[b-hebrew] Does the Name Caleb Mean "Dog"? Not.

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Tue Sep 13 23:37:08 EDT 2011

Prof. George Athas:

You wrote:  “And here is the crux of your argument: IF. There is absolutely no certainty in this if, and of all the things you've posted about this connection, there is nothing, I repeat n-o-t-h-I-n-g that shows any warrant for this connection. In fact, you persist with this despite being shown hard evidence to the contrary. So really, you should be writing: "If Genesis 15: 18-21 reflects the Amarna Age, as I think it does, even though the evidence goes completely against it, then…"  I'm sorry, Jim, but this argument occupies the realm of fantasy, not real scholarship.”

Rather than there being “n-o-t-h-I-n-g that shows any warrant for this connection”, let me list here 7 items of hard evidence I have come up with to show that the Patriarchal narratives reflect the unique situation that applied in Canaan in Years 12-14 of Akhenaten’s reign, a short period of time that I see as being coterminous with the Patriarchal Age, with the vast bulk of the Patriarchal narratives having been composed, in my opinion, by a year or two after the end of the Amarna Age.

1.  Only during the Amarna Age would it make sense for 8 of 10 names of peoples at Genesis 15: 18-21 to be names of Hurrians, because that is the only time period when Hurrian princelings dominated the ruling class of Canaan [per the Hurrian-type names of princelings in the Amarna Letters that I set forth in my prior post].  I have set forth a linguistic analysis of these 8 names that is more convincing than anything else out there.

2.  A league of 5 rebellious princelings with Hurrian-type names formed in or about Year 13 north of Canaan.  I have shown that one literal reading of the second half of Genesis 14: 4 is:  “…and Year 13 they rebelled.”

3.  The Great Syrian War, which was frightening to the early Hebrews but, semi-miraculously, ended up being very helpful to the early Hebrew, as it totally devastated the Hurrians, who had recently been dominating Canaan, began in or about Year 14, per Genesis 14: 5.  [Scholars split as to the exact year.]  The powerful leader of the winning coalition was a Hittite king who had seized the Hittite throne by the dastardly expedient of murdering his own older brother, named Tidal, hence the nasty Patriarchal nickname Tidal at Genesis 14: 1.

4.  If Amarna Letter EA 254, per the original reading of its hieratic docket number, is dated to Year 12 [with the alternative view being Year 32, the date which Rob Acosta and some scholars prefer], then we know that in Year 12 the notorious Canaanite strongman Lab’ayu had just now commandeered Shechem, and that Jerusalem was ruled by the Hurrian princeling IR-Heba, who hated tent-dwellers intensely because he feared that rival west Semitic-speaking rulers like Lab’ayu might organize the west Semitic-speaking tent-dwellers and oust IR-Heba from Jerusalem.  Chapters 12-13 of Genesis occur about one year before the Year 13 date referenced at Genesis 14: 4, so it’s Year 12.  Genesis 12: 6 notes “the Canaanite” at Shechem in Year 12:  that’s the Canaanite strongman Lab’ayu.  That’s why Abram does not pitch his tent at Shechem, nor does Abram ever go back to Shechem, but rather Abram pitches his tent farther south at Beth-El.  Genesis 13: 7 notes “the Canaanite” and “the Perizzite”, and then Lot exits Bethel by going “east” at Genesis 13: 11.  “The Canaanite” is Lab’ayu, and “the Perizzite”, a Hurrian nickname based on piri as one version of the Hurrian word for “lord”, references Hurrian princeling IR-Heba at Jerusalem.  Those two notorious princelings as of Year 12 are why Abram and Lot need to vacate hill country.  In leaving Bethel Lot cannot go straight north, back through Shechem, though Lot has looked north at Genesis 13: 10.  Lot has to take a detour, going east from Bethel, and only when he gets to the Jordan River can he turn north and head for soft city life on the northwest corner of the Jordan River Valley, at the east edge of the fertile Jezreel Valley.  Abram has said at Genesis 13: 9 that Abram will go the opposite direction from Bethel that Lot goes, so Abram exits Bethel by going west.  Note that both men wisely avoid both Shechem and Jerusalem, which as of Year 12 were ruled by those two notorious rulers.  This is unique to Year 12, because Lab’ayu is assassinated in the first half of Year 13, so after that time Abram could have pitched his tent at Shechem, and Lot could have gone north from Bethel back through Shechem on his way north to the Rehov area.

