The Earthly Covenant

How can a dead king bring peace?
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Test-0424

An Everlasting
Quid Pro Quo
Keep attending to my ghost
and this land will be yours forever.
HISTORICAL ESSAY
On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith
by Means of Deification
by BERNARD LAMBORELLE
No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced, distributed, displayed publicly,
made available, translated or transmitted to a third party, without obtaining express written
permission, in advance, from the author.
Bible verses are extracted from King James version
of the Old Testament that is in the Public Domain (uncopyrighted).
Copyright © 2009-2024 Bernard Lamborelle
Oaxaca Juarez, OAXACA, MEXICO
All rights reserved. Ver 4.3.010224
ISBN-13: 978-1975832995
ISBN-10: 197583299X
To my sister Laurence “Mitsi”,
who is gone way too soon.
and to whom I never got to say
Good-bye sweetie pie
CONTENTS
Preface 10
Introduction 20
A journey in the afterlife 21
Of gods, ghosts, and spirits 22
Death and the afterlife 23
Sodom, the archetype of sin 24
Revisiting the story of Abraham 25
On the historicity of the patriarchs 26
Structure of this book 27
Part I – An ongoing scholarly debate 30
A historical or literary problem? 31
The road to minimalism 31
A century of debate 34
The debate is not over 36
On the literary project 37
A tradition culturally entrenched 39
Key research questions 46

  1. The many names of God 47
  2. The enigmatic Genesis 14 50
  3. The theophany of Genesis 18 52
  4. The “only” son of Genesis 22 55
    Part II – Abrahamic Narratives 59
    An anthropomorphic figure 61
    Probability analysis 66
    Secular exegesis of Genesis 12-25 69
    Understanding the whole 71
    Understanding the individual parts 72
    The journey to Canaan 74
    Lot settles near Sodom 78
    The War of Kings 83
    An everlasting treaty 95
    The birth of Ishmael 99
    A blood covenant 103
    The son of the promise 106
    To be done with Sodom 111
    Abimelech and Sarah 119
    The son of the promise 121
    The test of loyalty 125
    The cave of Machpelah 129
    A wife for Isaac 131
    Isaac’s birthright 138
    An elicient interpretation 141
    Part III – Historical Context 145
    Ancient Near East 145
    Flourishing trades 148
    The Habiru connection 151
    Mesopotamia 156
    Cuneiform writing 157
    Calculating time 160
    Mesopotamian deities 171
    Caring for the dead 172
    Egypt 177
    The Middle Kingdom 179
    The Second Intermediary Period 180
    The New Kingdom 183
    Egyptian deities 185
    Beliefs in the afterlife 187
    Levant 190
    Inside the Promised Land 190
    The Divine Council of Ugarit 195
    Idolatry, necromancy, and the cult of the ancestors 205
    The emergence of the Ba’al Berith deity 210
    Sarah, “Mother Goddess” of Israel? 217
    From Beliya and Asherah to Yahweh 225
    The repudiation of the Ba’als 238
    Ba’al Berith, Ba’al Zebub, and the scarab amulets 241
    But wasn’t Yahweh from Edom and Seir? 244
    Part IV – Abraham’s Lord 254
    The Akkadian Empire 255
    The Amorites take power 263
    King Hammurabi 264
    On the battle field 281
    Expanding the empire 283
    An everlasting treaty 287
    Securing the covenant 289
    Joseph in Egypt 291
    The Minoan eruption 291
    The Hyksos rise to power 299
    Yakub-Har’s successors 305
    The expulsion of the Hyksos 310
    The long reign of Apophis 312
    Jacob blesses Apophis 314
    Did Ezer die in combat? 316
    Shemidah rises to the challenge 317
    Slaves in Egypt 323
    Keeping the Hyksos in check 324
    Exodus and the Battle of Kadesh 328
    A breach in Sethi’s dam? 330
    Joshua’s conquest of the Dark Ages 331
    Part V – Be Perfect 339
    Ancient Near Eastern treaties 340
    Deities as witnesses 340
    Royal land grants 342
    Method of transmission 344
    How old (really) is the Hebrew Bible? 348
    The ark of the covenant 355
    An everlasting quid pro quo 360
    Land inheritance in the Torah 363
    The Samaritans connection 368
    All roads lead to Shechem 370
    A rebellious people 371
    A touch of Zoroastrianism 372
    Conclusion 376
    Epilogue 385
    ANNEXES 389
    Annex A: The Exodus 390
    Annex B: Onomastic study 398
    Annex C: Reference material 404
    Description of roles 404
    Patriarchs’ Genealogy – corrected 409
    The Near East during the Bronze Age 410
    Acknowledgements 411
    List of illustrations 413
    Iconography 415
    Bibliography 417
    Truth never penetrates an unwilling mind.
    ― J. L. Borges
    Preface
    Where I explain how I accidentally found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to
    challenge mainstream academia with bold and seemingly implausible claims. I also
    discuss some of my challenges, limitations, and hope, and why this work will likely take
    time to disseminate, as well as why I believe it is critical that it does.
    I picked up my first Bible during a business trip to the United States in the eighties. The
    Gideons had placed it in the hotel room, as they have been doing diligently for the last
    century. At the time, I considered myself agnostic. I leaned towards atheism but had not
    totally rejected the idea of a creator and remained open-minded. Having spent a few years
    in Catholic boarding schools, I was familiar with the key biblical characters and their
    stories. Like many of my friends, I grew up understanding that Abraham’s Lord was the God
    of Israel. This was not an assumption, it was a given. Similarly, I always understood the
    Sodomites to be wicked people. It would have never occurred to me that they could have
    been freedom fighters. At the time, I knew very little about ancient Israel and had no
    training in biblical studies, let alone the ability to read Biblical Hebrew. In fact, I was mostly
    curious as to why so many people, including close family members, were so drawn to this
    book. But two decades ago, a simple observation led me down the proverbial rabbit hole.
    A prominent persona
    One evening in the fall of 2003, while perusing my Bible for the umpteenth time, I came
    across the following passage where God, accompanied by two angels, appears in human
    disguise to Abraham:
    Ge 18:2 and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he
    saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3
    and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from
    thy servant: 4 let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest
    yourselves under the tree: 5 and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts;
    after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do,
    as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready
    quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And
    Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young
    man; and he hasted to dress it.
    I had gone through this passage multiple times before and it never troubled me. But for
    some reason, the level of anthropomorphism and realism associated with this depiction of
    Abraham greeting God and eating with Him caught my eye. I sensed there was something
    oddly casual about this scene that didn’t feel right. By focusing on a display of abundance
    and reverence instead of the extraordinary nature of the encounter, it struck me that this
    description appeared to better fit the visit of a high ranking olicial than that of a divine
    entity. This simple observation made me wonder: Did the original author intend to narrate
    the visit of a prominent persona instead of a god?
    Asking such an iconoclastic and seemingly ridiculous question felt embarrassing. Surely,
    others would have investigated this possibility long before I was born. I knew that Abraham
    was a fictitious character and that anthropomorphism and metaphors were commonplace
    in the Bible. I also knew that many gods in antiquity displayed anthropomorphic
    characteristics, and scholars had long been studying them. Besides, I had always been
    taught – and believed – that the Bible was riddled with anachronisms, contradictions, and
    incoherencies and was never to be taken literally or as a body of historical literature.
    Perhaps because pharaohs were commonly regarded as living gods in ancient Egypt, I
    found myself questioning the logic of this three-thousand-year-old biblical story. Reading
    from the beginning, I visualized Abraham’s lord as a mighty ruler. Suddenly, this “man”
    appeared to be in cahoots with the four eastern kings of Genesis 14 who subdued the
    people of Sodom. And to my great surprise, this wicked city, which had mostly been an
    afterthought, suddenly took a front and center role and became the unexpected linchpin
    that held the entire story together. The flow was perfect and I was captivated by how the
    smallest details came alive to give a whole new dimension to this covenant.
    My enthusiasm came to a sharp end when I realized that, according to this interpretation,
    the son of Abraham to be sacrificed couldn’t possibly be Isaac, but rather had to be
    Ishmael. As this conclusion was diametrically opposed to the familiar story, it seemed
    enough to nip what I had come to perceive as a “promising” secular interpretation in the
    bud. Still, I kept thinking about it. I couldn’t understand how so many pieces of the puzzle
    could elortlessly fall into place, except for this one glaring detail. I began to wonder: Has
    anyone else – perhaps an obscure scholar – ever suggested that Ishmael, instead of Isaac,
    might have been the sacrificial son? Who knows? It was worth a try.
    A quick Google search took me aback. At the time, I was unaware that the identity of the
    son to be sacrificed was the point of contention between the Jewish and Muslim
    communities regarding this story. Muslims also recognize Abraham as their ancestor, but
    they believe that Ishmael – rather than Isaac – is the son whom God asks him to sacrifice.
    This realization was my aha! moment.
    It is generally accepted that this dilerence stems from the fact that Muslims claim descent
    from Ishmael, but could this explanation just be a historical convenience? Stumbling upon
    this Gordian knot made the secular interpretation worthy of further investigation, and the
    rush of adrenaline I experienced gave me the impetus to dive deeper. But where to start?
    And even if my intuitions were correct, would it be possible to verify them? And what would
    it change anyway? These texts have been edited, over and over again. And just like a crime
    scene that has been tampered with by too many fingers, any original evidence would have
    surely been deeply altered and faded away a long time ago. Or at least, one might logically
    think so. Nevertheless, I was motivated to see how far I could push this proposal before it
    fell apart. And so, as an unlikely candidate for the task, I began to investigate the history of
    one of our civilization’s most studied myths from a perspective that had never seriously
    been explored before.
    Two decades in the making
    This investigation took me on a remarkable journey. By re-examining known facts and
    decades of scholarly articles through the unexplored lens of a deified overlord, I gathered a
    wealth of textual, archaeological, and chronological evidence that led me to challenge
    decades of scholarly consensus. The groundbreaking conclusion of this investigation is
    that Abraham was not a fictitious character but most likely the leader of a Habiru tribe who
    lived during the Middle Bronze Age and formed an alliance with a foreign king, presumably
    the Great Hammurabi, to secure control of an important trade corridor between Egypt and
    Mesopotamia.
    Ever since publishing the initial findings of this investigation some fifteen years ago, I have
    focused on deepening my knowledge to solidify the case and overcome potential
    objections. I eventually enrolled in a Master’s program in Theology at Université de
    Montréal to learn Hebrew and critical methods. This led me to read countless fascinating
    research papers and books on the topic, ultimately resulting in the publication of a vastly
    improved edition of my work in English seven years ago, titled The Covenant.
    By delving even further into the cult of the dead kin, reorganizing the information, and
    placing a stronger emphasis on the historical context, I hope this latest edition will
    resonate with an even larger audience. My ultimate goal has always been to see how far
    this hypothesis can be taken, and I am continuously amazed by how rewarding the journey
    continues to be, with no end in sight.
    Reception of this work
    Although the historical-sociological context of Canaan is conducive to this investigation,
    there is so much at stake and such an aura of reverence around the Bible that simply
    suggesting that Abraham’s Lord could have been a mortal overlord arouses suspicion and
    skepticism. I learned this the hard way after publishing Quiproquo sur Dieu in 2009.
    Readers’ feedback was very gratifying, but the book sulered from the fate of so many other
    publications and didn’t break through the noise barrier. As for The Covenant, self-published
    in 2017, it sulered a similar fate. The reaction and discussion I was looking for has not yet
    materialized.
    It took me a while to grasp and then accept the harsh reality that those who should have
    cared weren’t ready and that those who were ready didn’t care. Indeed, those who believe
    Abraham made a covenant with the divine aren’t interested in seeing their beliefs
    challenged, and those who view this story as an etiological myth don’t have much interest
    in learning more about it. In all cases, venturing ol the beaten path to explore the idea of a
    deified overlord requires letting go of intimate beliefs, fundamental religious concepts, and
    academic presuppositions to embrace a whole new perspective that has never been
    thoroughly explored. In the case of the Hebrew Bible, the challenge is augmented by the
    fact that countless frivolous claims have been made in the past that cast doubt and
    suspicion on any new bold claims. However, once the leap is made to investigate this new
    perspective, there is simply no coming back as the facts speak for themselves.
    Given all of the above, I have come to accept the idea that this work is unlikely to receive
    much support from scholars in the field of biblical studies – at least for the time being. Not
    that this research is not valuable, but because its premises, hypothesis, and conclusion
    fall outside the realms of normal expectations. But there is hope as new publications in the
    field stray away from mainstream scholarship and align very well with the hypothesis
    developed in this book. This is the case with Daniel E. Fleming, Professor of Hebrew and
    Judaic Studies at New York University. In Yahweh before Israel, Fleming challenges the
    popular Kenite/Midianite hypothesis and posits the origin of Yahweh was more likely in the
    north. In Land of our Fathers, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and
    Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, explores the role of the cult of the dead in
    Ancient Israel and how this cult influenced the development of the Torah. But perhaps the
    most notable and unexpected support came from Dvora Lederman-Daniely, a lecturer and
    researcher at the David Yellin College of Education in Jerusalem. In Sarai: Is She the
    Goddess of Ancient Israel?, the author argues that certain passages in the Abrahamic
    narratives “depict a divine rather than a human couple, and the consorts are not Abram and
    Sarai but Sarai and Yahweh.” In just sixty pages, she presents compelling evidence to
    support her claims. What is even more remarkable is that she arrives at this conclusion
    using arguments that I had not previously considered. If she had argued instead that these
    passages “depict a deified human couple, and the consorts are not Abram and Sarai but
    Sarai and Yahweh,” she could have written a book similar to mine.
    With each new finding, the argument for a deified overlord becomes increasingly
    compelling, presenting a hypothesis that unifies all existing evidence in a way that neither
    maximalist nor minimalist perspectives have achieved to date. And while presently
    divergent from mainstream scholarship, I trust that this hypothesis will eventually gain
    scholarly interest. Certainly, my determination and resolve have never been stronger.
    Modern significance of the covenant
    Fundamentalist believers of the Abrahamic faiths hold the view that a return to their
    fundamental values will win them their freedom and homeland. At the same time, far-right
    movements are aligning themselves with religious fundamentalists, as both factions
    advocate for the subordination of individual interests for the perceived good of the group.
    These groups are on the rise across all continents, and are motivated, organized, and seek
    to impose their beliefs, laws, and practices on the rest of the world. In some cases, they are
    even working to overturn secular-democratic institutions and replace them with theocraticautocratic
    ones. Countries such as Brazil, Poland, and Turkey have recently joined the
    growing list of democracies that are backsliding, and it is no coincidence that they all have
    large religious majorities of Christians and Muslims, respectively. In the United States, a
    similar coalition has formed between the Republican party and Christian Nationalists, who
    maintain that the United States was founded by God to be a Christian nation. Their goal is
    to complete God’s covenant through Dominionism, which involves fusing Christianity and
    American civic life. Journalist Frederik Clarkson has written:
    The term “Dominionism” was first popularized in the 1990s by researchers, including Chip
    Berlet, scholar Sara Diamond, and myself, who needed a term to describe the political
    aspirations of Christian Rightists who believed that they have a biblical mandate to control
    all earthly institutions – including government – until the second coming of Jesus.
    Convinced that they can do no harm because they are inspired by God’s Word, these farright
    movements threaten the social fabric. From their perspective, the end justifies the
    means. They refuse to recognize the concept of separation of church and state, and view
    non-divine laws as corrupted. They are openly antidemocratic, prejudicial to minorities,
    and condone political violence. They believe they have the power to impose God’s laws on
    the land and ensure that His covenant can be fulfilled.
    Perhaps one day, the conclusions drawn from this work could help protect the secular
    character of our institutions as they face attacks. However, for now, religious and political
    claims that invoke the Abrahamic covenant will continue to make headlines:
    • On August 30, 1967, General Moshe Dayan declared: “If one possesses the Bible, if
    one considers oneself to be the people of the Bible, one should also possess the biblical
    lands.”
    • On February 25, 1994, Dr. Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslims praying at the
    Tomb of the patriarchs.
    • On November 4, 1995, Yigal Amir assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, Nobel Peace Prize
    laureate, for having signed the Oslo accords and agreeing to transfer a portion of the
    “Promised Land” to the Arabs.
    • On May 15, 2008, President George W. Bush declared before the Knesset: “Sixty
    years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the
    ‘natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.’ What followed was more
    than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise
    given to Abraham, Moses, and David – a homeland for the chosen people in Eretz Yisrael.”
    • On July 5, 2014, at the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the
    leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic state asserted his position as caliph, or spiritual
    leader, of the Muslim faithful, calling himself “Khalifa Ibrahim”, or caliph Abraham, a
    reference to the prophet Abraham, a key figure of the Quran.
    • August 13, 2020, the State of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United
    States, reached a joint statement for peace dubbed the Abraham Accords, The agreement
    was negotiated on the U.S. side by Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner and were named
    after Abraham to emphasize the shared origin of belief which espouses the monotheistic
    worship of the God of Abraham.
    Given so many political leaders, and their actions, are still influenced by the covenant
    made with Abraham, there is no denying its importance to this day.
    High time for love, empathy, and forgiveness
    When taken on its own, this work is nothing more than an argument in favor of a revised
    scientific interpretation of biblical history that might only raise interest among a small
    niche of biblical researchers. However, when used as part of a collective reflection, it can
    become a powerful tool to help those entrenched in a fundamentalist interpretation of the
    scriptures question their convictions and gain the confidence to let go of their religious
    dogmas.
    After enduring thousands of years of guilt, shame, exclusion, hatred, and conflicts stirred
    up by a religious interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant, isn’t it high time that we put a
    decisive end to this embarrassing nonsense? Looking back on history, one can easily
    appreciate how science and rational thinking have contributed to pacifying the world by
    olering more objective, verifiable, and consensual answers to questions that had until
    then remained subjective and a source of argumentation, conflicts, and hostilities.
    Scientific theories and hypotheses have acted as emulsifiers and have allowed people with
    varying backgrounds, cultures, and levels of consciousness to smooth out their dilerences
    around the interpretation of objective facts and evidence.
    Truth may hide in strange places, but once exposed, it surrenders without resistance. I
    sincerely believe that this book is the result of serendipity, as if Ariadne’s thread helped me
    maneuver out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Layers of evidential material consolidated what
    was but an embryonic idea. While this personal experience bears no scientific value in
    itself, I view it as the most compelling evidence for the case made here. However, it takes
    an enormous amount of energy and courage to face our historical shadows, overcome the
    status quo, and challenge widely accepted views. New ideas must overcome inertia and
    accumulate momentum for themselves. The more people embrace them, the more
    dilicult it will become for others to dismiss them. Those already at ease with a
    metaphorical interpretation or critical of the scriptures may find this work of little value to
    their spiritual journey, but they have an essential role in helping this work gain visibility by
    raising its awareness and sharing it with others. Everyone can contribute to creating a safe
    space conducive to launching the much-needed and challenging debate, instead of being a
    passive accomplice of a dangerous status quo. As Margaret Mead elegantly expressed,
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
    indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
    B.L.
    Our dead are never dead to us,
    until we have forgotten them.
    ― George Eliot
    Introduction
    Where we set the table by establishing our subject and the framework of our inquiry. We
    also provide some definitions and references that will be useful throughout this journey.
    The story of the patriarchs describes the fascinating lives of Abraham, Sarah, Ishmael, and
    Isaac and their descendants, who were humble shepherds living in the Holy Land some
    3,500 years ago. It also tells of the special relationship they established and maintained
    with a new god, Yahweh. According to the story, Yahweh revealed himself to Abraham and
    made a covenant with him. Abraham’s unwavering obedience and willingness to sacrifice
    his beloved son to this new god became a cornerstone story of monotheism that has
    transcended time and captivated faith followers for generations. The Abrahamic covenant
    represents God’s reward and mercy through the promise of land and progeny in exchange
    for an exclusive, absolute, and unshakable faith. Believers of all denominations
    acknowledge this event as the cornerstone of the world’s three great monotheistic
    religions, giving the patriarchs the benevolent title of “founding fathers.”
    It is now evident that the historical context in which Jewish tradition claims this story took
    place was unequivocally polytheistic with a strong disposition toward the cult of the
    ancestors. However, the claim that Abraham’s lord began as a powerful ruler whose
    memory was elevated to the rank of deity will seem dubious, shocking, and even
    provocative to many.
    The goal of this investigation is to demonstrate that the Abrahamic covenant was made on
    the basis of a quid pro quo, and that the hypothesis of a deified overlord is not only the
    most natural explanation, but also the simplest and most economical for the origins of
    Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
    A journey in the afterlife
    In addition to analyzing the story of Abraham and reviewing ancient Near Eastern funerary
    rites and practices, this work delves into the struggles we face when dealing with our
    inevitable demise. I lost a dear sister in 2022, and her picture on my desk serves as a daily
    reminder of her joie de vivre and the good times we had growing up together. It is also a
    gloomy reminder of my finite condition and mortal destiny. As humans, we have the unique
    ability to project ourselves into the future and realize that at some point, we are going to
    die. However, recent neurological studies show that as part of our survival arsenal, the
    brain developed a defense mechanism that shields it from anticipating its own death. This
    may explain the natural tendency we have to believe in the afterlife, as well as our ongoing,
    and often visceral desire to maintain contact with our deceased loved ones. It is common
    for survivors to invoke their dead kin well after their departure when seeking help,
    protection, and comfort. This form of relationship is inherent to all societies and spans
    across time, space, and cultures.
    However, I had never encountered such a level of intimacy and closeness with the dead
    until I moved to Mexico almost a decade ago. Here, el dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the
    Dead, is more than just an annual festival that attracts tourists from around the world; it is
    a time when Mexican families reconnect with their deceased loved ones. In the weeks
    leading up to the celebrations, families construct beautifully decorated altars adorned with
    flowers, memorabilia, food, and drinks in honor of their dead. During the celebrations,
    families gather at the local cemetery, or pantheon, where they eat, drink, play music, and
    share stories about their loved ones. It is believed that the spirits of the dead return during
    this time to spend time with their families. The word pantheon, which means “all the gods”,
    derives from the Greek words πᾶν (pan) meaning “all” and θεός (theos) meaning “gods”,
    and it is where the spirits of loved ones are believed to rest. In the minds of many Mexicans,
    these spirits continue to exist in a parallel universe and have the ability to influence their
    daily lives. While larger cities may have a more commercial approach to these
    celebrations, these experiences oler a glimpse into what the cult of the ancestor may have
    looked like in ancient Israel thousands of years ago.
    Of gods, ghosts, and spirits
    In the realm of the supernatural, a distinction must be made between “souls”, “spirits”,
    “ghosts”, and “deities”. The “soul” refers to the nonphysical aspect of a person whereas
    the “spirit” has a similar, but wider definition, as it can also refer to non-human entities. A
    “ghost” is the spirit of a dead person which can manifests itself in the natural world. And a
    “deity” has the rank of a god. It is a supremely good or powerful being, capable of
    controlling a particular aspect of reality.
    The veneration of the dead is rooted in love, respect, and the desire to maintain a
    connection with the deceased. The belief that spirits possess valuable knowledge about
    the future explains the role of necromancers, who act as mediators between the dead and
    the natural world. While the custom of invoking the dead remains controversial among
    many followers of the Abrahamic faiths, it is still widely practiced, formally or informally.
    Cultures that venerate the dead also believe that their spirits can influence the living. In
    addition, powerful rulers, charismatic personalities, and prominent individuals whose
    spirits are believed to have an impact on entire communities have been consecrated and
    even deified, either before or after death, since time immemorial. Remnants of this
    consecration practice can still be found today in the Catholic Church. When someone has
    led an exceptionally holy or virtuous life and is considered worthy of universal veneration,
    the person is canonized and recognized as a saint. Praying to a saint is a way of seeking
    favors through the spirit of a deceased person who allegedly mediates and intercedes with
    God. Other Christian denominations reserve this mediation role exclusively for Jesus,
    himself a deified dead person.
    Death and the afterlife
    In all three Abrahamic religions, death is perceived as the end of the earthly life and the
    beginning of the eternal life. As such, one of the main roles of these religions is to prepare
    the living for their great journey into the afterlife. As these religions are complex and have
    dilerent beliefs, practices, and teachings, they do diler in how they view the afterlife and
    how one is rewarded for living a “good life.” To ensure social cohesion, strict sets of dogmas
    and divine laws are enacted and must be embraced by the adherents, who are promised a
    blissful afterlife. Those who sin, however, may be punished by God.
    But since breaking the rules is inevitable, even among the most devout adherents, there
    must always be a way out. The idea of making atonement through sacrifice, burnt olerings,
    and repentance has existed since time immemorial. For cleansing, members of the Jewish
    community place their sins on a ritual animal, commonly known as the “scapegoat.” In
    Christianity, the sacrificial lamb was replaced by Jesus, who bears the punishment for all
    sins through his blood sacrifice. And in Islam, one repents to receive forgiveness of sins
    and misdeeds from God (Allah) by praying tawbah. Conceived as an omnibenevolent being,
    God provides justice in the form of infinite reward for moral behavior over evil-doing. The
    severity of the punishments varies between the three religions. The notion of eternal
    damnation is absent from Judaism. Instead, the spirit of the dead spends some amount of
    time in Sheol, the underworld, before journeying into heaven. Christianity has a similar
    concept referred to as “purgatory” for those whose sins can still be atoned for. However,
    just like in Islam, if the evil deeds of the spirit outweigh its good deeds, the spirit of the
    dead person may end up in Hell, a place of excruciating pain and horror for eternity
    Sodom, the archetype of sin
    In Genesis 19, we learn that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by God’s
    wrath, for they are wicked and sinful. Throughout the Bible, these cities are taken as
    symbols of human iniquity and divine retribution. As such, one can quickly see how these
    stories have even framed our sexual mores. Indeed, homosexuality remains deeply
    associated with sin, misconduct, and sexual depravity, mainly because the story of Sodom
    tells us that the Sodomites were wicked and sinners before the Lord. The anathema over
    Sodom runs so deep in our cultural veins that it gave birth to the word “sodomy.” But could
    there be more to this homophobic attitude than tradition would like us to believe?
    We naturally tend to view key historical figures as either heroes or villains depending on
    which side of the battlefield they stood. Yet, history continuously reminds us of how
    important it is to always put things into their contextual perspective. When assessing the
    Abrahamic narratives, we often take it for granted that God is perfect, that Abraham is the
    hero, and that Bera, king of Sodom, is the villain. These assumptions not only bias
    academic studies on the subject, but they also alect our core religious values. The biblical
    text is surprisingly ambiguous and allows us to ask the following questions: What if
    Abraham never made a covenant with a divine entity, but with a powerful overlord instead?
    And what if Bera, king of Sodom, stood in the way of those by whom we now remember
    him? Could his refusal to submit to a foreign power, rather than a lustful lifestyle, be the
    real cause of his demise? These questions might seem far-fetched, but surprisingly, and as
    this research will demonstrate, they aren’t. They do show, however, how well-conditioned
    we are and how little we dare to question our beliefs and traditions.
    Revisiting the story of Abraham
    Using a holistic, literal, and secular interpretation of the biblical text, this study
    demonstrates that the Abrahamic narratives (Ge 12-25) are more coherent and elicient
    when considered from the perspective of a mortal overlord and the establishment of an
    earthly covenant aimed at pacifying the Valley of Siddim. Using historical and
    archaeological evidence, it then shows how the descendants of Abraham would have
    celebrated the memory of their ancestor and benevolent lord through the nomadic
    practices of the cult of the ancestors, and how they adopted a sedentary lifestyle that
    would have led to the emergence of ב על ב י ר ת (ba’al berith) “lord of the covenant”, the
    enigmatic deity of Shechem, a stronghold where Abraham and his descendants lived.
    Through close contact and coexistence with their neighbors, the early Israelites borrowed
    ideas, and integrated new rituals and religious beliefs with their own. As a result of this
    syncretism, they gradually came to project the attributes of popular Near Eastern deities
    onto their own ancestors.
    Unfortunately, the greater the drift between their original practices and beliefs and the
    evolving concept of an “exclusive deity”, the harder it became to preserve an embarrassing
    truth. The evolution of Ba’al Berith (“Lord of Covenant”) into El Berith (“God of Covenant”)
    is a case in point: Early associations with the cult of the ancestors eventually had to be
    dropped, negated, and obliterated for sake of coherence. Rejecting the past often proves
    necessary when adopting new models. The struggles associated with this natural evolution
    gradually paved the way from the ancient cult of the ancestors to the monotheistic
    Abrahamic faith, as can still be gleaned in filigree from the Hebrew Bible.
    Thankfully, once the paradigm of a deified overlord is adopted, one can begin to reestablish
    a handful of critical connections between known historical facts and the biblical
    text.
    On the historicity of the patriarchs
    The question of the historicity of Abraham and his descendants is naturally of significant
    interest to anyone exploring the hypothesis presented in this book. Alas, establishing the
    existence of this people is a dilicult task as direct evidence of their lives and whereabouts
    is unlikely to be uncovered in future digs. Nonetheless, the deified overlord hypothesis can
    be systematically tested against the available data, so its applicability can be confirmed.
    The wide scope of this inquiry shows that the information consistently aligns with and
    validates the hypothesis, olering a rational, secular, and comprehensive framework that
    helps understand the literary project and history of the writing that gave rise to Israel’s
    theology and traditions.
    An elective hypothesis should also be able to make predictions and fill in historical gaps.
    The proposed model does exactly that. By correcting suspected conversion errors from
    ancient sexagesimal numerals, dozens of crucial biblical dates spanning over a millennium
    can be accurately reconstructed. This allows for the establishment of a sequence of events
    that not only aligns remarkably well with the region’s past, but also provides a new and
    insightful interpretation of the biblical text that is consistent with the known historical
    markers of the time.
    Structure of this book
    This book is divided into five main sections, each of which provides independent and
    innovative investigations to support the hypothesis of a deified overlord. Through these
    sections, all elements of circumstances are thoroughly examined, allowing for a
    comprehensive inquiry.
    The first part of this book provides a thorough review of the ongoing debate surrounding the
    Abrahamic narratives, which has led many scholars to conclude that the patriarchs and
    their stories are merely etiological myths and fictitious characters. Through a survey of past
    research, this section lays the groundwork for exploring the relative eliciencies of the text
    when Abraham’s lord is perceived as divine versus mortal.
    The second part of this book introduces a novel exegetical method for analyzing Ge 12-25
    and proposes Yahweh as a mortal overlord in league with the four eastern kings of Ge 14.
    This section provides in-depth analysis of minute textual details that oler strong support
    for the deified overlord hypothesis.
    The third part of this book delves into the historical context of the Middle Bronze Age, the
    period in which Jewish tradition places the life of Abraham. It examines where and why an
    earthly covenant would have given rise to the subsequent deification of Abraham’s lord.
    Additionally, this section proposes a solution to rectify the erroneous sexagesimal
    conversion of biblical chronologies, allowing for a more accurate reconstruction of the
    sequence of events.
    The fourth part of the book is an inquiry into when and with whom this covenant could have
    been made. This section attempts to identify the historical figures who could have been
    involved by exploring possible matches between names, profiles, events, and
    chronologies.
    The fifth and final part of the book investigates how an earthly covenant could have led to
    the development of a comprehensive and enduring cult, as well as its rich theology. It also
    examines how the incidental evidence in the text can be correlated with external
    archaeological data to provide further support for the claims made in this book.
    Finally, the various Annexes oler reference material. To help keep track of the multiple
    characters and geographic locations, an explanatory chart with a distribution of roles (p.
    400), a revised and amended family tree of the patriarchs (p. 405), as well as a geographical
    map of the region (p. 406) are included.
    In this book, we use the terms “cult of the dead”, “veneration of the dead”, and “cult of the
    ancestors” interchangeably to describe the various practices related to honoring deceased
    family members. To describe the relationship between Abraham and Yahweh, we use the
    terms “lord” and “overlord” to refer to Yahweh’s position of power and authority over
    Abraham, who is considered his vassal.
    This book also adopts the convention of using Before the Common Era (BCE) for all dates
    unless otherwise stated. When referring to the reigns of rulers in the ancient Near East,
    the middle chronology is generally used, with the caveat that specific dates in antiquity are
    often subject to scholarly debate.
    The Bible verses quoted are taken from the familiar Authorized King James Version of the
    Old Testament. However, to remain more faithful to the original Hebrew texts, the various
    Hebraic names for God are used in place of the generic term “God”. Whenever appropriate,
    references to the Masoretic Hebrew text are also included.
    A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.
    ― Italo Calvino
    Part I – An ongoing scholarly debate
    Where we review the arguments that have led mainstream academia to conclude that the
    Abrahamic narratives must be etiological myths, and the patriarchs fictitious characters.
    We then survey past research to frame the questions that will help compare the relative
    eliciencies of the text when Abraham’s lord is perceived as divine versus mortal.
    The stories found in the Pentateuch (also known as the Torah) are shared by Judaism,
    Christianity, and Islam. These stories include the accounts of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark,
    Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac, Joseph in Egypt, and the Exodus led by Moses.
    Together, they serve as the foundation for the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible or Old Testament) and
    the Qu’ran. The first two stories reflect popular ancient Near Eastern myths, while God’s
    promise of land and progeny to Abraham is unique to the Jewish tradition. This promise is a
    central and recurring theme throughout all other biblical books.
    The Jewish tradition asserts that the narrative of Abraham is based on historical facts
    dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2200-1550 BCE), but mainstream scholarship
    disagrees. The concept of monotheism did not exist during the Bronze Age, and there is no
    evidence of a people practicing a new religion or having a dilerent culture than the
    Canaanites in the region. In fact, archaeological excavations have only highlighted the
    numerous contradictions between these stories and the historical evidence. The presence
    of widespread polytheism throughout the land is a clear indication of this.
    A historical or literary problem?
    The lack of archaeological evidence has led a majority of biblical scholars to disregard any
    claim that the story of Abraham has historical roots in the Bronze Age. Only a minority of
    scholars maintain that certain aspects of the story may be historically true. According to
    mainstream scholarship, the story would have been committed to writing shortly before or
    after the Babylonian Exile, most likely during the 6th or 7th century BCE. During the reign of
    King Josiah, the priest Hilkijah discovered the “Book of the Law” hidden in the temple of
    Jerusalem during some renovations (2 Kings 22:8). This discovery is believed to have
    sparked a religious reform that would eventually lead to the writing of the Bible. The First
    Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BCE, and the
    Jews were exiled to Babylon. Seeking to give their story sacred meaning and forge a unifying
    identity, the Jews would have compiled their holy texts by collating multiple documents
    into the format we know today.
    The consensus among scholars regarding the late date composition of most of the
    Pentateuch has been the subject of much debate and discussion, but it is now widely
    accepted. Consequently, there has been little recent research conducted on the historicity
    of Abraham and other figures in the Pentateuch.
    The road to minimalism
    Although scholars generally agree that the Pentateuch was a product of assembly,
    redacted over an extended period of time, questions remain regarding the origins and
    evolution of the Abrahamic tradition. The issues of when, where, why, with whom, and how
    the tradition developed are still under investigation and there is ongoing scholarly debate
    regarding the literary project that led to its creation.
    1: Abrahamic narratives as a retro-projection of a mythical past
    Considerable challenges await critical thinkers approaching the patriarchal narratives from
    the historical perspective of a divine being. In addition to the allegorical nature of the event,
    many elements of the story appear somewhat disjointed (2a) and (2b), and archaeology
    has demonstrated that such an account (1) could not have possibly taken place during the
    Bronze Age (4), as suggested by tradition (3), because the background and dates do not fit.
    This is why the story of Abraham is believed by modern scholars (5) to be a post-exilic
    fiction (6), a time when monotheism developed.
    For over two centuries, scholars have engaged in heated debates over the historical
    accuracy of the Pentateuch, with maximalists and minimalists advocating opposite
    positions. Maximalists believe certain parts of the Pentateuch represent genuine historical
    documents, while minimalists view the text as a collection of etiological myths and
    legends. If maximalists once dominated the field, their position has gradually lost ground to
    the minimalist faction, which relies heavily on textual criticism and archaeological
    evidence to support their perspective.
    Two of the books that have considerably contributed to strengthening this minimalist view
    are The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives by T. L. Thompson and The Bible Unearthed
    from archeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, both published a few
    decades ago.
    In his 1974 publication, Thompson challenges the historicity of the patriarchal stories in
    the Bible, including those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He contends that these narratives
    are not historically reliable but rather literary constructions reflecting the social and
    religious concerns of the communities that produced them. Thompson suggests that these
    stories were likely composed much later than the events they claim to depict and should
    be interpreted as mythic or legendary rather than factual accounts.
    In their monograph, Finkelstein and Silberman do a great job of explaining why so many
    generations of scholars “have been convinced that the patriarchal narratives were at least
    in outline historically true.” They do so by reviewing most of the material reported in the
    Hebrew Bible that could lead someone to believe in the historicity of the patriarchs. Then,
    using several examples, they thoroughly demonstrates that this material is too vague to be
    reliable and that none of the chronologies or key events it reports accurately match known
    historical ones:
    … the search for the historical patriarchs was ultimately unsuccessful, since none of the
    periods around the biblically suggested date provided a completely compatible
    background to the biblical stories.
    This observation brings them to reconsider the contribution and the role of the patriarchs
    as founding fathers of Israel:
    The main problem was that the scholars who accepted the biblical accounts as reliable
    mistakenly believed that the patriarchal age must be seen, one way or the other, at the
    earliest phase in a sequential history of Israel.
    For Finkelstein and Silberman, the archaeological evidence and historical context of the
    narratives reflect the political and religious concerns of the writers who composed them
    rather than historical reality.
    Ever since these assessments, it was established that the figures of the patriarchs must
    have been fictitious characters created as part of a historical retro-projection elort meant
    to legitimize the Jewish identity in the aftermath of the Babylonian Exile. According to this
    view, Yahweh would have initially been worshipped as the divine patron of a family clan,
    whose influence gradually expanded from the tribe to the local region and eventually to an
    entire kingdom.
    It took time for the mainstream scholarly community to abandon all hope of finding
    evidence proving the historicity of these illustrious characters, especially since the process
    by which this development took place is still a matter of speculation.
    But how did we get there?
    A century of debate
    Already at the beginning of the 20th century CE, H. Gunkel of the School of History of
    Religions promoted in-depth analysis of the texts to understand the origin of these oral
    traditions. He posited that the stories found in Genesis are variations of ancient
    Babylonian myths. However, the question of the process leading to the assembly of these
    dilerent stories remained. G. von Rad olered a response and became the architect of the
    “final form.” According to him, the Pentateuch contains traditions of the Hebrew people,
    such as a father’s descent into Egypt, the sojourn in Egypt, the Exodus, and the gift of the
    land. For von Rad, the characters of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are used to flesh out the
    story while the early chapters relating to the creation of the world serve as a prologue. W.F.
    Albright sought to entrench these myths in the history of the Middle Bronze Age with the
    help of “archaeological evidence”, but his enthusiastic attitude was not universally shared,
    as there is very little evidence supporting this claim. No trace of a monotheistic religion can
    be found during that period. Albright’s work only finds partial support through A. Alt’s work
    on the “God of the Father”, which presupposes the traces of a pre-Yahwistic nomadic
    religion.
    During the first half of the last century, maximalist researchers thought that the idea of a
    small group, who developed under the influence of Canaanite society but on the fringe of it,
    could help explain why no trace of a monotheist people had been found within the
    Canaanite society. If this historical-critical reasoning held sway for some time, it stagnated
    in the 1950s before entering into a crisis in the 1970s. At that time, some started to
    question the origins of the promises and the cults: were Yahwistic sources pre-dating or
    post-dating the Babylonian Exile? Furthermore, advances in archaeology came to
    contradict widely accepted beliefs by showing that no society had ever lived on the fringes
    of Canaan before conquering the land. The so-called peasant revolt theory developed by
    the biblical scholar George Mendenhall and the sociologist Norman Gottwald was thus
    refuted.
    These new minimalist findings called for a revised interpretation of past assumptions. B.J.
    Diebner claims that the concept of the “God of the Father” can be explained in literary
    terms. He argues that this concept serves to strengthen the link between the various
    patriarchal figures. T.L. Thompson reasons that the analysis of the institutions of Israel
    does not lead to the Early Bronze Age, but rather to the Iron Age. Meanwhile, Van Seters
    argues that the traditions related to Abraham only date from the period of exile. And for his
    part, Thomas Römer, a leading authority teaching at Collège de France, claims there is only
    consensus among modern scholars on the significance of the period between the sixth and
    fourth century BCE (exilic and Persian periods) for the formation of the Pentateuch.
    Robert David, honorary professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences at
    Université de Montréal, eloquently expresses the state of modern thinking:
    For several decades now, research on the book of Genesis has deviated from the historicity
    of the narrative of the Patriarchs, an approach that was popular from the 1950s to the
    1970s. It appears increasingly clear within the scientific community that the narratives of
    the Patriarchs were not written before the 7th century, and perhaps not even before the 5th
    century BCE (some even postulate the 2nd century). They are studied today not for what
    they might reveal about the Bronze Age (whether Middle or Recent), but for what they might
    tell us about the Jewish community during the Assyrian era, and during the exilic and postexilic
    eras.
    Conservative Jews sulered a serious blow, as their cherished historical claims were
    relegated to the realm of myth. The conclusion that the patriarchal narratives are largely
    myth and legend has led to an ever expanding chasm between biblical scholars holding
    conservative and liberal views.
    The debate is not over
    Many conservative scholars continue to stand alongside William Foxwell Albright and
    Roland De Vaux, two of the leading figures in the field of biblical archaeology, who spent
    their entire careers amassing evidence supporting the historicity of the Hebrew Bible. They
    insist that the priests and regulations regarding worship and sacrifice existed in a pre-exilic
    period, and are in total disagreement with the minimalist view that these are late events.
    Outside of the more subjective “faith-based scholarship”, a handful of researchers,
    including Kenneth A. Kitchen, Egyptologist at University of Liverpool, Nadav Na’aman,
    professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, and Richard E. Friedman, Professor of
    Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia, continue to look into the Middle and Late
    Bronze Ages for traces of early Israelites. These scholars do not claim that the stories in the
    Hebrew Bible are historically accurate, but rather that there may be a historical kernel
    behind them, and that the biblical text can be used as a source material to uncover that
    history.
    Our mistake until now, as I have been stressing, is that we have looked almost solely at
    archaeology. We left our biggest source, the Bible itself, because that was the thing that we
    were testing. We were trying to see if its stories were reliable as history or not.
    Inscriptions found on structures and steles testify to early activities associated with Israel,
    particularly in relation to Egypt. For example, the first mention of Yahweh, š3sw yhw3
    (shasu yahu), can be traced back to Egyptian hieroglyphs from the 14th century BCE during
    the reign of Amenhotep III. The name Israel appears on the Merneptah stele, dating back to
    the late 13th century BCE. R. Hendel and J. Joosten have used historical linguistics to
    suggest that certain textual elements of the Hebrew Bible can be dated back to the Early
    Iron Age, contrary to revisionist models. Israel Finkelstein and William Dever have
    confirmed through archaeological excavations that certain early Jewish settlements can be
    traced back to the 10th century BCE. These settlements may bear little resemblance to the
    descriptions found in the Hebrew Bible, but they do confirm an older historical reality than
    previously thought. The Tel Dan and Mesha steles, both dating from the 9th century BCE,
    refer to the “House of David”, providing evidence for the existence of this king.
    And while these archaeological findings do not enlighten us on the formative process that
    has led to the writing of the Pentateuch, they do suggest that there may be a historical core
    to some of the events and characters described in the Hebrew Bible. As such, anyone
    embracing a hard minimalist stance cannot simply ignore these early references. They
    must also be prepared to account for their early existence by olering a rational and logical
    explanation.
    On the literary project
    History teaches us that social realities do not evolve through drastic steps, but rather
    through incremental ones. This is the concept of longue durée that is so dear to modern
    historians. Much like Pasteur eventually dispelled the once-popular notion of spontaneous
    generation for living organisms, we should not accept the idea that the religion of Yahweh
    spontaneously emerged out of a vacuum during the Iron Age, only to be reformed during
    the Babylonian Exile for the sake of fulfilling the need of strengthening the Jewish identity.
    Religions, much like other cultural mores, evolve slowly through intercultural exchange and
    syncretism.
    Historians regularly revisit the pages of history, but oddly enough, it seems that no modern
    scholar has earnestly envisioned the possibility that the anthropomorphic nature of
    Yahweh could be linked to the cult of the dead. Instead, they have relied on faith or tradition
    to explain the presence of this humanistic figure in the Abrahamic narratives. Yet, in the 4th
    century BCE, during the period of the Bible’s compilation, the Greek mythographer
    Euhemerus already alleged that many gods developed from the deification of powerful
    men, usually kings. The fact that many deities in antiquity exhibited anthropomorphic
    characteristics should not lead one to conclude that Abraham’s lord must have also been
    one of them (appeal to probability fallacy).
    Commenting on Thompson’s claim that “the quest for the historical Abraham is… fruitless,”
    Lewis writes:
    … it is this view that has been widely embraced by historians and archaeologists alike in
    the generations that followed, including up to the present. Along with such historical
    debates, we find a substantial reassessment of Pentateuchal source criticism. Once built
    upon the sure foundation of the documentary hypothesis, with subsequent work being
    variations on its theme, it has for the last decades been characterized by considerable
    instability.
    And then adds:
    More recently, Albertz’s sociological approach asserts that though the patriarchal
    traditions suler from inaccuracies, their historical value remains an open question.
    For Lewis, the question of the historical value of the Abrahamic narratives should not be
    excluded.
    A tradition culturally entrenched
    Did our exclusive focus on the “divine” nature of Abraham’s Lord prevent us from
    considering alternative theories? Biblical scholars have consistently assumed that Yahweh
    is, and has always been, a deity. What if the key to unlocking historical truth had eluded us
    due to simple presuppositions and religious biases? The only reasonable explanation that
    comes to mind is that, for those trained in theology or interested in the Bible, the premise of
    a divine God is a sine qua non condition for any study of the topic. Unfortunately, those who
    operate under this premise are doomed to fail when attempting to correlate early Jewish
    traditions with archaeology, as the evidence cannot possibly match the claims.
    Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly apparent for anyone taking an earnest look at the
    available data that the roots of Yahwism are strongly intertwined with polytheism. Could
    one of the primary reasons we failed to identify the specific moment in time when the
    religion of Yahweh developed in Israel be because we have been culturally programmed to
    view Yahwism as a positive religion, and Baalism as a negative one? Blinded with such a
    strong presupposition, it is only natural to be puzzled by evidence pleading for Yahwism to
    be the result of a cultural evolution of Baalism, rather than a religious revolution.
    In Egypt, Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the Near East, power and authority have long held
    a sacred dimension; they were a privilege granted to the king by a local divinity. In return,
    the king acted as the head priest of the cult. But the line between the deity and the deity’s
    representative was very thin. It is therefore not surprising that several pharaohs and kings in
    antiquity didn’t hesitate to cross that line by fashioning themselves into living gods.
    The question must therefore be asked: What if biblical scholars rightfully understood that
    the early Israelites were no dilerent than Canaanites, but that their conclusions were
    precipitated because they didn’t take their reflections far enough on the possible
    implications that such a critical observation entails?
    For instance, it appears that Finkelstein failed to grasp two critical notions that might have
    changed his understanding of how biblical accounts relate to the cultural, political, and
    religious history of Canaan. First, he failed to fully appreciate how the religion of Yahweh is
    not unique and distinct, but that its roots are deeply intertwined, not only in Baalism, but in
    the Bronze Age cult of the ancestors; second, he did not grasp from the narratives that the
    Sodomites weren’t wicked people, but that they were revolting against a foreign power and
    that this is the reason an overlord sought to make a covenant with Abraham, a trustworthy
    individual. When approaching the Abrahamic narratives without these notions, the
    question of its historicity can be tossed aside, but it cannot be resolved. There is, therefore,
    little doubt in my mind that Finkelstein’s conclusion would have dilered significantly had
    he approached the problem with these notions.
    Yahweh, the lord of covenant
    By acknowledging that “the Bible’s patriarchal narrative was initially woven together from
    earlier sources,” Finkelstein – and a majority of scholars who accept this hypothesis –
    implicitly recognizes that this story wasn’t born out of thin air, but that it must have had a
    legacy. It appears that this religious concept is unique, as no other instances of a God
    making a covenant with a man have been found elsewhere in the Bronze Age. And given the
    abundance of cultural practices and religious themes surrounding the authors of the
    Hebrew Bible during their exile to Babylon, they would have had no shortage of inspiration
    for shaping their religious concepts. It therefore appears as if this story was already
    entrenched in the Israelite’s cultural background and tradition. We should, therefore, pay
    very close attention to the Sitz im Leben – i.e., the sociological milieu from which these
    supposed “earlier sources” might have evolved – when looking for answers.
    Perhaps it is time we stop looking for the vestiges of a religious covenant made with a new
    God, and instead consider that the “divine” character in the Abrahamic story could have
    been a mortal overlord who got fashioned into a god a long, long time ago.
    Could the multiple references to אהל י אביכ ם (elohé avikhem) “God of your father” contained
    in the patriarchal narratives point to remnants of the cult of the ancestors? It seems that
    this idea already floated within academic circles last century. The late Herbert Spencer
    (1820-1903), one of the most influential philosophers of his time, had already raised the allimportant
    question:
    If this person to whom Abraham salaams as his lord, with whom he has made the
    covenant, is a terrestrial ruler, as implied by the indirect evidence, the conclusion is
    reached that the ancient Semitic idea of a deity was like the modern Semitic idea cited
    above. And if, otherwise, Abraham conceives this person not as a local ruler but as the
    Maker of All Things, then he believes the Earth and the Heavens are produced by one who
    eats and drinks and feels weary after walking: his conception of a deity still remains
    identical with that of his modern representative, and with that of the uncivilized in general.
    The above rationale had brought Spencer to conclude that, whatever the case may be,
    Abraham must have been practicing a form of ancestor worship. A few years later, Joseph
    Jacobs (1854-1916), wrote an article on ancestor worship for the Jewish Encyclopedia:
    Many anthropologists are of opinion that this was the original form of religion (H. Spencer,
    Lippert); the school represented by Stade and F. Schwally argues that it was the original
    religion of Israel before Jahvism was introduced by Moses and the Prophets. According to
    them, much of the priestly legislation was directed against the rites connected with
    Ancestor Worship. At present the view that the original religion of the Israelites was some
    form of Ancestor Worship is the only one that has been put forward scientifically or
    systematically, together with an explanation of the changes made by the later and true
    religion of Israel.
    In his article, Jacobs summarizes the main arguments developed by German Protestant
    theologian and historian Bernhard Stade (1848-1906) who supported the idea that ancestor
    worship must have been the original form of Yahwism. Stade’s arguments revolved around
    “Hebrew views of the nature of the soul; Hebrew views of the life after death; mourning
    customs; burial customs; olerings to the dead; oracles and incantations; honor to parents;
    household worship; family worship; and ancestor worship and the tribes.”
    Jacobs’ article demonstrates that biblical scholars, a century ago, suspected that the early
    form of Yahwism had somewhat evolved out of the cult of the ancestors. It shows that
    Stade knew he was onto something, but could never connect all the dots. His ideas
    eventually lost momentum and faded into oblivion as a new generation of biblical scholar
    emerged and got distracted with other issues.
    A lot of water has since passed under the bridges, during which biblical studies and
    archaeological research have made significant inroads. We now know a lot more about
    Canaan, ancient Israel, and the cult of the dead than we did back then. We can no longer
    ignore the influence that these practices have had on ancient Israel and the struggles they
    created. As Lewis points out:
    From the Deuteronomistic material it is clear that there was an ongoing battle in ancient
    Israel to resist cults of the dead, which seem to have had a lasting appeal in certain forms
    of “popular religion.” The prophetic material supports such a conclusion.
    Modern scholars, such as van der Toorn, Lewis, and Stavrakopoulou have explored the cult
    of the dead, have even toyed around with the idea that Abraham could have been taken as
    a possible deified ancestor. But they have been playing blind-man’s bul: often getting
    close, but never quite getting it. They quickly ruled out any significant influenced by
    convincing themselves that the cult of a dead kin could not persist over more than just a
    few generations.
    There is no doubt that to ensure the perennity of the cult it must transcend any personal
    bond and evolve into a form of veneration or worship. Only those who left behind long
    lasting impacts, allowed generations to remain engaged. And this is precisely where the
    Lord’s promise of a land comes into play. Bernard R. Goldstein, professor Emeritus of the
    Department Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, accurately identifies the vital
    catalyst that has kept the early-Israelites engaged and committed over so many
    generations:
    The presence of the deified ancestors on the land guarantees (among other things) its
    inalienability, in exchange for which the living owe their ancestors propitiation and
    devotion.
    An earthly covenant bears all the hallmarks of a unique, galvanizing, and transformative
    experience that could bring a people to cultivate a new form of long lasting worship for their
    ancestor. And that is the crux of it: The promise was not just a religious concept, it was
    literally tied to the deed to the land. The power, respect, and wealth that the descendants
    of Abraham derived out of this promise was conditional to their absolute loyalty and
    devotion to their overlord.
    Isn’t this the message that resonates across all the stories we read in the Hebrew Bible?
    We are therefore only taking past investigations one step further when suggesting that
    Abraham made a territorial covenant with a powerful ruler, and that this covenant has given
    rise to the worship and the eventual deification of this overlord through the cult of the
    ancestors. Such a strategic alliance, the everlasting gift of the land of Israel in exchange for
    Abraham and his descendants’ unwavering loyalty, turned the cult of an ancestor into
    idolatry and worship, then henotheism, and eventually monolatrism.
    It naturally follows that, far from rejecting their polytheistic roots by adopting an entirely
    new religious model during the Babylonian Exile, as is often stated, the Israelite priests
    would have simply sought to consolidate their identity around the vestiges of their ancient
    cult –the territorial covenant, or ב י ר ת (berith) “covenant”, once made between Ba’al (i.e.
    lord) and their forefather Abraham – by grafting some new ontological concepts onto it.
    A covenant with Ba’al or Yahweh?
    We know from the Hebrew Bible (Jug 8:33) and archaeological digs performed near Nablus
    in the Occupied Territories, that the ancient Israelites living around Shechem during the
    Late Bronze and Iron Age periods (c. 1600-1000 BCE) worshipped the deity ב על ב י ר ת (ba’al
    berith), which in Hebrew literally means “lord of covenant.” This deity’s name not only
    implies a covenantal form of worship but also bears a striking resemblance with Yahweh’s
    epithet. In addition, we know from the Bible that Abraham and his descendants lived near
    Shechem (Ge 12:6; 33-18; 37-12; Num 36:31; Josh 17:2), one of the oldest cities of the
    northern Kingdom of Samaria. Recent archaeological excavations have shown that, at the
    time, Shechem was an important political and religious center. Yet, it appears no one has
    ever investigated the extent of the connections that can be established between Yahweh
    and Ba’al Berith. This oversight is most apparent when reading on the history of Israel and
    when reviewing the scholarly literature on the patriarchs. But in their defense, why would
    anyone, who has always opposed abhorrent and primitive deities with the only true God,
    suspect there could be a link between the two?
    Yet, scholars have long suspected that the religion of Yahweh has deep ties with the cult of
    Ba’al. Even the New World Encyclopedia comments:
    It has been suggested by modern scholars that the Lord of the Hebrews and the Baal of the
    Canaanites may not always have been so distinct. Psalm 82:1 states: “God presides in the
    great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods.” Many commentators believe this
    verse harkens back to a time when the Hebrew religion was not yet monotheistic. Some
    suggest that Yahweh and Baal were originally both thought of as sons of El, while others
    claim that the worship of Yahweh and Baal may once have been nearly indistinguishable.
    There we have it: on the one hand, a covenant possibly tied to ancestor worship; on the
    other, early Yahwism possibly linked to the cult of Ba’al. All that scholars were missing was
    the missing link that binds them together. This link would establish that the cult of the
    ancestor led to the worship of Ba’al, and that the worship of Ba’al slowly evolved into the
    religion of Yahweh. Could the deity ב על ב י ר ת (ba’al berith), meaning “lord of the covenant”,
    prove to be this missing link? I believe it could, but unfortunately, we lack reliable
    information on this deity. However, the Abrahamic narratives suggest that its ב י ר ת (berith)
    “covenant” referred to a territorial land grant made with a morta עלl ב (ba’al) “lord, master.”
    The fact that the patriarchs had a close relationship with the city of Shechem, where the
    temple of Ba’al Berith was located, further strengthens this idea.
    If Abraham’s lord were a powerful king (and the begetter of Isaac – as we shall see), rather
    than a divine being, would it not then be necessary to reread the scriptures in search of
    new clues and wouldn’t it change the way we look at past hypotheses? Raising these
    questions prompts us to re-examine the available data from a new angle. With Pandora’s
    box half-open, will the apparent inconsistencies reveal a dilerent picture?
    It appears as if Goldstein had a premonition when he wrote:
    We even get an inkling of what ’elohim look like, when Jacob says to his brother, “to see
    your face is like seeing the face of ’elohim” (33:10). The resemblance is perfectly
    understandable if one’s ’elohim are one’s dead ancestors.
    Consumed by the documentary hypothesis, scholars have failed to recognize the
    significant influence that the cult of the dead had on the earliest, least understood, and
    most critical phase of development of the religion of Israel.
    Key research questions
    Below are some of the questions that have confronted scholars investigating the origins
    and composition of the Abrahamic narratives. But as scholars sought to answer these
    questions, they took an atomistic rather than holistic approach. In other words, they did
    not anticipate that a common solution existed. Yet, and as it will later be shown, one simply
    needs to adopt the perspective of a deified overlord for answers to start flowing naturally.
  5. The many names of God
    One of the apparent inconsistencies that has puzzled generations of scholars and directed
    biblical studies over the past centuries relates to the origin of the names Yahweh and
    Elohim.
    Jewish tradition often refers to the seven names of God, even if there are more. Some
    translations of the Hebrew Bible have preserved these various names, but already in the
    7th century CE Qur’an they had been replaced with a single one, Allah. Such change is
    symptomatic of the recurring need to adjust the text, so it fits a particular context and
    theology. This is why in the field of Textual Criticism, the more dilicult reading of two
    variants is often, although not always, preferred and seen as an indication of the older and
    more genuine source (Lectio dilicilior potior).
    The Documentary Hypothesis
    In the Abrahamic narratives, God mostly appears as Yahweh (rendered as “Lord” in English)
    and Elohim (plural Hebrew term for “gods” rendered as singular “God” in English). In a few
    verses, God also appears as El Elyon (often rendered as “Most High God”). Mainstream
    scholarship explains this interweaving of names through the documentary hypothesis.
    Tradition has long attributed the writing of the Pentateuch (i.e., Torah) to Moses. But in the
    late 19th century CE, based on textual criticism, German scholar Julius Wellhausen (1844-
    1918) lays the foundation for the documentary hypothesis. He claims source material from
    dilerent regions were collated to form the Hebrew Bible, thereby giving substance to an
    idea that Astruc had foreseen a century before him. Wellhausen develops his hypothesis by
    investigating places of worship, sacrifices, festivals, clergy, and tithing. The tensions and
    variations he detects in the text leads him to conclude that the Pentateuch is the byproduct
    of four dilerent sources he identifies as J, E, D and P. Underlying this hypothesis
    rests the old question: why is God sometimes referred to as “Yahweh” and at other times as
    “Elohim” in the Hebrew Bible? For Wellhausen, the Abrahamic narratives are a product of
    JE assembly, for which source J originates from the kingdom of Judea in the south, staging
    Yahweh as an anthropomorphic god (traditionally rendered as “Lord”), and source E from
    the northern kingdom of Israel that refers to Elohim, a more immaterial deity (traditionally
    rendered as “God”). Source D stands for Deuteronomy and predates the priestly laws of P,
    the main legislative document of the Leviticus priesthood. Over time, the documentary
    hypothesis of Wellhausen has clearly evolved and gave birth to several variants, including
    the theory of fragments and that of supplements.
    Tenets of this hypothesis often point to the double Creation narrative in Genesis or the
    Ishmaelites/Midianites dilemma in the sale of Joseph for its “indisputable” applicability.
    And indeed, these are perfect examples. Henry E. Neufeld of the Kellog Community College
    summarizes well why this hypothesis remains so popular:
    Contemporary scholars agree that the general approach of the JEDP Source Theory best
    explains the doublets, contradictions, dilerences in terminology and theology, and the
    geographical and historical interests that we find in various parts of the Torah.
    More recently, Joel S. Baden, professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School, has olered
    a constructive and refreshing criticism of the documentary hypothesis, where he holds that
    the method developed in the early twentieth century “was both literarily unsatisfying and
    methodologically misleading.” He posits that authors primarily adhere to a distinct set of
    historical claims, such as who did what, when, where, and how, as opposed to traditional
    stylistic and terminological criteria. Furthermore, each source may be telling a dilerent
    story, and the literary question is the only one that must be answered. Baden also suggests
    that the literary evidence cannot be used for dating the sources, and that a single compiler
    could have combined all the sources into a single literary project. Baden olers a summary
    of his analysis of the Abrahamic narratives:
    All three documents that tell the story of the patriarchs—P, J, and E—agree on their names
    and order—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—as well as their respective wives and children (for
    the most part), but they diverge widely in the details of the plot. In all three, Abraham
    receives a promise of land and progeny. In J, this happens before he leaves his homeland;
    in P, it happens after he has already entered Canaan. In P and E, this promise is
    accompanied by a covenant—yet the covenants are completely dilerent, that of P being
    the covenant of circumcision and that of E involving a detailed sacrificial rite (and no
    circumcision). P and J describe the birth of Hagar’s son Ishmael; E never names him. The
    destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is known to both P and J, but only J tells the story of
    Abraham’s negotiation with God. J and E contain stories of Abraham (and Isaac) passing ol
    their wives as their sisters in a foreign court (although at dilerent times and places); P does
    not. Only E describes the sacrifice of Isaac. Only P tells of Abraham’s purchase of a burial
    plot for Sarah and the rest of the family, and only P has all the patriarchs and matriarchs
    (except Rachel) being buried there.
    By adopting the perspective of a deified overlord, this work argues that the Abrahamic
    narratives originates from a single author, centered around the making of a secular
    covenant, and that the text was subjected to partial loss, and redaction over a long period
    of time. This work also argues that this original text referred to two distinct figures (a
    Mesopotamian overlord and a local deity) who were eventually coalesced into one.
  6. The enigmatic Genesis 14
    Another problem is found in Genesis 14, the chapter often referred to as the War of Kings.
    This is where Abraham engages in an international war to rescue his nephew Lot after the
    people of Sodom, victims of a punitive campaign, are taken away. Because it has little or no
    theological value, this chapter is often overlooked by tradition. In fact, the author of the
    Qur’an conveniently choose to skip this chapter altogether by making no reference to it
    whatsoever.
    Below is a diagram of the traditional biblical story showing how this chapter stands out:
    2: Traditional religious interpretation
    In the above diagram, the cloud shapes denote the external forces that are influencing the
    actions. Key structural elements of the story are summarized in the boxes and the links
    between them represent their causal relationships. Chapter 14 (dark grey) appears
    disconnected from the rest of the story.
    As can be seen from the diagram above, there are two external forces acting on the story:
    the first one is God making a covenant with Abraham and the second one is a foreign ruler
    seeking to subdue the valley of Siddim.
