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Psalms

Taking Refuge in God beyond the Temple Walls—Psalm 27

Seeking a permanent connection with their god, ancient Mesopotamians would place votive statues of themselves in front of their god. Psalm 27 represents the Israelite alternative: the spoken request to see YHWH face-to-face uses words, not statues, to give the petitioner a refuge with God that endures even after departing the Temple.

Prof.

Shalom E. Holtz

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Justifying War Crimes in the Bible and the Ancient Near East

In the ancient world, as now, indiscriminate violence and mass killing in war is explained as a struggle to defend “our” way of life against those who threaten to destroy it.

Prof.

C. L. Crouch

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Psalm 104 and Its Parallels in Pharaoh Akhenaten’s Hymn

Themes from the Egyptian Great Hymn of the Aten, the divine sun disk, appear in Psalm 104: dangerous animals at night, human activity during the day, a focus on humans as opposed to Israelites, the great power of water, and many more.

Prof.

Aaron Koller

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YHWH Will Restore Israel’s Borders: Isaiah 27 Responds to Psalm 80

Using the metaphor of Israel as YHWH’s vineyard, three biblical texts—Isaiah 5, Psalm 80 and Isaiah 27—grapple with Judah’s destruction and the hope for its future recovery.

Dr.

David Rothstein

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When YHWH Went Forth: A New Reading of Psalm 114

What did the sea see to make it flee? Who caused the mountains to skip like rams?

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Psalm 116 – Is the Death of the Righteous Precious in the Eyes of YHWH?

Psalm 116:15 declares the death of the righteous to be yaqar, often translated as “precious,” to God. To avoid this message some scholars reinterpret the word yaqar to mean “difficult” or “grievous,” but a better solution is available.

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Psalm 2: Is the Messiah the Son of God?

YHWH declares to the Davidic king, “You are my son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7). For the New Testament, this verse is a prooftext for Jesus’s divinity, but what did it mean in its original context, and how did Jewish interpreters understand it?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Prof.

Amy-Jill Levine

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Praise YHWH All You Nations: Psalm 117

Short does not mean simple: Psalm 117 is one of the more difficult psalms. It is only two verses long and exhorts non-Israelites to praise YHWH. Why would such a psalm be written? A look at the worldview of the exilic prophet Deutero-Isaiah provides one answer, while reading this psalm together with the beginning of Psalm 118 provides another.

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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God Shelters the Faithful: The Prayer of Psalm 91

Psalm 91 expresses confidence that God will protect the righteous from plagues, demons, and wild animals, while allowing the wicked to perish. How are we to understand this psalm when pandemics and other disasters often hit the weakest and most vulnerable the hardest?

Prof.

Matthias Henze

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Encouraging Babylonian Jews to Return, Psalm 114 Tells a Unique Exodus Story

Psalm 114, a late psalm, is exceptional in its structure and content.  These tightly structured eight verses, which reflect several non-Torah traditions, use Egypt symbolically, to encourage the exiles to return from Babylonia.

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” — Jesus or Esther?

A midrash imagines Queen Esther reciting Psalm 22 the moment she was about to enter Ahasuerus' inner court. Are the rabbis responding to the Passion Narrative, in which Jesus, in his final moments, recites this lament on the cross?

Dr.

Abraham J. Berkovitz

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A Women’s Voice in the Psalter: A New Understanding of Psalm 113

The liturgical compilation Hallel (“praise”) opens with Psalm 113. Originally, this psalm was recited by women who gave birth after being barren, reminiscent of the song of Channah in 1 Samuel 2. A close look, however, suggests that its opening verses are a later supplement meant to introduce the larger Hallel collection.

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Reciting Ready-Made Prayers in Biblical Times and Today

The haftarah (prophetic reading) for the first day of Rosh Hashanah features Channah's two prayers. In the second prayer, she thanks God for the birth of Samuel by reciting a ready made royal hymn about defeating one's enemies, hardly relevant to her situation. Why does the Bible choose such a prayer and how might this help us better understand prayer in the context of the contemporary Rosh Hashanah?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Some Biblical Perspectives on the Haggadah

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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The Psalm of the Shofar: Its Use in Liturgy and its Meaning in the Bible

Prof.

Alan Cooper

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Seeking Torah, Seeking God: Psalm 119

Prof.

Shalom E. Holtz

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Ezekiel’s Failure To Mention Shavuot

And the Re-imagining of the Harvest Festival in the Wake of the Babylonian Exile

Rabbi

Evan Hoffman

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Why Is the Torah Divided into Five Books?

The division of the Torah into five books is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, yet by the early first millennium C.E., the Torah became known by the Greek name Pentateuch, literally “five scrolls.” When and why was this division created?

Dr.

Elaine Goodfriend

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Who Assumed Melchizedek’s Priesthood?

Why Melchizedek, a minor biblical character, became so significant in Jewish and Christian interpretation.

Prof. Rabbi

Joshua Garroway

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Reciting Psalm 30 on Chanukah: A Biblical Custom?

מזמור שיר חנכת הבית לדוד, “A song of the dedication of the Temple of David”

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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A Faith that Includes Doubt – Psalm 27

The psalm of the High Holiday season begins with the words “God is my light and my salvation,” moves to expressions of distress about God’s absence, and ends with a statement of hope. The psalm’s unexpected direction models the maturing of an authentic relationship with God.

Prof.

Benjamin D. Sommer

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Lechu Neranena: From the Story of the Spies to the Return of the Judahite Exiles

A New Reading of Psalm 95

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Jeremiah’s Teaching of the Trees

The verdant tree and the desert shrub: Jeremiah’s wisdom psalm (17:5-8) uses this arboreal simile in poetic parallelism to offer a poignant message: A person who trusts in God will still confront challenges.

Prof. Rabbi

Andrea L. Weiss

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