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Title: A Manual for Teaching Biblical History
Author: Kohn, Eugene
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Manual for Teaching Biblical History" ***

Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

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       *       *       *       *       *






  _Rabbi of Congregation Chizzuk Emunah_

  _Baltimore, Md._







  _To the memory of_



  _this book is reverently inscribed_


The author cannot permit this book to go to press without
acknowledging his indebtedness to the Education Committee of the
United Synagogue for their encouragement and assistance. He is
especially grateful to Dr. Julius H. Greenstone for his many helpful
suggestions and his careful reading of the text, both in manuscript
and in proof. To Dr. Cyrus Adler and Professor Mordecai M. Kaplan
his thanks are also due in large measure for their aid in removing
crudities and improving the form and content of the work.


Jewish pedagogic literature is still in its infancy. While
text-books for children, more or less satisfactory, have been
provide the teacher with proper material for his guidance in
instruction is of very recent origin and the supply has thus far
been very slight. The students in our several normal schools, and
especially the large army of teachers, scattered throughout the
country, who have not had the advantage of a normal school training,
are often obliged to resort to works by Christian authors for
information and guidance. While these may supply them with the facts
and with the most approved method of presentation, they cannot give
them the Jewish point of view which is so essential to the Jewish
teacher. As the late Dr. Schechter once remarked, "We cannot have
our love letters written for us. We must write them ourselves, even
at the risk of bad grammar." We must place in the hands of our
teachers books which will inspire them with loyalty and devotion to
Judaism, which will give them the proper attitude to the Bible and
to Jewish tradition, and which will provide them with an adequate
understanding of Jewish strivings and ideals.

It is with this object in view that the Committee on Education
of the United Synagogue requested Rabbi Eugene Kohn to prepare
the work which is now given to the Jewish public. The author has
succeeded admirably in his undertaking and has produced a work
which contains valuable aids to the earnest teacher who is anxious
to become more proficient in his calling. This volume, which is the
result of considerable class-room experience, intimate knowledge
of the sources of Jewish history, and arduous labor, gives correct
and adequate data of the lessons treated, stimulating suggestions
as to the manner of imparting each individual lesson to the average
child, and, what is perhaps of greatest importance, an exalted
attitude that the teacher should assume towards his work. While
the responsibility of the work rests entirely upon the author, the
Committee feels gratified in being able to present, as its first
publication, a work that so fully responds to an urgent need. It is
hoped that this book will be followed by many other volumes which
may help in the better equipment of the Jewish teaching profession.

  _Committee on Education of the
  United Synagogue of America_.

  PHILADELPHIA, June 11, 1917.



  Introduction                                           13




  I. Creation                                            35

  II. Adam and Eve                                       38

  III. Cain and Abel                                     41

  IV. Noah                                               44

  V. The Tower of Babel                                  47

  VI. The Choice of Abram and the Choice of Canaan       49

  VII. Beginning of Abram's Greatness                    53

  VIII. Hagar and the Birth of Ishmael                   56

  IX. Abraham Entertains the Angels                      62

  X. The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah               67

  XI. The Divorce of Hagar                               70

  XII. The Sacrifice of Isaac                            73

  XIII. The Death of Sarah and the Marriage of
        Isaac and Rebekah                                78

  XIV. The Sale of the Birthright                        80

  XV. Jacob Secures the Blessing                         89

  XVI. Jacob's Dream                                     93

  XVII. Jacob in Aramea                                  96

  XVIII. Jacob Returns to Canaan                         99

  XIX. Joseph Sold into Slavery                         104

  XX. From Slave to Viceroy                             109

  XXI. Joseph Meets His Brothers                        113

  XXII. Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers          117

  XXIII. The Death of Jacob and of Joseph               120



  CHAPTER                                              PAGE

  I. The Birth of Moses                                 127

  II. Moses, the Friend of the Weak and the Oppressed   133

  III. God Sends Moses to Save His People               135

  IV. Moses' First Appearance before Pharaoh            140

  V. The Plagues                                        145

  VI. The Exodus                                        149

  VII. Israel at the Red Sea                            156

  VIII. From the Red Sea to Sinai                       160

  IX. The Revelation                                    164

  X. The Golden Calf                                    173

  XI. The Tabernacle and its Service                    183

  XII. Trials of Moses and Israel in the Wilderness     190

  XIII. The Spies                                       197

  XIV. More Trials of Moses                             201

  XV. Israel Arrives at the Border of the Promised
        Land                                            209

  XVI. The Death of Moses                               216


=Purpose of Manual.= In recent years some attention has been
given to the improvement of Jewish educational method so far as
instruction in the Hebrew language is concerned, but the teaching
of Biblical history, although it holds an important place in the
curricula of our religious schools, has received relatively little
attention from our educators, at least from those of orthodox and
conservative tendencies. From the reform point of view some recent
publications, though exhibiting the faults which all early efforts
in any direction necessarily show, do mark a decided pedagogic
advance on the older unmethodical way in which the subject was
taught. But from the point of view of traditional Judaism they are
inadequate, however helpful some of their pedagogic suggestions
may be, since they are guided by a different ideal. This manual
attempts to assist the teacher of Biblical history from the point
of view of Traditional Judaism. For whoever considers from this
point of view the way in which Biblical history is taught must come
to the conclusion that not only are we not realizing to the full
the educational values which the study of Biblical history affords,
but we are often giving our children very false notions of the
Bible characters and of the lessons which the story of their lives
is intended to teach Israel. To develop a good course of study in
Biblical history cannot be the work of one man nor can it be done
at one time. It is hoped however that the suggestions contained in
this book may assist the earnest teacher to make his instruction
more fruitful of good results for Judaism.

=Three factors determining method of instruction.= Every discussion
of pedagogic method as applied to a particular branch of study must
take three factors into consideration: the aim of instruction, the
subject to be taught, and the child--his mode of thought, interests
and capacity.

THE AIM. The first thing that we must bear in mind is that the aim
of all Jewish education must be a Jewish life; that the aim of each
branch of Jewish study must be formulated not primarily in terms
of information to be conveyed, but of Jewish habits of thought and
action to be cultivated. It follows that Biblical history as taught
by a Jew who believes in the authority of the Torah and the mitzvoth
over our lives must be very different from the same subject as
taught by one to whom Judaism is merely a number of moral maxims
and the dogma of the unity. This book, attempting as it does to
treat the problem from the point of view of traditional Judaism,
considers that the main object of instruction in Biblical history is
to inspire the child with an appreciation of the religious ideals
that have moulded Israel's life in the past, with an understanding
of how these same ideals express themselves in the religious
institutions of the present day, and with the desire to further the
historic aims of Israel's existence through identification with the
institutional life of Israel, that is through the observance of the
mitzvoth, affiliation with the synagogue, etc. Particularly must
we create in the child the sense of his personal identity with his
people, for this is the lever by which the events of the Biblical
narrative can move the Jew to active interest in Judaism. He must
feel that God's choice of Israel means that God has chosen him to
live a certain life, the life of the Torah, and that if he fails
to live this life, he sins against God and betrays his people. He
should feel proud of the heroes of his nation and inspired with a
sense of the obligations that his noble descent imposes. He must be
made to discover the spiritual kinship that links him with the rest
of Israel in the past, present and future. Unless we can accomplish
this we have not succeeded in our teaching of Biblical history.

=Wrong and right conception of aim illustrated.= A lack of
appreciation of these aims has often led to the treatment of the
Biblical narrative as if it were merely a series of moral stories
or, at any rate, of stories into which a moral can be read.
According to this method the connection of the Jewish people today
with the people of the Bible is almost wholly ignored and there is
no appreciable difference in the way the events of the Biblical
narrative are taught and, let us say, the incidents of some highly
moral fairy tale or folk-lore of other peoples. To give an example I
quote the following summary of a lesson on "Moses' Return to Egypt":

"So then we can learn these two noble things from our lesson;
modesty adorns everybody even the greatest people, yes very often
the greatest people are the most modest. And further, when we have
begun to do something, let us do it with all our might and stick
to it till it is finished, no matter what it is, whether a school
lesson or setting a people free; whatever is worth doing at all is
worth doing well."

One could imagine the same moral attached to the story of George
Washington or of Cincinnatus and brought home as effectively by it.
The difference between the right and the wrong method of treating
the Biblical narrative from the point of view of the aim of such
instruction can be seen if we contrast the above with the simple
summary of the same lesson in the Passover Haggadah:

"Slaves were we unto Pharaoh in Egypt and the Lord our God brought
us forth thence with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. And
if the Holy One, Blessed be He, had not brought forth our fathers
from Egypt behold we and our children and our children's children
might still be bondmen to Pharaoh in Egypt." And again: "In every
generation one is obliged to regard himself as if he in person had
come forth from Egypt, as it is said, 'And thou shalt tell thy son
in that day saying, It is because of that which the Lord did for me
when I went forth from Egypt.' Not our fathers alone did the Holy
One, Blessed be He, redeem but us also did He redeem with them, as
it is said, 'And us did He bring forth thence in order to bring us
hither to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.'"

According to the method of the former quotation Biblical history is
no more related to the child than the story of the Iliad, according
to the latter it is his own history, the study of which helps him to
self knowledge, to the knowledge of his Jewish self, the knowledge
of the ties that bind him to his fellow Jews and the Jewish people
to its God. Much more might be said of the effect upon the method
of instruction of a clear conception of the aim of instruction in
Biblical history when thus conceived in terms of Jewish life, but a
study of the lessons given in this book will suffice to explain this
without the need of further amplification, so we may pass to the
consideration of the subject-matter to be taught as a determining
factor in the method of instruction.

=The subject-matter: Biblical history.= I have throughout referred
to the subject-matter under the name not of Jewish history but of
Biblical history and I have done so advisedly. For the term Jewish
history does not commit one to that interpretation of the early
history of our people which is to be found in the Bible. From the
Jewish point of view the Bible, in its narrative portions as well
as in its laws, is Torah, that is authoritative teaching. It does
not merely recall the early events of Jewish history but it takes
a distinct attitude to these events, seeing in them the revelation
of a divine purpose; it not only tells the deeds of Biblical
heroes but it passes judgment upon them, here approving and there
disapproving; and it is precisely this attitude to Jewish history,
this interpretation of the significance of historic events, which
must be made an influence in the life of the child. If we were
merely teaching Jewish history as such and looked upon the Bible
merely as the source book of this history we might tell the story of
the Exodus somewhat in this fashion:

"The children of Israel who had at the beginning of their sojourn in
Egypt been well treated by the Egyptian rulers, owing to a change
of dynasty were subjected to oppression and forced to do servile
labor for the Pharaohs. They took advantage however of a series of
calamities that visited Egypt, which their leaders Moses and Aaron
interpreted to the Egyptians as signs of the divine wrath incurred
by her because of her oppression of the Israelites, and so left
Egypt in a body."

The above account is Jewish history but it is not Biblical history
for it has nothing to say about the significance of these events
as the Bible regards them. It does not tell us that Moses was sent
by God, it does not know anything of the covenant with Abraham of
which these events are the fulfillment, it does not therefore see
in the Exodus one link in a chain of events having its beginning in
the election of Abraham and its consummation in the revelation at
Sinai. In the Biblical narrative what is most conspicuous is the
_Eẓba' Elohim_, "the finger of God," in the merely historic account
this may altogether be omitted.

=Must give Biblical moral to Jewish history.= Very few teachers
in our Jewish schools, if any, would make the mistake of teaching
the events narrated in the Bible merely as cold facts without any
attempt at giving them religious significance, though frequent
efforts at rationalization tend in this direction. For the most
part, the aim in teaching the early history of our people is felt to
be a religious one and to call for a religious interpretation of the
events recorded. We are not loath to attach a moral to the stories
we tell our children, but where we fail is that we imagine any moral
which we can read into the story is satisfactory. We have already
shown how the consideration of the aim of instruction in Biblical
history, from the point of view of traditional Judaism, opposes this
method and limits the moral which should be taught in connection
with any given story, but the consideration of the subject-matter
to be taught limits it still further. We must not only give a
Jewish moral to each episode in the Biblical narrative but we must
give the child the specific moral that the Bible itself attaches
to that episode. If we take our Bible seriously, if we regard its
interpretation of the events of our history as essentially true,
as indeed part of the Torah, a divine revelation, then it becomes
our duty to give this interpretation of events and not another to
our children. We sometimes excuse to ourselves the perversion of
the Biblical moral on the ground that because children are children
they frequently cannot grasp what is really the Biblical lesson. If
in any given instance this is the case, it is better not to teach
that story at all to the child than to falsify it. But usually the
ideas of the Bible can be brought home to the child if we but take
the trouble to translate them into the language of childhood and
illustrate them out of the child's own experience. It is largely
due to indolence on the part of the teacher that we so frequently
sin against the Biblical sense of a story. I have heard the story
of Abraham's divorce of Hagar told as if it were a mere family
squabble in which Sarah, by shrewish persistence finally prevails
upon the meek and submissive Abraham somewhat reluctantly to send
away Hagar, who had aroused her jealousy. Abraham was made a rather
doubtful hero who represented the virtue of loving peace--peace
at any price as the narrative showed--and Sarah was regarded as
acting in a mean and ungodly capacity. Had that teacher read her
Bible carefully and intelligently before coming to class she could
not have been guilty of such grotesque distortion of the Biblical
story, by which it is made not only trivial but ludicrous. She would
then have realized that Ishmael had to be separated from Isaac for
the same reason that Lot had to be separated from Abraham and Esau
from Jacob, because they were not of the seed from which Israel was
destined to spring; that even before the birth of Ishmael we have
the prophecy told to Hagar, "And he shall be a wild ass of a man;
his hand shall be against every man and every man's hand against
him" (Genesis 16. 12). She would have observed that in the words
of the Rabbis "Abraham was subordinate to Sarah in prophecy", that
just as Isaac showed a mistaken preference for Esau so Abraham when
the birth of Isaac is predicted to him pleaded, "Oh that Ishmael
might live before thee!", and that the Bible recognizes the superior
prophetic insight of Sarah by telling us that God commanded Abraham
explicitly, "Let it not be grievous in thy eyes because of the
lad and because of thy bond-woman; in all that Sarah may say unto
thee, hearken to her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called."
Surely, though the story undoubtedly presents difficulties of a
pedagogic nature, it is not impossible to teach a child that God
foresaw that Ishmael would be a "_pere adam_" (a wild ass of a man),
that he did not wish the chosen people, who were to inherit the
promised land, to be possessed of such traits, and that therefore
Ishmael had to be sent away so that Isaac and his descendants might
become the great people he had promised Abraham they would become.
In this way the Bible speaks for itself and tells a story that is
quite as intelligible to the child as the one that the teacher I
have mentioned told, quite as intelligible and infinitely more
edifying. I have given this instance at some length because it seems
to me typical of the mischief that can be done by reading into the
Biblical narrative any moral that may come to hand instead of the
moral that the Bible itself intended.

=Need of Bible study for teacher.= This manual will endeavor in each
lesson to point out to the best of its author's understanding what
the Biblical moral of the lesson is. But, as interpretations are
always subject to differences of opinion, a study of the suggestions
contained in its chapters cannot relieve the teacher of the
responsibility of a careful independent study, before entering the
class-room, of the Biblical passages whose story he wishes to teach.

=The child as determining method.= And after he has mastered for
himself the meaning of the Biblical narrative, he must study how
to impart this to the child in a way that shall make it not only
comprehensible but interesting, and all this without sacrifice
of the aim of instruction. An adequate treatment of method in
teaching Biblical history from the point of view of the interests
and capacities of the Jewish child is at present impossible. We
need years of study and experimentation in this direction before
we can do it complete justice, but a few universally recognized
pedagogic principles may briefly be considered here in their bearing
upon our subject. We have spoken of the need of effort on the part
of the teacher to make the lesson comprehensible and interesting,
and we shall therefore give some attention to two questions: (1)
How can the lesson be made comprehensible? (2) How can it be made
interesting? We shall treat the questions separately for the sake
of convenience, though, as a matter of fact, they are inseparable;
for neither can a child be expected to interest himself in what
he cannot understand nor can he be made to understand anything
that involves the least difficulty without giving that sustained
attention which only interest can elicit from him.

=How to make lesson comprehensible. Proceed from known to unknown.=
The most important rule to bear in mind in order to make the
teaching comprehensible is the familiar truism that one must
proceed from the known to the unknown and keep constantly defining
the unknown in terms of what is already known to the child. As is
the case with most truisms, the truth of this statement is more
frequently recognized than applied. Take for instance the very first
sentence in one of the Biblical histories intended for the use of
children. It reads, "In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth, that is the whole visible world." Was there ever a human
being who did not know what heaven and earth meant and yet knew what
the whole visible world meant? Contrast with this the following from
another text-book:

"Once a long, long time ago there was no one living on this earth
that is now so full of people.

"There were no living things at all here: no cattle, no wild beasts,
no birds, no butterflies or insects of any kind and no fishes in the

"Before that there were no green growing things here; no grass, no
trees, no flowers.

"In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.

"In the beginning was a time so long ago that no one knows when it

How much better is this way of beginning the story of creation from
what the child has experienced of created objects than to begin with
non existence and chaos. Few of us realize how many terms that are
commonplaces with us mean nothing to the child. Particularly is this
true of terms used in the Bible and descriptive of things familiar
in the primitive orient but little known in the modern occident,
such as altar, sacrifice, tabernacle, caravan, to name but a few.

=Avoid formal definition.= But at this point a word of caution is
necessary against a too pedantic application of this principle of
defining the terms that are used in the child's instruction. For
example one book of Bible stories for young children prefixes to
the story of creation a vocabulary which includes explanations of
such words as ground, dark, light, sky, under, above, good, rest.
But it must be apparent that a child who cannot without previous
explanations understand such simple words as these is not in a
position to profit by instruction in Biblical history at all. It
is possible so to overload a story with definitions that the whole
thread of the narrative is lost. We must be cautious lest our pupils
fail to see the forest by very reason of the trees. Ample allowance
must be made for the constructive imagination of the child, which
builds up its own definitions out of the material of the narrative
itself. Children have always had an understanding of fairy tales
without ever having had the terms fairy, witch, king and princess
defined for them. When you tell a child that the king sat on a high
throne with his crown on his head, his sceptre in his hand, while
all the people bowed down to him, the child, though he has never
seen a throne, will recognize that it is something on which kings
sit, that a crown is something that a king wears on his head, a
sceptre something that a king holds in his hand, and that a king is
a man who is distinguished from other men and to whom they bow,
a very good working definition of a king which would make quite
unnecessary any elaborate attempt to define for a child the concept
of royalty. In fact, formal definition should be avoided wherever
possible, and the skilful teacher will know how to make a story
define its own terms in the same way as the sentence that we just
gave as an instance defined for the child the four unknown terms:
king, throne, crown, and sceptre. Indeed the most important idea of
all, that we have to give to the child cannot be defined otherwise
even to ourselves, namely the idea of God. The general rule to be
followed may be laid down in these words: Never define for the child
any term that the story itself can be made to define but do define
every necessary term that the story itself cannot be made to define.
It is worth while noting in this connection that the best definition
for a concrete object is the object itself or a picture of it.

=How to make the lesson interesting. Oral instruction preferable.=
So much for the question how to make the lesson comprehensible to
the child. As has already been said, this in itself goes a great
way toward answering as well our second question, how to make it
interesting, but other considerations must also be taken into
account. The art of teaching history is in great part the art of
story telling. Children love stories and particularly true stories
if they are well told, but this love of a child for a good story is
limited, especially in earlier years, to a story that is told. The
mere technical difficulties of reading, the physical inconvenience
of the posture demanded, the absence of that commentary which voice
and gesture supply to the story, the impossibility of asking
a book questions, and a number of other similar considerations
make it undesirable that the first acquaintance of a child with a
lesson shall come from a text-book. Text-books have their uses,
particularly in the higher grades, for purposes of review, to aid
the memory in retaining what has already been taught by word of
mouth, but the practice that obtains in some schools of expecting
the child to learn the lesson from the book before he comes to class
is bad and should be avoided.

=Some suggestions as to story telling.= If then the first
presentation of a lesson must be given orally by the teacher, it
follows that the teacher has to perfect himself in the art of story
telling. Like all other arts, the art of story telling cannot be
imparted by rule and particularly not within the small scope of
this introduction. A few suggestions however may be helpful. Lewis
Carrol, whose Alice in Wonderland shows a rare insight into the
childish mind, makes his Alice express a preference for books with
plenty of illustrations and conversation. There are two hints here
that are of value to the teacher of Biblical history, the first
is to use pictures to illustrate a story and the second always to
prefer direct discourse to indirect. To take up the second of these
suggestions first, compare the following accounts of the same event
and ask yourself which appeals more to you:

     1. Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that
     stood by him and he ordered every man to leave him. And there
     stood no man with him while Joseph made himself known to his
     brethren. And he wept aloud and the Egyptians heard and the
     house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph told his brethren who he was
     and asked whether his father was yet alive. And his brethren
     could not answer him, for they were affrighted at his presence.
     Joseph told them to come near, and they came near, and he told
     them that he was Joseph whom they had sold into Egypt and that
     they should not be grieved nor angry with themselves for having
     sold him thither, for it was in order to preserve life that God
     had sent him before them. For the famine had been in the land
     for two years and there yet remained five years during which
     there would be neither plowing nor harvest, and so God had sent
     him before them to give them a remnant on the earth and to keep
     them alive for a great deliverance.

     2. Then could Joseph not refrain himself before all them that
     stood by him; and he cried, "Cause every man to go out from
     me." And there stood no man with him when Joseph made himself
     known unto his brethren. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians
     heard and the house of Pharaoh heard. And Joseph said unto
     his brethren, "I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?" And his
     brethren could not answer him for they were affrighted at his
     presence. And Joseph said unto his brethren, "Come near to me,
     I pray you." And they came near. And he said: "I am Joseph your
     brother whom ye sold into Egypt. And now be not grieved, nor
     angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send
     me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the
     famine been in the land; and there are yet five years in which
     there shall be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me
     before you to give you a remnant on the earth and to save you
     alive for a great deliverance."

The reader will at once recognize in the second citation the exact
language of the Bible. The first is the same passage turned into
indirect discourse with no other change in its wording, yet how much
it loses in force even for us adults and even in print; for children
and in actual narration the story would lose even more.

=The advantage of using illustrations.= As for the advantage
of using illustrations whether in the form of pictures that
are distributed and passed around the class or in the form of
stereoptican views, we have already suggested one advantage in
that they help define for the child the meaning of some of the
concrete terms not yet in his vocabulary, but they perform a still
more important function in helping him to visualize the narrative.
For what we see seems always a more intimate part of our experience
than what we have merely heard. When Job wants to express the deeper
intimacy of his new knowledge of God after God had appeared to him
he declares, "I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now
mine eye seeth Thee." (Job 42. 5.)

=When to use illustrations and what illustrations to use.= Though
the use of illustrations, particularly of stereoptican views, which
have the advantage of focusing the attention of the class on one
thing, are a decided help, they should be used only in reviewing the
lesson. The reasons for this are: 1. that the picture distracts the
attention of the class from what the teacher is saying, 2. that it
prevents the smooth flow of narrative by the necessity of explaining
details of the picture that are often irrelevant, 3. that the
interest in the dramatic dialogue of the characters which reveals
their motives and, in most cases, the actual moral of the story is
sacrificed to the interest in picturesque details of dress, scenery,
etc., 4. that the teacher is at the mercy of the artist's conception
of the Biblical narrative which rarely does it justice from a
Jewish or from an artistic point of view, and often does violence
to the nobler conception of the story that the unaided imagination,
stimulated by the teacher's narrative, would have constructed.
Pictures that represent God in human form should of course not be
allowed in a Jewish school. Nor should the school use such pictures
as represent anything of a mystical character in images so definite
and familiar that they dispel the whole mystical atmosphere. When,
for instance, the revelation on Mount Sinai is represented by two
tablets of stone falling from heaven into the waiting hands of
Moses, as in one familiar picture, it is hardly likely to instil
the highest form of reverence. Or when, as in another picture, the
ascension of Elijah is represented by a chariot drawn by horses of
a brilliant red, meant to suggest fire but too definite in outline
to permit of such suggestion, the child will in all probability
merely be amused at the peculiar color of the horses and the picture
will not have illustrated the story for him at all. It is therefore
apparent that the teacher must exercise some sort of censorship over
the illustrations used in teaching.

=Self activity of child.= We have several times referred to the
activity of the child's own imagination in working over in his mind
the material supplied by the teacher, and the recognition of the
fact that the child's mind is not passive but active leads us to the
acceptance of a principle of the most far reaching importance in all
education, namely, that the teacher cannot impart a lesson unless
he can get the child's mind of its own accord to seek that very
knowledge that he wishes to impart. This is the wisdom of the homely
proverb, "You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him
drink." We must stimulate an appetite for the mental food we wish to
give the pupil even before we give it. How can this be done?

=Jewish symbols and ceremonies a stimulus to self activity.= When
discussing the aim of instruction in Biblical history we took a
hint from the Haggadah for Passover, the reading of which was
mainly intended for pedagogic purpose since it is in fulfillment
of the commandment, "And thou shalt tell to thy son in that day";
we may take another hint from it in this connection. The child
at table on Passover eve sees before him a number of curious
objects and ceremonials to which he is not accustomed. He sees the
_maẓẓot_, the _maror_, and other symbols, he also notices the
reclining attitude instead of the usual erect posture, and so
he very naturally exclaims _mah nishtannah_! "How different is
this night from other nights!" Then when his own curiosity has
been stimulated he is given the answer to his questions and the
lesson has been impressed upon him. The symbols and ceremonies
of Jewish life which have their origin or explanation in the
Biblical narrative are excellently adapted for this stimulation
of intellectual curiosity which should precede the telling of the
story. A reference to the Sabbath and how it is observed might
well precede the story of creation which explains its origin and
significance; a reference to the Passover observances might well
precede an account of the Exodus; a reference to the synagogue might
precede an account of the construction of the tabernacle, etc. These
serve the double function of interesting the child in the narrative
and of interesting him in those things in Jewish life which the
narrative helps to explain. Where an object of Jewish ceremonial
life cannot be found with which to stimulate his curiosity, some
other fact of his experience may be taken instead. Thus the story
of Noah might well be introduced by reference to the rainbow, the
meaning of which the teacher will then undertake to explain to the
child by the story.

=The teacher's question as a stimulus to self activity.= Inasmuch as
there are in every class those of the type mentioned in the Haggadah
"who know not how to question", it often becomes advisable for the
teacher himself to put to the class the question that he wishes to
have answered. And indeed an occasional question from the teacher
in the very midst of the story may go a great way toward arousing
interest and securing a clearer comprehension. Thus it may be that
the teacher is telling the story of Joseph. He reaches the point
where Joseph's brothers come to him to buy corn and explains how
Joseph, having recognized them without their having recognized him,
had them wholly in his power. He then asks, "Now what do you think
you would do if you were Joseph and your brothers had treated you so
cruelly and then they come to you for food and you have them in your
power?" At once he has the class interested in the question of what
Joseph actually did and their interest in the rest of the story as
well as their better comprehension of the motives that underlie it
is secured.

=The pupil's recitation.= So much for the teacher's original
presentation of the lesson. This completed, the child must be
called upon to recite it, not primarily, as most teachers seem to
think, in order to give the teacher a chance to find out whether
the child had learned the lesson, but because the necessity of
telling it over to the teacher forces the child to think about the
subject of the lesson and once more appeals to his self activity.
The questions asked by the teacher should not be merely such as
call for items of information but such as require the exercise of
intelligence on the pupil's part and give evidence not only of his
remembering the story but of his understanding it. If for example
the teacher wishes to question the child on the story of creation,
such formal questions as "In how many days did God make the world?
What did he make on the first day? What did he make on the second
day?" etc., are not enough, as they test the memory only. He should
ask such questions as these: "Why do we rest on the seventh day of
each week? What was the last thing God made? Why did God make man
last?" For these test not only the memory but the understanding as
well. The story that the children tell when thus asked to repeat the
lesson will give the teacher an idea of what points have impressed
themselves on them and what have not, and on the basis of these he
must question further. In general there ought to be fewer questions
beginning with "what" and more beginning with "why".

=Dramatization of lesson.= Beside the repetition of the lesson
by the child in the form of a recitation and the answering of
questions, there are many stories, in which the interest centers
chiefly in the dramatic dialogue, that children might be encouraged
to dramatize in class. The dramatization must be made by the
children themselves in the spirit of free play, the teacher merely
offering general suggestions but the dialogue being the spontaneous
creation of the children. The natural imitative instinct of children
which makes so much of their play the mimicry of the activities
and occupations of their adult environment, takes very kindly to
this sort of make-believe. At the same time this exercise enables
them to enter into the motives of the Biblical characters and to
understand and remember the incidents of the Biblical narrative
as few exercises can. Nor need the teacher be discouraged by the
lack of accessories to dramatization such as scenery and costume.
The child's imagination, which can convert a rocking chair into a
boat or a table into a mountain, can easily dispense with those
accessories which the sophisticated mind of the adult requires.
Stories that lend themselves to such treatment are Esau's sale of
the birthright, Isaac's blessing of Jacob and Esau and the various
episodes of the Joseph narrative.

=The teacher's preparation.= It follows from the above discussion
that the teacher of Biblical history who wishes to do justice to
his subject must give careful preparation to each lesson, not only,
as we have already suggested, with a view to understanding the
significance of the Biblical passages that he wishes to teach, but
also with a view to teaching them effectively to the child. This
preparation must include 1. inquiry as to object in teaching that
particular lesson to the child, 2. the effort to find some point of
contact between the theme of the lesson and the previous knowledge
and experience of the child such as would appeal to his interest,
3. the study of the subject from the point of view of literary and
oratorical effectiveness in the presentation, 4. the attempt to find
the best possible illustrations and applications of the lesson to
the life of the child, 5. preparation of questions and other devices
by which the child is made to work over the lesson in his own mind
and give proof of having assimilated it. In the chapters of this
manual the object of each lesson according to the author's opinion
will be pointed out and suggestions will, from time to time, be
given as to the other points that have been here enumerated. This
book refrains, however, from giving a detailed plan of each lesson
as it is deemed important not to put restraints on the originality
and initiative of the teacher but on the contrary, to encourage
free and spontaneous expression of personality both on the part of
teacher and of pupil.

=Summary.= Much more might be said about the method of teaching
Biblical history, but this will have to suffice by way of
introduction to the more concrete suggestions that are to follow in
the chapters of this book. It may be well, however, before closing
to summarize the more important conclusions reached:

1. That the aim in instructing the child in Biblical history is not
merely to teach him a moral such as he might learn from any edifying
story but to influence his life through the consciousness of his
spiritual identity with the Israel of the Bible;

2. That the events narrated must be given the same significance that
the Bible itself gives them and not any convenient moral that we may
wish to append to them;

3. That teaching shall be so adapted to the child as to make the
lesson (a) comprehensible, (b) interesting;

(a) That in order to be comprehensible it must proceed from the
known to the unknown and must define the unknown in terms of the
known, avoiding however, so far as possible, all formal definition,
and leaving large scope for the exercise of the child's imagination;

(b) That in order to be interesting the lesson should first be
presented by the teacher orally in a style made vivid by plenty of
conversation quoted directly, and that this may well be followed up
by illustrations such as the showing of pictures or stereoptican
views; that the teacher stimulate the curiosity of the child before
beginning the lesson preferably by the introduction of some relevant
object of Jewish ceremonial, but, in the absence of that, by some
other appeal to the child's experience; and finally, that the
teacher encourage self activity and self expression on the part of
the child by tactful questions both in the course of presenting the
lesson and when the child is asked, as he should be, to recite the
lesson he has learned.

