם הוּא בָשָׂר וְהָיוּ יָמָיו מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה׃
[ETA: Answer: Because Judges 20:28 says he was still around 91 years later still. (Though note that the intervals in Judges are round numbers and, added up, come to too much.)]V.7.251:
Now Abimelech, when he had affrighted the Israelites with the miseries he had brought upon the Shechemites, seemed openly to affect greater authority than he now had, and appeared to set no bounds to his violence, unless it were with the destruction of all. Accordingly he marched to Thebes, and took the city on the sudden;Thebes!? Not the one in Egypt, apparently, nor that in Greece, but another one altogether. Likewise 274:
Abdon also, the son of Hilel, of the tribe of Ephraim, and born at the city Pyrathon, was ordained their supreme governor after Helon. [...] He died an old man, and obtained a magnificent burial in Pyrathon.
"Pyrathon" sounds very Greek; Josephus' use of Y makes it sound like a cross between pyr-, "fire", and "Marathon", which Wikipedia informs me means "fennel". But a glance at the Bible shows me it's a genuine Hebrew name, פִּרְעָתוֹן Pir`āthon; the word probably breaks down Pir`āth-on rather than Pyr-athon.Meanwhile, at the start of the Samson story:
What is meant by מַפְלִא לַעֲשׂוֹת (did wonderously)? The context in which we normally encounter this phrase is the blessing recited after having gone to the toilet, in which we thank G-d, Who "heals all flesh and does wonderously," that our body functions). Lest you start getting strange ideas of what the angel (or Manoaḥ and his wife) got up to, Josephus offers us an explanation:
Judges 13:19–20 שופטים יג יט-כ So Manoaḥ took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord: and [the angel] did wonderously as Manoaḥ and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. Manoaḥ and his wife, seeing it, fell on their faces to the ground. וַיִּקַּח מָנוֹחַ אֶת־גְּדִי הָעִזִּים וְאֶת־הַמִּנְחָה וַיַּעַל עַל־הַצּוּר לַה׳ וּמַפְלִא לַעֲשׂוֹת וּמָנוֹחַ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ רֹאִים׃ וַיְהִי בַעֲלוֹת הַלַּהַב מֵעַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וַיַּעַל מַלְאַךְ־ה׳ בְּלַהַב הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וּמָנוֹחַ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ רֹאִים וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל־פְּנֵיהֶם אָרְצָה׃
When all was ready, the angel enjoined him to set the loaves and the flesh, but without the vessels, upon the rock; which when they had done, he touched the flesh with the rod which he had in his hand, which, upon the breaking out of a flame, was consumed, together with the loaves; and the angel ascended openly, in their sight, up to heaven, by means of the smoke, as by a vehicle.And so on, from the origin of Samson to that of Samuel. V.10.347:
The woman remembered the vows she had made concerning her son, and delivered him to Eli, dedicating him to God, that he might become a prophet.Since when was being a prophet a career you could choose for another? The Bible says merely:
V.11.361 (which is in the Bible, only I had not been aware of it):
1 Samuel 1:11 שמואל א א יא She vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if you wilt indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but wilt give unto your handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. וַתִּדֹּר נֶדֶר וַתֹּאמַר ה׳ צְבָאוֹת אִם־רָאֹה תִרְאֶה בָּעֳנִי אֲמָתֶךָ וּזְכַרְתַּנִי וְלֹא־תִשְׁכַּח אֶת־אֲמָתֶךָ וְנָתַתָּה לַאֲמָתְךָ זֶרַע אֲנָשִׁים וּנְתַתִּיו לַה׳ כָּל־יְמֵי חַיָּיו וּמוֹרָה לֹא־יַעֲלֶה עַל־רֹאשׁוֹ׃
Now Eli was the first of the family of Ithamar, the other son of Aaron, that had the government; for the family of Eleazar officiated as high priest at first, the son still receiving that honor from the father which Eleazar bequeathed to his son Phineas; after whom Abiezer his son took the honor, and delivered it to his son, whose name was Bukki, from whom his son Ozi received it; after whom Eli, of whom we have been speaking, had the priesthood, and so he and his posterity until the time of Solomon's reign; but then the posterity of Eleazar reassumed it.