    Many notorious scholars, including von Rad and Westerman , have commented on the fact
    that Ge 14 is only loosely connected to the main story and does not reinforce its religious
    interpretation. Brueggemann bests sums it up:
    The most enigmatic chapter in Genesis, chapter 14, seems to stand utterly alone and
    without connection to any of the sources or strands of tradition found elsewhere in the
    book. Apparently, it is placed here because of the reference to Lot in verses 12-16, thus
    having it follow the Lot narrative and chapter 13.
    This is why chapter 14 is often referred to as “anecdotal” and even “erratic” and is believed
    by many biblical scholars to be a late addition to the text. However, this does not preclude
    these same scholars from acknowledging its historical value. Von Rad argues that the
    verbose syntax of the first verse fits well with the style of ancient cuneiform chronicles.
    Emerton reviews all the arguments and considers that it is not possible to conclude
    decisively to an Akkadian origin, but for Römer the proximity to Babylonian/Assyrian royal
    inscriptions (written in Akkadian) is obvious. He emphasizes many common elements: the
    enumeration of enemies, the mention of tribes, the revolt, the dates of punitive campaigns,
    the devastation of cities, and finally the notice of defeated kings and their flight.
    Scholars have been puzzled by Genesis chapter 14 because they view it as a late addition,
    yet they also consider the possibility that it originates from an old Akkadian document from
    the Bronze Age. They just can’t figure how to square this circle.
    The deified overlord hypothesis proposes that Genesis 14 is not an “erratic” chapter but
    rather the linchpin that holds the entire narrative together. It serves as a prologue to the
    covenant and supports the idea of a Bronze Age origin.
  7. The theophany of Genesis 18
    In chapter 18 of Genesis Abraham greets three men, understood to be God accompanied
    by two angels in disguise. Abraham shows hospitality by serving them a fine meal.
    Ge 18:1 And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door
    in the heat of the day;
    Ge 18:2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he
    saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
    Ge 18:3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee,
    from thy servant:
    Ge 18:4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves
    under the tree:
    Ge 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall
    pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
    Ge 18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly
    three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
    Ge 18:7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto
    a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
    Ge 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before
    them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
    Some authors point to similarities between the above passage and the following one found
    in the Ugaritic Tale of Aqhat where the god of craft Kothar-wa-Hasis comes to visit Dani’il.
    When he lifted his eyes, he saw, from a thousand sd-measures, from ten thousand kmnmeasures,
    he observed the approach of Kothar, he observed the advance of Hasis.
    He carried the bow, he brought the arrows. So, Dani’il, the Rapi’an, then the hero, the
    Harnamiyyan, called aloud his wife “Hear lady Danatay, prepare the lamb for the flock, for
    the appetite of Kothar-wa-Hasis, for the craving of Hyn, the craftsman. Feed, give drinks to
    the god, reverence, honor him, the lord of Memphis, the god of it all( ?).”
    David P. Wright, American theologian and the professor of Bible and the Ancient Near East
    at Brandeis University, provides a detailed analysis of the entire Tale of Aqhat and how
    rituals function within the narrative to advance the plot, structure the story, and enhance
    the portrayal of characters.
    Wright notes that the motifs of hospitality and the promise of a child by a deity are common
    to both the Tale of Aqhat and the Abrahamic narratives, but he believes that the Tale of
    Aqhat serves a specific purpose. According to Wright, the rituals found in this myth were
    most likely used as part of a ceremony marking the transition from end of year to new year,
    or season. He identifies four distinct sets of rituals in this myth: feast, blessings, mourning,
    and retaliation. For Wright, the feasting rituals contain the following features: unusual
    frequency, unusual participants, unusual seating arrangement, unusual clothing, unusual
    quantity of food, and unusual elements (prayers, temple, sacrifice, etc.) Within the Tale of
    Aqhat, Wright identifies as many as seven distinct feasting rituals. Only one of them (cited
    above) exhibits similarities with the meal that Abraham serves his guests.
    Although both stories share similar elements such as the hero asking for a child, meeting
    an anthropomorphic god, olering hospitality, and preparing a meal with the help of his
    wife, some scholars question whether these similarities are enough to suggest direct
    influence from one story onto the other. The Tale of Aquat is a poetic epic, likely intended to
    be performed orally, while the story of Abraham is part of a larger narrative written in prose.
    Additionally, the meals in each story are dilerent, and the level of care provided in the story
    of Abraham, such as the act of foot washing, reflects a deep sense of reverence, humility,
    and service not found in the Tale of Aquat.
    When commenting on these two stories, the late Cyrus H. Gordon, American scholar of
    Near Eastern cultures, suggests that the motifs of hospitality and promise of a child are so
    universal in the Near East, that they tell us more about the social context in which these
    stories were written, than about the stories themselves:
    Every society has individuals who long for sons, or has juniors who out-strip their seniors,
    or has marriages accomplished only after diliculties have been obviated romantically. The
    significant fact in our investigation is that precisely these features are singled out as worthy
    of commemoration.
    The deified overlord hypothesis proposes that the Abrahamic narratives are not a result of
    an assembly of various sources that would increase the likelihood of external literary
    influence. Instead, they can be related to an earthly covenant and historical events that
    took place back in the 18th century BCE. As a result, the Tale of Aqhat is highly unlikely to
    have directly inspired the Abrahamic narratives, despite apparent similarities between the
    two. Furthermore, these motifs are not central to either story, with the Tale of Aquat
    focusing on the concept of immortality and the Abrahamic narratives revolving around the
    everlasting gift of the land of Israel. Even if it were demonstrated that the Tale of Aqhat was
    a popular story at the time of the Abrahamic narratives’ composition, any direct influence is
    uncertain. Additionally, if it were indicated that the story of Abraham antedated the Tale of
    Aqhat, the possibility of influence would be further ruled out.
  8. The “only” son of Genesis 22
    Another oddity found in the story of Abraham appears when God asks the patriarch to
    sacrifice his “only son”:
    Ge 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get
    thee into the land of Moriah; and oler him there for a burnt olering upon one of the
    mountains which I will tell thee of.
    Abraham had two sons. His first son, Ishmael, was born from Hagar, the bondwoman.
    Abraham acknowledges Ishmael as his legitimate son. His second son, Isaac, was born
    from Sarah. Tradition refers to Isaac as the “son of the promise.” For Jews and Christians,
    Isaac is naturally the son that Abraham is ordered to sacrifice. Given Isaac is the promised
    son, he is the “ultimate” gift. By asking his sacrifice, God tests Abraham in a way that
    rewards the good-doers – which is perfectly in line with the theology. From the perspective
    of the Israelites, there is little value in sacrificing Ishmael. However, in the Muslim tradition,
    it is Ishmael who is the son to be sacrificed. Ishmael is understood to be the ancestor of
    Muhammad. To be fair, the Qur’an does not mention any names, but early Muslim scholars
    have been debating over the identity of the son to be sacrificed for a long time.
    Sourate (37:99) Abraham said: “I am going to my Lord; He will guide me. (37:100) Lord,
    grant me a righteous son.” (37:101) (In response to this prayer) We gave him the good news
    of a prudent boy; (37:102) and when he was old enough to go about and work with him,
    (one day) Abraham said to him: “My son, I see in my dream that I am slaughtering you. So
    consider (and tell me) what you think.” He said: “Do as you are bidden. You will find me, if
    Allah so wills, among the steadfast.” (37:103) When both surrendered (to Allah’s command)
    and Abraham flung the son down on his forehead, (37:104) We cried out: “O Abraham,
    (37:105) you have indeed fulfilled your dream. Thus do We reward the good-doers.” (37:106)
    This was indeed a plain trial. (37:107) And We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice,
    (37:108) and We preserved for him a good name among posterity. (37:109) Peace be upon
    Abraham. (37:110) Thus do We reward the good-doers. (37:111) Surely he was one of Our
    believing servants. (37:112) And We gave him the good news of Isaac, a Prophet and among
    the righteous ones. (37:113) And We blessed him and Isaac. Among the olspring of the two
    some did good and some plainly wronged themselves.
    As Sourates (37:112-113) refer to blessings to Isaac, some companions of Muhammad and
    early Islamic scholars supported the idea that Isaac was the son to be sacrificed. However,
    a vast majority of modern Islamic scholars have now rejected this idea. Relying on hadiths,
    context, and chronology of the Quranic verses, they concluded that Ishmael was the one
    who was commanded to be sacrificed.
    The fact that the Qu’ran does not specify the name of the child to be sacrificed brings us to
    consider the possibility that these Sourates derive from a set of scriptures – or an oral
    tradition – that did not mention any specific name and that the question of the sacrificed
    son might have been a lingering one, even among Jewish priests.
    The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (aka Targum Jerusalem) includes aggadic material (best
    described as a collection of non-legal rabbinic texts that incorporate legends, historical
    anecdotes, and moral advices). A commentary on Ge 22 suggests that God settled the
    discussion on the legitimacy of Abraham’s heir through the sacrifice:
    And it was after these things that Izhak and Ishmael contended; and Ishmael said, It is right
    that I should inherit what is the father’s because I am his firstborn son. And Izhak said, It is
    right that I should inherit what is the father’s, because I am the son of Sarah his wife, and
    thou art the son of Hagar the handmaid of my mother. Ishmael answered and said, I am
    more righteous than thou, because I was circumcised at thirteen years; and if it had been
    my will to hinder, they should not have delivered me to be circumcised; but thou wast
    circumcised a child eight days; if thou hadst had knowledge, perhaps they could not have
    delivered thee to be circumcised. Izhak responded and said, Behold now, today I am thirty
    and six years old; and if the Holy One, blessed be He, were to require all my members, I
    would not delay. These words were heard before the Lord of the world, and the Word of the
    Lord at once tried Abraham, and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Behold me.
    While scholars typically assign this commentary to Rashi (Rabí Shlomo Yitzjaki) and date it
    to the 12th century CE, Beverly P. Mortensen, adjunct lecturer in the Religious Studies
    Department at Northwestern University, recently argued it should be regarded as
    originating from a late 4th century CE manual meant to be used by Jewish priests. If
    Mortensen is correct in her thesis, it would support the idea that arguments surrounding
    the legitimacy of Ishmael as the natural heir to Abraham still needed to be put to rest in the
    years leading up to the creation of Islam.
    Finally, it is important to note that in the Abrahamic story, every instance where the lord
    speaks of Ishmael (Ge 21:12, 17-20), he refers to him as the נ רע (nah’ar) “lad”, a term often
    used to refer to a servant boy. Meanwhile, the lord systematically refers to Isaac by his
    name (Ge 17:19, 21:3, 12). There is only one exception, and it appears in the verse where
    the lord intervenes to stop the sacrifice:
    Ge 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him:
    for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son
    from me.
    One must therefore consider whether this reference to the “lad” truly refers to Isaac or if it
    is evidence that the child to be sacrificed was Ishmael. By adopting the perspective of a
    deified overlord, this work olers evidence suggesting that the lord, rather than Abraham,
    fathered Isaac, and that Ishmael was truly Abraham’s “only son.” The mix-up on the identity
    of Isaac’s father explains the reason for the incomprehension. It also explains why Muslims
    would convey the same story but disagree on one particular aspect when they claim that
    Ishmael, rather than Isaac, was the son meant to be sacrificed.
    At this point in our investigation, we have gained a better understanding of how past
    research has led scholars to conclude in a mythical Abraham. We have also taken a closer
    look at four critical questions that scholars have tackled in silos, never realizing they would
    all resolve naturally as soon as the covenant is understood to be a secular one. Of course,
    it is one thing to make such a bold claim, but it is another to oler the evidence that
    supports it. And this is what we will now turn our attention to.
    The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new
    eyes.
    ― Marcel Proust
    Part II – Abrahamic Narratives
    Where we develop a new exegetical method for the analysis of Ge 12-25. We proceed with
    revisiting the story of Abraham by posing Yahweh as a mortal overlord in league with the
    four eastern kings of Genesis 14. We can then witness how the smallest textual details
    oler strong support for the deified overlord hypothesis.
    Biblical scholars have attempted to explain and reconcile inconsistencies found in the
    Hebrew Bible by dividing it into pericopes and assigning them to dilerent document
    strands, assuming that it was originally written by multiple authors with varying
    perspectives and agendas. Source criticism is used today to analyze the texts and
    reconstruct the original sources. This method derives from Wellhausen’s documentary
    hypothesis, which aimed to explain the origin of the names Yahweh and Elohim in biblical
    texts by assuming that various strands of the story were interwoven to create the current
    narratives. According to Wellhausen, the “J” strand refers to God as Yahweh, and the “E”
    strand refers to God as Elohim. While Baden argues for four sources (J, E, P, and a late
    redactor) in the text, he also believes that the traditional and rigid approach to the
    documentary hypothesis is now obsolete.
    There is no doubt that multiple hands have been at work in these texts. There is also no
    doubt that in virtually all of the biblical texts, Yahweh and Elohim refer to one and the same
    God. The concern here is that Wellhausen – much like Baden – assumes that Yahweh and
    Elohim are one and the same character in the story of Abraham. Certainly, within the
    theology of Israel, the unicity of God (Yahweh = Elohim) is a sine qua non condition, and the
    cornerstone upon which all beliefs stand.
    Baden is right when he writes that the proper method “begins with the canonical text and
    the literary problems that require explanation” and that “sources are the conclusion of the
    theory, not its beginning.” Using this definition, I agree that the documentary hypothesis
    remains the best answer to the literary problems of most biblical texts. Baden’s approach
    even applies to the Abrahamic narratives (Ge 12-25). However, I diler from Baden on one
    fundamental aspect: I believe one must look for two distinct figures, rather than two
    distinct authors in these texts.
    Did A.T. Chapman and S.R. Driver have a similar intuition when they emphasized early on
    that a distinction could be made between Yahweh and Elohim based on their
    characteristics – the God of nature vs. the God of revelation? They concluded that these
    dilerences represented two aspects of the same God, but they never seriously entertained
    the possibility that they might be referring to separate entities.
    Daring to distinguish two entities in this traditionally unified God is a bit like applying Plato’s
    cave allegory. Instead of approaching the text as a dialogue between God and Abraham,
    one must consider it as a trialogue between an overlord (Yahweh) and Abraham on the one
    hand, and Abraham and Elohim on the other. All those who followed Wellhausen into
    Plato’s cave have chained themselves to the documentary hypothesis in perpetuum. They
    have become distracted and preoccupied with the endless possibilities and the many
    implications it entails.
    An anthropomorphic figure
    It has long been observed that in the Abrahamic narratives, Yahweh exhibits a
    predominantly anthropomorphic nature, while Elohim exhibits a more immaterial nature,
    despite many verses also showing Elohim speaking and interacting with Abraham.
    Therefore, just as there are two names in the text, there are also two natures. In fact, it is
    this, along with other similar observations, that led Wellhausen to develop his hypothesis
    in the first place. However, Wellhausen firmly believed that Yahweh and Elohim referred to
    one and the same God.
    Reflecting on the various polemical statements found in the biblical texts concerning the
    identification of Yahweh as Israel’s Elohim, Goldstein suggests that the term Elohim came
    to be associated with Yahweh not without some resistance that the term Elohim came to
    be associated with Yahweh:
    We infer that this identification was disputed, and not necessarily taken for granted in
    ancient Israel.
    Instead of following the conventional theory that suggests the Abrahamic narratives were
    created by combining separate documents or fragments with a mix of anthropomorphic
    and immaterial characteristics, would it not also be reasonable to consider the possibility
    that the original story featured two distinct figures – an anthropomorphic and an immaterial
    one? Whether separate documents featuring the same deity were woven together during an
    editorial process (documentary hypothesis), or two original figures were conflated in the
    psyche of the Israelite over time (deified lord hypothesis), the end result would be the same
    as any distinction that ever existed between Yahweh and Elohim would eventually
    disappear. While Wellhausen’s assumption is still prevalent today, faced with two
    reasonable possibilities, the scientific method invites us to diligently evaluate and
    compare which of the two best accounts for the available evidence.
    Given the above, can one still trust the terms “Yahweh” and “Elohim” as they appear in the
    biblical texts that have survived to us? Transcription errors did occurred and it seems that
    some scribes and copyists favored the use of one name over the other (i.e., Elohim vs.
    Yahweh). We know for sure this was the case as we can still spot a few lingering
    discrepancies between various translations of the Bible (textual criticism). For example,
    compare: Ge 6:5 between King James Version “God/Elohim” (from Vulgate “Deus”) with
    John Nelson Darby “Lord/Yahweh” (from MT יהו“ ה ”) or Ge 15:6 between Douay-Rheims
    “God/Elohim” (from LXX “θεῷ”) and King James Version “Lord/Yahweh” (from MT יהו“ ה ”). If
    these substitutions have no impact when adopting a theological perspective where Yahweh
    and Elohim are perceived as one and the same entity, they do accumulate and contribute
    to increased confusion in the context of an exegesis where each figure plays a dilerent role
    in the story. Thus, despite the extreme transcription care taken by the copyists, a detailed
    analysis of the Abrahamic narratives leads us to conclude that the names Yahweh and
    Elohim have occasionally been substituted with one another.
    Can one still detect and correct these “substitutions” to restore the original terms? How
    could one steer towards the original author’s intent rather than stray away from it? An
    objective measure is needed to avoid digression, but which one? The nature of the firstdegree
    relationship between Yahweh/Elohim and Abraham can help detect and “fix” these
    discrepancies. Instead of relying on the term in place, it is proposed to revisit the text and
    insert the term that best fits the semantic context.
    For example, when encountering an earthly relationship, the term “Lord/Yahweh” should be
    used. In contrast, “God/Elohim” is the name that should be used when Abraham is found
    praying or worshiping an immaterial deity.
    Below are two verses that illustrate the problem. The first (Ge 15:18) indicates an earthly
    relationship since Yahweh is speaking to Abraham. As the lord appears as an
    anthropomorphic figure, there is no inconsistency here:
    Ge 15:18 In the same day the Lord [a] made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed
    have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
    However, a few verses later, when this same figure takes his leave of Abraham, he is
    referred to as Elohim:
    Ge 17:22 And he left ol talking with him, and Elohim[a] went up from Abraham.
    This appears to be a “substitution” as the term Elohim should refer exclusively to an
    immaterial divinity and not an anthropomorphic figure.
    In this next verse, Abraham prays to a local deity for healing. In this case, the term Elohim
    seems appropriate:
    Ge 20:17 So Abraham prayed unto Elohim[i]: and Elohim[i] healed Abimelech, and his wife,
    and his maidservants; and they bear children.
    The above example is unusual in several respects; in fact, it is one of only two verses in the
    Hebrew Bible in which Abraham actually “prays” to God using the verb פ ל (palal) “to pray.”
    Everywhere else, the use of the Hebrew termנא (na) “please” – merely represents a form of
    politeness, for example:
    Ge 12:13 Say, I pray נ א( ) thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake;
    and my soul shall live because of thee.
    Conversely, several other verses provide better insight into the origins of the confusion. In
    the following verse, Yahweh is perceived as an Elohim.
    Ge 28:21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord [a] be my
    Elohim [i]:
    The patriarchs implicitly acknowledge a “divine” dimension to their overlord (perhaps even
    a “deified” ancestor.)
    Finally, there are some verses where the context is more ambiguous and could support
    either an earthly or immaterial relationship between Abraham and the deity. In these cases,
    it is necessary to examine the wider context to determine the most appropriate term to use.
    Here is one example of such ambiguity:
    Ge 24:56 And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord [?] hath prospered my
    way; send me away that I may go to my master.
    In this verse, the term “Lord” could refer to an earthly overlord or to an immaterial deity,
    making the context ambiguous.
    And while these terms are used appropriately in the majority of cases, it appears that a
    number of substitutions have nevertheless made their way into the scriptures over time.
    A textual analysis of the story of Abraham (see Secular exegesis of Genesis 12-25, p. 68)
    reveals the passages in which the terms Yahweh and Elohim would have been substituted.
    The two diagrams below show the number of occurrences of the terms Yahweh and Elohim
    in each of chapters 12 to 25 of Genesis and their contextual usage (anthropomorphic,
    ambiguous, or immaterial).
    3: Contextual use of the terms Yahweh and Elohim (original)
    The above two graphs indicate that Yahweh has undergone several substitutions (darker
    color), while Elohim has experienced even more. However, it is unclear whether glosses,
    commentaries, pericopes, or even entire chapters were added over time to reflect a
    particular theological viewpoint, repair damaged inscriptions, or enhance the story with
    oral traditions. These redaction layers seem to have alected sections of the text that are
    mostly anecdotal and do not advance the plot.
    The following two graphs eliminate the suspected redaction layers (marked with strikeout
    in the textual analysis) and concentrate solely on the text that pertains directly or indirectly
    to the covenant.
    4: Contextual use of the terms Yahweh and Elohim (relevant)
    If these suspected redaction layers are identified and excluded (although subjectivity plays
    a more significant role here), the resulting image becomes even clearer and we can see
    that the majority of “substitutions” impact the term Elohim, which is used in situations
    where one would anticipate Yahweh.
    Probability analysis
    Using probability, one can objectively evaluate the likelihood that Yahweh was meant to be
    an anthropomorphic figure. This can be achieved by comparing the dataset at hand with
    what would be random results. For instance, if the terms Yahweh and Elohim had been
    used totally interchangeably, the probability of finding Yahweh associated with an
    anthropomorphic figure should be close to 50% (flip coin theory). Of course, in real life, an
    author has his/her own motivations when it comes to framing a name, and we cannot
    pretend to know. We should therefore not expect randomness. What we need to do is look
    for any potential correlation between the use of the names Yahweh or Elohim, and the
    nature of the figures that appears in the text (anthropomorphic or immaterial).
    The probability of Yahweh referring to an anthropomorphic figure and Elohim to an
    immaterial one is akin to determining the probability of light and dark tokens falling on
    particular white and black tiles. A significant deviation from a random distribution would
    imply some authorial intention, whatever it may be.
    The following survey provides the frequency of each term in the text and its contextual use.
    In chapters 12-22 of Genesis, we identified 66 occurrences of the terms Yahweh and
    Elohim, with Elohim used 25 times (represented by dark tokens) and Yahweh used 41 times
    (represented by light tokens). The number of occurrences of these terms can be
    represented using the following tokens:
    When examining the context in which these 66 terms appear, we observe that they are used
    in an immaterial sense 11 times (represented by black tiles) and in an anthropomorphic
    sense 55 times (represented by white tiles). It is worth noting that when the nature of a
    particular occurrence was unclear, we analyzed the surrounding context to make a
    determination:
    Assuming that Elohim and Yahweh were used interchangeably (i.e., randomly), the
    probability of Elohim appearing in an immaterial context would be 25/66 * 12/66 = 7%,
    while the probability of Yahweh appearing in an anthropomorphic context would be 41/66 *
    54/66 = 51%. If the tokens were randomly distributed on the available context, the resulting
    distribution would be balanced and look like the following:
    However, we observe that the frequency of “errors” in Genesis 12-22 is much lower.
    Specifically, Elohim is used in an improper anthropomorphic context in only 24% (16/66) of
    all occurrences, which is still more than half of the 25 times it appears (64%, or 16/25). In
    contrast, Yahweh is used in an improper immaterial context in only 5% (3/66) of all
    occurrences, which is less than the 7% (3/41) of the times it appears.:
    Despite appearing less frequently in the text, Elohim is associated with the majority of
    “errors”, occurring five times more often than Yahweh (16:3). This suggests a preference
    bias for the name Elohim among later redactors who may have intentionally or
    unintentionally substituted Yahweh with Elohim in the text. This is consistent with other
    known biases towards the name Elohim in the Bible, such as the suspected replacement of
    Yahweh with Elohim by the Elohistic Psalter (Psalms 42-83).
    The “real” errors, or those that result from accidental transcriptions instead of substitution
    for a preferred name, are likely to be instances where Yahweh appears instead of Elohim.
    The extremely low error rate of 5% (3/66) indicates that the original material was
    meticulously preserved, despite the numerous transcriptions that the text underwent over
    almost 3,500 years. This is a testament to the historical accuracy of the narrative and the
    unwavering commitment to maintaining its authenticity.
    Despite the loose use of the term Elohim in the text (9/16), we still find a correlation in 72%
    of all occurrences (14% + 58%). Furthermore, the odds that Yahweh refers to an
    anthropomorphic figure are extremely high at 13:1 (38/3). These findings give us a
    reasonable level of confidence that the use of the term Yahweh in Genesis 12-22 is not
    random but is intentionally associated with an anthropomorphic figure.
    These observations may not be enough to conclude that Yahweh and Elohim were likely
    referring to separate entities in the original text rather than one deity, but do suggest that a
    secular exegesis of the text is warranted, and it opens the door for further inquiry into the
    use of these terms and their significance in the narrative.
    Secular exegesis of Genesis 12-25
    An exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation that aims to extract the meaning and
    function of a text. A good exegesis remains faithful to the text and uses logic, critical
    thinking, and secondary sources to reveal its deeper meaning. In this case, the goal of the
    exegesis is to assess the level of coherence achievable through a secular interpretation of
    the Abrahamic narratives. This involves dissociating the anthropomorphic figure from the
    immaterial one and carefully analyzing the characters, their motivations, the plot, and the
    narrative arc surrounding the making of a political covenant. Any aspects of the story that
    refer to supernatural beings or events are regarded as additional layers of redaction added
    at a later stage. By approaching the text in this way, we can gain a clearer understanding of
    the narrative’s meaning and significance, as well as the role that these terms play in
    shaping our interpretation of the story.
    Interpretation always involves a degree of subjectivity. Whether one is trying to assign
    verses and pericopes to J, E, P, or D sources or identify layers of text that do not belong to a
    secular interpretation, one faces a similar challenge. In both cases, an hermeneutic must
    guide one’s interpretation. Werner G. Jeanrond of the University of Glasgow favors the
    hermeneutic circle, a comprehensive approach that uses the initial set of responses to
    feed a more in-depth analysis. He writes:
    If we do not ask questions, we will not be able to structure our reading.
    And
    We cannot understand a whole without understanding the individual parts it is made of;
    and we do not comprehend the individual parts if we can’t see how they all fit together.
    The questions we ask are: Was Abraham’s lord a foreign ruler in league with the four
    eastern kings of Genesis 14? Was the covenant made to subdue the Valley of Siddim?
    Will this interpretation converge towards a coherent solution or will it diverge? Which
    interpretation – the religious or the secular one – best accounts for the available data?
    When projected onto the historical context of the Bronze Age, this exercise completely
    transforms the religious story of Abraham (Ge 12-25) that we thought we knew into a
    secular one that exposes the Sodomites as a nation vanquished, betrayed, and annihilated
    for standing up and refusing to submit to a foreign ruler. The characters’ motivations, such
    as the need to ensure long-term control over the trade route of Canaan, become clear,
    driving their quests for wealth, prestige, and power. As a result, events that appeared
    irrelevant or loosely connected in the religious interpretation now come to life and
    contribute intimately to building the intrigue and climax, driving the progression towards
    the resolution of the plot.
    .
    Understanding the whole
    Below is a diagram of the story that can be summarized as A Foreign Ruler Seeks to Subdue
    the Valley of Siddim. The figures of Abraham’s lord (i.e., Yahweh) and the Foreign ruler
    merge at a macroscopic level, and the secular interpretation reveals how all actions now
    derive from this single, external, and unified force.
    5: Secular interpretation of the covenant
    Blocks (1-6) comprise the historical prologue, where we learn that the Sodomites had been
    vassals of an eastern king for many years. After being defeated by Abraham during a
    punitive campaign (5), the lord had no choice but to retaliate or make a covenant (7) with a
    trustworthy and respected leader (6) – Abraham. The issue of the heir needed to be
    addressed (8), so Abraham had a son with the Egyptian bondwoman Hagar (9). However,
    the lord was not comfortable with Ishmael’s Egyptian blood (10). Meanwhile, ongoing
    unrest in the valley forced the lord to act (11), leading to the destruction of the city as an
    example (12-15). A dispute with Abimelech was resolved because the lord was feared (16-
    18). The lord decided to father the son of the promise (19-20), introducing tension and
    pausing the question of the legitimate heir (21). Ultimately, the lord challenged Abraham to
    ensure that Isaac inherited the promise.
    The above diagram can be compared with figure 2 to see that none of the boxes have
    moved or changed. This is because virtually nothing in the text of Ge 12-25 needs to change
    to reveal a completely dilerent story. The secular interpretation is fundamentally based on
    a new understanding of the characters’ roles and intentions. The key dilerence lies in the
    causal relationships. Once the association is made between the foreign ruler and
    Abraham’s lord, it is no longer necessary to resort to allegory or theophany to make sense
    of the text. This new interpretation not only makes more sense but also strengthens the
    relationship between ideas and improves the story’s psychological plausibility
    The increased number of links reflects the stronger causal relationships between the
    various events in the story and testifies to the improved coherence of this interpretation. A
    new analysis of the structural elements and causal links of the narratives in light of the
    association between Yahweh and the Foreign ruler confirms that many anecdotal elements
    have now become structural. The number of causal connections is also significantly higher,
    reflecting stronger interrelationships between elements of the story and a higher level of
    complexity. Such a higher level of organization cannot be attained by mere chance, as the
    detailed narrative analysis shows.
    Let’s now dive into the story to see how each of the individual parts fit into this bigger
    picture.
    Understanding the individual parts
    As the goal is to verify if the Abrahamic narratives do support a secular interpretation, and
    to what level it does, it is necessary to revisit the text while viewing the anthropomorphic
    figure as a foreign ruler in league with the eastern kings, and the immaterial one as a local
    deity. As such, one must disregard the use of the terms Yahweh and Elohim in the text. If
    these terms were genuinely meant to refer to one and the same entity their substitution
    should not alect the dynamic of the story or its deep narrative cohesion. As such, their
    substitution should bear no impact to the dynamic of the story. Naturally, question of
    whether or not the anthropomorphic nature of Yahweh necessarily refers to a mortal figure
    is a legitimate one. Indeed, it could also be evidence for separate sources/writers, one
    referring to Yahweh as an anthropomorphic deity and the other as an immaterial one, as
    suspected by Wellhausen. It was undoubtedly quite common in antiquity to portrait gods
    with anthropomorphic features. Greek mythology is loaded with such examples. However,
    in Greek mythology, the stories do not hold up when humans replace gods because their
    deeds remain eminently “fantastic” and “allegorical.” This is why Zeus, despite his
    anthropomorphic characteristics, has to be a “god” so that the attributes bestowed upon
    him are coherent with the story that is being told. A parallel can be drawn with the
    immaterial Elohim: this figure cannot take a human dimension without the whole story’s
    integrity collapsing. One is therefore invited to look for the emergence of a new dimension
    induced by the possible “human” presence.
    For this exegesis, we shall review Ge 12-25 while:
    1) Ignoring the names that are in place, and instead identifying and dissociating the
    anthropomorphic figure (identified by superscript [a] ) from the immaterial one (identified
    by superscript [i] ) in the text.
    2) Picturing the anthropomorphic figure as a powerful Mesopotamian overlord in
    league with the four eastern kings, and the immaterial one as a local deity and/or dead kin.
    3) Identifying and lifting (i.e. striking out) redaction layers that do not fit the context of
    a secular covenant with a mortal overlord. These are anecdotal elements such as glosses,
    comments, pericopes, and even entire chapters that contain supernatural elements that
    do not contribute to the main plot.
    4) Inserting where appropriate, and in [brackets], the translation or transliteration of
    the original Hebraic text that best fit the context. Chronologies are also corrected from a
    failed sexagesimal to decimal conversion (see Calculating time p.159)
    These few steps expose a political plot and a naturalistic interpretation that helps the
    reader filter out some of the remnant “noise” which is the result from the addition of
    redaction layers over time.
    The following rendition of the biblical text distinguishes between the anthropomorphic
    figure, systematically referred to as the Lord, and the immaterial figure, referred to as
    Elohim, Elohé, El Shaddai, or El Elyon, as per the Masoretic text.
    The journey to Canaan
    Abram’s story begins when his father, Terah, leaves Mesopotamia to go to Haran, in Syria:
    Ge 11:31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai
    his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the
    Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
    At this point, there is no mention of an alliance per se, but Abram is promised more than a
    bright future: he is promised a great name and a great nation.
    Note that the text below marked with strikeout, as well as subsequent strikeout texts, are
    included for completeness. They are optional for readers, provided for reference should
    they wish to delve deeper.
    Ge 12:1 Now the Lord[a] had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy
    kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
    Ge 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name
    great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
    Ge 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee
    shall all families of the earth be blessed.
    The opening of chapter 12 poses a challenge to our interpretation as it features the
    anthropomorphic lord making a promise to Abram, but it’s unclear how the two men would
    have met before their engagement on the battlefield (see Ge 14). Possible explanations
    include: a) the lord is related to Abram and knew him beforehand, b) it is a dilerent lord
    speaking, or c) it isn’t the lord but rather a deity appearing to Abram in a vision or omen. In
    hindsight, it seems most likely that these verses were introduced later by a redactor
    seeking to reinforce prevailing theological views by anticipating the story’s outcome.
    The passage highlights that although the interpretation of the opening verses of chapter 12
    presents a challenge, the blessings and curses expressed in these verses are reminiscent
    of those found in ancient Near Eastern treaties. Additionally, the concept of preserving
    one’s name was crucial in the ancient Near Eastern culture as it was closely tied to
    ancestor worship, inheritance, and possession of the land. Therefore, by promising Abram
    that his name will be great, the redactor is suggesting the promise of progeny and land
    inheritance.
    It is necessary to take into account the political context when examining the promise
    mentioned in the previous paragraph. In his extensive analysis of the promise, Baden
    makes a clever and relevant observation when he stresses that the term “nation” implies a
    political context, which is precisely what we are exploring in this interpretation:
    … the Hebrew word for “nation” here gôy, connotes specifically the political aspect of
    nationhood, in contrast to the kinship term ‘ām, “people”. This political term is used not
    only here in Gen 12:2, but throughout the promise text: in Gen 17:4-6, 16, 20; 18:17; 21:13,
    18; 35:11; 46:3. We also find manifestly the term “king” used in the promises, in Gen 17:6,
    16, and 35:11.
    Such an observation does not solely apply to the context of an earthly covenant, but it
    definitely sets the proper stage for it.
    In all cases, these verses might have been introduced as a theological devise or because a
    tablet was damaged and a well-intentioned redactor tried to put things back together. But
    since these verses clearly aren’t original, they are identified as a late redaction layer and
    struck out in this secular interpretation.
    Ge 12:4 So Abram departed, as the Lord[a] had spoken unto him; and Lot went with
    him: and Abram was seventy and five [forty five] years old when he departed out of Haran.
    The reference to ‘the Lord’ in this context is likely an addition made a posteriori, possibly
    serving as an explanatory gloss, particularly considering its placement following Ge 12:1-3.
    Additionally, the revised chronology proposes that Abram was forty-five years old
    (calculated as 756/10) upon entering Canaan, rather than seventy-five. This adjustment aligns with the systematic corrections of chronologies detailed in Calculating time p.159. Ge 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. Ge 12:6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. In their book The Bible Unearthed, archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman mention a 19th century BCE Egyptian carving that describes the deeds of a general named Khu-Sebek and provides evidence for the existence of the lands of Shechem and Hebron, two major settlements where Abraham is said to have lived. The authors note that Shechem was already the economic and political center of a vast region that will later become the birthplace of Israel (which will be discussed later in the book). Ge 12:7 And the Lord[a] appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord[a] [Elohim], who appeared unto him. Despite the anthropomorphic portrayal of the Lord in this verse, its redaction appears to have been primarily focused on foretelling the promise of the gift of the land, as is reiterated in Ge 15 and Ge 17. The redactor may have expanded on the original reference to the altar, which is a legitimate detail, given that Abram is described building altars elsewhere in the story when he arrives at new places. Altars in ancient times were often very simple structures made out of readily available materials such as stones, dirt, or clay. The primary purpose of these altars was likely for sacrifice, olerings, worship, and/or prayer. This was a customary practice in the ancient Near East, and it would not have been unusual for Abram to follow this practice as he traveled through dilerent territories. Given the precarious nature of the trade roads, Abram may have also been invoking a deity or one of his dead kin for protection and good fortune. Traveling in ancient times was a dangerous business, and people often turned to their gods or ancestors for help and guidance along the way. Sacrifices and olerings were often made in exchange for this protection, and altars served as the physical space for these rituals to take place. Ge 12: 8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord[i] [Elohim], and called upon the name of the Lord[i] [Elohim]. After moving some more south, Abram builds another altar to invoke his “Elohim.” Ge 12:9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. Lot settles near Sodom A severe drought in Canaan forced Abram and his family to move further south and settle in the fertile region of the Delta for some time. It was revealed that Abram was a wealthy man, and Sarai was still a beautiful woman, arousing envy. Ge 12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. Ge 12:11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: According to biblical chronology, Sarai was sixty-five years old when she entered Canaan. Therefore, if she is still considered a fair woman to look upon, it is likely that she is younger than sixty-five. In fact, she could plausibly be in her thirties, as we shall see later. Ge 12:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Ge 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. Ge 12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. Ge 12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Ge 12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. It was customary for leaders to trade a daughter (or a sister) when establishing a peace treaty. Partially wives, partially hostages, these women helped minimize the risks of betrayals by ensuring that both parties literally have “skin in the game.” If Abram had presented Sarai as his wife, he would not have been able to reciprocate, and this might have put him in a precarious position. It is also very likely that Hagar was “acquired” as part of this alliance. Ge 12:17 And the Lord[i] [Elohim] plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. It was common practice to invoke deities as witnesses when entering into a treaty. If either party failed to uphold their obligations, they would be subject to curses and other forms of divine punishment. Ge 12:18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Ge 12:19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. Hammurabi’s Code of Laws, which dates back to the Middle Bronze Age, prescribed the death penalty for the olense of adultery. § 129. If a man’s wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves. Egypt also had laws condemning adultery, which might have influenced the behavior of the Pharaoh mentioned in the narrative. Ge 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had. Ge 13:1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. Ge 13:2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. The fact that Abram was able to make a treaty with a pharaoh suggests that he was a wealthy and influential person, likely a herdsman. Commoners during that time period would not have had the social or economic status to negotiate treaties with rulers. Ge 13:3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Ge 13:4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had make there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord[i][Elohim]. Abram then traveled back between Bethel and Ai, and invoked his deity or ancestor. Ge 13:5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. Ge 13:6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. Ge 13:7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. Ge 13:8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Ge 13:9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. Due to the sizeable herds owned by both Lot and Abram, they required abundant pastures to feed their animals. In order to avoid conflicts over resources, Abram olers to separate from Lot and allow him to choose the land he wants: Ge 13:10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord[a] destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord[a], like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. This biblical verse implies that during the Bronze Age, there was abundant fresh water and lush vegetation in the vicinity of Sodom. If the lord mentioned in the verse is indeed a Mesopotamian ruler, as some scholars speculate, the phrase “even as the garden of the Lord” could be a reference to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. While the gardens were not olicially recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World until later, it is likely that Babylon already had impressive gardens thanks to the sophisticated canal system built during the reign of Hammurabi.: When Hammurabi established control over the whole region of Mesopotamia by 1760, and especially the city-states of Sumeria, he restored the irrigation canals there to their best conditions and brought water back to areas of the south that were previously deprived of it. His unification of the entire south and the lands north of Babylon allowed him to dig long canals to the various cities of these lands. Hammurabi’s Code of Laws included provisions that addressed the misuse of water. This indicates that water management and conservation were important issues in ancient societies, and that laws were established to regulate water usage and prevent abuse: § 55. If any one open his ditches to water his crop, but is careless, and the water flood the field of his neighbor, then he shall pay his neighbor corn for his loss. § 56. If a man let in the water, and the water overflow the plantation of his neighbor, he shall pay ten gur of corn for every ten gan of land. When given the choice, Lot selects what appears to be the more desirable location for settlement. Ge 13:11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Ge 13:12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. Ge 13:13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord[a] exceedingly. If Lot was aware of the wickedness and sinfulness of the people of Sodom, one might question why he picked this location? Ge 13:14 And the Lord[a] said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: Ge 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. Ge 13:16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Ge 13:17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. It is possible that verses Ge 13:13-17 were added to foreshadow the promise or were meant to be included in chapters 15 or 17, which describe the actual terms of the covenant, and were accidentally inserted in this location. Ge 13:18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron and built there an altar unto the Lord[i] [Elohim]. In keeping with his tradition, Abram constructed a new altar when he arrived at his new destination The War of Kings Abram’s story quickly progresses into what is often presented as an anecdotal chapter or a prime instance of literary collage. Though the least understood chapter in Abram’s story, it is arguably the most significant, as it unveils the true motives behind the covenant. Consequently, this chapter deserves special attention and a closer examination. To fully comprehend its significance, it warrants a detailed analysis and careful examination. When picturing the anthropomorphic figure in the story of Abraham as a Mesopotamian king, an actual historical record is suddenly revealed in which the lord appears to be seeking control over the entire region of Canaan. Consequently, the story’s rapid progression into military action should come as no surprise. Abram courageously engages in a fight that only concerns him indirectly. And although the early and dramatic military action in the story, might be expected to lay the foundation for the rest of the narrative, it only plays a minor role in traditional religious interpretation. In reality, the Sodomites reveal themselves to be freedom fighters who refuse to submit to the Mesopotamian authority. As such, they are perceived as trouble makers. Let’s analyze the story in detail to grasp its full meaning: Ge 14:1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations; Ge 14:2 That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar. Ge 14:3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. Ge 14:4 Twelve [Seven] years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth [eight] year they rebelled. The real motive behind the first war is clear: to suppress any signs of rebellion. After seven years of servitude, the king of Sodom and his allies revolted in an attempt to secure freedom for their people, but their actions resulted in swift retaliation in the valley: Ge 14:5 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emins in Shaveh Kiriathaim, Ge 14:6 And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. Ge 14:7 And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar. Ge 14:8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; Ge 14:9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five. We will examine later whether Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal were historical figures, but for now, let’s focus on their actions. Scholars have struggled to understand how Ge 14 fits into the larger narrative and often dismiss it as a foreign source that was “woven” into it. However, a secular analysis reveals that it plays perfectly into the prologue. After the foreign coalition launched a major olensive, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and left their spoils, as well as Abram’s nephew Lot, to their attackers: Ge 14:10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slime pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain. In Hebrew ח ,רמ (chêmâr) “slime pits, bitumen”, used for boats, lighting, and home construction, was already a highly coveted resource at the time. Although some scholars argue that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah likely died in the attack, it is equally plausible that they escaped in fear and sought refuge in an area full of tar pits to avoid being captured. The author of the story does not provide explicit information on their fate, leaving room for interpretation. Ge 14:11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. Ge 14:12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Once Abram learned that his nephew, Lot, was among the prisoners, he sprang into action, amassing an army and heading ol in pursuit of the four kings. Ge 14:13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. Ge 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. The fact that Abram had several hundred men who were “trained” and “born in his own house” suggests that he was already a powerful and influential figure in the region. Ge 14:15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. By attacking the eastern kings by night, Abram and his confederate allies were able to surprise and defeat the attackers. Note that the route taken by the four eastern kings runs by Damascus, which is right along the King’s Highway leading to Mesopotamia. Ge 14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. If the people of Sodom were truly wicked, one might question why Abram didn’t simply focus on rescuing his nephew Lot and leaving the rest of the city to its own devices. Why did he so generously return the stolen goods and not keep any of the spoils of war? Ge 14:17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. Ge 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of El Elyon. Melchizedek is a puzzling character in the story, as he is described as a high-ranking olicial who serves as a priest o ןf אל ע לי ו (el elyon), which means “Most High God.” This raises the question of how Melchizedek could have been a priest of this “new god” if the latter had just revealed himself to Abram. It seems more likely that “El Elyon” could be either an epithet or the proper name for a local deity worshiped by Melchizedek. Despite the ambiguity, it is clear that Melchizedek played a significant role in the story as the priest celebrating this god. Ge 14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God [i] [El Elyon], possessor [creator] of heaven and earth: Ge 14:20 And blessed be the most high God [i] [El Elyon], which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. Following Abram’s victory, congratulations are olered, and thanks are given to the god. Ge 14:21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. Ge 14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord[a], the Most High God[i] [El Elyon], the possessor of heaven and [the] earth, The phrase “the Lord, El Elyon, the possessor of heaven and earth” is a unique expression found only in Genesis 14:22, and as such, it deserves careful analysis and interpretation. Possessor or creator of the land? While many English translations of the Bible use the term “creator” instead of “possessor” in Genesis 14:22, the KJV translation, which uses “possessor”, aligns with the root word ק נ ה (qōnêh), meaning to acquire, buy, possess, or capture. This interpretation better fits the idea of a Mesopotamian overlord claiming ownership of the land. Robert B. Alter, a renowned professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, supports this view: Although conventional Semitic lexicography claims that the original meaning of this verb, qanah, is “to make”, the overwhelming majority of biblical occurrences reflect the meaning “to buy”, “to acquire”, “to gain possession”, which is the standard acceptation of the word in postbiblical Hebrew. It’s worth noting that the verb qanah is not used in the Bible to refer to the act of creation, which is instead described using the Hebrew verb ב רא (bara). This distinction is apparent in Genesis 1:1, where Elohim is described as creating, forming, shaping, and transforming the earth, and ב רא is used to describe the act of creation: בראש י ת ב רא אהל י ם את השמ ים ותא הארץ ׃ Ge 1:1 In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth. The verb ע שה (asah) “to make” or “to do” is also associated with the creation of heaven and earth in Ge 2:4. In Ge 2:7 it is the verb י צר (yatsar) that is used “to form” Adam, and it is the verb ב נ ה (banah) that is used in Ge 2:22 “to fashion” Eve from his rib. In verses Ge 14:18,20 El Elyon stands isolated and without an epithet. In verse Ge 14:19, El Elyon becomes “possessor of heaven and earth.” And in verse 14:22, the lord is qualified as El Elyon and possessor of heaven and earth. It therefore appears as if a late redactor sought to reinforce the association between El Eyon the creator of the heaven and earth and the lord possessor of the earth by conflating the two names in Ge 14:22. Mark S. Smith, respected professor of Old Testament Literature and Exegesis at Princeton Theological Seminary, sees the same conflation process, but believes that Yahweh was added to Ge 14:22 to be assimilated with El Elyon. … the textual addition of Yahweh censors the past. For the ancients, addition was a form of censorship, an inversion of deletion that we might otherwise think of as characteristic of the censor’s work. According to Smith, only El Elyon originally appeared in Ge 14:22, and the name Yahweh was added later to assert his status as the supreme god. While this view is reasonable for those who assume a single figure in the story, it cannot be ignored that there is no textual problem that would require the insertion of Yahweh. Instead, it is more likely that El Elyon needed to be inserted into Ge 14:22 to eliminate a potential discontinuity with Ge 14:18-20. The addition of El Elyon and the normalization of the epithets “creator of heaven and earth” and “possessor of the earth” would have been a simple solution to this problem. In league with the four eastern kings? The punitive campaign in Ge 14 and the destruction of Sodom in Ge 19 are both aimed at punishing the people for their disobedience and refusal to submit. It is evident that the four eastern kings and the lord share the same motive of subduing the Sodomites. Although there is no direct evidence in the Hebrew text linking the lord to the four eastern kings, Ge 14:22 may hold some vestiges of such a connection.: וי אמר ארב ם אל־מל ך ס םד ה י רמת י י י ד אל־ יה ו ה אל עליון ק נ ה ש מים וראץ ׃ Ge 14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord[a], the Most High God[i] [El Elyon], the possessor of heaven and [the] earth, The traditional interpretation of the expression “I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord” is that it means “I lifted my hand to swear.” This is evident in many English translations that use the verb “to swear”, which in Hebrew would be ש עב (sheba). However, in the Masoretic text, the Hebrew verb רו ם (ruwm) “lift” is used in the perfect H tense (Hiphi יl) ה י רמ ת (harimti) “I have lift up” to indicate a completed action in the first person. While the verb ש עב is used in many instances throughout the Pentateuch to mean “to swear” (see Ge 21:23-24, Ge 22:16, Ge 24:3, Ge 24:37 Ge 47:31, Ex 13:19, Deut 26:15, etc.), there is no other instance where רו ם is used in this way. Instead, the ve אrb ש (sa) “to lift up, to bear, to carry” is commonly used when raising the hand to swear (see Ex 6:8, Ex 17:11-12, Deut 6:13, Deut 32:4). Both verbs can be translated as “to lift up”, b אu שt more commonly refers to physically lifting or carrying something, while רו ם more commonly refers to elevating or exalting someone or something. Associated with the image of th דe י (yad) “hand” the verb רו ם fits perfectly and is commonly used in the context of military actions. In fact, it is used in the figurative sense of “strength, power” in the same breath, just two verses earlier by Melchizedek when he blesses God for delivering the enemies into Abram’s hand: Ge 14:20 And blessed be the Most High Elohim[i] [El Elyon], which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. There are also multiple other instances in the Hebrew Bible where the idiom “to raise a hand against” is used in the sense of hitting or striking someone (see 2 Sam 18:28, 2 Sam 20:21, 1 Kings 11:26, 1 Kings 11:27, Psalm 106:26). I would, therefore, like to suggest that it is much more likely that we are here in the presence of this familiar idiom: Abram is telling the King of Sodom that he raised his army against the powerful Lord, and has put them in a precarious position in order to save the people of Sodom and that this act of bravery justifies paying tribute. Abram is the hero of the day. Not only did he save his nephew Lot, but he also saved the inhabitants of Sodom. This is why the late Claus Westermann, one of the premier Old Testament scholars of the twentieth century raises the all-important question: … should the victorious liberator establish a dynasty for himself out of the struggle or not? to which Volker Glissmann, an Old Testament Biblical scholar responds : Abram, being the hero of the people, could easily crown himself, yet he refused to establish any political or governmental hold on the land. Perhaps, as the war hero, he could have become the predominant leader of an alliance of Canaanite city-states. While Abram may have refused to establish a political hold on the land – a situation that will definitely change after he enters into a covenant with the Lord, evidence shows he most likely made one with the King of Sodom, much like he had already done with his allies Aner, Eschkol and Mamre (Ge 14:13). Who pays whom, and what for? The enigmatic Melchizedek sheds important light on this question. The common Hebrew interpretation of the expression ש לם מ ךל (mlk šlm) is “King of Salem.” However, the Masoretic vocalization is subject of much debate because Salem can hardly be associated with Jerusalem. The very same mlk slm consonants can be read milki šalim in Akkadian , which means “advisor of peace.” Even the name מכל י־צד ק (melchi-zedek) is quite telling as it literally means “my King (is) righteous.” It then becomes quite evident from this emerging context that Melchizedek is acting as a peace advisor, whose role is to oliciate a covenant between Abram and the righteous King of Sodom. On the topic of the tithe (Ge 14:20), the Hebrew syntax is also ambiguous. And despite most translations claiming Abram is giving the tithe to Melchizedek, there is no such evidence in the Hebraic text, as it merely says: וי ת ן־ל ו משע ר מכל And he gave him tithes of all. The text is ambiguous as to who is making the payment since “he” could refer to either Abram or Melchizedek. But since the subject is clearly established as Melchizedek in Ge 14:18 and there are no indications from the narrator that the subject has changed to Abram, there is no reason to believe Abram made the payment. In all logic, it would seem far more plausible that Melchizedek is the one paying tribute, on behalf of the King of Sodom, to Abram and his men for their dedication and courage, rather than the other way around as is always assumed. But the king of Sodom feels as if Abram might deserve even more for his elorts. Or at the very least, he doesn’t want to appear as he is taken advantage of the situation. This is why in Ge 14:21 he olers Abram to take all the goods. Again: Ge 14:21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. But Abram, being a skilled diplomat, recognizes this as a political maneuver and does not wish to exploit the situation for his own gain. Ge 14:23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Ge 14:24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion. The final verses of Ge 14 depict a negotiation, and it is useful to compare the structure of this dialogue with the purchase of the cave of Machpelah in Ge 23. A comparison of the two narratives can be seen in the following table:: Comparison of two public negotiations The goods of Sodom The cave of Machpelah Step 1 – Acknowledge status of the acquirer The owner of the goods acknowledges the status of the acquirer by making a very generous oler Ge 14:21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. Ge 23:11 No, my lord: hear me. The field give I thee; and the cave that is in it, to thee I give it; before the eyes of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead. Step 2 – Balance of power: The acquirer establishes his position in the eyes of the witnesses Ge 14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the lord, the most high god, the possessor of heaven and earth, Ge 23:12 And Abraham bowed down before the people of the land; Ge 23:13 and he spoke to Ephron, in the ears of the people of the land, saying, Step 3 – Acknowledge the generosity of owner: The acquirer pretends to be insulted, as accepting such a generous oler would make him appear as an abuser of the owner’s generosity. Ge 14:23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Ge 23:13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. Step 4 – Fair proposal: A fair oler is made. Ge 14:24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Ge 23:14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, Ge 23:15 My lord [adonai], hearken to me. A field of four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and thee? bury therefore thy dead. Step 5 – Conclusion: The settlement. Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion. Ge 23:16 And Abraham hearkened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the money that he had named in the ears of the sons of Heth — four hundred shekels of silver, current with the merchant. Ultimately, Abram considers the tithe he has received to be fair compensation for his elorts, and he decides to let his allies take their share of the spoils. The entire chapter 14 contains crucial details that would have been lost in oral transmission. The fact that these details were preserved, despite being misunderstood, attests to the care taken to maintain its authenticity. It also confirms the likelihood that the text was originally written in Akkadian, as many biblical scholars before us have suspected. The reinterpreted critical sequences provide compelling textual evidence supporting the idea that the lord was in league with the four eastern kings and involved in this conflict – a notion that the rest of the story corroborates. An everlasting treaty At this point in the story, one would naturally expect the four eastern kings to seek retaliation, but surprisingly, we don’t hear from them again. However, we do hear from the Lord. Mesopotamia is a large and faraway empire. As waging war is resources and time consuming, the lord knows he would be much better ol making a strong alliance with a respected ally capable of stabilizing the region and ensuring safety on the trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Ge 15:1 After these things the word of the Lord[a] came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. The lord anticipates that Abram may be apprehensive of his oler, knowing that alliances with faraway empires can be risky and bring unforeseen consequences. To assuage his concerns, the lord begins by reassuring him with the comforting words “fear not.” He then goes on to outline the benefits of their potential alliance, olering to be not only Abram’s protector but also to reward him for his trust and loyalty. This carefully crafted approach shows the lord’s shrewdness and strategic thinking in building an alliance with a respected ally. he term “vision”, ח הז (chozeh) “seer”, but also ח הז (chazah) “see”, “behold”, might be best understood as meaning a message on a tablet revealed by a scribe, rather than a “divine inspiration”, as suggested by the traditional theological interpretation. In Akkadian, the word rēşu (similar vocalization ) shares the same root and means “helper” or “supporter”, which is exactly what a scribe would be expected to do. Ge 15:2 And Abram said, lord [adonai], what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? Ge 15:3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. Ge 15:4 And, behold, the word of the Lord[a] came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. Ge 15:5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. Ge 15:6 And he believed in the Lord[a]; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Ge 15:7 And he said unto him, I am the Lord[a] that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. It appears that Ge 15:7 was inserted by the same redactor responsible for Ge 12:1-3 as a literary device intended to emphasize the fact that the Lord keeps his promises. Ge 15:8 And he said, Lord[a] God[i], whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? Ge 15:9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Ge 15:10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. In the ancient Near East, it was a common practice to seal covenants by slaughtering animals and then solemnly passing between the pieces of the binding flesh. This act symbolized a willingness to undergo a similar fate if one were to break the terms of the agreement. Ge 15:11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. Ge 15:12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. Ge 15:13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall allict them four hundred [two hundred and forty] years; The reference to “horror of great darkness” appears to be a literary device to create a sense of tension and drama in the scene. The reference to “four hundred years” of alliction was clearly added at a later time, as it directly alludes to the number of years Israel was enslaved in Egypt. This prophecy was introduced as a literary device to instill fear and reverence in the Israelites for the Lord’s covenant. Ge 15:14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. Ge 15:15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. Ge 15:16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. The reference to the “fourth generation” returning to the promised land was likely added as a prophetic statement at a later date. It could be seen as a prediction of Joseph’s descendants returning from Egypt (as discussed in Shemidah rises to the challenge, p. g). Alternatively, some scholars suggest that it could be be a reference to the conquest of the promised land by Joshua, although this would imply a significant discrepancy in the timing. Ge 15:17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. Ge 15:18 In the same day the Lord[a] made[cut] a covenant [berith] with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: כ תר יהו ה את־אבר ם ב י רת the Lord cut a covenant, (berith) with Abram. Ge 15:18 explicitly refers to the act of כ תר (karath) “cutting” a ב י ר ת (berith) “covenant”, which was a significant ritual in the ancient Near East. Covenants and treaties played a vital role in the political makeup of the region, serving as a means of establishing and maintaining relationships between dilerent groups and nations. According to the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, a covenant is an “agreement enacted between two parties in which one or both make promises under oath to perform or refrain from certain actions.” Ge 15:19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, Ge 15:20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, Ge 15:21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. a: The Promised Land of the Covenant This covenant was limited to the region of Canaan in the Levant, as described by the phrase “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” This land, also known as the “Promised Land”, was the territory over which the tribes of Israel attempted to regain control after the Exodus. Securing Canaan as a buler zone would have helped the Mesopotamian king protect the region from potential threats and maintain control over the area. This was a common tactic used by ancient empires to protect their borders and maintain control over their territories. As a vassal of the Mesopotamian king, Abram would have been responsible for enforcing laws and collecting taxes in Canaan. The birth of Ishmael While the Lord may have olered Abram protection in exchange for his loyalty, there was still the matter of establishing a legitimate bloodline. The covenant between Abram and the Lord would have been virtually meaningless without a recognized and legitimate heir. Thus, it was essential to create a pact that would transcend generations and ensure long-term stability in the region. However, Abram faced the challenge of not having any children with his wife, Sarai. In fact, Abram’s relationship with Sarai was initially unclear, as we learn from his encounter with Abimelech: Ge 20:12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. Sarai was actually Abram’s half-sister, and by keeping the lineage within the same family, the practice of endogamy helped avoid inheritance claims by outside parties. This is why endogamy is common in royal families and other powerful clans. While it is unclear if the consanguineous relationship between Abram and Sarai could have alected their fertility, recent studies suggest that it might have. This adds another layer of complexity to the story of their struggle to produce an heir and the eventual birth of Isaac. Regardless, Sarai suggested that Abram produce an heir with Hagar, her Egyptian maid. At the time, it was an acceptable practice for an infertile couple to use the “services” of a bondwoman or maidservant to bear a child for them, as seen in the story of Rachel and her handmaid Bilhah: Ge 30:3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. This was not uncommon in the ancient Near East, where the continuation of a family line was of great importance, especially for those with wealth, power, and status. However, this arrangement ultimately created tension and conflict between Sarai and Hagar, leading to their separation and the birth of Ishmael, who would later become the father of the Arab nations. Ge 16:1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. Ge 16:2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord[i] [Elohim] hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. Ge 16:3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten [six] years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. Ge 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. The child that Hagar bears to Abram quickly becomes a source of conflict and tension between her and Sarai. Ge 16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord[a] judge between me and thee. Sarai shows great insight and strategic thinking in her handling of the situation. As the mother of Isaac, the legitimate heir to the covenant promise, she recognized the potential danger posed by Ishmael, the son of an Egyptian woman. Ishmael’s loyalty could be questioned, especially in the event of a conflict between Egypt and Mesopotamia, which could put the legitimacy of the covenant at risk. Sarai understood that if there was any dispute, the Lord would likely side with her. As such, Sarai’s actions demonstrated her strong commitment to ensuring the protection of her family’s legacy. Ge 16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. The style of the next few verses is noticeably dilerent and may have been written by a dilerent author or added at a later time. It is also possible that a piece was lost and later reconstructed based on oral tradition. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in ancient texts, as manuscripts were often subject to various types of damage and alterations over time. Ge 16:7 And the angel [messenger] of the Lord[a] found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. Ge 16:8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. Ge 16:9 And the angel [messenger] of the Lord[a] said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. Ge 16:10 And the angel [messenger] of the Lord[a] said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. Ge 16:11 And the angel [messenger] of the Lord[a] said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord[a] hath heard thy alliction. Ge 16:12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. Ge 16:13 And she called the name of the Lord[a] that spake unto her, Thou Elohim[a] [the Lord] seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? Ge 16:14 Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. Ge 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. Ge 16:16 And Abram was fourscore and six [fifty two] years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram. A blood covenant After a few years had passed, the Lord returned to the region to visit and inquire about the situation in the land. Abram had proven to be a loyal ally, and the Lord was pleased with how things were working out. However, both men were aging, and it was time to discuss succession. This presented an opportunity to realirm the covenant between them and introduce new stipulations to ensure the continuation of the covenant and the fulfillment of the promises. Ge 17:1 And when Abram was ninety nine [fifty nine] years old, the Lord[a] appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am El Shaddai[i]; walk before me, and be thou perfect. Abram was between 45 (Ge 12:4) and 52 (Ge 16:16) years old when he first made a covenant with the Lord. Since Abram is now 59 (Ge 17:1), we know that 7 to 14 years have passed. Ge 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. Ge 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and Elohim[a] [the Lord] talked with him, saying, Ge 17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Ge 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. In the ancient Near East, the name of a person or deity held great significance. To know and speak someone’s name was to imply power and influence over them. By giving a subordinate a new name, a person in power asserts dominion and possession over them, resulting in the subjugation of the subordinate’s legal existence and very being. This act electively changes their status and establishes a relationship of dependence and subordination. The renaming of Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah by the Lord demonstrated his authority over them and his covenantal relationship with them. There are numerous examples in the Hebrew Bible of rulers changing the names of their subjects. In Ge 41:45, Pharaoh changes Joseph’s name to Zaphnath Paaneah, signifying his new status as second-in-command of Egypt. Similarly, in 2 Kings 23:34, Pharaoh Nechoh changes the name of Jehoahaz to Jehoiakim and makes him king of Judah. In 2 Kings 24:17, the Babylonian king changes the name of Mattaniah to Zedekiah, and in Daniel 1:7, he changes the names of Daniel and his friends to reflect their new Babylonian identities. These examples demonstrate the significance of names and the power dynamics at play in the ancient Near East. The renaming of a person symbolized a change in their status and relationship to those in power. It was a way for rulers to exert their authority over their subjects and signify their control and possession over them. Ge 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. In the context of a secular covenant, Ge 17:6 can be interpreted as a promise of prosperity and success. The promise of being “exceeding fruitful” represent a commitment to growth and expansion, while the promise of “nations” and “kings” represent a commitment to leadership and influence. As such, this promise can be seen as a way to establish a strong and enduring partnership between the parties involved in the covenant, with a shared vision for the future and a commitment to mutual success. It could also represent a pledge to uphold certain values and principles, such as fairness, cooperation, and respect. Ge 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be thou Elohim[i], and to thy seed after thee. Ge 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their Elohim[i]. By establishing a covenantal relationship with them, the Lord positions himself as the “Elohim”, protector and provider of Abraham’s descendants. This interpretation is supported by the language of the passage. Ge 17:9 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. Ge 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. Ge 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. Ge 17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. Ge 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. Ge 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut ol from his people; he hath broken my covenant. Ge 17:15 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. Through the act of circumcision, the Lord institutes a lasting blood covenant with Abraham. This covenant includes a requirement for Abraham’s descendants to undergo the same procedure and pledge their allegiance to the Lord, establishing a shared bond of loyalty and obedience. The covenant serves as a sign of the chosen status of Abraham and his descendants and as a symbol of their obligation to uphold their end of the covenant. In this way, the Lord ensures that there are no “free riders” and that all who wish to be considered part of the chosen people must be willing to make the necessary sacrifice and commitment. The son of the promise Realizing that time is of the essence and that Sarah is growing older, the Lord tells Abraham that he himself will father a child with her. Ge 17:16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. As a result, it is Sarah—and not Abraham—who will produce the heir. Ge 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred [sixty] years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety [fifty four] years old, bear? In this critical passage, we learn that the begetter of Isaac was “an hundred years old.” However, this verse can be interpreted in two very dilerent ways. The traditional interpretation suggests that Abraham was “an hundred years old,” while a secular reinterpretation results in a very dilerent conclusion. Since the Lord makes it very clear that he intends to give Abraham a son through Sarah, it is the Lord who is “an hundred years old.” Realizing that the Lord is resolved to take matters into his own hands, Abraham implores for the life of his son Ishmael. Ge 17:18 And Abraham said unto Elohim[a] [the Lord], O that Ishmael might live before thee! Given Ishmael should have been the natural heir, Abraham is worried for the fate of his son. Ge 17:19 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. The lord stipulates that the covenant will be extended through Isaac’s bloodline… but that Ishmael will still be taken care of. Ge 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. Ge 17:21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. Ge 17:22 And he left ol talking with him, and Elohim[a] [the Lord] went up from Abraham. Ge 17:23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as Elohim[a] [the Lord] had said unto him. To seal the covenant, Abraham circumcises all his men. It is also clear from Ge 17:23 that Abraham duly recognizes Ishmael as בנו “his son.” Ge 17:24 And Abraham was ninety nine [fifty nine] years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Ge 17:25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen [eight] years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Ge 17:26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. Ge 17:27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him. Where is Sarah? Abraham receives a visit from three men. He welcomes them and olers them hospitality, including food and water for their journey. During the visit, the Lord informs Abraham that his wife Sarah will soon bear a child, leading to a moment of disbelief and astonishment for the couple. Ge 18:1 And the Lord[a] appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; Ge 18:2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, Ge 18:3 And said, my lord [adonai], if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Abraham addresses his lord as adonai, in Hebrew א נ די “my lord, my master.” This term is often used as a sign of reverence and respect for someone who is considered to be higher in rank or status. Abraham’s use of this term reflects his recognition of the Lord’s authority and power and serves as a reminder of his own status as a mere servant. Ge 18:4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: Ge 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. Ge 18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. Ge 18:7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. Ge 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. Ge 18:9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. Ge 18:10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Ge 18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Sarah is now fifty four years old (Ge 17:17), and likely “well stricken in age.” There is no doubt that this is an exceptional age to give birth. Still, a few women are completing natural pregnancies well into their fifties, and even into their sixties. In 2019, Xinju Tian, from Zaozhuang, China, reportedly gave birth with natural pregnancy at the age sixty seven. Ge 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord [adonai] being old also? Sarah also uses the term “adonai.” This term, used in verses Ge 18:3 and Ge 18:12, clearly refers to the Lord, and not Abraham. Ge 18:13 And the Lord[a] said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Dvora Ledernam-Daniely claims that the word לצח ק (letzahek) “to laugh”, does not only refer to laughter or mockery, but also implies a flirtatious-romantic sense. Ge 18:14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord[a]? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. As the lord is olended by Sarah’s comment, he doubles down: Sarah will have a son. Ge 18: 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. At this point, the narrative abruptly shifts from Sarah’s laughter to the Lord’s announcement of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and suggests that this may be due to a later editor rearranging the text, perhaps as a result of errors in copying or editing the text over time. If we ignore this discontinuity, the story continues a little later: Ge 21:1 And the Lord[a] visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord[a] did unto Sarah as he had spoken. The euphemism “visit” in the biblical context often carried the connotation of sexual intercourse or impregnation. In modern terms, it could be understood as “went to have sexual relations with”. Ge 21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which Elohim[a][the Lord] had spoken to him. Ge 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. While some interpret the birth of Isaac as a miracle from a theological perspective, the biblical text itself presents a more straightforward explanation: the Lord visits Sarah in the tent and impregnates her, resulting in the birth of Isaac nine months later. This solution ensured that Isaac carried Abraham’s family bloodline, as Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister, making him the ideal candidate for the promised heir. Additionally, with the Lord’s bloodline running through his veins, Isaac was a fitting vessel for the covenant between the Lord and Abraham’s descendants. While Abraham acknowledges Isaac as his legitimate heir and raises him as his own son, Isaac is first and foremost the son born to Sarah and the Lord. To be done with Sodom The earlier analysis of the War of Kings reveals that the four eastern kings successfully attacked Sodom, but eventually retreated. Abraham pursued the king of Elam, Chedorlaomer, and his allies, and defeated them, rescuing Lot and recovering the prisoners and the spoils. Thanks to Abraham’s intervention, the inhabitants of Sodom were spared from a worse fate. The covenant made between Abraham and his Mesopotamian overlord, has enabled the latter to maintain control over this distant region. But rumors drift into Babylon confirming that the unrest is threatening to engulf the entire area. As a result, it becomes a matter of urgency to organize a military campaign to crush any sign of an uprising; in short, Sodom must be destroyed. The Lord, campaigning in Canaan and emboldened by his covenant with Abraham, prepares to exert his authority over the still-rebellious inhabitants. This is where we learn that the city of Sodom is struck again. Ge 18:16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. Ge 18:17 And the Lord[a] said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Recalling Abraham’s relationships with the Sodomites, the Lord hesitates to carry out the destruction. This state of mind is referred to as mens rea in legal terms and is used to prove prior knowledge of one’s actions resulting in a crime. Ge 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? Ge 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord[a], to do justice and judgment; that the Lord[a] may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. In Ge 14, Melchizedek celebrated what can be understood as a covenant between Abraham and the King of Sodom. However, in light of the new covenant that Abraham made with the Lord, the patriarch finds himself in a helpless position. He seeks a more diplomatic way of dissuading the Lord from attacking his Sodomite allies. Ge 18:20 And the Lord[a] said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; Ge 18:21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. Ge 18:22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord[a]. A skilled diplomat, Abraham knows that excessive use of force risks creating a perception of ruthless central power among other cities. Could this potentially incite them to attempt a revolt? Ge 18:23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked ? Ge 18:24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? Ge 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Abraham is aware of the Lord’s sense of justice, so he tries to reason with him by explaining that while some of the city’s residents (the wicked) still want to rise up, others (the righteous) have resigned themselves to accepting the new ruler and his laws. The Lord is swayed by Abraham’s arguments and promises not to destroy the city if he can find at least ten “righteous” individuals. It is important to note that in this context, the notions of “righteous”, and “wicked” have no religious or moral connotations, but rather refer to the Sodomites’ willingness to submit to the Lord’s authority and laws. Ge 18:26 And the Lord[a] said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. Ge 18:27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord[a], which am but dust and ashes: Ge 18:28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. Ge 18:29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. Ge 18:30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord[a] be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. Ge 18:31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord[a]: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. Ge 18:32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord[a] be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. Ge 18:33 And the Lord[a] went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place. Fire and brimstone The Lord’s decision to dispatch messengers instead of visiting Sodom in person further betrays his human nature. By sending messengers to an area with a revolt or rebellion, the Lord aimed to avoid the risk of physical harm. Additionally, this approach allowed him to investigate the situation without revealing his identity, a concern that an omniscient God wouldn’t have had to consider: Ge 19:1 And there came two angels [messengers] to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; Ge 19:2 And he said, Behold now, my lords [adonai], turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. Ge 19:3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. Ge 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: But the rebels prove hostile towards these strangers: Ge 19:5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. In this context, the verb י עד (yadā´) “to know” is a euphemism meaning “to have sexual relations with.” There is evidence suggesting that homosexuality was accepted and practiced in many ancient cities, including Babylon. However, it appears that the inhabitants of Sodom had no interest in seeking carnal pleasure but instead aimed to humiliate these government representatives by forcing them into “submission”, a state the Sodomites endured as vassals (see Genesis 14:4) for seven years (126/10).
