The Making of the OT: Before Moses?

The Making of the OT:

Before Moses

A brief word about the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP) is warranted at this point.
The Reader should also consult two articles written much later than this series, for additional data: (1) On the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch [qmoses1.html];  and (2) The languages of the Patriarchs/Moses [abespeak.html]

What we are looking for in this section is data concerning HOW and TO WHAT EXTENT historical information passed down to Moses, the content originator of the first five books of the Bible.

Note: The authorship of the first five books of the Bible (or at least much of the content of them) is acribed to Moses by Jesus. This is BY FAR the most important reason to take traditional Mosaic authorship issues seriously. The antiquity and historical trustworthiness of the Pentateuch is taught very clearly by our Lord. Consider these 'controversial' events as referred to by Jesus:

  • Matthew 19:4-5 (both creation accounts in Gen 1 and 2)
  • Luke 17.26f (the Noahic flood)
  • Luke 17.28 (destruction of Sodom)
  • Mt 12.40 (Jonah and the big fish)
  • Mt 4.16 with 12.17 ("Both" Isaiahs)
  • Lk 20.37 (the burning bush)
  • Jn 6.32 (Manna in the wilderness)
  • Jn 3.14 (the bronze serpent)

And then consider these statements of His about Mosaic origination/recording of specific passages (from a concordance):

  • Matt. 8:4 priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony
  • Matt. 19:8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your
  • Mark 1:44 and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing,
  • Mark 7:10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother
  • Mark 10:3 What did Moses command you?" he replied.
  • Mark 10:5 your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,"
  • Mark 12:26 read in the book of Moses, in the account of
  • Luke 5:14 and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing,
  • Luke 20:37 of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise
  • John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert,
  • John 7:19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one
  • John 7:23 so that the law of Moses may not be broken,

(I have dealt with the issue of was Jesus merely 'playing to the crowds' or simply mistaken, in the first Adult Education course.)

    1. Each generation seemed to have access to historical records/information.
      • Abraham - in Gen 18.22 he seems to be arguing from the motif of Gen 6-7.
      • Joseph - in Gen 50.24 he is aware of Gen 15.13
      • Moses - shows substantial familiarity with the patriarchal records
        1. He argues with God on the basis of the numerous 'descendants' passages (Ex 32.13)
        2. Moses' songs show familiarity
          • Ex 15:14 - the geography and where they were headed
          • Dt 32:32 - referred to Sodom/Gomorrah (Gen 19)
          • Ps 90:3 - the 'dust' reference to creation passage
        3. The inclusion of the Creation Week in Ex 20:11 (10 Commandments)
        4. He knew about the oaths to the patriarchs (Dt 7.8 with Gen 12:2-3; 13:15; 15:5; 15:12-15; 17:1-8 et al)
        5. He knew that 70 people went down to Egypt! (Dt 10.22 with Gen 46.26)
        6. He knew about their origination in Meso/Syria--Dt 26.5 ("My father was wandering Aramean...") compare with Gen 25:20--Abraham's relative "Laban the Aramean"
        7. He knew the details of the judgment in Gen 19.24-25, to the inclusion of Zeboim and Admah (with Sodom/Gomorrah in Dt 29:23)--Moses had access to detail not EXPLICITLY mentioned in the Genesis 19 passage (but see Gen 14:2,8)
        8. He knew the exact words of the Jacobic blessing of Joseph--"a prince among his brothers" (Gen 49.26 with Dt 33.16)
    2. How could this be? How could that information be transmitted so reliably, especially BEFORE the establishment of an institution FOR that purpose (i.e. the Levitical Priesthood) . This data would pre-date Moses by at least 400 years.
      1. The lifespan overlap of the patriarchs. (But this is probably overstated--there are known gaps in the genealogies--see AOOT: 36-41., which would count AGAINST THIS point, but count FOR even more repetition--the stuff of stability)
        • Adam and Methuselah overlap by 243 years
        • Methusaleth and Shem (son of Noah) overlap by 98 years.
        • Shem and Abraham overlap 150 years, and overlaps with Isaac 50 years.
        • Jacob is alive when the Israelites go into Egypt.
      2. Family records were widespread (and essential) in those times
        1. Genealogies - (Gen 5.1; Gen 36 - Esau)--needed as Moses/Joshua established a tribal-based economy and priesthood.
        2. The "Accounts". The word translated 'account' in the below verses is the biblical word toledoth. It was used in the ANE as an 'ownership' and/or 'authorship' word, applying to clay tablets of family histories, important events, legal docs, etc. It occurred at the END of a tablet, not typically at the BEGINNING. (So, for example, Gen 11.27 is Terah's personal record of his own genealogy in 11.10-27). This word, in keeping with ANE practices, would mark the end of tablet-type narrative structures in Genesis, and reveal VERY ANCIENT sources! (See RKH, 543-551). These would have been more important in semi-nomadic life (e.g. patriarchs) than in urban centers (where the common knowledge of events and histories would have been well-known). Even 2.4 (where we normally would not consider the 'heavens and the earth' to be 'agents') can be seen in this light, with the underlying ANE worldview of nature as being a 'silent witness'--compare the 'stone' of Jos 24.27 and Gen 31.45f (cf. also the triumphal entry of Jesus in Lk 19.40).
          • Gen. 2:4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth
          • Gen. 5:1 This is the written account of Adam's line. When (NOTICE--WRITTEN and a pointer back to the 'Image' passage in chapter 1!)
          • Gen. 6:9 This is the account of Noah.
          • Gen. 10:1 This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth,
          • Gen. 11:10 This is the account of Shem.
          • Gen. 11:27 This is the account of Terah.
          • Gen. 25:12 This is the account of Abraham's son Ishmael,
          • Gen. 25:19 This is the account of Abraham's son Isaac.
          • Gen. 36:1 This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom--the CLAN version
          • Gen. 36:9 This is the account of Esau the father of the--the PERSON version
          • Gen. 37:2 This is the account of Jacob.



