[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

biblical hebrew jcr.bhebrew at gmail.com
Thu Oct 18 03:52:02 EDT 2007

Hi Jim,

Ok! I get you now. The colloquial translation you are therefore promoting is
something like the following:

"And Abraham went out to the south of land where he set up camp between
Qadesh and Sur where he settled in Gerar."

While this translation could theoretically be possible there is an immediate
problem which conflicts with an ancient authorship. The connotation of
'south' in the word NGB is a post conquest of C'naan stage in the evolution
of NGB's meanings. How do you reconcile an ancient authorship with such a
usage? Bit of a sticky problem don't you think?

I'm trying my best to help you formulate a plausible argument here which
does not conflict with Hebrew grammar of Hebrew semantics. But my honest
opinion is that the only way you can do that while maintaining an ancient
authorship is to abandon the 'south of the land' thing and compromise with
the 'desert' stage of NGB's evolution of meaning.

Regards the Amarna letters, it seems you have a strong case for concluding
Abimelech has parallels with  Abimilki of  Sur.

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 10/17/07, JimStinehart at aol.com <JimStinehart at aol.com> wrote:
> James:
> This is my second post exploring what help the Amarna Letters may give
> us  in
> figuring out where Abraham goes, and why, when he leaves Hebron at Genesis
> 20: 1.
> 3.  Why Do Abraham and Sarah  Go to Gerar?
> The traditional view of chapter 20 of Genesis is not credible.  On the
> traditional view, there is no  reason for Abraham to leave Hebron.  Having
> left
> Hebron for no reason, Abraham commences to wander in two  deserts, the
> ultra-modest Negev Desert and the horribly desolate Sinai  Desert.  At one
> point, when
> Abraham  is not too terribly far from Hebron, where Abraham had sojourned
> for
> years,  Abraham and Sarah are unpleasantly surprised by running into
> Abimelech,
> who is a  bona fide threat to murder Abraham to get at old Sarah.  Since
> Abraham had been at Hebron for  many years, why wouldn't Abraham have
> heard of, and
> avoided, a ruler in the  northern Negev Desert who would murder a husband
> to
> seize the man's wife, even  if the husband had 318 armed retainers, and
> the
> wife was old and "withered" and  long past the normal age for childbearing
> in
> the ancient world?  That traditional view of the text simply  makes no
> sense.
> What was the real reason why Abraham and Sarah left Hebron?  The reason
> was
> for the express purpose  of interacting with Abimelech of Gerar.  When
> Abraham
> and Sarah leave the Hebron area, they make a beeline for  Gerar, where
> Sarah
> is promptly taken into Abimelech's household under strange  circumstances.
> That's what the text  is saying (using the JPS1917 translation verbatim):
> "And Abraham journeyed from  thence toward the land of the South, and
> dwelt
> between Kadesh and Shur;  and he sojourned in Gerar.  And Abraham said of
> Sarah
> his wife:  'She is my sister.'  And Abimelech king of Gerar sent,
> and  took
> Sarah."  Genesis 20: 1-2
> Chapter 20 of Genesis is all about fertility issues.  Abimelech
> desperately
> wants to  impregnate the women in his palace.  Abraham and Sarah
> desperately
> want Sarah to bear a son to Abraham.  Abraham and Sarah think that they
> have a
> plan that will solve all of these problems, including Abimelech's
> fertility
> problem.  Although Abraham's and  Sarah's plan is strange and
> controversial and
> gut-wrenching, it works.  Abimelech impregnates all the women in  his
> palace,
> and Sarah bears Isaac to Abraham.  Given that the binding test in
> chapter  22
> of Genesis is so awkward and unpleasant and controversial, why should we
> be
> too surprised that the Gerar test in chapter 20 is equally awkward,
> equally
> unpleasant, and equally controversial?  In both cases, though, there is a
> happy
> ending, showing divine blessing  of the sequence.  Isaac is not  killed in
> the binding incident, but rather a ram (the symbol of the Egyptian
> god  Amen) is
> sacrificed instead.  Sarah  is the birth mother of Isaac.  It
> is  virtually
> certain, if not absolutely certain (at least not for some years),
> that  Abraham
> is the biological father of Isaac.
> The author of the Patriarchal narratives is not passively
> recording  actual
> secular history here in chapters 20 and 22 of Genesis.  He is making
> important
> theological  points.  But the backdrop to all the  stories in the
> Patriarchal
> narratives is, in my view, the world of the Middle  East in the mid-14th
> century BCE, as illuminated by the Amarna  Letters.  I see Biblical
> Abimelech  as
> being closely modeled on historical Abimilki of Sur.  The names Abimelech
> and
> Abimilki are  similar.  The reference to S(h)ur at  Genesis 20: 1 is
> similar to
> Sur.  Likewise with Qadesh and Qadesh, and Gerar and Garu.  Each of
> Abimelech
> and Abimilki has a  terrible problem securing access to water wells.
> Tent-dwelling people (habiru or Hebrews)  are an important, ambiguous
> factor in the
> volatile mix.  Each of Abimelech and Abimilki has only  a very small
> militia.
> And it  appears that each of Abimelech and Abimilki has frustratingly been
> unable to  impregnate the women in his palace as of yet.  Can all of those
> apparent matches be but  one gigantic "coincidence"?  I think  not.
> 4.  Where Do Abraham and  Sarah Go Upon Leaving the Hebron Area at Genesis
> 20: 1?
> So to answer your question at long last, I see Abraham  and Sarah as being
> portrayed as leaving the Hebron area for the express purpose  of going to
> Sur in
> southern Lebanon, in order to interact with Abimelech there,  whom they
> have
> heard has a pressing fertility problem of his own, that is  something like
> the
> terrible fertility problem that Abraham and Sarah so  obviously have.
> Abraham and Sarah  do not go south from Hebron, they do not go to any
> desert, and
> they do no  wandering.  Rather, Abraham and  Sarah head straight north to
> Sur in
> southern Lebanon, where Isaac is born.
> I see "Qadesh" and "S(h)ur" at Genesis 20: 1 as referencing
> the  world-famous
> Lebanese city-states that everyone in the Middle East knew at that  time
> by
> those names.  Read in that  light, I see the reference to "the land of the
> south" at Genesis as meaning the  southern region of the land between the
> Lebanese
> city-states of Qadesh and  Sur.  I well realize that a  reference to "the
> land of the south" would not normally mean southern  Lebanon.  But if the
> very
> next  phrase in the sentence is referencing the Lebanese city-states of
> Qadesh
> and Sur  (which I believe to be the case), then "the land of the south",
> in
> that  particular context, must mean southern Lebanon.
> The "proof" of my controversial theory is all of the matches I have noted
> between Biblical Abimelech and historical princeling ruler Abimilki of Sur
> ("Tyre") in southern Lebanon.  The  author of the Patriarchal narratives
> is
> creating a story, for theological  purposes, to be sure.  But he
> sets  that story in
> his own time, in settings with which he himself is
> intimately  familiar.  In
> my view, the author of  the Patriarchal narratives was a very early Hebrew
> who
> had lived both near Sur  and at Hebron, and was not a mid-1st millennium
> southern  Hebrew.  All the stories that he  relates in the Patriarchal
> narratives make perfect sense, from an early Hebrew  viewpoint, if viewed
> as being
> set against the secular historical background of  the mid-14th century BCE
> world
> of the Amarna Letters.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
> ************************************** See what's new at
> http://www.aol.com
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list