    Ge 19:6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him,
    Ge 19:7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.
    Ge 19:8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you,
    bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do
    nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
    Ge 19:9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn,
    and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they
    pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.
    The inhabitants of Sodom accuse Lot of being aligned with the Lord and attempting to
    impose his will upon them. In response, they threaten to deal with Lot worse than they
    would with the messengers.
    Ge 19:10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut
    to the door.
    What kind of man was Lot to oler up his daughters in sacrifice? Although he may have
    been responding to higher political imperatives, the Sodomites had no interest in Lot’s
    daughters. These men sought to maintain their honor, freedom, independence and they
    refused to submit. They sought to send a message of defiance to the central power by
    sodomizing the Lord’s messengers. Rape and sexual torture have been used as elective
    tactics of warfare to humiliate the enemy since ancient times, and this seems to have been
    the Sodomites’ goal.
    The messengers, highly insulted by this alront, report back to their master on the state of
    the rebellion. Knowing it will be impossible to conquer the “wicked”, the Lord realizes that
    he has no choice but to act forcefully. He urges Lot to flee with his family, and the Lord
    destroys the city without further ado.
    Ge 19:11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both
    small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
    Ge 19:12 And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons,
    and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place:
    Ge 19:13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the
    face of the Lord[a];and the Lord[a] hath sent us to destroy it.
    Ge 19:14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters,
    and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord[a]will destroy this city. But he seemed
    as one that mocked unto his sons in law.
    Ge 19:15 And when the morning arose, then the angels [messengers] hastened Lot, saying,
    Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the
    iniquity of the city.
    Ge 19:16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his
    wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord[a] being merciful unto him: and they
    brought him forth, and set him without the city.
    Ge 19:17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said,
    Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the
    mountain, lest thou be consumed.
    Ge 19:18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my lords [adonai]:
    Ge 19:19 Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy
    mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the
    mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:
    Ge 19:20 Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape
    thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.
    Ge 19:21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I
    will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken.
    Ge 19:22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither.
    Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
    Ge 19:23 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.
    Ge 19:24 Then the Lord[a] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from
    the Lord[a] out of heaven;
    Ge 19:25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the
    cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
    In legal terms, the punitive campaign of Ge 14, and now the destruction of the city are
    referred to as the actus reus, the objective elements of the crime.
    Ge 19:27 And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the
    Lord[a]:
    Ge 19:28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain,
    and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
    Ge 19:29 And it came to pass, when Elohim[a] [the Lord] destroyed the cities of the plain,
    that Elohim[a] [the Lord] remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the
    overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.
    Ge 19:30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters
    with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
    At this point in the story, the change in style and language suggests a possible discontinuity
    and raises the possibility that it was added to the text at a later time. Regardless, the rest of
    story is irrelevant to the theme of the covenant.
    Ge 19:31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in
    the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
    Ge 19:32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may
    preserve seed of our father.
    Ge 19:33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay
    with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
    Ge 19:34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger,
    Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go
    thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
    Ge 19:35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and
    lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
    Ge 19:36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
    Ge 19:37 And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of
    the Moabites unto this day.
    Ge 19:38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is
    the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.
    In summary, the destruction of Sodom had nothing to do with divine intervention. The
    Sodomites were victims of a punitive campaign in Ge 14, and were ultimately annihilated
    by “fire and brimstone” in Ge 19. Both events are related to the insubordination of this city
    and the need to subdue it. The common objective pursued by the four Mesopotamian kings
    and the lord is evidence of their association. To ensure stability, secure the trade routes
    between the empires, and collect taxes it became necessary to make an example of this
    “wicked” people.
    Abimelech and Sarah
    In the following section, we learn about Abraham and Sarah’s journey to Gerar, where
    Abraham falsely claims that Sarah is his sister instead of his wife. However, the Lord’s
    destruction of Sodom served as a demonstration of his power and reinforced Abraham’s
    position as his representative. As a result, Abimelech was filled with fear and showed
    respect to Abraham.
    This section seems to have been heavily redacted at a later time, possibly from an oral
    tradition. Since it does not contribute to the plot related to the covenant between Abraham
    and his lord, it has been struck out.
    Ge 20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled
    between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
    Ge 20:2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar
    sent, and took Sarah.
    Ge 20:3 But Elohim[a] [the Lord] came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him,
    Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s
    wife.
    Ge 20:4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Elohim[a] [Lord], wilt thou slay
    also a righteous nation?
    Ge 20:5 Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my
    brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
    Ge 20:6 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this
    in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore
    sulered I thee not to touch her.
    Ge 20:7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for
    thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die,
    thou, and all that are thine.
    Ge 20:8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told
    all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.
    Ge 20:9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us?
    and what have I olended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great
    sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.
    Ge 20:10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this
    thing?
    Ge 20:11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of Elohim[a] [the Lord] is
    not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.
    Ge 20:12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the
    daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
    Ge 20:13 And it came to pass, when Elohim[i] caused me to wander from my father’s
    house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every
    place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
    Ge 20:14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants,
    and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
    Ge 20:15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
    Ge 20:16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of
    silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all
    other: thus she was reproved.
    Ge 20:17 So Abraham prayed unto Elohim[i]: and Elohim[i] healed Abimelech, and his wife,
    and his maidservants; and they bare children.
    Ge 20:18 For the Lord[i] [Elohim] had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of
    Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.
    The son of the promise
    This chapter provides confirmation that Isaac is indeed the son of the Lord and Sarah. The
    choice of words used to refer to Isaac and Ishmael confirms that Ishmael was the son
    intended for sacrifice, as he represented a threat to Isaac, the true heir. This sequence of
    event signifies the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant and the start of Isaac’s journey.
    The first three verses have already been analyzed, as part of Ge 18:15 and Ge 18:16.
    Ge 21:1 And the Lord[a] visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord[a] did unto Sarah as he
    had spoken.
    Ge 21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of
    which Elohim[a] [the Lord] had spoken to him.
    Ge 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare
    to him, Isaac.
    Ge 21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as Elohim[a] [the
    Lord] had commanded him.
    Ge 21:5 And Abraham was an hundred [sixty] years old, when his son Isaac was born
    unto him.
    We learn here that Abraham is “a hundred years old” when Isaac is born. This verse echoes
    the information in Genesis 17:17, which states that the Lord was also “an hundred years
    old” when he expressed his desire to beget Isaac with Sarah. Thus, it can be deduced that
    the two men were of a similar age, possibly dilering by only a few months, which will
    become significant in a subsequent phase of our inquiry. This coincidence may have
    contributed to the uncertainty surrounding the paternity of Isaac and the true identity of the
    Lord.
    Ge 21:6 And Sarah said, Elohim[a] [the Lord] hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear
    will laugh with me.
    Ge 21:7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given
    children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.
    Ge 21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same
    day that Isaac was weaned.
    Ishmael poses a threat
    Ishmael was not only Abraham’s first, and only son, but also his legal heir. However, as
    Isaac carried the bloodline of the Lord, he was appointed as the heir instead of Ishmael. As
    tension began to mount in the household, Sarah decided to proactively get rid of the threat
    that Ishmael represented.
    Ge 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham,
    mocking.
    Sarah was looking for any excuse to get rid of Ishmael, who she saw as a threat to her son
    Isaac’s inheritance. This was not the first time Sarah had tried to cast out Hagar and
    Ishmael, as we previously saw in Ge 16:5.
    Ge 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the
    son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
    Ge 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
    Abraham is very attached to his only son ב נו( ) and cannot bring himself to cast him out. But,
    the Lord lays down the rule. To reassure Abraham, he promises to take care of Ishmael.
    Ge 21:12 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight
    because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee,
    hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
    Ge 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy
    seed.
    The subtle dilerence in the choice of terms between Isaac and Ishmael is noteworthy. In
    Ge 21:12, the Lord says, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” whereas in Ge 21:13, He refers
    to Ishmael as “thy seed.”
    This is further textual evidence confirming that Isaac is not Abraham’s natural son: He is the
    son who will carry on the lineage and the promise. Is this why the lord avoids referring to
    Ishmael as Abraham’s son ב נו( ) preferring referring to him as the נ רע (nah’ar) “lad.” )? Could
    there be possible legal ramifications associated with the term “son” in regard to the
    inheritance of the covenant? In ancient times, inheritance and succession were often
    determined by strict legal codes and social customs. The covenant between Abraham and
    the Lord was a significant agreement that carried with it promises and obligations.
    The following section seems to have been written by a dilerent author or based on a
    dilerent tradition. As it does not directly contribute to the plot or themes related to the
    covenant between Abraham and the Lord, it is marked as a potential addition from an oral
    tradition and struck out.
    Ge 21:17 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] heard the voice of the lad; and the angel [messenger] of
    Elohim[a] [the Lord] called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee,
    Hagar? fear not; for Elohim[a] [the Lord] hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
    Ge 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
    Ge 21:19 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she
    went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
    Ge 21:20 And Elohim[a] [the Lord] was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the
    wilderness, and became an archer.
    Ge 21:21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the
    land of Egypt.
    Ge 21:22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of
    his host spake unto Abraham, saying, Elohim[a] [the Lord] is with thee in all that thou doest:
    Ge 21:23 Now therefore swear unto me here by Elohim[a] [the Lord] that thou wilt not deal
    falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I
    have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
    Ge 21:24 And Abraham said, I will swear.
    Ge 21:25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s
    servants had violently taken away.
    Ge 21:26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me,
    neither yet heard I of it, but to day.
    Ge 21:27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of
    them made a covenant.
    Ge 21:28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
    Ge 21:29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which
    thou hast set by themselves?
    Ge 21:30 And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may
    be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
    Ge 21:31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of
    them.
    Ge 21:32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol
    the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
    Ge 21:33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the
    Lord[i] [Elohim], the everlasting god.
    Ge 21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.
    The test of loyalty
    In Genesis 22, we encounter one of the most well-known stories of the Hebrew Bible,
    where Abraham is tested by the Lord to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. This event
    is considered a significant moment in the history of the three major monotheistic religions,
    symbolizing Abraham’s unwavering faith and complete surrender to his God. Known in
    Hebrew as הקע יד ה (ha aqedah) “the binding”, it is regarded as the ultimate sacrifice.
    Ge 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that Elohim[a] [the Lord] did tempt
    Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
    Ge 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get
    thee into the land of Moriah; and oler him there for a burnt olering upon one of the
    mountains which I will tell thee of.
    The pivotal passage casts doubt on the deified overlord hypothesis because, in the context
    of a secular covenant, it does not make sense for the Lord to order the sacrifice of Isaac,
    the fruit of his loins. Instead, this request must be aimed at Ishmael, whose sacrifice would
    prove Abraham’s loyalty and prevent the son of an Egyptian bondwoman from ever rising to
    power.
    The expression “Take now thy son, thine only son” in reference to Isaac has caused
    confusion among many Bible readers, as Ishmael was born before him. However, this
    phrase makes perfect sense when applied to Ishmael, as he is the only son born of
    Abraham’s seed. This claim is also supported by the fact that throughout the story, we have
    seen how Sarah tried to get rid of Ishmael, suggesting that he was seen as a threat to
    Isaac’s inheritance.
    As previously discussed (see Part I – An ongoing scholarly debate, p.29), Jews and
    Christians believe Isaac is the son that Abraham is ordered to sacrifice, but Muslims
    believe it is Ishmael. This crucial disagreement among believers adds further weight to the
    claim as it likely rests on a historical dispute. Indeed, the absence of a name, whether
    “Isaac” or “Ishmael” in the Qu’ran suggests that it was not originally part of the Torah text. If
    a name had been included, it is highly likely that it would have been preserved in both the
    Jewish and Islamic traditions. This idea supports the claim that the name “Isaac” was
    added at a later date in the Torah. Furthermore, if Muhammad had intended to depart from
    Jewish tradition, he would have most likely specified Ishmael in the Qu’ran. However, his
    decision to omit a specific name suggests that he was building upon a tradition or textual
    source that did not specify a particular name. This observation supports the idea that the
    dispute over Isaac and Ishmael may have originated from a historical or political conflict.
    Ge 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get
    thee into the land of Moriah; and oler him there for a burnt olering upon one of the
    mountains which I will tell thee of.
    This is a damning observation, as Abraham, the archetype of the perfect believer, now
    appears as a subservient father, willing to sacrifice his “only son” in deference to his Lord to
    gain power and inherit a land.
    Despite being deeply shaken by the demand, Abraham ultimately shows obedience and
    resigns himself to his fate, preparing to sacrifice his son:
    Ge 22:3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his
    young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt olering, and rose
    up, and went unto the place of which Elohim[a] [the Lord] had told him.
    Ge 22:4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar ol.
    Ge 22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the
    lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
    Ge 22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt olering, and laid it upon Isaac his son;
    and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
    Ge 22:7 And Isaac [he] spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said,
    Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a
    burnt olering?
    Ge 22:8 And Abraham said, My son, Elohim[i] will provide himself a lamb for a burnt
    olering: so they went both of them together.
    In this particular verse, Abraham may be invoking a deity for good fortune and providence.
    Ge 22:9 And they came to the place which Elohim[a] [the Lord] had told him of; and
    Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid
    him on the altar upon the wood.
    Ge 22:10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
    Ge 22:11 And the angel [messenger] of the Lord[a] called unto him out of heaven, and said,
    Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
    The expression “out of heaven” could indicate a voice out of nowhere, as if the Lord’s
    messenger had been asked to observe the scene from afar and to intervene only moments
    before Abraham was to sacrifice his son.
    Ge 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him:
    for now I know that thou fearest Elohim[a] [the Lord], seeing thou hast not withheld thy son,
    thine only son from me.
    Given that covenants were made before a deity, it would have been normal for Abraham to
    have feared the consequences of failing to obey, but it seems more likely that he was
    fearing his Lord.
    Ge 22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day,
    In the mount of the Lord[a] it shall be seen.
    Ge 22:15 And the angel [messengers] of the Lord[a] called unto Abraham out of heaven the
    second time,
    Ge 22:16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord[a], for because thou hast done
    this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
    Ge 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the
    stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall
    possess the gate of his enemies;
    Ge 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast
    obeyed my voice.
    Ge 22:18 confirms that unwavering loyalty to this lord is a sine qua non condition to
    maintaining the promise generation after generation.
    Ge 22:19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to
    Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
    Ge 22:20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold,
    Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;
    Ge 22:21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
    Ge 22:22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
    Ge 22:23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s
    brother.
    Ge 22:24 And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham,
    and Thahash, and Maachah.
    The cave of Machpelah
    Ge 23 begins with the death of Sarah and the account of Abraham’s purchase of a burial
    site for her. This chapter provides insight into the customs and practices of the ancient
    Near East regarding death and burial, as well as the importance of land ownership in the
    region. The story also highlights the significance of Sarah’s role as Abraham’s wife and the
    mother of Isaac, the promised heir.
    Ge 23:1 And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty [seventy six] years old: these
    were the years of the life of Sarah.
    Ge 23:2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and
    Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.
    Ge 23:3 And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth,
    saying,
    Ge 23:4 I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace
    with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.
    Ge 23:5 And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,
    Ge 23:6 Hear us, my lord [adonai]: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our
    sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou
    mayest bury thy dead.
    Ge 23:7 And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the
    children of Heth.
    Ge 23:8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead
    out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,
    Ge 23:9 That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of
    his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a
    buryingplace amongst you.
    Ge 23:10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered
    Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his
    city, saying,
    Ge 23:11 Nay, my lord [adonai], hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I
    give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.
    Ge 23:12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
    Ge 23:13 And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if
    thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I
    will bury my dead there.
    Ge 23:14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,
    Ge 23:15 My lord [Adonai], hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of
    silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.
    Ge 23:16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver,
    which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver,
    current money with the merchant.
    Ge 23:17 And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the
    field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all
    the borders round about, were made sure
    Ge 23:18 Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all
    that went in at the gate of his city.
    Ge 23:19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah
    before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.
    Ge 23:20 And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a
    possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.
    At this point in the narrative, the central story of Abraham comes to a close. While two more
    chapters still mention Abraham, they are somewhat distinct and not as closely intertwined
    with the preceding events. It is likely that they were written by dilerent authors at a later
    time. Nonetheless, they are included in the text for the sake of completeness.
    A wife for Isaac
    Genesis 24 focuses on finding a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac, providing a detailed account
    of the journey and the interactions between the various characters involved. Notably, the
    wife is sought from Mesopotamia.
    Ge 24:1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord[a] had blessed
    Abraham in all things.
    Ge 24:2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he
    had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
    Ge 24:3 And I will make thee swear by the Lord[a], the Elohé[i] of heaven, and the Elohé[i] of
    the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites,
    among whom I dwell:
    The verb “to swear” ש) עב ) “sheba” is used correctly in Ge 24, unlike in Ge 14:22.
    Furthermore, the gesture associated with swearing an oath involves placing the hand under
    the thigh. According to Rabbi Ibn Ezra (1092–1167 CE), this gesture was a sign of
    submission to authority, still being practiced in India at the time he wrote his commentary.
    Ge 24:4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son
    Isaac.
    Ge 24:5 And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow
    me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou
    camest?
    Ge 24:6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.
    Ge 24:7 The Lord[a] Elohé[i] of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the
    land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy
    seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel [messenger] before thee, and thou shalt
    take a wife unto my son from thence.
    Ge 24:8 And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from
    this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
    Ge 24:9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master [adonai], and
    sware to him concerning that matter.
    Ge 24:10 And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master [adonai], and
    departed; for all the goods of his master [adonai] were in his hand: and he arose, and went
    to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.
    The city of Nahor is believed to have been located near Haran in northern Syria, where
    Terah, Abraham’s father, moved from Ur.
    Many scholars reject the idea that Abraham could have lived during the Bronze Age based
    on the presence of camels in this text (also in Ge 12:16), which is considered an
    anachronism. However, archaeological evidence, including petroglyphs, tablets, figurines,
    and carvings, proves that camels were already domesticated in the Bronze Age. While it is
    true that they only became widely used for trade during the Iron Age, the fact that the
    author of Ge 24 pays so much attention to this animal suggests that camels were likely
    uncommon and noteworthy during the time period.
    Ge 24:11 And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the
    time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.
    Ge 24:12 And he said O Lord[a] Elohé[i] of my master [adonai] Abraham, I pray thee, send
    me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master [adonai]Abraham.
    Ge 24:13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city
    come out to draw water:
    Ge 24:14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher,
    I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also:
    let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know
    that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master [adonai].
    Ge 24:15 And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came
    out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her
    pitcher upon her shoulder.
    Ge 24:16 And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known
    her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
    Ge 24:17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water
    of thy pitcher.
    Ge 24:18 And she said, Drink, my lord [adonai]: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher
    upon her hand, and gave him drink.
    Ge 24:19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels
    also, until they have done drinking.
    Ge 24:20 And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the
    well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
    Ge 24:21 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord[i] [Elohim]
    had made his journey prosperous or not.
    Ge 24:22 And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden
    earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of
    gold;
    Ge 24:23 And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy
    father’s house for us to lodge in?
    Ge 24:24 And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she
    bare unto Nahor.
    Ge 24:25 She said moreover unto him, We have both straw and provender enough, and
    room to lodge in.
    Ge 24:26 And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped [to] the Lord[a].
    וי קד האי ש וי שתח ו לי ה וה
    The term “worshipped” does not appear in the original Masoretic text, which says “and the
    man bowed down to the Lord.”
    Ge 24:27 And he said, Blessed be the Lord[i] Elohé[i] of my master [adonai] Abraham, who
    hath not left destitute my master [adonai] of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the
    Lord[i] [Elohé] led me to the house of my master [adonai]’s brethren.
    Ge 24:28 And the damsel ran, and told them of her mother’s house these things.
    Ge 24:29 And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban: and Laban ran out unto the
    man, unto the well.
    Ge 24:30 And it came to pass, when he saw the earring and bracelets upon his sister’s
    hands, and when he heard the words of Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man
    unto me; that he came unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well.
    Ge 24:31 And he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord[a]; wherefore standest thou
    without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.
    Ge 24:32 And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw
    and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with
    him.
    Ge 24:33 And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have
    told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.
    Ge 24:34 And he said, I am Abraham’s servant.
    Ge 24:35 And the Lord[a] hath blessed my master [adonai] greatly; and he is become great:
    and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and
    maidservants, and camels, and asses.
    Ge 24:36 And Sarah my master [adonai]’s wife bare a son to my master [adonai] when she
    was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath.
    Ge 24:37 And my master [adonai] made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my
    son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:
    Ge 24:38 But thou shalt go unto my father’s house, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto
    my son.
    Ge 24:39 And I said unto my master [adonai], Peradventure the woman will not follow me.
    Ge 24:40 And he said unto me, the Lord[a], before whom I walk, will send his angel
    [messenger] with thee, and prosper thy way; and thou shalt take a wife for my son of my
    kindred, and of my father’s house:
    Ge 24:41 Then shalt thou be clear from this my oath, when thou comest to my kindred; and
    if they give not thee one, thou shalt be clear from my oath.
    Ge 24:42 And I came this day unto the well, and said, O Lord[i] Elohé[i] of my master
    [adonai] Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go:
    Ge 24:43 Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin
    cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher
    to drink;
    Ge 24:44 And she say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the
    same be the woman whom the Lord[i] [Elohim] hath appointed out for my master [adonai]’s
    son.
    Ge 24:45 And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with
    her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said
    unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.
    Ge 24:46 And she made haste, and let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and said, Drink,
    and I will give thy camels drink also: so I drank, and she made the camels drink also.
    Ge 24:47 And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, the daughter
    of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face,
    and the bracelets upon her hands.
    Ge 24:48 And I bowed down my head, and worshipped [to] the Lord[i], and blessed the
    Lord[i], Elohé[i] of my master [adonai] Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take
    my master [adonai]’s brother’s daughter unto his son.
    Ge 24:49 And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master [adonai], tell me: and if not,
    tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.
    Ge 24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the
    Lord[i] [Elohim]: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.
    Ge 24:51 Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master
    [adonai]’s son’s wife, as the Lord[a] hath spoken.
    Ge 24:52 And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he [bowed
    himself to] worshipped the Lord[a], bowing himself to the earth.
    See comments from Ge 24:26
    Ge 24:53 And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and
    gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.
    Ge 24:54 And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all
    night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master
    [adonai].
    Ge 24:55 And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a few days, at
    the least ten; after that she shall go.
    Ge 24:56 And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord[a] hath prospered my way;
    send me away that I may go to my master [adonai].
    Ge 24:57 And they said, We will call the damsel, and enquire at her mouth.
    Ge 24:58 And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she
    said, I will go.
    Ge 24:59 And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant,
    and his men.
    Ge 24:60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the
    mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate
    them.
    Ge 24:61 And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and
    followed the man: and the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
    Ge 24:62 And Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi; for he dwelt in the south
    country.
    Ge 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his
    eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming.
    Ge 24:64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she lighted ol the
    camel.
    Ge 24:65 For she had said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to
    meet us? And the servant had said, It is my master [adonai]: therefore she took a vail, and
    covered herself.
    Ge 24:66 And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.
    Ge 24:67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she
    became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
    Isaac’s birthright
    Genesis 25 provides a genealogy of Abraham’s descendants, which, along with Genesis 11,
    appears to serve as a preamble and epilogue to the main narrative. According to the
    documentary hypothesis, this chapter is attributed to the P source (Priestly) and is believed
    to have been added during the Persian period. This assessment aligns with our
    interpretation.
    Ge 25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
    Ge 25:2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and
    Shuah.
    Ge 25:3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and
    Letushim, and Leummim.
    Ge 25:4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah.
    All these were the children of Keturah.
    Ge 25:5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
    Ge 25:6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and
    sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
    Ge 25:7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived, an hundred
    threescore and fifteen [hundred and five] years.
    Ge 25:8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full
    of years; and was gathered to his people.
    Ge 25:9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of
    Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
    Ge 25:10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham
    buried, and Sarah his wife.
    Ge 25:11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that Elohim[i] blessed his son
    Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.
    Ge 25:12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the
    Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham:
    Ge 25:13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to
    their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,
    Ge 25:14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa,
    Ge 25:15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah:
    Ge 25:16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by
    their castles; twelve princes according to their nations.
    Ge 25:17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven
    [eighty two] years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
    Ge 25:18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward
    Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.
    Ge 25:19 And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:
    Ge 25:20 And Isaac was forty [twenty four] years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the
    daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.
    Ge 25:21 And Isaac intreated the Lord[i] [Elohim] for his wife, because she was barren: and
    the Lord[i] [Elohim] was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
    Ge 25:22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I
    thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord[a].
    Ge 25:23 And the Lord[a] said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of
    people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the
    other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
    Ge 25:24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her
    womb.
    Ge 25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name
    Esau.
    Ge 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and
    his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore [thirty six] years old when she bare
    them.
    Ge 25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob
    was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
    Ge 25:28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved
    Jacob.
    Ge 25:29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
    Ge 25:30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am
    faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
    Ge 25:31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
    Ge 25:32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright
    do to me?
    Ge 25:33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his
    birthright unto Jacob.
    Ge 25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and
    rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
    An elicient interpretation
    By simply separating the traditional figure of God into two figures (one divine and one
    Mesopotamian overlord in league with the eastern kings), the deified overlord hypothesis
    olers a unified interpretation that solves the most important questions that have troubled
    scholars over generations.
    What’s more, this interpretation avoids the need to divide the text into separate strands,
    rely on theophany, or heavily rely on the reader’s subjectivity. As such, it olers a more
    elicient and economical solution compared to the traditional approach of dividing the text
    into pericopes and assigning them to dilerent document strands.
    In providing a holistic solution to the challenges mentioned in Chapter 1, this interpretation
    avoids the pitfalls of traditional approaches:
    • It helps make sense of the many names of God in the text by associating Yahweh
    with Abraham’s Lord, the human-like figure, and Elohim with an immaterial figure such as a
    local deity or a deceased ancestor.
    • It olers an elegant integration of the enigmatic Genesis 14 narrative by recognizing
    its function as a historical prologue that leads to the making of a covenant with Abram,
    which serves as the linchpin of the story culminating with the destruction of Sodom in Ge
    19.
    • It explains the similarities between the Tale of Aquat and the Abrahamic narratives
    by arguing that they are likely coincidental, and even if there was direct influence between
    the two, it would be mostly irrelevant since the meal is a minor aspect of the story and not
    central to the plot.
    • It resolves the issue of the “only” son of Genesis 22 by indicating that the text
    unambiguously states that the Lord begets Isaac when he visits Sarah in the tent, making
    Ishmael not Abraham’s only son but rather his firstborn son and a potential threat to Isaac’s
    status as the chosen heir.
    Overall, the deified overlord hypothesis olers a more elicient, economical, and
    compelling alternative for understanding the complexities and inconsistencies in the
    Abrahamic story.
    As we entertain the possibility that Yahweh was a powerful overlord and Elohim a local
    deity, it becomes clear from the biblical text that a covenant (berith) was established with
    Abraham to bring an end to the unrest in the valley of Siddim and to assert control over the
    region of Canaan.
    Was this overlord initially venerated as Ba’al Berith, the “Lord of the covenant” in a death
    cult and later deified as El Berith, the “God of the covenant”, before evolving into the
    exclusive deity of Israel known as Yahweh?
    6: Abrahamic faith as the evolution of a deified overlord
    When considering the story of Abraham from the perspective of a mortal lord (1),
    unexpected elements of the story (2a) and (2b) now fit perfectly. Furthermore, there is
    evidence to suggest that such an earthly covenant could have taken place during the
    Bronze Age (3), as supported by tradition (4). Over time, the cult of Ba’al Berith evolved into
    henotheism, monolatrism, and eventually monotheism through syncretism (5).
    The above diagram is helpful in understanding how the perspective of a deified overlord
    better fits the historical context of the Bronze Age and olers a possible explanation for the
    evolution of the covenant.
    At this point in our investigation, we have amassed substantial textual evidence supporting
    the hypothesis of a deified overlord. We now better understand how all the elements of the
    story, including some of its most mundane details, uniquely fit and contribute to the plot in
    support of the covenant. But can this model also be supported by the available historical
    evidence? What do we truly know of the people who inhabited the “Promised Land” at the
    turn of the second millennium BCE? How did trade and systems of government develop in
    these regions? Were the religious practices, culture, and laws consistent with those of the
    patriarchs? How could a man such as Abraham partake in such a covenant, in what
    conditions, and with whom? And finally, how can we explain the process of mythification
    that would have eventually led to the religion of Yahweh? These are all important questions
    we are now confronted to.
    The truth will set you free.
    But first, it will pss you ol. ― Gloria Steinem Part III – Historical Context Where we explore the situation that prevailed during the Middle Bronze Age when the Jewish tradition claims Abraham lived. We aim to explain where and why such a covenant took place, how it could have led to the deification of Abraham’s lord, and seek a solution to correct the failed sexagesimal conversion of biblical chronologies. The prevailing view in mainstream academia is that the story of Abraham is fictional and could not have originated from the Bronze Age, the time when Jewish tradition claims the patriarchs lived. However, our investigation has led us to conclude that the textual evidence found in the narratives olers reasonable support for the idea that Abraham could have made a covenant with a powerful overlord. With this new premise in mind, it is appropriate to review the facts in a dilerent light. Since the patriarchs lived in Canaan and traveled to Egypt and Mesopotamia, it is important to consider the “big picture” of the Bronze Age in these three geographical regions. What was the geo-political situation at the time? Was it conducive to the establishment of such a covenant? How does this information relate to the one available in the Bible? By analyzing these questions, we can see if the pieces of the puzzle converge towards a common timeframe, location, and target, which can then be scrutinized in greater detail. Ancient Near East According to the biblical chronology, the story told in the Bible begins approximately 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden. While scholars cannot agree on the location of this earthly paradise, most believe it was located in Mesopotamia, at the confluence of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, in the region of Sumer, the cradle of the world’s first civilizations. The Creation theme, already recurrent some four thousand years ago, is a topic humanity has always been pondering over. It’s therefore consequent for Genesis to draw upon it. Specific passages in the first chapters of Genesis bear important parallels with the well-known ancient texts of the Enûma Eliš, the Babylonian creation myth. While its date of origin is unknown, we know that its final version was written by the 12th century BCE. However, the concept of creation it puts forth is much older, predating the tablets by almost a millennium. The creation sequence it describes resembles that in Genesis: darkness gives way to light; the oceans and continents are formed; plants and animals are created; and, finally, man appears. This conception likely stems from the development of agriculture and the realization of what we now call the “food chain”. It is understood that man could not exist if plants, water, and sunlight had not preceded him on this Earth. Water and sunlight are the only elements over which humans have no control. While sunlight follows a regular and predictable cycle, rain, on the other hand, does not. Man depends on rain completely for survival, but ignorant of the evaporation-condensation cycle, it appeared to him that rain fell magically from the sky. As a result, he naturally believed that a higher being controlled this element. Known as Ba’al, Hadad, Thor, or Teshub, these “rain gods” occupied a central place in the pantheons of all plain- and mountain-dwelling societies. They helped fill the larders of the people, who attempted to stay in their good graces and earn their favor The city of Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, is located in close proximity to the mythical Garden of Eden. However, the narrative of Abraham’s life primarily takes place in the land of Canaan, situated in the Levant, a region situated between the two extensive empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The geographic area that encompasses these three regions is known as the Fertile Crescent, located in the ancient Near East. 7: The Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent of the ancient Near East is known as the “cradle of civilization” as it was the site of one of the most remarkable revolutions in human history. From 12500 BCE to 7500 BCE, people began to gather in small communities, and agriculture developed alongside hunting, gathering, and fishing. In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond explains why certain animal species are better suited to breeding than others. He also notes that of the 14 species that have been domesticated, the five most conducive to breeding – goats, sheep, cows, pigs, and horses – were all indigenous to the Fertile Crescent. This abundance of ideal species greatly facilitated the transition to this new way of life and the development of trade. Flourishing trades Trade quickly became a vital part of the economy in the ancient Near East, with an important network of trade routes developed to connect Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt. This network was already well established during the Bronze Age. From Babylon, trade caravans would follow the Euphrates all the way to Resafa in Syria, before proceeding to Damascus via Tadmor (Palmyra), an oasis located halfway through the Syrian Desert. 8: Ancient Trade Routes Two important trade routes then connected caravans to Egypt: The Via Maris (“way of the sea”), which ran along the Mediterranean coast, passing through important ports such as Ashdod, Gaza, and Tanis, and leading to Avaris in lower Egypt. Alternatively, the King’s Highway ran along the great Rift Valley, stretching from the Golan Heights to the Dead Sea, passing through Ammon, the land of Moab, and Petra (modern Jordan) before reaching the Gulf of Aqaba in the Sinai peninsula. The route then led through the Sinai desert and the Mitla Pass before finally reaching the “Pillar City” of Heliopolis (Iunu or Onu, biblical On) in Egypt. Its countless fresh water riverbeds made it a popular option. The Way of the Patriarchs (also known as the Way of the Fathers, Hill Road, or Ridge Route) was an additional north-south trade route that ran parallel to and between the Via Maris and the King’s Highway. This route was used for local trade along the watershed ridge line of the Samarian and Judaean Mountains, connecting Hazor to Shechem, Hebron, and Beersheba on the highlands. These routes were established thousands of years ago and formed part of the ancient network of trade and caravan routes that supported the economy of the ancient Near East. They were of vital importance as many ancient states of the Levant depended on them for trade. Donkeys were the primary animal used for transporting goods in the ancient Near East. While camels were also known in the region, they were not commonly used for commercial transport until around 1200 BCE. This fact has led to debates about perceived anachronisms in some biblical stories, such as the use of camels in the story of Isaac’s wife (see section A wife for Isaac p. 130). Donkeys needed water more often. So the caravan towns and oasis stations were spaced accordingly. Extra water was carried in the clay jugs with little breakage on the smoother striding donkeys. Each donkey carried a 200-pound payload. Throughout history, control over trade routes has been a vital factor in the success of many civilizations. The ability to transport goods and resources across vast distances allowed civilizations to thrive and flourish, as it enabled them to trade with other nations, access new markets, and acquire valuable commodities. However, the control of trade routes was often a contentious issue, as rival nations would often vie for control of these strategic corridors. In ancient times, it was not uncommon for neighboring states to combine forces in order to protect trade routes from raiders, bandits, or rival nations seeking to gain control of these valuable assets. In the ancient Near East, the control of trade routes connecting Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt was a significant factor in the rise and fall of many empires. As such, numerous alliances were formed between neighboring states to protect these critical trade routes from hostile forces: The pharaohs of the New Kingdom corresponded with the kings and queens of the Hittite Empire and the rulers of the Kassites and Assyrians; it was normal for rulers to refer to one another as “brother” or “sister.” Each empire warred with its rivals at times, but it also worked with them to protect trade routes. Philippe Bohstrom, a journalist for Haaretz, reports that the importance of controlling these trade routes was emphasized in his interview with Prof. Peter Fischer, the head of excavation at Tel el-Ajjul, a Bronze Age city located on the coast of Gaza. Fischer revealed that the city was an important trade hub during the Bronze Age, serving as a crucial intersection for the many trade routes that ran through the area. Its strategic location made it a sought-after prize for neighboring states, who sought to gain control over the city to monopolize the lucrative trade routes: Situated on one of the world’s oldest trading routes, connecting North Africa with the Levant, the Via Maris or King’s Highway has been the object of contention throughout history, and has been the stage of constant battles. A nonexhaustive list includes Gaza’s conquest conquered by the rulers of Egypt, assimilation into Philistia, crossing by the armies of Alexander the Great, a millennium years later by the horses of the Crusaders and long centuries after that, by the brigadiers of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Kings’ Highway and Via Maris are both mentioned in the Bible, with the Kings’ Highway appearing in Numbers 20:17-21 and the Via Maris being referenced in Isaiah 9:1. The Way of the Patriarchs, on the other hand, was commonly traveled by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as they journeyed between their various destinations. Although the exact location of the Valley of Siddim is not definitively known, it is generally believed to have been situated somewhere along the King’s Highway, not too far from Shechem. It is this region of the ancient Near East that forms the backdrop of our investigation. During the 2nd millennium BCE, the Levant was not a powerful state with centralized government and organized armies, like Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was ruled by petty kings, who established alliances among themselves. Meanwhile, brigands and rebels roamed these trade routes and posed a threat to international commerce. These roamers were known across the ancient Near East as “Habiru”, a term that refers to a group of people often associated with banditry and other forms of lawlessness. The Habiru connection The term Habiru (also spelled as Hapiru or ʿApiru) means “dusty” or “dirty” in Akkadian. The term appears in various documents dating from the 18th to the 12th centuries BCE, including those from Mari and Nuzi in northern Mesopotamia, Alalakh in Hittite land, Canaan, and Egypt, where the Habiru are also identified with the Akkadian logogram SA.GAZ. The Habiru were a socio-economic class of uprooted peasants and herders who were often displaced and turned to banditry or sold themselves as mercenaries to earn a living, which made them a destabilizing force in attempts to maintain regional stability. In discussing the social pressure and potential resistance to the established order that some petty kings of Canaan’s highland experienced during the late Bronze Age, Finkelstein writes that the term Habiru… … was once thought to be related to the term “Hebrews”, but the Egyptian texts make it clear that it does not refer to a particular group, so much as a problematic socioeconomic class. The Apiru were uprooted peasants and herders who sometimes turned bandits, sometimes sold themselves as mercenaries to the highest bidder, and were in both cases a disruptive element in any attempt by either local rulers or the Egyptian administration to maintain the stability of their rule. The Habiru have indeed been described in the Mari letters as outlaws and raiders committing razzias in which men and sheep are carried ol. In other texts they are describe as slaves, and laborers – not quite the profile we have come to expect from the patriarchs. But the fact that the term Habiru referred to a class of people rather than a specific group does not prevent Abraham from being one of them. As the term Habiru is mostly used derogatively, there is a good chance it could have been applied to migrants, an often marginalized socioeconomic group. The term “Hebrew” is used to describe Abraham in Genesis 14:13. The Hebrew term ע בר י (ivri) is derived from the word ע בר (avar), meaning “to cross” or “to traverse”. Many scholars believe that this term refers to Abraham as a foreigner or migrant, in reference to his journey from Ur of Chaldees. The origin of the term “Hebrew” is still a matter of debate among scholars, but many now accept the possibility that it may have originated from the term Habiru. If Abraham was indeed a migrant, then it is likely that he was also a member of the Habiru class. In the Amarna Letters, to be a Habiru is synonymous with being a rebel against the Egyptian power in Palestine and Syria; it is the Habiru who are most frequently mentioned as supporters of the leaders of revolt, to whom they occasionally bind themselves by a solemn pact. The swift action taken by Abraham to rescue his nephew Lot and pursue the four eastern kings all the way to Damascus could be explained by his possible status as a Habiru. His familiarity with the region and the trade routes could have also given him an advantage in navigating the terrain and tracking the kidnappers. Ge 14:13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew (Ivri/Habiru); for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshhcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. Ge 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. According to Sarna and Hamilton , the Hebraic expression חניכ יו (hanîkîm), which means “trained servants”, is associated with the Egyptian hnk found in execration texts dating back to the 19th century BCE. This term refers to Canaanite mercenaries, while the term hanâku “mercenaries” is found in cuneiform texts from Taanach dating back to the 15th century BCE. Hamilton argues that these men were not mere shepherds, but were skilled fighters capable of achieving victory even in unfavorable conditions, a description that aligns well with that of the Habiru. The Hittites, located in Anatolia, also had to confront the Habiru. King Irkabtum of Alalakh (c. 1675) was forced to sign a peace treaty with the Habiru under the leadership of overlord Shemuba. This treaty serves as evidence of the danger that these independent Habiru fighters posed to local authoritie Generations later, a statue containing the biography of Idrimi recounts how he left his home town of Emar in northern Syria: I took my horse, my chariot, and my groom, and left for the desert. I went among the Sutean warriors. I spent the night with them… The next day I moved on an went to the land of Canaan. I stayed in the town of Ammia in the land of Canaan. In Ammia lived people of Aleppo, of the lands of Mukish, Niya, and Amac. They discovered that I was their overlord’s son and gathered around me… For seven years I lived among the Habiru. After living among them in Canaan, Idrimi built boats and led his Habiru warriors to a successful attack by sea on Alalakh c. 1450. After gaining the trust of Barattarna, king of Mitanni, he olicially became the king of Alalakh. The Habiru are mentioned again, this time in the Amarna letters, which date back to the reigns of Amenhotep III, Akhenaton, and Tutankhamen during the 14th century BCE. At this point, Canaan had become a vassal state of Egypt, and the vassals were the ones complaining to pharaoh about the Habiru. Er-Heba, who was appointed by the Egyptians as the ruler of Jerusalem, wrote to the pharaoh, expressing his desperation about the imminent threat posed by the Habiru. He feared that he was about to lose the city to them: Now shall we do as Lab’ayu, who gave the land of Shechem to the Apiru? Lab’ayu, the ruler of Shechem, was a rival to Er-Heba in the control of the hill country and its important trade routes. Their rivalry was not uncommon, as petty kings often vied for control of strategic territories in the ancient Near East. It is significant to note that even before the establishment of the Israelites, Shechem and Jerusalem were in contention for control of the hill country of Canaan. Both sat astride important trade and travel routes. But what could have been the reason for Lab’ayu and his sons to form an alliance with the Habiru? Could it be that these “Habiru” were actually the descendants of Abraham, who claimed Shechem as their ancestral land? Additionally, the Amarna letters from the 14th century BCE reveal that Lab’ayu and his sons had Hurrian names, which could suggest an ancestral connection to the Hurrians, a people group often associated with the Habiru. It is therefore possible that Lab’ayu saw these Habiru as potential allies and claimed a shared ancestry with them. This could have been a way to legitimize their rule over the region and to counter the influence of the Egyptian-appointed rulers. In all cases… Shechem became the principle center of Hebrew worship, and in fact became the first capital of Israel. Military activity in southern Canaan during the 14th century has tantalized Biblical scholars, and Shechem’s importance in the Amarna tablets imply a Hebrew/Habiru connection of some sort. Could this be the reason why the patriarchs referred to themselves as “Hebrew/Habiru” instead of “Canaanite”, despite having lived among the Canaanites for generations? If a covenant had been made between Abraham and a Mesopotamian king during the Bronze Age to safeguard the trade routes to Egypt, it is likely that Abraham would have been regarded as a “Habiru” and his descendants would have also identified as such. Let us now shift our focus to Mesopotamia, the homeland of the four eastern kings. As we delve deeper into this region, will this investigation uncover further similarities between their culture and history and that of the patriarchs? Mesopotamia Mesopotamia, derived from the Greek words μεσο (meso) meaning “middle”, and ποταμός (potamos) meaning “river”, is known as the “land between the rivers.” This region is situated on the far eastern side of the Fertile Crescent, specifically between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and is now mostly equivalent to modern-day Iraq. With the advent of a sedentary lifestyle, nomadic camps evolved into the first settlements and cities. The emergence of pottery and metallurgy stimulated the development of a multitude of trades. Furthermore, the construction of large-scale irrigation systems around 6000 BCE helped enhance the region’s natural fertility, allowing for increased agricultural production and ultimately the growth of the civilization. 9: Mesopotamia Cuneiform writing Writing was a critical development in Mesopotamia, which emerged around 3000 BCE. The Sumerians were the first to carve cuneiform symbols into soft clay tablets using sharpened reeds. Initially, writing served a purely administrative purpose, mainly counting and taking inventory of the property in the kingdom. At the time, Mesopotamia was made up of a multitude of small city-states, and writing enabled quick communication and recordkeeping between these city-states, leading to the foundation of vast empires. With the help of writing, rulers could oversee the expansion of their territories from their own city-states, allowing for the rise of empires such as the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. Writing was a critical tool that enabled these empires to maintain their power and conquer new territories. The development of writing represented a significant step in the evolution of mankind, paving the way for the creation of written literature, religion, and legal systems. Reserved for the privileged few, writing was invested with magical qualities; once a name, a policy or even a religious rite was committed to writing, it was considered fixed for eternity. It became a powerful tool in the hands of those who knew how to use it. To the privileged few, the ability to read and write represented not only prestige and power, but also access to valuable knowledge, including the secrets of the gods and the cosmos. The process of learning to write was long and arduous, and only a small minority of the population ever had the chance to acquire this skill. Those who did learn to write spent years studying the complex system of cuneiform symbols and their meanings, as well as the grammar and syntax necessary to compose a written text. Writing became an essential part of the bureaucracy of the ancient Near East, used for olicial correspondence, legal documents, historical records, and religious texts. It was the means by which kings communicated with their subjects, priests performed their rituals, and scholars recorded their knowledge. Writing also paved the way for the development of science, mathematics, and astronomy. By recording observations and experiments, Mesopotamian scholars were able to make significant advancements in these fields, such as the development of a sexagesimal numerical system and the creation of the first known star catalogs. Mesopotamians quickly realized that this new form of “memorization” could also be used to help stimulate cultural development. It naturally follows that the first known literary works date from this era. Whereas stories in the past were passed on orally, writing established the literary form of storytelling. Genealogy also emerged during this time, as evidenced by the Sumerian King List, an ancient cuneiform text that provides valuable insight into the chronology of these ancient kingdoms. Genealogical lists were also used to evoke the names of the ancestors during ceremonies associated with the cult of the dead. The similarities between the Epic of Gilgamesh and the biblical story of Noah’s Ark are striking, suggesting that the biblical writers may have drawn upon this ancient Mesopotamian tale as a source of inspiration. One version of this story, which pre-dates the Bible, was revealed to the modern world on December 3, 1872 CE by George Smith, a young British scholar of Assyria, before the Society of Biblical Archaeology in London. Smith had succeeded in translating the Sumerian text—an excerpt from the Epic of Gilgamesh—from 3,700-year-old clay tablets. While these tablets had been unearthed a few years earlier at the palace of Nineveh by Henry Laylard, Smith was the first to be able to decipher them, electively rediscovering a story that had been forgotten for some 2,000 years. Today, over 200 fragments of cuneiform tablets exist that contain slight variants on this story; only the names of the heroes and certain details vary. In Sumer, around 1700 BCE, it was known as the story of Ziusudra; in Akkad, around 1600 BCE, that of Athrasis; and finally, in Babylon, around 1200 BCE, while the city was under Assyrian control, the Epic of Gilgamesh took the form in which we know it today. Often described as the first known bestseller in humanity, it tells the stereotypical story of the man who never wants to die, a recurring theme in this part of the world throughout antiquity. In most of the texts discovered, the name Gilgamesh is accompanied by a star symbol that the Sumerians liked to attribute to divine beings: the 𒀭 dingir. And, while Gilgamesh was no doubt a ruler with divine aspirations, it seems he was not worshipped during his lifetime. This ideogram may have been added to his name only much later after the myth took on greater proportions. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the character Utnapishtim is instructed by the god Ea to build a great boat to escape the flood. He is told to take his family, craftsmen, and a pair of each living creature. After the flood subsides, Utnapishtim sends out birds to see if they can find dry land. Eventually, the boat comes to rest on the top of a mountain. Utnapishtim and his wife are granted immortality by the gods for surviving the flood. Man of Shuruppak (Utnapishtim), son of Ubar-Tutu. Tear down (this) house, build a ship! Give up possessions, seek thou life. Despise property and keep the soul alive. Aboard the ship take thou the seed of all living things. The ship that thou shalt build, her dimensions shall be to measure. Equal shall be her width and her length. Like the Apsu (subterranean waters) thou shalt ceil her. I am the one you call Gilgamesh. I am the pilgrim who roams all roads within the Country and beyond the Country. I am the one to whom all things have been revealed, truths hidden, mysteries of life and death, and especially death. I have known Inanna in the sacred Marriage bed; I have slain demons and I have eaten with gods; I myself am twothirds god, and just one-third man. As Robert Best explains in Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth, the finer details, such as the number of days spent on the ark and the bird that never returned, heralding the presence of land in the distance, provide evidence that these two stories are intimately linked. Due to the popularity and status of the Great Flood story in Mesopotamian societies at the time, it is not dilicult to see how the authors of the Bible legitimized Abraham’s role as a patriarch by establishing a bloodline between him and Noah, and assigning him a place in the historical timeline of the region. Calculating time To fully understand the historical context in which Abraham and his “Lord” lived, it is necessary to examine another crucial aspect of Mesopotamia’s culture, which has often been overlooked by historians: the calculation of time. Initially, time was measured to predict the harvests and major religious feasts. Artifacts dating from the Upper Paleolithic period reveal that the lunar cycle was already being used as a means of calculating time over 10,000 years ago. Time has been measured and observed through recurring cycles, and while it is natural for us to keep track of time in 365-day years, this was not always the case. In fact, what is time to an observer, if not the observation and measurement of recurring cycles? The Sumerian King List reports antediluvian rulers as having lived over 28,800 “years.” The shortest cycle is that of a day. Substituting “years” with “days” provides a more realistic estimate of their lifespan, resulting in 79 years (28,800/365). Nomads found it easier to keep track of the cycles of the moon, which could be observed in the sky without any complex instruments. Later rulers of the Sumerian King List are reported to have lived anywhere between 300 and 1500 years, which is more in line with the lifespans of Adam (930 years) and Noah (950 years) in the Bible. If these lifespans had been calculated in 12.4 lunar cycles per year, then Adam and Noah would have lived 75 and 77 years old, respectively. It was sedentary people who first accurately calculated the annual cycle of 365 days. Since ancient times, humans have been observing specific groupings of stars known as the constellations of the zodiac. While it may seem as though these constellations orbit the Earth, we now know that it is actually the Earth, along with its moon, that orbits the Sun along the ecliptic plane. As a result, a dilerent constellation can be seen with each new moon, with some only visible during the winter and others only during the summer. The number 12 held great significance for the Babylonians, as it represented the number of new moons in a year, providing a way of measuring time and the seasons. The Babylonians were pioneers in the fields of mathematics and astronomy. They calculated that a year consisted of 12 lunar cycles of 29.5 days each, totaling 354 days. However, since the lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, the Babylonians added an extra month every three or four years, much like we add a leap day in February during leap years. To better understand and predict the movements of these celestial bodies, the Babylonians developed the sexagesimal system. This system, which is based on the number 60, was used to divide circles and time into smaller units, and it is still used today to measure time and solve mathematical equations. But unlike today’s standardized system of measuring time, the Babylonians did not use a universal benchmark. Instead, time was measured by the number of years in a ruler’s reign. For example, a particular event might be recorded as occurring during the 15th year of the King’s reign. As such, each region or city had its own method of measuring time. 10: The Plympton tablet (Bronze Age) Sexagesimal numbers were recorded using an additive decimal system formed with nails « » to express units (1 to 9) and chevrons « » for the tens (10 to 50). The combination of these symbols allows the representation of the numbers 1 to 59. 11: Cuneiform numbers Thus the cuneiform inscription « » reads “3:45”. Note that it is common practice today to use a colon symbol to separate the sexagesimal numerals; much as is done for time and angles. This system can be used to calculate time and angles easily. The number 60, a divisor of 360, is an obvious choice for the base, as it provides a good approximation of the number of days in a year (1 degree ≈ 1 day). The number 60 is also a natural complement of the number 12 and is divisible by as many factors, which is three more than the number 100 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, 60 versus 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100). This high degree of divisibility supports the use of reverse multiplication tables, used for rapid and accurate mental calculations. In A geometrical link between the circle and sexagesimal system, Jaime Vladimir Torres- Heredia Julca brilliantly demonstrates the natural relationship between the geometry of a circle and the numbers 6, 12, 24, 30, 60 and 360. He postulates that this relationship probably forms the foundations of the sexagesimal system invented by the Babylonians. The number 12 can be achieved by juxtaposing three layers of perfect circles. Today, we still use this highly practical system to measure time and solve geometric equations. 12: A constellation for each lunar cycle This diagram represents the 12 constellations of the zodiac. During each lunar cycle, a dilerent constellation appears in the night sky along the ecliptic. It takes one year to complete the cycle. Jaime Vladimir Torres-Heredia Julca points out that six circles arranged around a same-sized nucleus would surround it perfectly, and that the same would apply for the next layer of 12 circles, followed by 18 circles, and so on. He suggests that this relationship was likely to be at the origin of the sexagesimal system. The perfect relationship between the number 12 and the geometric shape of a circle was no doubt fascinating to the Babylonians, since it corresponds well to the movements of the planets and the moon along the ecliptic. According to Bartel Leendert Waerden, the oldest known astronomy texts in Mesopotamia date from the time of Hammurabi. 13: Beth Alpha Synagogue in Jerusalem (6th century CE) The Mesopotamians defined the first-ever zodiacs. The names of the constellations are simply a memory aid to identify the months corresponding to each of the lunar cycles in a year: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces. Since certain constellations are much larger than others, the division of the zodiac into twelve equal segments of 30° helps bring some regularity to the calendar. The Serpens constellation is also located on the ecliptic, although it is not used in astrology. Chronological conundrum Several attempts in the past have tried to chronologically date the patriarchs, but none have satisfactorily lined up with the available data. At most, only a few events in the Bible have been linked to historical data, but this has led to contradictions with other events. Therefore, many scholars have concluded that the dates given in the Bible are incorrect. The expressions of time in the Bible are believed by many scholars to hold only prophetic or spiritual significance since biblical chronologies do not match historical data. For example, the numbers “7” and “12” represent perfection, and the number “40” represents a generation. While this interpretation has merits regarding prophetic literature, it probably came as a late development. The age of the patriarchs Given their many parallels with the Enûma Eliš and the Epic of Gilgamesh, it is probably fair to assume that the stories of Creation and the Great Flood originate from earlier sources that were later adapted. While Abraham’s bloodline in the Bible can be traced back to Adam and Eve, his family tree becomes relevant only once we begin to see a significant drop in people’s ages, that is, after Noah and the Flood. Interestingly, a comparison of antediluvian and postdiluvian dates reveals that the kings in the Sumerian King List had a similar life span drop to the characters in the Bible. This further supports the idea that the Bible was partially based on the same sources. Whether they were naïve or merely unable to explain this shift, the authors of Genesis nevertheless seemed a little embarrassed in having to point out and justify this change by reporting that people now had more “normal” life spans: Ge 6:3 And Yahweh said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. While still somewhat exaggerated, the patriarchs’ life spans are nowhere near those of Noah and previous generations. This more human scale is most likely due to the availability of more recent sources and more reliable data. This reframing would appear to indicate that the lunar cycle was no longer in use. Recall that mathematical calculations in Mesopotamia had long been based on the number 60. Is it possible, therefore, that an error of interpretation occurred during transcription? It appears that the ages of the patriarchs reported in the Genesis narratives cannot be expressed in the sexagesimal base, for the very reason that the last two digits are often occupied by a figure higher than 59. And unless one accepts the idea that Abraham lived 175 years, common sense leads us to conclude that his age cannot be expressed in base 10 either. This is why we posit that the scribes, who assembled the Bible out of ancient texts were dealing with sexagesimal numbers, but weren’t familiar with this notation. As such, they likely introduced a conversion error. Is it possible to understand what went wrong, and what is the cognitive process that led to it? The 6/10 multiplier Thanks to the Babylonians, modern clocks are still divided into twelve hours of sixty minutes. How would one go about creating a new watch for which each hour would contain 100 minutes? This is possibly the kind of question that Nabonidus’ scribes asked themselves when faced with the need to convert ages from the sexagesimal to the decimal notation. One would find an equivalent ratio between the bases so that a quarter of an hour or 15 “old” minutes become 25 “new” minutes: Using this method, one would be tempted to convert 3 hours and 45 minutes, or “3:45” as: or 3 hours and 75 “new” minutes, written as “375” And since “years” is a measure of time, much like minutes and hours, it would seem natural for a scribe to use this approach when converting sexagesimal numbers representing years. As such, he could have transcribed 15 “old” years into 25 “new” years, and it seems that this is precisely what they did. Unfortunately, this is wrong. Why? Because a minute is a fraction of an hour, and an hour is a fraction of a day. But years are not fractions. They are whole numbers that must be accounted for as such. More than fifty years ago, George Sarton wrote: The Greeks inherited the sexagesimal system from the Sumerians but mixed it up with the decimal system, using the former only for submultiples of the unit and the latter for multiples, and thus they spoiled both systems and started a disgraceful confusion of which we are still the victims. They abandoned the principle of position, which had to be reintroduced from India a thousand years later. In short, their understanding of Babylonian arithmetic must have been very poor, since they managed to keep the worst features of it and to overlook the best. This must have been due to deficient tradition rather than lack of intelligence, or else, to the fact that, as we should remember, intelligence is always relative. Although Sarton underlines clearly that this error was common with the Greeks, he also acknowledges it was most likely inherited from a deficient tradition. To understand how the sexagesimal system works, it is useful to refer to the decimal system. In decimal notation, each digit (0-9) is multiplied by 10 to the power of the position it occupies within the number. Similarly, in the sexagesimal notation, each numeral (1-59) is multiplied by 60 to the power of the position it occupies within the number. To properly convert sexagesimal “3:45” into decimal, the following calculation must be made: We do find that “225” is the proper conversion. Thankfully, it is possible to correct any mis-conversion using the constant multiplier 6/10. It is indeed possible to fix the erroneous 375 by multiplying it by 6/10 to get 225; just like it is possible to fix the incorrect “25 years” by multiplying it by 6/10 to get “15 years”. This brings us to consider the idea that a “generation” should no longer be regarded as “40 years”, but as 24 years (406/10), and that Sarah did not give birth at age 90, but at 54
    (906/10). Can we find similar conversion errors outside of the Hebrew Bible? Nabonibus’ conversion error In his book King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography, Marc Van De Mieroop, refers to an inscription that is found on the Nabonidus cylinder (c. 556-539 BCE), which refers to a tablet of King Burnaburiash (c. 1359-1333 BCE) that speaks of Hammurabi as having “ lived 700 years before him.” Marc Van De Mieroop claims that King Burnaburiash’s calculations are “substantially ol”. Nabonidus was defeated by Cyrus the Persian and was the last Babylonian king of the Exile. He was, therefore, ruling Babylon precisely at the time when the Bible is believed to have been collated. That was a time when the sexagesimal system had been abandoned in favor of the decimal system. 14: Nabonidus’ cylinder (6th century BCE) If we apply the 6/10 multiplier to the number reported by Nabonidus, we find that Hammurabi would not have lived 700 years, but rather 420 (7006/10) years before
    Burnaburiash, hence:
    c. 1779-1753 = (c. 1359-1333)+420
    …whereas Hammurabi actually reigned from 1792-1750.
