Comparative Customs and the Patriarchal Age

Martin J. Selman


A.R. Millard & D.J. Wiseman, eds., Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives. Leicester: IVP, 1980. Hbk. ISBN: 0851117430. pp.93-138.
[Reproduced by permission]
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1.1.The rise of the consensus

In the first major publication of the cuneiform texts from ancient Nuzi,[1] C. J. Gadd reported a brief suggestion of Sidney Smith that text no.51 in Gadd's collection offered a 'very remarkable parallel' to the incident of Rachel's theft of the household gods as described in Genesis 31.[2] Smith's comment, however, was not seen at the time as being of much importance. The prevailing scholarly view ascribed little historical value to the patriarchal narratives, whether one followed Wellhausen (who believed that they provide 'no historical knowledge of the patriarchs, but only of the time when the stories about them arose in the Israelite people'),[3] or Gunkel (who identified the stories about the patriarchs as saga, a genre essentially different from historical writing). Although Gunkel recognized that saga may well contain historical data, he concluded that no adequate means existed of distinguishing between what is reliable history and what is not.[4] Yet despite this background, Smith's proposal became the harbinger of a succession of important studies linking the patriarchal narratives with various collections of Mesopotamian and Syrian cuneiform texts dating mainly from the second millennium BC.

The appearance of this comparative wealth of newly excavated material led eventually to a widespread consensus, at least in the English-speaking world, that a reliable historical setting could be established for the biblical patriarchs. A quotation from G. E. Wright expresses clearly the new conclusions that had been reached. Writing in 1960, he said, 'We shall probably never be able to prove that Abram really existed, that he did this or


that, said thus and so, but what we can prove is that his life and times, as reflected in the stories about him, fit perfectly within the early second millennium, but imperfectly within any later period.'[5] The greatest influence in confirming and consolidating this position has probably been J. Bright's History of Israel,[6] where it is claimed that 'one is forced to the conclusion that the patriarchal narratives authentically reflect social customs at home in the second millennium rather than those of later Israel'.[7]

In the space of little more than three decades a fundamental change had thus taken place in the scholarly assessment of the biblical patriarchs. A whole series of reasons was advanced in favour of this new understanding, including such wide-ranging subjects as personal names, movements of peoples, political alliances, religious ideas and practices, and social customs.[8] In every case, a prominent though not necessarily pre-eminent position was accorded to the evidence of the social customs, for the patriarchal practices had been shown to be parallel in many cases to those known from a variety of places and periods in the ancient near east. Arguments concerning these customs, therefore, played a major part in the modern reconstruction of the Patriarchal Age, and without such considerations, the case for patriarchal historicity, quite apart from any question of a date for the Patriarchal Age, would be seriously weakened.

1.2. Variant presentations of the consensus

Although one may rightly speak of a consensus about the establishment of a historical setting for the patriarchs, significant variations can be discerned in both the arguments employed and the conclusions reached on the subject of social customs. W. F. Albright, for instance, proposed that Abraham's relationship with Eliezer (Gn. 15:l-6) could be explained by adoption practices at Nuzi, a view that was developed in two stages.[9] In the fuller expression of this theory, Albright understood adoption at Nuzi as a means whereby an adopter could obtain credit from his adoptee who was in reality a moneylender, in order to buy supplies, donkeys, and other equipment for caravaneering or related activities. This understanding was particularly attractive in that Damascus was an important caravan centre and it was therefore quite appropriate that Eliezer, apparently a 'Damascene',[10] should be cast in the role of a moneylender. Albright's reconstruction, the sole instance of a Nuzi custom employed by him in his interpretation of the patriarchs, was in fact only a part of his larger theory which portrayed Abraham as donkey-caravaneer of the Middle Bronze I period.[11] This


view of Abraham was based more on archaeological considerations than on customary law, but neither Albright's theory as a whole, nor his use of Nuzi adoption practices in illuminating Eliezer's role, has met with much acceptance.'[12] From the biblical side, there is the problem that the picture of Abraham as Eliezer's financial dependant and as a trader between Damascus and Egypt remains purely hypothetical. Similarly, in the Nuzi 'sale adoptions', to which Albright appeals for support, there is no evidence that adoptees functioned as moneylenders or adopters as merchants. If any comparison is possible between the Nuzi texts and Genesis 15, it must be on the basis of the real adoption texts and not the so-called 'sale adoptions'.[13]

Although Albright's use of social customs in determining the background of the patriarchs is slender and hypothetical, the same cannot be said of C. H. Gordon. Gordon gave particular attention to the Nuzi texts as a source of comparison for the patriarchal narratives. In an influential and comprehensive article published in 1940,[14] well over twenty biblical passages were illuminated by the Nuzi material, the majority concerning the patriarchal narratives. His conclusion that the Nuzi texts 'tie in so closely with the patriarchal narratives that it is generally agreed that a close sociological relationship exists between the two sets of texts'[15] provided the dominant reason for his being able to establish a clear historical background for the patriarchs. Because of this strong emphasis on the social background, and in the light of other material from El Amarna and especially from Ugarit, Gordon argued that the Patriarchal Age should be set in the fourteenth century BC, although this date was significantly later than that proposed by the majority of scholars who were equally confident of the historicity of the patriarchs.[16] Gordon also found support from within the Old Testament, on the basis of several genealogical texts which seemed to indicate a comparatively short period between the time of the patriarchs and the exodus.[17] He did not, on the other hand, take full account of the individual year reckonings of the patriarchs nor the biblical tradition of a gap of some four centuries between these two eras.[18]

A third distinctive approach was that of E. A. Speiser, whose work enjoyed as much influence as Gordon's and who was, if anything, even more confident about the relevance of the Nuzi customs for the biblical patriarchs. He proposed more than twenty cases where the Nuzi texts elucidated the book of Genesis alone, mainly in the sphere of family law.[19] Many of Gordon's examples were accepted, but Speiser advocated in addition the existence of paral-


lels to Isaac's deathbed blessing[20] and the custom of wife-sister marriage.[21]

Two features of Speiser's argument are worthy of note here. First, he was more cautious than either Albright or Gordon about positing a date for the patriarchs, though like them he believed that there was sufficient evidence to confirm the biblical picture of a patriarchal era, even if the latter was not necessarily accurate in every detail. In the absence of any direct synchronism between the patriarchal narratives and other texts, Speiser accepted that the patriarchal period 'must technically be put down as prehistoric'.[22] He did nevertheless advocate what had become a widely accepted setting for the patriarchs in the second quarter of the second millennium BC. By this he meant the latter part of the Old Babylonian period from Hammurapi onwards,[23] a date that was different again from those of Albright and Gordon.

The second significant feature of Speiser's approach concerns his interpretation of the manner in which some of these customs were recorded in Genesis. In his view, the compilers of the biblical traditions had handed down only the bare facts, without reference to the real reasoning and motivation that lay behind the present accounts of the customs. The original social background had become blurred in the biblical text. Indeed, the original background could no longer be recovered from the Old Testament in some cases, and could be restored only through the cuneiform data of Nuzi. These textual variations led Speiser to two complementary hypothetical solutions: (a) that there had been a lengthy period of oral transmission behind the written sources J, E, and P, and (b) that the traditions of individual practices had been handed down through a common international antecendent, labelled conveniently as 'T'.[24] Thus in several crucial instances, Speiser was comparing Nuzi customs not with Genesis, whose compilers no longer understood the practices they recorded, but with some hypothetical pre-biblical tradition whose existence and content were determined only by the few specific examples quoted by Speiser.[25]

1.3. Methods and conclusions of the consensus

Despite these variations, the common ground of these writers and many others who participated in the new consensus was far stronger than their differences in approach. For instance, the method by which parallel examples of social customs were established showed little real divergence. In many cases, one or two biblical passages, usually with only an incomplete record of a particular custom, were


compared with a small number of cuneiform texts. Although Speiser in particular attempted to widen the basis of comparison as much as possible, in most instances only a very limited amount of comparative material was employed often amounting to a single text or even part of a text.[26] It was almost invariably assumed, in addition, that the examples used were typical for their date and location, although this can by no means be taken for granted. Thus the unsuspecting reader of general works on the patriarchal period gained little knowledge of the wider context out of which the claimed parallels arose, even though he was frequently given the strong impression that the case for the patriarchs' historicity was almost beyond dispute.

In practice, there were three distinct ways in which non-biblical data were employed in the setting up of such parallels. First, there were straightforward cases in which the cuneiform material simply provided extra examples of practices already known in Genesis. These included the supposed introductory formula used in death bed dispositions, 'and now I have grown old' (Gn.27:2),[27] the sale of a birthright to another brother (Gn.25:29-34),[28] or the father-in-law's restriction ensuring that his daughter would not be displaced by a second wife (Gn. 31:50).[29] The second method amplified the biblical material by furnishing a more detailed background, as in the case of the Old Babylonian shepherding contracts and Genesis 31,[30] or the various examples of a barren wife providing her husband with her slavegirl in order to raise up children (Gn.16:1-4; 30:1-13).[31]

The third method yields the largest number of examples, but many of them are also the most controversial cases. In such instances, the extrabiblical data has been employed not only to provide a fuller background for the biblical material, but also to offer an explanation for the existence of a biblical practice which is only poorly understood. Examples include Laban's adoption of Jacob (Gn. 29-3l),[32] the adoption of Eliezer by Abraham (Gn. 15:1-4),[33] and the practice of wife-sister marriage (Gn. 12:10-20; 20:1-18; 26:6-11).[34] In these and other similar cases, the attempts to fill in the gaps in our understanding of the biblical evidence have not always met with much success. Two major difficulties have arisen. First, on some occasions (as in the case of wife-sister marriage or the function of household gods/teraphim as a title to an inheritance) a proposed custom has now been found to be without support in the non-biblical texts, and therefore cannot be employed as a means of elucidating a biblical passage. In such instances, the interpretation of the problems in Genesis must be sought in other directions.