        1. There was plenty of writing back in those days
          1. ANE teemed with literacy (e.g. Sumerian/Akkadian epics before Abe; highly developed legal system in Meso)

    "During the Akkadian period, the sources, now largely in the Akkadian language, are abundant for the first demonstrable empire in history...we possess many inscriptions containing battle and campaign reports..." (von Soden, The Ancient Orient, p. 48, timeframe=c. 2300bc, well before Abe)

    "The sources for the Old Babylonian period (note: c.1950-1530 bc) are unusually numerous and manifold..." (Soden, p.51)

    "From numerous Babylonian cities as well as the kingdoms of Eshnunna and Mari we have hundreds and even thousands of legal and administrative documents of all kinds. These documents, with their date and oath formulas in which kings are named, along with other evidence, widen our knowledge of history." (Soden, p. 51)

    "To these documents must be added thousands of letters from private and public archives..." (Soden, p. 52)

    "It is not widely enough known that in the time of Moses the Canaanites were familiar with at least eight languages recording five completely different systems of writing" (Mendenhall, cited in PCE, 71)

          1. There were even scribal SCHOOLS around then!

    "Ur-Nammu (2112-2095 B.C.) was the founding ruler of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, the builder of the best preserved ziggurat in ancient Mesopotamia, whose reign inaugurated the last great period of Sumerian literary creativity...most of the literary and scholarly production of this period is known only from copies produced in the scribal schools in Nippur and Ur some two to three hundred years later, i.e. between 1800 and 1700. BC." (Finkelstein, cited in Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, Volume II: A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures, p. 31.)

          1. All Sumerian and Akkadian priests could write in both Acc/Sumerian languages (PCE, 107)
          2. Songs of Moses (above)
          3. Scroll written by Moses for Joshua's remembrance (Ex 17.14)
          4. Book of the Covenant in Ex 24.4-7
          5. Other refs: Dt 27; 28.58; 29.21
        1. Monuments and inscriptions abound
          1. Archeological data (compare the abundance of material described and illustrated in the works collected by Pritchard--The Ancient Near East, Princeton. A two volume anthology of texts and pictures.
          2. Altars/pillars (Dt 27.1-8; Josh 8.30-32)--many of these built by patriarchs
          3. Important events were written up on a stela or pillar.

