[b-hebrew] Language, migration and Jewish identity
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Nov 9 10:48:34 EST 2007
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
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
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?
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