The second problem concerns those cases where the cuneiform material has been compared with a hypothetical prebiblical form of the biblical text. This procedure, which was used particularly by Speiser[35] though it was unconsciously pioneered by Gordon in his novel interpretation of the Jacob-Laban narratives,[36] inevitably makes any comparison established on the basis of it equally hypothetical, and is therefore of only minimal use in any discussion of patriarchal historicity.

There are two main conclusions for our understanding of the biblical patriarchs. First, the re-establishment of the Patriarchal Age has become readily and widely accepted. Indeed, for Bright, 'so massive is the evidence for it that we cannot begin to review it all'.[37] Nevertheless, one ought to be aware at this juncture of two matters of which should encourage a slightly more cautious attitude: (1) Although the modern understanding of the patriarchs has been modelled on the biblical pattern, it has actually been constructed with the materials of modern historical research. Despite the existence of much relevant cuneiform evidence, there remains no direct extrabiblical reference to the patriarchal clans. The basis of the modern consensus, therefore, is indirect, extrabiblical evidence as it can be shown to correspond with biblical material. When it is subsequently discovered that some of the bricks in this reconstructed edifice do not fit at all in their supposed contexts, it is therefore not necessarily the Old Testament which is at fault. On the contrary, it is some of the modern stones rather than the ancient ones which (it has now been discovered) do not fit in the work of reconstruction. (2) In the modern re-establishment of the Patriarchal Age, it is readily assumed that, while the comparisons which have been made comprise only a relatively small and random collection of examples, they actually represent a much greater wealth of material yet to be uncovered and interpreted. This will also increasingly confirm the picture of the Patriarchal Age currently being drawn. Whether such an assumption is justified continues to be a matter of debate, but it is important to understand that the conclusions about historicity are much more wide-ranging than the historically demonstrable comparisons which form their base. From the point of view of the historian who assigns no independent historical value to the patriarchal narratives, the social background is only beginning to be drawn, while those scholars who are more positive about the reliability of Genesis 12-50 need to be aware of the limits as well as the benefits of cuneiform data, especially as it relates to social customs.


The second conclusion about the Patriarchal Age is that many scholars are confident that a definite historical setting can be found for it, even though the details cannot be precisely fixed. Despite the lack of agreement, as shown by the varying results of Albright, Gordon, and Speiser,[38] there is in fact greater unanimity than is sometimes acknowledged on the date of the Patriarchal Age. All these scholars, for instance, concur in placing the patriarchs in the second millennium BC at a period prior to the exodus. There is also clearly a majority view that places the Patriarchal Age between the twentieth and sixteenth centuries BC,[39] i.e. in the Middle Bronze II period,[40] against which the opinions of Albright and Gordon are notable exceptions. Significantly too, since certain Israelite customs as found mainly in the legal portions of the Old Testament are contradictory to those recorded in the patriarchal narratives, the weight of external evidence is supported by inner-biblical testimony.[41]

The lack of precision can be explained by a number of factors. First, many of the problems arise from the difficulties in interpreting the biblical chronology concerning the patriarchs, in particular the information contained in the genealogies. The Late Bronze Age dates of Gordon, Eissfeldt, and Rowley rely heavily on the existence of four or five generations between the patriarchal and exodus eras as suggested by certain genealogical texts, but it is now well known that ancient near-eastern genealogies were not compiled on the principle of completeness and are therefore unhelpful for dating purposes.[42] Secondly, the indirect nature of extrabiblical data also contributes to imprecise dating, a problem that is not altered by the exact dates found in some of the relevant cuneiform tablets. Finally, since social customs are often extremely difficult to limit chronologically, they too are of little advantage in finding a precise setting for the patriarchs. The lack of exactness therefore does not mean that no real consensus exists. Rather, those who have aligned themselves with this viewpoint have accepted that the Patriarchal Age can be historically determined from external as well as from internal sources, and in so doing, they stand poles apart from the positions of Wellhausen and Gunkel which they inherited.


The position described above was never universely recognized. Initially, opposition was cautious, and even the


most sceptical writers appeared to accept the validity of at least a few of the proposed comparisons. Gradually, however, the momentum was increased through an unco-ordinated series of attacks which were launched against individual proposals. They did not at first call into question the whole theory, but led eventually to the full-scale challenges of Thompson and van Seters.[43] Since the appearance of these two works, the entire concept of a historical Patriarchal Age has been seriously questioned and vigorously debated, and much of the old consensus now lies in ruins.

2.1. Cautious acceptance

Three stages can be discerned in the build up to the present position as represented by Thompson and van Seters. First, there were those such as de Vaux and Mullo Weir who, while recognizing that real advances had been made, were noticeably cautious in accepting the prevailing view. Indeed, the hesitancy of both tended to increase, although their conclusions developed in different directions. De Vaux in particular became much more reserved in his later writings, both in his assessment of the value of comparative customs and in his conclusions about even the basic character of a Patriarchal Age. In an initial series of articles published between 1946 and 1949,[44] however, de Vaux appeared enthusiastic, acknowledging that the patriarchal narratives had preserved 'a treasure-store of exact reminiscences' concerning Israelite origins.[45] His approach to the question of comparative social customs was more muted, concluding that most of the analogies were imperfect, and in some cases rather uncertain.[46] But in his later work, especially in his Early History of Israel, initially published in French in l971,[47] de Vaux saw the extrabiblical customs as being of value only in bringing the patriarchal narratives into the general social and legal pattern of the ancient Near East, and he rejected many of the standard examples of Gordon and Speiser.[48] The customs gave no help in determining either the historicity or the date of the patriarchs,[49] and 'very few real points of contact and similarity between the biblical and extrabiblical data can now be established at all'.[50]

The work of Mullo Weir[51] is in many ways parallel to the earlier contributions of de Vaux, acknowledging that near-eastern social customs helped to a certain extent to validate Israelite tradition.[52] The distinctiveness of his position was his emphasis on customs for which parallels existed from a wide range of locations in the ancient Near East. For Mullo Weir, the customs practised by the


Nuzians were not greatly different from those of their Semitic neighbours, and since many Mesopotamian customs were probably observed in Palestine, it was not surprising that significant contacts existed with the Nuzi texts as well as with material from other sources. Thus,in his view, the basis of comparison was not a heavy dependence on the single site of Nuzi but a much wider foundation altogether. Potentially at least, the Patriarchal Age was being made more secure without the doubtful advantage of a direct relationship with Nuzi tied around its neck.

2.2. No Patriarchal Age

The responses of Noth and von Rad were at first very different, though Noth's position became closer to those just described, especially to that of de Vaux.[53] Neither Noth nor von Rad was able to speak with any confidence of a Patriarchal Age,[54] but both did accept the validity of at least a few parallels with the social customs of Nuzi.[55] On the basis of connections with Nuzi and the Amorites of the Mari texts, Noth acknowledged that 'the beginnings of Israel are rooted in historical presuppositions which are proved by archaeological discoveries to be located in the middle of the second millennium BC'.[56] But Noth was unable to go beyond this, for two main reasons. The comparisons dealt not with historical events but with relationships and ways of life, and both he and von Rad gave priority to the results of literary criticism and tradition history in the study of the patriarchal narratives. Even though von Rad emphasized the historical origins of the patriarchal sagas, their historicity rested in the 'community's experience of faith', and it was not possible to discover what historical events lay behind individual incidents.[57] The effect of near-eastern social customs therefore was to shed only little light on the biblical patriarchs.[58]

2.3. Challenges to individual customs

This extreme caution was gradually followed by a series of challenges to what had become the standard interpretation of certain patriarchal customs. This development was initiated by Greenberg, who in 1964 questioned whether the household gods of Nuzi and Laban' s family had anything to do with a title to an inheritance.[59] It was his opinion that the possessor of such images was probably the head of the family unit, and that theft of the gods could not achieve for Rachel or Jacob privileges legally conferred by bequeathal.[60] Within a. few years, Mullo Weir published a similarly devastating and detailed assault on Speiser's theory of wife-sister marriage,[61] and like Greenberg, he argued that both the Nuzi and Old Testament evidence had


been misinterpreted. Subsequent studies have confirmed that wife-sister marriage is nothing more than a modern invention.[62] Two articles by van Seters which appeared at about the same time as Mullo Weir's contribution emphasized what had now become a definite trend. First of all, he questioned whether the Nuzi adoption and marriage contract HSS 5 67[63] had any relevance for the patriarchal practice of an infertile wife providing a slavegirl for her husband,[64] and argued that the Nuzi tablet 'is so different from anything in the Old Testament that to use it as a parallel is more misleading than helpful'.[65] In the second article, van Seters contended that the concept of errbu marriage, which had been used as a means of interpreting Jacob's marriages, did not exist even in its supposed Mesopotamian contexts,[66] labelling the whole idea as an 'academic fiction'.[67] The notion of Jacob's adoption was simultaneously discarded.