        1. Forms were highly memorable!
          2. Blessing formulae (Gen 27:27ff; 49)
          3. Covenant forms (Gen 17.1-14)
          4. Census info (Gen 46.8)
          5. Genealogies (Gen 5; 11:10-16)
          6. Instructions (Gen 49:33)
          7. TONS of chiastics! (chiasm is a literary device of structure, wherein the ORDER of topics discussed is REVERSED after some pivotal point or couplet). Chiasm facilitates memory of the material, since the order of either 'half' of the structure can be 'calculated' from the other half, generally.
     Genesis 11.1-9 : A chiasm of concepts (BAW, 73)    
      Human unity (1-2)   
       Man speaks and acts (3-4)  
        God comes down to see (5) 
       God speaks and acts (6-7)  
      Human dispersion (8-9)   
     Genesis 6.8-9: A chiasm in the Hebrew word order (BAW, 86)     
       found favor  
        in the eyes of the Lord 
         These are the generations of Noah
          Noah was a righteous man
          perfect he was
         in his generations 
        with God  
     Genesis 12-20: A chiasm in Events (BAW, 95)      
      (A)  Sarah and Pharaoh (12)    
       (B)  Saving of Lot (14)   
        (C)  Covenant for Land (15)  
         (D)  Covenant for Abraham (17) 
        (C') Covenant for Seed (18)  
       (B') Rescue of Lot (19)   
      (A') Sarah and Abimelech (20)    
      (chapter 13 is inserted to explain how Lot is separated from Abr;       
       chapter 16--expulsion of Hagar--highlights the need for
            the Seed passage)       
     Genesis 11-22: The entire story of Abraham (BAW, 96)         
      (A)  Abraham's call; Promise of Seed (11:31-12.3)       
       (B)  Sojourn in Canaan (12.4-9)      
        (C)  Sojourn in Egypt; Denial of Sarai (12.10-20)     
         (D)  Separation of Lot; Manifestation of Land (13.1-18)    
          (E)  War on Sodom; Rescue of Lot by Abraham (14.1-24)   
           (F)  Covenant Made: Land (15.1-21)  
            (G)  Sarai's Effort (16.1-16) 
             (H)  Covenant Made: Abraham (17.1-14)
            (G') Sarah's Blessing (17.15-27) 
           (F') Covenant Made: Seed (18.1-15)
          (E') Destruction of Sodom; Rescue of Lot by Angels (18-16-19.38) 
         (C') Sojourn in Gerar; Denial of Sarah (20.1-8)  
        (D') Manifestation of Seed; Separation of Ishmael (21:1-21)   
       (B') Sojourn in Gerar (21.22-34)    
      (A') Abraham's Test: Blessing of Seed (22.1-19)     
     Genesis 6.10-9.19: The Flood Story            
      (G. J. Wenham, "The Coherence of the Flood Narrative"
            in VT,28 (1978): 336-48 , (cited in BAW p. 105)            
      A   Noah (10a)          
      B    Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10b)         
      C     Ark to be built (14-16)        
      D      Flood announced (17)       
      E       Covenant with Noah (18-20)      
      F        Food in the Ark (21)     
      G         Command to enter the Ark (7.1-3)    
      H          7 days waiting for flood (4-5)   
      I           7 days waiting for flood (7-10)  
      J            Entry to ark (11-15) 
      K             Yahweh shuts Noah in (16)
      L              40 days flood (17a)    
      M               Waters increase (17b-18)   
      N                Mountains covered (18-20)  
      O                 150 days waters prevail (21-24) 
      P                  GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8.1)
      O'                150 days waters abate (3) 
      N'               Mountain tops become visible (4-5)  
      M'              Waters abate (6)   
      L'             40 days (end of) (6a)    
      K'            Noah opens window of ark (6b)     
      J'           Raven and dove leave ark (7-9)      
      I'          7 days waiting for waters to subside (10-11)       
      H'         7 days waiting for waters to subside (12-13)        
      G'        Command to leave the ark (15-17)         
