[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 15 12:22:43 EDT 2007

Toby  Thorpe: 
1.  You wrote:  "Gerar is between  Gaza and Beer-Sheba, closer to the coast, 
making it  
a Philistine town  or one within the sphere of Philistine  control." 
(a)  In the Patriarchal narratives (which begin at Genesis 11: 26 with the  
first mention of Abraham), there is no mention of  Gaza. 
(b)  In the Patriarchal narratives, "Beersheba" means any place where a water 
 well is providentially found.  Thus  Hagar's "Beersheba" in the first half 
of chapter 21 of Genesis is a very  different place than Abraham's "Beersheba" 
at the end of chapter 21 of  Genesis.  Hagar's Beersheba is in  the lonely 
wilderness where no people are around.  Abraham's Beersheba is amidst the hubbub  
of many people jousting with each other:  Abimelech and "Philistines" and 
Abraham and Abraham's men.  Abraham of course did not follow after  Hagar, once 
Abraham had exiled Hagar and her son  Ishmael. 
So a reference to "Beersheba" in the  Patriarchal narratives comes with no 
guarantee that the site being referenced is  in the Negev Desert, much less 
being anywhere close to the modern Israeli city  of Beersheba. 
(c)  The classic Philistines were centered in Gaza and four other famous  
cities on or near the southwest coast of Canaan.  Not one of such five cities is 
ever  mentioned in the Patriarchal narratives.  The classic Philistines are 
not associated with any "Gerar".  The classic Philistines would be an  
historical anachronism for an historical Patriarchal Age, as the classic  Philistines 
are not attested as such prior to 1190  BCE. 
Nothing about the description of the  "Philistines" in the Patriarchal 
narratives has anything to do with the classic  Philistines whatsoever.  In  
particular, the classic Philistines never fought amongst themselves over water  
wells, and never sabotaged other Philistine water wells, as portrayed at Genesis  
26: 15, 18.  By contrast, that type  of action was commonplace for foreign 
mercenaries in southern Lebanon in the  mid-14th century BCE. 
(d)  There is nothing in the Patriarchal narratives that is redolent of Gaza  
or the classic Philistines.  And not  until Jacob is on his way to Egypt is 
there any clear reference in the  Patriarchal narratives to the famous 
Beersheba in the Negev  Desert. 
2.  You wrote:  "Striking out  from the region of Sodom, Abraham would have 
to pass  
through "the  (dry) south country" (Gen. 20:1) en route to the rich  
pastureland of  Gerar. What is the problem?" 
(a)  Abraham never goes to Sodom.  Rather, Abraham goes 27 miles north of 
Hebron to Bethel/Ai.  From the mountaintop at Bethel where  Abraham had earlier 
first called YHWH's name, and from where Abraham and Lot had  decided to part 
ways, Abraham views the destruction of  Sodom. 
(b)  If Gerar has rich pastureland (which I believe it does, with "Gerar"  
being historical Garu in and near southern Lebanon), Gerar would not be located  
in the Negev Desert.  The  pastureland at Hebron was far better than the 
pastureland in the Negev  Desert.  Nothing is driving Abraham  out of Hebron 
except Sarah's continued infertility.  The Negev Desert was habitable by human  
beings in Biblical times, but it still was a desert, and it did not feature lush  
3.  The "problem" is that everything in the text makes complete sense if it  
is referring to southern Lebanon.  But nothing makes sense if it is referring 
to the Negev Desert and the  Sinai Desert. 
We all agree that Genesis 20: 1 says that  Abraham "settled between Qadesh 
and S(h)ur".  Historically, the only Qadesh and Sur  known to secular history 
are city-states in Lebanon.  For that reason, I am arguing that  people should 
consider that possibility in evaluating what Genesis 20: 1 is  talking about.  
The first time  anyone ever referred to a Qadesh or a S(h)ur being a site in 
the Sinai Desert  is, I believe, at Genesis 16: 7, 14, when Hagar temporarily 
flees from Hebron.  So that is the other  possibility.  But it just does not  
make sense for Abraham and his huge entourage to settle in the middle of the  
Sinai Desert.  There is no way that  the Sinai Desert in any time period could 
handle Abraham's huge flock and 318  armed retainers for any sustained period 
of time.  Yet the text clearly says that Abraham  "settled (yashab) between 
Qadesh and S(h)ur".  The only way for that phrase to make  logical or historical 
sense is to view that phrase as referencing southern  Lebanon.  That is my 
controversial,  new view of the matter. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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