[b-hebrew] Amarna Letters

Stephen & Rebecca Shead srshead at gmail.com
Wed Dec 26 10:00:57 EST 2007


Thought I'd step in with one objection, concerning your argument about Akhenaten's and Abraham's "obsession" to sire a son by their beloved main wife #1.

Were this correspondence mere coincidence, I hardly think it would count as "bizarre", as you put it. How many couples across the ancient world struggled to produce a son?? Factor in the very striking non-correspondence that Abraham and Sarah had no daughters (why make Sarah entirely barren?), and the comparison is hardly convincing. And there are other details for which (unless I am to be corrected) there is no known correlation - most importantly, Abraham and Sarah's remarkable age.

Moreover, I disagree that "the #1 story in the Patriarchal narratives" is "Abraham’s obsession to have a son and heir by his beloved main wife #1 Sarah". The #1 story is the multi-faceted promise by YHWH to Abraham of descendents, a land, a name, and blessing to them and ultimately to the world. The barrenness of Sarah is but one (albeit a very important one) of many apparent obstacles to the fulfilment of the promises.

In fact, strictly speaking Abraham does not (in the narrative) even pray for a son. Rather, he raises the problem of his childlessness in the context of the promise, asking what YHWH will be able to "give" him in that case (Gen 15:2-3). You could, of course, interpret this as a polite, implicit request for a son; but I think it is best taken, in the context, as first of all an agonized and bemused questioning of the possibility of YHWH's promise being fulfilled.

Stephen Shead
Centro de Estudios Pastorales
Santiago, Chile

-----Original Message-----
From: JimStinehart at aol.com [mailto:JimStinehart at aol.com] 
Sent: Monday, 24 December 2007 10:27 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Amarna Letters

Joseph I.  Lauer: 
You  wrote:  “Am I right in  remembering something that I learned (or heard) 
many years 
ago that the  Egyptians under Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten's rule had to worship 
him and he was  the only one to worship the one main deity, the Sun God?” 
Let  me give you a much simpler theory of the case, one that is arguably 
relevant to  the b-Hebrew list. 
Akhenaten’s  #1 obsession in life was to sire a son by his beautiful, beloved 
main wife #1,  Nefertiti.  Most of the religious  iconography we have of 
Akhenaten features Akhenaten wearing a bull’s tail of  virility, with Nefertiti 
half his size standing behind him, with Nefertiti’s  reproductive features 
exaggerated, and then one to six daughters, of much  smaller size, standing behind 
Nefertiti.  The rays of the sun-god Aten shine down on  Akhenaten. 
If  we take the imagery straight, it is hard to miss the message.  Akhenaten 
was praying to a single deity  to give Akhenaten a son and heir by his beloved 
main wife  #1. 
Sound  familiar?  That of course is the #1  story in the Patriarchal 
narratives:  Abraham’s obsession to have a son and heir by his beloved main wife #1  
Akhenaten  then had a terrible religious and family crisis when Aten did not 
come through  and bless Nefertiti with a son.  We  may not be sympathetic, but 
the fact was that Nefertiti’s inability to bear a  son was a terrible crisis 
for Akhenaten. 
The  first Hebrew worried that Akhenaten might wallow in his terrible 
despair, and  forget all about foreign policy.  That would then leave Canaan wide 
open to be invaded by the  expansionist-minded Hittites. 
So  the first Hebrew composed his brilliant composition:  the Patriarchal 
narratives.  Each and every one of Akhenaten’s  terrible family problems, with 
his beloved main wife #1’s inability to bear a  son being first and foremost, is 
right there in the Biblical text.  And never once are any of the strange,  
controversial family actions that Akhenaten took in desperation ever  
Akhenaten’s  #1 problem was essentially identical to Abraham’s main problem, 
and to a lesser  degree a variation of this same problem is shared by Isaac 
and Jacob, each of  whom has great difficulty siring a son by his favorite main 
This  is not some bizarre “coincidence”.  Nor is it 1st millennium BCE 
fiction, as the Wellhausen JEPD  theory of the case would have it.  No, this is the 
first historical Hebrew desperately trying to rally  Akhenaten’s spirits so 
that Egypt would defend Canaan and the new Hebrews from  the feared onslaught 
of the mighty Hittites. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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