[b-hebrew] Hebrew historical records

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Dec 2 15:17:30 EST 2008


Kenneth Greifer:
 
You wrote:  “I feel that you are denying the possibility of the Hebrews 
having any historical records. You only believe that Egyptians had real historical 
records for some reason.  I don't understand why you have to prove every place 
and battle in Canaan was mentioned in the Egyptian records, as if the Hebrew 
historical records don't count.”
 
On the contrary, I think that the Patriarchal narratives are the finest 
single record we have concerning the Late Bronze Age.
 
There is nothing to fear from comparing the Patriarchal narratives to 
Egyptian records.  The closer one looks, the more one is impressed by the pinpoint 
historical accuracy of the Patriarchal narratives.
 
Consider:
 
Each name of a city in Canaan in the Patriarchal narratives has a counterpart 
in either the mid-15th century BCE Thutmosis III list and/or the mid-14th 
century BCE Amarna Letters.  That supports the historicity of the Patriarchal 
narratives in a Bronze Age context.
 
On the other hand, if you examine these three sources, you come to realize 
that the locations of many of the places referenced in the Patriarchal 
narratives have been misinterpreted.  For example, there is no city name “Hebron” in 
any Bronze Age source, and there were never magnificent groves of oak trees at 
the city of Hebron on the northern edge of the Northern Negev Desert (because 
there is not enough rainfall that far south).  Those magnificent groves of oak 
trees (referenced regarding “Hebron” at Genesis 13: 18;  14: 13;  and 18: 1) 
were, rather, located on the low hills that surround the Aijalon Valley.  The 
Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the Aijalon Valley, being item #99, JBR, on the 
Thutmosis III list.  XBR or XBL [having a wide variety of meanings, including “
tract of land (measured by a rope)”] appears 89 times in the Hebrew Bible, 
whereas )BL, meaning “meadow” or “stream”, only appears 3 times.  Although J, 
which is an Egyptian single reed (and is not the Egyptian aleph), often came into 
Biblical Hebrew as an aleph, here in JBR is one of several occasions in which 
J came into Biblical Hebrew as a heth/X.  Thus JBR came into Biblical Hebrew 
as XBR, not as )BL as scholars have heretofore thought.  (An Egyptian R could 
represent either resh/R or lamed/L, and over the centuries a resh/R would often 
soften into a lamed/L.  XBR and XBL were the same word in the Bronze Age.)  
In order to turn JBR/XBR into a specific geographical place name, the most co
mmon way, as we know from the Thutmosis III list, is simply to add a vav-nun/WN 
suffix.  JBR/XBR + WN = XBRWN, which is the letter-for-letter spelling of “
Hebron”.  Note that both the spelling of “Hebron”, and the description of the 
Patriarchs’ “Hebron”, fit the well-documented secular history of Late Bronze 
Age Canaan perfectly, once one realizes that the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is not 
the city of Hebron south of Jerusalem, but rather is the Aijalon Valley “tract 
of land”:  JBR/XBR + WN = XBRWN/“Hebron”.
 
The Patriarchal narratives are an incredibly accurate record of Late Bronze 
Age Canaan, better than any single Egyptian source by far.  Unfortunately, the 
basic local geography of Canaan that is utilized in the Patriarchal narratives 
has been profoundly misunderstood for a very long time.  The problem is not 
the text of the Patriarchal narratives.  The text is perfect.  Rather, the 
problem is the longstanding misinterpretation of the text. 
 
I am trying to restore the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives by 
showing that everything in the text matches the life and times of Late Bronze Age 
Canaan, as documented by plentiful secular historical records.
 
The traditional interpretation of the Patriarchal narratives does not match 
secular history.  That’s not because the Patriarchal narratives are late 
fiction by multiple authors who didn’t know what they were talking about, as 
university scholars would have it.  No, it’s because the Patriarchal narratives have 
been thoroughly misinterpreted for so very long, especially as to geographical 
matters (like the location and identity of the Patriarchs’ “Hebron”, as 
noted above).
 
Until we understand the local geography of Canaan that is being referenced in 
the Patriarchal narratives, we will not understand the Patriarchal 
narratives.  The author of the Patriarchal narratives was an early Hebrew in the Late 
Bronze Age who had no interest in the Dead Sea.  He was properly concerned, 
rather, that the pagan Canaanites in the heart of Canaan might soon do what Amurru 
and Ugarit just north of Canaan had done last year:  sell out to the dreaded 
Hittites.  The “four rulers against the five” in chapter 14 of Genesis is, in 
a quite sophisticated way, simultaneously (i) telling the historical story of 
the circumstances under which Amurru and Ugarit sold out to the mighty 
Hittites in the mid-14th century BCE, and (ii) warning that the heartland of Canaan 
(the Jezreel Valley) could well be the next target on the Hittites’ hit list, 
unless all of Canaan, hopefully with Egyptian support, united to oppose the 
advance of the dreaded Hittites.  The Jezreel Valley and the Mediterranean Sea 
were very important to the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives in 
that regard.  The Dead Sea and the southeast coast of the Dead Sea were 
entirely irrelevant to the concerns of the author of the Patriarchal narratives, 
who was desperately trying to keep the fledgling Hebrew tribe from being overrun 
by the dreaded Hittites.
 
The more historical background one has, the more impressive are the 
Patriarchal narratives.  Yes, the Patriarchal narratives are told from an early Hebrew 
perspective, instead of being altruistic or neutral or passive or literal, but 
that’s the way historical records are.
 
Rather than “denying the possibility of the Hebrews having any historical 
records”, as you allege, I in fact view the Patriarchal narratives as being the 
single best historical record we have of Late Bronze Age Canaan, bar none.  The 
problem is not with the Biblical text, but rather is with the longstanding 
misunderstanding of what the text actually says.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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