    We therefore have a perfect match. This suggests that Burnaburiash was not ol, but
    instead, that Nabonidus could not properly convert the sexagesimal number into decimal.
    It seems that Van De Mieroop was misled by the “erroneous” dates and hastened to put the
    blame on Burnaburiash.
    15: Solving conversion error using the 6/10 multiplier
    Some scholars believe that Burnaburiash was “substantially ol” in his calculations. In
    reality, it was Nabonidus (1) that did not know how to convert (2) the sexagesimal numbers
    (3) found on Burnaburiash’s ancient tablets. Applying the 6/10 multiplier (4) allows us to
    correct this mistake.
    Another cuneiform inscription referred to as BE 1, Nr. 839, records that 696 years have
    passed between the reigns of Gulkišar (c. 1601-1547 BCE) and that of Nebuchadnezzar I (c.
    1125–1104 BCE). Once again, these numbers are known to be significantly ol.
    However, once we apply the 6/10 multiplier we find that a much more accurate 418
    (6966/10) years passed between the end of the reign of Gulkišar and the beginning of the reign Nebuchadnezzar I: c. 1543 = c. 1125+418 …whereas Gulkišar’s reign actually ended in 1547. These two cuneiform sources support the idea that the purported conversion errors found in the Hebrew Bible are not unique to this period of history and can be corrected with a simple multiplier. It suggests that the same scribes, or at least scribes sharing the same knowledge, were involved in making the same conversion errors. Mesopotamian deities The pantheon of Mesopotamian gods was also densely populated. People used religion to help them through their daily lives, mainly to reap favors from nature. Popular deities included An (sky), Ki (earth), Enki (water), Enlil (wind, air, earth), Shamash (sun), and Sin (moon), Tiamat (sea). Marduk was the patron deity of the city of Babylon. His origins are uncertain, although we know that he was worshipped as early as the Third Dynasty of Ur. Son of An and Enki, he is often simply called “Bel”, the equivalent of the Canaanite god “Ba’al”. There are many similarities between the Babylonian god Marduk and the Canaanite deity Ba’al. Both were gods of storms and thunder. The Enûma Eliš tells of the characteristics of Marduk: He raised the club, in his right hand he grasped (it), the bow and the quiver he hung at his side. He set the lightning in front of him, with burning flame he filled his body. He made a net to enclose the inward parts of Tiamat, the four wind he stationed so that nothing of her might escape; … He sent forth the winds which he had created, the seven of them; To disturb the inward parts of Tiamat, they followed after him. Then the lord raised the thunderbolt, his mighty weapon, he mounted the chariot, the storm unequalled for terror, he harnessed and yoked unto it four horses, destructive, ferocious, overwhelming, and swift of pace. Ishtar is one of the most important goddesses in the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheons. She was worshiped throughout Mesopotamia and was associated with many aspects of life, including love, fertility, war, and justice. Ishtar was also known as the Queen of Heaven and was often depicted with wings and a horned headdress. In Sumerian mythology, she was known as Inanna, and her myths were some of the oldest and most important in the region. Daughter of Sin, the moon god, she is associated with the planet Venus. Her most prominent symbols include the lion and the eight-pointed star. The god Tammuz sacrificed himself for Ishtar by agreeing to spend several months every year in the underworld in exchange for her freedom. In the spring, the king, acting as the embodiment of the god Tammuz, would enter into a sacred carnal union with Ishtar, herself incarnated by the high priestess of the temple. Ishtar’s most famous myth is the story of her descent into the Underworld. In this myth, Ishtar attempts to conquer the domain of her older sister, the Queen of the Underworld. Deemed guilty of excessive pride and defiance by the seven judges of the Underworld, she is struck dead. Three days later, Ishtar’s personal attendant pleads with the gods to bring Ishtar back to life. All of them refuse, except Enki, who sends two sexless beings to resurrect her. The story of Ishtar’s resurrection dilers in details depending on the version of the myth, but it still bears similarities to that of Jesus. Caring for the dead The Babylonians believed that the spirit or ghost of a deceased person belonged to the world of spirits and was known as the etemmu. The funerary cult, which involved invoking the name, performing expiatory rituals, incantations, and olering food and drinks, was referred to as the kasāpu and kispu. The pāqidu, usually the eldest son but any surviving close kin, was responsible for caring for the dead family member. By performing these duties, a supplicant could pray to the spirit/ghost of their family member to receive benefits. Most of the available evidence comes from the incantations accompanying expiatory rituals used by the exorcists, the āšipu and the mašmašu, to avert the harmful elects of ghosts on their kin and others. Such sources, referring to neglect of the cult as a cause of persecution by ghosts, often provide valuable indirect evidence for the practice of a regular cult, besides expressing attitudes towards and concepts of the ghosts of dead kin (a subject for which omens and personal names also provide evidence). The spirits of dead individuals, the etemmu, were believed to possess superhuman powers similar to those of demons. The kispu ceremony was already a common practice for the dead in the Hammurabi Dynasty, as evidenced by the Genealogy of Hammurabi (BM 80328) from the second millennium BCE. Failure to provide a caretaker for the etemmu resulted in a wretched afterlife, according to Sonia’s observations: Enkidu’s speech in tablet XII ends with the observation that the ghost who has no pāqidu, or cultic custodian, must eat scraps in the netherworld. And as Scurlock explains, these etemmu were to be feared: That they remained harmless wraiths, however, was due to the constant vigilance of the living. Should the mortuary olerings owed to one’s deceased relatives ever be interrupted, the once pitiable ghost would quickly find his way back unbidden from the “land of no return” either to legitimately wreak havoc on those who had so unjustly treated him or, less legitimately, on anyone else who happened to get in his way. It was important to oler proper funerary rites and care for the dead in ancient Mesopotamian society. In a letter to Sin-iddinam, Hammurabi expressed his concerns about the fate of those who did not receive proper burial and suggest to oler the kispu ceremony “to those who have not received proper burial and who probably never will.” It was believed that such ceremonies could provide some measure of comfort and aid to the etemmu of the dead, even in the absence of a proper burial or caretaker. Binding the living In order to ensure that the deceased’s etemmu was properly cared for by their surviving kin, it appears that the duties of the funerary cult were closely linked to the inheritance process. Kudurru inscriptions, dating from the late second millennium, provide evidence of this connection. A “kudurru” is a type of stone document that was commonly used in ancient Mesopotamia to record land grants, boundary stones, and other legal agreements. These documents often featured detailed images and text that depicted the transaction being recorded. Additionally, curse formulae were included in some kudurru inscriptions to bind the olspring to their obligations regarding the etemmu. These documents were considered sacred and were often placed in temples as a form of protection. Although immediate kin were motivated to ensure the proper care of their etemmu, there is little evidence of the funerary cult being maintained and practiced beyond two or three generations among the common people. In contrast, the funerary cult in royal families could extend over many more generations. “The Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty” is a genealogy of the ancestors of Ammisaduqa of the First Dynasty of Babylon. The list purports to stretch back over a number of generations, and contains 27 names, the earliest eponymous… (and) the list was drown up for purposes of the funerary cult. Relevant to our investigation, is the idea that such a cult could contribute to strengthening cohesion and attachment within a group: In societies where ancestors for some generations back are honored, the cult generally entails the coming together for worship of groups of kin larger than the domestic group, and is one of the ways of maintaining solidarity within lineage groups. Also relevant is the idea that such a cult could evolve toward a form of worship, as suggested by the stele of king Nabonidus from Harran who provides details on the ritual practiced by his mother: Every month without interruption in my finest garments made them a funerary olering of oxen, fat sheep, bread, best beer, wine, sesame oil, honey and all kinds of garden produce, and established abundant olerings of sweet smelling incense as a regular due, and placed it before them. And as Bayliss points out, such a ritual shows a form of worship to her ancestors: The details of the olering show close similarity with the cult of the gods. Possibly the dead kings were represented by their statues, as were the gods. Overall, the cult of the dead kin played a significant role in the social and religious life of Mesopotamia. The belief in the etemmu, or the spirit of the deceased, and the importance of proper funerary cult practices highlights the value placed on familial obligations and the afterlife. The use of kudurru inscriptions to bind the olspring to their obligations and maintain the funerary cult over multiple generations in royal families shows how this practice was tied to inheritance and the maintenance of power. Having explored the funerary cult of Mesopotamia and its impact on social constructs, it is now important to turn our attention to Egypt, a region intimately linked to the Levant and Mesopotamia. Egypt is where most of the story of Joseph took place, and the patriarchs had ongoing relationships with the country and its pharaohs. While textual evidence points to a relationship with the eastern kings of Mesopotamia, it would be unwise to rule out the possibility that Abraham’s lord was an Egyptian pharaoh. Throughout the Bronze Age, many pharaohs sought to uphold their authority by deifying themselves to achieve immortality. Therefore, exploring the history of Egypt during this time can oler valuable insights into the religious and cultural practices that may have influenced the biblical narrative. Egypt Thanks to countless archaeological excavations and studies, we have gained a significant amount of knowledge about ancient Egypt. Inscriptions, documents, pyramids, mummies, tombs, and various publications are just a few of the sources that have contributed to our understanding of these people. The Egyptians have left behind a wealth of accounts detailing their rich culture and the evolution of their society. In many ways, the Egyptian civilization was one of the most advanced and sophisticated of the ancient world, as no other civilization managed to achieve and maintain such stability over three thousand years. 16: Egypt Egypt truly flourished in the 4th millennium, upon contact with the Sumerian civilization. It acquired writing and perfected the clay brick construction technique. It also developed a vibrant local culture and a specific art form that still distinguishes it today. This omnipresent art, which was realistic, rich, and structured, reflected the important social, political, and religious concepts of the era; it expressed thoughts through symbols called hieroglyphs. Furthermore, the Egyptians developed a highly organized and centralized government, which allowed them to build monumental architecture and vast irrigation systems that facilitated agriculture and contributed to the country’s prosperity. They also established a complex religious system with numerous gods and goddesses, and an afterlife concept that was believed to be attainable through various rituals and practices. During the Bronze Age, Egypt experienced a period of great expansion and prosperity, known as the New Kingdom. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom period were powerful rulers who commanded vast armies and controlled extensive territories. They were regarded as living gods and were responsible for maintaining Ma’at, the balance and order of the universe. 17: Step pyramid of Djoser The architect Imhotep erected the first pyramid to King Djoser around 2600 BCE. It was a multi-level mastaba or step pyramid. These immense structures were used as funeral complexes for the kings of Ancient Egypt. These “new” constructions later influenced the ziggurats of Mesopotamia. It will later be argued that Abraham’s ancestors began their migration from the Levant to Mesopotamia when the first ziggurats were erected. The history of Egypt has been classified by historians into several periods; each encompassing several ruling dynasties. The periods that correspond to the Bronze Age extends from the end of the Middle Kingdom to the New Kingdom, and include the Second Intermediate Period, during which tradition suggests that the patriarchs have lived. The Middle Kingdom During this era (28th-20th century BCE), Ancient Egypt was divided into two regions, Upper Egypt bordering Africa and Lower Egypt, where the Nile Delta stretched out to the Mediterranean Sea. An unavoidable corridor between Africa and the Near East, it was the gateway to the precious resources of far-ol countries. While there had been several previous attempts, it was Mentuhotep II, pharaoh of the 11th Dynasty (20th century), who succeeded in unifying Upper and Lower Egypt after several military campaigns mounted during the first 30 years of his reign. But, once unification was achieved, the pharaohs of the Middle Empire turned their backs on Lower Egypt, preferring instead to reign from Thebes, in Upper Egypt. The Middle Kingdom was also a time of great artistic and cultural flourishing, with notable works such as the Sphinx of Amenemhat III and the Colin Texts. In addition to its artistic achievements, the Middle Kingdom was an important period of trade and commerce, with Egypt becoming a major center for international trade. A nomadic Amorite population, most likely issued from the Levant, began to settle in the Delta region of Lower Egypt, where they built up several cities. Avaris became a famous city with far-reaching influence. The term pharaoh, or per aâ in Egyptian, means great house and is believed to be in reference to the unification of the two territories. This term emerged only in the New Empire, that is, after the time of the patriarchs. But, during the Middle Empire, the “king of Egypt” was already more than just a simple king—he was a god and the son of a god. In The King-God and the God-King in ancient Egypt, professor Jan Zandee suggests that Amon-Ra and pharaoh are presented as both king and god. Passages VI.3, VI.10 and VIII.1 listed on the recto of the same papyrus are highly revealing: VI.3 Lord of the Gods VI.10 Homage to you, Horus of Horuses, regent of regents, power of powers, great of the great (eldest), prince of eternity, lord of lords, god of gods, king of the kings of Southern Egypt, king of the kings of Northern Egypt. VIII.1 as for royalty, which is without end. To many jubilees over countless years; he reigns for centuries upon centuries. This notion of a “living god” dates from the Ancient Empire (5th Dynasty – 26th to 24th century). The Second Intermediary Period At the turn of the second millennium (18th to 16th century BCE), there was a significant influx of foreigners into Egypt, who settled in the lands located at the mouth of the Delta, in Lower Egypt. Due to negligence or perhaps slackness, the Egyptians did not keep a very close watch over their borders, allowing these foreigners to gradually establish themselves. These people, known as the Hyksos, inhabited Lower Egypt during the late Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period. It was during this time that the patriarchs are believed to have spent time in Egypt. The Semitic origins of their names and the archaeological digs at Avaris indicate that the Hyksos were likely to have been Amorites descended from Canaan who gradually took possession of lands they already occupied. It is interesting to note that, in the entire history of Egypt, the Hyksos were one of the very few foreign invaders who managed to seize power. Started by Josephus Flavius, a Jewish Roman general who became a historian in the 1st century CE, the controversy surrounding the origins of the term Hyksos continues to fuel some discussions. This whole nation was styled Hycsôs, that is, Shepherd-kings: for the first syllable Hyc, according to the sacred dialect, denotes a king, as is sos a shepherd; but this according to the ordinary dialect; and of these is compounded Hycsôs: but some say that these people were Arabians. Now in another copy it is said that this word does not denote Kings, but, on the contrary, denotes Captive Shepherds, and this on account of the particle Hyc; for that Hyc, with the aspiration, in the Egyptian tongue again denotes Shepherds, and that expressly also; and this to me seems the more probable opinion, and more agreeable to ancient history. Flavius’ preferred expression “captive shepherds” better corresponds to the image of the children of Israel that he saw in these men. He also maintains that the Egyptians who lived alongside the Hyksos referred to the latter as heka khasewet, meaning “rulers of foreign lands.” According to Manetho of Sebennytos , an Egyptian priest and historian who lived in the 3rd century BCE, the Hyksos were barbarians who pillaged Egypt. Yet, the few historical traces that remain paint a portrait of a people much more concerned with absorbing and preserving Egyptian knowledge and culture than destroying it. It seems more likely that it was the Egyptians who disparaged the Hyksos in an attempt to forget this rather inglorious episode of their past. Flavius Josephus believed that the Hyksos were the ancestors of the Hebrews. Contemporary authors have been intrigued by the phonetic and historical correspondence between the Hyksos king Yakub-Har and the biblical Jacob. It is believed that Jacob lived in Egypt at around the same time as the Hyksos and was no doubt an important man. If we accept that the patriarchs and the Hyksos were both of Amorite origin and therefore had a common ancestry, then the potential for speculation abounds. The Hyksos brought with them advanced weaponry and technology, such as axes, iron daggers, and horse-drawn chariots. This gave them a significant advantage over the Egyptians who were still using bronze weapons and lacked the same level of military technology. With their superior weaponry, the Hyksos were able to take control of Avaris, a city located in the Nile Delta, around 1730 BCE. Their power continued to grow, and even the king of Upper Egypt was forced to bow before them. The Hyksos were able to exert their influence over the entire region, extending their rule beyond Avaris to other parts of Lower Egypt. They established their own dynasty and controlled the Nile Delta for over a century, during what is known as the Second Intermediate Period of Egyptian history. Their reign was marked by significant changes in Egyptian society, including the introduction of new religious practices and the adoption of the cult of the god Seth. The Hyksos also encouraged the growth of trade and commerce, which helped to make the Nile Delta a prosperous region. However, their reign eventually came to an end with the rise of the New Kingdom, as the pharaohs of Upper Egypt were able to regain control of the region and drive the Hyksos out. The New Kingdom The expulsion of the Hyksos marked the end of the Second Intermediary Period and the beginning of the New Kingdom, which will extend from the 16th to the 11th century BCE. This period was ruled by the pharaohs of the18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties. The New Kingdom provided us with some of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, including Thutmose III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ramses II. Thutmose III (1481-1425) was nicknamed the “Napoleon of Egypt” because he was a great conqueror. He vanquished Israel and Canaan in the 15th century, shortly after the Hyksos were booted out of the country. And for most of the New Kingdom, the Levant was a vassal state of Egypt. Shmuel Ahituv, professor Emeritus of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Ben- Gurion University of the Negev, olers valuable insights on the factors that motivated the Egyptians in the conquest of the Levant. He concludes that they were not related to the production of goods per se: It is indeed probable that there was no economic interest in the Egyptian conquest of Canaan, and if such an interest existed it was very limited. Canaan itself had very little to oler to Egypt, for it was not worthwhile to transport agricultural products of great bulk, since Egypt itself was rich and self-sulicient. Far more important, was the need to maintain control of the trade route leading to Mesopotamia: … the geographical position of Canaan was of great importance as a bridge between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the Lebanon too. The true importance of Canaan for Egypt was the control it allowed over the main commercial road leading to the trading centres in Mesopotamia. Unfortunately, the corruption of Egyptian olicials allowed the Habiru to gain control of the highlands. Much harm was also done by corrupt Egyptian olicials who were interested only in gaining wealth, and imposed a heavy burden on the Canaanite rulers. In times when Egyptian rule was weak, unsettled elements, such as the Habiru, took advantage of the situation and disturbed normal life. Amenhotep IV (c. 1380-1332) is better known as Akhenaten, for this is the name he took in recognition of the god Re-Horus-Aten or just Aten that he adopted in place of the Amun-Re god of Thebes that had been elevated to the rank of the supreme god of Egypt. Aten embodies many ancient gods, which are viewed in a new and dilerent way. For instance, Aten is considered to be both masculine and feminine. Akhenaten is called the Heretic King because he is regarded as a monotheist pharaoh that abandoned the polytheist gods of Thebes in a new form of monotheism. He built the city of Amarna, which would be deserted shortly after his death (c. 1332 BC) while the old state religion of Amun-Re would quickly get re-enacted. A significant collection of vassal correspondence with the Levant has been found in this city that helps us better understand the relationship that united these two regions. Ever since Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis, published a study on the biblical Moses and the origins of Judaism in 1938, many popular authors such as Jacq and Sabbah have investigated parallels that exists between the religion of Akhenaten and that of the biblical Moses. Tutankhamun (c. 1332-1323), although well known for his well-preserved tomb and mummy that was discovered in 1922, died at a young age and didn’t leave much of interest to us behind him. Ramses II (1303-1213), on the other hand, is another well-known figure of Egypt often associated with the biblical Pharaoh of Exodus because he built the city of Pithom. Ramses II, who lived to the age of 90, is also best known for the Battle of Kadesh that is dated to 1274 BCE. This battle was fought in the north of the Levant, with the bordering Hittites. It is also the earliest battle for which military tactics and formations have been recorded. It was a memorable battle that involved thousands of chariots. More than a decade later, the battle was ended with no clear winner. Ramses II and Hattusili III signed the first Peace treaty known to historians that is proudly displayed on a wall at the United Nations’ headquarters. Egypt slowly released its grip over Canaan in the aftermath of this treaty. Incidentally, this was the period, according to Jewish tradition, when the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt, and when Moses led them out of the country. Egyptian deities Unlike the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, who had to build vast irrigation systems, the Egyptians could rely on the annual flooding of the Nile to sustain their crops. The natural silt from the river, which fertilized the land, helped shore up the population against famine and contributed to the wealth that also trickled down to neighboring populations. The fertile lands of the Nile delta were particularly conducive to abundant crops. Since access to water was not a daily concern for most Egyptians, they naturally didn’t grant the same level of importance to the rain gods as other people did. Hundreds of gods would represent various phenomena, such as natural elements, geographical locations or even perceptions. Anubis (death), Amun (air), Bastet (home and cats) Isis (healing and magic), Hathor (love and beauty), Horus (kingship and sky), Maat (justice), Osiris (deceased), Ptah (creation), Re (sun), Seth (desert and earthquakes), and Thot (moon and knowledge) are just some of the most popular ones. Many Egyptian “super gods” were compound deities, that is, a new deity taking on the names and attributes of existing deities, a process evocative of the possible Yahweh- Elohim amalgamation. In discussing this particular form of syncretism, Becking refers to the work of late Hans Bonnet and explains: Deities receive each other’s names and qualities without becoming merged or lost in one another, that is without dissolving the identity of the deities, who lie behind a new deity. Gods may adopt each other’s names and epithets, that is absorb each other’s essence and qualities and develop into a new divinity by convergence and dilerentiation, or even a new type of deity. Pointing to the Amun-Re deity as a notable example, Becking explains that, although it had developed its own cult in Egypt, both the gods Amun and Re continued to exist as independent deities with their respective temple and cult. While the Egyptians had many gods, some were clearly more important than others, especially regarding the ruling class. The kings of Egypt exerted remarkable influence over their people, blessed as they were with specific powers passed on by the gods in the mythical Horus-Osiris cycle. According to tradition, Osiris was a legendary king who ruled Egypt with justice and passion. Jealous of his position as king, Osiris’ brother, Set, kills him in a great battle. But Isis, Osiris’ wife, magically breathes enough life back into her husband’s dead body to conceive a child with him. After burying Osiris, she flees to the Delta, where she gives birth to a son, Horus. On reaching manhood, Horus decides to avenge his father by confronting his uncle. Set rips out one of his eyes but the battle rages on and Horus emerges the victor. He reclaims his eye and olers it to Osiris, who is restored to life and appoints his son Horus as Pharaoh. Following this pattern, upon the death of their father, each new king of Egypt ascended to the throne in a ceremony that recreates the Osirian cycle. The new king becomes Horus while his deceased father represents Osiris by taking his place in the heavens. This cycle legitimized the power of the pharaohs and brought rare stability to the area over a period of time that spans over several thousands of years. Beliefs in the afterlife Beliefs in an underworld, eternal life, and rebirth of the soul alected all aspects of the Egyptian religious and cultural life. In fact, most of ancient Egypt’s visuals arts and architectural monuments are expressions of the cult of death. Some unique terms embody this particular reality. The duat is the underworld, the realm of the dead. It is also the place of residence of various gods, including Osiris, Maat, and Hathor. The akh represents the purified soul of a deceased person. It is a positive entity in the other world. Egyptians believe the soul has two parts: the ba and the ka. The ba can be thought of as the personality of the soul, while the ka is its essence and life force. The Cult of the Dead Rulers of the New Kingdom elevated the cult of the dead to an elaborate form of art which includes the preservation of the mummified body, the construction of elaborate tombs, the reading of magical names, words of power, incantations, and spells, the reciting of prayers, the singing of hymns, and the olering of food, goods and objects. The ritual begins shortly after death with the embalming of the corpse, and continues after the burial through various celebrations and olerings. The goal of the living is to assist the deceased in his transition to the otherworld and his journey to the afterlife. Care takers reap the benefits of a continued association with their deceased loved ones as the defunct can intercede in their favor with the spirits and gods who dwell in the duat (i.e. underworld). The Beautiful Festival of the Valley (“heb nefer en inet” in Egyptian) celebrates the rebirth of the dead. Extending over a few days, priests, kings, and commoners banquet in their ancestor’s tombs. During this period, they can more easily communicate directly with the deceased spirits. Over time, the Egyptian priests develop a sophisticated collection of texts and rites aimed at accompanying the deceased through this dilicult journey. The Book of the Dead The Book of the dead does not refer to a specific book content per se, but rather to a vast collection of loosely connected funerary texts. Such books were often commissioned to priests and composed for the benefits of an individual. They were only available to the wealthy who could alord them. Their aim is to protect the deceased’s ba from demons and other evil powers, much like the embalmment ritual protects the owner’s corpse from decay, rot, insects, and rodents. And since these texts contained magical spells with supernatural powers, their handling required special care and assistance: For the deceased to receive the full benefits of this text it had to be recited by a man who “was ceremonially pure, who had not eaten fish or meat, and had not consorted with women.” The Book of the Gates The Book of the Gates (Amduat or Am Tuat) describes the nightly journey into the earth that leads to the rebirth of the ba of the deceased. This journey is exclusive to pharaohs and the earliest complete version of the book of Amduat is depicted on the tomb of Thuthmosis III (1479-1425). The journey starts at the gateway of the western horizon when the sun sets (symbolizing death) and must complete before the sun rises at the eastern horizon (symbolizing rebirth). This journey takes place over a 12-hour period, where each hour corresponds to a particular station. Throughout this journey the deceased soul of pharaoh is accompanied by the sun god Re. Together, they must overcome various adventures, dangers, and torments that contribute to the regeneration process. The ultimate goal is for pharaoh’s ba to attain spiritual redemption. When the soul of the deceased pharaoh successfully makes it through the twelve stations, his heart is weighed by the goddess Maat, who personifies the concepts of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice. If pharaoh led a good and decent life, his heart is in balance and he is welcomed into the afterlife. It is not surprising then that the cult of the deceased king is also well attested during the Middle Kingdom in Egypt. Popular pharaohs, such as Amenhotep I and Ahmose-Nefertari were worshipped as divinities in Luxor. The deification of Ramesses II is also attested abundantly in Egypt and in Nubia. There is even evidence that Ramesses II would have been deified while still living. This brief overview of Egypt shows that the notions of living-gods and of deifications were popular in a country familiar to the patriarchs. We also know that Amorite kings—the Hyksos—ruled Egypt in the 18th century BCE and adopted the local customs. It would certainly be interesting to explore further the potential connection that Flavius foresaw between the Hyksos and the patriarchs. After the Egyptians expulsed the Hyksos, they exercised significant influence over the Levant, until the Battle of Kadesh. We shall now turn to the Levant to better understand how the people of Canaan, and eventually the patriarchs, lived during the Bronze Age period. Levant The Levant spans along the eastern Mediterranean coast, from Egypt in the south to Turkey in the north. It encompasses parts of modern-day Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. The Levant olers a rich geographic diversity, with a range of landscapes including rugged mountains, deep valleys, lush coastal plains, and sprawling deserts. The region’s numerous plateaus and highlands oler breathtaking views, while its winding rivers and streams provide vital water sources for local agriculture. From the fertile valleys of the Jordan River to the rocky peaks of Mount Lebanon, the Levant is a land of contrasts that has played a central role in the history and culture of the Middle East. Inside the Promised Land Canaan is the coastal area of the Levant located on the Mediterranean Sea, where the patriarchs settled and where most of their story takes place. It is also where the future nation of Israel would eventually be created. As a key corridor between two major powers, this region is both strategically and historically significant. Whether for reasons of war or trade, one has no choice but to travel through Canaan to get from Egypt to Mesopotamia, and vice versa. 18: Region of Canaan From the third millennium onwards, traces of a Semitic people that settled in the region are found; these were essentially the first “Canaanites.” Sustained by flourishing agriculture, they founded several cities. At the turn of the second millennium, a new wave of Semitic invaders, the nomadic Amorite people, settled in the region. The “Amurru” are mentioned on Akkadian cuneiform tablets dating as far back as 2400 BCE. While this marks the start of a tumultuous period, their successive attacks and frequent interactions with the local populations gradually prompted them to embrace the regional lifestyle and put down permanent roots. Through their encounters with the local people, the Amorites sired several dilerent bloodlines and, today, are considered the ancestors of not only the Arameans, but also the Phoenicians, the Chaldeans, the Hebrews, the Hyksos, and the Israelites—in short, most of the people who would later occupy the territory of Canaan. The Amorite language has remained elusive for the longest time, but the recent discovery of two 3,800-year-old cuneiform tablets found in Iraq gives us a glimpse into its role as a precursor to Hebrew. The tablets contain two columns, with words and phrases in Amorite language on the left with a translation into Akkadian on the right. According to professor Yoram Cohen from the Tel Aviv University Archeology Department, these tablets prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that a language very closely related to Hebrew was already being spoken a thousand years earlier than had previously been confirmed. This discovery is significant because it ties some lose ends when suggesting Abraham could have lived in the 18th century BCE. The archives of Nuzi (in Mitanni), which date from the 15th century BCE, also contain enlightening information on Amorite customs of the time. They describe a society in which infertile couples could adopt a child slave as their descendant. Another custom involved olering a female slave to a man whose wife was barren, as was the case with Hagar in the Bible (Ge 16:1-4; 30:1-13). The ambiguous inheritance rights resulting from these unions are also described in the documents of the time. 19: Bronze statue of the Ur Dynasty Some major discordant voices have also been heard. Through a comparison of the Nuzi texts with those of Genesis, Thompson concluded that although nothing prevents the patriarchal narratives from fitting the second millennium, they much better fit the 7th century: … aside from the still enigmatic Gen 14, I have tried to show that what we know about the history of Palestine in the Second Millennium seems to argue definitively against such historicity. But if Thompson – who acknowledges not understanding the critical role of Ge 14 with regards to the Abrahamic covenant – managed to convince a majority that the texts of Genesis could also “fit” the Neo-Assyrian period (7th century), he failed – at least in my opinion – to show that they didn’t fit the second millennium. Kitchen has more recently refuted much of Thompson’s claims by presenting a strong case for dating the patriarchal narratives to the second millennium based on a wealth of external and internal data. In his conclusion, Kitchen states: We have here the Canaan of the early second millennium and not of the Hebrew monarchy period, in any wise. The oft-stated claim of a ‘consensus’ that the patriarch never existed is itself a case for self-delusion on the data presented here. Kitchen shows that if some of these cultural elements can also be found during the Neo- Assyrian period, they better fit the second millennium. He nevertheless also acknowledges some limitations: … high ages at death, etc. are the only unusual features, and this may be in part the result of long-term transmission of numbers, a matter subject to change through time. But as seen before, these unusual “high ages at death” features can now be explained by a failed sexagesimal to decimal conversion (see Calculating time, p. 159). Kitchen’s argumentation spans well over 600 pages where he does an extensive investigation of all the archeological data, compiles arguments for the various historical periods, and compares how each period supports the patriarchal narratives. Among other things, Kitchen compares the price of slaves throughout history to show how it perfectly matches that reported in the scriptures (see The new evidence and research presented raises questions about the mainstream claim that the story of Abraham was passed down orally. Is it still a sustainable claim? Alternatively, could it be possible that such a covenant was actually written down at a much earlier time? If so, this leads to further questions about how the written medium could have survived the passage of time and avoided significant alterations while maintaining its temporal eliciency. These questions require further investigation and analysis to determine the validity of the oral transmission theory and explore alternative possibilities. Method of transmission p. 342). If Kitchen is somewhat biased and ruthless in his critique of minimalist writers, he does provide extremely valuable insights and data that are regrettably, too often blindly dismissed. The Divine Council of Ugarit A century ago, a farmer ploughing through his field in northwest Syria accidentally stumbled upon an ancient tomb. This discovery led to the excavation of two temples, two libraries, one palace, and several dwellings of the ancient city of Ugarit (present day Râsaš- Šamrah). Gateway between the Mediterranean basin and Mesopotamia, Ugarit was a major capital that reached its pinnacle during the Late Bronze Age, under the control of the Amorites. Numerous clay tablets, dating from 1450 to 1180 BCE, were found during the excavations and have thought us a great deal about the Canaanite religion of this time. Some of these texts describe rituals, olerings, and myths that reveal several parallels with passages of the Hebrew Bible. They also describe the activities of the main gods and goddesses of the Canaanite pantheon. In this universe, the god El, in tandem with his son the warrior-god Ba’al and his wife Athirat, known in the Bible as Asherah, rule supreme over a council of deities made of a lower level of attendant gods. In total, a list exceeding two hundred deities are recorded in the Ugarit pantheon. Among the main opposing forces, we find Yamm, the god of the sea, Mot, the god of death, Resheph the burning god of the underworld, and Deber, a somewhat more obscure deity associated with the plague. Many biblical scholars have not yet taken the full measure of the role played by these texts on the production of the Israelite literature, perhaps because the protagonists are dilerent and because the stories diler from those of the Bible. However, their impact is undeniable, especially in the older poetic literature, such as in Psalms and Habakkuk: Hab 3:3 God [elóah] came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Hab 3:4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. Hab 3:5 Before him went the pestilence [Deber], and burning coals [Resheph] went forth at his feet. In Psalm 82, Elohim is portrayed as the supreme authority, ruling over other gods. This passage is often cited as evidence of the influence of Ugaritic polytheism: Ps 82:1 Elohim standeth in the congregation of the mighty [El]; he judgeth among the gods [elohim]. … Ps 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods [elohim]; and all of you are children of the most High [Elyon]. Ps 82:7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Smith comments on the figure of God in Psalm 82: Here the figure of God, understood as Yahweh, takes his stand in the assembly. The name El was understood in the tradition – and perhaps at the time of the text’s original composition as well – to be none other than Yahweh and not a separate god called El. In any case, the assembly consists of all the gods of the world, for all these other gods are condemned to death in verse 6 This notion of gods that “shall die like men” applies well to the dead kin. It is also worth noting that the concept of a divine assembly was still present in 1 Kings 22, which suggests this concept was deeply rooted in tradition: 1 Kg 22:19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord [Yahweh]: I saw the Lord [Yahweh] sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. Smith stresses the significance and importance that existed between the Ugaritic and Biblical literatures and the continuum it olers with Yahweh: The literary and religious features shared by the Ugaritic texts and the Bible include not simply vague parallels, but cultural specifics. For example, the religion headed by El and his divine family, as known at Ugarit and perceptible in a number of relatively early Israelite sources, was historically superseded by the god that emerged as Israel’s national divine patron, Yahweh. Smith also criticizes biblical scholars for not paying enough attention to the contribution of Ugaritic literature to the Bible: In recent years, some scholars have shown a marked disinclination to use Ugaritic texts to study the background of Israelite religion and literature. This question is raised because biblical scholarship more broadly has not fully absorbed the gains produced in the field. With these more recent studies that devalue the use of Ugaritic, the field runs the risk of ignoring the larger contribution that the study of Ugaritic makes to the understanding of the Bible. Indeed, this “contribution” may run much deeper than previously suspected, as our investigation shows. In the Babylonian story of the Enûma Eliš, Marduk also appears as presiding over a divine council. However, when comparing Ugaritic and Mesopotamian conceptions of divinities, Smith stresses the importance of the household family model that characterizes the Ugarit pantheon: On the whole, Mesopotamia does not use the divine household as a means of achieving conceptual unity to the same extent as Ugaritic myth. … In general, it is my impression that the root metaphor of the family, although well attested for specific relationships between deities, does not extend as strongly to the collectivity of divinities in Mesopotamia. This unique aspect of the Ugaritic pantheon proved formative to the evolution of the Israelite theology. It was closely influenced by the environment that surrounded this people, and within which they evolved. And as the evidence will continue to show, this distinctive notion of household family model likely derived from the deification of Abraham’s Lord and Sarah. For the time being, let’s have a closer look at the features and attributes of the key deities of this Ugaritic pantheon. El, supreme deity, creator of the universe Most scholars accept the idea that the name El derives from the Akkadian Il and Ilu. The termאל (el) is a generic Hebraic term meaning “god”, much like אהל י ם (elohim) is a generic term meaning “gods”. In the Ugaritic literature El/Ilu refers to the supreme god of Canaan, much like Elohim refers to Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible. The fact that the Abrahamic narratives make no reference to Ba’al or Asherah, supports the idea that Abraham did not know about these deities. And as Lewis writes, he didn’t know about Yahweh either. Abraham only knew about El: It is often argued that the absence of Yahweh in this name, together with the name of the Shechemite deity “El, the god of (the patriarch) Israel” (Gen 33:20) and the absence of Yahweh (and Baal) in anthroponyms and toponyms in early literature, indicates the antiquity of El worship over Yahweh worship. El is not only the oldest deity of Canaan, but also the most important one. And as it predates the concept of Divine Council, we should not be surprised to find El presiding over the assembly, deciding fates and dispensing divine justice. Lewis notes that many scholars have argued “that El had a long Semitic pedigree dating back to the Pre-Sargonic period and was especially popular during Amorite period of the eighteen century BCE.” Francesca Stavrakopoulou also notes that El was worshipped before Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible: Scholars have long suspected that El, not Yahweh, was the original god of the people known in the Bible as ‘Israel’; his name not only occurs in the traditions of the patriarchs, but is embedded in the name of Israel itself (yisra-el), and is explicitly revealed in the divine name of a temple Jacob is said to have built at the ancient city of Shechem, in what is now the West bank: ‘He erected an altar there and called it “El, god of Israel”’ The above arguments, coupled with the fact that the Jewish tradition places the patriarchal period to the 18th century BCE, suggests that the god El was the only god worshipped by the patriarchs. The absence of reference to Ba’al and Asherah in the Abrahamic narratives likely testify to the elect that their cult had not yet been established, and as it will be later shown, this is a critical observation in our investigation. Asherah, queen of heaven In the Ugaritic literature, Athirat (Asherah in the Bible) appears as El’s consort and as Ba’al’s sister (she is occasionally also presented as Ba’al’s consort.) Asherah is the goddess of fertility (associated throughout the Near East with Athirat, Ishtar, Anat, Astarte, Ba’alat or Zaparnit). It is only recently that Dever and Hadley showed that Asherah eventually also became regarded as Yahweh’s consort. The Kuntillet ’Ajrud pithos “storage jar” inscriptions that speaks of “Yahweh of Shomron (Samaria) and his Asherah” and the one carved into a wall of the Khirbet el-Kom tomb where someone is blessed “by Yahweh” and “by his Asherah” are dated to the 8th century BCE and continue to steer controversy. Scholars cannot agree on the description of the pictures or if one should see in the word “Asherah” the goddess deity or the “asherah” cult symbol. For J. Glen Taylor, the answer lies in the Taanach cult stand of late 9th century BCE on which one can find two representations of the goddess flanked by two lions; one Asherah is depicted as the naked goddess herself, and the other as a tree of life. For Taylor, there is little doubt that Asherah was perceived as both a consort to Yahweh and a cult object. 20: Taanach cult stand When one is aware of this relationship between Yahweh and Asherah, it is dilicult to read the 8th century BCE prophet Hosea and not see in his tirade an explicit condemnation of the cult of Asherah, consort of Yahweh and mother goddess of Israel: Ho 2:2 Plead with your mother, plead; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: and let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts; … Ho 2:11 And I will cause all her mirth to cease: her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths! and all her solemnities. Ho 2:12 And I will make desolate her vine and her fig-tree, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards which my lovers have given me; and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. Ho 2:13 And I will visit upon her the days of the Baals, wherein she burned incense to them, and decked herself with her rings and jewels, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith Yahweh. Two centuries later, the Israelites continued to show their attachment to Asherah, the queen of heaven: Jer 44:16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. Jer 44:17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink olerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. Jer 44 : 18 But since we left ol to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink olerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. These few verses support the idea that Asherah had indeed become Yahweh’s consort in the eyes of the early Israelites. The many parallels that can be drawn between passages in the story of Abraham and the religion practiced by the ancient Canaanites have previously been understood as “influences” because we have been unable to dissociate the anthropomorphic figure from the immaterial one in the text. As such, we did not realize that these similarities represented much more than one aspect of the patriarch’s religion. Indeed, when one understands that the anthropomorphic figure in the Abrahamic narratives is a mortal overlord, and that the “god” that appears in the text only exhibits immaterial characteristics, one realizes that this “god” perfectly fits the description of the Canaanite El. Ba’al, warrior and storm god Ba’al ב) על ) is a generic Hebrew term meaning “lord”, “master”, or even “husband”. It derives from the Akkadian Bel. Because it is such a generic name, we find multiple Levantine deities with this name. In the Ugaritic literature, Ba’al is the son of El. He reigns alongside the supreme god in co-regency, and is assisted by his ruthless sister Anat. Ba’al is the god of war, rain, wind, and thunder. In some texts, El is depicted as a god of war, but this role was likely later assumed by Ba’al. Over time, El continued to play an important role. Citing Rainer Albertz and Rüdiger Schmitt, Lewis notes: El was still regarded as a high god, but his activity was seen to be particularly focused on the protection of individuals, whereas Hadad, Baal, and other deities gained more prominence in political realms.” Since farming in Canaan depends heavily on the rain, Ba’al is worshiped so he will grant this heavenly gift – bringer of life or death. In the Ugaritic literature, El is often depicted has as the elder, wearing a gray beard while Ba’al is often depicted as a warrior holding a spear, a young calf, or even a bull. Anthropomorphic representations of Ba’al often show him wearing horns, a universal symbol of power and fertility. Lewis olers an extensive review of the iconography of Levantine divinities, which suggests that El might also have been represented by מבצ ו ת (masseboth) “standing stones” as well as the image of a powerful bull. However, Lewis remains very cautious: We cannot be certain that these figurines represent El… we cannot extrapolate any firm evidence that would help us understand how El was portrayed in Iron Age Israel. The challenge in identifying deities through iconography comes from the fact that they are typically no accompanied by inscriptions and that the role and function of El has evolved over time as Ba’al grew in popularity and as worshippers later came to identify El as Yahweh. In The Palace of Ba’al, a text written in the 14th century, we learn that Ba’al complains to his sister Anat that he has neither house nor court like the other gods and that he has to live in the dwelling of his father El and of Athirat/Asherah. Anat let El know that she intends… … to strike him so that his grey hairs run with blood, if he will not grant her request. El replies that he knows her ruthless nature and asks her what she wants. Softening, Anat compliments the supreme god on his wisdom and kindliness and reminding him that Baal is (as he himself has recognized) king and judge, announces that she and another (presumably Baal’s consort Athtart) would gladly serve him as ministers at his table. However, he has no house like the other gods and in his chagrin has requested her to ask El to remedy the situation. The Ba’al Cycle is another text that stands out from the Ugaritic collection. As with many other ancient documents from Ugarit, the concept it puts forth most likely existed long before it was written and oler parallels with Mesopotamian mythology. Smith’s observation on the role of death in the Ba’al Cycle is noteworthy: [I contend] that the royal concern for the deceased kings and Rephaim has intensively influenced the longest piece of Ugaritic literature, the Baal Cycle. Baal is cast in the role of dead king and hero in the final two tablets of the cycle. Indeed, nowhere else in the ancient Middle Eastern literature is Death so prominent a divinity as in the Baal Cycle. Over time, Ba’al will take over and assume some of El’s original functions. Even Asherah will become his consort. Through syncretism, the figure of Ba’al, will eventually come to blend with that of the rising Yahweh. Idolatry, necromancy, and the cult of the ancestors Whereas each region or area in antiquity worshipped its own god, traditional nomadic religion could not be based on local gods since nomads were always on the move. Instead, a nomadic son recognized his filiation by invoking the memory of the “god of his father” and by praying to his ancestors. As Mircea Eliade points out in A History of Religious Ideas, the concept of worshipping the god of one’s immediate ancestor is a primitive one that is especially well suited to this lifestyle. Foltz also reports that devotion to ancestors is undoubtedly the most archaic form of religion in the world. Although this practice was predominant among nomadic people, it was widespread throughout the Near Eastern region. The Talmud claims that Terah, Abraham’s father, was an idolater worshipping twelve divinities, one for each month of the year. In the Talmud, Abraham’s beliefs are opposed to those of his father. And yet, nothing in the Abrahamic narratives indicates that this was the case. These alirmations appear only much later when the rabbis sought to interpret the scriptures; in studying the texts and the oral traditions, they attributed the patriarchs with several monotheistic characteristics that appear nowhere—and were not even implied—in the Pentateuch. This is most likely why the Talmud, as well as the Qur’an written much later, claim that Abraham was olended by idol worship. These alirmations became necessary to re-enforce a theological interpretation that was clearly at odds with the biblical text: Ge 31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images [teraphim] that were her father’s. The word תרפ ימ (teraphim), which is found more than a dozen times in the Bible, is generally translated as “idols” or “images.” The passage in which Rachel steals her father’s teraphim demonstrates how significant these “idols” were to the patriarchs. Laban’s teraphim represent his ancestral deities, that is, his ’elohim, which are going to be branded אהל י הנכ ר after they enter into Israelite territory. In stealing them, Rachel evidently attempts to retain some stake נחל) ה , Gen. 31:14) in her father’s household. In addition, we suggest, she seeks their apotropaic protection, since she is most likely pregnant at the time of her departure from Haran. Jacob – who will later take on the name of Israel – even demands the death penalty for the thief: Ge 31:32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods [eloheka], let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them. And when Laban addresses Jacob, he does not speak of a local god, but rather the god of Jacob’s ancestors: Ge 31:29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the god [elohé] of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad. Although the question of whether the dead were deified in West Semitic traditions is still debated today, Lewis is alirmative: Would any anthropologist who documents the widespread use of divination in the ancient Near East (including Israel, where liver omens were found) conclude that Iron Age Israel waited until Dtr to concoct its notions about necromancy? Could any historian of religions who studies tomb amulets in western Asia dispute that there was belief in the dead and in their power? Could any archaeologist who inspects burial vaults beneath private homes in Ugarit deny that their owners venerated the dead? Lewis hereby refers to the Book of Deuteronomy, which prohibits the Israelites to engage in necromancy, a by then-popular practice that consisted of talking to the spirits of the deceased ones: Dtr 18:10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Dtr 18:11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. Dtr 18:12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Lewis also points out that the term Elohim is occasionally used to refer to the dead in the Bible itself: 1 Sa 28:13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw Elohim ascending out of the earth. 1 Sa 28:14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. Cooper and Goldstein even suggest that the term Elohim not only refers to the dead, but can also be used to refer to deified ancestors: … we read the beginning of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2), אנכ י יהו ה א’ הלך , as “I, Yahweh, am your ‘elohim” to the exclusion of “other ‘elohim” אהל י ם אחר )י ם ). As for the identity of those “other”, supplanted ‘elohim, we have suggested that they were most likely ancestral deities, that is, the deified ancestors of local ancestor cults. There can be little doubt at this point that the term “‘elohim” had this connotation in ancient Hebrew; we simply extend it to a number of texts in which it has not usually been noticed hitherto. Schmitt raises doubt on this interpretation when he claims that the use of the term Elohim in these passages refers to ancestors who were honored but not worshipped. But Sonia wholeheartedly disagrees: … the terminology used for biblical necromancy suggests that the dead are, in fact, divine. That biblical writers use the term ʾĕlōhîm for the dead in some biblical texts describing necromancy suggests that (in these texts, at least) the dead belong to the same conceptual category as other divine beings. Sonia also argues that if the Bible condemns necromancy it, strangely, does not condemn the cult of the dead kin per se. … if indeed the tərāpîm were ancestor figurines used in necromancy, and necromancy were a facet of the cult of dead kin, then we must still struggle to make sense of the fact that biblical polemic against necromancy chooses to focus on this particular facet of the cult of dead kin while largely ignoring others, such as feeding or invoking the name of the dead. The מזר) ח ) marzéah ceremony referred to in Amos 6:7 and Jer 16:5 is a ritual banquet for the deceased. It corresponds to the Mesopotamian kispu ceremony, which was for the royal class (see also Egyptian deities, p.183). This ceremony consists of three parts: the invocation of the deceased’s name, presentation of food, and libation of water. Proper burial and care of the physical corpse was also part of the cult of the dead in the Hebrew Bible. There are many passages insisting on the importance for the descendants to keep the ancestors’ bones with them (Ge 50:25; Ex 13:19; Josh 24:32; 1 Sam 31:13; 2 Sam 21:12- 14; etc.). The most prominent example is certainly that of Joseph, whose bones have been preciously kept as a relic for generations: Ge 50:25 And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, Elohim will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. Exodus and the book of Joshua were written many generations later, according to Jewish tradition: Ex 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. Josh 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. The numerous references to the cult of the ancestors that are found in the Hebrew Bible have been studied for decades. And for Sonia, the fact that “we must read against the grain of the biblical text in order to notice the influence of the cult of dead kin suggests its pervasive nature, particularly as a fundamental aspect of family religion.” She explains, not without a touch of irony, that many scholars avoid the theological problems raised by the similitude of cults rendered to divine ancestors and Yahweh by using a terminology that “diler ever so slightly” and without olering a clear description of the dilerences that may be implied: Thus, the dead are not divine but preternatural. They are not worshiped but honored. The ritual activity surrounding them is not cult but care. But why would the authors of the Bible have gone out of their way to include such explicit references to the cult of the ancestors in the Pentateuch, only to painstakingly downplay, condemn, and eliminate them later? And why would such cultic practices infiltrate the Torah at such a fundamental and obscure level if it wasn’t part of its slow and natural evolution? The emergence of the Ba’al Berith deity Among the many deities referred to as the Ba’als, the ב י ר ת ב על (ba’al berith) deity, which literally means “lord of covenant” deserves special attention. It was a significant deity worshiped at Shechem during the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age periods. Regrettably, little is known about this deity. Some believe local covenants gave rise to this cult. In addition to archaeological findings, there are a few references to it in the Bible, where the same deity is sometimes calle לd ב י ר ת א (el berith), which means “god of covenant.” According to Wright, the most active period of settlement at Shechem was from around 1800-1100 BCE. The early Israelites had built a temple in Shechem where they worshiped the Ba’al/El Berith deity. In Judges, we learn that Abimelech kills all the Israelites that had found refuge in this temple. This reported killing matches the temple and sacred area destruction that was dated through archeological digs to the late 12 th century: Jud 8:33 And it came to pass when Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after the Baals, and set up Baal-Berith as their god. … Jud 9:46 And all the men of the tower of Shechem heard that, and they entered into the stronghold of the house of Baal Berith. Jud 9:49 And all the people likewise cut down every man his bough, and they followed Abimelech, and put them to the hold, and burned the hold with fire upon them. And all the men of the tower of Shechem died also, about a thousand men and women. Commenting on this critical passage, the New World Encyclopedia underlines the intriguing similarities that exist between Ba’al Berith and Yahweh with regards to their name, function, and place of worship: After Gideon’s death, according to Judges 8:33, the Israelites started to worship a Baal Berith (“Lord of the Covenant”), and the citizens of Shechem supported Abimelech’s attempt to become king by giving him 70 shekels from the temple of Baal Berith (Judges 9:4). The scene involving this “Lord of the Covenant” appears eerily similar [sic] one described in Joshua 24:25 as involving a covenant with Yahweh. Judges 9:46 goes on to say that these supporters of Abimelech enter “the House of El Berith”—apparently the same temple earlier referred to as belonging to Baal. Thus, all three names—Baal, El, and Yahweh—refer to a Covenant Deity at Shechem; and possibly to one deity referred to by three dilerent names. The fact that altars devoted to Yahweh, even in the Temple of Jerusalem itself, were characterized by horned altars could also indicate a carryover from more primitive days with El and Baal (both of whom were sometimes portrayed as bulls) were not worshiped on common hilltop altars with Yahweh. By indicating that Yahweh, Ba’al, and El could refer to one and the same deity, the authors suggest that there was a point in time when the Israelites made, in elect, no distinction between these various figures. Smith more recently noted: Traditions concerning the cultic site of Shechem illustrate the cultural process lying behind the Yahwistic inclusion of old titles of El, or stated dilerently, the Yahwistic assimilation of old cultic sites of El. In the city of Shechem the local god was ’ēl bĕrît, “El of the covenant” (Judge. 9:46; cf.8:33;9:4). This word ’ilbrt appears as a Late Bronze Age title for El in KTU 1.128.14-15. In the patriarchal narratives, the god of Shechem, ’ēl, is called ’ĕlōhê yiśrā’ēl, “the god of Israel”, and is presumed to be Yahweh. In this case, a process of reinterpretation appears to be at work. In the early history of Israel, when the cult of Shechem became Yahwistic, it inherited and continued the El traditions of that site. Hence Yahweh received the title ’ēl bĕrit, the old title of El. Smith’s observations are accurate although he failed, in my opinion, to understand that Yahwism did not “assimilate” or “reinterpret” the ancient cult of El Berith, but that it rather perpetuated it. And while this may come as a surprise for those holding Yahweh as the One True God, it makes perfect sense when adopting the logic of a deified overlord. But is there any evidence pointing to a possible deification of Ba’al Berith (i.e., the nomadic practice of the cult of the ancestors) into El Berith (i.e., the sedentary practice of a local deity)? As the Bible is silent on this topic, it might be helpful to turn to other documents. Deities were commonly invoked as witnesses in Near-Eastern treaties and it seems that Ba’al Berith bore unique characteristics. After surveying the role played by deities in known Akkadian, Babylonian and also Neo-Assyrian treaties, Lewis made this critical observation that confirms our suspicions: All of the expressions cited above of ba‘al/bēl + treaty term (Gen 14:13 included) involve human agreements and sometimes refer to divine witnesses elsewhere in the text. Lewis confirms that the term “Ba’al” (i.e., “Bel” in Akkadian) is often found in ancient Near Eastern treaties. However, in all known examples, the name is always associated with the human counterpart, rather than the divine witness. Lewis underlines the surprising and unexpected nature of Ba’al Berith that he understands to be a deity playing a human role as a treaty partner instead of the traditional divine witness. Unfortunately, because Lewis fails to understand that Ba’al Berith was originally a mortal partner in the treaty, who later was elevated to the rank of “deity”, he carries on with his analysis. When he later discusses the strange dualistic nature of the names Ba’al Berith vs. El Berith, that some perceive as two independent deities, he makes yet another important observation: Can two deities play the role of the patron deity or covenant partner in one locality? Probably not. …A priori we cannot decide which of these two deities would better head the clan groups (both El and Baal Hamon head confederacies elsewhere) at Shechem except for Israelite tradition which prefers El. Although he does recognize that the Israelite tradition has always favored the name El over Ba’al, Lewis fails to realize that the Ba’al component of the name could have been elevated to El through a deification process. Lewis also fails to make any association between “Yahweh” and “Ba’al”, despite the dualistic nature of Ba’al/El having clear parallels with the Yahweh/Elohim one, which both carry this unusual lord/god component in their respective names. In the conclusion of his monograph, he makes yet another significant observation on two unique aspects of the Israelite religion: Eventually the Canaanite religion at Shechem gave way to the monolatrous and exclusivist tendencies in early Israelite religion. The same exclusive vision that transformed a Canaanite polytheism into a monolatrous worship of the god El was responsible for developing the notion of the deity as a treaty partner to a far greater degree than that found among Israel’s neighbors. Is it truly pure coincidence that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the patriarchal narratives are so intimately connected with Shechem? Is it also a pure coincidence that we find with this Ba’al/El Berith divinity the same duality of the lord/god component in their alternative names? Can further connections be made between the covenant (i.e., “berith”) that Abraham made with “Yahweh” and this “Ba’al Berith” deity? While believers who have always known Ba’al as the bloodthirsty pagan god of the cult of the golden calf might resent such an association as blasphemous, it is important to note that this “negative” view of Ba’al only emerged at a much later date. During most of antiquity, the term Ba’al had the same meaning as “master” or “lord”—a purely honorific title applicable to powerful men of that era. The use of this term confirms the confusion that can exist between the statuses of “god”, “demi-god”, and “man of power”, a confusion that would be entertained through the cult of the ancestors. 21: Temple of Ba’al Berith in Shechem (near Nablus) While commenting on the type of fatherhood attributed to Abraham in the patriarchal traditions, Claus Westermann, considered by many as one of the premier Old Testament scholars of the 20th century, wrote: There has as yet been no study of the relationship of the patriarchal story to the cult of ancestors. It is possible, however, that some expressions of ancestor cult are linked with narratives about the ancestors. Parallels to the patriarchal stories, therefore, should not be excluded. Such a study would be worthwhile. A variant is the divinization of the ancestor; he becomes God and is venerated as such; the fact that he was the ancestor generally recedes into the background. The third possibility, on the other hand, seems to occur only in the patriarchal stories: the ancestor takes on the character of one who is unique, of the father par excellence; he remains, nevertheless, a man without the slightest trace of divinization or ancestor worship. It is clear from the nature of the traditions in Israel that the father of the people could not, in retrospect be divine or semi-divine, nor could there be any cult of the ancestors. This is based on the great importance of history in these traditions and on the confession of the one God. It is more dilicult, however, to explain why the old, pre-Israelite patriarchal traditions also show no trace of ancestor worship or of divinization of the ancestor. Westermann hereby confirms that a study on the relationship between the Abrahamic narratives and the cult of the ancestors would be worthwhile and that it is dilicult to explain why the Israelite traditions show no trace of divinization of the ancestor. However, by focusing his attention entirely on Abraham, and his role as a father for Israel, Westermann misses the mark and neglects to consider the eventuality that Abraham’s lord himself could result from the deification of a powerful ancestor. Given that the cult of the ancestors prevailed throughout the Levant during the Bronze Age, it seems that Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and Joseph, would have had every reason in the world to celebrate their lord/ancestor’s benevolent memory. Is the book of Wisdom not providing explicit insights about these celebrations? Wis 14:17 And those whom men could not honour in presence, because they dwelt far ol, they brought their resemblance from afar, and made an express image of the king whom they had a mind to honour: that by this their diligence, they might honour as present, him that was absent. Wis 14:18 And to worshipping of these, the singular diligence also of the artificer helped to set forward the ignorant. Wis 14:19 For he being willing to please him that employed him, laboured with all his art to make the resemblance in the best manner. Wis 14:20 And the multitude of men, carried away by the beauty of the work, took him now for a god that a little before was but honoured as a man. As Lewis rightfully pointed out just a few years ago: The Shechemite deity (or deities?) El/Baal Berith (Jud 8:33; 9:4, 46) has attracted far too little attention from the scholarly community, especially when one considers that here we have data that are intimately connected to the development of ancient Israelite religion, not to mention the reconstruction of the concept of covenant in ancient Israel. It appears that the dualistic lifestyle of the patriarchs – partially nomads and sedentary – presented a unique set of conditions that have led to the emergence of El Berith, a new local deity for the Canaanites living near Shechem. Indeed, it seems likely that the practice of the cult of the ancestors, inherited from their nomadic origin, would have fostered the deification of Abraham’s lord shortly after his death, while the gift of the land through the covenant would have provided Abraham’s descendants with the sedentary lifestyle that would have been conducive to the emergence of a local god and its associated worship. Sarah, “Mother Goddess” of Israel? As one comes to consider the idea that Isaac may have been fathered by Abraham’s lord (i.e. Ba’al Berith), and that the memory of this lord was elevated to the rank of deity (i.e. El Berith), one naturally starts wondering what might have happened to his mother Sarah. We know that in the eyes of the Canaanites, Asherah was the consort of Ba’al and the mother goddess of Israel. Can a connection be established between Asherah and Sarah? Was the memory of Isaac’s mother also elevated to the rank of deity? From an etymological standpoint, the only dilerence between the names Asherah ( א ר ש) ה and Sarah ש) הר ) is the letter aleph ( א) that assumes a leading position in the name of the goddess. What do we know of this letter and where does it come from? The precursor to the modern alphabet was invented by a Semitic people who worked in the turquoise mines of Serabit. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie is the Egyptologist who led an archaeological expedition in this region in 1905. He discovered a sphinx with strange Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was later found that these symbols were not all hieroglyphs. Unlike cuneiform, which is made up of an assortment of straight lines, these inscriptions expressed letters through symbols that would be referred to as Proto-Sinaitic. 22: The goddess Hathor This sphinx, like a mini Rosetta stone, spelled out a simple inscription in both Egyptian and Canaanite. The hieroglyphic inscription reads “Beloved of Hathor, lady of the turquoise” while the Proto-Sinaic inscription simply reads “Lady” or “Ba’alat”, the feminine construct equivalent of Ba’al. The Serabit sphinx suggests that this alphabet was born through proximity to Egyptian pictograms. The meaning of the pictograms was key to the Canaanites as they served as an important mnemonic tool. For instance, the letter aleph is the ’alp, the word for “ox” or “bull”; the letter bêt is the beit or “house”; the letter ‘ayin, “eye”, etc. The very word “alphabet” comes from “aleph beit”, the first two letters, which eventually became “alpha beta” in Greek. This Proto-Sinaitic alphabet predated Modern Hebrew and Aramaic by more than a thousand years. The number and names of the letters have been somewhat preserved, but their associated pictograms have evolved. 23: Latin alphabet, Modern Hebrew, and Proto-Sinaitic Meanwhile, in Egypt, the falcon pictogram ( ) was commonly used to represent Horus, the god of the Kings. This symbol would often accompany the name of Pharaoh, much like the Akkadian dingir (𒀭) would precede the name of a Babylonian god or deified ancestor to indicate his divine status. Were the Canaanites using a similar pictogram to represent their king god Ba’al? It appears that Genesis 36 contains the remnants of such a practice. This chapter relates Esau’s genealogy—the most detailed of any in Genesis. We learn that the descendants of Esau are referred to as “aluf” אלו)ף ) in Hebrew, which is most often translated to “duke” or “chief” in English. Ge 36:40 And these are the names of the alufs that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; aluf Timnah, aluf Alvah, aluf Jetheth, Ge 36:41 Aluf Aholibamah, aluf Elah, aluf Pinon, Ge 36:42 Aluf Kenaz, aluf Teman, aluf Mibzar, Ge 36:43 Aluf Magdiel, aluf Iram: these be the alufs of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites. The term aluf אלו)ף ) is closely related to aleph א)לף ), the name of the Hebrew letter “ ,”א which derives from an ox’s head. Its numerical value is “1.” Not only is it the first letter of the alphabet, but it is also the most important: it is the symbol for God, the only God, the Absolute. There can be no doubt, then, that it has always been a term associated with power and uniqueness. Is it then pure coincidence if, to this day, the title Aluf still refers to the highest-ranking olicials of the Israelite army? Given the close ties between Canaan, Egypt and Babylonia, it would therefore seem reasonable to suggest that the Canaanites would have used the pictogram of a bull-head ( ) as a symbol for representing their deified kin, and that the function of this symbol would have eventually been conflated with the letter it was also representing through the adoption and evolution of the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet. This pictogram evolved into the Greek letter α (a sideways bull’s head) and the modern A (an upside-down bull’s head): 24: Evolution of the letter “A” In her quality of mother of Isaac and stepmother of Ishmael, Sarah ש) הר ) would have been referred to as “Aluf” or “Ba’alat/Ba’alah”, the feminine form of Ba’al that signifies princess or consort. As such, the name Sarah written “ ” in Proto-Sinaitic could have been preceded by a bull-head pictogram “ .” What was once meant to be pronounced “Aluf Sarah” (א ש) הר would have eventually been assimilated into “Asherah” .