[b-hebrew] Wife-swapping in chapter 20 of Genesis?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 22 17:45:49 EDT 2007


 
James: 
You state that it is clear that Abraham and Sarah went to Gerar, that  
Abimelech took Sarah, and that YHWH prevented Abimelech from coming near  Sarah. 
1.  When you say that  "Abimelech took Sarah", that presumably means that in 
your view, Abimelech took  Sarah into his household against the wishes of both 
Abraham and Sarah.  If so, then we are dealing with a rape  or a semi-rape 
situation.  The text,  however, does not say that Abimelech took Sarah against 
the will of either  Abraham or Sarah.  Here is all that  the text says: 
" And Abraham said  of Sarah his wife:  'She is my  sister.'  And Abimelech 
king of  Gerar sent, and took Sarah."  Genesis 20: 2 
The Hebrew word for "took" here is "laqach".  That Hebrew word almost always 
means "to  take", with all the manifold ambiguities in Hebrew as there are in 
English.  Gesenius views "laqach" at Genesis 20: 2  as meaning "to send after, 
to fetch:  'and he fetched Sarah'." 
In other words, the Hebrew word does not state that  Abimelech snatched Sarah 
away from Abraham against the will of both Abraham and  Sarah.  Abimelech 
simply sent for  Sarah, and neither Abraham nor Sarah appears to have resisted 
Abimelech's  attempt to fetch Sarah.  So the  question of whether this was 
against, or rather in consonance with, the will of  Abraham and Sarah is left up in 
the air by this Hebrew word, just as in the  English translation. 
But you are viewing this as being a rape or a semi-rape  situation. 
2.  I believe that your view  is that Abimelech honestly thought that Sarah 
was Abraham's sister, and an  unmarried woman.  Note that such  fact, if true, 
would not stop this from being a rape or a semi-rape  situation. 
3.  We know from chapter 17  of Genesis that Sarah is long past the normal 
age for childbirth, as Abraham  laughs at such a suggestion.  Hence  it is 
appropriate to refer to Sarah as being "old":  that is, well beyond the normal  
childbearing age for a woman in the ancient world.  On my view, Sarah is age 45 
regular  years.  That would certainly be  "old" in the secular historical 
context.  I know of no woman in the ancient world who successfully had a first  
birth at age 45, or who even tried such a thing.  It would not be biologically 
impossible,  but it would be a near-miracle in the ancient world. 
Chapter 18 tells us that Sarah is "withered".  So we know that Sarah is old 
and  withered. 
4.  On your view, Abimelech  is trying to rape an old and withered Hebrew 
Matriarch, whom Abimelech sincerely  thinks is the unmarried sister of old 
Abraham.  On your view, neither Abraham nor Sarah  wants Sarah to be in Abimelech's 
household, nor do they want Abimelech to touch  Sarah. 
5. On your view, YHWH simultaneously prevents Abimelech from becoming  
intimate with Sarah, and YHWH uses the following exact words to describe  
Abimelech's attempt to rape an old and withered Hebrew Matriarch whom Abimelech  
honestly thought was old Abraham's unmarried sister: 
"And God said unto him in the dream:  'Yea, I know  that in the simplicity of 
thy heart thou hast done this, and I also withheld  thee from sinning against 
Me.  Therefore suffered I thee not to touch  her."  Genesis 20:  6 
6.  Does it  seem likely that in that situation, YHWH would state that 
Abimelech was acting  "in the simplicity of thy heart"?  Yes, Abimelech may have 
honestly thought that Sarah was an unmarried  woman.  But on your view, Abimelech 
 is still trying to rape an old and withered Hebrew Matriarch.  Would YHWH 
characterize such activity as  acting "in the simplicity of thy heart"? 
Doesn't this seem, rather, like what Abimelech would say happened, based  on 
a dream that Abimelech supposedly had?  Why would you trust a Gentile ruler to 
report a dream accurately, right  after he has tried to rape an old and 
withered Hebrew Matriarch? 
7.  Is it  likely that YHWH would choose to use the exact wording that 
Abimelech himself  has just used to describe the situation?  Here are Abimelech's 
words (not YHWH's words) in the preceding verse,  where we first see the key 
phrase "in the simplicity of my heart":   
"'Said he not himself unto me:  She is my sister?  and she, even she herself 
said:  He is my brother.  In the simplicity of my heart and the  innocency of 
my hands have I done this.'"  Genesis 20: 5 
Why would YHWH use Abimelech's own exact words in this  situation? 
8.  If YHWH  agrees with Abimelech's self-characterization that Abimelech is 
acting "in the  simplicity of my heart", does that mean that YHWH is also 
implicitly agreeing  with Abimelech's words (not YHWH's words) in the verse before 
 that? 
"…and he [Abimelech] said:  'Lord [Adonai], wilt Thou slay even a  righteous 
nation? "  Genesis 20: 4   
Would YHWH view the polytheistic Gentile ruler Abimelech,  who is trying to 
rape an old and withered Hebrew Matriarch, as being "a  righteous nation"?  As 
having  "innocency of my hands", and as acting "in the simplicity of thy  
heart"? 
Isn't all of that Abimelech's own self-serving propaganda, that Abimelech  is 
loudly asserting to his people early the next morning?  How can a would-be 
rapist act "in the  simplicity of thy heart", even if he thinks his intended 
victim is an unmarried  woman? 
9.  If all of  the rest of these verses represent Abimelech's self-serving 
propaganda, which  cannot be trusted, then the same applies to the first half of 
Genesis 20: 4 as  well: 
" Now Abimelech had  not come near her;  and he said:  'Lord [Adonai], wilt 
Thou slay even a righteous nation?'"  Genesis 20:  4 
I view all of that as being Abimelech's own self-serving  propaganda, not as 
being what YHWH actually said, or how YHWH actually viewed  Abimelech. 
10.  If Sarah  is in Abimelech's bedroom against the will of both Abraham and 
Sarah, then there  is no way that YHWH would say that Abimelech was acting 
"in the simplicity of  thy heart" in trying to rape an old and withered woman.  
No way.  That's Abimelech's own self-serving  propaganda, not YHWH's actual 
words. 
YHWH rarely praises anyone in the Patriarchal  narratives.  There's no way 
that  such rare words of praise by YHWH would be extended to a man who was 
trying to  rape an old and withered Hebrew Matriarch.  No way.  Such a Gentile is 
in  no way acting "in the simplicity of his heart".   No way.  This is all pure 
propaganda emanating  from Abimelech.  The author of the  Patriarchal 
narratives wants us to realize that this is not an accurate account  of what YHWH 
actually said. 
YHWH is never reported in the text to say anything like  that to Abraham.  
That's because YHWH never said anything like that.   What that is, rather, is 
Abimelech's own self-serving cover story,  which cannot be trusted at all. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois



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