Author Archives: David Mandel

About David Mandel

David Mandel studied at the University of Pennsylvania under Bible scholar Moshe Greenberg, and moved to Israel in 1970, where he founded Computronic Corporation, an Israeli software development company that specializes in biblical software.

Aaron, the High Priest

Reprinted with permission from Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).

Aaron, the first High Priest, was the founder and ancestor of the Israelite priesthood. His mother, Jochebed, the Egyptian-born daughter of Levi, married her nephew Amram son of Kohath, and gave birth to three children: Miriam, the eldest; Aaron; and Moses, the youngest, who was born when Aaron was three years old.

The Bible does not say anything about Aaron’s birth, his early life, or his upbringing. It states that he married Elisheba daughter of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, with whom he had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. His brother-in-law, Nahshon, was a direct ancestor of King David.

Aaron is first mentioned in the Bible when God, angry that Moses was reluctant to accept the mission to free the Israelites from the Egyptian oppression, told him that Aaron was a good speaker and that he would be Moses’ spokesman.

The Story of Passover

Aaron’s eloquent speeches to Pharaoh were reinforced by the miracles that he performed with his walking stick, changing it one time into a serpent and another into blossoms and almonds. Also, by stretching out his walking stick at the request of Moses, he brought on the first three plagues: blood, frogs, and lice; and, in cooperation with Moses, he produced the sixth plague, boils, and the eighth plague, locusts.

It is significant that when he performed his wonders, it was not by virtue of any innate ability or individual initiative but only by divine command, mediated through Moses. The two brothers were already old men–Aaron was 83 years old, and Moses was 80–when Pharaoh finally yielded to their request, and let the Israelites go.

After the march out of Egypt, Aaron was no longer a central figure in the events but only a secondary player at Moses’ side. He didn’t play any important part in the crossing of the Red Sea, the songs of victory hymns, or the water crisis at Marah. He reappeared later in connection with the incident of the manna.

In the Wilderness

During the battle that the Israelites fought against the Amalekites, Aaron, together with Hur, supported Moses’ hands stretched upward to ensure victory. Later, again with Hur, Aaron acted as deputy for Moses when his brother climbed Mount Sinai to receive the two stone tablets of the Law.

During Moses’ prolonged absence on the mountain, Aaron yielded to the pressure of the people and made with their jewelry a golden calf that became a cause of apostasy. Despite his involvement in this incident, he was neither punished nor disqualified from the priesthood. The people, on the other hand, were harshly punished when the Levites, by order of Moses, killed about 3,000 of the idol worshipers.

Although Aaron did not take any part in the construction of the portable sanctuary, he and his sons were appointed priests and consecrated into that office by Moses. During the consecration ceremonies, two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu, died when they burned forbidden incense before the Lord, a tragic loss that Aaron bore in silent resignation.

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron was allowed to go into the Sacred Sanctuary, the holiest part of the Tent of Testimony, bringing his offering.

The Bible records one incident of friction between the brothers when Aaron sided with their sister, Miriam, against Moses’ preeminence, using as a pretext Moses’ Cushite wife. God punished Miriam by making her skin leprous, white as snow. She was shut out of the camp for seven days, until her skin healed. Aaron, again, was not punished.

Aaron and Moses were the target of a serious revolt led by their cousin, the Levite Korah, who claimed that all the members of the congregation were equally holy. The earth split open and swallowed Korah and his followers.

To demonstrate the special status of the priesthood and the Levites, Moses placed a stick from each of the tribes in the Tent of Testimony and left them there overnight; the following day, the stick representing the tribe of Levi, which had Aaron’s name inscribed on it, was the only one sprouting blossoms and almonds.

Stopped from Entering the Promised Land

On one occasion, the people complained that there was no water and that they would die of thirst. God told Moses to take the stick that was in front of the Ark; assemble the community; and, in front of them, speak to a rock. Water would flow from it.

Moses and Aaron assembled the whole community in front of the rock. But this time, Moses could not control his anger and his frustration with the constantly complaining Israelites. He lost his patience and shouted, "Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock (Numbers 20:10)?" Then, he raised the stick and struck the rock twice with it. Out came a great stream of water, and the people and the animals drank their fill.

