[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sat Oct 13 22:37:41 EDT 2007


 
Yitzhak Sapir: 
    1.  Perhaps we can agree on the following Version #4  translation of 
Genesis 20: 1:
Version #4 
“And  departed from there  Abraham to the land of the south, and he settled 
between Qadesh and S(h)ur, and  he sojourned in Gerar.” 
As to the phrase “to the land of the south”, Yigal Levin  now sees that as 
being acceptable:  “I do agree now that ‘Arcah Hannegev’ here may mean "to the 
land 
of  the south". 
I hope we can now move on to the two critical issues  involving Genesis 20: 
1. 
    1.  You wrote:  “In light of the many cognates,  and in light of Joshua 
15:19,
"ngb" = "dry land" may be only a theory, but  it is also a very
compelling theory and one that has to be answered if  someone
suggests that "ngb" refers to a very fertile  land.”
You and I agree that the Negev Desert is not very fertile land, even  though 
people were able to live there in Biblical times.  But could any Hebrew author 
describe the  Negev Desert like this: 
"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,  
12-14 
All  of us start out thinking that “the land of the south” and “Gerar” are 
in the  Negev Desert.  I thought that for  years, too.  But chapter 26 of  
Genesis is not consistent with that view.  In my view, the author of the 
Patriarchal narratives is gradually letting  us know that “the land of the south” and 
“Gerar” at Genesis 20: 1 are not the  geographical locales we initially 
thought they  were. 
Although south/negev is usually synonymous  with dry/non-fertile land, here 
is the exception.  “And Isaac sowed in that land, and found  in the same year a 
hundredfold”.  Surely that cannot be the Negev Desert, can  it? 
    1.  One of the most important phrases in the  entire Bible is the middle 
third of Genesis 20:  1:
“and he settled between Qadesh  and S(h)ur” 
What does the Hebrew verb yashab mean  there? 
As used in this way, doesn’t yashab always mean to stay  in a place for at 
least 12 months, and usually much longer than that?  When I start looking at the 
Patriarchal  narratives, I find that yashab, when it is used in this way 
(that is, when it  does not mean “sit down”), always means to remain or stay in a 
place for a long  time.  Genesis 11: 31;  13: 6-7, 12, 18;  14: 7, 12;  16: 
3;  19: 29-30;  20: 15, 20-21;  22: 19;  23: 10;  24: 3, 37 (stopping at 
chapter 24 simply  because the usage seems so consistent and commonplace).  Typical 
of how yashab is used in the  Patriarchal narratives is Genesis 16: 3: 
“…Abram had dwelt ten years in  the land of Canaan….” 
But if Abraham “settled” in the Sinai Desert, that would  normally mean that 
he stayed in the Sinai Desert for at least 12 months, and  probably much 
longer than that.  But  then how on earth would Abraham have enough time to go 
back to Gerar in the  Negev Desert, where Sarah gets pregnant with Isaac, and 
Sarah bears Isaac “when  the season cometh round”, that is, less than 12 months 
after Abraham and Sarah  left Hebron?  How can Abraham  “settle” in the Sinai 
Desert, when all the rest of the text is busy telling us  what Abraham did at 
Gerar? 
Am I misunderstanding the Hebrew here?  How can Abraham “settle” in the 
Sinai  Desert, but we never hear about the Sinai Desert again, all the talk is 
about  Gerar, Gerar, Gerar.  And Sarah gets  pregnant with Isaac in Gerar, and 
bears Isaac in Gerar less than 12 months after  Abraham and Sarah left Hebron 
and “settled” “between Qadesh and  S(h)ur”. 
    1.  The problems set forth in #2 and #3 above disappear  instantly if “
the land of the south”, “Gerar”, and the land “between Qadesh  and S(h)ur” are 
all references to southern Lebanon, near Sur (my controversial  view).
Unless I am misunderstanding what the Hebrew is saying, I  just do not see 
how (i) Isaac can get incredibly wealthy growing crops in the  Negev Desert, or 
how (ii) Abraham and Sarah can “settle” in the middle of the  Sinai Desert, 
yet Sarah still gets pregnant with Isaac in Gerar, and bears Isaac  less than 
12 months after Abraham and Sarah left  Hebron. 
I hate to bring up the Biblical Minimalists, but everyone  knows that famed 
Biblical Minimalist Niels Peter Lemche openly asserts in his  published works 
that the Patriarchal narratives are ‘fairy tales’.  Aren’t we playing into his 
hands if we  insist that Genesis 20: 1 must be interpreted to mean that Isaac 
gets incredibly  wealthy growing crops in the Negev Desert, and that Abraham “
settles” in the  Sinai Desert after leaving Hebron, yet Sarah gets pregnant 
with Isaac in Gerar,  and Isaac is born less than 12 months after Abraham and 
Sarah leave Hebron?  On my controversial view of Genesis 20:  1, the entire 
sequence here would, by stark contrast, make perfect sense, if  Genesis 20: 1 is 
subtly referring to southern Lebanon near Sur (“Tyre”).  Qadesh, and Sur, and 
Abimelech/Abimilki,  and Gerar/Garu, and “Philistines”/“Invaders”/foreign 
mercenaries/Sherden, and  interminable jousting over valuable water wells, and 
habiru/Hebrews -- all fit  southern Lebanon perfectly in the mid-14th century 
BCE secular  historical context.  Can all that be  merely a weird “coincidence”
?   
Why not take a new look at Genesis 20: 1, and see that,  on second thought, 
it just may be referencing Sur in southern Lebanon?  Then both Genesis 20: 1, 
and chapters 21  and 26 of Genesis, would all make perfect sense, both in terms 
of logic, and in  terms of well-documented secular history as  well. 
Why continue with the traditional view of Genesis 20: 1,  which appears to 
make three chapters of the Patriarchal narratives nonsensical?   
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois



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