[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 15 17:50:11 EDT 2007

Tory  Thorpe: 
1.  Gaza 
You wrote:  "There need be no mention of Gaza in  Genesis for it to have 
before Genesis was composed, or for it  to have existed in the time  
Abraham is believed to have lived. The  city evidently predates the  
Amarna age and the reign of Pharaoh  Thutmose III. So the non-mention  
in Genesis is for you merely an  argumentum ex silentio." 
I agree completely that Gaza was in  existence, and was very well known, 
during the Patriarchal Age.  But that just means that the fact that  Gaza is not 
mentioned in the Patriarchal narratives is extremely  important. 
2.  Qadesh and Shur 
You wrote:  "The same is true in the secular  material for the Qadesh and 
Shur located south of Hebron and  Beer-Sheba." 
I disagree with that assertion  completely.  As far as I know, there  is no 
secular historical evidence for a Qadesh or a Shur being in or near the  Sinai 
Desert in Biblical times.  That is completely different from (i) Gaza, a 
well-known historical city  just northeast of the Sinai Desert, and (ii) the 
Lebanese city-states of Qadesh  and Sur, who were very famous during the historical 
time period of the first  Hebrews, and whose names are suspiciously similar to 
the sites of Qadesh and  Shur in the Sinai Desert that are mentioned in the 
Bible but are not known  outside of the Bible. 
3.  Beersheba   
You wrote:  "There is only  one "biblical" city named Beer-Sheba attested in 
biblical  sources.  …It is much simpler to see  that Hagar's 'wilderness of 
Sheba' (whatever the name of the place was  at this moment) became  
popular overnight once news spread that water  was there. Abraham  
later gave it the name Beer-Sheba which stuck,  according to Genesis,  
and the rest is Jewish history." 
You  say "later", but that is not what the text says.  The transition from 
Hagar's story to  getting back to Abraham is introduced as follows:  "And it 
came to pass at that  time,…."  Genesis 21: 22  That logically means that at the 
same  time as YHWH was showing Hagar a pre-existing, functioning well at 
Hagar's  "Beersheba", Abraham was dealing with Abimelech and calling a well that  
Abraham's men had dug "Beersheba", a well which Abimelech's men had violently  
taken away from Abraham's men.  It  defies credulity that Abraham would exile 
Hagar and Ishmael, and then Abraham  would promptly follow in Hagar's 
footsteps and go to the very place to which  Hagar and Ishmael had been exiled.  
Whereas Hagar's Beersheba is in the lonely wilderness, where both Hagar  and 
Ishmael are in grave danger of dying of thirst without a soul being around  to 
notice them, Abraham's Beersheba is the center of unbelievable hubbub, with  all 
sorts of various peoples everywhere one looks.  "And it came to pass at that 
time, that  Abimelech and Phicol the captain of his host spoke unto Abraham, 
saying: 'God is  with thee in all that thou doest.  …  And Abraham reproved 
Abimelech because of the well of water, which Abimelech's  servants had violently 
taken away.  … Wherefore that place was called Beer-sheba;  because there they 
swore both of  them.  So they made a covenant at  Beer-sheba;  and Abimelech 
rose up,  and Phicol the captain of his host, and they returned into the land of 
the  Philistines."  Genesis 21: 22, 25,  31-32  All that activity and  
commotion signify a very different geographical location than the deadly silence  
and loneliness of Hagar's Beersheba. 
4.  Philistines 
You wrote:  "Not everyone agrees that classic Philistines  are being 
described in 
the Patriarchal narratives. How about  Proto-Philistines?" 
That  might address the problem of the classic Philistines being an 
historical  anachronism.  But why would the  leader of the proto-Philistines have the 
purest west Semitic name on earth:  "Abimelech"?  Wouldn't a Hebrew author 
portray the  proto-Philistines as being foreigners to Canaan?  And if the 
Patriarchal narratives were  composed after the classic Philistines had been deadly 
rivals of the Hebrews for  centuries (a view which is apparently unanimous among 
secular scholars today,  though it is not my view), why then would Abimelech 
be portrayed as being so  gallant?  "And Abimelech said [to  Abraham]:  
'Behold, my land is  before thee:  dwell where it  pleaseth thee.'  …And it came to  
pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phicol the captain of his host spoke 
unto  Abraham, saying: 'God is with thee in all that thou doest.'"   Genesis 20: 
15;  21:  22 
Abimelech, you see, is not a "Philistine" at all.  Rather, Abimelech has 
hired some foreign  mercenaries to try to secure access to those all-important 
water wells on the  mainland.  The author of the  Patriarchal narratives 
disparagingly refers to those foreign mercenaries as  being "Invaders"/"Philistines".  