In most of these cases, it was argued that the supposed parallel customs had non-existent foundations in cuneiform texts, and they were therefore quite useless as a means of interpreting poorly understood patriarchal practices. The case of the barren wife and her slavegirl was different, however, for van Seters proposed that better parallels could be found in texts dating from the first millennium BC. In the same connection, Abraham's purchase of the cave at Machpelah (Gn. 23) had also been recently compared with 'dialogue contracts', which were particularly prominent in the Neo-Babylonian period.[68] Van Seters' preference for later parallels was not therefore just a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

2.4. Total rejection

The real explosion in patriarchal studies came a few years later with the appearance of the books by Thompson and van Seters.[69] Both writers challenged the modern concept of a Patriarchal Age so comprehensively that in the view of one commentator, 'it is doubtful whether the theory for an early dating of the patriarchal period can ever again be decently resurrected. Certainly it can never be revived in its present form.'[70] Thus the question whether any reliable historical memory of a Patriarchal Age exists at all is now again in the forefront of discussion, in which the social customs are still of primary significance, even though in some quarters this subject has given way to more strictly archaeological concerns.[71]

The objections of Thompson and van Seters to the earlier consensus are considerable, and their questions concerning the customs will be discussed in detail below. Initially, however, it is important to recognize that they


are united only in opposing the consensus and that their own solutions are greatly at variance with each other. For Thompson, 'the quest for the historical Abraham is a basically fruitless occupation',[72] since he understands Genesis as a 'collection of literary traditions'[73] and stories which are best compared with other tales and literary motif s.[74] His work is a conscious attempt to turn the clock back more than half a century to the methods of Gunkel, Gressmann, and Galling; though of course Thompson's own approach is presented in modern form, and is not intended to be a mere repetition of earlier work.[75] Van Seters, on the other hand, accords a comparatively small place to oral tradition, preferring to understand the Abraham narratives as very largely the work of exilic and post-exilic authors. Building on the position of his earlier articles, he attempts to find a historical background for Abraham in the late monarchy and afterwards by the use of arguments concerning social customs, nomadism, etc., which have traditionally been employed as a basis for a second-millennium setting.


The contributions of Thompson and van Seters have sparked off a lively discussion covering many important matters in the interpretation of the patriarchal way of life. In addition to a rigorous examination of individual customs, much debate has focused on questions of methodology. Two such issues, relating to the relationships between historical and literary approaches and between external and internal evidence, are of such a fundamental nature that they must be considered before other matters which relate more specifically to the customs.

3.1. Historical and literary approaches

The relationship between historical and literary approaches to the interpretation of the patriarchal narratives was raised by Thompson very early in his book, where he asserts that 'no part of Genesis can be assumed to be history unless its literary character can first be shown to be historiographical'.[76] Thus the primary use of archaeological data to determine historicity in the patriarchal narratives is inadmissible for Thompson, who gives priority instead to literary investigation. Yet he maintains no consistency on this crucial issue, and indeed, there is evidence of confusion in his approach. For he also says of the social customs: 'If the presentation of these parallels is as valid and as unique as has been claimed,


the thesis that the stories do go back to a period prior to that of the Conquest must undoubtedly be accepted, and that at least a position similar to that of Martin Noth, that the patriarchal narratives do have at least an historical core, must be seen not only as historically possible but as likely.'[77] On the basis of this statement, which is equally as clear as the one quoted above, the archaeological data on their own are valid for establishing at least a minimum historical value for Genesis 12-50.

That Thompson's dilemma is no superficial oversight but a deepseated difficulty is confirmed at other points in the book. On the one hand, he chastises Wright and Albright for forming hypotheses about the patriarchs 'on the basis of unexamined biblical texts', which means here that they have given insufficient weight to form criticism and the history of traditions.[78] Yet on the other hand, he spends considerable energy in rebutting arguments based on archaeological data, even though such matters are supposedly of secondary importance in the literary investigation of the narratives. Even when he explains his own view that the patriarchal narratives are literature and not history, Thompson's interpretation is preceded by a much more lengthy discussion of the archaeological data.[79] By attempting therefore to discount the historicity of the patriarchal narratives mainly on the basis of archaeological and historical rather than literary arguments, Thompson tacitly acknowledges that both approaches are equally necessary. Even if it is argued that the main purpose of Thompson's book is to discuss the archaeological data commonly used to support the concept of a Patriarchal Age, positive reasons for a purely literary interpretation are remarkable for the brief space allotted to them.

This vital matter has also been taken up by others. J. M. Miller,[80] for instance, has underlined his basic agreement with Thompson's position by asserting that 'critical historians now have unavoidable grounds for suspicion that the very idea of a patriarchal age originated as a literary construct'.[81] Miller is concerned to defend form criticism as a method of primary importance in interpreting Genesis, and argues that the results of form critical study on the patriarchal narratives have led to 'a strong suspicion that this picture is historically untrustworthy'[82] A different approach, however, has been taken by J. T. Luke,[83] who objects to the either/or method of Thompson and van Seters, which is this context means either a literary or an historical/archaeological approach. Both methods of study are necessary, and since the Old


Testament is a part of ancient near-eastern literature, the separation of these enquiries is evidence of an 'arbitrary methodological territorialism'.[84] Luke emphasizes that the obvious historiographical intent of the patriarchal narratives must be taken into account, and that in a any case a late date is not a necessary consequence of their form-critical investigation.[85]

There can be no doubt of the importance of a. proper literary study of Genesis 12-50 alongside a historical and archaeological approach, and one must not ignore the equally significant theological interests of the book. A balanced method does not put aside any evidence which may be of relevance, and takes fully into account the varied concerns which have produced the biblical Patriarchal Age. It is also quite clear, as recognized by Thompson and Miller, that the form-critical results of such writers as Gunkel, Noth, von Rad, or Irvin have led to an unfavourable appreciation of the historical value of the narratives, but such results cannot intrinsically prove or disprove their historical value. Miller can speak only of suspicion, and even Thompson counters the consensus on archaeological rather than on literary grounds. Indeed, these negative conclusions have been arrived at precisely because form criticism has often been employed in isolation from historical concerns, but as Luke has rightly recogized, such a one-sided approach is to 'preclude the outcome of this dispute by dictating the rules'.[86] Literary study of the patriarchal narratives certainly indicates their historiographical interests,[87] and some of these historical factors can now be tested by cuneiform and other archaeological material, as has been recognized by some of the form critics.[88]

3.2. Internal and external evidence

On a separate but related issue, it has recently been argued that the Old Testament itself must be the primary source for establishing a Patriarchal Age, and that external sources have only a secondary function. Although this question is not raised by Thompson or van Seters, since both use external data to support their own hypotheses, it has been brought to the fore by Talmon in a general discussion of the 'comparative method',[89] and by Warner[90] and Miller[91] directly in relation to the patriarchs. According to Talmon, when any item is considered for comparison, the biblical context should be understood first. All biblical features, including social customs, should be interpreted by inner-biblical parallels (if available) before any use is made of extra-biblical material. If external data are employed, then preference should be


given to societies which lie in the same 'historic stream' as biblical Israel, though Talmon is also careful to underline the dictum of the anthropologist W. Goldschmidt that 'there is always an element of falsification when we engage in institutional comparisons among distinct cultures'.[92] This reminder of the fundamental importance of the biblical context is indeed timely, but the article as a whole gives the impression that external comparisons are of relatively minor value, and tends to overlook the fact that when they are properly used, they neither submerge the Old Testament's distinctiveness nor cast it loose from its historical mooring.

Warner has applied similar restraints to the interpretation of the patriarchal narratives. He believes that 'to determine any major part of the period's profile from sources which do not mention the patriarchs is nonsense',[93] and sees the role of extrabiblical sources as being 'very secondary'.[94] Similarly, Miller insists that it is the Bible which must fix the 'historicity' and 'approximate chronological context' of the Patriarchal Age, if that is possible.[95]

It is right, of course, to recognize the limits of external evidence, but one must not lose sight of the fact that the Old Testament data themselves also have certain limitations. The book of Genesis, for instance, is not a general historical work on the pre-exodus era, in contrast to many modern histories of Israel, but is primarily concerned with the relationship between one small clan and their God. The emphasis on the family interest and the consequent lack of concern for contemporary international politics and religion mean inevitably that some 'major parts of the period's profile' are dealt with at best tangentially and sometimes not at all. The modern historian, however, who is concerned to reflect as fully and accurately as possible all the elements of the period he is describing, including political, military, economic, sociological, religious, and other features, will certainly find that though his interests overlap with those of the compiler of Genesis, they do not always coincide. If therefore he is going to attempt to describe a Patriarchal Age according to the patterns of modern historical writing, he will be bound to use material external to the Old Testament. Furthermore, the lack of agreement in current scholarship about the interpretation of the pre-exodus chronology of the Old Testament makes Miller's insistence that the Bible should fix the chronological setting seem rather naive in the present context. In the light of a range of opinions which is unable to decide whether there is a short or long gap between the end of


Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, or even whether the gap is a real one at all,[96] it is surely reasonable to look for data from outside the Old Testament which might help to resolve the difficulty.

