[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Oct 16 11:27:08 EDT 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
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