[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Oct 14 09:18:22 EDT 2007

Yitzhak Sapir : 
    1.  You wrote:   “Genesis 26 speaks of a special blessing of God to  
So this is your view of this section of the Patriarchal  narratives.  Isaac 
faces a terrible  drought/famine in Hebron.  So Isaac  moves to the Negev 
Desert (!?!?!).  While in the Negev Desert, Isaac becomes incredibly wealthy by 
growing  crops in the Negev Desert (!?!?!).  This sequence of events is easily 
explained as follows:  “Genesis 26 speaks of a special blessing  of God to Isaac.
If that is what the Hebrew text of the Patriarchal  narratives is saying (not 
my view, by a long shot), that would sure sound like a  ‘fairy tale’ to me. 
    1.  You wrote:   “ But look at the way the shepherds fight over water in 
Gen  26:20.  It doesn't seem like there's plenty of  water.”
That’s exactly what was going on at Sur!  Princeling Abimilki (Biblical  
"Abimelech") is trying to use foreign mercenaries (“Philistines”) to obtain  
access to the invaluable water wells on the mainland of Lebanon, with Sur being  a 
tiny island off the coast of southern Lebanon.  Although at Genesis 26: 20 it’
s  shepherds contending over those valuable water wells, how can you ignore 
Genesis  26: 15, 18, where it’s not only shepherds, but also professional 
foreign  mercenaries/”Philistines” who are involved in this deadly serious  
“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.  …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: 15,  18 
That’s Sur!  We’ve got 8 Amarna Letters on this very subject.  And the 
princeling’s name is  “Abimilki”.  And the tent-dwelling  habiru (Biblical “
Hebrews”) are there, in an ambiguous role.  There were no classic Philistines or  
foreign mercenaries (such as the Sherden) in the Negev Desert.  But southern 
Lebanon was rife with all  manner of foreign mercenaries in the time period of 
the first  Hebrews. 
Crops could be grown on the mainland of southern Lebanon,  much better than 
in the Negev Desert.  Only in southern Lebanon did you have this very peculiar 
phenomenon of a  very rich island city-state, Sur, that was utterly dependent 
for its water  supply on water wells on the mainland, which water wells could 
relatively easily  be sabotaged by rival princelings, and by foreign 
mercenaries  (“Invaders”/“Philisitnes”) hired by those foreign mercenaries.  And this 
was all happening on the  western edge of historical Garu (Biblical  “Gerar”
    1.  On my view, it all makes historical sense.  As to what S-type sound 
is used at the  beginning of the name “Sur”/"Tyre”, that certainly cannot be 
definitive, given  the incredible diversity of the spelling of foreign place 
names in the ancient  world.  (Even the name “Hezekiah”  is spelled three 
different ways in the Bible, isn’t it?  That name does not even always start  with 
the same letter, does it?)
The traditional view, which you are following, is to  dismiss all analysis 
with a wave of the hand:  “Genesis 26 speaks of a special blessing  of God to 
Isaac.”  No, chapter 26 of  Genesis speaks of a heart-rending decision Isaac 
must make.  Should Isaac give up on being  independent and go to Egypt in the 
face of a drought/famine in Hebron?  Or should Isaac risk the horrible  politics 
of southern Lebanon, complete with dueling foreign mercenaries, in  order to 
ride out the drought/famine by staying in  Canaan? 
There’s no way that Isaac could get rich growing crops in  the Negev Desert. 
As I see it, at Genesis 20: 1 “the land of the south” and  “between Qadesh 
and S(h)ur” are a slightly disguised reference to the southern  region of the 
area between the Lebanese city-states of Qadesh and Sur, and  “Gerar” is 
historical Garu.  Then  everything makes historical sense.  Abraham goes to Sur to 
have the baby, and Isaac returns to Sur when  drought/famine hits Hebron in 
Isaac’s generation.  It all makes perfect  sense. 
Otherwise, there’s no sense or historicity in the  Patriarchal narratives at 
all, which are just one case after another of God  giving special blessings to 
the Patriarchs.  I myself see the Patriarchal narratives  as being, on the 
contrary, very closely based on the well-documented secular  history of the 
mid-14th century BCE, the time period of the first  Hebrews.  There are so many 
stunning  matches, it cannot all be a mere  “coincidence”. 
But until I can convince you to look at Genesis 20: 1  with new eyes, and see 
possible, slightly-disguised references to southern  Lebanon there, I guess 
we will just have to agree to  disagree. 
But thanks so very much for your insights into the Hebrew  language.  All of 
that is very  greatly appreciated. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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