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Ap. 3-C Lekh-lekha Haftarah - how many rivals and potential members has Israel?

Dr. Yitzḥaq Ḥayut-Man Genesis Lekh-lekhah with its Haftarah 27.10.2012 18:52
Ap. 3-C  Lekh-lekha Haftarah - how many rivals and potential members has Israel? - Israel - New Israel - Bible study - Book of Genesis - Jewish-Christian


The Haftarah for Parashat Lekh-lekha refers to Abraham as a paragon for the encouragement of to become the world's leading nation. From this perspective we survey the numbers that appear in the Parashah and find that the twelve-fold Nation of is potentially the largest of all nations.



Lekh-Lekha Haftarah:
How many Rivals and Potential Members has Israel?

The Parashah (Torah portion read publically on Saturday) of Lekh-lekha (Gen.  12:1-17:27) has many events: 1) the command to Avram to go to the Land, 2) Avram's descent to Egypt and the events between Avram, Saray and Pharaoh, 3) Avram's separation from Lot, 4) the war of the kings and Avram's victory, 5) the covenant by the divided offerings, 6) the birth of Yishma'el, 7) the promise concerning Yitzḥaq (Isaac) and the covenant of circumcision. Each of these has gathered hips of exegeses.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Haftarah (section from the Books of the Prophets read after the Parashah) ties with the case of the kings, and this connection is only hinted – but from it we can learn more what the goal of the selection of Abraham was.

This Haftarah is (again) from Isaiah (40:27-41:16) and it is addressed to Israel: "But thou, Yisra'el, art my servant, Ya'aqov whom I have chosen, the seed of Avraham my friend" (40:8). This is, in fact, the only mention of Avraham in the Haftarah, and even here not by a direct mention – but the mention that Ya'aqov was of Avraham's seed, and Ya'aqov and not Abraham is the founder of the Nation of Israel. Clearly, this is not for this mention that the Haftarah was selected.

But the Haftarah contains a verse that, though it does not name Avraham explicitly, but hints to him: "who raised up one from the east whom righteousness met wherever he set his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings…" (41:2). Who is that man of righteousness who came from the East and overcame rules and kings? According to Genesis, this was Avram-Avraham, who started his journey from Ur-Kasdim in the East and overcame the four kings. The Haftarah gathers the meanings of the events of the Parashah of Lekh lekhah in order to give the nation of Israel confidence and credence. The trials of Avraham are a model for the situation of the People of Israel, and the connection concerns military and foreign affairs.

The successful contention of Avram with the kings does not resemble his contention with Pharaoh, an affair that gave Avram riches, but not honor (the man of righteousness and generosity in this Parashah is in fact Pharaoh).  It is also not only the contention with the four kings of the East but with ten kings – the four kings, the five local kings who were also wicked (see Rashi's interpretation of their names) as well as with the mysterious figure or "And Malki-ẓedeq king of Shalem… a priest of the most high God" (Gen. 14:18). Here is was Avram who acts with justice and generosity; he relinquished his share of the great booty, whereas to the priest-king he gave "a tithe of everything". This can be interpreted as a tithe from the booty, but it is also possible to understand as a tithe from everything that Avram had – in thus perhaps penance for the riches he gained by delivering his wife to Pharaoh.

The number Ten returns later in the covenant between the divided, in which Avram received the fourth of the seven divine promises that he received in the Parashah of Lekh-lekha. His seed is promised to own the country of ten nations: the Qeny, Qenizzi, Qadmony, Ḥitti, Perizzi, the Refa'im, the Emori, Kena'ạni, Girgashi and Yevusi. [Interestingly, of all these, the Parashah counts only "and the Kena'ạni and the Perizzi then in the land" (13:7) and does not mention the other nations]. In other lists of the people of Kena'ạn only six or seven nations are mentioned.

In the course of the story another number is mentioned – 318. These three hundred and eighteen were "his trained servants, born in his own house" (14:14), but not his biological sons (as the overall theme of the Parashah is the sterility of Avram and Saray). When he was circumcised he was already "Avraham" (meaning "father of multitudes") he also "took Yishma'el his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Avraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin" (17:20), which obviously included those 318.

Another important number that appears in the Parashah is included in the blessing for Ishmael – even though he would not be included in the blessings to Yitzhaq: "And as for Yishma'el I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly, twelve princes (nesi'im) shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation" (17:20). This blessing, which was first given to Yishma'el, would later  be given also to Abraham's grandson, Ya'ạqov-Israel, a nation of twelve components.

The Haftarah brings Abraham as a model for Israel, because of two reasons – his military daring and his belief (albeit shaky at times) that he – old and childless will still have offspring as numerous as the sand of the earth and the stars in the heavens.

From this issue a few conclusions concerning the Nation of Israel as the Servant of God, which is also "a Servant Nation" (as termed by Hugh Schonfield) for all humankind – as it is written in the beginning of the Parashah "in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (12:3).

At present, as in the time of Isaiah, We are under the feeling that we are a small nation that comprises solely of "The Jewish People", whose survival is under threat. The mention of Abraham in these Parashah and Haftarah come to encourage Israel. Israel is not an exclusively the nation of Jews, but a twelve-part nation whose components identify themselves with the promises to Abraham. The picturesque promise of "look now towards heaven, and count the stars, if thou be able to count them; and he said to him, So shall thy seed be" (15:5) is not so clear mathematically – does it concern only the stars seen with naked eyes (a few thousands), or the number of stars in the galaxy (tens of billions) or in all the billions of galaxies (possibly more than all the grains of sand upon earth, 12:16). A more precise estimate  is contained in the hope of Moshe (Moses) for the People of Israel "The Lord your God has multiplied you, and, behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven for multitude. The Lord God of your fathers may add to you a thousand times so many as you are, and bless you, as He has promised you" (Deut. 1:10-11). About 600,000 who exited Egypt a thousand times means about 600 million, and since the 600,000 included only combat-ready men, the total actually reaches some two billions (also if we calculate over 6 million Israeli Jews times 318 of joiners, as in the case of Abraham and his household, we get some two billions). Clearly such a Nation of Israel is not identified only with "The Jewish People" but includes much beyond that, the potential is among all the people who are affected by the message of the Hebrew Bible. 

 


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