[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 18 12:43:07 EDT 2007

You wrote:  "Also another point you seem to have  missed is Genesis 19:37,38 
which gives serious clues to the date of authorship  of the narrative.

" 37 In time the firstborn became mother to a son and  called his name Mo´ab.
He is the father of Mo´ab, to this day. 38 As for the  younger, she too gave
birth to a son and then called his name Ben-am´mi. He  is the father of the
sons of Am´mon, to this day."

These verses seem  to indicate to me that the author was writing at a time
and to an audience of  people who knew the Moabites and Ammonites to be
neighbouring nations. If we  are to accept the traditional view that Moses
authored the Torah then this  comment would make sense and we therefore need
to abandon any theory of a  more ancient authorship." 
James, you raise a difficult and important  issue there. 
In my view, over 98% of the received text of  the Patriarchal narratives is 
original, and dates to the mid-14th  century BCE.  However, there are a  mere 
handful of later glosses that crept into the text over the centuries.  Genesis 
19: 37-38 may be one of the rare  later glosses in this text. 
The following two items suggest that Genesis  19: 37-38 was not part of the 
original Patriarchal  narratives. 
1.  The phrase "to this day" or "unto this day", which appears at both  
Genesis 19: 37 and Genesis 19: 38, is extremely suspicious.  It suggests that these 
two verses have  been added by a later editor, who lived many centuries after 
the historical  Patriarchal Age.  Indeed, this  phrase may be an attempt by 
the later editor to more or less openly disclose the  fact that these two 
verses have been added as later explanations, long after the  original composition 
of the Patriarchal  narratives. 
2.  The presence of the Hebrew word "hiy" is also suspicious.  "Hiy" is 
usually translated either as  "now" or "the same is".  The  translation you have 
used hides the Hebrew word "hiy".  Here is the 1917JPS translation, where  you 
can easily see the suspicious Hebrew word "hiy":   
"And the first-born bore a son, and called his name  Moab--the same ["hiy"] 
is the father of the Moabites unto this day.  And the younger, she also bore a 
son, and  called his name Ben-ammi--the same [hiy] is the father of the 
children of Ammon  unto this day." 
The joint presence of "unto this day" and "hiy" is very  suspicious. 
*       *       * 
When you think about it, if a later editor wanted to add  a later explanation 
of a passage in the Patriarchal narratives to reflect later  developments, 
yet he did not want to pretend that this later knowledge had been  in the 
original Patriarchal narratives, about the only two ways to denote openly  that this 
is a later gloss is to do what we see at Genesis 19: 37-38.  The phrase "to 
this day" or "unto this  day" is an obvious warning that the verse containing 
that phrase may be a later  editorial gloss.  Secondly, the word  "hiy", 
sometimes translated as "now", and sometimes translated as "the same is",  is also 
inherently suspicious.  That  is not to say that every use of "hiy" in the text 
denotes a later gloss, but  every phrase that begins with "hiy" is inherently 
suspicious as possibly being a  later gloss. 
Having said all that, it is still possible that Genesis  19: 37-38 was 
composed in the mid-14th century BCE.  I believe that the first attestation of  the 
words "Moab" and "Ammon" in secular history may have come in the  13th century 
BCE.  But  for example, we first hear about "Moab" when an Egyptian pharaoh 
brags about  conquering Moab in the 13th century BCE.  The early Hebrews in 
Canaan may have  been well aware of the word "Moab" in the mid-14th century BCE, 
long  before the Egyptians had occasion to use that local  word. 
So I am not sure how to treat Genesis 19: 37-38.  The most likely scenario, 
though, is  that those two verses are later editorial  glosses. 
Let me emphasize that I myself see very, very few such  later editorial 
glosses in this text.  Thus the story of Lot and his daughters is vintage mid-14th  
century BCE, and does not seem to fit any historical time period other than 
the  mid-14th century BCE..  The last two verses of chapter 19 of Genesis may, 
however, be a much  later editorial gloss.  Any phrase  that begins with "hiy" 
is suspicious as possibly being a later gloss, and when  one adds the equally 
suspicious phrase, "unto this day", these verses look like  later glosses. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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