Kenneth A. Kitchen, “The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?” BAR 21:02. See also his Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1966), pp. 41–56; The Bible in Its World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), pp. 56–74; and “Genesis 12–50 in the Near Eastern World,” in R. S. Hess, P. E. Satterthwaite and G. J. Wenham, eds., He Swore an Oath: Biblical Themes from Genesis 12–50 (Cambridge: Tyndale House, 1993), pp. 67–92.


On the use of the terms “minimalist” and “maximalist,” see James K. Hoffmeier in Queries & Comments, BAR 21:02.


Modern critical scholars have divided the Pentateuch into four authorial strands, designated J (the Yahwist or, in German, Jahwist source), E (the Elohist source), P (the Priestly source) and D (the Deuteronomist source, whose contribution to the Pentateuch is confined to Deuteronomy). The narratives of J, P and E are intertwined in the first four books of the Bible.


Compare the variations of Abner (1 Samuel 14:51 et al.) with Abiner (1 Samuel 14:50), and of Abshalom (2 Chronicles 11:20–21) with Abishalom (1 Kings 15:2, 10).


In Genesis 17:5, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham; in origin, these two names are probably dialectal variations from different regions of Israel.


In J’s narrative, although the patriarchs address God as “Yahweh” (rather than “Elohim,” as in E and P), their names do not incorporate the name Yahweh.



Anthony Giddens, Social Theory and Modern Sociology (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987), p. 357. Recent research on this topic is summarized and assessed in Gordon Wenham, Genesis 16–50, Word Biblical Commentary 2 (Dallas: Word Books, 1994), pp. xx–xxviii; the best recent study is P. Kyle McCarter, “The Patriarchal Age,” in Hershel Shanks, ed., Ancient Israel (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1988). See also my brief treatment of these issues in “Genesis, Book of,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, pp. 937–938.


See John Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven: Yale Univ., 1975).


See Thomas L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1927).


See Donald B. Redford, A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph, (Leiden: Brill, 1970).


On the Shishak stela, see Kenneth A. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 B.C.) (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1986), pp. 294–300, 432–447; Benjamin Mazar, The Early Biblical Period: Historical Studies (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1986), pp. 139–50; and Yohanan Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979), pp. 323–330.


James E. Hoch, Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period (Princeton: Princeton Univ.), pp. 18, 205, 235–237, 568.


Hoch, Semitic Words, pp. 18, 205.


John Van Seters, Abraham in History, p. 41.


See, recently, Moshe Weinfeld, The Promise of the Land (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 222–264.


See Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000–586 B.C.E. (New York: Doubleday, 1990), pp. 390–397.


Aharoni, Land of the Bible, p. 329.


This point is stressed by Albrecht Alt, “The God of the Fathers,” in Alt, Essays on Old Testament History and Religion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968; German original 1929), p. 7.


See Frank M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Cambridge: Harvard Univ., 1973), pp. 1–75; and John Day, “Ugarit and the Bible: Do They Presuppose the Same Canaanite Mythology and Religion?” in G.J. Brooke, A.H.W. Curtis, and J.F. Healey, eds., Ugarit and the Bible: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Ugarit and the Bible (Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1994), pp. 35–52.


For other archaic aspects of patriarchal religion, see Cross, Canaanite Myth, pp. 1–75, 177–186. Compare the minimalist position of John Van Seters, “The Religion of the Patriarchs in Genesis,” Biblica 61 (1980), pp. 220–233; and Rainer Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period, vol. 1 (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1994), pp. 28–29.


In referring to this region as Syro-Mesopotamia, I follow Giorgio Buccellati’s emphasis that during the Bronze Age there was a cultural continuum in this region encompassing the rural Syrian steppeland west of the Euphrates (see Buccellati, “The Kingdom and Period of Khana,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 270 [1988], pp. 43–61; see also his article, “From Khana to Laqé: The End of Syro-Mesopotamia,” in O. Tunca, ed., De la Babylonie à la Syrie, en passant par Mari: Mélanges offerts à J.R. Kupper [Liège, 1990], pp. 229–253). For the Biblical data, see the still valuable treatment by Roland de Vaux, The Early History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), pp. 193–200.)


