[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
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.
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