Nevertheless, one must admit that some external data have been used in an unsuitable manner. Some supposed parallels have fitted awkwardly with the biblical text, and on some occasions have even been imposed hastily and uncritically on their cuneiform contexts. Many of these examples fall within the third category of parallels described earlier,[97] where the nonbiblical material is used to explain poorly understood or nonexistent features in the biblical description or where comparison has been made with a hypothetical prebiblical tradition. Even in the case of parallels which still stand, however, it is important to remember that no complete picture of a custom is found in the patriarchal narratives, and that while it is natural to want to supply the gaps, it is essential for the end result to conform to the biblical context and not to do violence to it.

One ought to ask finally what are the consequences of this new 'Back to the Bible' plea. It has to be admitted that there is currently little agreement among scholars as to the Old Testament's concept of the patriarchs and the era In which they lived, and that on the basis of internal evidence alone there exists considerable confusion about the way in which Genesis 12-50 should be interpreted. While form critics generally have argued that little reliable historical memory has been preserved in the patriarchal narratives, they have hardly been able to put any agreed alternative in its place.[98] Thompson has also recently acknowledged that even the criteria for distinguishing oral from written tradition are not clear, and that oral tradition itself, which is sometimes employed as a last resort in the absence of other evidence, is actually absent from the Old Testament which contains at most only representations of oral traditions.[99] The position concerning literary criticism offers little improvement. The documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch remains after all a hypothesis, and has probably never suffered such a severe challenge as it is undergoing at the present time.[100] In any case, form and literary criticism are not to be regarded as alternatives to each other or to the use of external data. The external material has often actually been added to rather than displaced the conclusions of form and literary critical study. As Weeks has pointed out, some proposed parallels have actually been dependent on the documentary hypothesis and a prior period of oral transmission whose existence depends mainly


on ingenuity and guesswork.[101] Form criticism too has been heavily dependent on the use of external criteria, both in the delineation of the basic categories in Old Testament narrative and the identification of individual motifs, whether using Germanic and Icelandic oral tradition or ancient near-eastern stories as a basis for comparison.

It is certainly right at this time to give stress to a proper exegesis of the Old Testament, which has sometimes been in danger of being swamped by comparative material in the interpretation of the Patriarchal Age. But it is precisely because the methods of internal biblical study have not produced satisfactory answers to questions about the patriarchs that external data is both admissible and necessary. Once again, the either/or approach, whether emphasizing internal or external sources, exhibits a tendency to lead into what too often turns out to be a cul-de-sac, but the controlled use of both groups of material opens up a more profitable route towards the interpretation of the patriarchs.

3.3. Specific customs

Thompson and van Seters have both given detailed criticisms of the ways in which near-eastern social customs, and especially those of Nuzi, have been compared with patriarchal narratives. The reason for this careful attention has been well expressed by van Seters: 'Many scholars have seen in these patriarchal customs the strongest criterion for considering the Genesis stories to be of great antiquity.[102] Their rejection of the consensus view has both reflected and magnified the growing dissatisfaction with some of the claimed parallels which has been manifested in the works of Greenberg, Mullo Weir, van Seters, Tucker, and Petschow,[103] and which has been continued more recently by Greengus, Weeks, Clark and de Vaux.[104] The common conclusion of Thompson and van Seters is that the Nuzi texts have no special interest for the patriarchal narrative[105] although their alternative proposals vary widely. Van Seters believed that much better parallels could be established with first-millennium texts. Thompson, however, while acknowledging that some customs fit very well into the general context of ancient near-eastern family law and that such comparisons are 'quite helpful', insists that the patriarchal customs are not in conflict with later Old Testament practice, that there is no reason why they should not be of Palestinian origin, and that they cannot be dated to any specific period in ancient near-eastern history.[106] On the basis of this and other factors, he also concludes that 'there


is nothing historically known which can directly associate the narratives with the historical and archaeological data of the second millennium'.[107]

The objections of Thompson and van Seters place the claimed parallels into three distinct groups: those which are rejected entirely, those which are to be interpreted against a general ancient near-eastern background, and those for which the best parallels are found in texts of the first millennium BC. Both scholars place some customs in the first group, but the second group belong mainly to Thompson and the third entirely to van Seters.

3.3.1. Rejected parallels

  1. Abraham's inheritance relationship with his slave Eliezer is not easy to interpret, not least because of the translation difficulties of Genesis 15:2-3. Many have attempted a solution through positing Abraham's adoption of Eliezer on the basis of analogies from Nuzi and elsewhere. Yet a major difficulty in the way of this interpretation is that in cuneiform texts an adoptee who had been allocated an inheritance never forfeited that inheritance even if the adopter subsequently had sons of his own, whereas Eliezer's inheritance rights are not mentioned after the birth of Isaac (cf. Gn.25:5-6). This weakness is recognized by Thompson and van Seters, while for Thompson Eliezer's slave status is a further problem. Van Seters sees greater relevance in certain inner-biblical parallels, particularly Proverbs 17:2 where a slave can Inherit alongside the brothers.[108] There is no doubt that Eliezer's lack of an inheritance poses a real difficulty, but it is not necessarily an insuperable one. Although Proverbs 17:2 may in the end provide the better comparison, one should equally not overlook the several cuneiform examples of slave adoption, and especially an Old Babylonian text from Larsa which suggests that a man without sons could adopt his own slave.[109]

  2. Speiser's strange interpretation of Nahor's marriage to his niece Milcah (Gn.11:29) as an example of the type of adoption described in a. 'tablet of daughtership and daughter-in-lawship' () has been severely criticized by Thompson. He argues rightly that texts of this kind are not concerned with the marriage of nieces, but that the main purpose was the adoption of a girl in order to give her in marriage to someone else, and thus to receive the marriage payment () from her husband.[110] One might note in addition that Speiser's emphasis on the earlier death of the girl's father is quite irrelevant both to this type of adoption and to Genesis 11:29.


  3. Another of Speiser's theories, that of wife-sister marriage, has gained much greater notoriety than the previous example, but is just as unconvincing. Although Thompson and van Seters are united in their rejection of Speiser's view,[111] they were preceded by some years by the little-known article of Mullo Weir (referred to earlier) which very effectively challenged the wife-sister marriage.[112] Mullo Weir's conclusions have also been confirmed by other contributions over the last few years.[113]

  4. A similar reaction has also emerged towards a related theory of Speiser's, namely his interpretation of Rebekah's marriage (Gn. 24) as a sistership adoption. Again, it is alleged that Speiser has misunderstood the purpose of this practice, which like daughtership adoption, is to adopt a girl in order to give her in marriage to someone else. It is generally agreed also that Rebekah's consent (Gn. 24:57), on which Speiser placed so much emphasis, was given not to the arrangement of her marriage but to the time of her departure from Paddan-Aram.[114]

  5. Recent interpretation of the significance of household gods at Nuzi and among Laban's family has moved away from seeing the gods as a title to an inheritance, following Greenberg's strong denial of the earlier view.[115] Thompson and van Seters have also acknowledged the force of Greenberg's arguments.[116] In their view, the Nuzi evidence has been wrongly understood and uncritically applied to the account of Rachel's theft, and even apart from this, the Old Testament story on its own gives no indication that either Jacob or Rachel had any interest in inheriting Laban's estate. And yet this was the earliest and the parade example of a Nuzi parallel to a patriarchal custom, as indicated by Speiser, 'perhaps the outstanding example of an exclusively Hurrian custom which the patriarchal account records, but which became incomprehensible later on in Canaanite surroundings'.[117]

  6. The closely related hypothesis of Jacob's adoption by Laban and his errbu marriage have also come in for severe criticism. The adoption is opposed because the Old Testament evidence is contrary to such a proposal, but Jacob's errbu marriage is rejected by Thompson because no brideprice () was paid in such instances, whereas van Seters, following his earlier view, denies even the existence of this type of marriage.[118]

  7. Two Nuzi texts are sometimes quoted as further examples of the sale of birthright as carried out by Esau (Gn. 25:29-34). One of them, HSS 5 99,[119] is rightly rejected by Thompson as being unrelated to the question of the

    transfer of birthright. Thompson and van Seters have both criticized the value of the second, JEN 204,[120] for interpreting Esau's action on the grounds that there is no means of knowing whether the seller made a good or bad deal. Thompson also notes two further fundamental difficulties: that the identity of the firstborn in JEN 204 is unknown, and that it is not future inheritance rights that are being sold, but only that the land in question happens to be inherited. Both scholars, however, do recognize that this text is one example of several instances where part of an inheritance is transferred from one brother to another, though only van Seters sees them as being analogous with the biblical passage.[121]

