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Exegetical Lectures on the Bible

(Continued from p. 39.)

By Rabbi Isidore Kalisch, of Cleveland

No. II.

[NOTE. In our ninety-seventh number, page 37, we requested the author of the Exegetical Lectures to give us the passages to which he referred where שדי was rendered in the Septuagint by παντοχράτωρ or ίχανός, as we could not find any example in Genesis and the other Mosaic books; strangely enough we overlooked the book of Job, where the term occurs quite frequently. Mr. Kalisch has called our attention to the following passages: Job v. 17, “Therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty,” νονδέτημα δέ παντοχράτορθς μή άπαναίνου. Ibid. viii. 5 : “If thou wouldst seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty,” Σύ δέ όρθριζε πρός Κύριον παντοχζάτορα δεόμενος. So also in xi. 7; xv. 25; xxii. 17, 25; xxiii. 16 ; xxvii. 2; xxxii. 8; xxxiii. 4; xxxiv. 10, 12; and xxxv. 15. In xxi. 15: “What is the Almighty that we should serve him,” τί ίχανός ότι δουλεύσομβν αύτώ. xxxi. 2: “And what inheritance of the Almighty from on high,” χαί χληρονομία ίχαύοΰ έξ ύψίστων. Generally the term is παντοχράτωρ, and ίχανός is found but twice in all the passages cited. We are indebted to Mr. K. for his kind correction of our oversight.]

“And God said, There shall be an expansion in the midst of the waters, so that there may be a division between waters and waters. And God made an expansion so that it divided between the waters which are under the expansion, and the water which are above the expansion.” Gen. i. 6, 7.

Simple as the history of the creation of the second epoch is presented to us, the meaning thereof is still very obscure. Already the sharp-witted and clear-thinking commentator Nachmanides (רמב״ן Ramban) said concerning this in his Commentary on the Bible ואל תקוה ממני שאכתוב בו דבר שהענין הוא מסתרי תורה וגו׳ “Expect not from me, that I should tell thee respecting this anything; for it belongs to the deep mysteries of the law, especially since the Scriptures express themselves very briefly on this topic,” &c. The explanation of Moses Mendels<<266>>sohn, “that by the upper waters the clouds are designated; by the lower waters, the waters upon our earth, and by רקיע Rakia, the clear sky is meant,” I must regard as incorrect, notwithstanding my great admiration for this world-renowned philosopher, and although he esteems his explanation as quite simple and comprehensive. For v. 7 says not “he divided between the waters which are on the earth, and between the waters which are above the earth,” but “between the waters which are under the expansion, and the waters which are above the expansion;” which will make it clear that by Rakia’ cannot be conveyed the open space, free from vapours, which is between the surface of the earth and the region of the clouds.

Before, however, I give my own exposition, which is in accordance with the experience of the physical sciences, I deem it necessary to premise a few remarks.

The heavens were considered in ancient times as a firm and solid vault, in which the stars were fastened; and in order to account for the various movements of particular heavenly bodies, people assumed the existence of several celestial globes or spheres, one lying above the other. The nations of antiquity had therefore three different spaces of the universe: 1st, the heaven, which was viewed as the residence of God, of the pious and pure spirits; 2dly, the earth, the upper world, as the dwelling of the living of mankind; and 3dly, the nether-world, as the abode of the departed. (Elysium, Earth, and Hades.)

The Rabbins do not agree as to the idea which our ancestors had of heaven. Rabbi Yehudah thought (Chagigah, ch. ii.), that there were two different heavens; a, the one wherein the constellations are found; and b the other, which is elevated above everything that is impure, and is filled with the purest light, and is the dwelling-place of the angels and all the saints. The first is then designated as simple שמים the heaven, and the other as שמי שמים the Heaven of heavens. Resh Lakish (ibidem) was of opinion that these to be assumed seven heavens, one different from the other, to wit, גלגל רקיע שחקים זבול מעון מכון ערבות  or וילון  Velon or Galgal, Rakia, Shechakim, Zebul, Maon, Machon, and ‘Araboth; of the seventh heaven it is said that these are the sources of life, peace and blessing; the souls of the pious; the spiritual dew wherewith the dead shall be revived, and the world renovated; also the Seraphim and myriads of angels; and above all the throne of grace of the Supreme Being who rules over all us his majesty.

(To be continued.)