God reproved Moses and Aaron, saying, "Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land which I have given them (Numbers 20:12)."

Thus Aaron never lived to see the Promised Land. He died on Mount Hor, near the southern end of the Dead Sea when he was 123 years old. The Israelites mourned him for 30 days, the same number of days that they mourned when, some time later, Moses died. Aaron was succeeded as High Priest by his son Eleazar.


Reprinted with permission from
Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible
(The Jewish Publication Society).

Tamar married Er, Judah’s firstborn son, who died young and childless. Judah told his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar and thus provide off­spring for his dead brother. Onan, unwilling to have his children carry his brother’s name, spilled his seed on the ground whenever he made love to Tamar. He also died childless.

Judah, fearful that his youngest son, Shelah, would also go to an early grave if he married Tamar, told her, “Stay as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up (Genesis 38:11).”

Judah soliciting Tamar


Years went by, Shelah grew up, but Judah didn’t marry him to Tamar. After Judah’s wife died and the mourning period was over, Judah went with his sheep shearers and his friend Hirah to Timnath, near the home of Tamar’s parents.

Tamar was told that her father-in-law was coming for the sheep shearing. She took off her widow’s garments, wrapped herself, and–with her face covered by a veil–sat by the side of the road.

Judah saw her and didn’t recognize her. He approached her and, assuming that she was a harlot, told her that he wanted to sleep with her. “What,” she asked, “will you pay for sleep­ing with me?” “I will send a kid from my flock,” promised Judah.

Tamar said, “You must leave a pledge until you have sent it.” “What pledge shall I give you?” “Your seal and cord, and the staff which you carry,” said Tamar (Genesis 38:16–18). She received the pledges and slept with him. Then she went home, took off her veil, and put back her widow’s clothing.

Judah, a man of his word, sent his friend Hi­rah with the young goat to receive his pledges back from the harlot. Hirah asked some men, “Where is the cult prostitute, the one at Enaim, by the road?” “There has been no prostitute here,” they answered (Genesis 38:21).

Unable to find her, Hirah returned to Judah and told him that he couldn’t find the harlot. Judah said, “Let her keep them, lest we become a laughingstock. I did send her this kid, but you did not find her (Genesis 38:23).”

Rebekah (Rebecca)

Reprinted with permission from Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).

Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, Abraham’s nephew, was the wife of Isaac and the mother of the twins Esau and Jacob. When he saw that his son Isaac was already 40 years old and still unmarried, Abraham decided that the time had come to find a bride for his son.

He sent his trusted servant Eliezer to his relatives in Haran in Mesopotamia with instructions to bring back a bride for Isaac, because he didn’t want his son to marry any of the local Canaanite girls.

Giving Water to the Camels

Eliezer took with him ten loaded camels and set out for the city of Nahor. On his arrival, he made the camels kneel down by the well outside the city and said to himself:

O Lord, God of my master Abraham, grant me good fortune this day, and deal graciously with my master Abraham: Here I stand by the spring as the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water; let the maiden to whom I say, ‘Please, lower your jar that I may drink,’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels’–let her be the one whom You have decreed for Your servant Isaac. Thereby shall I know that You have dealt graciously with my master (Genesis 24:12–14).

He had scarcely finished speaking his thoughts aloud when Rebekah came carrying a jar on her shoulder. She descended to the spring, filled her jar, and climbed back up. Eliezer ran to her and asked her if he could drink a little water from her jar. “Drink, my lord,” she said. After he drank, she said, “I will also draw for your camels, until they finish drinking (Genesis 24:18–19).”


Reprinted with permission from
Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible
(The Jewish Publication Society).

Rachel daughter of Laban was one of the two wives of her cousin Jacob, the love of his life, and the mother of his sons Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob, aided by his mother, had tricked his blind father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was intended for Esau, his older brother.

Furious at Jacob’s trickery, Esau made a vow to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac passed away. To protect Jacob from Esau’s revenge, Rebekah decided to send him away to her brother Laban in Haran.

Finding a Wife for Jacob

She went to Isaac and complained, “I am disgusted with my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries a Hittite woman like these, from among the native women, what good will life be to me (Genesis 27:46)?”

Isaac sent for Jacob, blessed him and said, “You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother (Genesis 28:1–2).” Jacob did what his father requested and went to Haran.