These suggestions it is hoped may prove of some help to the
earnest teacher of Biblical history. In the chapters which
follow, an attempt is made to give them more concrete and
definite illustration. Each chapter will therefore contain 1.
the interpretation of the subject-matter of the lesson, 2. a
brief discussion of the aim in teaching it, and 3. miscellaneous
suggestions as to the way it can best be made to appeal to the




CREATION Genesis 1.1 to 2.3

     Note.--The lessons in this book are necessarily divided somewhat
     arbitrarily, that is without exact reference to the amount
     that can be taught at a single session of the school. This is
     unavoidable at present as periods vary in length in different
     schools, and classes vary in age and in the mental development
     of their pupils. The division therefore has been purely on the
     basis of the subject-matter and not of the time to be spent in
     instruction. Some lessons may require two or even three hours
     for their complete presentation.

=Interpretation.= The early narratives of Genesis serve as an
introduction to Biblical history by giving the Jewish view of the
origin of the world in general and the human race in particular,
preparatory to discussing the role that Israel was destined to play
in the world. The following are some of the most significant ideas
that the narrative of the creation has to tell us with regard to the
world and man's place in it:

1. That God is the creator and consequently supreme over matter,
nature and the world;

2. That man is the highest being in the order of creation by reason
of his being possessed of the divine attributes of reason and
conscience as intimated in the words "in our image according to our

3. That God loves His creatures הָרַחֲמִים בְּמִדַּת שֶׁבָּרָא "whom
he hath created in accordance with the attribute of mercy;"

4. That God in return desires man's love and his recognition in
worship as is implied in the institution of the Sabbath.

=Aim.= In teaching this lesson to the child the aim should be to
inspire him with the sense of reverence and worship, particularly in
connection with Sabbath observance. The message of this as of all
the earlier chapters of Genesis is a universal one, but, like most
other universal aspects of Judaism, it has found concrete expression
in a specifically Jewish institution, namely the Sabbath, and, as
our aim is to affect the Jewish life of the child it is through
association of the ideas of the lesson with the institution of the
Sabbath that we must endeavor to make them effective.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= In accordance with the principle
which demands that we proceed from what is known to what is not yet
known, it at once becomes apparent that we cannot begin this lesson
with an account of primal darkness out of which chaos and then the
world was formed. In the introduction (page 22) we quoted an account
of creation which began by a reference to created objects in the
child's experience. In consideration however of the desirability
of stimulating the child's intellectual curiosity before beginning
the lesson, it would be well to introduce the lesson with a few
questions regarding the distinction of the Sabbath from the other
days of the week, culminating in the question, "Why do we act so
differently on the Sabbath than on other days?" Then proceed to
answer by telling the story of creation in the way suggested in the
introduction. When the narrative is completed, again discuss the
Sabbath and how it is to be observed, as in this way the moral of
the narrative can best be enforced.

It is a well known fact that children are attracted by the exact
repetition of certain phrases somewhat in the nature of a refrain.
It is well therefore to utilize the refrain, "And there was evening
and there was morning" with each of the successive days of creation.


ADAM AND EVE Genesis 2.4 to 3.24

=Interpretation.= This is one of the narratives of the Bible whose
real meaning in its entirety it is impossible to teach the child. To
understand it, would require an experience that in the very nature
of the case the child cannot have had. A partial understanding of
its moral can, however, be imparted to him and the significant facts
of the story be so impressed on his mind that he will remember them
and, in later years, perceive their deeper meaning in the light
of acquired experience. The story of Adam and Eve is the story
of man and woman as exemplified in the progenitors of the human
race. The Eden of blissful innocence is lost when there awakens in
man the appetite for a forbidden knowledge, for an experience of
evil as well as of good, an experience which in the end leaves him
conscious of his nakedness, conscious of having sinned, and of being
disillusioned, conscious of being altogether in a worse plight than
if he had never sought after the forbidden knowledge. Obviously this
deeper meaning cannot be realized by the child, but certain elements
of it can be brought home to him; he can be made to feel that the
enjoyment of the good things in life is dependent upon an implicit
obedience to the laws that God has laid down as conditioning their
enjoyment, so that disobedience means the loss of these joys.

=Aim.= The aim of the story of Adam and Eve must then be, from
the point of view of the child, the recognition of the duty of
implicit, unquestioning obedience to legitimate authority. So far
the moral is universal and not specifically Jewish. Were we to rest
here, we would not be realizing to the full the aim of instruction
in Biblical history that we had set before us in the introduction.
But, though the moral of the story of Adam and Eve is a universal
one, it can be associated, as was done in the case of the story of
creation, with certain aspects of Jewish life. Thus the legitimate
authority for which we claim implicit obedience from the child can
and should be made the Torah, and particular emphasis should in this
connection be laid on the dietary laws because of their analogy to
the divine commandment in the lesson, "of every tree of the garden
thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, thou shalt not eat of it." In this way the moral of the lesson
is, so to speak, dramatized in the daily life of the child and is
made to increase his loyalty to Judaism as a whole.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= After what has been said with regard
to the aim of this chapter, little remains to be noted by way of
suggestions regarding method, as the story in its Biblical form
is already admirably adapted to satisfy the child's love of a
good story. The moral, as we have suggested it, while it should
receive due emphasis at the end of the story particularly when it
is being repeated by the children and so has become the subject
of class discussion, should not be made too obtrusive in telling
the story itself. The words of the serpent in tempting Eve and
the conversation in which God rebukes Adam, Eve and the serpent
should be quoted as nearly as possible in the Biblical language.
In pointing out the connection between the story and its moral as
given above, do so by questioning the child rather than by simply
stating it yourself. Questions that may be suggestive are the

When God gave Adam and Eve so many trees to eat from and everything
else that they needed, was it right that they should eat the fruit
of the one tree that God had told them not to eat of, just because
they wanted to know how it tasted?

If your parents, who give you so many things, your food and your
clothes and your toys, sometimes tell you to do this or that which
at the time you don't feel like doing, how ought you to act?

Do you know of any things that we Jews don't eat because God, who
has made everything we eat, told us not to eat them?



Genesis 4.1 to 15

=Interpretation.= The story of Cain and Abel is a study of sin,
remorse and repentance. There is a suggestion in verse 7, of evil
passions existing in Cain's heart even before the murder of his
brother, and, though the verse is obscure, it may be interpreted
as giving a reason for God's not accepting Cain's offering. Not
until after the deed is done is Cain made fully to realize the
significance of his act and then he is stirred by remorse and fear
until God reassures him of his protection. The sign that God gives
Cain is sometimes construed as part of his punishment but in the
Bible it is mentioned rather as evidence of God's acceptance of his

=Aim.= The teacher should endeavor through this lesson to impress
on the child the danger of yielding to envy and anger and the
desirability of repentance and of confession of our sins to God
whenever we have done wrong.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Sentimentalists sometimes object to
teaching this story to young children because of the sordid crime
that it relates. This objection however is not valid, because the
very ignorance and innocence of childhood rob the story of most
of its horror. Indeed, the teacher must rather guard against the
child's utterly losing the sense of the tragedy of the crime, the
universal tragedy by which passion leads men to commit acts which
they would later gladly retrieve if they could. In order to impress
this on the child the teacher must describe what the narrative of
the Bible but barely suggests, the wayward character of Cain before
the sacrifice which made it unacceptable. Devote some time to
characterizing Cain and Abel in such a way that the child pictures
the former as a sullen, discontented, envious man, who showed no
true appreciation of God's goodness to him and whose offering
was therefore not acceptable to God, while that of Abel, who was
sincerely grateful to God, was accepted. As this is the first time
that sacrifice is mentioned, explain the meaning of sacrifice as a
way in which men long ago used to show God that they were thankful
for his goodness in giving them their food, by not using all that
he gave them but burning some on a heap of stones called an altar.
Use some illustration from the child's life of how a gift is more
or less acceptable according to the motive which prompts it. You
might ask the children, "Which would please you more; if somebody
would give you a present on your birthday because he loves you, or,
because he thinks that when his birthday will come you will give
him one also?" and continue, "Now when Cain and Abel brought their
offering to God, God knew that Abel loved Him and always obeyed Him
and gave his offering because he was really grateful to God in his
heart, but Cain, who was always discontented and not very obedient,
God knew brought his offering only because he thought that if he did
so God might be pleased and so send him the rain necessary to make
his corn grow, that he would have plenty to eat during the year.
Therefore God accepted Abel's offering but did not accept Cain's".
Lay stress on God's warning to Cain, "Sin croucheth at the door",
which is to be explained as meaning that Cain must be very careful
how he acts and that if he feels like doing wrong to Abel, he must
keep back the feeling and not do it, or he might be doing something
which he would later feel very sorry for, after he could no longer
undo it. Remember that the very young child has no concept of death
and so relate the climax of the story somewhat in this manner; "Now
when Cain saw that Abel lay on the ground bleeding and could not
move or speak to him he knew that he had committed a great sin and
was afraid". The dialogue between God and Cain after Abel's death
should be quoted as nearly as possible in the language of the Bible,
particularly Cain's attempt at first to evade responsibility in the
words "Am I my brother's keeper?" followed later by his complete
confession, "My guilt is greater than I can bear". In enforcing the
aim of the lesson as we have given it, guard against merely making
didactic statements and rather bring out the point by questions,
after having concluded the narrative. The following are suggestive

Why did God accept Abel's offering and did not accept Cain's?

How did Cain feel when he saw that God did not accept his offering?

What did God say to Cain to warn him not give way to anger?

When Cain saw that he had killed Abel how did he feel?

Did God forgive Cain? How did God show that He forgave him?



Genesis 6.5 to 9.1

=Interpretation.= The story of Noah is so simple as scarcely to need
interpretation. The world had become corrupt, and, as God cannot
abide moral corruption, it seemed better to destroy what he had
created. Out of the universal destruction, however, God's providence
singled out Noah, because of his moral superiority, to be saved
and to start human life on a higher plane. He therefore bids Noah
take with him into the ark his family and enough of the animals to
assure the preservation of the different species, taking more of the
clean animals which are fit for food, and, when Noah finally leaves
the ark, He makes a covenant with him, the terms of which are that
Noah, is to observe certain moral laws, including the prohibition
of murder, and that God would never again destroy all life with a
deluge and would guarantee the orderly succession of the seasons as
necessary to man's existence. As a token of this covenant God shows
Noah the rainbow.

=Aim.= The aim in teaching this lesson to the child should be to
give him the idea of God's control over all the forces of nature and
of His special providence exercised over each individual, rewarding
the good and punishing the evil. As it is our purpose, wherever
possible, to find some distinctively Jewish way in which the child
can give expression to the ideals taught this lesson should be made
the occasion for teaching the child the _berakah_ (blessing) on
seeing a rainbow which is associated with the Noah story.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= To connect this story with the child's
own life begin with a reference to the rainbow. Let children tell
what colors they have seen in the rainbow, call their attention to
the fact that it appears always after a storm, and then tell them
that you are going to relate a story which will explain to them why
God makes a rainbow in the heavens after it rains. And when you have
finished the story, again connect the moral of it with the rainbow
somewhat as follows:

"And so, children, whenever we see a rainbow it should remind us of this
story of how God saved Noah from the flood because of his goodness, and
how God promised never to destroy the whole world again by a terrible
flood. And whenever we see a rainbow we should all of us say this little
prayer or berakah which I will teach you, מֶלֶךְ אֱלֹהֵינו יְהֹוָה אַתָּה בָּרוּךְ
בְּמַאֲמָרוֹ וְקַיָם בִּבְרִיתוֹ וֱנֶאֶמָן הַבְּרִית זוֹכֵר הָעוֹלָם, which means, "Blessed be
thou, O Lord our God, King of the world, who remembers His covenant and
is faithful to His covenant and keeps his promise".

The term covenant must be explained to the child in this chapter as
an exchange of promises.

The story of Noah contains many appeals to the child's interest
which the skillful teacher will know how to make the most of. A
Noah's ark with all manner of queer little wooden animals that could
be put in and taken out again has been a favorite toy with many
a child now grown to manhood. A child is naturally interested in
animals and, when you tell of how the animals came into the ark,
ask the children to tell you the names of animals they have seen in
the zoo or circus.

To emphasize the moral of the story use the _haggadic_ elaboration
of it according to which the period that the ark was in process of
construction gave the sinners an opportunity to repent, of which
however they did not avail themselves but instead merely mocked
Noah for trusting in God and obeying him. This _haggada_ is in full
accord with the spirit of the Biblical narrative and gives content
to the statement: "Noah was in his generation a righteous and
whole-hearted man; Noah walked with God."[1]

  [1] whenever a _haggadah_ is useful as explaining a biblical
  passage, it may be taught as part of the biblical lesson. but the
  teacher should avoid teaching such legends as may misrepresent the
  biblical meaning and even such as are merely extraneous to the
  subject, as, for example, the legend of abraham's persecution by
  nimrod, for we must be careful that these legends do not usurp the
  unique place which the bible as torah must hold in jewish life and
  thought. the _haggadah_ is not authoritative; the bible is.

The episode narrated in Genesis 9.21 to 29 had better be omitted as
not adapted for children.



Genesis 11.1 to 9

=Interpretation.= These verses tell how the descendants of Noah in
the pride of a new civilization and the acquisition of the new art
of building with bricks endeavor to defeat the divine purpose of
scattering them over the world and are frustrated in their plans
through God's confusing their language. Its moral is the vanity of
any attempt on the part of man to defeat God's purpose.

=Aim.= This lesson is not one that yields a moral which the child
is able to apply immediately in his own life. Its moral is rather
for society than for the individual in its exposure of the vanity
of reliance on the mere material elements in civilization. Inasmuch
however as it can be made interesting to the child and appealing to
his imagination it is well to teach it that it may become a part of
his store of Jewish information which will receive added meaning as
his experience grows.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= This lesson should be introduced by a
reference to the different languages with which the child has come
in contact. He can then have his attention called to the fact that,
as all men are descended from Noah, they must all originally have
spoken one language. This at once raises the question how it came
about that there are now many languages, and, when the child is
interested in this question, he has the proper mental attitude for
hearing the story.

The motive for the building of the tower is not given very clearly
in the Bible and, in the form in which it is given, is hardly
calculated to impress the story on a child's mind. It is well,
therefore, to amplify the story in accordance with the _haggadah_
that suggests as motive the attempt to avoid the consequences of
another such flood as at the time of Noah. The sin, therefore, of
the generation of the dispersion lies in the fact that instead of
trying to avoid God's displeasure they tried to render themselves
immune to its consequences, a moral that carries out the idea of the
Biblical narrative only stating it in more explicit terms.



Genesis 12.1 to 10 and 13.1 to 18

=Interpretation.= With this lesson the history of our people
begins. The Bible wishes us to see in the separation of Abram and
his clan from the parent tribe, and their migration to Canaan, not
a fortuitous circumstance, but the fulfilment of a divine plan
according to which God was to make of the descendants of Abram the
chosen people and of the land of Canaan the chosen land. Why Abram
was selected of all people is not clearly stated, but one trait of
his character is made very conspicuous here and in all subsequent
chapters, his implicit faith and obedience. The Rabbis emphasize
that, in bidding him to leave his land, God tells him merely to go
"to the land that I will show unto thee", without indicating what
land was meant. Again He promises him, "To thy seed will I give this
land", though Abram is childless. Nor was Abram permitted to believe
that his nephew Lot might have been intended by the promise, for,
when Abram's herdsmen and Lot's herdsmen quarrel, Lot chooses the
land of Sodom and not the promised land. In a word, God seems to
have selected Abram to be the father of the chosen people because
of his faith, his unquestioning willingness to submit to divine
guidance. A second trait of character that is made conspicuous is
his love of peace as illustrated in his relations with Lot.

=Aim.= The primary aim in teaching this lesson to the child should
be to inspire him with the thought that he is one of God's chosen
people, a descendant of Abram, and should prove himself worthy
of his descent by emulating Abram's obedience to God through his
obedience to Jewish law. The whole point of this narrative is lost
if the teacher fails to emphasize the fact that Abram is the father
of the Jewish people.

The secondary aim may well be to stimulate interest in Palestine as
the chosen land.

A third lesson that can be taught in this connection is the lesson
of the desirability of peace.

The last two aims however must be brought in incidentally, the
former as an indication of God's love for Abram and his descendants,
the latter as showing wherein Abram was worthy of being chosen.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= As the whole point of the narrative is
lost if the child is not made to feel the connection of the Jewish
people with Abram, take pains to explain what is meant by descent
and how a whole people can be descended from one man, by showing how
a man's grandchildren are usually more numerous than his children,
etc. It might be of advantage to use the blackboard for a graphic
illustration of this idea. Then, after having explained how God
expected to make a great nation of Abram's descendants, ask, "Do
any of you know what people today are the descendants of Abram?
Well, I will tell you. You and I and all who call themselves Jews
are descended from Abram. That is why we always speak of him as
our father Abram. Now don't you want me to tell you more about our
father Abram and about the great people that came from him and to
which we belong?"

Hereafter always call Abram "our father Abram", as he is almost
invariably called in Jewish literature אָנִינוּ אַבְרָהָם. This will
keep the child conscious of his descent from Abram, increase his
interest in him and make him feel that Biblical history is the
history of his own people.

As the motives for God's choice of Abram are but vaguely suggested
in the Bible, the teacher must make them more explicit. Call
attention to the fact that the world had again become corrupt, that
idolatry prevailed--and here it becomes necessary to explain what
idolatry means--in the House of Terah as elsewhere (see Joshua 24.
2), but that there was one man, Abram, who always obeyed God and
who, God knew, would instruct his children to do so. And therefore
God told him to leave his family and his people because he wanted to
make of him a great people that would always do as he told them and
not a foolish and wicked people like those among whom he lived.

The various _haggadic_ tales of the persecutions to which Abram was
subjected by Nimrod and even by his own father, while beautiful in
themselves and interesting to children should not be taught as part
of the lesson. (See foot-note to page 46.)

In order to make the narrative more vivid and impressive, God's call
to Abram and his promise (Genesis 12. 1 to 3) should be quoted in
the language of the Bible, as also Abram's words to Lot (Genesis 13.
9) and God's promise when Abram settled in Canaan (Genesis 13. 14 to

When speaking of God's promise to give Abram the land of Canaan,
the teacher may digress somewhat to describe the main geographical
features of Palestine, showing children on the map where it is
situated and pointing out its main topographical characteristics, if
the children are of an age when they know how to interpret maps. The
description of the land should be such as to create an attachment
to it, dwelling on the variety of its climate, the beauty of its
scenery, and its fertility. Pictures of Palestine particularly of
the places associated with the life of Abram, should be shown.



Genesis 14

=Interpretation.= Abram's blessing begins to become manifest through
his military success in the campaign to rescue Lot and his family.
He is accorded recognition by Melchizedek, king of Salem (to be
identified with Jerusalem), and "priest of God the Most High", who
gives him bread and wine and to whom he gives a tithe of the booty.
The king of Sodom also recognizes his greatness and the value of his
services, which he wishes to reward, but Abram rejects the proffered
reward in order to be able to maintain his independence and assert
his reliance on the divine promise.

=Aim.= The aim in teaching this lesson should be to awaken an
appreciation of the heroic virtues of courage, loyalty and
independence, and, by associating them with the founder of the
Jewish people and the Jewish faith to arouse the Jewish self respect
of the child.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= It is very important in telling such
stories the moral of which is to be enforced through the child's
imitation of the virtues of the characters whose deeds it narrates,
not to tag on a moral at the end of the tale. If the child is
impressed by the story, imitation is sure to result, and, by adding
a moral stated in abstract terms, one only gives the child the
feeling that the events of the story did not really happen but were
"made up" to point the moral. But the child must be impressed by the
story, and the skillful teacher will know how to make the details
of the story itself so impressive as to bring home their moral. For
instance, instead of saying at the end of the story, "This teaches
us what a brave man Abram was since he was willing to risk his life
for Lot and his family", the teacher might begin the story somewhat
as follows:

"Now when Abram was sitting one day at the door of his tent, a man
came running to him all out of breath and, as soon as he had gained
breath enough to speak, he said, 'There has been a terrible battle
in Sodom. I and a few others have escaped but your nephew Lot and
his family have all been taken away captive and no one can say what
will be done to them.' Thereupon Abram called together his few
followers to the number of 318 and, together with his friends and
neighbors, Aner, and Eshcol and Mamre and their soldiers, followed
after the enemy, trusting that God would help him, though he knew
the enemy had many more men than he."

The interesting detail of how the enemy fell into the slime pits
in the valley of Siddim should not be omitted as it gives greater
vividness and reality to the narrative.

The child can be depended upon to respond to the appeal for his
appreciation of Abram's martial virtues, but the full significance
of Abram's refusal of a share of the spoils and his statement "Thou
shalt not say I have made Abram rich" he will not grasp without
the teacher's help. Bring out his point by asking, "Why did not
Abram want to let the king of Sodom make him rich?" and if, as will
probably be the case, the child will have no answer ready, explain
as follows:

"The reason is this. Abram had joined the war not to get money or
other riches from the enemy, for that would have been mere robbery.
He had fought to save Lot and his family, and, when they were safe,
he was satisfied. But the people of Sodom were, as you know from our
last lesson, very wicked and their kings were all the time making
war, even when there was no good reason, in order that they might
become rich by what they took from the enemy. And Abram thought, if
I take money now from the king of Sodom, some time later he may say,
'Abram, it is I who made you a rich man; now you must help me fight
against my enemies and rob them'. Therefore Abram would have nothing
to do with him and would not even take a shoestring from him. He
knew, moreover, that if he obeyed God, God would give him all that
he needed, and therefore he did not have to take presents from one
whom he could not respect and honor."

Be sure to make clear that Melchizedek's tribute to Abram was
in recognition of the fact that his victory was a sign of God's
favor, and that Abram's giving the tithe was an expression of his
recognition of God's help in the battle.

The lesson might be concluded by some such summary as the following:

So our father Abram became great and famous in the new land to which
he had come, because God blessed him in all that he did so that he
came to be called by the people about him a "prince of God".



Genesis 15.16.17

=Interpretation.= In chapter 15 the faith of Abram is once more
given emphasis. God promises Abram great reward, but, being
childless, he is indifferent to a reward which must ultimately
pass to strangers, the descendants of Eliezer, but God explains to
him that he is to have a child of his own to whom the reward is to
descend, and he has faith in God's promise though for many years it
remains unfulfilled.

The vision of Abram, recorded in verses 12 to 16 is significant as
showing the providential character of the Egyptian bondage. We need
not, however, discuss it here in detail, since its significance
is only apparent in the light of later lessons and it is not
intrinsically interesting to the child.

For the interpretation of the main theme of this lesson, the reader
is referred to the introduction of this book, pages 19-20. It is to
be noted that in giving to Abram her servant Hagar as wife, Sarai
is doing an unselfish act in the hope that she may thereby help
realize the promise made to Abram, and it is little wonder that she
resents the arrogant attitude of Hagar, who is the chief beneficiary
of her unselfish act and yet vaunts it over her as though Sarai's
barrenness were a mark of inferiority and perhaps even of the divine

The fact that, when Hagar flees from Sarai before the birth of
Ishmael, she is asked by the angel to return, and that after the
birth of Isaac, God not only sanctions but commands the separation,
shows distinctly that the motive for the separation was that
expressed in the words, "In Isaac shall seed be called to thee", and
that, meanwhile, Abram was to have his faith put to the test through
his attachment to Ishmael, as later through his attachment to Isaac.

It is also to be noted, here as elsewhere, that the patriarchs and
their wives themselves had only a dim and often incorrect idea of
God's purpose in his dealings with them. Thus Sarai, realizing
that she is barren, at first reasons that God's promise to Abram
was intended to apply to him alone and not to her and therefore
necessitated his taking another wife. When Ishmael is born, Abram
thinks that he is to be the child of destiny and it is one of the
tests to which his faith is put when, after the birth of Ishmael,
God tells him that not this son but another, who is to be born to
Sarai, is to be his heir. The point of all this is that the history
of the patriarchs is not merely personal biography but that its
real significance is to be understood as showing the care that
God exercised in selecting the material out of which the chosen
people was to be moulded. Not all of Abram's descendants were to be
deemed fit for this election, but he was to become the "father of a
multitude of nations" of which only one was to be chosen.

In teaching of the covenant that is recorded in Genesis 17, the
ceremony of circumcision cannot for obvious reasons be dwelt on in
class, but the change of Abram's and Sarai's names should be, and
therefore its significance needs to be interpreted. To give a new
name is a sign of ownership and interest. God shows his love for
Abram and Sarai and his intention to enter into closer relations
with them by giving them new names. It is to be noted that God also
gives Isaac his name (Genesis 18.21) and changes that of Jacob to
Israel after he shows himself worthy of the title.

=Aim.= This lesson is one of a series of incidents which should
impress on the child faith in the truth of God's words, which in
the end are verified, though at first they often seem impossible of
realization and more particularly, faith in God's election of Israel.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= There are two main difficulties to
overcome in teaching this chapter; first, that the moral is such
an abstract one, the whole story as we have interpreted it being
conceived as a glimpse into the workings of providence in the
history of Israel and the world, and second, that the incidents
hinge upon family relations of a sort that a child with his
ignorance of the facts of sex cannot easily comprehend.

The first of these difficulties can be largely overcome by giving
much more emphasis than is usually given to the human and personal
aspect of the story particularly to Abram's desire for a son and
his repeated disappointments before the final realization of God's
promise to him; and a little tact can overcome the second difficulty
as well. To show how these two difficulties may be met, it will be
necessary here to tell a great part of the story as it may be told
to a class of children between the ages of seven and eight. After
telling of God's promise to Abram to make of his seed a great nation
as numerous as the stars in heaven and of Abram's rejoicing that
he would have a son who would become after him the father of this
great people, the teacher might continue somewhat as follows:

But year after year passed and Abram and Sarai were already growing
old, and yet God had not fulfilled His promise to Abram to give him
a son out of whose children and children's children He would make
a great and good nation. And Oh! how Abram did want to have a son.
When he would see the children of his neighbors at play with their
bright eyes and laughing faces, he would think, "_If only I had a
little child like that how happy I should be and what delight it
would be to watch him grow big and strong! How I would thank God
for such a son and how I would teach my little boy to thank God and
to love and obey Him and to be kind and good to all people as God
wants us to be so that through him and his children and children's
children all the nations of the earth would be blessed._" And he
would often tell his wishes to Sarai and they would try to comfort
each other and one would remind the other of God's promise and
would say, "_We must be patient. God has promised us a son and in
His time He will send us one._" But one day an idea came to Sarai.
She thought to herself, "Maybe it is my fault that Abram has no
children. God promised a son to Abram but he did not make any
promise to me. Maybe if Abram married someone else, God would let
Abram have a son from this other wife." Now Sarai had a servant
whose name was Hagar, and she told Abram to marry Hagar too, for in
those days men often had more than one wife. And Abram did as Sarai
suggested and, surely enough, not long after they were married it
was told to Hagar that in a few months she would bear a child to
Abram. Now you would think children, would you not, that after
Sarai had been so kind to her servant Hagar and had let her marry
Abram that Hagar would love Sarai for it and show kindness to her in
return. But Hagar showed herself at this time very mean. She felt a
foolish pride because God was going to give her a son and had given
none to Sarai and she used to say to her, "See, you are married to
Abram these many years and yet God has not given him any children
from you, but I have been but recently married to him and now I
shall soon bear him a son. Doesn't this show that God loves me more
than you? Doesn't this show that I am better than you? Do you think
I will be your servant any more? No indeed, I am not only as good
as you but better." When Sarai heard these words day after day she
was deeply grieved and angry and she complained to Abram, and Abram
told Hagar that she must continue to serve Sarai as before. But when
Sarai wanted to make Hagar do her work, she ran away and fled into
the wilderness.

The above will suffice to show how the difficulties which we mention
can be overcome. The passages that have been italicized suggest how
the child can be given the feeling that the birth of Isaac was part
of a divine plan for the good of the world. This can be still more
clearly brought home by the latter part of the narrative in which
God rejects Ishmael as a "Wild ass of a man." The teacher must make
this quite clear to the class by asking, "Do you think that this boy
Ishmael of whom God knew that he would be wild and wicked was the
one whom God meant when He told Abram he would have a son who was
going to be a blessing to all the world?" He must also emphasize
Abram's affection for Ishmael, which made him mistake him for the
son of promise, for Abram presumably did not know of the prophecy
with regard to Ishmael's future. This will give the child the idea
contained in the narrative that "There are many devices in a man's
heart, but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand".



Genesis 18.1 to 16

=Interpretation.= These verses have given no little difficulty
to the ancient Hebrew commentators. The first verse contains a
statement of God's appearing to Abraham but does not give any
content to this revelation, and then the three angels are introduced
into the narrative as if another revelation were here intended.
Moreover the number of angels that appeared to Abraham when one
might have served the purpose as well also presented its difficulty,
since Christian theologians, connecting this verse with the
preceding, tried to employ it as an argument for the trinity. There
are furthermore in these verses frequent changes of number which
are difficult to account for. Thus in verse 3, Abraham addresses
the angels in the singular, in verse 4 in the plural. In verse 9,
we read _va-yomeru_ "And they said" while verse 10 which seems a
continuation of this conversation begins _va-yomar_ "And he said".
In verse 13 God himself suddenly breaks into the conversation. A
comparison with other parts of the Bible in which angels appear
shows that they too exhibit similar peculiarities of style.[2]

  [2] See for instance Genesis 19. 16, 17; 31. 11 to 13; 32. 25 to 31;
  48. 15 to 16. Exodus 3. 2, etc.; 23. 20 to 22. Judges 2. 1 to 2; 4.
  12 to 14; 13. 17 to 18, 21 to 22.

The study of these passages shows the following characteristic
features of the Biblical conception of angels which will help to
clear up the difficulties of our text. The angel, as the name both
in Hebrew and English implies, is the messenger of God. Inasmuch
as he exists only to do God's bidding his words are the words
of God and may be introduced by the words "God said" as well as
by "the angel (or angels) said". This accounts for the apparent
inconsistency in the use of singular and plural in our passage. The
angel has no discretionary power, as appears from the statement in
Exodus 23. 21, that the angel cannot forgive sin. Inasmuch as he
has no individual personality or will of his own but is merely a
manifestation of God's will, he has no name of his own, the name
being a mark of individuality, but bears the name of God, which
being a mystery, he may not reveal.[3] (Genesis 32. 3. Exodus 23.
21. Judges 13. 18.) This idea of the impersonality of the angels is
carried a step further by the Rabbis, who insist that no angel ever
executes more than one message and account for the number of angels
that appeared to Abraham by assigning to each a separate mission;
one to predict to Abraham the birth of Isaac, another to rescue Lot,
and a third to destroy Sodom. But such an explanation is scarcely
necessary as there are other passages in the Bible where a number of
angels are mentioned for no clear reason, as for instance in Jacob's
dream. As for the difficulty that we found in verses one and two, it
can now be made clear by understanding the appearance of the angels
in verse two as the explanation of the revelation referred to in
verse one.