      F'       Food outside the ark (9.1-4)          
      E'      Covenant with all flesh (8-10)           
      D'     No flood in future (11-17) 
      C'    Ark (18a)  
      B'   Shem, Ham, Japheth (18b)   
      A'  Noah (19)    
     Genesis 1-11: The Primeval History (RG, 8)--A different pattern       
      A   Creation, God's word to Adam (1.1-3.24)    
      B    Adam's Son's (4.1-16)   
      C     Technological Development of Mankind (4.17-26)  
      D      Ten Generations from Adam to Noah (5.1-32) 
      E       Downfall: The Nephilim (6.1-8)
      A'  Flood, God's word to Noah (6.9-9.17)    
      B'   Noah's Sons (9.18-29)   
      C'    Ethnic Development of Mankind (10.1-32)  
      E'      Downfall: Tower of Babel (11.1-9)
      D'     Ten Generations from Noah to Terah (11.10-26) 
           (used as transition to story of Abraham) 
     Genesis 11:27-22:24): The Abraham Cycle (RG, 28-29)       
      A   Genealogy of Terah (11.27-32)    
      B    Start of Abram's spiritual odyssey (12.1-9)   
      C     Sarai in foreign palace; ordeal ends in peace and success; Lot parts (12.10-13.18)  
      D      Abram comes to the rescue of Sodom and Lot (14) 
      E       Covenant with Ab; Annunciation of Ishmael (15-16)
      E'      Covenant with Ab; Annunciation of Isaac (17-18.15)
      D'     Abram comes to the rescue of Sodom and Lot (18.16-19.38) 
      C'    Sarah in foreign palace; ordeal ends in peace and success; Ishmael parts (20-21)  
      B'   Climax of Abraham's spiritual odyssey (22.1-19)   
      A'  Genealogy of Nahor (22.20-24)    
     The Story of Biblical History--a Chiasm?         
      A   Creation of Heavens and Earth (Gen 1-2)     
      B    Humanity's rebellion against God (Gen 3-11)    
      C     God's Kingdom on Earth (Gen 12-David)   
      D      The Apostasy of Humanity (Solomon-Malachi)  
      E       The Hidden Years (The Intertestamental period) 
      F        God enters History in the Messiah
      E'      The Hidden Years (The "Church Age") 
      D'     The Apostasy of Humanity (cf. 2 Thess 2.3)
      C'    God's Kingdom on Earth (Rev 20:1-6) 
      B'   Humanity's rebellion against God (Rev 20.7-9)  
      A'  Creation of New Heavens and Earth (Rev 21-22)   
          1. Sayings and customs:
            • "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Gen 10.9)
            • "On the Mountain of the Lord it will be provided" (Gen 22.14)
            • Custom: not eating tendon (Gen 32.31)
            • Custom: hand under thigh on oath (Gen 24.2; 47.29)
          2. Catch-phrases, literary forms, high detail
            1. "Stars in the sky" (Gen 15:5): Dt 1.10; 10:22; I Chr 27.23; Neh 9.23
            2. "Sand of the seashore" (Gen 22.17): 2 Sam 17.11; I Kgs 4.20; Is 10.22
            3. "Dust of the earth" (Gen 28.14): 2 Chr 1.9
            4. National songs (Moses and Miriam--above)
            5. Public Confessional forms--"A Wandering Aramean" - Dt 26.5
            6. The very, very DETAILED blessing pronouncements (like wills)--Gen 49; Dt 33
          3. The hafalat samar--the campfire that 'preserves'. This is the ancient Bedouin campfire, in which the leaders of the tribe/clan recite the traditions of the tribe. The accuracy of the transmission of these traditions is incredible--even today! (Cf. our knowledge of the Pledge of Allegiance--those of us who said it daily for 15+ years NEVER, EVER forget the words.) The Middle Eastern people were able to memorize very massive words, without error.
          4. One obvious question arises here. We know from Sumerian myths that the religion of the probable home of Terah, Nahor, and Abe (Ur of Sumer, the southern site; but there is some data that their Ur was a small northern city instead) was rather 'un-biblical' in religious beliefs, and according to Joshua 24:2,14 at least Terah worshipped false gods there. This probably reflected a mixture of true and false religion (cf. Gen 31.19, 34f).

