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Re: [biblicalist] Numbers Show Antiquity of Patriarchal Narratives

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  • Norman Cohn
    Jim,   1) You missed the point entirely. It was you yourself who said that they d never go to a city, and that s why if it were a city in that context,
    Message 1 of 64 , Jan 4, 2013
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      1) You missed the point entirely. It was you yourself who said that they'd never go to a city, and that's why if it were a city in that context, there'd be no contradiction at all in their settling on Beer-sheba. Here's your quote:
      "...Sharp contrast, the one and only reason why there are wells at the  Beersheba that is located in the Negev, which especially in the abnormally dry   Late Bronze Age was a desert-like region, is precisely because that one   particular spot is located at the bottom of a drainage basin. There are two  tels nearby, each of which post-dates the Bronze Age, where people built  houses. But in the Patriarchal Age, the Patriarchs are looking for a place  that has water, not a city full of people. As opposed to where people built  houses in later times, the life-giving wells themselves at the Beersheba in
      the Negev are at the very bottom of a drainage basin. Isaac cannot go “up” /‘LH to the bottom of a drainage basin!"
      So that's one.
      2)   You're rewriting the text. Let me repeat that again: Gen 26:23 doesn't say Isaac is going to a drainage basin. It says Isaac is going to Beer-Sheva, which is a Tel. That's why he goes "up". And in the world of the narrative, that Tel is a perfectly sensible place for him to go to, because it's located by a basin with rich soil and fertile land. It's clear from the narrative that Isaac is chosing a Tel which will give him some protection and a good overview of the land and at the same time grant him easy access to water.
      3)  Even if Isaac were going "up" to Beer-sheba of Galilee, that'd still mean that he was going to a tel, which is a clear sign of how fragile your argument is. Beer-sheba of Galilee is also a Tel. And it was one during Josephus' time, and Josephus, as we have already seen, is the earliest source we have for this place. If you contradict your only ancient source for Beer-sheba of Galilee, what's left of your thesis? We come to the conclusion that Beer-sheba in Gen 26:23 is Beer-sheba of Galilee for the simple fact that you want it do be so, despite an absolute lack of evidence of any sort for the claim.  
      4)  If we don't know anything about Beer-sheba of Galilee during the Bronze Age, not even if it was called Beer-sheba, then it's obvious that you shouldn't postulate it as the place mentioned in Genesis. To do so is to engage in pure guesswork.    
      5) I don't believe the text was composed in the Bronze Age. I think the writer must have lived in the exilic or post-exilic period and is projecting the reality of his world onto the past. So I don't feel the need to argue that the Beer-Sheba basin was fertile during the Late Bronze Age, which it probably was, but that's irrelevant. It is enough for me to point out that during the writer's time Tel Beer-Sheba was an obvious point of reference known for being located in a region with easy access to water. And that's exactly how the region shows up in the bible: a land with many wells and easy access to water.   
      6) No, I don't get your chronology. It looks absurd to me. As I said before, if Abraham lived during Akhenaten's reign, you have to accomodate in 350 years the lives of all the patriarchs, plus those of Joseph and his brothers, plus the long period necessary for the Hebrews to multiply in Egypt to the point of becoming a large foreign population, plus the captivity, plus the wandering in the desert, plus the conquest of Cannan, plus the lives of all the judges and finally the whole lenght of Saul's reign in order to avoid a scenario where the judges live in the monarchic period and Saul confronts Nebuchadnezzar.
      Best regards,
      Norman Cohn
      SP Brazil
       don't think the Genesis narrative was composed in the Bronze Age. I think the writer is projecting the reality of his world onto a distant past. He wants to portray events in a distant past, but he's thinking about the geography of the land during his own times.
      My point is that even in the world of the narrative, it's clear they're in South Canaan.

