[b-hebrew] Year 14

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 22 12:22:21 EDT 2009

Prof. Yigal Levin:
You wrote:  “Jim, the verses involved explain exactly what "year fourteen" 
means: the
 local kings were enslaved for twelve years, rebelled on the thirteenth, 
and Chedorlaomer and his allies reacted on the fourteenth. That's all there is 
to it.”
Let’s take a closer look at your interpretation of the text.
1.  “[T]he local kings were enslaved for twelve years….”
The text says no such thing.  It makes no sense to talk about “kings” 
being “enslaved”.  
(a)  The five local rulers are princelings, not “kings” in the sense of 
that English word.  As noted historian Nadav Na’aman properly points out in 
this regard:
“[T]he Canaanite rulers…considered themselves to be kings (sarru) in their 
relations with their subjects and with their neighbors…." In “The 
Egyptian-Canaanite Correspondence”, at p. 132 of  Raymond Cohen and Raymond 
Westbrook, editors, Amarna Diplomacy:  The Beginnings of International Relations 
(2000), The Johns Hopkins University Press (2002).
(b)  Moreover, the Hebrew word (BDW should not be translated, or 
understood, as “enslaved” here.  It means “to serve”.  But in the historical 
context, it was frequently said in the diplomatic parlance of the Bronze Age that a 
princeling “served” a king, when in fact at most that princeling “respected
” that king, and was not at war with that king and did not openly and 
directly contradict that king’s policies.  For example, in Amarna Letter EA 45 
the king/princeling ruler of Ugarit calls the Egyptian pharaoh “my lord”, and 
even says:  “I fall at your feet 7 times and 7 times.”  But Ugarit was not 
“enslaved” by Egypt!  In fact, Ugarit did not really “serve” Egypt, 
either, in any real sense.  Rather, prior to Year 13, Ugarit “respected” Egypt, 
and did not openly contradict Egypt’s anti-Hittite policies.
(c)  And why is it that in your paraphrase, you never mention that there 
were  f-i-v-e  rebellious princelings, and  f-o-u-r  attacking rulers, hence 
the explicit reference at Genesis 14: 9 to “four kings against the five”?  
All of these precise numbers are important in evaluating this text, because 
in secular history,  f-o-u-r  attacking rulers smashed a league of  f-i-v-e  
rebellious princelings in Year 14.
2.  “…rebelled on the thirteenth….”
(a)  Your wording “rebelled” is fine.  Note that the Hebrew text does not 
say against whom the five princelings rebelled.  In fact, in Year 13 five 
princelings historically formed a league against the Hittites (where “Tidal” 
is a Hittite kingly name).  Yet oddly enough, the first historical action of 
this five-princeling anti-Hittite league was to conduct a series of raids 
on a ruler whose kingly title was MLK (LM, because that ruler, of wealthy 
Ugarit, failed to agree to join and bankroll their anti-Hittite league.
(b)  Why do you say “on the thirteenth”?  Here’s what the text of Genesis 
14: 4 says:
“thirteenth year they rebelled.”
There’s no “on” and no “the” in the Hebrew text, but the word “year”/$NH 
is in the Hebrew text.  In Hebrew, I believe all three of the following are 
possible literal translations of the phrase in question:  (i) 13th year;  
(ii) 13 year;  (iii) 13 years [but in context, this last variant does not 
make sense here, although it is the phrase at Genesis 17: 25 describing Ishmael’
s awkward age at his awkward circumcision].  
Shouldn’t we ask if this league of five anti-Hittite princelings 
historically formed in Year 13?  Doesn’t the Biblical reference to “thirteenth year”/“
13 year” mean that we should at least take a look at what actually happened 
in Year 13?  Historically, that is precisely when an anti-Hittite league of 
five princelings formed just north of Canaan.
3.  “Chedorlaomer and his allies reacted on the fourteenth.”
Once again, you have left out the word “year”, for some unexplained 
reason, even though $NH is clearly there in the Hebrew text of Genesis 14: 5.  
(The word “the” is not in the Hebrew text.)  The text refers to (i) “in 
fourteenth year”;  or (ii) “in 14 year”;  or, “in 14 years”, though once again 
that last variant does not make sense here in context.  Shouldn’t we ask if 
Genesis 14: 5 is talking about Year 14?  Couldn’t a reference in Hebrew to “
in 14 year” mean “in Year 14”?  Linguistically, I don’t think I’m 
stretching at all here.   