  [3] The significance of this cannot be gone into here. An
  interesting treatment of it is to be found in Wiener's Essays in
  Pentateuchal Criticism. Pages 47-53.

Regarding the significance of angels in general, we may consider the
accounts of their appearances as intended by the Biblical author to
convey his appreciation of the mystery of how God can communicate
with mortals without loss to His divine majesty. They certainly
do convey something of this appreciation to the child, for the
imagination of children notwithstanding their natural tendency to
conceive of God in anthropomorphic terms, is impressed by these
mysterious heralds of an invisible kingdom with a sense of the
majesty of God's rule.

=Aim.= This episode has always been made use of, and rightly so, to
impress the pupil with an appreciation of that courteous interest
in the stranger and deferential attention to his wants and desires
which constitute the true grace of hospitality, but an equally
important educational value, perhaps from the point of view of the
child an even more important one, is its power of impressing him
with a sense of the mysterious possibilities of this world, in which
any passing stranger that we entertain may turn out to be an angel
in disguise, who will reveal himself to us and bless us if we do
not turn him from our door. The story should leave the child with
the feeling expressed in the exclamation, "Is anything too hard for
the Lord". The teacher must of course not lose sight nor permit the
child to lose sight of the story's connection with the main theme
of the birth of Isaac, the significance of which we have already
pointed out in the previous lesson.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= This is a story whose educational
value would only be lost by analyzing its moral as the beauty of a
flower is destroyed by pulling it apart to show its structure. Tell
the story simply and, as nearly as possible, in the language of
the Bible itself. Be careful to give the story its characteristic
picturesque setting, and begin therefore by contrasting modern
conditions of housing and travel with those of Abraham's days, thus
establishing a point of contact with the child's present experience.
The following facts should be impressed on the child:

1. That Abraham's nomadic life, which was also the life led by many
of his contemporaries, necessitated his dwelling in a tent which
could be pitched wherever he wanted to make his home,

2. That traveling was to a large extent on foot over hot sand or

3. That travelers were not sure of obtaining food at regular
intervals, and

4. That it was consequently a great kindness to offer them rest and

After this introduction, tell the story of how Abraham one day saw
three tired travelers on the road approaching in the direction of
his tent and invited them to rest, refresh themselves and partake of
food. Then, in a manner which would suggest that you are confiding
to the class a great secret, tell them that these men whom Abraham
had invited were not really men at all but angels of God.

The incident of Sarah's laughing when the angel delivers his message
and then denying that she had laughed should not be omitted as it
affords an interesting human touch to the story and still more as it
gives the occasion for the angel's reply which contains the moral
of the story, "Can anything be too wonderful for God?" There is no
need of glossing over Sarah's prevarication and certainly no need
of giving it undue emphasis, but the incident should be told in
such a way that her motive is made clear. Say, for instance; "Now
as you know, Sarah was very old, so old that she thought herself
too old to have a little baby, and when she heard, from behind the
curtain of the tent, the angel telling Abraham that in a year's time
she should have a son she laughed, just as you would laugh if I told
you that a rose bush would have roses in mid-winter. But the angel
said to Abraham, 'Why does Sarah laugh? Is there anything that God
cannot do?' Then Sarah was ashamed and said, 'I did not laugh'. But
the angel said, 'Nay but thou didst laugh and Sarah was more ashamed
than ever, for she knew that she had not told the truth, and she
said no more."



Genesis 18.7 to 19.29

=Interpretation.= The incident of the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah, like that of the destruction of the generation of the
deluge, is meant as an assertion of God's justice. The insistence on
the justice of God is made the more emphatic by the recognition of
the fact that His dispensations are such as may lead us at times to
call His justice into question. When, therefore, Abraham exclaims,
"Shall not the judge of all the world do justice?" he is not rebuked
for his presumption, but, on the contrary, God seems to prefer his
attitude to one that would accept apparent injustice with complacent
resignation, and God does not disdain to justify Himself to Abraham
in very much the same spirit as the Book of Job represents Him
as preferring the blasphemous accusations of Job to the pious
apologetics of his friends. (Job 42. 7.)

The particular crime assigned as an instance of the wickedness
of Sodom was a form of immorality of which strangers were the
especial victims. Lot's offer to surrender to the men of Sodom his
daughters instead of the strangers was not only prompted by a sense
of the obligation of hospitality but by the consideration of the
different degree of immorality involved in the two acts. It goes
without saying that the specific crime of the men of Sodom cannot
be explained to the children otherwise than as a disposition to
abuse strangers, the antithesis to the attitude of Abraham and Lot
towards them, and, inasmuch as the nature of the crime cannot be
taught, Lot's offer to substitute his daughters for the strangers
cannot be taught since this act would then appear as an attempt to
remedy one injustice by perpetrating another.

=Aim.= This lesson yields more than one moral for the child. The
style of Abraham's plea for Sodom and Gomorrah is a very fine
example of devotion in prayer and should affect the child's attitude
in prayer. The lesson of hospitality taught in the story that
preceded is given further emphasis by the contrast between the
reception of the strangers by Abraham and by Lot, who was reared in
Abraham's household, on the one hand, and by the people of Sodom on
the other. This contrast between the character of Abraham and that
of the people of Sodom should appeal to the Jewish pride of the
child as a descendant of Abraham, the value of which pride we have
had occasion to point out before. The transformation of Lot's wife
into a pillar of salt is an excellent lesson in the value of prompt
obedience and the danger of hesitation and inordinate curiosity.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= In teaching of Abraham's plea for
Sodom and Gomorrah, do not merely give the substance of Abraham's
prayer but thoroughly assimilate and impart the reverential spirit
contained in such introductory phrases as "Behold now I have
taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes,
peradventure, etc." "Oh, let not the Lord be angry and I will
speak", and again, "Let not the Lord be angry and I will speak but
this once". In order that this part of the lesson shall affect the
child's attitude in prayer, speak of Abraham's plea as a prayer
by saying "Then Abraham prayed, etc.", rather than simply "Then
Abraham said", but do not, of course, go into a dissertation on
prayer; let the child draw his own moral.

In telling of the reception of the angels in Sodom it is well to
emphasize the contrast between the way the men of Sodom treated
strangers and the way that Abraham and Lot treated them. The
accusation of the men of Sodom, "This one fellow came in to sojourn
and he will needs play the judge" is a fine involuntary tribute to
Lot's moral superiority and should be quoted. The final picture in
verse 28 should not be omitted as it emphasizes the connection of
Abraham with these events and furnishes, so to speak, a concluding
tableau to the story.

A description of the Dead Sea region of Palestine, accompanied by a
good picture showing its present desolation, might furnish a good
conclusion to the lesson. The following questions will test the
child's comprehension of the story's moral:

1. How did our Father Abraham treat strangers? How did Lot? Where
did Lot learn always to be kind to strangers? How did the people of
Sodom treat strangers?

Why did God want to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? When God told
Abraham that he would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, was Abraham glad
or sorry? What did he do? Can you repeat his prayer?

What did the angels tell Lot and his family not to do? Did they all
obey? Why did Lot's wife look back? What happened to her because she
did not obey?



Genesis 20 and 21

=Interpretation.= The incident recorded in Chapter 20 is intended
to show the care exercised by God in preserving the purity of the
chosen seed, but it cannot be taught to children because of their
ignorance of the facts of sex. Chapter 21 verses 21 to the end of
the chapter may be omitted since they offer nothing of interest to
the child.

For the interpretation of the main theme of this chapter see
introduction pages 19-20 and Chapter VIII. It is to be noted that
God's choice of Isaac does not mean that His providence does not
extend over Ishmael as well. Not only is Ishmael's life saved but
God's promise to Abraham regarding Ishmael is kept as well as His
promise regarding Isaac.

=Aim.= The aim in this lesson is practically the same as in Chapter
VIII, to inspire faith in God's providential interest in human
affairs in general and in Israel's destiny in particular. The child
need not understand all the implications of the narrative at the
time it is taught him but if it be taught properly the story will
make its impression and he will understand them more completely
later. God's hearing the voice of Ishmael should suggest to the
child the value of prayer and thus influence his immediate life.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Before beginning the narrative of
this story recall to the children, by well directed questions,
the previous history of the relations of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and
Ishmael, as we have explained them in Chapter VIII. Then point out
the complications which the birth of Isaac introduced since God
had promised that Isaac was to be the son to inherit the blessing
of Abraham together with the possession of the promised land, and
Ishmael, who was now beginning to grow up into the "wild ass of a
man" according to the prophecy that had preceded his birth, would
dispute this with him. It therefore became necessary for Hagar
and Ishmael to be sent away after the birth of Isaac. Inasmuch
as the idea of inheritance and the idea of national destiny are
too abstract for children, the story must be adapted to their
comprehension by putting it on a more personal plane somewhat as

"Now when Hagar saw that God had given a son to Sarah also as the
angel had promised and that this son Isaac and not her own Ishmael
was the one to whom God told Abraham he would give the land of
Canaan and whose children would be the great Jewish people, she
became jealous and hated Sarah very much and even Sarah's little
baby Isaac. And Ishmael too, who was now grown up into a big wild
boy--you remember the angel had said he would be a wild man when
he grew up--also was jealous of Isaac. And Hagar tried to persuade
Abraham to give her son part of this land of Canaan that God had
promised to Isaac. Now Sarah saw all this and she knew that it would
not be good for Isaac to grow up together with this wild and wicked
Ishmael and so she told Abraham to send Hagar and her son away to
some other country where they could not do any mischief to Isaac
whom God had chosen to be the father of the Jewish people."[4]

  [4] To speak of our race as the Jewish people at any time before
  the exile of the ten tribes is, to be sure, an anachronism, but we
  employ it because the child knows that he and his friends are Jews
  before he knows that they are Israelites or Hebrews.

In concluding the story one might interest the child by telling
him that there are descendants of Ishmael alive today who like us
feel proud to be descended from Abraham, and describing some of the
habits of the Bedouin Arabs, their nomadic life, their pastoral
occupation similar to that of the patriarchs and also their tribal
feuds and not infrequent raids for pillage which still would justify
the prophecy, "His hand shall be against every man and every man's
hand against him", but one should in justice say that this is
not true of the large number of Arabs who have settled in more
civilized communities. A picture of Bedouins in modern times would
be of interest to the class and help give a sense of reality to the
Biblical story.



Genesis 22.1 to 19

=Interpretation.= The story of the _'Akedah_, that is the intended
sacrifice of Isaac, represents the supreme test to which Abraham's
faith was put. After Ishmael has been sent away and Isaac has been
definitely declared to be the son of promise, Abraham is commanded
by God to sacrifice Isaac. The test to Abraham's faith is not merely
of the willingness to sacrifice sentiment and affection in obedience
to God, but this latest command is a direct contradiction of God's
previous words to him and yet he obeys.

The story can only be understood fully in the light of the religious
customs of Abraham's day, according to which human sacrifice was not
uncommon. (See II Kings 3. 27, also 21. 6, 23. 10 and Jeremiah 32.
35.) Viewed in this light God's asking Abraham to sacrifice his son
meant nothing which to a contemporary of Abraham would have seemed
essentially inconsistent with the divine character. It is God's
forbidding the consummation of this act which is the innovation, so
that this lesson teaches in a narrative form the same idea which
later received its legal formulation in Leviticus 18. 21 and 20.
2-5. The chapter has therefore a twofold message; (1) that to be
the elect of God requires of us the willingness to sacrifice any
personal desire and even natural affection in obedience to him, and
(2) that God's will, to which He claims obedience, is a benevolent
one and does not demand or desire human sacrifice.

The idea that God does not desire human sacrifice was a great moral
discovery and this narrative in our Bible gives us an interesting
illustration of how such new spiritual insights in general are born;
namely through the willingness to commit ourselves completely to
whatever vision of truth is ours at the time. It was because Abraham
was willing to sacrifice Isaac in accordance with his previous
sense of what duty demanded of him, that this new revelation of
God's will as opposed to human sacrifice was granted him. Had he,
while sharing with his contemporaries the belief in the legitimacy
of human sacrifice, hesitated to live up to this idea when it
involved suffering for himself, he would never have been given
the understanding that God does not desire human sacrifice. Our
standards of morality are at all times imperfect, but it is only
those who commit themselves without reservation to whatever standard
they really hold that are the discoverers of new moral truths.

The part that Isaac played in the incident is but vaguely suggested
in the Biblical narrative. The _agadic_ elaborations of the story
frequently represent Isaac as knowing what fate was intended for
him and fully acquiescing in it. That Isaac probably had his
misgivings is suggested by the question, "Behold the fire and the
wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" At all events
he must have known what Abraham's purpose with regard to him was
when he was being bound to the altar and, as the narrative records
no protest, the Rabbinic conception of the part Isaac played is
not contradictory to the Biblical story. The teacher is therefore
justified in imparting the story in a way which would imply that
Isaac lent himself willingly to Abraham's designs regarding him.

In the substitution of the ram for Isaac one gets a glimpse into the
significance of animal sacrifice. It probably meant to the ancients
a symbolic expression of the recognition that God had the right
to demand the sacrifice of human life in his service and that it
was a sign of his love and grace that no such demand was made. It
suggests the important role that animal sacrifice played in history
in weaning mankind from the habit of human sacrifice.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to make the child feel that as a
son of Abraham his love for God should be such that, like Abraham,
he should be willing to make any sacrifice that his religion may
demand of him. The traditional association of the _shofar_ on Rosh
ha-Shanah with the Ram of the Akedah suggests that this story may be
used to give meaning to the New Year celebration.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The pathos of this narrative is so
deep and intense that many teachers, laboring under the notion so
common in our day that children should be reared only on what is
cheerful and bright and be kept far from a knowledge of any of the
more tragic aspects of life, would like to omit teaching it to
children all together. When therefore the curriculum of the school
requires them to teach it, they tell the story in as matter of
fact a manner as possible and seem anxious to get over it. This
is a mistake however, for children have always had a fondness for
stories containing something of the tragic, even of the weird and
uncanny, as witness the popularity of Little Red Riding Hood, and
the story of the Akedah is one which can, by very reason of what
to our modern mind appeals as weird, impress its lesson on the
child's imagination. To pass over it slightingly is to spoil what
is undoubtedly the climax of the whole Abraham story and ignore one
of the best opportunities of deeply impressing the child with the
lesson of faith, obedience and self sacrifice.

Begin the lesson by speaking of Abraham's love for Isaac, now
the only son that was left him and of the hopes he cherished of
seeing him grow up to be a great man according to God's promise.
Then tell how God resolved to test Abraham's obedience by seeing
whether he would be willing to give up that which he loved most if
so commanded. Before telling of God's command to sacrifice Isaac
remind the child of the prevalent custom of animal sacrifice which
he had heard of in connection with Cain and Noah. The fact of the
general prevalence of human sacrifice at that time should not be
taught the child as it will be impossible for him to comprehend
such a practice and as the story only gains in force for him by
making God's demand of Abraham appear extraordinary. We need not
scruple that we are violating the Biblical moral in this instance,
since the Bible's denunciation of human sacrifice is not a moral
that the child has need of. A reference to animal sacrifice will
therefore suffice to make comprehensible the command to sacrifice
Isaac. All the conversation in this story should be quoted in the
language of the Bible, not omitting Isaac's pathetic query, "Behold
the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?"
And Abraham's evasive answer, "God will provide Himself the lamb
for a burnt-offering, my son". In telling how Isaac was bound to
the altar emphasize the fact that he did not rebel although he knew
now that he was to be the sacrifice, because of his obedience to
God and his father and his confidence in them. When telling how the
ram was found caught by its horns in the bushes, ask, "How many
of you have ever seen a ram's horn?" There will probably be no
response. Then show the class a _shofar_ or a picture of one and
ask, "What is this?" The answer will be "a _shofar_". Then continue;
"Well, a _shofar_ is the horn of a ram. When we hear the _shofar_
blown on Rosh ha-Shanah it should remind us of this ram and of how
Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac and Isaac was willing to be
sacrificed when God commanded, and we should think of how we, who
are sons of Abraham and Isaac, must be willing also to obey God and
our parents in everything even if it should be very hard to do so,
even if it should cost us our life." In order to make sure that
the child has understood the motives of the story the following
questions may be asked in reviewing it: 1. When God asked Abraham
to sacrifice Isaac, did he really want him to kill his son? 2. Why
did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? 3. When Abraham tied Isaac
to the altar did Isaac rebel against his father? When we hear the
_shofar_ blown on Rosh ha-Shanah what should we think of?



Genesis 23 and 24

=Interpretation.= The incident of the purchase of the Cave of
Machpelah need be mentioned only casually in connection with
the death of Sarah as the political questions involved in the
dialogue between the _Bene Heth_ and Abraham are beyond the child's

  [5] The teacher who is interested will find them discussed in
  Sulzberger's Am Haaretz.

The care exercised in the selection of a wife for Isaac from his own
kindred rather than from the daughters of Canaan emphasizes again
the interest of Providence in selecting the stock out of which the
Chosen People was to come. Abraham's servant--presumably Eliezer,
who is mentioned in Genesis 15.2--was not permitted to take Isaac
out of Canaan as that would have been equivalent to a desertion of
his historic mission which was connected with the Promised Land.
Significant are the qualifications of the ideal wife for Isaac
suggested in the prayer of Eliezer--kindness and hospitality.

=Aim.= The value of this lesson to the child, apart from its
connection with the more general theme of God's selection of the
seed from which the Chosen People is to spring, lies in the example
of faith in God and fidelity to his trust exhibited by Abraham's
servant, and of the kindness and consideration shown by Rebekah,
which the child's sympathy with the characters of the story would
naturally lead him to imitate.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= By following the Biblical narrative
closely, you will have little difficulty in imparting it to the
child. When telling of the death of Sarah, dwell on her virtues a
while and then explain Abraham's concern that his son Isaac should
have just such a wife as Sarah had been, one that would be worthy
to be the mother of the great nation God had promised would be
descended from Isaac. Then relate how, not finding such a wife among
his neighbors, Abraham sent to the land from which he and Sarah
had come. Explain Abraham's refusal to let Isaac go to Mesopotamia
because God had told Abraham to leave that place and had promised
that in Canaan he would make of his seed a great nation. Emphasize
the length and difficulty of the journey, pointing out the route on
the map if the children are old enough to interpret a map.



Genesis 25.1 to 34

=Interpretation.= (Chapter 25. 1 to 10 may be omitted as containing
nothing of interest to children, except that Abraham's death and
burial should be mentioned.)

The story of Jacob and Esau in their contention for the birthright
and the blessing is one that is frequently misunderstood. The
tendency to idealize the forefathers of the race has lead many
teachers to attempt to justify the conduct of Jacob in his efforts
to secure the birthright and the blessing, totally ignoring the fact
that all the wretched consequences which followed naturally upon
his attempt would seem to indicate that God did not approve. What
these consequences were will be discussed in subsequent chapters.
Other teachers sin in the opposite direction and make out Esau to
be the innocent victim of Jacob's cunning and avarice. How they can
reconcile this with the choice of Jacob to be the patriarch rather
than Esau, how they can conceive that God's will could confirm the
act of Jacob and the hand of Providence be, so to speak, forced
into blessing Jacob though Esau was the more worthy of blessing, is
difficult to understand. The mistake common to both these versions
of the Biblical meaning of the story is that they look at it mainly
as a character study of two contrasting types, whereas the moral of
the story lies not so much in the characters as in the incidents,
which, when given closer attention, reveal the fact that the motive
underlying the whole story is not the personal contest between
Jacob and Esau but the carrying out of God's plan, contained in
his promise to Abraham, the plan of bringing into existence the
people to whom He was to reveal Himself. And this idea is brought
out, as in the story of Abraham's relation to Ishmael and Isaac,
by contrasting the purposes of the human agents with God's purpose
and showing how God's purpose is made to triumph by His so shaping
the incidents of Jacob's life that they correct Jacob's original
misconception of his mission.

Let us see how the incidents in this chapter cast light on our
theme. Note in the first instance the prophecy contained in
Genesis 25.23 which indicates in advance that Jacob and not Esau
was intended from the beginning to be the heir of the blessing of
Abraham. Note also that the prophecy speaks of "two nations" and
"two peoples", showing distinctly that the events of the narrative
were shaped by God with a view to subsequent history not merely to
the lives of Jacob and Esau as individuals. The very fact that "the
elder shall serve the younger" is to give emphasis to the divine
election of Jacob, for, according to the law and custom of those
days, the elder was entitled to the obedience and service of the
younger. Had Jacob been the older of the two brothers his subsequent
preeminence and that of his descendants would have seemed but part
of the natural course of events and would not have argued divine
election, but with Esau the first born the subsequent elevation of
Jacob does so argue.

This, as well as much else in the story, becomes clearer to us if
we understand what was meant by the birthright. In patriarchal
times, the father was absolute ruler over his descendants. At
his death, the oldest son took his place and inherited as even in
later times, twice as large a portion of the estate as any of his
other sons. (See Deuteronomy 21.17.) But this is not all that was
involved in the birthright. If it were all, Jacob's desire for it
would have been mere avarice and ambition and would have justified
that total condemnation which many a teacher has given him. But we
must remember that the first born was also the religious head of the
tribe. (See Numbers 3.45.) It was therefore most natural for Jacob
to assume that God's promise to Abraham, with all its spiritual
implications, naturally went with the birthright.

Now let us examine the characters as they appear in this chapter.
Esau is not the consummate villain that he is so frequently depicted
as being in later Jewish _agada_. But on the other hand, he is not
the injured hero. The story characterizes him as a skilful hunter,
interested in his woodcraft, and caring little about either the
privileges or the responsibilities of his birthright. To Jacob
however the inheritance of the blessing of Abraham was important,
perhaps a knowledge of the prophecy that had preceded his birth
making it even more so. Esau had forfeited his moral right to the
blessing through his failure to appreciate it. Not too much stress
must be laid on Esau's words "Behold I am at the point to die and
what profit shall the birthright do to me?" as these are to be
regarded not as a statement of sober fact but as the exaggeration of
a hungry man, for the Bible takes pains to explain Esau's attitude
in the words, "And he did eat and drink and rose up and went his
way. So Esau _despised his birthright_", showing that he was at the
time perfectly satisfied with the bargain he had made. This takes
from Jacob the stigma of having forced the bargain on Esau when the
latter could not help himself. He merely took advantage of Esau's
contempt for the birthright, which was sufficient evidence that he
was not worthy to possess it. At the same time, Jacob's employing
these means to secure the birthright does not seem, as will appear
more clearly in later chapters, to meet the divine approval, because
(1) this attempt to wrest the birthright from Esau through taking
advantage of Esau's weakness in itself argues a lack of complete
confidence in the realization of God's promise, in other words, a
lack of that quality of _temimut_, of naive acceptance of God's
will, which was so conspicuous a trait of Abraham's character, and
(2) because he does not fully understand the spiritual character of
his mission inasmuch as he regards its realization as dependent upon
the legal status of the birthright, which he could, so he thought,
secure by purchase.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to teach the general truth that
a privilege which is not appreciated becomes forfeit, and the
particular truth that to be a Jew is to possess such a privilege,
which we must learn to appreciate.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Before beginning the narrative of this
chapter itself, prepare the way by questions that will bring out the
fact of the election of Abraham and his descendants and the choice
that God exercised in selecting from among his descendants only
those properly qualified. Such questions are the following; "Do you
remember, when we were learning about Abraham and about how God told
him to leave his land and go to the land that He would show him,
that God made Abraham a promise? What was that promise? (Note: The
answer must include the idea that his descendants would be a great
nation, a blessing to all the world, and would inherit Canaan.) When
our father Abraham died, did this blessing go to both his children,
to Ishmael and to Isaac? To whom did the blessing belong?"

After having thus prepared the way proceed as follows:

"Now Isaac and Rebekah also had two children. The first born or
older was called Esau and the younger Jacob, and it was known that
only one of the two was to inherit the blessing, but for a long time
it was not known which one."

Then contrast the two characters emphasizing the physical prowess of
Esau, which won him the more universal admiration and the preference
of his father with the quiet thoughtfulness of Jacob. In order to
impress the child, the contrast must be given largely in terms of
their physical appearance. We continue the narrative as a teacher
might tell it in class:

"These two sons, Esau and Jacob, were very different one from the
other. Esau was a big strong man, rough and hairy in appearance, who
delighted in all sorts of sport and exercise, especially in hunting.
People admired him for his great strength and skill and most of
them thought that surely this big, strong man was the one whom God
had chosen to be the father of His people. And Isaac himself loved
Esau more than he did Jacob, because, now that Isaac was growing
old, Esau used to hunt food for him in the forest and would tell him
wonderful stories of his strength and skill in catching the deer and
other game that he prepared for him for food. But Jacob was very
different. He was not above the average man in strength and he had
no particular skill in hunting as had Esau. He was a quiet man, who
used to sit for hours in his tent, while his flocks were pasturing
nearby and think about the things he had learned from his father and
mother and from his grandfather Abraham, about how God had made the
world, and about how he had told Abraham to leave his country and go
to a new land, and, above all, about the promise that God had given
to Abraham to make of his descendants a great people. Which of these
two sons of Isaac and Rebekah had God chosen to become the father of
the Jewish people? Most people, no doubt, thought at the time that
Esau was meant, because he was the stronger and more successful in
the hunt, but there was one person who thought differently, and that
was the mother of these two young men, Rebekah. For she remembered
a prophecy that God had told her before either of the two children
were born, and this prophecy said, 'Two nations will come from thee
and two peoples will be born of thee and one will be stronger than
the other, but the elder will serve the younger'."

The prophecy is introduced here rather than at the beginning of the
story because it is well to stimulate the child's curiosity as to
which of the two is to receive the blessing of Abraham before giving
him any hint as to the answer. By thus beginning with a statement
of the question, the child's attention is at once directed to the
central theme of the narrative without which the incident of the
sale of the birthright is not comprehensible. But now one comes
face to face with the subject of the birthright itself. Explain,
that beside Esau's strength and skill, there was another reason why
people thought that Esau was to be the chosen son, and that is
because he was the older, for it was the custom in those days that
the oldest son enjoyed what was known as the birthright. The idea of
the birthright can be explained by saying that in the days of which
we are speaking the father used to be the king over all his children
and their families and servants, that he used to lead them in war
and judge all their disputes in time of peace, and that he was also
their priest, who used to perform the sacrifices for them and lead
them in their prayers and hymns to God, but that, when the father
died, the oldest son got all these rights and this right of the
oldest son to become priest and king after the death of the father
is known as the birthright.

After the child has a clear idea of the meaning of the birthright,
tell how Jacob thought that the one who had the birthright was he
whom God meant to make the head of the great nation he had told
Abraham about, since whoever had the birthright would be king and
priest over all the others after Isaac's death. I continue the
narrative as the teacher might tell it:

"So Jacob kept thinking to himself, 'If only I had the birthright!
If only I had the birthright!' but Esau, who had the birthright,
seemed to care very little about it. So long as there was game
enough in the forest to keep him busy hunting, he bothered his head
very little about what he would do when, on Isaac's death, he would
have to rule the people and lead them in the service of God, and the
promise made to Abraham that some day his descendants would become
a great nation concerned him even less, for he thought only of the
affairs of the day and to the future he gave no thought at all."

This brings us to the climax of the narrative, the actual sale
of the birthright. It must be told in such a way that the child
understands the point that Esau lost his birthright because he did
not know how to appreciate it, and that, as a universal proposition,
a privilege not appreciated is lost. This can best be done if,
before telling the story of the sale of the birthright, one presents
a hypothetical case somewhat as follows:

"Suppose, children, that a man owned a very valuable book which he
wanted to leave when he died to one of his two children, and suppose
that one of his children was a great lover of books and the other
did not care even to look at a book or to take the trouble to learn
to read, which of the two children do you think ought to have had
the book after the father's death? Of course, the one who knew the
value of the book and how to appreciate it, because we only deserve
what we know how to appreciate. Now who do you think should have had
the birthright, Esau, who did not care about being the father of the
great people God had promised to make of Abraham's descendants, or
Jacob who did care? (Answer: Jacob.) Well, Jacob thought so too and
so he began planning how he might get Esau to give up the birthright
to him."

In quoting the dialogue between Esau and Jacob, paraphrase Esau's
words in verse 32 so as to make it perfectly clear that they are an
expression of contempt for the birthright, "I am so hungry I could
die. What do I care for the birthright!"

After having told the story question the children with a view to
seeing whether they understand its leading ideas. The following are
suggestive questions:

What promise did God make to Abraham and to Isaac?

Was this promise meant for both of Isaac's children?

Which of Isaac's children do you think God wanted to have the
promised blessing? Why? (Note: If the child gives the wrong answer,
the teacher must ask a number of leading questions until the right
answer is secured.)

What does birthright mean? Who had the birthright at the beginning
of our story? Did Esau care very much for the birthright? Did
Jacob want it? Why did Jacob want it? What did Jacob do to get the

This lesson lends itself easily to dramatization by the children.
(See Introduction, page 31.)



Genesis 26.1 to 28.9

=Interpretation.= In the first part of this lesson which deals
with the life of Isaac, Genesis 26.3 is significant as emphasizing
the idea of Palestine as a chosen land, an idea which is the more
significant because it suggests that Jacob's flight from the land
implied that he had somehow forfeited God's favor and that his
flight was in reality a form of exile imposed on him as a punishment
and discipline. Verses 7 to 12 must necessarily be omitted. Their
general significance is the same as that of Genesis 20. Isaac's
patience and forbearance in the matter of the wells suggests
comparison with Abraham in his relations to Lot.

