🔼The name Exodus in the Bible
The pseudo-name Exodus is a common Greek word which means "way out" or "departure" (see the etymology below). Because the Septuagint confusingly used this word as title for the second Book of the Bible — which in Hebrew was known with far greater clarity by its first words, namely Wa'elleh Shemot, meaning Now These Are The Names [Of The Sons Of Israel] — it became mostly associated with the departure of Israel out of Egypt, and as such it was used by Paul in Hebrews 11:22. But our word occurs twice more in the New Testament:
- In Luke 9:31 the word εξοδος (exodus) describes Jesus' immanent departure which He "was about to accomplish in Jerusalem".
- Somewhat similar, Peter uses our word to describe his own future death (2 Peter 1:15).
Our English name Exodus is (still confusingly) associated with one of two Great Departures that play a pervasive role in the Bible. The name Exodus belongs to the Out-Of-Egypt theme, which serves as the ruffled twin brother of the more dignified Out-Of-Babylon theme. Both departure themes appear to be somewhat based on several actual historical departures, but mostly denote an intellectual breaking away from — or rather: a feeding off of — a host or parent tradition (we'll discuss that below).
It should be stressed that although this set of twin-themes is endowed with respective apexes (namely the Exodus and the Return), it is pervasive and does not describe isolated events, but rather a pendular swinging between two extremes. The Bible incorporates this pendular twin as early as in the travels of Abraham — who came out of Babylon, went into Egypt due to a famine, came out of Egypt very wealthy, sent his chief of staff back into Babylon for a wife for Isaac... and so on — and their significance is so great that even an author as late as Matthew made sure to weave it into his account (see Matthew 2:1 and 2:15).
For reasons we shall examine below, the Out-Of-Egypt theme is mostly associated with the tribe of Levi (key Levite names such as Moses and Aaron are adaptations of Egyptian names) whereas the Out-Of-Babylon theme is mostly associated with Levi's younger brother Judah. And sure enough, Jesus' father-by-law Joseph came from Judah, but His mother Mary was a kinswoman of Elizabeth, and Luke points out that she (and her husband Zacharias and thus their son John the Baptist) were Levites (compare Luke 1:36 with 1:5).
That means that even though Jesus was a Jew by law, by name and by upbringing, His human genes were entirely Levite.
🔼The greatest blunder
Arguably the greatest intellectual blunder to have come out of the nineteenth century is the idea that competition lies at the heart of all prosperity. But ask any child (or the beautifully minded mathematician John Nash), and you will learn that even though competition is a true phenomenon, it's mostly detrimental if effective at all but — thank God! — massively overwhelmed by the natural tendency of all creatures large and small to cooperate and to exist in complex states of symbiosis.
Imagine a hardy over-the-fence shout-out with your neighbor. At first glance this event seems mostly typified by your differences, but in an absolute sense, it wholly depends on your mutual agreement on language and rules of social engagement. Your argument may take ten minutes, but it took both of you years and years of childhood learning to achieve the level of synchronicity required for a complex pas de deux as an over-the-fence shout-out.
For decades, the bellicose world of the twentieth century was explained to school children by telling them that we humans have always been at each other's throats — that's how we could determine who was the übermensch (or Superman in the US; same ideology) and who wasn't — but modern archeology is showing with increasing relief that in the good old days, mankind very rarely went to war and pursued truth, justice and international trade over anything else. The internet is literally as old as civilization, and has merely grown faster over the centuries. Mankind has always existed not as a bunch of isolated individuals but as a world-wide super-organism from which every individual ultimately derived his definition.
- Every single great library that has been unearthed in the past century contained international correspondence and most commonly in multiple languages. The Hittite library found at Hattusa, for instance, contained more than 10,000 texts in seven different Indo-European and Semitic languages.
- The peoples of antiquity were far less interested in violently purloining other people's stuff than scholars of the previous century used to insinuate. There surely were instances of thievery and conquest, but the overwhelming tendency was to fairly exchange goods and much more importantly: skills and knowledge. It's often overlooked how complicated bronze making is, and how many subsidiary technologies have to be in place for it to be possible, yet the Bronze Age began pretty much simultaneously from the Indus Valley to Britain, irrefutably as a result of a continuous world-wide exchange of ideas. And to name another example: inventing the boomerang can hardly be ascribed to serendipity or accident, yet pre-historic boomerangs have been found from Australia to Egypt and even the Netherlands.
- The earliest central temples were likewise not institutes of mass distraction (like our modern entertainment) or designed to keep people fearful and subdued (like our modern media), but places where societies stored their surpluses. Mankind's first temples were nothing other than central banks that allowed cultural specialization and subsequent industries to emerge.
🔼The suffering servant
A society's surplus both expressed a society's identity (hence totems first and idols later) and constitutes the currency with which a society could interact with other societies. Trade required knowledge of other peoples' languages, cultures, needs and preoccupations and that's how temples grew from central banks into centers of learning. Like the Internet, the painful link between capital and academia is not a modern invention but essential to human society.
One of the first things peoples were bound to discover was that mutual appreciation resulted in fair exchange of knowledge and goods, and made a costly war much less likely to erupt. That made learning a matter of national security, which made it of somewhat dubious interest to political leaders — hence the Bible's dominant theme of the suffering servant or enslaved man of wisdom (and the Hebrew idea of wisdom has to do with verifiable science and practical skill, as opposed to the Greek fad of speculative contemplation; see our article on the name Hochma).
The theme of the enslaved man of wisdom runs from Joseph-son-of-Jacob all the way up to the crucifixion of Christ and the tribulations of the early church. Jesus, after all, is the Word of God through which everything was made and holds together (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17). In other words: although the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19) and no amount of knowledge will ever be salvific (1 Corinthians 13:2), Jesus surely also represents everything that can ever be known (compare Proverbs 3:19-20 and Proverbs 8:22-31 with Colossians 1:15-18 and John 1:1-5). He is that central bank in which all humanity deposits all surplus (Matthew 11:27) and from which eventually the whole of humanity will be governed (Isaiah 9:6).
All this indicates that the church should be something in between a central bank, an academy and a government building, and should not be a self-congratulatory hobby-club that gets together on Sunday mornings to sing silly songs and cultivate dissension. There is no us versus them; there's only us for them.
🔼And a river flowed forth
Religions, like all cultural phenomena, are like rivers: they usually have a source somewhere but are mostly fed by tributaries and precipitation, and meander through the landscape in simple obedience to gravity. The great river of Christianity came about when the river of Judaism was forcibly absorbed by the mighty Roman and Homeric ones, and formed a confluent delta of pre-Jesus source-sects:
- The Baptists: John the Baptist, his disciple Andrew and many others (John 1:35-37, Acts 19:1-7).
- The Sons of Light, who are mentioned in Luke 16:8, John 12:36, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 and in the first or second century BC War Scroll found at Qumran.
- The Pharisees, such as Paul, Gamaliel and Nicodemus. Their political rivals were the Sadducees, whose rejection of the concept of resurrection (Matthew 22:23) made them incompatible with the emerging Jesus movement.
- The Nazarenes, who appear to have been a particular Jewish sect rather than a few farmer families from a inconsequential rural hamlet (read our article on that name for the details).
- The Hodosites, or Those Belonging To The Way (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22), which was either a very early post-Jesus denomination named after Jesus' original claim that He was the Way (John 14:6), or, more likely, an already existing Jewish one to which Jesus said: I am the Way that you have been talking about, possibly even following from the ministry of John the Baptist and ultimately from Isaiah (see John 1:23 and Isaiah 35:8 and 40:1-5).
