Gary A. Rendsburg


The Grand Scheme of Leviticus

By Gary A. Rendsburg

A brilliant insight by one of the major biblical commentators of the Middle Ages is the discovery by Ramban (that is, Nahmanides, 1194-1270) that the tripartite division of the Tabernacle reflects the similar tripartite division of Mount Sinai. According to Exodus 19 and 24, during the revelation of the Decalogue, (a) the people as a whole occupied the lower slopes; (b) Aaron, his two sons and the elders were permitted halfway up the mountain, and (c) only Moses was allowed on the summit. Ramban noted that, in like fashion, the priestly instructions in Exodus 25-40 and the book of Leviticus permit (a) the people as a whole to visit the outer court of the Tabernacle, in which the main altar was situated; (b) the priests to enter the inner sanctuary, which contained the table, the lamp stand and the incense altar, and (c) only the high priest to enter the holy of holies, or innermost sanctum, which housed the ark of the covenant.Read More


The Subversion of Myth

By Gary A. Rendsburg

A major finding of modern biblical scholarship is the extent to which the narrative in the book of Exodus is informed by the ancient Israelites’ knowledge of Egyptian culture, religion and literature. The birth story of Moses in Exodus 2:1-10 provides an excellent illustration of both the extent of and the transformation involved in such borrowing.Read More


Comfort, Comfort

By Gary A. Rendsburg

This week’s portion, Va-Et’hanan, includes two of the most famous sections of the Bible, a second version of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-18, and the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. One could write endlessly about these crucial texts and their importance for the history of Judaism. However, I’ll focus instead on the Haftarah, IsaiahRead More


Determining the Bird

By Gary A. Rendsburg

This column, both when written by myself and by others, typically dwells on the larger issues inherent in the particular portion — for example, a theological point, an ethical or moral lesson, a social observation, whatever it may be. I depart from that norm this week with a look into the arcane world of biblical philology.ThisRead More


The Fate of Slaves in Ancient Israel

By Gary A. Rendsburg

With this week’s Torah reading, called Mishpatim or “Rules,” the presentation of the laws of ancient Israel formally commences. Earlier sections of the Torah have occasional laws imbedded in them, such as the law of circumcision in Genesis 17 or the laws pertaining to Passover in Exodus 12. But these items are few in number and areRead More



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