He arrived at the town and saw shepherds standing next to a well. He asked them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They answered, “Yes, we do. There is his daughter Rachel, coming with the flock (Genesis 29:5–6).”

Jacob went to the well, rolled the stone from its opening, watered the sheep, kissed Rachel, and wept when he told her that he was the son of Rebekah, her father’s sister.

Rachel ran home and told her father that a relative had arrived. Laban came out to see Jacob, embraced him, and brought him to his house. Four weeks later, during which time Jacob had fallen in love with his beautiful cousin Rachel, Laban said to Jacob, “Just because you are a kinsman, should you serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be (Genesis 29:15)?”

Jacob answered, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “Better that I give her to you than that I should give her to an outsider. Stay with me (Genesis 29:18–19).”

Who Was Noah?

Reprinted with permission from Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).

Noah son of Lamech was a righteous man, a man “who walked with God (Genesis 6:9).” He was blameless in a generation whose wickedness and corruption were so great that God was sorry he had created man.

Build an Ark

Noah and the floodOne day, God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make an opening for daylight in the ark, and terminate it within a cubit of the top. Put the entrance to the ark in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks (Genesis 6:13–17).”

“I will establish My covenant with you,” He added, “and you shall enter the ark, with your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives. And of all that lives, of all flesh, you shall take two of each into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female. From birds of every kind, cattle of every kind, every kind of creeping thing on earth, two of each shall come to you to stay alive. For your part, take of everything that is eaten and store it away, to serve as food for you and for them (Genesis 6:18–21).”

Noah did as he was told and built the ark. When the ark was finished, God said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation. Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate; of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth. For in seven days’ time I will make it rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the earth all existence that I created (Genesis 7:1–4).”


Reprinted with permission from
Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible
(The Jewish Publication Society).

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, sent an army against Jerusalem to punish Jehoiakim, king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar was angry because, after three years of paying tribute, Jehoiakim had rebelled against the Babylonian.

King Jehoiakim died during the siege of Jerusalem and was succeeded by his son, the 18-year-old Jehoiachin. The new king surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar after resisting for three months. Jehoiachin, his mother, his servants, and the officials of his court were exiled to Babyon. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, the 21-year-old uncle of Jehoiachin, to be the new king and changed his name to Zedekiah.


Baroque interpretation of
Nebuchadnezzar & Zedekiah

In the ninth year of his reign, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who again came against Jerusalem, besieged it, and built towers all around it. After two years, the walls of the city were breached.

Zedekiah escaped through the palace garden but was pursued and captured near Jericho. He was then taken to Riblah, to the presence of Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes and then put his eyes out, chained him in bronze fetters, and took him to Babylon.

Nebuzaradan, captain of the guards of Nebuchadnezzar, came to Jerusalem and burned down the Temple, the king’s palace, and all the houses. The walls of the city were torn down. The survivors, with the exception of the poorest of the land, were taken into exile in Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar named Gedaliah son of Ahikam to be the governor of the conquered kingdom. A few months later, Gedaliah was murdered by Ishmael, one of the captains of the defeated Judean army and a member of the royal family of Judah.

Nebuchadnezzar ordered that four promising boys from the Israelites exiled in Babylon be selected. The chosen boys–Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah– were given a three-year course of instruction to prepare them for service in the Babylonian royal court. After the three years were over, the king examined them personally and found them to be ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in the kingdom.


Reprinted with permission from
Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible
(The Jewish Publication Society).

Nathan the prophet was an adviser to King David and a key supporter of Solomon in his successful quest to succeed David. His brother Joel was one of The Thirty, an elite group in King David’s army.

David told Nathan that he was unhappy with the fact that he lived in a mansion of cedar, while the Ark of the Covenant was in a tent, surrounded only by curtains. Nathan’s first reaction was to tell David to do whatever was in his mind because God was with him; however, that same night, God appeared to Nathan in a vision and told him to say to David that his son would be the one to build the Temple, not David.

nathan the prophetAfter David sent Uriah to his death and hastily married his pregnant widow Bathsheba, Nathan came to David and told him a parable of a rich man who owned many sheep but took his poor neighbor’s lamb and cooked it to honor a traveler. David, not understanding the allusion, became angry and threatened to punish the rich man for his lack of pity.