5.  In going the opposite of “east” [that is, west] from Bethel, Abram goes to the Ayalon Valley, west of hill country and Jerusalem.  Based on the later city name Elon in the Ayalon Valley, we know that oak trees were prominent there, which are mentioned three times in the Patriarchal narratives.  By contrast, no place named Elon or anything like that has ever existed in southern hill country, which is the traditional site of the Patriarchs’ Hebron.  Whereas hill country had lost 90% of its population after the end of the Middle Bronze Age, and was devastated by the lack of rainfall, the Shephelah only lost 50% of its population, and was much better land, especially in the Late Bronze Age.  Studies of the eastern Ayalon Valley in the Late Bronze Age show that not a single city or town was located there at that time, making it a true rural nirvana for Abram.  There are only two Amorite princelings in Canaan proper in the Amarna Letters, one of them being Milk-Ilu of Gezer in the western Ayalon Valley.  Genesis 14: 13 refers to an Amorite princeling with the Patriarchal nickname Mamre, who allies with tent-dwellers and Hurrians [Aner] and Canaanites [Eshkol].  Milk-Ilu historically was accused by IR-Heba of collaboration with tent-dwellers, a charge that Nadav Na’aman sees as being accurate.  Milk-Ilu allied with Hurrians Tagi and Shuwardata, and with the Canaanite family of Lab’ayu and his sons.

6.  Abram loves the eastern Ayalon Valley, and gives it the Hurrian-based Patriarchal nickname of XBR-W-N, where the XBR root is the Hurrian word “heaven”.  Reading between the lines, the  o-n-l-y  princeling that the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives really liked was Milk-Ilu, who allied with the first Hebrews and did not try to take advantage of them [as Lab’ayu did], and was not weak and ineffectual [as Milk-Ilu’s immediate would-be successor was].  The early Hebrew author deftly honors XBR-W-N, the eastern Ayalon Valley site of the Patriarchs’ Hebron, and Amorite princeling Milk-Ilu, by using the root of those two names as names for Jacob’s descendants at Genesis 46: 17, back to back:  XBR and MLKY-)L [where the Amorite ending -Ilu is replaced by the Hebrew ending -)L].   

7.  The Amarna Age ended when Akhenaten died after reigning more than ½-way through his Year 17, numerically symbolized by the number 17½.  The first half of the Patriarchal narratives ends when Abraham dies at stated age 17½ tenfold “years” [Abraham having witnessed 175 total New Years, counting both fall and spring New Years].  The Patriarchal narratives then end when Joseph dies 17½ tenfold regular years after Abraham’s birth.  Those two ending dates, featuring 17½ tenfold, are there to confirm that the Patriarchal Age ended when the Amarna Age ended:  over ½-way through Akhenaten’s regnal Year 17.  

Rather than there being “n-o-t-h-I-n-g that shows any warrant for this connection”, the foregoing 7 objective facts strongly support my view that the Patriarchal Age was the Amarna Age, and that the vast bulk of the composition of the Patriarchal narratives was completed a year or two after the end of the Amarna Age.  The scholarly view that you teach, which holds that multiple authors after the Late Bronze Age used old folktales to conjure up a fictional Patriarchal Age, sounds sophisticated but cannot stand the light of day.  There is no way that multiple authors who post-date the Late Bronze Age, even if they had the benefit of old folktales, could possibly under any circumstances have come up with the foregoing specific, detailed facts that fit only one historical period:  Years 12-14 of the Amarna Age.

The Patriarchal narratives are much older, and much more historically accurate, than university scholars realize.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list