[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 
largely uninhabited.”
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 
the Patriarchs. 
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.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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