- Messianic and Christian movements (for instance the Zealots) that were bent on putting a descendant of David on the throne of an independent Israel (John 6:15, Acts 26:28). These groups and their names existed long before Jesus was born, and it's a sad case of historical confusion that the later theology of Jesus of Nazareth would become known by the titles of these political and presumably violent movements (Acts 11:26, 1 Peter 4:16; see our article on the term Christian for more details).
Contrary to popular belief, these sects were never truly united, or if they were in any meaningful sense, they very quickly Big-Banged into a whole spectrum of very early Christian denominations, most of which died a natural death or were eventually banned by the Church of Constantine (a political entity based on pagan theology, but using for convenience the names and phrases of the Jesus movement — read our article on the name Caesar).
Likewise the "original" river of Judaism was far from pure. In our article on Abraham we point out that "Israel was the melting pot and refinery of the greatest traditions the world had come up with," with sources and tributaries from all over the known world. Even the Torah itself was long considered the letter-by-letter dictated Word of God, but in modern times scholars have come to realize that God's Word is "like silver tried in the furnace of the earth, refined seven times" (Psalm 12:6).
The Torah is like the three synoptic gospels: very carefully composed, edited and redacted out of very long surviving source material. "Its text may be edited late, but most of its contents are early," roared the unstoppable William G. Dever (page 234 of the paperback), who concluded his eponymous tirade against post-modernism with the amusing outburst: "What Did The Bible Writers Know, and When Did They Know It? They knew a lot, and they knew it early".
Most of these Torahic sources are traditional and thus anonymous, but some appear to have been previously collected and published works — for instance the Book of Jashar (referred to in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18) and the Book of the Wars of YHWH (Numbers 21:14-15). The royal histories incorporated into the Hebrew Bible are likewise based on a great many sources, either anonymous or not. Among the latter are the works of Nathan the Prophet (1 Chronicles 29:29), Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Chronicles 9:29), Iddo the Seer (1 Chronicles 9:29, 2 Chronicles 12:15) and Shemaiah the Prophet (2 Chronicles 12:15).
All this suggests that the traditional author of the Torah, namely Moses (whose name means Extracted, whereas the name Exodus means Extraction), is not so much the reluctant hero that Hollywood turns him into, but rather the personification of the collective but unorganized and unregulated pre-historic human endeavor to collect the world's wisdoms (skills and knowledge), to perfect them, to preserve them, and ultimately to unite them.
🔼The empty grave
For nearly two centuries now, armies of archeologists, spread out over thousands and thousands of different sites, have made Israel and surrounding areas the most excavated region in the world. All this effort, and this entire tsunami of accumulating evidence upon evidence upon more evidence, has made two things clear beyond the merit of meaningful objection:
Canaan's culture of the last two millennia before Christ was almost entirely indigenous. It was maintained by a collage of autonomous Canaanite tribes that lived in their own city states and were mostly peaceful and cooperative, even to the point that they existed in what may be called a trade union or federation. But much more than trading among themselves, they were the arbiters and landlords of the marketplace upon which the kingdoms of Mesopotamia, Europe, Arabia, Egypt and the rest of Africa and possibly even the Far East conducted their international affairs.
During the Bronze Age, Canaan was mostly under stabilizing and largely benevolent control of Egypt. The collapse of the Bronze Age meant that the existing balance of power was disturbed, trade routes shifted and peoples were displaced and began to move around. Egypt suffered its share of calamities but it clearly never lost a third of its population, let alone the part that comprised its labor force. The collapse was felt in Canaan as well, and there are obvious remains of region-wide destructions. But these destructions clearly happened at different times, sometimes decades apart, and cultures before and after the local destructions remained the same. This means that these destructions were due to frictions within the region rather than a massive influx of foreign-origin people(s). The culture of Canaan has always been continuous and developed uninterrupted.
In the 12th century BC, the Philistines moved south out of Europe, across the Mediterranean into Egypt and back north up the Canaanite coast and settled their kingdom there. At the end of the 11th century BC (the time of Saul and David) the indigenous communities of the highlands united to form a single state, the United Kingdom, that maintained a very strong (even a suspiciously strong) relation with the Phoenicians directly to the north. This United Kingdom, however, quickly fell apart and formed Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
The Bible does not concern the political aspect of humanity's development but the wisdom aspect of it. Had the Bible been as interested in politics as we moderns are, it would have surely mentioned such political milestones as the battle of Qarqar (853 BC), during which the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III fought against eleven other kings, among whom king Ahab of Israel. It doesn't because the Creator cares about people's adherence to the laws upon which creation operates.
Any tribe that adheres to the natural laws that govern the world will thrive; any tribe that doesn't will develop diseases and discord and will eventually disintegrate. YHWH is not a tribal totem but That Which (or He Who) once produced and still runs the universe. In other words: all that we can know about YHWH is the unified set of natural laws that run the universe (see Romans 1:20). Science calls this unified set of laws the Grand Unified Theory, and science and faith don't differ in their opinion on whether YHWH exists or not but only on whether He has personhood or not.
This knowledge of YHWH works in every way precisely the way DNA works in organisms. We moderns like to think of an organism as consisting of organs, but there is no chunk of DNA that describes any of them. No part of DNA describes any part of an organism. In the same way does no skill or understanding describe just one nation or one culture. Countries the way we know them exist solely to the benefit of the recipient of people's taxes. To the common person it makes not a lick of difference who sits on the throne or where his realm might formally end.
When we moderns discuss the past, we speak of people groups as if they were countries the way we know them, but that's a folly. In the pre-Roman world there were no borders, no passports, and very little legislation the way we know it. Back then states were far less political (that is: artificially manifested) and much more based on the natural cohesion of a common, naturally progressing culture. People groups distinguished among themselves solely according to their defining cultures, and thus the set of skills and range of knowledge of their wisdom elite. When their political counterparts discovered gullibility of people as means to have them pay for their parties, religions and priests in the modern sense of the word emerged, but before that, a culture's wisdom elite consisted of people who valued wisdom (that is: practical and effective skills and knowledge) above all else, and abhorred falsehood of any kind.
Truth is such a difficult concept that many philosophers broke their teeth on it. The ancients, however, had a very simple way of testing whether something was true or not, namely by demonstration (later rediscovered as part of the scientific method). If someone said something would happen — whether naturally, like a storm, or artificially, when one pushed a button or spoke a spell — and the thing came not about, the person was rightly deemed an imposter. Since lies and nonsense are most detrimental to any society, this imposter would subsequently be executed (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, 1 Kings 18:22-40).
This economy of knowledge was so dominant and pervasive that it triggered civilization as we know it. Long before people became farmers and settled down, they were constructing elaborate buildings to facilitate the pow-wows of their men of wisdom. The magnificent complex found at Göbekli Tepe, for instance, is from the 10th millennium BC, which is long before agriculture began and long before humans settled in cities. We can only guess at its precise use, but it's clear that a multitude of hunter-gatherer collectives made use of it for millennia.
🔼The mother of all pow-wows
Jesus didn't come falling out of heaven fully grown and preaching right away, but was born as a natural baby that had to grow and increase in wisdom (Luke 2:40). So too Yahwism grew slowly within the public debate between the various wisdom traditions of the world. When the Bible speaks of the interaction between people groups (say Egypt and Israel) it is not referring to political states that existed at separate locations on earth but to two wisdom traditions or even attitudes towards knowledge irrespective of where on earth these traditions or attitudes might be adhered to:
"You, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you'" (Isaiah 41:8).
