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eTeacherBiblical Official Newsletter
Issue #83 - 08/11
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Eli Dahan

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Re-starts in the Old Testament?

As a Biblical Hebrew teacher, I have the opportunity to share the words of G-d with my students. A few weeks ago, while we had a lesson, and we read from the Hebrew Bible, we discovered that one expression can actually mean the word restart.
Today, when we use this word, it is probably used when our computer is not working, or if we want to start something new in our life.

When we speak about restart in the Old Testament, the expression is different, as we can see, for example, in Genesis 12:1-2-

Abraham's life

" וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה"
 

"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:"

G-d chose Abraham to be the one that will start a new nation after his decision to create nations in the world. The destruction of Babel and the confusion of the languages is actually a restart. The reason is that humanity as one nation wasn't good enough according to The Lord, so he needed to choose. Abraham like Neo in Matrix is the one.
 

The expression "and I will make of thee a great nation" appears also in Genesis 17:20, 18:18, 21:18, 46:3.
However, only in Exodus 32, the context is actually a restart, when the people of Israel, with the leadership of Aaron, built, prayed and bowed to the golden calf instead to The Almighty, as we can read in Exodus 32:7-10-

The golden calf

"וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: לֶךְ-רֵד--כִּי שִׁחֵת עַמְּךָ, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלֵיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. סָרוּ מַהֵר, מִן-הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִם--עָשׂוּ לָהֶם, עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה; וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ-לוֹ, וַיִּזְבְּחוּ-לוֹ, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: רָאִיתִי אֶת-הָעָם הַזֶּה, וְהִנֵּה עַם-קְשֵׁה-עֹרֶף הוּא. וְעַתָּה הַנִּיחָה לִּי, וְיִחַר-אַפִּי בָהֶם וַאֲכַלֵּם; וְאֶעֱשֶׂה אוֹתְךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל."
 

"And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation."

Moses the prophet had the option here to choose between himself and his people. G-d was so angry with the people of Israel that he almost restarted, by telling Moses, that he will destroy the stubborn people and start all over from Moses. Whether it was a test for Moses, whether it wasn't, Moses didn't think about the restart as an option at all. His arguments to G-d were simple: you promised to our fathers, what the Egyptians will say and these are your people, not mine!

The same happened, by the way, when the spies had returned from the Promised Land, with an answer that almost caused the Israelites to do an restart and come back to Egypt.
When The Almighty saw that his people are not so loyal to him and to his promise, he asked Moses once more to start over, as we can read in numbers 14:11-12-

" וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, עַד-אָנָה יְנַאֲצֻנִי הָעָם הַזֶּה; וְעַד-אָנָה, לֹא-יַאֲמִינוּ בִי, בְּכֹל הָאֹתוֹת, אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי בְּקִרְבּוֹ. אַכֶּנּוּ בַדֶּבֶר, וְאוֹרִשֶׁנּוּ; וְאֶעֱשֶׂה, אֹתְךָ, לְגוֹי-גָּדוֹל וְעָצוּם, מִמֶּנּו
 

"And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they."

One more time Moses' answer is the same and now Moses showed how G-d could have great mercy and forgiveness. What can I say? To learn Biblical Hebrew is a fascinating experience and endless. From one expression that looks as a promise, one can learn even the restart is not a modern saying!
 

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

 

Hebrew

Transcription

Translation

אִתְחֵל

'itchēl

Restarted

בְּחִירָה

bəchîrāh

Choice

בְּרֵרָה

bərērāh

Option

גּוֹי

gôy

Nation

גָּדוֹל

gādôl

Great

שְׁאֵלָה

šə'ēlāh

Question

דִּיּוּן

dîyûn

Discussion 

 
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