The  Hebrew author is trying to show some solidarity with Amorite princeling 
ruler  Abimelech, while subtly castigating the foreign 
mercenaries/"Philistines" that  Abimelech has hired.  Only the head  foreign mercenary, Phicol, has a 
non-west Semitic name, befitting a Sherden  foreign mercenary who is not a 
west Semitic speaker.  Note that all the facts in the received  Hebrew text work 
perfectly for viewing the "Philistines" as being foreign  
mercenaries/"Invaders"/Sherden, who were important factors in Lebanon during the  Patriarchal Age 
of the mid-14th century BCE.  These foreign mercenaries/"Philistines"  have 
no relationship whatsoever to the later classic Philistines, in my  view.  
There were no foreign  mercenaries in either the Negev Desert or the Sinai  
5.  Bethel/Ai   
You wrote:  "[T]here is certainly nothing in our text  about  
Abraham journeying to Ai where he then viewed the destruction  of  
Sodom from higher ground." 
Au  contraire, that is exactly what the text portrays.  At Genesis 12: 8, 
Bethel/Ai (just north  of Jerusalem) is where Abraham first calls the name YHWH.  
At Genesis 13: 2, those critical facts  are repeated.  Then at Genesis 13:  
2-17, Abraham is at Bethel/Ai when he separates from Lot, and YHWH promises to  
Abraham and his descendants all the land that can be seen from that 
mountaintop  at Bethel/Ai.  Genesis 13: 14  Years later, after Abraham has been told  
that Sodom will probably be destroyed by YHWH the next morning, Abraham goes  
north from Hebron 27 miles to that same mountaintop at Bethel/Ai, in order to  
witness the after-effects of the dramatic destruction of Sodom and  Gomorrah:  
"And Abraham got up early in the  morning to the place where he had stood 
before the LORD [YHWH].  And he looked out toward Sodom and  Gomorrah, and toward 
all the land of the [kikkar/river valley/Jordan River  Valley/"Plain"], and 
beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke  of a furnace."  
Genesis 19:  27-28   
The next time we hear about Abraham is when Genesis 20: 1  tells us that 
Abraham departed "from there" and settled between Qadesh and  S(h)ur.  
Accordingly, the reference  to "from there" at Genesis 20: 1 must be referring to 
Bethel/Ai.  Please note that the text does not state  that Abraham returned south 
from Bethel/Ai to Hebron.  No, Abraham had already gone 27 miles  north of Hebron 
to Bethel/Ai.  Presumably after waiting for the rest of his people and 
animals to make  it up to Bethel/Ai to join him, Abraham then leads his huge 
entourage further  north, to southern Lebanon, where Abraham settled between the 
Lebanese  city-states of Qadesh and Sur, in historical Garu (Biblical  "Gerar"). 
Note how the entire text makes perfect sense on this  view.  The Hebrew text 
is perfect,  as is.  The problem is our lack of  understanding of what the 
Hebrew text is actually saying.  If one drops the millennia-long  erroneous view 
that the Patriarchal narratives were composed by a southern  Hebrew from 
Judah, who never would have considered portraying Isaac as being  born in Sur on 
the northern edge of, or just north of, Israel, then one can see  what this text 
is actually saying.  There's nothing wrong with Isaac being born in Sur.  Sur 
was considered to be part of Canaan,  as it was south of Sidon (south-central 
Lebanon), which appears to have been the  dividing line. 
6.  Secular  History   
In secular history, there is no "Qadesh", and there is no  "Shur", as a site 
in the Sinai Desert in Biblical times.  In secular history, there is no 
"Gerar"  in the Negev Desert in Biblical times.  But in secular history, in Lebanon, 
we see "Qadesh", we see "Sur", and we  see "Garu".  Not only that, but in  
secular history, during the time period of the first Hebrews, we also see in  
Lebanon "Abimilki" as the princeling ruler of Sur, we see "habiru", and we see  
Abimilki interacting in an awkward, ambiguous way with the habiru as he  
desperately seeks to gain and maintain access to much-needed water wells.  Can all 
of that be but a bizarre  "coincidence"?  
Everything makes sense if Genesis 20: 1 is referring to  southern Lebanon as 
the place where Abraham and Sarah went to have the  baby.  The story is then 
sensible,  and it closely tracks many elements of the well-documented secular 
history of  the mid-14th century BCE, which is a likely time period for the 
first  Hebrews. 
7.  Genesis  20: 1   
Why not give some consideration to a sensible, historical  re-interpretation 
of Genesis 20: 1? We know for sure that Qadesh and Sur were  world-famous 
Lebanese city-states during that time period.  Why not then explore the 
possibility  that Genesis 20: 1 may be referencing those historical Lebanese  
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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