[b-hebrew] Canaan as the Original Homeland of the Hebrews: Part II
leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Wed Jun 25 17:37:04 EDT 2008
I do not have to defend either Von Rad or his theories, many of which are
now outdated. However you are right about one thing, the expression "was
gathered unto his fathers/people" does sound redundant. But that's simply
because Hebrew tends to do that, where English is more word-thrifty. Note,
by the way, that the same expression is used of Jacob (Gen. 49:33), who dies
in Egypt. Only much later is he brough to burial in Canaan. So the
expression "he died and was gathered unto his fathers/people" is just that.
----- Original Message -----
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 11:20 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Canaan as the Original Homeland of the Hebrews: Part II
> Part II
> Yigal Levin:
> 7. You wrote: “The expression "gathered unto his people" or "gathered
> his fathers" is a euphemism for "died", because many people were buried in
> family tombs. It may also refer to "ancestors" in a more metaphysical
> sense. It's
> like we use
> "passed (away)" in English - it's just an expression.”
> (a) Do you have any support in ancient historical documents for that
> If what you say is true, then why is Gerhard von Rad so upset by that
> particular phrase? Professor Von Rad of course accepts the conventional
> view that the
> Hebrews are portrayed as being indigenous to Mesopotamia, with Abraham and
> Lot being the first of Terakh’s relatives to see Canaan. It is for that
> reason von Rad so dislikes Genesis 25: 8:
> “The expression ‘he was gathered to his people’ is not correct here, to be
> sure, and is apparently used with a decidedly hackneyed meaning, for it
> presupposes the notion of an ancestral grave.” “Genesis” (1961), at p.
> How can you have an “ancestral grave” in Canaan, if not a single one of
> ancestors had ever been to Canaan? Does that make sense? Who is forcing
> text here, you or me?
> The Hebrew text at Genesis 25: 8, as you know, already has two words for
> saying that Abraham died:
> “And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of
> years; and was gathered to his people [‘am’].”
> On your reading of the text, Genesis 25: 8 in effect says “Abraham died,
> Abraham died in good old age, and Abraham died.” Is that a plausible
> of Biblical Hebrew? I think not. You’re forcing the text, trying to make
> text say something that it does not say. The text in effect says, rather,
> that Abraham died, and Abraham died in good old age, and Abraham was
> gathered to
> his ‘am’/people, being buried in the land of Canaan, where all his
> before him (except Terakh) had been buried.
> That’s precisely why Gerhard von Rad does not like what Genesis 25: 8
> Genesis 25: 8 effectively says that Abraham’s ancestors were indigenous to
> (b) I note that you make no comment whatsoever about the main point in my
> post, although it is a point that is particularly fitting for the b-Hebrew
> My main argument is that the word “am”/people/ancestors is used frequently
> in the Patriarchal narratives, but never regarding Harran, Ur or
> Rather, when relatives in Harran, Ur or Mesopotamia are referenced, the
> always uses the more unusual term, “molodet”. I view “molodet” as meaning
> one’s father’s descendants”.
> What is your own explanation for the objective fact that the word “am”
> /people/ancestors is never once used regarding Ur, Harran or Mesopotamia?
> that strongly undercut the conventional view that the author of the
> narratives is trying to portray all of Abraham’s “am”/people/ancestors as
> being from Mesopotamia? Is your view that the author did not know that
> Hebrews didn’t come from Mesopotamia, or is it your view that the author
> shrewdly trying to mislead us into thinking, erroneously, that the Hebrews
> had come
> from Mesopotamia? In fact, the author of the Patriarchal narratives knew
> that the Hebrews were indigenous to Canaan, he was proud of that fact, and
> never anticipated that JEPD and modern scholars would misinterpret his
> composition as asserting that the Hebrews came from Mesopotamia.
> 8. You wrote: “The biblical authors depict Canaanites and "Hebrews" all
> speaking the same language, not because that's what happened, but because
> difference in
> language was not important to the story. It's like science fiction series
> which aliens all speak English. The authors only mention language
> when it adds to the plot or the message.”
> (a) The Patriarchal narratives are not like science fiction, either as to
> language issues or any other issues.
> (b) The author of the Patriarchal narratives portrays the first Hebrews
> being indigenous to Canaan, speaking west Semitic perfectly from birth,
> hence having no trouble communicating with the Canaanites, or with
> Hurrians in
> Canaan who had learned to speak west Semitic.
> Contrast the situation when Jacob goes out to Harran. Yes, Laban, Leah
> Rachel all spoke west Semitic, probably as their first language, although
> would have been bi-lingual in Hurrian. But note the apparent trouble
> has in getting the locals at Harran to speak to him. Jacob is rattling
> off west
> Semitic a mile a minute, and the locals seem tongue-tied at first, until
> finally one bi-lingual local is able to answer Jacob in complete
> “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the children of
> east [near Harran]. …And Jacob said unto them [local shepherds at Harran]:
> brethren, whence are ye?' And they said: 'Of Harran are we.' And he said
> them: 'Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?' And they said: 'We know him.'”
> Genesis 29: 1, 4-5
> The initial answers from the locals at Harran are so short as to almost
> rude. But the reason is probably because as native Hurrian speakers, for
> west Semitic was a second language, they initially had some trouble
> Jacob’s language.
> (c) I myself see Abraham as speaking perfect pre-Hebrew as a toddler
> up in Galilee. Abraham was not the first one of Terakh’s relatives to
> a west Semitic language, speaking broken Hebrew as a second language
> at age 75 years. No way.
> 9. Rather than insisting that the Patriarchal narratives contradict
> well-known secular history, why not instead interpret the text in light of
> secular history? The Hebrews were indigenous to Canaan. The author of
> Patriarchal narratives knew that, and he does not try to lead us astray on
> important issue.
> You have not cited a single line of text in the Patriarchal narratives
> says that Abraham was the first one of Terakh’s relatives to see Canaan
> and to
> speak west Semitic. There is no such line of text. And there is nothing
> the text to support that conventional mis-reading of the text.
> The Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives was rightfully proud of
> historical facts that the Hebrews were indigenous to Canaan and always
> spoke a
> virgin pure west Semitic language.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
> **************Gas prices getting you down? Search AOL Autos for
> fuel-efficient used cars.
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
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