With regard to the incident of Jacob's securing the blessing, we
have already in the last chapter discussed the significance of the
main theme of this story. A few new elements, however, enter into
it here. One of these is the blindness of Isaac, which, by making
him more dependent upon Esau, keeps him from realizing Jacob's
superior qualifications for becoming heir to the blessing of
Abraham. Another new element that enters into the story is Esau's
marrying the two Hittite women "who were a bitterness of spirit to
Isaac and Rebekah". This gives an additional motive for Rebekah's
action in trying to secure the birthright to Jacob, since Rebekah
would otherwise, at the death of Isaac, become subject to Esau and
his wives. It moreover gives emphasis to the fact that Esau was
not to be the father of the chosen seed, since, in the case of all
of the patriarchs care is exercised that their wives shall likewise
be of chosen seed, of the same stock which produced the patriarchs
themselves. Genesis 27.33 is significant, particularly the words,
"yea, and he shall be blessed", as implying Isaac's recognition
that, though the blessing was secured to Jacob by a deception, it
was still an indication of God's purpose, and that he had hitherto
been mistaken in wanting to confer the blessing on Esau. The same
thought is implied in his assenting to Rebekah's suggestion that
Jacob seek a wife from her kindred and in his repeating on that
occasion the blessing, "May he give thee the blessing of Abraham",
etc. As we have already explained, this does not mean that the Bible
approves of the deception practiced by Rebekah and Jacob. Quite
the contrary. The one immediate effect is that Rebekah has to lose
Jacob; that Jacob, instead of entering immediately into possession
of the land and the birthright, is a fugitive and an exile; that,
as we shall see in subsequent chapters, Rebekah's hope for Jacob's
speedy return is not fulfilled; and that as will likewise appear
later, there is great danger of Jacob's remaining in Aramea and
totally forgetting his destiny until Providence forces him to

The circumstances related in this narrative as we have explained
them are significant by reason of what they have to teach us with
regard to Israel's mission as the chosen people. In the first place,
there is implied the idea, which we have frequently pointed out
before, that God's purpose with regard to his people is not fully
realized by them. This is shown in our lesson by the fact that the
patriarchs are represented as acting in a way which would tend to
defeat God's purpose regarding them, as, for instance, when Isaac
almost gives the blessing to Esau and when Jacob, through the means
he chooses to secure the blessing, is compelled to flee from the
Promised Land which he was to inherit. This is a very important
corrective to that arrogance which faith in divine election is
likely to bring with it, for it contradicts the assumption that
the Jewish people is infallible. There is, moreover, implied in
this story the idea that when Israel does not rightly conceive
its mission, it must be taught through the discipline of hardship
and suffering, as in the case of Jacob, that election does not
mean immunity from punishment but, on the contrary, stricter
accountability, as expressed by Amos, "You only have I known of all
the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your
iniquities". (Amos 3.2.)

=Aim.= The child will not be expected to grasp all the implications
of this narrative, but neither will they all escape him, and if the
story is well told, without any undue idealization of the characters
or distortion of the narrative for the sake of reading a moral
into it, the story will impress itself on him sufficiently to gain
added meaning as he reverts to it in later years. It is a mistake
to imagine that a moral which is not formulated is of necessity not

For the child's immediate benefit, however, it is well to emphasize
the punishment of Jacob's deception in order to inculcate the ideal
of truthfulness. But great care must be exercised in order not
to make Jacob so unsympathetic that Esau becomes the hero of the
story, for this would distort the Biblical moral and give rise to a
misunderstanding of it which the pupil is not likely to correct in
later life. It must always be made plain that Jacob had a right to
want and expect the blessing, but that he should have trusted God to
give it to him and should not have tried to get it through deception.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Inasmuch as the moral of this story is
dependent on an understanding of the motives on which the characters
act, take particular pains to make your dramatic impersonation
of the characters as realistic as possible and not to delay the
movement of the plot by lengthy moralizing. This story, like the
preceding one of the sale of the birthright, lends itself very well
to dramatization by the class, and the success of the children in
assuming the roles of the different characters will be an excellent
test of your success in imparting the story.

Though one should avoid moralizing in such a way as would interrupt
the thread of the narrative, the very complexity of the motives of
the characters gives a good opportunity to ask such questions as
would necessitate the exercise of moral judgment on the part of
the class, as for instance: Was Jacob right in trying to get the
blessing from his father by taking advantage of his blindness? Was
Jacob punished for having deceived his father? How? etc. But though
the teacher may raise these questions, they must not be left open
questions. The Biblical moral must be kept clearly in mind and
convincingly presented; otherwise such questions merely develop a
casuistical attitude on the part of the class, which is morally bad.



Genesis 28.10-22

=Interpretation.= The story of Jacob's dream, in order to be clearly
understood, should be considered in connection with the rest of
Jacob's life. His life may be divided into three periods. During the
first period, spent in his father's home, he endeavors by his own
efforts, partly through unscrupulous means, to secure the birthright
and blessing, with the result that instead of having the preeminence
over Esau he must flee before him, instead of inheriting the
Promised Land he is an exile from it, and instead of becoming the
father of a great people he becomes subject to the tribe which his
grandfather Abraham had been commanded to leave.

The second period of Jacob's life embraces his abode in Aramea.
During this period, his early ambitions become more and more
remote and unreal. First love, then the raising of his family and
hard labor in the service of Laban draw his mind from his earlier
ambitions, and it is with reference to this period that we are told,
"A wandering Aramean was my father". (Deuteronomy 26.5.) But just
when it would seem that the hope with regard to his future, which he
had tried at first in vain to realize and had then almost abandoned,
was wholly lost, God intervenes to send him once more to his land.

The third period of his life finds him in undisputed possession of
the land, the prophecy of his youth fulfilled, though in a way very
different from his youthful anticipations of its fulfillment.

Now Jacob's dream at Beth El is significant by reason of its
position at the beginning of the second period in his life, during
which he increasingly forgets his mission. It is intended to inform
the reader that, though Jacob might forget, God would not and
that, though Jacob's blundering devices could not secure him the
birthright and blessing, God could secure them to him even when he
despaired of them.

=Aim.= The aim of this story should be to impress the child with a
sense of the watchful providence of God over our forefathers and
us, and with the desire to express appreciation of this divine
guardianship in worship. This story affords an excellent occasion
for urging upon children the saying of a prayer on going to bed
and on rising, in this way showing an opportunity for the child's
application of the lesson in his daily life.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Begin by contrasting the comfortable
feeling of the child when he goes to bed in his own room, in his
own bed, with his mother to pull the blanket over him and all the
family nearby, with the way he would feel if night overtook him in a
lonely wilderness with no one near except perhaps wild beasts, and
he had to lie down on the ground with a stone for a pillow. After
this description, give the point of the story you wish to teach,
as follows: "And yet even if you would have to sleep alone in the
wilderness, you would not be really alone, for God is always with us
and sees us even though we do not see Him, and takes care of us, as
the story I am going to tell you will show."

Then proceed with the story of Jacob, emphasizing his despairing
mood when he leaves Beer Sheba, his fear of Esau, his grief at
parting from his parents and home, his disappointment at having to
leave the land God had promised to Abraham and Isaac and the sense
of having failed after all to secure the birthright, together with
the physical dangers and terrors of the wilderness. Then tell how
Jacob lay down in the wilderness to sleep, and how God, who had been
watching him all the time and took pity on him, sent him a beautiful
dream to comfort him. God's promise in verses 13, 14, 15 should be
quoted in Biblical language, as should also Jacob's exclamation
"Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not ... this is
none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven".
Jacob's conduct in setting the place aside for worship and his vow
should also receive notice. The significance of the name Beth El
should be taught the children and its location pointed out on the

When the story has been told and repeated by the class, ask, "How
many of you, when you go to bed or when you get up in the morning
think of how, while you are asleep, God watches over you and takes
care that nothing bad should happen to you? Do you say any prayer to
God when you go to bed or when you get up to show that you know He
takes care of you and thank Him for it? What do you say when you go
to bed? When you get up?" Several children should be questioned on
this as each child who does say his prayers will want to be given
a hearing and should be encouraged. The children might be asked to
memorize in Hebrew and English the verse שׁוֹמֵר יִישָׁן וְלֹא יָנוּם לֹא הִנֵּה
יִשְׂרָאֵל "Behold, He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor
sleep" and be asked to make it a part of their night prayer.



Genesis 29.1 to 31.54

=Interpretation.= The general significance of this period in Jacob's
life has already been discussed. Note that when, after completing
his term of service for Leah and Rachel, he thinks of returning to
his home, the suggestion of a new contract with Laban satisfies him
and he remains, so remote is now the thought of the birthright to
him. And yet through persistent, persevering labor he does attain to
a certain measure of power and influence and to patriarchal dignity.
It is interesting to note the poetic justice which makes him during
this period of his life the victim of just that sort of deceit
which he had himself practised. Nevertheless in spite of the deceit
practised upon him by Laban, Jacob remains scrupulously true to
his side of the contract and serves the additional seven years for
Rachel although he might have been tempted to shirk, as he had been
paid in advance. (See Genesis 29.27 to 30.) To be sure he has no
scruples about taking the full advantage of his superior mastery of
the shepherd's art in his dealings with Laban, but he was certainly
under no obligations to him after the treatment he had received
from him. One naturally omits in teaching this lesson to children,
Genesis 29.31 to 30.24, except that the pupils should be taught the
names of Jacob's children because of their significance as heads of
the tribes. The incident of the theft of the _teraphim_ may also be
omitted because the absence of positive knowledge as to what the
_teraphim_ were and what part they played in the religious life of
our ancestors prevents us from doing justice to this episode.

=Aim.= This lesson, together with the ones that precede and follow
it, is well calculated to impress on the child the superior
advantage of honest, faithful labor over craftiness and deceit. This
was already taught negatively in the preceding lessons through the
failure of Jacob to attain his ends by deception. It is taught in
this lesson both negatively and positively; negatively by Jacob's
being made to feel what it means to be deceived, and positively
by the fact that when Jacob, notwithstanding the deceit practiced
on him, continues to render faithful service, he is finally given
the opportunity to return and claim the birthright. The idea of
truthfulness is further enforced by God's example in redeeming His
promise to Jacob at Beth El.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Before beginning this lesson review
briefly the preceding, emphasizing the change in Jacob's attitude
since his dream at Beth El, particularly his resolution not to
attempt to secure the birthright through his own cunning but to
rely on God's promise and to try to live aright in the present,
trusting God as to the future. The incident of Jacob's lifting the
stone from the well to assist Rachel in watering the flock should
be given due emphasis as children of this age are interested in
feats of strength. The romantic aspect of Jacob's love for Rachel
need not be emphasized as this is lost on the child. In telling of
Jacob's service as shepherd to Laban, attempt to give the child an
idea of what a shepherd's work actually was, how it exposed him to
all kinds of weather, how he had to protect his sheep against wild
beasts, how he had to draw water for them, to shear them, etc.,
so that Jacob's serving Laban for all these years shall have some
meaning to them. As children have very peculiar ideas of the length
of time, try to give some conception of how long a time seven years
is by asking one of the children how old he is and then explaining
that seven years is probably longer than all the time that he can
remember. Explain also how the time seemed shorter to Jacob because
of his happiness in being with Rachel by a reference to the child's
own experience of how quickly time flies when he is enjoying
himself at play. To emphasize Jacob's perseverance tell of Laban's
deception, then ask, "Now if you had worked hard for a thing for
seven long years and then were cheated out of it, how would you feel
about it?" Then point out the moral somewhat as follows:

"Jacob too felt very angry and did not at all like to work seven
more years for what should rightly have been given him then. But
no doubt the thought came to him, after all, was I any better than
Laban? Did I not deceive my father Isaac into giving me the blessing
when he wanted to give it to Esau, just as Laban has deceived me?
Maybe this is God's way of punishing me. I must be patient and work
another seven years as I have promised Laban even though it will be
hard and unpleasant, and then maybe God will let me go back home and
bless me as He has promised."



Genesis 32 to 35

=Interpretation.= Note the significant contrast between Jacob's
leaving Canaan and his return. When he left, he was nominally and
in his own esteem the possessor of the birthright and the blessing,
which he had secured through his own effort and which he thought
entitled him to possession of Canaan and the preeminence over
Esau. Actually, however, he had gained nothing, and was a fugitive
before Esau and an exile from the land. On his return, he makes no
demands whatever, acknowledges Esau as sovereign, is ready to pay
him tribute and to placate him with gifts, and prays to God only for
deliverance from Esau's vengeance. And yet we find him at the end of
this episode, by reason of his victory over Shechem and of Esau's
departure to Seir, in actual possession of the Promised Land and a
recognized ruler of a now important clan.

Before entering on his more illustrious destiny, however, he must
be put to the test and atone for the desertion of his mission in
his flight from the land in consequence of his efforts to wrest
the birthright and the blessing from Esau. This test is indicated
by his struggle with the angel on the very border of the Promised
Land, a struggle from which he does not escape unscathed. Just what
the Biblical author wished to express by this struggle of Jacob
with the angel it is difficult to say. It is sometimes interpreted
by teachers and preachers as an allegorical representation of a
purely subjective struggle in Jacob's heart, but such an explanation
is extremely far-fetched. The episode suggests comparison with
the incident recorded in Exodus 4. 24-26 and seems to imply that
consecration to any high task involves exposing oneself to danger,
if, in any way, one is not thoroughly qualified for the task.
So long as Moses has not taken upon himself the task of leading
the children of Israel from Egypt his failure to circumcize his
children can be overlooked, but once he has assumed that task, he
is threatened with death for his failure to do so. Similarly, when
Jacob is about to enter into the land promised in his father's
blessing and confirmed in the vision at Beth El, he too finds
himself face to face with a divinely commissioned opponent. His
victory over the angel is symbolic of his success in finally
qualifying for his mission as is implied in the change of his name
to Israel with the explanation of its significance, "For thou
hast striven with God and with men and hast prevailed". Inasmuch
as there is not mentioned here any struggle with "men", the
thought is suggested that this victory is an omen of the future
success of the chosen people, while the shrinking of Jacob's
thigh sinew suggests that this success is not to be won without
suffering and sacrifice, an interpretation frequently found in
the Midrash. This representation of the experience of a nation
in terms of that of an individual who is the nation's founder is
much more in keeping with the spirit of Biblical literature than
the allegorical representation of abstract truths in terms of
historic or biographical events. Note in this connection Hosea
12. 3-5; "The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will
punish Jacob according to his ways, according to his doings will
He recompense him. In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and
by his strength he strove with a god-like being; so he strove with
an angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him:
At Beth El he would find him and there he would speak with us".
The meaning of these verses is obscure but it is evident that the
prophet makes Jacob's experience typical of Israel's as a people.

=Aim.= There is in this lesson, as in almost all those that deal
with the patriarchs, a remote aim and an immediate one. The remote
aim is the impression which the incidents recorded will make upon
the pupil when they are brought back to his mind in later years.
The moral of the story in this connection is that the election of
Israel is not determined by the inherent superiority of our people,
but by God's purpose with regard to them and mankind, which purpose
He accomplishes by so shaping their history that it instructs and
disciplines them through struggle and achievement and reveals His
will with regard to them and their place in the world. But this
moral is too abstract and complex for the child and must only be
kept in mind by the teacher in order that he should not teach the
lesson in such a way as would later becloud the true meaning of
the story, as, for example, would be the case if he made Jacob
throughout his whole life the ideal religious hero. The immediate
lesson that the child can be taught to derive from the story is that
humble trust in God and obedience to His will can achieve for us
what a cunning that does not scruple at deceit cannot achieve.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Begin this lesson by reminding the
class of the promise God had made to Jacob at Beth El. Then announce
that you are going to tell how God kept this promise. But before
doing so, question the children further as to why Jacob had to flee
from Canaan if God wanted him to return and rule over it. Question
until you bring out the point that Jacob had not used the proper
means to get the birthright and blessing. Illustrate by analogy
with the child's own experience the idea that, because Jacob had
attempted to secure the birthright and blessing by wrong means,
he had to be deprived of them until he finally learned the proper
means on which to rely, namely faith in God. This thought might be
illustrated as follows:

Suppose a teacher promised a reward to a child if he would write a
composition about something the class had been taught in its lesson,
and this child copied his composition from a book, thinking that in
this way he would get the reward without having to work for it. What
would the teacher do, accept the composition? No, she would make him
write it again in his own words, and then, perhaps, if he had done
it _in the right way_, the teacher might give the reward to him. So
God had indeed promised that Isaac's son would one day become the
father of a great people in the land of Canaan, and he meant Jacob
to become such, but because Jacob tried to bring this about _in the
wrong way_, by deceiving his father and Esau, he could not at once
be made the head of this people in Canaan. So Jacob had to leave the
land that had been promised to him and work hard those twenty years
that he was with Laban, and suffer from Laban's meanness to him in
order that he might learn that if he wanted God's blessing he must
be patient and obedient and work honestly and then God would give
him His blessing.

Then tell the story, emphasizing Jacob's submission to Esau and the
humility of his prayer to God. The latter can best be brought out by
quoting the prayer in the language of the Bible. (Genesis 32. 10 to
13.) In describing Jacob's wrestling with the angel do not read a
far-fetched moral into it. Merely explain that God sent an angel to
wrestle with Jacob and that if Jacob could make the angel bless him
that would be the sign that he was strong enough and great enough
and good enough to be the father of the Jewish people. The blessing
of the angel should be given in direct discourse. In teaching the
change of name from Jacob to Israel, call attention to the fact
that we Jews are sometimes called Children of Israel or Israelites
because we are all descended from Israel.

Do not fail to record Esau's departure to Mount Seir, leaving Jacob
in possession of the promised land, and Jacob's fulfillment of his
vow at Beth El. Whenever recalling anything from a previous lesson
as in this instance Jacob's vow, try to get the children to tell it
to you rather than tell it yourself. Say for example, "So we have
seen how God kept His promise to Jacob to be with him when he was
away from his land, and to bring him back home in safety, and to
give to him and to his descendants the land of Canaan, but do any of
you remember the promise that Jacob made when he awoke after that
wonderful dream?" etc.



Genesis 37

=Interpretation.= In the narratives dealing with the history of the
patriarchs, we have constantly emphasized that the point of view
of the Biblical author regarded their lives as significant not so
much as personal history, but rather as a preparation for Israel's
national existence. In the story of Joseph this point of view is
still discernible, though the chief interest has been transferred to
the personal history of Joseph. It is discernible in that Joseph's
being sold into Egypt and the settling of his father and brothers
in Goshen are conceived not as fortuitous circumstances but as
part of a divine plan which had already been revealed to Abraham.
(Genesis 15. 13.) Still the main interest is, as we have said, in
the personal career of Joseph. This narrative is preeminently a
story. It is not a story with a moral, but a story abounding in
morals. Perhaps the most important from the point of view of the
child is that which might be summed up in the words of the psalmist,
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity!" (Psalms 133. 1.) This is taught negatively in
the first part of the story and affirmatively in the last. But such
ideas as the danger of unjust discrimination on the part of parents,
the evil of tale-bearing and boastfulness, the value of honest,
faithful service, the nobility of resistance to temptation under
the most trying circumstances, and the beauty of forgiveness and
reconciliation are only a few of the many other morals taught by
this story. The portion of Joseph's life that is covered by this
chapter shows how Jacob's partiality to Joseph created hostility
between him and his brothers by arousing in them envy and in him
a certain vanity and sense of superiority. These characteristics
of Joseph at this period of his life are not given any attention
by most Jewish school teachers because of the tendency to idealize
all Biblical heroes, thus overlooking the obvious significance of
Genesis 37. 2, but the story only gains in meaning when we see at
the end how completely Joseph had outlived all such pettiness as is
here ascribed to him.

There is some ambiguity in the Hebrew text as to one essential point
of the story, namely as to who sold Joseph. The verses in question

25. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their
eyes and looked, and, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from

26. And Judah said unto his brethren: What profit is it if we slay
our brother....

27. Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites.... And his brethren
hearkened unto him.

28. And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen, and they drew and
lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites
for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt....

36. And the Midianites[6] sold him to Egypt.

  [6] The Hebrew has Medanites.

From verse 28, taken by itself, it would seem that not Joseph's
brothers but the Midianites drew Joseph from the pit and sold him
to the Ishmaelites, and this theory is actually maintained by some,
who point out that not only would the traditional interpretation
require a change of subject in the middle of the verse, which is
not otherwise indicated, but it would imply the identification of
Ishmaelites and Midianites, which is untenable inasmuch as Midian
was a son of Abraham and Keturah and Ishmael the son of Abraham and
Hagar. (Genesis 25. 1 and 2.)

But this view is also not without its difficulties, and, in my
opinion, the traditional interpretation of the verses is to be
preferred. For verses 26 to 27 indicate clearly that Judah's plan
to sell Joseph met with the approval of his brothers and we should
surely expect some expression of disappointment on their part if
in the end their plan had miscarried. The change of subject in
verse 28 which the traditional interpretation would require need
not trouble us as such change of subject is not very unusual in the
Bible. (See for instance Genesis 14. 19 to 20, 15. 13, 22. 7.) As
for the identification of Midianites with Ishmaelites the fact is
that racial names sometimes are extended to include other related
races whom history has brought into close contact. The descendants
of Hagar and Keturah are thus classed together in Genesis 25.6. Ibn
Ezra, in his commentary to our passage, calls attention furthermore
to the fact that this same identification of Midianites and
Ishmaelites is made in Judges 8.24 where Gideon, after a victory
over the Midianites, says, "'I would make a request of you, that ye
would give me every man the ear-rings of his spoil.' For they had
had golden ear-rings, _because they were Ishmaelites_." The reading
Medanites in verse 36 may be a scribal error for Midianites or vice
versa, as the only difference is in the omission or insertion of a
_ od_.

=Aim.= The aim in teaching this lesson should be to create in the
child, through his sympathetic understanding of the motives that
underly the action of the story, an appreciation of those moral
ideals which we have shown to be contained in it.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The story of Joseph is one which no
teacher ought have any great difficulty in imparting to children,
for it is a natural favorite with them. They like it because its
ideas are simple and come, for the most part, within the range of
a child's experience. The attitude of Joseph's brothers to him
is not dissimilar to the resentment that children display at any
indication of favoritism on the part of a teacher, a resentment
which is invariably visited on "teacher's pet". The story appeals
to them also because of the rapidity of its movement, the constant
shifting of scenes and incidents, each making a new bid for their
attention, and the heroic nature of the action, in which the motives
of the characters whether good or evil reveal themselves not in mere
thoughts and words but in deeds.

There could be no greater mistake, therefore, than to deprive
the story of all its force through interrupting the flow of the
narrative by tedious moralizing. The Biblical story does not stop
to moralize, yet the moral is clear enough, and so it will be to
the class if the teacher tells his tale with the proper feeling and

But the teacher must be cautioned, on the other hand, not to take
for granted the child's comprehension unaided of even so simple a
story as this. Any addition of details inserted into the narrative
with a view to helping the child visualize the incidents told is
always in order. In telling of how Joseph was lowered into the pit,
speak of his ineffectual cries and struggles to escape, for, though
children have good imaginations, they have not had enough experience
out of which their imagination could reconstruct the whole situation
from a mere hint or two. Similarly such words as pit or caravan need
descriptive epithets or phrases to bring them before the child's
eye. Moreover, the motives of the characters must be made clear by
a casual reference to analogous experiences of the child, as for

"Now, when his brothers saw that Joseph was better loved by his
father than the rest of them they became very angry at him and
instead of trying to win their father's love for themselves also,
they tried to get even with Joseph, just as I have sometimes seen
boys at school get angry at a classmate of theirs and do all sorts
of mischief to him just because the teacher gave him higher marks
than the others who were not so successful with their lessons."

But all such comparisons must be made only in a casual way and in as
few words as possible lest they divert the mind of the child from
the main trend of the narrative. One should not forget for this
lesson the usefulness of pictures as helping to visualize the story,
and there are many good illustrations of this story to be had. A
still greater assistance in impressing this lesson is that obtained
by permitting the children to dramatize it and act it, for this
necessitates their comprehension of the motives of the characters.



Genesis 39.1 to 41.46

=Interpretation.= There are no surer tests of character than
transplantation to a strange country without hope of return and
degradation to a lower social stratum without hope of rising. For a
great part of our moral strength comes from the consciousness that
the eyes of others interested in our life are on us, that we dare
not disappoint their expectations of us, and that our acts affect
their happiness and honor. The person who finds himself alone in
a strange land from which he does not expect to return and from
which he does not expect rumors of his deeds to reach his former
associates must have an iron character to maintain his loyalty to
the moral standards of his earlier environment in the face of new
temptations. And particularly is this true if, at the same time as
he is transplanted into a strange land, he finds his social status
also reduced. For the ambition to rise in his new environment,
to achieve success and recognition there, might be sufficient
incentive for some "to scorn delights and live laborious days",
but for the enslaved in a new land this incentive also is lacking.
Both these tests of character Joseph had to meet and he met them
successfully. Arrived in Egypt, he wastes no time brooding over his
wrongs but sets to work diligently at his tasks in such a way as
to win him the confidence of his master. This confidence he will
not abuse even under the most seductive of temptations and even
though his fidelity to principle results in the very loss of his
master's confidence in him and in his consequent confinement in
the royal prison. Note that what keeps Joseph pure is the sense of
responsibility not only to Potiphar, but, in the first instance, to
God, so that the very fact which might lead others to sin, namely
the fact that Potiphar could not know of his misdeeds, fortifies him
against sin. "He refused and said unto his master's wife, 'Behold,
my master, having me, knoweth not what is in the house and he hath
put all that he hath into my hand; he is not greater in this house
than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee,
because thou art his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness,
_and sin against God_?'" In prison he shows the same qualities with
the same result of winning the confidence of people.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to inspire the child with the
example of Joseph's patience, cheerfulness and faithfulness under
difficulties, all of which qualities were influenced by his trust in

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The suggestions made in the preceding
chapter apply to this one as well. Help the child to visualize the
narrative and to make more explicit the feelings and motives of the
characters. Discuss, for instance, the loneliness of Joseph in this
strange land, far from his home and all that he loved, and contrast
with his early dreams of rulership his present status as a slave.
Try to give the child some idea of what slavery means, not by a
definition but by telling the different kinds of work that Joseph
had to do for his master in field and home without any pay or fixed
hours of rest and labor, and subject to unreasonable demands of
task masters, etc. Then point out that, though many people under
such circumstances would waste their time grumbling, Joseph trusted
that God would help him and made up his mind to do the best work
that he could.

The incident of Joseph's temptation by Potiphar's wife can, of
course, be told only in general terms, the teacher relating how
Potiphar's wife, who was a very wicked woman, wanted Joseph to
help her do something that was wrong, and he refused. His refusal
should be given in direct discourse and follow the general line
of thought of Genesis 39.8 to 9, keeping as much of the Biblical
language as possible. When Joseph is cast into prison the teacher
must again help the child realize emotionally what it meant for
Joseph, after all his faithful service of Potiphar, to be thrown
into prison as the very result of his fidelity and teach the pupil
to admire Joseph's resolution to make the best of this situation
too by patient and cheerful bearing and sympathetic interest in
the other prisoners. It is also well to make the child realize the
sharp contrasts of which there are so many in this story and which
greatly enhance its interest. When the king's butler, released from
prison, also forgets Joseph and Joseph's one hope of escape seems
doomed to complete disappointment, God provides the opportunity
not only for his escape but for his elevation to the vice-royalty.
This can be further emphasized by suggesting something of the pomp
and circumstance of Pharaoh's court. I say suggesting, because the
teacher should never indulge in pure description, which is always
a bore to children. An occasional descriptive adjective or phrase
can do the work quite as well. The narration of such incidents as
the removal of Joseph's prison clothes and his being attired in
fine linen before gaining admittance into the royal presence goes
far to emphasize the desired contrast between prison and palace.
So too the new dignity conferred on Joseph is made clearer to the
child by telling him how the king gave Joseph his ring and necklace
and made him ride in the chariot next his own while all the people
bowed before him than by the description of his new official duties.
The story might be summarized and the moral pointed out in a brief
statement such as "So the Hebrew slave boy, through his faithfulness
and trust in God, became the highest in rank of all of Pharaoh's



Genesis 41.47 to 42.38

=Interpretation.= In this chapter of the Joseph narrative we find
that Providence has put Joseph's brothers completely in his hand;
their physical sustenance is dependent on his providing them with
corn, they are strangers in Egypt while he is the prime minister
of Pharaoh's court, and, moreover, by reason of his Egyptian dress
and speech and the change which the twenty years have made in his
appearance--he was but seventeen when he was sold--they cannot
recognize him and are therefore thrown altogether off their guard
as to any designs of vengeance that he may cherish. The interest
therefore centers on the attitude that Joseph would assume toward

As the Bible merely tells us what Joseph said or did but not what
he thought, we are left to construe his motives from his deeds
and words. Accordingly, it would seem that Joseph is at first in
doubt, so he plans to detain his brothers in prison for a time on
the charge of being spies, feeling that their actions under such an
accusation might give some clue as to how he should treat them, and
hoping perhaps that the evil of their lot might possibly suggest
the evil that they had done him. His first proposition is that one
of them go back and bring Benjamin, whom he is particularly anxious
to see, but he finally decides to let all but one return. He is not
disappointed in the thought that their affliction might suggest
their sin, as is seen from the dialogue in Genesis 42.21,22, which
also gives him the information that Reuben had espoused his cause.
He therefore selects as his hostage not Reuben the eldest but
Simeon the next eldest. Meanwhile, he shows his real benevolent
intent by giving them the corn and secretly returning the money. But
even this gives alarm to Jacob and his other sons as seeming to be
but a pretext for further charges.

=Aim.= The main object of this lesson is to prepare a way for the
next with its moral of the beauty of forgiveness. It contains
however also a fine study of conscience in that the misfortune of
Joseph's brothers revives at once the memory of their sin and brings
it to their minds in its proper colors.

=Suggestions.= Begin by recalling Joseph's dreams to see whether the
class remembers them and their significance. Then call attention
to the thought of Joseph's brothers that they were putting an end
to his dreams in selling him to the Ishmaelites. "And yet", you
continue, "today's lesson will show how God really brought about
the realization of Joseph's dreams." This will excite the curiosity
of the children and you can then proceed with the story of the
famine and its effect. Make the famine appear as a providential
circumstance and explain its meaning by saying that God, after the
seven years of plenty did not let enough rain fall to water the
corn and wheat, which shriveled up so that the people had no flour
to bake bread, and there was not enough grass to feed the cattle so
that they had not enough meat, etc. The term famine will then not be
a mere abstraction to the child.

At the point where Joseph meets his brothers and they do not
recognize him but he recognizes them, show how the dream has been
already in part fulfilled although Joseph's brothers did not realize
it. The chief difficulty of the teacher will be to make the children
clearly understand the motives of Joseph's conduct towards his
brothers, which is the most important thing in the lesson. This
can be facilitated by questioning the children in a way that would
necessitate their imagining themselves in Joseph's situation. For
instance, one might speak to them as follows:

"Now when Joseph saw his brothers bowing down before him, he
remembered how cruel they had been to him, and he thought of how
wonderfully God had brought about the fulfillment of his dreams so
that now he had his brothers in his power and could punish them
in whatever way he would, for no one would question the acts of a
viceroy of Pharaoh toward a band of strangers whom nobody in Egypt
cared about. If he wanted to, he could have ordered them all to be
killed, as they had thought of doing to him; or he could have sold
them all as slaves, as they had actually sold him; or he could have
put them all in prison, as he had been kept in prison in Egypt for
so long a time; or he could have simply refused to sell them grain
and they would have died of starvation. Now what do you think you
would have done, had you been in Joseph's place?"

Get a number of different answers from the class. In all likelihood,
the answers will propose some severe punishment. Then give a number
of reasons why Joseph rejected these severer penalties, such as, 1.
because his brothers were, after all, his brothers and we should
love our brothers, 2. because their punishment would hurt his father
Jacob and his younger brother Benjamin who were innocent, 3. because
it would affect the families of his brothers as well as themselves,
4. because they might have changed since then and become better and
felt sorry for their treatment of him, 5. because, if he could find
some way of showing them how wickedly they had acted and how good
he nevertheless was to them, it might make them feel ashamed and
resolve to be better. "But," continue your narrative, "though Joseph
did not want to hurt his brothers, he did want them to feel sorry
for what they had done to him, so that they would never do such a
thing again. So he thought 'I am not going to tell them at once that
I am Joseph their brother and that I forgive them, but, without
doing them any harm, I am going to frighten them with threats and
see whether, when they themselves are in trouble, they won't think
of the sin they did and feel sorry for it'". It is necessary to
explain the motive for Simeon's detention as being to insure the
return of the brothers with Benjamin.