Nathan told him (2 Samuel 12:7): “That man is you!” David then recognized that he had sinned. Nathan told him that he would not die, but the baby would. The baby became seriously ill and died. Later, Bathsheba gave birth to another son, whom they called Solomon, but who was named Jedidiah by Nathan.

David grew old, and the succession to the throne, after the death of Amnon and Absalom, was disputed between Adonijah, the eldest remaining son, and Solomon son of Bathsheba. Joab, the commander of the army, and Abiathar the Priest supported Adonijah, whereas Nathan, the priest Zadok, Benaiah, and other powerful men wanted Solomon to be king.

Nathan, realizing that Adonijah was getting the upper hand, instructed Bathsheba to go to the aged and ailing king and say to him, “Did not you, O lord king, swear to your maidservant: ‘Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit upon my throne’? Then why has Adonijah become king (1 Kings 1:13)?”


Reprinted with permission from
Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible
(The Jewish Publication Society).

Miriam, the daughter of Amram and Jochebed and the older sister of Aaron and Moses, is one of the few women that the Bible calls prophetess. Her mother gave birth to Moses after Pharaoh had given orders to kill every newborn Israelite boy. Jochebed hid the baby for three months; and when she could no longer hide him, she put the child in a basket and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.

Miriam stationed herself at a distance to see what would befall the baby. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the Nile, saw the basket among the reeds, and sent a slave girl to fetch it. She opened the basket and saw inside a baby boy crying. The princess took pity on the baby and said, “This must be a Hebrew child (Exodus 2:6).”Miriam

Miriam approached and asked her if she could get her a Hebrew nurse to suckle the baby. The daughter of Pharaoh agreed, and Miriam went and brought Jochebed, who was hired on the spot by the princess to take care of the baby and to nurse him.

Years later, when the Israelites left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, Miriam took a timbrel in her hand and led the women in a triumphal procession, singing and dancing.

Later, when the Israelites were camping in Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron made known their displeasure with the Ethiopian woman whom Moses had married. They also expressed their dissatisfaction with Moses himself, saying that God did not speak only through Moses, but also through them. Moses, a very humble and long-suffering man, did not react to their criticisms, but God called the three siblings to the Tabernacle.

The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, stopped at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and ordered Aaron and Miriam to come out. God told them (Numbers 12:6–8): “Hear these My words: When a prophet of the Lord arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the Lord. How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses!”

Lot in the Bible

Reprinted with permission from Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).

Lot was the son of Haran, grandson of Terah, and nephew of Abraham. He was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, a Sumerian city in the Euphrates valley, near the head of the Persian Gulf. He was the eleventh generation from Noah, through the line of Shem.

After Haran died, Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot and traveled to the city of Haran, which lay between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in northern Aram, near the modern border between Syria and Turkey.

After the death of Terah at the age of 205, Abram, who was then 75 years old, took Sarai and Lot to the land of Canaan. Abraham became very wealthy and owned flocks, herds, and tents.

Years went by, and Lot also became a wealthy man, owning flocks, herds, and tents. He continued to live with his uncle Abram. Their proximity caused problems between their respective herdsmen, who started arguing and fighting over the limited grazing area that was available for their animals.

Abram, trying to find a solution to this problem, proposed that he and Lot should separate amicably and move to new territory. Abram gave Lot first choice, and he settled in the well-watered valley of the Jordan, near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abram went to live in the plain of Mamre, near Hebron, and built there an altar to God, who renewed His promise to give all the land that Abram could see to him and his descendants.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, was the overlord of several kingdoms. Bera, king of Sodom, was one of his vassals. After serving him for 12 years, Bera and four other kings rebelled and formed an alliance.

Chedorlaomer and his allies–King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, and King Tidal–fought against them in the valley of Sidim, in the region of the Dead Sea, and defeated them. The victors took a number of prisoners, including Lot, and returned to their own countries, loaded with all the goods from Sodom and Gomorrah that they could carry.

A man who managed to escape from Chedorlaomer came to Abram and told him that Lot had been captured and was being taken away. Abram armed 318 of his servants and–with his allies Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre–pursued the four kings, until he caught up with them near the city of Dan.