Long before any formal religion could have existed, the generation of Seth began to call upon the name of YHWH (Genesis 4:26), which is Biblical jargon for saying that they tried to figure out how creation worked (compare Genesis 2:15 to Romans 1:20). Long before righteous Abraham arrived in Canaan, Melchizedek was already a priest of El Elyon, or the Most High God (Genesis 14:18). Moses' father-in-law Jethro was a priest in Midian (that's in Arabia). The pagan priest Balaam of Pethor designed custom curses, but his creativity was checked by his reverence for YHWH-Elahy, or the Lord my God (Numbers 22:18). None other than Rahab inc. of Jericho voiced the position of many, namely that YHWH Elohim is God in heaven above and on earth beneath (Joshua 2:11). King Achish of the Philistines swore by the Life of YHWH to David's virtues (1 Samuel 29:6). Likewise the Phoenician king Hiram of Tyre cheered blessings to YHWH and dominated the building of His temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5:7). The founder of Babylon, Nimrod, was a "mighty hunter to YHWH" (Genesis 10:9). Even long before his famous humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was quite a fan of the Most High (Daniel 4:2-3), and Cyrus of Persia decreed and funded the rebuilding of YHWH's temple and ordered the Return for specifically that purpose (2 Chronicles 36:23, Ezra 6:3-12).
None of these people were Jews in any religious sense and Yahwism was never a local religion but always a universal quest for truth. The Temple in Jerusalem was never meant to serve one nation, but rather all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). It was designed to facilitate a continuing pow-wow for representatives of all wisdom traditions of the world. The literary character called Solomon was not simply the king of some country; he embodied the intersection of all major trade routes, and oversaw the peaceful debate between all mankind's cultures (1 Kings 4:21-24, 1 Kings 10:15):
"So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart" (1 Kings 10:24).
Guarding the treasure of the world's collective wisdom was of course serious business, but the effects were far from glum: "Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; they were eating and drinking and rejoicing" (1 Kings 4:20). The templar enterprise at large was a huge affair and went far beyond any popular modern depiction of it: the number of people that were somehow active in the operation isn't told, but to keep things running smooth a colossal 24,000 overseers were instated (1 Chronicles 23:4). There were as many gatekeepers (שמר הסף (shemar hasap) as there were musicians (namely 4,000; this later grew into the tradition of the Singing Guards). Solomon also reinstated the Pesah festival, which was instituted by YHWH just prior to the Exodus, and even made it a double feature: fourteen days of merriment in stead of the prescribed seven (1 Kings 8:65-66).
And of course, the total absence of any archeological trace of Solomon's empire renders us the much needed certainty that the Bible is not and has never been talking about an empire that would leave traces in the ground (John 18:36-37).
🔼No room in the inn (Babylon)
The joy of wisdom (which in modern times translates mostly to science, art and technology) works wonders as incentive to keep pursuing it, but still, even then, several things can go wrong:
- The rule of verification by demonstration (and subsequent execution of failers) as mentioned above, might be embraced as an art itself. If a society allows the sad necessity of arbitration to digress into an autonomous pursuit — combat, after all, requires skills too — individuals will be set against each other in public arenas to slug it out in gory spectacles. And to demonstrate collective skills and superiority, entire armies will engage in what is called "modern warfare" — that is: a willful and orchestrated demonstration of superiority of skill with detrimental results to the inferior. Both Roman times and our own are signified by the gangrenous inflammation of the need to compete, but it's probably also the reason why the common Israelites of the pre-kingdom years were notorious soldiers of fortune (in stead of the sages and merchants of the popular image).
- A culture may have so much fun talking about things that its scholars succumb to endless debate, and the great Inn of Human Reason becomes so overcrowded with legislators, nitpickers and idle babblers that no room is left for true progress. This tragedy appears to have befallen the Rabbinic tradition, as well as the Greek philosophers and early Christian church (1 Corinthians 1:20, Colossians 2:8, 1 Timothy 1:4). It took many centuries of precious human time to clear the Great Inn of some of its rubbish and begin to make way for true knowledge (2 Kings 23:4-25, Colossians 2:2).
- A culture may become so successful that it collectively forgets that it never created anything, and only learned how to use what was already there. A society's chief templar may forget that he didn't produce his society's surplus and merely allocates it, and confuse his own little role in the whole scenario with something worthy of glory and grandeur. In stead of investing the surplus in beneficial infrastructure for all to enjoy, a chief templar may even be tempted to spend it all on entertainment and gadgetry. Nebuchadnezzar succumbed to these temptations (Daniel 4:30) and Solomon even lost the consistency of his empire over it (1 Kings 11:26-28).
The Out-Of-Babylon theme has mostly to do with a departure from the enticing all-talk-and-no-action or all-play-and-no-work attitude that tends to overpopulate the great Temple of YHWH, but this folly is still due to enthusiasm and love of wisdom, and easily remedied by a few hangovers (Revelation 18:2-3) or a big hand writing on the wall (Daniel 5:5). The Out-Out-Egypt theme, however, revolves around much more sinister pursuits:
🔼Snake in the tree (Egypt)
When the rule of verification by demonstration is properly upheld and nobody's rightful happiness turns into ungrateful boasting, all remaining people-of-skill synchronized together know All There Is To Know. The latter is an entity that:
- Never stops growing (just like a human individual) and can therefore never be represented by a static image (Exodus 20:4, 2 Corinthians 4:4).
- Always remains a singular, indivisible entity (Deuteronomy 6:4, Proverbs 9:10, 1 Corinthians 1:13).
- Never stops to serve all of its tributaries without discrimination (Genesis 12:3, Matthew 28:19, John 13:1-20, Ephesians 3:15, Galatians 3:28).
- Is continuously served by all its tributaries without discrimination (2 Chronicles 9:13-14, Revelation 21:24).
- Brings about consilience, prosperity and great joy for everybody without discrimination (Deuteronomy 11:27, Ephesians 3:19, Jude 1:24-25).
The "wisdom of Egypt" (which, we shall repeat for clarity sake, is not restricted to geographic Egypt) does violence to any of the above.
Egypt is fanatical about making graven images, and that by itself doesn't have to be a problem. The symmetrical statues of Rameses II and the mesmerizing Giza plateau are admitted favorites of us here at Abarim Publications, and so are the Standard Model of Elementary Particles and Relativity Theory, to name a few.
Aspiring critics should never forget that the Lord's very Ark of the Covenant was equipped with statues of Cherubim (Exodus 25:18), but aspiring image gravers should be aware that the problem comes when these statues (or dogmas or manifestos or scientific theories) purpose to encapsulate the definite representation of the deity or all His work. The steady state model of the universe and that of the biosphere have now been largely abandoned in favor of the view that everything changes, but "change" might not be the right word.
There is a very strong correlation between water and wisdom in the Bible — for instance: the verb נהר (nahar I) means to flow and the identical verb נהר (nahar II) means to shine; the noun נר (ner) means lamp (hence the familiar word Menorah) and the noun נהר (nahar) means river — and the Hebrews were very well aware of the hydrologic cycle and clearly applied it to the concept of knowledge (Ecclesiastes 1:7, Isaiah 55:10-11).
🔼The heavenly Bahamas
In the Hebrew view, as much as comes down from heaven must go up to heaven, and rivers flow to the sea as much as the sea goes back to the rivers. Egyptians don't recognize the cyclical nature of these things and only recognize one direction: common folks give their surplus to the ruling elite, who then, somehow, pass it on to the gods, who sit in their high heaven far above. The one-way street of the tribute system is still firmly in place in our world, where John Doe is forced to work himself to death so that wealthy industrialists can race their yachts to the heavenly Bahamas.
