[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 18 15:18:35 EDT 2007
You wrote: "Abimelech, his pompous name not withstanding, was a mere speck
the dusty horizon of southern Israel. But the first Hebrew couple had
a similarly harrowing experience upon entering Egypt---the America of
the ancient world [Genesis 12:11-20]. Her beauty was such that as
soon as they crossed the border into the land she was spotted by the
national Egyptian GSA [girl spotting agency] who wrote [all in neat
little pictures] such a glowing report about her that the mighty
Pharaoh himself could not wait to accept her in his chambers. Just
Sarah of all the millions of good looking Egyptian girls!
Do you deem it plausible that LABAN HA-)ARAMI was the blondy of Aram?"
The author of the Patriarchal narratives, and everyone else in the ancient
world, knew that a pharaoh of Egypt would never make a grab at a woman who was
not a virgin and who was beyond the normal age of childbearing in the
ancient world. That is not because pharaohs were particularly moral or high-minded,
but rather is because it would have been considered a mortal insult for a
non-virgin, older woman to be offered to, or lusted after by, an august
There is no chance that the author of the Patriarchal narratives wants us to
think that (i) Pharaoh lusted after old Sarah, and would have been willing
to kill Abraham to get at old non-virgin Sarah, or that (ii) Abraham and Sarah
may have mistakenly thought that Pharaoh might think that way.
Just in case someone (like you) might miss the point, the author of the
Patriarchal narratives makes it all absolutely clear in the Abimelech episode.
Sarah is stated age 90 "years". Sarah has stopped having the periods of women.
Sarah is "withered". Abraham falls down laughing at YHWH's statement that
Sarah may still, at her old age, be able to bear a child. Chapter 20 of
Genesis never says that Sarah is beautiful, and never says that young ruler
Abimelech had any lust for Sarah at all. Even a small-time ruler would not lust
after a woman who was so many, many years past the normal childbearing age in
the ancient world.
Isaac Fried, you completely misunderstand what is going on at the end of
chapter 12 of Genesis and in chapter 20 of Genesis. Neither Pharaoh nor
Abimelech has any lust for old Sarah. On neither occasion does Abraham have any
bona fide fear that Abraham's life may be in danger, whether on Sarah's account
In both cases, as part of a carefully planned out cover story, Abraham says
publicly that Sarah is his sister. In the Abimelech case explicitly, and in
Pharaoh's case implicitly, Abraham says that Abraham feared being killed by
the ruler on Sarah's account. That cover story neatly enables each of Pharaoh
and Abimelech to claim that the ruler did not knowingly take a married woman
into his household. Absent such a cover story, neither ruler would have
been willing to take old Sarah into his household. In each case, the ruler and
Abraham and Sarah have in fact jointly agreed upon a plan of action. Never is
Abraham in fear of his life from either ruler, and in neither case does
either ruler lust after old Sarah, for heaven's sake.
I do not know why so many people on this b-Hebrew list insist on viewing the
Patriarchal narratives as if they were "fairy tales". Old Sarah excites no
lust in any Gentile ruler. Given Sarah's age, that would be nonsensical.
Rather, the Pharaoh and Abimelech episodes are similar to the famous binding
incident: unpleasant, awkward, controversial, and seemingly immoral, yet
absolutely critical tests of Abraham's suitability to be what YHWH has planned
"'[I]n thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'" Genesis 12:
It's not easy being Abraham. Abraham has to go through these three
gut-wrenching tests, each of which is more unpleasant than the last. But Abraham
never feared for his life, on account of Sarah or otherwise, regarding either
Pharaoh or Abimelech, and neither ruler lusted after old Sarah.
If you don't understand any of that, you will never understand why Genesis
20: 1 presents Abraham and Sarah as making a beeline for Abimelech's place in
Gerar. Abraham and Sarah want to interact with Abimelech, just as Abraham
and Sarah had previously wanted to interact with Pharaoh.
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