In questioning the class about the lesson, try to find out whether
the children understand its underlying ideas by such questions as
these: How was it that Joseph recognized his brothers and they could
not recognize him? Why did not Joseph at once make himself known to
his brothers? Why did Joseph speak harshly to them and accuse them
of being spies? Did Joseph's brothers know that he understood them
when they spoke to each other? Why not? What is a spy? When Joseph's
brothers thought that they would be treated as spies, for what
deed did they think this a punishment? Why did Joseph keep Simeon
prisoner? Why did Joseph return the money of his brothers? What did
his brothers think was his reason for returning it? Why did not
Jacob want to let Benjamin go with his brothers to Egypt? It goes
without saying that one must tell the story in such a way that it
shall contain a clear answer to each of the above questions.

This episode has a great dramatic interest and should be acted by
the children.



Genesis 43.1 to 45.28

=Interpretation.= Little need be said in interpretation of this
story. Its lesson of the beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation
is brought out so clearly as to need no further comment. In the
attitude of his brothers to Benjamin, Joseph is able to put to the
test any possible change of heart toward himself. The favor which
he shows Benjamin at the meal that he had prepared for them may
be considered as a test of whether the spirit of envy is still
rife among them, and, inasmuch as they do not seem to manifest any
jealousy on this occasion, they may be considered to have passed
this first test. But the real test came when Joseph proposed to
retain Benjamin as his slave. On this occasion Judah, the very one
who had proposed selling Joseph, makes his eloquent plea in behalf
of Benjamin, a speech which reveals his deep sympathy with his
father's grief, and appreciation of what the loss of Joseph meant
to his father, and the willingness to sacrifice his own liberty for
Joseph's brother Benjamin, who had, as the son of Rachel, taken
Joseph's place in the heart of Jacob. Joseph could wish no further
evidence of his brothers' change of heart and it is no wonder that
he "could not refrain himself" any longer.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to provide a noble example of the
magnanimity of forgiveness and the beauty of filial and fraternal

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The story of Joseph as told in the
Bible is so wonderfully impressive in its simplicity for the child
as well as for the adult that the only advice one feels inclined
to give to the teacher of this story is that he should model his
narrative as closely as possible upon the lines of the Biblical
story itself. Read and reread these chapters of the Bible and try to
discover the means by which the Biblical author produces his effects
on the reader's emotions. Do not permit to escape you the pathos
of such situations as when Jacob reproaches his sons for having
told of their brother Benjamin's existence as though they could
have foreseen what would follow this disclosure; or when Joseph,
brought face to face with Benjamin, cannot control his feelings and
withdraws to another room to weep; or when his brothers, conscious
of their innocence, offer to give their lives if the divining cup
be found in their sacks and then to their consternation find it
in the sack of Benjamin; or when Judah, in pleading with Joseph,
mentions the effect of the loss of Joseph upon Jacob; or when the
brothers bring the news to Jacob of Joseph's glory and he refuses to
believe it until he is given incontrovertible proof; and a number of
similar situations to which it might be possible to call attention.
After the preparation for this climax which the preceding lessons
afforded, the teacher who has made himself fully at home with his
subject will have no difficulty in impressing the child. In this
story, it is particularly important to report all conversation in
direct discourse.

Suggestive questions to ask the children are the following: Why did
not Jacob want to let Benjamin go with his brothers? Why did they
refuse to go without him? Why did Jacob finally let them go? Why
did Joseph give Benjamin a larger portion than the others at the
banquet? Why did Joseph put his cup in the sack of Benjamin? Why
was it Judah in particular of all Joseph's brothers who pleaded for
Benjamin? Why do you think Joseph sent all the Egyptians from the
room when he made himself known to his brothers? When his brothers
were afraid that Joseph would punish them for their sin against
him and were ashamed of what they had done, what did Joseph say to
console them? What did Jacob say when they told him that Joseph was
alive and ruler of all Egypt under Pharaoh?

This story too lends itself to dramatization by the children.



Genesis 46.1 to 50.26

=Interpretation.= In these chapters the center of interest once
more shifts from personal biography to the destiny of Israel as a
people. One is conscious throughout that his attention is being
called to the close of one period and the beginning of another. The
patriarchal period now draws to an end and the period of national
existence commences. God's purpose is no more to be shown in the
choice of individuals, but in his dealings with the people as a
whole. It is not accident that Israel's national life is to begin in
Egypt rather than in its own land; for just as Abraham, the father
of the race, was tested by his willingness to leave his home in
obedience to God, so the nation as a whole was to have a similar
experience. It had to be made to realize its election by being
taken as "a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by
signs and by wonders and by war and by a mighty hand, and by an
outstretched arm and by great terrors". (Deuteronomy 4. 34.) In
these chapters we see the beginning of the fulfillment of Abraham's
prophetic vision recorded in Genesis 15. 12-16.

Let us see how the ideas stated in the above paragraph are conveyed
in the chapters under our consideration. Observe first Jacob's
apprehensive reluctance about going to Egypt, which needs the
assurance from God, "Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will
there make of thee a great nation. I will go down with thee into
Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again." (Genesis
46.3, 4.) Jacob before he dies reminds Joseph of God's promise
given to him at Beth El in anticipation of the exodus from Egypt,
"God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and
blessed me, and said unto me: Behold, I will make thee fruitful,
and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a company of peoples;
and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting
possession." (Genesis 48.3,4.) We may regard Jacob's insistence on
being buried in Canaan as implying the same idea. His blessing to
his children and grandchildren further bears out this thought and
Joseph's instructions with regard to the disposal of his own body
show most clearly that the sojourn in Egypt was not intended to be
permanent, though, as is seen from Joseph's words to his brothers
(Genesis 50.19, 20), it was divinely appointed.

But though, as we have just shown, the main interest of these
chapters is from the point of view of Israel's destiny, they are not
lacking in the personal interest as well. There is a sublime pathos
in Jacob's humble acceptance of the divine decree which makes him,
after life long struggle, end his days in a strange land, with those
ambitions that he had cherished throughout life still depending
on a remote future after his death for their realization. In his
meeting with Pharaoh, he maintains well his patriarchal dignity.
But he shows no sense of triumph in the honors accorded him and his
retrospective glance over his life reveals to him little that is
not disappointing; "Few and evil have been the days of the years of
my life and they have not attained unto the days of the years of
the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings." (Genesis
47.9.) Pathetic also is the reference of Jacob, when about to bless
the sons of Joseph, to the death of Rachel, which had taken place so
many years ago, as if the thought of Joseph's prosperity awakened
anew his grief that Rachel had not lived to see it: "And as for me,
when I came from Paddan, Rachel died unto me in the land of Canaan
in the way when there was still some way to come unto Ephrath; and
I buried her there in the way to Ephrath--the same is Beth-lehem."
(Genesis 48.7.) Yet he preserves his patriarchal authority over
his children and grandchildren to the last, blessing Ephraim above
Menassah, and not failing in his blessings to his children to
recall their past sins as warnings for the future. The devotion
of his children to him and the renewed relations of affection
between Joseph and his brothers complete the picture of the ideal
patriarchal family where love and reverence and a common faith are
the ties that bind the units together.

Genesis 47.13 to 26 is interesting in the light of what we know of
Egyptian history from other sources than the Bible. The Pharaoh at
the time of Joseph was, it is generally agreed, one of the Hyksos
dynasty, which belonged to a Semitic tribe that had conquered
Egypt. The land before that time had been held in a sort of
feudal tenure by some of the old nobility. These gave constant
trouble, particularly in the south, to the Hyksos rulers. Joseph's
policy therefore was aimed at securing a centralization of power
in the hands of Pharaoh through his obtaining all the land and
reducing all others except the priests to the status of tenants.
This concentration of power in the hands of a single monarch,
intolerable as it would be in a modern state, was often in ancient
times the very best means of securing that measure of peace from
constant strife between petty principalities which was an absolute
prerequisite of progress and civilization. Of course the child is
not interested in such problems and this whole incident should be
omitted, but it is well for the teacher to bear these truths in
mind lest his modern political and economic theories prejudice him
against the character of Joseph.

=Aim.= There are two aims which the teacher should bear in mind in
this lesson, one relating to the historic interest we have shown
it to contain and the other to the personal interest. In accord
with the former the teacher must give to the child those historical
and religious ideas contained in this chapter which summarize the
significance of the patriarchal period and prepare the way for their
next year's work, namely the idea of how God was making a great
nation of Jews in accordance with his promise to the patriarchs by
permitting them to multiply in Egypt, at the same time reminding
them that they were not to become Egyptians but would one day be
brought back to their land. But the aspect of the lesson that can
impress itself most readily on the children is the more personal one
with its picture of the ideal family life as a sort of final tableau
to the drama of Joseph that they have been learning. Of particular
value is the example of reverence for parents which it holds before

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The most valuable help that the
teacher can get in teaching this lesson also comes from the study
of the Biblical story itself. Note that in the Bible although it
is made clear that the settlement in Egypt was brought about in
accordance with a divine plan for the development of the chosen
people, this is nowhere stated in abstract terms but we are allowed
to infer it from the words and acts of the characters and the events
as they shape themselves. In teaching children, who have no power
of forming abstract notions, no other method is possible. It is
necessary, however, for this very reason to take more pains to make
the meaning of the words and acts of the characters clear to the
child. Thus in speaking of God's appearing to Jacob at Beer-sheba
with his reassuring message, one must first state what the Bible
leaves to our own power of inference, Jacob's reluctance to go to
Egypt and the reason for his reluctance. One might say for example:

"So Jacob made ready to leave Canaan and go to meet his son Joseph,
whom he so longed to see once more. And yet, in spite of his anxiety
to meet Joseph, he felt sorry to leave this land of Canaan where
he was born, where his father and mother and his dear wife Rachel
were buried, and where God had promised him that his children
would become a great nation. Perhaps he also felt sorry because
he remembered hearing of a prophecy that God had told to Abraham,
saying that his descendants would become slaves to a strange people
in a strange land, and he thought "Maybe now my children will be
made slaves in Egypt." But that night as he slept God sent a dream
to cheer him. He dreamt he heard God speak to him and say "--etc.

Again, when telling of Joseph's going to meet his father, emphasize
the love that made him hasten to welcome the patriarch and the pride
with which he introduced his aged father to King Pharaoh, as well
as the solicitude for his father's and brothers' comfort implied in
the preparations for their reception in Goshen, the most fertile
part of Egypt, in the delta of the Nile.

In speaking of the desire of Jacob and Joseph to be buried in
Canaan, explain the reason to be their wanting to remind their
descendants of God's promise to bring them out of Egypt to their
own land, Canaan. In telling of Jacob's blessing of Ephraim and
Menassah, it is not necessary to touch upon the preference given to
Ephraim as this is only significant in the light of the subsequent
history of the tribes and, by the time the child gets to that part
of the history, he will have forgotten this incident since there
is nothing in it intrinsically interesting to children, but do
not ignore Genesis 48.20, "And he blessed them that day saying:
'By thee shall Israel bless, saying: God make thee as Ephraim and
as Menassah.'" In this way it is possible to establish a point of
contact between the child's home life and the lesson by pointing out
to him that these very words are part of the blessing with which
his parents bless him on the Sabbath. This will serve to make him
realize that he is one of the people whose history he is learning.
It would also be well to ask how many children say _Ha-mal'ak
ha-go'el_ in their night prayers and to explain that this is part of
Jacob's blessing to Ephraim and Menassah. (Genesis 48.16.)

Help the children visualize the imposing funeral rights in
connection with the burial of Jacob as showing the honor paid to
him by the Egyptians as well as by his own children. They should be
given some idea from the map of the length of the journey and the
route taken. Do not take for granted the children's comprehension
of the renewal of the fear of Joseph's brothers after their father's
death, but explain that they thought perhaps Joseph had failed to
punish them until then merely in order to spare his father, but
that after his father's burial he would have no more scruples, just
as Esau refrained from killing Jacob while his father lived but
threatened to do so after his death.





Exodus 1.1 to 2.10

=Interpretation.= The children of Israel, settled in the rich
pasture land of Goshen, had become a numerous people. At first
they prospered, but then there came a change with the accession
to the throne of the "Pharaoh who knew not Joseph." This Pharaoh
was, in all probability, not only of a different dynasty, but also
of a different race from the Pharaoh of Joseph's day. The Pharaoh
of Joseph's day was probably a descendant of the Hyksos invaders
of Egypt, a Semitic tribe of shepherds like the Israelites. The
true Egyptians, however, who were an agricultural people, and held
shepherds in abomination, perhaps because many of their practices
conflicted with the religious notions of the Egyptians, which
included the worship of sacred cattle (see Exodus 8.22), finally
overthrew this Semitic dynasty. As a consequence, the Israelites
were looked upon with suspicion and hatred as a dangerous element
in the state. The very services that they had rendered to the old
dynasty would now be held against them by the new, and instead
of being a favored race, they came to be looked upon, in spite
of their long sojourn in Egypt, as alien and hostile, and were
subjected to persecution and oppression. Persecution, at first took
the form of enforced labor in the erection of the public works of
the Pharaohs but when the Israelites seemed to thrive in spite of
this, resort was had to the drastic measure of murdering every male
infant. At this point, the Biblical story shows us how Providence
prepared redemption for Israel by sparing the life of the infant
who was destined to become the liberator. Of the general religious
significance of the Egyptian bondage, as interpreted in the Bible,
we have already spoken in preceding chapters.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is three-fold, first, to inculcate in
the child the ideal expressed in the words, "And a stranger shalt
thou not wrong neither shalt thou oppress him; for ye were strangers
in the land of Egypt;" (Exodus 22.20); second, to encourage him to
maintain his national Jewish aspirations in the diaspora, as did his
fathers in Egypt, and, finally, to inspire him with faith in God's
providence, as illustrated by the way in which God saved the infant

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Begin by recalling the story of Joseph
to the class; how the Israelites who settled in Goshen--point out
its location on the map--became a numerous people, and enjoyed, for
a long time, the favor of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, in gratitude
for all that Joseph had done for Egypt at the time of the famine.
Then dwell on what the children of Israel, who were, for the most
part, simple shepherds, learned from the Egyptians, who were not
only skillful farmers, but great builders as well. This can best
be done by showing pictures of the Egyptian monuments and pointing
to the skill required in order to erect them in an age before the
use of steam and electricity was known. "But", the teacher should
emphasize, "although the children of Israel learned much from the
Egyptians, they did not copy them in everything. In one respect,
they were far in advance of the Egyptians,--in their religion. They
knew that there was one God, whom they could not see, who made the
heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, but the Egyptians
worshipped many gods. They had sacred bulls and sacred cows and
sacred cats, and even a sacred bug--a kind of beetle. The Israelites
in Egypt understood that they were not to become Egyptians, but
that God would some day lead them out of Egypt to their own land of
Palestine, as He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So they
continued to speak their own language, Hebrew, and to maintain their

Explain how the insistence on keeping up their own religious
practices and their own language, and the refusal to join in the
worship of the Egyptian gods, aroused the hatred of many of the
Egyptians, and paved the way for the edicts of the "new Pharaoh",
that "knew not Joseph". This can best be done by reference to modern
instances of similar antagonism, which may have come within the
range of the child's experience or observation. Speak, for instance,
as follows:

"When the Egyptians saw that the children of Israel would not become
like them, but kept up their own religion and language, many of them
came to dislike the Jews, for there are some people who never like
anybody who is very different from themselves. Some of you may know
boys who like to tease and annoy Chinese, because of their strange
appearance, dress and language, or who are unkind to negroes,
merely because they are black, or who like to torment foreign
children that cannot speak the English language. You well know that
there are some people that are unkind to Jews for no better reason.
In this free country nobody would think of doing us any real harm,
nor would our laws permit it, but there are some countries where
the very laws of the land try to make the life of the Jew unhappy,
merely because he is a Jew. Many of you may have heard something
about how Jews used to be treated in Russia not so long ago. And
that is exactly the way the Egyptians began to feel towards our
forefathers, when they saw that they would not worship the gods of
the Egyptians, and that they kept up their own religious practices
and spoke their own language; and when a new Pharaoh arose who had
forgotten all about Joseph and the good he had done to Egypt, a man
from an altogether different family than the Pharaoh of Joseph's
time and from a different part of the country, the Egyptians began
making laws against the Jews. Pharaoh, who particularly hated the
Jews, made a law that they should all have to work as slaves in the
building of his great treasure cities", etc.

The rest of the story is simple and offers no difficulties to the
teacher. The only thing that needs to be emphasized is that, in
telling of the birth and rescue of the infant, Moses, the teacher
must remember that he is preparing the way for the story of the
Exodus and must emphasize that Moses was saved because God meant
him to redeem His people, not that his rescue was a lucky accident.
He can do this by speaking of God as suggesting the ideas upon
which the characters act. For instance, in telling how Miriam saw
Pharaoh's daughter take up the basket, one might say, "Then God put
a wise thought into the heart of Miriam and she ran up to Pharaoh's
daughter and asked", etc. Again, one might say, "Now when Pharaoh's
daughter saw the little crying baby God filled her heart with pity
for the helpless little infant," and one might conclude the lesson
by saying, "In this way God saved the baby, who, when he was grown
up into a man, was to deliver his people from the oppression of

So much for the presentation of the lesson. In discussing it with
the class afterwards, do not fail to suggest by suitable questions
the duty of maintaining our Jewish practices even in the face of
the ridicule and opposition that they sometimes call forth. The
application of the story's moral should be given in terms of the
child's own experience. For instance, one might say: "When our
fathers in Egypt sacrificed to their God and would not sacrifice
to the Egyptian animal gods, did the Egyptians like this? Did the
Israelites, when they saw that the Egyptians hated them, because
they were different in race, language and religion, give up their
language and religion in order to appear like the Egyptians? Do you
think the Jewish child today ought to feel ashamed and give up his
Jewish religious practices, because his Christian friends may think
them strange or may not like them, or may not treat him with as
much kindness if he shows that he is a Jew? Sometimes Jewish boys
go to school on Jewish holidays, because their Christian friends do
not stay at home. Do you think this right? Do you think it right to
sing Christian songs in school, because you are afraid not to do
so? No teacher will ever force you to sing a song that is Christian
if you explain politely that you do not want to do so because your
religion forbids it. If you were asked to take part in a Christmas
celebration at school, what would you do? If a Christian boy offered
you some of his luncheon to eat and you were not sure that what he
gave you was _kosher_, what would you do? In those countries where
the Jews are treated badly today, merely because they are Jews,
as their fathers were treated in Egypt, have they given up their
Judaism on that account, or do they still keep it up? What would you
do if you lived in one of those countries?"

Do not, however, dwell too much on anti-Semitism, as it is not
morally helpful to the child to feel resentment too keenly. It
would be producing the very opposite effect to the one desired if
we were to arouse in our pupils a feeling of animosity towards the
Gentile. The emphasis must be put wholly on the positive virtue of
maintaining religious loyalty in spite of the hostility which it
may, at times, arouse.



Exodus 2.11 to 23

=Interpretation.= The chief interest in the narrative contained in
these verses lies in the light they cast on the character of Moses
and the traits that made him the ideal emancipator, leader and
legislator of his people. The first of these is his sympathy with
their suffering and his sense of kinship with them, which leads him,
though a prince of Egypt by rank and education, to go out among his
brethren and look upon their burdens. The second, is his indignation
at anything in the nature of injustice, whether perpetrated by
an Egyptian or an Israelite; and, finally, there is shown his
chivalrous zeal in the service of the weak and oppressed, which
sends him on a mission like that of the ideal knight-errant, "to
ride abroad redressing human wrongs", and which even in a strange
land, leads him to interfere in the cause of the shepherdesses of
Midian against the rude shepherds.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to cultivate in the child, through
his admiration of Moses, those traits in Moses' character which we
have shown the narrative in these chapters to illustrate.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Try to bring out the nobility of the
course of action that Moses took by calling the attention of the
children to other possible courses that he might have taken. Moses,
having had wealth and luxury at his disposal, might have given up
his life to enjoyment; because of his superior education, he might
have looked down with contempt upon his more ignorant brethren and
held aloof from associating with them; fearing the reproach of his
Hebrew origin, he might have avoided such association for prudential
reasons. But he did none of these things. He felt that if he had
been so wonderfully saved, and he alone been given advantages that
the rest had not received, it was because God intended him to use
these for the good of all his people. It is well, in pointing out
the courses of conduct open to Moses, to use illustrations from
modern life, thus:

"How many children who receive all they need from their parents
and spending-money in addition, think only of spending it on sport
and amusement, and never stop to consider the needs of the poor
children who have not even food or clothing or a warm room and to
share their money with them. But Moses was not like that; although,
being brought up as the son of Pharaoh, he might have lived a life
of ease, idleness and pleasure, he preferred to go about among his
poor brethren and help them with their burdens. Moreover, though
Moses had received the best education that an Egyptian could receive
in those days, he did not let that make him conceited. No matter
how educated or how noble one may be by birth, one should not keep
aloof from the lowly and common people. So Moses, though a learned
prince, was never too proud to associate with the ignorant slaves,
his people."

In teaching of how Moses slew the Egyptian, do not fail to bring
out the heroic character of the action by emphasis on the motive of
Moses, namely, his violated sense of justice, and on the perils to
which he must have known in advance that this act would expose him.



Exodus 3.1-4.31

=Interpretation.= The time now being ripe for God's fulfilling
His covenant to redeem Israel from the bondage of Egypt, He makes
His purpose known to Moses and entrusts him with the mission of
announcing the redemption to the elders of Israel and demanding
it of Pharaoh. But Moses hesitates. He doubts his qualifications
for the task, asking, "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh and
that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?"
And God's answer is, "Certainly I will be with thee." But this
does not yet satisfy Moses, he wants a guarantee of Divine aid in
God's statement, "I am יהוה." For in asking God for his name, Moses
was not merely seeking information. There is no space in this
book to take up a discussion of the critical questions raised by
these verses. The interpretation given by Wiener[7] seems the most
reasonable. He calls attention to the fact that among primitive
people--and the narratives of the Pentateuch had to be made
comprehensible to a primitive people--the name of a person, and,
more especially, of a god, was regarded as having certain powers
which were conferred upon anyone to whom he revealed his name.
When Moses asked for the name of God, it was, therefore, as a sort
of positive irrevocable guarantee of success, but God, at this
juncture, refuses to say directly, "I am יהוה" and gives the evasive
reply, "I am that I am." Then Moses, dissatisfied, declares that
the people will not believe him, and God replies by showing him
the miracle of the staff turning into a serpent, etc. Still Moses
hesitates, pleading lack of eloquence as an excuse for not going,
and God promises to inspire his utterances and to commission, also,
his brother Aaron, who was eloquent, to assist as his spokesman. The
significance of this dialogue of Moses with God is usually explained
as contained in what it reveals to us of the characteristic meekness
of Moses. It does, indeed, illustrate this conspicuous trait of his
character, but if it were the chief aim of the Biblical author to
commend the meekness of Moses we should scarcely be prepared for
the statement (Exodus 4.14), "And the anger of the Lord was kindled
against Moses." The main purpose of the Biblical author seems rather
to be to emphasize the apparent impossibility of the task which
Moses was asked to accomplish in order that the miraculous character
of the deliverance be the more evident. It is significant that
before Moses goes to speak to Pharaoh, God refuses the revelation of
His name, but after he has gone on his mission God does reveal it
(Exodus 6.2). It would seem that He resented Moses' refusal to go
without a special guarantee. The moral of the narrative is perhaps
most clearly brought out in God's rejoinder to Moses, "Who maketh a
man dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? is it not I, the Lord?" Exodus

  [7] Essays in Pentateuchal Criticism pages 47-53.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson should be to inculcate in the child
faith in God's power and providence as revealed in Jewish history.
The teacher should endeavor to make the child, through admiration
of the heroism of Moses in attempting the apparently impossible in
the service of God, feel with deep conviction that in His service,
there can be no failure. He should try to get not only the child's
intellectual assent to the idea that God can accomplish anything
that He purposes, but he should arouse an emotional appreciation of
that heroism begotten of faith which leads great men to undertake
what would, to others, seem impossible.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Inasmuch as we wish to inspire in
the child by means of this lesson, a faith in divine providence,
we must guard against any attempt at rationalizing the miracles
recorded in this and subsequent chapters. It is faith in God's
power over nature and His use of this power in the interests of
justice and righteousness that this lesson should teach, and no
philosophic explanation can bring home this truth to the child so
well as the simple, impressive narration of the miracle. A belief
in the supernatural and transcendent power of God is essential in
Judaism, and the miracle tale is the best means for emphasizing
this doctrine. To be sure, it may be necessary at an older age, to
modify and deepen one's conception of the miraculous, but the only
means by which the child can conceive of God's transcendent power,
providentially exercised, is through the simple, straight-forward
narrative of miracles He performed. No attempt, for instance, should
be made to identify the voice that addressed Moses from the burning
bush with the voice of conscience. It must remain an objective
voice. God's reply to Moses' inquiry as to His name, "I am that I
am," is sometimes made the occasion for the teacher to indulge in an
attempt at a philosophical discussion of the nature of God. We have
already suggested in our interpretation of the passage that these
words were probably never intended to convey such meaning. They are
not an answer to the question, "What is Thy name?" but a refusal to
answer it, and, therefore, it is not in place to interpret their
significance as revealing anything of the nature of God. Apart from
this consideration, however, such abstract theological discussion is
above the mental power of the child and should always be avoided. It
is, therefore, best to teach the verse without any comment, as this
by itself tends to preserve the atmosphere of mystery and awe which
envelopes the whole episode.

In telling of the dialogue of God and Moses, the Biblical language
can be used almost throughout, and, at any rate, the speeches should
be given in direct discourse. Be careful to aid the child to an
appreciation of the reason for Moses' hesitation, both because this
is necessary to a proper understanding of the character of Moses,
and because it prepares the way for a better appreciation of the
miracle of the Exodus. For instance, in telling of the call of God
to Moses, one might continue somewhat in this wise: "When Moses
heard God say, 'Go and I will send thee to Pharaoh, and do thou
bring my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt', his heart
sank. How could he, one man, and a stranger, go before this cruel
and powerful king of a mighty nation, surrounded by courtiers,
guards and soldiers, and say to him, 'Let these thousands of slaves
who are building your cities go free?' Would Pharaoh pay any
attention to him? So Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should
go to Pharaoh, that I should bring forth the children of Israel
out of Egypt?'" The teacher can also make the emphasis of the
narrative clearer by the questions he asks after the presentation
of the lesson, as, for instance: "What did God ask Moses to say to
Pharaoh? Do you think Pharaoh would let Israel go just because Moses
asked it? Why not? (Draw out the idea that Pharaoh was used to being
obeyed, not commanded, and that the slavery of Israel was profitable
to him.) Did Moses think that Pharaoh would obey him? What did Moses
say to God when God told him to go to Pharaoh? Why did not Moses
want to go? How did God answer Moses when Moses said that he was not
a good enough speaker?"



=Interpretation.= The first step that Moses takes seems to contain a
promise of success. He and Aaron succeed in interesting the elders
of Israel in the prospect of deliverance, but the hope which this
initial success raised in the heart of Moses was soon destined to
be disappointed, for Pharaoh not only refuses the moderate request
of a three days' journey into the wilderness, but also imposes
new and impossible burdens upon the Israelites. This has the
immediate effect of discrediting Moses and Aaron in the eyes of
the people, even in the eyes of the Israelite overseers, who had
sought to intercede for their brethren with Pharaoh, and who now
reproach Moses and Aaron as the enemies of the people. In utter
despair he lays his complaint before God, and at this juncture God
vouchsafes to him that revelation of His name, which He had at first
withheld, and assures him of the fulfillment of the covenant with
the patriarchs. Moses was not to be discouraged by the hardness of
Pharaoh's heart, for even this was but to emphasize the miraculous
character of Israel's escape. This is the significance of the verses
in Exodus 6.1 and 7.3-5.

=Aim.= The aim of this chapter is the same as that of the preceding.
In addition, it should be utilized to teach reverence for the name
of God.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Before beginning this lesson recall
by a few questions the main points of the previous lesson, laying
especial emphasis on the difficulties of the task Moses was called
upon to perform. Then tell how the hopes of Moses were raised by
his meeting Aaron, and still more by the reception accorded him
by the elders of Israel, who remembered hearing of the prophecy
that Israel was to be led out of Egypt and go to the land promised
to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The conversation between Moses and
Pharaoh must be given in direct discourse, and in the language of
the Bible. The children must be made to realize the dilemma in
which the Jewish overseers of the work found themselves, in that
they were held accountable for the impossible tasks that they were
required to exact from the people. Their petition to Pharaoh and
Pharaoh's retort must also be given in direct discourse and in
language approaching that of the Bible, but somewhat more explicit,
so that the motives are clear to the children, thus: "Now, when
the Hebrew overseers of the work saw that they were being brutally
beaten because the children of Israel could not do the impossible
and make bricks without straw, they thought that they would come
before Pharaoh and reason with him; so they came and said: 'Oh king,
wherefore dost thou do so to thy servants, no straw is given to thy
servants, yet thou sayest to us, see that they make bricks, and when
they do not make the number of bricks thou dost require--for they
cannot make the same number if they must take the time to gather the
straw themselves--the blame is put on us, their overseers, and we
are unjustly punished.' Pharaoh would not listen to reason, but grew
red in the face with anger and said in a blustering voice, 'You are
idle fellows, idle! that is why you look for excuses not to work,
saying: Come, let us sacrifice to the Lord! And now, go to your work
and straw shall not be given to you and you shall furnish the same
number of bricks as before, when the straw was given'."

This prepares the way for the explanation of the change in the
people's attitude to Moses, as shown in Genesis 5. 21. The words of
the overseers to Moses should be paraphrased somewhat, because the
children might not understand the figurative language, thus: "May
the Lord appear and judge you, for you have given us a bad name with
Pharaoh, and instead of keeping your promise to free us from Egypt
you have given Pharaoh an excuse to treat us worse than we have ever
been treated before." Then proceed to describe the feelings of Moses
when he heard these words, how it must have seemed at the time that
the goal for which he was striving seemed farther away than ever.
Not only had Pharaoh not granted his petition, but the one effect of
his pleading was to add to the burdens of the people, which he had
sought to relieve, so that his own people now turned against him.

