[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 
destruction:  Bethel/Ai. 
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 
of  Genesis). 
(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). 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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