  8. The patriarchal blessings of Isaac and Jacob are unique in ancient literature, but Speiser has argued that the account in Genesis 27 has certain legal features comparable with those mentioned in some Nuzi documents. Speiser understood the phrase 'and now I have grown old' (verse 2) to be an introductory legal formula, but this is countered by Thompson on the grounds that it occurs in only one Nuzi text and even that is not a final deathbed disposition. The upholding of an oral statement in a law-court is also not supported, since the claim made in the tablet AASOR 16 56[122] is recognized by the court on the basis of the witnesses' testimony and not on the grounds of any intrinsic legality of an oral statement. Both Thompson and van Seters argue in any case that the patriarchal blessing is not a legal phenomenon. According to the latter, Esau could have received redress at law, while Thompson asserts that in a real situation one would expect Isaac to reverse his decision on discovering the deception. These comments, however, appear to confuse the patriarchal blessing, occurring only in Genesis 27 and 48, where the words of blessing were immutable, with the more obviously tangible benefits of inheritance which were subject to legal procedures.[123]

In addition to these examples from the sphere of family law, a small number of other practices are often mentioned in this same context, of which two well-known cases are briefly included here. Abraham's purchase of a burial ground from a 'son of Heth' (Gn. 23) has sometimes been interpreted against the background of Hittite law, but this is challenged by Thompson and in a more detailed fashion by van Seters. According to van Seters, the main problem is that this interpretation 'must supply the story with the missing point of comparison and then reconstruct the rest to agree with it'.[124] The missing parts in the Genesis account are any reference to feudal service associated with the property, and an indication that the sel-


ler's entire holdings are involved, while the assumed connection between the Hittites and Hebron is also questioned. In place of this view, van Seters prefers certain later texts as a means of interpreting the chapter.[125] The second example concerns Jacob's shepherding arrangements with Laban in Genesis 3l:38ff., which have been compared with certain Old Babylonian shepherding contracts. Van Seters' objections to the validity of this comparison are based on the fact that such contracts are not confined to any particular period, and that the unique non-cultic pi'el use of the verb aa' in Genesis 31:39 should be compared not with Old Babylonian , 'loss', but with the more general Akkadian verb âu, 'to weigh out (money), to pay compensation'. It must be said, however, that van Seters' arguments lack conviction, for several reasons. The Hebrew verb aa' must be repointed as a qal form, it is related morphologically to but not to [126] and the meaning 'loss' is much more suitable in the context than van Seters' tentative alternative.[127]

Many of these objections of Thompson and van Seters can certainly be sustained. The various marriage theories of Speiser and most of Gordon's proposals concerning the relationship between Jacob and Laban are clearly wide of the mark, and can now be seen to be founded more on the shifting sands of enthusiasm than on the solid rock of accuracy. Even among the ruins of these parallels, however, some of the extrabiblical data is still relevant to Genesis 12-50. The various examples of the sale of an inheritance within the family provide a useful general background to Esau's transaction with Jacob, and the Old Babylonian herding contracts exhibit genuine points of contact with the patriarchal narratives. Two issues which must continue to be left open are the adoption of Eliezer and the relevance of feudal duties to Abraham's purchase of a burial ground.[128]

3.3.2. Parallels of a general character

Despite Thompson's generally negative assessment of the value of Nuzi family law for the patriarchal narratives, he does conclude that real contacts exist: 'Positively, it can be said that many of the customs in Genesis, that cannot be directly related to known literary motifs, fit very well into the general context of ancient near-eastern family law, and a comparison of these stories with this legal material is quite helpful in understanding the intention of these narratives.[129] The following list contains his main suggestions which are in agreement with this conclusion.

  1. Various practices in Genesis associated with a


    wife's slavegirl are mentioned in extrabiblical texts. The inclusion of a female slave within a dowry as in the marriage accounts of Leah, Rachel, and probably Rebekah has several extrabiblical parallels.[130] Similarly, the practice of Sarah, Rachel, and Leah who each provided their husbands with a slavegirl in the face of their own barrenness (Gn. 16:1-4; 30:1-13) is mentioned occasionally elsewhere, though sometimes the girl was obtained especially for the purpose while on other occasions she already belonged to the wife. The ambiguous position of the inheritance prospects of the sons resulting from a union of this kind is also well documented. The variations that exist in these customs, particularly within the cuneiform material, are to be explained by the demands of individual situations rather than by any chronological or geographical factors.[131]

  2. A clause restricting a man from taking a seond wife as mentioned in Genesis 31:50, sometimes appears in cuneiform marriage contracts, though again with variable details. In Genesis 31, however, this forms part of a legal 'covenant' between Jacob and Laban, made after the birth of Jacob's children but before the final parting of the two men. For Thompson, this is the one aspect of the supposed parallels between Genesis 29-31 and the Nuzi text Gadd 51[132] which stands up to scrutiny, but it can be accepted only in 'a very limited and a very vague sense',[133] since these two cases belong to a group of references stretching from Sumerian texts in the late third millennium BC to the Graeco-Egyptian papyri of the second and first centuries BC.[134]

  3. Although Thompson rejects Speiser's sistership theory as an explanation of Rebekah's marriage, he does draw attention to the fact that the arrangement of the marriage by Rebekah's brother Laban is paralleled by a number of instances where a brother takes responsibility for his sister's welfare. These include three cases of the arrangement of his sister's marriage, twice in the Old Babylonian period and once in the Neo-Babylonian.[135]

  4. A dominant feature of the discussion relating to the privileges of the eldest son has been the fairly frequent assertion that both at Nuzi and in patriarchal society, birthright could be arbitrarily bestowed on any son. This conclusion is partly confirmed by Thompson, who speaks of a father's discriminating power in dividing an inheritance. However, he seems to have confused two separate issues, for the wide-ranging examples cited by Thompson actually refer to those who would not inherit in the normal course of succession rather than to any variation in the status of the eldest son. There is con-


    siderable evidence inside and outside the Old Testament that the alteration of any heir's inheritance rights was an extremely serious matter, and was certainly not subject to a father's arbitrary decision.[136] This, however, was a different matter from providing special gifts for a wife, son, or daughter, which stood outside the main inheritance arrangements, or from making special arrangements in unusual circumstances, such as when a man died intestate, or when he had only daughters, as in the case of Zelophehad's family (Nu. 27:8-11). These latter arrangements to which Thompson refers do not materially affect the special position of the eldest son.[137]

Thompson's view that neither the patriarchs nor the citizens of Nuzi were isolated from the rest of the ancient Near East as far as family law is concerned is an accurate assessment, though it is not a unique position. This was recognized by Mullo Weir in 1967, and by others more recently,[138] but differing conclusions have been drawn from this common basis. Weeks, for example, who recognizes that 'the parallels which remain valid are the more general ones',[139] is very pessimistic about being able to establish any real external confirmation of the patriarchal narratives. Thompson is equally certain that such contacts provide us with neither a historical background nor a 'constitutive legal structure' for the patriarchs, and they certainly cannot help in establishing a separate Patriarchal Age.[140] Indeed, he has recently asserted that the earliest possible date for determining anything at all about the patriarchs is that of the earliest known existence of Israel, namely the beginning of the Israelite monarchy in the tenth century BC. Anything earlier is pre-Israelite when basic traditions may have existed for millennia.[141] Thus although Thompson makes the positive suggestion that this general legal background is helpful in interpreting some aspects of the patriarchal stories, it is only a minor gain. We can at most learn something only of the time in which the stories were written, and nothing at all about the patriarchs and their world.

But these pessimistic conclusions do not necessarily follow from the general nature of the social customs. No a priori reason exists why the patriarchal clans themselves should not have practised these customs, since the parallels that can be established are concrete historical examples in individual family settings. It can even be said that whereas J. Bright saw the patriarchal customary law as being at home only among the population of Nuzi,[142] that background should now be extended to include the general customary law of the ancient Near East. Although the


number of Thompson's contacts is relatively meagre, it should also be recognized that even at the present time the list can be significantly extended, as will be indicated below.[143] That it is the approach of Mullo Weir and de Vaux rather than that of Gordon and Speiser which is now seen to be more accurate should not lead us to draw hasty conclusions that the historicity of the patriarchs has thereby been disproved. Rather, it has been put on a wider and therefore more stable foundation.

3.3.3. Parallels with first-millennium texts

  1. In his examination of the wife-sister episodes in Genesis, van Seters draws attention to Egyptian marriage contracts of the sixth century BC where a wife is occasionally referred to as a man's 'sister', even though there is clearly no blood relationship. He suggests that these terms of affection help to explain the patriarchs' actions, and notes that similar usage is found twice in the Apocrypha, but his interpretation is open to objection. It encounters the difficulty of importing an explanation into the patriarchal narratives for which there is no supporting point of contact, while the factual note of Genesis 20:12 renders the comparison unnecessary. The most serious problem, however, is that in Genesis 12 an Egyptian Pharaoh does not understand what according to van Seters is a custom of his country and time.[144]

  2. The same Genesis passages include the description of adultery as a 'great sin' (Gn. 20:9; cf. 26:10). This phrase, was van Seters notes, was similarly used in a Ugaritic text of the late thirteenth century BC and in Egyptian marriage contracts from the ninth to sixth centuries BC.[145] He appears to ignore his own evidence, however, since the Ugaritic reference requires that it cannot be regarded as purely first-millennium usage. This expression was apparently not restricted geographically or chronologically in the ancient Near East.

