[b-hebrew] Amarna Letters Once Again

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 26 13:13:05 EST 2007





Kenneth Greifer:
 
You wrote:  “It sounds like you are saying that the patriarchal narratives 
are a falsified version of Egyptian history that you think is truly explained in 
the Amarna letters. I read some of the letters and the patriarchal stories, 
and it is obvious that you don't mind saying the writer of the patriarchal 
narratives is a liar telling a bunch of lies with only a few vaguely similar 
themes in the stories. You have the right to believe that, but I don't feel 
convinced that the similarities are enough to make up for all of the differences that 
have to be explained as lies by the author of the patriarchal narratives.  
Why don't you ever say the patriarchal narratives are full of lies? You keep 
saying how great they are, but then you seem to show that they are also false. Am 
I misunderstanding what you are saying?”
 
How could you possibly misunderstand my view of the Patriarchal narratives 
like that?
 
Consider the Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive.
 
The Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis holds that the Decapitation of the 
Shechem Offensive is a totally fictional event, that was dreamed up by one of four 
Hebrew authors in the mid-1st millennium BCE.
 
My view, on the contrary, is that chapter 34 of Genesis is closely based on 
the historical Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive in the secular history of 
the mid-14th century BCE.  The Patriarchal narratives are not “full of lies”. 
 On the contrary, the Patriarchal narratives are very closely based on what 
actually happened in secular history in the historical Patriarchal Age, which 
in my view was the mid-14th century BCE.
 
In secular history, the first Hebrews probably did get a tempting offer from 
the sons of the leader of Shechem.  The landless, tent-dwelling Hebrews were 
probably promised, as many other tent-dwelling habiru certainly were, the 
possibility of being able to become landowners in the future, if they would only 
help the men of Shechem take over central Canaan now.  That is not a “lie”.  
That is actual secular history.  In the Amarna Letters, the leader of Shechem 
has to make the lame claim to Akhenaten that the leader of Shechem supposedly 
did not know that any of this was going on, that is, that he supposedly did not 
know that his sons were trying to recruit the landless tent-dwelling habiru 
and Hebrews to help Shechem take over central Canaan:  “I did not know that my 
son was consorting with the habiru.”
 
The Patriarchal narratives are not “false”.  Rather, in this instance they 
accurately portray the tempting offer that the first Hebrews historically 
received from the city-state of Shechem in the mid-14th century BCE.  The Hebrews, 
to their great credit, refused to become second-class citizens of Shechem, and 
certain of Akhenaten’s allies unilaterally killed the leader of Shechem, 
thereby ending the threat that the Hebrews would become dominated by the 
city-state of Shechem.
 
Are you complaining because I do not see Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi as 
literally, in secular history, killing the men of Shechem?  What I can say on that 
score is that historically, the Hebrews supported the historical Decapitation 
of the Shechem Offensive, and the Decapitation of the Shechem Offensive is an 
historical event from the mid-14th century BCE, rather than being fiction 
dreamed up in the mid-1st millennium BCE.
 
I myself see a tremendous amount of secular historical accuracy in the 
Patriarchal narratives.  But the author has brilliantly used artistic license to 
weave these historical events into a mesmerizing storyline, where actions 
actually taken by Gentiles in secular history are often attributed to the early 
Hebrews.  I do not see the author of the Patriarchal narratives as passively 
recording what literally happened in secular history.  But he is not telling “lies”
.  No, he is weaving these actual historical events from the mid-14th century 
BCE into what became the magnificent founding document of the Hebrews.  The 
author of the Patriarchal narratives was desperate to save Canaan and the new 
Hebrews from being wiped out in a possible invasion of Canaan by the dreaded 
Hittites.
 
All of my posts come from this same perspective.  I see the Patriarchal 
narratives as being composed in the mid-14th century BCE, by the first historical 
Hebrew, and as being closely based on the traumatic events that historically 
affected the first Hebrews in that time period.
 
I do not view the Patriarchal narratives as being “a falsified version of 
Egyptian history”, as you allege.  Rather, I view the Patriarchal narratives as 
closely reflecting the dramatic historical incidents that threatened to wipe 
out the first Hebrews in the mid-14th century BCE.  It’s all told from a Hebrew 
perspective, with a Hebrew mindset, and for the purpose of securing a goal 
desperately needed by the first Hebrews.  The strong Egyptian connection that is 
there is simply that the first Hebrews historically needed Egypt at that time 
to protect Canaan against the expanding Hittite threat.
 
So you have totally misunderstood my view.  I see the Patriarchal narratives 
as being closely based on the well-documented secular history of the mid-14th 
century BCE, which in my view was the historical Patriarchal Age.  I see the 
Patriarchal narratives as always reflecting the Hebrew perspective on such 
historical events.  I do not think that Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi literally 
killed the leader of Shechem and the men who were with him at the time.  Such 
killings in fact were done by the Gentile men of Jenin, in secular history.  But 
chapter 34 of Genesis is closely based on the facts of secular history, rather 
than being mid-1st millennium BCE fiction, and accurately portrays both (i) 
the tempting offer that historically was made by Shechem to the first Hebrews, 
and (ii) the stalwart rejection of that tempting offer by the tent-dwelling 
first Hebrews.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois 




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