[b-hebrew] Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and Lot's Wife

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 26 16:34:34 EST 2007


Stephen Shead:
 
1.  You wrote:  “You claim that Lot's wife "appears to give up trying to bear 
Lot a son". Where is this implied in the text? Where is there any kind of 
comparison between Sarah and Lot's wife in the text itself, apart from your 
reading one in?”
 
That is a critically important issue in understanding the Patriarchal 
narratives.  Lot’s wife must be younger than Sarah, because Lot is Abraham’s nephew. 
 Yet Lot’s wife has not borne any child for 12 years, with her youngest 
daughter being old enough to get pregnant now.  Lot has no son, but Lot’s wife has 
not borne a child for 12 years.  That implies that Lot’s wife does not want to 
risk her health by having another child in middle age.  By sharp contrast, 
why is Sarah buried in full honor at Hebron?  Because Sarah bravely risked her 
own life to try to bear Abraham a son, even though Sarah was very old (age 45 
in regular years).  Sarah was so old that the chances were good that Sarah 
might die in childbirth, and such a late birth inherently meant that Sarah would 
lose many years off her life.  Note that Sarah dies at an age a stated 48 “years
” younger than Abraham (175 vs. 127), meaning that Sarah dies at an age 24 
actual years younger than her husband.  That was Sarah’s great sacrifice.  That 
was Sarah’s great honor.  That is precisely what Lot’s wife did not do.
 
So in fact, Sarah and Lot’s wife are compared at every turn.  Sarah gets two 
divine promises that, even at her advanced age, she will yet bear Abraham a 
son, in chapters 17 and 18 of Genesis.  Then what happens in chapter 19 of 
Genesis?  Lot’s wife is turned into a “salt” (royal) statue.  Then what happens in 
chapter 20 of Genesis?  Sarah bears Isaac.  The two women are constantly 
contrasted, always in Sarah’s favor, even though Lot’s wife is usually not 
directly in the spotlight.
 
[In my own defense, let me just mention in passing that the foregoing 
analysis of Sarah vs. Lot’s wife is a very important argument, even if all of my 
Amarna comparisons were thrown out the window completely.  So even if one rejects 
my historical arguments, maybe one can begrudgingly admit that my historical 
arguments do present these stories in the Patriarchal narratives in a somewhat 
different light.  For example, I see Lot’s wife as being a more important 
character than most analysts do.] 
 
2.  You wrote:  “Job's fathering of sons through his daughters is his moment 
of utter shame and humiliation in the narrative, his disastrous "end" in the 
text - reaping the result of his earlier foolish decisions, in contrast to his 
generous and trusting uncle.”
 
You see, there’s a key difference between the Patriarchal narratives and Job. 
 Look at the fine justification the author of the Patriarchal narratives puts 
into the mouth of Lot’s second youngest daughter, when she suggests her 
audacious, controversial plan to provide her son-less father with a male heir:
 
“‘Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we 
may preserve seed of our father.'”  Genesis 19: 32
 
That is one of the most important central values in the Patriarchal 
narratives, to “preserve seed”, so that a man will have a male heir.
 
Note also that father-daughter unions are not prohibited incest under the 
later laws of Moses.
 
3.  You wrote:  “I find utterly fanciful your dogged insistence that the 
identity of Isaac's father is left ambiguous. Quite the reverse - the text 
emphasizes Abraham's fatherhood of Isaac over and over. 
 
[(a)]  Gen 17:16, "I will give YOU a son by her"….”
 
Yes, it’s clear that Sarah will bear a son, who will be Abraham’s heir.  But 
it is not clear whether that son will be Abraham’s adopted son or Abraham’s 
blood son.
 
“[(b)]  17:17 "Can a child be born to a hundred-year-old man? Can Sarah, a 
ninety-year-old woman, give birth?" (Abraham's incredulity - note the pair of 
roles)….”
 
That is a heartfelt question raised by Abraham.  It is not a divine 
pronouncement.
 
“[(c)]  17:19 "Your wife Sarah will bear YOU a son", and so on: 17:21, 18:12 
(again, the age of EACH of them is problematic)….”
 
See the analysis of the two points above.
 
“[(d)]  “21:2, 21:3 ("Abraham called the name of his son BORN TO HIM, whom 
Sarah bore to him, Isaac")
 
Genesis 21: 2 is clear that Sarah bore a son.  Genesis 21: 3 says that a son 
was born unto Abraham, but does not state that Abraham himself literally sired 
that son.
 
“[(e)]  21:5, 21:7 ("I have borne him a son in HIS old age").”
 
Yes, we know that Sarah is Isaac’s birth mother.  What is not completely 
clear is whether Abraham is the biological father.
 
Why is the text leaving some ambiguity here?  Why is there no unambiguous 
line of text regarding Abraham siring Isaac as there is regarding Abraham siring 
Ishmael?
 
“And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived”.  Genesis 16: 4
 
And when YHWH has a perfect chance to clarify matters at Genesis 21: 12-13, 
why does the text instead leave the matter completely ambiguous?
 
“And God said unto Abraham:  'Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of 
the lad, and because of thy bondwoman;  in all that Sarah saith unto thee, 
hearken unto her voice;  for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee.  And also of 
the son [Ishmael] of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy 
seed.'”
 
Why doesn’t YHWH say of Isaac as he does of Ishmael: “he is thy seed”?  Why 
does YHWH instead make the totally ambiguous statement:  “in Isaac shall seed 
be called to thee”?
 
Please do not misunderstand my view.  At the end of the day, it is virtually 
certain that we are to understand that Isaac is portrayed as being Abraham’s 
blood son.  Yet that matter is not clarified at the beginning.  Abraham himself 
seems in doubt about this matter for years.  Though Sarah is giddy with joy 
at Isaac’s birth, Abraham says nothing, never thanks YHWH for Isaac’s birth, 
and never is reported to say a nice word to or about Isaac during Isaac’s 
childhood.  When called upon to kill Isaac, Abraham draws the knife to do so 
without even trying to bargain with YHWH about the matter, or being reported as 
being grieved.
 
In my view, the text is deliberately vague about the issue of Isaac’s 
biological paternity, at least at the beginning.  Isaac in fact is Abraham’s blood 
son.  I agree with you on that.  But the point the author of the Patriarchal 
narratives is making here is that regardless of whether Isaac is Abraham’s blood 
son or an adopted son who is a close male relative and who will marry a close 
female blood relative, Abraham should consider himself to be divinely blessed.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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