[b-hebrew] Amarna Letters

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Dec 24 11:52:40 EST 2007





Kenneth Greifer:
 
You wrote:  “If you are going to try to show that the stories in the 
patriarchal narratives match the stories in the Amarna letters, could you give the 
actual numbers of the letters that you are claiming as proof? Also, if those 
letters can be read on the internet, maybe you could put a link to them. You keep 
saying things about the Amarna letters, but you don't give the details of your 
proof, so other people can look at what you are saying.”
 
1.  I am much more interested in the Patriarchal narratives than in the 
Amarna Letters.  Especially on the b-Hebrew list, I would rather discuss the puns 
on the names of Jacob’s sons than discuss the Amarna Letters.
 
However, I feel forced to respond when Yitzhak Sapir says that only a “
fundamentalist” would deny that the Patriarchal narratives are fiction ginned up by 
multiple Hebrew authors in the mid-1st millennium BCE.  In my view, nothing in 
the substantive content of the received text of the Patriarchal narratives 
supports that Wellhausen gambit.  You can imagine that I am not impressed by Mr. 
Wellhausen himself, since as a 19th century German, Mr. Wellhausen knew 
absolutely nothing whatsoever about the secular history of the mid-14th century BCE.
 
2.  I do not read the Amarna Letters off the Internet.  I use the standard 
translation by William L. Moran.
 
3.  Yigal Levin raised the question of the story of Jacob’s final parting 
with Laban, as possibly being redolent of the 1st millennium BCE and not 
reflecting the mid-2nd millennium BCE.  In fact, to me that story seems to be coming 
straight out of the Amarna Letters.
 
You could read Amarna Letters #27, #28 and #29 in this regard in particular.  
(Amarna Letters #17 - #26 provide background.)
 
Let me here quote a small part of Amarna Letter #27, written by the most 
prominent man on the upper Euphrates River to his monotheistic son-in-law from far 
to the southwest.  See if these very lines of text could almost be slipped 
right into the text of the Patriarchal narratives, because the match is so close:
 
“Say to…my brother, my son-in-law, for whom I love and who loves me:  Thus…, 
your father-in-law [on the upper Euphrates River]….  But now my brother 
[i.e., son-in-law] has not sent me the statues…May my brother now give me the 
statues…, and may he not hold them back.”  Amarna Letter #27: 1-6, 41-44
 
Both in the Amarna Letters and in the Patriarchal narratives, we have all of 
the following specific, detailed facts:
 
(i)  An irate father-in-law who is the most prominent person on the upper 
Euphrates River.
 
(ii)  A monotheistic son-in-law from far to the southwest, who rudely and 
surprisingly breaks with his father-in-law on the upper Euphrates River, despite 
the fact that the son-in-law’s own father had married a woman from the upper 
Euphrates River and had gotten along well with the leading figure on the upper 
Euphrates River.
 
(iii) Though there are many deep-seated grievances, the last straw is the 
same bizarre matter, both in the secular history of the mid-14th century BCE and 
the Patriarchal narratives:  the father-in-law from the upper Euphrates River 
is outraged that his monotheistic son-in-law from far to the southwest does 
not forthwith deliver to him certain statues (gold statues in the Amarna 
Letters, teraphim in Genesis).
 
To me, this is the same basic story.  When the monotheistic son-in-law rudely 
broke off relations with his important father-in-law from the upper Euphrates 
River, that was a very controversial action, that could easily have been 
second-guessed by many people.  Why doesn’t Jacob want to leave Laban on good 
terms, so that Jacob and Laban would continue to be allies?  Why doesn’t Akhenaten 
send those blessed gold statues to Tushratta as demanded, so that Egypt and 
Nahrima/Naharim/Mitanni could remain united against the dreaded Hittites?
 
By including this story in the Patriarchal narratives, the Hebrew author of 
the Patriarchal narratives is thereby, in my controversial view of the case, 
showing solidarity with Akhenaten’s controversial, rude break with the Hurrian 
state of Mitanni in the mid-14th century BCE.  The Hebrew author is trying to 
convince Akhenaten that Egypt must now step up to the plate and prevent the 
dreaded Hittites from overrunning Canaan, with no looking back to see what might 
have been if the Hurrian state of Mitanni had been retained as an ally against 
the Hittites.  The Hebrew author was desperately afraid that Akhenaten might 
turn his back on foreign policy matters generally, and thereby allow the 
Hittites to conquer all of Canaan and destroy the fledgling new Hebrews.
 
On a secular, non-fundamentalist basis, I see the Patriarchal narratives as 
having been composed in the mid-14th century BCE, with the author being the 
first Hebrew, and the historical time period of the Patriarchal Age being the 
mid-14th century BCE.  The stories in the received text of the Patriarchal 
narratives could not possibly, under any circumstances, be fiction ginned up by 
multiple authors in the mid-1st millennium BCE, in my view, because the 
substantive content of the Patriarchal narratives is such a close match to the 
well-documented secular history of the mid-14th century BCE.  Old Wellhausen knew 
nothing about any of this. 
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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