Sifre Numbers

This post clarifies the preferred spelling and meaning of the general term Sipre/Sifre and elaborates on the proper citation style to be used with Sifre Numbers.

In keeping with our earlier revision of SBLHS 2 §8.3.8, which specifies a single spelling for the titles of mishnaic, talmudic, and related works, one based on general-purpose transliteration (here), we are revising SBLHS 2 §8.3.10 to list only Sifre (Sipre is discouraged, as is Sifrei, which is also occasionally encountered).

The SBLHS 2 §8.3.10 abbreviations list should not be misinterpreted to mean that there is only a single work named Sifre. In fact, there are several works with Sifre in their traditional titles, including Sifre Numbers, Sifre Deuteronomy, Sifre Zuta Numbers (fragmentary), and Sifre Zuta Deuteronomy (no longer extant). To distinguish all these works clearly, SBL Press prefers full references to Sifre Numbers, Sifre Deuteronomy, and so on.

Sifre Numbers is a midrash on eleven sections of Numbers (see below). The work is divided into 161 pisqa’ot, some of which are subdivided in the standard text (Horovitz 1917) into paragraphs. The standard citation of Sifre Numbers will include at least the pisqa’ and may include a paragraph, as in the following:

  • Sifre Num. 42
  • Sifre Num. 42.2

The Neusner (1986) translation subdivides paragraphs further into discourse units and the individual components constituting a discourse unit, as in the following:

  • Sifre Num. 42.2.3
  • Sifre Num. 42.2.3F

The last example will be rare, and generally we prefer citing only a pisqa’ or a pisqa’ plus paragraph, since these citations reflect the structure of the Horovitz text and the Neusner translation, not just the latter.

When citing the Horovitz edition by page and line number, the pisqa’ should be identified, followed by the Horovitz citation in parentheses, using a comma to separate page and line numbers: Sifre Num. 42 (Horovitz, 46,9–10). Note that there is no space between the comma and the line numbers.

The eleven sections of Numbers are covered in the pisqa’ot of Sifre Numbers as follows (see Neusner for more precise correspondences):

  • 5:1–7:19 / Sifre Num. 1–52
  • 7:84–8:4/ Sifre Num. 53–61
  • 8:23–9:14/ Sifre Num. 62–71
  • 10:1–10/ Sifre Num. 72–77
  • 10:29–12:16/ Sifre Num. 78–106
  • 15:1–41/ Sifre Num. 107–115
  • 18:1–19:22 / ???
  • 25:1–14 / ???
  • 26:52–56 / ???
  • 27:1–31:24 / ???
  • 35:9–34 / ???

The standard Hebrew edition is Haim Shaul Horovitz, ed., Sifre ʻal sefer Ba-midbar ve-sifre zuṭa (Leipzig: Fock, 1917), which is available online here.

There is no complete English translation of Sifre Numbers. Pisqa’ot 1–115 are translated in Jacob Neusner, Sifré to Numbers: An American Translation and Explanation, 2 vols., BJS 118–119 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986). A third volume was planned for pisqa’ot 116–161, but that translation never appeared.

UPDATE (24 January 2017):

Originally we stated that no complete English translation of the work exists. In fact, as noted in this post, Jacob Neusner did publish a translation of all 161 pisqa’ot of Sifre Numbers in the four-part volume 12 of his The Components of the Rabbinic Documents: From the Whole to the Parts (Neusner 1998). Part 1 includes an introduction and pisqa’ot 1–84; part 2 offers a translation of pisqa’ot 85–122; part 3 comprises pisqa’ot 123–161; and part 4 presents Neusner’s topical and methodological outline of the entire work.

Thanks to Professor Gregg E. Gardner of the University of British Columbia for alerting us to this work.

Work Cited

Neusner, Jacob. 1998. Sifré Numbers. 4 parts. Vol. 12 of The Components of the Rabbinic Documents: From the Whole to the Parts. South Florida Academic Commentary Series 104–107. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

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