Saturday, July 15, 2017

SOTS Book List 2017

IN THE MAIL:
John Jarrick (ed.) with Holly Thompson, Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2017 (= JSOT 41.5) (London: Sage, 2017).
For the first time I can recall, the Book List has not been made available to subscriber on the Sage website by the time the hard copies have gone out. But you should be able to access it eventually here. It might even be there by the time you read this.

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More from Novenson on The Grammar of Messianism

THE CSCO BLOG: The Grammar of Messianism, PT. 2. The conclusion of the two-part video series on Dr. Matthew Novenson's new book with the same title.

Part one was noted here with a link to a review of the book.

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Four new Jewish books

BOOK REVIEWLETS: Four new Jewish books are tour guides to old ones (Howard Freedman, Jewish News of Northern California).

Past posts on Holtz, Rabbi Akiva: Sage of the Talmud are here and links. Another review of Kirsch, The People and the Books is noted here. Joseph Skibell’s Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud is new to me. So is Yeshiva University's Books of the People: Revisiting Classic Works of Jewish Thought. The last one deals only with books from the last thousand years and thus is outside PaleoJudaica's main period of interest.

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Review of Goldsworthy, Pax Romana

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Adrian Goldsworthy, Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. ix, 513; 16 p. of plates. ISBN 9780300178821. $32.50. Reviewed by Michael J. Taylor, University of California, Berkeley (mjtaylor@berkeley.edu).

As one would expect, ancient Judaism and the Jewish revolts against Rome receive attention in this book.
Many of the issues discussed are familiar case studies in Roman provincial administration: Cicero’s governorship in Cilicia, Pliny’s letters from Bithynia, Judea as presented in both the New Testament as well as Josephus, the Roman diaspora in the provinces, etc. Several provincial rebellions challenged the Roman peace, ranging from Arminius’ ambush at the Teutoburger Wald/Kalkriese, a unique case of a rebellion that led to a permanent loss of territorial control, to a slew of failed rebellions: Tacfarinas in North Africa, Boudicca in Britain, and the three great Jewish rebellions. Goldsworthy raises an important point: by the High Empire, schismatic rebellion had all but ceased. Even the Jews, the religiously inspired arch-rebels of the Roman world, who had previously carved their own kingdom out of the flailing Seleucid Empire, did not revolt again after the failure of the Bar Kochba rising. The end of schismatic revolt is all the more puzzling given that such actions would have been more than feasible during the chaotic Third Century Crisis. But all subsequent rebels posed as pretenders rather than schismatics (including Postumus in Gaul and Zenobia as regent for her son), aspiring to rule the whole empire rather than separate themselves permanently from it.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

On lost books quoted in the Bible

PROF. ED GREENSTEIN: What was the Book of the Wars of the Lord? (TheTorah.com).
And what can we learn by comparing it to another ancient book mentioned in the Bible, Sefer HaYashar (The Book of the Upright)?
I wrote about lost books quoted in the Hebrew Bible, including these two, in my article "Quotations from Lost Books in the Hebrew Bible: A New Translation and Introduction" in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, volume one (ed. Bauckham, Davila, and Panayotov; Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 673-698.

For past PaleoJudaica posts on lost ancient books in general, start here and follow the links. For other posts on lost books quoted in the Hebrew Bible, see here, here, and here, and follow the links.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Rasmussen on Emperor-cult architecture at Herculaneum

THE HOLY LAND PHOTOS' BLOG: Emperor Worship at Herculaneum (Carl Rasmussen).
As Christianity spread into the Roman World, one of the major, growing, cults that it faced was the worship of the ascended, deified, Roman Emperors—and eventually the worship of living Emperors. It is well–known that this practice forms part of the background for the book of Revelation and also for many additional passages found in the New Testament.

So, where did all this take place? To my knowledge, there is only one almost completely preserved structure known where this occurred. It is called the Sacellum (chapel/temple) of the Augustales (priests in charge of Emperor Worship) that was excavated at Herculaneum—near Pompeii. In this and the following post, I will share some images of this very unique structure.
There are many past PaleoJudaica posts on the site of Herculaneaum, which was destroyed and buried at the same time as Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius. (Start here and follow the links.)

But most of those posts have to do with the carbonized library of scrolls uncovered at Herculaneum and efforts to decipher them. It's nice now and then to have a post on the architecture of the site. Emperor worship was, of course, a touchy subject for both Jews and early Christians in the Roman Empire.

