THE TORAH TELLS . . . .
Note to the teacher:
This lesson was developed to show students about how the Bible is used as an archaeological resource to supplement the artifacts and other writings, which have been found in the Near East. The quotes were selected by Biblical scholars at Hebrew Union College.
1. Students will be able to identify the five books of the Torah.
2. Students will extract and interpret information from the Torah text to draw conclusions about ancient Hebrew life.
3. Students will create a class book illustrating what they have learned.
This lesson takes approximately three class periods.
The teacher explains that the Bible is an important source of information about history as well as a document to guide faith. Archaeologists use the Bible as a supplement to artifactual evidence about the lifestyles of ancient Near Eastern people. Archaeology provides many of the specifics, such as objects people used, but other sources are needed to understand the bigger picture.
"It's the same way with the Bible. We can't use the Bible to prove that Abraham and Sarah lived [in the scientific sense], but the accounts in the Bible help us learn how people lived in the days when Abraham and Sarah would have been alive."*
*Teacher's Guide, M.U.S.E. Archaeology Kit, Skirball Museum, Hebrew Union College.
The teacher reads the following quote from the New JPS Translation of the Torah and asks the students to think about all the possible information that it gives about what life was like during this era.
"He [Abraham] was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said, 'My lords, if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on ---seeing that you have come your servant's way.' They replied, 'Do as you have said.' Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said 'Quick, three measures of choice flour! Knead and make cakes!"
Working in pairs, students write out as many "facts" about the lifestyle of the time that they can in five minutes.
Teacher leads a discussion asking for and recording the lifestyle descriptions that the students developed. The teacher should make a copy of the text for the overhead projector and ask the students to identify the place in the text, which was the source of their information.
The teacher records the students' descriptions and creates a composite description of what life was like during the time of Abraham and Sarah.
Are there other kinds of things that may be true but there is not quite enough information in the quote?
The men, such as Abraham, may have been more powerful members of society than women because Abraham was the one who greeted the visitors personally while Sarah stayed in the tent.
This kind of interpretation is called conjecture. It is based on interpretations of the text but cannot be considered fact unless there is corroborating evidence from other sources for the conclusion.
Teacher duplicates 6 or more sets of the cards (handout #1) on green card stock paper.
Divide the class into groups of 2-4 students. Hand out one set of cards (Handout #1, pages 1-3) to each group.
Students sort through the cards noticing the references found on the bottom right of each card. This shows exactly where the quotes are from. Students write down the names of the books from which the quotes were taken and share them with the total class.
The teacher writes down the five books that are the source of the quotes: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are the five books of Moses or the Torah.
Go over the worksheet in class to correct the answers. Then using the cards and worksheet as sources, students create pages of a Big Book about life among the Hebrews during the time of Moses. Using descriptions from the cards, each group makes a drawing and writes a few lines of description on a page demonstrating some aspect of one the following topics:
You can also download these documents in PDF format which is a more "printer friendly" format
Download The Torah Tells | Download Handout 1 | Download Handout 2 | Download Handout 2 Teacher Answer Key
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