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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

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By Jeff A. Benner


How did the ancient Hebrews use their natural resources? Answer

Did the Ancient Hebrews study science? Answer

Did the Ancient Hebrews use a Mezuzah similar to those used today? Answer

How do you know that the Ancient Hebrews thought concretely? Answer

What is the Hebrew word for "religion?" Answer

Do angels have wings? Answer






How did the ancient Hebrews use their natural resources?

The early Hebrews were a nomadic people, living in tents traveling from pasture to pasture with their flocks and herds. Their flocks provided much of their needs. The hair of their goats, black in color, was spun into panels for making tents. Their tents, being black in color, kept the air inside the tent cool. It was constructed with a very low profile because of the strong desert winds. The meat from the goats and sheep were used for food and was always served when visitors came to the tent. Milk from the goats and sheep was commonly drank and also made into cheese. The skins of the livestock were turned into leather and were used for various things such as water bags, sandals, bags, etc. The wool from the sheep was used for clothing and blankets. Grains were also a large staple of the Hebrews. They would often stay in one area long enough to plant grains which was made into breads. Other foods harvested included grapes, dates, pomegranates, and melons. One of the best passages in the Bible showing the life of the nomadic Hebrew is found in Genesis 18:1-8.

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Did the Ancient Hebrews study science?

Yes and no. As agriculturalists and nomads many aspects of science are studied when related to crops, weather, seasons, biology, and husbandry. Even geometry and mathematics are applied through some aspects of their life. For instance, a flint rock must be struck at a 120 degree angle in order to flake off flakes for making knives, spears and arrowheads. However, there are other aspects of science that would not be pursued by the Ancient Hebrews. Because the Ancient Hebrew mind only focuses on what is perceived by the five senses, there is no search for the unknown. Questions like "Where does matter comes from" and "What is beyond the stars" are common Greek type questions but not Hebraic.

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Did the Ancient Hebrews use a Mezuzah similar to those used today?

The modern Mezuzah is a piece of paper or parchment with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21 written on it and placed in a box. This box is then attached to the doorpost of the house. This 'Mezuzah' is to fulfill the Torah requirement of Deuteronomy 6:6-9:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

The first question that needs to be answered is "What are "these words" that are to be taught and written?" According to modern Judaism it is Deuteronomy 6 as they are what is written on the Mezuzah, but I contend that it is the commands given prior to Deuteronomy 6 – the '10 commandments' found in Deuteronomy 5.

The second question is "Is the modern Mezuzah the correct application of the command in Deuteronomy 6?" If you read the passage above literally, it says that you are to write "these words' on the "doorposts." The Hebrew word for a doorpost is "mezuzah"(literally a mezuzah is 'not' the paper or the box which are today identified as a mezuzah). The command is not stating that a Mezuzah is to be placed on a doorpost but that "these words" are to be written on the doorpost (the mezuzah).

I am of the opinion that the Ancient Hebrews wrote the 10 commandments directly on their doorposts (Mezuzah).

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How do you know that the Ancient Hebrews thought concretely?

I am often asked this question and it is a legitimate question as we only have the Biblical text for our evidence. How can we possibly know how they “thought” when we can only read their “words?” When we read the Bible in English, we are reading a translators interpretation of the text and this translator will frequently take the Hebrew text and convert the Hebraic context into a modern Western context. Let’s look at a classic example from the book of Exodus.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua (KJV, Exodus 17:14)

When we read the Hebrew text for this verse literally, we can see the concreteness of the text, demonstrating how the Hebrew thought, that has been removed by the translator.

And YHWH said to Moses, Write this memorial in a scroll, and place it in the ears of Joshua (Literal, Exodus 17:14)

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What is the Hebrew word for "religion?"

The concept of "religion" is a purely Greco-Roman (Western) concept as it divides a person's life into two aspects, a religious aspect and a secular aspect. This form of dualism is foreign to the Ancient Hebrew mind, which instead sees all aspects of life as one and the same. Prayer is considered just as important as eating and worship just as important as work. In the Modern Hebrew language, which is just as Western as the English language is, uses the Biblical Hebrew word דת (dat, Strong's #1881) for the concept of "religion," but this Biblical Hebrew word originally meant "edict" or "decree" in Biblical Hebrew.

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Do angels have wings?

First we need to define what an “angel” is. The word “angel” comes from the Greek word anggelos (Strong’s# 32), which means “messenger.” In the New Testament this word is usually translated as “angel,” but also as “messenger.”

This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.' (RSV, Matthew 11:10)

In this passage is a quotation from the Old Testament.

Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me… (RSV, Malachi 3:1)

In Malachi 3:1 the Hebrew word translated as messenger is מלאך (mal’akh, Strong's #4397), and like in the New Testament, this word is translated as “angel” and as “messenger.” I personally do not like to use the word “angel,” because of its modern connotation of winged supernatural beings, which I will explain more in a bit. Most of the times, when the Hebrew word mal’lakh, or the Greek word aggelos, are used; they are referring to human messengers (even when the translators choose to use the word “angel”). A classic example of this can be found in Genesis 32:1-3.

Jacob went on his way and the angels (mal’lakh) of God met him; and when Jacob saw them he said, "This is God's army!" So he called the name of that place Mahanaim. And Jacob sent messengers (mal’lakh) before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. (RSV)

The translator is informing the reader, based on his opinion, that the first mention of the mal’lakh is “angels,” but the second use is humans. There is no reason to assume this. The same “messengers” of God, are the same “messengers” Jacob sent to his brother. Were these “messengers” human or supernatural? Well, that is up for you to decide.

The “messengers” of the Bible are never identified as having wings. The only beings with wings, besides the creatures from the animal kingdom, are the cherubim and seraphim and they are never identified as “messengers.”

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