[b-hebrew] Shechem: Secular History vs. Patriarchal Narratives

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 26 11:18:34 EST 2007

Kenneth Greifer:
 You wrote:  “I am not trying to argue with you about the Amarna letters and 
the patriarchal narratives, but I want to say one main thing, you only look 
for similarities, and you totally ignore differences. If you only give weight to 
evidence that fits your beliefs, and you give no weight to anything against 
your beliefs, then you are guaranteeing that your belief will win.  If a leader 
from Shechem gets killed in the Amarna letters and a leader from Shechem also 
got killed in the patriarchal narratives, then you see the similarity as a 
proof. You don't seem interested in the details of either story or any of the 
differences because you don't consider differences as evidence. If you don't 
consider differences as evidence, then, of course, you can't be proven wrong.”
Do you expect me to send a book into the b-Hebrew list?  In fact, I want to 
talk about the puns on the name “Joseph”.  But you keep asking me for details 
about Amarna.
Let me quickly list here 7 similarities between the Decapitation of the 
Shechem Offensive as it occurred near the end of Akhenaten’s reign, and as it is 
represented in chapters 34 and 35 of Genesis.
1.  Locale
The locale is Shechem.
2.  Leader of Shechem Is Killed
The leader of Shechem is killed in both instances, along with the men who are 
with him.
3.  Leader of Shechem Was Temporarily Vulnerable, Having Made a Requested 
Goodwill Gesture to the First Historical Monotheistic Leader of a People
Lab’ayu agreed to Akhenaten’s demand that the leader of Shechem must come to 
Egypt to explain himself.  Hamor agreed to Jacob’s demand (put forth by Jacob’
s sons) that Hamor and the men of Shechem be circumcised.  In both cases, 
this requested goodwill gesture to the first historical monotheistic leader of a 
people made the leader of Shechem temporarily vulnerable.
4.  The Son of the Leader of Shechem Caused Major Headaches
In secular history, the sons of the leader of Shechem were actively 
recruiting tent-dwelling habiru to join forces with the city-state of Shechem to take 
over all of central Canaan.  This was why Akhenaten intervened.  And that is 
why the leader of Shechem has to make the self-serving, lame claim to Akhenaten 
that “I did not know that my son was consorting with the habiru”.  In chapter 
34 of Genesis, the son of the leader of Shechem literally consorts with the 
tent-dwelling Hebrew Dinah.  In both cases, it was the actions of a son of the 
leader of Shechem that brought matters to a crisis stage.
5.  Morally Questionable Action
The Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive is morally objectionable.  Lab’ayu 
rightly thought he had a right of safe passage to visit Akhenaten in Egypt.  
The leader of Shechem probably should not have been murdered on his way to meet 
his sovereign.  Likewise, the men of Shechem were doing what Jacob’s sons had 
asked by circumcising themselves.  Then, in their weakened condition, they 
are killed by Simeon and Levi in a surprise attack.  Yet though both attacks 
were morally questionable, they had a great result.  The threat of Shechem to 
take over all of central Canaan was suddenly vanquished, once and for all.
6.  Surprising Lack of Adverse Consequences
After Lab’ayu’s murder, his sons tried to get some of their neighbors to 
kill the perpetrators in Jenin, and to resume Shechem’s drive to dominate central 
Canaan.  But nothing happened.  There were no revenge killings at all.  Like 
a semi-miracle, everything was done, with no adverse consequences.  Chapter 35 
of Genesis is the same.  Jacob had feared at the end of chapter 34 of Genesis 
that the neighbors of Shechem would attack the Hebrews.  But no attack ever 
7.  Comparison to the Hittites
The only decisive military action that Akhenaten ever took, albeit 
indirectly, was when he rounded up an anti-Shechem coalition, and one member of that 
coalition unilaterally murdered the leader of Shechem.  The first Hebrews cheered 
the ending of that regional threat to take over all of central Canaan.  But 
the much bigger threat was on the international scene:  the Hittites.  In order 
to link the two situations, the author of the Patriarchal narratives refers 
to the people of Shechem as “Hivites”, a made-up, non-historical name that is 
deliberately designed to link Shechem to the dreaded Hittites.  What the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives is ingeniously arguing is this.  Look, 
Akhenaten, how wonderful everything turned out when you took aggressive action 
against Shechem’s attempt to dominate Canaan.  In the end, it turned out that almost 
everyone in Canaan was on your side.  Now do the same regarding the Hittites! 
 Aggressively act to oppose the Hittite international threat to Canaan, and 
you will find that all of Canaan is behind you all the way.  Everyone cheered 
the Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive.  Imagine how loudly all of Canaan 
will cheer when you stop the dreaded Hittites from invading Canaan.  Not only us 
tent-dwelling Hebrews/habiru, but also all the city-dwellers in Canaan as 
well, will back you all the way, if only you will take assertive, aggressive 
action to stop the dreaded Hittites in their tracks.
Kenneth Greifer, there is no space on the b-Hebrew list to give a more 
balanced account of the Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive.  It is obvious that 
the men of Jenin, who killed the leader of Shechem in secular history, are not 
identical to Simeon and Levi in chapter 34 of Genesis.  But certainly everyone 
in the mid-14th century BCE would have seen the obvious comparisons between 
the killing of the leader of Shechem in secular history and chapter 34 of 
If you will allow me, I would now like to get back to analyzing the puns on 
the names of Jacob’s sons, because Biblical Hebrew language issues like that 
are what the b-Hebrew list is all about.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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