  3. Whereas in Thompson's understanding of Rebekah's marriage (Gn. 24) it is the brother's action which is significant, the more relevant parallels for van Seters are those cases from the Old and Neo-Babylonian periods where the marriage is the joint responsibility of the bride's mother and brother.[146] In fact, no great distinction should be drawn between those instances where a brother acts alone and those where he acts with his mother. It was quite usual in ancient near-eastern marriage contracts for a father, mother or brother to take the responsibility, even though in most cases it was the duty of the girl's father. Rather, one should note the continuity through the millennia of the way in which the arrangement


    of marriages is described, and not attempt hairline distinctions which were probably dictated by family circumstances. As for Rebekah's father, his inactivity is not to be identified automatically with his absence, and he cannot simply be relegated to a scrthal gloss without good reason.

  4. For the interpretation of Laban's daughters' complaint that their father had 'sold them (Gn. 31:15), van Seters turns to a Neo-Assyrian example of purchase marriage, a practice which is unusual in this period. This particular text also closely resembles a slave sale transaction. Van Seters acknowledges, however, that the girls' complaint can also be explained against the background of other texts from the Old Babylonian period, Nuzi, and Elephantine, where on occasion a father would withhold from his daughter a part of the bride payment which was normally handed on as a dowry. Nevertheless, he stresses that a date in the late Israelite monarchy is an entirely possible setting for the Genesis passage.[147] In the light of the earlier evidence, however, it is impossible to be so emphatic about the relevance of the Neo-Assyrian text. The existence of purchase marriage among the patriarchs is unlikely and cannot be proved from this one verse. Further more, the phrase ('to consume money') in Genesis 31:15 also appears in identical contexts at Nuzi in its Akkadian equivalent (kaspa kalu), which suggests that the biblical reference may well belong with van Seters' rejected alternative.[148]

  5. An alternative to the discarded Nuzi parallels to Esau's sale of his birthright is proposed by van Seters. He notes that the ability to transfer inheritance rights, even before they were received, was in evidence in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, and although he does not make clear whether all these cases took place between brothers, he does mention one damaged tablet where it is possible that a two-thirds portion, that is, a birthright, was in fact transferred from one brother to another. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be certain about this particular text, but of course the transfer of inherited property was known in several periods, not restricted to the first millennium.[149]

  6. Finally, one must take note of van Seters' own interpretation of the customs relating to a wife's slave- girl. He has insisted repeatedly that the best parallel to the biblical practice is found in a Neo-Assyrian text from Nimrud, whereas this text actually illustrates the long continuity of the custom in the ancient Near East.[150] It contains one of the few examples of a wife who provided her husband with a slavegirl for the purpose of producing


    children for the husband and wife, in contrast to the usual procedure where the husband made his own choice of a second wife or a concubine. This text thus stands closely alongside the Nuzi text HSS 5 67[151] and a small number of other second-millennium references, as well as the biblical instances of Sarah, Rachel, and Leah. Van Seters' distinction between the children of the wife and those of the husband is artificial and unrealistic,[152] and misses the emphasis of this group of texts which is to protect the position of the chief wife. His statement that in both the Neo-Assyrian text and the biblical references the wife retains full control over the slavegirl is also erroneous. The Nimrud tablet clearly states: 'If she hates (her), she may sell her,'[153] whereas Sarah's maid could only be expelled by Abraham who was himself hesitant until he received divine encouragement (Gn. 21:9-14). Van Seters' estimate of the value of this text is therefore somewhat misplaced.[154]

Mention must be made here of attempts to trace the structure of Neo-Babylonian 'dialogue documents' in certain passages in the patriarchal narratives. According to van Seters, not only does Abraham's purchase in Genesis 23 reflect the structure of these texts, but Laban's herding negotiations with Jacob also fall into the same pattern.[155] While it is quite possible that these patriarchal negotiations are patterned on contractual procedures, it is very difficult to discern with any accuracy the form of the 'dialogue documents' in Genesis. These texts had a fairly precise structure, quite different from the extensive dialogue in the narratives of Genesis. In Genesis 23, for example, Tucker argues that the 'dialogue document' form begins at verse 16, but this is a purely arbitrary point at which to divide the narrative, and in any case, the dialogue between Ephron and Abraham ceases at verse 15! Furthermore, the 'dialogue document' is not restricted to the late Assyrian period onwards, as asserted by van Seters, but is attested early in the second millennium.[156]

Van Seters' conclusion that the chronological data of the social customs 'all point to the mid-first millennium rather than to the earlier period'[157] cannot be supported. In practically every case, equally appropriate material is available from earlier periods. This is not to be discarded in favour of the later texts, but in fact confirms that the evidence of parallel customs fits well into the general family background of the ancient Near East.

3.4. Interpretation of extrabiblical evidence


Many of the difficulties which have been encountered in this whole area have been occasioned by the nature of the information in the cuneiform sources, which too often is scattered and isolated from material which could help to set it in a proper and meaningful context. Comparisons have been constructed on the basis of individual texts whose availability is determined more by the chance of archaeological discovery than anything else and which have little connection with each other either in time or location. These factors have also been commented on by Thompson and van Seters, though as before, their emphasis has varied. Van Seters' protest has centred upon the apparent preference for second-millennium sources against what he sees as the almost complete exclusion of later texts. While it is acknowledged that this has resulted partly from the greater volume of texts from the earlier period, he alleges that the primary cause is the direct influence of Old Testament studies which has led to a 'prejudicial treatment' in favour of the second millennium.[158]

While van Seters therefore sees the problem as an imbalance which he seeks to correct, Thompson regards the issue as much more deep-seated. For him all the texts used are unrepresentative, and modern scholarship has failed to take into account 'the enormous lack of data for the history of the Second Millennium'.[159] Thompson's statement gives the impression that the task of writing any meaningful history, even of the comparatively well-documented early second millennium, is almost hopeless. But one does not need to be so pessimistic. Our information is steadily increasing, and what is more important, so is our appreciation of its significance. Thus the 300 Nuzi texts on family law have come under increasing scrutiny,[160] for instance, and the city of Sippar in the Old Babylonian period has recently been subjected to an in-depth demographic study.[161] Other sites too, particularly in the Old Babylonian period, can provide significant information, and material from a range of locations in different periods is now available.

It must be admitted that we have fewer sources from the first millennium, so that care must be exercised in assessing the value of the larger quantity of earlier material, and these later texts cannot be ignored in any comparative study of social customs. Van Seters' own approach, however, which amounts to an almost complete overriding of the greater number of second-millennium texts in favour of later material, is no improvement on the position he seeks to criticize. While the current situation is thus far from ideal, and full account needs


to be taken of the variations in the evidence, there is even now much to be gained.

The best use of extrabiblical material will involve the recognition that the evidence has certain limitations. of primary importance should be the study of any custom in its own context, and no meaningful comparison can take place until a thorough investigation of this kind can be carried out. Such a contextual approach will need to take account of at least three separate stages. In the first place, any text that appears to be significant for comparative purposes needs to be examined as to its own literary characteristics, its purpose, date and geographical location. Secondly, it must be related with other material on the same subject from the same site, and finally compared with similar texts from a variety of sites and periods in the ancient Near East. The worth of an individual cuneiform tablet can only really be appreciated by gaining this kind of synchronic and diachronic perspective, though even then it may not be possible to distinguish much development of a custom.

Variations will certainly be apparent, but current evidence suggests that this is probably due more to individual requirements than to anything else. Two examples of this variation will indicate the real significance of the contextual approach. The custom by which an infertile wife gave her slavegirl to her husband has been compared with a number of cuneiform texts, including one notable tablet from Nuzi, HSS 5 67.[162] In the light of a wider appreciation of this text, it becomes clear that it was in fact untypical of Nuzi practice. For whereas in this text and in Genesis, the wife presented her own slavegirl to her husband, in five other cases the husband could take a second wife and in four he could take a concubine of his choice. It is also apparent, however, that practices similar to that described in HSS 5 67 are found occasionally in texts of the Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian periods, and it is these texts which form the closest background to the biblical passages.[163] Similar variation, even within the same site at the same period, can be traced in the larger inheritance share of the eldest son. In Nuzi and at Larsa in the Old Babylonian period, although the normal practice was for the eldest son to receive a double share, there are also references to an equal division of the inheritance, but at Kutalla in the Old Babylonian period, one eldest son received a double share and another only an extra 10%,[164] The same differences are also evident in examples of the first millennium,[165] whereas the norm in Middle Babylonian Nippur was an extra 10% for the eldest son.[166]


Thompson has helpfully pointed out that 'contracts are not customs',[167] or in other words, one cannot automatically assume that any single text should be taken as representative for its time and place. Some attention therefore should be given to the function of cuneiform contracts. it has been concluded, for instance, that many Old Babylonian marriage contracts depict 'abnormal family situations',[168] and that 'wills were drawn at Nuzi only in unusual circumstances'.[169] This suggests that many contracts were used only when there was the possibility of same dispute or difficulty or where some abnormal problem was involved, a conclusion which is also supported by the accounts of customs in the patriarchal narratives. On the other hand, this does not mean that the contracts contain only exceptions, since in many cases they quite clearly confirm the usual principle and practice or else reapply the common practice where some unusual element was involved. They can still therefore be employed as a legitimate source for the study of customs.

