[b-hebrew] The Role of Hebron: Abraham and Isaac
leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Jan 14 17:02:59 EST 2008
Maybe we should read "Hermon" instead of "Hebron", thus placing the
Patriarchs' burial place in northern Canaan as well?
----- Original Message -----
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2008 4:46 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] The Role of Hebron: Abraham and Isaac
> The Role of Hebron: Abraham and Isaac
> The primary role of Hebron in the Patriarchal narratives is as a place for
> the Patriarchs’ retirement and burial. As such, Hebron’s role is much
> grandiose than has been supposed. This is a critically important point,
> it betrays a northern Hebrew’s somewhat unflattering view of modest Hebron
> southern Canaan, not a southern Hebrew’s overly positive view of Hebron.
> Abraham’s Initial Encounter with Hebron
> Abraham proceeds to Hebron in the second half of chapter 13 of Genesis,
> Abraham makes the Covenant with YHWH at Hebron in chapter 15 of Genesis.
> though Abraham stays at Hebron for 12 long regular years, nothing else
> there, except that YHWH speaks to Abraham on several occasions there. In
> particular, Sarah never gets pregnant with Isaac at Hebron. Abraham then
> determines that he should leave Hebron, and go to Gerar, where Isaac is
> Although we know from the beginning of chapter 13 of Genesis that Abraham
> was very
> wealthy when he arrived at Hebron, there is no mention of wealth when
> suddenly leaves Hebron and moves to Gerar. Reading between the lines,
> probably used up much of his material wealth in living at modest Hebron
> for 12
> Hebron as Abraham’s Place of Retirement and Burial
> Abraham moves to Gerar, where Sarah gets pregnant and Isaac is born. The
> Covenant is fulfilled with Isaac’s birth at Gerar, rather than the
> Covenant being
> fulfilled at Hebron. Why doesn’t Abraham then quickly move back to
> Instead, the text makes a point of telling us at the end of chapter 21 of
> Genesis that Abraham stays in Gerar for a long, long time. We know from
> 26 of Genesis that Isaac will get rich growing crops at Gerar. Abraham is
> savvier than Isaac, so the implication, with hindsight, is that Abraham as
> prospered economically at Gerar, doing far better than Abraham ever did at
> modest Hebron. That must be one of the reasons why Abraham was in no
> hurry to
> return to modest Hebron.
> As far as we can tell, Abraham does not move back to Hebron until Abraham
> an old man and Sarah is on her deathbed. Abraham famously buries old
> Sarah at
> Hebron in a large burial plot, and Abraham, a very old man by now (age 68½
> regular years at Sarah’s death), lives out the remainder of his days at
> in retirement. Later, Abraham will be buried at Hebron.
> Hebron as Isaac’s Place of Retirement and Burial
> Isaac does not live at Hebron with his father after Sarah’s death.
> Isaac comes back to Hebron to bury his father at Hebron, nevertheless
> continues to live at Beer-lahai-roi, just north of the Negev Desert, well
> of Hebron. When a terrible famine then hits southern Canaan, Isaac’s
> thought is to go to Egypt. But YHWH tells Isaac to go to Gerar instead.
> that there is no hint that Isaac has any material wealth worth mentioning
> Isaac moves to Gerar. Isaac does not have a large flock, or else Isaac
> not have been living on the edge of the Negev Desert. We come to realize
> during Abraham’s long retirement at Hebron, Abraham must have used up most
> all of his material funds, including his formerly vast flock. At Abraham’s
> death, there appears to be effectively no material wealth to speak of to
> haggled over by Isaac and Ishmael (both of whom come to Hebron for Abraham’s
> burial). Abraham has clearly, and properly, designated Isaac as Abraham’s
> spiritual heir, and Ishmael does not contest that, but there’s apparently
> no real
> material wealth left to pass to anyone at Abraham’s death in modest
> Going back now to the time period immediately before Isaac moves to Gerar,
> terrible famine was afflicting southern Canaan at that time. Isaac was
> just north of the Negev Desert at Beer-lahai-roi. The traditional view
> Isaac at that point moves to the middle of the Negev Desert, and gets rich
> growing crops in the Negev Desert, all the while a terrible famine is
> raging in
> southern Canaan, is nonsensical. Historically, Gerar/Garu is in wealthy
> northern Canaan, not in the ultra-modest Negev Desert or the uninhabitable
> Desert. The reference to Sur at Genesis 20: 1 points to the island
> city-state of
> Sur (later called “Tyre” by the Greeks) in northern Canaan, which was on
> west edge of historical Garu (Biblical “Gerar”). The name of the ruler of
> historical Sur in the mid-14th century BCE was Abimilki, which is
> the same name as the ruler of Gerar in Genesis: Abimelech. Both rulers
> uniquely spend much of their time jousting for access rights to valuable
> wells. Finally, and very importantly, both in the Bible and in secular
> the only place where a Hebrew could get wealthy selling agricultural crops
> in northern Canaan, where the rich buyer was Sur, a wealthy island
> that had to buy all its food.
> It is obvious that the Patriarchs prosper much more, on a material sphere,
> Gerar (in northern Canaan) than they ever do at modest Hebron in southern
> Canaan. Like Abraham before him, Isaac shows no inclination to leave the
> Gerar area. As far as we can tell, Isaac does not go back to Hebron
> just like Abraham, Isaac’s beloved wife Rebekah is on her deathbed.
> Rebekah is
> buried at Hebron, and Isaac retires at Hebron, just like his father
> before him. And like Abraham, Isaac will later be buried at Hebron.
> During the very long time period (30 regular years, from age 60 regular
> to age 90 regular years) when Isaac is in retirement at Hebron, Isaac does
> nothing. At least, nothing is reported in the text as to Isaac doing
> at Hebron.
> As we are seeing, Hebron is viewed in the Patriarchal narratives primarily
> being a fitting place for each Patriarch’s retirement and burial, not much
> more than that.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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