[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Oct 16 11:29:47 EDT 2007

Isaac Fried: 
This is my second post in response to your analysis of  chapter 20 of 
6.  Abimelech  Wants Children, Not Sarah 
This story in chapter 20 of Genesis is sensible, if we  examine it carefully 
and take the story seriously.  Abimelech is desperate to sire children  by 
women in general, and in particular he wants to sire a son by his main wife  #1.  
Abraham and Sarah know  that.  The text presents YHWH as  having caused that 
fertility problem regarding Abimelech, so that Abraham and  Sarah will have 
something to offer Abimelech that Abimelech really wants, namely  a profound 
fertility prayer from Abraham.  That in turn means that Abraham and Sarah are in 
position to demand  something from Abimelech that Abraham and Sarah really 
want (as we can discuss  in a later post).  That is the  meaning of the somewhat 
ambiguous final phrase in chapter 20 of Genesis:  "[T]he LORD [YHWH] had fast 
closed up  all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's 
wife."  Genesis 20: 18  The wombs had been closed up long before  Abraham and 
Sarah arrive in Gerar, so that Abimelech will be desperate to deal  with 
Abraham and Sarah when they arrive in Gerar.  That is the reason, you see, why 
Abraham  and Sarah make a beeline for Gerar.  Abraham and Sarah are not wandering 
aimlessly in the Negev and Sinai  Deserts.  No, they head straight for  
Gerar, in order to be able to deal with Abimelech, whom they know has this  
pressing fertility problem of his own. 
Though presented as being God's doing in the text, it is  very easy to give a 
purely secular explanation for what is going on here.  Abimelech has been 
unable to sire  children by any woman.  Abimelech is  hoping that Abraham and 
Sarah may be able to help Abimelech solve that fertility  problem, if Abraham is 
a bona fide holy man who can be induced to offer a  profound divine fertility 
prayer on Abimelech's behalf.  Abraham and Sarah know that Abimelech  has this 
terrible fertility problem, and that Abimelech might want to have a  profound 
fertility prayer from a man (Abraham) who appears to be a holy man and  a 
Abimelech perceives Abraham as possibly being a bona fide  holy man, who 
might possibly be able to solve Abimelech's pressing fertility  problems by virtue 
of a profound fertility prayer to the divine.  Abimelech has no lust for old  
Sarah.  Rather, Abimelech wants  children by the women in his palace, and the 
way to get children may be to  induce Abraham to utter a profound fertility 
prayer.  That is exactly what the text portrays  as happening:  "And Abraham 
prayed  unto God;  and 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 
Abraham's disingenuous public claim that Abraham had  feared being murdered 
by Abimelech on account of Abraham's wife is a cover  story, agreed to in 
advance by Abimelech.  Abimelech agrees to that cover story as one element of 
inducing Abraham  to make a profound fertility prayer to the divine on Abimelech's  
7.  Abraham  Never Has Any Fear of Abimelech 
At no point in this sequence is powerful Abraham honestly  afraid that 
Abraham may be murdered by Abimelech, either on account of Sarah or  for any other 
reason.  That public  statement by Abraham is, rather, an integral part of the 
elaborate cover story  that Abraham and Abimelech have worked out in advance.  
Abraham's 318 armed retainers (Genesis  14: 14) are much more powerful than 
Abimelech's small militia of foreign  mercenaries headed by the foreigner 
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." 
That assessment is completely  false in all regards.  Abraham never  has any 
wife or any daughter confiscated by any local ruler or strongman.  Abraham is 
by no means limited to living  in "a  sparsely populated, semi arid region of 
only few herders".  Abraham is portrayed in the text as  having 318 armed 
retainers, constituting the largest private militia in  Canaan.  Abraham cannot 
live for any  great length of time in a semi-arid region, because such a region 
would not have  enough food for Abraham's 318 armed retainers, Abraham's wives 
and children,  Abraham's servants and shepherds, Abraham's- huge flock of 
sheep and goats, and  all the other animals that Abraham has.  Abraham must be on 
good pastureland, as at Hebron, or in southern  Lebanon.  Abraham's entourage 
is too  big to live in the Negev Desert for any great length of time, much 
less in the  Sinai Desert. 
There is nothing nonsensical about the  Patriarchal narratives.  If one pays  
close attention to what the Hebrew text actually says, and considers the 
secular  historical background, it all makes perfect  sense. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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