[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Oct 16 11:27:08 EDT 2007

Isaac  Fried: 
You are completely mistaken in your analysis  of chapter 20 of Genesis, as I 
will show in these two  posts. 
1.  Abraham Is Not Defenseless 
You wrote:  "[T]here is one overriding consideration  for Abraham's travels: 
He had to avoid densely populated areas of central  authority.  He was 
practically  defenseless…." 
That is completely false, and is  specifically negated by what the text of 
the Patriarchal narratives says.  Abraham is portrayed as having 318 armed  
retainers, and he successfully rescues his nephew Lot from a force of four  
attacking rulers, one of whom (Tidal) has a Hittite kingly name.  Genesis 14: 14-17  
Abraham is portrayed in fact as having  the largest private militia in 
In  the next generation, Isaac is too powerful for Abimelech to handle:  "And 
the man [Isaac] waxed  great, and grew more and more until he became very 
great.   …And Abimelech said unto Isaac: 'Go  from us;  for thou art much 
mightier than we.'"  Genesis 26: 13, 16   
Your statement that Abraham "was practically  defenseless" is the exact 
opposite of how the Patriarchal narratives portray  Abraham. 
2.  Patriarchs Are Not Blonde 
You wrote:  "…and they were good looking people  [blond with blue eyes?]." 
That is absolutely absurd.  Why do so many people on this b-Hebrew  list try 
so hard to make the Patriarchal narratives nonsensical?  There is nothing in 
the text that  indicates that any of the three Patriarchs is portrayed as 
looking any different  than the Semitic Canaanites in whose midst they  lived. 
3.  Sarah Is Not Confiscated by Abimelech 
You wrote:  "As soon as they entered such area  they had their wives and 
daughters confiscated  by the local ruler or  strongman. So wherever you place 
Abraham it  
must be a sparsely  populated, semi arid region of only few  herders." 
There you go again.  Genesis 26: 16, quoted above, explicitly  states that 
Isaac was "much mightier" than Abimelech.  Abraham was even more militarily  
powerful than his son Isaac.  The  ruler of Gerar would have only a small 
militia, regardless of whether Gerar is  located in the Negev Desert, or at Sur in 
southern  Lebanon. 
Put yourself in Abimelech's position and  think rationally for a minute.  You 
 (that is, Abimelech) have a small militia, headed by the foreign mercenary  
Phicol.  A group of tent-dwellers  has suddenly arrived in your land.  The 
leader of the tent-dwellers has 318 armed retainers at his disposal  (per Genesis 
14: 14), and at his side is a woman who is many years past the  normal 
maximum limit in the ancient world for childbearing.  Would you promptly seize the 
wife (or  sister) of the leader of the tent-dwellers, and risk a genocidal 
assault by  those 318 armed retainers?  That  would be nonsensical.  Why try to  
make the Patriarchal narratives nonsensical?  Abraham has much more firepower 
than  Abimelech. 
Abraham cannot possibly fear being murdered  by Abimelech, because Abraham 
has a much stronger military force than does  Abimelech.  If Abraham states  
publicly that Abraham had feared getting murdered by Abimelech, that will be  
part of a well thought out cover story, which is designed to hide from  
Abimelech's people (but not from Abimelech himself) what is actually going  on. 
4.  Abimelech Has No Lust for Sarah 
It is impossible that young Abimelech could  have any lust for Sarah.  
Chapter 18  of Genesis tells us that Sarah was "withered".  In chapter 17 of 
Genesis, Abraham views  as being laughable the proposition that Sarah might still, at 
her old age, be  able to get pregnant.  And Sarah is  stated to be age 90 
"years".  As  such, Sarah is portrayed as being way, way too old to excite lust.  
Note that in chapter 20 of Genesis,  there is no statement that Sarah was 
beautiful, or that Abimelech was physically  attracted to old Sarah.  Why try to  
make the text nonsensical? 
Meanwhile, we know that Abimelech is young,  because Abimelech will still be 
active many decades later when Isaac returns to  Gerar as an adult with a 
The text is bending over backwards to make  sure we realize that young 
Abimelech has no lust whatsoever for old Sarah.  There is no lust in the picture in  
chapter 20 of Genesis. 
5.  What Does Abimelech Want from Abraham and  Sarah? 
In order to understand chapter 20 of  Genesis, which is a very important part 
of the Patriarchal narratives, the best  place to start is to figure out what 
Abimelech wants from Abraham and  Sarah.  Then we can go back (in a  later 
post, if people are interested) and figure out what Abraham and Sarah want  from 
The best place to start is with the last two sentences of chapter 20 of  
Genesis.  Though it comes at the end  of the chapter, that is the essential 
background for what transpires throughout  the course of chapter 20 of Genesis. 
"…God healed Abimelech, and his  wife, and his maid-servants;  and  they bore 
children.  For the LORD  [YHWH] had fast closed up all the wombs of the house 
of Abimelech….."  Genesis 20:  17-18 
Prior to the arrival of Abraham and Sarah in  Gerar, young princeling ruler 
Abimelech had a family problem of his own:  Abimelech could not impregnate any  
woman.  In Biblical times, one of  the marks of a princeling ruler was having 
many sons by several different  women.  Ordinary men could not  possibly 
afford such a lifestyle, but that was virtually a requirement for any  
self-respecting princeling.  Abimelech's people might begin to doubt that Abimelech was 
their  legitimate leader if he was cursed with the inability to impregnate any  
woman.  Abimelech wants a son by his  main wife #1 (as does Abraham), but 
unlike Abraham, Abimelech also wants to sire  children by minor wives and 
concubines (something which was not difficult for  Abraham and so was not an issue 
for  Abraham). 
Note what Abimelech gets from Abraham and Sarah:  "And Abraham prayed unto 
God; and God  healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid-servants;  and they 
bore children."  Genesis 20:  17 
What Abimelech gets from Abraham and Sarah is a fertility  prayer from 
Abraham.  That is what  Abimelech wanted.  Abimelech was not  at all sure that such 
a fertility prayer would work, but Abimelech had nothing  to lose, and 
Abimelech fervently hoped that such a fertility prayer might  work.  And it does 
work!  So Abimelech got exactly what he wanted  from Abraham and Sarah. 
Abimelech hopes that Abraham is a bona fide holy man and  a prophet.  Though 
ostensibly stated  by the narrator, it is actually Abimelech who reports the 
following words to all  of Abimelech's assembled people early in the morning:  
Last night God told me that this man  (Abraham) "is a prophet, and he shall 
pray for thee, and thou shalt live…."  Genesis 20: 7  Then in the next chapter, 
Abimelech  proudly refers to his new son, and to the son that he is confident 
his new son  will eventually have, meaning that Abimelech "shalt live" 
forever, in the sense  of having an unending line of male descendants:  "Now 
therefore swear unto me here by God  that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with 
my son, nor with my son's  son…."  Genesis 21:  23 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

************************************** See what's new at http://www.aol.com

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list