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Archive for May 13th, 2009

להלן הערות על הספר התנ”ך היה באמת מאת ד”ר ליאורה רביד (בסידרה “יהדות כאן ועכשיו”, ידיעות ספרים וספרי חמד 2009). עוד לא קראתי את כל הספר, אבל הגעתי לקטע שמראה לדעתי חוסר הבנה וידיעה של המחברת ורציתי לרשום את הדברים כשהם עוד תריים בראש. המשך הדברים באנגלית ועמכם הסליחה.

For those of you who didn’t understand the above introduction, I am currently reading a book called HaTaNaKh Hayah BeEmet (התנ”ך היה באמת) or in English “The Bible Really Happened” by Dr. Liora Ravid (Yediyot Sefarim and Sifrei Hemed, 2009).

The book is published as part of the “Yahadut Kaan VeAkhshav’ series and is an popular academic kind of work written by a non-religious doctor of Bible studies. The book is aimed at the non-religious audience who are not necessarily conversant with the Bible. It’s stated aim is to discuss the the various stories in the Bible and show how they are congruous with the habits, customs and lifestyles of the ancient near East and that the places mentioned existed and to tell about them. She points out at various junctures where she believes the Bible is guilty of exageration or plain lying and where she is of the opinion that later scribes embellished or distorted the original story (which she believes to be mainly conceivably true). An interesting book.

The first few chapters discuss Avraham’s journey from Ur to Kena’an via Haran and with an excursion to Egypt. I found these chapter insightful and interesting.

Then I got to chapter 5 – “Terah and his Family – a Family Profile”. Here she puts forward a theory that Terah‘s family was already in Ur in a bad way socially because we can see that Avraham married his half-sister and Nahor married his niece. This is not normal and shows that the family must have been isolated. So far so good.

She then get into a discussion about the nature of Isurei Biyah and ‘Arayot (forbidden sexual relationships) and here she goes completely off track.

She tries to put forward an evolutionary theory that the prohibition of adultery in Shemot 20:13 precedes chronologically the ‘Arayot (incest) in Vayikra 18 which predate the ‘Arayot and Issurei Biyah in Devarim 24 (which were written in her opinion much later). On this she then builds her case that the laws were widened as time went by and as the number of available women went up. In Avraham’s time the number of women was very low so he could do what he wants, at the Exodus it was higher and then later on even higher so more ‘Arayot were added.

The first problem is in her understanding of Tumah (impurity) and how it relates to forbidden sexual relations and how it relates to the Land. She puts forward some idea that the forbidden marriages exude an impurity (almost something physical) that soaks into the Land thus causing God to be angry with those that defile the Land. This is a very simplistic and superficial way of looking at it. All corruption defiles the Land as we can see from various places including Devarim 24 talking about using inaccurate measures in trade. The Land being holy cannot stand corrupt or disgusting behavior on it that dirties it and therefore it ejects the perpetrators of the behavior.

The next problem is that she puts ‘Arayot in the same basket with the prohibition of marrying Canaanite, Moabite, Amonite and Egyptian women (page 72). She even claims that the text does this which is false as the text in Devarim 23 (4-10) quite clearly gives historical reasons for not marrying those peoples and never classes them as abominations. It is talking about allowing these people to join the community, not discussing sexual abomination. Not only that, but the text quite explicitly permits Egyptian women (after three generations from the Exodus) as opposed to the others she mentions, and I couldn’t find the prohibition of marrying Kena’aniot at all. 

Not only that, but there is the issue of how Bo’az could marry Ruth. The Midrash explains that “Ploni Almoni” didn’t want to marry her because he was worried about her being Moabitess, but Boaz explained that you can only not marry a Moabite (if you are a woman that is) but you can marry a Moabitess (as a man). This admittedly is a later Midrash, but certainly a big question on Ravid’s theory of evolution of ‘Arayot. According to her, this marriage should have been forbidden.

So what do we have? Not only are these marriages not ‘Arayot, but they are not concerning most of the nations she mentions and not only that, but they only relate to marrying Jewish women to men from the remaining nations and not women.

She then goes on (page 72) to claim that Moshe married an Egyptian woman when in fact Tzipora was Midianite (although there is a Midrash that has Yitro as an adviser to Par’oh). Later she berates Shlomo for defiling the Temple he built by the act of marrying foreign women whereas what the text says (Melakhim I 11) is that the women defiled it with their pagan practices.

She then explains (page 74) that Avraham could marry his half-sister because his choices were few and similarly to marry the Egyptian Hagar as could Yosef marry Asnat (although the historical prohibition of marrying an Egyptian woman was irelevant at those times). She says the same for Yehuda marrying the daughter of Shua’ and Moshe marrying the (this time) Midianite Tzipora. She claims (page 74) that the “writers of the Tanakh” would have condemned them all if they had lived in a later age. I doubt it, because no evidence is presented that they caused their husbands to go astray, and that is the criterion not the actual marriage.

The final nail in the coffin is the description of the episode of Lot and his daughters. First she claims they were rescued because they were righteous (page 74) whereas the text says specifically that they were only rescued for Avraham’s sake (19:29).  She claims that the Torah does not censure Lot’s daughters and therefore shows that it approves of this incestuous relationship. I would suggest that it does not censure them because they were not descendants of Avraham, so it doesn’t see a need to. As she herself agrees, this just proves how corrupt the Moabites and Amonites are and therefore it serves its purpose without the need for explicit censure.

Bottom line; doctor or no doctor, I think she needs to go back, check her sources and reformulate her theory.

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