3.5. Interpretation of biblical material

If we need to emphasize correct procedures in the interpretation of nonbibljcal texts, perhaps we need even more to stress that the exegesis of Old Testament passages should not be overstretched. The stories of the patriarchs are found, after all, in the Old Testament and not outside it, and the patriarchal social customs must be seen first of all in their Old Testament context. This means, for instance, that Eliezer's status as heir may be an example of the exercise of patria potestas by Abraham, as suggested by a similar though not necessarily identical case in Proverbs 17:2 (despite the existence of appropriate extrabiblical material), or that David's treatment of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, provides the best analogy to the anticipated actions of the Egyptian and Philistine kings towards the wives of Abraham and Isaac.

It is most important to recognize the limitations of the biblical accounts of patriarchal customs and the consequent dangers of over-enthusiasm in attempting to fill the gaps in our understanding. Additional explanatory material from outside the Old Testament is at best hypothetical, and it is the wrong use of this data which has occasioned many of the problems that have arisen in connection with the parallels, and which has caused a number of them to be rejected. In these cases, the meaning of the text has actually been clouded and confused by the nonbiblical data, which has thus done a disservice to correct exegesis. Furthermore, the Patriarchal Age which has been built up from some of these supposed parallels has


not always been based upon the biblical record, but has sometimes owed more to the ingenuity of modern 'parallelologists'.

An important feature of the biblical picture is that the biblical tradition as a whole places the patriarchs in the period prior to the sojourn in Egypt and the exodus. This has recently been recognized by Warner, who notes that the genealogies, the chronological data, and the historical narratives of the Old Testament are all consistent in this respect.[170] Since this tradition is firmly entrenched, at the very least the concept of a pre-exodus patriarchal era becomes a working hypothesis, and it is therefore quite legitimate and reasonable on the basis of the date generally agreed for the exodus to look for contacts in the early and mid second millennium.[171] Thus while van Seters' protest that the first-millennium cuneiform material had not received a fair treatment in the overall study of ancient near-eastern family law is probably justified, the preference for comparing second-millennium sources with the patriarchal narratives is not due to prejudice but is based on a recognition of the biblical scheme. Unless this pattern is rejected as being entirely unhistorical, it is in the earlier material that contacts might initially be expected to be found, although any proper study of the chronological setting of a Patriarchal Age must include consideration of alternative periods.

Thompson has also alleged that the real implications of the second-millennium parallels for the documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch have been ignored. Two issues in particular are mentioned: that it is assumed that the original tradition, rooted in historical events and passed on orally, somehow remained intact for over 800 years, and that the independent character of most of the Genesis pericopes is overlooked.[172] In practice, however, it can hardly be said that the existence of social parallels has greatly affected the documentary hypothesis as a whole. Most of those who have accepted the validity of the parallels have simply attached their results to a modified form of the documentary hypothesis, without any great alteration to either the archaeological or the literary interpretation of the Pentateuch. The only major effect has been the positing of a basic historical tradition,[173] which in Speiser's view could sometimes be at variance with the present form of the biblical text,[174] but which was linked to the various sources of the documentary hypothesis by the unprovable assumption of a long period of oral transmission, it is thus the preliterary stage rather than the sources themselves which have been


most affected, but although this has signified an alternative approach to that of Gunkel, Noth, and von Rad towards the history of tradition, it has never been worked out in any detail. Only a few writers have used the archaeological data as a whole, including the social parallels, as a direct challenge to the documentary hypothesis.[175]

There are two points in particular where the evidence from social customs affects the conclusions of literary study. First, the historical nature of the comparative material means that the disciplines of literary and form criticism must reckon with the fact that some parts of the patriarchal narratives are at home in historical texts outside the Old Testament. If any literature is studied in isolation from historical data, it will soon be concluded that it is unhistorical, but the continued existence of social parallels requires that this historical dimension can no longer be excluded from a consideration of the origins of the patriarchal narratives. Secondly, the conclusions of internal literary hypotheses cannot override the objective information of the cuneiform tablets, where the latter can be shown to be of relevance to the patriarchal narratives. The cuneiform texts are preserved as original documents, whose date and place of origin are often accurately known, and which provide an incidental, unconscious, and therefore valuable insight into family life in the ancient Near East. Where these extrabiblical texts are genuinely applicable to particular biblical contexts, such objective data can be of real value, even though it cannot of course replace internal literary investigation.

3.6. Guidelines for comparison

A significant element in the current discussion has been the attempt by several writers to provide specific guidelines for comparing external evidence with the patriarchal narratives. Lists of rules have been contributed by Clark,[176] Luke,[177] and Warner,178 in addition to the general comments of Talmon on the 'comparative method'.[179] While all of them are useful, however, none can be said to treat the patriarchal comparisons comprehensively. Warner and Talmon have concentrated so heavily on the importance of the biblical data that insufficient attention is given to the positive value of external texts, Clark seems to have little concern for the actual process of comparison and deals with the whole matter very briefly, while Luke, whose approach is the most satisfactory, gives scant consideration to the interpretation of the sources in their own contexts. In addition, apart from Talmon, who is not greatly concerned with the patriarchal narratives, the


proposals are almost entirely theoretical, and the absence of concrete examples makes some of them difficult to evaluate.

In what is probably an attempt to avoid the danger of giving undue weight to parallels which appear initially attractive but which subsequently are shown to be superficial or even inaccurate, Warner argues that the primary role of the nonbiblical sources is 'a negative, falsifying one' and not 'a positive, verifying one'.[180] He proposes that the most one can expect of these sources is that any suggested reconstruction of the patriarchs will not be falsified by them. This approach, however, is as unsatisfactory as the method which Warner seeks to avoid, for its effect is to ignore data that may be extremely valuable, and to overlook the positive contribution that can be made by external sources. Luke's proposal that one should consider how far a given interpretation fits with known facts is a better procedure, and does not involve arbitrary assessments of the value of any peice of evidence, internal or external.[181]

Both Warner and Clark make the important if somewhat obvious point that the extrabiblical evidence should be examined in its widest context and thus demonstrate an inner consistency,[182] but only Talmon draws attention to the maxim that comparisons are best attempted only with those 'cultures lying within a given historic stream', that is, where there is historical, geographical and cultural affinity.[183] On a similar matter, Luke requires that arguments concerning cultural contacts and transmission of a custom must be plausible.[184] One might also add that such contacts should take account of the linguistic and sociological relationship between the cultures concerned. Thus those writers who were sceptical about the apparently one-sided reliance of the patriarchal customs on a Hurrian milieu were justified in their attitude, and there should be similar caution about placing too much weight on a purely Hittite interpretation of Genesis 23. This also means, of course, that the practices of the modern Bedouin and the oral literature of mediaeval Europe are of even more marginal interest for the patriarchs.

A conflict is discernible between Warner and Thompson as to whether differences in the form of texts allows any real comparison of their content. Thompson is extremely pessimistic,[185] whereas Warner not only accepts that any type of extrabiblical data can be used to 'elaborate' the patriarchal narratives, but also asserts that it is better to make a check from sources which do not share the same interest.[186] While comparisons of both form and content can be made, most are actually based on


the content of texts, on the reasonable grounds that the same custom can appear in such different forms as narratives, law collections, or private records. It is probable too that the myths and epics of Ugarit and Sumer contain valuable information about the social structures of the human societies which produced the stories.[187] However, attempts to find Mesopotamian literary forms such as the 'dialogue documents' or the sistership adoption contracts in Genesis 23 and 24 respectively have met with a conspicuous lack of success.

Another difficulty concerns the extent to which the sheer number of parallels influences our conclusions about the reality of a Patriarchal Age. In criticizing Albright and Bright for their emphasis on the quantity of contacts, Warner has asserted: 'A plethora of historical data makes the task of reconstructing a historical period more difficult.'[188] A similar position is taken by Miller and Thompson, the latter attacking what he calls 'meaningless mathematical criteria' such as the 'balance of probability'.[189] Such criticisms, however, overreach their target by some distance, for the implication of Warner's bland statement is that it would be better to have as few sources as possible. The objections really focus on two issues which have come to light as the extrabiblical evidence about the Patriarchal Age increases. First, attention must be given to the quality as well as to quantity of material, a point which is actually recognized by Warner in his plea for distinguishing between the essential and the non-essential.[190] Then one must also recognize that a relatively large amount of comparative material will not always improve our understanding of the biblical picture unless it has a ready point of contact with the knowledge that we already possess. In this connection, Warner's requirement of 'a very high degree of correlation between the biblical and the extra-biblical sources'[191] is unrealistic, since conditions of this nature cannot be defined or quantified.

