[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 15 11:12:17 EDT 2007
You wrote: "[T]he context definitely points to Abraham wandering in the
south of Canaan; it makes no sense to think that he went all the way to
Lebanon. …[A]ll of Jim's assumptions about where and when Abraham and Sarah would
go to have their baby are nonsensical…."
In this post I will address the issue of "where… Abraham and
Sarah would go to have their baby".
"…all the way to Lebanon…"
It is approximately 112 miles from Hebron to either (i) the half-way point
between Qadesh-barnea and the Shur Desert, or (ii) Sur ("Tyre") in southern
Lebanon. Thus it is not a longer distance to go to Sur in Lebanon than it would
be to go to the middle of the northern part of the Sinai Desert.
On my view, Abraham had already gone up to Bethel/Ai, which is about 27
miles north of Hebron. So if Abraham is starting from Bethel/Ai, which is where
we last see Abraham at Genesis 19: 27-28, when at Genesis 20: 1 Abraham
leaves "from there", then it would only be another 90 miles or so to Sur, whereas
it would now be about 140 miles to the middle of the northern half of the
It simply is not the case that going to a spot between Qadesh-barnea and the
Shur Desert in the Sinai Desert would be shorter than going "all the way to
The land between Hebron (or Bethel/Ai) and Sur has plenty of water for
humans and animals. Much of that land is either good pastureland or fit for
growing regular agricultural crops. By contrast, the Negev Desert and the Sinai
Desert are very different. True, the Negev Desert likely was not as bad in
Biblical times as it is today. But it still was a desert, and it still would
be difficult to deal with a huge flock of sheep and goats there and a huge
number of people in Abraham's party there.
The Negev Desert, however, is not nearly as horrible as the Sinai Desert,
which then and now is like a moonscape. There is simply no way that Abraham
would take a huge flock of sheep and goats, 318 armed retainers, and all of
Abraham's other people and animals, into the Sinai Desert and "settle" in the
Sinai Desert. Genesis 20: 1 explicitly states that Abraham "settled between
Qadesh and S(h)ur". If you interpret that to be a reference to the Sinai
Desert, that is a nonsensical place for Abraham to "settle".
Think of how huge the text presents Abraham's entourage of humans and
animals as being. "And he [Abram] had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and
men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels. …And Abram was very rich
in cattle [livestock]…. And Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks, and
herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might
dwell together; for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell
together. …And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he led
forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen…."
Genesis 12: 16; 13: 2, 5-6; 14: 14
It would be nonsensical for Abraham to lead that huge entourage of humans
and animals into the barren Sinai Desert and "settle" in the desolate Sinai
3. Each of you and Yitzhak Sapir have argued that for many, many years,
Abraham kept going back to the Sinai Desert, as he split his time between the
Negev Desert (Gerar) and the Sinai Desert (between Qadesh and Shur). But that
is not consistent with what the text says. Here is what happens once Abraham
gets to Gerar and the land of the "Philistines", according to the text:
"And Abimelech said [to Abraham]: 'Behold, my land is before thee: dwell
[yashab] where it pleaseth thee.' …And Abraham sojourned in the land of the
Philistines many days." Genesis 20: 15; 21: 34
How can the above text be consistent with a reading of Genesis 20: 1 that
Abraham "settled" in the Sinai Desert upon leaving Hebron? Isn't it clear that
Genesis 20: 1 cannot possibly be talking about the bleak Sinai Desert?
There is no way that Abraham would continually, over many years, lead his
huge flock, 318 armed retainers, and all his other people and animals into the
Sinai Desert. That makes no logical sense whatsoever, and it also flies in
the face of what the text says above.
4. All of the foregoing terrible problems in understanding the text
disappear instantly once one realizes that (i) the area "between Qadesh and S(h)ur"
is in southern Lebanon, and (ii) the western portion of Gerar (historical
Garu) is in southern Lebanon as well. Abraham "settled [yashab] between Qadesh
and Sur", and lived for years in Gerar -- because they are one and the same
Why are you straining so hard to make the Patriarchal narratives
nonsensical? There is nothing nonsensical about the Patriarchal narratives. Abraham
acts rationally at Genesis 20: 1. Abraham goes straight to Sur in southern
Lebanon to have the baby. Abraham does not take the nonsensical action of
"settling" in the desolate Sinai Desert, a place that could not possibly support
Abraham's large number of animals, or Abraham's large number of armed
retainers and other people. Ruler Abimilki/Abimelech historically is at Sur in the
period of the first Hebrews, not in the Sinai Desert or in the Negev Desert.
Foreign mercenaries/"Philistines" jousting over access to water wells
historically are at Sur in the period of the first Hebrews, not in the Sinai Desert
or in the Negev Desert. It all makes historical sense, if we would just
adopt a sensible translation and understanding of Genesis 20: 1 and view Abraham
as going to Sur, in southern Lebanon, where Isaac is born.
Abraham did not settle in the Sinai Desert. That would be nonsensical.
5. Yigal Levin, you have the power to change the way the world looks at the
Patriarchal narratives. Please look at Genesis 20: 1 with new eyes. For
just one moment, please drop the millennia-old, erroneous assumption that
Genesis 20: 1 was composed by a southern Hebrew with a southern Hebrew bias. If
you look at Genesis 20: 1 with new eyes, you will see that it is talking
about southern Lebanon -- a logical place for Abraham and Sarah to go to have a
baby. Genesis 20: 1 cannot possibly be talking about the desolate Sinai
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