Yahwist Notes: Gen 12:1-9 Abraham’s Migration to Canaan

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Opposing Narrative: Abraham did not leave his country, kindred or father’s house

Yahweh did not show Abraham the land?

Israel was not a great nation (because northern tribes only, not southern tribes?)

Abraham’s name was not great?

Yahweh did not bless Abraham?

Yahweh did not tell him to go to Canaan?

Lot did not go with Abraham?

Alternative explanation for altar at Oak of Moreh?

Altar’s were alternative explanations for boundary markers?

Yahweh did not appear to Abraham?

Alternative explanation for altar between Bethel and Ai?

Yahwist has to migrate Abraham to the Negev to show that the southern tribes were part of Israel?

From around the web:

Some help from @Elishabenabuya

Yahwist Notes: Gen 11 Tower of Babel

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Opposing narrative: The whole earth was not one language?

Why was it important that they migrated from the east?

Bricks mentioned because it enable mortals to make the tower?

Why are they concerned about being scattered abroad?

Mortals built the city and tower...not gods?

“Us” used like in Genesis 2-3 in regards to Yahweh and the gods - Yahwist had to because Opposing narrative used plural gods?

Genesis definition for Babel does not fit and it an alternative explanation for the name.

It was Yahweh that confused the language...not another god?

It was Yahweh that scattered them...not another god?

City and tower were built, not just the tower

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 9 Naked Noah & Canaan's Curse

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Shem, Ham, Japheth and Canaan were not sons of Noah? They did not come out of the ark?

Noah was not a man of the soil, was not the first to plant a vineyard?

“Lay uncovered” in this text stresses it was just nakedness

Only two brothers outside?

Is putting garment on shoulders a euphemism for authority?

“Their father” was not their father?

They did not see their father’s nakedness means they did?

“Youngest son” means not his youngest son did it to him?

“to him” means he did it to someone else?

Lowest of slaves means he was not lowest of slaves (slave of slaves)?

“His brothers” means they were not his brothers?

Yahweh was not the God of Shem?

Canaan was not Shem’s slave?

Lots of ambiguity around seeing nakedness of father

Putting cloak over Noah because he was dead?

Noah was not originally part of the flood story?

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 5-8 Noah & The Flood

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

Lamech one of Sumerian kings?

Lamech father son, mirrored would make Noah a girl

Noah name meaning and name explanation don’t match

Gen 2 alternative explanation for Noah’s name?

Emphasis on Yahweh destroying humankind (and animals) 2x

Emphasis on Yahweh making humankind 2x

Why an ark and not a boat like other Mesopotamian flood accounts?

J seems to be stressing that no other than Noah and family survived the flood - Abel too

Emphasis on soil, ground, earth

Flood under whole heave = no distant survivors

Shift family line before flood, now they are part of another family

Why raven and dove? Raven does not return, has to use dove to confirm?

Emphasis on Noah being the one who made the ark

Emphasis on birds not returning anymore

Why an olive leaf?

Yahweh doesn’t realize that humans are continuously evil, as if they could have paused from being evil?

Yahwist concerned to show that Yahweh was justified in flood

Humankind was alternative reason for ground being cursed?

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 4 Cain & Abel

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

This is the first of brotherly rivalries for the Yahwist: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau.

Eve had produced a man (Adam) by herself? J spins this to sex with Adam and producing Cain with help of Yahweh?

Cain’s birth alternative explanation for the meaning of Cain’s name? kan (qayin, "spear" or "smith," resembling in sound the root qanah, "get," "acquire,"

Abel is referred to as Cain’s brother 7x, indicating that he was not Cain’s brother in the opposing narrative.

broader theme- soil tillers, Adam, Cain and Noah vs Nomadic?

Yahweh did not have regard for Cain’s because the ground had been previously cursed?

J stresses the reason for why Cain was very angry and countenance fallen indicating that the opposing narrative gave a different reason

Originally Cain said “Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance”. J’s spins this so that Yahweh says it about Cain. Just like Lamech said it himself

“Sin lurking at door” originally referred to demon?

Abze was Sumerian god of water. Ab El was Hebrew equivalent?

Cain suggesting going out to field would suggest premeditated murder

Ground originally opened its mouth to swallow Abel like Korah, but J spins this to Abel’s blood, not Abel himself.

Lots of ambiguity with the phrase “My punishment is greater than I can bear” in the Hebrew. Could suggest that it was used one way in opposing narrative but J is using it in a different way.

Cain’s being driven away from the face of Yahweh is J’s explanation as to why there was no account of Cain worshiping Yahweh?

Cain’s punishment of wandering was J’s alternative explanation for the name origin of the Land of Nod?

Yahweh’s protection is J’s alternative explanation for Cain’s mark?

Cain’s family line is parallel to Sumerian king list?

I’m very interested to learn more about how Sumerian creation myth relates to J’s account.

Why is J concerned with family line of Noah?

Irad was first Sumerian city? Why does J list it?

Names with El: Mehujael, Methushael, Abel

Names with Yahweh: Adah, Zillah

Names with Baal: Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-cain

Jabel parallel to Abel - livestock, Tubal-cain parallel to Cain - smith?

J stressing that Adah and Zillah were Lamech’s wives indicates that they were not.

What’s up with J’s preoccupation with “soil”?

J’s stressing that Enoch was Cain’s son indicates that he was not.

Lamech’s son’s originally divine as they brought music and metallurgy?

From around the web:

Yahwist Notes: Gen 2-3 Garden of Eden

The following are rough notes as I read through the Yahwist. I’m using Tzemah Yoreh’s source attribution for the Yahwist. You can view all of my notes of the Yahwist series here. Some ideas presented here may seem ridiculous, but no idea is too stupid during this phase. I’m not that concerned with grammar or spelling either. My thoughts and ideas will likely alter significantly by the time I produce a full mirror-reading of the Yahwist, but this gives you an idea of “how the sausage is made”. Feel free to share comments and/or links you think I might find helpful.

The “Lord God” is used extensively throughout this section, presumably to combine the identities of both Yahweh and Elohim. Only Elohim is used is a few instances. Why? Is this because those instances had already been attributed to Elohim and J doesn’t feel like he can alter previous text? Is Yahweh spinning a pre-existing narrative about Elohim’s creation story?

“Made heaven and earth” There seems to be an emphasis on Yahweh’s ability to provide fertility. But also an emphasis on his “earthiness”. Was Yahweh only seen as a heavenly God? Or a strictly “earthy” God?

“The Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth”. Is this an alternative explanation for lack of vegetation on the ground?

There is an emphasis that man was formed from the dust of the ground. Was J responding to a different type of formation of man?

Placement of the garden seems to be more near Babylon that Israel. Does this indicate a exilic or post-exilic account? Tower of Babel is also along the same lines. What’s with the obsession with Babylon when it is supposedly a Israelite account?

“Gold of the land was good” Never heard of gold that wasn’t good. What is the significance of this?

It’s interesting that the “Tree of LIfe” pops up in other ancient literature but Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil does not. Could be this is an assertion by J into the original narrative. The serpent was viewed and giver of wisdom. J may be trying to shift origin of wisdom away from serpent and to the Tree of Knowledge. Eve “saw that it was good” even before eating, providing an explanation for the serpent to providing insight but the “real” good and evil was in the tree.

Perhaps Heiser is right…..and wrong. Perhaps the original narrative did have a divine being but J spins it to make it a more earthly serpent.

“Not good to be alone” another instance of Yahweh recognize good/not good.

Why the emphasis of Adam over the animals?

Why counter the idea that an animal was found to be Adam’s helper?

Lots of ambiguity in the text. This is usually indicative of the Biblical author taking pre-existing narrative and trying to spin it in a different direction.

“One Flesh” is about breaking family ties between the wife and her family. Keener sees this too. But why is it an issue when J writes?

Ambiguous language with the serpent. Is “crafty” good or bad? Perhaps good in the original narrative but J makes it bad. Spinning the ambiguity.

Perhaps the original narrative said the serpentine being gave wisdom to the woman and the woman gave wisdom to the man. The tree undercuts this and wisdom is given by eating the fruit, J shows that the man and women receive wisdom at the same time - both of their eyes were open simultaneously. Nakedness is used as a tool to show this.

Hiding - J seems to be providing an alternative explanation as to why they hid, emphasizing the it was because they heard the “Sound” of God walking

“Who told you that you were naked?” Perhaps in the original narrative the serpent told them they were naked. God’s question seems out of place here and could be a spin by J.

The curses seem to have to do with fertility: Toil and the land, pain and pregnancy, serpent eating dust has tones of famine. This sets up for Noah to reverse the famine curse. There may be a tie in with Cain too as he becomes cursed from the ground.

Enmity between offspring - this has to be at least a parallel to Israel and some other offspring. Will look for clues and I work through J.

I don’t think J’s narrative is meant to be allegory although there may be parallels. His work is propaganda and was meant to be taken as literal even if it was fiction.

“You have listened to the voice of your wife” could be a theme with J. I recall Abraham getting into trouble for listening to Sarah. But why an issue during J’s time?

Eve’s name is ambiguous meaning. Could have been related to serpent in original narrative. J spins it to mean mother of all living.

Garments of skin or garment for skin. Ambiguous. Perhaps original narrative had garments made of another material.

Cherubim. Lots of parallel’s to Temple, which is a major thing for J

From around the web:

Bernard Lamborelle vs Mirror-Reading

 image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Update 10-14-18: Bernard has written a response. Be sure to check out “Facing Cognitive Dissonance"!

This is a compare and contrast between two different approaches regarding Abraham and Yahweh.  This is the 3rd compare and contrast post that I’ve done.  Be sure to check out my compare and contrast posts of John Piper (Romans 8:28) and allegorical interpretation (Genesis 1).

I first discovered Bernard on The Non-Sequitur Show and respect his novel interpretation, a rarity in a field dominated by tradition. I find him to be cordial, open-minded and graceful in his interactions with others. Ultimately, though, I disagree with his position. Bernard has invited others to critique his work, so I am taking him up on that invitation. However, my focus won’t be on disproving his theory (although I’ll make a few points about that), but rather comparing and contrasting it to my own theory derived from mirror-reading, which I feel offers a better explanation of the Biblical text in question.  

This post won’t be a thorough presentation of his views, so if you want to know the details of his argument be sure to check out his website, or buy his book. I will only be quoting or briefly summarizing his positions just enough to contrast with my own. Having said that though, if Bernard feels I’ve misrepresented him here or would like to clarify something, I will certainly add it to this post.

This post will also be limited in scope.  Bernard’s analysis covers Genesis 12-25, but mine will only include the Elohist’s Genesis 20-22, the Yahwist’s Genesis 13,18-19 and the Bridger's Genesis 14.

There are a few things that Bernard and I agree on however, and I will mention those things before I get into our differences.

Niche Market

We both are proposing novel ideas about the Bible, and there isn’t exactly a large market for that sort of thing.  As Bernard explains:

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 a myth don’t have much interest in learning more about it.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 10). Kindle Edition.

Original Intent

We both seek to discover what was the original intent of the Biblical text. Bernard asks:

How can we steer towards the original intent rather than stray away from it?

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 51). Kindle Edition.

Our methods lead us to different conclusions, but we both share the same desire for original authorial intent.

Abraham Existed

Bernard argues that Abraham actually existed in history. I also believe that he existed in history (or, at least, the original readers thought he existed in history).  Bernard believes this because historical and archaeological evidence allows for him to exist in the time-frame described in the Bible.  I believe he existed because mirror-reading shows that the Biblical author assumed the original reader believed that there were descendants of Abraham (see Elohist: Abraham Cycle).

Now onto our differences:

Dissociative Exegesis vs Mirror-Reading

Bernard’s approach to the text is what he calls “dissociative exegesis”.

To help put things into perspective, it would now be useful to adopt the paradigm of an earthly covenant and revisit the Abrahamic narrative through the eyes of the inhabitants of Sodom. This is achieved by performing what I refer to as a dissociative exegesis, an exercise of textual analysis that invites you to assess the story of Abraham in the Bible while: 1) Identifying and dissociating the humanistic Yahweh from the immaterial Elohim. 2) Picturing Yahweh as a powerful Mesopotamian overlord (i.e., Baal Berith) in league with the four Eastern Kings.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 67). Kindle Edition.

I, on the other hand, use a technique called “mirror-reading”.  Mirror-reading is the process of mirroring the text in order to recreate the opposing narrative that the Biblical author was responding to.  So, for example, if the Biblical writer says to do “x”, then the opposing narrative may have been saying not to do “x”.  Of course, not all of the text should be mirrored, and I use causal connections to help determine my mirror-reading.  If you’d like to learn more details, please check out my about page. It should be noted that most of the mirror-reading in this post is only a cursory mirror-reading.  If you'd like to see mirror-readings with my methodology fully applied, check out those listed as such on this page.

Secular History or Political Propaganda?

Bernard believes that the text in question was secular history that was later theologized by later Biblical authors.  Yahweh was a powerful human (Hammurabi is his leading candidate) who eventually became deified by later writers of the Bible.

I believe the text was political propaganda that was later theologized by readers of the Bible. That propaganda is still there in the text, but later readers, unfamiliar with the original political concerns, would force theological meaning into the text.  Fortunately, mirror-reading can help us reconstruct what those original political concerns were.  I’ve discerned many of those concerns in the Elohist Source and the Northern Book of Judges.

Dr. Steven DiMattei writes:

In the majority of cases, scribes wrote for a scribal guild or a monarch. As patrons of their kings, one of the responsibilities of the court scribe was to write political propaganda—that is literature that advertised, endorsed, and legitimated the king’s policies and even his ascension to the throne if need be.

http://contradictionsinthebible.com/the-yahwist-2/

This explains why Biblical authors include such terrible moral examples in their text.  It is because they are not concerned with morality. The political agenda was primary.  If Abraham has to lie, Samson has to sleep with prostitutes and genocide has to be committed against the Amorites, that was fine, as long as it supported the political agenda of the Biblical author. This also means the writers weren’t concerned about what actually happened in history and so, undercuts Bernard’s secular history view of the text.

2 Gods or 1 God + 1 Man?

Bernard believes Yahweh was a man, and that later scribes made him into God and used the term “Elohim”.  This is a problem for Bernard because he needs the text to say “Yahweh” and not “Elohim” in certain places.  This leads him to attack the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP Theory) first developed by Wellhausen.

Wellhausen’s theory centers around Genesis being written by different authors (sources) and spliced together to produce the finished product.  As such, Elohim was God of northern Israel in the Elohist Source, and Yahweh was the God of Southern Israel in the Yahwist Source. When the sources were mixed together, the God’s identities became combined.  Bernard argues that the Documentary Hypothesis is now seriously contested because it has been proven incomplete and flawed.

Exploring a different hypothesis is therefore in line with the current post-Documentary trend, which, as seen earlier, suggests that the unification of the two terms does not result from the assembly of separate sources, as presupposed by Wellhausen, but is instead the result of a slow cultural evolution. The gradual amalgamation of the terms Yahweh and Elohim would eventually take place in the minds of the Hebrews as they sought to merge two powerful figures into a single entity.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 50). Kindle Edition.

This “gradual amalgamation” of the terms “Yahweh” and “Elohim” allows Bernard to switch out Elohim for Yahweh wherever it suits his needs based on later scribal error or bias.

I disagree and believe the Documentary Hypothesis has evolved since Wellhausen and seems to be alive and well today. To assign all Elohim references to the Elohist source and all Yahweh references to the Yahwist source is an oversimplification and a misrepresentation of the current Documentary Hypothesis. Although I agree that the classical Documentary Hypothesis should be rejected, I believe the Supplementary Hypothesis is the correct approach, specifically as developed by Tzemah Yoreh at biblecriticism.com. This hypothesis says that there were separate sources, but instead of being spliced together, each author built upon the previous author.  This allows the Yahwist and other sources to use the name Elohim when they see fit. When we add political propaganda to the mix, we see that the Biblical authors were taking the already accepted text of the previous author and spinning it with their own additions to support their political agenda.

In the case of the names Elohim and Yahweh, this is also the case.  The Elohist is the earliest of the sources and thus, is not concerned at all with Yahweh.  The Yahwist however, is building on the text of the Elohist and spinning it to his political propaganda: Combining the identities of Northern Israel and Southern Judea. This strategy is first seen in the Northern Book of Judges (developed independently of the Elohist text), when it’s author (N) uses parallel descriptions, one with Elohim and one with Yahweh, in an effort to equate the two names as one, in order to produce a unified national identity. As a side note, “Elohim” may have just been a generic name for “God”.  The Elohist source seems to be concerned with making sure the Israelites worshiped the “Elohim” of the land of Canaan and not the “Elohim” of some other land.

So, although I agree we should avoid an Elohim/Yahweh false dichotomy of sources, I believe the Supplementary Hypothesis and mirror-reading provide the best explanation of the Biblical text.  When I’ve mirror-read the sources as attributed by Tzemah, each source has shown that they address the political concerns that were prevalent at the time that they were written.

Babylonian King or Edomite God?

Bernard argues that Yahweh was originally king Hammurabi. So that would make his origins from Babylon.  But that’s not what the Biblical writers seem to be responding to.  A number of Biblical passages seem to indicate that the origins of Yahweh was from Edom.

