Koren Press’ “The Koren Tanakh of the Land of Israel – Numbers” follows its predecessors in the Biblical books Exodus, Leviticus, and Samuel as a fourth outstanding biblical commentary on the Hebrew Bible. It contains information not in other books. It has a wealth of scholarly information written in an easy-to-read and interesting – even fascinating – fashion by more than a dozen and a half academic and Modern Orthodox rabbinic scholars. The information in the book is eye and mind-opening. It is the first work in English to fuse contemporary 21st-century biblical scholarship with traditional Jewish perspectives.
The word “Tanakh” is one of the names of the Hebrew Bible. It is an acronym comprising the three parts of the Hebrew Bible: T is for Torah, The Five Books of Moses (even though the word Torah is also used to describe a single Jewish law and all the books of the Bible). N is for the books of the prophets, Nevi’im in Hebrew. K is for the third part, Writings, Ketuvim in Hebrew. This book devotes five pages to answering the question, “What is the Tanakh?” It discusses “The Tanakh and contemporary scholarship” and states it is an Orthodox Jewish perspective.
The translation of the Torah text by the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks follows the suggestion of Maimonides to his translator, who translated his Arabic “Guide for the Perplexed” to Hebrew: Do not translate literally, word for word, because what makes sense in one language often does not make sense when copied verbatim in another language. Find the intent in the original and make the translation clear by inserting it, such as Sacks’ rendering l’gulgulothum not as the obscure translation in JPS “polls,” but as military division, referring to chapter 2.
Among much else, the volume gives an extensive introduction to the book of Numbers, has a chart showing what transpired in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hittites, Edom, Greece, Rome, and other nations in the ancient world while events occurred in Israel, a very informative index of over a dozen pages, forty pages listing by subject matter books and articles readers can use to research subjects that interest them for more detailed information, colorful photographs on virtually every page, and much more.
It comments on and explains such things as the history of ancient nations, archaeology, Egyptology, the near east, geography, halakha, repentance, the Jewish view in contrast to the cults of the dead, the laws of Hammurabi vs. the Torah, why Levites were separated from other tribes, how the Israelite army was organized, guarding the Tabernacle, viewing holy objects, defrauding under oath, is the law of the red cow rational, monotheism vs. magic, how should we understand the miracle of a fashioned snake on a pole, the Bilam story in chapters 22-24 and other episodes, laws concerning a suspected adulteress, and much more.
Everyone reading the 303 pages of this excellent book or even browsing through it, whether Jew or non-Jew, even if the reader has a university education on the Bible or attended Orthodox yeshivot for many years, will benefit from this book a thousand-fold by learning more about the Bible, what it is teaching, its history, its comparison with the teachings of other ancient cultures, and much more.