Are the patriarchs historical individuals or eponyms?
Mari cuneiform archives show coexistence between urbanites and nomads.
Pahaqruaibriama, fortification of Abram.
In E Isaac is founder of Beersheba Gen 26:23, 25
Ancient Israelite Hisory: The Patriarchal Period
Ancient Israelite HistoryThe Patriarchal Age: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by Jacob Gluck
Patriarchal history in a nutshell (prior toExodus):Abram son of Terah leaves Ur in southernMesopotamia and travels to Haran in NWMesopotamia.He then moves on to the land of Canaan. Isaac isborn in Canaan.Isaac’s son Jacob descends to Egypt due to afamine and his progeny is enslaved there untilthey are led out by Moses.
Patriarchal history is characterized by private affairs. Few references topublic events. None correspond to persons/events of general hisory.No extra-biblical record of events in Gen 14 (war of five kings of theplain vs. four Mesopotamian kings lead by Chedorlaomer king ofElam). No record of the names of the 9 kings involved.No record of Melchizedek king of Salem (Gen 14).No record of Abimelech king of Gerar (Gen 20, 26).No mention of Potiphar (Egyptian officer), Hamor son of Shechem orEphron the Hittite (citizen of Hebron).List of Edomite kings (Gen 36) appears only in the bible.Pharaoh of the Joseph story and Exodus is not mentioned by name.
Question: When did the patriarchs live?Abraham 75-100, Isaac 60, Jacob 130. Total years spentin Canaan: 215Period of slavery in Egypt: 430 (Exodus 12:40)Construction of temple in 4th year of Solomon: 480(1Kings 6:1)Solomon is believed to have died approx. 930 BCE. 4thyear of Solomon is 966 BCE
Biblical chronological scheme:2091 BCE: Abraham’s departure for Canaan.1876 BCE: Descent of Jacob’s family into Egypt.1446 BCE: Exodus from Egypt.966 BCE: Construction of Solomon’s temple.
Problems with biblical chronology:1. Impossibly long life spans2a. 430 years is too long for 4 generations.2b. Internal inconsistencies (4th gen. vs. 12th gen. ; avg143 vs. avg 39).3. Conquest of Canaan in 1406 BCE? (40 years afterexodus). No archeological evidence of widespreadconquest in late 15th cent.Changes in material culture associated with appearanceof Israelites is dated to 13th-12th cent. BCE (cf.Merneptah Stele 1207 BCE).
Listen to snippet of lecture by Israel FinkelsteinHistory and Rationality Series, Hebrew University, 2007.retrieved from youtube.• Camels (Tel Jemmeh increase in adult camel bones in 7th cent.)• Arabian goods: gum, balm and myrrh (common during Assyrian empire 8-7th cent.)• Philistines (not before 1200 BCE)• Gerar (tel haror; in 8-7th cent it became heavily fortified assyrian administrative stronghold in south).• Arameans (not mentioned before 1100 BCE.; establishment of stone boundary by Jacob and Laban).• Ur of the Chaldees• Edom (no kings before 8th cent. Settlements reached peak in 7th cent.
The Merneptah Stele — also known as theIsrael Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah — isan inscription by the Ancient Egyptian kingMerneptah (reign:1213 to 1203 BC), whichappears on the reverse side of a granite steleerected by the king Amenhotep III. It wasdiscovered by Flinders Petrie in 1896 atThebes.The stele has gained much fame and notorietyfor being the only Ancient Egyptian documentgenerally accepted as mentioning "Isrir" or"Israel". It is also, by far, the earliest knownattestation of the demonym Israel. For thisreason, many scholars refer to it as the "Israelstele".The black granite stela primarilycommemorates a victory in a campaign againstthe Libu and Meshwesh Libyans and their SeaPeople allies, but its final two lines refer to aprior military campaign in Canaan in whichMerneptah states that he defeatedAshkelon, Gezer, Yanoam and Israel amongothers.