A thematically related post is here. And some of this post on the 2016 Divine Sonship Symposium at St. Andrews is relevant.

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T. Abraham: heavenly journey

READING ACTS: Abraham’s Heavenly Journey – Testament of Abraham 10- 14. Phil Long is back with more in his series on the Testamentary literature.

Past posts in his series on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are noted here and links. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch.

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Review of Weitzman, The Origin of the Jews

BOOK REVIEW: No easy answers in the search for Jewish origins (Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal).
... Of all the issues that perplex the Jewish people and the wider world, none is so troubling is the primal one — what, after all, links us to the people, the land and the faith of distant antiquity as described in the Bible?

An answer is proposed in “The Origin of the Jews: The Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age” by Steven Weitzman (Princeton University Press), the Abraham M. Ellis Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania. He has studied and mastered the scholarship of Jewish origins, and he seeks to explain exactly what “connects all Jews into a single people, religion, or community; the very beginning of their collective story.”
Some past posts on Professor Weitzman's research are here, here, here, here, here and links. His work on genetic studies is particularly relevant to this book.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nabatean remains at Hawara

NABATEAN (NABATAEAN) WATCH: Canadian scholars explore ancient Nabataean site of Hawara (Saeb Rawashdeh, The Jordan Times). One scholar, John P. Oleson.
of the University of Victoria, is working on the local rock-cut tombs. The other, M. Barbara Reeves of Victoria University, is studying the petrogylphs and inscriptions.
The incentive for that study was the discovery of a detailed petroglyph that Reeves subsequently interpreted as showing a Roman officer carrying out a religious ceremony at a location on one of Humayma’s sandstone ridges.

“I returned in 2014 to survey the ridge associated with the petroglyph, along with some sites on the adjacent landmasses,” Reeves said.

“During that survey, more than 150 petroglyphs, 20 inscriptions [Greek, Nabataean and Thamudic], 2 betyl niches and numerous recent Arabic inscriptions were documented in association with 15 human activity areas.

“The petroglyphs were carved into vertical and horizontal faces and on both natural and human-modified surfaces, showing wild and domesticated animals, hunting scenes, armed humans standing and riding, human worshippers, human footprints, gods, and symbols,” she said.
I noted an article on the site of Hawara recently here. Hawara is the ancient name of the city. The modern name of the site in Jordan is Humayma (or Humeima). It is not to be confused with the Hawara (Huwara) on the West Bank (see here and here).

The Nabateans spoke Arabic but wrote in a dialect of Aramaic. Media stories about them usually involve Petra, so it's nice to be getting information about a different site. For many past posts on the Nabateans (Nabataeans) and their language, start here and follow the links or search the PaleoJudaica archive.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.

Grossberg, Heresy and the Formation of the Rabbinic Community

NEW BOOK FROM MOHR SIEBECK: DAVID M. GROSSBERG Heresy and the Formation of the Rabbinic Community. 2017. X, 277 pages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 168. Published in English. 129,00 €, cloth, ISBN 978-3-16-155147-5.
Between the first and sixth centuries C.E., a group of sages that scholars refer to as the rabbinic community systematized their ideas about Judaism in works such as the Mishnah and the Talmud. David M. Grossberg offers a new approach to thinking about this community's formation. Rather than seeking an occasion of origin, he examines the gradual development of the idea of an authorized rabbinic collective. The classical rabbinic texts imagine a diverse setting of Sadducees, Pharisees, sinners, and sectarians interacting in complex and changing ways with pious sages, teachers, and judges. Yet this representation aligns only vaguely with the social reality in which these ancient sages actually lived and operated. The author contends that these texts' primary aim was not to describe real rabbinic opponents but to create and enforce boundaries between piety and impiety and between legitimate and illegitimate teachings. In this way, the emerging rabbinic movement set standards of inclusion and exclusion in the community of righteous Israel and established the bounds of the community aspiring to lead them, the rabbinic community itself.

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Nehushtan the bronze serpent

DR. RICHARD LEDERMAN: Nehushtan, the Copper Serpent: Its Origins and Fate (TheTorah.com).
The Torah describes Moses building a copper serpent to heal the Israelites. According to Kings, Hezekiah destroys it because it was being worshiped. Archaeology and history clarify the religious and political meaning of this image.
A past PaleoJudaica post touching on Philo's use of the bronze serpent story is here.

