[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Fri Oct 12 01:47:13 EDT 2007


While Karl's use of the name "Palestine" here as a general geographic term
is for what is called "Eretz-Yisrael" in Jewish discourse is widely accepted
in the academic community (including by Jews and Israelis!), it is certainly
anachronistic (since "Palestina" was only used as a name for the Land after
135 CE). Furthermore, in this day and age, the use of "Palestine" has
political conotations which, even if not intended, should probably be

Actually though, my problem with Karl's post is geographic. Karl wrote: "To
the south of Canaan was the land of the Negev, which apparently included
Palestine and much of the Sinai. Today the historic Negev is split up into
three separate areas."

This is incorrect. In the Bible, the word "Negev" can mean one of two
1. The specific area called "The Negev", which is sometimes sub-divided into
areas such as "The Negev of Judah", "The Negev of Caleb" etc. ALL of these
parts of The Negev are roughly within the Beer-sheva - Arad basin, sometimes 
extending slightly farther south. The rest
of what is today called "The Negev" in modern Israel, all the way to Eilat,
is NOT called The Negev in the Bible.
2. Since The Negev is in the south of the Land, by extension the noun 
"negev" is used for "south" in general - even when it does not refer to the 
south of the Land. This usage, as far as we know, is unique to Hebrew, and 
does not apear in other languages.

The theory that the word "negev" is derived from the verb "nageb" (NGB) 
meaning "to wipe" - a place that is "wiped dry" is only that - a theory 
which may or may not be correct. In any case, "Negev" is NEVER used of any 
desert other that the Beer-sheva - Arad basin.

I'll grant Jim the following: "between Kadesh and Shur", assuming that the 
"Kadesh" referred to is the Kadesh (Barnea) that we know, is NOT in the 
Negev. Thus I do agree now that "Arcah Hannegev" here may mean "to the land 
of the south" and not "to the Land of the Negev" specifically. However, as I 
and others have written, the context definately points to Abraham wandering 
in the south of Canaan, it makes no sense to thing that he went all the way 
to Lebanon, "Shur" is NOT "Cor" (Tyre), Shin and Cade are not 
interchangable, all of Jim's assumptions about where and when Abraham and 
Sarah would go to have their baby are nonsensical, and in any case, if you 
look at a map, "south of the line joining Tyre and (northern) Kedesh" means 

As long as we're on that, there IS a perfectly logical route that more-or 
less connects Tyre with Kedesh of the Galilee, in the hills above Hazor. 
This is apparently "The Way of the Sea" (Derekh Hayyam) mentioned in Isaiah 
8:23 (or 9:1 in some English Bibles), the road taken by Tiglath-pileser III 
in his conquest of northern Israel in 733 BCE. This name was translated as 
"Via Maris" and misinterpreted as referring to the main "highway" that runs 
parallel to the coast of Israel. But in any case, this has nothing to do 
with Abraham.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Shoshanna Walker" <rosewalk at concentric.net>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, October 12, 2007 1:33 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

> Excuse me, but the land of the Negev did NOT include Palestine, since
> there was no such place as Palestine, as there still is not, today.
> Shoshanna
> Secondly, while some names remain constant, other names change.
> Abraham was living in the Land of Canaan, today nobody calls it that.
> To the south of Canaan was the land of the Negev, which apparently
> included Palestine and much of the Sinai. Today the historic Negev is
> split up into three separate areas.
> What you propose is to take a constant name, Tyre, and change it,
> while restricting Negev to its modern limits. Can that be justified? I
> don't think so.
> I also think you make too much of a belief that Isaac was born in the
> spring, whereas I don't think Genesis is that clear on that.
> Why not just take the historic meanings, as most of us do, and go with
> that? The historic understanding is not ambiguous.
> Karl W. Randolph.
> On 10/11/07, JimStinehart at aol.com <JimStinehart at aol.com> wrote:
>> 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.
>> Jim Stinehart
>> Evanston, Illinois
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