Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav


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Were there also checkpoints in ancient Israel?

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Oh, yes. Here are a few examples, just from the first few books of the Hebrew Bible:

The most obvious instance of a checkpoint was the one set up by the Gileadites to catch retreating Ephraimite soldiers, after the Ephraimites’ defeat in battle. Since Ephraimites were known to have a particular kind of lisp—pronouncing /sh/ as /s/—the Gileadites put a simple test to every man they caught:

Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. [Judges 12:6]

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Q: When did the term “Jews” come to refer to the Jewish people as opposed to “Israelites” or “Hebrews”?

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Image source: myjewishlearning.com

Answer: probably with the fall of the (northern) kingdom of Israel and the scattering of its population by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, when Judea became the sole sovereign Israelite entity.

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Which commandment was the most difficult for the Israelites to accept when they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai?

As the Book of Exodus itself suggests, it was the probably the second:

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(in Square Hebrew script: לא תעשה לך פסל וכל תמונה)

—i.e. ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness’

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How did ancient people describe the physical appearance of Hebrews?

The Ibscha Relief from the tomb of Khnumhotep II shows Semitic traders as light-brown-skinned people with tailored beards and curly black hair—in contrast with Egyptians, with longer straight hair, and a darker complexion.

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(See this and other answers to this question at Quora.com)