Commonplaces about the Bible

El, Elohim, Jahweh,Yahweh, Adonay, El Sadday -

“Elohim told Abraham: 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.' So Abraham left Haran."
These verses specifically declare that Abraham left his country and went into Egyptian territory not of necessity but because he was attracted by solemn promises. But promises made by whom? Who was this mysterious person who called Abraham? What did he really promise him? And why? ...(read more)

Sodom the pearl of Jordan - For some mysterious reason modern biblical scholars locate the Pentapolis in the southern basin of the Dead Sea. In spite of exhaustive archaeological research, no traces whatsoever of any cities existing before the Middle Ages have been found on the southern shore of this sea. Nor has any trace been found leading one to believe that some city once existed in the area now under water. At the same time, geologically speaking, the Dead Sea has not changed substantially since the end of the Pleistocene period.
In spite of all this, biblical scholars insist in locating the Pentapolis in the southern basin of this sea and for the one simple reason: that the water there is...not very deep. This is all the more surprising in view of the descriptions in Genesis 13,8-13, which are so clear and explicit that they leave no room for the slightest doubt: "Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as far as Zoar. So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan (...) and Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom." It is also there, in the Jordan Valley, to the north of the Dead Sea, that certain cities of the Pentapolis are to be found. Adama, was such a city which existed in Joshua's time, located a little north of the point where he crossed the Jordan (Josh. 3,16). Therefore, any inference that puts the Pentapolis in any area other than this plain is without foundation.
No less surprising is the fact that these scholars have always attributed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to a not clearly specified natural catastrophe. ...(read more)

The apiru: not only jewish - Tuthmosis III's policy in Syria and Palestine was a very intelligent one. The entire region was split into small kingdoms, each with its tiny army, under a prince. Tuthmosis understood that these princes defended their right of self-government rather than their independence. After having defeated them, he normally set them at the head of their little states, insisting that they gave the most solemn assurances that they would never again take up arms against Egypt. But as a safeguard, he forced them to hand over sons and brothers as hostages, whom he sent to Thebes to be educated at the court as Egyptians.
It was normal practice, in the ancient world, to hand over hostages as a guarantee, also for treaties of alliance or of non-belligerency between independent potentates. It is practically certain, therefore, that Tuthmosis III made the Hittite ruler Tuthkalyash II, who was his ally in the war against Mithani, deliver hostages. Saushsha-Tar also had to give hostages to him as a guarantee for the peace treaty that followed his defeat. (...)
There were, thus, two types of hostages in the Egypt of Tuthmosis the Third: sons and other relatives of defeated princes reduced to conditions of vassalage on the one hand, and sons of independent rulers, who had signed treaties of alliance or of non-belligerency with Egypt, on the other. The legal position and the treatment given to these hostages must have been very different in each case. These considerations may be of help in solving a problem which has been evading a satisfactory solution for years--that of the Apiru. ...(read more)

Abraham's race - Based on quite consistent evidence Tareh, Abraham’s father, is the same person as the great Mithani emperor Saushsha-Tar. The only serious counter-argument would seem to be the racial group to which each of them belonged. Saushsha-Tar was a Mithani, certainly Aryan, while Tareh descended in a direct line from Shem and is, therefore, considered to be the prototype of the Semites.
A certain number of populations, spread throughout the area from Mesopotamia to Ethiopia, are indicated as Semites; the common denominator that links them is the similarity between their languages and Hebrew. But what was Abraham's mother-tongue?
That which we now call Hebrew was widely diffused throughout Palestine long before Abraham arrived there. To be more precise, it was the language spoken by the Canaanites. The Jews simply adopted it following the conquest of Palestine by Joshua; from that time on the Canaanite language was called Hebrew and was defined as the Semite language "par excellence." But this is a gross blunder, since Genesis itself, in 10,15, states that the Canaanites, and with them the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites and so on--that is all the races that peopled Palestine before Abraham arrived--descended from Ham. If, therefore, we wish to use the Biblical indications in a precise manner, we must accept that the present Hebrew is to be defined not as a "Semitic," but as a "Hamitic" language. ...(read more)

For a dish of lentil stew - Why Isaac named Jacob as his heir and not his first-born son, Esau? Genesis attempts to justify this in two different ways; first, by accusing Esau of having sold his birthright for a dish of lentil stew, and secondly by suggesting that Jacob “tricked” Isaac into giving him the blessing. Neither of these theories is very convincing.
We have to consider that everything we know regarding the Patriarchs was at first passed on orally until someone, about the time of Moses, gathered these oral traditions and set them down in writing. But in all that time, the deeds of the ancients were narrated by the elders to an audience composed of relatives, their children, and servants. This would be a very attentive audience, anxious to learn about its origins. But when the narrator came to the key point of his story, that is, Isaac’s investiture of Jacob, we can imagine his embarrassment. There were undoubtedly some first-born sons in the audience, perhaps even some twins, who would be extremely attentive to this question: “Why Jacob, if Esau was the first-born?” Upon the answer to this question hung the legality of the primacy of Israel with respect to Edom. In those times this was by no means a question of secondary importance. ...(read more)