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Shablul

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: shablul "snail; the symbol @" שבלול.. Professor Sabar does not note this, but the word appears in the Talmud (with the meaning "snail," not "@") but not in the Bible.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Talmud on the art (and problem) of forgery

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Art of Forgery. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ Talmud study, the rabbis attempt to imagine every possible way to alter a legal document, and a coinciding method to thwart each of them.
At 176 folio pages, Tractate Bava Batra is the longest in the Babylonian Talmud; in the Daf Yomi cycle, it takes six months to complete. Over the last two weeks, Daf Yomi readers began the 10th and final chapter of the tractate, in which the rabbis take up a very practical question: How is a valid legal document prepared? Throughout Bava Batra, we have learned about many kinds of transactions that involve written documents, including promissory notes, deeds of sale, deeds of gift, and wills. In modern society, such transactions usually leave a long documentary trail, because they involve lawyers, registrars, and probate courts. In Talmudic-era society, however, the physical possession of a signed piece of paper was the standard way to prove a claim of ownership or a debt. Such documents would ordinarily be written by professional scribes, who knew the legal formulas involved. But how should a document be composed to assure its authenticity and minimize the opportunity for forgery?

[...]
There is a lot of indirect information about the material culture of ancient documents in this passage.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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Brady moves to the University of Kentucky

CONGRATULATIONS TO CHRISTIAN BRADY: First Lewis Honors Dean Named (Jay Blanton, University of Kentucky Campus News).
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 10, 2017) – University of Kentucky Provost Tim Tracy announced today that the former head of one of the most highly regarded honors programs in the country will be the first dean of the Lewis Honors College.

Christian Brady for 10 years — from 2006 to 2016 — served as dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. Previously, he directed the honors program at Tulane University. At Penn State, Schreyer — under Brady’s leadership — raised more than $80 million to enhance honors education, developed a renowned leadership academy, and tripled applications to the college while also increasing selectivity.

[...]
Chris Brady is a longstanding blogger at the Targuman Blog. His work on the Aramaic Targumim, especially the Targum of Ruth, is well known to PaleoJudaica readers. Start here and follow the links.

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More looting arrests in the West Bank

APPREHENDED: Antiquities thieves nabbed with artifacts from Byzantine-era church. Civil administration says it has opened an investigation after columns from West Bank structure seized from robbers (Times of Israel).
Israeli authorities arrested two antiquities thieves in the West Bank who were attempting to make off with artifacts dating back to the Byzantine era, the IDF’s Civil Administration said on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry agency — which oversees Israeli civilian activity in the West Bank — said that the two Palestinian suspects were arrested between the West Bank city of Bethlehem and the settlement of Tekoa with three columns from a nearby Byzantine church inscribed with pseudo-Greek text in the back of their work truck.

[...]
Smugglers stole columns from a church? Good grief!

Other recent looting arrests in Israel and the West Bank have been noted here and links.

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The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Canon Deck

RELIGION PROF: New Canon Deck Available: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (James McGrath).
A while back, Jim Davila asked whether the card game included certain extracanonical Jewish texts, and I told him that if he gave me a list, I could make a deck with whatever works he wishes. Some of the ones he mentioned were already in the Old Testament/Jewish Bible deck, and so he substituted a few others.

[...]
The new deck is now available. Follow the link for ordering information.

Background here and here.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Squitieri, Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period

BIBLIOGRAPHIA IRANICA: Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period. Notice of a new book: Squitieri, Andrea. 2017. Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period. (Archaeopress Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology 2). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Stone vessels were important for Jews in the late Second Temple period, because such vessels did not transmit ritual impurity. This is not my expertise, but the ones I have heard of date to the Hasmonean and Roman periods, so that may be why Judean stoen vessels are not mentioned in the description of this book. Still, it would provide useful background on the production of such objects.

For some background on stone vessels in the Roman world and ancient Judaism, see here and here and links.

