[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Oct 16 13:55:27 EDT 2007

James Christian Read: 
My theory of Genesis 20: 1 is that Abraham went north from Bethel/Ai, a  
locale which itself is 27 miles north of Hebron (and is north of  Jerusalem).  
Abraham had gone up  north to Bethel/Ai to witness the destruction of Sodom, and 
Abraham did not  return to Hebron thereafter.  Rather, after the rest of his 
party caught up with him at Bethel/Ai,  Abraham continued on north to Sur, in 
southern Lebanon. 
No matter how you slice it, I view Abraham as traveling north in Genesis  20: 
1, rather than as traveling south. 
If we go with a traditional translation, the first part of Genesis 20: 1  
says that Abraham went "from there", that is, from Bethel/Ai on my view, "to the  
land of the south".  At first  glance, and before reading the rest of Genesis 
20: 1, we would naturally think  that "the land of the south" is either (i) 
the Negev Desert, or (ii) the entire  desert area south of Hebron, including 
both the Negev Desert and the Sinai  Desert.  But in the context of the  rest of 
Genesis 20: 1, the rest of chapter 20 of Genesis, and chapters 21 and 26  of 
Genesis, we eventually come to realize that the phrase "the land of the  
south" at Genesis 20: 1 must actually be referring to southern Lebanon.  The 
reference is to the south part of  the land that stretches from Qadesh in northern 
Lebanon to Sur in southern  Lebanon. 
I realize that one's first thought as to what "the land of the south"  means 
would not be southern Lebanon, since southern Lebanon is far north of  Hebron. 
 But the very next phrase of  Genesis 20: 1 refers, in my controversial 
opinion, to the Lebanese city-states  of Qadesh and Sur.  If Abraham  settled 
between the world-famous Lebanese city-states of Qadesh and Sur, as I  believe the 
middle third of Genesis 20: 1 is telling us, then the preceding  reference to 
Abraham going to "the land of the south" must be read as meaning  "southern 
The key to understanding Genesis 20: 1 lies not so much in the exact  
translation, but rather depends on a willingness to consider whether "Qadesh"  and 
"S(h)ur" in Genesis 20: 1 may be referring to the world-famous Lebanese  
city-states that were known in Biblical times as "Qadesh" and "Sur" (or "Surru",  
"Tsur", etc.). 
In my view, it is simply impossible that a guy like Abraham, who is  
portrayed as having 318 armed retainers (Genesis 14: 14) and a huge number of  
animals, would "settle" in the Sinai Desert.  That makes no sense at all.  By sharp 
contrast, it makes perfect  sense for such a man to settle in southern Lebanon. 
 Southern Lebanon is the same distance  from Hebron as is the Sinai Desert, 
and if Abraham is starting from Bethel/Ai  (which is my view of the case), then 
southern Lebanon is much closer than the  Sinai Desert. 
When you look at all the factors, including but not limited to the  
particular words used at Genesis 20: 1, I think you will find that the  interpretation 
that makes the most sense is that "Qadesh" and "S(h)ur" in  Genesis 20: 1 are 
referring to the real "Qadesh" and the real "Sur", namely the  world-famous 
Lebanese city-states that bear those names. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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