Saturday, April 9, 2016

Torah and Haftarah

I wrote about the Torah, or Pentateuch, a couple years ago, and in a couple other posts about the biblical law. For a long time I've enjoyed the book Torah: A Modern Commentary, edited by Gunther Plaut (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981), which wonderfully takes one on a year-long journey through this most sacred part of the Tanakh. Only more recently did I purchase Plaut's helpful book, The Haftarah Commentary (also UAHC Press, 1996). The following is interesting to me because, as a Christian, I'm familiar with the cycles of lectionary readings, but in Judaism, the reading is focused upon the yearly Torah portions (parshahs) with corresponding haftarah readings.

The author of the "Judaism 101" site writes, "Each week in synagogue, we read (or, more accurately, chant, because it is sung) a passage from the Torah. This passage is referred to as a parshah. The first parshah, for example, is Parshat Bereishit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the story of Noah. There are 54 parshahs, one for each week of a leap year, so that in the course of a year, we read the entire Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) in our services. ... We read the last portion of the Torah right before a holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law), which occurs in October, a few weeks after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). On Simchat Torah, we read the last portion of the Torah, and proceed immediately to the first paragraph of Genesis, showing that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

"In the synagogue service, the weekly parshah is followed by a passage from the prophets, which is referred to as a haftarah. Contrary to common misconception, 'haftarah' does not mean 'half-Torah.' The word comes from the Hebrew root Fei-Teit-Reish and means 'Concluding Portion'. Usually, haftarah portion is no longer than one chapter, and has some relation to the Torah portion of the week."

This is from , which also has the list of weekly Torah and Haftarah readings. This site, , also provides the daily and weekly readings for recent and upcoming years according to how Simchat Torah falls.

Remember that in Judaism, "the prophets" is not only Isaiah through Malachi, but also Joshua through II Kings, or the later and former prophets, respectively. The Ketuvim, or writings, have no formal cycle of readings, although the Five Megillot (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) are read on particular festivals, and Psalms are found throughout the Siddur (prayer book).

As reflected on my Journeys Home blog, I enjoy having year-long "projects" in my spiritual life, keeping me focused week to week on some activity that will help me grow. As a Gentile respectful of Jewish traditions, I may undertake a year-long reading and study that will help me understand sections of the Torah which, though part of the Bible, I don't often read.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Tribes of Israel
When I was a young person, in Sunday school in our small town church, I liked the old maps of Bible lands. They were the kind that were mountaineer on a stand, like an old-fashioned screen for watching home movies, only you moved each map page up and over whenever you wanted to stay each map. In my young mind I connected them to the folded maps, free at filling stations, in the glove compartment of our family car. Having a map helped you know where you're going, and in serious Bible study, that seemed true as well.

Here is a helpful site, with a map, that discusses the Tribes of Israel: The book of Joshua is a difficult book, full of violence and destruction. In the Deuteronomic theology of the book, the peoples of the Land were so wicked they had fallen under God's judgment, and so the advancing Israelites were instruments of God's wrath---like the fires of Sodom or the flood waters of Noah---as well as inheritors of God's promises. But it is interesting to me to see how the Joshua text locates the land allotments among the tribes, including the trans-Jordan tribes Gad and Reuben and a portion of Manasseh. 

That site also indicates some important things about the various sacred sites of the Bible. Here's a quotation from the middle of that article: "The confederation of the twelve tribes was primarily religious, based upon belief in the one 'God of Israel' with whom the tribes had made a covenant and whom they worshiped at a common sacral center as the 'people of the Lord.' The Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Covenant were the most sacred objects of the tribal union and biblical tradition shows that many places served as religious centers in various periods. During the desert wanderings, 'the mountain of God,' that is, Sinai or Horeb, served as such a place, as did the great oasis at Kadesh-Barnea where the tribes remained for some time and from where the tribes attempted a conquest of the land. 

"Many sites in Canaan are mentioned as having sacred associations or as being centers of pilgrimage. Some of these, such as Penuel, where Jacob received the name Israel, Beth-El, where the Ark rested, and Beer-Sheba, go back to patriarchal times. Jacob built an altar at Shechem and the tribes gathered there 'before the Lord' and made a covenant with Him in Joshua's time. Shiloh enjoyed special importance as a central site for the tribes. There they gathered under Joshua to divide up the land by lot, and it was there that they placed the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Covenant. Eli's family, which traced its descent from Aaron, the high priest, served at Shiloh, and it was to Shiloh that the Israelites turned for festivals and sacrifices.

"The multiplicity of cultic places raises the question of whether all twelve tribes were actually centered about one amphictyonic site. It may be that as a tribe's connections with the amphictyony were weakened for various reasons, the tribe began to worship at one or another of the sites. Possibly, different sites served the several subgroups among the tribes. Beer-Sheba and Hebron, for example, served the southern groups of tribes; Shechem, Shiloh, and Gilgal were revered by the tribes in the center of the country; and the shrine at Dan served the northern tribes. The likelihood of a multiplicity of shrines is strengthened by the fact that clusters of Canaanite settlements separated the southern and central tribes and divided the central tribes from those in Galilee. It is possible that various shrines served different tribes simultaneously, while the sanctuary which held the Ark of the Lord was revered as central to all twelve." 

As this site indicates, the multiplicity of worship sites became problematic once Israelite worship was consolidated in Jerusalem. By that time, Shiloh had long since been destroyed. 

The Table of the Nations


The "Table of the Nations" in Genesis 10 is the Bible's account of the spread of humans following the Flood. This is the NIV text of that chapter:

"This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

The Japhethites

2 The sons[a] of Japheth:

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras.

3 The sons of Gomer:

Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.

4 The sons of Javan:

Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites.[b] 5 (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)

The Hamites

6 The sons of Ham:

Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.

7 The sons of Cush:

Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteka.

The sons of Raamah:

Sheba and Dedan.

8 Cush was the father[c] of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in[d] Shinar.[e] 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir,[f] Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.

13 Egypt was the father of

the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 14 Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.

15 Canaan was the father of

Sidon his firstborn,[g] and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.

Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.

20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

The Semites

21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was[h] Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.

22 The sons of Shem:

Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram.

23 The sons of Aram:

Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek.[i]

24 Arphaxad was the father of[j] Shelah,

and Shelah the father of Eber.

25 Two sons were born to Eber:

One was named Peleg,[k] because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.

26 Joktan was the father of

Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan.

30 The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country.

31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood."

A map that sorts all this out:

Judges of Israel, Kings of Israel and Judah

Doing some research lately on the pre-exilic and exilic periods of the Old Testament (building on what I wrote on this blog four years ago), I searched for a list that I used to have, with the rulers and kings of Israel and later Judah. I can't find that list now; it's around her somewhere. Luckily, I found several references online, so I'll save them here for future reference. Perhaps there is someone who is such a Bible scholar as to have all these long names and references memorized, but I'm not one!

Here is a discussion and map of the settlement of the tribes of Israel:

Here is a chart of the judges of Israel, along with the peoples who threatened Israel:

Here is a list of the judges, with the biblical references:

Here is a good chart with the Bible references along with approximate dates, the character of each monarch, AND the prophets associated with the different kings:


Here is another, without the references, but which is also helpful:

And yet another:


It would be interesting to print out all these charts and to see different interpretations of the approximate years of each monarch along with the prophets. Some prophets are easier to locate in history than others; the book of Joel, for instance, has little or no internal indication of the writing's circumstances, and so to position Joel historically is conjectural. Also, Daniel narrates exilic circumstances but was written many years later.