( א ר ש) ה Aluf Sarah, the revered matriarch, would have evolved into Asherah, the “Mother Goddess” of Israel. Through syncretism, she would have been closely associated (and perhaps even conflated), with the Babylonian goddess Astarte/Ishtar. She would have inherited much of her qualities, in much the same way Ba’al Berith became associated with Ba’al/Bel and El. Finally, and in light of the use of the title “aluf” (i.e. duke) found in Ge 36, one may wonder if the couple’s descendants did not also come to be regarded as members of this divine assembly? A survey of possible ties linking the names of these “alufs” to lesser gods of the Levant would be interesting. Mythological fragments? It took me a few years to clue into the fact that Asherah might be the deified Sarai. I was therefore stunned to find Dvora Lederman-Daniely come to the exact same conclusion in her recent monograph entitled Sarai: Is She the Goddess of Ancient Israel. Even more surprising is the fact that, to my knowledge, this is the very first time a biblical scholar suggests that Sarai had a relationship with Yahweh. This is not just outside of mainstream scholarship, it is literally ground-breaking. When discussing the Abrahamic narratives, Lederman-Daniely argues “that these passages are stories that depict a divine rather than human couple, and the consorts are not Abram and Sarai, but Sarai and Yahweh.” What I find most stimulating is that she reaches this conclusion using radically dilerent evidence and interpretations. For instance, she does not rely on a secular interpretation of the story and does not even consider the possibility of deification. Instead, she relies on what she refers to as “mythological fragments” that she sees in chapters Ge 12, 18, and 20. She suggests that these fragments would have been inserted via syncretism and association of the names Sarai and Asherah. What is consequent here is that the same conclusion has been reached independently by a biblical scholar who did not even had to revert to the premise of a deified overlord. And this leads substantial credence to our work. In support of her claim, Dvora Ledernam-Daniely brings up some powerful textual arguments that totally escaped me. For instance, she explains that the word letzahek לצח ) ק ) found in Ge 18:13, does not only refer to laughter or mockery, but also implies a flirtatious-romantic sense. She notes that in Ge 26:8, “when King Abimelech hears the laughter between Isaac and Rebekah, he realizes they are lovers and not brother and sister, as Isaac had claimed.” She also notes that in Ge 39:17, Potiphar’s wife uses the word letzahek in the sense of “lying with me” and thus concludes that “in some cases the Book of Genesis uses the word letzahek to mean sexual flirtation and seduction.” She then proceeds to oler examples of Canaanite narratives where Asherah and Sarai share analogous roles or are described in similar ways. Interestingly, she does not comment on the possible meaning of the leading aluf in Asherah, but focuses on the similitudes and the meaning of the two names. Finally, she explores possible use of a figure called Sarai as a superhuman being in the Book of Lamentations, and as well as references in Isaiah that associates Sarah with giving birth to nations, but in a way that also carries some supernatural power. All these arguments supplement the ones I have olered thus far. Unfortunately, by failing to recognize that Sarai was more than simply associated with Asherah, but that she “was” her deified version, Lederman-Daniely misses an important aspect of our study. El-Sarai and El-Shaddai Dvora Lederman-Daniely nevertheless continues to show amazing insights by arguing that the oldest names of God may be referring to Sarai and El. She first recalls Lutzki’s view on compound deities (which are similar to that of Smith discussed earlier): In West Semitic pantheons, the commonly found compound names often share a temple, and had features in common or been consorts. In the Ugaritic pantheon, the names X & Y (joined by “and”) could evolve into X-&-Y (perceived as a unit, used in the singular), which could then become XY (dropping a meaningless “and”). before concluding: Therefore, there is the cultural-religious possibility of a syncretic combination of the two heads of the pantheon, the Goddess and the God, into one united name. Lutzki recalls that back in 1923, Maurice Canney had already argued thaי דt ש “Shadday was a fertility deity whose name was linked to šad (“breast”), with -ay as an old feminine ending.” In her study, she takes Canney’s reflection a step further and argues that Shadday may actually refers to Asherah. For Lutzki, it follows naturally that El-Shadday refers to El and Asherah. The statement “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shadday” (Exod. iv 3) may thus inadvertently reveal, in disguised form, a faithful image of the religion of early Israel, namely, the worship of El and Shadday (El and Asherah). Lederman-Daniely then takes Lutzki’s arguments one step further by arguing that “Shadday ש ”י ד ( ) actually cognates with Saraי רi ש( ), through a confusion between the Hebrew letters R “ ר” and D “ :”ד In certain cases, we maintain that from a paleographic point of view there is no dilerence in ancient inscriptions between ר and ד, depending on the copyist’s decision. Lederman-Daniely does not say whether she thinks such letter substitution was accidental or intentional (i.e. the desire to hide something using a play on word). However, she does oler a number of additional arguments in support of her claim. We won’t cover them here, but sulice to say that in light of everything else discussed so far, the case for Shadday being associated with Asherah/Sarai is pretty appealing. “Israel”, a matronymic name? The Merneptah stela, which contains the first known inscription baring the name “Israel” dates from the 13th century BCE, just a few generations down from the Ugaritic literature discussed earlier. There is therefore no doubt that the El, Ba’al, and Asherah deities were still very popular. According to the Hebrew Bible, Jacob fought with God and was given the name Israel. There has been countless speculation on the origin of this name. Lederman-Daniely, still building on Lutzki, olers a suggestion that aligns with the rest of the information uncovered by this investigation: If “Shadday” was originally “Sarai”, then the original ancient syncretic combination was not El-shadday, but El-Sarai. This testimony is embedded in the DNA of the ancient nation who worshiped the Gods El and Sarai in a way that could not be erased. This testimony is the eternal name of the people – Israel. Ledernam-Daniely argues that the name “Israel” is no other than Sarai-El and that this “combination became, through a typical process for theophoric names (such as El-Yakim> Yakimyahu) – “Israel” (Sarai-El> Israel).” Through metathesis: ש י ר א ל > י ר ש א ל > י ר שא ל It is particularly interesting to consider this possibility in light of the ancient tradition of matrilineal descent in Judaism, where a child is considered Jewish if born to a Jewish mother, regardless of the father. Indeed, this tradition could reflect Sarah’s bloodline contribution to the birth of the “promised son” and her unique relationship with the Lord. Note that it might also be suggested that the name Israel could stem from a phonetic alteration of Asherah-El. From Beliya and Asherah to Yahweh The names Yahweh and Jehovah are transliterations of the original Tetragrammaton ( יהו) ה Yhwh found in the Torah. Nobody knows for sure where the name Yhwh originates from, or how it should be pronounced. Over the last few decades, there has been growing acceptance among biblical scholars that it may come from a Late Bronze (LB) name place called Yahu, in Judea. Grabbe explains: Some Egyptian inscriptions of LB mention what may be a geographical name Yhwh, with reference to ‘the land of the Shasu Yahu’ (§ 2.2.1.4). Although the name Yhw seems to be geographical, it is possible that there is a connection with the divinity Yhwh, perhaps the region giving its name to the god worshipped there, or even possibly the deity giving its name to the region. However, arguments have been advanced from several quarters that Yhwh arose out of the context of El worship (see next section); this does not rule out a geographical origin (since the two theories could be combined), but it illustrates the diliculties. Grabbe describes the chicken or the egg dilemma when seeking to understand the origin of the name Yahweh. The total absence of archaeological evidence should leave us doubtful. Indeed, how did an obscure local deity, for which there is not a single trace of worship, came to replace the national gods of Canaan? Some believers may be tempted to see a sign of His legitimacy in this unlikely realization, but the total absence of archaeological evidence truly leaves the question unsettled. We must keep digging. One way of testing a hypothesis is through its ability to make predictions. So far, we have argued the Ba’al/El Berith deity is not only tied to the development of the ancient Israelite religion but that it is also intimately tied to the story of the patriarchs. We have also argued that Ba’al/El (i.e., lord/deity) evolved to become Yahweh/Elohim and that Ba’al/El Berith (“Lord/God of Covenant”) became an epithet for Yahweh. Given the above, shouldn’t we naturally expect that the name Yahweh somehow also evolved out of this covenantal relationship? How could we validate such a prediction? Akkadian is a Semitic language that shares many similarities with Hebrew. Recall that a number of biblical scholars suggest that chapter 14 of Genesis has an Akkadian origin. And as the cuneiform script does not delineate words with spaces (like ancient Hebrew), it opens the door to additional interpretations – which could explain some of the more dilicult passages we find in the Abrahamic narratives. The idea that the original covenant could have been written in Akkadian should not come as a surprise in the context of an earthly covenant made with a Mesopotamian overlord, as Akkadian was the lingua franca of the time. It was commonly used in diplomatic correspondence, much like English is today. In this context, it would not only have been normal, but expected of Abraham that he refers to his Mesopotamian overlord as “beliya”, which means “my lord” in Akkadian. In A Reassessment of Biblical Elohim, Burnett suggests that the morphologically plural term אלוה י ם (elohim) “gods” used as singular – in place of the singular אלו ה (eloah) “god” – likely finds its origin in several Late Bronze Age documents from Syria-Palestine. Burnet makes a case for what he calls “concretized abstract plural” and cites the Amarna letters and vassal correspondence of the 14th century BCE, where the plural terms ilanu “gods” and ilaniya “my gods” were used as a form of plural of majesty when addressing Pharaoh. These correspondences were written in Akkadian and drafted on clay tablets using a cuneiform script that remained in use throughout the Babylonian and Assyrian empires. In the cited Amarna letters, the following expressions are found: Akkadian English sarri beliya samsiya ilaniya the king, my lord, my sun-god, my god(s) ana sarri beliya iliya samsiya the king, my lord, my god, my god-sun belu ilanu napistaka lissur may the lord, god(s), protect your life Given the terms Yahweh and Elohim are so intimately related to each other (they both refer to the one God of Israel), and given Akkadian sources are giving us insights on the possible origins of the peculiar use of the plural term Elohim to refer to a singular majesty, could the Akkadian beliya also have something to do with the name Yahweh? As exemplified by the popular expression הל ו יה (hallelujah) “praise yah”, the divine elemen הt י (yah), is often used in the Bible as a diminutive fo הr יה ו (yahweh). It is first used in Exodus as part of a song in Ex 15:2, then in Ex 17:16, and then mostly in Psalms thereafter (Pss 68:5, 19; 77:12; 89:9; 94:7, 12; 102:19; 105:45; 106:1, etc.). The particle yah is most often thought of in terms of a diminutive, but it is actually operating as a proper name in these texts. It is also well known that many Hebrew proper names use the divine element yah as a sulix, and occasionally as a prefix (e.g., Ahaziah, Bealiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, etc.). The proper name בעל יה (bealiah) (1 Chr 12: 5) clearly stands out and deserves special attention as it is the perfect transliteration of the Akkadian beliya. The Akkadian ending -yâ (or -ia, -iya) marks the 1st singular possessive adjective. As there is no solid explanation for a Hebrew origin of the divine element yah, this ending could very well represent the missing link to the origin of the proper name yah. Just over a century ago, Professor Morris Jastrow suggested that the ending י) ה ) yah found in many Hebrew proper names does not systematically represent the divine element, as is assumed by tradition, but instead often originates from the Akkadian ending -yâ (i.e., the one found in the expressions cited above). Instead of this I would propose an identification of Babylono-Assyrian ia with Hebrew יה and regard both as one of the many alormatives in Semitic substantives that give emphatic force to the noun to which they are added. And while Jastrow refers to the Babylono-Assyrian ending -yâ as an alormative substantive instead of a possessive adjective, there is no doubt in his mind that Bealiah perfectly matches the beliya found in the Amarna letters. Jastrow analyzes and classifies well over a hundred Hebrew proper names containing “yah” (or “yahu”) as being either theophoric or non-theophoric. He finds that the vast majority of these proper names are non-theophoric and should, therefore, be understood as carrying the Akkadian termination, rather than the divine name. While commenting on his experiential classification, he explains: The obstacle in the way of an entirely satisfactory and complete division lies in the natural confusion that arose between yâ as alormative and as the divine name, and which just as naturally led to slight modifications in the vocalization of the names in order to find in them a suggestion of the deity, and to adapt them to such as contained this name. Jastrow stresses the perennial confusion that has existed between the divine element yah and the Akkadian ending –yâ. And given all the evidence pointing towards a direct connection between Ba’al and Yah/Yahweh, and given the quasi-absence of any references to a deity called “yah” during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, I would like to suggest that the divine proper name yah finds its origin in the Akkadian beliya. The name Bealiah combines the two uniquely critical elements י+ה ב על (ba’al+yah) and is evidence that the Akkadian beliya was understood by Hebrew descendants as “ba’al yah.” They would have naturally adopted yah as the proper name for ba’al, their deity. Such a suggestion helps explain the appearance of the divine element yah in theophoric names and also help explain the confusion surrounding non-theophoric Hebrew proper names ending in –yah. This confusion has existed for a long time and the Hebrew tradition, as demonstrated by Jastrow, continues to systematically view yah as a divine element in its proper names, often in place of the Akkadian possessive adjective. There appears to be further evidence supporting this hypothesis. The name Belia לl בליע (beliyyaal) is another biblical Hebrew name that has its etymology clearly connected to בעל יה (beliya, ba’al yah, and bealiah). Its meaning remains ambiguous as some see it as a proper name, while others see it as an adjective. The word can be broken int ליo ב (beli) “without” and י על (ya’al) “value”, which proves to be a clever heteronym meant at concealing the meaning of the word without alecting its vocalization. I would therefore also like to suggest that the name Belial originates from the Akkadian beliya iliya meaning “my lord, my god” or from beliya ilu meaning “my lord, god”, which are expressions associated with the Pharaoh king-god and found in the Amarna letters. Certainly, the expressions “children of Belial” (Dtr 13:13), “son of Belial” (Jug 19:22) and “men of Belial” (1 Sam 25:25) betray an origin, an attachment, or even some form of loyalty to an ancient tradition that might have been banned, but that nevertheless maintains the remnants of an archaic formula related to ba’al yah (ba’al yah ≈ beliya ≈ bealiah). The use of the proper name Bealiah and its confusion with the expression beliya olers a very plausible explanation for the origin of the divine proper nam הe י (yah). We are therefore left to explain the origin of the last two letters of the Tetragrammato הn ו (weh/wh). This is where understanding the concept of syncretism and the idea that ba’al had a consort comes in handy. The we/w is the Hebrew letter ו (wav) that often stands for the conjunction “and.” The h is the Hebrew letter ה (he), which is often used as a feminine termination. As consort of Baal, Asherah would naturally adopt the title בעל ה (ba’alah) “goddess”, “mistress”, “spouse”, the Hebraic feminine form of Ba’al. Smith provides an extensive list of various compound deities found in Ugaritic ritual and myths. The following two are of particular interest – note the presence of the conjunction wav ( ו) “and”, characteristic of such pairings: ’il w ’atrt (El and Athirat/Asherah) ’dgn w b’l (Dagan and Ba’al) The first one confirms that a compound deity formed of El and Asherah was already attested at Ugarit. As Asherah was commonly worshiped alongside Ba’al and El, it seems fair to suggest that the name Yahweh may result from such a pairing. Indeed, by extracting the proscribed term ב על (b’l) from the expression בעל י הו בעל ה (b’l yh w b’lh) “Ba’al Yah wa- Ba’alah” or “Lord Yah and goddess”, we obtain the Tetragrammato הn יה ו (yhwh); the divine name that shall not be pronounced. When characterizing the various types of pairing pertaining to compound divinities, Smith emphasizes the role of family relationships in the above example (divine couple with El/Asherah, father and son with Dagan/Baal). Smith explains: [The] binomial pattern is so common that it is used also to denote single deities with two names, as in Kothar wa-Hasis and Nikkal wa-Ib. In these two cases, the second term characterizes the deity named with the first term. The pairing of Ba’al Yah we Ba’alah (yhwh) is in perfect accordance with the El-Shadday (El- Sarai) and Israel ([i]Sara-El) pairings seen in the previous section, in both form and function. In addition to the pairing of deities found in Ugaritic texts, we can also turn to Egypt to learn more about this practice. When Butler discusses the practice of syncretism, we learn that it was not unusual for the Egyptians to combine two, three, or even four deities into a molecular compound deity. He provides three examples: Amun-Re Ptah-Sokar-Osiris Harmachis-Khephri-Re-Atum and then explains: The most important feature of this practice is that, as Hornung has explained, it does not mean that the deities in question have “‘fused,’ ‘equated,’ or ‘identified’.” This henotheistic form of worship means that although a new deity is created, the original deities continue to exist in their own right. As Canaan was a vassal state of Egypt at that time, it is possible that Akhenaten, the heretic pharaoh who attempted to establish the sun-god Re-Horus-Aten (aka Aten) as the nation’s super deity, acted as an influencer for a new form of syncretism. The timing would support such a hypothesis and would allow us to situate the appearance of the Tetragrammaton Yhwh somewhere during, or shortly after Akhenaten’s reign (1332-1323 BCE). Such an interpretation might explain why Yahweh was occasionally depicted using solar iconography as demonstrated by Taylor , and why so many authors since Freud have been investigating possible ties between Moses and Akhenaten. One only needs to compare Psalm 104 in the Bible with Akhenaten’s Great Hymn to the Aten to understand the extent of possible influences. The Tetragrammaton Yhwh would have been introduced as a contraction of the expression Ba’al Yah we Ba’alah sometime during the Late Bronze or Iron Age period, by priests perhaps wanting the sacred text to refer to both the male and female counterparts of their deity and perhaps also wanting to combine the attributes of Ba’al, Ba’alah and Ba’al Berith. As it will be shown in the next section, the term ב על (ba’al) will eventually be repudiated, proscribed, and obliterated from the sacred texts. It should therefore not come as a surprise that the priests would have sought to remove it. Isn’t it telling that whenever Jewish rabbis see the Tetragrammaton when reading the Torah, they do not pronounce “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” aloud, but instea יd א נ ד (adonai) which actually means “my master”, “my lord”, the Hebraic expression that perfectly corresponds to the original meaning of the Akkadian beliya. Here is an interesting question: Was this original compound deity initially referred to by the priests as “ba’al yah we ba’alah” or was the term “ba’al” dropped from the outset to create the contracted form “yah/we/h”? The latter case could further help explain why the Ba’als would be later repudiated but poses the question of the motivation that would have led to such a contraction. Was it done to facilitate the transcription process of the sacred tablets by maintaining a similar character count per line, thereby minimizing the risks of transcription errors? I wasn’t able to find similar contractions in the names of other ancient Near East deities. This being said, the case of wanting to refute the lesser gods of a compound deity also appears quite unique. Either way, we know that the later repudiation of the Ba’als did take place, and this fact should be sulicient to account for the process that has led to the contraction of the name, which would also help explain why the Tetragrammaton is deemed unpronounceable. Far from being a “new God”, Yahweh appears to have been a product of its time. What started as polytheistic worship of Israel’s distinct deities eventually gave rise to a compound “super deity”, which bore the contracted name “Yahweh.” This “super deity” would have been exclusive to the Israelites, as it would have combined the unique attributes of all its chief deities. This would further explain why Yahweh is systematically referred to and associated with Elohim, a term that refers to a plurality of deities. Given the relevance of the covenant (berith) in regard to the possession of the land of Israel, it would have naturally been necessary for the priests to ensure historical continuity between Ba’al Yah, Asherah, and Yahweh. Perhaps this is why the author of Exodus confirms that God was not known by the name Yahweh in Abraham’s time: Ex 6:3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [El-Shadday / El-Sarai], but by my name Yahweh [Ba’al Yah we Ba’alah] was I not known to them. By stating that Abraham did not know Yahweh, isn’t the author of Exodus suggesting that he substituted this name? In Ex. 3:13-15, when answering Moses who was inquiring under what name to present Him to the children of Israel, God responds with a puzzling statement א היה א שר א הי: ה (ehyeh asher ehyeh), which can be translated by “I am that I am.” Countless speculative – and even mystical – explanations have been olered to explain this strange response, but perhaps the authors of the Bible were simply trying to say that although His name had changed, He continued to be the same? Ex 3:15 And Elohim said moreover to Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: Yahweh, the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. By identifying the Tetragrammaton with the God of the patriarchs, the priests would have facilitated the adoption of their new “super deity.” In this section, I have attempted to demonstrate how the divine name yah can be better understood as a linguistic confusion that arose from the use of the term beliya in Akkadian diplomatic correspondence, and how the Tetragrammaton Yhwh should be understood as a contraction of Ba’al Yah we Ba’alah. As this explanation appears sound from a linguistic, grammatical, contextual, and historical perspective, it should be seriously considered – especially in light of Ledernam-Daniely’s proposition. El-Shadday, Israel, Yahweh, and the Divine Council Pursuant to our analysis, El-Shadday, Israel, and Yahweh would be more than just compound deities integrating the masculine and feminine qualities of El/Ba’al, and Asherah. These deities would also embody the progenitors of Israel: Abraham’s lord (i.e. Ba’al Berith/Beliya) and Sarah. These two powerful individuals would have been elevated to the rank and deity, most likely during the 17th or 16th century. This would explains why, by the 14th century in Ugarit, we find them at the head of the Divine Council and associated with the existing gods and goddesses of the Mesopotamian pantheon. When comparing the Ugaritic and Mesopotamian pantheons, recall how Smith underlined the distinctive household family model of the former. Smith also underlines the similarities that exists between the Ugaritic pantheon and Yahweh: What generally remained is a system headed by the chief god, possibly his consort, lesser or subordinate deities (some members of his retinue), astral bodies, and servantmessengers. In short, a single assembly with Yahweh as its head is the conceptual unity of Israelite polytheism. … But because Smith does not understand “Yahweh” to be a compound deity embodying the key figures of the established Ugaritic pantheon, Ba’al/El and Asherah, he sees discontinuity instead of continuity, and his conclusion is misguided: Yahweh not only lacks peers within the pantheon; with his genealogy la rgely erased from the biblical record, he becomes a god not only without peer but also without precedent. When examining the idea of Sarah’s deification, a compelling explanation for the organization of the Ugaritic pantheon on the model of a ruling household emerges. This suggests that Yahweh did not deviate from the old pantheon, but that it simply evolved from it. Clearly, the Divine Council is a testament to this deified ruling household, spiritual “children” of the god El, creator of the Universe. Additional evidence I am not aware of any archaeological evidence supporting the exact inscription b’l yh w b’lh. This may not be surprising as the priests would have likely sought to destroy any evidence of such a “pagan” cult. This said, we do have comparable Iron Age inscriptions for yhwh tmn w ‘srth (“Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah”) as well as brkt ‘tkm lyhwh smrn w l’srth (“I have blessed you by Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah.”) I believe that the last two expressions substantiate the possible existence of b’l yh w b’lh through a possible tautology. Indeed, if the Tetragrammaton yhwh is the contraction of b’l yh w b’lh, then these two inscriptions would suggest that the early Israelites embraced the Tetragrammaton, but also desired to continue worshipping Asherah separately and in her own right. Further support for the deified overlord hypothesis may be found in the perfect solution it olers to the age old biblical polemic associated with the polytheistic nature of Psalm 82 and Deut 32. Psalm 82 Deuteronomy 32 1 Elohim stands among the divine council; He renders judgment among the gods… 6 I have said, you are gods; and all of you are sons of El Elyon. 7 But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. 6 Is He not your father, your progenitor? He made you and begot you… 8 When El Elyon dispersed the nations, when He scattered the sons of man, He set up the boundaries of the nations in accordance with the number of the de “sons of X.” Where “sons of X” reads “sons of Israel” in the Masoretic Text (MT) used for King James Version, but reads “sons of God” in several other versions, including the Septuagint (LXX) and 4QDeut manuscript from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Smith considers that “sons of Israel” is a later redaction aimed at hiding the polytheistic nature of the older text. But why would scribes replace “sons of God” with “sons of Israel?” From the Ugarit pantheon, we know that Athirat (biblical Asherah) had seventy divine sons (KTU 1.4.VI.46). We also know that the Sukkot spring festival (Num 29:12-32) much like the zukru festival from Emar (Emar 6, 373) called for the sacrifice of seventy bulls. And from Genesis 46, Exodus 1, and Deuteronomy 10, we learn that Jacob/Israel had seventy sons. Coincidence? KTU 1.4 (Ugarit) Genesis 46 46 He (Ba’al) did call his brothers into his mansion, his kinsfolk into the midst of his palace, he did call the seventy sons of Athirat. 27 And the sons of Joseph, which were born from him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were seventy. If the El Elyon found in Psalm 82 & Deut 32 is referring to the anthropomorphic figure of the deified overlord, then “Is He not your father, your progenitor? He made you and begot you…” must not only be understood figuratively, but also literally. In this case, replacing “sons of God” with “sons of Israel” proves to be a clever move that does not change the meaning of the text while hiding everything (i.e. the deified nature of Joseph’s seventy descendants). In addition, God and Israel ([i]Sara-El) are one and the same deity, physical and spiritual progenitor of the lineage. This naturalistic interpretation helps understand why, when the Bible refers to the seventy nations, the seventy sons of Israel, or the seventy gods of the divine assembly, it truly refers to one and the same thing: the descendants of the “divine couple” formed by Ba’al (deified overlord) and Asherah (deified Sarah), that would have been known as b’l yh w b’lh before the b’l component was dropped to form yhwh. But if Ba’al was such an important deity for the early Israelites, what could have led to its repudiation? The repudiation of the Ba’als There is no doubt that several Ba’als (which might have included the seventy descendants of Joseph) were important deities in Israel and Samaria during most – if not all – of the Bronze Age, as well as part of the Iron Age. There is also little doubt that the super deity Yahweh remained associated with Ba’al during the early Monarchy period. But while in Egypt the cult of the individual deities continued to be celebrated alongside that of the new super deity, it seems that Israel eventually begun the repudiation process of its lesser Ba’als. Perhaps the fact that the name Yahweh did not carry the root Ba’al contributed to establishing a distance, but we cannot be certain of this. What we know is that it would eventually become necessary, for theological and political reasons, to dissociate Yahweh from the other Ba’als. The Bible olers numerous examples of the desire to get rid of the word “Ba’al” in the scriptures. As Professor Lester Grabbe puts it “Considering the biblical polemic against Baal, one might have expected not to see such names, but they are found in surprising contexts.” Two well-known examples are those o לf א בש ע (esh-ba’al), son of Saul, and מ י ר ב בעל (merib-ba’al) his grandson through Jonathan. Their names still appear with the sulix “Ba’al” in 1 Chr 9:39 and 1 Chr 9:40 respectively, but appear with the sulix ב תש (bosheth) in 2 Sam 2:10 and 2 Sam 4:4. In Hebrew, the word “bosheth” means “abashed”, which conveniently serves the theological interpretation. However, Jastrow explains that the Hebrew word ב תש should probably be pronounced “beseth”, which would accordingly correspond to an Assyrian baštu, which means “possession” and possibly “power.” In both cases, the Hebrew consonants ב תש are the same since the Masoretic only introduced modern Hebraic punctuation for vowels between the 7th and 10th centuries CE. The Bible also indicates that Yahweh and Ba’al were once thought of as one and the same. The last verse of Hosea’s tirade previously cited becomes even more telling: Ho 2:16 And it shall be in that day, saith Yahweh, that thou shalt call me, My husband, and shalt call me no more, my Baal Here we find Yahweh pleading with his consort to no longer call him ב על י (ba’ali) “my Ba’al”, but to call him אי ש י (‘ishi) “my husband” instead. This reading is in perfect accordance with archaeological finds confirming that Asherah was perceived as Yahweh’s consort during this period. By then, many lesser Ba’als were celebrated throughout the land and it had become important for the priests to stop associating their “super deity” Yahweh with all other pagan gods and this is why it became necessary to no longer refer to Him as Ba’al. It is interesting to compare the above interpretation of Hosea’s tirade with that of the Jewish tradition that claims that this passage must be interpreted as a metaphor where Yahweh is speaking to the people of Israel. According to this tradition, the word “Ba’al” should be understood as meaning “husband” in this particular context. In other words, Yahweh would no longer want Israel to call him ב על י (ba’ali) “my lord”, “my husband” – in the sense of “my husband”, but to call him אי ש י (‘ishi) “my husband” instead. While olering an interesting play on words, this interpretation lacks some logic, unless one accepts the idea that the name Israel comes from [i]Sara-El. Of course, acknowledging that the term Ba’al, clearly associated with Yahweh in the above verse, refers to a pagan god, would certainly pose a significant ontological challenge in the context of a monotheistic religion that abhors paganism and would seem a good enough reason for the Jewish tradition to retain the alternative play on words instead. Nocquet recently conducted an extensive study of the evolution of the religious ideas of Israel during the first millennium BCE. He stresses that Hosea was indeed a key witness to this important transition period: Hosea is an implicit witness of this time when the worship of Baal had an olicial place in Israel and the time when Jehu put an end to its cult in Samaria. … Hosea would find himself at the beginning of this movement that dilerentiates Yahweh and Baal, until then considered as one and the same deity by the people. Violence and killings of the infidels also contributed to eradicating Baalism. While still celebrated as a great and righteous man of God, prophet Elijah would be better regarded today as a fanatic, vehement and obsessive predicator because he didn’t hesitate to revert to the use of extreme violence to forcefully impose the worship of Yahweh over that of Ba’al, which was then supported by King Ahad: Things become even more problematic, however, during the reign of the King Ahab in the Kingdom of Israel. His Phoenician wife, Jezebel, introduces Baal worship in her court and attempts a purge of the prophets of Yahweh, who vehemently oppose Baal worship. The struggle reaches its climax in the dramatic struggle between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal for control of the high place at Mount Carmel. Baal’s prophets fail to produce a sign that Baal has accepted their sacrifice, while Elijah succeeds powerfully when Yahweh consumes his sacrifice with fire from heaven. Elijah then incites the onlookers to massacre all 450 of the Baal’s representatives (I Kings 18). Nocquet draws important parallels between the condemnation of Baalism and that of the Omride dynasty (which was sympathetic to the cult of Ba’al): In terms of the [narrative] contexts of the polemic against Baal, the same structure links the controversy against Baal to the rivalry against all forms of royalty submitted to this deity. He also shows how the prophet Elijah and King Jehu exploited the growing polemic between Yahweh and Ba’al to King Jehu’s advantage: The Jehu cycle embodies a panegyric of the coup and of the religious revolution in favour of Yahweh, initiated by the usurper king. It is a discourse of the legitimation of the king and the power exercised by his family over Israel. By posing as the hero of the fight against Ba’al, and by establishing the supremacy of Yahweh over Ba’al, Jehu justified his overthrowing of King Ahad. Ba’al Berith, Ba’al Zebub, and the scarab amulets For additional evidence of the close ties that exist between Egyptian religious practices and the religion of Yahweh as well as the repudiation of the Ba’als, one might turn to Egyptian amulets and Christian demonology. In the New Testament, Beelzebub (or Belzebuth) is a demonic creature depicted as a beastly humanoid with large wings. The name Beelzebub comes from the transliteration of the Hebrew זבו ב ב על (ba’al zebub) “Lord of the fly” is the pagan god of Ekron (2 Kings 1:2-3, 6, 16) whom king Ahaziah, victim of serious injuries after a fall, inquires to find out if he was going to recover. Given the negative connotation associated with Beelzebub, contemporaries are not surprised to find prophet Elijah condemning King Ahaziah. However, why would Ahaziah look positively upon the demon? Ahaziah’s attitude only makes sense when considering the contextual background and perspective painted above, where the Ba’als were perceived as positive deities. So, what do we know of Ba’al Zebub? Because it is somewhat dilicult to explain how one would come to associate a “fly” with a “god”, it has long been suggested that זבו ב (zebub) “fly” was in fact a pun intended to replace an original zebul ז בל “elevated” because this term has also been associated with the title of “prince” frequently attributed to Ba’al in Ugaritic mythological texts. The expression Ba’al Zebul is usually rendered as “Lord of the manor” because the term zebul is most often associated with a dwelling place (1 Ki 8:13, 2 Ch 6:2). The repudiation process that was already underway under king Ahaziah, helps us better understand why Christian demonology further developed the derogatory traits by portraying Beelzebub as the “Prince of Darkness.” The Talmud of Babylon, a Late Antiquity compilation of texts containing the teachings and opinions of rabbis on a variety of subjects related to the Hebrew Bible, informs us that small amulets were used to represents Ba’al Zebub: Even an idol the size of a fly, like the idol of the Ekronites, which was called Zebub (fly) is also prohibited; for we are taught it is written in the passage [Judges, viii. 33]: “And they made themselves Baal-berith for a god”; by Baal-berith is meant the Zebub (fly) idol of Ekron, and every idolater (at that time) made an image of his idol in miniature in order to keep it constantly at hand and to be able at any time to take it out, embrace, and kiss it; hence there is no question as to size. We hereby learn from the Talmud that Ba’al Zebub was used as a synonym for Ba’al Berith and that the idols representing him could be the size of a fly. Could these “images” or “idols” prove to be nothing more than Egyptian scarabs? Scarab amulets were extremely popular in Egypt as well as in the Levant throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages and remained popular until after the Babylonian Exile. Except for the larger “heart scarabs” destined to funerary rites, these amulets were very small and inscribed at their base with names, good wishes, or mottos. The Egyptians believed that scarabs held special significance because of the way these insects are born. The adult beetle forms a dung ball with its back legs into which it lays eggs. When young beetles hatch, they appear to emerge somewhat magically out of the dung ball. Very early on, the Egyptians associated this process with that of the sun god Re rising in the east and setting in the west, which symbolized daily rebirth. Kheper, the Egyptian name for these scarabs, means “to come into being”, and thus, the Egyptian god Khepri, depicted as a scarab (or a man with a scarab-like head) is associated with the rising sun and the mythical creation of the world. According to Elaine A. Evans, Curator/Adjunct Assistant Professor at McClung Museum: The name of a particular person, king, or olicial title was inscribed on their flat bases to ensure protective powers would be given to the owner and to the owner’s property. Interestingly, some scarabs with royal names were worn after the king was deceased, in the saintly sense, similar to the holy medals of Christian saints. In all probability, no matter what their category, scarabs represented sacred emblems of Egyptian religious belief. 25: Egyptian scarab amulet: Lord of the fly? Carved in speckled green serpentine, this large heart scarab (inch and a half long) is believed to date from the reign of Thutmose III (1490-1436 BCE). It was recovered from Tomb D120 at Abydos during excavations directed by Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie. Couldn’t the demonic figure Beelzebub, and its associated iconography, originate from the widespread use of scarab amulets in the Levant that would later be repudiated along with the Ba’als they represented? The term zebul could refer to the distinguished figure they once represented, while the name zebub (i.e., “fly”) could refer to the shape and look of these small objects – rather than the proper name of a specific god – and this would explain the association made between Ba’al Zebub, Ba’al Zebul and Ba’al Berith. Certainly, the appearance, function, and popularity of these small fly-shaped amulets are pointing in this direction and would be further evidence of the influence of Egyptian religious practices over the Levant during this critical period. But wasn’t Yahweh from Edom and Seir? A majority of biblical scholars have now come to embrace the idea that the deity Yahweh did not originate in the northern part of Canaan, as one would naturally believe, but rather originates from the desertic regions of Edom and Seir in the south. This idea is referred to as the Kenite Hypothesis (aka the Midianite Hypothesis). While not totally incompatible with the deified overlord hypothesis, it introduces a “curved ball” that must be accounted for. Indeed, if Abraham’s descendants were established in Shechem, why would we find the first traces of Yahweh in Seir? First, it is important to acknowledge that there are a number of good arguments in favor of the Kenite hypothesis, which can be summarized as follow: • The earliest inscriptions referring to Yahweh (Yhw3) are found in Egypt and point to the region of Seir. • Cain is said to be the ancestor of the Kenites, and was first to worship Yahweh in Ge 4. • Yahweh first reveals himself to Moses when he is visiting Jethro/Reuel, a Midianite priest that already worships Yahweh (Ex 2 and 18). • A small number of early biblical texts suggest that Yahweh originates from this area: Deut 33:2: And he said, Yahweh came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran. Judge 5:4 Yahweh, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. Judge 5:5 The mountains melted from before Yahweh, even that Sinai from before Yahweh Elohim of Israel. Hab 3:3: Eloah came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Which god is it? Given the evidence previously amassed, one must ask “who is this Yahweh?” Indeed, we have seen how Yahweh came to assume the roles of Ba’al and El over time. We have also seen how the names of some deities have been replaced with other names in the text. Other than for the Egyptian inscription Yhw3, there is a possibility that these texts originally referred to the “original” and supreme god El or, and as the text mentions water dropping from the clouds, earth trembling, and melting mountains, to a storm and thunder god, such as Ba’al Hadad. Unfortunately, there is currently no evidence supporting such a suggestion. Meanwhile, this prevalent Kenite hypothesis has recently been challenged by Daniel E. Fleming, a renowned Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. Fleming asserts that poor assumptions may have brought scholars to hastily conclude that the word Shasu (i.e. “nomads”) found on earlier inscriptions implied the same connection with Yahweh that is attested on later inscriptions. For years, scholars in pursuit of Yahweh’s origins have returned to the two related Egyptian Yhw3 citations without reviewing the Shasu material as a whole. They have thereby relied on the longer Ramses II list to restore Seir in the older Amenhotep III text, most often in order to locate Yhw3 in the southern wilderness of biblical poetry and Midian of Moses. On the Shasu Yahu Egyptian inscriptions The earliest explicit mention of the Shasu Yahu (š3sw yhw3) are hieroglyphs from the temple of Soleb in the northern Sudan which are dated to Amenhotep III (14th century BCE). Another list – which Flemings believe was copied from the first – was found at ‘Amarah West in Nubia up-river in Sudan, and is dated from the reign of Ramesses II (13th century BCE). Scholars have, for a long time, concluded that earlier mentions of Shasu Yahu, found without reference to a specific geographical location, implied an association with the region of Seir. However through an extensive review of the Egyptian, Biblical, and Mesopotamian sources that have been used to develop and support this popular hypothesis, Fleming concludes that the first mention of the Shasu people on a list dating back to Thutmose II and Thutmose III (who reigned during the 15th and 14th century BCE), does not refer to Seir/Edom. For context, the Shasu references from the 15th and early 14th centuries lack entirely the deep southern orientation of the 13th and 12th-century texts, with their links to Seir and Edom. Fleming argues that on the earlier list, the Shasu are identified as a nomadic tribe (not a place) and are listed among other Shasu that are clearly connected to the northern region, when Egypt established its presence in Canaan. In addition, he explains that the Shasu Yahu inscription found on the temple of Soled does not refer to Seir, and is rather part of a group of northern Shasu: Nothing about either the set of names on column N4 or the larger pattern of geography and focus locates the Shasu-land names in any particular region, except that the very specificity suggests some direct encounter in relation to Egyptian expansion in Asia. The ‘Amarah West list appears to be a copy of Soleb, but it is the only one suggesting an association of Yhw3 with the name Seir (actually spelled S’rr instead of S’r). The probability that this name occurs only in the later text is not generally discussed in relation to this issue, and my conclusion on this point would align with a larger pattern in the use of the name Seir: its association with Shasu only emerges in the 13th century, with Ramses II. Fleming concludes that the very first occurrence of Shasu Yahu, which is found on the temple of Soleb was clearly associated with a group of other Shasu from the north. As such, he believes that the association with Seir was a later addition by Ramses II. In addition, a letter from a resident scribe, dated to the eight year of Merneptah (13th century) reports having admitted nomadic “shasu-tribes of Edom” at a border fortress of the Egyptian territory. The Name Yhw3/Yhwh A majority of scholars accept that Yahu (yhw3) is the perfect Egyptian rendering of Yhwh and that these inscriptions do refer to the biblical Yahweh. Fleming agrees with them, but claims that there is no indication that this name initially referred to a deity. He suggests that the name could have been that of a tribe or family who would later be known as Israel. What matters about the name Yhw3 is its complete identification with a population that the Egyptians linked to mobile herdsmen, some specific group among the Shasu. Fleming reminds us that the first attested mention of the name Israel is found on the Merneptah stele of the 13th century BCE. When considered in the company of the Amorite evidence, Yhw3 of Shasu-land in the early 14th-century Egyptian list shares the form of peoples named by simple verbal form, with their possible interpretation as shortened personal names. Study of Shasu name generally moves directly to the divine, assuming reference to the god later attached to Israel and leapfrogging the question of how to understand a human political entity on its own terms. He then raises the important prospect that the name Yhw3 could have been associated with a deified ancestor: As shown by Marten Stol (1991) in his study of Old Babylonian personal names, these names appear to originate as deified ancestors. This reasoning could lead to the conclusion that Yahweh also began as the name of an ancestor, as in the first edition of Moor’s volume on “Yahwism,” but, “… though theoretically possible, it is dilicult to believe that the major Israelite deity, venerated in a cult that was imported into Palestine, was originally a deified ancestor. Though such gods are known, they are never found in leading position in the pantheon. Their worship tends to remain local, as an ancestor is of necessity the ancestor of a restricted group (van der Toorn, 914).” And while agreeing with van der Toorn that it is dilicult to explain how an ancestor could turn into a major deity for Israel, he sees the problem dilerently because he doesn’t believe the name Yhw3 necessarily needs referring to a deity. The problem is not whether a major deity could be identified by a human ancestor but rather whether a people could be identified by a personal name, a straightforward question with a straightforward answer: yes, and fairly often. and Understood this way, the problem shifts to explaining how the name for a people could come to be attached to a deity that eventually identifies the ‘god of Israel’ (e.g. Judg. 5:3, 5). This leads him to conclude that the name Yhw3 was most likely a reference to a personal name: Yhw3 is identified as a group within a larger Shasu population organized by kinship-based structures, what the Bible and common parlance would call a ‘tribe,’ the name of that people derives most easily from an abbreviated personal name, not necessarily an ancestor, yet certainly conceived in relation to a single person, in familial or kinship terms. Kennedy, who also provides a detailed analysis of the Soleb inscriptions, concludes that these Shasu likely refer to personal names: It is plausible that the name of a deity or of a famous ancestor came to be attached to particular groups of S3sw nomads, as appears to be the association for twr b’l and yhw3. Fleming nevertheless feels that the geographical, conceptual, and historical origin of the Yahweh deity and the process by which it came associated with El remains very obscure: In this study of Yahweh before Israel, I conclude that the divine name did not originally pertain to El and that we must grapple with the reality of two key gods underlying the single God of late monarchic Judah and Judaism. Beyond the two dominant names for God, the Bible’s repeated complaints goddesses called Asherah or Ashtoreth and, perhaps more than anything, iconographic evidence, suggest the persistence of female deities in religion of the region. Other lesser deities may have also received attention. Flemings refers to Deut. 32 as a possible way to explain Yahweh’s association with Israel: Deut. 32 – The picture of an authoritative divine head distributing the nations of the whole world among the gods, however, resist explanation in terms of old regional religious traditions, and the novelty of the notion suggests innovation. While rejecting any possible association with storm-gods: Israel itself was a dilerent and more limited entity in the early days of Yahweh. Against various models, Yahweh was not a god or a name taken from El, and the Egyptian context for Yhw3 as people suggests no reason to treat him as once a young warrior or storm god. All of these associations, however, archaic, came afterward. Fleming is correct, but sees Israel, not as a tribe per se, but as a loose alliance of petty kings of the northern region who came to identify with Yahweh. In his view, these tribes would have later federated and somehow adopted Yahweh as their chief deity: Before Israel, and then alongside it, Yahweh was the god of the people without kings, allied as occasion required, to fight any deemed a common enemy. Fleming leaves us wondering why a group of small independent kings would have come to federate? The answer is easy when one considers that the descendants of Abraham had been promised possession of the land through a covenant that took place three to four hundred years earlier. Loosely connected through this covenant, these small chieftain would have felt the need to federate against Egypt, a common enemy, by invoking the name of Yahweh, their ancestor… and deity. The hypothesis of a deified overlord fully satisfies all the questions raised by Fleming and olers evidence suggesting that Yahweh was already associated with people from the north, before he was associated with people of the south. We are still left explaining why the first inscriptions referring to Yhw3 come from Egypt, and why we find multiple references to Edom and Seir in the Bible. Recall that the Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the firstborn son of Isaac and the twin brother of Jacob. As such, the Edomites were also descendants of Abraham’s lord and Sarah. From the Bible, we learn that Esau was given Edom and Seir: Ge 36:8 Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom. and Josh 24:4 And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. It appears likely that when the Hyksos were expulsed from Egypt, some decided to establish themselves in the region of Edom. As bloodline descendants of Ba’al Yah we Ba’alah, these shasu also had very good reasons to cultivate the memory of their benevolent ancestors through the cult of the dead. As such, they could have legitimately developed the Tetragrammaton “yhwh.” Afterall, this was just a dilerent name for the same divine couple that their Israelites “brothers” were worshipping. Deut 23:8 You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. As Edom is Judah’s south-western neighboring state, we can better appreciate how the name Yahweh easily made its way to the kingdom of Judah and, from there, came to rival the divine couple Ba’al and Asherah that was still being worshiped in Samaria. At this point in our investigation, we have found a wealth of evidence suggesting that the Abraham, who lived among the Canaanites, was likely identified as a Habiru. He would have made a covenant with a Mesopotamian overlord in order to guarantee protection of the trade route in exchange for control of the land. Abraham’s descendants would have elevated their ancestors, progenitors of Israel’s lineage, into a divine couple. This unique form of worship would have led to the adoption of the binomial compound deities El-Sarai, [i]Sara-El, and eventually Yahweh through the Edomite branch. But given the many Mesopotamian kings who ruled during the Bronze Age, how could we identify such a lord, and what evidence would enable us to pinpoint him with any level of reasonable certitude? We clearly need to look for someone who would have felt invested with the authority to assign control of such a vast amount of land to a Habiru tribe. We do not brag about ancestors that were not great. ― Bangambiki Habyarimana Part IV – Abraham’s Lord Where we try to identify when and with whom this covenant could have been made. We look for the historical characters that could have been involved by exploring possible matches between names, profiles, events, and chronologies. By examining the historical context of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Levant at the turn of the second millennium, we gained significant insight into the religious and political situation that prevailed at the time tradition claims the patriarchs lived. We can better appreciate how important it was for these large empires to maintain control over these trade routes. This control was typically achieved by waging war and/or making treaties with Habiru chieftains. And this situation is virtually identical to the one we gleaned earlier from the Abrahamic narratives. The next logical step in our investigation would be to try and identify who Abraham’s lord could have been. Unfortunately, searching for this lord is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. We have little clues when it comes to identifying Abraham, let alone his overlord. It might therefore be appropriate to learn more about the powerful men and various dynasties and kings who ruled Mesopotamia. When divine intervention is ruled out in favor of a mortal overlord, it becomes possible to review the available data in search of a historical character. However, since no historical proof of Abraham’s existence has ever been found outside of the Bible, how can we possibly identify Abraham’s lord among all the powerful men who lived in the Fertile Crescent at the turn of the second millennium? While a great many kings, conquerors, and other important men shaped this part of the world over thousands of years, most of the insignificant ones have been long forgotten, leaving very few traces behind. Only the greatest, those who roused the collective imagination or who left behind monuments and accounts of their glory, were assured a place in the annals of history. Given the significant influence that this lord had on Abraham and his descendants, it wouldn’t be surprising if Yahweh turned out to be one of these great men. If this were indeed the case, could we still find evidence of this relationship? The Akkadian Empire The Akkadian empire was the first true empire in Mesopotamia. Since Abraham’s family originally hailed from the city of Ur, not far from Akkad, we shall examine how this empire was born and how it progressed, in the hope of establishing possible links between the patriarchs and the conquerors of this region. 26: Sargon of Akkad Sargon of Akkad While scholars do not always agree on the historical authenticity of Gilgamesh, that of Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE), who has the distinction of being the first conqueror of Mesopotamia , is generally not questioned. Founder of the city of Akkad (Agade) and the Akkadian dynasty, Sargon united the regions of Elam and Sumer in the south and Akkad in the north. With new and more destructive weapons of war, such as javelins, bows, and arrows, Sargon of Akkad successfully defeated the vast Sumerian army to conquer a large territory. 27: The empire of Sargon of Akkad To reign over such a far-reaching empire, Sargon created an elicient management and communication system that included a network of outposts located every 50 km. It is said that Sargon was born to a mother who was unable to care for him. When a gardener found him floating on the river in a reed basket, he rescued him and raised him as his son. The myth of the birth of Sargon of Akkad is strikingly similar to that of Moses in Exodus: Ex 2:3 And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. Ex 2:5 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. Freud maintains that this is a basic myth aimed at legitimizing the hero. The myth in question traces the struggle back to the very dawn of the hero’s life, by having him born against his father’s will and saved in spite of his father’s evil intentions. After rising to the position of cupbearer for the king of Kish, Sargon dethroned the latter before overthrowing the king of Uruk and conquering this southern Sumerian city, thus creating the first true empire. He attributed his success to his patron goddess, Ishtar, who invested him with royalty. While the size of his kingdom was considerable in many respects, it seems that Sargon’s influence did not extend as far as the Levant. Moreover, he reigned well before the alleged time of Abraham. Sargon died an old man and was succeeded by his sons, Rimush and Manishtushu. But, the great conqueror’s death heralded a period of unrest in the kingdom and Rimush was forced to wage war to reassert his power. His reign lasted only nine years, although several inscriptions describe epic battles involving a massive army. Manishtushu succeeded his brother and reigned for some 15 years, continuing his brother’s elorts to build up the military and the government. Expansion of the empire It was Naram-Sin, Sargon’s grandson, who would once again make history. After the death of his father, Manishtushu, Naram-Sin reigned for 36 years, from 2254 to 2218 BCE. His military prowess allowed him to expand the borders of the Akkadian empire further. Bolstered by his political popularity and remarkable military exploits, king Naram-Sin ruled over an immense empire that encompassed a large portion of the Fertile Crescent, appointing his sons as governors and his daughters as priestesses; the rulers who preceded him no doubt did the same. So, it was without any false modesty that Naram-Sin christened himself “King of the Four Regions”; he was even so bold as to proclaim himself “God of Akkad” and to add the divine symbol 𒀭 dingir to his name. Naram-Sin was the first Mesopotamian sovereign to bestow this title upon himself while living, but many others soon followed suit, and it quickly became a custom. This new interpretation of royal power would be embraced by the kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur and by many other royal families after that. 28: The empire of Naram-Sin Since Naram-Sin’s reign is known to have taken place before the era generally attributed to Abraham, there is very little chance that they were contemporaries. However, Naram-Sin adds a new perspective to our research. The size of his territory would have allowed him to ally with the ruler of the neighboring Levant. Also, his self-proclaimed title of “god” left no doubt as to his ambitions. This display of narcissism easily allows us to imagine him as a megalomaniac king drunk with power. These titles and this image of a “living king” would make him an excellent “lord”. An empire in decline While Naram-Sin was the first ruler of Mesopotamia to proclaim himself a “living god”, he also bears the distinction of being the last great king of the Akkadian empire. The Gutians, a nomadic tribal people from the Zagros Mountains in the northeast and probably the ancestors of the Kurds, appeared on the scene, pillaging villages, robbing travelers and terrorizing the population. These raids had a direct impact on the economy of Sumer. Trade slowed down, famine set in and the empire eventually collapsed. 29: The Gutian empire The Gutians rose to power and controlled this territory for some 100 years before finally being pushed out by Utu-hegal, the king of Uruk, who defeated the Gutian ruler Tirigan in 2130 BCE. With Akkad crumbling, the center of power gravitated further south to Sumer. It was at this point that Utu-hegal proclaimed himself king of Sumer, although his victory would be shortlived as the Third Dynasty of Ur emerged amidst a power struggle between the regions of Uruk and Ur. After eight years as governor of Ur, Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 BCE) was crowned the new king of Sumer. The arrival of the Third Dynasty ushered in the 600-year period during which the Jewish tradition and most early biblical scholars tried to situate Abraham, namely 2100 to 1500 BCE. Ur-Nammu was a great statesman; not only did he found the Third Dynasty of Ur, but he also restored order to the chaos left behind by the Gutians. His best-known legacy remains his famous code of laws, the Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest legal document in existence and reminiscent of Moses’ ten commandments. During his reign, Ur-Nammu also rebuilt roads and renovated and expanded one of the largest temples in antiquity. He is also credited with having built several terraced structures—the famous ziggurats, as iconic to Mesopotamia as the pyramids are to Egypt. The death of Ur-Nammu, left to perish on the battlefield by his army after a battle with the Gutians, was immortalized in a poem. The ancient ziggurats were made up of two to seven receding tiers with a shrine or temple at the summit, where priests oliciated over religious ceremonies. A series of ramps provided access to the shrine. Incidentally, the word ziggurat means “to build on a raised area”. Ziggurats were built throughout Mesopotamia. The discovery of foundations dating from the 18th century BCE indicates that the construction of the Etemenanki ziggurat (“temple of the foundation of heaven and earth”) probably began during this era. It was seven stories high and believed to be measuring close to one hundred meters. This impressive structure, no doubt, captured the collective imagination of the local people. Perhaps this ziggurat, whose last level permitted priests to reach the heavens, inspired the expression “seven heavens.” 30: Ziggurat of Nanna (2100-2050 BCE) As Babel and Babylon are the same city, the “tower of Babel” most likely alludes to this ziggurat. In any case, no other construction at this time, except for another ziggurat, could have rivaled it in height. Ge 11:4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. Ge 11:5 And Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. A Sumerian text from the Enûma Eliš whose similarities with the creation myth have already been pointed out, draws another interesting parallel with this passage in the Bible. However, in this case, it is not men who irritate the gods, but rather their progeny: Their ways are truly loathsome to me. By day I find no relief, nor sleep at night. I will destroy, I will wreck their ways, so that quiet may be restored. Let us have rest! For his code of law and the construction of ziggurats, Ur-Nammu joins the long list of men who marked the history of Mesopotamia, and, consequently, that of the Bible. Besides, Ur-Nammu appears to be the first possible candidate for the title of “Abraham’s lord”, since both men came from the same city and could have lived at the same time. The Amorites take power Ur-Nammu was succeeded by his son, Shulgi (2094-2047 BCE), who began his reign with a series of punishing wars against the Gutians to avenge his father’s memory. Shulgi then undertook a series of projects to rebuild the kingdom’s roads, along which he built rest stops where weary travelers could partake of freshwater and a place to sleep. Having reached its peak, the Akkadian empire found itself weakened by its decades-long elorts to fend ol the Gutian invasions. However, there would be no respite, as a new threat was looming on the west, prompting Shulgi to build a protective wall on the northwestern border to protect against fresh attacks by a nomadic Amorite tribe that the Assyrians called the “Martu”. After some twenty years as king, Shulgi proclaimed himself a “god” and ordered temples to be built in which he erected statues in his eligy so that his people could come and worship him and present him with olerings. While this personality trait could make him another “suspect” in our investigation, Shulgi sought to protect himself against these Amorite tribes rather than develop a relationship of trust with them. His brother, Shu-Sin, who ruled until 2029 BCE, succeeded Shulgi. He held on to the reins of power and ordered the construction of a 275-km wall to protect the kingdom against the Amorites, who had migrated to Mesopotamia from the Levant. It will be argued that these Amorite people would also become the ancestors of Abraham. During the reign of Ibi-Sin (2028-2004 BCE), the Amorite nomads finally managed to breach the protective wall. Amid the chaos and panic that ensued, Ibi-Sin still managed to maintain control over his provinces. The Amorites took full advantage of the confusion to gain a foothold. Their status as nomads no doubt played an important role in their success; their many local contacts and their excellent knowledge of the area helped them to shore up their power gradually. They were also already well entrenched in Canaan and in the Nile Delta. At the time, Egypt had a rich culture and a flourishing trade system. Upper and Lower Egypt were governed from Thebes, in the south. This peaceful, hospitable empire in no way sought to expand or even to protect itself. While Ur’s influence was eroding, that of the Amorites of Babylon was increasing, to the point that Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE), sixth king of the Dynasty of Babylonia. It was under the powerful Hammurabi, “king of the land of the Amorites”, that this civilization reached its zenith. Since most early biblical scholars believe that Abraham lived during the 18th century BCE, and since the history of Hammurabi’s ancestors appears to correspond with that of Abraham’s ancestors, it seems appropriate to focus on this important character in antiquity. King Hammurabi Hammurabi inherited the throne from his father, Sin Muballit, in 1792 BCE. He succeeded in expanding his power over all of Mesopotamia, thus earning himself the distinction of being the first king of the Babylonian empire. Hammurabi is better known for his famous code of law, the best preserved in antiquity. Written circa 1760, Hammurabi’s Code contains 282 laws governing various aspects of society. Hammurabi claimed to have been granted his royal capacity by the god Marduk: I am Hammurabi, the elicient king. I have not been careless with the mass of mankind, which Enlil has entrusted to me and which Marduk has made my flock; I have not been lazy. 31: Marduk gives the rod and the ring to Hammurabi On the top portion of his Code, we see him accepting the emblems of sovereignty from Marduk: the rod and the ring. Like Sargon of Akkad and many other kings before him, he also invokes the protection of his goddess, Ishtar. O Ishtar, lady of war and conflict, the one who draws out my weapons, my gracious Protecting Spirit, who loves me to rule… Hammurabi spent the first years of his reign improving his kingdom, specifically by reinforcing the fortifications and erecting several temples. Hammurabi’s diplomatic correspondence reveals that, around 1767 BCE, his neighbor, the king of Elam who intended to expand his territory, invaded the low-lying plains and hatched a plan to inflame the rivalry between the kings of Babylonia and Larsa. However, Hammurabi and the king of Larsa were no fools and they quickly allied to oust this scoundrel. Unfortunately, Larsa did not keep its end of the bargain, leaving Hammurabi alone to fight and defeat the king of Elam. Olended by his new ally’s indilerence, Hammurabi subsequently invaded Larsa. By 1763 BCE, he had succeeded in conquering the entire Mesopotamian basin. 32: Hammurabi’s Babylonian empire Flushed with victory, Hammurabi quickly expanded his influence to the west as far as Canaan and Syria, with support from Amorite dynasties already governing several Mesopotamian and Syrian cities, including Uruk, Mari, and Alep. An excellent military strategist and a talented diplomat, Hammurabi was a great statesman. Curiously, however, these qualities shone through only towards the end of his reign. 33: Presumed head of Hammurabi An inscription discovered on a stele near Diyarbakir refers to Hammurabi as “King of the Land of the Amorites.” According to Van De Mieroop: Perhaps the highest esteem awarded to him was his inclusion among the gods during his lifetime. He is called the god Hammurabi, the good shepherd, in one song that celebrates how the gods of the south respect him. At the same time people named their children after Hammurabi. The name Hammurabi-ili, meaning ‘Hammurabi is my god,’ appeared, something unparalleled in his dynasty. This is certainly a qualifier that draws our attention. And while this information provides better insight into the context in which the Babylonian empire developed under Hammurabi, we still need to clarify the nature of his potential ties to the patriarchs. Beyond the borders New territories were conquered either by force or by forming alliances with the local kings. Interpersonal relationships were essential to the nomadic Amorite people. Power was shared amongst members of the same family or clan. While the Sumerian empire was an agglomeration of independent and autonomous citystates, the Babylonian empire was made up of a dozen cities, all ruled by a monarch invested with divine powers. At his zenith, Hammurabi’s sphere of influence extended over much of the Fertile Crescent. Since Amorites were now controlling most of the region, Hammurabi managed to consolidate his empire by multiplying alliances. New methods of administration were needed within the Empire to maintain order and control over this immense territory: conscription, taxation, and centralization of powers. Laws were enforced and upheld by local governors. 34: Detailed view of Hammurabi’s Code Hammurabi’s new code of law was much stricter on olenders than previous laws. In Hammurabi’s view, law and order took precedence over human life. In his Code, he imposed the death sentence for crimes other than murder, for example for olenses that would have warranted a simple fine under Ur-Nammu’s code. So that the mighty might not exploit the weak, and so that the orphan and the widow may be treated properly, I have written these very special words of mine on this stone; I have set them together with the image of me, the king of justice. In her book De Sumer à Canaan, Sophie Cluzan compares several laws in the Bible with those in Hammurabi’s Code. She explains: The similarities between Hammurabi’s Code and the texts in the Bible reveal the existence of common origins—probably Semitic—and a sharing of norms common to the entire region and which each generation embraced, reinforcing them through new realities and practices. Cluzan then compares several laws: Hammurabi’s Code (18th century BCE) Exodus (13th century BCE ) § 250. If an ox has tossed a man while walking along the road and caused his death, there is no cause for complaint. Ex 21:28 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. § 251. If a man has an ox which tosses and his council have informed him that it tosses and he has not covered its horns and has not tied the ox up and the ox tosses a man’s son and causes his death, he shall pay half a shekel of silver. Ex 21:29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. Ex 21:30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him. Ex 21:31 Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him. § 252. If it was a man’s slave he shall give a third of a mana of silver. Ex 21:32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. In both cases, the same general principles govern the situation. If an animal causes harm, its owner is not held responsible the first time. Conversely, if the owner is aware that his animal is problematic, but does not intervene, then the owner is held accountable on the animal’s first olense and is punished. It seems likely that these similarities would be more than coincidences. Sarah’s behavior toward Hagar, Rebekah’s receipt of a dowry from her young husband’s father, and the conditions surrounding the sale of the Cave of Machpelah are all examples of the application of these laws. In the epilogue to the Code, there is also another interesting parallel with the eternal promise made to Abraham in the covenant, in exchange for the observance and enforcement of the laws: Then they will say: “Hammurabi is a ruler, who is as a father to his subjects, who holds the words of Marduk in reverence, who has achieved conquest for Marduk over the north and south, who rejoices the heart of Marduk, his lord, who has bestowed benefits for ever and ever on his subjects, and has established order in the land.” Engraved on a magnificent block of basalt, Hammurabi’s Code is now on display in the basement of the Louvre Museum. Discovered in Iran in 1901 CE, it comes from the Babylonian temple at Sippar, where it had been taken as plunder in the 12th century BCE by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte. Hammurabi had several copies of his code engraved, which he distributed judiciously throughout his empire to maintain his rule over the outlying regions. Akkadian became the olicial language of trade and literature, where cuneiform writing was taught in school. The governors made sure that every city paid its just tribute to the central government. 35: Hammurabi’s Code Bolstered by their extensive knowledge of the regions, strong clan unity and advanced methods of war, the Amorites took advantage of local alliances and betrayals to expand their power over all of Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt. The kingdom of Ekallatum is a prime example of the type of relationships fostered by Hammurabi. When the Elamites attacked Ekallatum around 1765 BCE, king Ishme-Dagan sought refuge with Hammurabi. After defeating the Elamites, Hammurabi helped Ishme-Dagan take back the throne. The price? Ekallatum became a vassal city subservient to the king of Babylon. Besides, when the lord seeks to destroy Sodom, the expressions “slay the wicked” and “the Judge of all the earth” fit perfectly with Hammurabi since they correspond to his description of himself in the prologue to his Code: then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind. Similarly, Hammurabi’s Code establishes the rights of heirs conceived with a slave girl (when Abraham lays with Hagar): § 170. If the first wife of a man has borne him sons and also his slave-girl has borne him sons, and during his lifetime the father has said to the sons the slave-girl bore him, “My sons”, they shall reckon them together with the first wife’s sons. After the father has passed to his destiny the first wife’s sons and the slave-girl’s sons shall share out the treasures in the father’s house equally. An heir, the son of a first wife, shall have the choice of which share to take. Hammurabi’s Code contains a provision for just such a case: § 146. If a man has married a temple-woman and she has given a slave-girl to her husband and she has born sons, but afterwards that slave-girl takes over the position of her mistress because she has born sons, her mistress may not sell her for silver. She shall put on her the mark of slavery and she shall be treated as a slave-girl. Hammurabi seems to fit the profile of Abraham’s lord: he was the first Amorite to control the entire geographic area comprising Mesopotamia. He was also a natural ally of the Hyksos, who ruled Egypt at the same time. Hammurabi might have been venerated as a god, but unlike several kings before him who apposed the Akkadian ( ) or Sumerian (𒀭) dingir to their names, it appears this was not the case with Hammurabi. A man of strong convictions and a keen sense of justice, Hammurabi had a profound influence over the entire Fertile Crescent. While he expanded his territory and enforced his laws with diplomacy, he did not hesitate to use force when necessary. The administration of such a vast kingdom required the assistance of trusted and dedicated men. During most of the last century, scholars thought that Abraham and Hammurabi were contemporaries and shared a common cultural background. This notion has since been largely deserted, but in light of this investigation, it must be revisited: Did Abraham make a covenant with Hammurabi? Could this ruler prove to be Beliya/Ba’al Berith? Working hypothesis Modern scientific theories build on logical assumptions to develop coherent mathematical models that are then verified against practical tests. But what mathematical model can be developed and applied to what fundamentally is a historico-literary research? The story of the patriarchs contains many clues about the age of its main characters at various events. It is therefore possible to situate one event in relation to another by using the age of the characters and thereby construct a fairly detailed timeline of the story. One simply needs to note the age of a character at a precise event for situating it in relation to previous events and generations. Since the story of the patriarchs revolves around Abraham, it is possible to use this character’s birth date as an anchor point to accurately align the events related in the story. Our hypothesis rests on the following postulates: • Abraham and Hammurabi were born the same year (as per Ge 17:17 and Ge 21:5) (anchor point) • Chronologies need be corrected by 6/10 These postulates were inferred from the available data. They provide an exclusive, complete, and coherent framework for interpreting the biblical narratives in the historical context of the Bronze Age. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that many dates in antiquity are still the subject of debate among scholars. For instance, the Medium Chronology suggests that Hammurabi was likely born in 1810, took power in 1792 and died in 1750. However, Egyptologist David A. Falk, who developed Groundhog, a computer system designed to test a variety of chronological variable to see if they are consistent with the synchronistic historical data, concludes that Hammurabi must have lived 27 years later. These variations do not alect our work, as the relationship between Abraham and Hammurabi is based on a relative chronology. And while we can never know for sure what happened thousands of years ago, the beam of evidence that has been amassed until now points in one direction to paint a picture that is remarkably detailed and consistent. Common ancestors? We know when Hammurabi reigned (at least approximately), but we cannot simply assume that Abraham was contemporary with him. Jewish tradition and a majority of early scholars claim that “if” Abraham ever lived, it would have been somewhere between the 21st and 16th century BCE. This is too wide of a time period. Before we can start aligning events that occurred in their respective lives to see if there is synchronism, it would be important to establish that both men electively lived during the same period. The Torah (Ge 25:20, De 26:5) states that the patriarchs wer יe א מר (arammiy) “Aramean”, which are believed to have evolved from the Amorites stem. And according to Genesis, the patriarchs were part of a group of people that migrated from the East to Mesopotamia, to eventually settle in Shinar (Sumer). They could, therefore, be of Indo-European origin, which corresponds to what we know of the Amorites. Ge 11:2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east , that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. Incidentally, the Bible confirms that the “land of Shinar” corresponds to Sumer, since this region encompasses the cities of Babylon, Uruk, and Akkad: Ge 10:10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. We also know that the migration of these Amorites took place simultaneously with the construction of the Tower of Babel: Ge 11:4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. Although nomadic, they were nevertheless exposed to, and influenced, by the growing trend of sedentariness. The development of agriculture, the increasing occupation of territories, and the expansion of new empires were all factors that prompted them to settle to avoid the threat of a diaspora. Therefore, it’s only natural that they sought to “build a city” and “make themselves a name before they get scattered.” The first ziggurat was erected during the reign of Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 BCE), and many others followed it. It is often believed that Babylon’s Etemananki ziggurat was the inspiration for the myth of the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately, the start date of its construction is unknown. But, because it was built on the site of the temple of Marduk, we can surmise that it was already standing during Hammurabi’s time. As seen previously (see The Amorites take power p. 262), the first nomadic Amorite tribes entered Mesopotamia during the reign of Shulgi, but it was only during Ibi-Sin’s reign, in the 21st century BCE, that they finally managed to penetrate the city walls and conquer Ur. Chapter 11:10-27 of Genesis lists Abraham’s ancestors as far back as Sem, the first of his bloodline to settle in Mesopotamia, as well as the ages at which each one fathered his son. If we convert the biblical data from the sexagesimal system using the 6/10 multiplier, we obtain the following results: Source Event Bible 6/10 Ge 11:10 Age at which Sem begets Arphaxad 100 60 Ge 11:12 Age at which Arphaxad begets Salah 35 21 Ge 11:14 Age at which Salah begets Eber 30 18 Ge 11:16 Age at which Eber begets Peleg 34 20 Ge 11:18 Age at which Peleg begets Reu 30 18 Ge 11:20 Age at which Reu begets Serug 32 19 Ge 11:22 Age at which Serug begets Nahor 30 18 Ge 11:24 Age at which Nahor begets Terah 29 17 Ge 11:26 Age at which Terah begets Abram 70 42 Total 390 234 According to the Bible, Abraham was born some 234 (3906/10) years after Sem. If
    Hammurabi reigned between 1792 and 1750 [Falk: 1765 and 1722], and Abraham was his
    contemporary, then Sem would have lived 234 years before him, or around 2026
    (1792+234) [Falk: 1999].
