In chapters 12-13 of Genesis, Abram stops two different times at Bethel,
but never at Jerusalem. Why? In my view, the answer to that question largely
determines where the Patriarchs’ Hebron is located.
Abram and Lot enter Canaan at a point far to the north, coming from eastern
Syria. They proceed south through all of northern Canaan, staying fairly
near the Jordan River, and then they come to Shechem. The geographical point
of decision will then come at Bethel. Choice #1 would be to go straight
south from Bethel on the Ridge Route, going past Jerusalem and then up to the
mountainous site of King David’s Hebron in southern hill country. Choice
#2, by sharp contrast, would be to instead leave Bethel by going southwest
past the site of the future Beth Horon and into the northeast Ayalon Valley,
and from thence taking the Diagonal Route through the Shephelah. The same
choices apply in coming back from Egypt. Note that in coming back from Egypt,
Jerusalem is never mentioned (which would rule out the Diagonal Route), but
rather it’s Bethel that’s mentioned once again.
If Abram and Lot took the leisurely Diagonal Route through the lush
Shephelah, they could proceed “by stages” from Bethel to the Negev. By contrast,
if Abram and Lot took the austere Ridge Route past Jerusalem, which
navigates between mountain tops on an extremely narrow path, there would be no place
to stop from time to time, and so they could not proceed “by stages” in
going from Bethel past Jerusalem and up to the site of King David’s
mountainous city of Hebron and then down to the Negev. So one key way to figure out
which of these two routes they took is to ask if Abram and Lot proceeded “by
stages” in going from Bethel to the Negev. If Yes, then they must have
taken the Diagonal Route.
At least in coming back from Egypt to Bethel, we know that Abram had many
animals, per Genesis 12: 16. So it would make more sense for a tent-dweller
with all those animals to take the leisurely, gentle Diagonal Route through
the lush Shephelah, rather than to drive all those animals way up to the
mountainous site of King David’s Hebron, in order to take the Ridge Route from
there to Bethel.
Here is how Prof. Robert Alter, an expert in Biblical Hebrew, translates
Genesis 12: 9 in describing how Abram proceeded from Bethel to the Negev: “
And Abram journeyed onward by stages to the Negeb.” That fits the leisurely
Diagonal Route through the lush Shephelah perfectly, while not fitting the
austere, narrow, mountainous Ridge Route at all. Now we realize why Jerusalem
is never mentioned in chapter 12 of Genesis. Abram and Lot did not go
anywhere near Jerusalem!
Similarly, when Abram splits from Lot and leaves Bethel in chapter 13 of
Genesis, the text should refer to “Jerusalem”, if Abram takes the Ridge Route
past Jerusalem on the way up to the site of King David’s mountainous city
of Hebron in southern hill country. But there is no mention of Jerusalem.
By contrast, if Abram goes west by southwest to the place where the Diagonal
Route begins, then the text should refer to “Ayalon”. It does, at Genesis
13: 18, where (as mentioned in prior posts on this thread) ’LN is the
expected defective-style early Biblical Hebrew spelling of ia-lu-na, per Amarna
Letter EA 287: 57 from Hurrian princeling ruler IR-Heba of Jerusalem.
The second half of Genesis 13: 7, instead of being nonsensical and
irrelevant on the conventional view, in fact is telling us why neither Lot nor Abram
could go north or south in leaving Bethel. “The Canaanite” is (in
conjunction with Genesis 12: 6) referencing the notorious Canaanite strongman ruler
of Shechem in Year 12 (historical Lab’ayu), and “the Perizzite” is
referencing the virulently anti-tent dweller Perizzite/Hurrian new princeling ruler
of Jerusalem in Year 12 (historical IR-Heba). [In that difficult time
period, hill country had lost 90% of its Middle Bronze Age population, and the
only two cities left in existence in hill country were Shechem and
Jerusalem.] Since Abram and Lot cannot go either north (to Shechem) or south (to
Jerusalem) in leaving Bethel, and per the divine commandment at Genesis 12: 1
Abram must separate from Lot, then when Lot goes “east” in leaving Bethel at
Genesis 13: 11, that means that Abram m-u-s-t go west in leaving Bethel.
That will soon bring Abram to the lovely, largely vacant, rural nirvana
pastureland of the northeast Ayalon Valley [’LN at Genesis 13: 18, 14: 13, 18:
1], which at that time (Year 12) was governed by an Amorite princeling (Mamre
the Amorite/historical Milk-Ilu, whose historical name is
referenced/honored at Genesis 46: 17). Historically, that was the lay of the land in Year
12, as to Shechem, Jerusalem and the Ayalon Valley, one year before the “Year
13” that is referenced in the second half of Genesis 14: 4. The
p-i-n-p-o-i-n-t historical accuracy of the Patriarchal narratives in an Amarna Age
historical context is truly breathtaking.
Based on what the text of Genesis says, Abram and Lot use the Diagonal
Route in traversing between Bethel and Egypt, proceeding “in stages” through
the lush Shephelah west of hill country, rather than taking the austere Ridge
Route that goes south past Jerusalem and up to the site of King David’s
mountainous Hebron. Likewise, Abram goes a short way along that same route in
leaving Bethel when he splits from Lot, going to “Ayalon”/ia-lu-na/’LN.
Abram never goes near Jerusalem in chapters 12-13 of Genesis. Nor does Abram
ever go anywhere in the general vicinity of the site of King David’s city of
Hebron, high up in the mountains of southern hill country.
The received text of Genesis is actually quite clear about these key
geographical matters, if we’re willing to examine what the Hebrew text says,
instead of automatically accepting the traditional, non-textually-supported view
that Abram allegedly went right past Jerusalem three times in chapters 12-13
of Genesis (at Genesis 12:9, 13: 1-4 and 13: 18), with the Hebrew author
supposedly “forgetting” to mention Jerusalem all three times. That is not a
plausible theory of the case. In fact, the received Hebrew text of chapters
12-13 of Genesis is perfect, as is. The problem is not the text, but
rather is the longstanding misinterpretation of what the text is saying. “By
stages” and “Ayalon” relate to the Shephelah and the Ayalon Valley and the
Diagonal Route, and preclude the traditional view that Abram took the austere
Ridge Route past “Jerusalem” and “up” to the “mountainous” site of King
David’s city of Hebron. Those last three quoted words are very conspicuous by
their complete absence in the description in Genesis of going to the
Patriarchs’ Hebron. If we’re willing to honor what the text actually says,
instead of simply following the conventional view without regard to what the text
says, the received Hebrew Masoretic unpointed text of chapters 12-13 of
Genesis is actually quite clear about these key geographical matters. Abram is
n-e-v-e-r near either Jerusalem or the site of King David’s Hebron!
Dr. James R. Stinehart
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]