There, he divided his men in groups; attacked the enemy that night; and defeated them, chasing them back as far as Hobah, near Damascus. He succeeded in recovering all the stolen loot. He liberated Lot and brought him to Sodom with all his possessions; the women who had been captured and other prisoners were also recovered.

Sometime later, God told Abraham that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were very great and that He was going to destroy the cities. Abram–who was then called Abraham, a name given to him by God–argued and bargained with God, trying to convince Him not to destroy the city, because there may be a few innocent people there. God promised Abraham that He would not destroy the city if as few as ten innocent men could be found.

That evening, two angels came to Sodom. Lot, who was sitting in the gate of the city, rose to meet them and invited them to stay at his house. They, at first, refused the invitation but accepted after Lot insisted.

The visitors dined with Lot and his family, and they were getting ready to go to bed when the men of Sodom surrounded the house and demanded that Lot hand them the visitors, whom they intended to rape. Lot went out of the house, closing the door behind him and implored the men not to commit such a wicked act.

He offered to give them his two virgin daughters, to do with them what they wanted. The men of Sodom screamed that Lot was a foreigner, and had no right to tell them what to do. They pressed against him and tried to break down the door. The visitors pulled Lot inside the house and shut the door.

The men outside were stricken with blindness and could not find the entrance. The visitors told Lot to take all the members of his household out of the city, because God had sent them to destroy it. Lot went to his sons-in-law and told them to leave the city, because God was going to destroy it. The sons-in-law laughed and thought that Lot was joking.

Early next morning, the angels urged Lot to take his wife and his two daughters and flee the city. When he delayed needlessly, the angels seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and daughters, and brought them out of the city.

They told Lot and his family to escape to the hills, and warned them not to look back. Lot told them that he would not be able to get that far and to allow them to find refuge in a small nearby town. The angels agreed and told him that the little town, called Zoar, would not be destroyed.

The sun was rising when Lot entered Zoar, and God rained sulfurous fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying both cities and annihilating their inhabitants. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot, afraid of staying in Zoar, left the town with his two daughters and went to the hills, where they lived in a cave.

The two daughters believed that no man had been left alive, but they were anxious to have children. They made their father drunk and laid with him. The eldest one gave birth to a son, whom she called Moab; he was the ancestor of the Moabites. The youngest one also had a son, and called him Ben-ammi, the ancestor of the Ammonites.


Reprinted with permission from
Who’s Who in the Hebrew Bible
(The Jewish Publication Society).

Jonathan son of King Saul was a courageous and daring officer in his father’s army. In the war against the Philistines, he commanded a third of the Israelite army and performed acts of great valor. Unbeknownst to Jonathan, Saul had forbidden his soldiers to eat. Saul found out that Jonathan had eaten some honey and condemned him to die, but Saul relented when his soldiers pressured him to let Jonathan live.


jonathan and david

Jonathan & David

David came to Saul’s court and formed a deep friendship with Jonathan. Saul, who suffered from depression and paranoia, became jealous of David’s successes in battle and ordered Jonathan to kill him.

Jonathan warned David of his father’s murderous intentions and told him to hide. Jonathan went to his father and asked him not to harm David, who had done nothing against the king and, on the contrary, risked his life, fighting against the Philistines.

Saul listened to Jonathan’s good words about David and agreed that he would not try to kill him or hurt him. This did not last long; soon afterward, while David was playing the harp for him, Saul again attempted to kill David with his spear. The weapon struck the wall; and David fled, first to his house and then to another town.

David returned and went to see Jonathan to find out why Saul hated him with such a murderous rage. He arrived the day before a banquet that Saul was giving in honor of the New Moon Festival.

David told Jonathan that he would risk attending the king’s banquet and that Jonathan should explain his absence from the celebrations by saying that David had gone to Bethlehem for the yearly family sacrifice. David instructed Jonathan to watch for Saul’s reaction.

The two friends agreed that David should go away for three days and then return and hide in a field. Jonathan would come to that place under the pretext of shooting arrows but in truth to inform David, by a prearranged code, whether it was safe to return to the royal court. The next day, at the banquet, the king noticed that David was not there but kept silent, thinking that David had stayed away because he was not ritually clean.

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