Israel is wasted, its seed is no longer.NOTES: Full stanza: Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezerseized, Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seedMaterial: Black graniteLanguage: HieroglyphicDiscovery: 1896 by Flinders Petrie: "Wont the reverends be pleased”Determinative used is for “people”, not country.The stele was discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie who located it in the first court ofMerneptahs mortuary temple at Thebes. It is now in the collection of the Egyptian Museumat Cairo, and a fragmentary copy of the stele was also found at Karnak. Flinders Petrie calledupon Wilhelm Spiegelberg, a German philologist in his archaeological team to translate thenewly found massive granite stela. Towards the end of the text, Spiegelberg was puzzled by themention of one symbol, that of a people or tribe whom Merenptah had victoriously smitten--"I.si.ri.ar?" Petrie quickly suggested that it read: "Israel!" Spiegelberg agreed that thistranslation must be correct. "Wont the reverends be pleased?" remarked Petrie. At dinnerthat evening, Petrie who realized the importance of the find said: "This stele will be betterknown in the world than anything else I have found."
Conclusion: patriarchal narrative in Genesis cannot beused as a historical resource. It should be interpretedon the basis of…1. distinctive literary history and purpose ofcomposition2. development of the traditions upon which literarynarrative is based.
Composite nature of patriarchal narratives: JEPD documentaryhypothesis (JE during first temple, PD in exilic or post exilicperiod).On the surface, therefore, biblical patriarchal history reflectsthe political and religious viewpoint of the (first temple)Judean monarchy and priesthood. “Ve’eskha legoy gadol”.Accordingly, the figures in Gen 12-50 are typological pre-figurations of later Israelites and their neighbors --In manycases, eponyms.Jacob assumes the eponym Israel and his twelve sons are theeponymous ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Eponymous ancestors of Israel’s enemies are born ofincestuous union of Lot and his daughters Moab andBen-ammi.Jacob outwits Esau – who is called Edom-- and winsbirthright and blessing.Ishmael eponymous ancestor of desert tribes is child ofAbram and Sarai’s Egyptian maid Hagar.We need procedures to shed light on the “developmentof the traditions”, the pre-literary history of the Genesisstories 12-50.
Archaeological Method: William Foxwell Albright (FatherRoland De Vaux, G.E. Wright, Ephraim A. Speiser & mid-nineteenth cent. archaeologists) school of thought:Patriarchal narratives were composed no earlier than tenthcen. BCE. They are based on historically reliable traditions andpreserve authentic details.Certain personal names, social customs, and legal practices inBible correspond to known features of second-millenniumculture in Mesopotamia, Syria and Canaan; yet areincompatible with the culture of the Israelite monarchy (timeof its composition). Therefore, must be authentic.General cultural milieu could best be identified with earlysecond-millennium BCE.
As a whole the picture in Genesis is historical and there is noreason to doubt the general accuracy of the biographicaldetails and the sketches of personality which make thepatriarchs come alive with a vividness unknown to a singleextra-biblical character in he whole vast literature of theancient Near East – W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period fromAbraham to Ezra, 1963We shall probably never be able to prove that Abram reallyexisted, that he did this or that, said thus and so, but what wecan prove is that his life and times, as reflected in the storiesabout him, fit perfectly within the early secondmillennium, but imperfectly with any later period. – G. ErnestWright, Biblical Archaeology, 1962
Ur III rulers complaining of nonurban peoples (Amurru-westerners) laying claim to city land (invasion orimmigration -- Amorite Hypothesis).Abraham’s wanderings associated with Amoritemovement, according to Albright.Problem: Absence of urban centers
Patriarchal Period according to AlbrightMB I 2100-1900 Arrival of new peoples; Abraham BCEMB II A 1900-1750 Un-walled villages in Syria and BCE Canaan; city-states encouraged by EgyptiansMB II B 1700-1600 Egypt weakened; independent BCE city-states prosper; Jacob; old- babylonian period/Hammurabi, “age of Mari” in Syria.MB II C 1600-1550 BCE
Mesopotamia in 2nd millennium BC showing Mari inrelation to BabylonRoyal archives at Mari (tel hariri) show co-existence ofnomads with urbanites.
