[b-hebrew] Genesis 12: 5: Are "Souls" Slaves?

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sun Nov 18 02:14:27 EST 2007


Jim,

1. I have no idea what it is you're blaming poor Ezekiel for, and I'm not 
going to read through all of your overly-long posts to find out. Do you 
think that he wrote Exodus-Numbers?

2. No where does the Patriarchal narrative state that God spoke to the 
Patriarchs in Hebrew. I have no idea what language Abraham spoke. Even if he 
did speak a form of "Hebrew", all languages evolve, and Abraham's Hebrew 
could have been as different from classical Biblical Hebrew as Middle 
English is from our English. We don't know, because the Bible doesn't tell 
us. The various books of the Bible are written in the language of their 
intended audience, with occasional reference to someone, ususally a 
non-Israelite, speaking strangely or in a foreign language, such as Laban's 
"yegar sahaduta" or the story of Joseph's pretending to need an interpreter, 
when it serves the author's purpose. Most authors, ancient and modern, do 
the same.

3. There is no evidence of "Hebrews" in Late Bronze Age Canaan. It has been 
shown that the so-called "Habiru" or "Apiru" of the Amarna texts are NOT 
"Hebrews" in the biblical sense of an ethnicity. Some scholars even deny an 
etymological connection between the terms, although that is still debated.

4. You are correct, that the biblical Hebrew language is related more 
closely to Canaanite than to any Mesopotamian language, even Aramaic. Which 
is indeed one indication (there are others) that "genetically" speaking, the 
Iron Age Israelites were largely descended from the population of LBA Canaan 
or its environs. But the Patriarchal narratives make it very clear that 
"home" was in Mesopotamia: Terah sets out from Ur (wherever that is - I'm 
not insisting on the famous Sumerian city) on his way to Canaan, but stops 
in Haran and dies there. The text does not say why he set out or why he 
stopped in Haran, so neither do we. Two of his sons stay there, but God 
tells Abraham to keep going "to the land which I will show you", which turns 
out to be Canaan. Nothing about this indicates that their original home was 
in Canaan. They have no relatives there.They have no property there. 
Abraham's servant and later Jacob go back to the family in Haran to get 
wives. The story is clear: Abraham "the 'Ivri" came from 'Ever Hannahar' - 
"across the river", meaning the Euphrates.

5. And yes, there is a dissonance between the Israelites' apparent 
"Canaanite" origins and their own tradition that their ancestors had come 
from "across the river" (although remember, this is the story that the 
authors of the Bible gave us. We don't really know how commonly accepted 
this narrative was in Iron Age Israel). I can see two main options: The 
first is that the whole story was invented for ideological purposes - in 
order to show that the Israelites, God's people, are not REALLY "dirty 
Canaanites". The second is that this narrative did occur (in some form) and 
that the Patriarchs' descendants, although demographically very few in 
number, were influential enough so that their narrative was accepted as a 
part of the "national narrative" - again, at least by the writers of the 
Bible.

Yigal Levin




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