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Redaction Criticism

Dinah and Shechem: A Story that Biblical Authors Kept Revising

Shechem, a local prince, falls in love with Jacob’s daughter Dinah, and her brothers approve of the marriage as long as he is willing to be circumcised. Given Deuteronomy’s prohibition against intermarriage, later scribes revised the story into a slaughter of the natives. This was too harsh for later scribes, who recast the story as brothers avenging their sister’s rape.

Prof.

Christoph Levin

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Revising the Laws of Murder to Accommodate Blood Vengeance

The author of Numbers 35 uses an existing set of laws that distinguish between murder and manslaughter to determine what kind of killer may escape to a city of refuge. This creates confusion about what it means to be a rotzeach (“murderer” or “killer”) and who executes the murderer: the assembly or the blood avenger?

Prof.

Itamar Kislev

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Deuteronomy’s Festival Calendar

The festival calendar in Deuteronomy 16 began as a short revision of the calendar in Exodus 23. As it was expanded to clarify and adjust its details, it merged its springtime Matzot festival with the Pesach offering, which was originally connected to the consecration of firstborn animals.

Prof.

Reinhard G. Kratz

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Shemini Atzeret: Redacting a Missing Festival into Solomon’s Temple Dedication

Deuteronomy does not have the festival of Shemini Atzeret (“the eighth day of assembly”), while Leviticus and Numbers do. This difference can help explain why the festival is absent in the story of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple in Kings but appears in the version of this same story in Chronicles.

David Bar-Cohn

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The Account of Balaam’s Donkey: A Late Polemical Burlesque

Already in 1877, Marcus Kalisch, one of the first Jewish scholars to engage in the critical study of the Bible, noted that the story of Balaam’s donkey is a late insertion which contradicts the rest of the story, both narratively and ideologically. Indeed, in the main story, Balaam is a prophetic character to be respected, while the supplement lampoons him.

Prof.

Alexander Rofé

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The Flowering Staff: Proof of Aaron’s or the Levites’ Election?

The story of the flowering staff in its current form and context, confirms YHWH’s previous designation of the Aaronides as priests. Originally, however, the story presented YHWH’s selection of the tribe of Levi as his priestly caste.

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Moses and the Fugitive Hero Pattern

The story of Moses follows a pattern that is typical of ancient Near Eastern fugitive hero narratives. However, when Moses goes to Mount Horeb, the plot deviates from the usual “divine encounter” feature. What does this tell us about the composition of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush?

Prof.

Edward L. Greenstein

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Solving the Problem of “Kadesh in the Wilderness of Paran”

Kadesh-barnea is in the Wilderness of Paran, and Kadesh is in the Wilderness of Zin; how are we to explain the Scouts’ return to “Kadesh in the Wilderness of Paran?”

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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The Grain and Pomegranates of Mei Merivah (מי מריבה)

If the people are thirsty for lack of water, why complain to Moses that they “have no grain or pomegranates”? Together with other textual anomalies, this narrative discontinuity suggests that interwoven into the water-at-Merivah story is a fragment from a different story: the missing opening verses of the non-Priestly account of the spies.

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Joseph in Custody: Enslaved or Imprisoned

Joseph, sold by two different groups (Midianites and Ishmaelites), seems to have been bought by two different men (Potiphar, captain of the guard, and an unnamed Egyptian man), leading to two discrete storylines, each of which place Joseph in a different position when he meets the cupbearer and the baker.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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What Was Caleb the Kenizzite’s Connection to Hebron?

Did Caleb receive the Negev or Hebron? Is he a Judahite, a Calebite or a Kenizzite? The redacted account of Caleb in the Bible reflects the developing realities of southern Judah in the First and Second Temple periods.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Prof.

Jacob L. Wright

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Qohelet and the Redaction of Mesopotamian Vanity Literature

How subversive literature becomes normalized.

Dr.

Nili Samet

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Korah’s Poetic Rebellion and God’s Flowery Response

A new analysis of compositional layers suggests that God responds to Korah’s rebellion with patience and beauty—until someone changed the ending.

Dr.

Jason Gaines

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Joshua Is Appointed Leader Three Times: But Is He in Charge?

Before Moses dies, he asks God for a leader who will “come and go” before the people. God’s response is unequivocal: appoint Joshua. Nevertheless, as the narrative continues, God places Joshua under Elazar the priest, a clear sign of later redaction. When was this change made and why?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The First Month of the Year

A cornerstone of the Jewish luni-solar calendar or a commandment about the order of months?

Prof.