The absence of the name ‘Yahweh’ in West Semitic epigraphy (except for the Mesha Stela) agrees well with the biblical evidence on Yahweh’s origins. A number of poetic - and presumably archaic - texts have preserved the memory of a topographical link between Yahweh and the mountain area south of Eom. In these theophany texts Yahweh is said to come from Seir, from ‘the field(s) of Edom’ (Judges 5:4;note the correction in Psalm 68:8[7]). According to the Blessing of Moses Yahweh comes from Sinai, ‘dawns from Seir’, and ‘shines forth’ from Mount Paran (Deuteronomy 33:2). Elsewhere he is said to come from Teman and Mount Paran (Habakkuk 3:3). The reference to ‘Yahweh of Teman’ in one of the Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions is an extra-biblical confirmation of the topographical connection. All of these place - Seir, Mt Paran, Teman, and Sinai - are in or near Edom.

Karel van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Syria & Israel pg 282

Toorn lumps Sinai in with Edom, but I disagree since Elohim from Sinai was already established in the Moses Cycle of the Elohist source, but that it had more to do with accusations that Moses was a Midianite than it did with the God of Israel having Midianite origins.  In the Deborah/Barak/Jael Cycle, N attempts to equate Yahweh with the Elohist’s God of Sinai.  It’s important to note that N was not saying that Yahweh was from Edom, only that he was responding to accusations that He was. Which raises the question, if Yahweh was from Babylon, why are Biblical authors responding to accusations that Yahweh was from Edom? If Yahweh was a man, he was a man from Edom.

Son of Hammurabi or Son of Abimelech (Genesis 20-22)?

Bernard argues that Isaac was the son of Yahweh, who was a man (most likely Hammurabi).  This is because Hammurabi had made a covenant with Abraham, and an heir was needed to continue it. Abraham could not produce a child with Sarah (because she was his half-sister), and Ishmael was not acceptable because of his Egyptian bloodline. So Hammurabi steps in and impregnates Sarah himself.

I see a couple of issues with that argument.  One, the text says Sarah could not conceive because she was past menopause.  It wouldn’t of mattered what man tried to impregnate her, she was out of eggs. Second, this would be a highly unusual strategy to solidify an alliance. The typical way to do so would have been for Hammurabi to offer one of his daughters for Abraham to take as another wife. In an honor/shame culture, having another man impregnate his wife would have been devastating to Abraham’s honor and a great humiliation.  Furthermore, any future potential allies would have been reluctant to enter into any kind of agreement with Hammurabi upon hearing of how he solved the issue with Abraham. Finally, this would have been against Hammurabi’s very own law code as Bernard points out in his book when talking about Abimelech:

Incidentally, Hammurabi’s code of law prohibits a man from sleeping with another man’s wife, a crime one would think would be especially reprehensible if committed with the wife of his representative: § 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.

Lamborelle, Bernard. The Covenant: On the Origin of the Abrahamic Faith, by Means of Deification (p. 290). Kindle Edition.

Regardless, I think mirror-reading provides a better explanation for the text. For this section, I’ll only be mirror-reading the Elohist Source in order to understand its original purpose.  You can view the source material I used here.

The opposing narrative said that Isaac was the son of Abimelech because he had been with Sarah, and Sarah couldn’t have been Abraham’s wife because she was his sister. And although Abraham had taken custody of Isaac later in life, he had sacrificed Isaac.  So Abraham’s inheritance should not go to anyone claiming to be Isaac’s descendants but instead should go to Abraham’s other son(s).

If that is true, then we would expect the Elohist to counter those ideas in his narrative. He does this in a few different ways:

Isaac was Abraham’s son

Isaac is repeatedly referred to as Abraham’s son throughout the narrative.  Also, Abraham and Isaac repeatedly refer to each other as father and son in dialogue. The Elohist repeatedly mentions that Sarah is Abraham’s wife and provides an alternative explanation as to why it was thought Sarah was his sister:  Abraham only said that because he was afraid.  Sarah is repeatedly described as bearing Isaac to Abraham.

Abraham only had one son

Elohim declares that Isaac is Abraham’s only son. Hagar’s son is one possible candidate for being Abraham’s son but is disregarded by the Elohist and cut out from Abraham’s inheritance.   Referring to Hagar as a “slave woman” further de-legitimizes Hagar’s son as a potential heir.

Although speculative, the two young men, who accompanied Abraham and Isaac en-route to the sacrifice of Isaac, could have also been argued to be Abraham’s sons. This could also be the reason why they are anonymous, since naming them would have given their descendants an excuse to claim Abraham's inheritance.

Make the sacrifice of Isaac ambiguous

Isaac carrying the wood and the knife himself would bolster the idea that there were no witnesses to what transpired, since the two young men would not be needed to carry the items. This is the Elohist’s way of questioning the two young men’s testimony.  They never actually saw Isaac being sacrificed.

The Elohist writing Isaac back to life is not the only time a Biblical writer implements this strategy.  The Elohist will do it again with Joseph to integrate Ephraim and Manasseh into the Israelite family, and the Yahwist will do it with Lot to cut out any common ancestors with the Israelites. .  

For a detailed overview on Isaac and the opposing narrative that the Elohist was responding to, be sure to check out my podcast episode and blog post.

Land Covenant with Hammurabi or Land Dispute with the Moabites and Ammonites? (Genesis 13,18-19)

Bernard argues that Sodom and the other cities were destroyed because they rebelled against the man, Yahweh (again, Hammurabi).  The supernatural destruction is really about a military conquest.  

Again, I think mirror-reading provides a better explanation. For this section, I’ll only be mirror-reading the Yahwist in order to understand its original purpose. You can view the source material I used here.

The Elohist source does not include the tribes of Southern Israel as part of the Abrahamic tradition.  In an attempt to unify the southern and northern tribes of the Israel, the Yahwist attempts to write the southern tribes into the tradition. The story of Sodom is part of that strategy.  

The narrative that was opposing the Yahwist was saying that the southern tribes and land were part of the Moabite and Ammonite tribes.  That was because they shared a common ancestor that was a descendant of Lot, who lived in Sodom and had died during its destruction.

If that is true, then we would expect the Yahwist to counter those ideas in his narrative. He does this in a few different ways:

Remove Common Ancestors of Southern Israel, the Moabites and the Ammonites

The Yahwist does this by cutting out any common ancestors that may have descended from Lot. This is done by limiting Lot’s children.  The Yahwist only gives him two daughters.  The angels/messengers highlight this:

  • "Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city--bring them out of the place."

Even if Lot had other children, his two daughters were the only ones to survive the destruction of Sodom.

Second, the Yahwist needed to prevent Lot from having anymore children. He does this by turning his wife into a pillar of salt, and then making Lot a hermit who lives in a cave with no or very little outside contact.

Third, the Yahwist needed to make Lot survive the destruction of Sodom.  You can see a few instances where the Yahwist is countering the idea that Lot had died:

  • "they brought him out and left him outside the city."

  • “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.”

  • "you have shown me great kindness in saving my life;"

  • "for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die."

  • "and my life will be saved!”

The Yahwist makes it so that Lot is in Sodom but escapes with his life.  But the Yahwist’s critics would ask, “If Lot had survived Sodom, why is there no record of him after it’s destruction”?  Again, the hermit/living in a cave aspect serves another purpose here by also explaining why no one heard of Lot after the destruction of Sodom.

Fourth, Lot’s daughters needed to be made virgins so that no common ancestors could come from them.

  • "Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man;"

In addition to explicitly stating they are virgins, the fact that Lot is able to offer his daughters shows that they are not married and still the “property” of Lot.

However, the Yahwist also had to deal with the common held belief that Lot had son-in-laws. He does this by making them not yet married to his daughters and then killing them in Sodom’s destruction:

  • "So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up, get out of this place; But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting."

Now with Lot and his daughters secluded in a cave, the Yahwist is free to cut out any common ancestors with the Israelites, and make Lot the direct father of the Moabites and Ammonites by telling of their incestuous relationship.  (This same type of strategy will be used by a later source when he makes Sarah Abraham’s half-sister, thereby cutting out those who would have been part of her maternal family.)

However, the Yahwist wants to keep a cordial relationship with the Moabites and Ammonites and will still keep a family tie between them and Israel by making Abraham and Lot brothers. Later sources will further the relational distance by making Lot the nephew of Abraham.

In addition, the Yahwist will make both Abraham and Lot servants of Yahweh in order to further the bond and promote Yahweh as Israel’s God.

Separating Abraham and Lot

With Abraham and Lot as direct relatives, the Yahwist needs to separate them so that there is no confusion about who the land and people in Southern Israel belong to.

First, since the Abrahamic tradition originates in the north, the Yahwist needs to get Abraham into the South.  He does this first by migrating Abraham from the north to Egypt and back again, then by moving him to Hebron.  Notice that the Yahwist points out that Lot is with Abraham:

  • "and Lot with him,"

  • "Now Lot, who went with Abram,"

After getting Lot and Abraham together in the south, the Yahwist makes a clear but cordial break between the two. This is done by Abraham giving Lot the choice of land.  Lot takes the plain of the Jordan and Abraham takes Canaan.

  • "thus they separated from each other."

Critics of the Yahwist would ask, “Why would Lot choose the plain of the Jordan when Canaan was the better land?”.  This is countered by saying that, before the destruction of Sodom, “the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt”.

After their separation, Yahweh then gives his promise of the land of Canaan.  Notice:

  • "The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him,"

Then the promise:

  • "Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northwards and southwards and eastwards and westwards; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever."

  • "Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you."

Furthermore, the Yahwist will shift Sodom from being Lot’s central location to a border location between Abraham and Lot.  He does this by making Lot an alien in Sodom and saying Lot’s tent had only gone as far as the city:

  • "This fellow came here as an alien"

  • "Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom."

The Yahwist responds to critics who might have claimed that the descendants of Abraham weren’t that many and couldn’t possibly include the southern tribes, by saying that Yahweh would bless Abraham with many descendants:

  • "seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?"

  • "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted."

Where was Abraham?

The opposing narrative was saying that the destruction of Sodom was not caused by Yahweh.  Unfortunately, the text doesn’t appear to give us any hints as to who the opposing narrative said did destroy Sodom, although we may have an answer in Gen. 14 as I will discuss in the next section. Regardless, if Abraham and Lot were brothers, why didn’t Abraham help Lot during the destruction of Sodom?  The Yahwist responds to this criticism by shifting the cause of Sodom’s destruction to Yahweh.  

  • "and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

  • "for the LORD is about to destroy the city.”

  • "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire"

  • "from the LORD out of heaven;"

Abraham cannot interfere because his God is the one doing the destruction.  However, the Yahwist does have Abraham petition Yahweh for leniency. This serves two purposes: one, it shows Abraham did something to try to help Lot.  Two, it helps the Yahwist counter the idea that Yahweh is an unrighteous and unmerciful God. There are a number of instances where the Yahwist attempts to show Yahweh as righteous, merciful and to justify His acts of violence.

  • "by doing righteousness and justice;"

  • "Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?"

  • "Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD."

  • "Then the LORD said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!

  • "But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.” Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly."

  • "13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD"

  • "the LORD being merciful to him"

Furthermore, this issue seems to be a concern throughout the Yahwist Source:

The Flood:

  • "The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually."

  • "Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation."

Abimelech:

  • "Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent people?"

The Israelites:

  • "Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people."

  • See also Numbers 14:15-18

Shifting the time of Isaac’s birth

The Yahwist shifts the time of Isaac’s birth until after the destruction of Sodom, presumably to ensure no ancestral connections between Isaac and Lot’s daughters. In order to do this, he has to show that Sarah was still alive, and that she could have a child in her old age.

  • [Abraham] and his wife [went up from Egypt]

The Yahwist anticipates his critics asking, “If Sarah was alive, why didn’t anyone see her?”.  The Yahwist counters this by saying that she was in the tent.

  • "Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah,"

  • “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”

  • "Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him"

Where was Abraham….Again? (Genesis 14)

Bernard argues that in Genesis 14, Abraham fights and defeats the four Eastern Kings, one of them being the man, Yahweh (who is ultimately Hammurabi).  When Abraham raises his hand in v.22, Bernard takes it to mean raising his hand against Yahweh and not raising it as part of an oath.

Tzemah Yoreh takes Genesis 14 to be a source later than the Yahwist, one he refers to as “The Bridger”.  You can view the source material I used here. Genesis 14 seems to be dealing with a seperate Sodom tradition, one where kings of the east destroy Sodom and not Yahweh.  Regardless of who destroyed Sodom, the Biblical writer needs to write Abraham into the account. I’ve already discussed how the Yahwist writes Abraham into his account.  Now I will show how the Bridger writes Abraham into his account in Genesis 14.

The Bridger needs to prove that Abraham was part of the original Sodom story even though the original Sodom story didn’t include Abraham.  This is similar to when “N” needed to show that Ehud assassinated King Eglon, even though there was no evidence of it.

The Bridger will do this by tacking Abraham onto the end of the Sodom story.  Abraham will defeat the kings of the east after the Battle of Siddim. Again, Lot is made to be alive by being taken prisoner.  In this account, Abraham does do something to help Lot, and he is rescued. The Bridger also shifts the battle from Sodom to the Valley of Siddim. The odd detail of some falling into tar pits may be the spinning by the Bridger of the conquered Sodomites being thrown into the tar pits by the victors.

The Bridger also anticipates his critics asking, “If Abraham defeated the kings of the east, why do we not hear of Abraham taking the spoils of the battle?”.  The Bridger responds by having Abraham returning everything to the king of Sodom and refusing any of the spoil except for his allies.  

  • I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, “I have made Abram rich.”

If Abraham had “lifted his hand” against Yahweh, the words that follow it, make less sense. “ That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take anything that is thine…” - those words are part of an oath and make more sense if Abraham was raising his hand in that regard.

Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20)

Since such a small amount of text deals with Melchizedek, it is difficult to mirror-read. I can only make a few broad points.

Bernard’s theory has Melchizedek giving the tithe to Abraham.  Although that interpretation may be possible, it would be unusual.  People usually gave tithes to priests, and priests would give a blessing. To turn the tithe around would be going against the grain. Furthermore, Abraham says that he wouldn’t accept anything from the King of Sodom, so it wouldn’t make sense for Abraham to receive a tithe from all, if “all” included the King of Sodom.

Remember, the Biblical writer is not concerned about what actually happened in history but how his writing would affect his readers.  So we must ask, what does this have to with the descendants of Abraham and the descendants of Melchizedek?  This is difficult to answer since we’re not sure who the descendants of Melchizedek were.  However, it does seem to promote the idea that it was okay for the descendants of Abraham to give tithes to the descendants of Melchizedek.  There are some interesting connections with the Zadokite priesthood that could be at play here.  I won’t go into detail about that in this post, but simply point you to the wikipedia page as a starting point for those who might want to look into that possibility.

Additionally, the strategy being employed by using the name Yahweh here is to equate it with El Elyon. This is the same strategy used throughout the Northern Book of Judges to equate Yahweh with Elohim.

 

Saul - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Saul Cycle is primarily concerned with promoting the descendants of Jonathan over all of Israel, forming a strong Israelite military force, and showing that Yahweh was Israel’s God. If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Saul Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. The descendants of Jonathan should not be king over all of Israel
2. because Jonathan was not the son of Saul
3. because Saul was a different person
4. because Kish did not have a son named Saul
5. because Saul was not a tall and handsome man
6. because Saul was not a Benjaminite
7. because Kish did not have a son named Saul
8. because Saul was not from the land of Benjamin
9. because Saul killed Jonathan
10. because Saul was in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and Jonathan was in Gibeah of Benjamin;
11. because a Benjaminite should not be king over all Israel
12. because Samuel never anointed Saul to be king
13. because Saul did not eat with Samuel and the guests
14. because there were no witnesses
15. because the boy with Saul did not witness Samuel's anointing of Saul
16. because Saul did not tell his uncle that he had been anointed king
17. because Samuel was a seer, not a prophet
18. because Saul was not king over all of Israel
19. because Saul did not fight against all of Israel's enemies
20. because Shall Saul reign over us?
21. because on [Saul was] all Israel's desire [not] fixed
22. because he took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel. by messengers, saying, "Whoever does not come out after Saul... , so shall it be done to his oxen!"
23. because Is Saul also among the prophets?"
24. because Saul had a small army
25. because [Jonathan did not] accomplish... great victory in Israel
26. because Jonathan did not kill the Philistines at the garrison
27. because [The] armor-bearer...killed them

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. The descendants of Jonathan were trying to establish a kingship over all of Israel.   There was no history to support this though, so N took Saul and spliced him into Jonathan’s family history, and then promoted Saul as someone who was king over all of Israel.  This is in stark contrast to the history we typically think of, because we are more familiar with the Yahwist account which added in a Davidic agenda.

2. N repeatedly refers to Saul and Jonathan in terms of father and son.

3. The opposing narrative said that Saul was a different person than the son of Kish.  N responds to this by telling of how Saul’s heart was changed and when he prophesied he was like a different person.