The universe is an integrated whole. The specifics are still a bit of a mystery, but the unity of the primordial singularity with which the whole thing began, was never compromised. It never "blew apart" as the popular idea suggests, but expanded in an orderly fashion, controlled by laws that crystallized along with it. These specific laws were derived, step by step, from general laws, but never deviated from the original consistency. That is why scientists can work backwards, unifying the mathematical descriptions of the forces of nature into what they affectionately dub the Grand Unified Theory (and which the Bible affectionately dubs the Word of God — John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17).
But that means that all our beloved great effigies such as Relativity Theory and the Standard Model only make sense when we can view them relative to the whole. We have no idea how much of the whole these theories describe and how much we are still missing. We have some idea what they do internally, but we have no idea of their place in the greater mechanism of the universe. A thousand years from now, our descendants might looking back at us in the same way in which we look back on whoever first harnessed fire and thought that making light made him almost like God.
In Egypt, all effort goes into maintaining the status quo and even if the ruling dynasty is knocked off, the system that made the whole thing possible perpetuates itself at all cost. The cost is mostly carried by John Doe, but wisdom too pays its price. Like everything else, the oneness of wisdom is chopped into parts, and the parts are assessed not relative to the whole of wisdom but to the benefits to the status quo. Parts that explain something enticing (that make money) are dubbed great achievements and their discoverers get Nobel prizes, but parts that cost money are ignored like the inconvenient truths they are. Sometimes an abhorred but perfectly good limb is chopped off and replaced by a fancy wooden leg — for instance (dare we say it?) a detrimentally poorly interpreted creation account which was replaced by the magnificently daft classical evolution theory that fanned the major happenings of the 20th century and which in present times even evolutionists begin to criticize.
When Moses went to Egypt to tell the Pharaoh that his way of doing things was unstable and that the unified laws of the universe were going to disintegrate his realm by sheer merit of the second law of thermodynamics and a hardy helping of Hawking radiation (which ultimately turns all giant black holes into myriads of smaller ones; the same fate awaits present giants such as Google and Facebook), Moses was, true to Egyptian form, dragged into a battle of wits with Egyptian scholars of incredible skill (Exodus 7:10-12). Pharaoh was obviously interested in wisdom, but not because he valued wisdom but because it gave him power. While the founder and great rulers of Babylon all deeply respected YHWH, the Pharaoh of Egypt uttered the grotesque and noxious words: "Who is YHWH that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know YHWH, and besides, I will not let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2).
🔼Out of Eden
The earliest reference to the Out-Of-Babylon and Out-Of-Egypt twin-theme occurs of course in Paradise. Many enthusiasts have wondered where the Garden of Eden might have been located, and since the Bible mentions that two of its rivers were the mighty Tigris of Assyria and Euphrates of Babylon (Genesis 2:14), it was at some point concluded that Paradise must have been in Mesopotamia. But this assumption is obviously based on an error, because one of the other two paradisal rivers (even the first or oldest two) flows through Africa, namely the Gihon, which flows around the whole land of Cush, which is Nubia (Genesis 2:13). The fourth (or rather the first or oldest) is the Pishon, which flows around Havilah. Where Havilah might have been is unclear, but the Pishon may very well have been the Indus River.
The Garden of Eden, therefore, was spread out over the entire Fertile Crescent, or rather: the whole known world, and the expulsion from it had nothing to do with movement in the geographical sense but in the complexity sense. The Bible progresses along a complexity scale and not a temporal or geographical one (see our articles on the names Abraham or Hebrew), and the Garden was situated in the קדם (qedem), which means "east" only secondarily. This word's primary meaning is "past" or "antiquity" (as in Psalm 74:12: God is my King from of old).
Paradise was not somewhere, it is some-how — we lose it every time we let the pendulum swing. Contrary to myth, early man was never a fearful oaf, huddled alone in drafty caves, but was always lord of creation. There was no animal on earth that could come close to thinking about competing with a closely bonded team of two dozen, heavily armed human beings. Thanks to their innate level of synchronicity, creatures such as ants and bees are formidable super-organisms and animals such as dolphins and great apes are so efficient that most of their time is spent in leisure. Human society is like an anthill made from dolphins. Until recently, humans had nothing to fear, and today our only true enemy is ourselves.
According to the archeological record, humans have been making music for at least fifty thousand years and art such as rock paintings for at least thirty. The relatively huge amount of pre-historic art that has miraculously survived from that long ago suggests that the original prevalence must have been staggering. Without a doubt, the old world was a carnival of human intervention and since the animal world is riddled with symbols (color codes, for instance) it seems more than logical that early man was even able to deliberately manipulate the behavior of animals by means of art.
Fruits were growing on trees everywhere and animals were abundant. For thousands and thousands of years, the entire Fertile Crescent was one big Bahama and there were no rich or poor and there was party for all. There is even enticing evidence to suggest that pre-historic man possessed seriously advanced technology, arguably of a kind that we don't even have (yet). The pow-wows of early man were not intended to pursue "progress", but rather an emergency board meeting of the wisdom elite that realized that somehow the wrong kind of people was steering all of mankind away from the good life. Doubtlessly their second great concern was that the perpetrators came from their own ranks: the learned-but-not-too-wise who chose to engage their crafts in service of their own benefit and subsequent disadvantage of the people they were supposed to govern.
🔼More on Thing Two
Many of the first century folk who eagerly and earnestly expected the Christ didn't like Jesus because He didn't live up to what they expected the Christ to be, namely a military and political leader who would secure the loot, not someone concerned with the lowest classes. Those people who still today make Jesus out to be something He isn't are the same people who insist that the Torah should either be erroneous history or else historical fiction. The error is, of course, entirely theirs and the Torah is wholly true — albeit not in the way they like it.
The unstoppable William G. Dever roared that the Bible is a minority report (page 173 of WDTBWK) because it only reflects the selective perspectives of the Yahwist-sect, and denies the much broader theological spectrum of archeological Israel, which literally contained every god of the ancient world. But it's much worse than that. Not only does the Bible tell only a very select element of the history of geographic Israel, it tells the history of that one element as it developed world-wide and placed Israel at the epic center of it.
Biblical Israel is like archeological Israel the way Rotterdam, NL, is like Rotterdam, NY; one was named after the other but that's largely where the similarities stop. Archeological Israel grew out of the commercial heart of the known world, and Biblical Israel — the heart of the great global debate on wisdom — was named after it. Of course the great theologies of antiquity were most represented in the country they were named after, but they were not confined to them.
Even in a world full of cherry trees, a book on the history of ice-cream won't mention cherry trees, unless of course where it discusses cherry flavored sundaes. The Bible doesn't give a report of the history of geographic Israel, or else it would have mentioned political milestones and would not assess each king, even foreign kings, on the merits of their service to YHWH. King Ahab, namely, and not Solomon, was the great builder king of geographical Israel, but king Solomon wasn't stacking bricks that can be dug from the dusty ground but the wisdoms and insights upon which our present world still stands. Most of Solomon's legacy wasn't preserved in any recognizable format (1 Kings 4:32, see John 20:30 and 21:25) just like our earliest childhood memories can't be retrieved in any recognizable form. But what every person learned in the first three years of their lives will forever be the landscape through which all their mental rivers flow seaward.
🔼Humanity's greatest shock
Most people know about the stories of the Torah but are unaware that these stories are like the handful of snapshots folks have of themselves as toddlers. The actual Torah is comparable to nothing, except everything. It's like Shakespeare meets Ramanujan on every steroid known to man. Modern sages like the Vilna Gaon and Shneur Zalman claimed that the Torah contained the whole universe, and the hilarity these statements evoked stilled in gurgling awe with the discovery of DNA: nature indeed works in such a way that a small amount of data might constitute a creature that may truly contain the whole universe like a mental image in its magnificent brain.
