[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

biblical hebrew jcr.bhebrew at gmail.com
Wed Oct 17 04:02:02 EDT 2007

Hi Jim,

OK! I get what you are saying. You are attempting to align biblical history
with the Amarna letters in an attempt to prove the historicity of the
patriarchal narratives. In order to achieve this you want to find the
translation of Genesis 20:1 which permits such a harmony.

I laud your attempts but, to be brutally honest, your games with punctuation
do nothing to derive such a meaning. Your whole interpretation hinges on how
best to translate NGB in this particular instance and NOT on funky
punctuation schemes. As noted meanings such as 'southern' and 'Negeb desert'
are more likely later meanings derived as a result of an established
Isrealite society with the Negeb desert lying to the South. The evolution of
meaning was therefore:

1: Desert/wilderness/arid land
2: Negeb desert (in the sense of a proper noun)
3: South (by extension of the fact that the Negeb desert lies South of

If you are to argue a pre-Isrealite authorship of Genesis 20:1 then the
first sense is the most likely and thus no specific direction is stated and
no specific desert is referred to. The translation would therefore be:

And Abraham went out into the desert.
And he set up camp between Qadesh and Sur.
And he stayed in Gerar.

With such a translation no recourse to funky punctuation schemes is needed
and you can arrive at the sense you are desperately trying to arrive at. I
know what you may be thinking and just because Abraham left and went out
into the desert does not mean that his final destination also had to be in
the desert. It may be merely just a reference to the route he took. The
significance of such a statement is that for the most part of Abraham's
journey it is understood that he stuck to the fertile crescent in his
movements and so any deviation from the fertile crescent is worthy of note.

I think this is the only way we can make your translation work. Arguing that
the generic construct that you are trying to translate was a frequently used
collocate compound phrase for Southern Lebanon is unsubstatiated and
unattested elsewhere and has no grounds other than your theory about where
they stopped off.

In short, I think your argument would be much stronger if you abandoned your
punctuation schemes and worked on using the ancient and literal meaning of
the construct in question rather than attempting to add an unprovable and
unattested connotation to it.

James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       Thesis 1 - Aleppo codex machine translation
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  Thesis 2 - language acquisition simulation

On 10/16/07, JimStinehart at aol.com <JimStinehart at aol.com> wrote:
> 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
> Lebanon".
> 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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