Genesis 25 - 7 questions

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at
Sun Oct 29 01:55:41 EST 2000

Dear Brian,

Do you have access to the Anchor Bible Dictionary ? It has several fine
articles on the Ishmaelites and the problems of dating Genesis 25. There is
disagreement among authorities at several points. The most recent work being
done by Ephal and Knauf who disagee on several issues.

I gather from the ABD articles by Knauf that Ishmael is currently understood
to be tribal confederacy of Northern Arabia. The name appears for the first
time in Assyrian annals of the 7th century BCE as Shumu`il, the Qedarites
situated at Duma near the lower end of Wadi Sirhan are understood to be the
leaders of this confederacy. There evidently is also a city called Shumu`il
mentioned in conjunction with Tayma, both of which sent gifts to

"The 7th century BC. The tribal confederacy of Shumu`il/Shama`il/Ishmael is
clearly attested for the first time in texts from this century. The
confederacy is lead by the tribe of Qedar...The political and cultic center
of this family and presumably the whole tribe, was Duma at the lower end of
wadi Sirhan." (E.A. Knauf, "Ishmaelies," ABD 3.518)

According to Knauf all of the tribal names have been accounted for with the
exception of Kedemah/Qedmah in the 8/7th century BCE annals of the Assyrian
kings who warred with them (E.A. Knauf, "Ishmaelites," ABD 3.515).

Knauf has argued that Jetur is the "Official Aramaic form" behind the
biblical Hebrew, the original Arabic form of the name being yzr in Safaitic.
He concludes from this theory that Jetur cannot be earlier than the 7th
century, providing a marker for the dating of the Genesis text (Ernst Axel
Knauf, "Jetur," ABD 3.821-2). In another article he clarifies this view,
positing that Genesis' "Jetur" is of the 5th century BCE:

"The Ituraeans tribe is listed among the sons of Ishmael (7th century BCE)
in Genesis 25:15 and 1 Chronicles 1:31 (Hebrew: yeter); in this list, they
form, however a redactional addition, probably from the 5th century
BCE...Because orthographically the name 'Jeter' cannot have entered the
biblical tradition before the 7th century BCE (see Jeter), this dating must
be incorrect." (E.A. Knauf, "Ituraea," ABD 3.583)

As you know, I have earlier on this list argued for Genesis being a creation
of the 5th century BCE on the basis of my research on the identification of
Noah's Japheth blessing being the Persians and the Japhethic descent of
Madai (the Medes) being derived from the Athenian Greek Medus myth utilized
by the Persian court to justify the conquest of Athens (499-490 BCE). I am
of course delighted to find Dr. Knauf's research on "Jetur" suggesting
Genesis as we have it, being 5th century BCE.

All the best,


Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg

----- Original Message -----
From: Brian Tucker <jbtucker at>
To: Biblical Hebrew <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2000 3:59 AM
Subject: Genesis 25 - 7 questions

> I am working through Gen 25 and I have some questions about it:
> 5. Are these names (Arabian or Ishmaelite) mentioned in any Assyrian or
> other texts or inscriptions?
> 6. Westermann says we can't say anything about the original setting for
> Gen 25 (p. 395). Can anyone provide another view?

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