Jonathan Ben-Dov

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Sukkot in Ezra-Nehemiah and the Date of the Torah

According to Ezra (3:4) and Nehemiah (8:14-15) the returnees celebrated the holiday of Sukkot according to the law as it “was written,” but differences between their celebrations and the prescriptions in the Torah suggest that the laws they had written were slightly different than ours. Was the Torah finalized by the time Ezra-Nehemiah was written?

Dr.

Lisbeth S. Fried

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Joshua Circumcises Israel in Response to Egypt’s Scorn

Before circumcision was a mitzvah, it was a cultural marker: Thus Joshua introduces circumcision to Israel at Gilgal (Joshua 5:2-9), Jacob’s sons insist that the Shechemites circumcise before Shechem marries their sister (Genesis 34), and the Israelites scorn the Philistines for being uncircumcised (Judges 14:3).

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Were the Israelites Craving for Meat or Starving for Food?

“There is nothing at all, nothing but this manna” (Num 11:6): How the manna tradition overtook the suffering in the wilderness tradition.

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Who Was Rebecca’s Father?

At the well, the servant asks Rebecca who her father is, and she answers, “I am the daughter of Betuel the son of Milkah, whom she bore to Nahor” (Genesis 24:24). Why the unusual genealogical description?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Elazar Speaks Once in the Torah: Why Does He Interrupt Moses?

Moses tells the soldiers returning from the Midianite war that they must purify themselves from corpse impurity. Elazar then jumps in with a unique law in Moses’ name about the need to purify metal in fire. Critical and traditional scholars alike—including the scribes of the Samaritan Pentateuch—were troubled by why Elazar and not Moses teaches this law.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Who Said All Is Futile?

Kohelet begins and ends with the phrase הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים “all is futile” (1:2, 12:8). Rashbam argues that these aren’t the author’s words but an editorial framing, which includes the famous ending that the sum of the matter is to fear God and keep His commandments (12:13). If we remove this framing, the book ends on a very different note.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Rebecca Ran to Her Mother’s Household - Where Was Her Father?

Betuel, Rebecca’s father, mysteriously appears and disappears in the negotiations over Rebecca’s marriage.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Rabbi

Daniel M. Zucker

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Jonah’s Recalcitrant Prayer

Why God repeats his command to Jonah a second time

Prof. Rabbi

Jonathan Magonet

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Jephthah’s Wandering Biblical Message to the King of Ammon

An ancient quote, preserved in Jephthah’s speech to the King of Ammon, gives us a clue into the methods of the Torah’s redaction and the status of pre-pentateuchal sources.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

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The Prehistory of the Balaam Story

When Balaam and Balak were Independent Characters

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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How the Prohibition of Male Homosexual Intercourse Altered the Laws of Incest

Originally Leviticus 18 prohibited homosexual incest with a man’s father (v. 7) and his uncle (v. 14). When the prohibition of male homosexual intercourse was added, the Torah modified the aforementioned laws and consequently changed the meaning of לגלות ערוה “to uncover nakedness.”[1]

Dr.

Idan Dershowitz

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Why the Fire-Pans Were Used to Plate the Altar

After the two hundred and fifty tribal leaders, led by Korah, were burnt, God tells Elazar to use the fire-pans to plate the altar to remind Israel that only priests may offer incense (Num 17:5). But is this the original reason for the plating? A redaction-critical analysis shows that the story once had a different purpose in mind.

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Documentary and Redactional Approach: Israel Knohl

Project TABS Editors

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What Did God Write on the Tablets of Stone?

“YHWH said to Moses: ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay there so that I might give you the tablets of stone and the teaching and the commandment that I have written to teach them.’”—Exodus 24:12

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

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The Opening of Devarim: Redaction Criticism and Modern Midrash

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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The Resumptive Repetition (Wiederaufnahme)

A literary strategy used by pre-modern editors and authors that works in a similar way to the classic cinematographic catch-phrase, “Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch.” (With an addendum by Prof. Marc Brettler)

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Cursed Is One Who Does Not Uphold the Words of This Torah?

The anomalous and paradoxical nature of the twelfth curse – Deuteronomy 27:26.

Rabbi

Uzi Weingarten

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Is Israel’s Repentance a Foregone Conclusion?

Deuteronomy 28 imagines the possibility of Israel disappearing, and eventually assimilating into the nations where it is exiled. Deuteronomy 30:1-10, however, predicts Israel’s future repentance and consequent restoration.

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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Redacting the Relationship to the Transjordanian Tribes

Numbers 32 combines two versions of how Gad and Reuven receive Moses’ permission to settle the Transjordan. The non-Priestly story emphasizes fraternity and kinship, while the Priestly version emphasizes law and obedience to YHWH. By synthesizing them, the redactor suggests that law can serve as a pillar around which the Israelite community can coalesce.

Prof.

Jacob L. Wright

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