Exodus: The History Behind the Story

Prof. Israel Knohl The Elephantine Stele and the Great Harris Papyrus both describe Pharaoh Setnakhte’s war against the Levantine usurper Irsu in 1186 B.C.E. Reading these accounts together with Manetho’s story of the war against Osarseph offers us a possible historical context for what eventually became the Bible’s story of the exodus of Israel from …

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Bereishit — A Fall or an Ascent?

It’s been said that the first chapter of Bereishit (Genesis) contains polemics against just about every worldview common in the ancient world. I want to focus here on just one of those worldviews: the notion of destiny, that a person’s fate is written in the stars. Au contraire, says the Torah: as soon as humans enter the …

The Shema‘ Yisrael

The Shema‘ Yisrael from Deuteronomy 6:4 (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”) is Judaism’s holiest confession. Today, we understand the passage as a monotheistic declaration. However, in the Second Temple period, the Shema‘ Yisrael text in Deuteronomy would have been read “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” The Shema‘ Yisrael was originally …