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Is God Riding on Clouds, through the Wilderness, or on Willows?

Aug. 28 2017

Psalm 68:5 describes God as rokheyv ba’aravot, or “riding upon aravot.” While the second word means “willows” in modern Hebrew and derives from a common Hebrew root with multiple meanings, its interpretation has puzzled exegetes since ancient times. Mitchell First discusses some of the possibilities:

Of all [the word’s usual meanings], the only one that might reasonably fit is “desolate, wilderness area.” Thus, one widespread translation [of the phrase is] “rides through the deserts.” . . . But God as a rider in a desolate area is still an unusual image. More importantly, rokheyv usually means mounting an [animal or vehicle] and not “riding through” something.

In a statement of [the talmudic sage] Reysh Lakish, the aravot were understood to be one of the seven heavens. . . . But aravot does not otherwise mean “heaven” in the Tanakh. . . .

[Another interpretation draws on] Ugaritic, an ancient Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. Ugaritic texts cover many centuries and predate the biblical texts. The discovery of Ugaritic has led to many new understandings of difficult terms in the Bible. Relevant to our context is that the phrase rokeyhv arafot with the meaning “charioteer of the clouds” appears fourteen times in various Ugaritic mythological texts as an epithet for [the] god, Baal. . . . And there are other examples of Ugaritic “p/f” becoming “b/v” in Hebrew. . . . Nowhere else in the Tanakh, however, does aravot have the meaning of “clouds.”

Read more at Jewish Link of New Jersey

More about: Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen