[b-hebrew] Genesis 15: 13, 16
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Sat Nov 10 22:45:05 EST 2007
Rev. Bryant J. Williams III:
1. My guess is that you may be reacting to a post I addressed to
Yitzhak Sapir. I only mention that because in that post, I was not saying what
your view was, I was saying what Yitzhak Sapir’s view is.
In fact, both of you take the same view, which is not only the traditional
religious view, but is also, strangely, the view of every academic secular
scholar I have seen. All of you insist on reading Genesis 15: 13, 16 from the
perspective of the Book of Exodus. But the Patriarchal narratives were
composed long before the Book of Exodus. The author of the Patriarchal narratives
likes Egypt a great deal. If you doubt that, just look at the first half of
chapter 50 of Genesis, where Pharaoh is portrayed as sending all his top
officials to Canaan for Jacob’s funeral. Genesis 15: 13, 16 does not predict
400 years of enslavement of the Hebrews in Egypt. That is in the Book of
Exodus, not in the Patriarchal narratives. Most of the Bible is negative toward
Egypt, but not the Patriarchal narratives. That’s because the Patriarchal
narratives were composed before Egypt did anything bad to the Hebrews.
I was trying to challenge Yitzhak Sapir to look at Genesis 15: 13, 16 with
new eyes, on the text’s own terms. When Genesis 15: 13, 16 was composed, the
Book of Exodus did not exist yet. If we would look at Genesis 15: 13, 16 on
its own terms, we would see how historically accurate it is. I myself do not
think it is fair to attribute to the author of the Patriarchal narratives the
things that are said in the Book of Exodus.
1. You wrote: “I look at the Patriarchal narratives as giving good
history of the period of the beginnings of the Hebrew people.”
We agree on that.
1. You wrote: “I trace the story of Joseph to ca. 1875 BC and
the reign of Sesostris III. I find the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph to fit
the beginning of Hyksos Period (1750-1570 BC) very well.”
The first mention of Israelites in secular history is the Merneptah Stele of
1207 BCE. Since the Hebrews were a big enough tribe at the end of the 13th
century BCE to attract the attention of a conquering Egyptian pharaoh, that
suggests that the first Hebrews lived in the mid-14th century BCE. There’s
nothing in the secular record to support an earlier date for the first Hebrews.
1. You wrote: “There is much that we still do not know; and probably
will never know due to various reasons among which are destruction and time.
Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence, e.g. the list of kings
mentioned in Genesis 14 who overthrew Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of
(a) The Amarna Letters from the mid-14th century BCE are replete with
references to four attacking rulers demolishing a league of five princelings in
greater Canaan. That’s the “four kings against the five” referenced at
Genesis 14: 9. What has confused everyone is that all four names of the four
attacking rulers, and all four names of their homelands, are nicknames, rather
than their formal names. For example, “Amraphel” starts with AMR,
referencing Amurru. That’s historical Aziru, the iniquitous Amorite of Amurru. All
four attacking rulers are like that. Every name is an appropriate nickname.
(b) The English word “plain” is a terrible translation for KKR/”kikkar”.
The kikkar of the Jordan is the Jordan River Valley. The English word “
plain” erroneously suggests a high area with little vegetation, which is the
exact opposite of the Jordan River Valley. The Hebrew text is perfect, but that
English translation is terribly misleading.
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