[b-hebrew] Amarna Letters
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Dec 24 11:52:40 EST 2007
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
(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
(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.
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