4. Jonathan was from the line of Kish, so N splices Saul in as the son of Kish.

5. The actual son of Kish and Saul were physically different looking.  N adds a physical description to support that they are the same person.

6. Given that Ephraim was the tribe that had dominated over the other tribes, it’s likely that Saul was actually an Ephraimite.  One scholar speculates that Saul was of Edomite ethnicity:

Though Saul’s home town is not mentioned here, his usual house was in Gibeah (1 Sam. 10:26; also see on 10:10). However he was buried in his family tomb (“in the grave of Kish his father”) in Zela, which is near Gibeon; see on 2 Sam. 21:14. Therefore Toorn guesses that Saul’s family could have been from the vicinity of Gibeon, since “people are generally buried on the land of their ancestors.” Based on this hypothesis he speculates that Saul was related to the Gibeonites, who belonged to “an ethnic strain represented also among the early Edomites”
Tsumura, D. (2007). The First Book of Samuel (p. 263). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

N needs to change Saul’s tribe of origin because Jonathan was from the tribe of Benjamin.

7. The same as #4, N splices Saul into the line of Kish in order to make him a Benjaminite.

8. Since Saul may have been an Ephraimite, N provides an alternative explanation of how he came from that land by telling of how the search for the donkeys took him through the hills of Ephraim. N may have been trying to associate Gibeah (in Benjamin) with Saul by calling it the Gibeah of Saul.

9. Saul and Jonathan may have been enemies given there different locations (see item #10), and that Saul had said he would kill Jonathan.  N provides an alternative explanation by telling how Jonathan ate the honey, and so Saul was honor bound to kill Jonathan, but the people of Israel save him by recounting his military victory and ransoming him.

10. N provides an alternative explanation for the different locations of Saul and Jonathan by saying they had divided their military forces.

11. Since the tribe of Benjamin had no history of having power over the tribes of Israel (unlike Ephraim), N has Saul admit that Benjamin has no claim to rule over Israel, “the least of the tribes of Israel, and my family is the humblest of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin”, but Samuel anoints him regardless.

12. It’s questionable that Saul ever met with Samuel.  There seems to be some basis that Saul or the son of Kish met with someone, it may not have been Samuel.

13. The opposing narrative said that Saul or the son of Kish never ate with Samuel.  N responds by saying that they did, and that the food provided to him had been set aside earlier.

14. Since Samuel’s anointing of Saul took place in secret, there were no witnesses to corroborate that it actually happened.  N has Samuel provide 3 signs as validation of the anointing.

15.  The boy the was with Saul or the son of Kish never saw the anointing because he had been sent ahead.

16.  The son of Kish’s uncle never knew about the anointing because he was never told about it.

17. Saul or the son of Kish may have met with a prophet, but Samuel was a seer (or vice versa).  N responds by equating the two terms.

18. N repeatedly refers to “all of Israel” or “Israel” when referring to Saul’s leadership.  In the Samuel Cycle, N stresses that Samuel had led all of Israel, so being anointed by Samuel, increases Saul’s status over all of Israel.

19. N repeatedly talks about how Saul fought enemies on all sides of Israel, which N is using to solidify Saul’s (and the line of Jonathan’s) rule over all of Israel.

20. N echoes the objections of some of those in Israel but explains that things had changed after Saul’s military victory.  How did this phrase endure if Saul was king over all Israel.  N explains that is was because  Saul said, "No one shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has brought deliverance to Israel."  

21. N has Samuel declare that all Israel desired Saul to lead them.

22. Saul had threatened violence against those who did not accept his kingship.  N provides an alternative explanation by providing a noble cause for the threat to be made: to save those in the transjordan, who may have been among the most reluctant to accept a kingship from Saul (and the line of Jonathan).

23.  It appears that Israel had been a loose confederation of tribes that had been led by a series of prophets and/or priests (typically from Ephraim) like Moses, Deborah and Samuel. For Saul to lead all of Israel, the opposing narrative may have been stipulating that Saul should be a prophet.  N provides an alternative explanation for the saying by telling of how Saul prophesied.

24. Why did Saul have such a small army if he ruled over all of Israel?  N explains that it was because he sent most home.

25. N attributes the victory over the Philistines to Jonathan.

26. The opposing narrative was saying that Jonathan was not the one to kill the Philistines at the garrison.

27.  The opposing narrative was saying that it was the armor-bearer that had killed the Philistines.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it was Jonathan that had struck them down, and the armor-bearer finished them off behind him.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. As with the other cycles of N, Yahweh is injected into the history of Israel.  The Spirit of Yahweh possesses Saul, and Yahweh is credited with defeating Israel’s enemies.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war


Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. Saul, Jonathan and the Israelites are victorious in their battles against all of Israel’s enemies. N highlights battles against the Ammonites and the Philistines.  Yahweh is also presented as a strong God of war, helping the Israelites defeat their enemies.   

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    


    

        
    


    

 

 

Samuel - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Samuel Cycle is primarily concerned with making Samuel a prophet of Yahweh, and making Israel was a unified nation.   If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Samuel Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. Samuel did not know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not been revealed to him
2. because Samuel was [not] ministering to the LORD
3. because Yahweh was not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. If Yahweh was the God of Israel, then why was there no record of prophecies of Yahweh?  N responds to this by essentially admitting this, and simply saying that the word of Yahweh was rare in those days?

2. Samuel seems to have been well known and well respected in Israel.  The problem for N was that Samuel didn’t serve Yahweh.  N attempts to recaste Samuel as a priest/prophet of Yahweh.

3. Common to all the cycles of N, Yahweh was not seen as the God of Israel, so N attempts to inject Yahweh into Israel’s history, in this case, through Samuel. N says that Samuel called the Israelites back to Yahweh.  This would explain, for N, why Yahweh was lacking in Israel’s history:  It was because Israel had left Yahweh.

Samuel also attributes the Ebenezer rock (meaning rock or stone of help) to Yahweh.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative            

1. Eli called Samuel
2. because Samuel served under Eli

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative said that Eli had called Samuel.  N explains that Samuel only thought Eli had called him, and even Eli eventually perceived that it was Yahweh calling the boy.

2. Serving under Eli may have connotations of Samuel serving another God since the name El is in Eli’s name (and Samuel’s name).  If Eli did not serve Yahweh then Samuel would not have served him either.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. Israel was unified
2. because Samuel judged Israel
3. because the men of Israel went out of Mizpah

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. A major theme in N’s narratives is the unification of Israel. In this case, N brings them together under Samuel.  In the next cycle, this authority over all of Israel will be passed on to Saul.

2. All of the tribes of Israel were under the judgeship of Samuel, and he spoke to “all the house of Israel”.

3. One of the main reasons that N is trying to unify Israel is so that they will have a powerful military force.  When Israel went out to fight the Philistines from Mizpah, men from all the tribes of Israel went out to fight.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. The Israelites had achieved military victory when the Philistines were routed before Israel, and they pursued them and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car. Yahweh is shown to be a strong God of war who defeated the Philistines for the Israelites.  The only reason they had been subdued by the Philistines is because they had left Yahweh.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    


    

        
    


    

 

 

Samson - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Samson Cycle is primarily concerned with gutting the Samson narrative of any astrological meaning and make him an Israelite hero to inspire the Israelites against their enemies, the Philistines.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Samson Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. Samson was strong because the was a demigod of a sun deity
2. because Samson’s father "appeared" to Samson's mother
3. because Samson's father ascended in the flame
4. because [his name was] Samson
5. because [Samson had] seven locks [on] his head
6. because there was a woman...named Delilah
7. because [Moses'] Samson’s father was a supernatural being
8. because [Samson's] eyes [were] gouged out
9. because Samson ... burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
10. because Samson's wife [to be] and her father [were] burned
11. because [Samson had a] rule of life; [something] he [was] to do
12. because [Samson] the lion apart barehanded
13. because there was a virgin
14. because [Samson] split open the hollow place that is at Lehi
15. because tail to tail
16. because [Samson] took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill
17. because [Samson used the] jawbone of a donkey
18. because there was a swarm of bees
19. because Samson died multiple times
20. because Delilah killed Samson
21. because [Samson's] spirit returned, and he revived
22. because there were multiple way to weaken Samson
23. because the hair of [Samson'] head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
24. because those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life.

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. Samson is connected to the power of the sun or sun deity and draws his strength from having his origins in it. There are a number of sun and astrological related language in the Samson Cycle.  Similar to N’s use of sexual language (see Deborah, Barak & Jael Cycle), some recognize the use of astrological language, and try to say that’s what the author was trying to communicate.  Quite the opposite is true. Although the opposing narrative was trying to communicate astrological meaning, N is trying to reinterpret that language to mean something else in support of his agenda.  N will counter the sun deity connection by having Yahweh be the source of Samson’s power.

Additionally, the story of Samson is set within the general vicinity of Beth Shemesh, a village whose name means "Temple of the Sun".

In August 2012, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University announced the discovery of a circular stone seal, approximately 15 millimetres in diameter, which was found on the floor of a house at Beth Shemesh and appears to depict a long-haired man slaying a lion. The seal is dated to the 12th century BCE.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson

The Samson story is also very similar the the Greek myth of Heracles:

Likewise, they were both believed to have once been extremely thirsty and drunk water which poured out from a rock, and to have torn down the gates of a city. They were both betrayed by a woman (Heracles by Deianira, Samson by Delilah), who led them to their respective dooms. Both heroes, champions of their respective peoples, die by their own hands:  Heracles ends his life on a pyre; whereas Samson makes the Philistine temple collapse upon himself and his enemies.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson

2.  The appearance of a supernatural being to a woman, who is alone, is the type of situation that happens when a woman is impregnated by a supernatural being.  Other sources that add to the Samson account later also seem to be dealing with this issue.  Marc Zvi Brettler concludes:

This multi-pronged derogatory depiction of Manoah suggests that he, the slow-witted laggard, could not have fathered the great and strong Samson, and thus dovetails well with the depiction of the angel as his father.
Prof. Marc Zvi Brettler. Who Was Samson’s Real Father?

However, N gives no indication of any sexual activity happening.  N wants to make sure that readers don’t think that Samson is the son of a sun deity and tells how Manoah's wife immediately makes her husband aware of what happened.  Manoah also encounters the supernatural being (the Angel of Yahweh according to N) and makes it clear that the supernatural being only “spoke” to his wife. Furthermore, N provides a reason for the supernatural encounter and subsequent birth of Samson:  Manoah’s wife was barren.

N makes Samson’s father to be a human named Manoah, who is just a regular guy, a “certain man”, the same phrase Samson uses to refer to himself if he ever lost his strength. N also stresses the mortality of Manoah by having Samson buried in his tomb.

3. Samson’s father had ascended in flame or as a flame or somehow related to the fire of the sun.  N changes this to the Angel of Yahweh ascending in a flame of a sacrifice offered to Yahweh.

4. The name “Samson” is associated with the sun:

Although names were chosen for a variety of reasons in biblical times, it is not clear what we are to make of the name Samson. It consists of the Hebrew word for sun, šemeš, with the diminutive ending, -ôn, hence Šimšôn, “little sun” [“sunny-boy!”]. A variety of explanations for the name have been proposed. It is tempting to give the name a positive spin as a celebration of the ray of light the birth of this boy represented in the dark days of the judges. Some have suggested it was given in anticipation of his “sunlike” strength. A more common view links the name with the solar cult, which provides the background for the Samson narratives. Strong support for this interpretation is found in the fact that Samson’s name incorporates the same element as Beth-Shemesh (lit. “house of Shemesh”), the name of an important town just a few miles from Zorah and Eshtaol down the Sorek Valley,290 once the focal point of sun worship. The interpretation of the Samson narratives as a whole as an adaptation of a solar myth seems forced, but it still seems best to find in the name a memory of the sun god, Shemesh.292 Theophoric names involving Shemesh/Shamash were common in the ancient Near East and are exemplified in the Old Testament by Shimshai in Ezra 4:8.
Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, pp. 416–418). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

5. Seven locks of hair was a feature of characters related to a sun deity:

One of the clues that Samson may be the sun and not a single constellation is the fact of his "seven locks" of hair upon his head. It would be difficult to argue that the outline of Orion provides any support for this detail in the Samson story. However, ancient sun-gods were quite frequently portrayed with seven radiant beams of light emanating from their head -- a clear parallel to the number of locks Samson possesses.
Here is an ancient statue of the sun-god Helios, with seven distinct rays coming from his head:
 image: Wikimedia commons ( link ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

And here is an ancient mosaic depicting the sun-god Apollo with seven distinct rays as well:
 image: Wikimedia commons ( link ).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

http://www.starmythworld.com/samson/

6. Samson’s antagonistic character is also antagonistic to the sun:

Etymologically, the most likely explanation relates the name to Arabic dalla, “to flirt,” but the name may be an artificial punning construct consisting of d + lylh, “of the night.” By this interpretation the name may offer an intentional allusion to Samson’s blindness and fit in well with the motif of light and darkness that plays such an important role in the Samson narrative.
Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, pp. 453–454). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

7. Since Samson father had something to do with the sun deity, N responds by making him a regular guy, a “certain man” who we know is mortal because tells us that Samson is buried in his tomb.

8. Samson’s eyes were gouged out because he could burn things with them.  The Eye of the sun god Ra was also associated with fire and was said to spit flames.  Tzemah notes the eye association with the sun as well:

Delilah, is Samson's nemesis (here names is associated with לילה – night – whereas Samson's is associated with שמש – the sun). Note that two things are done to Samson to take away his strength, the first is cutting his hair, the second blinding him. The eyes symbolize Samson's association with the sun, since they are associated with light. N obfuscates the second association (to the sun) but doesn't take it out of the narrative completely, as is apparent in Chapter 13 when N employs sexual language in the meeting the angel (perhaps originally the sun god?) has with Samson's mother, but says nothing explicit. J, on the other hand inserts the prayer to the Lord' completely "Yahwizing" the narrative, making it clear that Samson's strength is completely dependent on the Lord.
Tzemah Yoreh. http://www.biblecriticism.com


9. Samson burned crops, but N puts the cause of the fire in the tails of foxes and not from Samson’s eyes.

10. Samson had burned his wife to be and her father but N blames it on the Philistines.

11. When Manoah asks what Samson is to do, the Angel of the Lord responds by saying that only Manoah’s wife needs to avoid wine and unclean food, implying that Samson doesn’t need to do anything.  From this we infer that the opposing narrative did say that Samson was to do something. I’ve placed it here because I think it’s likely it had something to do with astrology, specifically Samson, as the sun, moving through the constellations.  I speculate further that the purpose of Samson mirrored the purpose of the original opposing narrative. The astrological symbolism may be an attempt to explain the natural movement of the stars or to explain abnormal terrestrial issues impacted by the stars.

It is difficult to know for sure what the constellations were since the zodiac we know today was likely not the same of the original opposing narrative.  However, some of the ancient zodiacs shared similarities and we see similarities in the Samson Cycle as well.  Additionally, I think the original opposing narrative had Samson moving through the constellations in the order that the sun would, N does not have an impetus to do so and may have simply created a constellational soup to pour into the mold to support his agenda of de-astrologizing Samson and injecting Yahweh into the narrative.  In other words, we shouldn’t expect N’s Samson to move through the constellations in the same order of the original opposing narrative, because N doesn’t see them as constellations at all.

12.  Leo is one of the more obvious constellations in the Samson Cycle when he fights and kills a lion with his bare hands.  The Greek myth of Heracles and the related Roman myth of Hercules also have a lion fighting episode.  According to N, Samson was able to defeat the lion because the Spirit of Yahweh empowered him, not because of sun deity power.

13. The other of the more obvious constellations is Virgo: when Samson is to marry a virgin.  Samson eventually burns the virgin, but N will blame this on the Philistines.

14. Water is associated with Aquarius but also with the Hyades star cluster (see item #15).

The opposing narrative may have originally had Samson splitting the rock, but N has Yahweh do it.

15.  This is similar to the Pisces sign. Most versions of the Pisces legend speak of the tails of the fish being tied together to avoid losing each other.   Obviously not the same as foxes, but both narratives may have been drawing from a common tail tieing narrative.

Furthermore:

The equinoxes were associated with fire in myth around the globe, because at the equinoxes the fiery path of the sun crosses over the celestial equator.
http://www.starmythworld.com/samson/

16. The carrying of a gate may have been related to a constellation.  N seems to relocate both the city where the gate was taken from (A Philistine city suits N purposes). Hebron may have been the city that it was taken from in the opposing narrative since it is 40 miles away (uphill) from where N says Samson took it.

17. The jawbone is associated with a constellation:

“Now, Lehi in Hebrew means jawbone, and water in Greek is hyades.  If we look up in the winter night sky, we find the group of stars known as the Hyades located in the jawbone of Taurus the Bull.  Nearby is the mighty warrior Orion.  Thus, the historian of science Giorgio de Santillana gives the following interpretation of the biblical account: the hero of the original story must be Orion, and that rigmarole about the jawbone of an ass and drinking water out of the hollow of Lehi is simply a mnemonic device for finding the relative positions of the constellations Orion and Taurus and the group of stars called the Hyades.”
Shu, Frank. The Physical Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy (p. 4).