This brings the teacher to the narrative of God's revelation of
his name to Moses, the significance of which I explained in the
preceding chapter. In teaching it to the child, the chief aim, as
already indicated, should be to inspire reverence for the name of
God. A second aim should be to impress the child with the greatness
of Moses. This can be very easily done by presenting this lesson
somewhat as follows: "Then God told Moses His name, His name which
he had not told before to any other man, not even to Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob. He had made himself known to them as God Almighty, and
by many different names, but His real name he had not told them.
This name, children, you have never heard, though you have probably
all seen it." (The teacher then lets them open their prayer-books at
the שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, or, if they have no books with them, he has a book
ready which he opens at that place. He lets one of the children read
the first verse of the שְׁמַע.) "Now you all know that we read the third
word in this verse 'adonoy', but that is not what the four letters of
that word יהוה spell, is it? You would expect the word to be spelt
יהוה wouldn't you? Well, those four letters that make this third word
of the שְׁמַע spell the name that God told Moses, but we, none of us,
say that name. Instead, we say 'adonoy', which means 'The Lord',
because it is not respectful to call God by His name."[8] The
teacher then asks one of the children what his father's name is, his
mother's. "When you speak to your father and mother, do you call
them by name? What do you call them? When people speak to a king
they never call him by name, but they call him, 'Your Majesty.' A
judge in a law court is never called by name, he is called, 'Your
Honor.' The President of the United States is not addressed by name,
he is addressed as 'Mr. President.' This is all done as a mark of
honor and respect, and for the same reason we do not call God by His
name but speak of Him as the Lord, God, the Eternal, and so forth,
in order to show our respect and reverence for God. But when God saw
how faithfully Moses had obeyed Him, even though this obedience had
brought him nothing but sorrow, He loved Moses so much that He told
him His name, to show that He treated Moses as a friend who might
call Him by name as friends are used to call each other. He wanted
to let Moses feel that it made no difference even if Pharaoh was his
enemy, and if the Israelites themselves turned against him, because
Moses still had one Friend who would always stand by him, God
himself. He told him, therefore, His name, and gave him permission
to use it in speaking to the children of Israel that they might all
know that God was with him and would help him, and He said, 'I am
the Lord; and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac and unto Jacob, as
God Almighty, but by My name I made Me not known to them'," etc.,
to the end of verse 9. In discussing the lesson with the children,
point out the sinfulness of taking God's name in vain, even as
applied to the other names of God beside the tetragrammaton (יהוה).

  [8] Do not illustrate this on the blackboard, as Jewish sentiment
  considers it irreverent to write the name of God on anything from
  which it will be subsequently erased, or which will be cast aside
  and destroyed. Instead, illustrate from printed books. If children
  are required to write the name of God on the blackboard they should
  be taught to write simply the initial "G" in English or ה  or ד in



Exodus 6.9 to 10.29

=Interpretation.= The meaning of these chapters is plain. They
contain the narrative of that contest between Pharaoh and his court
with all their magic devices on the one hand and Moses, armed with
the name of God, on the other. The reader should not fail to note
the dramatic portrayal of the impotence of blind, tyrannical rage
which vacillates between half-hearted concessions that cannot
satisfy opposition and blind fury that merely invites opposition.
With the second plague Pharaoh is ready to satisfy Moses' demand,
but he remains of this intent only until the plague is removed,
then in his apparent security, the habit of tyranny immediately
reasserts itself, and he again refuses to let Israel go. With the
fourth plague, Pharaoh offers as a compromise that the Israelites
may sacrifice to their God in Egypt. This compromise Moses rejects,
stating boldly as his reason that such a course would involve
slaying the "abomination", _i. e._, the gods, of the Egyptians, a
thing which the Egyptian people would not suffer. Thereupon Pharaoh
consents to let the Israelites go, "Only do not go afar off," but
with the removal of the plague this concession is again withdrawn.
After the seventh plague, Pharaoh, in accordance with the insistent
demand of his court, is ready for further concessions. He is
ready to permit the men to go, provided they leave the women and
children as hostages biding their return. When this concession is
rejected, his fury leads him again into a mad defiance. The ninth
plague makes him seek once more to appease Moses and Aaron. He is
ready now even to let the women and children go, only the cattle
must remain in Egypt. But Moses is firm; the cattle were needed for
sacrifice. Nothing less than a complete exodus of all the people
with their possessions for a three days' journey into the wilderness
to worship God on His holy mountain would satisfy Moses. Indeed,
he even suggests that the king himself provide animals for the
sacrifice. Then Pharaoh in a rage commits his final indiscretion,
declaring to Moses and Aaron, "Get thee from me, take heed to
thyself, see my face no more; for in the day thou seest my face
thou shalt die." This closes all negotiations between them. Moses
accepts his ultimatum. "Thou hast spoken well; I will see thy face
again no more." Henceforth, not even a three days' journey into the
wilderness will suffice. Pharaoh had pronounced his own sentence, a
sentence which the arbitrary and tyrannical always pronounce upon
themselves when opposed by the protagonists of reason and justice.

=Aim.= The aim of this chapter, as of all those leading to the
event of the Exodus, is to inspire the child with faith in God's
providence as exercised over Israel in particular, and over mankind
in general, in the interests of liberty and justice.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= It is sometimes suggested in books on
the teaching of Biblical history that the story of the plagues be
passed over lightly, without much attention to detail. This would
be a mistake. The story of the plagues has a great fascination for
young children, the same sort of fascination which the works of
fairies and witches in their favorite fairy tales exercise over
them. The skillful teacher will make the most of the native interest
in the marvelous by employing it to increase the spirit of reverent
awe which he must endeavor to associate with the thought of God. In
telling each of these plagues, it is not enough to describe what
happened, but the teacher must assist in making the child realize
what the plagues meant to Egypt. Thus, in teaching the first plague,
dwell on how indispensable water is and what distress results if
people are deprived of water for any length of time.

The interest of the children in the plagues must not, however, be
merely due to their interest in the marvelous. Endeavor to interest
them primarily in the contest between God and Pharaoh. All the
conversations between Pharaoh and Moses must be told as nearly as
possible in the language of the Bible, so that the child is made to
feel the strength of the firm insistence of Moses and the weakness
of Pharaoh's vacillating and temporizing attitude. Unless at the
end of the lesson the child is filled with admiration for Moses and
contempt for Pharaoh, the teacher has not taught the lesson well.

Inasmuch as there are so many allusions to the ten plagues in Jewish
and general literature, the child should be taught to remember them
in their proper order. This can be done best by naming each plague
in a single word or brief phrase, as in the Passover Haggadah, and
writing them on the blackboard thus:

  1. Blood.                     6. Boils.
  2. Frogs.                     7. Hail.
  3. Gnats.                     8. Locusts.
  4. Flies.                     9. Darkness.
  5. Pestilence among cattle.  10. Death of first-born.



Exodus 11.1 to 13.16

=Interpretation.= These chapters relate the climax toward which the
narrative from the birth of Moses until this point has been leading,
the exodus from Egypt. They also contain the laws associated with
the commemoration of this event. The narrative begins by telling
of God's promise that the next plague would be the last, and His
command to the people to prepare for the exodus. Before they
were permitted to leave, some expression of their faith in God's
deliverance and their readiness to follow His guidance was required;
therefore, we have the command to take a lamb on the tenth day of
the month, which was to begin their new era, and sacrifice it on
the 14th, and eat the flesh of it in family groups on that night,
together with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, which thereafter
were to serve as symbols of the bondage and of the liberation from
it. The blood of this sacrifice, they were to sprinkle on the
doorposts of their houses in order to testify by this ritual to
their desire to be included in the "Army of the Lord" that was to
depart on the morrow, and all who did not testify thus to their
adherence to Israel's cause were to meet with the same fate as the
Egyptians with whom they had chosen to identify themselves. The
Israelites were to eat the lamb while standing with their loins girt
and staves in their hands, in readiness for the signal to depart.
The rabbis call attention to the fact that the sacrifice of the
Paschal lamb in Egypt by the Israelites was a very bold expression
of their faith, inasmuch as the sheep was among the sacred animals
of Egypt. When Pharaoh suggests to Moses that the Israelites could
sacrifice to their God in Egypt, he replies, "Lo, if we sacrifice
the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not
stone us?" (Exodus 8. 22.) But by this time Pharaoh and Egypt
had been so humiliated by the plagues which did not even spare
their sacred river Nile, that the Egyptians feared to attack the
Israelites, while the children of Israel had recovered their lost
confidence in Moses, and in the God in whose name he spoke to them.

Among the laws and observances associated with the events of this
chapter are: 1. The law ordaining the first of Nisan, as the "New
Year for months", in commemoration of the inauguration of the new
era in Israel's history; 2. the annual sacrifice of the Paschal
lamb which was eaten in the family circle together with bitter
herbs and unleavened bread to recall the similar observances of the
Israelites before leaving Egypt;[9] 3. the celebration for seven
days[10] of the festival of Passover by the previous removal of
all leaven and abstention from it during the festival and by the
eating of unleavened bread in commemoration of the haste of Israel's
departure that did not allow them to make other provision; 4. the
duty of narrating these events to one's children, which gave rise
to the recital of the Haggadah on the night of Passover; 5. the
sanctification of the first-born of cattle and of men in recognition
of the providential character of the tenth plague, the latter custom
surviving in the practice of "pidyon ha-ben", "the redemption of
the first-born", and, 6. the injunction to make of this command "a
sign upon thy hand and frontlets between thine eyes" which led to
the inclusion of the passage containing these words, and the command
to sanctify the first-born among those enclosed in the _tephillin_,
thus making them a theme for daily reflection. In addition to these
practices, it is noteworthy that the Sabbath and holidays, even
those having other historic associations, are characterized in
our liturgy as מִצְרַים לִיצִואַת זֵכֶר "memorials of the Exodus from
Egypt." The multitude of observances that are thus designed to keep
us mindful of the Exodus testify to the importance of the leading
idea associated with this event for the Jewish people at all times,
namely, the identification of the cause of Israel with the cause of
God, "And I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a
God, and ye shall know that I am the Lord, your God, who brought you
out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." (Exodus 6. 7.)

  [9] Since the sacrifices have ceased with the destruction of
  the Temple, the eating of the meal as part of the Seder service
  answers this purpose. At this meal the Paschal lamb is symbolically
  represented by the roasted bone, and the _maẓẓot_ and _maror_ are

  [10] In modern times eight days in the diaspora.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson should be to make the child conscious
of his identity with Israel and of the debt of gratitude and loyalty
that this imposes upon him in view of God's redemption of Israel.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The association of the Exodus with
the observance of Passover is the obvious method of establishing
a contact between the subject to be taught in this lesson and the
Jewish child of today. Nevertheless, it is better not to employ the
observances of the Passover as the technical "point of contact"
with which to introduce the original presentation of the lesson, as
that would delay too long the actual narration, but to use them to
introduce the discussion of the topic by the class after the teacher
has told his story.

To introduce the narrative itself a reference to previous lessons
is sufficient, as the last few lessons have all anticipated the
events told in these chapters. This the teacher can best do by a
few introductory questions, as, for instance; "Why did God send the
plagues of which we learned in our last lesson against Egypt?" (Draw
out the answer that it was not merely to punish the Egyptians but
to compel Pharaoh to free the Israelites.) When, after the ninth
plague, Moses refused Pharaoh's offer to let the Israelites go on
condition that they left their cattle and possessions behind, what
did Pharaoh say? How did Moses answer? The teacher then continues:

     "When Pharaoh had driven Moses and Aaron from him and told them
     never to come before him again or he would have them put to
     death, it was plain that there was no use arguing with him any
     more. God had given him many chances to change his attitude and
     let the Israelites go in peace, to serve Him in the wilderness,
     but Pharaoh would not listen and now God decided to send one
     more plague upon Egypt, so terrible that Pharaoh would be forced
     to let the Israelites go."

In telling of the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb and the sprinkling
of the blood on the doorposts, guard against leaving the child with
the notion that God really required a sign in order to distinguish
the Hebrew from the Egyptian house. This can be done by explaining
that God wanted to test the faith of the Israelites in the expected
exodus by their readiness to make these preparations. The sprinkling
of the blood on the doorposts was to be a sign that the inmates of
the house wanted it to be considered a Hebrew house, but if they
were willing to remain in Egypt and would not trust God to lead them
out, they would naturally not make these preparations, and would
deserve to be treated like all the other Egyptians.

Call attention to the change in the attitude of the people to Moses
and Aaron since God had shown His power in the plagues, for at first
they would not listen to them "for impatience of spirit and for
cruel bondage", and now they obeyed the minutest prescriptions of
Moses in anticipation of the exodus.

After completing the narrative try to bring home its moral
in connection with the celebration of Passover, so that this
celebration in its annual recurrence may, by association of ideas,
reinforce the lesson you are teaching. Speak to the class somewhat
as follows: "Can you imagine how happy our forefathers felt when
they received the signal to leave Egypt? Think of what a change
it meant to them. No longer would they have to rise up early in
the morning, work, work, work all day for Pharaoh, and receive
nothing for their labor. No longer would they have a taskmaster
standing over them with a whip ready to beat them cruelly if they
did not finish the required number of bricks, although they may
have been too old or too sick to do so. No longer would they have
to do whatever the Egyptians commanded them and have to fear even
to sacrifice to their God, lest the Egyptian idol-worshipper might
stone them. To be sure, in the wilderness into which they were
going, and even in the Promised Land to which God was leading them,
they would have to work hard as shepherds and farmers, but they
would be tending their own flocks and herds and working on their own
farms. Nobody now could order them about, for his selfish purpose,
and they could obey and serve their God without interference, could
rest on His holy days and could sacrifice when and where they would.
Do you not think that if you had lived in Egypt in those days, you
would have felt happy and thankful to God and ready always to do His
wishes for having brought you forth from slavery to freedom? Would
you not feel every year, when the fifteenth of Nisan came, that you
would want to celebrate it as a great joyous holiday on which you
would thank God for the happy change He brought into your life, and
do you not think that if you had children, you would never tire of
telling them the story, particularly on the anniversary of the great
event so that they, too, should thank God for the freedom that they
are permitted to enjoy? Well, that is what our forefathers did.
Every year they celebrated the going out of Egypt and they told
the story of the departure from Egypt to their children and taught
them to celebrate it, and so the observance of this day has been
kept up to our own time, and I hope you will one day teach your
children to observe it. Can any of you tell me the name of this
festival? When our fathers told the story of God's deliverance of
Israel from Egypt they tried to have everything at hand that would
remind them of all that had occurred on that great day. In order
to remind them of the lamb that they had slaughtered, they used in
olden times to sacrifice a lamb, and they ate it in their family
groups just as they had done in Egypt; and later, when sacrifices
were no longer offered, they had, as we have today, as a reminder
of the same, a roasted bone of a lamb on their table the first two
nights of Passover. To remind them of the haste in which they left
Egypt without being able to leaven their bread (the teacher must
explain the meaning of the word leaven), they made it a law to eat
_maẓẓot_ during that festival. Can you tell me of some of the other
things on the Seder table on Pesah? (As they are mentioned, let the
teacher explain their significance.) When you saw all these things
at the Seder table, didn't you always feel like asking what they all
meant? How many of you have ever said the נִשְׁתַּנָּה מַה on Seder
night? Well, that contains a number of such questions. When you were
through reading them your father began to read from the Haggadah,
did he not? He read the answer, which explains why we celebrate
Pesah, and this is the way it begins: 'Slaves were we in the land of
Egypt, and the Lord, our God, brought us forth from thence with a
mighty hand, and an outstretched arm, and if the Holy One, blessed
be He, had not brought forth our ancestors from Egypt, we and our
children and our children's children might still have continued in
bondage to the Pharaohs in Egypt. Therefore, even if we were all
great scholars, all men of understanding, all learned in the Torah,
it would, nevertheless, be our duty to tell about the departure from
Egypt, and the more one tells about the departure from Egypt, the
more one is to be praised.'"

The children should be encouraged to discuss very freely the
celebration of the Passover, as observed in their own homes, as this
is an excellent opportunity of correlating their school instruction
with their home life.



Exodus 13.17 to 15.21

=Interpretation.= With this chapter a new period in Jewish history
begins, the formative period, during which the unorganized horde of
refugees from Egyptian bondage is given the character of a great
nation through the providential circumstances of its history and the
inspired genius of its leader. The period is one that is replete
with miracles. Modern rationalism may attempt to explain them away,
and it is quite possible that events which, had we experienced
them, we might have ascribed to the operation of natural laws,
were felt by our ancestors with their more limited knowledge of
nature to be miracles, and were regarded as such. But, however we
may represent to our minds the incidents that took place, we must
recognize in them the hand of Providence and not merely a historic
chance. We may, if we wish, regard the parting of the Red Sea as a
tidal phenomenon, the pillar of cloud and flame as a volcanic cloud,
but we must, in that case, believe that this tidal phenomenon and
this volcanic cloud were designed for the guidance of our people.
No teacher who lacks the faith that the various vicissitudes of
our people in the wilderness were intended to preserve them and to
prepare them for their historic career, as the standard-bearers
of the Torah, can fittingly teach this period of our history for,
without such a conception, a majority of the events recorded would
be meaningless.

The chapters of this lesson contain experiences and reflections
that are typical of the whole period of the wilderness. Note at the
outset the explanation for the roundabout route of the Israelites,
which states the fundamental reason for this whole period of trial
and vicissitudes. They were not to go to the Promised Land by way of
Philistia, because that way was too short, and they might have been
tempted, at the first rebuff, to return to Egypt, since only that
which has been won at the cost of effort and sacrifice can be fully
appreciated. The importance of taking this psychological factor into
consideration is evident from the conduct of Israel at the Red Sea,
when the first obstacle that comes in their way leads them to murmur
against the leadership of Moses, and to compare disparagingly their
present situation with what had been their lot in Egypt. This is a
state of affairs which we find again and again in the history of
this period, and it emphasizes the providential character of those
events, which could convert this horde of slaves with the stamp of
slavery on their hearts into a conquering nation conscious of a
great historic mission.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to inspire the child with the
belief in God's providence exercised over His people, Israel.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Begin the lesson by pointing out that
God had fulfilled His promise to free the Israelites from Egypt. But
where were they to go now? Recall by questions, God's promise to the
patriarchs to give Canaan to the Israelites. Recall also Jacob's
desire to be buried in Palestine and Joseph's similar request.
Then locate Palestine and Egypt on the map, and show by the scale
of miles how far apart they are. Observe that if the Israelites
could cover twenty miles a day in their journey, it would take them
a little more than two weeks to complete the journey. "But," you
continue, "God did not lead them directly to the land of Canaan,
because the people were not prepared to keep a land of their own."
One may use the following illustration to make the reason clear:

"If one opens the cage of a canary bird that has been born and
raised in a cage it will not immediately fly out and away; for some
time it will stay in the cage afraid to leave it, then it will
timidly go out a little way and if anything frightens it, will hurry
back into its cage. Now, the Israelites had been in Egypt like a
caged bird. They were not free to go where they would and do what
they would. Then all of a sudden they were free. But they were so
used always to being told by the Egyptians what they should do, that
they were afraid to do things for themselves, and, indeed, did not
know how. God knew that if they came to Canaan, and they saw there
an army of the Canaanites coming against them to battle, they would
be so frightened, that, instead of fighting them boldly and bravely,
they would at once go back to Egypt and become slaves to Pharaoh,
just as the bird goes back to the cage when it is frightened. God,
therefore, decided not to take them at once to their own land, but
to lead them in a roundabout way with many turnings and twistings,
so that they would not know how to return to Egypt if they wanted to
do so." (Show on the map the direct route possible to the Israelites
and the actual route that they took.) "And now I am going to tell
you something that happened which will show you how, at the very
first difficulty, many of the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt
and how God saved them from their troubles."

Then tell the story of their wanderings, guided by the pillar of
cloud and fire, Pharaoh's pursuit and the crossing of the Red Sea.
Lay emphasis on the dilemma which faced the Israelites at the Red
Sea, and on their consequent state of mind, which is revealed in
Exodus 14.10-12. These complaints should be quoted in the language
of the Bible. The children might be required to memorize Moses'
reply, which sums up the message of the lesson, "Stand still and see
the salvation of the Lord." Read to the class the song of Moses and
encourage the memorizing of favorite verses from the song.



Exodus 15.22 to 18.27

=Interpretation.= The significance of the events which took place
at Marah, in the wilderness of Sin, and at Rephidim is the same
as of those recorded in the preceding chapter. The antagonism
felt towards Amalek, which made him the arch-type of all Israel's
historic foes, is to be explained by the fact that he was the first
to go out of his way to oppose Israel, attacking it where it was
weak at a time and in a manner which, because of the lack of any
obvious provocation, impressed the Israelites as a direct attempt
to defeat God's purpose in having brought them from Egypt. This
is suggested by the words, "The hand upon the throne of the Lord;
the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."
(Exodus 17. 16.) Thus, Ibn Ezra says in his commentary to Exodus
17. 14, "The reason for God's saying, 41 will utterly blot out the
remembrance of Amalek', is because he provoked the Lord, for the
dukes of Edom had been terrified with the dread of Him on account
of the miracles which He had performed in Egypt and at the Red Sea,
and so, too were Moab and Philistia, and behold this Amalek, hearing
of the mighty deeds of the Lord in behalf of His people, Israel,
came from a distant region to fight with Israel, and dreaded not
the Lord, as it is written (Deuteronomy 25. 18), 'and he feared not
the Lord'." The incident of the Israelites being victorious, so
long as Moses' hands were raised, is to be explained as the rabbis
explain it in the Mishnah (Rosh ha-Shanah III. 8). "Could the hands
of Moses in any wise make or break a victory that we are told, 'And
it came to pass when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed'?
This can only mean to tell us that so long as the Israelites looked
upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in heaven, they
prevailed, and when not, they fell."

The visit of Jethro is recorded as a contrast to the preceding
episode. Jethro is the type of the "righteous proselyte" who, seeing
God's purpose in exalting Israel, seeks to identify himself with
Israel's cause.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is the same as of the preceding.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The teaching of this lesson presents
no great difficulties, the events narrated being in themselves
interesting to children. Try to aid the child in realizing the
hardships of wandering through the wilderness by a description of
the geographical features of the wilderness, the lack of roads, of
water, of food for man and cattle, the fear of wild beasts, and
of marauding tribes like Amalek, the lack of housing facilities,
etc. Endeavor to make the child realize how the Israelites felt,
when contrasting these conditions with those that existed in
the fertile Nile valley. This will help them to understand the
murmurings against Moses, and what a thankless task it was that
Moses had assumed in leading the Israelites. Do not fail to appeal
to their hero worship by pointing out the unselfishness of Moses
in continuing to lead the people in spite of their ingratitude. In
teaching of the double portion of Manna, which they gathered on
the eve of the Sabbath, one may associate it with the two loaves
of bread used at the Sabbath meal in the child's home. In telling
the story of Amalek's attack, it is well to mitigate the harshness
of the Biblical injunction to remember what Amalek did to us, by
associating with it the moral taught by the following Midrash:

"To what may the children of Israel (at this juncture) be compared?
To a child, who was being carried on his father's shoulders through
the street and whenever he saw any object he desired he would say to
his father, 'Buy it for me', and his father would buy it for him.
This happened once, twice, thrice. While they were proceeding thus,
the child saw his father's friend and asked him, 'Have you seen
anything of my father?' Thereupon, the father offended, said, 'Fool!
you are riding on my shoulders, and whatever you want I provide
for you and yet you dare ask this man, "Have you seen anything of
my father?"' So what did the father do? He put the child down and
refused to carry him any further. Just then a dog came and bit the
child. Even such was the conduct of Israel. When they went forth
from Egypt, God at once surrounded them with clouds of glory. They
desired Manna; the Holy One, blessed be He, gave it them. They
desired quail; He gave it them. Whatever they needed, He gave them.
Nevertheless, they began to doubt and said, 'Is the Lord among us or
not?' (Exodus 17. 7.) Thereupon, the Holy One, be He blessed, said
to them, 'As ye live, I shall make it known to you. Behold the dog
is coming and will bite you.' And who is the dog? Amalek, as it is
said, 'And Amalek came'," etc.

In teaching this and similar lessons, it is important to locate all
places on the map, as this gives greater reality to the stories. The
association of a legend with a particular place has always had the
effect on simple minds of making it appear more worthy of credence,
and it is well to utilize this psychological fact in order to give
a sense of reliability and reality to the Biblical narrative. To
show pictures of the places mentioned, is even more valuable an aid,
which should also be applied wherever possible.



Exodus 19.1 to 20.18

=Interpretation.= The event which is the subject of this lesson is
without exception the most important event in Jewish history, and
from the point of view of Judaism, in the history of the world.
All previous Jewish history leads up to it; all subsequent Jewish
history harks back to it. In the story of the Patriarchs, the
central theme is the choice of the material out of which that nation
is to spring, which will accept the Torah, and commit itself to live
for and by it. The central theme of the story of the exodus is the
preparation of the people for this event, God's purchasing Israel,
to use the Biblical phrase, from his masters, that he might serve
God alone. And the central theme of all subsequent Jewish history
is the struggle to make the principles of this Torah dominant over
Israel and to guard its ideals, and the institutions to which it
gave rise against foreign aggression on the one hand, and foreign
seduction on the other. The event of the great Revelation is
therefore of the utmost significance.

What took place at Mt. Sinai? Something of the awe which set
bounds about the mountain that the people dared not break through,
must be ours, as we approach this subject. We must realize that
an event such as this cannot be recorded in the terms of our
daily experience. We can only guess and guess feebly at what the
experience meant for our forefathers from the records that they
have left us, clothed in all the poetic imagery of our Bible
narrative. At Sinai, in the midst of most impressive natural
surroundings, thunder, lightning, earthquake, fire and smoke, the
people became conscious of God's presence, as they had never been
conscious of His presence before. And while thus impressed with
the infinite power of the God who had led them out of Egypt that
they might worship Him there in the wilderness, they entered into
a covenant with Him. Under the inspired guidance of the greatest
of all prophets, they were made to realize that this God demanded
obedience to law, as the condition of His continuing to be their God
and to lead them as His people, whom He had redeemed from Egypt.

And the content of this revealed covenant is the Decalogue, the most
significant moral code in the world's history, which has exercised
an influence upon mankind more profound and beneficent than any
other. After insisting upon the recognition of the God who redeemed
Israel from Egypt as the sole source of all authority and the sole
object of worship, and endeavoring to secure the acknowledgment
of these claims by enjoining reverence for God's name, this code
lays down laws governing all the most important human relations.
It insists on the sanctity of the home, both in the tie between
husband and wife, and between parent and child. It insists on the
sacredness of human life, and guarantees the right of property,
which is essential to human development. It demands truth and
justice in the administration of law. It concerns itself little with
ceremonial forms, but it insists, nevertheless, on the observance of
the Sabbath, without which man cannot attain to full human dignity
and to the consecration of life but sinks to the level of a beast
of burden or an automaton, mechanically securing the means of life
with no leisure to contemplate its ends. Nor is the Decalogue merely
concerned with man's overt acts, but demands purity of motive, for
it condemns covetousness equally with theft and adultery.

The revelation on Mt. Sinai, meant to the soul of Israel, what the
experience of the prophetic call meant to the prophet, when he first
heard the voice of God appointing him to a mission of which he had
not dreamed before. Israel left Egypt a fugitive horde, it came to
Sinai and was there transformed into a great nation, conscious of
a historic mission that distinguished it from and exalted it above
other peoples, to become "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
(Exodus 19. 6.) Israel has not always been true to this mission, has
perhaps never lived up fully to all its implications, but from that
time to this Israel has never quite forgotten it, has never lost
faith in it.

In emphasizing the significance of the Decalogue, one must, however,
not lose sight of the fact that the Ten Commandments were not
the only laws that were revealed to Moses on Sinai, and that the
Sinaitic covenant involved not merely obedience to the Decalogue,
but obedience to all other laws to which Judaism attributes a divine
origin. According to tradition many of the oral laws, which are
not contained in the Bible, were _halakah lemosheh misinai_, "Laws
revealed to Moses on Sinai". Historic criticism may suggest a later
origin to most of these and even to many laws in the Pentateuch, but
there is nothing in the Biblical narrative that limits revelation to
the Decalogue, and, according to Jewish belief, all of the Torah is

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson should be to inspire the child with
reverence for the Law, and faith in its divine origin and authority
over him.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The teacher may well begin the lesson
by calling the child's attention to the reading of the Sefer Torah
in the synagogue. Ask whether the Sefer Torah is, in appearance,
like any other book, and let the children tell the obvious
differences. Inform them of differences of which they are not aware,
as for example, that it is always written by hand and on parchment,
with ink especially prepared for the purpose, etc. Then continue
somewhat as follows:

"Now, do you know why we always treat this book differently from
other books, why we take such pains in writing it, why we write
it always on strong parchment rather than paper which can tear
easily? Why we dress it, so to speak, in velvet or other beautiful
coverings? Why we decorate it with silver or gold ornaments? Why
we keep it in the most beautiful part of the synagogue? It is
because this book is different from all other books. This book
contains the word of God, which God himself taught to the people of
Israel in ancient times, and which was handed down from father to
son until the present time. It contains the history that we have
been learning, but it contains much more. It contains laws and
commandments that God wants us to keep, and whoever obeys all these
laws and commandments is a good Jew. In the lesson that we shall
take up today, we shall learn how God began teaching these laws to
our fathers, and we shall learn some of the most important of these
laws of God, which are so important that all the civilized nations
have made them a part of their law."

The great task of the teacher in this lesson is to create that
atmosphere of awe and reverence, with which the Biblical narrative
invests the episode of the Revelation. The mere explanation of
the meaning of the Ten Commandments is not enough to effect this,
because the significance of their content is in large part beyond
the child's comprehension, and their form is too abstract to appeal
to him emotionally. The point of contact that we have suggested will
aid somewhat by associating with the Revelation the reverence that
the child sees paid to the Sefer Torah in the synagogue.[11] A close
following of the Biblical narrative suggests other devices. The
people of Israel were to prepare themselves for three days, and the
necessity for this preparation kept them in an attitude of conscious
suspense and attention. The narrative of these preparations will
have a similar effect. Attempt to arouse the children's curiosity as
to what God was going to tell Israel before you begin to tell them
the Ten Commandments. Exodus 19. 3-6 should be quoted and explained.
The fact that Moses and Aaron were required to set bounds about the
mountain beyond which none but he whom God called could pass, also
adds to the impressiveness of the occasion, which will not be lost
upon the children. Finally, the concomitant disturbances of nature,
the thunders, lightnings, quakings, and flame, and thick darkness,
and the voice of the Shofar waxing louder and louder, together
with the picture of the trembling people at the foot of the mount
and Moses going up alone into the "thick darkness where God was"
must be told in such graphic terms as to impress them deeply on
the imagination of the child. Instead of telling the children the
Ten Commandments in the usual conversational tone that you would
naturally employ when addressing children, it would be well in this
instance to read them the Biblical account from Exodus 19.16 to
20.21, and require that when you come to the actual reading of the
Decalogue, the class rise as the congregation does when it is read
in the synagogue and remain standing until the reading of the Ten
Commandments is completed.

  [11] Of course, such a method of approach is only possible where
  the child attends services, but it is exceedingly important that
  provision for attendance at a regular service be made by every
  religious school.

