[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Oct 14 12:31:46 EDT 2007

Oun Kwon: 
You wrote:  “A  question:  you place Gerar in southern Lebanon?  What about 
these texts:  Gen 10:19  'And the territory of  the Canaanites extended from 
Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, 2Ch  14:12  So the LORD defeated 
the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and  the Ethiopians fled.  2Ch  
14:13  Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar,  and 
the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before  
the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil.'  Does not 
this Gerar sound like to be  located further south of Gaza?” 
With the exception of the Patriarchal narratives, which begin at Genesis  11: 
26 with the first mention of Abraham (and do not include any material that  
appears earlier in the Book of Genesis), I agree with today’s secular scholars  
that the rest of the Hebrew Bible was composed in the mid-1st millennium  
BCE.  This includes the Bible  passages that you cite.  That means  that the 
authors of those Bible passages had never heard of historical Garu,  which had 
disappeared 700 years earlier (after the 14th century  BCE).  To those authors, “
Gerar” was  like “Qadesh” and “S(h)ur” as sites in the Sinai Desert, and 
like “Sodom” and  “Gomorrah”.  No one in the  1st millennium BCE had any 
knowledge of such names relating to  secular history, but rather only knew such 
names from the Patriarchal  narratives.  Thus on my view, we  cannot look outside 
of the Patriarchal narratives in the Bible for accurate  information about the 
secular history of the mid-2nd millennium BCE,  or, for that matter, for an 
historically accurate interpretation of the  Patriarchal narratives. 
If the Patriarchal narratives are reflecting accurate information from  the 
well-documented secular history of the mid-14th century BCE  (which is my 
controversial view of the case), the Patriarchal narratives will  contain detailed, 
specific information about that time period that was unknown  to any human 
being in the mid-1st millennium BCE, but which we today  can verify based on 
historical sources, such as the Amarna Letters.  Thus regarding Genesis 20: 1, 
just look  at what the author of the Patriarchal narratives knew, and that no 
human being  in the mid-1st millennium BE could possibly have known: 
    1.  A west Semitic-speaking Amorite princeling ruler  in southern Lebanon 
in mid-14th century BCE was named Abimilki  (Biblical “Abimelech”).
    1.  This ruler’s city-state was named Sur (Biblical  shin/sin-vav-resh at 
Genesis 20: 1).
    1.  Sur is located on the western edge of a  vaguely-defined region 
(which included the area immediately east of the Sea of  Galilee) that in the 
mid-14th century BCE was called Garu (Biblical  “Gerar” in chapters 20, 21 and 26 
of Genesis;  other parts of the Bible do not know  historical Garu).
    1.  Abimilki/Abimelech has hired a small number of  foreign mercenaries (“
Invaders”/“Philistines”) to try to assure his access to  the invaluable 
water wells on the mainland of southern Lebanon immediately  northeast of the tiny 
island of Sur.   (These are the “Philistines” referenced in chapters 21 and 
26 of  Genesis, who have nothing to do with the later classic Philistines.  
The classic Philistines are  inseparable from their 5 great cities on the 
southwest coast of Canaan, none  of which cities is ever mentioned, even in passing, 
in the Patriarchal  narratives.  The author of the  Patriarchal narratives 
knew nothing of the classic Philistines, who were not  in existence yet at the 
time of the composition of the truly ancient  Patriarchal narratives.)
    1.  But now rival princelings have hired their own  foreign mercenaries (“
Invaders”/“Philistines”), who often succeed in denying  princeling 
Abimilki/Abimelech access to the much-needed water wells on the  mainland of southern 
Lebanon.   Genesis 26: 15, 18
    1.  Tent-dwelling habiru (Biblical “Hebrews”) are  present at Sur, and 
are an ambiguous factor in this volatile mix.  Abimilki/Abimelech is nervous 
about  the habiru (Hebrews), yet Abimilki’s/Abimelech’s real problem is with 
the  rival princelings, and the foreign mercenaries (“Invaders”/“Philistines”) 
that  the rival princelings have hired to deny Abimilki/Abimelech access to 
the  much-needed water wells.
No human being in the mid-1st millennium BCE could possibly  have known all 
those specific, detailed secular historical facts from the  mid-14th century 
BCE.  All those facts are in the Patriarchal narratives, in chapters 20, 21 and  
26 of Genesis, and all those facts are fully documented in the Amarna  
The Patriarchal narratives cannot be mid-1st millennium BCE  fiction, because 
they track the well-documented secular history of the  mid-14th century BCE 
far too closely for that.  The fact that the rest of the Bible is  confused as 
to where “Gerar” was located, as reflected in your post, does not  undercut 
the pinpoint secular historical accuracy of the Patriarchal narratives  on this 
and so many other matters from the mid-14th century  BCE. 
If we translate Genesis 20: 1 accurately, we come to see that this key  Bible 
verse accurately reflects a detailed knowledge of the well-documented  
secular history of the mid-14th century BCE.  The key, you see, is how one 
translates  and understands the Hebrew text of Genesis 20: 1. 
There’s really not much dispute as to what happened in secular history  
regarding Abimilki of Sur.  Rather,  the key, somewhat surprisingly, is how people 
on this b-Hebrew list decide to  translate and understand the Hebrew text of 
Genesis 20: 1. 
Whether the Patriarchal narratives are mid-1st millennium BCE  fiction or, on 
the contrary, are closely based on mid-2nd millennium  BCE historical fact, 
depends primarily on how the experts on this b-Hebrew list  decide to 
translate, and understand, Genesis 20: 1.  The problem lies not with the secular  
history or with the Hebrew text.  The Hebrew text of Genesis 20: 1 is perfect as 
is.  Rather, as I see it, the problem lies  exclusively with the traditional 
translation and understanding of Genesis 20:  1. 
I can understand why the remaining Hebrews after 701 BCE reinterpreted  the 
truly ancient Patriarchal narratives from a southern Hebrew perspective,  which 
neatly cut Lebanon out of the picture.  It is no surprise that such southern  
Hebrew bias has continued throughout the common era, and is embraced by  
virtually all secular scholars today, including, but by no means limited to,  
Biblical Minimalists and staunch atheists.  But what I am asking people on this 
b-Hebrew list to do is to look at  Genesis 20: 1 anew, with new eyes, and see if 
a slightly-disguised reference to  southern Lebanon may be discerned there.  
If so, then the Patriarchal narratives are not mid-1st  millennium BCE 
fiction, but rather are very closely based on mid-14th  century BCE secular 
historical fact.  It’s the translation and understanding of the Hebrew text that will  
determine whether the Patriarchal narratives are largely factual or are  
completely fictional.  There’s  nothing wrong with the text.  The  Hebrew text is 
perfect as is.  In my  view, it’s the perennial misunderstanding of that text 
that is standing in our  way. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois  

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