[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 18 17:16:20 EDT 2007

1.  You wrote:  ”Your suggestions  are completely nonsensical. What kind of 
logic does
your suggestion that  Abimelech slept with Sarah when he had no desire for
her have? Absolutely  none! Have you even considered how your propositions
sound? People don't  sleep with other people's wives with no desire just for
the fun of  it." 
Abimelech did not invite Sarah into his household "just for the fun of  it".  
Abimelech was desperate to  impregnate the women in his palace.  In order for 
that to happen, Abimelech was hoping that Sarah's husband, a  holy man, would 
offer a fervent fertility prayer on Abimelech's behalf, so that  Abimelech 
could impregnate the women in his palace.  Abimelech had no physical desire for  
Sarah at all.  Abimelech ends up  getting exactly what he wanted -- a 
fertility prayer from Abraham: 
"And Abraham prayed unto God;  and God healed Abimelech, and his  wife, and 
his maid-servants; and they bore children.  For the LORD [YHWH] had fast closed 
up  all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's 
wife."  Genesis 20:  17-18 
Abimelech did not invite Sarah into his household "with  no desire just for 
the fun of it".  No, Abimelech was willing to invite Sarah into his household 
in order to  get Abraham to give Abimelech that much-wanted fertility  prayer. 
It is impossible that the author could want us to believe  that young 
Abimelech had any lust for old Sarah.  Sarah is stated age 90 "years", Sarah is  long 
past the normal age for childbearing in the ancient world, Sarah is  
"withered", and in chapter 20 of Genesis, Sarah is not stated to be  beautiful. 
Abraham must pass three gut-wrenching tests.  He must be willing to have 
Sarah be in  Pharaoh's household, he must be willing to have Sarah be in 
Abimelech's  household, and he must be willing to kill Isaac if so ordered by YHWH.  
All three tests are terrible.  All three tests seem immoral on the  surface.  
But would we really expect  Abraham's tests to be easy?  Abraham, though a 
wealthy man, certainly did not have an easy  life. 
2.  You wrote:  "Next you'll be suggesting that the silver  Abimelech gave 
was in
gratitude for the good time Abraham gave  him???" 
James, look at the text closely, and you  will see that no silver in fact 
changes hands.  As part of the prearranged cover story,  Abimelech loudly says to 
Abimelech's people that Abimelech has given a  gargantuan amount of silver to 
Abraham.  Abraham in fact received no silver.  That is part of the cover 
"And unto Sarah he said:  'Behold, I have given thy brother a  thousand 
pieces of silver; behold, it is for thee a covering of the eyes to all  that are 
with thee;  and before all  men thou art righted.'"  Genesis 20:  16 
Where's the silver?  When had Abimelech given any silver to Abraham?  That is 
all pure rhetoric, nothing  else.  No money changed  hands. 
3.  You wrote:  "The  author of the account specifically says that Yhwh 
stopped Abimelech and not  merely that Abimelech said so." 
I have just sent in two posts on that exact  topic.  The author of the  
Patriarchal narratives wants us to understand that Abimelech is loudly claiming  to 
his assembled multitude that (i) Abimelech never came near Sarah, and that  
(ii) Abimelech is "a righteous nation".  Abraham was not in Abimelech's 
household that night.  How could Abraham know what had gone  on?  Why doesn't Abraham 
ask Sarah  or YHWH to verify Abimelech's strange story, before offering up a 
fertility  prayer to Abimelech on the spot?  Abraham never asks YHWH or Sarah 
what happened in Abimelech's household,  because all that had been decided by 
Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech before Sarah  ever entered Abimelech's household. 
If the text said that YHWH came to Abraham  in broad daylight and told 
Abraham that nothing had happened in Abimelech's  household, that would be one 
thing.  But there is nothing like that in the  text. 
4.  You wrote:  "The author has  no such intentions as you
suggest and his agenda is to show Abraham as a  righteous man NOT as some
kind of ANE wife swapping pimp who collaborates and  makes up stories about
god stopping them from doing the  dirty." 
There is no wife-swapping at all.  Abraham has no contact with any woman in  
Abimelech's palace. 
I thoroughly agree that the author intends  to show Abraham as a righteous 
man, and that Abraham indeed was a righteous  man. 
I also thoroughly agree that Abraham is not  a pimp.  Abraham receives no 
actual  money from Abimelech.  Abraham and  Sarah are in no need of money.  
Rather, the problem that all three of Abimelech, Abraham and Sarah are  struggling 
with is infertility. 
5.  You are reacting to the unpleasantness of this story.  Maybe nothing did 
happen in Abimelech's  household. We'll never know for sure, because the 
author of the Patriarchal  narratives takes pains to keep what actually happened 
somewhat  ambiguous. 
What I am saying is that Abraham is  presented as having to go through three 
terrible tests in order to prove to YHWH  that Abraham is the right man to be 
a blessing to all mankind.  Each test is more terrible than the  previous 
test.  Even the first test,  with Pharaoh, is profoundly unpleasant.  But the fact 
of the matter is that neither ruler was physically attracted  to old Sarah, 
and Abraham never honestly feared that either ruler would murder  him. 
These stories are about fertility issues and  the divine role regarding 
fertility issues (the dominant theme in the  Patriarchal narratives), not about 
lust, money or murder (none of which issues  are of any great interest to the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives, who has  more important issues on his 
mind).  Abimelech has no lust for Sarah, Abimelech gives no money to Abraham, and  
Abraham, who had 318 armed retainers per Genesis 14: 14, never has any bona 
fide  fear of being murdered by Abimelech.  Rather, the author is dealing with 
vexing fertility issues, and the  divine role in regard thereto, in these  
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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