[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 12 10:45:57 EDT 2007

We all agree that the Patriarchal narratives (i)  portray Isaac as being born 
and raised in Gerar, and (ii) provide an extensive  description of Gerar in 
chapters 20, 21 and 26 of Genesis.  Based on that extensive Biblical  
description of Gerar, was Gerar located in the Sinai Desert, in the Negev  Desert, or 
in southern Lebanon? 
Here are the three most obvious attributes of Gerar as portrayed in the  
Patriarchal narratives. 
1.  Abimelech 
The ruler's name is "Abimelech".  That is a classic west Semitic name.  The 
one and only foreign name is  "Phicol", with Phicol being the head of 
Abimelech's military forces. 
2.  Jousting Over Water  Wells 
There is very serious, and continuous, jousting over water wells.  Obviously 
water wells are very important  in Gerar. 
3.  Philistines on Both  Sides 
(a)  There are "Philistines"  present at Gerar. 
(b)  Though often overlooked  by modern analysts, it appears from the text 
that "Philistines" are fighting on  both sides of these interminable disputes 
over water wells: 
"Now all the wells which his  father's servants had digged in the days of 
Abraham his father, the Philistines  had stopped them, and filled them with 
earth."  Genesis 26:  15 
"And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they  had digged in the 
days of Abraham his father;  for the Philistines had stopped them  after the 
death of Abraham…."  Genesis 26: 18 
A.  Sinai  Desert 
Although unknown to secular history, the Bible uses the  words "Qadesh" (or 
"Qadesh-barnea") and "Shur" to refer to sites in the Sinai  Desert.  In the 
Sinai Desert,  between Qadesh-barnea and the Shur Desert, (i) there was no ruler 
named  "Abimelech", (ii) there was no jousting over water wells, at least in 
the manner  described in the Patriarchal narratives, and (iii) there are no 
Philistines of  any type. 
Certainly Gerar cannot be in  the Sinai Desert.  Moreover, when  Genesis 20: 
1 says that Abraham "settled between Qadesh and S(h)ur", it seems  unlikely 
that the text really means that Abraham settled in the Sinai  Desert.  Even in 
ancient times, the  Sinai Desert was not a fit place to go to have a baby.  
Yigal Levin wrote:  "[A]ll  of Jim's assumptions about where and when Abraham and 
Sarah would go to have  their baby are nonsensical".  I  stand by my 
statement that it would be nonsensical for the Patriarchal  narratives to portray 
Abraham and Sarah as going to the desolate Sinai Desert to  have their 
divinely-promised baby.  They know that Sarah will become pregnant very soon, so there's 
no way  that they would to the bleak Sinai Desert. 
B.  Negev  Desert Near Site of Modern Beersheba 
(i)  There is  no known ruler named "Abimelech" here. 
(ii)  No  jousting over water wells in the manner described in the 
Patriarchal narratives  is recorded in secular history here. 
(iii)  No  Philistines of any kind are here.  In particular, the classic 
Philistines (who would be an anachronism for  an historical Patriarchal Age) never 
fought amongst themselves on both sides of  a dispute over water wells.  No  
foreign mercenaries operated here either. 
The site of modern Beersheba in the Negev Desert is  nowhere near either 
Qadesh or S(h)ur (regardless of which set of meanings one  attaches to "Qadesh" 
and "S(h)ur).  Despite the traditional (and seemingly unanimous) reading of 
Genesis 20:  1 to the contrary, namely Version #3, it is hard to see how Genesis 
20: 1 could  be talking about Abraham sojourning at the site of modern 
Beersheba in the Negev  Desert, since the text clearly says that Abraham "settled 
between Qadesh and  S(h)ur", and the site of modern Beersheba is nowhere near 
either Qadesh or  S(h)ur (no matter how one views Qadesh and  S(h)ur). 
It is unwise to assume that each and every reference in  the Bible to a 
"Beersheba" is necessarily to a site that is in the Negev Desert,  much less a site 
that is close to the modern Israeli city of Beersheba.  In particular, the 
author of the  Patriarchal narratives seems perfectly willing to call any site 
where a well of  water has been providentially found "Beersheba".  Thus in 
chapter 21 of Genesis, Abraham  exiles Hagar and Ishmael to a place in the lonely 
wilderness that is called  "Beersheba", where a well of water is 
providentially found.  Meanwhile, "at that time" (Genesis 21:  22), Abraham himself 
providentially finds a well of water by digging where he is  at, amid many 
"Philistines" and general hubbub, and Abraham names that place  "Beersheba".  Thus it 
would seem  that any place where a well of water is providentially found may be 
called  "Beersheba" by the author of the Patriarchal narratives, even a place 
not  located in or near the Negev Desert. 
Despite Yigal Levin's insistence that Gerar is in the  Negev Desert (near the 
site of the modern Israeli city of Beersheba), we must  ask ourselves how any 
Hebrew author, under any circumstances, could possibly  describe life in the 
Negev Desert as  follows: 
"Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto  Gerar.  …And Isaac 
sowed in that  land, and found in the same year a hundredfold;  and the LORD 
[YHWH] blessed him.  And the man waxed great, and grew more  and more until he 
became very great.  And he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, 
and a great  household;  and the Philistines  envied him."  Genesis 26: 1, 
Does that sound like life in the Negev Desert?  Come on.  The Patriarchal 
narratives are not  nonsensical like that. 
My next post will examine whether Sur ("Tyre") in  southern Lebanon fits the 
relevant secular  history. 
Jim StinehartEvanston,  Illinois

************************************** See what's new at http://www.aol.com

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list