"cross over" in Exodus

Charles David Isbell cisbell at home.com
Tue Mar 20 00:25:05 EST 2001

I think the reference here is to the method of counting by the use of
single-file lines.  I don't think the root `-b-r here means "cross over,"
but simply "pass by" or even "traverse an area" [as in the description of
YHWH passing through the land of Egypt; the "pass over" idea is from the
root p-s-H, of course].  The Mishnah [Bekhorot 9.7], in an interesting
aside, describes a method of counting sheep by forcing the flock into an
enclosed area with an exit so narrow that only one can "pass through" at a
time.  This allows an official to make an accurate count as a basis for
tithing the animals properly.  Likewise, it would seem impossible to get an
accurate count of eligible soldiers if one had to visit numerous places
looking for them, so the mustering of all to be counted into a single place
appears a likely method to control accuracy.  Note Rashi: derekh hamonin
ma`avirin 'et hanimnin zeh 'aHar zeh ["the method of counters is to make
those being counted pass by one after another"].

The root p-q-d here in Exodus 30 almost certainly refers to a military
muster.  The expression, "20 years and older" is common in the Book of
Numbers, if I remember correctly.

Kol Tuv,
Charles David Isbell

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Washburn" <dwashbur at nyx.net>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 19, 2001 9:17 PM
Subject: "cross over" in Exodus

> I came across the phrase KOL HF(OB"R (AL-HAP.:QUDIYM in
> Exodus 30:13 and got curious about it.  The context seems to
> indicate a census of some kind; the NIV translates "crosses over
> to those already counted" and Keil & Delitzsch say it refers to
> mustering an army.  Verse 14 seems to hint at this, since it uses
> the same phrase with the formula "from 20 years and upward," but
> the only other place I was able to find this phrase is also in
> Exodus, in 38:26.  I'm wondering if there's any more to this phrase,
> and if anyone has a thought as to why it only appears in Exodus,
> and then only 3 times.  "Cross over" seems like an odd expression
> to use for a census or drafting an army, so it makes me wonder if
> there's a nuance to the expression that I'm not seeing.
> Dave Washburn
> http://www.nyx.net/~dwashbur
> "No study of probabilities inside a given frame can ever
> tell us how probable it is that the frame itself can be
> violated."  C. S. Lewis
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