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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 20 10:50:02 EDT 2008


Karl:  You wrote, concerning my interpretation of Genesis 19: 23:  "‘Early in 
the morning’" is again a relative term.  More exact timing can be deduced 
from when the angels rousted Lot (at the first glimmerings of dawn) and when Lot 
entered Zoar (at sunrise).  So if Abraham got up at sunrise, which is still 
getting up early, by the time he got to the place where he stood before the Lord 
the smoke was already coming up.”
 
Most translations of Genesis 19: 23 do not agree with your assertion that “
Lot entered Zoar…at sunrise”.  Rather, most translations render this verse as 
if the sun had already risen, and it was fully light outside, rather than it 
being at sunrise when Lot entered Zoar.  Could you please explain why your view 
of when Lot entered Zoar conflicts with the view of most translators?
 
1.  English Standard Version.  “The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came 
to Zoar.”
 
That’s not “sunrise”.  No, the sun had already risen by the time Lot finally 
got to Zoar.
 
2.  New International Version.  “By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had 
risen over the land.”
 
That translation nicely emphasizes the key fact that whereas the angels had 
started to try to get Lot going at the break of dawn (sunrise), by the time Lot 
actually got to Zoar, it was much later than sunrise:  “the sun had risen 
over the land.”
 
3.  King James Version.  “The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered 
into Zoar.”
 
The sun was not beginning to rise when Lot got to Zoar.  It was not sunrise.  
No, “the sun was risen upon the earth” by the time Lot finally arrived at 
Zoar.  It was long past sunrise.
 
KJV translators’ notes:  “risen: Heb. gone forth”.  If the sun had “gone 
forth”, it was not sunrise.  No, it was well into morning.
 
Yod-ssade-aleph/YC) does not actually mean “rise”.  Rather, it means “to go 
forth”.  When the sun’s rays “go forth”, that is not sunrise, but rather is 
later in the morning, when the sun has already risen, and the earth has 
already been filled with light (rather than the earth just starting to have some 
light, which is the case at sunrise).
 
4.  Young's Literal Translation.  “The sun hath gone out on the earth, and 
Lot hath entered into Zoar,”
 
Once again, it was long past sunrise.  It was so late in the morning, perhaps 
almost as late as 9:00 a.m., that “the sun hath gone out on the earth”.
 
5.  _American Standard Version_ 
(http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/?action=getVersionInfo&vid=8) .  “The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot came unto 
Zoar.”
 
Same idea as the other translations.
 
6.  Jewish Publication Society 1917.  “The sun was risen upon the earth when 
Lot came unto Zoar.”
 
Same focus again as all the other translations cited.
 
7.  And here’s a non-standard translation/paraphrase.  _Bible in Basic 
English_ (http://basicenglishbible.com/genesis/19.htm) :  “The sun was up when Lot 
came to Zoar.”
 
The point being, as always, that it was not sunrise, but rather the sun had 
already risen, by the time Lot makes it to Zoar.  All these various 
translations see the situation quite differently than you do.  As opposed to Lot entering 
Zoar at sunrise (your view), all of the above translations say, on the 
contrary, that the sun had  a-l-r-e-a-d-y  risen by the time Lot finally made it to 
Zoar.
 
Lot was first approached by the angels at 6 a.m. or so, at the break of dawn, 
when it still was not very light outside.  But there’s no way on earth that 
Lot got all the way to Zoar by 6 a.m. or anything close to sunrise.  No, first 
Lot dawdles in getting his things together at Sodom.  Then Lot sees a town in 
the distance, discusses things with the angels, and takes his family and 
belongings all the way to that town in the distance.  Zoar cannot be real close to 
Sodom, because Lot has to get out of harm’s way by going a substantial 
distance from Sodom before the angels can allow Sodom to be destroyed.
 
Everything in the text seems to be very clear that it was long, long after 
sunrise when Lot finally made it to Zoar.  It was still morning, but the sun now 
had long since risen, with the sun’s rays having “gone forth upon the earth”
, meaning that it was bright daylight the moment before Sodom’s destruction 
began.
 
If you are right that Lot made it to Zoar at sunrise, then my entire theory 
of the Bible would be dashed.  Could you please explain why you think that Lot 
got to Zoar at sunrise?  That seems impossible to me, and also not to be what 
the text says.
 