    Recall that the nomadic Amorites managed to breach the wall surrounding the city of Ur
    during the reign of Ibi-Sin, who came to power c. 2028 [Falk: 2012]. These two dates are
    astonishingly close. Sem, Abraham’s ancestor, possibly skirmished with Ibi-Sin for a few
    years before defeating him, seizing control of the region and settling in Ur.
    The sum of the generations of Abraham’s nine ancestors—234 years—corresponds
    perfectly with the time elapsed between the Amorites’ rise to power in Mesopotamia and
    Hammurabi’s ascent to the throne. We also know that the Amorites rose to power shortly
    after the construction of the first ziggurats, at the time of this migration. Completed just a
    few years before, these ziggurats were no doubt an inspiration to any fortunate enough to
    witness them.
    More than just pure coincidences, these arguments tend to confirm that Abraham was very
    likely a contemporary of Hammurabi. The migration and rise to power are further evidence
    that these two powerful men probably belonged to the same ethnic group.
    36: Migration of Abraham’s ancestors
    Once we posit that Abraham and Hammurabi were contemporaries (5), the timeline of 390
    years (4a) becomes anachronistic (2) since it would imply that Abraham’s ancestors
    migrated well before the construction of the first ziggurats (1). However, the Bible tells us
    that this migration took place shortly before the construction of the Tower of Babel
    (Babylon’s Etemananki ziggurat), which could not have been built before the ziggurat
    erected by Ur-Nammu. Conversely, the timeline of 234 years (4b) shows that the biblical
    Sem migrated and rose to power during the reign of Ibi-Sin, precisely when history teaches
    us that the Amorites conquered Ur (3).
    This timeframe fits perfectly with Bright’s analysis when he writes that…
    … the events reflected in Gen. chs. 12-50, for the most part, fit best in the period already
    described, i.e., between and about the twentieth and seventeenth centuries (MB II). But we
    lack the evidence to fix the patriarchs in any particular century or centuries and we have,
    moreover, to face the possibility that the patriarchal stories combine the memory of events
    that took place over a yet wider span of time.
    Hopefully, this work can help fix the patriarchal stories to a more specific timeframe.
    Unfortunately, confirming that Hammurabi and Abraham lived at the same time is a good
    step forward, but hundreds of thousands of people likely lived in the Near East during the
    Middle Bronze Age. It therefore says nothing about the possible relationship between these
    two men, let alone a possible covenant.
    Ge 14 :1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar,
    Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
    In Ge 14:1, the Bible says that Amraphe לl אמרפ (‘mrpl) was the king of Shinar, and it
    correctly describes the region of Sumer in Ge 10:10. This is why some are still keen to
    identify Amraphel as Hammurabi, thereby agreeing with late professors Eberhard Schrader
    and Fritz Hommel. According to the latter, the name Hammurabi comes from the
    Babylonian Hamu(m)-rabi, meaning “my family is widespread”. Other tablets mention
    Ammurapi (‘mrpi), which more closely resembles the Amraphel found in the Bible. Among
    modern scholars, Egyptologist David A. Falk fully supports the idea that Amraphel was
    none other than Hammurabi on the basis that the Hebrew transliteration corresponds to
    the Akkadian name.
    To some, the final “l” is dilicult to explain, but it most likely represents the divinity “el”,
    attached to the name Ammurapi-ilu. Van De Mieroop also confirms that the name
    Hammurabi-ili, meaning “Hammurabi is my god”, appeared during Hammurabi’s lifetime.
    But even if some early biblical scholars had come to accept the idea that Hammurabi
    could have been involved in this war, no one has ever suggested that he was also
    Abraham’s lord. Meanwhile, mainstream scholars have long given up on identifying
    Amraphel with Hammurabi, primarily because of their minimalist view. This could be the
    case of Professor Seth L. Sanders of the UC Davis Religious Studies department and Jewish
    Studies program. Sanders unknowingly made a valuable contribution to our research when
    he recently argued in favor of an Amorite reading of the name as “Hammu-rapi” that would
    mean something like “The great dead ancestor is (my) kinsman.” Such a reading reveals the
    significance that the cult of the ancestors had on Amorite’s political organization:
    However, recent work on the political role of kinship (ˁammu) and the ritual role dead
    ancestors (Rapaˀūma) in Amorite and later West Semitic has made certain patterns of the
    evidence clearer, which permits us to restrict the possible meanings… By making the older
    kin into high-status dead ancestors–rapaˀūma–through ritual and sometimes collective
    burial, Amorite rulers actually helped create the facts of ancestry that are the basis for
    political organization in their ideology.
    This concept of political organization based on ancestor worship perfectly describes the
    claim made in this book: By fathering Isaac (Ge 21:1) and by making him the heir to the land
    and positioning himself as an Elohim (dead kin) for his seed (Ge 17:8), Abraham’s lord
    established a political organization based on the cult of the ancestor that is at the very core
    of the Abrahamic faith.
    On the battle field
    The above evidence gives us reasonable confidence that king Hammurabi was indeed
    “Amraphel king of Shinar”, and could therefore have been involved in the War of Kings. But
    even the fact he participated in this battle doesn’t mean he could have also been
    Abraham’s lord. Understandably, if the Sodomites had been vassals of Amraphel, it would
    have been natural for this ruler to make a covenant with Abram. However, what we learn
    from Ge 14, is that the valley was under the yoke of Chedorlaomer, the Elamite king, who
    clearly led the coalition of the four eastern kings during the punitive campaign.
    What do we know of Chedorlaomer and of the other three kings? For the reasons listed
    above, most modern scholars have also given up on trying to identify them. This said, no
    one has olered a decisive rebuttal against their existence. Commenting on Ge 14, Alter
    writes:
    At least four of the five invading kings have authentic Akkadian, Elamite, or Hittite names;
    and the repeated glossing of place-names (“Bela, that is, Zoar”) suggests an old document
    that invoked certain names which usage had replaced by the time this text was woven into
    the larger Abraham narrative.
    There are two possibilities for “Arioch king of Ellasar.” According to inscriptions found at
    Gasur/Nuzi he could have been the Hurrian king Ariukki, who also ruled during the 18th
    century BCE. However, we will see that Eriaku, king of Larsa, father of Rim-Sin I, who
    reigned from 1822-1763 [Falk: 1794-1735], does appear to be a more likely candidate for
    Arioch.
    As for “Tidal king of nations [goyim]”, he could have been the Hittite king Tudhaliya, the
    great-grandfather of Hattusili I, who also reigned during the 18th century BCE. Several
    Hittite kings bore the same name. Since the Hittites and the Amorites maintained close ties
    throughout history, it’s not surprising that Tidal and Hammurabi may have had contact.
    Finally, there is very little information to identify Chedorlaomer. At best, this name could be
    a transliteration of “Kudur-Lagamar”, a reference to Lagamaru, an Elamite deity mentioned
    by Assurbanipal. This link would confirm that the name truly came from the region of Elam.
    However, the king of Elam during Hammurabi’s time was Siwe-Palar-Khuppak. If we are to
    believe the Bible, Chedorlaomer would be another name for Siwe-Palar-Khuppak (or his
    successor, Kuduzulush I, who could have fought this war in the name of Siwe-Palar-
    Khuppak).
    These four eastern kings would have had a common interest in maintaining these far-away
    trade routes safe and under control to ensure commerce with Egypt. This coalition
    therefore makes political and historical sense. But, why were the people of Sodom vassals
    to Chedorlaomer and not Hammurabi? And why would the powerful Hammurabi appear as
    a mere ally in this coalition?
    Recall that, during the first 25 years of his reign, Hammurabi focused primarily on
    improving local infrastructures and only began expanding his kingdom in the later years of
    his reign. If this war took place at the beginning of, or just after, the expansion of his
    kingdom, that is, before he became so powerful, then it is only natural that he would join
    such a military operation. In addition, the history books tell us that before the expansion of
    the Babylonian empire by Hammurabi, the king of Elam was—or considered himself to
    be—more powerful than the king of Babylon. It would therefore not be surprising that the
    distant cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were under Elam’s yoke. Unfortunately, we still lack
    archeological evidence confirming this.
    Expanding the empire
    It seems likely that the War of Kings described in the Hebrew Bible was a prelude to
    Hammurabi’s rise to power.
    After inheriting the throne, Hammurabi quickly conquered the nearby kingdoms of Isin and
    Uruk. He then turns his attention to improving the kingdom’s infrastructures; it is only much
    later, during the 26th year of his reign, that he embarks on expansionist campaigns, no
    doubt following the maneuvers instigated by the king of Elam. During the 28th year of his
    reign, Hammurabi defeats Elam, and in his 29th year, he conquers Larsa after the defeat of
    Rim-Sin I (Arioch/Eriaku). Continuing his expansion elorts, he seized the kingdoms of
    Assur and Mari to create the Babylonian empire, earning himself the prestigious title of
    “king of the four quarters of the world.” In just a few years, Hammurabi went from being a
    local king, to what is still regarded today as the most powerful and influential men of the
    Near East during the Bronze Age.
    Some critical dates :
    Event Date
    Classic Date
    Falk Year Age
    Hammurabi is born -1810 -1783 -18 0
    Hammurabi becomes king of Babylon -1792 -1765 0 18
    Hammurabi conquers the kingdoms of Isin and Uruk -1786 -1759 8 26
    Period corresponding to the improvement of local infrastructures
    The kingdom of Elam rules over the neighboring plains -1767 -1740 25 43
    Hammurabi defeats the king of Elam -1764 -1737 28 46
    Hammurabi conquers the kingdom of Larsa (Rim-Sin I) -1763 -1736 29 47
    Hammurabi conquers the kingdom of Mari (Zimri-Lim) -1761 -1734 31 49
    Hammurabi’s Code is written (approximate date) -1760 -1733 32 50
    Hammurabi dies -1750 -1722 42 60
    How do these dates compare with the information gathered from the Hebrew Bible?
    Source Event Bible 6/10
    Ge 12:4 Abraham’s age when he leaves Haran (enters Canaan) 75 45
    Period corresponding to the War of Kings
    Ge 16:16 Abraham’s age at Ishmael’s birth 86 52
    Ge 17:25 Age dilerence between Ishmael and Isaac 14 8
    Ge 17:17 Sarah’s age at Isaac’s conception 90 54
    Ge 17:17 Begetter’s age at Isaac’s conception 100 60
    Ge 21:5 Abraham’s age at Isaac’s birth 100 60
    Period corresponding to the ordered sacrifice of Ishmael
    Ge 23:1 Sarah’s life span 127 76
    Ge 25:07 Abraham’s life span 175 105
    As the text informs us that the patriarch and his lord were the same age (Ge 17:17 and Ge
    21:5), it is possible to align the respective chronologies of Abraham and Hammurabi and
    look for possible syncretism.
    Based on the timeline of the biblical story, we know that the War of Kings took place after
    Abraham arrives in Canaan, but before the birth of Ishmael. Abraham would have been
    between the ages of 45 and 52 at the time of the war.
    Since Hammurabi is believed to have been 18 when he took power, these years correspond
    to the 27th (45-18) and 34th (52-18) years of his reign, a period during which the ruler was
    expanding his empire.
    For Rim-Sin I (Arioch/Eriaku) to fight in this war, it must have taken place before Elam
    hatched his plan to inflame the rivalry between the kings of Babylonia and Larsa. We learn
    that Hammurabi defeated the king of Elam in the 28th year of his reign. If biblical
    Chedorlaomer is the king of Elam, then the War of Kings must have taken place no later
    than the 28th year of Hammurabi’s reign. This is the year before Hammurabi defeated Rim-
    Sin I (Arioch/Eriaku) during his 29th year of reign.
    The above information allows us to pinpoint this battle between the 27th and 28th year of
    Hammurabi’s reign, when both, Abraham and Hammurabi, would have been 46 years old.
    Hammurabi died at the age of 60, the year Isaac was born. This means he must have
    fathered Isaac shortly before dying, which suggests he might have gotten weakened or sick
    on his last military campaign to the Levant, when Sodom was annihilated. All these timings
    are uniquely perfect.
    Mapping these relative dates to absolute dates using the Middle Chronology, situates the
    rise to power of Hammurabi in 1792 [Falk: 1765], the War of Kings to 1764 [Falk: 1737], and
    the birth of Isaac/death of Hammurabi in 1750 [Falk: 1722]:
    37: The War of Kings
    Postulating that Abraham and Hammurabi were born in the same year, that is 1810, opens
    a tiny window of possibilities for the War of Kings (3): Abraham had to be between the ages
    of 45 (2) and 52 (6). For his part, Hammurabi could only have been involved after the start of
    the new conquests by Elam (1) but before the latter’s defeat (4) and the capture of Rim-Sin I
    (Eriaku) (5). Isaac was born (7) the year Hammurabi died (8), or shortly after.
    The chronologies of Abraham and Hammurabi interlock in a way that leaves no room for
    waggling. What’s more, they help elucidate how Amraphel came to be in a position to make
    a covenant with Abram: By an unexpected turn of events, Chedorlaomer, who led the initial
    charge against Sodom, was soon after defeated by Hammurabi. Such a unique political
    situation and eerily small margin of error, oler extremely strong evidence for the case. The
    unfolding events will further confirm that the period during which this war took place
    cannot deviate substantially.
    An everlasting treaty
    We know that Hammurabi’s influence extended all the way up to Syria. Only the northern
    states of Qatna and Aleppo maintained their independence. But because Hammurabi was
    at odds with these local rulers, some historians argue that his reach never extended over
    the Levant. Absence of evidence does not mean it didn’t happen or that Hammurabi wasn’t
    influential over the Levant. In fact, and strictly from an economical perspective, it would be
    dubious for someone heading such a large empire to not be concerned with ensuring the
    safe trade of goods with Egypt. In addition, most of the information we have on Hammurabi
    does not come from Babylon, but from Mari – one of his vassal states. As such, we are likely
    missing a lot of details on his life and reign.
    To avoid provoking northern sensibilities, Hammurabi simply had to cross the desert via
    Rutba or follow the Euphrates all the way up to Mari and then cross via Tadmor (modernday
    Palmyra). Rutba and Tadmor are two oases situated halfway between Babylon and
    Damascus. Rutba appears as a more direct option, but likely more dilicult. In addition,
    little is known about it during the Bronze Age. One can surmise that this oasis was already
    known back then, but it is not certain. The Tadmor oasis, on the other hand, is clearly
    attested in the early second millennium BCE as a frequent caravan stop for travelers
    crossing the Syrian Desert. This main trade route eventually became instrumental in
    connecting the Levant to the famous Silk Road.
    As crossing the desert necessitated several weeks of dilicult walk, the Tadmor oasis
    represented a more popular option with its critical rest area.
    38: Trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt
    Following the rapid expansion of his empire, Hammurabi would have naturally been in a
    good position to exert control over Elam’s far-ol territories, including Canaan. No doubt,
    the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and of the distant territories of the Levant would have
    perceived this geopolitical reorganization of Mesopotamia as an ideal opportunity for
    emancipation.
    But given the punitive campaign of Ge 14 was only partially successful, Hammurabi would
    have sought to turn this far away region over to a trusted individual. Having to deal with an
    unpredictable and rebellious Sodom on this important trade route further justified the need
    to keep these critical roads under control.
    No doubt impressed by Abraham’s military skills, as well as the courage, loyalty, and honor
    he showed in rescuing Lot, Hammurabi knew that rather than try to oppose him it was
    wisest to negotiate a solid agreement with this valuable man by securing his absolute
    loyalty.
    Securing the covenant
    Did Hammurabi order Abraham to sacrifice his “only son” to secure Isaac’s inheritance?
    What event prompted this extreme request? All evidence suggests that this test took place
    soon after Isaac’s birth. However, this demand seems overly harsh given the covenant
    between the two men was based on mutual respect and a strong sense of trust. Such an
    inhuman request could just as easily have backfired on Hammurabi if Abraham had
    performed an about-face.
    Could there be a more plausible explanation?
    As noted earlier, Hammurabi died at the age of 60, the very same year that Isaac was born.
    We also know that Samsu-iluna, Hammurabi’s son, succeeded his father on the throne. It
    therefore seems more likely that it was, the new king of the Babylonian empire, who sought
    to secure the absolute loyalty of one of his inherited vassals, namely Abraham.
    Samsu-iluna, who is technically Isaac’s half-brother, rose to power after his father’s death.
    He reigned from 1750 to 1712 [Falk: 1722 to 1684]. Recall that Hammurabi had complete
    trust in Abraham and relied on him to honor their agreement (Ge 18:19). But, since the
    covenant was made between Hammurabi and Abraham, Samsu-iluna was not bound by its
    terms. When Samsu-iluna rose to power, he might have sought to assert his authority
    through a show of force. He would have been justified to test the loyalty of a man who had
    been devoted to his father.
    Samsu-iluna faced a sizable challenge, namely ensuring that Canaan remained under the
    control of the Amorite royal family. Ishmael’s “Egyptian“ blood could have opened the door
    to foreign claims, which needed to be avoided at all costs. Samsu-iluna killed two birds
    with one stone: he tested the loyalty of his vassal, and made sure that Isaac would succeed
    Abraham upon the latter’s death.
    Samsu-iluna would have ordered his messenger to spare Ishmael’s life at the last minute if
    Abraham indeed proved that he was willing to follow orders. Such an intelligent display of
    generosity would have sealed the pact with a gesture of trust and mutual respect. From this
    point on, one can easily imagine that Abraham, both proud and relieved, would have
    become a dedicated and grateful ally to Samsu-iluna.
    39: Samsu-Iluna secures Abraham’s loyalty
    This table illustrates the sequence of events that preceded the test of loyalty. Hammurabi
    makes a covenant with Abraham after the War of Kings (2). Ishmael is born shortly after that
    (3), but his birth is problematic, which is why Hammurabi fathers Isaac eight years later (4).
    Isaac is born (5) in the same year as his father’s death (6). This death leads to the rise of
    Samsu-iluna (7), who has every reason to test Abraham’s loyalty (8). Sarah dies a few years
    later, still (9).
    At this point, we have textual evidence potentially linking Abraham and Hammurabi
    together. We have a well-defined historical context that supports the interpretation. We
    have evidence showing they likely lived at the same time and participated in the same war.
    We know their motives and we know how the story ends. We are not only finding ourselves
    in the presence of a suspect – something we could merely hope for until now, but we may
    be in the presence of a unique set of evidence allowing us to infer the historicity of
    Abraham. Indeed, the very convoluted and intricate set of dates and circumstances
    surrounding their relationship, as well as the very unique reversal of situation that has led
    to the making of this covenant interweaves the lives of these two men in a way that can
    hardly be explained otherwise than if they had actually made this covenant together.
    Now, if Hammurabi, the most powerful and respected men of his time had indeed fathered
    Isaac, would we be surprised to find his descendants become powerful rulers? There is a
    good chance that Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph would have maintained a positive relationship
    with the Babylonian dynasty. And if Abraham’s descendants continued to exercise power in
    the region, it would be interesting to see how things unfolded and if the synchronism is
    persisting between the biblical timeline and the historical one.
    Joseph in Egypt
    Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt and the terrible famine that ruins the land are more than just
    a simple anecdote; as evidence of this, seven out of fifty chapters of Genesis are dedicated
    to this story (Ge 41-47). Although Canaan was regularly hit by famine, Egypt enjoyed more
    fertile lands thanks to the silt deposited by the annual flooding of the Nile. This famine,
    which alected even Egypt, was certainly exceptional; it lasted several years and “was
    grievous on the whole earth” (Ge 41:57). A major natural disaster must have caused it.
    The Minoan eruption
    One of the most massive volcanic eruptions in history occurred at this time: the
    catastrophic eruption of Mount Thera, better known today as Santorini, a Greek island in
    the Mediterranean Basin, less than 1,000 km from Egypt and the Levant. According to
    estimates, this colossal volcano spewed some 30 km3 of magma into the air and propelled
    a column of smoke 36 km into the Earth’s atmosphere, in the process scattering a
    phenomenal amount of ash. The expulsion of such a huge amount of matter created a
    gigantic crater, causing the island to collapse and throwing ash high into the air, which then
    rained down on Turkey and the countries of the Mediterranean Basin. Volcanic residue
    settled up to two meters deep in the areas immediately surrounding the eruption, while
    lighter particles were carried to the east by the prevailing winds.
    This explosion marked the beginning of a period of cooling in the northern hemisphere,
    which had a significant impact on a number of civilizations. It seems even China
    experienced famines in the aftermath of this event.
    40: Epicenter of the eruption of Mount Thera (Santorini)
    Scholars do not agree on the date of this event since dilerent dating methods yield
    dilerent results. By using carbon-14 dating, Manning originally suggested that this eruption
    took place between 1622 and 1618. However, carbon-14 dating is imprecise since carbon
    levels in the upper atmosphere vary with latitude and the solar cycle.
    Dendrochronology analyzes the growth rate and the number of rings in a cross-section cut
    through the trunk of trees. This data is used in archaeology to correct the errors of linearity
    introduced by the carbon-14 method. By studying wood samples (collected from ruins) to
    compile dendrochronological databases, Peter I. Kuniholm, Maryanne W. Newton, Carol B.
    Griggs, and Pamela J. Sullivan, influenced by the work of Manning and Hammer, obtained
    the growth rates revealing an abnormal surge between 1649 and 1644. The authors of this
    study explain that it was likely caused by years of excessively cold and damp weather,
    which they attribute to the atmospheric disturbances that resulted from the eruption of
    Mount Thera. Unfortunately, a closer look at the dataset reveals some discontinuities in
    the wood samples: There just isn’t enough wood samples to reliably cover the entire time
    period. As a result, dates could drift.
    Manning recently updated his position and now suggests a high-resolution dating for the
    eruption ~1606-1589 (68.3% probability), ~1609-1560 (95.4% probability). The bottom line
    is that we still cannot date this eruption with precision, but we know it must have taken
    place somewhere between 1650 and 1550. In previous edition of this investigation,
    Kuniholm’s data appeared more reliable. However, Manning’s most recent study olers
    substantial arguments for a late 17th, early 16th century date for the Minoan eruption.
    A sleeping giant
    Volcanoes can be dormant for tens to maybe even hundreds of thousands of years before
    they wake up and become active again. Recent studies show that a dormant volcano can
    enter into eruption much sooner than was originally believed – in just a few years, and
    maybe even a few months in some cases:
    In the case of Pinatubo, the team discovered that the magma chamber took only 20 to 80
    days to reactivate, versus the 500 years predicted by conventional theory.
    In all cases, however, there are precursory signs: earthquake swarms, inflation, and
    abundant degassing of carbon dioxide and/or sulfur dioxide.
    Presented as a dream, the following passage seems to describe Pharaoh’s riverside vision
    of a thick column of smoke rising high into the sky at a distance:
    Ge 41:1 And it came to pass at the end of two [one] full years, that Pharaoh dreamed : and,
    behold, he stood by the river.
    Ge 41:2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven [four] well favored kine and fatfleshed;
    and they fed in a meadow.
    The immense cloud formations looming on the horizon, above the reeds growing on the
    shoreline, appear as a harbinger of doom. The dream ends with the following verse:
    Ge 41:6 And, behold, seven [four] thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after
    them.
    This verse is peculiar, and the New King James Version translation provides additional
    details:
    Ge 41:6 Then behold, seven [four] thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after
    them.
    The term blighted refers to an extremely adverse environmental condition, such as air
    pollution that alects plants, as well as a technique used to blacken the metal.
    It is likely that the volcano became active a few years before its massive eruption. If so,
    Joseph correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dream and announces that a terrible famine will
    strike the entire land.
    Ge 41:47 Now in the seven [four] plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly.
    Ge 41:48 So he gathered up all the food of the seven [four] years which were in the land of
    Egypt,
    Joseph has the foresight to stockpile food during a few years before the volcano enters into
    eruption.
    Ge 41:53 Then the seven [four] years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended,
    Ge 41:54 and the seven [four] years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said.
    In all likelihood, the eruption propelled an enormous amount of particles that hung
    suspended in the air for an extended period, blocking out the sun’s rays and alecting the
    crops. The ash that did fall to the ground also covered a vast area, causing additional
    problems for farmers.
    Ge 45:6 For these two [one] years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five
    [three] years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
    The plagues described in the Papyrus Leiden I.344, also known as the Admonitions of
    Ipuwer, show similarities with the plagues inflicted by Moses on Pharaoh in the book of
    Exodus. These similarities could be coincidental, or they could be attributed to the natural
    disasters caused by the massive Minoan eruption:
    Disasters Bible verse Papyrus I.344
    Rivers turned to blood Ex 7:20 II.10
    Crops decimated Ex 9:31, 10:15 VI.3, VI.1
    Livestock diseased Ex 9:3 V.6
    Fire and hail Ex 9:23 II.11
    Darkness Ex 10:22 IX.11
    Widespread death Ex 12:30 II.3, IV.4 , VI.16
    The people grieve Ex 12:30 III.14
    If Joseph lived at the same time as this natural disaster, it should be possible to locate him,
    based on the information known about Abraham.
    Information from the Bible:
    Source Event Bible 6/10
    Ge 21:5 Abraham’s age at Isaac’s birth 100 60
    Ge 25:26 Isaac’s age at Jacob’s birth 60 36
    Ge 35:28 Death of Isaac 180 108
    Ge 41:46 Joseph’s age when he appears before Pharaoh 30 18
    Ge 41:53 Years of plenty 7 4
    Ge 41:50 Manasseh and Ephraim born before famine -2 -1
    Ge 41:54 Years of famine 7 4
    Ge 45:6 Years into the famine when Jacob comes to Egypt 2 1
    Ge 47:9 Jacob’s age when he appears before Pharaoh 130 78
    Ge 47:28 Jacob’s age at his death 147 88
    Ge 50:26 Joseph’s age at his death 110 66
    Ge 41:27 Famine’s duration 7 4
    Below is a summary of possible chronologies:
    Event Date
    Classic Date
    Falk*
    Abraham’s birth (premise) -1810 -1783
    Isaac’s birth (when Abraham was 60) -1750 -1723
    Jacob’s birth (when Isaac was 46) -1714 -1687
    Jacob dies -1626 -1599
    Based on Abraham’s age at Isaac’s birth, Isaac’s age at Jacob’s birth, Jacob’s life span, and
    the assumption that Abraham was born in 1810 [Falk: 1783], we can deduce that Jacob
    lived from 1714 (1810-60-36) to 1626 (1810-60-88) [Falk: 1687 to 1599].
    With this information at hand, it becomes possible to pinpoint Jacob’s son, Joseph, and the
    famine on a timeline.
    The Bible tells us that Joseph was 18 years old (30 6/10) when he stood before Pharaoh and interpreted his dream about the upcoming famine that occurred 4 years later: Ge 41:46 And Joseph was thirty [eighteen] years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. Joseph was the second-youngest child in a family of twelve. Unfortunately, Genesis does not tell us how old Jacob was when he fathered Joseph, but we can figure it out. We know his father Jacob appears in front of Pharaoh when he was 78 (1306/10). This was a little
    more than one (26/10) year into the famine (Ge 45:6), which means the eruption would have taken place when Jacob was 77. As such, Joseph was likely born 22 ((30+7 years of plenty)6/10) years earlier when Jacob was 55 (77-22).
    According to this calculation, Joseph was born in 1659 (1714-55) [Falk: 1632] and the
    eruption would have taken place in 1637 (1714-77) [Falk: 1610]. Falk’s date fits perfectly
    within (~1609-1560) date range with 95.4% probability olered by Manning.
    Ge 41:30 And there shall arise after them seven [four] years of famine; and all the plenty
    shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
    The famine lasted for four years, from the year 1637 to 1633 BCE [Falk:1610-1606]. As
    mentioned earlier, the exact dating of the Minoan eruption and Hammurabi’s reign is still a
    matter of debate. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to establish a synchronism between
    the famine during Joseph’s time and this catastrophic event. We cannot simply select the
    set of dates that fits our hypothesis, but the fact that both the classic Middle Chronology
    with Kuniholm’s dendrochronological data and Falk with Manning’s latest carbon-14 data
    align so closely, strengthens the idea that Abraham’s lord could have been King
    Hammurabi.
    The Hyksos rise to power
    The Hyksos, who were the Asiatic kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty, ruled in Egypt during the
    Second Intermediate Period, from approximately 1650 to 1550 BCE, which coincides with
    the timeframe of the Minoan eruption. The famine and other disasters that alected the
    region during this period would have caused significant political instability. Is it possible
    that the Amorite patriarchs, including Joseph, may have benefited from this tumultuous
    period? In the Hebrew Bible, it is described how Pharaoh granted Joseph great powers to
    manage the food supply during the famine, indicating that the patriarchs played a role in
    the politics and governance of the time:
    Ge 41:40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be
    ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
    Ge 41:41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
    Ge 41:42 And Pharaoh took ol his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and
    arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
    Ge 41:43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried
    before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.
    Ge 41:44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift
    up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.
    The most important alairs of the Egyptian state were entrusted to Joseph, which is a
    surprising decision given his foreign origin. Could this decision have coincided with the rise
    of the Hyksos to power? The Amorite people had been living in the Delta for close to a
    century, dating back to the time of Abraham’s first travels. Given the wealth of cultural
    evidence linking the patriarchs to the Hyksos and the Amorites, and indirectly to
    Hammurabi, it is logical to suggest that a connection might have existed between the
    patriarchs and the Hyksos. While the biblical account of the patriarchs is vague about the
    precise nature of the positions held by Jacob and Joseph in Egypt, they were clearly highranking
    olicials who wielded significant power in the court of Pharaoh.
    Pharaoh allows Joseph to send for his family:
    Ge 47:6 The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and
    brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of
    activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.
    The location of the “land of Goshen” only a few kilometers south of Avaris is significant in
    light of the fact that the Hyksos ruled over this region during the Second Intermediate
    Period. The title of “rulers over [my] cattle” given to a “shepherd king” holds importance, as
    it aligns with the titles claimed by Amorite kings such as Hammurabi, who declared
    themselves “shepherds” or “pastors” of the people.
    Jacob’s appointment to a high-profile position in Egypt further supports the theory put forth
    by some popular authors that the Hyksos pharaoh, Yakub-Har, and the biblical Jacob may
    be the same person. However, it has not been possible to definitively establish this
    connection based on any known dates or historical evidence.
    The Bible tells us the following:
    Ge 47:7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob
    blessed Pharaoh.
    Ge 47:8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou?
    Ge 47:9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an
    hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have
    not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their
    pilgrimage.
    Ge 47:10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

    Ge 47:28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob
    was an hundred forty and seven years.
    Jacob was 78 years old (1306/10) when he stood before Pharaoh. He lived another ten years (176/10), until the age of 88 (1476/10). Therefore, he could have ruled or governed from c. 1636 (1714-78) [Falk: 1609] until his death ten years later in 1626 (1714-88) [Falk: 1599]. However, more information is needed about the circumstances surrounding the Hyksos rise to power to determine whether a link with the patriarchs is indeed possible. These Amorite emigrants began to band together around 1750 and gradually started to claim the land they would eventually possess in the Nile Delta. To all appearances, the kings of Thebes were unperturbed by this peaceful coexistence. Grimal and Shaw even emphasize the surprising continuity between the documents and monuments from the 12th Dynasty and the Second Intermediate Period. They specify, “The most surprising aspect of the 13th and 14th Dynasties is the apparent continuation of Egyptian influence over bordering countries.” Because Egypt continued to exert influence over its neighbors, it would seem that a major event, perhaps the eruption of Mount Thera, played a role in toppling the established order by quickly shifting the balance of power to the Hyksos, who promptly seized control of all of Egypt and established the 15th Dynasty. So, what happened? Unfortunately, the history of this period is very poorly documented since the Egyptians were prompt to wipe out all traces of their inglorious past from buildings and monuments. Only a small amount of information escaped this censorship, and what remains is fragmented, incomplete, and contradictory. As such, it cannot accurately confirm the names and reigns of the Hyksos kings or even the order in which they ruled. While the kings of the 12th and 13th Dynasties , who ruled immediately before the Hyksos, as well as those of the 17th and 18th Dynasties, who succeeded them, are relatively well known, there is a lack of information about the 14th, 15th, and 16th Dynasties. The following diagram illustrates the connections between these dynasties, which ruled simultaneously. 41: Dynasties of the Second Intermediate Period Hyksos of the 14th Dynasty ruled over Lower Egypt, while those of the 15th Dynasty ruled over Upper and Lower Egypt. Experts date the reign of the Hyksos based on two main sources: the king list compiled by the Egyptian historian Manetho in the 3rd century BCE, and the Turin Royal Canon from the 13th century BCE, which is a collection of papyrus fragments containing information on several dynasties, including the 15th Dynasty. However, the Turin Royal Canon provides little information about the names and lengths of reigns of six kings, with only the number of reigns and their total duration known, estimated to be approximately a century or maybe 108 years, with the last name on the list being “Khamudi”. On the other hand, Manetho reports six kings from the 15th Dynasty, but their reigns total 260 years, more than twice the length reported in the Turin Royal Canon. However, Khamudi is absent from Manetho’s list of six kings. Multiplying Manetho’s 260 by 6/10 gives a more realistic estimate of 156 years. It is thought that the information in the Turin Royal Canon is more accurate, although too fragmented to provide a clear picture. Several artifacts from this turbulent period have been found, and while specific facts point to a plausible solution, they must be interpreted with caution. Experts do not agree on the matter, as the years in which these kings reigned cannot be substantiated by any reliable data. On the other hand, based on available information about their predecessors and successors, the total length of their reign can be estimated at approximately 150 years. According to Redford, the six Hyksos kings of whom traces have been found during archaeological digs or about whom substantial clues exist (often in the form of scarabs) are Salatis, Sheshi, Yakub-Har, Khyan, Apophis, and Khamudi. Salatis and Sheshi are only attested by the Canon. Another Hyksos king, Sakir-Har, is attested by a doorjamb inscription in Avaris. It is believed that he could have preceded Khyan. In all fairness, we do not precisely know who they were, when they lived, or how the Hyksos of the 15th Dynasty seized power. However, Josephus Flavius describes the way in which the Egyptian Manetho opens his chapter on their reign: There was a king of ours whose name was Timaus. Under him it came to pass, I know not how, that God was averse to us, and there came, after a surprising manner, men of ignoble birth out of the eastern parts, and had boldness enough to make an expedition into our country, and with ease subdued it by force, yet without our hazarding a battle with them. So when they had gotten those that governed us under their power, they afterwards burnt down our cities, and demolished the temples of the gods, and used all the inhabitants after a most barbarous manner; nay, some they slew, and led their children and their wives into slavery. At length they made one of themselves king, whose name was Salatis; he also lived at Memphis, and made both the upper and lower regions pay tribute, and left garrisons in places that were the most proper for them. This passage contains a few clues about the circumstances surrounding this coup. The choice of the expression “God was averse to us” could very well refer to the volcanic eruption and the fallout from that natural disaster. However, the ease with which the Hyksos managed to seize Egypt is in surprising contrast to the harmony and stability that appeared to reign over the country. Besides, the evidence seems to indicate that the Egyptians were taken aback by the sudden shift in the situation. Despite everything, one would have expected the disciplined and trained army of a politically stable country to have at least attempted to fend ol a hostile invader. Did the eruption of Mount Thera destabilize the country so severely that the Egyptians unwillingly became the instruments of their own defeat? If the Hyksos took the country “without [the Egyptians] hazarding a battle with them”, this may have been because they encountered a disorganized and paralyzed army… or because the Hyksos were handed the land in exchange for food! The Bible describes how Joseph acquired land from the desperate Egyptians in exchange for food: Ge 47:18 When that year was ended, they came unto him the second year, and said unto him, We will not hide it from my lord, how that our money is spent; my lord also hath our herds of cattle; there is not ought left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Ge 47:19 Wherefore shall we die before thine eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants unto Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, that the land be not desolate. Ge 47:20 And Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians sold every man his field, because the famine prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh’s. The Nile Delta, where the Hyksos settled, was the most fertile part of Egypt; even today, it is still one of the most harvested areas in the world. If Joseph, aware of the imminent danger, rationed food to preserve the country’s resources and then skillfully negotiated the sale of this precious commodity, this might explain the peaceful takeover. Yakub-Har’s successors While some authors had previously suggested a potential link between Jacob and Yakub- Har, none have theorized on his successors. The Bible confirms that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son: Ge 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. As the Bible confirms Joseph “was the son of his old age”, it is likely that Jacob could have had Joseph at 55 (as mentioned earlier). The “coat of many colors” no doubt has a particular significance: it designates Joseph as the favorite son appointed to carry on the bloodline. Several Egyptian frescoes depict the pharaoh dressed in a richly colored tunic, emphasizing the importance of clothing as a symbol of authority and power. Joseph had a dream: Ge 37:10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? Ge 37:11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. Although Jacob was not particularly inclined to bow down before his son, Joseph was clearly destined to rule over his brothers. The rest of the story reveals how he became an important person. In all likelihood, Khyan succeeded Yakub-Har as king of the Hyksos. Khyan was undoubtedly a great king since evidence of him exists outside Egypt. Traces of his seals have been found in Knossos, Crete, Boghazkoy in Turkey (formerly Hattusas, a significant Hittite capital) and Babylon. Khyan’s name is generally associated with the title “Ruler of Foreign Lands”. Were Joseph and Khyan the same person? Kim Ryholt, a Danish Egyptologist specializing in the Second Intermediate Period, describes how a stele found at Avaris contains the name of Khyan, followed by a dedication that is too damaged to be deciphered. Ryholt postulates that it was likely “Seth”, the Hyksos counterpart of the god Ba’al, worshipped by the Amorites. Since the Hyksos worshipped the god Seth, and Isra-El and Ishma-El worshipped the god El, we can surmise that Khyan’s full name was in fact “Khyan-Seth”. Ryholt states that the Amorite equivalent of “Khyan” is “hyaan”. Supposing Khyan’s full name was “h-ya-a-n-seth”, then the contracted form “h-ya-seth” or “ya-sef”. In Hebrew, the name is written יו סף (yosef) “Joseph.” This link seems even more probable given the fact that Joseph’s eldest son was named מנ שה (menasheh) “Manasseh”, and Khyan-Seth’s eldest, “Yanassi”. Two names of similar consonants. Ge 41:51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For Elohim, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. If Jacob was 55 years old when Joseph was born and Jacob died at 88 (1476/10) years old;
    and Joseph died at the age of 66 (1106/10 – Ge 50:26), we can deduce that Joseph survived his father by 33 years (66-(88-55)). Accordingly, Joseph would have taken power at Jacob’s death in 1626 (1714-88) [Falk: 1599] at the age of 33 until his death in 1593 (1659-66) [Falk: 1566]. This means that he would have lived in Egypt for almost 48 years (66-18). These dates and length of reign are compatible with Khyan. If Joseph is Khyan, and if he helped propel the Hyksos to power during the famine, then he might have done a co-regency with Yakub-Har who might have ruled during the Minoan eruption. If Yakub-Har is indeed Jacob, then he ruled from c. 1636 to 1626 [Falk: 1609- 1599]. The length of Jacob’s stay in Egypt corresponds to the generally accepted length of the pharaoh Yakub-Har’s reign. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Bible later gives a description that fits Khyan perfectly, when Moses blesses the tribes of Israel and says, about Joseph: De 33:17 His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns [the wild ox] : with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh. These traits match those attributed to Khyan, “Ruler of Foreign Lands”, who worshipped god Seth, the counterpart of Ba’al, himself typically represented by a calf or horns. Oddly, the story of the patriarchs breaks ol abruptly with Joseph’s death. The trail quickly goes cold, and nothing in the Bible indicates that his descendants continued to rule over Egypt. On the Hyksos’ side, Ryholt suggests that Yanassi was most likely designated as Khyan’s successor. However, according to history, it was Apophis, and not Yanassi, who succeeded Khyan, most likely by leading a coup upon the latter’s death. The biblical duo Joseph/Manasseh seems to correspond very well to the historical figures of Khyan-Seth/Yanassi. And, if Yanassi was indeed assassinated or overthrown, then it’s only reasonable that the story of the patriarchs would come to a sudden end. 42: The famine in Egypt Always based on the premise that Abraham was born in 1810, this chart illustrates a perfect correspondence between the patriarchs’ lineage and the Hyksos kings, two generations down. If Joseph was born when Jacob was 55 years old, he would have been 18 (3) in 1649. Joseph skillfully traded land for food, a precious commodity, thereby propelling the Hyksos to power in Egypt (2). Joseph survived Jacob by 25 years. Manasseh, who should have inherited the throne in 1601, was overthrown by Apophis, leading to the fusion of the identities of Jacob and Yakub-Har, Joseph and Khyan-Seth, and Manasseh and Yanassi. The book of Genesis ends with Joseph’s death. But, if this story is indeed based on historical events, the chapter about the patriarchs alords us only a brief glimpse at what might have really happened. This leads us to question the identities of the remaining characters in this story. Are there links between the biblical Isaac, Esau, and Ephraim, and the other known Hyksos kings: Salatis, Sheshi, Apophis and Khamudi? Logically, we would expect to discover new relationships as events unfold. Also, how can the Exodus be explained in light of our investigation? Unfortunately, reliable information—both biblical and historical—is in short supply and, therefore, does not permit any firm conclusions. The expulsion of the Hyksos In our quest for possible ties between the last Hyksos pharaohs and the patriarchs, let’s analyze other available fragments of information. What few shreds remain to oler up clues that are worth considering? The last two Hyksos pharaohs were Apophis and Khamudi. What do we know about them? Can they be linked to the patriarchs? How did the Hyksos saga end in Egypt? Do the biblical and historical chronologies still line up? Let’s turn our attention to answering these questions. Fortunately, the rise of the 17th and 18th Egyptian dynasties, which expelled the Hyksos from the country, is much better documented than the Hyksos dynasties themselves. Chronicles and other artifacts enable us to reconstruct the sequence of events leading up to this expulsion: • The Papyrus Sallier I describes a conflict between the Hyksos king Apophis and the king of Thebes, Seqenenre Tao II, about the noise made by hippopotamuses, which were preventing Apophis from sleeping despite the great distance between these two kings; this proves that the two were contemporaries. • The reign of Seqenenre Tao II lasted only three or four years. Seqenenre Tao II died from severe head injuries likely sustained during a battle against Apophis. • Seqenenre Tao II’s son, Kamose, succeeded him. During a military campaign, Kamose intercepts a message that Apophis is trying to send to one of his allies. Kamose dies just five years into his reign. • The task of continuing and eventually concluding the battle against the Hyksos falls to Ahmose, Kamose’s younger brother, and successor. Apophis is still alive at this time, since the Rhind papyrus, written during the 33rd year of his reign, mentions Ahmose; this proves that Apophis lived to at least this age. • Upon Apophis’s death, he is succeeded by Khamudi, who fends ol an attack by Ahmose during the 11th year of his reign. But, Ahmose successfully conquers Avaris the following year, around the 18th year of his reign. The Hyksos are pushed back to Sharuhen in Judea and continue to fight ol a siege for a further three years before fading into the obscurity of history. They never again posed a threat to Egypt. While the above facts are well documented, there is still no unanimity on the dates of the reigns of the Theban kings Seqenenre Tao II, Kamose and Ahmose, who chased the Hyksos from Egypt. The following table lists the generally accepted start and end dates of the reigns, as well as the proposed variations: Kings of Thebes Dynasty Proposed dates Date Falk Seqenenre Tao II 17th 1591/1558 to 1576/1545 1559-1544 Kamose 17th 1576/1545 to 1570/1539 1544-1538 Ahmose I 18th 1570/1539 to 1546/1514 1538-1513 As such, E.F. Wente suggests that Ahmose I reigned from 1570 to 1546, whereas H.W. Helck believes he ruled some forty years later, from 1539 to 1514. Falk suggests 1538-1513, which aligns well with Helck. The long reign of Apophis According to Ryholt, Apophis was the Hyksos king who succeeded Khyan—possibly the biblical Joseph—, and who reigned over all of Egypt for many years. To all appearances, he maintained good relations with the Theban kings during the first years of his reign. The Hebrews no doubt enjoyed a special status until the ascension of Seqenenre Tao II, who set ol hostilities. In presuming that Apophis (or two successive kings ostensibly with the same name, as N. Grimal suggests) reigned for a period of 35 to 50 years, then we will see that the chronology of the Hyksos patriarchs previously outlined lines up perfectly with the dates generally recognized for the Theban kings of the 17th and 18th Dynasties who expelled them from Egypt. It is essential to clarify this chronological link further, as it can lend further credibility to any hypothesis concerning a connection between the Hyksos and the patriarchs. If the known dates for the Theban kings who expelled the Hyksos from Egypt do not correspond to the ends of the reigns of Apophis and Khamudi, then we fail in this demonstration. In addition to the facts presented earlier, which suggests a possible link between the Theban kings and these last two Hyksos kings—Apophis and Khamudi—, it is also helpful to study the connections that may have existed between the later and their possible predecessors, namely the patriarchs. To this elect, it is interesting to note that, over a century ago, Rawlinson described an ancient tradition linking Apophis to the pharaoh who lived at the same time as Joseph. He wrote: There was an ancient tradition, that the king who made Joseph his prime minister, and committed into his hands the entire administration of Egypt, was Apepi. George the Syncellus says that the synchronism was accepted by all. George the Syncellus was a Byzantine chronicler who lived in the late 8th century CE and who wrote a chronicle of world history from Genesis to the accession of Diocletian (c. 284 CE). According to Rawlinson, this tradition was widely accepted during Syncellus’ lifetime. Although it has since been influenced by theological interpretation, this tradition nevertheless supports the belief that Joseph and Apophis lived at the same time. If we maintain our hypothesis that Khyan and Joseph were the same person and that Apophis succeeded Khyan, then our research findings are entirely consistent with this ancient tradition. However, the fact that this tradition describes a relationship of trust between the two men seems to illustrate a contradiction. Indeed, Ryholt explains that Khyan appointed his son, Yanassi, as his successor. History tells us that Apophis succeeded Khyan. So, if Khyan was Joseph, then how could the latter have been on good terms with Apophis? Jacob blesses Apophis The events reported in the Hebrew Bible correspond to this historical account. The passages below may provide additional insight. Just before his death, Jacob, also known as Israel, calls for Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to give them his blessing: Ge 48:17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. Ge 48:18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. Ge 48:19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. Ge 48:20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, Elohim make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. Given the family history, it makes sense to suspect that Manasseh married a non-Amorite, and, therefore, a woman considered by his grandfather, Jacob, to be of “impure” blood. This prompts Jacob to give his blessing to Ephraim, to the great dismay of Joseph. This abrupt shift in the situation is not unlike the failed succession of Yanassi. If Ephraim was in the Bible chosen over Manasseh, and if history says that Apophis became pharaoh instead of Yanassi, then the question is: is Apophis the Ephraim of the Bible? The association seems entirely plausible. Apophis can also be written as Apofis or Apepi. In Egyptian, this name is written as “ipp”. We know that Apophis worshipped the god Re, since his throne name was Apepi A-Qenen- Re (the energy of Re is great). Therefore, the contracted form of his name could have been Apepi-Re or Ipp-Re. In Hebrew, Ephraim is written אפר ים . If we ignore the Masoretic punctuations added sometimes between 700-1000 CE, we can also pronounce “Aph-reyim” which can be interpreted as “the anger of Re is great”. We find here what appears to be a plausible match between the two names. 43: Hyksos sphinx – king Apepi This photograph, by J. Pascal Sebah, taken at the Museum of Giza in the last century, shows Hyksos sphinx; the name Apepi appears on one of them. These statues are similar in style, pose, and appearance to the statue of the turquoise goddess Ba’alat. Is this simply a coincidence, or is this not evidence that the Hyksos had elevated themselves to the rank of Ba’als? Did Ezer die in combat? Strangely, around the middle of Apophis’s reign, the name Apepi A-Qenen-Re (the energy of Re is great) morphed into Apepi A-User-Re (the strength of Re is great). Given the great similarity in the meanings of the two names, most experts believe that they refer to the same person. However, this opinion is not unanimous, and some experts, including Grimal, continue to think that they could have been two dilerent pharaohs. Incidentally, the Bible teaches us that one of Ephraim’s sons is named Ezer (1 Chronicles 7:21) – in Hebrew ע)זר ) ezer, which means “mighty is Re” . This name matches that of AUser- Re, who succeeded or perhaps even reigned with A-Qenen-Re. Do the timeline and the story of Ezer support this possible link? According to the Bible, Manasseh and Ephraim were born shortly before the famine, that is, before 1649 [Manning: 1609]: Ge 41:50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. Ge 41:51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For Elohim, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. Joseph was still alive when Ephraim’s sons and Manasseh’s grandson were born, meaning that this third generation was born before 1593 [Falk: 1566], the year he died: Ge 50:23 And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph’s knees. But, a terrible tragedy befell Ephraim: 1 Chr 7 :21 And Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son, and Ezer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath that were born in that land slew, because they came down to take away their cattle. 1 Chr 7 :22 And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. 1 Chr 7 : 23 And when he went in to his wife, she conceived, and bare a son, and he called his name Beriah, because it went evil with his house. All of Ephraim’s sons are slaughtered. Old and grief-stricken, Ephraim must nevertheless father another son, Beriah, to carry on the line. But, how and at what age did Ezer, Ephraim’s son, die? The Bible says that the men of “Gath” killed all of Ephraim’s sons. This city is generally thought to be Tell es-Safi in Israel, although the name could refer to several locations since in Hebre תw ג (gath) means “winepress.” Wine was also produced in Thebes, and many other places. Is it possible that Ephraim’s sons were instead killed in a battle against the rebel Thebans who were attempting to expel them? Seqenenre Tao and the other Theban kings were in fact “born in that land” of Upper Egypt; as such, they could very likely have “come down” to them in Lower Egypt. What’s more, all of Ephraim’s heirs were killed. It would have had to have been a crucial battle for the sons of pharaoh to have engaged in a military conflict. Since Seqenenre Tao was the first Theban king to wage war against the Hyksos, we could date Ezer’s death as early as 1591 according to high chronology [Falk: 1559]. In this case, and since we know Ephraim was born before the famine, he could have been just 56 years old (1649-1591) [or 50 years old using Manning/Falk 1609-1559] when his sons were killed. He could have easily fathered another son at this age. Shemidah rises to the challenge With all of Ephraim’s sons having been slain in battle, the next in line for the throne was a member of Manasseh’s family, a great-grandson named Shemidah שמיד) ע ). Since the Egyptian “k” is almost silent, Shemidah appears to have been Khamudi, the last Hyksos king to rule Egypt. According to the Bible, Shemidah is the son of Gilead (1 Chr 7:19), himself son of Machir (Nu 26:29), who is the son of Manasseh (Ge 50:23). If the sons of Machir “were brought up upon Joseph’s knees”, then Gilead was born before 1593 [Falk: 1566] (the year of Joseph’s death). Shemidah, son of Gilead, could therefore have been born around 1573 (1593-20) [Falk: 1546], when Ephraim was 63 years old (1636-1573). Therefore, Shemidah could have ruled alongside an aging Ephraim-Apophis. History tells us that Ahmose I, who was later to become the Theban king, was only seven years old when his father Seqenenre Tao died. Seqenenre’s reign was short, lasting only three to five years, and his death occurred sometime around 1555 (although some date ranges vary between 1576 and 1545) [Falk: 1544]. Kamose succeeded Seqenenre Tao as king of Thebes, with Apophis still reigning as the Hyksos king. Ahmose I eventually took power around 1550 (with possible date ranges between 1570 and 1539) [Falk: 1538]. The historical records also indicate that Apophis, who may have been the biblical Ephraim, was contemporary with Ahmose I and was succeeded by Khamudi after his death. During the 17th or 18th year of Ahmose I’s reign, he defeated Khamudi at Sharuhen, which occurred during the 11th year of Khamudi’s reign as a Hyksos king. This means that Apophis and Ahmose I were contemporaries for a period of 6 years. To keep the biblical and historical timelines aligned, it is necessary for Ephraim to have lived at least six years into Ahmose I’s reign. Assuming Ahmose I came to power in 1550 (Falk: 1538), Ephraim must have lived to be 105 years old (1649 -1550+6) (Falk: 79 = 1611- 1538+6). Shemidah would have taken power at ~36 years old (1580-1550+6) (Falk: ~21 = 1553-1538+6), and been ~47 years old (1580-1550+17) (Falk: ~32 = 1553-1538+17) when the Hyksos retreated to Sharuhen and the final siege occurred. The state of war, Beriah’s youth (since he was born after Ezer’s death), and the volatile situation all gave Shemidah the advantage in shaping the destiny of the country. However, since some experts, including Edward F. Wente, suggest that Seqenenre Tao, Kamose and Ahmose I could have lived some 20 years earlier (1570-1550), it’s also possible that Ephraim may have died at age 85 (1649-1570+6). If this was the case, Shemidah would have been 20 years younger, or 16 years old (1580-1570+6) when Ephraim died and 27 years old (1580-1570+17) at the time of the siege. An early date for the eruption (1649) coupled with a late date for Ahmose I (1555) causes a very long lifespan of 105 for Ephraim. Other than that, the proposed dates – especially when using Manning for the eruption and Falk’s chronologies – oler an entirely consistent synchronism between the biblical characters, the eruption of mount Thera, and the three Theban kings who liberated Egypt from the Hyksos. There is still other information to support our hypothesis. The Bible says that Ephraim also had a daughter named Sherah, a name similar to Herit (Harat), the daughter of Apophis. 1 Chr 7:24 And his daughter was Sherah שרא) ה ), who built Beth-horon ( חו ר ון בי ת ) the nether, and the upper, and Uzzen-sherah. If Sherah built Beth-horon, which in Hebrew means “house of Horon”, it appears very likely that the house she built would bear her name. In this case, it seems that Sherah and Horon could be one and the same (based on phonetic similarities). We also know the names of two of Apophis’s sisters, Tany and Tcharydjet, and of one of his daughters, Harat (or Herit). A link between Horon and Harat, therefore, seems highly likely. While these names and dates, and this chronology do not allow us to draw a firm conclusion, they do pave the way for new interpretations. 44: Ephraim and Apophis This table presents a chronology linking Ephraim to Apophis based on traditional timelines of the expulsion of the Hyksos. Manasseh and Ephraim were born before the famine (1). Their sons, Machir and Ezer, were born before Jacob’s death (2). Joseph held his grandson, Gilead, on his knees (3). According to Jacob’s wishes, Ephraim succeeded Joseph instead of Manasseh (4). Ephraim changed his name or ruled jointly with Ezer until his death, between (5) and (7). After his sons were killed, Ephraim fathered Beriah (6), who was still too young to rule after his father’s death. Seqenenre Tao died while Apophis was still alive (7). His son, Kamose, succeeded him and possibly ruled jointly with Ahmose. Shemidah, Joseph’s great-great-grandson, took up the charge against the Hyksos after Ephraim died (8). Twelve years later, in the 17th year of his reign, Ahmose liberated Egypt (9). Recap of the reigns of the 15th dynasty According to the Turin Royal Canon ??? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? Khamudi ?? Six reigns 108(?) years According to Manetho (Josephus Flavius) Saites (Salatis) 19 years Bnon (Sheshi) 44 years Apacnan (Yakub-Har) 37 years Iannas (Khyan-seth) 50 years Apofis (Apepi I&II) 61 years Assis (Khamudi) 49 years Total 260 years Historical data Salitis (Se-kha-en-Re) 19 Sheshi (Maa-ib-Re) 40 Sakir-Har Yakub-Har (Mery-user-Re) ?? Khyan (Suser-en-Re) ?? Apophis I (A-Qenen-Re) +33 years Apophis II (A-User-Re) Khamudi +11 years Six (or seven) reigns -150 max. Proposed lengths Salatis (Isaac) 3 years Sheshi (Esau) 10 years Yakub-Har (Jacob) 10 years Khyan-seth (Joseph) 25 years Apepi–Re (Ephraim) 51 years A-User-Re (Ezer) co-regency Khamudi (Shemidah) 12 years Six (or seven) reigns 111 years*
  • The last six reigns (excluding Salatis) total 108 years.