A depiction of the ancient city of Mari, located in present- day Syria, western bank of Euphrates riverYears active: 2900-1759Destroyed by: HammurabiFamous for: over 25,000 cuneiform clay tablets in Akkadian language; Ishtartemple; “most westerly outpost of Sumerian culture”.Excavated by: Andre Parrot 1933-1975Traded with: Hazor and laish in northern CanaanBnai Yamin nomads, peaceful people, census-takers,
Tablet of Zimri-limTablet of King Zimri-Lim of Mari, ca. 1780 BC, Louvre Museum
1. Names in patriarchal narratives are of Amorite type:Jacob, Abram?, Isaac, Joseph2. Social and legal parallels between bible and second-millennium ANE.2a. According to Nuzi tablets (Hurrian culture, kingdomof Mitanni 1500-1300 BCE) barren wife must provideslave woman. Sarai-Hagar. Child may not be expelled(cf. Ishmael). Slave adoption. Hurrian influencewidespread in Canaan.2b. Wife-sister parallel (according to Speiser).Summary: customs are without parallel in later times.Thus, early second-millennium origin of biblicaltraditions.
Map of the near east circa 1400 BCE showing theKingdom of Mitanni at its greatest extentHurrian-speaking people. 1500-1300 BCE.1372 – Hittites conquer Mitanni, west of the EuphratesEastern portions (including Nuzi) are conquered by Assyria.Capital was located at headwaters of the Khabur river valley
Google map of upper EuphratesArrow points to modern Kirkuk, Iraq, near town of Yorghan Tepe, where ancient Nuzi waslocated. Nuzi was the site’s Hurrian name. Akkadians called it Gasur. Excavations underauspices of ASOR 1925-31. approx. 5,000 tablets discovered to date.
Nuzi TabletsFrom the website COJS.org (Center for Online Judaic Studies)
Problems with Albright’s reconstruction of events.1. New evidence suggests pastoral peoples had beenpresent all along. Cause of urban collapse:overpopulation, drought or famine. No widespreadimmigration. Period is part of EB age.2. Dimorphic lifestyle present all along and presumablycontinued into LB age.Therefore, no reason to associate with Abram’swanderings.
3. Nuzi practices reflect widespread Mesopotamiancustom.4. Amorite names continued into LB age (Ugariticnames of “Joseph” type and Amarna Canaanite names).Attestation of Abram is dubious, while certain in LBA.Joseph-type name is widely distributed across ANEhistory.5. Barren woman practice common in later periods. Ex:marriage contract from Nimrud 7th cent.6. Adopting “brother” is usually not future husband.7. Wife-sister claim is deception, not legal procedure.
A Different Approach to pre-literary history: MartinNoth and (his teacher) Albrecht AltIsrael was formed by a gradual amalgamation of clansand tribes.It’s impossible that all tribes knew all the traditionsabout pre-settlement period:patriarchs, captivity in Egypt and Exodus, wandering inthe wilderness, revelation at Sinai, conquest of CananNoth drew on the “form-critical” method devised byHermann Gunkel; “history of traditions”(reconstruction of history).
Form-critical method of determining origin of biblicalpatriarchal traditions: connection with a particularplace/region.Patriarch Region Place-namesAbraham Judean hills Oaks of Mamre, (Sothern Canaan) near Hebron;Isaac Negev Beersheba; Beer- (southwestern lahai-roi Judah)Jacob Central hill Shechem; Bethel; country Gilead? (Ephraimite hills)Joseph || Shechem; Dothan
History of Religion(die religionsgeschichtliche Schule).commentary on Genesis (1901) inwhich he applied his “form-critical”method. Goal: identify the sitz imleben that produced a given text.Distinguished from source criticism.Further developed by Martin Noth.
