[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
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.
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