[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 18 11:35:31 EDT 2007
Although you raise several very interesting points, let me focus in these
two posts solely on the critical question of where Abraham is portrayed in the
text as being when Abraham saw the smoke from the destruction of Sodom at
Genesis 19: 28. That is of critical importance in evaluating Genesis 20: 1,
because the very next mention of Abraham is at Genesis 20: 1, where the text
says that Abraham departed "from there" and "settled between Qadesh and S(h)ur".
Secular scholars state that they cannot figure out what locale is meant by
the reference in Genesis 20: 1 to "from there", and guess that it must mean
either Sodom or Hebron. But the reference to "from there" cannot mean Sodom,
because Abraham never goes to Sodom. And it does not mean Hebron, because
Abraham does not go back to Hebron after witnessing Sodom's destruction. No,
Genesis 20: 1 tells us that Abraham departed "from there", that is, from the
place where Abraham had gone to witness the after-effects of Sodom's
As to the above critical question, you wrote: "To the place where he had
stood before Hashem" does NOT say it was Beit-El - YOU may say it was, but
the Torah does not. First you have to explain what the Torah means when it
says "to the place where he
had stood before Hashem" Radak explains this phrase to refer "to the
place to which he had accompanied the angels", FOR IT WAS THERE THAT
THE 'HAND OF HASHEM' had come to rest upon him" (See chapter 18,
verse 16). That place was, indeed, was a place from which he could
see S'dom and Gemorra!"
(a) Abraham "accompanied the angels" only a very short distance, probably
just to the northern edge of Hebron, primarily as a gesture of politeness (and,
though not really needed, to make sure the angels knew how to get to
Sodom). The angels then leave Hebron to go to Sodom, and Abraham remains behind in
Hebron, where Abraham talks with YHWH:
"And the men [angels] rose up from thence, and looked out toward Sodom; and
Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. …And the men turned from
thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD [YHWH].
And Abraham drew near, and said: 'Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the
righteous with the wicked?'" Genesis 18: 16, 22-23
It is clear that Abraham went nowhere near Sodom. Abraham is still in Hebron
when Abraham then discusses with YHWH whether all of Sodom should be
destroyed even if there are some good people in Sodom (the second half of chapter 18
(b) Sodom could not be seen from Hebron or from any spot close to Hebron.
No, Abraham has to go 27 miles north of Hebron, to a mountain at Bethel/Ai
(north of Jerusalem), in order to be able to see Sodom in the distance.
We know that Sodom can be seen in the distance from that mountaintop at
Bethel/Ai, because the text tells us that:
"And he [Abraham, after returning from Egypt] went on his journeys from the
South even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the
beginning, between Beth-el and Ai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made
there at the first; and Abram called there on the name of the LORD [YHWH]. …
And Abram said unto Lot: …' Is not the whole land before thee? separate
thyself, I pray thee, from me; if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go
to the right; or if thou take the right hand, then I will go to the left.'
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the [kikkar/flat land at the bottom
of the] plain of the Jordan [River Valley], that it was well watered every
where, before the LORD [YHWH] destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of
the LORD [YHWH], like the land of Egypt, as thou goest unto Zoar. So Lot
chose him all the [kikkar/flat land at the bottom of the] plain of the Jordan
[River Valley] and Lot journeyed east; and they separated themselves the
one from the other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the
cities of the Plain [kikkar/the Jordan River Valley], and moved his tent as far
as Sodom." Genesis 13: 3-4, 8-12
Only the Jordan River Valley "was well watered every where,…like the land of
Egypt" along the Nile River. Abraham and Lot are at a mountain near
Bethel/Ai. When they look northeast, they see the stunning sight of the lush Jordan
River Valley, with Sodom in the far distance, far northeast of Bethel/Ai.
The Hebrew word "kikkar" means something that is either "flat" or "round". In
the Patriarchal narratives, the word "kikkar" is used to refer to the "flat"
land at the bottom of the Jordan River Valley. The full phrase "kikkar of
the Jordan" is sometimes used, but is usually shortened in the text to just
"kikkar". Translating "kikkar" into English as "plain" or "Plain" is very
misleading, because rarely if ever would one use the English words "plain" or
"Plain" to describe the lush flat land at the bottom of a river valley. Abraham
and Lot are looking northeast (primarily north) from Bethel at the lush
Jordan River Valley, the "kikkar of the Jordan". That is the stunning view that
one sees from Bethel/Ai.
A great description of what can be seen from a mountaintop (or hilltop) near
Bethel (as of the 19th century AD) is found at:
"I have wandered all over the Bethel hills.… [W]hat can there be seen is
the northern end of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley, and the [Jordan] river
running like a blue thread through the green plain. The hills of Engedi shut out
completely all view of the southern end of the [Dead] sea; but as I before
said, the northern end, where the Jordan [River] runs in, and about two or
three miles of the sea, can be seen. I have wandered all over the Bethel
hills and tested this question." ("The Bible and Modern Discoveries" by Henry A.
Harper, a Member of the Palestine Exploration Fund Society, 1891.)
The exciting view from a mountain near Bethel/Ai is the lush Jordan River
Valley to the north (and slightly east).
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