[b-hebrew] Genesis 15: 13, 16 (was "Language, migration and Jewish identity")

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sat Nov 10 20:16:02 EST 2007

Yitzhak Sapir: 
You repeat the traditional view of Genesis 15: 13, 16, a view which is  the 
same as the view of academic secular scholars.  But have you ever considered 
that such  view is not supported by what the text actually says?  Let’s take a 
new look at Genesis 15: 13,  16. 
Here is the English Standard Version translation of Genesis 15: 13,  16: 
“Then the LORD [YHWH] said to Abram,  ‘Know for certain that your offspring  
will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, 
and  they will be afflicted for four hundred years.  …And they shall come back 
here in the  fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet  
1.      Note  that there is no mention of Egypt regarding any period of 
enslavement.  The Patriarchal narratives never predict  that the Hebrews will be 
enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, or anything remotely  like that.  Perhaps the 
Book of  Exodus says that, but there’s nothing like that in the Patriarchal  
2.      The  reference to the early Hebrews being “sojourners in a land that 
is not theirs”  means that for the first 200 regular years of their existence, 
the early Hebrews  were living in Canaan, in tents, and not owning any land, 
like the Patriarchs  themselves. 
3.      The  reference to the fact that the early Hebrews “will be servants 
there, and they  will be afflicted for four hundred years”, means that for 200 
regular years, the  Hebrews will not be landowners, but rather will be workers 
or “servants” in  Canaan.  They will be “afflicted” in  the same sense the 
Patriarchs were afflicted:  Abraham had to rescue his nephew Lot  from four 
attacking rulers, Isaac kept being pushed farther and father east of  Sur, and 
Jacob had to avoid having his family be absorbed by the men of  Shechem.  Such “
afflictions” could  not be avoided until such time, 200 regular years hence, 
when the early Hebrews  had become the dominant landowners of Canaan. 
Most of the  calendars from ancient Canaan had a New Year event in both the 
spring and the  fall:  the calendars of Ugarit, the  Gezer Calendar, and the 
Hebrew/Jewish calendar.  Accordingly, a 6-month “year” concept  was natural for 
the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives.  Sarah does not give birth 
to Isaac at  age 90 regular years.  Rather, Sarah  is age 90 “years”, in 
6-month “years”, so she gives birth to Isaac at age 45  regular years.  That was a 
 near-miracle in the ancient world, but not a biological  impossibility. 
4.      The  reference to the fact that the early Hebrews “shall come back 
here [to Hebron]  in the fourth generation” means that Judah’s generation, 
after being in Egypt  for a fairly short time, will return to southeastern Canaan, 
shortly after  Joseph’s death.  It will be another  generation or so, though, 
before the Hebrews are the dominant landowners in  Canaan.  The “fourth 
generation” is  Judah’s generation, following the three generations of Abraham, 
Isaac and  Jacob.  All the rest of Joseph’s  predictions come true in the 
Patriarchal narratives, so why should we doubt  Joseph’s final prediction? 
“And  Joseph said unto his brethren:  'I  die;  but God will surely remember  
you, and bring you up out of this land unto the land which He swore to 
Abraham,  to Isaac, and to Jacob.'”  Genesis  50: 24 
5.  The “iniquity of the  Amorites” is, as previously discussed, the fact 
that the Amorites in northern  Lebanon/Amurru and in Ugarit iniquitously sold 
out northernmost greater Canaan  to the dreaded Hittites in the mid-14th century 
BCE.  The first Hebrews then had to resort to  living in tents, so they could 
move away from any part of Canaan where the  fearsome Hittites might decide 
to attack.  This lifestyle of living in tents went on for almost 200 years.  
But by the mid-12th century  BCE, the Hittites had disappeared, and Canaan was 
severely underpopulated.  That was when the Hebrews could finally,  at long 
last, establish settled, unwalled villages in the highlands of  southeastern 
Canaan, and become the dominant landowners  there. 
6.      My interpretation of Genesis 15: 13, 16 is based on what the text  
actually says.  The text says  nothing about the Hebrews being enslaved in Egypt 
for 400 years.  My interpretation fits the  archaeological record perfectly.  
The early Hebrews were indeed “strangers in their own land” of Canaan for  
almost 200 years (400 “years”, in 6-month “years”), beginning in the  mid-14
th century BCE.  Then in the mid-12th century BCE, the Hebrews became, for the  
first time, village dwellers in southeastern  Canaan. 
7.  The pinpoint historical  accuracy of the Patriarchal narratives is 
breathtaking.  The analysis I have set forth above (i)  fits the text of Genesis 15: 
13, 16 perfectly, and (ii) fits the archaeological  record perfectly as well. 
I am defending the integrity, and historical accuracy, of the Patriarchal  
narratives.  I am saying nothing  about the Book of Exodus.  What I am  saying, 
rather, is that what the text of the Patriarchal narratives actually  says 
fits the secular history of the mid-14th century BCE  perfectly. 
Jim Stinehart                                                                 
                                                          Evanston, Illinois

************************************** See what's new at http://www.aol.com

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list