 N uses it as a tool to kill Philistines.  This also provides an alternative explanation for the name of the location where it happened: Lehi.

18. The Beehive Cluster is an open cluster in the constellation Cancer.

19. The death and rebirth of the sun is sometimes a theme in sun related myths. This takes place at winter solstice but may have been at summer solstice and spring and fall equinox.  Samson may have died and been resurrected multiple times to reflect this.

20. The opposing narrative has Delilah kill Samson, but N, once again, will blame the Philistines, using Delilah only as an accomplice.  However, N does allude to the opposing narrative when he says that Delilah killed Samson becasause she nagged him “to death”.

21. Samson reviving and his spirit returning may have been a death/resurrection that N explains as simply satisfying his thirst.

22.  The opposing narrative had Samson weakening/dieing in multiple ways:  bind with seven fresh bowstrings that are not dried out,  bind with new ropes that had not been used, weave the seven locks of Samson’s head with the web and make it tight with the pin and shave off the seven locks of Samson’s head.  N re-explains this by saying that the four ways were cumulative, and only when Delilah has the “whole truth” is she able to weaken Samson.

23.  The 7 locks of hair symbolize the rays of the sun and would have suggested the death of the sun and the sun would return after the hair grew back. N says that even after Samson’s hair grew back, he still needed Yahweh to re-empower him.

24.  The death of the sun (lack of sunlight) has a death like effect on nature but N provides an alternative explanation by saying that Samson’s death caused so much death because he brought the house down on so many Philistines.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. [Samson did] mischief [with] blame
2. because Samson ... burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
3. because Samson's wife [to be] and her father [were] burned
4. because [his name was] Samson
5. because Samson said, "With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men."
6. because [Samson] took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative made Samson out to be a violent individual.  If Samson was to be an Israelite hero, this would need to be changed slightly.  N either shifts the blame for violence or is sure to give justification for each of Samson’s violent episodes while having them committed against N’s main villain, the Philistines.

2. N has Samson’s wife given away, which justifies his violence of burning the crops of the Philistines.  Samson says “This time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame.”

3. N shift the blame for the burning of Samson’s wife, from Samson to the Philistines.

4. N justifies Samson’s killing of 30 Philistines by having it be in retaliation for cheating to solve his riddle.

5. N justifies Samson’s killing of 1000 Philistines by having it be an act of revenge. Samson says “I swear I will not stop until I have taken revenge on you."

6. N justifies Samson’s carrying of the gates by making it an escape from the Philistines, who wanted to kill him.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative                           

1. Samson was not an enemy of the Philistines

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. According to N, Samson was absolutely an enemy of the Philistines, making him out to be the Philistine’s worst nightmare. It’s not clear weather Samson had a specific enemy in the opposing narrative, but the Philistines are one of N’s main opponents, so he utilizes the narrative to make Samson an Israelite hero who terrorizes the Philistines.  It is in Philistine cities where Samson commits his violence, and it is they who seize Samson in the end.  N has the Philistines themselves say “...our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.”

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative        

1. Samson was not an Israelite

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. It’s not clear whether the opposing narrative gave Samson a national identity, but N is sure to make him an Israelite.  This is primarily done by giving him an Israelite father, originating him from an Israelite location and burying him in an Israelite location.

Aspect #5 Opposing Narrative

1. Samson was a homosexual
2. because Samson didn't love women
3. because Samson didn't have a wife
4. because men were...in [Samson's] inner chamber
5. because Samson mocked women and told them lies;
6. because [Samson stood] between the pillars
7. because Samson [held a man] by the hand
8. because [Samson] ground at the mill

Aspect #5 N Response With Commentary

1. There are a number of factors that indicate that Samson was gay in the opposing narrative.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any indication as to why this was a feature in the original narrative or what astrological symbolism there may have been.  Most likely, since the sun doesn’t reproduce, then Samson wouldn’t either.

2.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it only seemed like Samson didn’t love women because he wouldn’t tell his wife the answer to the riddle, and he wouldn’t tell Delilah what would make him weak.  N will show that Samson did love women including having him visit a prostitute, as well as falling in love with Delilah.

3. N counters the claim of Samson not having a wife, by saying that he actually did have a wife but that his wife was given away by her father. There are a couple of instances that don’t sit well in the N narrative. It’s odd that the riddle would have been impossible for the guests to solve without inside knowledge. This is because it was not the original intended meaning of the riddle.   The riddle has sexual connotations:  

“On another level, the riddle suggests copulation.  Such erotic thoughts naturally accompanied wedding festivities, and consequently posed the biggest snare for the Philistines.   A veiled allusion to the sex act, the riddle uses the ciphers “eater” and “strong one” for the groom.  Similarly, “food” and “sweetness” signify semen, which is sweet to the bride who “eats” the sperm.  From man proceeds sperm which nourish woman; from a strong man goes semen that is pleasant to a wife.
Crenshaw, James L. Samson: A Secret Betrayed, a Vow Ignored (p. 115).

This is similar to the Deborah, Barak and Jael Cycle, in that sexual language from the opposing narrative is used, but N is reinterpreting it to support his agenda.

Samson’s response to the Philistines is also sexual in nature, suggesting that his wife-to-be was unfaithful.

The protasis, or conditional clause, contains two  ciphers (plowed and heifer).  We can therefore turn this half of his statement into a familiar riddle: What fertile field is plowed, but not with oxen?
One would be hard put to discover a more apt description of the sexual act.  For this reason, the metaphor occurs in cultures as diverse as the Canaanite fourteenth century population known to us from the Amarna tablets, Mesopotamian, and Israelite.
In a letter from Rib-Addi of Byblos he writes that “My field is like a woman without a husband, on account of its lack of cultivation”  From the land of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers we read:
“...As for me, my vulva is a hillock, - for me,
I, the maid, who will be its plower?
My vulva is...wet ground for me,
I, the queen, who will station there the ox?”
“Lady, the king will plow it for you,
Dumuzi, the king, will plow it for you”
“Plow my vulva, my sweetheart”
Crenshaw, James L. Samson: A Secret Betrayed, a Vow Ignored (p. 119).

In the opposing narrative, Samson knew or suspected the infidelity of the bride, so he posed the riddle to expose those involved in the infidelity. Samson’s response reflects this.

The second item is the wager of 30 robes.  It would make more sense if the wager had been made before the wedding since it was the responsibility of the groom’s family to provide wedding garments for everyone. With this in mind, we could speculate that in the opposing narrative, Samson was never married because the wager took place before the wedding, and the solving of the the riddle was an excuse for Samson to burn his wife-to-be (see also Aspect #1, item #13 and Aspect #2, item #3).  

4.  There were men in Samson’s inner chamber, the place where sexual activity would normally take place.  The opposing narrative said it was because Samson was a homosexual.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it was the Philistines waiting to capture him.

5. Similar to #2, N provides an alternative explanation by saying that it just seemed like he mocked women because he wouldn’t tell his wife and Delilah what they wanted to know.

6. I suggest that the phrase “standing between two pillars” is a sexual euphemism for homosexual sex between to males.  The word for “pillars” is used in the Song of Solomon to refer to the legs of a male.  N provides an alternative explanation by saying Samson literally stood between two pillars in order to kill Philistines.

7.  More speculatively, the opposing narrative may have said Samson held hands with his male lovers.  N reinterprets it by saying that he held that hand of a male because he was blind.

8.  “Grinding the mill” was likely a sexual euphemism. In the book of Job it says “then let my wife turn the millstone for another man, and may other men have sexual relations with her.” The Talmud recognizes this, but I believe interpret the passage wrongly:

“R. Johanan said: 'Grind' means nothing else than [sexual] transgression; and thus it is stated: Then let my wife grind unto another.11 It teaches that everyone brought his wife to him [Samson] to the prison that she might bear a child by him [who would be as strong as he was].”
Talmud - Mas. Sotah 10a

This takes “grinding the mill” to be a heterosexual act for the male.  I don’t believe so and believe it would be used as a homosexual act for a male for two reasons:  1. Typically it was the woman who ground the mill (in the literal sense), and we see it use metaphorically for a woman in Job as well.  2.  The reason this is used in reference to women with a male is because the basis of the euphemism has to do with seed.  The woman takes the seed of a man sexually.  For a male to grind the mill would infer the he is taking the seed of a male,  a reference to a homosexual act.  N reinterprets the phrase in the literal sense, simply as as labor to be performed for punishment.

Aspect #6 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #6 N Response With Commentary

1. N injects Yahweh into the Samson narrative by having the supernatural being who appeared to Manoah’s wife be the Angel of Yahweh. Samson is an Israelite, and he serves and derives his strength from Yahweh.  The god, Dagon, is described as the god of the Philistines so as not to promote him as a god of the Israelites.

Aspect 7 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #7 N Response With Commentary

1. Although this issue doesn’t seem to me addressed directly by N, given that it is a major theme in his other cycles, I think Samson serves as a hero to convince the Israelites that they are strong at war.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    


    

        
    


    

 

 

Jephthah - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

jephthah.jpg

The Jephthah Cycle is primarily concerned with forming a strong Israelite military force by showing that Jephtah was an Israelite military hero.   If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Jephtah Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative      

1. [Jephthah] was not head and commander over [the Gileadites]
2. because Jephthah [was not a] Gileadite
3. because [Jephthah did] not inherit anything in [Gilead's] house
4. because [Jephthah] lived in the land of Tob
5. because [Jephthah] was a mighty warrior and Outlaws collected around Jephthah and raided Gilead

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. N was trying to integrate the descendants of Jephthah into the tribe of Gilead.  This may be because of an alliance much like how N integrated the descendants of Gideon into Israel.  N is looking to create a strong military Israelite force, and the descendants of Jephthah may have been good at war, so integrating them into Israel would be a move towards that goal.

2. If Jephthah wasn’t a Gileadite, then N would need to explain how he could have been head and commander over them.  N does this by saying he was a son of a prostitute and was driven out by his family.

3. If Jephthah was a Gileadite, he would have had an inheritance. Being a son of a prostitute would have excluded him from an inheritance but still made him a Gileadite.

4. If Jephthah was a Gileadite, why was he living in the land of Tob?  Again, N says that his family had driven Jephthah out of Gileadite territory.

5. Not only was Jephthah not a Gileadite, the opposing narrative claimed that he raided the Gileadites.  N drops that detail from his narrative, and only says that he was a raider.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. N credits Yahweh with the victory over the Ammonites.  The elders of Gilead also call on Yahweh to be their witness in their agreement with Jephthah.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. N provides yet another example of how the Israelites defeated their enemies.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    

Gideon - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Gideon Cycle is primarily concerned with forming a strong Israelite military force by showing that Gideon was an Israelite military hero.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Gideon Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. The Midianites were defeated because of internal conflicts
2. because there is no record of the Israelites defeating the Midianites
3. because the sword of Gideon defeated the Midianites
4. because [Gideon killed] Zebah and Zalmunna
5. because every man's sword [was] against his fellow and against all the army
6. because Gideon was a Midianite
7. because Gideon was in the camp of the Midianites
8. because [Gideon] took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. He also broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city, even though [Gideon] already [had] in [his] possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna
9. because Gideon killed the men at Tabor
10. because [Gideon] resembled the [son] of a king
11. because [Jethro] did not [kill Zebah and Zalmunna]
12. because [Gideon had the] crescents that were on the necks of [the two Midianite's] camels

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative claimed that the Midianites battled with each other.  A civil war of sort, with Gideon being head of one of the factions. N provides alternative explanations for what appears to be internal Midianite strife.

2. There was no record that the Israelites had defeated the Midianites.  N responds to this by saying that the Israelites didn’t need to fight to defeat the Midianites since they killed each other.  Additionally, both hands were occupied to hold a trumpet and a jar so that they were unable to hold a sword and therefore, the Midianites wouldn’t have been defeated by the “sword of the Israelites”.

3. The opposing narrative claimed that Gideon defeated the Midianites.  N agrees but will add that is was Yahweh and Gideon along with the Israelites.

4. Gideon had killed Zebah and Zalmunna, since they were the heads of the opposing Midianite factions. N responds to this by saying that Gideon killed them because they had killed the Israelite men at Tabor.

5. The Midianite army had turned against itself.  The opposing narrative explains this was because of internal strife.  N explains it as a work of Yahweh.

6. The opposing narrative claimed that Gideon was a Midianite and had led one of the Midianite factions over the other Midianites.  N responds to this by making Gideon an Israelite. N does this to show the Israelites were strong at war, but also may have done this because of an alliance with the descendants of Gideon.  Those descendents of Gideon would have been excluded from the rest of the Midianite nation, and an alliance with the Israelites would have been mutually beneficial.

7. If Gideon was a Midianite, then he would have naturally been in the Midianite camp.  N responds to this by saying that Gideon and his troops were at a different location.  Gideon was in the Midianite camp but only on a spy mission, and where he hears the interpretation of the Midianite’s dream.  The cake of barley mentioned in the dream may have been a pejorative reference to Israelites since the Israelites were reduced to eating bread made of barley. Gideon is identified with the barley, thus making him an Israelite by N..

8. Gideon had attacked two Israelite cities.  N needs to provide an explanation for this and does so by saying that they didn’t provide help for his troops.  This may have had a duel purpose 1. Explain why Gideon attacked the cities 2. Serve as a warning to other Israelite cities that might refuse help to Israelite troops.

The opposing narrative may have countered that Gideon already had killed Zebah and Zalmunna before he attached the cities.  N responds that Gideon was still in pursuit of them.

9. Gideon had killed the men at Tabor, who were Israelites. N responds by saying that it was Zebah and Zalmunna that had killed them.  Furthermore, N makes the men at Tabor relatives of Gideon, which is convenient because, since they were dead, their descendants wouldn’t have been around to deny it.

10. The opposing narrative said that Gideon looked like a son of a king because he was a son of a Midianite king.  N responds by agreeing that Gideon did look like a son of a king (with no mention of a Midianite connection) and explaining that the men at Tabor (who were relatives of Gideon) also looked liked sons of a king.

11. If Zebah and Zalmunna were relatives of Jethro, then naturally he would have had some hesitation about killing them.  Having Jethro kill them is also a good political move for Gideon since it would solidify Jethro as part of Gideon’s faction.  However, Jethro refuses to do so, and N explains that it’s because he was so young. Gideon only kills them because they had killed his family at Tabor.

12. Gideon was a Midianite king, why else would he have royal crescents?  N answers that he took them from Zebah and Zalmunna.


Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. N responds by having Yahweh be the catalyst for the rise of Gideon. The Israelites achieve victory over the Midianites only after they cry out to Yahweh.


Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. The Israelites are not strong at war
2. because he hand of Midian prevailed over Israel
3. because Israel was greatly impoverished

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. The Midianites had subdued the Israelites, and N needs to explain how this could have happened.

2.  The Midianites had prevailed over the Israelites, but Yahweh will come to the rescue.

3. Lack of crops would keep the Israelites down.  This may also be addressing Yahweh’s ability as a fertility God.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative       

1. Purah [was not Gideon's servant]

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. It’s not clear why N wants to make Purah’s status below Gideon’s, but this is a tactic similar to the one made by the Elohist when he made Joshua’s status lower than Moses’ (See Elohist Source - Moses Cycle).


Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    

Deborah, Barak & Jael - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Deborah, Barak & Jael Cycle has two main parts: the narrative and Deborah’s song.  The narrative was written earlier and is primarily concerned with demoting Barak so that power doesn’t shift away from the tribe of Ephraim.  Deborah’s song is primarily concerned with convincing the Israelites to engage in military duty.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Deborah, Barak & Jael Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. New gods [should be] chosen [by Israel, so] war [will not be] in the gates.
2. because Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. Israel had not done well militarily and so this caused them to start looking for a new god for the nation.

2.  The Israelites saw Yahweh as a new god that wasn’t working out for them.  N stresses that Yahweh had been the God (Elohim) of Israel for some time, and that He is the strong military God that the Israelites were looking for.  The opposing narrative was pointing out the origins of Yahweh in Edom, which is outside of Israel.  N does not deny this, but says that Yahweh traveled from there and was the same God that was from Sinai.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Barak’s descendants should lead Israel
2. because Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and ten thousand warriors went up behind him;
3. because Barak came in pursuit of Sisera when Sisera had fled and Barak killed Sisera when Sisera ran from Jael's place

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. Barak was from the tribe of Naphtali, and his military leadership threatened the prophetic power center in Ephraim. The opposing narrative may have been pushing Barak's descendants and leaders over Israel or just the tribe of Naphtali in general. Since Deborah was from Ephraim, the victory narrative is rewritten so that Deborah and Barak achieve it together.

2. Since Zebulun and Naphtali had followed Barak into victory, they are the tribes most likely to pull away from what seems to be a loose confederation of tribes lead by a prophet from the tribe of Ephraim.

3. Not only did Barak defeat the Canaanites, he also hunted down and killed their military leader, Sisera. This part of the narrative is changed so that Jael kills Sisera, taking status away from Barak.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative            

1. The leaders should not lead Israel into war and the people should not volunteer for war
2. because the Israelites are not strong at war
3. because the Israelites (were subdued by) King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor
4. because the wealthy Israelites would get plundered
5. because the Israelite women would get raped
6. because because Jael was an Israelite and Sisera raped Jael
7. because [Sisera went into Jael's] tent
8. because [Jael] covered [Sisera]
9. because [Jael] uncovered [her] skin of milk
10. because Jael took Sisera's tent peg
11. because Sisera lay... between Jael’s feet
12. because temple
13. because [is] shield or spear to be seen among [those] in [Israel]?

