[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
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
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
"…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
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
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
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.
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