Milgrom’s exhaustive commentary on Numbers offers penetrating insights into this sacred book. Throughout, he maintains respect for classical Jewish commentators, but does not hesitate to incorporate modern Biblical research. The commentary itself is divided into two parts, “The Generations of the Exodus” and “The Generations of the Conquest,” which are both supplemented by additional forays deeper into the text. These include sections on the census in the wilderness, purification from contamination by a corpse, the war against Midian, and many others. And all this is over and above the line-by-line analysis, the informative introduction, the footnotes, the charts, the maps, and the 77 excursuses to the commentary.
This resource is available as part of the JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection (11 volumes).
“It transmits impurity from the purified to the purifier; hence, it purifies the defiled and defiles the pure.” (Page 439)
“Magic comprises two categories, sorcery and divination, which differ in their objective: the former attempts to alter the future; the latter, to predict it. The magician who claims to curse or bless is a sorcerer, whereas the one who foretells events but cannot affect them is a diviner.” (Page 471)
“Since hair continues to grow throughout life (and apparently for a time after death), it was considered by the ancients to be the seat of man’s vitality and life-force, and in ritual it often served as his substitute.” (Page 356)
“Later tradition acknowledges almost nothing of Balaam the obedient servant of the Lord, who could not be bribed by all the wealth of Moab. He is, instead, the archetypal enemy of Israel, a Pharaoh or Haman, whose power would threaten to annihilate Israel were it not for the intervention of Israel’s God. Yet both traditions, the saint and the sinner, have their roots in Scripture, indeed, in these very chapters of the ‘Book of Balaam.’” (Page 471)
“We are left with argument 3d: notsiʾ. Bekhor Shor has a single terse comment on this word, pointing to the resolution of our enigma: ‘The sin resulted from saying notsiʾ, ‘shall we draw forth,’ and they (Moses and Aaron) should have said yotsiʾ, ‘shall He draw forth,’ ’ meaning God. The Bekhor Shor is not original.” (Page 451)
Jacob Milgrom is a scholar and professor emeritus in the field of Biblical Studies at the University of California. He is most known for his research on the book of Leviticus and the purity regulations of the Torah.
The Jewish Publication Society of America was founded in Philadelphia in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the New World. As the oldest publisher of Jewish titles in the English language, the mission of JPS is to enhance Jewish culture by promoting the dissemination of religious and secular works of exceptional quality, in the United States and abroad, to all individuals and institutions interested in past and contemporary Jewish life.
Over the years JPS has issued a body of works for all tastes and needs. Its many titles include biographies, histories, art books, holiday anthologies, books for young readers, religious and philosophical studies, and translations of scholarly and popular classics. It is perhaps known best for its famous JPS Tanakh, the translation of the Hebrew Bible in English from the original Hebrew.