Torah (Book)

Symbolism in the Torah

The Torah

The Torah

Myths tell people who they are. The Book of Genesis told the Israelites who they were, where they had come from, and where they were headed as a people.  The books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy continued the myth of the Israelite people. The Book of the Leviticus does carry the myth as well but is a book of laws and regulations rather than a book of creation myth.
The Book of Genesis told the Israelite people why they were in Egypt and where they were headed as people. The Book of Exodus gave details about the captivity of the Hebrew people in the land of Egypt.
 
The Book of Exodus began with a reminder to the people that they were the descendants of Jacob’s sons. The text then went on to tell the people why they were slaves in the land of Egypt; “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, led us deal shrewdly with them. Or the will increase and, in the even of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor…The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.”

The Book of Exodus also told the people why they were no longer slaves in the land of Egypt. Beginning with the call of Moses by God, “Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters…So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt,” and ending with God being with his people in the wilderness, “For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.”

The Book of Exodus also provided the people with the narrative of the Ten Commandments and the Torah. The Book of Exodus told the people about the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.  The Book of Exodus told the people who they were, where they had come from, and where they were going as a people.

The Book of Numbers is a continuation of the Exodus narrative. The people were still wandering in the desert in this text.  While in the desert the people rebelled against God and God punished them for their actions; “…your dead bodies shall fall in this very wilderness; and all of your number, included in the census, from twenty years old and upward, who have complained against me, not one of you shall come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son if nun…And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness for forty years…I the Lord have spoken….” The Book of Numbers also provided the people with a history of war and wandering in the desert.

The Book of Deuteronomy is also a book of law; Deuteronomy translates roughly into, “second-law giving”. Unlike the Book of Leviticus, the Book of Deuteronomy contained myth about the people of Israel. The Book of Deuteronomy opened with a retelling of the narrative of Moses at Mount Horeb. The retelling of the narrative reminded the people why they were in the desert and that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was their God, their sovereign.

Most of the Book of Deuteronomy was a re-telling of the Exodus narrative, however the Book of Deuteronomy also told the people why Joshua, the son of Nun, had become their leader. The narrative of Joshua becoming the leader of the people contains symbolism of God’s sovereignty and constant presence with the people, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” The Book of Deuteronomy ended with the death of Moses.

The books of the Pentateuch told the Israelite people who they were, where they had come from and where they were headed as a people.