[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 15 12:45:48 EDT 2007

James Christian Read: 
You wrote:  "What is of  greatest interest to this discussion is evidence you 
have offered from the  Armana letters regarding the situation with Abimelech. 
 Could you provide specific quotes from  these letters regarding the hebrews 
and the philistines and Abimelech? It would  enrich the discussion no end to 
have something concrete to look at. The reason I  ask is that I am wondering if 
there was any confusion between the Hebrews and  the Philistines from 
Abimelech's point of view.  When the same story is told from  different viewpoints 
there are generally typical differences between the two  accounts as any 
experienced policeman will be glad to relate to you." 
In the Patriarchal narratives, ruler Abimelech is closely associated with  
constant jousting over valuable water wells.  The only ruler in the entirety of 
the  Amarna Letters who complains about his inability to maintain access to 
valuable  water wells is Amorite princeling ruler Abimilki (or Abi-Milku) of Sur 
("Tyre"),  in southern Lebanon. 
1.  "Daily he does not permit  me to fetch water:  mima.  I cry out.  …There 
is no water: mima for them to  drink.  …'Apiru  [habiru]."  Amarna Letter EA  
146 from Abimilki of Sur 
2.  "I am indeed guarding  Surru, the principal city, for the king [Egyptian 
pharaoh Akhenaten], my lord,  until the powerful arm of the king comes forth 
over me, to give me water…."  Amarna Letter EA 147 from Abimilki of Sur  
3.  "May the king [pharaoh  Akhenaten], my lord, give his attention to his 
servant and give Usu [a nearby  city on the mainland which, unlike the island 
city-state of Sur, has water and  wood] to his servant [Abimilki] so he can 
drink a jug:  akuna of: mima (water).  …May the king give attention to his  
servant, and may he charge his commissioner to give Usu to his servant for  water….  
The king of Hasura [Hazor,  located fairly nearby near the northern end of 
the Jordan River Valley] has  abandoned his house and has aligned himself with 
the 'Apiru  [habiru].  …He has taken over  the land of the king for the 
'Apiru."  Amarna Letter EA 148 from Abimilki of Sur 
4.  "Zimredda [of Sidon,  Lebanon] seized Usu from his servant.  I abandoned 
it, and so we have neither water nor wood.  …Since last year there has been 
war  against me.  There is no  water…."  Amarna Letter EA 149 from  Abimilki of 
5.  "May the king [pharaoh  Akhenaten] give his attention to his servant and 
give him Usu that he may live  and drink water."  Amarna Letter EA  150 from 
Abimilki of Sur 
6.  "May the king [pharaoh  Akhenaten], my lord, give his attention and give 
water for our drink and wood to  his servant.  The king, my lord,  knows that 
we are situated on the sea;  we have neither water nor wood.  …Etakkama [whom 
I view as being the Hurrian princeling nicknamed (with a  Hurrian princeling 
name) "Arioch" from "Elassar" at Genesis 14: 1, who was  re-educated by the 
Hittites in the Hittite heartland at Alisar/"Elassar"], the  prince of Qidsu 
[Qadesh], and Aziru [whom I view as being the west  Semitic-speaking Amorite 
princeling nicknamed "Amraphel" of "Shinar", with the  first three letters "Amr" 
referencing Amurru, and "Shinar" being a reference to  the Amorite word "Shenir" 
for Mt. Lebanon per Deuteronomy 3: 8-9] are at  war;  the war is with 
Biryawaza [who  at one point is said to be at Adura per Amarna Letter EA 197, which 
is one of  the cities of historical Garu per Amarna Letter EA 256]."  [Note how 
closely aligned  Arioch/Etakkama and Amraphel/Aziru are, just as accurately 
reported in the first  12 verses of chapter 14 of Genesis.]  Amarna Letter EA 
151 from Abimilki of Sur 
7.  "[S]ince the departure of  the troops of the king [pharaoh Akhenaten], my 
lord, from me, the ruler of Sidon  does not allow me or my people to go to 
land to fetch wood or to fetch water for  drinking."  Amarna Letter EA 154  from 
Abimilki of Sur 
8.  "The king [pharaoh  Akhenaten] ordered that the breath (of life) be given 
to his servant and to the  servant of Mayati [almost certainly Queen 
Meritaten, Akhenaten's oldest  daughter, who displaced Nefertiti after Nefertiti 
failed to bear Akhenaten a  son;  note that Akhenaten, Abimelech  and Abraham all 
have monumental fertility problems], and water:  mima be (given) for his drink…
.[T]here  is no…water….  Should the king, my  lord, give water to drink to 
the servant of Mayati, then I will devote myself to  his service and that of 
Mayati, my mistress, night and day.  …But the commissioner has not done what  the 
king commanded.  He does not  give water, as the king commanded.  …May the 
king give attention to his servant and to Surru, the city of  Mayati, so wood 
and water are given that he might live."  Amarna Letter EA 155 from Abimilki of  
You can see that the habiru are an ambiguous factor in the volatile mix  of 
whether princeling ruler Abimilki of Sur will gain and maintain access to the  
invaluable water wells on the mainland on which his island city of Sur is  
dependent.  The Hebrew author of the  Patriarchal narratives first reflects that 
tension between the habiru/Hebrews  and Abimilki/Abimelech, but then tells the 
story in a way that shows that the  habiru/Hebrews in fact could potentially 
be allies of Abimilki.  Accordingly, the Hebrews are also  presented as 
indirectly being a possible de facto ally of temporarily  monotheistic Egypt as 
well, after a fashion, since Abimilki was a pro-Egypt  Canaanite princeling. 
Note that both Abimilki and Abimelech are desperate to get access to  water, 
that both Sur and Qadesh are mentioned, and that the tent-dwelling habiru  and 
the Hebrews are somewhat ambiguous factors as to whether Abimilki and  
Abimelech will be able to have access to those invaluable water wells on the  
mainland.  Thus these Amarna Letters  and chapters 20, 21 and 26 of Genesis are 
nicely in sync.  As you rightly point out, however,  Abimilki's point of view (in 
these Amarna Letters) is quite different from the  early Hebrew point of view 
(in the Patriarchal narratives) as to these various  matters. 
Although foreign mercenaries are not referred to directly in the above  
correspondence, many other Amarna Letters do refer to the foreign mercenaries  who 
were common in Lebanon in this time period (but who were not in the Negev  
Desert or the Sinai Desert).  The  Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives 
may have created the nickname  "Philistines"/"Invaders" to refer to these 
foreign mercenaries, the most  prominent of which were the Sherden.  The author of 
the Patriarchal narratives knows nothing of the classic  Philistines, who did 
not appear on the scene until about 150 years later, and  who were always 
concentrated in their five great cities on or near the southwest  coast of Canaan, 
never in the Negev Desert or the Sinai Desert. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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