Yet the Torah talks about G-d giving Pinḥās an "eternal priesthood". This casts an interesting light on the Samaritans' account of their origin.
Something I had not noticed from the Bible beforehand: When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, the shrine and town of Shiloh appears to have been destroyed, as the Ark never returned there.VI.1.1:
So says Josephus. But what were the five golden images of? The KJV (and 1917 JPS translation, which is heavily based on it) says:
When the Philistines had taken the ark of the Hebrews captive [...], they carried it to the city of Ashdod [...]. God sent a very destructive disease upon the city and country of Ashdod, for they died of the dysentery or flux, a sore distemper, that brought death upon them very suddenly [...] And as to the fruits of their country, a great multitude of mice arose out of the earth and hurt them, and spared neither the plants nor the fruits.[...]
When those that had experienced these miseries were tired out with them, [...] at length they sought for some contrivance and method how they might get free from it: [...] These men said it was not right either to send the ark away, or to retain it, but to dedicate five golden images, one for every city, as a thank-offering to God, on account of his having taken care of their preservation [...]. They also would have them make five golden mice like to those that devoured and destroyed their country to put them in a bag, and lay them upon the ark; to make them a new cart also for it, and to yoke milch kine to it [...].
1 Samuel 6:4–5 שמואל א ו ד-ה Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. וַיֹּאמְרוּ מָה הָאָשָׁם אֲשֶׁר נָשִׁיב לוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ מִסְפַּר סַרְנֵי פְלִשְׁתִּים חֲמִשָּׁה עפלי (טְחֹרֵי) זָהָב וַחֲמִשָּׁה עַכְבְּרֵי זָהָב כִּי־מַגֵּפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם וּלְסַרְנֵיכֶם׃ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם צַלְמֵי עפליכם (טְחֹרֵיכֶם) וְצַלְמֵי עַכְבְּרֵיכֶם הַמַּשְׁחִיתִם אֶת־הָאָרֶץ וּנְתַתֶּם לֵאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּבוֹד אוּלַי יָקֵל אֶת־יָדוֹ מֵעֲלֵיכֶם וּמֵעַל אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּמֵעַל אַרְצְכֶם׃
But what are emerods? I'd noticed this word before turning up in the Torah; it took me years to reach for my dictionary and discover it's an old spelling of "haemorrhoids". How on earth do you make golden haemorrhoids!? And what's going on with the קְרִי/כְּתִיב discrepancy here? <looks words up> It appears the text has one word for "haemorrhoid" written, but another one is read. How many word for "piles" do you need in the language? (Well, English evidently has two...)
The Ark is taken on a cart pulled by cattle wherever they want to go to Beth-Shemesh, which the Philistines take as a sign that it G-d wanted it returned to the Israelites. VI.1.4:
But now it was that the wrath of God overtook them, and struck seventy persons of the village of Bethshemesh dead, who, not being priests, and so not worthy to touch the ark, had approached to it.They didn't just approach it, though: As 1 Samuel 6:19 reports:
[The LORD] smote the people of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD; He smote of the people seventy people, and fifty thousand people. The people lamented, because the LORD had smitten the people so badly. וַיַּךְ בְּאַנְשֵׁי בֵית־שֶׁמֶשׁ כִּי רָאוּ בַּאֲרוֹן ה׳ וַיַּךְ בָּעָם שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ חֲמִשִּׁים אֶלֶף אִישׁ וַיִּתְאַבְּלוּ הָעָם כִּי־הִכָּה ה׳ בָּעָם מַכָּה גְדוֹלָה׃
This, therefore, shows that Josephus had not watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Or, alternatively, that the film makers read the Bible, not Antiquities.)
