[b-hebrew] The Role of Hebron: Jacob/"Israel"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jan 16 10:40:13 EST 2008

Hebron as Jacob’s Place of Planned Retirement and Burial
After Jacob finishes his 14-year obligation to work for Laban at Harran, 
Jacob shows remarkably little inclination to go back to Canaan, much less to move 
to modest Hebron.  Jacob’s beloved mother Rebekah has already died, and Jacob 
is semi-estranged from his father Isaac (who is living in retirement in 
Hebron).  Jacob blames his father Isaac for always having heavily favored Jacob’s 
older twin brother, Esau.  Jacob does not leave Harran until conditions at 
Harran become intolerable for Jacob.  Then instead of going to Hebron, Jacob 
chooses to sojourn for several years at Shechem, in central Canaan.  
Unlike Abraham, Jacob’s most profound religious experiences are not in 
southern Canaan (at Bethel/Ai, north of Jerusalem, and at Hebron), but rather are in 
northern Canaan, at Lus (or Luz or Lusi, alternatively called Laish or 
Lechem, and later called Dan), at the foot of Mt. Lebanon.  Jacob himself decides to 
call Lus/Luz by the name of “Bethel”, meaning “house of God”, because Jacob 
has the Jacob’s Ladder religious experience there.  “And he called the name 
of that place Beth-el, but the name of the city was Luz at the first.”  
Genesis 28: 19  When Jacob fears for his life after the Decapitation of the Shechem 
Offensive in chapters 34 and 35 of Genesis, Jacob returns up north to Luz/Lus 
(referred to by Jacob as “Bethel”, but having nothing to do geographically 
with Abraham’s Bethel/Ai).  Jacob buries his favorite wife, Rachel, at Bethlehem 
of Galilee/Bethlehem Sur (not at Bethlehem of Judea south of Jerusalem), and 
then sojourns at historical Eyn-dor, a fortified town referred to in chapter 
35 of Genesis as migdal Eder/E – d-r (where E is an ayin, and Eyn is the formal 
spelling of ayin, and “migdal” means “the fortified town of”).
Only when Jacob is age 50 regular years, and has become a fairly old man, 
does Jacob finally decide to retire at Hebron, now that his 80-year-old father 
Isaac has become infirm.  In fact, prior to age 50, Patriarch #3 Jacob/“Israel” 
had never lived at Hebron.
As we know, Jacob’s planned retirement at Hebron is later rudely interrupted 
by a terrible famine in southern Canaan.  Patriarch #3 Jacob/“Israel” lives 
in Hebron for a mere 15 regular years, as an old man, and Jacob never does 
anything noteworthy in Hebron (except when he eventually decides that all the 
Hebrews should leave Hebron to go to Egypt because of a terrible famine).  Note 
that Hebron in southern Canaan is closely associated with a terrible famine in 
all three generations of the Patriarchs.  Jacob is forced to lead all the 
Hebrews into Egypt when famine engulfs Hebron, though like his father and 
grandfather before him, Jacob insists upon being buried back in Hebron.
Conclusion:  Hebron Is a Place of Retirement and Burial for the Patriarchs
The Patriarchal narratives present a sober, realistic view of modest Hebron 
in southern Canaan, rather than portraying Hebron as being nirvana.  No 
Patriarch ever makes any money at Hebron, and reading between the lines, each 
Patriarch exhausts his formerly vast funds in retirement at modest Hebron.  Note that 
formerly wealthy Jacob does not seem to have any substantial wealth when 
Jacob leads the Hebrews from Hebron into Egypt.  Yes, the Hebrews have belongings 
which they carry in wagons to Egypt, but it seems that the Hebrews are 
basically reduced to living off of vizier Joseph’s generosity in Egypt, as Joseph 
gives grain to the Hebrews during Joseph’s entire life.  Jacob’s older sons 
appear to worry that they might basically starve in Egypt after their father’s 
death, unless vizier Joseph continues to give them food to eat and provides for 
them generally.  Thus Joseph needs to reassure his older half-brothers as 
follows:  “‘Now therefore fear ye not;  I will sustain you, and your little ones.'”
   Genesis 50: 21
Each Patriarch retires in Hebron (though Jacob is later forced to leave 
Hebron), and each Patriarch insists on being buried in Hebron.  But once Sarah 
fails to get pregnant in Hebron, no Patriarch thereafter spends any of his active 
years at Hebron.  No, Hebron is thereafter viewed by the Patriarchs as 
suitable only for retirement and burial.
Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that the Patriarchal narratives were 
not composed by one southern Hebrew, Ezra, or by four southern Hebrews, J, E, 
P and D.  Rather, the Patriarchal narratives were composed by a single 
northern Hebrew (who spent several years working in Egypt).  The unique northern 
Hebrew point of view shines through on every page of the text of the Patriarchal 
narratives, if we will just look for it.  The northern pre-Hebrews thought that 
they might have to move to modest southern Canaan in order to avoid a feared 
onslaught from the dreaded Hittites, who operated immediately north of 
northern Canaan.  (People in southern Canaan, by stark contrast, paid no attention 
whatsoever to the Hittites, even as people in northern Canaan talked of little 
else, as we know from the Amarna Letters.)  But though Hebron might possibly be 
a safe place for the northern Hebrews, there was no money at Hebron (unlike 
relatively wealthy, but dangerous, northern Canaan).  There simply was no 
excitement for a northern Hebrew at Hebron.  Beginning with Isaac’s birth, even all 
of the Patriarchs’ profound religious experiences occur at places other than 
Hebron.  If we will look at the matter objectively, it becomes clear that 
Hebron is viewed in the text as being a suitable place for a Patriarch’s 
retirement and burial, not much else.
Jerusalem, which is so central to the thinking of all the southern Hebrews, 
is never mentioned once in the entirety of the Patriarchal narratives.  Who are 
we kidding here?  The Documentary Hypothesis, which posits four southern 
Hebrew authors of the Patriarchal narratives (J, E, P and D), cannot possibly be 
right, because the Patriarchal narratives are told from a northern Hebrew 
perspective.  As we have seen on this thread, Hebron is viewed as being a modest 
place, fit for a Patriarch’s retirement and burial, but not much more than that. 
 Only a northern Hebrew would have such an unflattering view of Hebron (and 
would never even bother to mention Jerusalem at all).  
If we look at the Patriarchal narratives with fresh, unbiased eyes, we will 
see that the Patriarchal narratives, unlike the rest of the Bible, were 
composed by a northern Hebrew, not by one or more southern Hebrews.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

**************Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.     

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list