    45: The shepherd kings
    Slaves in Egypt
    The book of Exodus tells the story of how God delivered the children of Israel from
    enslavement in Egypt under the guidance of Moses. Some scholars have proposed a
    possible link between the expulsion of the Hyksos and the Exodus story, but the dates do
    not match up. Archaeologists have largely dismissed the idea of a historical Exodus, as
    they have found no evidence of a large-scale population movement leaving Egypt.
    Additionally, the Bible itself suggests that hundreds of thousands of people were liberated,
    which would have been dilicult to accomplish without leaving behind significant
    archaeological evidence.
    Num 1:46 Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three
    thousand and five hundred and fifty.
    It is clear that if hundreds of thousands of Israelites had fled Egypt, there would be plenty of
    Egyptian records of this. This is why most historians now suggest that if any Exodus ever
    took place, it must have been limited to a community, a clan, and even perhaps to a large
    family.
    Finkelstein summarizes the current scholarly position on Exodus:
    Putting aside the possibility of divinely inspired miracles, one can hardly accept the idea of
    a flight of a large group of slaves from Egypt through the heavily guarded border
    fortifications into the desert and then into Canaan in the time of such a formidable
    Egyptian presence. Any group escaping Egypt against the will of the pharaoh would have
    easily been tracked down not only by an Egyptian army chasing it from the delta but also by
    the Egyptian soldiers in the forts in northern Sinai and in Canaan.
    The investigation conducted so far has revealed that the Hebrew Bible can provide factual
    information. However, it is important to interpret it carefully and map it to known historical
    events rather than accepting it at face value.
    Keeping the Hyksos in check
    Although the Hyksos must have been kept in check ever since their expulsion by Ahmose I,
    the conquest of the Levant by Thutmose III marked the beginning of a dominion that would
    last nearly 300 years.
    We know that the solution to the problem of the Exodus is not as simple as lining up dates
    and kings. The expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in 1570 BCE ushered in a period when
    the Egyptians became extremely wary of incursions into their lands by outsiders. And the
    negative impact of the memories of the Hyksos symbolizes a state of mind that is also to be
    seen in the archaeological remains. Only in recent years has it become clear that from the
    time of the New Kingdom onward, beginning after the expulsion of the Hyksos, the
    Egyptians tightened their control over the flow of immigrants from Canaan into the delta.
    Finkelstein points out the challenge of connecting the Exodus story with the expulsion of
    the Hyksos, as proposed by filmmaker Simcha Jacobvici, due to the Egyptian’s tight control
    of their borders at that time. However, it is possible to consider an alternative interpretation
    of the Exodus story, where it may not have involved a mass movement of Israelite slaves
    out of Egypt, but rather an event that “liberated” all Canaanites from Egyptian rule?
    The book “Out of Egypt or Out of Canaan? The Exodus Story Between Memory and
    Historical Reality” by Nadav Na’aman, presents a persuasive argument that the biblical
    story of the Exodus is not about a mass movement of Israelite slaves leaving Egypt, but
    rather the liberation of Canaan from Egyptian rule.
    In Num 1:46, the number 603,550 is given as the count of all males “from twenty years old
    and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel.” However, applying a 6/10
    multiplier to account for the entire population, we get 362,130 (603,5506/10) males older than 12 (206/10). This estimate aligns relatively well with the most recent population
    estimates for the entire Canaan during the Late Bronze II, which ranged from 499,000 to
    650,000 according to Kennedy. It is possible that the Exodus was not a mass movement of
    Israelite slaves out of Egypt, but rather the liberation of all Canaanites from Egyptian
    domination. The end of this domination would have been perceived as a divine liberation
    and celebrated as such. Additionally, while a young boy of 12 may not have the strength to
    manipulate weapons of warfare, they could still assist in various related activities, as
    described by Roman historian Plutarch, who detailed the regime of Spartan male infants as
    young as seven:
    “… their training was calculated to make them obey commands well, endure hardships,
    and conquer in battle. … When they were twelve years old, they no longer had tunics to
    wear, received one cloak a year, had hard, dry flesh, and knew little of baths and
    ointments”
    There are three traditional methods to calculate the date of the Exodus. The first method is
    based on the amount of time the children of Israel spent as slaves in Egypt. According to
    Genesis 15:13, God tells Abram that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land for
    240 years (4006/10). However, this number was likely taken out of Acts 7:6 after the fact. Exodus 12:41 tells us that the Israelites were in Egypt for 258 years (4306/10), a number
    that also appears in Galatians 3:17.
    So were the Israelites in Egypt for 240 or 258 years? If the Egyptians began exercising
    control over the Levant immediately after or soon after the expulsion of the Hyksos, the
    “oppression” would have started somewhere between 1550 and 1515 (depending on which
    years are retained for the reign of Ahmose). Therefore, we should situate the Exodus
    anywhere between 1310 (1550-240) and 1257 (1515-258).
    The second method is based on the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem. In this case,
    we are told in the Bible that Exodus should have taken place 288 (480*6/10) years before
    Solomon built the Temple. Given this work was undertaken in the fourth year of his reign,
    we find that the Exodus should have taken place in 1254 (970 – 4 + 288).
    After expelling the Hyksos, the Egyptians sought to consolidate and expand their territorial
    authority by exerting control over the Levant. By the 21st year of Thutmose III reign (1479-
    1425), Egypt launched a significant campaign and marched over Israel and a coalition of
    Canaanite rulers. Thutmoses III won the important battle at Megiddo in 1456 and his victory
    was recorded on the walls of the Temple of Karnak:
    Capture ye electively, my victorious army! Behold, all foreign countries have been put in
    this town by the command of Ra on this day, inasmuch as every prince of every northern
    country is shut up within it for the capturing of Megiddo is the capturing of a thousand
    towns! Capture ye firmly, Firmly!
    In Judges 11:26, we learn that the Israelites lost control of their land for 180 years (300 *
    6/10).
    Judges 11:26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and its dependent villages, and in Aroer and its
    dependent villages, and in all the cities that are along the banks of the Arnon, three
    hundred years—why did ye not recover [them] within that time?
    This information brings us to conclude that the Exodus would have taken place c. 1276
    (1456+180).
    Thanks to the 6/10 multiplier, these three methods are converging and enabling us to
    narrow down the time frame for the Exodus to somewhere between 1276-1254. What major
    event on the international stage could have made a significant impact on the Israelites
    during this period, and more importantly, how did it influence Egyptian dominance over the
    Levant?
    Exodus and the Battle of Kadesh
    The Battle of Kadesh, a memorable battle that began in 1274, is a significant event that may
    have influenced the Exodus story. The battle pitted the Egyptian and Hittite armies against
    each other in the northern part of the Levant, with thousands of chariots involved in the
    fight that lasted over a decade. Although no clear winner emerged, a peace treaty was
    eventually ratified in 1259, which is now the oldest recorded peace treaty in history and still
    on display at the United Nations headquarters. Prior to the Battle of Kadesh, Egypt
    maintained control over most of the Levant for over 250 years since the expulsion of the
    Hyksos. However, after signing the treaty, the Egyptians began to loosen their grip on the
    Levant. This significant event may have provided an opportunity for the Israelites to
    perceive themselves as slaves being freed from Egyptian domination.
    46: Dating the Exodus
    The diagram presented illustrates that the end of the Battle of Kadesh coincides with the
    date of the Exodus. It also confirms that all the dates mentioned in the Bible, namely (1) 1
    Ki 6:1 and (2) Ge 15:13/Acts 7:6 and Ex 12:41/Gal 3:17, align with each other only after
    applying the 6/10 multiplier.
    The Battle of Kadesh was documented in various forms, including a poem and a bulletin,
    and these texts are found on multiple Egyptian sites. The epic poem, recounting the victory
    of Ramses II over his enemies, was written by Pentaur, a scribe at the Temple of Amen, and
    can be seen on the walls of the Luxor temple in Karnak. Although both sides, the Hittites
    and the Egyptians, claimed victory in the battle, it is not surprising to see them distorting
    the reality to their advantage.
    47 : The Battle of Kadesh
    The fresco depicted above comes from the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, and it serves as a
    poignant reminder of the many Egyptians and Israelites who lost their lives in the tragic
    Battle of Kadesh, which lasted for more than a decade. The powerful image of Pharaoh’s
    enemies drowning in the river may have had a profound impact on the collective memories
    of the region, as it resonates with the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
    The poem of Pentaur and the biblical passage of the Red Sea bear similarities in the way
    they tell of how the Israelites fled from Egypt. While Moses’ account appears to be a
    shortened version that was embellished and turned to the Israelites’ advantages, the
    original poem is rather long. The critical passages are highlighted and can be more easily
    compared with the biblical account. The main ideas and sequence of events are, for the
    most part, the same.
  1. Pharaoh’s heart hardens. He lifts up a large army and chariots to pursue the
    opponents.
  2. Pharaoh positions his troops to the North. The opponents are hiding.
  3. The enemies fall in the water and drown. Their chariots tumble. They all died.
  4. They are afraid and beg the Lord to save their lives.
  5. Halt! Stand still! The Lord will fight alone.
  6. In the morning, those who had fought with him were consumed by fire.
  7. The enemies beg for mercy.
    The order of events is identical in both texts, except for the drowning of chariots, which
    occurs at the end of the biblical passage. However, in the bulletin documenting Ramses’
    victory, the drowning also occurs at the end. Considering the timing of the Exodus and the
    similarities between the two texts, it can be inferred that the Bible has transformed the
    “Battle of Kadesh” into a religious event where the Israelites were liberated from Egyptian
    domination by their “God.”
    A breach in Sethi’s dam?
    The Lake Homs Dam, which lies between Homs (Roman Emesa) and Tell Nebi Mend
    (Kadesh), was constructed in 1935 CE on the site of an ancient dam that was originally built
    for irrigation during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian (284-305 CE). There had
    been speculation that an older dam at the same location was constructed by the Egyptian
    ruler Sethi I (1290-1279 BCE), but this hypothesis was largely disregarded after the dam’s
    structure was determined to be of Roman origin.
    According to Pierre-Louis Viollet, it is possible that the Roman dam was built on top of an
    older structure, similar to how the modern dam was constructed on top of the Roman one.
    Viollet argues that the Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian Strabo (64/63 BCE – c.
    24 CE) referred to the unique system of abundant percolation used to let water flow
    downstream through the wall of the dam itself when he located one of the sources of the
    Orontes “near the Egyptian wall, toward the territory of Apamea.”
    The most reasonable hypothesis, following Yves Calvet and Bernard Geyer, is that the site
    of the dam is a natural rocky barrier which, from very early times in Antiquity, was the site of
    structures built to raise the level of the natural lake.
    Sethi, who was considered by many as the greatest king of the 19th dynasty due to his
    extensive building projects and military campaigns in Palestine, Syria, and with the Hittites
    to the north, died a few years before the Battle of Kadesh. If he had constructed a dam in
    that area, which some historians believe, it would have been located just a few kilometers
    north of Kadesh and directly on the route that the fleeing Israelites/Hittites would have
    taken.
    The hypothesis that the Israelites/Hittites could have made a breach in Sethi’s dam after
    crossing the Orontes river while being chased out is highly speculative. However, if we
    consider the vivid biblical passage describing the “wall of water” that came rushing against
    the Egyptians, it could be a possibility. It is plausible that the Egyptians had set up camp in
    the valley, only to be engulfed by a massive flood in the morning. The question of how
    practical it would have been for the Israelites/Hittites to create such a breach overnight
    remains unanswered. The fact that the Egyptians did not record such an event could be
    attributed to their reluctance to record a humiliating defeat.
    Joshua’s conquest of the Dark Ages
    The period following the Exodus was characterized by turmoil as major cities were attacked
    by a group of warriors known as the “Sea People”, who were seemingly unrelated and
    opportunistic:
    Within a period of forty to fifty years at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the
    twelfth century almost every significant city in the eastern Mediterranean world was
    destroyed, many of them never to be occupied again.
    We learn from the walls of the mortuary temple of Ramses III, known as the Medinet Habu,
    that:
    The foreign countries made a conspiracy in their islands. All at once the lands were
    removed and scattered in the fray. No land could stand before their arms, from Khatte,
    Qode, Carchemish, Arzawa, and Alashiya on, being cut ol at [one time]. A camp [was set
    up] in one place in Amurru. They desolated its people, and its land was like that which has
    never come into being. They were coming forward toward Egypt, while the flame was
    prepared before them. Their confederation was the Peleset, Tjekker, Shekelesh, Danuna,
    and Weshesh, lands united. They laid their hands upon the lands as far as the circuit of the
    earth, their hearts confident and trusting.
    There is no concrete information regarding the origin of the Sea People, but it is believed
    that they may have been a group of opportunistic mercenaries from various regions
    including Western Anatolia, the Aegean, the Mediterranean islands, and even as far as
    Southern Europe. Cline points out that among the looters, the Philistines are the only group
    of people who can be clearly identified.
    Of all the foreign groups active in this arena at this time, only one has been firmly identified.
    The Peleset of the Sea Peoples are generally accepted as none other than the Philistines,
    who are identified in the Bible as coming from Crete.
    The Philistines are a group of people who are well-documented in the Bible. However, their
    appearance in the text has led some to question the historicity of certain biblical accounts,
    such as that of Abraham, who is said to have encountered the Philistines almost 600 years
    before they are believed to have migrated. During the time of the patriarchs, the Philistines
    are simply described as a group living in Canaan. Later on in the stories of David and
    Goliath, as well as Samson and the twin pillars, the Philistines are clearly portrayed as
    enemies of the Israelites. Some scholars have argued that the Philistines were not a
    distinct ethnic group, but rather a group of people who lived in the area known as Philistia
    (or Palestine) and evolved in the area:
    Since the inhabitants of Philistia worshiped Canaanite gods, and since the language of the
    area in the first millennium was Northwest Semitic, one must assume that the
    overwhelmingly majority of Iron Age Palestinians were descended from Palestinians of the
    Late Bronze Age.
    Christopher Eames, a contributor to the Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology,
    explains:
    Two years ago, DNA analysis of Philistine graves at Ashkelon established that the main
    body of Philistines indeed arrived in the land during a large migratory wave from the Greek
    isles (notably, Crete) starting sometime around the mid-13th century B.C.E. The biblical
    warrior Shamgar’s early encounter with this warlike people (Judges 3) fits with this early
    migration, with a buildup of trouble that would eventually hit critical mass in the 12th to
    11th centuries as the Philistines became settled—fitting with the accounts of Samson,
    Saul and David.
    The question then arises as to who were these “Philistines?” Eames explains that while the
    term פשל ת “Peleset” is used in the Masoretic text to identify the Philistines in the times of
    Abraham and Samson, the Septuagint (the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible
    dated to the 3rd century BCE) refers to these people using two dilerent terms. Eames
    suggests that, for translators of the Septuagint, this name must have clearly referred to two
    distinct groups of people:
    There are two entirely dilerent names used to describe the Philistines. One is Φυλιστιειμ
    (Philistiim); the other, ἀλλόφυλοι (allophiloi). Interestingly, use of the term Philistiim is
    found exclusively in the books from Genesis through Joshua. From Judges through the rest
    of the Hebrew Bible, the term allophiloi is used—a word meaning foreigners or strangers!
    Given what we know of the Hyksos and the Israelites, and given the Philistines have
    reportedly been culturally indistinguishable from the Israelites and Canaanites, perhaps
    we can conjecture a bit. Recall that Sharuhen is the stronghold where Shemidah, the last
    Hyksos king, took refuge immediately after being chased out of Egypt by the end of the 16th
    century BCE. This city is located in the southern part of Philistia (modern day Gaza strip).
    By establishing themselves in the area and by intermarrying with the locals, it is likely that
    these Hyksos, descendants of Abraham, would have become the native Peleset of this
    coastal area. But the fact that vestiges of the Hyksos have also been found at Shechem, in
    the highlands, suggests that the Hyksos divided into at least two groups.
    Nearly four century after their expulsion from Egypt, these two groups could have become
    rivals. Those who stayed on the coast (i.e. the Philistines) would have developed trade
    contacts with most of the Mediterranean. The Cretans share some similarities with the
    Hyksos culture, such as metalworking skills and the use of chariots in warfare. This
    suggests that there may have been some cultural exchange or influence between the two
    regions. With the geo-political situation weakened, is it possible that the Hyksos of
    Philistine, utilized the opportunity to form alliances with foreign mercenaries in order to
    attempt to regain control of a land that they had previously held? Meanwhile, the group
    living in the highlands, now under the leadership of Joshua, would have also sought to
    regain control over their ancestral land. As a result, these two groups, descendants of
    Abraham, might have been fighting over their everlasting “inheritance.”
    While highly speculative, this suggestion is plausible and would help explain the motivation
    and the relentlessness that these “Philistines” exhibited during their raids. It would also
    help explain why they fought against Egypt and why they sought to capture the ark of the
    covenant (1 Sam 4:3) after defeating the Israelites. Resentment, power struggles, and
    diverging religious beliefs would have brought the writers of the Bible (i.e. Joshua’s tribe) to
    depict the Philistines as enemies.
    Relying on strict biblical chronologies, many scholars continue to place Joshua’s conquest
    of Canaan during the 15th century BCE. However, the revised timeline based on the 6/10
    multiplier confirms that Exodus would have taken place only decades before the invasion
    of the “Sea People.” And while the ruins of the cities mentioned in Joshua’s conquest do not
    quite match the descriptions given in the Bible, there is no doubt that multiple cities of
    Canaan were destroyed between 1250-1000 BCE, with the tipping point situated around
    1175.
    If Moses, had been ~25 when he led the Israelites “out of Egypt” and died at 72 (1206/10); we can establish that the conquest could not have started after his death, another ~47 (72- 25) years after Exodus. And if Joshua, who died at the age of 66 (1106/10), was also ~25
    when Moses entrusted him; the conquest would have started soon after Moses’ death and
    spread over ~20 or even ~30 years. This brings us to establish that the conquest likely took
    place ~47 to ~77 years after Exodus, but before Joshua dies (~88 years after Exodus), which
    takes us right around the tipping point of 1177 (1254-77); precisely when Ramses III (1187-
    1156 BCE) reports the attacks from the “Sea People.”
    And even if one could prove that the Israelites never marched to conquer Canaan, it is clear
    that, at the minimum, the redactors of the Bible rode on these historical events to enrich
    their own story.
    48: Joshua’s conquest of the Dark Ages
    The above diagram suggests that the conquest of Joshua (3), which happened a few years
    after the death of Moses (2), likely coincided with the tipping point of the Dark Ages (4). The
    Dark Ages refers to a period when the major civilizations of the Near East collapsed, and
    many Canaanite cities were destroyed. As shown in the diagram, Exodus is intimately
    linked with the Battle of Kadesh (1). The entire region remained in turmoil until the turn of
    the millennium (5).
    As noted by early biblical scholars, various details in the Bible align with the historical
    reality of the Middle and Late Bronze Age. When minimalists like Finkelstein criticize this
    view, they typically reject the conclusions and claims drawn from limited historical data.
    They accuse the maximalists of constructing theories solely to confirm a conservative view
    that asserts the historical accuracy of the biblical narratives. While they cannot refute the
    possibility that the story dates back to the Middle Bronze Age, minimalists argue that the
    improbability of the dates, the lack of evidence of monotheism prior to the Iron Age, and
    the belief that the story is better explained as an etiological myth all undermine its
    historicity.
    .
    If it is accepted that there was always one united and polytheistic people in Canaan, then
    there is no need for the concepts of amphictyony, inter-tribal unions living on the margins
    of society, or religious revolutions to explain the origins of an early and distinct
    monotheistic Israel. Although I do not agree with his perspective on the historical accuracy
    of the Exodus, I fully support his concluding remarks:
    The process that we describe here is, in fact, the opposite of what we have in the Bible: the
    emergence of early Israel was an outcome of the collapse of the Canaanite culture, not its
    cause. And most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan – they emerged from
    within it. There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan.
    Most of the people who formed early Israel were local people – the same people whom we
    see in the highlands throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. The early Israelites were – irony
    of ironies – themselves originally Canaanites!
    The evidence we have gathered suggests that a covenant was made between Abraham and
    King Hammurabi and that the descendants of Isaac, known as the “son of the promise”,
    could have become the dominant Hyksos rulers of Egypt. The Hyksos and Babylonian
    rulers both claimed to be “shepherd kings”, and a cuneiform tablet fragment found at
    Avaris in 2009 provides further evidence of the Hyksos’ foreign relations and connections
    with the Babylonian Dynasty, as stated by Bietak:
    … the question then need to be asked whether it were not the Hyksos who introduced into
    Egypt long-distance letter diplomacy in Akkadian 150 years before the Amarna Period.
    Is it merely coincidence that the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt shortly after the Old
    Dynasty collapsed and Babylon fell under the rule of the Kassites (1570 to 1154 BC), or is it
    an indication that the Hyksos could no longer benefit from the support and influence of
    their Amorite allies?
    To summarize, the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible from a historical perspective raises
    important questions about the origin and transmission of the Abrahamic narratives. One
    such question is the possibility of a covenant between Hammurabi and Abraham during the
    Middle Bronze Age. Another important question relates to the form and content of
    covenants and treaties during this time period. Further research and investigation are
    needed to fully understand these aspects of ancient history? We will now examine and
    explore these questions.
    You always have two choices:
    your commitment versus your fear.
    ― Sammy Davis Jr.
    Part V – Be Perfect
    Where we explore in what way and by what means an earthly covenant could have given
    rise to such a long lasting cult and the development of its rich and comprehensive
    theology. We also explore how incidental evidence in the text can be corroborated with
    external archaeological data to further support the claims laid out in this book.
    At this stage of our journey, we have even gone so far as to suggest that Abraham’s lord was
    King Hammurabi. Although we cannot be certain that Abraham made a covenant with him,
    the historical context of the Bronze Age supports and complements the biblical text in a
    way that leaves little room for doubt. The evidence is becoming increasingly compelling.
    However, questions about the redaction, transmission, development, and evolution of
    such a covenant are intimately linked to its historicity. How similar is the Abrahamic
    covenant to ancient Near Eastern treaties? How would such a covenant have been
    transmitted and preserved in a world dominated by oral traditions? Why do so many
    features of the Hebraic text reflect late redaction? How could the worship of a dead king
    persist and evolve into such a sophisticated religion as Judaism? These critical questions
    must all be properly addressed before we can conclude our investigation.
    Ancient Near Eastern treaties
    The study of ancient Near Eastern treaties and alliances has largely been abandoned by the
    majority of researchers in recent decades. However, some scholars, including Wilhelm G.
    Grewe , Mario Liverani , and Noel Weeks , continue to publish on the topic. According to
    Weeks, a retired Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Sydney, “the topic of
    treaty and covenant was a major concern of Ancient Near Eastern scholarship in the
    1950s-1960s. After that, it virtually disappears.” One reason for this decline, according to
    Weeks, may be partly attributed to the momentum gained by the minimalist perspective
    over the historical approach, as “much of the interest stemmed from attempts to resolve
    certain issues in the biblical field. When these issues appeared to be resolved in other
    ways, the topic lost its immediate relevance.”
    Deities as witnesses
    Weeks conducts a thorough analysis of past research and critiques the circular references
    that hinder quick resolution of questions about the form of treaties in dilerent cultures and
    time periods. The central question at hand is whether the Abrahamic covenant shares
    more similarities with the ancient Hittite treaties of the Middle Bronze Age, a view typically
    espoused by maximalists, or with the later Persian treaties of the Iron Age, a position often
    adopted by minimalists. However, Weeks warns readers against drawing parallels with the
    biblical texts too hastily:
    The biblical data complicates immensely the tracing of cultural interrelationships. Some
    scholars have emphasized the historical element of biblical covenants to relate them
    chronologically to second-millennium Hittites treaties. Others have emphasized the curse
    element to relate them to first-millennium Assyrian treaties. Others again have denied all
    relationship in order to preserve their particular theological version of the history of Israel.
    The tradition, in critical biblical scholarship, of dividing and re-dating portions of texts
    facilitates the arrangement of evidence to prove these quite contradictory positions.
    Weeks argues that comparing biblical texts with neighboring secular texts is a risky
    undertaking. He criticizes those who follow the documentary hypothesis for presenting
    evidence in a way that supports a particular viewpoint. Weeks points out that applying form
    criticism after source criticism is problematic since it does not allow for determining the
    consistency of the resulting text.
    Weeks further notes that one of the major diliculties in making reliable comparisons with
    historical treaties is the specificity of the Hebrew Bible. He observes that “Treaties between
    humans and deities are very rare, if they exist at all in Mesopotamia.” Therefore, if the
    document at the base of the Abrahamic narratives pertained to a covenant made with a
    human partner rather than a deity, it would then be possible to compare its shape with
    treaties that are extrinsic to Israel:
    If a covenant in which God is a partner can be related to a covenant with only human
    partners in Israel, then there can be no insuperable objection to a relationship to human
    covenants (treaties) outside Israel.
    By positing that Abraham formed a covenant with a Mesopotamian ruler rather than a deity,
    the deified overlord hypothesis circumvents this issue and allows for a comparison
    between the Abrahamic covenant and other human treaties.
    Wilhelm G. Grewe, a German diplomat and professor of international law, has compiled a
    collection of about twenty Hittite and Assyrian treaties spanning from 1380 BCE to 450 CE.
    In this collection, Grewe presents a variety of texts that demonstrate the significant
    diversity in treaty forms, which tend to change over time. The samples show that the earlier
    Hittite treaties from the Middle Bronze Age make more use of historical background, while
    the later Assyrian treaties from the Iron Age tend to incorporate more curses.
    Royal land grants
    In reference to the Hebrew Bible, Weeks notes, “For our purpose there is another
    interesting fact about such covenants of promise. They have their closest analogies outside
    of Israel in royal land grants.” However, he is not the only one to draw this connection.
    Years prior, Moshe Weinfeld, a professor of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
    made a similar observation while examining the covenants between Yahweh and Abraham
    and that of David:
    Although the grant to Abraham and David is close in its formulation to the neo-Assyrian
    grants and therefore might be late, the promises themselves are much older and reflect,
    the Hittite pattern of grant. “Land” and “house” (= dynasty), the objects of the Abrahamic
    and Davidic covenants respectively, are indeed the most prominent gifts of the suzerain in
    the Hittite and Syro-Palestinian political reality, and like the Hittite grants so also the grant
    of land to Abraham and the grant of “house” to David are unconditional.
    Weeks and Weinfield are both in agreement that the older Hittite royal land grants of the
    second millennium exhibit more features characteristic of the Abrahamic covenant. These
    grants consisted of gifts of land or privileges associated with land use, given by a monarch
    to reward an individual. And this is precisely the type of treaty one would expect given the
    relationship between Abraham and his lord Hammurabi.
    There are two recurring themes in the Abrahamic story, as pointed out by Römer. These
    themes are the possession of the land and the question of the son or descendants, which
    are like leitmotifs. These themes also resonate in the Middle Bronze Age alliance treaty
    made between Mursulis II and Duppi-Tessub (c. 1340), as reported by Wilhelm G. Grewe. In
    this treaty, Mursulis II and Duppi-Tessub make an alliance that will extend to their
    descendants, and they exchange gifts of land.
    And I, the king, will be loyal toward you, Duppi-Tessub. When you take a wife, and when you
    beget an heir, he shall be king in the Amurru land likewise. And just as I shall be loyal
    toward you, even so shall I be loyal toward your son. But you, Duppi-Tessub, remain loyal
    toward the king of the Hatti land, the Hatti land, my sons (and) my grandsons forever!
    By connecting Abraham and Isaac to Yahweh for “eternity”, the Abrahamic covenant is
    further linked to the two fundamental themes of possession of the land and the question of
    descendants, which are also prevalent in the broader cultural context of the time period.
    Once the perspective of a deified overlord is adopted, the data present in the Abrahamic
    narratives no longer appears unusual or out of place. This perspective allows for a natural
    reinsertion of this covenant in its rightful place in the annals of Middle Bronze Age history.
    The “great reward” olered by Hammurabi to Abraham was the grant of the land of Israel,
    with the deities El Elyon for Abraham and Marduk for Hammurabi likely invoked as
    respective witnesses.
    The new evidence and research presented raises questions about the mainstream claim
    that the story of Abraham was passed down orally. Is it still a sustainable claim?
    Alternatively, could it be possible that such a covenant was actually written down at a
    much earlier time? If so, this leads to further questions about how the written medium
    could have survived the passage of time and avoided significant alterations while
    maintaining its temporal eliciency. These questions require further investigation and
    analysis to determine the validity of the oral transmission theory and explore alternative
    possibilities.
    Method of transmission
    During the Bronze Age, both oral and written methods of transmission were used for
    communicating information and stories. Oral transmission was the primary method of
    transmitting cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and historical events. This was done
    through storytelling, songs, and other forms of oral literature. In fact, many ancient texts
    were originally transmitted orally before being written down.
    However, written communication was much less common than oral communication.
    William Schniedewind, from the Kershaw Chair of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies
    at UCLA, explains that during the Middle Bronze Age writing was used almost exclusively by
    the states for the purpose of trade, administering justice, and religion. While
    acknowledging that small city-states of Canaan already had their own scribe at the turn of
    the second millennium BCE, he underscores:
    In antiquity, writing was both complex and expensive. Writing was not a mundane activity. It
    required institutional support. Writing was primarily an activity of the state.
    Schniedewind’s perspective on the Abrahamic story is that it narrates the emergence of a
    monotheistic religion from a small and largely illiterate nomadic group living amidst a
    predominantly polytheistic population. As a result, his ideas align with the mainstream
    belief that the narratives were transmitted orally over a long period and that the formation
    of biblical literature did not commence until the 8th century BCE.
    When considering the Abraham narratives strictly from a political perspective, it becomes
    clear that the presence of writing not only can, but must be readily accepted even for the
    Middle Bronze Age. By recording the details surrounding the covenant, it was given a
    timeless and everlasting trait. Jan Vansina, an anthropologist with a historical view on the
    reliability of oral transmission, recognizes that oral traditions can prove reliable, but only
    within a particular cultural context, and they inevitably suler from important limitations
    when reporting factual information. The literal interpretation resulting from the dissociative
    exegesis supports the idea of a very elicient written transmission and dismisses the idea of
    an oral one.
    It unveils a political context with a basic vocabulary. Moreover, it sheds light on a plethora
    of intricate and obscure details that do not contribute to the religious aspect of the story
    but rather support the plot, especially in terms of confirming the perspective of a deified
    overlord. Only a few expressions, likely originating from Akkadian, require referring back to
    the original texts for clarification, as the translator tried to give them a theological slant. In
    contrast to this overall coherence, the few redaction layers are easily identifiable and
    isolated, standing out as supernatural additions on top of a clear secular foundation. These
    additions typically stand out as awkward supernatural glosses on top of a clean secular
    slate. They can be attributed to the deterioration of the writing medium, which compelled
    scribes and copyists to modify or update the text in accordance with the beliefs, traditions,
    and needs of the moment.
    In The Formation of the Hebrew Bible – A New Reconstruction, David M. Carr, professor of
    Hebrew Bible at Union Theological Seminary, suggests that ancient intellectuals did not
    necessarily oppose oral tradition with writing, but used writing to help with memorization of
    important texts.
    Though scholars decades ago deconstructed the idea that there was a “great divide”
    between orality and literacy, a remarkable number of high-quality publications still work
    with a strong distinction between the two, or at least a “continuum” with orality at one
    end—often connected with memorization—and literacy and writing at the other. As soon as
    “memorization” is discussed, many presuppose that one is in the realm of “orality”, or
    “performance” often seems to exclude a focus on writing and textuality. Scholars of
    antiquity are just at the beginning of exploring the interface between writing, performance,
    memorization, and the aural dimension of literary texts.
    The fact that these texts were eventually memorized and recited, could also help explain
    how they could have evolved.
    To the extent that they were copied, they will manifest the sorts of verbal agreement and
    graphic variation seen in literary transmission. Yet to the extent that exemplars of the
    tradition or parts of the tradition were reproduced from memory, we will also see the sorts
    of variation typical of memory-reconstructive processes: substitution of synonymous
    terms, radical adaptation of the tradition, etc.
    It seems logical that the elders of the early tribes, who had access to additional oral
    traditions, would have sought to redact them in their important texts.
    From Akkadian to Hebrew
    On first glance, it might seem unlikely that the Abrahamic narratives were initially recorded
    in Akkadian. However, biblical scholars such as Speiser, Alter, and Römer have noted that
    many elements of Genesis 14 appear to be of Akkadian origin and may be very old (see The
    enigmatic Genesis 14, p. 49). However, because they only consider these narratives from a
    theological perspective, they assume that this material must have been inserted into the
    story as a result of a “literary collage.”
    It is generally accepted that the Hebrew Bible could not have been composed well before
    the 8th or 7th century BCE, but linguists Hendel and Joosten recently argued that archaic
    Hebrew forms found in biblical songs and poems point to a late 12th century BCE, with the
    earliest prose pointing to the 10th century BCE.
    The idea that the Abrahamic covenant was initially written down on clay tablets in the
    Akkadian language and cuneiform script is based on the fact that Genesis 14 acts as a
    historical prologue, which would have been an integral part of typical second millennium
    treaties, and that any agreement made between a Mesopotamian king and a Habiru vassal
    of Canaan during the Middle Bronze Age would have been recorded in Akkadian, the lingua
    franca of the time. These narratives would have been translated into Hebrew, possibly
    between the 10th and 8th centuries BCE. The secular and awkward nature of Genesis 14
    may have confused the redactors/translators, who would have done their best to
    harmonize this “sacred” text with their theology while remaining faithful to it.
    This explanation rationalizes the presence of Akkadian literary fragments and loan words
    not only in Genesis 14 but also elsewhere in the Torah. It also takes into account the fact
    that the Hebrew syntax can be dated quite late. While this position may be controversial, it
    does not negate the idea that the books contained in the Hebrew Bible underwent multiple
    layers of redaction over time, and the various textual witnesses that have survived were still
    being redacted centuries after the Babylonian Exile.
    How old (really) is the Hebrew Bible?
    To reinforce the notion that the Abrahamic narratives might have been written during the
    Middle Bronze Age, it is essential to search for coincidental data in the Hebrew Bible that
    can be chronologically situated with the help of external archaeological sources. The
    following three examples provide such concurrence, where evidence from unrelated and
    independent sources converge to support a robust conclusion.
  8. Rising price of slaves over time
    Egyptologist Kenneth A. Kitchen provides evidence that supports the notion that the
    Abrahamic narratives could have been written down during the Middle Bronze Age. He
    compares the prices of slaves as reported in the Hebrew Bible with the known prices of
    slaves obtained from ancient Near Eastern tablets. He found that the 20 shekels paid for
    Joseph in Ge 37:28 match the price paid during the time of Hammurabi. The 30 shekels
    paid in Ex 21:32 match the price paid in Ugarit during the 13th century. The 50 shekels paid
    by Menahem in 2 Kings 15:20 electively correspond to the price paid for male slaves in
    Assyria during the 8th century. These examples oler consilience, or evidence from
    independent, unrelated sources that converge toward a strong conclusion, further
    supporting the idea that the Abrahamic narratives could have been written during the
    Middle Bronze Age.
    49: Rising price of slaves over time
    The incidental information that can be dated and verified independently provides
    additional support to the idea that these texts are much older than what mainstream
    scholarship recognizes. This is because if the stories of the patriarchs and Moses had been
    composed at a later date, it would be dilicult to explain how any author could have known
    the specific value of slaves at particular points in history.
  9. Global linguistic changes
    Linguistic changes over time can be used as a means of dating the texts found in the
    Hebrew Bible. In their book, How Old Is The Hebrew Bible, Hendel and Joosten conduct a
    comprehensive study that takes into account the linguistic, textual, and historical aspects
    of the biblical literature. Through their analysis, they identify various linguistic features that
    can be used to date the texts. They point out how grammatical constructions and
    conjugations, as well as the influence of foreign empires like the neo-Assyrian, neo-
    Babylonian, and Persian empires which led to the introduction of loanwords, can serve as
    indicators of the dilerent historical phases of Biblical Hebrew. All in all, they identify four
    phases of development, which can broadly be defined as:
    • ABH (Archaic) – Gen 49, Ex 15, Num 23-24, Deut 32-33, Jud 5 – premonarchical or
    early monarchical period (12th to 10th century)
    • CBH (Classic) – J and E, Deut, Sam, 2 Kings – monarchical period (10th to 7th)
    • TBH (Transitional) – P and H, Jer, Eze, Isa 40-66, Lam, Job – exilic period (late 7th to
    early 6th century)
    • LBH (Late) – Chr, Ezr-Neh, Est, Eccl, Can, Dan – Persian period (6th to 4th century)
    Hendel and Joosten argue that the “most global linguistic change in Biblical Hebrew was
    the restructuring of the verbal system that occurred in LBH.” They also explain how the
    qatal form of stative verbs was gradually replaced with yiqtol to indicate the present.
    This temporal ambiguity of the qatal of stative verbs is reduced in LBH when qatal develops
    toward a preterite (simple past) tense. In compensation, the participle and long prefix
    conjugation (yiqtol), which also have (relative) present-tense functions in CBH, gradually
    replace the present use of the qatal of stative verbs.
    Using data from John Cook, Professor of Old Testament at the Asbury Theological
    Seminary, they show how the verb י עד (yada) “to know”, the most distributed stative verb in
    Biblical Hebrew, is used across the dilerent books.
    50: Frequency of new constructions expressing a present state
    This diagram shows how the use of yiqtol came to gradually replace qatal to express the
    present stative of the verb “to know” across the various biblical books.
    CBH is found in Genesis through 2 Kings, LBH in Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther,
    Ecclesiastes, and Daniel. The clear implication of this division is that many biblical
    passages fall outside the CBH-LBH opposition. Some align globally with one of two mainphases:
    for example, Amos aligns almost entirely with CBH, while Psalm 103 aligns with
    LBH.
    Hendel and Joosten argue that books using a mix of qatal and yiqtol were likely subjected to
    some redaction or “modernization.” They also contend that while it is possible for a late
    scribe to imitate an earlier style, it will never be perfect. As a result, these authors criticize
    the revisionist model of Young and Rezetko, who suggest that dating biblical writings is
    impossible due to co-existing styles of literary Hebrew.
    … the argument that Persian or Hellenistic-Roman period scribes could write perfect CBH
    lacks evidential warrant.
    For Hendel and Joosten, consilience with cultural history helps increase confidence in the
    dating of Biblical Hebrew texts, with some going as far back as the 12th century.
    Could the reason why scholars unanimously identify poetry and songs as the earliest texts
    in the Hebrew Bible be that these were commonly known and recited, making them less
    susceptible to “modernization” by scribes?
  10. Adoption rate of theophoric names over time
    The language used in the King James Version of the Bible is a distinct form of 17th century
    CE literary English, which makes it dilicult, if not impossible, to identify the original
    sources in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. Despite this, the personal names found
    within the stories are likely to have remained largely unchanged since their initial
    composition. Theophoric names, which incorporate a deity as a prefix or sulix, are popular
    personal names found in the Hebrew Bible. The presence of specific theophoric names
    within a story can provide clues about the popularity of that deity at the time the story was
    composed.
    For example, the absence of any theophoric names containing th הe י (yah) particle in the
    book of Genesis has long been noted by scholars. This suggests either a deliberate
    avoidance of such names by the authors of Genesis or that the core stories of Genesis
    predate the worship of Yahweh in Israel.
    Scholars have traditionally used onomastic studies to help determine the age of texts by
    examining the early appearances of specific names in history. However, as far as I know, no
    study has ever attempted to analyze the overall trends in the usage of theophoric names
    found in the Bible over time.
    To address this gap, a study was conducted on thirty-three historical books of the Hebrew
    Bible, including 5 from the Torah, 12 historical books, 5 major prophets, and 12 minor
    prophets (excluding poetry and wisdom literature). The study identified 29,493 occurrences
    of personal names, out of which 2,007 (7%) unique names were found. Of these unique
    names, 378 (19%) were identified as theophoric name candidates, with yah-related names
    comprising 47%, el-related names 46%, and ba’al/asherah-related names 7%.
    A software program was created to place these books on a virtual historical timeline,
    according to their purported composition date. The program was then used to find the first
    occurrence of each theophoric name by sequentially parsing through all the books,. When
    the theophoric name was first found, the related deity received a score for that particular
    date. This data was then normalized and projected against the supposed composition
    timeline. Refer to “Annex B: Onomastic study” on p. 397 for more info.
    Late composition timeline
    It is increasingly accepted among scholars that some fragments of the Hebrew Bible,
    especially poetry and songs, may date as far back as the 10th or 12th century BCE.
    However, the general consensus is that the Hebrew Bible was not composed before the 8th
    century BCE. Below is the graph obtained when placing the books according to the widely
    accepted late composition timeline.
    51 : Adoption rate of theophoric names (late composition)
    Right from the outset, theophoric names related to all three deities appear somewhat
    popular (~750 BCE). El-related names then quickly start rising at the expense of yah-related
    names. Soon after the Exile (~450 BCE), yah-related names rise and then descend sharply.
    Meanwhile ba’al/asherah-related names follow a “W” shape, with peaks at the beginning,
    after the Exile and toward the end (~100 BCE).
    The above graph evolves in a way that does not follow any predictable pattern. This is
    consistent with the idea of a late composition where the characters and the stories
    depicted in the Torah are understood to be fictitious, and therefore subject to the inspired
    minds of their authors, rather than reliable historical data.
    Early composition timeline
    The timeline below is derived from Jewish historical claims, wherein the chronologies
    related to the Torah were multiplied by a factor of 6/10. According to this model, the
    Hebrew Bible’s earliest writings date back to the 18th century BCE, when the Lord made a
    covenant with Abraham.
    As a majority of biblical scholars reject the idea that these texts were redacted three
    thousand five hundred years ago, one might expect the adoption rate of theophoric names
    to be void of any significant historical awareness. However, the findings are eye-opening:
    52 : Adoption rate of theophoric names (early composition)
    El-related names dominate until the emergence of Ba’al/Asherah-related names (~1400
    BCE). The latter then steadily rise and reach their peak around 1100 BCE before declining
    and ultimately disappearing by ~400 BCE. Yah-related names make their appearance
    around 1250 BCE and gradually grow in popularity, overtaking El-related names after the
    Exile.
    The graph shows a remarkable correlation not only with Jewish historical claims but also
    with known archaeological artifacts. It suggests that the worship of Ba’al/Asherah began a
    few generations after Abraham made his covenant. This is supported by the archaeological
    site of Tel Balata, which dates back to the 16th century and contains the temple of Ba’al
    Berith mentioned in Judges 9, as well as the Ugarit literature from the 14th century. Ba’alrelated
    names rose in popularity until Ba’al and Asherah were censored and prohibited
    during the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. According to the Hebrew Bible, the adoption of the
    name Yahweh began when the Exodus took place, during the reign of Ramses II, which is
    thought to be in the 13th century BCE. From that point on, there was a steady rise in the
    adoption of yah-related names at the expense of el-related names.
    It is unlikely that the authors and redactors of the Hebrew Bible could have introduced
    names into the text after the fact at a rate that precisely matches known historical data.
    These observations provide new insights on the age of the underlying material in the
    Hebrew Bible, and support the idea that a significant portion of the Torah may have initially
    been composed much earlier than previously thought.
    Now, one may still wonder how a text like the Abrahamic covenant, if indeed it had been
    inscribed on clay tablets almost 3,500 years ago, could have been stored, preserved, and
    transmitted securely over so many generations?
    The ark of the covenant
    The role and significance of the ark of the covenant in the Jewish tradition and popular
    culture cannot be understated. Simply evoking the ark suggests blessings, curses, and
    mystique powers, much like in Steven Spielberg’s popular film Raiders of the Lost Ark. And
    if its precise dimension and construction details are revealed in Ex 25 and 37, its historicity,
    actual content, and practical purpose remains elusive to biblical scholars.
    When adopting the perspective of a deified overlord, however, it is dilicult to think of the
    ark as anything but the actual repository for the precious tablets containing the treaty, the
    applicable laws, and the deed to the land. We can’t tell for sure, but this would definitely
    explain the importance that the ark acquired as a relic. Such a portrayal also accounts very
    well for its depiction in the popular culture.
    It is undeniable that the ark was inspired by Egyptian culture. Beds, palanquin, and various
    boxes were highly coveted furniture, not only destined for the riches, but perhaps most
    importantly for oliciating rituals in temples. Given the amount of time spent by Abraham’s
    descendants in Egypt before their expulsion, as well as the time spent as vassals in
    Canaan, there is no denying that the early Israelites would have been heavily influenced by
    their elaborate decorum.
    In Hebrew, the “ark” is referred to aןs א ו ר (‘aron) “box, chest, colin.” And in The Ark of the
    Covenant in Its Egyptian Context, Egyptologist David A. Falk explains:
    For the Egyptians, a colin was a proxy body that the spirit of a dead person could inhabit to
    participate in the world after death. Thus, the ark as a kind of colin is not so much a burial
    casket as a facility given to a god to influence the world.
    The description of the ark perfectly fits this idea. The ark itself was not an object of worship,
    but rather represented the blessings and curses of the covenant to the Israelites. It served
    as a reminder to respect and apply the laws of the covenant, as well as their obligations to
    their ancestors. Ancestor worship involved olering food and drinks and invoking the names
    of the Beliya (Abraham’s Lord) and Asherah in rituals. Similar practices are still observed
    today as part of regular prayer and communion.
    53: The ark of the covenant
    Guardians of the alliance
    The two cherubs that adorned the ark are a fascinating aspect of it. Many descriptions and
    theories have been put forward regarding their significance, but Rav Ketina’s commentary
    is particularly noteworthy in light of our investigation:
    When the Jewish people would ascend for one of the pilgrimage Festivals, the priests
    would roll up the curtain for them and show them the cherubs, which were clinging to one
    another, and say to them: See how you are beloved before God, like the love of a male and
    female. The two cherubs symbolize the Holy One, Blessed be He, and the Jewish people.
    (Yoma 54a:11-54b:1)
    Once again, if one agrees with the arguments presented in this book, it may be reasonable
    to conclude that the two cherubs on the ark represent Beliya and Sarah, who were the
    guardians of the everlasting covenant. It is believed that the supreme deity El Elyon serves
    as a witness and is imperceptibly present between the two cherubs:
    2 Sam 6:2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of
    Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the
    Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.
    The proposed interpretation of the cherubs on the ark aligns with its intended function and
    manifestation, without requiring any supernatural powers. This understanding also sheds
    light on the purported contents and function of the ark. According to tradition, the ark
    already contained the tablets of the Laws during the time of Moses:
    Deut 31:25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the
    Lord, saying,
    Deut 31:26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the
    Lord your Elohim, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
    According to Falk,
    … the ark was made no earlier than the reign of King Amenhotep III (ca. 1389-1351 BC) and
    no later than the end of Dynasty 20 (ca. 1073 BC). During the reign of Amenhotep III, winged
    goddesses surrounding a god first appear in the archaeological record. It is also the period
    when the palanquin throne first manifests with its sacred space exposed to the open. We
    also find statues on the lids of certain chests as early as King Tutankhamun (ca. 1334-1324
    BC). The use of palanquin thrones declines toward the end of Dynasty 20 (ca. 1194-1073
    BC), indicating a “latest date” limit (terminus ante quem).
    The dates of the construction of the ark of the covenant align perfectly with the dates of the
    Exodus, suggesting that Moses may have commissioned the elaborate and gold-plated ark
    to replace an older, simpler wooden chest that had been used to store the previous tablets.
    Rights to the land
    During the reading of the Law between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, Joshua instructed
    the Israelites to stand on each side of the ark. As the olicial deed to the land, the ark
    served as a powerful symbol of their claim, and it’s no surprise that they brought it with
    them onto the battlefield, as they did during the Battle of Jericho. The content of the ark
    legitimized their claim to the land, and they proudly displayed it in front of their adversaries.
    It’s easy to see why it has always been regarded as the most sacred and valuable relic.
    The ark was eventually moved to Bethel and later housed in a tent sanctuary at Shiloh,
    sometime after the Israelite conquest of Canaan, which is traditionally dated around the
    13th to 12th centuries BCE. Shiloh served as one of the main centers of Israelite worship
    during the pre-monarchic period. According to Talmudic sources, the Ark would have
    stayed at Shiloh for a period of 221 years (369 * 6/10). The Philistines later seized the ark
    and took it to Ashdod, but returned it to the Israelites seven months later due to fear of
    plagues (1 Samuel 5). Despite this ordeal, the ark was still in existence during the reign of
    King Solomon, who placed it in the Holy of Holies after constructing the first temple. By
    safeguarding and relocating the tablets of the Law, the ark contributed to the preservation
    and transmission of these legal documents while serving as a figurative embodiment of
    “Yahweh’s spirit.”
    Where did it land
    Speculation abounds regarding the fate of the Ark of the Covenant. Some have suggested it
    was buried under the temple, taken away by the Babylonians, or even moved to Ethiopia.
    However, one of the most plausible theories comes from Robert R. Cargill, an Associate
    Professor of Biblical Studies at Iowa University. Cargill argues that Hezekiah might have
    disposed of the ark. His suggestions relies solely on literary arguments, notably this verse:
    2 King 18:4 He removed the high places (bamot), and brake the images (matsebot), and cut
    down the groves (asherah), and brake in pieces the brasen serpent (nehash hanehoshet)
    that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and
    he called it Nehushtan.
    Hezekiah may have been influenced by the aniconic movement, which rejected all “idols”
    linked to ancient worship practices. According to this view, Hezekiah considered the
    temple of Jerusalem to be the exclusive dwelling place of Yahweh. This interpretation gains
    support from certain passages in the book of Jeremiah:
    Jer 3:16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in
    those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord:
    neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it;
    neither shall that be done any more.
    Jer 3:17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations
    shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any
    more after the imagination of their evil heart.
    The ark had disappeared by the time the Roman general Pompey arrived at the temple in
    the 1st century BCE, in all likelihood. Given that the compilation of the Hebrew Bible was
    completed by then, the sacred covenant and laws originally contained in the ark were
    safely translated, transcribed, and copied.
    An everlasting quid pro quo
    Now that we have considered the questions related to the dating, redaction, and
    preservation of the covenant, it is pertinent to address its relevance and longevity. How did
    a political covenant between two men cause the proto-Israelites to deviate from their
    ancestral beliefs and embrace an entirely new and distinct form of theology that persists to
    this day? The answer may lie in a perpetual quid pro quo: the gift of the land in exchange for
    being perfect. As practitioners of the cult of the dead, the proto-Israelites were
    accustomed to tending to the spirit of their deceased kin. As previously discussed,
    descendants could even be bound to their inheritance through duties and curse formulae.
    In Genesis 17:1, the Lord instructs Abraham to “walk before me, and be thou perfect.” To be
    perfect in this context meant to be loyal, obedient, and to follow his laws. However, a
    perfect pāqidu (typically the heir) was also responsible for properly taking care of the
    etemmu (spirits) of their deceased kin. Failing to do so could result in misfortune and
    unlucky actions that alect the living kin. For Lewis, taking care of the dead includes “acts
    directed toward the deceased that either placate them or secure favors from them for the
    present life.”
    Sonia’s work agrees with Lewis:
    … in the context of necromancy, the dead are divine, they possess powers to influence the
    world of the living, and they may oler those powers in exchange for care just like major and
    minor deities in ancient West Asia.
    Sonia provides a relevant example from a Neo-Assyrian letter found in Kuyunjik (LAS 132.1–
    11), where the prince of Assyria claims that the dead queen mother will bless him and his
    descendants to rule over the land, provided that he takes care of her etemmu:
    In accordance with her [the queen mother’s] loyalty [kinūtu], Aššur (and) Šamaš have
    ordained me as crown prince of the land of Aššur. Her ghost blesses him to the extent that
    he cares for [palāḫu] the ghost [eṭemmu]. “May his descendants rule over the land of
    Assyria!” Care [palaḫ] for the gods begets kindness. Care [palaḫ] for the Anunnaki
    increases life. [May the king, my lord] establish order.
    Sonia provides another example from the Nuzi texts in which land inheritance is linked to
    the care provided to the father’s etemmu.:
    Whoever among my daughters holds my fields and houses (and) is dwelling in my house
    shall serve [i-palla-aḫ] the gods and my ghosts [DINGIR.MEŠ ù e-ṭe4-em-mi-ia].
    When viewed through this lens, one must seriously consider the possibility that the
    Abrahamic faith originated from the concept of caring for the etemmu of Abraham’s lord,
    with the gift of land serving as the linchpin that kept the proto-Israelites bound for
    generations. The requirement to care for the lord’s etemmu could explain how the lord
    became, for all intents and purposes, the Elohim of the Israelites. It should be noted that,
    for early Israelites, the term Elohim also referred to the spirit of the dead.
    Deut 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the
    Lord thy Elohim, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this
    day, that the Lord thy Elohim will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:
    The Israelites needed to carefully follow their Lord’s commandments in order to maintain
    their elite status, position of power, and rights to the land, thereby remaining “above all
    nations of the earth.”
    Upon reading the detailed obligations outlined in Deuteronomy 28, it is possible to
    speculate that some of the stipulations and curses were part of the original covenant with
    Abraham. Hammurabi, for example, distributed copies of his code of law across his
    empire, and it’s likely that one such copy was given to Abraham. This could explain some of
    the similarities between the Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments.
    Although it is tempting to suggest the possibility that a novel theology emerged from the
    obligation of Abraham’s descendants to care for the spirit of their overlord and progenitor,
    thereby securing permanent control over the land of Israel, it would strengthen the
    argument if we could locate supporting evidence for this idea in the Hebrew Bible.
    Land inheritance in the Torah
    In Land of Our Fathers, Francesca Stavrakopoulou shows how the concept of territoriality
    and land inheritance in the Hebrew Bible is subtly but nonetheless intricately and
    intimately tied to that of the cult of the dead.
    By surveying a wide range of literature on the subject, she meticulously identifies, analyzes,
    and contextualizes the relevant biblical verses to show that the practice of the cult of the
    dead was fundamental in shaping the Torah. The result is a fascinating excursion into a
    more obscure, secretive, and demeaned part of the history of Israel than what we are
    familiar with. And while acknowledging the contributions of a number of scholars who
    previously wrote on the topic, she deplores a tradition of scholarly resistance to biblical
    studies of this cult.
    During the Bronze Age, the Persian period, and beyond, graves served as a medium of
    social, cultural, and ideological meaning, preserving the dynamic relationship between the
    living and the dead. In West Asian families, territoriality was a distinct ideological function
    linked to burial, where ancestors acted as guardians of inheritable properties upon which
    the living would eventually be interred.
    Territorial ownership of the land
    The cave of Machpelah, the patriarchal burial ground, illustrates the strong connection
    between ancestors and territorial ownership. When Abraham buys the land, Ephron olers
    a burial plot but does not relinquish the title to the land. However, Abraham insists on full
    ownership before he is satisfied.
    Possession of the land through inheritance is significant because “land is primarily and
    importantly ancestral in nature, and that the descendants have a religious responsibility to
    maintain the boundaries of these holdings not only in recognition of their ancestor’s
    territoriality, but for the wellbeing of the living community”.
    To ensure prosperity and stability, territorial boundaries were marked with standing stones
    embodying deified ancestors, reminding the community of their presence and power. The
    ancestors continued to have an active social role even after death, with their influence
    extending to the community’s boundaries and leading to their eventual deification:
    As the designation in certain texts suggests (1 Sam. 28:13; Isa. 8:19; cf. 2 Sam. 14:16; Num.
    25:2; Ps. 106:28), the dead were likely considered deified or divine, in the sense that they
    were active members of the divine worlds with which ancient Israelites and Judahites
    engaged, though in the seemingly tiered hierarchies of these worlds, they were unlikely to
    have been aligned with ‘high gods’ such as El, Baal and Yhwh.
    Stavrakopoulo falls short of suggesting that Ba’al and Yahweh could have been deified
    ancestors. That’s because she perceives the Abrahamic covenant and the gift of the land of
    Israel as theological concepts instead of historical realities. She would still expect to find
    traces of Abraham’s deification, but concedes that the focus was placed on Yahweh
    instead:
    Isa 63:16 Doubtless You are our Father,
    Though Abraham was ignorant of us,
    And Israel does not acknowledge us.
    You, O Lord, are our Father;
    Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.
    In sharp contrast with most commentators who consider these references to Yahweh as
    father of Israel as being purely symbolic, Stavrakopoulou is in full agreement with Duhm
    and sees traces of the cult of the ancestors in the above verses:
    And yet Duhm’s proposal that Isa. 63:16 alludes to a venerative cult of the ancestors has
    not been widely adopted – ostensibly because most commentators (perhaps resistant to
    the possibility that the dead were understood to play an active social role in the lives of the
    living) prefer to read the parental language here as a mere epithet, guided by the more
    figurative function of the divine designation ‘Father’ in later literature and the assumption
    that Yhwh’s role as a begetter of the Davidic king in Ps. 2:7 (cf. 89:27-28; 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chr.
    28:6) is simply symbolic.
    She believes that the lack of adherence to Duhm’s proposal stems from the fact that
    “appearances are neither frequent nor polemical enough to suggest the existence of a
    long-lived cult in which Abraham was hailed as a deified ancestor.”
    Stavrakopoulou’s intuition about the role of the lord and Abraham as the ancestral figure of
    Israel is correct, but her focus is on the wrong target since she perceives the lord as a “high
    god.” However, the lord has proven to be the biological father and ancestor of Israel through
    the birth of Isaac with Sarah. Once the theological obstacle is removed, the evidence
    olered by Stavrakopoulou could apply to any mortal. The deification of Abraham’s Lord can
    then be explained by his critical social role, not only as the ancestor but also as the
    benefactor of the land of Israel.
    Israel’s national ancestor
    Stavrakopoulou goes on to argue that the figure of Moses represents an evolution because
    he is promised a land he can never access and that no information is recorded in the
    Hebrew Bible regarding his burial site. She interprets this as a transformation from a
    “social-body to a non-living entity” where Moses’ physical body is replaced with his legacy,
    the Torah, which was itself engraved on a standing stone.
    In functioning as a standing stone, Torah not only mimics the territorial role of the dead, but
    assertively marks Moses’ land legacy by memorializing his teaching in a territorial manner.
    For Stavrakopoulou, the concept of territoriality thus remains, but now applies to all of the
    promised land.
    Transferred into the realm of cultural memory and its reflected biblical ideology, Moses
    thus emerges as an ‘ancestor’ of Israel, whose death and burial facilitates the
    appropriation and perpetuation of land on a ‘national’ scale.
    While it’s true that the Torah serves as a standing stone symbolizing the territoriality of the
    Promised Land, there’s no need to associate it with Moses, since Yahweh is the legitimate
    ancestor. Moses merely played a crucial role in promoting an emerging ideology that
    sought to transform a deified “social-body” into a “non-living entity.”
    Forging a cultural identity
    The cult of the dead remained an important part of religious practice in Jerusalem, despite
    the city’s association with the worship of Yahweh. Tombs were situated in the valleys
    surrounding the city, and these burial places continued to be venerated by the Jewish
    people. The temple of Jerusalem was also unique in its relationship to the cult of the dead.
    According to some scholars, the temple was built on the site of an earlier burial ground,
    and the practice of burying the dead continued in the temple complex even after its
    construction. In this way, the cult of the dead remained intertwined with the religious and
    cultural practices of Jerusalem, and it persisted as an important aspect of Jewish identity
    and tradition:
    [The Temple was seen as] a dwelling place of the ‘Living God,’ a designation that appears to
    distinguish and separate the God of Jerusalem from the deified ancestors of the so-called
    cult of the dead. [The] territorial potency of the dead and their cults are employed even in
    those traditions which seem to be most hostile to dead, precisely in order to furnish the
    biblical Yhwh and his temple in Jerusalem with a compelling proprietorial function akin to
    that of the dead.
    Stavrakopoulou asserts that Professor James L. Cox of Religious Studies at the University of
    Edinburgh has identified three essential components for constructing an indigenous
    identity, which include 1) identification with a locality that marks belonging to a place, 2) an
    emphasis on lineage and kinship ties expressed through localized or regional societies, and
    3) a socio-religious focus on ancestors. According to Stavrakopoulou, the Torah exhibits all
    three of these components:
    For those (ac)claiming Abraham as their ancestor, the homeland is duly marked at
    Machpelah by place, kin and the ancestral dead. In the Hebrew Bible, this indigenizing,
    centralized tomb renders all ‘Israel’ connected not only to its ancestral land, but to one
    another; the biblical community (whether real or imagined) is to assume a distinctive social
    solidarity and common cultural memory on the basis of a shared – but nonetheless
    exclusive – descent from the ancestors entombed in the land.
    Abraham’s lord was certainly buried back in Mesopotamia. For his part, Abraham was
    buried in the cave of Machpelah. But perhaps more importantly, the “true” ancestors of
    Israel, that is Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob were also buried there. The Patriarch’s tomb would
    have therefore gained relevance as a critical social marker over time. And just as relevant, if
    not more, would have been Joseph’s tomb, which bones had been brought up from Egypt
    and were eventually buried at Shechem, right next to the Temple of Ba’al Berith.
    In the case of the Torah, one can observe that the concept of covenant also links Yahweh
    (i.e. Ba’al Berith) to the figure of the familial ancestor:
    Within its biblical, ‘covenantal’ context, the divine gifting of land from a figure designated
    אב (i.e. father) may well mimic the familial framing of West Asian suzerains’ land grants, but
    the language of an inherited plot נחל) ה ), so closely related to in the Hebrew Bible to the
    ancestors, is in the context of Jer. 3:19 more indicative of the ancestralization of Yhwh, as is
    evident in Deut. 14.1. Indeed, to render Yhwh the ancestor of Israel is to endorse the deity’s
    enduring territoriality in the most persuasive of terms – those of the territorial dead.
    Stavrakopoulou argues that the cult of the dead is a prominent theme throughout the Torah
    and played a significant role in shaping its development and theology, which supports the
    hypothesis presented in this book. However, it is unfortunate that mainstream biblical
    scholars have largely overlooked research on the cult of the ancestors in relation to the
    formation of the Hebrew Bible. This lack of attention limits our understanding of how
    ancient practices associated with the cult of the ancestors evolved to incorporate the
    emerging theology of the “living God.”
    Could the religious practices of the Samaritans, who are known for their resistance to
    change, oler valuable insights into this critical transformation period?
    The Samaritans connection
    The Samaritan population has significantly declined over time, from over a million during
    the late Roman times to just a few hundred individuals today who reside in Tel Aviv and
    Mount Gerizim near Nablus (biblical Shechem). Despite their small numbers, the
    Samaritans identify themselves as “Bene Yisrael” (sons of Israel) and claim descent from
    the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, both sons of Joseph.