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. With Israel’s poor military record, the leaders (aka the wealthy) and the people are reluctant to join any kind of military endeavor. N responds to this by glorifying the leaders and the tribes that took part in defeating the Canaanites throughout the Song of Deborah.  Those tribes that didn’t join the fight are called out, and some even cursed.  N also points out that when Israel didn’t fight in the past, this would affect the trade routes and would impact the wealth of the leadership.

2. Israel being a weak military power is an issue that is addressed in each of the cycles of N. In this cycle, N uses Barak’s victory to show that Israel can be victorious. N also shows that this was no push over Canaanite army: nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the troops who were with him, from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Wadi Kishon.  In the end, the Israelites achieve a crushing military victory:
All the army of Sisera fell by the sword; no one was left.

3. King Jabin was a case in point for not volunteering for the military.  Canaan had subdued the weak Israelites. N responds by telling of Israel’s crushing defeat of Sisera’s army.

4. The main concern for the Israelite leadership is that they had a lot to lose financially if things went poorly on the battlefield.  They were looking to avoid getting plundered.  N counters this by telling how the Canaanites obtained no plunder after their battle with Barak, and the song of Deborah tells how Sisera’s mother waits in vain for Sisera to return with plunder for her.

5. Another disincentive for going to war was the threat of Israelite women getting raped by victorious enemy soldiers. N responds by having Sisera’s mother speculate that her son is late returning because there is “a girl or two for every man”.

6. The opposing narrative uses Jael as an example of what could happen if Israel went to war and lost.  Jael was raped by Sisera.   N takes metaphorical sexual language and spins it to a literal sense to show that Jael killed Sisera. By having Jael married to a Kenite, who was an ally of Jabin, this would further remove Jael from being used as an Israelite woman who was raped. In the end, she is considered a blessed woman in the N narrative.  N is sure to have Sisera flee on foot instead of by chariot, thereby making him too exhausted to have sex and was asleep from weariness when killed by Jael.

Jael’s encounter with Sisera is filled with sexual metaphor.  Others have recognized this as well:

Bible scholars feel the sexual heat of Jael's assassination of Sisera but deny the fire. Victor Matthews says these verses are about hospitality, not sex. Mieke Bal says they are about maternity, not sex. Yair Zakovitch says they used to be about sex, but the sex has been censored out. My close reading evidences that the Jael-Sisera episode is indeed about sex—about a woman's sexual dominance over a man.
Pamela Tamarkin Reis (2005) Uncovering Jael and Sisera. A New Reading, Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 19:1, 24-47, DOI: 10.1080/09018320510032420

However, it’s not about woman’s sexual dominance, quite the opposite, as the opposing narrative may have had Sisera raping Jael.

Ancient Rabbis have recognized the sexual undertones as well:

Another account, however, has Sisera lying with Jael, which is learnt from Jud. 5:27 (1917 JPS translation): “At her feet he sunk, he fell, he lay; at her feet he sunk, he fell; where he sunk, there he fell down dead.” The words “sunk,” “fell” and “lay” recur a total of seven times in this verse, from which these Rabbis derive that Sisera engaged in intercourse with Jael seven times during their encounter.
Tamar Kadari. Jael Wife of Heber The Kenite: Midrash and Aggadah https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jael-wife-of-heber-kenite-midrash-and-aggadah

Attempts have been made to show that Jael had sex with Sisera, but the language doesn’t quite fit with that thesis. It makes sense, however, if the opposing narrative was using sexual metaphor to say that Jael had sex with Sisera.  

7. Sisera going into Jael’s tent is a euphemism for sex. N responds to this by saying that Jael actually did live in a literal tent. This is achieved by N making Jael a Kenite, who were nomadic and would naturally live in tents. Sisera’s words to Jael, "Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say, 'No.'", could be N’s way of saying that Jael did not have sex with Sisera.  Additionally, by having Barak also enter her tent, those who said she had sex with Sisera would also have to say she had sex with Barak, thereby forcing them to take it in a literal sense.

8. Jael covering Sisera is also a euphemism for sex.  N spins this by saying that she covered with with a rug.

9. Uncovering Jael’s skin of milk is a euphemism for her breast. N responds by saying that she literally poured milk from a skin for Sisera to drink.

10. A tent peg is a euphemism for the male genitalia.  You can see the resemblance in the photo below of an ancient Roman tent pegs:

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

N responds by having Jael taking a literal tent peg and killing Sisera with it.

11. Sisera laying between Jael’s feet is also a sexual euphemism. Not only is he “between her legs” but “feet” was used as euphemism for male, as well as female genitalia. N responds by saying that Sisera lay “still” between her feet and was dead because she killed him.  Again, N takes makes it a literal sense.

12. I suspect that “temple” has some kind of sexual connotation as it is used within the Song of Solomon, which has plenty of sexual language.  N responds by taking a literal sense of Jael driving a tent peg through Sisera’s temple.

13. Lack of weaponry was a concern for those trying to decide if they should participate in military warfare.  N responds by saying that the Israelites achieved victory over Sisera in spite of not having the weapons they needed.  The text suggests that Yahweh had made it rain, and that the battlefield had flooded, thus making Sisera’s chariots ineffective.  This not only bolster’s Yahweh’s status as a war God but also as a fertility God.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative                         

1. Benjamin should not lead Israel
2. because Ephraim should lead Israel

Aspect #4 N Response With Commentary

1. In the Song of Deborah, N says that the Israelites followed the lead of the tribe of Benjamin into battle.

2. Ephraim would have been the traditional tribe to lead into battle as they were head over Israel (See Elohist - Joseph Cycle), and indeed, they set out from Ephraim, but N is loyal to the Benjaminite kingly line of Jonathan, so he pushes that agenda during Deborah’s song.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.   

Ehud - Northern Judges: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

  image: Wikimedia commons (  link  ). 

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

The Ehud Cycle is primarily concerned with forming a strong military force for a unified Israel under Jonathanian leadership by showing that Ehud was a Benjaminite hero.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Ehud Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Northern Book of Judges and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series. I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Northern Book of Judges Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Northern Book of Judges author (N) was addressing and is opposed to the N narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. A Benjaminite was not the deliverer
2. because because Ehud did not assassinate King Eglon
3. because there is no sword that killed King Eglon
4. because Ehud returned to the sculptured stones near Gilgal without assassinating King Eglon
5. because [Ehud was not a] Benjaminite
6. because [Ehud] sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim;
7. because the Israelites [did not have a Benjaminite] at their head.

Aspect #1 N Response With Commentary

1. The opposing narrative doesn’t seem to have an issue with the Israelites overcoming the Moabites.  The point of contention was who was the deliverer.  It seems that Ehud was already a known character, so most of the contention will happen around what tribe he was from. N will push hard to say that it was Ehud was a Benjaminite since the kingly line of Jonathan was from that tribe.

2. The opposing narrative agrees that Ehud paid tribute to King Eglon but argues that there is no evidence that Ehud assassinated the king.  N explains this by having Ehud commit the perfect assassination:  no murder weapon, no witnesses.  It’s not even clear that the Moabites knew that the king was assassinated, only that he died.

3. The special sword that Ehud fashioned is swallowed up in the king’s fat.

4. Those that went with Ehud to pay the tribute had no knowledge that Ehud assassinated the king.  They had returned with Ehud to the sculptured stones (possibly a rendezvous point before the journey) without any event.  N explains that Ehud went back to the king after he had returned to the sculptured stones.

5. N is obviously pro-Benjaminite throughout his narrative since the kingly line of Jonathan hailed from that tribe.  N shifts Ehud’s tribe of origin to make him a Benjaminite.  One of the ways that N supports that Ehud was a Benjaminite is by having him be left handed and making that a critical aspect of the assassination.  Benjaminites were known to be left-handed, although more in the sense that they were ambidextrous, giving them a distinct advantage in combat...and assassination attempts.

Scholars are not agreed on the meaning of ʾiṭṭēr yad-yĕmînô. The word ʾiṭṭēr occurs elsewhere only in Judg 20:16, where Ehud’s condition is generalized to an entire contingent of exceptionally skilled Benjamite warriors. The verb ʾātar is found only in Ps 69:15 [Hb. 16], where it means “to shut” [the mouth]. The root appears elsewhere only in the postexilic personal name Ater (ʾāṭēr). If the present ʾiṭṭēr is to be associated with Ps 69:15 [Hb. 16], ʾiṭṭēr yad-yĕmînî means something like “shut/ restricted with reference to the right hand,” which suggests some type of deformity or handicap, hence “left-handed.” However, this meaning is excluded in 20:16, which describes an entire contingent of Benjamite soldiers “who could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” Slings require great skill and the efficient use of two hands. Furthermore, 1 Chr 12:2 attests to a different normal expression for “left-handed,” maśmîl, “to use the left hand.” It seems best to follow the lead of the LXX’s amphoterodexios and interpret Ehud’s condition and that of the Benjamites in 20:16 as “ambidextrous,” that is, skilled in the use of both hands. The meaning is fleshed out in 1 Chr 12:2, which describes a group of Benjamites, relatives of Saul, who defected to David as “armed with bows” and “able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed.” But the adjective ʾiṭṭēr, “shut, restricted,” suggests Ehud and his fellow Benjamites in 20:16 were not naturally left-handed. On the contrary, they were a specially trained group for whom dexterity with the left hand was inculcated by binding up the right hand. In line combat, trained left-handers have a decided advantage over right-handers who are taught to fight sword against shield.58
Block, D. I. (1999). Judges, Ruth (Vol. 6, pp. 160–161). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

6. The trumpet sounding in Ephraim could infer that Israel’s deliverer was an Ephraimite.  This makes sense, in that the tribe of Ephraim was head over Israel before the tribe Benjamin (see The Elohist - Joseph Cycle). N solves this issue by having Ehud travel to the hill country of Ephraim.

7. The opposing narrative said that Ehud was an Ephraimite and would not have been at the head of the Israelites if he was a Benjaminite.  After spending much of the narrative showing how Ehud was a Benjaminite, N now describes him as head of the Israelites.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Yahweh is not the Elohim of Israel

Aspect #2 N Response With Commentary

1. N uses the term Elohim and Yahweh interchangeably, showing that Yahweh is the God (Elohim) of Israel.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. [King Eglon of Moab] went and defeated Israel; and ... took possession of the city of palms.
2. because because the Israelites are not strong at war

Aspect #3 N Response With Commentary

1. Both N and the opposing narrative seem to agree that the Moabites defeated the Israelites and took the City of Palms (Jericho).

2. N is concerned with forming a strong military force for a unified Israel.  In order to get Israelites to want to join that military force, N shows that Israel can win battles, and that Yahweh is a strong war God.  N says that the only reason the Moabites defeated the Israelites was because Yahweh had strengthened the Moabites, but when the Israelites cried out to Yahweh, He provided military strength for Israel.

N also says that the Moabite were in alliance with the Ammonites and the Amalekites, thus making it harder to defeat the Moabites.  It’s N’s way of making excuses.

The Israelites kill about ten thousand of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; no one escaped. N is clearly trying to signal that Israel can be a military power.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    

The Elohist Source - Balaam Cycle: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

The Balaam Cycle is primarily concerned with the inhabitants of the land just north of the Arnon river.  Were they Israelite or were they Moabite?  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Balaam Cycle.  If you’re not familiar with the Elohist Source and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series.  I used Tzemah Yoreh's work as the basis for my Elohist Source.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Elohist was addressing and is opposed to the Elohist narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. The inhabitants north of the Arnon were Moabites, not Israelites
2. because [Balak was] able to fight against [the Israelites] and [drive] them out.
3. because there is [an] enchantment against Jacob, [a] divination against Israel;
4. because [Balaam] curse[d] the [Israelites]
5. because Balaam was the prophet of a Moabite god
6. because Balaam was from Moab
7. because [those living north of the Arnon were not] out of Egypt;
8. because Elohim changed His mind

Aspect #1 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. The Elohist highlights the area of dispute by including landmarks in the narrative.  Balak is described as going to the northernmost boundary of Moab, which was the Arnon River. Other landmarks are likely areas of dispute or places where one could view areas of dispute.  Those that settled near Balak and those that Balaam looks upon are described as Israelites. If the inhabitants were Moabite and not Israelite, then the inhabitants of that area would be loyal to the Kingdom of Moab and not the Kingdom of Israel.

2. If the Moabites had fought the Israelites and had driven them out, then the inhabitants would likely be Moabite.  The Elohist tells how the Moabites were not stronger than the Israelites and were actually afraid of the Israelites because they were stronger than the Moabites.  This is used as the reason to bring Balaam to curse the Israelites. To keep the disputed inhabitants loyal to Israel, the Elohist not only describes Israel as stronger than Moab in the past but also stronger than them in the future.  Balaam prophecies that a strong king would arise in Israel and will conquer Moab.

3. If the Israelites were cursed, then this would provide a reason as to why the Israelites were driven out of the area of dispute. Balaam seems to have been a highly regarded prophet, so the Elohist’s strategy is not to disregard him, but to provide an alternative narrative on how it came to be thought that Balaam cursed Israel. The Elohist confirms that there was a prophet named Balaam and that he spoke an oracle regarding Israel, but that he did not curse Israel.

4. The Elohist will turn the tables on the opposing narrative by saying that Balaam not only refused curse Israel but blessed them.  Then he will pronounce that anyone who curses Israel will be cursed, and anyone who blesses Israel will be blessed.

5. Elohim and Balaam are in communication several times during the narrative, showing that Balaam is not a prophet of a Moabite god.  Elohim’s inquiry of who Balak’s messengers were, may be a signal that He is not familiar with the Moabites and is further evidence that Balaam did not server a Moabite god.

6. The Elohist makes it abundantly clear that Balaam was not from Moab.  He is described as being from “Pethor, which is on the Euphrates, in the land of Amaw”.  “Land of Amaw” can be literally translated “his native land”. In there conversations, Balak and Balaam say that they are from different lands: “Go to your own land”, “Go home!” and “Now, I am going to my people”.  In the end, they each go their separate ways.

However, this raises a problem for the Elohist.  If he writes that Balaam is not Moabite, then why was he prophesying for a Moabite king?  The Elohist provides an explanation by telling how Balak sent messengers to go get Balaam and entice him with honor. Balaam, of course, refuses initially at Elohim’s request but is eventually allowed to go, but not to curse the Israelites, only to bless them.

7. By marking them as people who Elohim brought out of Egypt, they would have been considered Israelites in the disputed area.  The Elohist does this in 4 instances in the narrative.

8.  During one of Balaam’s oracles, he says, “God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” This could be countering the idea that Elohim had abandoned the Israelites, and that’s why they had been driven out of the disputed area.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.    

The Elohist Source - Moses Cycle: A Mirror-Reading with the Mira Scriptura Methodology

The Moses Cycle is primarily concerned with defending Moses’ descendants as high priests.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Moses Cycle. However, I’ve changed my views slightly since that episode.  If you’re not familiar with the Elohist Source and it’s cycles, be sure to check out all of the podcast episodes in that series.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Elohist was addressing and is opposed to the Elohist narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. Moses’ descendants should not be high priests
2. because [Moses did not bring] the [Israelites] out of Egypt
3. because [Elohim did not send Moses]
4. because Aaron brought the Israelites out of Egypt
5. because Moses was not an Israelite
6. because [Moses’] kindred [was not] in Egypt
7. because [Moses'] father-in-law [was not] Jethro
8. because Jethro was Moses’ father
9. because Moses was not a priest of Elohim
10. because [the mountain Moses went to was not] the mountain of Elohim
11. because Jethro [was] the priest of Midian
12. because [Elohim] was not the God of [Moses'] father
13. because Moses did not carry the staff of Elohim
14. because [Moses’ God’s] people were not the Israelites
15. because Moses and the elders served two different gods
16. because the descendants of Aaron should be high priests
17. because [The golden calves] are [Israel's] gods
18. because [The golden calves] brought [Israel] up out of Egypt
19. because the serpent of bronze priesthood should be high priests
20. because the serpent of bronze saved the Israelites
21. because Moses [did not sit] as judge for the people
22. because [the Elders of Israel sat] as judges
23. because whoever has a dispute may go to [Aaron and Hur]

Aspect #1 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. The Elohist is fighting a battle of priesthood supremacy and promotes the Mosaic priesthood over all others, including the Aaronic priesthood.  The Yahwist will come later and manipulate the narrative to support a Levitical priesthood, and, ironically, the Priestly Source will come even later to promote the Aaronic priesthood over all others.

2. The Elohist takes 5 instances to state that Moses was the one who brought them out of Egypt.

3. The Elohist takes 5 instances to state that Elohim was the one who sent Moses.

4. Anywhere that Aaron may have been in an Aaronic Exodus narrative, the Elohist adds Moses and supplants Aaron. Was Aaron at the mountain of Elohim?  Moses was there first and Aaron meets him there. Did Aaron assemble the elders? Yes, but with Moses.  Did Aaron speak with the King of Egypt?  Yes, but with Moses. Did Aaron hold up the Staff of Elohim to win the battle?  Only because he was helping Moses hold it up.