History has its eyes on us, because it is our time of which the prophets spoke: Many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day and will become My people. Thus says YHWH of Hosts, 'In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you". Then the glory of YHWH will be revealed, and all flesh will see together. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven". (Zechariah 2:11 and 8:23, Isaiah 40:5, Mark 13:27).
Possibly the greatest shock mankind will have to endure in a very near future may come with the discovery that the service of YHWH was never supposed to be a religion, has always been inevitable and constitutes the very fabric of freedom any which way you look at it. Quite possibly, the most religious people among us are going to be the most disappointed ones when the Lord appears on the clouds for all to see.
🔼And a Man wrestled with him until dawn
The genius of the Torah lies not merely in its stories, but in the connections between its stories — the repeating of themes and forms that allows every story to shed light on all other ones. That's why the gospel writers were so diligent in linking their accounts to the Old Testament. Yet Jesus' "fulfilling" the prior Scriptures (Matthew 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 4:14, and so on) had nothing to do with being predicted by them, but with the continuation of the pattern that they had set in motion. The prophets didn't simply predict Jesus in any paranormal sense; they foretold the inevitable blooming of the bud they observed with their human eyes.
The Hebrew Torah is the purified paper version of the marriage of all the old world's temples, from Giza to Machu Picchu and from Angkor Wat to Puma Punku. It's like a brain in which the recognizable narratives are the gyri and the repeated themes the neural pathways. The Torah unfolds like an infinite umbrella of which the narrative stories are the ribs and the connections form the canvass. And it's that canvass that corresponds to our real-time world; not the spokes. The stories of the Torah are the atoms that form the molecules of our world. The stories are the words that form into the sentences that describe our every day reality.
Trying to translate the intricate patterns of the Bible into a modern whodunit takes a trick or two, and the Exodus account has countless real-time manifestations. One of them, though, is indeed the story of how the unified and autonomous wisdom tradition called Israel came to pass:
The first line of the Book of Exodus tells us that once upon a time, the world was mostly Egyptian — which means that all skills and knowledge were enslaved by politicians who had no respect for the unity of both wisdom and creation. Wisdom, as an autonomous tradition, went through various stages and specializations, but never deviated from its prime directive, which was to engage the Creator in a mutual struggle of teaching and learning, giving and receiving (Genesis 32).
🔼Now these are the names of the sons of Israel
Jacob's first wife (which in the patriarchal cycles denotes a culture or tradition) was Leah, the weary and unloved woman who bore Jacob his first four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. The brothers Reuben and Simeon appear to denote wisdom's discovery of her self: at some point, humans realized that there is such a thing as having knowledge (Reuben) and began to deliberately search for it (Simeon). Son number three, Levi, appears to denote the level at which society at large develops professional wizards — the word wizard literally means very-wise and denotes a man of wisdom: doctors, sages, engineers, legislators and agents of social cohesion; see the Book Leviticus.
Note that these Levites (and Simeonites) did not have an inheritance in Israel, because the traits they represented were not tied to any particular application or pursuit. This is why the Levites (and Simeonites) lived everywhere, including in Judah. Hence they too were taken to Babylon and that's why these tribes too survived the imperial era. With son number four, Judah, wisdom appears to have assumed its familiar theoretical form: wisdom for the Lord's sake (for the fun of it) rather than for any practical application (Genesis 29:32-35).
Jacob's next two sons came from a subset of his beloved but barren wife Rachel, namely her maid Bilhah. Their names were Dan (the invention of formal arbitration?) and Naphtali (public or senatorial debate?). Next came two sons of Zilpah, Leah's maid, namely Gad and Asher, who both clearly express collective prosperity and enjoyment, followed by Issachar, which means Man-Hire and appears to denote commercial employment.
The name Issachar may denote the invention of commercial autonomy, which constitutes a degree of social freedom, and may also be a deliberate nod to the historical king Sakir-Har (Hire-Hill; same root) of the real-time In-And-Out-Of-Egypt people called the Hyksos. The Hyksos were a mixed people of mostly Semitic origin, who came peacefully to Egypt and gradually took over the north, in part due to a famine. They were eventually expelled and driven toward Israel, and these historical events probably formed the scaffolding of the Biblical account of the Exodus (see Josephus' discussion of Manetho in Against Apion, Book I). The Hebrew Levitical tradition may have piggybacked on the Hyksos history; their expulsion from Egypt may explain the Exodus of the whole of Israel in the same way that a whole man is saved when he pulls only one limb from a fire (as explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26).
Issachar's brother was called Zebulun (a stable society). Leah then bore Dinah, which is the feminine version of Dan. Since Dinah is female she does not denote a distinct social identity as her brothers do, but rather the sense of justice and fairness that all common people of a stable society are necessarily endowed with. The story tells that Dinah attracted the attentions of Shechem the Hivite, who subsequently took her by force (the name Shechem means Sense Of Responsibility). That enraged her brothers Levi and Simeon, who subsequently killed Shechem and his family and all the males of his village.
Perhaps the massacre of Shechem illustrates people's natural tendency to shun responsibility when there is a police force and government to take care of things. The females and children of Shechem were absorbed into Israel (Genesis 34).
Jacob's final two sons are sons of his beloved Rachel: Joseph appears to denote economic growth as well as a deepening of insight into the human mind, and obviously, Joseph became quite a hit in Egypt. The House of Joseph breached into the half-tribes Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph's brother Benjamin, the "beloved of the Lord," according to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:12), had skills of even greater importance, and would have been of greater consequence if he hadn't been Israel's quintessential loser.
🔼Vowels and mainframes
Two of the greatest inventions of mankind are the alphabet and vowel notation. Both were achieved by the ancient Semites and the latter was pure Hebrew.
We moderns are so used to the alphabet that we tend to forget which vast powers of reason and linguistic theory were required to come up with a thing like that, as well as social synchronicity to explain it and make it go viral. The Hebrews' subsequent invention of using symbols for vowels as well as for consonants made it possible for common people to record and accurately reproduce human thoughts. This was obviously a craft bordering on telepathic magic and opened the door to a super-tight economy as well as mass education of entire populations.
The symbols that the Hebrew wizards (or men of wisdom) began to use to record vowels were the letters ו (waw), ה (he) and י (yod) and this wisdom gave them so much power and so much notoriety that they combined these symbols to form the revelatory name of the Creator: יהוה (YHWH).
Judging from the oldest texts we have, the alphabet was invented to make it easier to keep records of economical transactions. The earliest clerks were clergy — both these words ultimately derive from the noun κληρος, kleros, meaning lot in the sense of allotment; the deed of land or an estate assigned as property — who were obviously part of the wisdom tradition.
Their incredible invention of the alphabet had the same impact on their society as the invention of the PC had on ours. Prior to the invention of both, information was stored in huge mainframes that only specially initiated nerds had access to: the priesthood and the royalty; the keepers of wisdom, or in modern parlance: Information Technology. When the alphabet was established, every ordinary person could learn how to read and write, get access to information, and most importantly, partake in the great world-wide discussion on how to run this thing called earth.
🔼A kingdom of priests
In effect this meant that all ordinary people could quickly ascend to the rank of priest (that is someone with access to information), and that is why the Lord said that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10). And again we'll note that with the word כהן (cohen), meaning "priest", a wizard is meant, and the word "wizard" means very-wise, and the word "wisdom" means having skills and practical knowledge. In other words: old-world priests were not secluded weirdoes mumbling mysteries whilst performing magic tricks; they were the high-profile engineers, doctors, bankers and professors of their societies.
