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Hebrew Tales (5)

Hebrew Sacred History

Procursus by DKJ

The religious world of the ancient Hebrews was dominated by the two major historical figures: Abraham, who is thought to have lived sometime in the 1700s before the common era, and Moses, believed to have lived some four centuries later, about 1300. These figures were believed to be involved in the establishment of “covenants” or “contracts” between God and his Hebrew worshippers, compacts that were (and are) appealed in order to “explain” historical events, to clarify group membership, and to justify cultural practices and territorial claims.

The Hebrew scriptures are key to understanding ancient and modern Judaism, of course, but also Christianity and Islam. These accounts are critical background to most of European and Near Eastern art, literature, and philosophy at least since late Roman times. And they are useful in understanding the perspective informing one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of our own era.

The selections presented here are very brief extracts from the scriptural account the Hebrews. I have selected passages stressing the belief in a contract between God and his “chosen people.” They are intended to be read sequentially. Links to comprehension quizzes can be found on this page and at the end of each page or two of the text.

Many students raised in religious families will already be familiar with these texts, and in theory they need not reread what is already well known to them. However, review is rarely unproductive. The texts here have a few hyperlinked enhancements. Here is a list of the Bblical passages included:

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Extract 1: God’s Rainbow (Covenant 1)
Genesis 9: 11-28 (Link)
Extract 2: God and the Fecundity of Abram (Covenant 2a)
Genesis 12:1-20, Genesis 13:1-14 (Link)
(Quiz links for Extracts 1 and 2 will be found at the end of Extract 2.)
Extract 3: Ishmael: Son of a Slave
Genesis 16:1-16 (Link)
Extract 4: Abram’s Circumcision (Covenant 2b)
Genesis 17:1-27 (Link)
(Quiz links for Extracts 3 and 4 will be found at the end of Extract 4.)
Extract 5: Moses, Prince of Egypt
Exodus 2: 11-25 (Link)
Extract 6: The Burning Bush and the Exodus (Covenant 3a)
Exodus 3:1-22, (Link)
(Quiz links for Extracts 5 and 6 will be found at the end of Extract 6.)
Extract 7: The Admonitions of Leviticus (Covenant 3b) (Link)

Ext. 7A: Instructions to Priests: Leviticus 1:1-17, 3:12-17, 9:22-24, 10:1-11 (Link)
Ext. 7B: Purity & Impurity: Leviticus 11:1-12, 12:1-8, 15:1-2, 16-24 (Link)
Ext. 7C: Sex & Incest: Leviticus 18:1-29 (Link)
Ext. 7D: Fair Dealing: Leviticus 19:11-19, 26-37 (Link)
Ext. 7E: Rewards for Obedience: Leviticus 26:3-13 (Link)
Ext. 7F: Punishments for Disobedience: Leviticus 26:14-46 (Link)
(Quiz links for Extract7 will be found at the end of Extract 7.)
Extract 8: Isaiah Eagerly Reports God’s Hatred for Assyria
Isaiah 37:21-22, 28-29, 33-38 (Link)
Extract 9: Jeremiah Eagerly Reports God's Hatred for Elam
Jeremiah 49:34-39 (Link)
(Quiz links for Extracts 8 and 9 will be found at the end of Extract 9.)

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The Text

The translation provided here is modified from The World English Bible (WEB), a deliberately copyright-free modern English revision of a 1901 translation that has now passed into the public domain (link). The ongoing revision of the on-line version has modified some expressions since the present text was extracted. Most importantly, in the most recent redaction the word here rendered “the Lord” is now transcribed “Yahweh” (God’s Hebrew name, cognate with English Jehovah) in the latest revision of the on-line version.

Biblical texts are divided into books, chapters, and “verses.” I have retained all this, but have changed the number of paragraph breaks to facilitate on-line reading. I have also added the titles, dramatis personae lists, and introductory matter. Because the translation is over a century old, I have often modified it after consulting more modern (but alas copyrighted) translations. (Much of classical Hebrew is, to modern tastes, surprisingly ambiguous, and translations often vary more than one might expect. Thousands of lifetimes of meticulous scholarship have been spent on Biblical texts, and no two interpreters completely agree about very much. The text given here is intended to be helpful and introductory, not scholarly or definitive.)

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The principal translations and reference works I have most depended upon as I have modified, clarified, or commented on these passages are the King James translation of the Bible and the following items:

Confraternity of Christian Doctrine
1971 The new American Bible. New York: Thomas Nelson.
Joint Committee on the New Translation of the Bible (Donald EBOR, chairman)
1970 The new English Bible with the apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press & Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
1984 Biblia vortaro. Ravenna: Internacia Asocio de Bibliistoj k Orientalistoj.
ZAMENHOF, Lazaro Ludoviko (tr.)
1954 La malnova testamento IN La sankta biblio. London: Brita k Alilanda Biblia Societo & Edinburgh: Nacia Biblia Societo de Skotlando.

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Background Design: Hebrew Lines From the Book of Jonah