5. If Moses was not an Israelite, then he would have less credibility to lay claim to a high priesthood.

6. Moses asks Jethro if he can go see his kindred in Egypt.

7. With 13 instances in the Moses Cycle, the Elohist makes an effort to promote the idea that Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law.

8. With blood ties to Jethro, the descendants of Moses are connected to a Midian past. But the family connections are too well known among Israel to deny the connection, so the Elohist switches the family connection from father to father-in-law.

9. Moses spoke to Elohim and Elohim would answer him.  The Elohist makes it clear throughout the narrative that Moses is a follower of Elohim.  So which god did Moses serve according to the opposing narrative?  We may have a clue in the name that Elohim gives Moses, which was “I am”. The Elohist combines the identities of the god “I am” with Elohim so that Moses serves the Israelite God.

10. Why is a mountain in the south by Midian, the place for a northern Israelite God?  The Elohist doesn’t give us an answer but is sure to let us know that the mountain is indeed the mountain of Elohim.  With the most instances (14) in the Elohist source, this is an important point for the Elohist.

11. Jethro is directly referred to as a priest of Midian.

12. Elohim declares that He is the God of Moses’ father, inferring that Jethro was not Moses’ father.

13. There are 5 instances where the Elohist let’s the reader know that Moses is the one who has the staff and that it is the staff of Elohim as opposed to some other god’s.

14. Elohim told Moses that the Israelites were His people, and Jethro heard all that Elohim had done for Moses and for His people Israel.

15. The Elohist shows how Moses served the same God as the elders by putting them together and saying “our God”, “has met with us” and “has revealed himself to us”

16. The Aaronic priesthood seems to be the main competitor with the Mosaic priesthood.  The Elohist takes steps to show that Moses was just as good and even better than Aaron.  The only other priest mentioned is Hur, but he doesn’t seem to be that much of a concern for the Elohist.

17.  The Elohist provides an alternative explanation for the golden calves and their role in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt: they were created by Aaron while Moses was gone.  The Elohist also covers his tracks for the narrative since the original reader would have expected some evidence of the golden calves from that time (the serpent of bronze was apparently still around). This problem is avoided by having Moses melt them down, put them in water and having the Israelites drink it.

18. See #17.

19. In addition to undercutting the golden calves, the Elohist hits the bronze serpent priesthood will a similar narrative that takes them out of the running for the high priesthood.  Yes, the bronze serpent saved the Israelites from snake bites, but only because Elohim told Moses to create the bronze serpent. We might speculate that Hur was the high priest of this cult, but the Elohist never makes that connection.

20. See #19

21. The function of high judge seems to be tied into the priesthood here (we see that Eli and Samuel were also both priest and judge), and the Elohist pushes for a Mosaic judgeship as well. The Elohist makes it clear that Moses was high judge of the Israelites.

Moses was also given Elohim's law on the two tablets.  Where were these tablets so that Israel could know that Moses' descendants should be high priests?  Moses destroyed them in his anger at the golden calf incident.  Two of the laws that were given to Moses were a slam against the priestly competition:  No gods before Elohim and no idols.  Those was directed at the golden calves and the bronze serpent.

22. Historically, the elders of Israelites were likely the high judges of their respective tribes, so the Elohist creates a narrative to explain this history and why Moses superseded all of them.

23. Aaron and Hur may have had a historical record of being high judges of Israel, so the Elohist creates a narrative to explain that history as well.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative            

1. There was conflict between Jethro’s descendants and Aaron’s plus Moses’ descendants

Aspect #2 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. The Elohist makes room for Aaron and Hur to be supporting priesthoods in Israel.  Jethro (and his descendants) are cut out completely of any kind of Israelite priesthood.  However, the Elohist wants to maintain good relationships between all parties, and does this by using the relationship of Jethro with Aaron and Moses as a parallel. Jethro is shown in a good light by letting Moses go in in peace, by greeting each other in a friendly manner, by Jethro dispensing good advice, by having Jethro offer a sacrifice to Elohim, and having Aaron and the elders eat bread with Jethro in the presence of Elohim.

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. Joshua had higher status than Moses

Aspect #3 Elohist Response With Commentary

1.  Although it’s not clear why the Elohist feels the need to elevate Moses over Joshua, we could speculate that the descendants of Joshua were after the high judge aspect of the priesthood that the descendants of Moses were after.  We see in Judges that military heroes were often judges.  

The Elohist tells how Joshua did what Moses told him, that Joshua’s victory over Amalek was dependent on Moses raising his staff, and Joshua is described as being Moses’ assistant.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative

1. Shiphrah and Puah killed Hebrew baby boys
2. because [Pharaoh ordered Egyptian midwives to kill Hebrew baby boys]

Aspect #4 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. Why Shiphrah and Puah are singled out in the Elohist narrative is unclear.  Since the Elohist is concerned about Moses’ lineage, we might speculate that they were listed somewhere in the genealogy of Moses’ descendants.

2. The Elohist provides an explanation as to how the midwives could be ordered to kill the babies and yet still be innocent: they lied to pharaoh.  The reason they lied was because they feared Elohim, and He gives them families for fearing Him.  Elohim giving them families is essentially an endorsement of their descendants by Elohim and a signal for other Israelites to accept them.

Aspect #5 Opposing Narrative     

1. Some towns, villages and lands were Amorite and not Israelite

Aspect #5 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. If there were still Amorites in the land of Israel, then those Amorites could break away from the kingdom of Israel. The Elohist prevents this by saying that all the inhabitants of that area were of Israelite descent because all of the Amorites were killed.

Aspect #6 Opposing Narrative

1. The inhabitants of Bashaan were descendants of King Og and his people

Aspect #6 Elohist Response With Commentary    

1. Similar to Aspect #5, the Elohist eliminates the idea that some inhabitants of Bashaan were not Israelite by saying that all of the original inhabitants were killed.  Any threat from the kingly line of Og is also eliminated because he was killed along with his people.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.   

Genesis 1: Mirror-Reading vs Allegorical

This is a compare and contrast between the two different approaches that Travis Finley, from Rethinking Revelation, and myself take when interpreting the Bible. I only briefly summarize his position here, so be sure to check out this website where he has lots of articles and podcast episodes on the topic.  I’ve done one other compare and contrast post called Mirror-reading vs John Piper.  The mirror-reading below is only a cursory mirror-reading which suggests some possible mirrors but doesn’t provide the detailed causal connections that my Mira Scriptura methodology would normally  provide.  If you would like to see all of my mirror-readings, check out this page.

Even though our hermeneutical approaches are different, Travis and I do share some common ground.  For one, he’s interviewed some of the same guests that I interviewed on my now defunct RE2 podcast (Chris Date, Mike Heiser, John Walton, Brian Godawa). We also both have issues with Bible translators not being consistent in their translating of words.  I point out, in this post, how important keywords and phrases are in mirror-reading.

We also both believe that the Bible is propaganda (although I think it’s more political than theological propaganda in most of the OT).  Lastly, we are both passionate about knowing the original intent of the Biblical authors, and we both believe that readers are missing information when reading the Bible. However, we differ on how to fill that gap.  Travis uses a meta-narrative while using allegory.  I use opposing narratives while using mirror-reading.

Although I am open to allegorical interpretation (see my post on how Habakkuk has more than one layer of meaning), I come into conflict with those who say certain parts of the Bible are strictly allegorical when I see mirror-reading showing me that it was meant to be taken literally. Having said that though, I do think that much of Travis’ allegorical interpretations are a stretch and I’d like to see his methodology refined, which prompted me to write “A Call for An Allegorical Methodology”.  I think even the original readers would have had a hard time connecting the dots that Travis puts forth.

I take Genesis 1 to be the work of what’s called the Priestly source, which I’ll simply refer to as "P" for the rest of this post.  P is characterized by his lists and attention to the boring details that he adds to the Biblical narrative.  So he doesn’t seem like an allegorical type right from the get go.  To learn about my conversion to the supplementary hypothesis, listen here.

Travis has not worked out an allegorical interpretation for all of Genesis 1 (at least to my knowledge), so his views are missing from quite a few sections below.  He would point anyone wanting to learn more about allegorical interpretation to the work of James Jordan.  I hope to present Travis’ views accurately, but if I’m off, he is free to let me know, so I can correct, or he can simply clarify or expand in the comments section below (less work for me!).

Also, I should note, although the title says Genesis 1, the P creation account extends to Genesis 2:4, which my comments will address.


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Allegorical:

Travis takes genesis 1 (and 2) eschatological, which symbolically shows the redemptive history of the nation of Israel.  Thus, God creating the heavens and earth is about the creation of Israel as a nation.

Travis points to elsewhere in the Bible to show how “heavens and earth” is used metaphorically to refer to Israel. He cites examples in the prophetic writings such as Isaiah, as well as Deut. 32, where sand and stars are used to describe Abraham’s offspring, and in Genesis where Joseph’s dream uses sun, moon and stars to describe his family.  If it’s symbolic there, Travis claims, then the original readers would have automatically assumed Genesis 1 was an allegory referring to Israel, even though there are no explicit indicators in Genesis 1 that would tell us to take it allegorically.

Also, because Deut 32 says that God “created” Israel, this is further evidence that Genesis 1 is talking about Israel when God created the heavens and earth.

He also feels “earth” is better translated “land” (as do I), and since it’s taken in a restricted local sense elsewhere in the Bible, we should take it in a local sense in Gen 1, referring to the land of Israel.

The phrase “without form and void” shows up in Jeremiah, and since it refers to Israel there, it is further evidence that we should take Gen 1 allegorically.

Mirror-Reading:

“In the beginning”: Did God not create the heavens and earth in the beginning? Other ancient myths told of gods ascending, so even though their god was the “top god”, that god may not have been the creator god.  Was the same thing being said about the God of Israel? Is this what P was responding to?  These and other questions I raise below would need to be verified and causally connected from other statements made in the priestly source, as put forth in my Mira Scriptura mirror-reading method.

We see that the Gospel of John was responding to a similar opposing narrative that was saying that the apostles were teaching something different than what they had taught in the beginning.  John responds to this and in the process alludes to Gen 1.

“God created the heavens and the earth”: Did God not create the heavens? Or the earth? Or neither?  Throughout the OT, Biblical authors seem to be responding to an opposing narrative that God was not a god of fertility or a god of war, or that He was only a god of chaos, destruction and darkness.  P may be responding to something similar, in that, an opposing narrative was trying to relegate God’s dominion to either the heavens only or the earth only.

Although I agree with Travis that “earth” is better translated as “land”, it is still a reference to all of the land, as it is in contrast to all of the water.

The earth was without form and void: Gen 1 and Jeremiah’s use of this phrase is connected but not in the way that Travis thinks.  Again, P was responding to an opposing narrative.  Steven DiMattei does a good job explaining the situation that P was responding to:

That is to say, the author of Genesis 1 purposely composed his creation narrative to portray the creator deity creating habitable earth from a desolate formless void (a tohu wabohu) in order to console his sixth-century audience who saw themselves living upon desolate, barren, and uninhabitable land. It is meant as an affirmative message: that as God had created a habitable earth from a preexistent formless waste (tohu wabohu), so too he can, and will, reestablish the land of Judah as habitable from its current condition of desolation and barrenness: “He did not create it a desolation (tohu), but formed it to be habitable.”
DiMattei, Steven. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (pp. 17-18). Wipf and Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
 

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Allegorical:

Again, Travis takes light to refer to Israel since the nation is described elsewhere in the Bible in terms of light, such as being “a light unto the nations”.

Days are periods of time in Israel’s history.  

Mirror-Reading:

Let there be light,” and there was light: This is one of many examples of a command/compliance motif in Gen 1. God commands it, it gets done.  Later in the P text, this command/compliance theme is used to support P’s laws and for the exclusivity of Aaronic priesthood, which is a major issue in P.

God saw that the light was good: Did God not see light was good? This ties in with the previous phrase, and it raises the question, what kind of God was God?  P responds that God is not a God of darkness, but that light originated with God, and God sees light as good.

This theme of God seeing things as good is repeated throughout the P creation account.  We should not place so much emphasis on what God saw as good, or which days do not mention that God saw as good.  Rather, we should realize that the things that God saw as good were the things being challenged by the opposing narrative, that was saying God did not see them as good.

And God separated the light from the darkness:  This is one of the main themes of P: dividing the holy from the unholy, the clean from the unclean.  Keep in mind that holy simply means set apart. In the context of the Bible, it usually means set apart for God.  But it also implies that God is a God of order, not of chaos. This modus operandi of God is established on the first day of creation.

This theme of dividing is also used to support the function of the Aaronic priesthood:

In other words, the priestly writer portrayed the creator god in his composition not only according to the terms that best exemplified and legitimated his own worldview and cultic concerns, but also according to the functions of his own profession as a priest: separating, consecrating, and blessing.
DiMattei, Steven. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (p. 78). Wipf and Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.


And there was evening and there was morning: This is a further example of how God divides things.


6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Mirror-Reading:

let it separate the waters from the waters: Again, this is about division, The expanse or “firmament”, in some translations, is referring to the Hebrew cosmology that was common in the ancient near east. If you are not familiar with that cosmology, see here.


And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Mirror-Reading:

Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: Dividing.  See comments above.

And it was so:  Command/Compliance.  See comments above.

And God saw that it was good: God saw as good. See comments above.


And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Allegorical:

The Hebrew here refers to only grass, herbs and fruit trees.  Travis takes this as an indicator that we should read it allegorically, since, if it was meant to be taken literally, it would have mentioned all types of vegetation.  

Mirror-Reading:

Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants[e] yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed: P may have only referenced these types of vegetation because they were the only types being challenged by the opposing narrative.  Since they were the only ones being challenged, there was no need to mention any others.  To argue otherwise is to argue from silence.  The vegetation mentioned was also food, and the opposing narrative may have been calling some of those “kinds” unclean and forbidden for people to eat.  If P was aware of the Yahwist source, he may be responding to the misinterpretation of the forbidden fruit narrative.  Leviticus 19:23 may be at play here too: “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten.

And it was: Command/Compliance.  See comments above.

And God saw that it was good: God saw as good. See comments above.


14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Mirror-Reading:

to separate the day from the night: Dividing.  See comments above.

And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years: This is one of three parts in the creation account that conflicts with a strictly allegorical interpretation.  The argument  that is being made by P is that the festivals of Israel must be celebrated because the time tables for them were built right into creation itself.  If this is strictly allegorical then it would be of no value in supporting the positions made later in P regarding the festivals.  

What this author has subtly done is to argue that there is no excuse for the nonobservance of these mo‘adim, of Yahweh’s festivals, given that the creator god himself created the luminaries so that mankind would know when these fixed times/festivals occurred and thus be able to observe them. In other words, according to the views and beliefs of the priest(s) who wrote Genesis 1:1—2:3, the inviolable obligation for all Israelites to observe Yahweh’s appointed holy days and festivals was directly woven into the very fabric of creation itself and indicated to mankind by way of the celestial luminaries which served as signs informing mankind when Yahweh’s fixed festivals were to be celebrated. There is no excuse for noncompliance. According to this author, and the god of his text, both the Torah (the book of Leviticus) and the world as the creator God created it bear witness to the eternal obligation of mankind to observe and keep Yahweh’s festivals.
DiMattei, Steven. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (pp. 31-32). Wipf and Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
In other words, the moon was created first and foremost according to the priests who penned Genesis 1 so that Yahweh’s people would be able to ascertain when these sacred days, these eternal laws, occurred, which were woven directly into the fabric of creation. These eternal laws too, in other words, were deemed inherent parts of the creation, just as our author perceived the sun and seas as inherent parts of God’s creation.
DiMattei, Steven. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (p. 115). Wipf and Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.


separate the light from the darkness: Dividing.  See comments above

And God saw that it was good: God saw as good. See comments above.


20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds[g] fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Mirror-Reading:

And God saw that it was good: God saw as good. See comments above

Be fruitful and multiply:  A phrase that is used repeatedly in the P text: in the creation account, Noah and Abraham.  This is a phrase that could be countering the idea that God did not want them to be fruitful and multiply.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: Just like vegetation, the opposing narrative may have been saying that God did not create all of the living creatures.

And God saw that it was good: God saw as good. See comments above.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Let us make man in our image:  The “our” here refers to a plurality.  The idea of a divine council is discussed thoroughly by Michael Heiser.  This infers that man had some divine aspects.  In contrast to the Yahwist narrative, which seems to want to prevent man and woman from becoming too much like them, by forbidding the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the Tree of Life.  

Perhaps God’s image is only for the basis for the P position in Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  This may be to counter the idea that animal blood could atone for the murder of a human.  This is another part that conflicts with a strictly allegorical account.  Without a literal interpretation, P has no basis for such a rule.

And let them have dominion over: This could be responding to the idea that some animals had dominion over man, or that God was not a God of order. By God setting someone over the animals shows that He provided some structure or rule over creation.


