"cross over" in Exodus

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Wed Mar 28 10:43:12 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.

Thanks for the reply and the good insights.  As often happens, the 
answer to one question gives rise to yet another question.  Does 
this suggest that the half-shekel tax was only levied on eligible 
soldiers?  I've always been under the impression that everybody 
was required to pay it, soldiers or not.  Have I misunderstood 

Dave Washburn
"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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