    So how did the 'simpler and purer' tradition get into Abraham's hands, in the form of 'tablets' (see "Accounts" above)?

    Well, Terah already had as far back as Shem in HIS account (11.11-27). So the question comes down to the tablets of Gen 1-11.10. (Now, it could be that Ab did NOT have that data, and that somehow Moses got it instead, but as I noted above, it looks like Abraham was aware of the 'Noah found favor' motif and used that in his 'negotiations' with God over the destruction of Sodom, so in any event, we have to get SOME of the flood tradition to him (other than those of Sumer/Accad--having no 'sparing' passage--the sections on 'sparing' Atrahasis et. al. have very little in common with grace!).

    So where might Abraham have encountered a source of greater antiquity than his own forefathers? And early enough in his post-Ur life to shape his Gen 18 negotiation with God?

    There is actually a rather obvious choice--Melchizedek in Gen 14. This Melki-figure is one of the strangest biblical figures we encounter. He pops out of nowhere, is greater than Abraham, receives tithes of Ab, is a pattern for the Royal Priest-King Jesus (Ps 110), is ascribed immortality (probably) in the Book of Hebrews, and lives in Jerusalem. He had NO REASON to encounter Abraham (Salem was not in the 4-against-5 kings war in the passage), but sought him out. This figure serves the God who is the 'bringer forth of the heavens and the earth' (a broader Ugaritic and Phoenican parallel word for 'bara/create'--including notions of ownership. See Ancient Israelby de Vaux, vol 2., p.310 and TWOT, vol 2, p. 804). He apparently instructs Abe on the proper response to the king of Sodom's future offering (cf. 14:22ff)--he was obviously a prophet as well!--even to the point of eliciting an oath from Abraham to his God! (14.22).

    Was this individual a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Son of God? Some think so, but I personally don't believe that makes sense in light of the Hebrews passages on him. I actually find an ancient Jewish tradition to be quite intriguing--the Jerusalem Targum on Gen 14.18 identifies Melki as Shem, the eldest son of Noah. According to the strict version of the genealogies, Shem would have still been alive at this time (Shem and Abe would have overlapped by 150 years, so even with a few extra gens in there, this is still VERY, VERY possible.) This would, of course, explain a number of things, especially why Abe paid such deference to this character! This would also, provide an excellent opportunity for the godly Shem to explain the ways of the Lord to the future father of the Jewish race (as a prophet, he probably was aware of Abe's special character), and to pass down the 'accounts' he would have gotten from his fathers before him (i.e. Noah, Adam). Thus the 'pure' stream of tradition would find its way into biblical sources. The overall impression I get from Abram's response to Melki is that of CONVERSION, and I think it noteworthy that the El Elyon (God most high) of Melki, is called YHWH by Abe in this passage.

      1. The literary context in ANE
        1. Repetition with variation/detail - the Hebrew way (can also be found in other ANE religious texts--Akkadian and Ugaritic)
        2. Gen 1-11 as a 'rebuttal' of the dominant religious tradition of the ANE
          1. Sumerian history of Enki and Ninmah (circa Abraham)--has 'two' creation accounts, one of which describes the creation of man after the 'form' of the god Enki
          2. Akkadian version of the Atrahasis epic (ENKI is like YHWH; Atrahasis is like Noah)
          3. Set up in the same 5 part structure of the ancient mythologies


            (I have set up the sections of Gen 1-11 and the Atrahasis epic in alternating rows--the specific references to the Atrahasis text are given in BAW, p.46ff)
          Genesis 1-11 
     A. Creation(Atra)    
        Summary of work of gods   
        Creation of man   
          Creation (Bible) 
           Summary of work of God
           Creation of man
     B.  First Threat (Atra)   
        Man's numerical increase   
          First Threat (Bible)
           Genealogy of heaven and earth
           Adam and Eve -- the fall
     C.  Second Threat(Atra)    
        Man's numerical increase   
          Second Threat(Bible) 
           Cain and Abel--genealogy
           Cain and Abel--Lamech's taunt
     D.  Third Threat(Atra)    
        Numerical Increase   
        Atrahasis' Flood   
        Salvation in Boat   
          Third Threat(Bible) 
           Noah's Flood
           Salvation in Ark
     E.  Resolution(Atra)    
        "Birth Control"   
          Resolution (Bible)
           Dispersion (Babel)
          1. The corrective to their beliefs about over-population and the benefits of civilization!--The Gods sent the Flood to kill off humanity because we were populating the earth 'too much':

    "So the parallels observed between Atrahasis and Genesis 1-11 are no longer surprising. We find similar parallels between Atrahasis and other primeval histories (e.g. Old Iranian Flood Tale, Zoroastrian tale of Yima, primeval greek history). These similar parallels make us feel encouraged that perhaps Genesis 1-11, while drawn from a common stock of tales, was written as a dissent from the civilized pragmatism of the older Atrahasis tradition"

