[b-hebrew] M$QH at Genesis 13: 10: Where Did Lot Go?
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 2 14:53:55 EDT 2008
Karl W. Randolph:
1. You wrote: “[P]opulation densities were also different at different
periods. For example, looking at the way conditions in the land of Canaan were
talked about during the times of the Patriarchs, it appears that the land was
That’s not what the text of the Patriarchal narratives says.
(a) “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the
terebinth of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” Genesis 12: 6
(b) “Abram the Hebrew--now he dwelt by the terebinths of Mamre the Amorite,
brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner; and these were confederate with Abram.
” Genesis 14: 13
(c) “And Abraham rose up from before his dead [Sarah], and spoke unto the
sons of the Hittites”. Genesis 23: 3
I would agree that Canaan did not have a terribly large population in the
Patriarchal Age, which in my view is the Late Bronze Age. But the Patriarchs’
Canaan was not “largely uninhabited”. The text says that in Abraham’s day, the
land of Canaan featured (i) Canaanites, (ii) Amorites and (iii) sons of the
Hittites (who probably are the historical Hurrians). That’s exactly what we
know about Late Bronze Age Canaan in secular history: it was populated with (i)
Canaanites, (ii) Amorites, (iii) Hurrians, and (iv) tent-dwelling people like
2. You wrote: “Places that later had towns and fields were at that time
Could you provide a specific example? Are you perhaps thinking of the
Patriarchs’ “Hebron”? Regardless of the geographical location or nature of the
Patriarchs’ “Hebron”, we know from the text that there is a bona fide city
there, Kiriath Arbe, that is twice referred to as a “city” (Genesis 23: 10, 18),
and which is stated to have a “gate” (Genesis 23: 10, 18). (If we are willing
to look west of Beth-el, we can find Late Bronze Age inscriptions for the
city of Arbe, and for the ideal place to graze sheep and goats, whose pre-Hebrew
name seems to be the forerunner of the Patriarchal name “Hebron”.)
3. You wrote: “Beersheba was apparently merely a well surrounded by
pastures, no town in existence….”
That is correct, whether you are talking about Beersheba of Galilee, or
Beersheba in the Negev Desert. But that matches what we know of those two
Beershebas in the Late Bronze Age, so it should be no real surprise.
4. You wrote: “[L]ikewise I get that impression about Bethlehem too.”
Yes, but once again, whether you are talking about Bethlehem of Galilee, or
Bethlehem of Judea, these places are just wide spots in the road, both in the
text of Genesis and in the secular history of the Late Bronze Age. We have no
confirmation that an actual town was in existence at either such locale at
that time, either in the text of Genesis, or in the secular history of the Late
Bronze Age. By sharp contrast, for every actual town in Canaan near which the
Patriarchs are portrayed as sojourning, there is a Late Bronze Age inscription
documenting that such town existed, and that the town had such name in the
Late Bronze Age.
5. You wrote: “Therefore a person like Abraham and his sons need not live at
the fringe of the desert.”
We know from the Amarna Letters that tent-dwellers somewhat like Abraham,
namely the habiru, routinely lived virtually cheek-by-jowl with city-dwellers in
Canaan in the mid-14th century BCE. You are certainly right that there was no
reason for Abraham to “live at the fringe of the desert”. And he didn’t.
6. You wrote: “Even so, the land around Sodom would have appealed to Lot as
being more lush.”
Yes, and where is that lush M$QH that Lot covets? In the Jezreel Valley, of
course. With Canaan not having a terribly large population at that time,
which is the initial point that you were properly making, the Jezreel Valley is
the one valley in Late Bronze Age Canaan where rich “cities of the KKR/valley/‘
Plain’” were commonplace. Well-attested Late Bronze Age cities in the lush
M$QH of the Jezreel Valley include Achshaph/Aksapa, Megiddo, Afula the Great,
Afula the Small (S-R/Biblical Zoar), and Beth Shan.
Both historically and in the text of Genesis, the only place known to Lot
where Lot could find rich cities in the M$QH of a fertile valley in Canaan was:
the eastern Jezreel Valley.
Based on everything I have been able to track down, chapter 13 of Genesis
fits perfectly with the well-documented secular history of Late Bronze Age Canaan.
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