Egypt's whole land, however, was covered in hieroglyphs and their social structure was based on the monopoly of their IT nerds, so the Egyptian elite famously resisted adaptation to the alphabet. This too is of course a quintessential quality of archetypal (not geographical) Egypt: the desire to perpetuate a situation that derives all its merits from being temporary. Or in the famous words of Leo Tolstoy: "I know that most men can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives".
Egypt clung to their millennia old mainframes and their experts-only IT culture, but the Semites to their north-east swiftly turned their societies into a buzzing internet in which everybody shared all they knew (even with whole specialized towns churning out writings: 1 Chronicles 2:55). This gave the Semites such an advantage that Egypt lost its control over them and began its gradual decline while the Semites entered their golden age. Hence the Biblical story of the Exodus.
What scientists of the previous two centuries mistook for accidental evolution due to random mutations is in fact an integrated complex system's global response to a local disturbance. In other words: the whole wrestles with the parts as much as each part wrestles with the whole. If we throw a stone in a pond, we'll initially see a severe local disturbance of the water's surface, followed by converging waves, that dampen into ripples, until finally the surface settles as smooth as it was before except a little higher. The biosphere is as integrated as the surface of a pond, and so is the wide world of wisdom. The Semitic invention of the perfect alphabet was a colossal bolder hurled into the pond of the world-wide wisdom tradition and caused quite a stir.
Make no mistake about it: all writing of our modern world is based on the Semitic alphabet and from the Torah the entire human library Big-Banged into existence. How precisely the Torah was formed isn't clear in a historical sense, but its own story emphasizes the acts of the Rachelite tribes (primarily Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin, and secondarily Dan and Naphtali) versus those of Judah.
Directly after the "conquest", Israel lived in Canaan among the indigenous nations that Israel failed to exterminate (Judges 1). Although the archeological culture of Canaan remained uninterrupted, the wisdom culture looked like a Dalmatian dog, with pockets of true knowledge emerging in a world of folly, superstition and oppression. But the same drive that would in time give humanity the Internet made Israel seek consilience among the various schools and disciplines. To bring that about, the Lord appointed a series of "saviors" or "judges" whose sole mission it was to unite the tribes of Israel against invading or overbearing rival traditions.
The Book of Judges sits neatly between Joshua and 1 Samuel, which makes it seem as if the narrative runs seamlessly from the conquest into the kingdom years. But that's deceptive. The Book of Judges is a late addition to the Bible, and although it obviously consists of very early material, it was completed at some point after Judah went into exile, and perhaps even after the Return. We know this because it frequently refers to there not being a king over Israel yet (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25), which is a statement that must have originated after the monarchy was established. But it also mentions "the day of the captivity of the land" (18:30), which refers almost certainly to the Assyrian and Babylonian conquest of the Levant.
The Book of Judges tells how consilience was achieved from the perspective of being there. It was a rough ride, the authors seem to say. How rough? Very rough! The Book of Judges is besides the most violent Book of the Bible also the most comical, with scenes bordering on slapstick (Ehud, Manoah, Samson) probably to accentuate the contrast with the more sophisticated Babylonian period. Still, it should be noted that Judges was not merely produced to entertain. The following set of brief statements represents worlds of information and intellectual achievements:
- Joshua of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8, see 13:16), the successor of Moses is not really one of the judges, but he could probably be considered their patriarch in a Biblical sort of way (Judges 2:6-10). The word for "deliverer" (see Judges 3:9, 3:15 etcetera) comes from the same verb as the name Joshua (and Jesus), namely ישע (yasha').
- The first real judge was Othniel of Judah (Judges 3:9), who saved Israel from king Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim, the place where the wives of Isaac and Jacob came from.
- Ehud of Benjamin (Judges 3:15) assassinated king Eglon of Moab with a home-made double-edged sword and a ruse, and his army defeated the Moabites.
- Shamgar, son of Anath of unclear origin. All we know of his acts as judge is that he struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad (Judges 3:31).
- Judge Deborah of Ephraim together with general Barak of Naphtali (Judges 4:5-6) took on king Jabin of Canaan and his general Sisera. The latter would fall by the hand of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.
- Gideon of Manasseh (Judges 6:15) demolished local shrines of Baal and Asherah and defeated the vast Midianite army with 300 carefully selected men.
- Abimelech, son of Gideon of Manasseh (Judges 9:1) spent his short career mostly avenging his own disgrace by the men of Shechem (obviously reminiscent of the rape of Dinah). He was finally killed when an unnamed woman dropped a millstone on his head from a tower.
- Tola of Ephraim, whose family had originated in Issachar, was a minor judge, whose two decades in office appear to have yielded no events worthy of report (Judges 10:1-2).
- Likewise judge Jair of Gilead, which is Manasseh (Judges 10:3).
- Judge Jephthah, also of Gilead, Manasseh (Judges 11:1), initially engaged the Ammonites in elaborate diplomacy, but was finally forced to defeat them in war. Jephthah became most famous on account of his proverbially foolish vow (Judges 11:30-31), but he also managed to unite Ephraim and Manasseh, albeit with a lot of violence (see our article on the word shibboleth).
- Ibzan of Bethlehem, Judah, was a minor judge (Judges 12:8).
- Elon of Zebulun was too (Judges 12:11), although he holds the distinction of being the only judge not from Judah or the Rachelite tribes.
- Abdon of Ephraim was also a minor judge (Judges 12:15).
- The last of the judges was famous Samson of Dan (Judges 13-16; Dan was the first-born of Bilhah and thus the oldest of the Rachelite tribes). Samson fought mostly against the Philistines. As grand finale of his stormy incumbency, Samson destroyed the Philistine temple of Dagon and all the Philistine nobles, as well as himself.
- Eli, the predecessor of Samuel of Ephraim, was not a judge of the savior type, but rather a priest and thus a Levite, who subsequently "judged" in the legislative sense (שפט, sepet; 1 Samuel 4:18). Samuel of Ephraim likewise could technically be regarded as a pre-monarch judge (1 Samuel 7:15), but neither Eli nor Samuel are part of the deliberate cycle of thirteen judges. In fact, it's obvious that the story of Eli and young Samuel sums up the Book of Judges — or in reverse, that Judges is an interjected spin-off from the older Book(s) of Samuel.
After Samson, the tone of the Book of Judges changes and neither the office of the judge nor the Philistines are mentioned again. This indicates that Judges 1-16 and Judges 17-21 were originally separate Books, and the second is as separate and timeless as the Books of Ruth or Job, and obviously not part of the original account of the Judges (as said, there are no judges mentioned in Judges 17-21).
In fact, in Judges 18:1 we are told that Dan had no land yet, which indicates that this account plays before the conquest (or better yet: tells of the "conquest" in a more historically veritable way). In 18:31 we are told that the "House of God" (= Bethel, or the Tabernacle) was at Shiloh, but in 21:18-19 we learn that neither Shiloh nor the service to YHWH was connected to Israel, but apparently to the indigenous Canaanites, which brings the scope of our story as far back as the days of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18).
🔼The serpent of Dan
After the story of Samson, the Book of Judges treats us to a satire in which a lady from Ephraim lost eleven hundred silver pieces and lavishly cursed whoever had taken them (Judges 17). That turned out to be her son, Micah, who promptly returned them. The cursing mother swiftly switched to blessings (in the name of YHWH, no less) and decided to dedicate the silver to YHWH. This she aimed to achieve by smelting the silver into an effigy, and since Micah had the knack, she charged him with it.