    "Atrahasis offers population control as the solution to urban overcrowding; Genesis offers dispersion, the nomadic way of life. Population growth is from the very beginning of the Genesis primeval history presented as an unqualified blessing. The blessing of Genesis 1.28 finds a fulfillment in the dispersion 'upon the face of the whole earth,' which concludes the primeval history. Genesis 1-11 then constitutes a rejection of Babel and Babylon--of civilization itself, if its continuance requires human existence to be treated as a contingent good. For Genesis the existence of a new human was always good." (BAW, 51)

          1. Gen 1-11 would have had great shock value



          1. Flood and Creation accounts are widespread and share common points with the biblical narrative, but the 'simpler' content of the Genesis account argues for an 'earlier' (pre-elaboration!) existence of it.

      Consider first how much 'simpler' the Genesis account of creation is than the ANE myths:

       Non-biblical Myths;  
          Genesis Account
        The gods are identified with nature and natural forces;  
          God is NEVER identified with nature--He stands above it
        Creation was accomplished through sexual procreation;  
          Creation had nothing to do with sexual procreation
        Primeval darkness had a name, a personality, and deity;  
          Darkness was nothing more than just that.
        The sea had a name, a personality, and deity;  
          The sea was nothing more than just that. 
        The abyss had a name, a personality, and deity;   
          The abyss was nothing more than just that. 
        The sun, moon, and stars were given names and histories and powers;   
          They are simply called the greater and lessor lights, 
           and the stars are barely mentioned.
        The Shabbatuwas a day of terror;   
          The Sabbath was a day of blessing and rest. 
        Man created as slave labor to feed the gods;   
          Man created to enjoy God's blessing. 
        The serpent was huge and powerful;   
          The serpent was small and powerless (relied on wits) 
        Many, many gods in very complex and tumultuous relationships;   
          One God, balanced and stable. 
        Man is formed out of some 'part' of god (e.g. blood) mixed with clay;   
          Man is formed of dust, in the image of God.

            Now consider how the common elements BETWEEN them (esp. incidentals) seem to argue for some REAL historical events behind them both (see PCE, 137-145):

            1. The Sumerian myth has an expanse of air created between heaven and earth; life created by divine command (some versions of the myth); man has a clay component; the gods revealed the flood to a Noah-type figure (Ziusudra). There is one fragment that MIGHT be about the Tower of Babel: the God "Enki...changed the speech in their mouths" (PCE,p142).
            2. The Akkadian Creation Epic (Enuma Elish) has two expanses of water (i.e. oceans); a dragon figure is present and prominent; man is created from dust, but has something of god 'in him' (e.g. blood); there is a water of life and a food of life.
            3. The Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh (from Nineveh) has a flood; a Noah-figure--Utnapishtim; the Noah figure has great longevity (e.g. immortality); Utna is saved from the flood in a multi-story boat; the boat contains all the animals; a dove and raven are sent out to test for the existence of land after the flood; the Noah-figure offers sacrifices after the flood.
            4. The Egyptian accounts feature God 'speaking' the earth into existence, and a dragon enemy of man and god.
            5. The Sumerian king-lists show extremely high ages for their pre-flood kings (PCE, 97)
          1. Some of this Data is QUITE ANCIENT, and much of it probably would not have been available in Egypt during the lifetime of Moses (i.e. he MUST have had access to transmitted data). [Curiously, most of this outside-Egypt data has been confirmed/illuminated by archeology]:
            1. "Other texts from these towns (Mari and Chagar-Bazar) and from Alalah, Ur, Ras Shamra, and Nuzi in Assyria throw considerable light on the patriarchal social customs. It can be seen that it was usual for a childless couple to adopt an heir and then displace him in the event of the birth of a real son (Gen 15:4). According to her marriage contract, a barren woman was to provide her husband with a slave-girl to bear a son. Marriages were arranged for public purposes by the rulers of Ugarit and Qatna, as well as by Egyptian kings, and this may be reflected in the adventures of Sarah (Gen 20) and Rebekah (Gen 26). The special position of the firstborn son (cf. Gen 21:10ff; 48:14ff), the bridegroom 'asking' for a daughter as bride, the use of betrothal and bride-gifts (Gen 34:12), and the stipulation of marriage-contracts that a man might take a third wife only if the first two were barren or take a second wife only if the first failed to give birth within seven years explain incidents in Genesis (e.g., 29:18, 27 : Jacob's possible need to wait seven years for Rachel). Nuzi texts refer to a man's transferring his inheritance for three sheep and uphold the validity of an oral blessing as a deathbed will. The type of sale contract involved in the purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Gen 23) is similar to both Old Babylonian and Hittite legal texts of this period." (D. J. Wiseman, "Archeology and the Old Testament" in EBC , vol 1., p. 316)
            2. The average price of a slave at the time of the story of Joseph was 20 shekels of silver; by the time of Moses it had risen to 40-50. (AOOT, 52f)
            3. The Nuzi law recognized household gods as evidences of the inheritance of a family. Whoever had the gods, had primary claim on that inheritance. Laban's being upset about the 'teraphim' of Genesis 31.19 makes sense in this case. (PCE, p152)
            4. The Edomite lists in Gen 36:1-43 would have to have been gathered BEFORE the entry into Egypt under Joseph--there was no interchanges between Egypt/Israel and Edom (that would have required/facilitated transmission of this data) until David conquered them a millennium later .
            5. Likewise, the power alliances of Gen 14--4 kings against 5--were a common feature of the Patriarchal age, but NOT in Moses' time!
                "the system of power alliances (four kings against five) is typical in Mesopotamian politics within the period c.2000-1750, but


