[b-hebrew] Language, migration and Jewish identity

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Nov 9 10:48:34 EST 2007

Yitzhak  Sapir: 
1.  You wrote:  "I see nothing in  the quote you brought above about 
That would be page 177 of Gerhard von Rad's  book: 
"[T]he Amorites...are usually understood in  the Old Testament to be much 
farther north…" 
I take the reference there to "much father  north" to mean Lebanon, or at 
least the area near  Lebanon. 
Incidentally, Speiser has a slightly  different view here.  Speiser sees  
"Amorites" in the Patriarchal narratives as simply meaning the pre-Israelite  
population of Canaan, not necessarily focused on Lebanon.  So does Nahum M. 
Sarna, quoted  below. 
2.  You wrote:  "In any case, the book is 46 years old.  That's old!  You 
really should use more recent commentators, and you should  avoid the word 
"secular scholars" for actual names, especially when it might  just be one opinion 
amongst many." 
I try to read every scholarly commentary on the Patriarchal narratives  that 
I can get my hands on.  I have  seen no published contrary opinion.  There is 
some question as to whether the Amorites' iniquity is primarily  sex, or is 
just moral corruption in general, not limited to sex.  But that is the only 
range of scholarly  opinion that I myself have seen.  On  the Internet, a Biblical 
Minimalist once opined that the Amorites' iniquity was  that they were 
polytheistic.  That  does not make sense to me, as virtually everyone in the world 
except the Hebrews  were polytheists.  I have not seen a  non-Biblical 
Minimalist make that argument. 
Let me quote here another source, although once again it's a little old.  But 
I myself have not seen anything more recent on this particular topic, and I  
do try to read everything. 
"[W] are told that the delay was because 'the iniquity of the Amorites  will 
not be fulfilled until then' (v. 16).  This amazing explanation means that the 
displacement of the native  population of Canaan by Israel was not to be 
accounted for on grounds of divine  favoritism or superior military prowess on the 
part of the invading  Israelites.  The local peoples, here  generally called 
'Amorites', had violated God's charge.  The universally binding moral law had  
been flouted….  The pre-Israelite  inhabitants of Canaan had been doomed by 
their own corruption."  Nahum M. Sarna, "Understanding Genesis"  (1966), at p. 
I have never seen an academic secular scholarly explanation of Genesis  15: 
16, other than by a Biblical Minimalist, that differs substantially from the  
above.  Note that Nahum Sarna  himself says that such explanation is "amazing". 
 That is to say, the academic  understanding of this passage makes no sense.  
The people of Canaan, including Lebanon,  weren't any different than any 
other people in the ancient near east in terms of  sexual practices or moral 
corruption.  Were such pagan practices going to change while the Hebrews allegedly  
were to be in Egypt (not my view of the case)?  Or if such pagan practices 
were not  going to change, then why wait so long before displacing the native 
population  of Canaan? 
Instead of embracing that "amazing" academic explanation of Genesis 15:  16, 
which makes no sense, why not consider an historical explanation?  The 
Amorites of northern Lebanon and  western Syria, who were under intense pressure from 
the expansionist-minded  Hittites, had iniquitously sold out northernmost 
Canaan to the dreaded  Hittites in the mid-14th century BCE.  That meant that the 
Hebrews would have  to continue to live in tents for 200 more years (400 
"years", in stated 6-month  "years"), so that the Hebrews could quickly move from 
any place where the  fearsome Hittites attacked.  Not  until the Hittites had 
disappeared as a cohesive force in history, almost 200  years after the 
mid-14th century BCE, would it be safe for the  Hebrews to commence living in 
settled, unwalled villages in southern  Canaan.  That happened in the  mid-12th 
century BCE, according to modern archaeology, so the timing  referred to in 
Genesis 15: 16 makes complete sense, historically (if we're  talking 6-month 
See how the historical explanation works perfectly?  The early Hebrews had 
zero interest in  the sex habits or moral corruption of the people of either 
Lebanon or  Canaan.  Rather, the early Hebrews  wanted to avoid getting wiped out 
by the menacing Hittites, make a modest  living, and develop their unique 
religion in peace.  What threatened everything was that the  northern Amorites 
had now, in the mid-14th century BCE during the  Patriarchal Age, sold out 
northernmost Canaan to the Hittites.  That is why YHWH decries "the iniquity  of 
the Amorites" at Genesis 15: 16.  That is why the Hebrews will not be able to 
live in settled villages in  Canaan until 200 years later (400 "years" later, in 
terms of stated 6-month  "years"), in the mid-12th century BCE.  The sex 
habits and moral corruption of  the people of Canaan or Lebanon had nothing to do 
with anything, in my  controversial view.  No, the text is  talking about the 
historical threat of the Hittites, who at one point were  reported (in Amarna 
Letter EA 170) to have 90,000 battle-tested troops in the  Bekka Valley, 
immediately north of Canaan proper, pursuant to having been  "invited" into 
northern Canaan by the iniquitous Amorites. 
To the best of my knowledge, not a single academic secular scholar from a  
leading university in the West has ever given a moment's consideration to that  
historical analysis of Genesis 15: 16. 
If you have ever seen a more sophisticated analysis in print of Genesis  15: 
16 than what I quoted above, please tell me what it is, and I will buy it  and 
eagerly read it.  As far as I  know, secular scholars have never gotten 
beyond the type of analysis set forth  in those old books by Gerhard von Rad and 
Nahum M. Sarna, which see Genesis 15:  16 as meaning, nonsensically, that the 
moral corruption of the pre-Israelite  population of greater Canaan will delay 
the Hebrews' conquest of Canaan by 400  years.  When there is a perfectly  
rational historical explanation of Genesis 15: 16, which I have set forth, why  
embrace the academics' "amazing" explanation? 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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