When I posted the article containing a long list of obscure items in the Tanakh on my website www.booksnthoughts.com, I heard from many readers who found the list interesting and thoughtful. Some even offered their own interpretation of the obscure item. In view of the interest. I am listing some more of the hundreds of obscure words and events that could be listed.
Unclear verses regarding creation, Adam, Eve, and the Tower of Babel
- Is the biblical account of creation a parable or metaphor, or was it meant to be taken literally? If the former, why was it composed?
- The word “Elohim” is generally translated “God,” However it also means anyone or anything that is powerful, as Abraham ibn Ezra explains Genesis 6:2 “sons of Elohim” does not suggest that God has children, but these were powerful men. Similarly Exodus 22:8 stating that when people have a dispute they should “come before Elohim” means before judges. Am I correct in interpreting Genesis 1:2, “ruach Elohim hovered over the face of the waters” as “a powerful wind blew over the waters”?
- What is the significance of Eve being taken from Adam’s rib (or side according to another translation)? Why wasn’t Eve created as Adam was, from the dust of the earth? Is the verse suggesting that originally Adam and Eve were connected as a single being and then separated? This is the understanding of the creation of humans by Aristophanes in the Greek philosopher Plato’s book “Symposium” and in a Midrash.
- Adam called Eve “Ishah” in Genesis 2:23. Why was she later called Eve?
- Is there a place called “The Garden of Eden”?
- Is there any support for the idea that when good people die they go to the Garden of Eden or to heaven?
- Is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden a parable? If so, what is it telling us?
- Is it significant that during the onset of creation, God names what was created and later, after Adam is created, God assigns the job to name the animals to Adam?
- Why are all men and women who descended from Adam and Eve punished with death, with no longer an ability to live forever, because Adam and Eve ate a forbidden fruit?
- Is the Torah telling us that death is necessary? Why is there a need for death? What does it accomplish?
- Isn’t the punishment God decreed for Adam and Eve excessive for only eating a forbidden fruit? Many children today who live in rural areas eat fruit belonging to neighbors. This is wrong, but expected. And the children are not so severely punished.
- What is the Torah teaching when it states that of all things that Adam and Eve could understand after eating the forbidden fruit they realized that they were naked?
- Why did God feel it necessary to clothe Adam and Eve in animal skins? How did God get these skins? Did God have to kill animals to get the skins? Is this proper?
- What did the people who attempted to build the Tower of Babel try to accomplish?
- Is the story of the Tower of Babel a parable and, if so, what is its message?
- Why does it inform us in Genesis 22:20-24 that after Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac, Abraham’s brother Nahor had twelve children and two grandchildren, and gives us the names of each? If the information is given to inform us that one of his children is Rebecca, who will later marry Isaac, the Torah could have just told us about her birth and not the other thirteen descendants of Nahor.
- When Abram was 75-years old he left his father and traveled to Canaan. Why did he leave his father? There is no indication in the Torah that Abraham had contact with his dad who died 60 years after Abraham left him or with his brother Nahor until about the same time when he was informed that Nahor had children and grandchildren. Was Abraham estranged from his family? If so, why?
- Abraham was born according to the biblical account 1948 years after creation. The State of Israel was reestablished in 1948. Is there a connection?
- The three patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were very careful to marry relatives. Even Esau, when he saw that his parents disapproved of his marriage, went and married a relative. Why did they do so? Why did this practice discontinue with Jacob’s children? Judah, for example, married a Canaanite woman and Joseph the daughter of a pagan priest.
- What happened to Esau’s wife when he married a relative?
- God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah by just adding a single letter to each name, the Hebrew letter Why were the names changed? Why such a simple change? What does it signify?
- While the Bible uses Abraham’s and Sara’s changed names after the change, it does not always do so for Jacob’s name change to Israel. Why?
- What does Jacob’s name change really signify?
- Why was Isaacs name not changed?
- Why was Sarah the only woman who had her name changed and not the wives of Isaac and Jacob?
- How old was Isaac at the Akedah (binding), when Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac?
- Why does the Torah tell us about Abraham’s son’s descendants in Genesis 25:13-16? They are not Isaac’s descendants.
- Why are there two different descriptions of the twelve tribes in the deathbed blessings of Jacob to his sons and Moses’ blessing to their descendants, the tribes?
- What is the current meaning that we can find for ourselves, if any, in the near sacrifice by Abraham of his son Isaac?
- Similarly, is there any meaning for us today in the creation story, the Garden of Eden narrative, the drama of the Tower of Babel, and the many other stories told in the Bible? If so, what meaning is there?
- Why does the Bible tell us the faults of all the people in the Bible, including the Patriarchs, Moses, and David?
- Why are there three stories about the patriarchs telling people in a foreign land that their wives are their sister, twice for Abraham and once for Isaac? Shouldn’t Abraham and Isaac have learnt not to make the claim after Abraham’s first experience
- Why did Isaac have sex with his wife near an open window for all to see?
- What did Jacob gain when he gave his brother Esau food for the birthright Esau had? Did Jacob act properly?
- What is a birthright?
- Why did Isaac love his older son Esau more than Jacob?
- Isaac’s wife Rebecca loved Jacob more than Esau and talked Jacob into misleading his father to think that he was Esau and giving him the blessing Isaac wanted to give to Esau. Wasn’t this wrong? Even if blessings work, shouldn’t the blessing to Jacob be nullified because Isaac was giving it thinking he was giving it to Esau and a blessing given fraudulently should have no effect, like contracts in America today?
- Do blessings work?
- Why did Jacob agree to the deception?
- Does the story of the deception indicate that Isaac and Rebecca had a dysfunctional family?
- Jacob agreed to work for seven years for Laban who in turn agreed to give him Rachel at the end of the seven year period. Laban then tricked Jacob into taking Rachel’s sister Leah. Why did Jacob have to agree to work a second period for Rachel? True, he was now married to Leah, but wasn’t Laban bound by their agreement to give him Rachel without Jacob needing to agree to work for her again? Jacob bedding Leah did not nullify the agreement between Laban and Jacob.
- Did the marriage to Rachel occur at the time of the new agreement, or did Jacob have to wait to have the woman he loved for seven years?
- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are considered the patriarchs of Judaism. What does this mean?
- Can we list even one act that each performed that clearly shows them to be extraordinary?
As a result of the obscurities, there have been contrary interpretations of scripture. For example, some scholars feel certain that the stories of creation and the Garden of Eden should be understood literally. Others think they are not true, only parables. Is this bad?
Great list. With regards to the Garden of Eden story, there is a parable (Talmud, Yoma 69b) where the יצר הרע yetzer hara is captured for a few days. When the rabbis note that no one engages in business, not even a single egg is laid, they conclude that the evil inclination can be used to do good. That the evil inclination is a “necessary evil.”
The moral of the story is that if everything was given to us for free society would become boring. Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that when people have things too good they will take a hammer to a window. It is easy to be lazy in the garden where everything is provided. It is much harder to work for those same things, but that is freedom. Our ability to choose between right from wrong, to exercise our free will as G-d intended, is a gift, not a curse, from Adam and Eve.
I agree. Although there is no such thing as the yetzer hara, an evil inclination, a being separate from humans, the idea is true. Humans have the ability to do good and bad.