The key word is yod-ssade-aleph/YC).  Doesn’t that mean, in this context, “
had risen” or “was risen”, or “had gone forth” or “was gone forth”, rather 
than meaning, as you seem to be interpreting it, “was just beginning to rise”, 
or “had just now started to go forth”?  Hebrew tense must be inferred from 
the context.  Here, the context is clear that a lot of things had happened, and 
a fair amount of time had passed, before Lot made it to Zoar.  So the 
standard translations “had risen” or “was risen” seem fully justified.  Isn’t it 
clear, in context, considering all the time-consuming things that have happened 
since the angels contacted Lot at the break of dawn, that sunrise time had 
long passed by the time Lot finally made it to Zoar?  Isn’t the sun fully out 
(not sunrise time), but it’s still morning, when Lot makes it to Zoar?
 
For what it’s worth, Christian commentary has sometimes emphasized the 
theological importance of the fact that the sun had already risen by the time Lot 
got to Zoar: 
 
“Sodom’s ruin was suspended till he was safe:  I cannot do any thing till 
thou shalt have come thither.  …It is taken notice of that the sun had risen 
when Lot entered into Zoar; for when a good man comes into a place he brings 
light along with him, or should do.  - Matthew Henry Commentary”.
 
It seems impossible to me that Lot got to Zoar at sunrise.  The key point is 
that Abraham had arisen (at sunrise or, very possibly, just prior to sunrise), 
and Abraham was well on his way to where he was going to witness the 
immediate after-effects of Sodom’s destruction, by the time that dawdling Lot, at long 
last, finally made it to Zoar.  Righteous Abraham is moving fast and 
purposefully, while Lot, as was his wont, is dawdling, conversing/arguing with the 
angels, and then finally agreeing to walk quite a few miles (perhaps 5 miles) to 
Zoar, a town that was safely a fair distance from Sodom.  If I have identified 
the five “cities of the Plain/valley” correctly, then Zoar is historical 
Beit Alfa, located 5 miles from the city represented by Sodom.  Alfa had a 
somewhat similar proper name to the larger city of Afula, located 10 miles west of 
Alfa.  So Alfa was sometimes referred to as “Afula the Small”, or just “Small”
, that is, “Zoar”, for short.  Afula/Zoar in fact was not a tiny village, 
but rather was a bona fide town.  Lot, you see, having been forced to leave 
cushy Sodom, wanted initially to move into another nice town, namely Zoar, the 
town (not a mere village or hamlet) 5 miles west of Sodom.  Only after Lot 
witnessed the terrible destruction of Sodom did Lot, on a better late than never 
basis, finally realize that he should follow the angels’ original advice, abandon 
cushy city life, and head for the hills, that is, hill country. Several hours 
must elapse between the time that Abraham gets up and gets going, at the 
crack of dawn or just before the crack of dawn, and the time that dawdling Lot 
actually makes it to Zoar, long after sunrise, perhaps nearing 9 a.m. or so, but 
not much earlier than 8 a.m., or 7:30 a.m. at the very earliest.
 
The text to me seems to be so very clear about this that the point almost 
does not seem worth arguing.  I have never seen a single commentator argue that 
Lot got to Zoar at sunrise.  Lot in fact logically got to Zoar several hours 
after sunrise.  The sun had already risen, and the sun’s rays “had gone forth 
upon the earth”, by the time Lot got to Zoar.  That’s what Genesis 19: 23 is 
telling us.  Why do you say that you see Lot as arriving in Zoar at sunrise?  
Lot got to Zoar several hours after Abraham was on his way to witness the 
immediate after-effects of Sodom’s destruction.  That’s too late for Abraham to 
witness those  a-f-t-e-r – effects at Mamre (your untenable view), but too early 
for Abraham to be able to get to Beth-el from the city of Hebron to witness 
the immediate after-effects of Sodom’s destruction.  But the timing is perfect 
for Abraham to hurry from the Aijalon Valle to Beth-el to witness the 
immediate after-effects of Sodom’s destruction.  By the time Abraham got to Beth-el, 
after traveling 17½ miles from the Aijalon Valley, the smoke from Sodom’s 
destruction had filled the Jordan River Valley.  Sodom is destroyed about 8:00 
a.m., or shortly thereafter, and Abraham gets to Beth-el about 9:00 a.m., or 
shortly thereafter, to witness the immediate after-effects of Sodom’s destruction. 
 
Please note that any normal translation of Genesis 19: 23 is fundamentally 
incompatible with the age-old, erroneous view that the Patriarchs’ “Hebron”, 
and the city whose name beginning in the 8th century BCE is Hebron, are one and 
the same place.  There is  n-o-t-h-i-n-g  in the Patriarchal narratives to 
support that age-old, erroneous view of the text.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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