[b-hebrew] Canaan as the Original Homeland of the Hebrews: Part I

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jun 25 16:18:27 EDT 2008

Part I
Yigal Levin:
1.  You wrote:  “Before I actually reply to the content of your post, let me 
first comment that you have an annoyingly repetitive writing style. Please try 
not to make 
 the same point more than once in a single post.”
2.  You wrote:  “As usual, what you wrote is a combination of widely accepted 
hypotheses (which does not make them correct) and your own particular twist.”
That is true.  And I expressly stated that.  Most modern scholars (i) do not 
see the Hebrews as historically originating in Mesopotamia, (ii) do not see 
the Hebrews as having spent 400 years, or even 40 years for that matter, of 
bondage in Egypt, and (iii) do not see broad influences of Hurrian, Akkadian or 
Egyptian on the language of Biblical Hebrew.  I agree fully with all those 
mainstream scholarly views.  Yet most scholars erroneously assert that (i) the 
Patriarchal narratives portray the Hebrews as originating in Mesopotamia, (ii) the 
Patriarchal narratives explicitly predict 400 years of bondage in Egypt for 
the Hebrews, and (iii) that realistically, Abraham would have spoken broken 
Hebrew at best, as he was age 75 years when he was the first one of his relatives 
ever to step foot in Canaan, and back in Mesopotamia no Canaanite language 
like Hebrew was spoken, though the author of the Patriarchal narratives may have 
been such a dullard as not to recognize those elemental language facts.  All 
three of those assertions are 100% false, and do not follow what the text of 
the Patriarchal narratives actually says.  My post was very clear as to (a) 
what parts of my views follow the majority view of scholars, and (b) what parts 
of my views depart radically from accepted scholarly opinion.
You yourself are totally conversant with scholarly opinion on these various 
matters.  But my guess is that many of the intelligent people who follow the 
b-Hebrew list may not always know what the scholarly view on some of these 
topics may be.  That is why I often “repeat” (perhaps too often, as you have 
forcefully suggested) what the consensus scholarly view is, before going on to say 
what parts of that scholarly consensus I accept, and what parts I reject.
3.  You wrote:  “You are correct in your statement that Canaanite and 
Biblical Hebrew are very closely related, which is one reason (among several) that 
have led many 
 scholars to conclude that the Israelites were indeed indigenous to Canaan 
 (although before making any judgements I'd read A.F. Rainey, "Whence Came 
 the Israelites and their Language?", IEJ 57/1 (2007), 41-64).”
I agree with that 100%.  That was one of my main points.  Biblical Hebrew is 
as virgin pure a west Semitic language as one can imagine.
4.  You wrote:  “What follows from this is that the stories of the 
Patriarchs, the Exodus and the Conquest are largely legendary (although they may have 
some historical fact behind them). This is mainstream scholarship.”
No, no, no.  The Exodus cannot be historically accurate, because there is so 
little Egyptian influence on the Hebrew language, and no evidence of Hebrew 
bondage in Egypt.  And the Conquest in Joshua cannot be historically accurate, 
because (i) there never was a time in secular history when all the cities 
Joshua is said to conquer were in existence at the same time, and (ii) there never 
was a single Conquest, occurring within a single century, as described in 
But it is manifestly unfair to assert that there is no need to examine what 
the text of the Patriarchal narratives says as to these issues.  Granted, the 
Books of Exodus and Joshua are not historically accurate.  But as to historical 
matters, the text of the Patriarchal narratives should be addressed on its 
own terms.  You are right that it is not “mainstream scholarship” to examine 
the Patriarchal narratives on their own terms.  But as you well know, that is 
exactly what I do.
5.  You wrote:  “But you insist that the Patriarchal narratives are 
historical in every detail.”
Not true.  What I insist is that the Patriarchal narratives were composed by 
a single author, the first Hebrew, in northern Canaan in the Late Bronze Age, 
and except for periodically updating the spelling and grammar, this truly 
ancient text was never edited by anyone (subject to only a tiny handful of a few 
words here and there in the received text that are late glosses).  Further, I 
insist that the author modeled the Patriarchal narratives closely on the 
secular history of his day.  But he did not passively record secular history as an 
altruistic antiquarian.  What would be the point of that?  He is telling a 
story.  For example, he has molded all the numbers in the story to have 
appropriate numerical symbolism.  (He tells us that an early monotheist ruled in Egypt 
for 17 years, at Genesis 47: 28, so that we will know what period in the Late 
Bronze Age is the Patriarchal Age.  That’s the same reason why Abraham is 
portrayed as dying at the stated age of 17½, tenfold, being age 175 “years”.  
Genesis 25: 7  This peculiar, unrelenting emphasis on the numbers 17 and 17½, 
which is unique to this one text, is not an “accident” that just “happens” to 
match secular history.  No, this is the author telling us what exact time period 
in secular history was the Patriarchal Age.)  The author of the Patriarchal 
narratives often projects onto the early Hebrews many historical actions that 
were in fact taken by non-Hebrews in secular history.  But the entire text is 
closely based on what actually happened in the mid-14th century BCE.  That is 
my position.
6.  You wrote:  “The problem is, that when the details don’t all match, you 
make some up. There is NO indication in the text that Terah was originally 
from Canaan and was on his way ‘home’.”
Let me cite the text, which supports my view:
“And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and 
Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife;  and they went forth with them 
from Ur of [Kasdim], to go into the land of Canaan;  and they came unto 
Haran, and dwelt there. And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years;  and 
Terah died in Haran.” Genesis 11: 31-32
It was Terakh’s plan to go to Canaan, not Abraham’s plan.  Why would elderly 
Terakh be trying to go to Canaan?  It’s because Terakh was trying to get back 
home to northern Canaan, after completing a one-time caravan trip way out to 
Mesopotamia.  Otherwise, why would elderly Terakh be trying to go to Canaan?
Are you claiming that Terakh was not trying to go to Canaan?  That 
contradicts what the text says.
On your view, why was elderly Terakh trying to go to Canaan?  Terakh had had 
no divine guidance from YHWH.
We must also ask why Terakh allows his precious firstborn grandson (Lot) of 
his beloved, deceased firstborn son (Haran) to go to Canaan, leaving Terakh in 
Harran.  The answer is that Terakh was indigenous to Canaan, and Terakh wanted 
precious Lot to return to the family homeland in northern Canaan.  From Terakh
’s point of view (though not from our point of view), it was something of an 
afterthought that Terakh’s youngest son Abraham perhaps could be of help in 
leading Lot back to Canaan, and could also be of help in selling the commercial 
luxury goods that the party had been purchasing on this long caravan trip way 
out to Mesopotamia.  Lot will come out of Egypt rich.  Lot did not get rich in 
Egypt because his aunt Sarah had a pretty face.  No, Lot got rich in Egypt 
from the sale of the valuable commercial merchandise that the party had acquired 
on the long caravan trip way out to Mesopotamia.  See how the text makes 
perfect sense on this view?  
Old Terakh wanted to go back to his homeland in northern Canaan with his 
precious grandson Lot.  But when Terakh proved to be too infirm to make it past 
Harran, Plan B had to be devised, under which Lot would be guided back to Canaan 
by Abraham, while middle son Nahor would stay on in Harran to care for Terakh.
What text can you cite that says that Terakh had never been in Canaan?  There 
is no such text.  Genesis 11: 31-32 only makes logical sense if Terakh is 
indigenous to Canaan and is trying to lead the whole family back to Canaan.  
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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