[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Oct 17 20:30:41 EDT 2007

1.  You  wrote:  “The traditional views of  why Avraham left Hebron are very 
Rashi explains:  ‘When he  observed that the cities had been destroyed 
and travelers ceased to pass to  and fro [and there were no wayfarers to whom 
he might extend hospitality] he  went away from there’ [he moved to another 
part of the  country].” 
That does not match what the text  says. 
(a)    Only two cities  were destroyed:  Sodom and  Gomorrah.  Lot asked for 
Zoar to be  spared, and it was. 
(b)    Abraham goes way  up to Bethel/Ai, 27 miles north of Hebron, and sees 
the after-effects of the  destruction of two cities in the distance.  Sodom 
and Gomorrah are nowhere near Hebron.  I will quote the text and intersperse my  
own comments in brackets. 
“And Abraham got up early in the  morning to the place where he had stood 
before the LORD [YHWH].  [That place is Bethel/Ai, 27 miles north  of Hebron.]  
And he looked out  toward Sodom and Gomorrah [in the distance, even farther 
away from Hebron], and  toward all the land of the Plain [i.e., the Jordan River 
Valley], and beheld,  and, lo, the smoke of the land went up as the smoke of a 
furnace.  [Abraham is seeing the smoke in the  distance.  The smoke is 
nowhere near  Hebron.  The smoke cannot be seen at Hebron.  That is why Abraham went 
 way up north to Bethel/Ai:  to be able to see the smoke.]  Genesis 19:  
The destruction of far-off  Sodom and Gomorrah has no effect on Hebron 
whatsoever.  There is no basis at all for the  assertion that “travelers ceased to 
pass to and  fro”.  The people of Bethel and  Hebron were not evil, and did not 
suffer on account of the sin of the people of  Sodom and Gomorrah. 
    1.  You wrote:   “Another explanation for his move is that he wished to 
himself from Lot, who had gained an evil reputation because of his  
intimacy with his daughters".
(a)   Lot was located  nowhere near Hebron.  Genesis 13: 9  expressly states 
that Abraham and Lot went in opposite directions from  Bethel/Ai.  Abraham 
went 27 miles  south to Hebron, so Lot must have gone approximately 27 miles  
(b)   Lot had no “evil  reputation because of his intimacy with his daughters”
.  Even the much later book of Leviticus  would not have prohibited Lot from 
having a son/grandson by his oldest remaining  daughter after Lot’s wife died. 
 Far  from condemning Lot’s daughters for evil behavior, the author of the 
Patriarchal  narratives praises Lot’s daughters for bravely preserving human  
“'Come, let us make our father  drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we 
may preserve seed of our  father.'”  Genesis 19:  32 
In the Patriarchal narratives, it is of paramount  importance for a man to 
have a male descendant, to “preserve the seed of our  father”. 
    1.  You  wrote:  “Sforno explains that Kadesh and Shur were very large  
cities in the 
Philistine part of C'naan, and Avraham chose to live there  because 
the area was heavily populated and would provide him the  opportunity 
to spread his belief in  G-d.”
If Qadesh is not a Lebanese city-state, then it is Qadesh-barnea, a small  
oasis on the eastern edge of the Sinai Desert.  If Shur is not a Lebanese 
city-state,  then it is the Shur Desert on the western edge of the Sinai Desert.  If 
these are sites in the Sinai Desert,  (i) they are certainly not “very large 
cities”, and (ii) they have nothing  whatsoever to do with the Philistines, 
because the Philistines never operated in  the Sinai Desert.  There is no way  
that any part of the Sinai Desert was ever “heavily populated”.  There were so 
few people living in the  desolate Sinai Desert that it would be the world’s 
worst place to go for “the  opportunity to spread his belief in G-d”. 
As I have discussed at some length, it would make all the sense in the  world 
for Abraham to go to Sur in southern Lebanon, which indeed (i) is a very  
large city, and (ii) did have a lot of foreign mercenaries/”Philistines”.  The 
Hebrew text is perfect as is.  It’s just been misinterpreted for  millennia.  
The Hebrew text fits the  historical time period perfectly, if it is 
interpreted from an historical  perspective.  The commentators you  are quoting did not 
have the benefit of the Amarna Letters as we do, so they  could not have known 
how accurately the Patriarchal narratives reflect the  secular history of the 
mid-14th century BCE, which historically is  the time period of the first 
    1.  You wrote:  “Radak suggests that he settled in Philistia (no, not  
Palestine) to 
establish his presence - and thus the future claim of his  offspring - 
in another part of the land G-d promised  us.”
That is a great argument supporting my view that Abraham  went to southern 
Lebanon.  If so,  then the Patriarchal narratives portray YHWH as vouchsafing 
all of Canaan, from  southern Lebanon to Hebron, to the Hebrews.  But that 
argument makes no sense if  Abraham went to the Negev Desert and the Sinai Desert.  
The desirable part of Canaan outside of  the Hebron-Bethel area was primarily 
to the north of Shechem:  Beth Shan and the Jezreel Valley, and  then up 
north to the lush Bekka Valley and the tremendous ports of southern  coastal 
Lebanon, such as Sur (“Tyre”). 
    1.  The traditional view cannot account for why Abraham  left Hebron and 
went to Gerar.   The actual reason is that Abraham and Sarah wanted to 
interact with  Abimelech, in order to solve the fertility problems of all three 
persons.  The Gerar test for Abraham is just as  awkward, unpleasant and 
controversial as the later binding incident test.  But the author of the Patriarchal  
narratives presents it as being all divinely  blessed.
The critical importance of having a son is the most  oft-repeated theme in 
the entirety of the Patriarchal narratives.  That’s what’s going on at Gerar in 
 chapter 20 of Genesis. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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