                before or after this general period when different political patterns prevailed. (


                p45, 47)--he had to have access to historical records.
            1. "As is well known, Genesis is replete with evidence indicating the antiquity of the book. In the area of tribal associations, we may note that Reuben's position as first-born, Levi's role as a warrior, and Simeon's geographic tie to Shechem, do not accord with later history and must therefore be ancient traditions." (Rendsburg, The Redaction of Genesis, p. 114).
            2. The absence of Yahwistic names (i.e. names that include YHWH as part of the root) in Genesis reflects very old traditions. We first get Yahwist names in Ex 6.20 (Jochebed) and Num 13.16 (Joshua), and then occasionally up to David's time, when they proliferate. [However, we should note that YHWH does occur in a few Amorite names, and may be reflected in the Ugaritic lit (GANE, p. 38)]
            3. The texts from MARI (South bank of the Euphrates) bears names of Abram, Jacob, Benjamin, Serug, Terah, Nahor (PCE, p.23)
            4. Abram encountered a sparsely settled Palestine (RKH, 170)
            5. The Hittite legal documents demonstrate a levirate marriage custom. (PCE, 25)
            6. "There can be no real question as to the immense antiquity of the source material that is to be found in Genesis. Evidence for this includes the large number of Babylonian words that occur in the earlier part of the book, the topographical references, such as those relating to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 10:19), and the number of glosses required to bring ancient names up to date (e.g. Gen 14:2, 3, 7, 8, 15, 17; 16:14; 23.2; 35.19). Primitive geographical expressions such as the 'south country' (Gen 20.1; 24.62) and the 'east country' (Gen 25.6), which were used in the days of Abraham, never recurred in the Old Testament narratives as a description of the countries adjoining the south and east of Palestine, since these regions subsequently acquired familiar and well-defined designations." (RKH, 552f)
            7. Also important here are the patriarchal customs reflected in Genesis that are CONTRARY to later Mosaic laws! (Had Moses been making this stuff up, he probably would have 'made' the patriarchs 'better behaved'!). This is strong evidence that not only was the data received by Moses, but also that it was widespread enough so that he COULD NOT change it--EVEN to make his 'program' go more smoothly.
              • Abraham married his half-sister (20.12) vs. the prohibition in Lev 18.9; 20.17; Dt 27.22
              • Jacob married his sister-in-law (28.28) vs. Lev 18.18
              • Jacob set up a 'stone' (masseba) in 28.18, condemned in Ex 34.13; Lev 26.1; Dt 12.3; 16.21-22).
              • The rights of the firstborn were important and protected in Dt 21.15-17, but these were overridden often in Genesis--17, 25, 27, 38, 48, 49).

      Summary: The data indicates a reliable stream of information, from earliest times down to at least the time of Moses. The historical particulars reflect a pre-mosaic time and indicate a fixity and reliability of transmission.


      Original article link: http://christianthinktank.com/aec2.html


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