See de Vaux, Early History of Israel, p. 196.


See Barry J. Beitzel, “The Old Assyrian Caravan Road in the Mari Royal Archives,” in Gordon D. Young, ed., Mari in Retrospect (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1992) pp. 36, 38, 52.


Beitzel, “The Old Assyrian Caravan Road,” pp. 36–37.


On Aramean-Israelite relations, see Wayne T. Pitard, Ancient Damascus: A Historical Study of the Syrian City-State from Earliest Times Until Its Fall to the Assyrians in 732 B.C.E. (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1987) and his remarks on this issue on p. 86.


The nuance of the word ’oµbeµd, “perishing, lost,” is not entirely clear in this verse.


See especially J. Tracy Luke, “‘Your Father Was an Amorite’ (Ezek 16:3, 45): An Essay on the Amorite Problem in OT Traditions,” in H.B. Huffmon, F.A. Spina, and A.R.W. Green, eds., The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George E. Mendenhall (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), pp. 221–237; and William G. Dever, “The Patriarchal Traditions: Palestine in the Second Millennium B.C.E.: The Archaeological Picture,” in J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller, Israelite and Judaean History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), pp. 102–120.


See Giorgio Buccellati, “The Kingdom and Period of Khana,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 270 (1988), pp. 43–61; see also his article, “From Khana to Laqé: The End of Syro-Mesopotamia,” in O. Tunca, ed., De la Babylonie à la Syrie, en passant par Mari: Mélanges offerts à J.R. Kupper (Liège, 1990), pp. 229–253. In “From Khana to Laqé” (pp. 248–249), Buccellati suggests that the pastoral world of the patriarchal traditions may be a reminiscence—perhaps “an ideological manifesto”—from the “pastoralist revolution” of Khana (Amorite) culture. This is an intriguing possibility.


See Abraham Malamat, Mari and the Early Israelite Experience (Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1989). Malamat identifies these common features as at least typologically relevant for comparison, and possibly historically related to the patriarchal traditions (see pp. 27–30).


The names of the descendants of Nahor in Genesis 22:20–24, including Aram and Chesed (the Chaldeans), are another indication of first-millennium updating; in the case of the Chaldeans, the updating reflects conditions known from the ninth and eighth centuries B.C.E.


Note, for example, the difficulties Van Seters finds in accounting for “this feeling of kinship with the Arameans of Northwestern Mesopotamia” (Abraham in History, p. 34). He appeals, among other things, to the Assyrian mass deportations of Israelites to this region and to the importance of the trade route through Haran during the Neo-Babylonian period as factors encouraging a sense of kinship with Arameans. These factors, however, do not seem adequate to explain the relationship in the Biblical text, as the tentativeness of Van Seters’s discussion seems to acknowledge.


See Patricia G. Kirkpatrick, The Old Testament and Folklore Study (Sheffield, England: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Press, 1988), pp. 108–114.


Abraham Malamat, “The Proto-History of Israel: A Study in Method,” in C.L. Meyers and M. O’Connor, eds., The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), p. 306.


A recently published Akkadian text from Late Bronze Age Emar describes king Pilsu-Dagan of Emar as “king of the people of the land of Qiri,” perhaps the land recalled by Amos as the Aramean homeland; for this interpretation, see Ran Zadok, “Elements of Aramean Pre-History,” in Mordechai Cogan and Israel Eph’al, eds., Ah, Assyria … Studies in Assyrian History and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography Presented to Hayim Tadmor (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1991), p. 114.


For example, the reminiscences of Mycenean society in the Homeric epics; see Emily Vermeule, Greece in the Bronze Age (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1972), pp. 309–312. For examples of historical memories preserved for several hundreds of years in African and Eskimo oral traditions, see Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition (Middlesex: Penguin, 1973), p. 209, n. 48.