So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

Mirror-Reading:

male and female he created them:  The “male and female” phrase shows up later in the P text, during the flood narrative as the male and female animals are required in the ark by God. This could be to counter the idea that God did not create females or that females were not in the image of God - a misinterpretation that could have occurred by some reading the Yahwist account of Adam and Eve.


And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Mirror-Reading:

Be fruitful and multiply:  Fruitful and multiply. See comments above.

have dominion over: Dominion. See comments above.

And it was so: God saw as good. See comments above.

Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food: This could have been countering the idea that some seed vegetation was unclean.

I have given every green plant for food: This could have been countering the idea that some vegetation was unclean for animals to eat.

everything that he had made:  Throughout the P creation account, we can see that God is the one that made everything, but it becomes more obvious in the latter part of the account that P is responding to the idea that God did not create everything.

it was very good: God saw as good. See comments above. P tops off the “very good” issue by saying that God saw everything he made as very good.  Not just some things.  Everything.


Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Allegorical:

Travis is a preterist, so his meta-narrative culminates in the destruction of the heavens and the earth, which is symbolic of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, after which, God rests.

John 5 is used as further evidence: “My Father is working until now”.

Furthermore, since there is no evening on the 7th day, this is a reference to the constant light of Jesus and the new covenant as opposed to the dark periods of Israel’s history.

Mirror-Reading:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them: It was all done.  This could be responding to the idea that God did not finish creation and created other animals or plants at another time.

God finished his work that he had done: God made it.  See comments above.

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy:  Here is the 3rd point that I think conflicts with a strictly allegorical approach for this text.  This verse is the logical basis for demanding that the Sabbath be observed (by penalty of death).  If it wasn’t literal, P would have no support for such a rule.

We actually have the answers to these questions, and they are found in this author’s creation account: because the seventh day’s holiness is an intrinsic structure of the created world, consecrated and even observed by the creator god himself when he created the world. Any nonobservance, therefore, not only failed to recognize the sacred nature inherent in creation itself, but it was also a blatant and deliberate act of blasphemy against the creator God and his creation. This is why our priestly writers take such an uncompromising stance on the matter.
DiMattei, Steven. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (p. 108). Wipf and Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Priestly writer’s thesis is that by not observing this holy day, one not only intentionally transgresses one of Yahweh’s commandments, but more significantly this is a transgression of the worst degree since one has consciously and willingly elected to profane creation itself as well as the creator deity himself. How could there be a more severe crime than profaning God’s creation?
DiMattei, Steven. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs (p. 108). Wipf and Stock, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.


 all his work that he had done: God made it.  See comments above.


These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Allegorical:

Travis claims that this is another indicator that it should be taken as an allegory, since the heavens and earth can’t literally have sex and procreate the universe.

Mirror-Reading:  

These are the generations: Just because generations is used metaphorically, does not demand that we take the whole account as allegorical.  The point of the phrase is simply to say that this is an account of how the heavens and earth came to be.

the Lord God made:  God made it.  See comments above.

 

 

 

 

A Call For An Allegorical Methodology

I recently discovered Travis Finley over at Rethinking Revelation (ht K1). Travis takes a highly allegorical approach to the Bible based largely on James Jordan's work. In addition, I've watched Jordan Peterson's (not to be confused with James Jordan) Bible lectures which also take an allegorical approach and of which my Christian friends rave about. I remain unimpressed by much of the allegorical work that is out there, but believe the approach does have some value when warranted. I haven't done much mirror-reading with apocalyptic or proto-apocalyptic books of the Bible yet, so my need for allegorical interpretation has been limited, and when I have used it, it's been much closer to the specific situation the Biblical author was responding to than most allegorical readings. For example, my cursory mirror reading of Habakkuk shows how the author uses his words to apply to the Babylonians on one level but to the Jews on another level. Although I think it’s a great allegorical interpretation, it shares the same problem with all other symbolic interpretation: they are difficult to prove or disprove.

Even James Jordan notes that it's not the type of thing that one can prove (at the 42:12 mark). This lets just about anything be allegorized. Sam Harris tells an amusing allegory with a recipe in response to Jordan Peterson's approach. Doug Wilson asks "where's the brakes"? The matter is complicated even further if one goes beyond authorial intent and embraces divine intent. In other words, even if the original author never intended his words to be allegorical, somehow God implanted an allegorical meaning in them.

This has led me to desire an allegorical methodology. Even if one cannot prove or disprove an allegory, perhaps we can at least show how probable or improbable they are.  Although James Jordan may refer to such a technique as “atomistic reductionism” (at the 13:40 mark), I still believe a methodology would be beneficial.  My mirror-reading was initially and largely intuitive, but the methodology I developed for it has been incredibly beneficial. Developing a methodology for Mirror-reading has been of great help to me, both in defending my mirror-reading and in improving its accuracy. Perhaps the same can be done for allegory. However, allegory is not really my thing, so I have no desire to develop a methodology for it. I'll simply list a few thoughts below, and then maybe Travis or someone else can flesh out a full methodology. I use the term "allegory" in this post but I am really referring to all types of symbolic language, whether allegory, metaphor, similitude, typology or analogy.

Indicators

When someone is using symbolic language, usually they give us indicators that they are doing so. If they don't give us indicators, then we assume they are speaking literally. This allows us to have a conversation with someone without having to wonder if they speaking literally or figuratively. We approach text the same way.

Indicators may be explicit or may not be. To borrow Travis' phrase, "my love is like a red rose", the words "is like" let us know that love is not actually a rose. But even if the phrase was "my love is a red rose" we would still know it was figurative even without the word "like". This is because logically we know that love can't be a rose. These indicators are independent of genres so that we know when to take something figuratively whether in poetry or prose.

It's not impossible that a text without an indicator was meant to be taken figuratively, only that the lack of an indicator weakens the likelihood that it was. The issue can be complicated in those with certain scientific persuasions, because a scientific conflict with the text can cause a logical inconsistency, thereby creating the need to allegorize the text in order to take it seriously.

I should also mention the possibility of a false indicator: belief affirmation.  Unfortunately, I suspect that most allegorical interpretations are accepted or rejected on the basis of whether it supports or denies people's beliefs.  This is a false indicator and should be jettisoned as a basis for allegorical validity.

Points Of Similarity

The basis for allegory is to find points of similarity between the literal and the symbolic. These points of similarity can vary in quantity and quality. We intuitively think that the more points of similarity there are, the more certain we can be of the allegory. But the human mind is very good at finding similarities where none were intended. There are at least a couple of reasons for this. One is that any item can easily share a number of similarities with another item: color, size, etc. Another reason is confirmation bias when explaining patterns as explained in this video.

This pattern bias is highlighted in the examples below:

Joseph, Joshua and David are widely thought of as types of Christ. But are they all simply part of a larger category? Are they all "hero" types? The hero character is featured in many stories and we all recognize and like the hero characteristics because it embodies common values held among most people. Does that mean all heroes are a type of Christ or is Christ simply a type of hero? The ultimate hero perhaps, but still a hero.

This can also apply to meaning. There are many movies with the message "crime doesn't pay". There was no divine intent to make them all the same message. It is simply a common held value. In the same way, all the redemption stories in the Bible may not be allegories for Christ’s redemption, but simply a common value held among the original writers and readers.

This ease of finding similarities opens up almost any text to almost any allegorical interpretation as demonstrated by Sam Harris above or in the video below which parodies a conspiracy theory with Michael Jordan and the Illuminati.

Travis attempts to counter these issues by limiting allegory to that which lines up with correct theology. However, there are a few issues with this approach. One is that it seems circular in it's reasoning: you can't understand the text without understanding the correct theology, but you can't understand the correct theology without understanding the text. Someone like Jordan Peterson could do an end run around the basis for your theology by saying that Jesus himself is just an allegory.

Another issue with limiting allegory this way is that it can easily turn into eisegesis when the confirmation bias described above kicks in, and one easily begins reading their correct theology into the text.

The issues with quantity causes us to turn to quality of similarity: preciseness of similarity, uniqueness of similarity and the relationship between similarities. A methodology would need to define these categories and explore if there a more that need to be defined.

Some claim that only Scripture should interpret Scripture when doing allegorical interpretation, using the Bible's metaphors as the basis of further allegories. But what if the Bible has conflicting metaphors? The Bible describes both Judah and Gad as a lion in the OT and Jesus and Satan as a lion in the NT. Which does one use when constructing allegories and why?

A methodology would also need to address allegorical "stacking". For example, the creation account in Genesis uses temple language. Is this an allegory of the temple in Jerusalem which is in turn an allegory of Jesus and the spiritual world which is then read back into the creation account? Why or why not? Does "stacking" weaken the allegory?

Allegorical interpretation can be a fascinating and wonderful method of interpretation.  I hope this post can start a conversation on how we can do it better, instead of just being enamored with allegories that affirm our beliefs. In the future, I hope to write a post on how allegorical interpretation compares and contrasts with mirror-reading in Genesis 1. If you would like to help me be able to devote more time to mirror-reading, please consider financially supporting my work. The Bible doesn’t mirror-read itself, people!  

 

 

 

 

Methodology for the Mirror-Reading of The Elohist Source - Joseph Cycle

The Joseph Cycle is primarily concerned about integrating the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin into the Kingdom of Israel and maintaining peace among the tribes of the Kingdom.  Additionally, the Elohist was also concerned about solidifying the rule of Ephraim and Manasseh over the rest of the tribes of Israel.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Joseph Cycle. If you’re not familiar with the Elohist Source and it’s cycles, be sure to check out that podcast episode as well.

Argumentation

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect #1 Opposing Narrative

1. Ephraim and Manasseh should not rule over the tribes of Israel
2. because [Ephraim and Manasseh] were not [Joseph’s] sons
3. because they were Zaphenath-paneah’s sons
4. because [Joseph] was no more
5. because the pit [Joseph was in] was not empty; there was water in it.
6. because [Ephraim and Manasseh’s father] was not a Hebrew.
7. because Ephraim and Manasseh were not Jacob’s children
8. because Jacob did not see Ephraim and Manasseh’s father before he died
9. because [Ephraim and Manasseh’s father] did not fear Elohim
10. because Ephraim and Manasseh were from Egypt and the other tribes were not
11. because items in Canaan prove Jacob and his family never moved to Egypt
12. because Jacob was buried in Canaan

Aspect #1 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. There are several examples given as to why Joseph should rule over his brothers.  For one, Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers.  The robe that was given to Joseph is evidence of this favor but the robe itself also has regal implications. Joseph’s dream foreshadows that his brothers would submit to him and once they reunite in Egypt. Joseph is repeatedly described as wise and his elevation by Pharaoh gives his descendants a royal lineage to draw a king from. Joseph’s ability to provide food for his brothers could also signify the ability to provide for the tribes during the time of the reader.

The Elohist wants to be clear to the original reader that the tribe of Joseph should rule over the other tribes. However, power structure to rule over the other tribes does not seem to be monolithic and consists of both Ephraim and Manasseh.  How this is done, is not explained but we do know that the kingship later came from Ephraim, and the Capital city was located, at least for a short time, in Shechem, Manasseh.  There may be some concern with food provision for the original reader as well. This could have been because famine was a concern during that time and the Elohist wanted to assure the other tribes that the Joseph power structure could deliver during such a crisis.

2. Jacob asks, “Whose sons are these?” and Joseph responds by saying they are his.

3. If point #2 claims that Ephraim and Manasseh were not Joseph’s sons, then it raises the question, whose sons are they? The opposing narrative answers this by saying they were Zaphenath-paneah’s sons. The Elohist resolves this issue by combining the two separate identities of Joseph and Zaphenath-paneah into one person. Pharaoh gave Joseph the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah.

If the opposing narrative was saying that Zaphenath-paneah was of Egyptian ancestry, and that he wasn’t really Joseph at all, then the other tribes would be less willing to submit to the power structure of Ephraim and Manasseh.

More speculatively, the opposing narrative may have viewed Zaphenath-paneah as a criminal since he was in prison.  The Elohist resolves this by showing Joseph was unjustly charged with a crime.

4. If Joseph died, then how could Ephraim and Manasseh be his sons? The Elohist avoids an early death of Joseph by saying that it only seemed like Joseph had died because his brothers lied about it.  After they are reunited, Joseph’s brothers and his father all declare that Joseph is still alive.

If Joseph had died an early death, then Ephraim and Manasseh were not his sons and the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh may not even be related to the rest of the tribes of Israel, thereby giving them less credibility to rule over them.

5. How Joseph died is not explicitly stated, but the emphasis that there was no water in the well that his brothers threw him in, may be an indication that he drowned in a well.

6. Joseph refers to himself while in prison, as a Hebrew.  The cup bearer also refers to Joseph as a Hebrew.

Again, if Ephraim and Manasseh’s father was Egyptian and not Hebrew, then the other Israelites tribes would be less likely to accept leadership from them.

7. Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh, promoting their status. Even if Joseph was their father, the other tribes still have higher status since they are elder. The Elohist resolved this by having Jacob adopt his grandchildren, thus making them his sons.

8. It’s made clear that Jacob was still alive and was reunited with Joseph before he died.

This could have to do with receiving the blessing of the firstborn, although emphasis is placed on the blessing given to Ephraim and Manasseh.

9. When advising his brothers, Joseph states that he fears Elohim. Additionally, he gives credit to Elohim for being able to interpret dreams.

If Joseph had not worshiped Elohim, then he was likely not a true Israelite, since Elohim was the Israelite God. Thus, the Elohist makes it clear that Joseph did worship Elohim.

10. The whole moving of Joseph’s family to Egypt narrative may be an attempt to apply Egyptian ties to all of the tribes. If Jacob and his family did not move to Egypt, then only Ephraim and Manasseh migrated out of Egypt, which would further break cohesion with the other tribes of Israel and give the power structure less credibility to rule over them.

11. The opposing narrative asks, if Jacob and his family moved to Egypt, why do we find their items in Canaan? The Elohist gives an alternative explanation for the items in Canaan:  They were not needed because they would be given the best of all the land in Egypt.

12. The opposing narrative asks, if Jacob moved to Egypt, why is he buried in Canaan? The Elohist provides an alternative explanation for why Jacob was buried in Canaan by saying that Joseph had sworn to bury him in Canaan after he died in Egypt.

It’s also interesting that the Egyptians mourn the death of Jacob at the threshing floor of Atad, which is not in Canaan, but on the other side of the Jordan.  The opposing narrative may have been saying Atad was the burial location of Jacob and the Elohist is giving an alternative for the significance of the site.  This may be because of the opposing narrative claimed that Israel and Jacob were two separate people, one from Canaan and the other from Atad.  That Aspect is explored more in the Jacob Cycle.

Aspect #2 Opposing Narrative

1. Ephraim and Manasseh should not rule the tribe of Benjamin
2. because Joseph's mother was not Benjamin's mother
3. because Benjamin is not subject to Joseph
4. because Benjamin had a divination cup and Joseph did not
5. because Joseph did not practice divination

Aspect #2 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. The tribe of Benjamin seems to have separate issues with the tribe of Joseph, and the Elohist works to bring and/or keep Benjamin within the Israelite Kingdom. They seem to need more coaxing than the other tribes, so the Elohist writes what he can to sweeten the pot. Joseph shows emotional affection and shows favor towards Benjamin by giving him a larger portion of food. This could have signaled the relationship that the Elohist wanted the Benjamin descendants and Joseph’s descendants to have with each other.  We see this concern in the Jacob Cycle as well and in 1 and 2 Samuel, which seems to be on the opposite side, trying to sway Benjamin to stay in the Southern Kingdom.

2. By stating that Benjamin is of the same Mother as Joseph, the Elohist would elevate Benjamin over Joseph’s other brothers.

If Benjamin is not the son of Joseph’s mother then they may not be related at all and would have little motivation to be part of the tribe of Israel.  

3. The Elohist is sure to include Benjamin as being Joseph’s slaves along with the rest of his brothers.
        
4. The Elohist explains that Benjamin did come into possession of a divination cup but provides an alternative explanation by telling how it was originally Joseph’s cup, who had placed it in Benjamin’s bag. This may have been an elegant solution to a potentially sticky problem:  If there was contention with the tribe of Benjamin over a divination cup, the Elohist has to show how Joseph was the owner of the cup without accusing Benjamin of stealing it.  The answer the Elohist provides is that Joseph made it look like Benjamin stole it as part of a test.     

Whichever tribe could lay claim to the cup would have a boost in status.  More speculatively, the tribes of Joseph and Benjamin may have been using the cup to endorse either their priestly lines or their places of worship.  Bethel itself is listed as being in Ephraim and Benjamin at one time according to the Biblical text, and the city may have been a point of contention between the two tribes. Joseph also married the daughter of a priest, which would have given him higher social status and may have been further endorsed a priestly class from his lineage.

If there was hostility towards the tribe of Benjamin from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh for the theft, then Joseph’s relationship with Benjamin models the relationship the Elohist wanted the tribes to have. This tactic is used again in Aspect #5 to model Ephraim and Manasseh’s relationship with the rest of the tribes.

