[b-hebrew] Where Was Jacob's Ladder?
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Nov 8 15:24:55 EST 2007
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
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
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
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.
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