The children will, of course, understand very little of the meaning
of the Ten Commandments from the reading, but they will understand
and absorb the reverential attitude of the teacher towards them.
After the reading, however, it devolves upon the teacher to explain
their significance as far as this can be done to children. Avoid,
however, too lengthy and discursive treatment, as the child will
be impatient to go on with the story. A more detailed treatment
of them should be taken up later in the course, either when the
children are taught to translate the Decalogue in their Hebrew work,
or in connection with the instruction about the significance of
Shabuot, or as part of the work of a Bar Mitzvah, or Confirmation
Class, or on several or all of these occasions, but not as a lengthy
interruption to the "story" of the Bible in which children in their
early years of school are most interested.

The First Commandment can be explained, however, very easily as
implying the grateful worship of God by Israel and obedience to all
His laws as the first duty of the Jew in view of what God had done
for his people in Egypt.

The Second Commandment need not present any difficulty as the sin
and folly of idolatry, the worship of the creature instead of the
creator, is easily grasped by children. As the child will not be
tempted to idolatry this need not be given much time.

The Third Commandment, however, should receive more attention
than it usually does. Nothing is more conducive to that spirit of
reverence, which it is the aim of this lesson to cultivate than
the conscious avoidance of God's name, except in association with
a truly religious thought. Profanity is a common vice of children,
as well as of adults. Children, especially during the habit-forming
age, should be made to feel that it is a sin and should be

  [12] For other suggestions in this connection see Part II, Chapter
  IV, of this book.

The Fourth Commandment is also of the utmost importance to
childhood. As this is not the first time that reference to the
Sabbath has been made, the teacher may take a knowledge of the
general significance of the Sabbath for granted, and should mainly
dwell on the significance of the phrase "to keep it holy" by asking
the children what we do to keep the Sabbath holy, i. e., different
from other days and devoted to Jewish thoughts. Take occasion to
admonish the children not to attend theatres, moving picture shows,
etc., on the Sabbath, and urge their attendance at services.

The Fifth Commandment is, of course, the first law of childhood. In
discussing it with the children, try to get from them suggestions as
to how to honor parents. Encourage such rules of family etiquette
as never to contradict father or mother, never to sit in father's
or mother's seat at table, always to rise and give either of them a
seat if the other chairs in the room are occupied when they come in,
and the like.

The Sixth Commandment needs no prolonged discussion.

The Seventh Commandment must be explained to mean that husband and
wife must always be faithful and kind to each other.

The Eighth Commandment needs some discussion, because children are
often prone to petty thieving. In the moral code of many children
stealing means taking money or objects of great value, but the
appropriation of small objects, such as pens, pencils, chalk,
etc., does not come under the same category. Moreover, stealing
only means taking something from somebody's hand or pocket, and
does not include the appropriation of an object which the owner
has carelessly left where another might claim it under the law of
"Finding's keeping", which, according to the code of childhood,
is often held to apply even when the finder knows to whom the
object found belongs. The teacher's duty is, therefore, to take
this opportunity of enlarging the child's concept of theft and
developing his property sense, a sense which is naturally defective
in children, since they neither earn nor hold property in their own
right. Avoid, however, abstract and purely theoretic discussion and
make your point by presenting concrete hypothetical examples for
the exercise of their moral judgment, as, for instance:

"I am sure that none of you would take from anybody money or
anything else that you thought of great value, but suppose you saw
a little stump of a pencil that a boy had left on his desk, and you
just wanted it, or a piece of chalk from the blackboard, or some
fruit or candy that you saw in your neighbor's desk, would it be
right for you to take it? If you saw some money on the street and
you did not know how it came there, would you take it? If you saw
some money fall from a man's pocket on the street, would you take
it? If you found a pocketbook and when you opened it, saw that it
had a card with the owner's name and address on it, what would you
do? If you found a pocketbook or some money, or some pencils or
books in this school, what would you do, etc.?"

The meaning of the Ninth Commandment must be extended to enjoin
truthfulness in general. By methods similar to those used in
explaining the Eighth, the teacher must extend the child's concept
of lying to include any kind of conscious deception, the silent lie
equally with the spoken one.

The Tenth Commandment is a little too subtle and refined for the
child's grasp and need not be dwelt on at length. The teacher need
only explain that to want to steal, even if we are kept back from
stealing because we are afraid of the police, or afraid of our
teachers, or of any punishment, is just as wrong as to steal.



Exodus 32.1 to 34.35

=Interpretation.= The people of Israel could not at once rise to
the height of that conception of God, which had been revealed to
them at Sinai. So long as Moses was with them to tell them the word
of the Lord, they found it possible to believe in God, though they
did not see Him, for He spoke to them daily through the mouth of
His appointed servant, Moses. But Moses had vanished into the thick
darkness, and days and weeks had passed without his return. This
made it increasingly difficult for them to experience the reality of
the invisible God, who had led them from Egypt. They, consequently,
demanded some image to which they might look and which might keep
them in mind of the object of their adoration. Their intention was
not so much to exchange the God who had led them from Egypt for
another as to image Him forth as an aid to their devotion. They, no
doubt, spoke in good faith when they declared, "This is thy god, O
Israel". That they should worship Him in the form of a bull (for the
calf must be understood to be the small image of a bull, small by
reason of the precious metal employed) is not surprising in view of
the common conception of the divinity in that form, both in Egypt
and in Canaan. Aaron reluctantly yields to their importunities, and
the people rejoice in having a God who can go before them.

But Moses could not yield. To have done so would have meant to
have surrendered all that had been gained in a spiritual way by
the Exodus and the Revelation. The apostasy of the whole people,
which this act threatened, would have rendered his entire mission
fruitless. His sense of despair is well conveyed by the Biblical
narrative in the incident of the breaking of the tables of stone on
which the words of the Decalogue were inscribed. A radical remedy
was needed and Moses did not hesitate to apply it. The support which
he received from the tribe of Levi was a justification for its claim
to be the priestly tribe.

It is in connection with this event that the character of Moses is
shown in its most sublime aspect as the perfect intercessor. His
zeal did not hesitate to apply the utmost rigor in punishing the
offenders who would not rally to his call, but once the necessary
punishment had been administered, his one thought is of his people,
how they might still be enabled to fulfill the mission to which they
had committed themselves on the day of the Revelation. God suggests
destroying the people who had forfeited their claims to redemption
and making of the descendants of Moses a chosen people, but Moses,
the ideal leader, to whom his charge is dearer than himself, is not
satisfied. Rather would he share in the punishment of his guilty
people than enjoy a selfish salvation and glory from which they are
to be excluded. (Exodus 32.32.) Then God yields to his plea and
agrees to let the people return to the land of their fathers and
to drive out their enemies from before them in accordance with the
terms of the covenant He had made with Israel after the Revelation.
There it is said (Exodus 23.20 to 22) "Behold, I send an angel
before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into the
place which I have prepared. Take heed of him and hearken unto his
voice, be not rebellious against him; for he will not pardon your
transgression, for My name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed
hearken unto his voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an
enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary unto thine adversaries."
God's reply to Moses, therefore, is (Exodus 32. 33) "Whosoever hath
sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book. And now go, lead
the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee; behold,
Mine angel shall go before thee; nevertheless in the day when I
visit I will visit their sin upon them."... And the Lord spoke unto
Moses: "Depart, go up hence, thou and the people that thou hast
brought up out of the land of Egypt unto the land of which I swore
unto Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, saying: 'Unto thy seed will
I give it', and I will send an angel before thee and I will drive
out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, and the Perizzite,
the Hivite, and the Jebusite, unto a land flowing with milk and
honey; for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a
stiff-necked people; lest I consume thee in the way." (Exodus 33.

The general significance of angels has been discussed in a previous
chapter.[13] It is to be noted, however, that the notion prevailed
that various nations were presided over by special angels delegated
for that purpose. Thus Israel was conceived as having been led
out of Egypt through the agency of an angel, who was furthermore
entrusted with the task of leading the people to the land of
Canaan. But angels, as we have previously shown, were conceived
of as not having any discretionary power, and this angel of the
covenant was only entrusted with leading Israel to the Land of
Promise if the people would be faithful to the covenant. In the
case of any infidelity they had been specifically warned "He will
not pardon your transgression." With the sin of the golden calf,
therefore, Moses at first fears that Israel is totally doomed, but
he is reassured by God's statement that the punishment which must
come will be meted out to each individual sinner on the "day when I
visit" and will not involve the immediate destruction of the whole
people; that on the contrary, the angel would continue to lead them
to their land. But this no longer satisfies Moses. The sin of the
golden calf had convinced him that the people were too weak to live
up to the covenant that they had accepted at Sinai, and that if
their destiny was to be presided over, as that of other peoples, by
an angel, who could not forgive any breach of the covenant, they
were sure to be destroyed. He, therefore, pleads for a more intimate
relation with God, which would exempt Israel from the operations
of the natural law of retribution, by providing for the people's
forgiveness in view of the higher tasks that it undertook to perform
without apparently possessing higher qualifications. If Israel is
merely to be led to the realization of its secular destiny through
the conquest of Canaan, but is not to be more closely identified
with God's cause, by God's going in their midst, Moses prefers to
stay in the wilderness. (Exodus 33. 15.) God's declaring, "I will
not go up in the midst of thee", (Exodus 33. 3) although it comes
immediately after God's renewal of the promise to send His angel to
lead Israel to the land of Canaan, is made the occasion of mourning
and repentance. Moses removes his tent, in which he was wont to
commune with God, and which was consequently known as the Ohel Moed,
"The Tent of Meeting," (see Rashi and Ibn Ezra ad loc.), from the
camp, upon the principle, according to Rashi, that מְנֻדֶּה לָרַב
מְנֻדֶּה לַתַּלְמִיד "The disciple must have no dealings with one
who is under the ban of the master." God's refusal to enter the camp
of Israel, Moses construes as obligating also his own withdrawal
from the camp. Here he pleads with God for a clearer knowledge of
His ways that he may be able to lead the people as God had charged
him to do. He wants God to make known to him the angel whom He
had determined to send with him. It is then that he receives the
assurance that he had sought, "My presence shall go with thee and
I will give thee rest." (Exodus 33. 14.) He is further vouchsafed
a revelation of God's attributes, which assures him of God's
readiness to forgive sin, though not to condone it, (Exodus 34. 6,
7), and is instructed to hew out new tablets for the Decalogue in
place of those he had broken. Exodus 33. 22, 23 presents difficulty
because of the anthropomorphic terms used with reference to God.
The general thought it wishes to express, however, seems to be that
nobody can grasp the true personality of God, but can only realize
by reflection and, as it were, retrospectively, that he had been in
God's presence, can, as the Bible expresses it, only catch a glimpse
of His retreating form.

  [13] See Part I, Chapter IX.

=Aim.= The aim in teaching this chapter should be to arouse in the
child an appreciation of the meaning of loyalty and faithfulness,
a lesson which is taught negatively by Israel's disloyalty in
worshipping the golden calf, and positively by Moses' loyalty in
interceding for his people rather than in remaining satisfied with
his individual enjoyment of God's favor.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= There are many lessons with regard to
sin and repentance and the attributes of God and other theological
topics, which are taught in these chapters, but they are all beyond
the comprehension of children. They have, therefore, been excluded
from our formulation of the aim in teaching this lesson, and the
teacher should omit details of the narrative that do hot emphasize
the aim of the lesson, however interesting they may be from the
adult point of view. Thus the narrative of Exodus 33. 12 to 23
should be omitted, and much of the dialogue between God and Moses as
well. Moreover, the whole discussion of the part played by the angel
of the covenant and Moses' plea that not an angel but God himself
lead the people, though we have dwelt on it at considerable length
in our foregoing remarks for the benefit of the teacher, need not be
taught to the child.

To connect the lesson with the previous one, begin by asking one of
the children to repeat the Second Commandment. Then explain how,
in the absence of Moses, the people began to find it difficult to
believe in a God whom they could not see, and, recalling the images
of the gods they had known, demanded an image of their own God in
violation of their pledge to obey the Decalogue. The conduct of
Aaron in yielding to their pleas need not be condoned or explained
away, as the only extenuation the Bible suggests is the importunity
of the popular demand. This, however, the teacher should endeavor to
make his pupils realize by telling them how every day the people
would come to Aaron and would say to him, "Where is Moses and where
is the God who spoke to us, and who, Moses said, would lead us to
the land of our forefathers? We want to see Him. Make an image of
Him for us." And though Aaron would refuse them, they would come
again the next day and the day after, and insist that he make them
an image of their God like the idols, to which they were used, until
one day Aaron became weary of their demands and told them that if
they wanted an image of God, they should bring all their gold and
jewels, their ear-rings, bracelets and rings, out of which he would
make them an image.

Attempt to make the child realize the heinousness of the offense
involved in the making of the golden calf, as idolatry is so
remote from the child's experience, that he is not likely to be
much impressed by the significance of it. Emphasize not merely the
disobedience involved in violation of the Second Commandment, but
the blasphemy involved in conceiving of God in animal form. The
emotional attitude which the teacher should endeavor to create
should be that which led our forefathers always to speak of the gods
of other nations as the "abominations" of the heathen. This can be
done by describing, as it were, God's feelings at witnessing the
behavior of Israel, as, for instance:

"When God saw what the people were doing, how they danced and sang
about the golden calf, and shouted, 'This is thy god, O Israel,
which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt', He was very angry.
Only forty days before they had heard His voice telling them, 'Thou
shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thyself
any graven image', and they had promised, 'All that the Lord hath
spoken we will do', and there they were worshipping a molten god
that they had made with their own hands, an image of a calf; as if
a calf or anything like it could have sent the ten plagues against
Egypt, could have divided the waters of the Red Sea, could have
spoken to them the words of the Ten Commandments from the midst
of the flaming mountain. So God wanted at first to destroy them
altogether, and He said to Moses, who was still with Him on the
mountain to learn His law, 'Go; get thee down, for thy people that
thou broughtest up out of the land of Egypt have dealt corruptly;
they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded
them; they have made them a molten calf and have worshipped it and
have sacrificed unto it and have said, "This is thy god, O Israel,
which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Behold they are a
stiff-necked people and my anger is kindled against them, and I will
destroy them, and I will make of thee a great nation.'"

Give the children to understand the cause of Moses' breaking the
tablets of the law by making them feel with the despair of Moses,
when, descending from the mount with the tablets in his hand, he saw
the people in the very act of violating the laws written upon them.
Of what use were the tablets of the law if the law itself was not
held sacred?

Moses' motive for ordering the death of the offenders must be
explained as not being due to hatred, but to his realizing that
if such a measure were not taken, the rest of the people would
be led into further sin, which would necessitate the destruction
of the whole people as punishment for their wickedness, just as
a surgeon may amputate a limb to save a life. Call attention to
the fact that Moses first gives the people a chance to rally about
him if they repented of their participation in the worship of the
golden calf, a chance of which Aaron and the whole tribe of Levi
availed themselves. The purity of Moses' motives is seen from his
willingness to accept the same punishment as his people, if God is
indisposed to forgive them, rather than enjoy a reward and honor in
which they do not share.

While endeavoring to impress the child with the sublimity of Moses'
character, be careful not to attempt abstract characterization,
but tell the story in such a way that the child appreciates the
significance of Moses' acts and words. Do not say, for example, "Now
Moses, though he was zealous, in punishing those Israelites who had
proved disloyal, was utterly unselfish in his love for Israel." Say
rather, "Now, when Moses had put to death those who had persisted in
worshipping the golden calf, he prayed to God to forgive the sins of
the rest and not to destroy the whole people. For, though God had
offered to spare Moses, who had not sinned, and even to make of his
descendants a great nation instead of the Israelites, who deserved
to be destroyed, do you think that this made Moses happy? No, for
Moses, although he had not hesitated to punish his people according
to God's command, loved them as a father loves his children, even
when they do wrong, and it hurt him to think that God was angry with
them, even though he himself enjoyed God's favor. So he said, 'O
Lord, if thou canst forgive this people, forgive them, but if not,
do not make of me and my descendants a great nation, but blot me out
of thy book', that is to say, 'Let me die and be forgotten like the
rest of these people whom I have led, and whom I love so dearly.' So
God, moved by his loyalty to his people, promised to forgive them
and to continue to lead them to their land."

Do not fail to mention the fact that when Moses came down from the
mountain his face shone, as such a circumstance adds to the child's
reverence for his hero.

The following are some suggestive questions which may help to bring
out the point of the lesson for the children:

Why did the children of Israel want Aaron to make them a golden calf?

In doing so, what commandment did they disobey?

Why did Moses break the tablets of stone?

How were the Israelites punished for their sin?

What did God threaten to do to Israel for this sin? and what did he
want to do to Moses because he had not sinned?

Did this please Moses? Why not? What did Moses pray God to do?

Did God grant this prayer? How did God show that he had forgiven

How did He show that He was pleased with Moses?



Exodus 25.1 to 31.11 and 35.4 to 40.33

=Interpretation.= The Biblical passages dealing with the
construction of the Tabernacle and the nature of its appointments
and the services conducted therein are scattered through a number
of chapters of our Bible, but for pedagogic purposes it is best
to consider them together. Before discussing any details we must
realize the significance of the Tabernacle in general. We are to see
in it the parent of the temple and the synagogue and understand its
significance in the light of the importance of these institutions to
later Judaism. "Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among
them". (Exodus 25. 8.) Our rabbis paraphrase this by the words,
"that I may cause My _Shekinah_ to dwell among them." Inasmuch as
the _Shekinah_ meant the Divine Presence made manifest, we may
render their meaning in more modern terms by declaring that the
function of tabernacle, temple and synagogue is to make us realize
the presence of God, for though we may theoretically admit His
existence without such institutions, we should not feel the reality
of His presence were it not brought home to us by the organized
worship that they cultivated. But even if it is possible to realize
the presence of God merely by the direct communion of the individual
without any organized communal worship in a community sanctuary, the
God we should then worship would not be the God of Israel and our
religion would not consecrate life to the service of His Torah. And
just as the Tabernacle, to which every animal that was to be eaten
had to be brought for sacrifice, weaned the people from the habit of
sacrificing "to the satyrs," (Leviticus 17. 7) so in later times the
Temple was the center of the national worship as against the rival
cult of Baal and Astarte associated with the "high places", and so
today the synagogue is the institution upon which we must depend to
guard the purity of Jewish religious thought from the influences
of our non-Jewish environment. In view of the significance of the
Tabernacle and its daughter institutions, we cannot begrudge the
space that our Bible gives to its construction and its ritual.

It is impossible for us to understand the precise symbolic
significance of all the ceremonial objects and decorations of the
Tabernacle, but the very attention that is given to these details is
expressive of an appreciation of the aid to devotion which is to be
found in an appeal to the aesthetic sense of the worshipper. Some of
the symbolism is, however, quite obvious. Thus it is evident that
the placing of the Two Tables of the Law in the Ark which was kept
in the Holy of Holies, and was made of choice wood covered within
and without with gold and guarded by the figures of cherubim wishes
to testify to the sanctity of the Law as the very center and soul
of Judaism. The prohibition to any but the high priest to enter the
Holy of Holies, and the insistence on ritual purity and provisions
for the washing of hands and feet in the brass laver served to
remove the worship from the plane of the commonplace and profane
and aided in creating that atmosphere of reverence and awe which
is indispensible to true worship. The clouds of smoke from the
incense suggested something of the mystery of God as is seen from
its association in rabbinic tradition with the "cloud of glory".
הַכַּפֹּרֶת עַל אֵרָאֶה בֶּעָנָן כִּי "For I appear in the cloud upon
the ark-cover" is construed by the Rabbis to mean the cloud of

With regard to the garments of the priests, the appearance on the
breast plate of the names of the tribes of Israel emphasizes the
representative capacity of the high priest as צִבּוּר שְׁלִיחַ or
agent of the congregation, whereas the diadem with the inscription
לַיהֲוָה קֹדֶשׁ "Holy unto God" was the symbol of his consecration to

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson should be to interest the child in the
synagogue and public worship and more especially to develop in him
the sentiment for beauty, dignity and decorum in the service of God.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The obvious point of contact between
the lesson and the child is the child's experience of synagogue
worship, an experience which it is the duty of every Jewish school
to provide. Begin the lesson by calling attention to the fact that
Jews everywhere gather together on Sabbaths and holidays and even
on week days to pray to God in houses called synagogues set aside
for that purpose. Then question the children as to the appearance of
the synagogue that they attend, particularly as to how it differs
from other buildings designed to hold large numbers of people,
so as to interest them in the distinctive features of synagogue
architecture and adornment, such as the Ark, the Reading Desk and
the Perpetual Lamp. The children's answers may call attention to
certain features peculiar to their own synagogue which they imagine
to be characteristic of synagogues in general. Their errors can
be corrected in an interesting way by showing them pictures of a
variety of synagogues in different lands and different architectural

This done, call attention to the fact that our fathers in the
wilderness needed a house of worship just as much as we do and
therefore when Moses was on the mountain speaking to God, God said
to him, "Let the children of Israel make me a sanctuary that I may
dwell among them." Explain the word "sanctuary" as meaning a holy
place, "like our synagogues." "But how" you continue, "were the
children of Israel to build a house of worship in the wilderness
when they were wandering from place to place and the pillar of cloud
might any day move on and they would have to follow? They could not
take with them on the march a building of wood and stone and they
could not build a new one at every place where they stopped for a
few days. But God gave Moses the idea of a sanctuary that suited
their purpose admirably, because they could take it with them. Have
you any idea what sort of a building that was that they could carry
with them wherever they went?" If there is no response, continue.
"When an army is on the march, the soldiers cannot build houses
over night for themselves to sleep in; what have they for shelter?"
(The children will probably know that soldiers encamped live in
tents.) "Well, the children of Israel when they were wandering in
the wilderness had to live in tents and in huts that they could
take apart and put together again and carry with them from place to
place, and so their sanctuary had also to be a sort of tent that
they could take apart and put together again. But it was not an
ordinary tent. Its curtains were made of the finest cloths, with
beautiful colored designs woven on them by the most famous artists
of the day. The wood that was used for the poles on which the
curtains rested was the very finest wood that could be obtained, and
everything that was in the tabernacle was to be as beautiful as the
hand of man could make it."

Dwell on the enthusiasm with which the Israelites responded to the
call for the material and labor needed in the construction of the
tabernacle, and on the praise that the Bible bestows on its artists,
Bezalel and Aholiab, whom God filled "with the spirit of God in
wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all manner of
workmanship". (Exodus 35. 31.)

After this general introduction, it is well for the teacher to show
a picture of the tabernacle to help the class visualize it.[14] But
this will show only the exterior. Draw on the blackboard the plan
of the tabernacle showing not only the division into fore-court,
sanctuary and holy of holies, but also the location of the brass
altar, the laver, the altar of incense, the table of show-bread, the
menorah, and the ark of the covenant.

  [14] Good illustrations of the tabernacle and its appointments, as
  also of the priestly garments, are to be found among Tissot's Bible

Then proceed: "I have shown you a picture of the outside of the
tabernacle, now let us walk in here where the curtains are drawn
aside to admit us. We find ourselves in a large open court. It is
not at all like the synagogues we are used to. It has walls to be
sure, but they are of curtains, and as for a ceiling it has none
at all, except the blue sky above. Nor are there any seats, but
everybody stands during the service, which consists for the most
part of the sacrifice of an animal on the altar, accompanied by the
playing of musical instruments, and the singing of hymns by the
Levites,[15] (men of the tribe of Levi) to whom the care of the
sanctuary was entrusted. After the sacrifice, which is performed
by Aaron or one of his sons, the _cohanim_ or priests bless the
congregation with outstretched hands in words which are still part
of the service and which your parents say when they bless you on
Sabbath and holidays, 'The Lord bless thee and keep thee, the Lord
make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee, the Lord
lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace,' (Numbers 6.
22-27.) But this part of the tabernacle is not the holy part called
the sanctuary or holy place. Into this holy place which is separated
from the outer court by curtained walls, and which had a sort of
roof, not of wood, but of ram's skins dyed red and of badger skins,
only the priests, who are themselves holy, because their whole life
is given up to the service of God, may come. But we know from what
the Bible tells us exactly what it contained." Then describe the
furnishings of the sanctuary and continue. "The most holy part of
all, however, only Aaron, or, after his death, the chief priest
of his time, called high priest, was permitted to enter, and that
only once a year on the great Day of Atonement, or else when God
would call him. And the Holy of Holies, as it was called, contained
nothing but a beautiful ark or box, of which I shall show you
a picture, and in this beautiful gold covered, and artistically
decorated ark there were placed the two tables of stone that God had
given Moses, with the ten commandments engraved on them."

  [15] There is no direct evidence of this being part of the worship
  of the tabernacle, but we know it to have been part of the Temple
  worship and as hymns are common in ancient rituals our statement is
  probably correct.

Do not depend too much on description which easily grows tiresome,
but show pictures of all the important objects in the sanctuary and
of the priestly garments.

In the discussion which follows the presentation of the lesson,
again associate the tabernacle with the synagogue, this time
emphasizing points of similarity rather than of difference. Thus the
position of the _sefer torah_ in the _aron_ which occupies the most
conspicuous place in the synagogue is analogous to the position of
the Tables of the Law in the ark in the tabernacle. Similarly the
_ner tamid_ is the analogue of the _menorah_, etc.

But just as the presentation of the lesson was not merely by the
spoken word, so the reproduction of it should not be in words only,
but the class should be encouraged to draw pictures of the sanctuary
and its objects, and the best drawings should be hung about the
room. In this way the impulse to bring art into the service of
religion may at once be utilized by enabling the children to employ
art in embellishing the religious school which should also be made
to appeal to them as a _miḳdash me'aṭ_ "a minor sanctuary."



Leviticus 10.1-7. Numbers 9.15-23, also 11.1 to 12.16

=Interpretation.= We have grouped in this chapter a number of
episodes in the wandering of the children of Israel, because any
one of them is too small to occupy a single lesson and because
all deal with the same general theme, though with significant
variations--rebellion and its punishment.

With regard to the episode of the death of Nadab and Abihu, recorded
in Leviticus 10. 1 to 3, the Bible describes their offense as the
bringing of "strange fire" into the sanctuary. This offense in
itself seems disproportionate to the punishment, consequently, the
rabbis in commenting on the passage try, on the one hand, to ascribe
the punishment of the sons of Aaron to sins not expressly recorded
in the text, as for instance the sin of being intoxicated during the
service, which they derived from the fact that the prohibition of
drinking before the performance of a sacrifice immediately follows
the narrative of this incident, or, on the other, to regard Nadab
and Abihu as martyrs, who died by the divine decree to exhibit the
sanctity of the tabernacle and its ritual without really having
incurred the divine displeasure. This interpretation is based on
Leviticus 10. 3, "Then Moses said unto Aaron, 'This is it that the
Lord spoke, saying: 'Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be
sanctified and before all the people I will be glorified,'' And
Aaron held his peace." To be sure this verse may be construed to
mean that Nadab and Abihu had been punished for their failure to
sanctify God, but in view of the fact that the Hebrew term for
martyrdom is "_ḳiddush ha-shem_" "the sanctification of God's name"
and in view of the fact, furthermore, that it would be expected of
Moses under the circumstances to say something consoling to Aaron,
who was himself innocent, rather than to emphasize the wickedness of
his sons this view of the incident must not be lightly dismissed.
In fact, the simple reading of the text suggests a combination of
these two interpretations. In taking "strange fire", i.e., fire
that had not been taken from the divinely kindled flame on the
altar (Leviticus 9. 24.), Nadab and Abihu had abused their priestly
prerogative, making themselves the masters of the ritual of the
sanctuary instead of its servants. But such a ritual transgression
might have been forgiven were it not for the importance of the
occasion, the consecration of the tabernacle, and for the dignity of
their office which demanded that they be exceptionally circumspect
in their conduct. Their punishment was, therefore, more severe
than the offense would warrant in the case of any other than a
consecrated person. Its severity was in proportion to the holiness
of the sanctuary that had been violated and of the priestly office
that had been profaned rather than to the heinousness of the offense
in itself, and it expressed God's desire to impress upon the people
the sanctity of the tabernacle and its ritual. In dealing with Nadab
and Abihu God was acting in accordance with the rabbinic statement
to the effect that "with the righteous God is exacting even to a
hair's breadth," and the rabbis could, therefore, view the death of
the Sons of Aaron somewhat in the light of martyrdom.

The remaining incidents, with the exception of the prophesying of
Eldad and Medad are, as we have already said, examples of rebellion
and its punishment. They are interesting instances of the trials of
Moses in his leadership of the people. Their moral is the duty of
loyalty to legitimate authority. The punishment of the people at
Kibroth-hattaavah is an excellent example of how inordinate desire
brings its own punishment, and suggests, as one of the grounds
for loyalty, submission and discipline, the fact that what we
most desire is not always what is most beneficial for us, a very
important moral for children.

The sin of Miriam is described by the Rabbis as _lashon ha-ra_'
"slander," Its lesson is that it is wrong not merely to rebel
against righteous leadership, but even to detract from the honor
that is due to noble characters. The charge that Aaron and Miriam
brought against Moses was not the charge of any moral offense
or offense against the Law, for the Torah expressly prohibits
intermarriage only with the people of Canaan, the construction of
the law to make it applicable to all intermarriage only dating from
about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. According to a Jewish tradition
the Cushite woman whom Moses had married is identical with Zipporah,
the daughter of Jethro. This would, of course, be untenable if
Cush necessarily meant Ethiopia, as it is usually rendered, but
it is generally thought that there was an Arabian Cush as well,
in which case the identification is possible. Miriam's resentment
was, therefore, not on religious grounds. The incident is probably
recorded in the Bible because of the opportunity it gives of
revealing the patient and forgiving character of Moses.

The same is illustrated even more strikingly by Moses' reply to his
overzealous disciple Joshua, when he was told that Eldad and Medad
had been prophesying in the camp. His only reply is "Would that
all the Lord's people were prophets". Inasmuch as prophecy was a
gift bestowed upon the council of seventy elders (Numbers 11. 25),
whom Moses had been commanded to appoint, the fact that Eldad and
Medad, who were not among the seventy, nevertheless "prophesied"
might very well have been construed as indicating a presumptuous and
rebellious attitude. According to a tradition which has considerable
support from Numbers 11. 26, the number of men originally chosen
were seventy-two, six from each tribe, but of these two were to be
eliminated by lot and Eldad and Medad, rather than put anyone else
to possible embarrassment, refused to go to the tabernacle when
the lot was taken. This much of the _haggadah_ is at least implied
in the verse, that Eldad and Medad had originally been designated
for this assembly of elders for they were _ba-ketubim_ among those
"recorded" but did not join the rest, for they had not gone out
"unto the Tent and they prophesied in the camp." If we assume that
their not going to the tabernacle was a voluntary refusal to hold
office their conduct stands in striking contrast to the conduct of
Korah and his followers.