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JQS 24.2 (2017)

THE JEWISH STUDIES QUARTERLY has a new issue out (Volume 24, Number 2, 2017). One of the articles involves ancient Judaism:
Meir Ben Shahar, "A Future and a Hope" in Babylonia: Three Sayings of Rav as a Diasporan Manifesto; pp. 101-121(21)

Abstract:
The Jewish Diaspora is often viewed as the paradigm of exile, which implies longing for a place from which a people has been forcibly expelled. This article interprets three sayings by Rav in the Babylonian Talmud as reflecting an alternative ideology, in which living outside the Holy Land is not seen as regrettable or shameful, for God is revealed through the Jewish people's observance of the Torah and the commandments everywhere. Although the relevant sugya in BT Ta'anit 29a–b opens with catastrophe – the destruction of the Temple – Rav's three sayings here exude optimism, implying that a good life is attainable wherever Jews reside. Every moment of Torah study is the realization of the "future and hope" promised by the prophet Jeremiah.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Lawrence, Jethro and the Jews

NEW BOOK FROM BRILL: Jethro and the Jews. Jewish Biblical Interpretation and the Question of Identity. Beatrice J.W. Lawrence, Seattle University.
In Jethro and the Jews, Beatrice J. W. Lawrence examines rabbinic texts that address the biblical character of Jethro, a Midianite priest, Moses’ advisor and father-in-law, and the creator of the system of Jewish jurisprudence. Lawrence explores biblical interpretations in Midrash, Targum and Talmud, revealing a spectrum of responses to the presence of a man who straddles the line between insider and outsider. Ranging from character assassination to valorization of Jethro as a convert, these interpretive strategies reveal him to be a locus of anxiety for the rabbis concerning conversion, community boundaries, intermarriage, and non-Jews.

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Candida Moss

CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR CANDIDA MOSS, who has joined the faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham as Edward Cadbury Professor of Theology.

Her essays, often co-written with Joel Baden, at the Daily Beast and elsewhere have helped keep PaleoJudaica readers informed about many news stories involving biblical studies and related matters, most recently here.

She describes her research specialties as follows:
My work primarily focuses on ideas about martyrdom, death, suffering, and afterlife in the New Testament and literature of Early Christianity. I have additional interests in disability theory and theology, religion and public life, the Bible and education, and cultural heritage.

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Golem sculptures, sort of

GOLEM WATCH: The golem in a London garden. Sculptor David Breuer-Weil 's huge sculptures are on show in London this summer.
How fitting that sculptor David Breuer-Weil’s Philosopher — a mammoth bronze head assembled from smashed-up and reconstituted plaster — should be made following his discovery that he is a direct descendant of philosopher Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the celebrated Maharal of Prague.

“You can imagine my surprise when I learned in a recently published book that the Maharal was my great-grandfather 14 generations down,” he tells me. “It puts a different emphasis on making figurative sculptures if you are related to the Maharal who, according to legend, made the ‘Golem of Prague’.”

[...]

In spite of a very busy schedule, he is committed to his daily study of the Talmud, which he says is filled with “the most tremendous imagery” of every aspect of life. He credits the Talmud with fuelling his creativity, resulting in paintings with “multiple layers of meaning and complex imagery”.

Breuer-Weil’s art constitutes “ways of philosophising about life in a visual way”. In recent years, this has culminated in a series of monumental sculptures, themed around the human body, be it through the creation of feet, a head, or the body in its entirety. Although all are colossal in size, their fragility and vulnerability is rendered through texture and context.
The sculptures apparently are not intended to depict golems, but some of them could certainly could pass for golems.

For earlier PaleoJudaica posts on past and present manifestations of the Golem legend, start here and follow the many links.

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Report on Brussels Coptic conference

ALIN SUCIU: Guest Post: Julien Delhez – A Successful Conference for French-Speaking Coptologists. The report includes summaries on many papers covering many topics. These include Sheoute's unfortunate anti-Jewish writings, the use of apocryphal traditions about Jesus in Coptic magical texts, a new edition of the Coptic version of the Apocalypse of Paul, a touching graffito by a man who lost his cat, and much more.

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If you like OT Pseudepigrapha, please help! (bumped)

DEAR READERS,

Many of you have heard of the book I co-edited with Richard Bauckham and Alexander Panayotov:
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, Volume 1 (Eerdmans, 2013).
If any of you have used the book for your research, teaching, or other creative projects, I would be grateful if you would give me a little information about how you used it.

Many of you have told me over the years that you have found my blogging at PaleoJudaica valuable. This is your chance to give me something back.


I have enabled comments on this post, so you can reply below.

Here's what I need:

1. If any academic colleague has cited the book in any publication, whether published or in press, would you please tell me what part of the book you cited and give me the full reference for your publication? I am interested both in scholarly and popular publications.

2. If any reader has used the book in teaching at any level — postgraduate, undergraduate, adult education, high school, etc. — would you please let me know what course or class you have used it in, the level of the class, and which specific part of the book you used? Any comments on how useful you found the material and how your students responded to it would be welcome as well.