As I see it, the Bible is telling us, flat out, that an attacking force of 
four rulers, consisting of (i) a ruler with the kingly title MLK (LM, (ii) a 
ruler with a Hittite kingly name (the Hebrew nickname being “Tidal”), 
(iii) a ruler with a Hurrian princely name who had been re-educated at or near 
Alisar, and (iv) a ruler who was an Amorite, destroyed a league of five 
anti-Hittite princelings -- in Year 14.  That is  e-x-a-c-t-l-y  what happened, 
in secular history, in Year 14.  The Biblical text is even giving us the  
e-x-a-c-t  dates in secular history here:  after 12 years of peace, an 
anti-Hittite league of five princelings historically formed in Year 13, and then in 
Year 14 was crushed by the four rulers noted above.  Only once in 5,000 
years of human history was an invading force made up of those four precise 
ethnicities:  Ugarit, Hittite, Amorite and Hurrian.  How could the Bible have “
guessed” all four of those ethnicities exactly right?
*       *       *
When the Bible says that a league of five rebellious princelings formed in “
thirteenth year”/“year 13”, instead of declaring in advance that such is a 
non-historical “myth”, we should first look to see what actually happened 
in secular history in Year 13.  And when the Bible says that such league was 
then crushed by four attacking rulers (having  the above unique combination 
of ethnicities) “in fourteenth year”/“in 14 year”, instead of declaring 
in advance that such is a non-historical “myth”, we should first look to see 
what actually happened in secular history in Year 14.  The number 14 never 
appears elsewhere in the Patriarchal narratives, and has no apparent 
numerical symbolism, so we should ask whether it is reflecting a secular historical 
Year 14, rather than assuming that it is a random number in a “myth”.  (If 
this were a myth, we might expect this threatening military operation to be 
portrayed as occurring in Year 13, since the number 13 is used elsewhere in 
the Patriarchal narratives to denote awkward situations, such as Ishmael’s 
awkward age 13 at his circumcision, where Genesis 17: 25 uses the identical 
phrase as at Genesis 14: 4.  Why isn’t the awkward number 13 used instead at 
Genesis 14: 5, if this is a non-historical myth?)
If we look at what actually happened in Year 13 and Year 14 immediately 
north of Canaan in the Late Bronze Age, we find that the Bible has pinpoint 
historical accuracy here.
On this thread, I am trying to get people to focus on the world-altering 
events (in particular, the sudden formation of the Hittite Empire) that 
happened historically in Year 14, and then ask people to consider whether the 
reference at Genesis 14: 5 to “in fourteenth year”/“in 14 year” may be an open 
reference to historical Year 14.  (I have never before made that specific 
argument on this forum.)  Professor Levin, how can we be sure that Genesis 
14: 1-11 is a “myth”, until and unless we look at what actually happened in 
secular history in Year 13 and Year 14, based on the Amarna Letters?  We know 
what happened in secular history, and when it happened.  That is 
beautifully reproduced at Genesis 14: 1-11.  I presume you might agree that the 
Hittite Empire suddenly and ominously came into being in Year 14 of the reign of 
Egypt’s only monotheistic pharaoh.  To be more specific, based on my reading 
of the Amarna Letters, (i) in Year 13, a league of five rebellious 
princelings formed (partly in response to the fact that as of mid-Year 12, we know 
from an Amarna Letter that in Egyptian says “Year 12” that the two 
anti-Hittite great powers, Egypt and Naharim, were no longer on speaking terms, as the 
first historical monotheistic leader of a people had, just as portrayed in 
the Patriarchal narratives, cut off all relations with his father-in-law 
from Naharim, with the last straw being certain statues that the first 
historical monotheistic leader of a people never turned over to his irate 
father-in-law from the far-off upper Euphrates River), and (ii) then in Year 14, that 
league was crushed by four attacking rulers -- one from Ugarit, one a 
Hittite, one an Amorite, and one a Hurrian.  Whether one looks at the Amarna 
Letters or Genesis 14: 1-11, those key historical facts are the same.  
What I am trying to point out on this thread -- that is, the new news -- is 
that even the  e-x-a-c-t  year numbers are right there in the Biblical 
text.  Year 14 changed the world!  All of Syria fell to the dreaded Hittites in 
Year 14, and the first Hebrews were rightly terrified by that new 
development.  We might therefore expect that momentous historical event, which 
potentially threatened the very existence of the new Hebrews, to be recorded in the 
Hebrews’ sacred scripture.  And it is:  the “four kings against the five”, 
at Genesis 14: 1-11.  If we focus on the year numbers that are openly set 
forth in the received text, we see that Genesis 14: 1-11 is not a “myth”, 
but rather has pinpoint historical accuracy in a Late Bronze Age context.
In the Patriarchal narratives, the numbers tell the tale.  Year 14 is the 
key to understanding the Patriarchal narratives.  The Biblical Hebrew 
language point I am bringing to the b-hebrew list on this thread is simply that the 
Hebrew phrase “in fourteenth year”/“in 14 year” at Genesis 14: 5 may be a 
deliberate reference to “Year 14” in secular history.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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