[b-hebrew] Hebron: The Linguistic Search for the Patriarchs' "Hebron"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 13 11:43:29 EDT 2008

George Athas:
You wrote:  “[T]he text is most likely to be late, when people were familiar 
with ‘Hebron’.”
Is your theory of the case plausible?
1.  On your theory of the case, multiple Iron Age authors portrayed Abraham, 
who has been divinely granted all of Canaan, as splitting his time between the 
two worst areas of Judah!  We know that the very high altitude city of 
Hebron, south of Jerusalem, is far worse land than the hill country and the 
northeastern Shephelah north of Jerusalem, because 93% of the first Hebrew villages 
were located north of Jerusalem.  The only worse land in Judah is to go south 
into the Negev Desert itself.  On your view, when Abraham and Isaac face 
drought/famine in Hebron, they move south into the Negev Desert, the most illogical 
place to go in the face of a drought/famine in hill country.
On your theory of the case, why wouldn’t any of those Iron Age authors 
portray Abraham as sojourning on good land in Canaan, such as the hill country just 
north of Jerusalem, or the Aijalon Valley west of Beth-el?
2.  On your view, not a single one of those multiple Iron Age authors put a 
single word in the text, other than the name “Hebron” itself, that is redolent 
in any way of the city of Hebron.  In the Patriarchal  narratives, Hebron is  
n-e-v-e-r  referred to (i) as being a “city”, (ii) as being “up”, even 
though the city of Hebron is the highest altitude city in Judah, or (iii) as being 
in “hill” country”.  The Patriarchal narratives use all three of those words 
frequently, but never in connection with the Patriarchs’ Hebron.  The rest of 
the Bible often refers to the city of Hebron, south of Jerusalem, as being “up
” in “hill” country.  Aren’t these two different places?
Moreover, Hebron is not portrayed in the Patriarchal narratives as being 
south of Beth-el and Jerusalem.  On the contrary, after Abraham says that if Lot 
goes left of Beth-el, Abraham will go right, and vice versa, the text states 
that “Lot journeyed east”.  That strongly implies that Abraham then went  
w-e-s-t  of Beth-el, being the opposite direction that Lot went, when Abraham went 
to the Patriarchs’ “Hebron”.  If so, then the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is 
JBRWN/XBRWN, the place we today call “the Aijalon Valley”.  Note that when Abraham 
goes south of Beth-el to Egypt, there is no mention of Hebron, and when 
Abraham comes back from Egypt to Beth-el, there again is no mention of Hebron.  
That is to say, when we’re certain that Abraham is south of Beth-el, there’s 
never a mention of Hebron, whereas when it appears that Abraham has, by contrast, 
gone west of Beth-el (after Lot had gone east of Beth-el), that’s when we 
hear of the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” for the first time.
3.  On my view, Abraham sojourns in the two  b-e-s-t  parts of Canaan for 
herders of sheep and goats (for whom the Jezreel Valley was off limits, as Yigal 
Levin has aptly observed).  Abraham’s home base is mid-15th century BCE “JBR” 
= JBR + WN = JBRWN = XBRWN (if the Egyptian single reed “J”, for which there 
is no Biblical Hebrew equivalent, comes into Biblical Hebrew in this case as 
a heth/X) = the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” = the Aijalon Valley, located 17½ miles 
west of Beth-el.  (Lot went 17½ miles east of Beth-el to get to the Jordan 
River Valley, whereas Abraham for his part goes 17½ miles west of Beth-el to the 
Aijalon Valley.  Doesn’t that make perfect sense?)  The Aijalon Valley was the 
best place in Canaan for tending sheep and goats.  Second best is Galilee, 
where Abraham goes when a drought dries up the wadi in the Aijalon Valley.  
Mid-15th century BCE KRR = GRR/Garar = Gariree = Galilee/GLL.  Note that GRR/Garar 
is not attested in the Negev Desert or anywhere else south of Jerusalem.  The 
phenomenon of resh/R softening to lamed/L over the centuries is 
well-documented, so GRR/Garar/Gariree in the Patriarchal Age could be GLL/Galilee in the 
Iron Age when the rest of the Bible was composed.
4.  With all due respect, your view of the case, under which Abraham sojourns 
in the two  w-o-r-s-t  places in Judah, makes no logical sense.  It’s also 
profoundly non-historical, as you have no inscriptional evidence from the 
ancient world for any Patriarchal locale south of Shechem, except the disputed case 
of “Hebron” itself.  If you would look at the text again, and consider the 
possibility that the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” may be a different locale than the 
city south of Jerusalem that beginning in the 8th century BCE has been called “
Hebron”, you would find that there is  n-o-t-h-i-n-g  in the text that supports 
your traditional view that the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is one and the same 
place as the 8th century BCE city of Hebron.  No part of the textual description 
of the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” fits the city of Hebron in any way, shape or form! 
 That’s not an “accident” or  “coincidence” or an “oversight”.  No, it’s 
because the Patriarchs’ “Hebron is not a “city” high “up” in “hill” 
country.  No, the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the lovely Aijalon Valley, the best place 
in Canaan for divinely-blessed Abraham (backed up by 318 armed retainers for 
security) to tend his huge herd of sheep and goats.  N-o-t-h-i-n-g  in the 
text fits the city of Hebron.  The Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is a different place 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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