[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 15 12:42:51 EDT 2007

James Christian Read  
Thanks for your nice post.  I  will use two posts of my own to answer your 
1.  You wrote:  "Firstly, I would like to say that the  concerns raised with 
regard to inseperable Hebrew constructions are valid  concerns and any 
translation you offer should be in harmony with them. At this  point I would like to 
request that you provide a colloquial English translation  of what you are 
proposing, as the punctuation scheme you seem to be offering  does nothing, in my 
mind, to illuminate new meaning to the verse but does  everything to 
completely obscure any sensible meaning from it." 
I realize that the reading of Genesis 20: 1 that I am  proposing stretches 
Hebrew grammar.  In most all cases, and perhaps in all cases, when a new clause 
begins  with a vav and a verb in Biblical Hebrew, that new clause will not be 
picking up  words from the preceding clause.  And in most all cases, and 
perhaps in all cases, a comma or break would  not follow the Hebrew word for 
"between".  But in my view, it is the author of the Patriarchal narratives who is  
straining the Hebrew grammar here.  For example, any normal Hebrew analysis of 
the name "Reuben" would say  that the name means "Behold -- a son!".  And that 
analysis would also seem very natural for Jacob's firstborn  son.  But 
instead, the author of the  Patriarchal narratives strains the Hebrew language and 
comes up with an  alternative pun that is far, far from obvious:  "And Leah 
conceived, and bore a  son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said: 
'Because the LORD [YHWH] hath  looked upon my affliction;  for now  my husband will 
love me.'"  Genesis  29: 32  That to me shows an author  who is wedded to 
clever Hebrew wordplay (which is incessant throughout the  Patriarchal narratives), 
and who often forces us to look for non-obvious  constructions of the Hebrew 
Here at Genesis 20: 1, under normal Hebrew grammar, one  would think that the 
references to "land" and "south" have nothing to do  whatsoever with the next 
clause, which clearly states that Abraham "settled  between Qadesh and 
S(h)ur".  I am  straining the Hebrew syntax (as the Hebrew author strains to get his 
pun on  "Rebuen" above) to get the references to "land" (or "region") and 
"south" in the  preceding clause to modify the following clause, so that the 
hidden meaning is  that Abraham settled in the southern region of the land between 
Qadesh and  Sur.  On that reading, Abraham went  to Sur in southern Lebanon 
as the place where Sarah would bear Isaac.  I admit that my reading of Genesis 
20: 1  strains Hebrew grammar, but I see my reading as being the hidden, 
intentional  meaning of the author.  The reason  why the author uses this 
roundabout wording is that the author wants us to first  think that Abraham appears to 
be meekly following in Hagar's path from Genesis  16: 7, 14 in leaving Hebron. 
 But  instead, in light of the rest of chapters 20, 21 and 26 of Genesis, we  
eventually figure out that Abraham in fact went in the opposite direction 
than  Hagar, with Abraham going north from Bethel/Ai to Sur ("Tyre") in southern  
The "strained" translation that I myself use, which makes  my meaning clear, 
but which admittedly is not normal Hebrew grammar, is as  follows: 
"And departed from there Abraham to the southern region of, and he  settled 
between, Qadesh and Sur, and he sojourned in Gerar." 
2.  You wrote:  "Finally, a polite request. Could you  please separate your 
paragraphs with empty lines and in some way signify where  your quotation of 
another list member ends (preferably also with a line space  and some sort of 
indication of where your comments start)?" 
I try to do that, but for some unknown reason, my E-mails show up on the  
b-Hebrew list with no spacing between paragraphs. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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