Xliiiviii

2. A. "And Abram gave him a tenth of everything" (Gen. 14:20):

B. R. Judah in the name of R. Nehorai: "On the strength of that blessing the three great pegs on which the world depends, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, derived sustenance.

C. "Abraham: 'And the Lord blessed Abraham in all things' (Gen. 24:1) on account of the merit that 'he gave him a tenth of all things' (Gen. 14:20).

D. "Isaac: 'And I have eaten of alV (Gen. 27:33), on account of the merit that 'he gave him a tenth of all things' (Gen. 14:20).

E. "Jacob: 'Because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have all' (Gen. 33:11) on account of the merit that 'he gave him a tenth of all things'" (Gen. 14:20).

3. A. Whence did Israel gain the merit of receiving the blessing of the priests?

B. R. Judah said, "It was from Abraham: 'So shall your seed be' (Gen. 15:5), while it is written in connection with the priestly blessing: LSo shall you bless the children of Israel' (Num. 6:23)."

C. R. Nehemiah said, "It was from Isaac: 'And I and the lad will go so far' (Gen. 22:5), therefore said the Holy One, blessed be he, 'So shall you bless the children of Israel' (Num. 6:23)."

D. And rabbis say, "It was from Jacob: 'So shall you say to the house of Jacob' (Ex. 19:3) (in line with the statement,'So shall you bless the children of Israel' (Num. 6:23)."

No. 2 links the blessing with the history of Israel. Now the reference is to the word "all," which joins the tithe of Abram to the blessing of his descendants. Since the blessing of the priest is mentioned, No. 3 treats the origins of the blessing.

Historical study commonly leads to the periodization of history, the division of time into a number of distinct epochs. This patterning of history, its division in eras, each with its own definitive traits, constitutes one important exercise of historical thought of a social-scientific order. Eusebius of course understood the importance of periodization. Reading Scripture, for example, he identified a number of distinct periods, each leading to the next and culminating in his own time. As we shall see in chapter 4, a principal mode of explaining the identification and status of Israel, the Jewish people, involved the periodization of history among four monarchies, as specified by Daniel. Leviticus Rabbah identifies with the four empires animals in Leviticus 11 and other texts. Rome then stands as the penultimate epoch; Israel for the end. For the present topic, we consider how the patriarchs, for their part, contribute to the periodization of history—itself a source of comfort to doubting Israel even now. For if there is a well-defined sequence, then we can understand where we are and wait patiently until we reach the next, and better, age. Time and again events in the lives of the patriarchs prefigure the four monarchies, among which, of course, the fourth, last (but for Israel), and most intolerable was Rome. Here (Genesis Rabbah XLIV:XVII) is an exercise in the recurrent proof of that single proposition.

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