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to teach children the duty of
obedience, discipline and self-control. The contrast between the
attitude of Nadab and Abihu and that of Moses points out the
desirability of a humble and modest attitude, especially on the
part of those in authority, whereas the punishment of the rebellion
of the people at Taberah and Kibroth-hattaavah and of Miriam for her
unjust criticism of Moses teach the need of submission to righteous
authority and loyalty to disinterested leadership.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= A brief review, by question and
answer, of the previous lesson, will serve as a point of contact
for the story of the sin of the sons of Aaron. Tell how, after
the tabernacle had been completed, there was a great celebration
continuing for eight days, during which time Moses taught Aaron and
his sons, who, as priests, were to perform the sacrifices for the
people and in general to lead in the service, exactly what they were
to do, when, where and how to kill the animals that were sacrificed,
how to make the incense that had to be burnt, how to arrange the
shew-bread and prepare the cakes of the meal-offering, etc. On the
eighth day God himself, with fire from heaven, lit the wood that
had been piled on the altar and thus started the fire there, which
the priests were commanded never to let die out, but always to keep
burning. Be careful to impress the children with the sinfulness of
Nadab and Abihu's conduct, which the bare narrative of the facts
as recorded in the Bible will not accomplish. This can be done by
suggesting something of the solemnity of the occasion and of the
frivolity of their attitude in this wise:

"Now Aaron and two of his sons, Eliezer and Ithamar, listened very
attentively to all the instructions they had received from Moses
and were determined to carry them out exactly. They felt that as
priests, chosen from among all the people to lead in the worship
of God, it was for them to set an example of faithful obedience to
all He said, the small things as well as the great. But the two
other sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, felt differently. They, too,
were proud of their new office as priests, but instead of feeling
that they must lead the people in obedience to God's laws as taught
by Moses, they felt that they as priests could do as they pleased
with the service and did not have to follow the directions of Moses.
So when they were told to burn the incense with fire lit at the
flame of the altar that God had kindled, they said to themselves,
'What difference whether we burn the incense with this holy fire
or with any other', so they took 'strange fire', that is fire that
they themselves had kindled, and brought it into the sanctuary to
show that they as priests could perform the service in whatever way
they pleased. At this God was very angry. Had an ordinary Israelite
disobeyed in some small particular it would not have been as great
an offense, but Nadab and Abihu were priests whom God expected to
lead the people in obedience and who now had set an example of
disobedience on the very day of the dedication of the tabernacle
to God's service. It was just as if a teacher had left her class
for a time in charge of a monitor whom she trusted, and then found
out later that this monitor had himself disobeyed her and had set
an example of disobedience to the class in her absence. Do you not
think the teacher would be more angry at her monitor than if he
had never been appointed to that office? That is why God was now
so angry at Nadab and Abihu and resolved that as they had set an
example of rebellion and disobedience He would make their punishment
an example so that others should be duly warned not to do as they
had done." Then follows the story of the death of Nadab and Abihu.
Do not fail to dwell on Aaron's resignation in recognition of God's

In discussing the incident that gave its name to Kibroth-hattaavah
it is well to give other examples to show that what we most desire
is not always best for us and to have the children give examples, as
this is a moral of particular importance to childhood, suggesting
as it does a reason for that deference to elders upon which the
training of children is dependent. The case of the glutton who
craves foods that are not good for him, of the drunkard who craves
drink that proves his ruin, of the child who prefers truancy or the
pursuits of pleasure to diligence in study, etc., may all serve as
examples of sins, the very indulgence in which effects their own
punishment. But dwell particularly on the fact of the child's not
knowing what is for his own good as well as his parents know, and
the consequent duty of the child to defer to their judgment.

The narrative of Moses' relations to Eldad and Medad presents no
difficulty. In telling Miriam's sin and punishment the emphasis
should be rather on the forgiving and magnanimous spirit of Moses
than on the pettiness of Miriam's attitude. Point out how hurt
Moses must have felt at Miriam's unjust accusation, which implied
that Moses was trying to arrogate authority to himself but how,
nevertheless, he felt no satisfaction when God punished Miriam but
prayed that she be healed and forgiven. God's vindication of Moses
(Numbers 12. 6-8) should be quoted in Biblical language.



Numbers 13.1 to 14.45. Deuteronomy 1.20-46

=Interpretation.= Little need be said by way of interpretation
of this episode, as the Biblical narrative makes its point very
clear. It shows us the consequences of a lack of faith and of a
lack of that courage which faith inspires. As a substitute for this
courage born of faith, not even the fury of despair can avail. This
is illustrated by the disastrous defeat of the Israelites when,
spurred on by their fear of facing the punishment for their previous
cowardice, they finally do rush to the attack contrary to the advice
of Moses, leaving the ark of the covenant behind them. The story
is, moreover, significant as showing the providential purpose of
the forty years of wandering through the wilderness--namely, the
rearing of a new generation inured to hardship and imbued with the
hope of future triumph. The faults of this slave people that needed
correction are graphically illustrated in the picture the Bible
draws of the reception with which the words of the ten spies and
of Joshua and Caleb respectively met: the panic and rebellion, the
ineffectual wailing, the clamor for a new leader to lead them back
to Egypt and the threats to stone their present leaders. The sublime
devotion of Moses is again pictured to us in his pleas for the
people and his refusal of a glorious future for himself and his seed
in which Israel should have no share.

=Aim.= The aim in teaching this lesson is to thrill the child's
heart with admiration for the virtues of faith and courage. It
should help to establish in his mind the association of his religion
with all the heroic virtues that are dear to the heart of boyhood.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= Before telling this story, read over
the Biblical account in Numbers and Deuteronomy carefully in order
to get the spirit of the Biblical narrative. The Bible does not
stop to moralize, but tells its tale graphically and dramatically,
and so should the teacher. The words of the ten spies on the one
hand, and of Joshuah and Caleb on the other, should be given in
direct discourse and in Biblical language. Attempt to help the child
picture in his mind the scene in the camp when the spies returned
and rendered their report. Aid him to realize the psychology of
the people by bringing to his attention what it meant for them, a
people untrained in warfare, to fight against the Canaanites, secure
in their fortified cities. It will be more difficult to enable the
pupils to grasp the motive for the rash assault which the people
did finally undertake. This one must do by bringing before their
eyes pictures of the hardships of the prospective wanderings of the
Israelites in the wilderness, which made them unable to face further
wandering as an alternative to a possible defeat by the Canaanites.
Try to make the class view the situation through the eyes of the
Israelites at that time. This can be done by speaking to them
somewhat as follows:

"When Moses had told the people that they would be punished by
having to wander forty years in the wilderness until all of them had
died and a new generation had grown up to take their places, they
were more terrified than ever. Frightened as they had been at the
thought of making war against the giant Canaanites in their walled
cities, they were even more frightened at the thought of having to
wander forty long years more in the wilderness, all the rest of
their lives in fact, and never even seeing the land which God had
promised to their fathers where, all this time, they had thought
that they would at least find rest from their hardships and toils.
They thought of all they had endured until then on the journey. The
scorching heat of the desert sun by day, the biting cold of the
desert winds by night, the hunger and the thirst, the long marches
over treeless rocky hills and valleys. But all that time they had
been cheered by the thought that some day the end would come and
they would be able to find rest in their new land, the Land of
Promise. But even this hope was now taken away from them and they
felt that anything would be better than to wander in the wilderness
until they died. Even to be killed in fighting the Canaanites seemed
better now. So they said, 'Lo, we are here and will go up unto the
place which the Lord hath promised; for we have sinned'."

It may also prove difficult to help the child understand why this
change of front was not acceptable to God. The child does not
naturally analyze motive and would not see, unless it is called
to his attention, why, since as a matter of fact the Israelites
did go up to attack the enemy, they were punished by being driven
back. This can best be done by suggesting analogies with situations
within the range of a child's experience. One may in discussing
this topic, after having completed one's narrative, raise this very
question. "Why did God say he would not be with them if they went
up to attack the enemy after they had changed their mind?" and, not
receiving a satisfactory answer, one may explain in some such manner:

"If the Israelites had decided to attack the enemy immediately when
they had heard Joshua's and Caleb's words, God would have been with
them and helped them to win the victory. But, at that time, when God
wanted them to go they were unwilling. They did not believe that He
would help them. Later when they wanted to go, because they were
afraid to wander forty years in the wilderness, it was too late. God
was not then willing. The time to obey a command is when it is given
and not after one is threatened with punishment for disobedience. If
a teacher were to give a boy some school work to do and he refused,
until she told him to stay in after school to do it and only then he
agreed to do the work rather than stay in, do you think the teacher
would be satisfied with that? No, she would say justly, 'You had
your chance to obey when the other children had, now if you are
sorry show it by taking the punishment you deserve'."



Numbers 16.1 to 17.26, also 20.1 to 13 and 21.5 to 9

=Interpretation.= The central idea that runs through all the
important episodes of these chapters is the immensity of the problem
of leadership that confronted Moses, and the contrast between the
selfish and fickle passions of the people, passions that were
constantly menacing the very existence of Israel, and the sublime
patience and constancy of Moses, although on one occasion his sorely
tried patience can stand the strain no longer and he commits the sin
by which he forfeits his right to enter the Promised Land.

The difficulties against which Moses had to contend before the event
narrated in the preceding lesson, were multiplied after that event.
If the people before that time had been restive and discontented
whenever confronted with a difficulty, though they could always
console themselves by looking forward to their journey's end in
the Land of Promise, it was but natural that thereafter their
dissatisfaction would be greatly intensified. They had threatened
to appoint another head to lead them back to Egypt, and though
at the time this may have been nothing but an idle threat, the
opposition to Moses soon found a leader in the person of Korah,
the son of Izhar. Though he was himself a Levite, he coveted the
higher office of the priesthood to which Aaron and his family had
been appointed, but, with the instinct of the true demagogue,
posed as the champion of the people against the arbitrary authority
of the Levitical priesthood, and of Moses in appointing Aaron and
his sons as priests. He said to Moses and Aaron, "Ye take too much
upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them
and the Lord is among them; wherefore then do ye lift up yourselves
above the assembly of the Lord "? (Numbers 16. 3.) Moses' reply to
Korah shows that he saw through this pretentious championship of
the people to the envy and ambition of Korah, which were his real
motives. "Hear now, ye sons of Levi; is it but a small thing unto
you that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation
of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the
tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to
minister unto them; and that He hath brought thee near, and all thy
brethren the sons of Levi with thee? and will ye seek the priesthood
also? Therefore thou and all thy company that are gathered together
against the Lord--and as to Aaron, what is he that ye murmur against
him?" (Numbers 16. 8 to 11.) But Korah's championship of the claims
of all Israel to the priesthood won him a large following among the
other tribes, particularly among their ambitious leaders. Dathan and
Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, all of the tribe
of Reuben, are his particular henchmen, and he had also succeeded
in winning over to his cause two hundred and fifty of "the princes
of the congregation, the elect men of the assembly, men of renown."
The sedition had spread so far that nothing could have prevented the
reversion to a complete state of anarchy, save the destruction of
all those that took part, in a way so striking that it would reveal
clearly the divine purpose. This was provided for by the ordeal that
is narrated in the text. But the disaffection had spread so far that
many of the people resented the death of Korah and his followers and
were inclined to hold Moses responsible for it, until the miracle
of the blossoming of Aaron's staff convinced them. It is necessary
for the student of the Bible to understand the extent and purport of
Korah's rebellion lest he conceive of the punishment of Korah and
his followers as visited upon them merely because of an offense of
"lèse majesté", and, consequently, as utterly disproportionate to
the offense.

The narrative of the sin of Moses and Aaron for which they were
prohibited from entering the Promised Land does not make very clear
to the modern reader precisely what the Bible views as constituting
their sin. One possible interpretation, however, is that Moses by
his words, "Hear now, ye rebels, are we to bring you forth water out
of this rock?" (Numbers 20. 10) which were followed by his striking
the rock and his failure to speak to it as God had commanded
prevented the providential character of the water's flowing from
being apparent. The incident might have been interpreted by the
popular mind as if Moses, by the magic of his staff, had himself
caused the water to flow, as is suggested by his use of the first
person, "Are we to bring you forth water," and by his failure
to comply literally with God's command. He, thus permitted an
opportunity of sanctifying God's name to pass by yielding to passion
and thinking at the time of his personal grievance more than of his
service to God. Inasmuch as this partook of the nature of the sins
of that generation of Israel, he and Aaron were to take their share
also in the punishment of Israel and were not to enter the Promised

The thought suggested by the punishment of Nadab and Abihu recurs
again in this connection, viz: that the greater the man and his
responsibilities, the more circumspect must he be in his conduct.

The incident of the brass serpent must be interpreted in the light
of the rabbinic comment on that subject to which we have called
attention in connection with the holding up of Moses' hands during
the battle with the Amalekites.

"Is it then in the power of a serpent to slay or to bring to life?
But so long as the Israelites gazed heavenward and subjected their
hearts to their Father in heaven they were healed, and, if not,
they were destroyed." (Rosh ha-Shanah III, 8.) By looking up to the
brass serpent that Moses had been instructed to make, the people
testified, as it were, to their faith in God's power to heal them
from the serpent's bites. It is interesting to note that when, at a
later time in the history of the people the serpent itself became
the object of reverence and of idolatrous worship, it was destroyed
by order of King Hezekiah, in accordance with the teaching of the
prophets (2 Kings 18. 4).

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson is to develop an appreciation
of disinterested loyalty, steadfast faith and even temper,
and a contempt for selfish ambition, uncontrolled passion and

=Suggestions to the teacher.= The method to be used in accomplishing
this aim is not that of drawing an abstract moral from the events
of the narrative, but one must tell one's story with feeling for
its hero, Moses, in such a way that the pupil identifies himself
with his hero and feels toward the enemies of Moses an almost
personal hostility. Before the child reaches adolescence, analysis
of character is not natural to him, and the discussion of men's
virtues and vices fruitless, but imitation of character is natural,
and hero-worship is the lever by which he may be moved to acquire a
love for virtue and a disgust with vice.

In order to put the character of Moses in a heroic light make the
class appreciate the depth of the ingratitude and treachery against
which Moses had constantly to contend, and how difficult this made
his task of leadership. Begin by calling on a child to tell the
story of the preceding lesson. Then call attention to how sad Moses
must have felt when after all he had done for the people they were
ready in the face of every difficulty to disobey and rebel, and how
much Moses must have loved and pitied them to have prayed to God for
their forgiveness rather than simply accept from God the promise
of a happy future for himself and his descendants. Call attention
to the fact that this was not the first time that the people had
disobeyed Moses and rebelled or murmured against him, and ask the
children to tell other instances. Draw from them as many instances
as possible since this not only helps in an interesting way to
refresh the children's memory of what they had already learnt, but
also to understand what is to follow. Then continue:

"Just as the murmuring of the people against Moses, when they heard
the report of the ten spies was not the first instance of their
rebellion against their patient leader, so it was not the last. In
fact, it became harder for Moses to lead the people now than ever."

The reason for this can best be explained by an analogy drawn from
the experience of children, as for example:

"You know that when a baseball team wins one game after the other
everybody praises the captain and all the members of the team are
ready to obey him, but if he loses one game after the other, they
all begin to criticise and find fault and everybody feels that he
himself would have made a better captain than the one who had been
chosen, although it may not at all have been the captain's fault
that the team was unsuccessful. So it was with the Israelites. So
long as they still hoped that Moses was going to lead them to a
land flowing with milk and honey, they were ready in the main to
obey him, except when they were afraid on account of some special
hardship and feared that he would never get them there after all;
but when Moses himself told them that they would have to wander
about for forty years in the wilderness until all the grown men
of that day should have died, they were very bitter against him.
Instead of blaming themselves, and their own cowardice and lack of
faith in God, they blamed Moses, like the losing team that blames
its captain instead of its own poor playing. And so they thought of
appointing a new captain, another man than Moses, to act as their

At this point introduce the character of Korah to the class and tell
them of his envy of Moses, of his coveting the position of Aaron,
and of his subtle attempts to secure the leadership by telling the
people that they were all everyone as good as Moses and Aaron, for
they were all members of a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation."

After describing success of Korah's propaganda, and pointing out
the helplessness of Moses and the extreme danger of his position,
tell of Moses' decision to entrust his vindication to God. If Korah
and his followers wished to claim the priesthood, let them act as
priests, each burning incense in the censer that he held in his
hand, and God would show whether he wanted to accept them as priests
or not.

The judgment that was pronounced upon Korah and his followers will
then mean for the child the just punishment of disloyalty and will
reinforce his detestation of the qualities displayed by Korah and
his like, but if the teacher fails to prepare the way by enlisting
the child's interest in the situation as it developed between Moses
and the people, by some such method as we have suggested, the story
will mean little more to him than the account of an earthquake.
From the point of view of religious education, a knowledge of the
manner of Korah's punishment is not of so much consequence as an
understanding of the sin for which he was punished.

In telling the story of the sin of Moses and Aaron, guard against
appearing to detract from the character of Moses. If the previous
lessons have been properly taught the child should by this time have
developed an intense admiration for Moses and would be inclined to
resent any disparagement of his hero, even to the point of secretly
feeling that the sin of Moses was no real sin and that his teacher's
treatment of him was quite unfair and was merely an attempt to
apologize for God's not letting him enter Canaan. The rabbis say
that the reason for God's mentioning the sin of Nadab and Abihu
was to keep us from inferring that their death was a punishment
for other and more grievous sins. One cannot help feeling that
the narrative of the sin of Moses had a similar purpose, the very
fact that Moses was so severely punished for so apparently slight
an offense, being meant to show the esteem in which he was held and
how much God expected of him, in consequence. At any rate, this
is the spirit in which it were best to approach this subject. The
emphasis should be on the provocation to sin and on Moses' pious
acceptance of his punishment and his readiness to continue leading
the people to the Promised Land even after he could not expect to
share in their final triumph. The liturgy for Simhath Torah contains
the words, "Moses died. Who shall not die?" The sentiment that the
teacher should seek to arouse by this lesson is somewhat similar.
"Moses sinned, who can be sinless?" If Moses, who is described as
the meekest of men, could sin in a moment of passion, how much more
should we guard ourselves against sin and especially when under the
influence of passion.

In telling of how the people who had been bitten by the serpents
were healed when they looked up to the brass serpent that Moses
had made, guard against letting the child attribute any magic to
the image of the serpent itself. This can best be done by telling
them the explanation of this episode suggested above in our
interpretation. One might also associate the incident with what they
had learnt of the influence of the hands of Moses in the battle with
the Amalekites. Moreover, it might be well to tell them of how the
people's false conception of its significance in later times led to
its destruction by a pious king of Judah.



Numbers 21.1 to 3 and 21 to 35, also 22.1 to 24.25, also 31.1 to 54
and 32.1 to 42

=Interpretation.= The wandering through the wilderness, which
in this chapter draws to a close, has had its desired effect in
producing a race capable of giving battle. Its powers are put to the
test by the necessity of pushing its conquests through the territory
of Sihon, King of the Amorites, and of Og, King of Bashan.

The command to conquer these nations and the Promised Land itself
may present religious difficulties to some. Indeed, such wars of
conquest are responsible for the charge frequently brought against
religion in general, that it brought bloodshed and persecution into
the world. This would, however, be an entirely wrong conception
of the significance of this _milḥemet miẓwah_. We must bear in mind
that warfare was the normal state of the ancient world. If we ask
why God so ordained, we can give no answer any more than we can
to the general question of why God suffers evil to exist and then
desires man to contend against it. But no religious person really
believes that God desires the evil. Similarly we must not construe
these chapters to assume that God desires or ever desired war but
merely that, warfare between the nations being inevitable in an
age when there were no peaceful methods of settling national and
tribal disputes, God desired Israel to be victorious because her
civilization was superior to that of Canaan. Even the command to
exterminate the inhabitants must be construed in the light of the
fact that otherwise the only alternative was perpetual warfare
between the races on the land or an assimilation of Israel to the
native races with the loss of the hope that Israel's victory held
out to the world. Again and again are we told in the Torah that the
sole justification for Israel's conquest is the sinfulness of the
nations of Canaan, and that Israel's sinfulness would subject it
to the same treatment as was meted out to the Canaanites. In the
very chapters that we are considering now it is to be noted that
the command to conquer the land applied originally only to Canaan,
to which the people laid claim by virtue of inheritance from the
patriarchs who had dwelt there, and that, therefore, all that was
originally demanded of the trans-Jordanic lands is the right to pass
through without doing any injury in transit. It is only when this is
definitely refused that the Israelites are permitted to resort to

The story of Balaam and Balak is significant as a poetic expression
of the invincibility of Israel. Balaam is sent for by Balak to curse
Israel because of the reputation that this heathen prophet and
sorcerer enjoyed. Though tempted by the bribes offered by Balak he
knows that God will not suffer him to pronounce an effective curse
upon Israel and at first refuses to go. He is, however, finally
permitted to go, after due warning, both before he sets out and
again when the angel opposes him on the way, not to speak anything
save what God puts into his mouth. The final result is that he
blesses Israel and curses Moab.

The reader should not be troubled by the apparent admission that a magic
power attaches to a formula of curse or blessing, as the point of the
story is not to teach that curses are or are not effective, but that,
whether they are or not בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל קֶסֶם וְלֹא בְּיַעֲקֹב נַחַשׁ  לֹא which, though
usually translated otherwise, may fittingly be rendered, "There is no
enchantment against Jacob and no divination against Israel." (Numbers
23.23.) In rabbinic tradition the story of Balaam's dialogue with his
ass is the classical text for the preaching of humane treatment to
animals. It is still capable of yielding that moral.

The incident of the oath taken by the tribes of Reuben, Gad and
Manasseh has a very obvious moral in its insistance on Jewish
unity and cooperation. "We will not return unto our houses until
the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance".
(Numbers 32. 18.) The fear of Moses that the premature settlement
of the trans-Jordanic tribes might lead to division in Israel
was certainly well-founded in view of subsequent events when the
development of local tribal jurisdictions almost threatened the
existence of the nation in the days of the Judges.

=Aim.= To strengthen the child's faith in God's choice of Israel.

=Suggestions to the teacher.= In telling of the wars of Israel all
harrowing details would naturally be omitted and the emphasis put
not on the fight, but on the victory which Israel won by the help
of God. A good point of contact for beginning the story could be
obtained by recalling the narrative of the report of the ten spies
and of the punishment to which Israel was sentenced by reason of its
acceptance of this report.

Then show how God's punishment was adapted to the offense in that
it gave Israel the opportunity to rear a generation of brave men
in the free atmosphere of the wilderness. Be sure that the child
understands the advantage of the training in the wilderness for the
new generation, over the experience of their fathers in Egypt. It
will not suffice to state the thing abstractly, but make your point
clear by repeated illustration as follows:

"Many years had now passed since the children of Israel had sent
the ten spies and had been told that they could not enter the
Promised Land until all the full grown men of that day should have
died. During these years almost all of that generation who had been
afraid to go up into the land had died and their sons and daughters,
who, at that time, had been children, or had not yet even been
born, had now grown up to manhood. And they were a very different
generation from what their fathers had been. In the first place they
were different in appearance. Their fathers, who in youth had been
slaves to Pharaoh, had grown up with backs bent by the burdens they
had to carry. Many of them had been permanently weakened and even
deformed by the hard treatment they had received in Egypt. But their
children, who had grown up in the wilderness and had lived all their
lives out of doors, with plenty of fresh air and healthful exercise,
and with no one to make them work at labor that was too hard for
them, grew up straight and sturdy, broad-shouldered and muscular,
like well-trained athletes. They were as different in appearance as
a poor peddler whom you may see carrying his pack on his shoulders
is from the strong and vigorous farm hand.

"Nor did they differ in appearance only, but also in character.
Slavery had made cowards of their fathers. The slightest act of
disobedience to the task-masters bringing instant punishment, they
had learned to fear every enemy. No doubt their fathers had been
warned in childhood never to attack an Egyptian no matter what he
did, because they would in the end have to suffer for it. And so
their fathers had become accustomed to thinking of themselves as too
weak to fight and when they saw the Canaanite warriors they said,
'We are like grasshoppers compared to them.' But their sons who had
grown up in the wilderness did not know the meaning of fear. They
were used to hardship and dangers, for the wilderness was beset by
all manner of wild beasts and wild men also, and this had trained
them to be brave. Moreover they saw from childhood up how God at
every step helped His people, how He helped them at the Red Sea, how
He fed them on Manna, etc., and they said to themselves, 'Since God
is with us, we need not fear, what can man do unto us.'"

You are now in a position to tell of the campaigns against Sihon
and Og, stressing the overtures of peace, the rejection of which
justified the invasion, and enlarging on the Israelites' sense of
triumph which resulted from their victories, in which they saw the
beginning of the realization of God's promise to give them the land
of Canaan.

This is a good point in the narrative at which to trace the route of
Israel's marches through the wilderness and to locate the important
places on the map.

In telling the story of Balak and Balaam be careful not to leave
the child with a superstitious belief in the efficacy of a curse,
not only because superstition is in itself evil, but because the
association of religion with superstition becomes very dangerous to
the former when the child reaches an age at which he will in all
probability see the unreasonableness of the superstition. Make it
plain that Balak's sending for Balaam to curse Israel does not mean
that Balaam actually possessed this power, but merely that Balak
believed him to possess it in accordance with the superstition of
his day. The point of the narrative should lie in the discomfiture
of Balak, which teaches that when God is bent on blessing, no human
being can effectively curse, and that God had destined Israel for
blessing. Do not make this explanation as a digression from the
story, but weave it into the narrative itself by suggestion as

"Now Balak, the king of Moab, had heard that there lived in
Mesopotamia, a famous sorcerer named Balaam, and that whomever this
Balaam blessed would be sure to have good luck, and whomever he
cursed, bad luck, and, being very superstitious, as were most of the
people in his day, he believed that Balaam really had this power,
and so he sent presents to him to persuade him to come to Moab and
curse Israel for him so that the Israelites should be defeated in

Do not attempt to rationalize the miracle of the ass's speaking to
Balaam. If the child wants to know how it was possible for the ass
to speak, answer that it is no harder for God to give an animal
power to speak than a man. No baby is born with the ability to
speak and we only learn to speak when God gives us the power and
intelligence. By answering the question in this manner one attaches
to the commonplace the mystery associated with the supernatural. By
attempting to rationalize, one would reduce everything to the level
of the commonplace. At a later age, when the pupil has developed a
concept of natural law, this answer may not prove satisfactory, but
it would be absurd to attempt a philosophic reconciliation of the
natural and supernatural for children at an age when they lack the
concept of either.



Numbers 27.12 to 23. Deuteronomy 31.14 to 34.12

=Interpretation.= The Biblical account of the death of Moses in its
impressive simplicity scarcely needs comment. It brings to a fitting
end the story of the life-struggle of the greatest of the prophets.
There is an infinite pathos in the thought of his never having set
foot on the soil toward which he had been leading his people for
forty years in the face of ingratitude, calumny and rebellion. But
there is also a peculiar fitness in this fate for it lifts all his
efforts in behalf of his people beyond the reach of any detraction
based on a charge of self-interest. After he knows his destiny never
to be permitted to enter the Promised Land, he continues with the
same steadfastness to devote himself to his people. He rehearses
their history and in words of passionate appeal admonishes them in
song and prophecy to be faithful to the covenant, as the very life
of the nation depended thereon. And he provides during his lifetime
for a successor to his labors and secures for him the popular
allegiance. Then, with his life-work completed but with all earthly
reward for it withheld, he ascends the mountain to behold the Land
of Promise and dies content with seeing in prophetic vision the
consummation which a less divinely meek man would have demanded to
see in realization. "No man knoweth of his sepulcher". As in life
he was content to live for God and to give God the glory, so in
his death he left no token which might attract to him the reverence
due to the God whom he served, thereby saving Judaism from that
man-worship to which other religions have fallen a prey by reason of
their identification of their religion with the personality of its
founder. "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that
were upon the face of the earth", (Numbers 12. 3) and, therefore,
"There hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses,
whom the Lord knew face to face; in all the signs and the wonders,
which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and
to all his servants, and to all his land; and in all the mighty
hand, and all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of
all Israel." (Deuteronomy 34. 10 to 12.)

=Aim.= The aim of this lesson should be to cultivate in the child a
reverent appreciation of the personality of Moses which would result
not merely in the attempt to emulate his virtues, but in the desire
to be faithful to his law in accordance with the sentiment expressed
in the verse, "Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance of the
congregation of Jacob." (Deuteronomy 33. 4.)

=Suggestions to the teacher.= There is comparatively little
narrative in this lesson and what there is will present no
difficulty. When telling of how Moses addressed the people before
his death, read well selected extracts from the Book of Deuteronomy.
If the class has learned in its Hebrew work the translation of the
שְׁמַע (Deuteronomy 6. 4 to 9) and וְהָיָה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ (Deuteronomy
11. 13 to 21) or if the pupils have been taught to say them at home,
include these portions among those selected and call the attention
of the children to the fact that these words which they say daily
are among the last words of Moses, which he wanted the people to
remember after his death and to teach to their children, and that
if we say them and live according to them we are carrying out the
will of the great law-giver of our nation. This should serve to
give an added meaning and value to the child's prayers and connect
the history lesson with his daily life. Other passages adapted for
reading to children are, Deuteronomy 3. 23 to 4. 10, also 4. 32-40
and 28. 1-4, 30. 15-20 and 32. 7-18.

In the discussion of the lesson with the class after its first
presentation take occasion to review the life of Moses as a means
of bringing out the salient traits of his character. Call for
instances illustrating Moses' stern sense of justice, his courage,
his modesty, his readiness to forgive, etc., and seek to get as many
examples as possible so that the result will be in effect a review
of the life of Moses. Be very careful not to make your questions
too vague. Thus it would not do merely to say, "Who can tell me an
incident in the life of Moses that shows his modesty?" inasmuch as
the abstract noun "modesty" has little meaning to the child of the
age at which this story is usually taught. It would be much better
to say, "One reason that Moses was so great was because he was
modest, that is to say, he never thought about the honor that others
owed to him as leader, or felt boastful in his heart because of all
the great things he had done, and was always ready to see the good
in others and to admit whenever he was wrong. Can any of you give
me any instance in the life of Moses to show that he did not think
himself a great man? Can you give me an example to show that he was
not anxious for honors? to show that he was ready to take the advice
of others, or to admit that he was wrong when such was the case?"
After having a sufficient number of answers illustrative of the
modesty of Moses put them down on the blackboard thus:

Moses was modest,

1. He hesitated about leading the people from Egypt.

2. He would not rebuke Eldad and Medad for prophesying.

3. He veiled his face when it shone.

4. He accepted the punishment for his sin without complaint.

Then do the same with other traits of Moses' character, until every
incident in the career of Moses is classified thus on the basis of
its moral significance. The value of this drill is that it serves at
the same time as a review not merely of the events of the life of
Moses, but of their significance, and, moreover, provides exercise
for the moral judgment of the pupils. The success of this exercise
will depend very largely on the skill of the teacher in making his
questions simple and brief and in putting them to the class in an
animated manner, such as would make them fell that to find the
correct answers was a sort of game that they were playing.

After the main incidents in the life of Moses are thus classified
on the blackboard in accordance with the traits of character
they exhibit, another helpful exercise would be to let the class
rearrange them in their chronological order and assign them to the
three periods of Moses' life,

1. His life before receiving the call to save his people,

2. His opposition to Pharaoh,

3. His leadership of the people in the wilderness.

This second classification might serve as the outline of an essay on
the life of Moses which the children might be requested to submit at
the end of the term as summarizing their year's work.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.
Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have been retained as

The cover for the eBook version of this book was created by the
transcriber and is placed in the public domain.

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