[b-hebrew] Where Was Jacob's Ladder?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Nov 8 15:24:55 EST 2007

Dave  Washburn: 
You wrote:  "If we follow the Masoretic pointing, it  actually says he 
'lighted upon THE place', because it includes the definite  article.  So, 'the' 
Maybe I'm beginning to understand now what's  going on here. 
1.  I myself see the Masoretic pointing system as not having been invented  
until about 2,000 years after the composition of the Patriarchal  narratives.  
I myself never follow  the Masoretic pointing system in interpreting the 
Patriarchal narratives.  But maybe that's why I see this verse  differently than 
other analysts. 
2.  If we ignore the Masoretic pointing, is my proposed translation  
"And departed Jacob from  Beersheba,  and went toward Harran, and lighted 
a place, staying all  night there, because went down the  sun...." 
On my view, it's not right to translate "a  place" here as "a certain place", 
as is so often done.  As I view it, Jacob stopped where he did  solely 
because the sun was setting, and he knew he could not travel after  dark.  This was 
Jacob's first night  on the road, in my view.  In my  view, there was nothing 
special about the place at all, except that it was where  Jacob happened to be 
when the sun started to set on Jacob's first night of his  long trip to 
3.  Is your view of the case, which differs dramatically from mine, dependent 
 on the medieval Masoretic pointing?  You are seeing Jacob as coming to a 
particular place, "a certain place",  "the place", that is, where Abraham had 
built an altar to YHWH in chapter 12 of  Genesis, and where Abraham and Lot had 
stood when they were deciding where each  man would go in chapter 13 of 
But Abraham stood on a mountain at Abraham's  Bethel.  There is no mention of 
a  mountain here.  The narrator  frequently references "Ai" when Abraham is 
at Abraham's "Bethel", and never  references "Luz".  But whenever  Jacob is at 
this spot, the narrator always references "Luz", and never  references "Ai".  
And Jacob is the  one who gives this spot the name "Bethel", whereas Abraham's 
Bethel/Ai was  already known as "Bethel" before Abraham got there for the 
first  time. 
Secular scholars explain these wild  discrepancies by saying, not to worry, 
there were multiple authors of the  Patriarchal narratives, who didn't know 
what each other was doing, and the  editor of the Patriarchal narratives for the 
most part just threw things  together.  That "explanation" neatly  "accounts", 
after a fashion, for any and all of the outright contradictions that  appear 
in the secular scholars' analysis of the Patriarchal narratives.  So secular 
scholars are not concerned at  all about the outrageous fact that a place is 
called "Bethel" before Abraham  gets there, but then when Abraham's grandson 
gets to that very same place over  100 years later, Abraham's grandson Jacob then 
names that place "Bethel" for the  first time.  No matter how many  egregious 
inconsistencies like that one points out in a secular scholar's  analysis, 
the answer is always the same:  "multiple authors, incoherent editing, so what 
do you  expect?" 
I myself see only a single author of the  truly ancient Patriarchal 
narratives, and no incoherence at  all. 
4.  Which gets us back to Hebrew grammar and Hebrew word choice, which is the 
 very heart and soul of this b-Hebrew list.  In order to get Jacob's 
Bethel/Luz to be Abraham's Bethel/Ai, do we have  to go the secular scholarly route of 
(i) relying on Masoretic pointing done in  the Middle Ages, and then (ii) 
blithely assuming that there are multiple authors  of the Patriarchal narratives 
and inadequate editing, and consequently one  should not be surprised that the 
text is not susceptible to rational  analysis? 
By sharp contrast, on my view the received  text, as is, makes perfect sense. 
 Forget the medieval Masoretic pointing.  Forget the secular scholars' claims 
of  multiple authors, when in fact there is only one voice, and only one 
point of  view, a monolithic point of view, throughout the entirety of the 
Patriarchal  narratives. 
Jacob is not stopping at Abraham's  mountainous Bethel/Ai.  No, Jacob is  
just stopping the first night on his long, lonely trip way out to Harran.  There 
is nothing special at all about  this spot until Jacob stops there, in my 
view.  The sun starts to go down on the first  day of Jacob's long trip, so Jacob 
stops there for the night.  That's all.  Then Jacob has the great Jacob's 
Ladder  vision.  On Jacob's first night on  the road.  Nowhere near Abraham's  
5.  I myself cannot accept any analysis of a  verse of text in the 
Patriarchal narratives that relies on the medieval  Masoretic pointing system.  In the  
days of Ezekiel, the Hebrews changed their interpretation of the truly ancient 
 Patriarchal narratives, as the Hebrews in Ezekiel's day now newly hated and  
detested Sur ("Tyre") in southern Lebanon, which was blamed for aiding and  
abetting Babylon's destruction of Judah in the 6th century BCE.  At best, the 
Masoretic pointing system  enshrines the Ezekiel-era 
reinterpretation/misinterpretation of the Patriarchal  narratives.  The later books in the  Bible spell 
Sur as "Tsor" precisely so that Sur in the Patriarchal narratives  will no 
longer be recognized to be the rich island city-state of Sur off the  southern 
coast of Lebanon. 
So to the extent that your analysis relies  on the Masoretic pointing system, 
it cannot influence those of us who view the  Patriarchal narratives as being 
a truly ancient  document. 
Thanks so much, however, for alerting me to  this important issue.  I am  
beginning to understand now why my view of this verse differs so significantly  
from the standard analysis.  As I  noted in my last post, the importance of 
learning issues of Biblical Hebrew  grammar and word usage like that is precisely 
why many of us get so much out of  this b-Hebrew list. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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