And so, Micah ended up with a brand new shiny idol, and as he liked to complete things, he consecrated one of his sons to be its priest (which places this story in the patriarchal era, see Job 1:5). Meanwhile in Judah, a young Levite from Bethlehem (and there's that Judah-Levi theme again) set out to find a job. He soon arrived at Micah's house, who generously offered him the position of private priest with a competitive wage to boot. The Levite conceded and Micah ordained him too. "Then Micah said, 'Now I know that YHWH will have me prosper, seeing I have a Levite as priest" (Judges 17:13).
Although this account is riddled with atrocities, it also serves to show how Ephraim achieved the same wisdom tradition that defined Judah. The sad part of this hilarious story is not so much that diligent but ignorant Micah violated the whole first half of YHWH's Ten Commandments (which places the story before Exodus 20), but that Micah's philosophy is still so common in our world: anywhere symbols, pictures and statues are expected to do more than simply adorn. The Levite of our story represents the whole of the priestly tradition, at this very early stage he is alone and works for money for one seriously deluded rich guy from Ephraim.
But just as Micah's household settled in its comfortable folly, the lads from Dan came calling. They had not yet received their allotment in Israel (18:1; in other words: they were still an indigenous Canaanite tribe), and they convinced Micah's Levite that working for a whole tribe was much better (more profitable) than working for just one guy. And so the Levite swiped Micah's new statue, and followed the Danites to their new home in Laish. Thus the tribe of Dan too adopted the wisdom tradition of Judah, and achieved "foot on the ground" in Israel.
Commentators appear to be tempted to write the Micah story off as some inconsequential local legend, but that demonstrates a detrimental unfamiliarity with the nature of the Bible. Especially when common folk became literate, the Bible compilers (an anonymous bunch of scholars who were probably active for centuries, not unlike the later Masoretes) had tons and tons of material to choose from, and the vast majority of it was at some point of the refinery process rejected (Psalm 12:6). Micah's story wasn't and that can only be because in some way or other, it represents fundamental and universal truths. In the Bible every yod and title has myriads of meanings in the literary sense, as well as countless manifestations in the tangible universe (Matthew 5:18).
To give a hint to the literary complexity of this story: the Levite from Judah who was forced to hire himself to a wealthy Ephraimite is obviously a manifestation of the Suffering Servant of which Jesus is the most familiar. Then note how the Book of the formally unrelated prophet Micah deals with the same themes and even how Matthew weaves these into the gospel of Immanuel (see Micah 3:11 and Matthew 21:13, Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1-6). Also note the obvious similarities with the story of Hannah, the bereft wife of Elkanah (which means God Of Canaan), who dedicated her son Samuel to YHWH; 1 Samuel 1:11. Hannah obviously continues the beloved-but-barren-wife theme of Sarah and Rachel, but also compare 1 Samuel 2:5 with Proverbs 9:1, Exodus 2:16, Isaiah 4:1 and even Revelation 1:4 for what precisely is summed up in the literary character of Samuel.
🔼The rapacious wolf of Benjamin
The same story told from the perspective of the tribe of Benjamin takes on a more malicious character (Judges 19). This time, our Levite was staying in an unspecified but remote (or rather: ירכה, yareka, the most fundamental or intimate) part of the hill country of Ephraim, and his connection to Bethlehem is explained as the origin of his wayward concubine (Judges 19:1). She gave him the slip and he gave chase, and both ended up in her father's house in Bethlehem.
After five days of pleading, the Levite and his Bethlehemite concubine finally started back to Ephraim, and as darkness overtook them, the Levite decided to stay the night in Gibeah of Benjamin in stead of nearby Jerusalem, which at that time was still in the hands of the Jebusites (which places our story before Joshua 10:1 and Judges 1:8 as well as the more obvious 2 Samuel 5:6).
An old man originally from the hills of Ephraim took them into his home in Gibeah of Benjamin, and in a manner that clearly revisits the themes and effects of Genesis 19, the locals decided to see if they could get to know the Levite (and the verb ידע, yada', means to know or have sex with). In stead, the wayward concubine got shoved out the door, and the Benjaminites "knew" her and overpowered her (עלל, 'alal) until dawn, which ultimately killed her. The Levite took her body home and there he cut her into twelve pieces and sent her throughout the land of Israel, with the mot d'ordre to "examine, deliberate and formalize" (Judges 19:30).
In other words: where the Danites acquired their share of the Levitical tradition by out-funding its Ephraimite host, the Benjaminites, who couldn't get their hands on either the Levite or his Ephraimite host, ravished the informal social following of the Levitical tradition. Whatever they precisely did isn't immediately clear, but the same events are reported in the Book of Samuel, where king Saul of Benjamin forfeited his kingdom by usurping Samuel's sacrificial prerogative, just prior to the battle of Gilgal (1 Samuel 13:5-14). And in case the reader doesn't get it, the author of the story informs us that following Saul's transgression, Samuel "got up and went from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin" (1 Samuel 13:15).
As the concubine's bloody members toured the land, the influence of the Levitical tradition began to pervade the whole of Israel. But whatever the tribe of Benjamin was exactly doing: it killed whatever social movement the Levites were able to generate, however wayward (also see Matthew 13:4-7). The rest of Israel arose in retaliation and ultimately decimated Benjamin. A mere 600 men were left and no women. Israel swore to not give them any, but they let them raid Jabesh-gilead first and the festival at Shiloh later (Judges 21).
The mysterious dancing women of Shiloh, whom the Benjaminites ended up abducting, are clearly revisited in the story of Samuel, in which the wicked Hophni and Phinehas helped themselves to the equally mysterious "women who served at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting" at Shiloh (1 Samuel 2:22). And where the previous story connects to the prophet Micah, this one seems to have been the favorite of Hosea, who also married a wayward woman (Gomer), and whose message made copious use of prostitution terminology, including temple prostitution (Hosea 4:14, see Deuteronomy 23:17).
It's probably not a coincidence that the apostle Paul was from Benjamin (Romans 11:1), that he was most likely unmarried (unlike the others: 1 Corinthians 9:5, see 7:7) and that he was continuously at odds with everybody, before and after his conversion (Acts 8:3, 15:39, Galatians 2:11). But, as he himself wrote, "now I will show you the most excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31):
🔼The Lion of Judah
How to bring about consilience? That question must have occupied the mind of every judge of Israel, as much as that of every founder of great empires since. Most emperors opted for massive propaganda programs and violent suppression of those elements who realized that their society was getting befuddled, but the Israelites were trying to achieve consilience among wisdom traditions, and people of wisdom are as hard to befuddle as to entice to revise their views.
From the stories and the meanings of the tribal names it appears that the Rachelite tribes tried to achieve consilience in the same way as modern scholars: via cramming, hammering, and struggling for funding, by ripping things apart and exhausting their every use, and most of all: with a whole lot of vigorous argument, dispute and debate. Rachelism demands obedience, but can never seem to achieve it. No matter how hard a Rachelite leader fights, his people never truly follow and will always slide right off track again once the pressure of guidance is released (Romans 3:10-20).
Rachelism culminated in the reign of Saul, who was only a king over a united kingdom in name. In reality his tribes were awry and while he demanded blind obedience of everybody (1 Samuel 11:7) including his son (14:44), he overruled the Law of YHWH when that seemed right to him (13:9, 15:9) and even erected a monument to himself (15:12). Subsequently, under Saul there was neither king nor kingdom, and the un-united tribes of Israel suffered continuously from invasions by the Philistines.