5.  The Elohist makes it clear that Joseph practiced divination and thus would have use for the cup.    

Aspect #3 Opposing Narrative

1. Ephraim was not over Manasseh
2. because Jacob did not know he placed Ephraim over Manasseh
3. because Jacob could not see well

Aspect #3 Elohist Response With Commentary

1.  It needed to be explained why, even though he was younger, Ephraim had higher status than Manasseh. The Elohist provides this explanation by telling the story of how Jacob crossed his hands when blessing them.

If Ephraim had not been elevated over Manasseh by Jacob, then Ephraim would have lower status and the kingly line from Ephraim would have less credibility.

2.  To counter any arguments that might claim that Jacob didn’t realize he was blessing the wrong grandson, the Elohist tells how Joseph points the mistake out to his father, but Jacob states the he’s knows what he’s doing.

3. To counter any arguments that might claim that Jacob couldn’t see very well and had mistakenly blessed Ephraim because he couldn’t see who it was, the Elohist tells how Joseph brought Ephraim and Manasseh close, so that that Jacob could identify them.

Aspect #4 Opposing Narrative

1. Jacob and his sons were not from Canaan
2. because [Joseph's brothers] are not the sons of a certain man
3. Because Jacob did not worship the Elohim of Canaan

Aspect #4 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. The Elohist refers three times to Canaan as the place of origin for Joseph’s brothers and/or Jacob.

This Aspect is dealt with in greater detail regarding Jacob in the Jacob Cycle.  If Jacob and any of his sons were not from Canaan, then there would have been less connection with those tribes of Israel who were rooted in Canaan.

2. The Elohist makes the point that all of Joseph’s brothers are descendant from the same person, Jacob..

Again, the Elohist wants cohesion among the tribes of Israel and does this by making all of the brothers (and thereby tribes) from the same family. This particular point of all the brothers being from the same father is also explored in the Jacob Cycle with the Jacob/Israel Aspect.

3. The Elohist deals with which Elohim Jacob worshipped in the Jacob Cycle, and this may have still been a concern in the Joseph Cycle.  If Jacob had worshipped an Elohim outside of Canaan, then it would put his Canaanite roots in doubt.

Aspect #5 Opposing Narrative

1. Ephraim and Manasseh should not forgive the other tribes
2. because the heads of the tribes of Israel conspired against them

Aspect #5 Elohist Response With Commentary

1. By telling how Joseph forgave his brothers for the wrong that they did to him, the Elohist sets an example for the descendants of Joseph to forgive the descendants of Joseph’s brothers.

2. The incident of Joseph’s brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem may be a metaphor for the elders of those tribes governing at the capital city. Speculatively, this may hint at a time when those tribes conspired in someway against the tribes of Joseph, perhaps against the kingly line from Ephraim.  Rueben is shown in a favorable light when Joseph is thrown into the pit. Perhaps this signifies that Rueben did not take part in a conspiracy, or perhaps the Elohist wants to show the 1st born tribe favor to avoid dishonoring them, and so that they will influence the rest of the tribes to stay in the Israelite Kingdom.

The thrust of much of what the Elohist is trying to do with his narrative is bring cohesiveness among the tribes of Israel.  Any “bad blood” between the tribes could have potentially sparked a conflict between the them and weakened the Kingdom of Israel.  The Elohist stresses forgiveness here to try to avoid such conflicts.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.  You can also view the spreadsheet here.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.   

Methodology for the Mirror-Reading of The Elohist Source - Jacob Cycle

The Jacob Cycle is primarily concerned about keeping the descendants of Jacob and the descendants of Laban separated but also maintaining peace between them.  More speculatively, the Elohist may also be concerned about merging the descendants of Jacob with the descendants of Israel.  If you’d like a less technical overview, please check out my podcast episode on the Jacob Cycle. If you’re not familiar with the Elohist Source and it’s cycles, be sure to check out that podcast episode as well.

Argumentation

Please note that the argumentation below is that of the opposing narrative that the Elohist was addressing and is opposed to the Elohist narrative itself.

Color Code:
Black: These statements are mirrors or echoes
Blue: These statements are an inferred cause/effect of a mirror/echo or connects two mirrors/echoes
Green: These statement have no corresponding mirrors or echoes but have supporting (e.g. alternates, denials) statements that imply them.
Orange: Words within a statement that could be variations of the opposing narrative

Italics are causal connectors (e.g. “because”)
[Brackets] are replacements for pronouns or changing tense for better flow.

For more information about mirrors, echoes, supporting categories and my methodology, please visit this post.

Aspect#1: The relationship of Jacob and Rachel

1. Jacob loved Leah

2. Jacob did not love Rachel more than Leah
3. because Jacob married Leah first

4. Jacob did not love Rachel
5. We know because Jacob withheld sexual relations from Rachel

Aspect#2: The relationship of Jacob and Laban   

1. [Jacob served Laban] for nothing

2. [Laban did] not regard [Jacob] as favorably as he did before
3. because Jacob cheated Laban
4. and because [Jacob deceived Laban]
5. and because [Jacob] carried away [Laban's] daughters like captives
6. and because [Jacob stole Laban's] gods

Aspect#3: Which Bethel should Elohim be worshiped at?

1. Some were not giving a tenth to Bethel in Canaan
2. because [Bethel in Canaan] is not none other than the house of God, & [it] is not the gate of heaven.

Aspect #4: Where did Jacob originate from?

1. Jacob was not from Canaan

Aspect #5: Did Jacob worship other gods besides Elohim?

1. Jacob served Elohim only after he returned to Canaan
2. We know because Jacob hid [foreign gods] under the oak that was near Shechem.

Aspect #6: Were Jacob and Israel two separate people?

1. Jacob and Israel were two separate people
2. because Jacob's hip [was out] of socket and Israel’s was not

Aspect #7: The relationship between Jacob and Esau

1. Esau was hostile towards Jacob

Aspect #8: Was Benjamin a descendant of Jacob?

1. Benjamin was not a descendant of Jacob
2. because Jacob’s son was Benoni, not Benjamin

Aspect #9: Is Elohim a God of fertility?

1. Elohim is not a God of fertility

Commentary

The commentary attempts to show how the Elohist responds to the opposing narrative.

Aspect  #1: The relationship of Jacob and Rachel

  1. In response to the opposing narrative that said Jacob didn’t love Rachel, the Elohist switches it around to show that Jacob didn’t love Leah.
  2. Not only did Jacob love Rachel, but he loved Rachel more than Leah.
  3. The Elohist agrees with the opposing narrative that Jacob did marry Leah first, but this was not an indication of who he loved more.  An alternative explanation is provided, in that Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah first, and that he had really wanted to wed Rachel first.
  4. The Elohist makes it abundantly clear that Jacob loved Rachel, even serving Laban 14 years in order to get her, which also serves as an alternative for Aspect #2.
  5. An alternative is provided to show that it was Elohim that withheld the fruit of the womb and not Jacob withholding sexual relations. According to Biblical scholar, Robert Alter, the Hebrew is quite clear about Jacob’s desire for Rachel.  Via Tim Keller’s description: “Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” Of course that means he wants to have sex with her. Alter says that this statement is so blunt, so graphic, so sexual, so over-the-top and inappropriate and non-customary that, over the centuries, Jewish commentators have had to do all kinds of backpedaling to explain it. But he says it is not that hard to explain the meaning. He says that the narrator is showing us a man driven by and overwhelmed with emotional and sexual longing for one woman.”

Implications:
Jacob’s and Rachel’s relationship could have established two things for the Elohist.  First, it establishes that Joseph and Benjamin are descendants of Jacob.  This forms a close blood tie with the descendants of Jacob and Leah.  Second, it gives the offspring of Rachel and Jacob higher status than those of Leah and Jacob since she was the favored wife. 

Aspect#2: The relationship of Jacob and Laban   

  1. The opposing narrative was likely saying that Jacob was a servant or even a slave of Laban.  The Elohist counters this by saying that Jacob did work for Laban but not as a slave or a typical servant.  The wages he requested was Rachel. The relationship is described in friendly terms as Laban greets Jacob with a kiss and embraces him as well as offering for him to stay in his house.  The statement that Jacob was a kinsman of Laban makes it less likely that he was his slave.    
  2. The Elohist counters the idea that Jacob and Laban’s relationship turned negative by saying that it was all just a misunderstanding and the relationship was restored at the end.
  3. There seems to have been a transfer of wealth from Laban to Jacob.  The opposing narrative explains this by saying that Jacob cheated Laban, primarily in regards to livestock, which is what seems to be what most of Laban’s wealth consisted of.  Other reasons for the statement that Jacob cheated Laban are discussed in the points below.  The Elohist responds by saying that Jacob served Laban with integrity and that all of his livestock were rightfully his. An alternative is provided that explained that the wealth was transferred because Laban was financially irresponsible and because Elohim transferred the wealth to Jacob. The Elohist even flips the narrative, making Laban out to be the one who cheated Jacob.
  4. The Elohist does not deny that Jacob sneaked away from Laban but shows that it wasn’t for nefarious reasons. Rather, he provides the alternative that Jacob was afraid. The opposing narrative said that Jacob deceived Laban by secretly leaving and taking much, if not all, of Laban’s wealth as well as his daughters and idols. But the Elohist points out that what Jacob fled with was all his own.
  5. The Elohist points out that Jacob bought his wives fair and square, to put it bluntly.  The reason Jacob had taken them secretly was because he was afraid that Laban would steal them from him.
  6. The Elohist agrees that Laban’s idols had come with Jacob but provides an alternative that Jacob was unaware of it by saying that Rachel had taken them without his knowledge.

Implications:
The Elohist’s narrative serves to smooth hostilities between the descendants of Jacob and the descendant’s of Laban.  We can assume that they were in close proximity to each other somewhere around the pillar that was set up as a boundary marker between them. The Elohist seems to want them on friendly terms by recasting Jacob and Laban on good terms. He wants them connected (Jacob was a kinsman of Laban) but not too close (Jacob’s descendants are not Laban’s descendants).  The rightful taking of Leah and Rachel as Jacob’s wives may be at play on this point as well.  If Jacob has stolen them, then it could be argued that his descendants belonged to Laban and so should be merged with Laban’s descendants.  The Elohist doesn’t want this and shows that they were rightfully Jacob’s wives and that even Laban considered them foreigners. The stolen gods would have also been a concern to the Elohist since he wanted only Elohim to be worshipped.  There may have been some evidence of a connection between Jacob and foreign gods during the time of the original reader. Distancing Jacob from the stolen gods would encourage his descendants to worship only Elohim and would further distance them from Laban’s descendants. Not only was the Elohist trying to distance Jacob descendants from Laban’s descendants, he may have also been trying to merge the descendants of Jacob and the descendants of Israel, assuming Aspect #6 is true.  If Jacob had the reputation of a scoundrel that ripped off Laban, then there would be more resistance to the merging of Jacob’s and Israel’s identities. So the Elohist shows how Jacob acted with integrity.       

Aspect#3: Which Bethel should Elohim be worshiped at?

  1. In the ancient near east, meteorites were regarded as chunks of God’s house that had fallen from the sky.  These meteorites became places of worship and were referred to as bethels (houses of God). So it’s feasible that there were competing “Bethels” to the one in Canaan. Where these competing Bethel’s were, the text does not explicitly say, although, we could speculate that the pillar set up by Jacob and Laban may have been viewed as such.  Less likely is Rachel’s pillar since it was also in Canaan and the Elohist does not seemed concerned about it. Jacob sets an example for his descendants by saying that he will give his tithes at the Bethel in Canaan.
  2. Jacob’s building an altar at Bethel in Canaan, both before he leaves and after his return, marks that Bethel as the place for his descendants to worship.

Implications:
With tithes likely being the main financial source for the priesthood and cult of Elohim in Israel, they would have had a vested interest in compelling Israelites to bring their tithes to the Bethel in Canaan.  If Aspect #6 if true, then either the Jacobites or the Israelites may have been worshipping at a different Bethel and so this part of the narrative was directed at them.

Aspect #4: Where did Jacob originate from?

  1. The Elohist again wants to make sure that Laban’s descendants and Jacob’s descendants are not too closely connected.  They are relatives but Jacob is tied to Canaan and not from where Laban originated.

Implications:
This could be a concern about keeping those on the border of Israel, part of Israel and preventing them from defecting to other tribes and kingdoms.  Laban’s descendants may have been one such competing tribe and the Elohist wanted to keep them separated from them.

Aspect #5: Did Jacob worship other gods besides Elohim?

  1. It’s shown that Jacob committed to Elohim at Bethel, before leaving Canaan.  When the man that Jacob wrestled, asks him why he asked his name, this could be an indication that Jacob already knew his name because he already worshiped Elohim.            
  2. Since the Elohist admits that Laban’s gods were transported to Canaan via Rachel, he needs to show Jacob remained faithful to Elohim and that they were disposed of to support the idea that only Elohim is to be worshiped.  He does this by saying that they were buried.

Implications:
A couple of issues are being addressed here. One, Jacob’s actions promote the idea that only Elohim is to be worshiped. Jacob discarding of the foreign gods eliminated “competition”.  Second, showing that the descendants of Jacob and the descendants of Laban worship different gods, makes them less connected and prevents them from merging.

Aspect #6: Were Jacob and Israel two separate people?

  1. Jacob is renamed as Israel to show that they were the same person.
  2. One of the distinctive differences between Jacob and Israel, according to the opposing narrative, was Israel’s limp.  The Elohist shows that Israel gained his limp from wrestling during his divine encounter, which was at the same time Jacob was renamed Israel and also around the same time he entered Canaan.

Implications:
If Jacob and Israel were two different people then Jacob’s descendants would have less motive to be a part of the kingdom of Israel and more likely to merge with another tribe, such as Laban’s descendants. The question is, who was the opposing narrative viewing as descendants of Jacob but not Israel? They remained unnamed by the Elohist.  We might refer to them as the Jacobites for lack of a better term.  We could speculate that the Jacobites were the children of Rachel, since the two wives offer a natural genetic division for the opposing narrative, with Rachel being Jacob’s wife and Leah being Israel’s wife . Whoever, they were, at least some of them seemed to have lived on the transjordan, south of the pillar that Jacob and Laban had erected. In the end Israel seems to have not only retained the “Jacobites” as part of Israel but may have also absorbed the descendants of Laban since East Manasseh is north of the pillar that Jacob and Laban had erected.

Aspect #7: The relationship between Jacob and Esau

  1. Esau acts friendly towards Jacob and shows know ill will.

Implications:
Why Esau is at play here is a bit of a mystery to me.  The descendants of Esau (the Edomites) did not border Israel.  Moab sat between them, so we could speculate that Israel formed an alliance with Edom to keep Moab in check.  Jacob’s subservient behavior and gift giving to Esau may indicate the kingdom of Israel was subjugated to Edom and paying tribute to them at that time. If the “Jacobites” in Aspect #6 were new to this arrangement, or if they had a history of hostility with the Edomites, this part of the narrative would have been directed at them.

Aspect #8: Was Benjamin a descendant of Jacob?

  1. The Elohist shows that Rachel had another son right before she died.  This not only supports the idea that Benjamin was a descendant of Jacob but also supports the idea that Jacob loved Rachel, as discussed in Aspect #1.
  2. This could be another issue like Aspect #6 in that Benoni and Benjamin were seen as separate people by the opposing narrative. Israel had an ancestor name Benjamin and the Benjaminites had an ancestor name Benoni.  Or vise versa. The Elohist combines these two people into one. It’s possible it may have been just about giving the tribe of Benjamin more honor since Benoni means “son of sorrow” and Benjamin means “son of my right hand”.   That is interesting because it would seem to elevate Benjamin above Joseph, which is not the case in the Joseph Cycle. This may signal a shift that took place, even within the Elohist writings, to promote a kingly line from the tribe of Benjamin over a kingly line from the tribe of Joseph.     

Implications:
If the tribe of Benjamin was not a descendant of Israel, then they would have less motive to be a part of the kingdom of Israel and could be influenced to be part of another tribe or kingdom since they were on the border of the Kingdom of Israel. (It’s interesting to note that the Southern Kingdom may have been trying to keep Benjamin in it’s kingdom later on, according to 2 Samuel.) This is much like the “Jacobites” in Aspect #6.  We might even speculate that the Benjaminites were the Jacobites discussed in that Aspect. The Elohist seems concerned to show that Benjamin is tied to the land of the tribe of Benjamin, saying that he was born in Bethlehem and Rachel died and was buried there.  The focus on Bethel could be another indication of promoting Benjamin over the rest of the tribes, however, Bethel may have belonged to the tribe of Ephraim at that time, as mentioned in the story of Deborah.

Aspect #9: Is Elohim a God of fertility?

  1. Elohim is given a prominent role in the birth of most of Jacob’s children.  Jacob also credits Elohim for conception when discussing Rachel’s barrenness with her (thereby addressing Aspect #1 as well) and he also credits Elohim for his children when talking to Esau.

Implications:
We saw that “god competition” in Aspect #5 was at play.  This is similar in that the Elohist is attempting to move the Israelites away from any other fertility gods and showing that Elohim is able to produce conception of children.

Biblical References

The spreadsheet embedded below is a list of verses used to compose the argumentation above.   You can also view the spreadsheet here.  For further information about how these statements were categorized, please visit this post.