On to Saul. We read in a haftarah of how Samuel reconfirmed Saul as king before the people; but we never get the context of why a second confirmation was necessary: After the first, reports 1 Samuel 10:27:
Saul then saves the people from the Ammonites, and:
But some scoundrels said, "How shall this man save us?" They despised him, and brought him no gift. But he held his peace. וּבְנֵי בְלִיַּעַל אָמְרוּ מַה־יֹּשִׁעֵנוּ זֶה וַיִּבְזֻהוּ וְלֹא־הֵבִיאוּ לוֹ מִנְחָה וַיְהִי כְּמַחֲרִישׁ׃
Samuel orders Saul to exterminate the Amalekites, but before he does so (1 Samuel 15:6):
The people said to Samuel, "Who was it that said, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Bring the men here, and we'll put them to death!" But Saul said, "No one will be put to death today, for today the LORD has wrought salvation in Israel." וַיֹּאמֶר הָעָם אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵל מִי הָאֹמֵר שָׁאוּל יִמְלֹךְ עָלֵינוּ תְּנוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים וּנְמִיתֵם׃ וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל לֹא־יוּמַת אִישׁ בַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה כִּי הַיּוֹם עָשָׂה־ה׳ תְּשׁוּעָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל׃
Josephus, however, inexplicably changes the reference to the Shechemites, despite the fact Shechem is nowhere near:
Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for you showed kindness to all the Israelites, when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל־הַקֵּינִי לְכוּ סֻּרוּ רְדוּ מִתּוֹךְ עֲמָלֵקִי פֶּן־אֹסִפְךָ עִמּוֹ וְאַתָּה עָשִׂיתָה חֶסֶד עִם־כָּל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּעֲלוֹתָם מִמִּצְרָיִם וַיָּסַר קֵינִי מִתּוֹךְ עֲמָלֵק׃
But when Saul had conquered all these Amalekites that reached from Pelusium of Egypt to the Red Sea, he laid waste all the rest of the enemy's country: but for the nation of the Shechemites, he did not touch them, although they dwelt in the very middle of the country of Midian; for before the battle, Saul had sent to them, and charged them to depart thence, lest they should be partakers of the miseries of the Amalekites; for he had a just occasion for saving them, since they were of the kindred of Raguel, Moses's father-in-law.Afterwards:
Agag also, the king of the Amalekites, was brought to him; and when the king asked, How bitter death was? Samuel said, "As thou hast made many of the Hebrew mothers to lament and bewail the loss of their children, so shalt thou, by thy death, cause thy mother to lament thee also." Accordingly, he gave order to slay him immediately at Gilgal, and then went away to the city Ramah.However, as every Jew who is present in shul when this story is read as haftarah knows, Saul didn't just give the order to kill Agag; he hacked him in pieces himself (1 Samuel 15:33):
Samuel said, "As the sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." Then Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר שִׁכְּלָה נָשִׁים חַרְבֶּךָ כֵּן־תִּשְׁכַּל מִנָּשִׁים אִמֶּךָ וַיְשַׁסֵּף שְׁמוּאֵל אֶת־אֲגָג לִפְנֵי ה׳ בַּגִּלְגָּל׃
Or did he? aviva_m's JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (2000) (which she has lent to me, and has lots of notes, making it much better than my Tenach) says "meaning of Hebrew uncertain". Am I relying too much on the translation I am familiar with rather than the original Hebrew here? Off to Klein's Concise Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, which reports: the פִּעֵל of שסף is a here. Other verb forms fit the meaning, but are only attested in Mediaeval Hebrew. For the word's etymology, he reports "Of uncertain origin. It is possibly a Shap`el form developed from סוף or סף, an earlier form of סַיִף (= sword), so that שׁסף would mean literally 'to strike or cut with a sword'." Is there anyone reading this apart from myself who cares?