Israel's request for a unifying king appears to have derived from their struggle with the Philistines (means Agony), and although Philistia (that's the State Of Agony) suffered serious loss under Samuel (1 Samuel 7:10) and Saul and Jonathan slew their share (13:3-4), Philistia's systematic decline began when David slew Goliath in the newly introduced name of YHWH Sabaoth, or Lord of Hosts (17:8).
Saul had his headquarters in Mizpah (means Watchtower; see Luke 17:20), but David began his reign in Hebron (means Joined or Federation; see Luke 17:21). Saul couldn't track a herd of donkeys (1 Samuel 9:4) but David played harp in such a way that even the Lord's venging spirit backed off (16:23). Saul formed his army by threatening no-shows with brutal retaliation (11:7), but David's men walked willingly into his camp (1 Chronicles 12).
Everybody loved David, from singing civilian ladies (18:7) to crown prince Jonathan (18:1), princess Michal (18:20) and even king Saul before he turned (16:21). Priest Ahimelech forfeited his life by giving David bread and Goliath's sword (21:1-9). The king of Moab gave shelter to David's family (22:3). And the Philistine king Achish of Gath (where both Goliath and Obed-edom, the keeper of the Ark, came from; also see 1 Samuel 7:14 in case you're not confused, and note that the name Gethsemane starts with Gath) gave David his first headquarters: the town of Ziklag.
And of course, even the name David means Beloved.
🔼What is love?
In modern times the word "love" has come to denote a personal preference; the statement "I love you" is considered a stronger form of essentially the same statement "I like you". The Biblical idea of love, however, has nothing at all to do with that. In fact, in the Bible the word "love" doesn't even denote a feeling because God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is not a feeling.
God's Word holds everything together (Colossians 1:17), and sums up everything (Ephesians 1:10), and God causes all things to work together (Romans 8:28). In other words: Biblical love does not denote one person's overly positive opinion about someone else; Biblical love denotes engagement — the becoming one via mutual exchange. Love starts at the subatomic level. It's why there are things instead of a universe full of quantum dust.
Love is a catch-all term for the set of mechanisms that allows any integrated and stable system to operate — from atoms sticking together to make objects, to living creatures that comprise our unified biosphere, to humans that form our global economy. Love means to connect and exchange whatever and at any level of appreciation (which means that John 8:12 is not a metaphor).
Snoopy said it best: "to know me is to love me", but he should have said it the other way around: to love is to get to know — hence the Hebrew verb ידע (yada'), which both means to know and to enjoy marital intercourse. Loving someone is to study someone, to learn all about them and let them learn all about you. Loving equals fun having, and although especially early learning is accomplished through play, some of the most successful scientific programs of today are based on elaborate games. Israel's wisdom tradition appears to have been infused with play, and quizzing each other was considered prime entertainment (Judges 14:12-13, 1 Kings 10:1).
Although Solomon was mostly a scientist who lectured on the natural world (1 Kings 4:33), he was an evenly accomplished poet (4:32) and he and his father David placed great emphasis on feasts and musical festivals. Quite significantly, Isaac was the father of Israel and his name means Play or Fun. For thousands of years kings, generals and popes have explained that duty is our highest good and a deep sense of misery is a sure sign that you're doing it right. Today it's becoming increasingly clear that if you're not having fun in your daily life, you're possibly not standing in presence of the Lord of Love (Jude 1:24).
Love culminates in peace, which is another much misunderstood concept, and please read our article on the verb שלם (shalem) for a closer look. This verb shalem denotes a unifying and is the opposite of dissenting.
The opposite of love is not hate, because God hates (Malachi 2:16, Romans 9:13) and God can not oppose His own nature. The opposite of loving someone is ignoring someone, whether wholly or in part and whether deliberate or by accident. To hate means to reject, not to be angry. It has to do with cleaning, not with feeling.
Hate requires knowledge and can only exist as consequence of love. One can not hate what one does not know and one can not know what one does not love. Since God hates, hate is not intrinsically evil (Psalm 139:21), but virtuous hate requires total knowledge and hate based on incomplete knowledge is the result of incomplete love, which is what God hates (1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Colossians 2:10, 1 John 4:18).
🔼Thou shalt feel warm and fuzzy
Feelings are involuntary and can't be had at will, like you can't flex a non-skeletal muscle on command. The dual command to love the Lord and to love one's neighbor is not designed to evoke involuntary sentiments but a deliberate engaging of both one's neighbor and the Lord — what Jacob began to do at the Jabbok. Paul's command for husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) also has nothing to do with a command to feel things but rather with the male's tendency to leave the wife the laundry and head to town with the lads. In modern words, Paul instructs men to not neglect their wives, but to unite with them in continuous mutual exchange.
The Bible certainly stresses the importance of kindness (Proverbs 3:3) but also points out that the kindest people may be the biggest crooks (Proverbs 6:24). The Bible tells us to be just, hospitable and forgiving, but its message has little in common with the kind of pseudo-spiritual humanism that is so popular in our days. God does not want us to be equally sweet to all people but to discern and keep our company careful (Proverbs 28:23, 1 Corinthians 15:33). The Bible does not predict a happy ending for everybody, but says that people who behave like a Dodo will go the way of the Dodo (Matthew 3:12).
Learning to love yourself — another popular endeavor — has nothing to do with feeling good about yourself. You might need a good shaking up, and your bad feeling might have a good reason. Loving yourself (or your neighbor as yourself) is to know yourself (or your neighbor as yourself). The latter is the second clause of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:39), and failure to comply with it is our world's most persistent social cancer. Most of us know more about the average movie star than about the people of our street. Day after day, worlds of anemic fiction wean us away from our own humanity, and make us believe that our neighbors are our enemies, while in fact our enemies are the screens we trust. Our cities are not the strongholds we think they are, but the piles of dust and shards foretold by the prophets.
The Lord's command to love our enemies has nothing to do with us somehow feeling agreeable towards them, and everything with knowing them. Praying for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44) likewise has nothing to do with asking the Lord's blessings for abusing brutes but rather with requesting insight into their behavior. As Sun Tzu once noted: war must be avoided but when it comes, knowledge is one's best ally, and knowing one's enemy is as crucial as knowing oneself. Knowledge of the enemy might prevent a costly conflict, while ignorance commonly leads to defeat.
Jesus said that no one has greater love than someone who lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13), but that should always be viewed in context with Matthew 7:6, where Jesus says not to give what is holy to dogs, or to throw pearls before swine. You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19). You are a highly valuable piece of human resource (1 Corinthians 6:20), and the nature of your salvation obligates you to invest yourself with the greatest possible care, and strive for the highest possible return (John 12:24, Matthew 25:14-30). Love never takes the name of the Lord in vain.
David is the cognitional equivalent of a multicellular organism, which consists of vastly differing cells, which are all based on exactly the same genetic code. God's Word allows for an incredible range of interpretation, and subsequently demands of each culture the acknowledgement that an utterly alien culture may in fact be based on precisely the same revelations (2 Samuel 22:44, 1 Kings 11:38).
Davidism is no longer concerned with a one and only proper interpretation of the Word of God, but only with a super-culture that consists of a network of interlocked singular cultures (hence YHWH Sabaoth, or Lord of Hosts). It's where nationalism and national socialism stop and why the Torah covers the whole of creation. It's also the reason why David moved his capital to Jerusalem — which derives from the verb shalem, just like the names of David's two most important sons: Absalom and Solomon — and why the era of Israel's kings coincides with the era of the great empires.
🔼Etymology of the name Exodus
The name Exodus consists of two elements. The first part comes from the ubiquitous particle of extraction εκ (ek):
The second part of our word is the regular Greek word for road, street or way:
The word Exodus literally means Way Out or Getting Out and denotes origin as much as separation from the maternal culture.