Noth: Most immediate ancestor of Israel, Jacob, is linked withheartland; therefore, oldest tradition.Genealogical additions: Isaac & Abraham.Blending of traditions is southern; therefore, priority ofAbraham.Blending took place not before Davidic monarchy (when Judahwas ascendant over Israel) but before authorship of Jpatriarchal narrative.NOTE: Earliest tribal list makes no mention of southern tribes(Judges 5:14-18). (Slide 35)Development of the tradition is coeval with development ofIsrael itself.Patriarchs are inaccessible as historical figures (only“tradition” can be traced).
Criticism of NothHomeric and Ugaritic literature are characterized byextended, complex narratives (at oral stage oftransmission).Anthropological research shows that: kinship patternsare central to self-definition, creating complexgenealogical narratives as a device for self-definition.Stories are NOT mere etiologies of ethnic relationships.Genealogical structure of story is a feature of pre-literary development.
A modern Approach: Selective application of past methods:Archaeology, philology and tradition history, supplemented bysociology and anthropology.Patriarchal stories (Gen 12-50) contain kernel of authentichistory.Patriarchal narratives are ideology, not history.Biblical writers are drawing upon and interpreting pre-Israelitetraditions.Gunkel: Sign of older tradition - one that is anomalous in itspresent literary context but intelligible in an earlier context.“fragments of an earlier whole”. Example: sexual escapades ofsons of God with daughters of men (Gen 6) which perhaps ispre-Israelite, Canaanite tradition (sons of “El” – high god ofCanaanite pantheon).
1. Priority of Abraham suggests inter-tribal relationshipof Davidic-Solomonic period (12 tribes).Judges 5 (Song of Deborah) preserves different triballist. No mention of Judah and Simeon. Machir andGilead replace Manasseh and Gad (ca. mid 12th centBCE, after authorship of Merneptah Stele).Israelite identity derived is authority and foundexpression in the ancestral traditions of biblicalpatriarchal narratives.
- - - --Total of ten tribes. Gilead replaces Gad. Makhir replaces Manasseh. Simeon andJudah missing (Levi is not counted as tribe).
Central hill country:Ephraim, Benjamin. Galilee:Issachar, Zebulon, Da n, Naphtali. Transjordan:Reuben, Makhir, Gile ad. Phoenician coast: Asher
2. Ethnic boundary-marking.Most Early Israelites were probably indigenous toCanaan. Conflict with valley dwellers caused them toidentify in provenance and genealogically with the“east” (Mesopotamia, Transjordan, Aram) and not theEgypto-Canaanite west.“Hebrew” came to assume the meaning “beyond theriver”.Genealogical structure of patriarchal tradition is of LBA.
Indications of traditions being rooted in pre-Israelite period.1. Theophoric names (indicate that patriarchs worshipped El).2. Location of patriarchal homeland in Syro-Mesopotamia.1a. “Names of tribes do not give single indication of Yahweh’sexistence.” – Albrecht Alt. Explicit by E and P.Ishmael, Israel, Bethuel in J while generally referring to thedeity as Yahweh until Moses’ time: Joshua, Jochebed.1b. High god of Canaanite pantheon is El according to Ugaritictexts – F. M. Cross. (El shaddai – sacred mountain. El Elyon).See www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm for more)1c. “Israel” of pre-monarchic times.
E – Ex - -3:13-16 - - - - - - -P - Ex 6:2- - -4 -- - - -- - - -
2a. Haran is in middle Euphrates region of Syro-Mesopotamia. (slide 45) Later, Aram. “Arami Obhedabhi”. Before 12th cent BCE, region of Haran was homeof Amorites. This provides historical context for thisanomalous tradition.2b. Amorites were pastoralists and agriculturalists.Spoke NW semitic. In Akkadian “El Amurru”.Equivalence between El and Yahweh was made by theMoses group who escaped from Egypt via Midian.Traditions then merged into a single epic.
