[b-hebrew] Amalekites!

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Fri Aug 13 13:07:29 EDT 2004

On 13/08/2004 15:12, Yigal Levin wrote:

>Nowhere does the Genesis "claim" to be "accurate history", at least not in
>the modern sense of the word, that is, a factual reconstruction of events
>based, as much as possible, on critical evaluation of as many sources as
>possible. Or, I'll put it another way - where do Gilgamesh or Kirtu NOT
>claim to be "accurate history"? In what way is Genesis different? The
>ancient simply did not have the same conception of "history" that we have.

Put it yet another way, where do modern history books (I mean general 
purpose historical accounts, not advanced research material) claim to be 
accurate history? Sometimes in their introductions, I agree, but the 
concept of a separate introduction does not seem to have existed in the 
ANE. The presentation of past events is in itself considered to be a 
claim that they actually occurred (although of course a claim that needs 
to be tested). And the same is true of Gilgamesh, who was very likely a 
historical figure even if there are mythological accretions. According 
to many scholars, Genesis *is* based on a number of different sources. 
These clearly were not incorporated complete into the existing text, 
which implies some kind of critical evaluation. Sometimes in the HB 
historical books, although not in Genesis I think, specific sources are 
named, even bibliographies for further reading about certain kings. The 
ancient conception of history may not have been as different from ours 
as you suggest.

>Ask yourself, where would the Israelite writer have even gotten a list of
>the descendants of Esau to the third and fourth generation - including
>people who do not seem to have been particularly prominent in themselves? ...

Oral tradition. Among such groups remembering genealogies was considered 
very important.

>... If
>you assume, as Shoshanna does, that the Torah as we know it was given by God
>to Moses directly, than no problems. As a scholar, I can not accept that as
>a solution. So either he, or the tradition that he was following, "invented"
>the list. Out of the blue? No. He used the traditions available to him (that
>we now have no way to trace) and created the genealogy in order to connect
>the tribes that he knew of that lived in the area, which he pictured as
>being "Edomite" territory. Why do I think this. Because that's how
>genealogies are used in tribal societies.

You have ignored a third real possibility that the author incorporated 
into his work real genealogies as related to him by Edomites etc who he 
had contact with. Whether these genealogies are in fact accurate is not 
the point, rather that they would come from Edomites themselves rather 
than being invented by Moses or whoever.

>Is it possible that Esau had a grandson named "Amalek", whose name had
>nothing to do with the tribe that lived in the same general area as did
>Esau's descendants? Anything is possible, but not very likely. And if he
>did, why would the author of Genesis bother to tell us about it?

I consider it highly probable that a traditional genealogy among the 
Edomites listed Esau as their original founder and Amalek as his 
grandson. I also consider it highly probable that such a genealogy is 
reasonably accurate (although perhaps giving a succession of leaders 
rather than a strict father-to-son listing), and that said Amalek became 
the leader of a group which became known as the Amalekites, even if he 
was not necessarily the biological ancestor of all of them.

>Do you agree that Gen. 10 is a literary description of the relationships
>between the nations of the world (as the author knew them)? Or did Japheth
>just happen to have sons whose names were the same as several non-Semitic
>nations, all on the northern periphery of the biblical world, and did his
>son Yavan ("Greece") just happen to have sons named Cyprus, Crete and
>Rhodes? If you see this, what makes Gen. 36 any different besides the scale?

The level of literal accuracy may fall off at this point, but there is a 
real possibility that these places were originally named after an 
individual, the leader of a group who settled there - something which is 
attested also in modern times e.g. Pennsylvania, (former) Rhodesia and 
very many American etc city names including Kirkland, Washington which 
is named after my great great uncle who founded it - and that the tribal 
relationships are more or less as recorded there.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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