[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 11 10:31:18 EDT 2007
Based on the critical comments made concerning my first attempt at a new
translation of Genesis 20: 1, I have revised my new translation. Set forth below
are three versions of my new translation. Each version uses identical
English wording, but different punctuation and capitalization are used in each
version, recognizing (per Version #1) that the original Hebrew had no
punctuation or capitalization at all.
1. Version #1
No punctuation or capitalization [ambiguous as to whether Isaac is born in
southern Lebanon at Sur or in the Negev Desert]
"and departed from there abraham to the south land and he settled between
kadesh and s(h)ur and he sojourned in gerar"
2. Version #2
Dashes [Isaac is born in southern Lebanon at Sur]
"And departed from there Abraham to the southland -- and he settled --
between Kadesh and Sur and he sojourned in Gerar."
3. Version #3
Semi-colons and capitalization [Isaac is born in the Negev Desert]
"And departed from there Abraham to The South Land; and he settled between
Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar."
* * *
I agree that Version #3, the traditional interpretation of Genesis 20: 1,
works grammatically. But what I am saying is this:
(i) Version #2 is also a legitimate interpretation of Genesis 20: 1, and is
not impossible grammatically.
(ii) Version #2 makes perfect sense substantively, whereas Version #1 is
virtually nonsensical substantively. If Abraham journeyed into The Land of
Negev, how then could Abraham settle in the Sinai Desert? Wrong desert. And
having "settled" in the middle of the Sinai Desert, how is it then that Abraham
sojourned at Gerar in the Negev Desert? Wrong desert again. And there's
not enough time for Abraham first to settle in the Sinai Desert, and then
commence sojourning in the Negev Desert at Gerar, with all this happening over a
period of less than 30 days after Abraham leaves Hebron. Sarah must get
pregnant about 30 days after they leave Hebron, which is presumably after Abraham
and Sarah have interacted with Abimelech at Gerar (in chapter 20, with
Sarah's pregnancy becoming known only in chapter 21), in order for Sarah to bear
Isaac "when the season cometh round", that is, when spring returns again.
Finally, it makes no sense for Abraham and Sarah to go to a desert in order to
have, and raise, Isaac.
On this list, the key issue is the Hebrew grammar. I view Version #2 as
being a legitimate possible interpretation of Genesis 20: 1 based on Hebrew
grammar, even though I admit that Version #3 would be most people's first reading
of Genesis 20: 1. In my view, the author of the Patriarchal narratives did
all this deliberately. He is deliberately causing us to think initially that
Abraham may have followed in Hagar's footsteps from chapter 16 of Genesis,
leaving Hebron and going toward Kadesh(-barnea) and Shur. But we gradually
figure out that in fact, Abraham went in exactly the opposite direction.
Abraham went north from Bethel/Ai (not southwest from Hebron), toward the Lebanese
city-states of Kadesh and Sur ("Tyre"). Isaac is born near Sur, in southern
Lebanon, in fulfillment of the Covenant.
I see the ambiguity in Genesis 20: 1 as being deliberate. The Hebrew author
is forcing us to think. And by forcing a parallel with Hagar from chapter
16 of Genesis, who (along with her son Ishmael) is left outside of the
Covenant, the author is making an important point by this deliberately ambiguous
wording of Genesis 20: 1.
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