Are the Patriarchs genealogical fiction?Amorite dynasties of Hammurabi and Shamshi-Adadshare common genealogical tradition.Jerahmeel, great-grandson of Judah, an Israelite tribe inthe Negev.Other fictitious eponyms: Moab, Ben-ammi, Shechemson of Hamor. Ishmael, possibly.In Edomite Geneaology, Eliphaz is hero of past, whereasTeman, his son, is tribal name. In Job, Eliphaz theYemenite.Some traditional heroes vs. many fictitious eponymicnames.
Abraham. Link to page 3 mapAbraham never appears as tribal or local designation.He may have been historical individual before hebecame legendary. Abram and Abraham are variants.Abraham’s origin in Mesopotamia could be ethnicboundary-marking. Still connection to Haran is veryprecise in J narrative and thus seems authentic. Terah,Nahor and Serug are eponymous ancestors of towns invicinity of Balikh river. Assyrian text (mari archives?): TilTurakhi, Til Nakhiri, and Sarugi.Abraham seems to unite all of early Israelitesettlement.“Abraham” appears in Sheshonk inscription 925 BCE(Pic follows).
Haran on Balikh river in SyriaHarran was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia whose site is near the modern village ofAltınbaşak, Turkey, 24 miles (44 kilometers) southeast of Şanlıurfa. The location is in a district of Şanlıurfa Provincethat is also named "Harran".A few kilometers from the village of Altınbaşak are the archaeological remains of ancient Harran, a majorcommercial, cultural, and religious center first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age III (3rd millennium BCE) period. Itwas known as Ḫarrānu in the Assyrian period; possibly Ḥaran ( ) in the Hebrew Bible; Κάῤῥαι or Carrhae underthe Roman Empire; Hellenopolis (῾Ελληνὀπολις pagan city) in the Early Christian period; and Ḥarrān ( ) in theIslamic period. 
Temple at Karnak where Sheshonk inscripion was foundThe Karnak Temple Complex—usually called Karnak—comprises a vast mix of ruinedtemples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amun and a massivestructure begun by Pharaoh Ramses II (ca. 1391–1351 BC). Sacred Lake is part of the site as well. It islocated near Luxor, some 500 km south of Cairo, in Egypt. The area around Karnak was the ancientEgyptian Ipet-isut ("The Most Selected of Places") and the main place of worship of the eighteenthdynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes.Karnak contained an early temple built by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). link to youtube video: raidersof the lost ark
- - - - - - - - 1Kings 14:25 Indiana: "The Hebrews put the broken pieces in the Ark. When they settled in Canaan, they put it in the Temple of Solomon ." Colonel Musgrove: "ln Jerusalem." Indiana: "Where it stayed for many years, until, whoosh, its gone." Major Eaton: "Where?" Indiana: "Nobody knows where or when. An Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak, invaded Jerusalem about 980 BC, and may have taken the Ark to the city of Tanis and hidden it in a secret chamber called the Well of Souls. About a year after the Pharaoh returned to Egypt, the city of Tanis was consumed by the desert in a year-long sandstorm. Wiped clean by theThis Karnak temple wall depicts a list of city states wrath of God."conquered by Shoshenq I in his Near Eastern militarycampaigns.
