[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 15 12:22:43 EDT 2007
1. You wrote: "Gerar is between Gaza and Beer-Sheba, closer to the coast,
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
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.
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