[b-hebrew] Genesis 20: 1

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 18 22:40:46 EDT 2007

If YHWH had told Abraham, in a conversation not reported in the text,  that 
nothing had happened between Abimelech and Sarah, then why wouldn’t Abraham  be 
ecstatic with joy at Isaac’s birth?  Sarah is ecstatic with joy at Isaac’s 
birth, but Abraham says  nothing. 
“And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac  was born unto him.  
And Sarah said:  'God hath made laughter for me;  every one that heareth will 
laugh  on account of me.’  And she said:  'Who would have said unto Abraham,  
that Sarah should give children suck? for I have borne him a son in his old  
age.'  And the child grew, and was  weaned.”  Genesis 21:  5-8 
Abraham is not reported to praise YHWH upon Isaac’s  birth.  Abraham is not 
reported to  say one nice word to or about Isaac prior to the binding incident. 
The author of the Patriarchal narratives has not made a  “mistake”, nor has 
he “overlooked” this issue.  Rather, the author is forcing us to  consider 
that Abraham may have had doubts about what had happened, or not  happened, when 
Sarah was in Abimelech’s  household. 
Perhaps nothing at all happened.  But based on what the text says, it does  
not appear that YHWH told Abraham that nothing had happened.  That is a key 
element in the  text. 
I agree with you that the text is perfect, as is.  But I do not agree that 
these stories  are simple.  The author is laying  his real point between the 
lines a little  bit. 
It may well be that nothing in fact happened between  Abimelech and Sarah, 
but what I am saying is that Abraham does not appear to  know that.   
That is the key for making this story work,  historically.  Abraham must have 
a  bona fide doubt, for many years, as to whether Isaac is his blood son or 
his  adopted son.  It is virtually  certain that in fact, Isaac is Abraham’s 
blood son.  Though much less certain, nothing at all  may have happened between 
Abimelech and Sarah.  But the key is that Abraham is not sure  what did or did 
not happen between Abimelech and Sarah.  That’s all I’m  saying. 
If Abraham had been certain from the beginning that  nothing at all had 
happened between Abimelech and Sarah, Abraham would have  jumped for joy at Isaac’s 
birth.  The text reports, however, that whereas Sarah waxed lyrical at Isaac’
s  birth, Abraham said nothing (other than to confirm Isaac’s divinely-given  
name).  Abraham’s silence speaks  volumes as to what Abraham knew for sure 
from YHWH, and what Abraham had his  doubts about.   
In the end, Isaac  is Abraham’s blood son.  But the way  the text tells the 
story, Abraham was not sure about that for many  years. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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