    The polemic on the exact origin of the Samaritans continues. According to the biblical
    account, they were originally established in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but many
    Samaritans were taken to distant lands by the Assyrians around 724 BCE (2 Kings 17:5-6)
    and their population was replaced with foreign tribes. This has contributed to the ongoing
    dispute between the Samaritans and the Jewish community, as both groups claim to be the
    genuine descendants of Abraham.
    While historical inscriptions from Sargon II (not to be confused with Sargon of Akkad)
    support the biblical account of the Samaritans’ relocation, some detractors claim that
    they are “fake Jews” who received the Torah from Jewish priests after their arrival in the
    land. Additionally, genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences confirms that the
    Samaritans’ Y-chromosomes have a higher alinity with their Jewish lineage than with their
    geographical neighbors, the Palestinians. It seems likely that the reality lies somewhere in
    between: the Samaritans would be native to the region, but an influx of foreigners relocated
    in Samaria would have contributed to expanding their initial population.
    To this day, the Samaritans remain steadfast in their adherence to the Samaritan Torah ,
    rejecting all later prophetic teachings that were incorporated into the Jewish canon. This
    presents a significant challenge to scholars who hold minimalistic views of Jewish history,
    as if the tribes of Israel were purely fictitious characters, these scholars are still left
    explaining why the Samaritans refute Judaism as an altered religion and claim that the only
    genuine part of the Tanakh (i.e. Hebrew Bible) is that of the Torah.
    All roads lead to Shechem
    When King Solomon died in 975 BCE, the nation of Israel split into north and south. The
    Omri dynasty moved the northern capital from Shechem to Samaria. Considering how
    Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, reintroduced the worship of Ba’al and Asherah, it is likely that
    these ‘Samaritans’ were descendants of Abraham, who had been worshipping El, Ba’al Yah,
    Ba’al Berith, and Asherah. It is evident that the people of Shechem have a long history of
    preserving their original cult. As a reminder, Judges 8-9 recounts how Abimelech killed all
    the Israelites who had sought refuge in Ba’al Berith’s temple.
    The Persian Achaemenid Empire (c. 556-330 BCE), founded by Cyrus the Great (559-529
    BCE), is significant because it exercised power throughout the Middle East at a critical time
    for the formation of the Hebrew Bible – namely, the return of the Babylonian Exile in 538
    BCE. The Achaemenid Empire inherited and maintained many of the administrative
    structures of the Assyrians and Babylonians and established regional provinces, known as
    “satrapies”, based on ancient territorial divisions. Rather than relying on intimidation and
    brute force, the Achaemenids left some power in the hands of Tirshatha (governors) who
    belonged to the dominant ethnic group. These governors were responsible for maintaining
    order and collecting tributes. In exchange, they were granted some autonomy in local law
    enforcement and the practice of religious cults. This approach enabled the Achaemenid
    Empire to govern a vast territory for several generations, bringing together people with
    diverse interests and cultures.
    Nehemiah, a Judahite contemporary of Ezra, was the appointed Tirshatha of Jerusalem
    under king Artaxerxes (465-424 BCE). He was mandated by the Persians to rebuild the
    temple of Jerusalem. When the locals wanted to join his elorts and participate in the
    rebuilding of their temple, they were rejected. Ezra 4:1-2 wrote that the “enemies of the
    Jews” wanted to participate in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple. The term
    “enemies” referred to the Samaritans, originating from Samaria in the northern kingdom
    and having Shechem as their stronghold.
    The Samaritans’ refusal to adopt newer religious practices resulted in their marginalization
    by the Jewish priests who had been in contact with the Persians during the Babylonian
    Exile. As a result, Nehemiah, who was supported by the Persians, did not want to associate
    with the Samaritans whom he deemed to be “idolatrous.”
    A rebellious people
    The Samaritans’ inability to participate in the rebuilding of what they legitimately
    considered their own temple, would have stirred anger and thus motivated Bishlam,
    Mithredath, and Tabeel, to write the following letter to king Artaxerxes to denounce the
    reconstruction of the city by Nehemiah and his people:
    Ezra 4:12 Be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from thee unto us have come
    to Jerusalem; they are building the rebellious and the bad city, and they complete the walls
    and join up the foundations.
    Ezra 4:13 Be it known therefore unto the king, that, if this city be built and the walls be
    completed, they will not pay tribute, tax, and toll, and in the end it will bring damage to the
    kings.
    Ezra 4:14 Now, since we eat the salt of the palace, and it is not right for us to see the king’s
    injury, therefore have we sent and informed the king;
    Ezra 4:15 that search may be made in the book of the annals of thy fathers: so shalt thou
    find in the book of the annals and know that this city is a rebellious city, which has done
    damage to kings and provinces, and that they have raised sedition within the same of old
    time, for which cause this city was destroyed.
    Ezra 4:16 We inform the king that if this city be built and its walls be completed, by this
    means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.
    Artaxerxes’ response followed shortly after:
    Ezra 4:18 The letter that ye sent to us has been read before me distinctly.
    Ezra 4:19 And I gave orders, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city
    of old time has made insurrection against the kings, and that rebellion and sedition have
    been raised therein.
    Ezra 4:20 And there have been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all beyond
    the river; and tribute, tax, and toll were paid to them.
    Ezra 4:21 Now give order to make these men to cease, and that this city be not built, until
    the order shall be given from me;
    Ezra 4:22 and take heed that ye fail not to do this: why should harm grow to the damage of
    the kings?
    Pierre Briant, a specialist of the Persian era, expresses some reservations about the
    historical aspect of these letters, but remains open to their authenticity, especially since
    the reconstruction work of the city had indeed been carried on before the royal decree
    (which only authorized the rebuilding of the temple).
    In the above letter, the expression “the annals of thy fathers” most likely refers to the
    destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 587-586, which took place only a few
    generations before Artaxerxes (465- 424). However, the comment “of old times” could refer
    to a historical past much more distant. Was the region of Israel known by the Babylonians
    for its historical insubordination – a possible reference to the Habiru and the destruction of
    Sodom?
    A touch of Zoroastrianism
    The period of the Achaemenid Empire, which coincided with the formation of the Hebrew
    Bible, also saw the rise of Zoroastrianism, the dominant Persian religion. The Jewish
    Encyclopedia notes the striking similarities between Zoroastrianism and Judaism, as well
    as Christianity:
    The points of resemblance between Zoroastrianism and Judaism, and hence also between
    the former and Christianity, are many and striking. Ahuramazda, the supreme lord of Iran,
    omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal, endowed with creative power, which he exercises
    especially through the medium of his Spenta Mainyu (“Holy Spirit”), and governing the
    universe through the instrumentality of angels and archangels, presents the nearest
    parallel to Yhwh that is found in antiquity… There are striking parallels between the two
    faiths and Christianity in their eschatological teachings—the doctrines of a regenerate
    world, a perfect kingdom, the coming of a Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, and the
    life everlasting. Both Zoroastrianism and Judaism are revealed religions: in the one
    Ahuramazda imparts his revelation and pronounces his commandments to Zarathustra on
    “the Mountain of the Two Holy Communing Ones”; in the other Yhwh holds a similar
    communion with Moses on Sinai.
    Smith shows it was common practice in ancient Near East to translate the names of deities
    between peoples and languages, based on their equivalence. He refers to several treaties
    and documents that mention the deities of one group in one copy, and the equivalent
    deities of the other group in another copy. For these people, changing the name of a deity
    did not imply that it would automatically lose its power or characteristics.
    The debate among scholars about the influence of Zoroastrianism on Judaism or vice versa
    remains ongoing. However, it is known that the cult of Yahweh replaced the cult of Ba’al,
    and by the Persian period, the temple of Ba’al Berith had already become the temple of
    Yahweh. Therefore, it is more likely that the priests in exile in Babylon refined or developed
    Judaism by incorporating new ontological concepts acquired through syncretism with
    Zoroastrianism, while also preserving the ancient practices at the core of their traditions
    and beliefs. Although references to the deity Ba’al Berith were eliminated, the story of
    Abraham, their forefather and patriarch, remained a unifying element of the people. The
    Samaritans’ refusal to evolve their worship may have led to the lasting divide between them
    and the Jewish community.
    Nehemiah was intimately familiar with the original cult of Israel. In a speech to his people,
    he recounts the story of their forefather, from the days of Abraham (Neh. 9:7-33) all the way
    up to the Babylonian Exile. He did this to bring the clan to realirm its covenant with
    Yahweh, and to justify the establishment of the Mosaic laws. He ends his speech with
    these words:
    Neh. 9:38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes,
    our Levites, [and] our priests are at the sealing.
    One could argue that a theology that taps into the primal emotions of the people would
    have been instrumental in aiding Nehemiah to solidify his authority and to legitimize the
    implementation of laws that aligned with the Persian administrative model. As Volker
    Glissmann concludes:
    Overall, the Abram story provides a survival strategy for diaspora communities, through
    adherence to, and respect for, the community of the ancestral family line, and by winning
    the trust of the host nation through moral behaviour and piety, and ultimately by trusting
    that YHWH will come to their aid and bless their relationship with the imperial ruling class.
    The evidence collected leads to a challenging conclusion. It is dilicult to believe that the
    story of Abraham, if it were a late and purely fictitious creation as mainstream scholarship
    currently holds, could have achieved such a significant unifying role among the diaspora
    communities. Similarly, it is hard to understand why the priests would have gone to such
    great lengths to hide and condemn their ancient practices, which still transcend in the
    texts. This position also contradicts the historical claims of the Samaritans. Instead, the
    evidence points to a secular covenant, through the gift of the land and the cult of the
    ancestors, which gave rise to a tradition deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Israelites. The
    Samaritans, by refusing to evolve their religious beliefs and practices, reveal themselves as
    the original guardians of the ancient Israelite faith.
    One fool will deny more truth in half an hour
    than a wise man can prove in seven years.
    ― Coventry Patmore
    Conclusion
    Over the course of our journey, we discovered that the maximalist position, which views the
    Pentateuch as mostly historically accurate, was still the dominant position only a few
    decades ago. But archaeological discoveries have brought mainstream academia to
    retrench and embrace a minimalist position, which now views most of the Pentateuch as
    little more than myths and fables. Nevertheless, many scholars still see good evidence for
    the historicity of the patriarchs. How can two groups of informed scholars have such
    contrasting views when considering the same facts? Of course, faith in an inerrant Bible
    can explain the position of some. But this isn’t true for all conservative scholars, many of
    whom are facts-oriented, rational, and are simply trying to explain why we are witnessing
    ever more ancient evidence that bears witness to early Israel.
    We also learned that the documentary hypothesis, which once dominated the field, has
    faced a crisis in recent decades. While European scholars have largely downplayed its
    relevance, American scholars have continued to rely on it. However, there are signs of a
    shift back towards the hypothesis, thanks in part to Baden’s call to modernize it. Rather
    than relying on subjective stylistic and terminological criteria, he suggests following the
    plot to identify the various “sources” used to compose the Pentateuch. And this is precisely
    what this work does.
    We also discovered that scholars at the beginning of the twentieth century suspected that
    the early form of Yahwism had evolved out of the cult of the ancestors. While research on
    this cult has been neglected for nearly a century, recent research on ancient Israel
    confirms its significant influence on the formation of the Torah.
    Would it not be reasonable to question whether the current scholarly disagreements and
    changing positions suggest a flaw in the previously unquestioned premise? Throughout our
    investigation, we have followed the evidence to its logical conclusion. Through a
    meticulous examination of the textual evidence, we have found an intricate web of
    interconnected details that supports the deified overlord hypothesis. An important aspect
    that reinforces this hypothesis is the alignment between the anthropomorphic figure of the
    Lord in the story and the four eastern kings of Ge 14, both working towards the common
    goal of controlling the Sodomites. Furthermore, even the smallest details, such as idioms,
    the giver of the tithe, the role of Melchizedek, Isaac’s real progenitor, and the identity of the
    sacrificial son, not only provide support for the hypothesis but strengthen it.
    We then conducted a thorough review of the context to ensure that our interpretation was
    both realistic and historically accurate. Our research revealed the significant economic
    importance of trade routes and the Habiru’s practice of looting caravans. This information
    provided a clear explanation for the need to maintain control over the region through a
    covenant with a local and respected Habiru ruler – Abram. The unique details found in the
    text allow us to identify the overlord as the powerful King Hammurabi, with a bloodline that
    include Joseph in Egypt associated with the Hyksos kings. By adjusting for a failed
    sexagesimal conversion, we are able to align the biblical timeline with over a millennium of
    known historical events, each providing an anchor point for a specific biblical event. These
    anchor points not only leave little room for error but also shed light on how these historical
    events evolved into the biblical myths we know today.
    Our investigation has finally led us to the conclusion that the original story of Abraham may
    have been framed as a land-grant treaty in the Akkadian language, written on clay tablets
    and carefully preserved as a title deed. This interpretation is supported by the Amorite
    culture, from which both men originated, which placed significant importance on the cult
    of the dead, where high-ranking deceased ancestors continued to play an active role in
    social and political organizations. Therefore, the gift of the land would have been provided
    in exchange for Israel’s continued commitment to caring for the spirit of their lord, a quid
    pro quo that is well attested in the ancient culture of the Near East. This exchange would
    have given rise to a long lasting form of veneration that evolved and refined over
    generations, transforming the cult of a powerful dead kin into the form of worship known to
    us today.
    Below is a summary of the key scholarly arguments supporting the hypothesis of a deified
    overlord:
    • First, prior to the 1970s, a majority of scholars thought that the story of Abraham
    contained historically accurate information (maximalist position). However, as the
    development of monotheism was deemed to be a late development, the consensus was
    reversed and scholars now assert that Abraham’s story is a late composition to be read as
    fiction (minimalist position). By rejecting the idea of early monotheism and instead arguing
    in favor of a Bronze Age secular origin for the story, the deified overlord hypothesis olers a
    synthesis of these two seemingly irreconcilable positions. This perspective also allows for
    tracing the evolution of faith, making predictions, and better understanding the internal
    struggles of ancient Israelites.
    • Secondly, and while there are clear redaction layers, it is no longer necessary to
    invoke separate documents or authors to explain the origin of the Abrahamic narratives
    (current scholarly consensus). Instead of viewing a single entity (God), the reader must
    separate the anthropomorphic figure that speaks and interacts with Abraham (the overlord)
    from the immaterial one (a pagan deity). This reveals an unexpected and remarkably
    coherent secular plot. Interactions with the anthropomorphic figure focus on the political
    alliance, while those with the immaterial figure align with known Bronze Age religious
    practices. The few elements associated with late redactions can then be easily identified.
    • Third, the narratives now form a secular, factual and legal story that revolves around
    the establishment of a political covenant securing an international trade route, rather than
    being allegorical tales (current scholarly consensus). It even contains all the legal elements
    of a factual crime committed against the Sodomites, including actus reus, the conduct,
    established through the punitive campaign in Ge 14 and the annihilation of their city in Ge
    19, and mens rea, the mental state of the lord, established through his expressed desire to
    punish the “wicked” Sodomites, hesitancy to share his plan with Abraham, desire to
    maintain order, pursuit of an heir, and test of loyalty.
    • Fourth, the narrative in Genesis 14 is no longer isolated from the rest of the story
    (current scholarly consensus). This chapter holds the key to understanding that Abraham’s
    lord is a mortal overlord who is in league with the four eastern kings and that a covenant
    must be made with Abraham to keep the valley of Siddim in check. This interpretation
    cannot be coincidental, given the numerous causal links that emerge from such an
    unanticipated association. Scholars never suspected that these two parties could have
    been in league because the memory of this association was lost after the lord was deified.
    • Fifth, the historical context of the Bronze Age fully supports the deified overlord
    hypothesis. The cult of the ancestor was a common practice in ancient Israel, and land
    inheritance was often tied to the care of deceased kin. If Isaac was indeed conceived by
    Abraham’s lord, his descendants would have had to maintain the quid pro quo to ensure
    their control over the land. This would have given the Israelites a strong incentive to honor
    the memory of their ancestors, Beliya (Ba’al Yah), who came to be associated with the deity
    El, and Aluf Sarah (Asherah). The name “Israel” probably originates from Asherah-El, which
    accurately represents the lineage of the early tribes of Israel. This also explains the
    historical connection between these tribes and the Divine Council, as described in the
    literary texts from Ugarit.
    • Sixth, this perspective provides satisfactory answers to many questions that biblical
    scholars have long sought. The events described in the text align with what would be
    expected during the specific time period and political situation of the Bronze Age: a
    Mesopotamian king seeks to secure an important and distant trade route compromised by
    a group of Habiru by making a conditional covenant with one of their leaders, Abram.
    Through begetting the son of the promise, the Mesopotamian king secures his lineage, and
    his descendants must pledge loyalty in a blood covenant.
    • Lastly, the commonly accepted explanation for the unrealistic ages assigned to the
    patriarchs as mythological exaggeration is not necessary (current scholarly consensus).
    During the Bronze Age, Babylonians used a sexagesimal numeral system (base 60). If
    Abraham made a covenant with a Mesopotamian overlord, it would be expected that
    numbers would have been recorded in this system. There is evidence from extra-biblical
    sources of failed conversions to decimal from sexagesimal that result in the same errors
    found in the ages assigned to the patriarchs. This is supported by a logical process that
    could have led to the error.
    Unbroken chain of circumstances
    The deified overlord hypothesis presents a chain of circumstances that links events in a
    way that provides a distinctive and compelling explanation for the origins of the Abrahamic
    faith. It is descriptive of the chronological order of how events unfolded, rather than
    suggesting a strict cause-and-elect relationship. It highlights how the historical context
    and cultural practices of the time led to the formation and evolution of the Abrahamic faith.
    54 : Timeline according to the deified overlord hypothesis
    This timeline first show (1) that Sem, Abram’s ancestor, was likely part of the Amorite
    migration that defeated Ibi-Sin and established the Babylonian dynasty. As the biblical text
    (Ge 17:17 & Ge 21:5) confirms that both Abraham and Isaac’s begetter (i.e. the lord) were
    born the same year (2), we can set Abraham’s birth c. 1783 (1810). This was a time when
    trade routes in Canaan were unsafe and at the mercy of the Habiru. The War of Kings, with
    Chedorlaomer’s failed punitive campaign against the Sodomites (3) can be uniquely
    positioned c. 1737 (1764). This date corresponds to the 28th year of Hammurabi’s reign,
    when he defeated Elam and expanded his empire. This unique and well documented shift
    of power explains why it was Chedorlamomer the one leading the coalition of four kings in
    Ge 14, but it is Amraphel/Hammurabi who makes a covenant with Abram in Ge 15.
    Unfortunately, Abram is unable to have a child with his half-sister Sarah and begets
    Ishmael through Hagar. However, a partially Egyptian heir raises concerns for the
    Mesopotamian empire and Hammurabi decides to take matters into his own hands by
    fathering Isaac, the son of the promise, with Sarah (4). Hammurabi dies a few months later,
    and his son Samsu-Iluna becomes king of the Babylonian empire. The new ruler feels
    compelled to test the loyalty of his father’s vassal by requesting the sacrifice of his only son
    to ensure Canaan will stay under the control of the Amorite dynasty (5). Joseph is sent to
    Egypt as the Hyksos kings rise to power (6). The Minoan eruption of c. 1609 establishes
    Joseph as the Hyksos ruler Khyan-Seth (7). The names and lifespan of his descendants
    suggests they could have been the Hyksos rulers Yanassi (Manasseh?), Apophis (Ephraim?)
    and Khamudi (Shemidah?) who were expelled from Egypt by Seqenenre Tao, Kamose, and
    Ahmose I (8). This event marks the beginning of the period of 4306/10 years during which the children of Israel lived in Egypt. By then, Hammurabi and Sarah, the earthly progenitors of the Israelite lineage, had been elevated to the rank of divine couple. They were referred to as Beliya, Beliah, Ba’al Yah, Baal Berith, Asherah (Aluf Sarah), El-Shaddai (El-Sarai), and Israel ([i]Sara-El or Asherah-El), and Ba’al Yah we Ba’alah. The conquest of Canaan by Thutmose III (9) corresponds to the period of 3006/10 years during which the Israelites did
    not recover their land. This suggests that the date of the Exodus aligns with the battle of
    Kadesh (10) which took place 480*6/10 years before Solomon built the first Temple (11).
    Political struggle between Judah and Israel brought the divine couple to be replaced by the
    compound deity Yahweh (Baal Yah we Baalah). The ark of the covenant, which safeguarded
    the tablets containing the land deed, symbolizes the spirit of the extraordinary
    earthly/divine union. Joshua’s conquest marked the onset of the turbulent Dark Ages (12),
    during which the Israelites likely attempted to reclaim their ancestral land from the petty
    kings who were under the sway of Egypt. The era of the Judges came to a close with the
    establishment of the Monarchy.
    Weighing the evidence
    Three main hypotheses have now been put forward to explain the origins of the Abrahamic
    faith. The one true god hypothesis posits that the Abrahamic faith is based on the belief in
    one true god, who reveals himself to Abraham and his descendants. The etiological myth
    hypothesis proposes that the stories of Abraham and his descendants were created to
    explain certain cultural or historical phenomena. The deified overlord hypothesis suggests
    that Abraham and his descendants worshiped a powerful, earthly overlord who was later
    deified. Each of these three hypotheses has its own strengths and weaknesses that must
    be carefully considered.
    The one true god hypothesis provides a clear explanation for the development of
    monotheistic beliefs, but it is not falsifiable as it heavily relies on theophany and other
    supernatural claims that contradict the laws of physics. Additionally, it fails to account for
    the historical context and religious practices of the time. For the one true god hypothesis to
    be valid, we would have to accept that the laws of physics and natural processes were
    suspended or overridden by the very divine being who created them. Additionally, we would
    have to believe that the Abrahamic faith emerged independently of other religions and
    without any influence from them. Furthermore, we would have to disregard the historical
    context of the time, including the polytheistic religious practices of the Canaanites and
    other nearby cultures, and the role of political and social factors in the development of
    religious beliefs. Lastly, we would have to go against the absence of archaeological
    evidence, which suggests there was no early monotheism in Canaan and cannot support
    the events as they are described in the Hebrew Bible.
    While the etiological myth hypothesis is accepted by mainstream academia because it is
    useful in explaining the evolution of stories and traditions over time, it falls short in
    providing a comprehensive explanation for the deep historical significance that these
    stories hold for believers. It also lacks a comprehensive explanation for the evolution that
    occurred between the ancient Canaanite religious practices and the emergence of Yahweh.
    To be a more viable hypothesis, the etiological myth hypothesis would need to better
    account for the historical elements found in the story and provide a more detailed
    explanation for how stories and traditions evolved over time, while still accounting for the
    transition phase that took place with the ancient Canaanite religion. Additionally, it would
    need to explain how its unique features emerged from the historical context, as well as the
    significance of the similarities between the Abrahamic faith and neighboring religions.
    Instead, most biblical scholars have now “given up” on the historicity of these stories.
    The deified overlord hypothesis is the only one that olers a truly compelling explanation for
    the origins of the Abrahamic faith. It accounts for the similarities between neighboring
    cultures and aligns with the historical context of the time, where powerful overlords ruled
    city-states and claimed divine authority. Additionally, it recognizes the role of etiological
    myths in the development of religious traditions over time, while still acknowledging the
    deep historical significance that these stories hold for believers and their evolution
    process. Although some may argue that anthropomorphism was a common feature of
    ancient deities, the deified overlord hypothesis provides a strong explanation for the origins
    of the Abrahamic faith by incorporating both historical and mythological elements. It also
    accounts for the similarities between dilerent religious traditions of the ancient Near East.
    Moreover, it is open to falsification through verification and dispute of its facts and
    methods.
    If the deified overlord hypothesis is deemed worthy of attention, it is because it introduces
    a novel paradigm that challenges the foundational premise upon which prior scholarly
    conclusions were based: Abraham’s Lord was mortal, not divine. As such, it calls for
    nothing less than a comprehensive re-evaluation of our understanding of ancient Israel.
    Epilogue
    Far from being the story or a glorified legend of a man who sought to revolutionize the
    religious culture of his time, the reality we are facing is a harsh one: Abraham was not a
    particularly pious man and never intended to make a covenant with a new god.
    Furthermore, the man we consider to be the father of the world’s monotheistic religions
    possessed very human characteristics, including greed. Moreover, since we have identified
    his co-conspirators and established the mens rea and actus reus for his crime, it is likely
    that this overlord would now be referred to the International Criminal Court and indicted for
    war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    On a more personal note, this journey has brought me to reevaluate what “God” meant to
    me. I can no longer think of “Abraham’s Lord”, the God of the Hebrew Bible, as a
    supernatural being. Whether that makes me an atheist or not depends on one’s point of
    view.
    The reality is that I now find myself at odd with most atheists while agreeing with
    conservative religious apologetics on the historicity of the Pentateuch. This is uncanny. Not
    that the Hebrew Bible should be taken as a historical document, but it is now clear to me
    that the Israelites sought to record their history, in a way that made sense to them. As a
    result, these texts contain more valuable historical information than many are prepared to
    acknowledge.
    The idea of “God” is not necessarily dead, but it no longer fits into the traditional boxes of
    Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. With a clean slate, the world now has a unique opportunity
    to question the role, meaning, and significance of the divine in the third millennium. Times
    have changed, and it is no longer necessary to oppose spirituality to science. As we explore
    the Universe, we realize that matter, energy, and consciousness are all interrelated.
    Humanity is ready to modernize itself by moving beyond sectarian religions dominated by
    archaic beliefs and embracing a new model of all-encompassing spiritual freedom that
    acknowledges that all of science and all creatures are part of one universal living force that
    flourishes through love, respect, and compassion.
    If confirmed, this hypothesis should prompt everyone to conduct serious introspection. I
    dream of the day when scholars and scientists will oler their mea culpa to the Jewish
    people and begin acknowledging that their remarkable odyssey did indeed begin some four
    thousand years ago, albeit with a twist. I also dream of the day when religious leaders of all
    faiths will acknowledge that their scriptures are no more sacred than the works of Aristotle,
    Confucius, or Locke and that it is not only acceptable but essential to question them.
    President Obama was right when he said:
    I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt – not being so full of yourself and so
    confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others,
    that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in
    possession of the truth.
    If we seek to find a sacred dimension within the scriptures, it is because of their universal
    and symbolic nature. These texts were inspired by the timeless and compassionate
    wisdom of humanity. They all contribute to the growth of spirituality and the enlightenment
    of human beings. In this regard, they possess unique educational value, but instead of
    trying to sanctify them as dogma, it would be far more prudent to translate them,
    modernize them, and restore their full authenticity.
    As a secular humanist, I find the level of insanity and resurgence in religious rhetoric and
    global violence perpetrated “in the name of God” truly concerning and saddening.
    Globalization has introduced new levels of interaction that create friction between theists
    and atheists, as well as between believers of dilerent denominations. The reaction is often
    a conservative one, where people on both sides of the debate retreat into their respective
    echo chambers and become increasingly radicalized to protect their views. This can be
    seen in the rise of hate speech on social media. The divide between religious and secular
    perspectives has never been so profound, and the tension so high.
    Nevertheless, I have ample faith in my fellow human beings and trust that we can break this
    dangerous trend by bringing more rational arguments to the debate. I have invested
    countless hours in this research, motivated by the profound belief that it can help foster
    more love, peace, and empathy. It will take time, but we can now oler younger generations,
    as well as those sulering from Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), a more realistic and
    psychologically plausible explanation for the origin of the God of Israel that can empower
    them against toxic emotional harm. Bit by bit, objective facts can help smooth out
    dilerences. I have already received great testimonials from former members of religious
    groups who reported that my work helped them come to peace with their internal struggles.
    Ironically, I now find the Bible far more touching and inspiring than before I began this work.
    A newfound level of intimacy has brought me to see it for what it is: a fantastic human
    odyssey, with all its glory and fallibility. This realization reminds me that no matter how
    much I would like to be right, “certainty” remains an illusion. Therefore, I want to
    acknowledge all those who dare to abandon their academic comfort zones and embark on
    this journey to explore the winding path that this investigation only begins to uncover. Their
    feedback may challenge my beliefs and disrupt my illusions, but it is only through such
    honest and critical exploration that we can strive towards the truth.
    ANNEXES
    Annex A: The Exodus
    The following table olers a comparison between Exodus 14 and the Poem of Pentaur.
    Notice how the same ideas underline both texts, which suggests direct influence.
    Exodus 14 Poem of Pentaur
    Pharaoh’s heart hardens. He lifts up a large army and chariots to pursue the
    Israelites/Hittites.
    Ex 14:5 And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and
    of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that
    we have let Israel go from serving us?
    Ex 14:6 And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: Beginning of the
    victory of king Ramses Miamun – may he live forever! – which he obtained over the people
    of the Khita, of Naharain, of Malunna, of Pidasa, of the Dardani, over the people of Masa, of
    Karkisha, of Qasuatan, of Qarkemish, of Kati, of Anaugas, over the people of Akerith and
    Mushanath.
    The youthful king with the bold hand has not his equal. His arms are powerful, his heart is
    firm, his courage is like that of the god of war, Monthu, in the midst of the fight. He leads his
    warriors to unknown peoples. He seizes his weapons, and is a wall, their [his warriors’]
    shield in the day of battle. He seizes his bow, and no man olers opposition. Mightier than a
    hundred thousand united together goes he forwards.
    His courage is firm like that of a bull. He has smitten all peoples who had united
    themselves together. No man knows the thousands of men who stood against him. A
    hundred thousand sank before his glance. Terrible is he when his warcry resounds; bolder
    than the whole world; he is as the grim lion in the valley of the gazelles. His command will
    be performed. No one dares to speak against him. Wise is his counsel. Complete are his
    decisions, when he wears the royal crown Atef and declares his will, a protector of his
    people. His heart is like a mountain of iron. Such is king Ramses Miamun. After the king had
    armed his people and his chariots, and in like manner the Shardonians, which were once
    his prisoners, then was the order given them for the battle. The king took his way
    downwards, and his people and his chariots accompanied him, and followed the best road
    on their march. . . .
    Pharaoh positions his troops to the north. The Israelites are hiding.
    Ex 14:7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and
    captains over every one of them.
    Ex 14:8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the
    children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
    Ex 14:9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and
    his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth,
    before Baalzephon. Now had the miserable king of the hostile Khita, and the many
    peoples which were with him, hidden themselves in an ambush to the northwest of the city
    of Kadesh, while Pharaoh was alone, no other was with him. The legion of Amom advanced
    behind him. The legion of Phra went into the ditch on the territory which lies to the west of
    the town of Shabatuna, divided by a long interval from the legion of Ptah in the midst
    [marching] towards the town of Arnama. The legion of Sutekh marched on by their roads.
    And the king called together all the chief men of his warriors. Behold, they were at the lake
    of the land of the Amorites. At the same time the miserable king of Khita was in the midst of
    his warriors, which were with him. But his hand was not so bold as to venture on battle with
    Pharaoh. Therefore he drew away the horsemen and the chariots, which were numerous as
    the sand. And they stood three men on each war chariot, and there were assembled in one
    spot the best heroes of the army of Khita, well appointed with all weapons for the fight.
    They did not dare to advance. They stood in ambush to the northwest of the town of
    Kadesh. Then they went out from Kadesh, on the side of the south, and threw themselves
    into the midst of the legion of Pra-Hormakhu, which gave way, and was not prepared for the
    light. Then Pharaoh’s warriors and chariots gave way before them. And Pharaoh had placed
    himself to the north of the town of Kadesh, on the west side of the river Arunatha. Then they
    came to tell the king. Then the king arose, like his father Month; he grasped his weapons
    and put on his armor, just like Baal in his time. And the noble pair of horses, which carried
    Pharaoh, and whose name was “Victory in Thebes”, they were from the court of King
    Eamses Miamun. When the king had quickened his course, he rushed into the midst of the
    hostile hosts of Khita, all alone, no other was with him. When Pharaoh had done this, he
    looked behind him and found himself surrounded by 2500 pairs of horses, and his retreat
    was beset by the bravest heroes of the king of the miserable Khita, and by all the numerous
    peoples, which were with him, of Arathu, of Masu, of Pidasa, of Keshiesh, of Malunna, of
    Qazauadana, of Khilibu, of Akerith, of Kadesh, and of Leka. And there were three men on
    each chariot, and they were all gathered together.
    [Thus spake the king:] “And not one of my princes, not one of my captains of the chariots,
    not one of my chief men, not one of my knights was there. My warriors and my chariots had
    abandoned me, not one of them was there to take part in the battle…
    I hurled the dart with my right hand, I fought with my left hand. I was like Baal in his time
    before their sight. I had found 2500 pairs of horses; I was in the midst of them; but they
    were dashed in pieces before my horses. Not one of them raised his hand to fight; their
    courage was sunken in their breasts, their limbs gave way, they could not hurl the dart, nor
    had they the courage to thrust with the spear.
    The enemies fall in the water and drown. Their chariots tumble. They all died.
    Ex 14:21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go
    back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were
    divided.
    Ex 14:22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and
    the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
    Ex 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all
    Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
    Ex 14:26 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters
    may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
    Ex 14:27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his
    strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord
    overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
    Ex 14:28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the
    host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of
    them. I made them fall into the waters just as the crocodiles fall in. They tumbled down on
    their faces one after another. I killed them at my pleasure, so that not one looked back
    behind him, nor did another turn round. Each one fell, he raised himself not up again.”
    There stood still the miserable king of Khita in the midst of his warriors and his chariots, to
    behold the fight of the king. He was all alone; not one of his warriors, not one of his chariots
    was with him. There he turned round for fright before the king. Thereupon he sent the
    princes in great numbers, each of them with his chariot, well equipped with all kinds of
    olensive weapons: the king of Arathu and him of Masa, the king of Malunna and him of
    Leka, the king of the Dardani and him of Keshkesh, the king of Qarqamash and him of
    Khilibi. There were altogether the brothers of the king of Khita united in one place, to the
    number of 2500 pairs of horses. They forthwith rushed right on, their countenance directed
    to the flame of fire [i.e. my face].
    “I rushed down upon them. Like Monthu was I. I let them taste my hand in the space of a
    moment. I dashed them down, and killed them where they stood. Then cried out one of
    them to his neighbor, saying: ‘This is no man. Ah! woe to us! He who is in our midst is
    Sutekh, the glorious: Baal is in all his limbs. Let us hasten and flee before him. Let us save
    our lives; let us try our breath.’“
    As soon as any one attacked him, his hand fell down and every limb of his body. They could
    not aim either the bow or the spear. They only looked at him as he came on in his headlong
    career from afar. The king was behind them like a grilin.
    [Thus spake the king:] “I struck them down; they did not escape me. I lifted up my voice to
    my warriors and to my charioteers, and spake to them, ‘Halt! stand! take courage, my
    warriors, my charioteers! Look upon my victory. I am alone, but Amon is my helper, and his
    hand is with me.'”
    They are afraid and beg their lord to save their lives.
    Ex 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and,
    behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of
    Israel cried out unto the Lord.
    Ex 14:11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken
    us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth
    out of Egypt?
    Ex 14:12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may
    serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we
    should die in the wilderness. “When Menna, my charioteer, beheld with his eyes how
    many pairs of horses surrounded me, his courage left him, and his heart was afraid. Evident
    terror and great fright took possession of his whole body. Immediately he spake to me: ‘My
    gracious lord, thou brave king, thou guardian of the Egyptians in the day of battle, protect
    us. We stand alone in the midst of enemies. Stop, to save the breath of life for us. Give us
    deliverance, protect us, O King Eamses Miamun.’“
    Halt! Stand still! The lord will fight alone.
    Ex 14:13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of
    the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye
    shall see them again no more for ever.
    Ex 14:14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
    Ex 14:15 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the
    children of Israel, that they go forward: Then spake the king to his charioteer: “Halt!
    stand! take courage, my charioteer. I will dash myself down among them as the sparrow
    hawk dashes down. I will slay them, I will cut them in pieces, I will dash them to the ground
    in the dust. Why then is such a thought in thy heart? These are unclean ones for Amon,
    wretches who do not acknowledge the god.”
    And the king hurried onwards. He charged down upon the hostile hosts of Khita. For the
    sixth time, when he charged upon them [says the king] : “There was I like to Baal behind
    them in his time, when he has strength. I killed them; none escaped me.”
    [The king gives his olicers a tongue lashing for leaving him in the lurch. The next morning
    the battle is renewed.]
    In the morning, those who had fought with him were consumed by fire.
    Ex 14:24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of
    the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the
    Egyptians, “The diadem of the royal snake adorned my head. It spat fire and glowing
    flame in the face of my enemies. I appeared like the sun god at his rising in the early
    morning. My shining beams were a consuming fire for the limbs of the wicked. They cried
    out to one another, ‘Take care, do not fall! For the powerful snake of royalty, which
    accompanies him, has placed itself on his horse. It helps him. Every one who comes in his
    way and falls down there comes forth fire and flame to consume his body.’“
    The enemies beg for mercy.
    Ex 14:25 And took ol their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the
    Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the
    Egyptians. And they remained afar ol, and threw themselves down on the earth to
    entreat the king in the sight [of his army]. And the king had power over them and slew them
    without their being able to escape. As bodies tumbled before his horses, so they lay there
    stretched out all together in their blood.
    Then the king of the hostile people of Khita sent a messenger to pray piteously to the great
    name of the king, speaking thus: “ Thou art Ra-Hormakhu. Thou art Sutekh the glorious, the
    son of Nut, Baal in his time. Thy terror is upon the land of Khita, for thou hast broken the
    neck of Khita forever and ever.”
    Thereupon he allowed his messenger to enter. He bore a writing in his hand with the
    address, “To the great double name of the king”:
    “May this sulice for the satisfaction of the heart of the holiness of the royal house, the Sun-
    Horus, the mighty Bull, who loves justice, the great lord, the protector of his people, the
    brave with his arm, the rampart of his life guards in the day of battle, the king Ramses
    Miamun.”
    The servant speaks, he makes known to Pharaoh, my gracious lord, the beautiful son of Ra-
    Hormakhu, as follows:
    “Since thou art the son of Amon, from whose body thou art sprung, so has he granted to
    thee all the peoples together.
    The people of Egypt and the people of Khita ought to be brothers together as thy servants.
    Let them be at thy feet. The sun god Ra has granted thee the best [people]. Do us no injury,
    glorious spirit, whose anger weighs upon the people of Khita.
    Would it be good if thou shouldst wish to kill thy servants, whom thou hast brought under
    thy power? Thy look is terrible, and thou art not mildly disposed. Calm thyself. Yesterday
    thou earnest and hast slain hundreds of thousands. Thou comest today, and none will be
    left remaining [to serve thee].
    Do not carry out thy purpose, thou mighty king. Better is peace than war. Give us freedom.”
    Then the king turned back in a gentle humor, like his father Monthu in his time, and Pharaoh
    assembled all the leaders of the army and of the chariot fighters and of the life guards. And
    when they were all assembled together in one place, they were permitted to hear the
    contents of the message, which the great king of Khita had sent to him. [When they had
    heard] these words, which the messenger of the king of Khita had brought as his embassy
    to Pharaoh, then they answered and spake thus to the king:
    “Excellent, excellent is that! Let thy anger pass away, O great lord our king! He who does not
    accept peace must oler it. Who would content thee in the day of thy wrath?”
    Then the king gave order to listen to the words of him, and he let his hands rest, in order to
    return to the south. Then the king went in peace to the land of Egypt with his princes, with
    his army, and his charioteers, in serene humor, in the sight of his [people]. All countries
    feared the power of the king, as of the lord of both the worlds. It had protected his own
    warriors. All peoples came at his name, and their kings fell down to pray before his
    beautiful countenance. The king reached the city of Ramses Miamun, the great worshiper
    of Ra-Hormakhu, and rested in his palace in the most serene humor, just like the sun on his
    throne. And Amou came to greet him, speaking thus to him: “Be thou blessed, thou our
    son, whom we love, Ramses Miamun! May they [the gods] secure to him without end many
    thirty-years’ feasts of jubilee forever on the chair of his father Tum, and may all lands be
    under his feet!”
    Annex B: Onomastic study
    The onomastic study presented on p. 351 was realized using a simple software program.
    This annex describes the dataset and how results were obtained.
    As there is a lack of consensus around the classification of some personal names being
    theophoric or not, this study focuses on bulk adoption rate of these names over time,
    rather than a detailed analysis of individual names. The sample size is deemed large
    enough to compensate for the occasional mischaracterizations and for the overall trends
    to remain unalected.
    The following concerns have been taken into consideration:
  • Some names were more popular than others over various period. A simple
    occurrence count of the names could distort data based on popularity. To eliminate such
    bias, we only consider the first occurrence of each name.
  • As some books cover much longer period of history than others (and given it is not
    practical to identify when each individual chapter could have been written), we assume an
    even distribution of first occurrences of names across a given book.
  • To compensate for periods with many books/names vs. periods which may only
    include a few books/names, the total number of first occurrences is normalized so all
    periods are reported in %.
    Dataset
    The dataset used in this study includes the thirty-four Hebrew Bible Historical Books
    (HBHB): 5 Torah, 12 historical, 5 major prophets and 12 minor prophets (poetry and
    wisdom excluded). In this dataset, the following was identified:
    • 29,493 occurrences of personal names
    • 2,007 (7%) unique names
    • 378 (19%) unique theophoric names
    o 174 (46%) names related to El (include el as prefix or sulix)
    o 176 (47%) names related to Yahweh (include the jo- and je- prefixes, as well as the
    iah sulix)
    o 28 (7%) names related to Ba’al (include all related names – belial, asherah, asherim,
    asheroth, etc.)
    • This study compares two possible redaction periods for the HBHB. The Early
    Composition is based on maximalist dates (modified by 6/10 before king Salomon). The
    Late Composition dates align with commonly accepted dates by minimalists.
    Books Early Composition (*6/10 ante 960) BCE Late Composition
    BCE
    Genesis – Abraham -1810 -1705 -650 -350
    Genesis – Israel -1705 -1505 -650 -350
    Exodus -1254 -1218 -550 -450
    Leviticus -1254 -1218 -538 -332
    Numbers -1254 -1218 -520 -332
    Deuteronomy -1254 -1218 -640 -330
    Joshua -1218 -1192 -640 -539
    Judges -1192 -1000 -600 -550
    Ruth -1106 -1076 -550 -330
    1 Samuel -1046 -992 -640 -609
    2 Samuel -992 -968 -640 -609
    1 Kings -986 -850 -640 -609
    1 Chronicles -986 -968 -400 -250
    2 Chronicles -968 -539 -400 -250
    Joel -931 -800 -200 -150
    Obadiah -931 -800 -586 -539
    2 Kings -850 -560 -640 -609
    Amos -850 -722 -760 -539
    Jonah -850 -722 -200 -150
    Hosea -760 -722 -760 -539
    Isaiah -739 -700 -739 -330
    Micah -737 -690 -737 -539
    Nahum -650 -649 -650 -600
    Jeremiah -627 -580 -586 -330
    Zephaniah -627 -627 -627 -600
    Daniel -605 -530 -175 -150
    Ezekiel -593 -570 -586 -539
    Lamentations -586 -585 -586 -520
    Ezra -539 -450 -300 -200
    Habakkuk -530 -529 -640 -609
    Haggai -520 -519 -539 -520
    Esther -483 -474 -375 -325
    Nehemiah -445 -410 -450 -400
    Malachi -433 -432 -433 -433
    Theophoric Name Candidates
    Abdeel Bethuel Habaiah Jehoshua Jonadab
    Abdiel Bithiah Habazziniah Jehovah Jonathan
    Abel Biziothiah Hacaliah Jehovah-jireh Jorai
    Abiel Bukkiah Haggiah Jehovah-nissi Josech
    Abigail Chenaniah Hallelujah Jehovah-shalom Joses
    Abihail Conaniah Hanameel Jehovah-shammah Joshah
    Abijah Daniel Hananeel Jehovah-tsidkenu Joshaviah
    Abimael Delaiah Hananiah Jehozabad Joshibiah
    Adaiah Deuel Haniel Jehozadak Joshua
    Adalia El-beth-el Harhaiah Jehu Josiah
    Adbeel El-elohe-Israel Hasadiah Jehubbah Josiphiah
    Adiel Eladah Hashabiah Jehucal Jotham
    Adonijah Elah Hashabneiah Jehud Jozabad
    Adriel Elasah Hazael Jehudijah Jozacar
    Aduel Elath Hazaiah Jehush Jucal
    Aharhel Eldaah Hazzelelponi Jekabzeel Judah
    Ahaziah Eldad Hezekiah Jekameam Kelaiah
    Ahijah Elead Hilkiah Jekamiah Kelita
    Ahithophel Elealeh Hillel Jekuthiel Kiriath-baal
    Amariah Eleasah Hizkiah Jemima Kolaiah
    Amasiah Eleazar Hodaviah Jemuel Kushaiah
    Amaziah Eleph Hodevah Jephthah Maadiah
    Ammiel Elhanan Hodiah Jephunneh Maaseiah
    Amraphel Eli Hoshaiah Jerah Maaziah
    Anaiah Eliab Ibneiah Jerahmeel Mahseiah
    Ananiah Eliada Ibnijah Jered Malchijah
    Ananias Eliah Igdaliah Jeremai Mattaniah
    Anthothijah Eliahba Immanuel Jeremiah Mattatha
    Asahel Eliakim Iphdeiah Jeremoth Mattathias
    Asaiah Eliam Irijah Jeriah Mattattah
    Asareel Elias Isaiah Jericho Mattenai
    Ashbel Eliasaph Ishiah Jeriel Matthew
    Asherah Eliashib Ishmael Jerijah Matthias
    Asherim Eliathah Ishmaiah Jerimoth Mattithiah
    Asheroth Elidad Ishmerai Jerioth Melatiah
    Ashriel Eliel Ismachiah Jeroboam Meribaal
    Asiel Elienai Ismaiah Jeroham Meshelemiah
    Asriel Eliezer Israel Jerubbaal Micah
    Athaiah Elihoreph Isshiah Jerubbesheth Micaiah
    Athaliah Elihu Isshijah Jeruel Mikneiah
    Azaliah Elijah Ithiel Jerusalem Moadiah
    Azaniah Elika Izrahiah Jerusha Moriah
    Azariah Elim Izziah Jesaiah Neariah
    Azazel Elimelech Jaareshiah Jeshaiah Nedabiah
    Azaziah Elioenai Jaasiel Jeshebeab Nehemiah
    Azrael Eliphal Jaazaniah Jesher Neriah
    Azriel Eliphaz Jaaziah Jeshimon Nethaniah
    Baal Eliphelet Jaaziel Jeshishai Noadiah
    Baal-berith Elisha Jael Jeshohaia Obadiah
    Baal-gad Elishah Jahaziah Jeshohaiah Pedaiah
    Baal-hamon Elishama Jahaziel Jeshua Pekahiah
    Baal-hermon Elishaphat Jahdiel Jeshurun Pelaiah
    Baal-meon Elisheba Jahleel Jesiah Pelatiah
    Baal-peor Elishua Jahmai Jesimiel Pethahiah
    Baal-perazim Eliud Jahzeel Jesse Ramiah
    Baal-shalisha Elizabeth Jahzeiah Jesui Reaiah
    Baal-tamar Elizur Jasiel Jesus Reelaiah
    Baal-zebub Elkanah Jathniel Jether Rehabiah
    Baal-zephon Elkoshite Jeatherai Jetheth Remaliah
    Baalah Ellasar Jeberechiah Jethlah Rephaiah
    Baalath Elm Jecamiah Jethro Semachiah
    Baalath-Beer Elmodam Jecoliah Jetur Seraiah
    Baale Elnaam Jeconiah Jeuel Sheariah
    Baali Elnathan Jedaiah Jeush Shebaniah
    Baalim Elon Jedediah Jew Shecaniah
    Baalis Elon-beth-hanan Jediael Jezaniah Shehariah
    Baaseiah Elpaal Jedidiah Jezebel Shelemiah
    Babel Elpalet Jehaleleel Jezer Shemaiah
    Bakbukiah Eltekeh Jehdeiah Jeziah Shemariah
    Balaam Eltolad Jehezekel Jezoar Shephatiah
    Baladan Elul Jehiah Jezrahiah Sherebiah
    Balak Eluzai Jehizkiah Jezreel Tebaliah
    Ball-hanan Elymas Jehoadah Jiphtah-el Tobiah
    Barachiah Elzabad Jehoaddah Joab Tobias
    Barjesus Elzaphan Jehoaddan Joah Tobijah
    Bealiah Emmanuel Jehoaddin Joahaz Uriah
    Beeliada Eshbaal Jehoahaz Joanna Urijah
    Beelzebub Ethbaal Jehoash Joash Uzzia
    Belah Ezekiel Jehohanan Jochebed Uzziah
    Belial Ezel Jehoiachin Joed Vaniah
    Belshazzar Gabriel Jehoiada Joel Yahweh
    Belteshazzar Gaddiel Jehoiakim Joelah Yeshua
    Benaiah Gamaliel Jehoiarib Joezer Zachary
    Beraiah Gebal Jehonadab Joha Zebadiah
    Berechiah Gedaliah Jehonathan Johanan Zechariah
    Besodeiah Gemariah Jehoram John Zedekiah
    Beth-baalmeon Geuel Jehoshabeath Joiada Zephaniah
    Betharbel Giddel Jehoshaphat Joiarib Zerahiah
    Bethel Gur-baal Jehosheba Jokim
    Method
    For each purported redaction period, a projection timeline extends from the earliest to the
    latest redaction date. Given the relatively small number of books, the timeline is
    subdivided in roughly an equivalent number of time slots.
    Each HBHB book spreads across a number of time slots that matches its purported
    composition period.
  1. For each of the theophoric name candidate, a software program traverses all the
    HBHB books in sequence and identifies the corresponding time slot where the name first
    occurs.
  2. The total number of theophoric names related to each deity is computed for each
    time slot.
  3. When a book’s purported composition extends across multiple time slots, the
    number of first occurrences contained in this book is equally distributed across all
    corresponding time slots.
  4. A moving average is applied to smooth the trend line.
  5. Results are normalized for each time slot, so that the total percentage of names for
    the three deities is always 100%.
  6. The % of theophoric names for each deity is mapped over the timeline for each time
    slot.
  7. The % of theophoric names associated with each time slot is displayed as a dotted
    line.
  8. Time slots containing no data are extrapolated from adjacent trend lines.
    Annex C: Reference material
    Description of roles
    Italics = assumptions
    Character Source Description
    A-User-Re Hyksos Name taken by the Hyksos king Apophis around the middle of
    his reign. Biblical Ezer?
    Aaron Bible Brother of Moses called to the priesthood. Builds a golden calf during the
    Exodus.
    Abimelech Bible King of Guerar who kidnaps Sarah. Threatened by Ba’al, he allies with
    Abraham and submits to his authority
    Abram, Abraham Bible Son of Terah. First patriarch. Governor of Canaan. He makes a
    covenant with Ba’al in exchange for the “promised land”.
    Ahmose Egypt Theban king of the 18th dynasty who oversees the expulsion of the
    Hyksos in the mid-16th century BCE.
    Amraphel Bible Fights in the War of Kings against Sodom. Hammurabi, king of
    Babylon?
    Apophis, Apepi Hyksos Last Hyksos king, enjoys a very long reign. Biblical
    Ephraim?
    Arioch Bible King of Ellasar. Fights in the War of Kings against Sodom. Eriaku, king of
    Larsa?
    Asherah Levant Mother goddess of Israel. Often associated with Astarte and Ishtar.
    Biblical Sarah deified?
    Ba’al, Bel Levant Important deity of the Levant. Represented by a calf, a bull or its
    horns. Also an honorific title meaning “master” or “lord”. Equivalent of Marduk.
    Ba’al Berith Levant Literally “Lord of Covenant”. Important Shechemite deity of the Middle
    Bronze Age. Shares many characteristics with Yahweh/Elohim. Deified Hammurabi?
    Bethuel Bible Son of Nahor and nephew of Abraham. Father of Rebekah, Isaac’s
    wife.
    Beriah Bible Son whom Ephraim conceives after his other sons are killed.
    Ephraim Bible Son of Joseph to whom Jacob gives his blessing instead of Manasseh.
    Apophis, Hyksos king?
    Eriaku Mesopotamia Generally associated with Rim-Sin I, king of Larsa, who was captured
    by Hammurabi. Biblical Arioch?
    Esau Bible Jacob’s twin brother who loses his birthright. Sheshi, Hyksos king?
    Ezer Bible Son of Ephraim. Apophis A-User-Re, Hyksos king?
    Gilead Bible Son of Machir and great-grandson of Joseph. Father of Shemidah.
    Gilgamesh Mesopotamia Mythical king of the Great Flood whose story is very similar to
    that of Noah.
    Hammurabi Mesopotamia Famous king of the Babylonian empire. Known for his Code of
    Laws. Abraham’s “lord”? Ba’al Berith after death?
    Haran Bible Son of Terah and brother of Abraham. Father of Lot.
    Ibi-Sin Mesopotamia King of Ur. During his reign, Abraham’s ancestors, the Amorites, rise to
    power.
    Ishmael Bible Abraham’s son with his servant, Hagar. The Muslims believe that he
    was the son whom God ordered Abraham to sacrifice.
    Isaac Bible Son given to Sarah by “God”. Heir to the dynasty. Son of Hammurabi?
    Jacob Bible Son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Yakub-Har, Hyksos king?
    Joseph Bible Son of Jacob and great-grandson of Abraham. Father of Manasseh and
    Ephraim. Khyan, Hyksos king?
    Joshua Bible Succeeds Moses in leading the Exodus of the Hebrew people.
    Kamose Egypt Theban king of the 17th dynasty. Son of Seqenenre Tao. Involved in the
    expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt.
    Kedor-Laomer Bible King of Elam. Fights in the war against Sodom. Siwe Palar
    Khuppak, king of Elam?
    Khamudi Hyksos Last Hyksos king. Flees to Sharuhen and finally capitulates
    after a three-year siege. Biblical Shemidah?
    Khyan Hyksos Hyksos king. Biblical Joseph?
    Laban Bible Son of Bethuel. Jacob takes refuge with him for several years and marries his
    daughters, Leah and Rachel.
    Leah Bible Daughter of Laban. Jacob’s first wife.
    Lot Bible Son of Haran and nephew of Abraham. Lives in Sodom. Kidnapped during the
    War of Kings.
    Manasseh Bible Son of Joseph. Yanassi, son of Khyan?
    Machir Bible Son of Manasseh and grandson of Joseph. Father of Gilead.
    Marduk Mesopotamia Important god of Babylon. Equivalent to the god (and not the
    title) Ba’al.
    Melchizedek Bible Usually called “King of Salem”. Pagan priest and peace advisor.
    Celebrates Abraham’s victory against the four eastern kings. Oliciates a local covenant
    between Abraham and the righteous King of Sodom?
    Moses Bible High priest and legislator of the Hebrew people, whom he leads out of Egypt
    during the Exodus.
    Nahor Bible Son of Terah and brother of Abraham. Father of Bethuel.
    Naram-Sin Mesopotamia Akkadian king. Expands the borders of the Empire. First to
    proclaim himself a “living king”.
    Rachel Bible Daughter of Laban and wife of Jacob.
    Rebekah Bible Daughter of Bethuel and wife of Isaac.
    Rim-Sin I Mesopotamia King of Larsa, captured by Hammurabi. Generally associated
    with Eriaku. Biblical Arioch?
    Salatis Hyksos First Hyksos king. Biblical Isaac?
    Samsu-iluna Mesopotamia Hammurabi’s heir. Tests Abraham’s loyalty after his father’s
    death?
    Sarai, Sarah Bible Daughter of Terah. Half-sister and wife of Abraham. Goddess Asherah
    (i.e. Ba’alah Sarah)?
    Sargon of Akkad Mesopotamia Akkadian king. First to unify Mesopotamia, creating a
    vast empire.
    Seqenenre Tao Egypt Theban king of the 17th dynasty. Wages war against the
    Hyksos. Dies a violent death.
    Siwe Palar Khuppak Mesopotamia King of Elam, contemporary of Hammurabi. Plots to
    defeat Hammurabi, who emerges victorious. Biblical Kedor-Laomer?
    Shemidah Bible Great-grandson of Manasseh. Khamudi, last Hyksos king?
    Sheshi Hyksos Second Hyksos king. Biblical Esau?
    Solomon Bible King of Jerusalem at the turn of the millennium. Builds the Temple of
    Jerusalem.
    Terah Bible Father of Abraham, Nahor, Haran and Sarah. He leaves Ur for Canaan.
    Tidal Bible Fights in the War of Kings against Sodom. Tudhaliya, Hittite king?
    Tudhaliya Mesopotamia Hittite king who was likely a contemporary of Hammurabi.
    Biblical Tidal?
    Ur-Nammu Mesopotamia King of Ur. First to build ziggurats.
    Yakub-Har Hyksos Third Hyksos king. Biblical Jacob?
    Yanassi Hyksos Son of Khyan. Biblical Manasseh?
    Patriarchs’ Genealogy – corrected
    The Near East during the Bronze Age
    Acknowledgements
    I will be forever grateful to Christine, love of my life and my first critic, for her inémesurable
    patience and constant encouragement. I also want to extend sincere thanks to my mother
    Myrèse, whose genuine faith brought me to seek authenticity in the scriptures, as well as to
    my father Raymond, for his invaluable support and tireless ear.
    I would also like to express my love and thanks to my family and friends, especially my
    daughters, Émilie and Chloé, as well as Jennie and Kelly, and to my colleague and business
    partner, David, for putting up with me. They are a constant source of inspiration and
    motivation.
    I also want to express my gratitude to professor Robert David for being such a great source
    of motivation and an excellent Hebrew teacher, even though we could never see eye to eye
    on the subject of the historicity of Abraham.
    The initial English translation of ‘Quiproquo sur Dieu’ was undertaken by Ann Marie
    Boulanger, prior to the inclusion of significant additions. Most of these were subsequently
    revised by Timothy Gorman and Sandra Lange. I wish to express my deep gratitude to each
    of them for their invaluable assistance and the extensive time they dedicated to this
    project. However, as I have made substantial changes to this latest edition, I assume full
    responsibility for any remaining typos and grammatical errors, which are undoubtedly my
    own.
    This book would remain incomplete without a very special thanks to Claude Émilie Marec
    and André Serra, who were first to believe and commit to this project by publishing
    Quiproquo sur Dieu, as well as to Alex Zieba for his great support and feedback. Finally, I
    want to thank the following readers for their support and encouragements: Daniel
    Anderson, Brian Austin, Daniel Baril, Michel Boutin, François Brochu, Marcel Bruneau,
    Robert David, Dominic Desroches, Michel Feeney, James the Skeptical Heaten, Gary
    Gruber, Scott Hansen, Maurice Lafleur, Gérard Laurençon, Stella Mathon, Valéda
    Melanson, Julie Mercier, Jean-Paul Michon, Jean-Pierre Mouvaux, Michel Pion, Thierry
    Pouliart, André Reny, Andréa Richard, Normand Rousseau, Howard Solomon, Paul-André
    Turcotte and Michel Virard.
    List of illustrations
    1: Abrahamic narratives as a retro-projection of a mythical past 32
    2: Traditional religious interpretation 50
    3: Contextual use of the terms Yahweh and Elohim (original) 65
    4: Contextual use of the terms Yahweh and Elohim (relevant) 66
    5: Secular interpretation of the covenant 71
    6: Abrahamic faith as the evolution of a deified overlord 143
    7: The Fertile Crescent 147
    8: Ancient Trade Routes 148
    9: Mesopotamia 157
    10: The Plympton tablet (Bronze Age) 162
    11: Cuneiform numbers 162
    12: A constellation for each lunar cycle 164
    13: Beth Alpha Synagogue in Jerusalem (6th century CE) 165
    14: Nabonidus’ cylinder (6th century BCE) 169
    15: Solving conversion error using the 6/10 multiplier 170
    16: Egypt 177
    17: Step pyramid of Djoser 178
    18: Region of Canaan 191
    19: Bronze statue of the Ur Dynasty 193
    20: Taanach cult stand 201
    21: Temple of Ba’al Berith in Shechem (near Nablus) 215
    22: The goddess Hathor 218
    23: Latin alphabet, Modern Hebrew, and Proto-Sinaitic 219
    24: Evolution of the letter “A” 220
    25: Egyptian scarab amulet: Lord of the fly? 244
    26: Sargon of Akkad 255
    27: The empire of Sargon of Akkad 256
    28: The empire of Naram-Sin 259
    29: The Gutian empire 260
    30: Ziggurat of Nanna (2100-2050 BCE) 262
    31: Marduk gives the rod and the ring to Hammurabi 265
    32: Hammurabi’s Babylonian empire 266
    33: Presumed head of Hammurabi 267
    34: Detailed view of Hammurabi’s Code 268
    35: Hammurabi’s Code 272
    36: Migration of Abraham’s ancestors 278
    37: The War of Kings 286
    38: Trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt 288
    39: Samsu-Iluna secures Abraham’s loyalty 290
    40: Epicenter of the eruption of Mount Thera (Santorini) 292
    41: Dynasties of the Second Intermediate Period 302
    42: The famine in Egypt 309
    43: Hyksos sphinx – king Apepi 315
    44: Ephraim and Apophis 320
    45: The shepherd kings 323
    46: Dating the Exodus 328
    47 : The Battle of Kadesh 329
    48: Joshua’s conquest of the Dark Ages 336
    49: Rising price of slaves over time 349
    50: Frequency of new constructions expressing a present state 351
    51 : Adoption rate of theophoric names (late composition) 353
    52 : Adoption rate of theophoric names (early composition) 354
    53: The ark of the covenant 357
    54 : Timeline according to the deified overlord hypothesis 381
    Iconography
    I would like to thank the following people and institutions for allowing me to use the
    copyrighted images and photos in this book.
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11,
    12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21,
    22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 31,
    32, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41,
    42, 44, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50,
    51, 52, 54: © Bernard Lamborelle
    17: © iStockphoto.com/Mark Goddard
    19: © iStockphoto.com/Fabio Bianchini
    34: © iStockphoto.com/John Said
    Public domain images reproduced with permission:
    10: University of British Columbia (1)
    13: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    14: Marco Prins and Jona Lendering (1)
    20: Israel Antiquities Authority/Israel Museum
    25: Oriental Institute Museum, 1896 (scarab)
    26: Iraqi Directorate General of Antiquities
    30: Lasse Jensen, 2004
    33, 34, 35: Fritz-Milkau-Dia-Sammlung
    43, 45: Boston Public Library’s photostream (1)
    53: James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)(1)
    (1) GNU Free Documentation License:
    Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted worldwide, without
    royalty, in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
    (2) Project Gutenberg License:
    This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions
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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    BERNARD LAMBORELLE is a secular humanist with an engineering degree from École de
    Technologie Supérieure. In 2003, a simple question triggered a lengthy and passionate
    investigation into the origin of the Abrahamic faith. He first published Quiproquo sur Dieu
    (ed. Editas) in2009, which received praises from a few, left many dubitative, and
    raised excellent questions that called for answers. This led him to sign up for a Master in
    Theology at Université de Montréal in 2011, where he studied biblical Hebrew, historicalcritical
    methods and narrative analysis. Armed with this new academic background, he
    widened the scope of his analysis to develop a comprehensive evolutionary model on the
    origin of monotheism.