3. If any reader has drawn on the book for a creative project other than academic research or teaching, would you please tell me about it? Has it influenced any literary work you have written, any artistic work you have produced, any theatrical production, any television or cinematic production, any musical production, etc.? I also would be grateful to know of any publications, exhibitions, performances, screenings, etc. which have resulted.

4. If have any friends who you know have used the book in any of the three ways above, please alert them to this post and encourage them to contact me.

Why do I want to know all this?

I am currently collecting information on the influence of this book in the years since it has been published. This is partly for an article on the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Project that I am writing. It is for the 50th anniversary of the SBL's Pseudepigrapha Section which comes in 2019. (But the article is due in 2017.)

Some of the information is also for a file I'm keeping on "impact," which involves the influence of academic research on people's lives. The British Government likes us to keep track of impact.

I will use the information for the two purposes given above.

In due course I will also give a general summary of what I learn in a PaleoJudaica post.

Many thanks for your help, which is very valuable to me. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Sunday, July 09, 2017

More on the Leningrad Codex scribe

PALEOGRAPHY: Author of 10th-century Hebrew biblical text is identified (Madeleine Buckley, USA Today).
The ancient text, known to scholars as Codex L17, contains only Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Researcher Kim Phillips wrote in an article the Tyndale Bulletin that he determined that the author was the scribe Samuel ben Jacob, or “Samuel, son of Jacob,” and that it was written around the year 975.

Samuel ben Jacob also wrote The Leningrad Codex, the earliest known complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, completed in the year 1008 and the basis for many modern biblical translations.
This story reached the blogosphere late last week. I noted it here. But it's good to see the mainstream media taking some notice.

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Hannibal's trail of poop?

PUNIC WATCH: How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps? He pulled off one of the greatest military feats ever. Now new scientific evidence points to Hannibal’s legendary route to Rome (Franz Lidz, The Smithsonian).
A relative newcomer to the debate, [microbiologist Chris] Allen insists that until now no hard material evidence has been presented that would indicate the most likely path. “Nada, zero, zip, zilch,” he says. “Everything has been guesswork based on readings of the classical texts.” He believes that he and his team of collaborators—led by Canadian geomorphologist Bill Mahaney—recently unearthed the first compelling clues, thanks to a massive patty of ancientmanure.

Embedded 16 inches deep in a bog on the French side of the Traversette is a thin layer of churned-up, compacted scat that suggests a large footfall by thousands of mammals at some point in the past. “If Hannibal had hauled his traveling circus over the pass, he would have stopped at the mire to water and feed the beasts,” reasons Allen. “And if that many horses, mules and, for that matter, elephants did graze there, they would have left behind a MAD.” That’s the acronym for what microbiologists delicately term a “mass animal deposition.”

By examining sediment from two cores and a trench—mostly soil matted with decomposed plant fiber—Allen and his crew have identified genetic materials that contain high concentrations of DNA fragments from Clostridia, bacteria that typically make up only 2 or 3 percent of peat microbes, but more than 70 percent of those found in the gut of horses. The bed of excrement also contained unusual levels of bile acids and fatty compounds found in the digestive tracts of horses and ruminants. Allen is most excited about having isolated parasite eggs—associated with gut tapeworms—preserved in the site like tiny genetic time capsules.
Allen's theory that this is the trail left by Hannibal's army during his crossing of the Alps in the Second Punic War. But it is controversial. I have already noted the theory here, but this Smithsonian article is a very detailed treatment of it and is worth reading.

For past PaleoJudaica post on Hannibal and the Punic wars, start here and follow the many links.

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Tesher

YONA SABAR: Hebrew Word of the Week: tesher "tip (to a waiter, driver, etc.); gratuity" תשר. The first attested use of (a form of) the word involves Saul preparing a tip for the prophet Samuel for divining the fate of some lost donkeys.

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The rivers of Israel

GEOGRAPHY: In Photos: The Rivers of Israel (Brandon Marlon, Jewish Breaking News). A nice photo essay for a Sunday morning.

The Bible mentions many, but not all, of these rivers. Fun fact: According to 1 Enoch 13, Enoch had his Merkavah vision at the waters of Dan:
And I went off and sat down at the waters of Dan, in the land of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon: I read their petition till I fell 8 asleep. And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me, and I saw visions of chastisement, and a voice came bidding (me) I to tell it to the sons of heaven, and reprimand them.

(Charles translation)
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