[b-hebrew] Was Abraham Born in Mesopotamia?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Nov 6 10:12:30 EST 2007

You wrote:  “there are also references to towns  being known differently at 
one point )
and Beit El which was once luz, and  hevron nee kiryat arba).  the semi  
mythical nature would explain the multiple versions of events, the doublets, the  
same events featuring different characters, the rounded numbers (in baylonian  
style) of 180, 120, 40.  so wouldn't  you agree that while some of the semi 
mythical information may originate from  sources from, say, the 15th century, 
that the writer who
ultimately put this  fathers cycles together would have lived in the 8th 
century BCE at the  earliest?” 
I disagree completely.  We’re not talking myths when we’re  talking the 
Patriarchal narratives. 
In  this post, let me focus on your common misunderstanding about Luz and  
Bethel.  There are two Bethels in  the Patriarchal narratives.  The  name 
"Bethel" means “house of God”, and so could be applied to any cite where a  
Patriarch encounters YHWH. 
Abraham’s Bethel/Ai is the Bethel we know  today.  It is between Jerusalem 
and  Shechem.  That Bethel was located  next to the recently abandoned city of 
Ai in Abraham’s day.  That Bethel is referenced after Abraham  travels south 
from Shechem, and Luz is never mentioned in connection with that  Bethel.  That 
site had the name  Bethel before the first Hebrews got to southeastern Canaan. 
 Note that Abraham is not portrayed as  naming that site "Bethel", and the 
narrator uses the name Bethel as if that site  had long been called Bethel (long 
before Jacob's birth), which indeed was the  case. 
By sharp contrast, Jacob’s  Bethel is in a completely different location, 
near Mt. Lebanon in southern  Lebanon.  It’s secular name was  Luz.  In secular 
history, Luz  almost certainly is historical Luweiziyeh, located 4 miles 
northwest of  Banias at the foot of Mt. Lebanon in  the _Golan Heights_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golan_Heights) .  "Luz" is simply the shortened Hebrew  
version of "Luweiziyeh".  Southern  Lebanon is part of Canaan, so Luz is in 
Jacob calls Luz “Bethel”, because Jacob has  important encounters with YHWH 
there, including the famous Jacob's Ladder  experience.  Note that Jacob’s  
Bethel always references Luz.  Your  basic contention that Luz was an older 
name, that became displaced by the later  name Bethel, is specifically refuted by 
the text itself.  The last reference to this place in the  text simply refers 
to it as “Luz” (with no reference to "Bethel").  That was not an old name, 
now abandoned,  but rather is the secular name of this place near Mt.  Lebanon. 
Here are the textual  cites: 
“And he called the name of that place  Beth-el, but the name of the city was 
Luz at the first.”  Genesis 28:  19 
“So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land  of Canaan--the same is 
Beth-el--he and all the people that were with him.”  Genesis 35:  6 
Note that Jacob’s “Bethel” is always closely  associated with secular 
historical Luz  (Luweiziyeh). 
“And Jacob said unto Joseph:  'God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in  the 
land of Canaan, and blessed me’”.  Genesis 48: 3 
The Patriarchs knew that the actual name of this place in southern  Lebanon 
was Luz.  “Bethel” is just a  Hebrew nickname that Jacob applied to the place, 
because Jacob met YHWH on two  important occasions at that site. 
When the Patriarchs are in southern Lebanon, they sometimes use names  from 
southern Canaan to apply to a site in southern Lebanon as a new Hebrew  
nickname, if there is some connection in their experience between the two  different 
geographical sites.  The  Patriarchs know that there is a Beersheba in the 
northern Negev Desert.  That Beersheba is referenced, but only  once, in the 
Patriarchal narratives at Genesis 46: 1.  The rest of the "Beershebas" in the  
Patriarchal narratives are locales in southern Lebanon where a water well has  
been providentially found.  "Beersheba" means "on oath -- a well!".  Likewise, 
Jacob's "Bethel" is located in  southern Lebanon, at Luz.  That was  Jacob's 
"house of God", where Jacob had two profound encounters with YHWH.   So it makes 
sense for Jacob to give historical Luz the Hebrew nickname of  "Bethel", 
somewhat comparable to his grandfather's Bethel north of  Jerusalem. 
Everyone loves to hate southern Lebanon and Sur ("Tyre") because chapters  27 
and 28 of Ezekiel condemn Sur in such strident terms.  Evangelical Christians 
even see Sur in  chapters 27 and 28 of Ezekiel as symbolizing the Devil 
himself.  But that's all 1st millennium  BCE history, coming about 700 years after 
the Patriarchal Age.  The Hebrews liked Sur and southern  Lebanon in the 2nd 
millennium BCE.  In the early 1st millennium  BCE, Solomon is portrayed as 
getting rich selling wheat to Sur.  I Kings 5:  15, 25  It makes sense for  the 
Patriarchal narratives to portray Isaac as getting rich growing wheat in  
southern Lebanon and selling the wheat to Sur.  Genesis 26: 12-14 
Jacob's "Bethel" is historical Luz/Luweiziyeh in southern Lebanon (not  
Abraham's Bethel/Ai north of Jerusalem).  Abraham's and Isaac's "Beersheba" is a 
site east of Sur ("Tyre") in  southern Lebanon (not the well-known Beersheba in 
the northern Negev  Desert).  If we can drop our hatred  of southern Lebanon 
and Sur, which makes no sense whatsoever prior to the  1st millennium BCE, we 
can see that the Hebrew Patriarchs are  portrayed as prospering in southern 
Lebanon in the Patriarchal  narratives. 
None of this is "semi-mythical".  Rather, it's all tracking the 
well-documented secular history of the  mid-14th century BCE.  
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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