Isaac.Clear biblical associations with northern negev.This area not settled before end of Late Bronze Age.Archaeology shows deep well dug in 13th cent BCE.Late tradition (12th cent.). Perhaps southern development ofthe tradition in Davidic times.Isaac is unattested outside the bible. Could bepersonal, tribal, or geographic. “may god smile”.Amos 8th cent. uses Isaac as parallel to Israel. -Northerners made pilgrimage to Beersheba (Amos 5:5, 8:14). - - Gen 21:25 - - - - - Gen 26:25
Jacob.Founder of Bethel and builds altar in Shechem.In contrast to other patriarchs, Jacob is NOT associatedwith south.1. Jacob-El, common west semitic personal name inMBA.2. Jacob-El is also place-name. occurs in list of sitesconquered by Thutmosis III (1479-1425 BCE). Preciselocation is unknown; somewhere in central hill country(vicinity of Beth-shean).“Let El protect”.Noth: Israel was assigned to Jacob at a late stage in thedevelopment of the tradition.
Israel.No hint of the use of Israel before Merneptah.Name may have been imported by one of the arrivingpeoples.Jacob and Esau: cultural memory of ascent of herdersover hunters. Civilization vs. nature
Ethnic boundary-marking in Jacob- Esau fraternal relationshipJacob Esauman of tents (civilized habitat) man of steppe (wild habitat)cooking huntingcunning intelligence stupiditysmooth skin hairy skindomestic animals wild gameblessing and political dominance curse and subjection cf. Ishamel vs. Isaac and Enkidu vs. Gilgamesh Cultural self-definition may predate identification of Esau with Edom.
Joseph.Joseph-El, may god increase. Could be personal (hero ofthe past), tribal or geographic (fictitious eponym).“House of Joseph” suggests the latter.No references to the tribe of joseph suggests theformer.Prominence of joseph in biblical narrative reflectseminence of the joseph tribes.Joseph epic, originated independently and depictsJoseph as preeminent and the favorite. Rags to riches.Joseph may be rooted in historical fact: Hyksos period(c. 1670-1550), Egypt ruled by Asiatic princes. Also,Hyksos capital was in eastern Delta, site of Goshen.
Details in Joseph story, however, seem more in linewith historical romance; fashioned from widespreadnarrative motifs and folklore of ANE.Potiphar’s wife - Tale of two brothers (13th cent Egypt).Dream interpretation, seven lean years: commonmotifs.East wind scorching pharaoh’s grain? Gen 41:23 (Shouldbe south wind). Also, titles and offices in Joseph story.Authentic details that correspond to author’s times:Pharaoh- great house, not used before Thutmosis.Rameses region, Ramesses II (1279-1213 BCE).Therefore, story is not older than Davidic era.
Nefertari (Rameses II’s consort) Tomb (in Abu Simbel). Painting of seven cows and bull.
Tale of Two BrothersSheet from the Tale of Two Brothers, Papyrus DOrbiney, British Museum
The Hyksos.Asiatic named Irsu seized power in Egypt in end of 19thdynasty.Perhaps Joseph was leader of tribe in Shechem-Dothanarea seeking pasturage in Egypt in time of drought. Afrontier official in Merneptah’s rein reports:We have finished letting the Shasu tribes of Edom pass the fortress ofMerneptah Hotep-hir-Maat…which is in Tjeku (Sukkoth), to the pools of PerAtum (Pithom) of Merneptah Hotep-hir-Maat, which are in Tkeku, to keepthem alive and to keep their cattle alive… (translated by Siegfried Herrmann)
Tomb painting of khnum hotep, Egyptian official, in the proximity of Amarna (south egypt).
Jacob’s other sons.Asher. Egyptian name of coastal region north of Carmel.Judah, Ephraim and Naphtali. Names of hill-ranges.Benjamin. Sons of the south.Simeon and Manasseh. They seem to be personalnames.
Summary:During the process of community formation (c. 1200 BCE)tribal names were already firmly established. Political alliancewas expressed in the form of kinship as 12 brothers.Israelite tradition first germinated among pastoralists ofCanaanite hill country, shepherds who themselves as distinctfrom the city folk in the coastal plains.Israel/highlands was sheltered from Egyptian influence due toits remoteness from trading routes and populations centers.This sparked a national identity crossing city-state allegiances.