      De: "jimstinehart@..." <jimstinehart@...>
      Para: biblicalist@yahoogroups.com
      Enviadas: Sexta-feira, 4 de Janeiro de 2013 13:22
      Assunto: Re: [biblicalist] Numbers Show Antiquity of Patriarchal Narratives


      Norm Cohn:
      I of II
      1. Isaac cannot go “up”/‘LH to the bottom of a drainage basin, which is
      where the famous wells at the southern Beersheba are located.
      You wrote: “None other than Nahum Sarna writes (Genesis: the traditional
      hebrew text with the jps translation, p.141): "The northern Negeb in the
      As I was saying, a person cannot go “up”/‘LH to the bottom of a basin.
      2. The Negev was very different in the unduly dry Late Bronze
      Age/Patriarchal Age, as compared to the much wetter and better climate of the Early
      Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze Age. Recall that each of Abram, Isaac and
      Jacob is faced with a terrible drought-famine in Canaan, and each considers
      going to Egypt to escape the terrible drought-famine in Canaan. That’s a
      tell-tale sign of the Late Bronze Age, when droughts were commonplace in
      Canaan, whereas Canaan was a lush, rich land in the much wetter Early Bronze
      Now reconsider your quote in that context: “"The northern Negeb in the
      BEER-SHEBA BASIN possesses arable soil and some cover of vegetation.
      Seasonal, seminomadic, pastoral occupation of the area is archaeologically
      attested for the period between the Early and Middle Bronze Ages".
      Yes, that was true in the Early Bronze Age, and to an extent on into the
      Middle Bronze Age as well, but not in the Late Bronze Age, when each
      Patriarch experiences a terrible drought in Canaan. So your quote is irrelevant
      to the southern Beersheba in the Late Bronze Age/Patriarchal Age.
      3. Abraham and Isaac live in tents, not in cities. There was no city at
      or near Isaac’s Beersheba in the Patriarchal Age. Rather, Genesis 26:
      32-33 portrays Isaac as digging a well, then calling that well “Beersheba”,
      and then a later editor has added, as midrash, that such place later became
      the site of a city that was called “Beersheba” in later times, because in
      days of old Isaac had dug a well there. Genesis presents the Beersheba at
      or near GRR as being a single well, that is so unimportant, and so far out
      in the boondocks as it were, with there being no city there in the
      Patriarchal Age, that Abimelek does not contest the claim of Isaac to that isolated
      well. There’s no way that Genesis presents Beersheba as being a city,
      whether it’s referencing Abraham and Isaac at the Beersheba in Galilee/GRR, or
      Jacob stopping for water at the southern Beersheba on his way to Egypt.
      So the relevant Beersheba is in any event a mere well, where a small
      tent-dwelling group could get some water, not a city on a tel. Isaac would go “
      down” to the bottom of the drainage basin where the wells at the southern
      Beersheba are located. The fact that in the Iron Age there was a city on one
      of two nearby tels is irrelevant to the Patriarchs, who live in tents in
      the Late Bronze Age. Isaac does not go “up”/‘LH to a city on a tel, because
      he’s a tent-dweller who generally avoids cities altogether.
      So Isaac’s Beersheba must be located “up” at a higher elevation than the
      area from whence he is coming. Having been near the low-lying coast of
      Upper Galilee, Isaac goes “up”/‘LH to Beersheba of Galilee, located “up” in
      the foothills of Galilee/GRR. The Hebrew wording is perfect for Beersheba
      of Galilee.
      By sharp contrast, if Isaac had gone to the southern Beersheba for water,
      Isaac would have gone “down” to the bottom of the drainage basin in coming
      to the wells at the southern Beersheba. In fact, in chapter 26 of Genesis
      there’s only a single well at Isaac’s Beersheba, whereas the southern
      Beersheba is famous for having as many as 7 wells.
      4. Now consider that each of Abraham and Isaac is portrayed as digging an
      entire series of wells, each of which is a permanent well that,
      unfortunately, is sabotaged after Abraham’s day by “Philistines”/foreign
      mercenaries. Where in Canaan could one dig a series of fine wells like that? The
      best locale for that in all of Canaan is near the west coast of Upper Galilee,
      and then turning inland to go “up”/‘LH to the well at Beersheba of
      Galilee. By contrast, the southern Beersheba is famous precisely because it’s
      the o-n-l-y place in the dry Negev Desert, which truly was a desert in the
