[b-hebrew] Is "Kiriath Arbe" in Genesis an Historically-Documented City Name?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 17 09:50:42 EDT 2008


Karl:
 
You wrote:  “Again you are doing violence to the text. The Oaks of Mamre 
overlooked the southern Jordan Valley.  Where exactly that place was, we don't 
know, but it
 was clearly in what later became southern Judea.  There is no other way to
 read the text.”
 
Your mistake is to think that Mamre is where Abraham witnesses the immediate 
after-effects of Sodom’s destruction, and that Mamre “overlooked the southern 
Jordan Valley”.
 
A.  There are two reasons why Mamre cannot be the place where Abraham 
witnesses the after-effects of Sodom’s destruction:  location and timing.
 
(1)  Location
 
Mamre is located at, or very near, Hebron, per Genesis 13: 18.  On the 
traditional view that Hebron is the city of Hebron, 20 miles south of Jerusalem, 
there is no view from Hebron.  Neither the Jordan River Valley, nor the 
southeastern shore of the Dead Sea, can be seen from the city of Hebron.  So Mamre is 
not a possible locale for Abraham to witness the after-effects of the 
destruction of Sodom in the Jordan River Valley.  (On my controversial view that Mamre 
is located at the city of Aijalon, there likewise would be no such view.)
 
(2)  Timing
 
Genesis 19: 27 tells us that Abraham gets up early in the morning to see if 
Sodom has been destroyed.  Since Abraham’s tent is pitched either at, or very 
near to, Mamre, Abraham would thus get to Mamre very early in the morning.  The 
text is clear that by the time Abraham gets to where he is going to see Sodom’
s destruction, Sodom has already been destroyed.  Abraham witnesses the 
immediate after-effects of Sodom’s recent destruction, which apparently occurred 
less than an hour before Abraham got to the spot where he could see the Sodom 
area.  So if Mamre is where Abraham went, then Sodom would have to be destroyed 
very early in the morning.  But that is not possible.  The angels talk to Lot 
very early in the morning.  But then the angels give Lot time to get his 
family and his belongings together.  Lot dawdles.  Genesis 19: 16  Then after the 
angels whisk Lot outside of Sodom, there is still the question of where Lot 
will go.  Lot spots a small town in the distance, and asks the angels not to 
destroy it, so that Lot can go there, instead of the angels’ original advice to 
head for hill country.  Lot has to be quite far away from Sodom before the 
angels can destroy Sodom.  One of the angels specifically says to Lot:  “Hasten 
thou, escape thither;  for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither.'”  
Genesis 19: 22  “The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot came unto Zoar.”  
Genesis 19: 23  Only after Lot and gotten his family and belongings all the long 
way to Zoar, a considerable distance from Sodom (perhaps as much as 10 
miles), was Sodom then destroyed, per Genesis 19: 24.  Thus it is toward mid-morning 
before Sodom is destroyed.  Abraham would have gotten to Mamre at Hebron very 
early in the morning, so the timing does not work out right.
 
B.  Beth-el is where Abraham in fact witnesses the after-effects of Sodom’s 
destruction.
 
Here is the JBS1917 translation of Genesis 19: 27: 
 
“And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood 
before the LORD.”
 
Beth-el is “the place where he had stood before YHWH”, in chapter 13 of 
Genesis.  We are certain that the mountain just east of Beth-el has a view of the 
Sodom area, because chapter 13 of Genesis tells us that.  And indeed, a 
mountaintop near Beth-el affords a panoramic view of the Jordan River Valley.  And 
the timing is perfect, too, if the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the Aijalon Valley. 
 That’s 17½ miles away.  With no encumbrances, Abraham can rush over to 
Beth-el in about 4 hours from the Aijalon Valley, averaging just over 4 miles per 
hour.  Having gotten up very early in the morning, per Genesis 19: 27, Abraham 
gets to Beth-el at mid-morning, just after Sodom was destroyed, in plenty of 
time to see the smoke from Sodom’s destruction billowing down the Jordan River 
Valley.
 
Note how the text makes perfect sense, once one understands the actual 
geography involved.
 
By contrast, if the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the city of Hebron, 35 miles 
south of Beth-el, Abraham could not make it to Beth-el in time to see the 
immediate after-effects of Sodom’s destruction.
 
Everything like this in the text makes perfect sense, if and only if we 
understand the actual geography that underlies the Patriarchal narratives.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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