[b-hebrew] Was Abraham part of an ANE wife swapping gang?

biblical hebrew jcr.bhebrew at gmail.com
Sun Oct 21 12:09:27 EDT 2007

Hi Jim,

thanks for predictably avoiding answering the questions directly and merely
cutting and pasting large chunks of text I have already invested large
amounts of time in reading before, however, may I ask you not to change the
topic title back to Genesis 1:1. This discussion has nothing to do with your
interpretation of Genesis 20:1 and we have already discussed that verse to
great enough length for it to be evident that no new evidence is

I'm not going to bother commenting on your interpretation of the Egypt
fiasco as it is blatantly clear that you are interpretting more into it than
the text actually says. However, I will offer one last remark on your view
of the Abimelech and Sarah episode. You are interpretting that the narrator
intends us to understand that this is merely what Abimelech said to his
servants in the morning, however, you are failing to acknowledge that the
narrator is relating a story in a simple series of events:

1) Abraham settles in Gerar
2) Abimelech takes Sarah
3) Yhwh stops Abimelech
4) Abimelech relates the events to his servants in the morning

If you are not willing to acknowledge this then I will not be willing to
engage in any further discussion on this topic. You may have your reasons
for your interpretation but if you wish to gain any kind of respect then you
need to acknowledge what the text literally says and that there is a
possibility that your interpretation is wrong.

James Christian Read - BSc Computer Science
http://www.lamie.org/hebrew       Thesis 1 - Aleppo codex machine translation
http://www.lamie.org/lad-sim.doc  Thesis 2 - language acquisition simulation


On 10/19/07, JimStinehart at aol.com <JimStinehart at aol.com> wrote:
> James:
> 1.  You wrote:  "Please read carefully Genesis 20:2,3  very carefully:
> 2 And Abraham repeated concerning Sarah his wife: "She is  my sister."
> With
> that A·bim´e·lech king of Ge´rar sent and took Sarah. 3  Afterward God
> came
> to A·bim´e·lech in a dream by night and said to him: "Here  you are as
> good
> as dead because of the woman whom you have taken, since she  is owned by
> another owner as his wife."
> Do you or do you not accept  that the text makes no mention of Abimelech
> getting up and saying that this  happened but that the text merely
> represents
> this as a series of events? A  simple Yes or No will do!"
> (a)  James, Genesis 20: 8 states:  "And Abimelech rose early in
> the  morning,
> and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears;  and
> the men were sore afraid."  In my personal opinion, the author wants  us
> to view
> Genesis 20: 2-3 as being what Abimelech said to Abimelech's servants,  not
> as
> necessarily being what actually  happened.
> (b)  But now  let us assume that I am wrong on this point and that you are
> right.  That would mean that the audience,  Abimelech and Sarah would know
> that
> in fact, Abimelech had never come near  Sarah.  But Abraham would not know
> that!
> My whole point is that this chapter 20 story works  historically only if
> Abraham has honest doubts as to who the biological father  of Isaac is.  I
> think
> that Abraham  is in fact the biological father of Isaac.  But I also think
> that
> Abraham had some honest doubts about  that.
> The text could portray YHWH as telling Abraham in  daylight that YHWH had
> intervened to prevent Abimelech from coming near  Sarah.  But the text
> never says
> that.  Accordingly, Abraham could  not be sure that something had not
> happened between Abimelech and Sarah, even if  in fact nothing had
> happened.
> 2.  You wrote:  "Please  read carefully Genesis 12:10-13.  …Do you or do
> you
> not acknowledge that the narrator explicitly quotes  Abraham as explicitly
> stating his reasons being that Sarah is beautiful and that  he fears for
> his
> life? Again, a simple Yes or No will do? I am not interested in  how you
> 'feel'
> the narrator intends us to understand this because your  'feelings' are
> little
> in the way of primary source  evidence."
> (a)  When Abraham is at Gerar, Abraham says he feared for his life because
> of
> Sarah.  Genesis 20: 11.  But that is a cover story.  Abraham's 318 armed
> retainers (Genesis  14: 14) mean that Abraham could not fear Abimelech's
> small
> militia.
> (b)  Abraham and Sarah use a similar cover story in Egypt.  No pharaoh
> would
> ever kill a man to get  at the man's old, non-virgin wife.  That's not
> because
> pharaohs were particularly moral or high-minded, but  rather is because
> pharaohs would have considered such a scenario an insult to  the pharaohs'
> dignity.
> Only a  virgin young woman could be offered to a pharaoh.  Abraham has no
> honest fear of being  murdered by Pharaoh.  That is part  of the cover
> story
> that Abraham and Sarah will use in Egypt.  However, as opposed to when
> Abraham
> and  Sarah meet Abimelech in Gerar, it does matter in Egypt what Sarah
> looks
> like.  Pharaoh will not be willing  to take Sarah into his household if
> Sarah
> looks too old and unattractive.  It is important that Sarah looks
> good  for her
> age, and she does.  However,  Pharaoh has no lust for old Sarah.  Chapters
> 12
> and 20 of Genesis are not about lust (or murder).  Rather, they are about
> basic fertility  issues, and the divine role played in fertility  issues.
> 3.  Your demand for simple answers does not fit the complex nature of the
> Patriarchal narratives.  If the text  were simple and straightforward,
> mankind
> would not still be discussing it,  thousands of years later.
> Neither Pharaoh nor Abimelech has any lust  for old Sarah, and Abraham
> never
> has any sincere fear that Abraham would be  murdered by Pharaoh or
> Abimelech,
> on account of Sarah or for any other reason.  As I see it, those
> statements in
> the text are, rather, part of the cover story that Abraham and Sarah are
> using.
> Abraham and Sarah desperately want Sarah to  bear a son to Abraham.  That
> is
> what  the first third of the Patriarchal narratives is all about.  The
> author
> is discussing important  fertility issues, not making irrelevant comments
> about how immoral Gentile kings  were in days of old.
> I realize that these stories are unpleasant  and awkward and
> troubling.  But
> the  binding incident in chapter 22 of Genesis is likewise unpleasant and
> awkward and  troubling.  All three stories have a  happy ending.  But none
> of
> these  three tests are easy. They are all gut-wrenching tests of Abraham's
> fortitude  and righteousness.  And Abraham  passes all three tests with
> flying
> colors.
> I am as big a fan of Abraham as anyone.  But Abraham did not have an easy
> life.  It was not pleasant for  Abraham to see his wife first in Pharaoh's
> household, then in Abimelech's  household.  But Abraham wanted
> those  things to
> happen, because even if neither ruler ever touched Sarah, Abraham
> and  Sarah
> thought that they would receive the divine blessing of fertility,
> and  Abraham
> would be allowed to sire a son by Sarah, only if both Abraham and
> Sarah  proved
> to YHWH that they were willing to do anything to have a son,
> including  being
> willing to have Sarah spend a night in the household of each of
> Pharaoh  and
> Abimelech.  It is not a pleasant  story, but that's what the text says, in
> my
> opinion.
> The whole reason for these unpleasant  stories is that Abraham must be
> portrayed as having honest doubts as to whether  Abraham is the biological
> father of
> Isaac.  It's fine that Abraham turns out in fact to be the biological
> father
> of  Isaac.  But the key is that Abraham  must for many years have doubts
> on
> that score.  Otherwise, the Patriarchal narratives  would not make sense
> in the
> secular historical context of the  mid-14th century BCE.
> Jim  Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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