      abnormally dry Late Bronze Age, that had water wells. There’s no way that
      anyone could dig a series of permanent wells, with the southern Beersheba
      being merely the last one in that series, and with the local princeling
      (Abimelek) not caring about such a far-off, unimportant well, because there
      were so many other fine wells fairly nearby. That entire sequence makes no
      sense at all regarding the southern Beersheba, whereas it makes perfect sense
      in all ways regarding Beersheba of Galilee.
      If Isaac’s Beersheba is the southern Beersheba, then where are the wells
      called Esek, Sitnah and Rehoboth? Genesis 26: 17-22. There cannot possibly
      be any such permanent wells anywhere in the general vicinity of the
      southern Beersheba, which was world-famous precisely because there were no other
      wells nearby. By sharp contrast, near the coast of Upper Galilee is the
      best place in Canaan to dig permanent wells, and those wells near the coast
      (at the foot of the hills of Upper Galilee) are more important than the
      single well inland at Beersheba of Galilee, which per the Bible is so remote
      and unimportant that Isaac’s Beersheba is not worth fighting for.
      5. In drought-prone Canaan, with each Patriarch experiencing terrible
      drought-famine in Canaan, there’s no way that the Patriarchs would be mucking
      about in the Negev Desert, which in the drought-filled Late Bronze Age was
      a true desert. With all of Canaan being divinely promised to Abraham and
      Isaac, why on earth would the Patriarchs be portrayed as sojourning in the
      worst part of Canaan? Please note that Isaac is portrayed as growing a huge
      crop of grain at GRR. Genesis 26: 12. That fits lovely Galilee perfectly,
      while not fitting the Negev Desert at all. Yes, the Negev was a fine
      place in the Early Bronze Age, as your sources note, but that’s irrelevant to
      the Patriarchal narratives, which describe an abnormally dry time period
      when each Patriarch considers moving to Egypt to avoid drought-famine in
      Canaan. In that time period, namely the Late Bronze Age, the Negev indeed was
      a true desert, in every sense of the word, and could not possibly be a
      place where Isaac could get rich growing grain, nor could grain be grown in
      abundance at any other place within a few days’ travel time of the southern
      Beersheba. Everything fits the Late Bronze Age, and everything about the
      stories told about GRR fits Galilee, while not fitting the Negev Desert at
      all, at least not in the dry Late Bronze Age.
      6. As to archaeology, that applies mainly to cities, which usually
      (though not always) leave clear archaeological traces. Isaac’s Beersheba is a
      mere single well, with no permanent population there. Such an isolated place
      in the boondocks, with no permanent population, is not likely to leave
      archaeological remains. Moreover, it’s likely that the current Beersheba of
      Galilee may be located a few miles away from the Late Bronze Age Beersheba
      of Galilee. For those two reasons, there’s no reason to think that that one
      well would leave archaeological remains.
      Where did the Beersheba of Galilee get its name, and when, and under what
      circumstances? No one knows for sure. But it’s possible that when a place
      of permanent habitation finally formed, some time in the mid-1st
      millennium BCE or so, it was remembered that the Bible had referred to a Beersheba
      in that general locale. So that may be the genesis of the name “Beersheba”
      for the Beersheba in Galilee. Unlike “Jerusalem”, which is a unique name,
      “Beersheba” is like “Qadesh” or “Bethel”: it’s such a generic name that
      there’s no surprise that several places have that name. Any place with a
      well might be called “Beersheba”.
      Jim Stinehart

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • richfaussette
      ... Dr. Shepherd, You closed the thread two minutes after reading my post. That s a visceral response. I apologize. Richard Faussette
      Message 64 of 64 , Jan 8, 2013
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        --- In biblicalist@yahoogroups.com, "Jerry Shepherd" wrote:
        > This thread is closed.
        > Blessings,
        > Jerry

        Dr. Shepherd,
        You closed the thread two minutes after reading my post.
        That's a visceral response.
        I apologize.

        Richard Faussette
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