Any comparison of social customs therefore will have to take the following issues into account: (1) All relevant nonbiblical material should be properly investigated in its own context, and it may have a positive or a negative function as far as our modern understanding of the patriarchs is concerned. (2) Comparisons are best drawn from those civilizations which stand in the same historic stream as ancient Israel, though links with their non-Semitic neighbours are by no means ruled out. (3) The means of transmission between the cultures concerned, including linguistic and sociological contacts, must be examined. (4) The different forms of texts are not neces-


sarily a hindrance to a comparison of their contents. (5) The quality of the contacts is at least as important as their quantity. (6) There must be some basic link between the customs involved if the contact is to be established at all, especially if the biblical custom is being explained by nonbiblical material.

A brief comment should also be inserted here concerning the implications of comparative social customs for the date and historicity of the patriarchs. It has been recognized for some time that social customs often continued for many centuries and even millennia in the ancient Near East with few variations, and that it is extremely difficult to trace chronological developments. The unsuitability of customs for the dating of the patriarchs has been recognized in several quarters, and the position was well summarized in 1961 by Freedman: 'The conclusion to be drawn is rather that the MB pattern of social custom and practice survived basically unchanged for centuries in certain localities in the Near East; and Nuzi, at least, cannot be used as determinative for dating. Caution must be exercised in using cultural and social patterns for dating purposes; since these are our principal clues in the case of the Patriarchal Age, considerable flexibility in fixing the chronology is advisable.'[192] If in rare circumstances a custom is to be used for chronological purposes, it must be shown to have been displaced by other practices in other periods, and its relationship to similar contemporary customs established so that variations with the same period can be correctly interpreted.

As for the issue of historicity, the most that can be achieved by a study of the social customs is to set the general historical background in a sharper focus than would otherwise be the case. The customs form only one element in a consideration of the Patriarchal Age, and since in the nature of the case their witness is indirect, they cannot by themselves determine the matter of historicity. Nevertheless, the evidence is such that some patriarchal customs can be set against an objective historical background in the general context of ancient near-eastern family law.


When the biblical and nonbiblical material is subject to proper control, the way is still open for the social customs of the patriarchal narratives to be legitimately illustrated and supported from a variety of historical


contexts in the ancient Near East. The following list includes those examples which remain valid in the light of the conditions for comparison discussed above.

  1. The practice of granting a birthright, that is, additional privileges to an eldest son, is mentioned several times in the patriarchal narratives (Gn. 25:5-6; 25:32-34; 43:33; 49:3-4; cf.48:13-20) and was widespread in the ancient Near East. As in the Old Testament, so elsewhere the privileges and their proportion in comparison with those of the younger sons could vary considerably. The double portion, well known in texts from the Old Babylonian to the Neo-Babylonian period, is clearly found in the Old Testament only in Deuteronomy 21:15-l7.[193]

  2. In Genesis 25:23, the Hebrew term for the eldest son is not the usual but , which is used here only in this sense. The cognate Akkadian word, rabû, is also used by itself of the eldest son, but so far has turned up only in tablets of the mid-second millennium, from Nuzi, Alalah, Ugarit, and Middle Assyria.[194] Since the texts from Babylonia and those of the Neo-Assyrian period use different terminology, such as aplu(m) rabû (m) eldest heir')[195] or maru (m) rabû (m) ('eldest son'),[196] it appears that this biblical datum has some chronological significance.[197]

  3. The alteration of a man's inheritance prospects was never subject to a father's arbitrary decision, whether it involved the loss of the birthright privilege or total disinheritance, but was brought about in every case by serious offences against one's own family.[198] Thus Reuben's sexual offences against his father's concubine (Gn. 35:22; 49:3-4) can be linked with behaviour of similar gravity elsewhere, such as taking legal action against one's parents,[199] the usurping of a father's authority,[200] or the despising of one's parents.[201] The seriousness of disinheritance is indicated in the laws of Hammurapi where such action could be undertaken only after a second offence of sufficient importance and with the permission of a court of law.

  4. A man's ability to sell inherited property is documented at different periods in the ancient Near East, though at the present time no clear case is known of an eldest son who, like Esau, sold either his inheritance or his rights to an inheritance.[202]

  5. While the inheritance relationship between Abraham and Eliezer may find its explanation in Proverbs 17:2, the examples of adoption of slaves, and the specific cause of the Old Babylonian letter from Larsa (where it is suggested that a man without sons could adopt his own


    slave), are also very apposite to this situation. It is precisely the custom of the adoption of one's own slave that is found only in the Larsa letter and in Genesis 15.[203]

  6. The adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh by their grandfather (Gn. 48:5) may be compared with a similar adoption of a grandson at Ugarit.[204] Furthermore, the phrase, 'they are mine' (Gn. 48:5) is almost identical to the usual ancient near-eastern adoption formulae, as found for instance in the Laws of Hainmurapi para.170.

  7. The custom of bearing 'upon the knees' has frequently been interpreted as an adoption rite since the time of Stade, who supported his view with parallels from various far-flung locations including Homeric Greece, Old Germany, and the modern Bedouin.[205] The practice is mentioned five times in the Old Testament, of which three references occur in the patriarchal narratives.[206] A study of all these passages reveals no clear connection with adoption, however, an impression which is confirmed by similar references in two Hurrian myths and several Neo-Assyrian blessings. Rather, both the biblical and extrabiblical passages have associations with birth, name-giving, breast-feeding, and fondling of a child, and seem to indicate some kind of recognized welcome or acceptance of a newborn child into the family which could be carried out by parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents.[207]

  8. The gift of a female slave as part of a dowry, a practice mentioned three times in the patriarchal narratives, is well known in the ancient Near East at various periods.[208] If the marriage proved to be infertile, the husband normally took matters into his own hands, but on certain occasions, the wife was able to present one of her slavegirls, sometimes specially purchased, to her husband to produce children for their own marriage. The parallels to the biblical references (Gn. 16:1-4; 30:1-13) for this rare custom are found so far in the Hammurapi Laws, and in single instances from Nuzi and Nimrud.[209] In each case, the authority over the children resulting from this union belonged not to the slavegirl who bore them but to the chief wife.[210] According to two examples from Old Babylonian texts,[211] the inheritance prospects of the sons of any concubine were uncertain until the sons were officially adopted, and similar recognition may also have been required for the sons of Hagar, Bilhah, and Zilpah in order to secure their full inheritance status.[212]

  9. A father's prohibition forbidding his prospective son-in-law to take a second wife in place of his daughter is found regularly in marriage contracts, as well


    as in Laban's covenant with his son-in-law Jacob (Gn. 31:50).[213]

  10. Since the function of Bethuel in the arrangement of his daughter's marriage is rather ambiguous (Gn. 24), one should note the several instances in the Old and Neo-Babylonian periods where a marriage was arranged by the bride's brother, either by himself or together with their mother.[214]

  11. The description of adultery as a 'great sin' by the Philistine king Abimelek (Gn. 20:9; cf. 26:l0) is known also at Ugarit and in Egyptian marriage contracts of the first millennium BC.[215]

  12. Certain oral statements were accompanied by recognized rituals and ceremonials which functioned as legal safeguards. These included the grasping or correct placing of the right hand, and actions of this kind may be seen as the legal background of Jacob's adoption and blessing of his grandsons (Gn. 48).[216]

  13. The use of the phrase in the complaint of Laban's daughters may be compared with the Akkadian equivalent (kaspa aklu), which is used five times in marriage contracts at Nuzi for the withholding of a dowry which was normally taken from the husband's marriage payment.[217]

Since the large majority of these examples show that the patriarchal customs can be compared without difficulty with a wide range of material from the ancient Near East, it may be concluded that the patriarchal narratives accurately reflect a social and historical setting which belongs to the second and first millennia BC. More precise dates must of course be derived from other considerations, but neither van Seters' preference for first millennium material nor Thompson's assessment of the essentially nonhistorical character of the narratives can be supported by the evidence of the social customs. From the independent viewpoint of the historian, therefore, the social parallels make the historical existence of the patriarchs more likely.

But our conclusion also has hermeneutical and theological implications. Two examples must suffice. That Laban should conclude the details of Jacob's marriages twenty years after the marriages were agreed (Gn. 31:50), even though a marriage contract would normally have been drawn up at the beginning, is further evidence of his duplicity and of the difficulties with which Jacob had to contend. By contrast, Abraham's refusal to take a second wife or a concubine of his own in the face of Sarah's continuing infertility gives a new insight into his regard for Sarah's position as well as his faith in God's provi-


sion of the promised heir. A proper appreciation of the social and historical dimension of the patriarchal narratives thus leads to a more accurate understanding of Genesis' theological contribution, as in the specific application of Abraham's faith.


[1] RA 23, 1926, pp. 49-161. Although the majority of Gadd's collection of texts came from nearby Arrapha (pp.50-52), they are sufficiently homogeneous with those from Nuzi to be treated together.

[2] Ibid., p.127.

[3] J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel (A. & C. Black, Edinburgh, 1885), pp.318-319.

[4] H. Gunkel, The Legends of Genesis (Schocken, New York, 1964), pp.1-12; idem, Genesis, (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, [2]1902), XI-XVI.

[5] G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (Westminster Press, Philadelphia; Duckworth, London, [2]1962), p.40.

[6] J. Bright, History of Israel, (Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1959; SCM, London, 1960). The chapter on the patriarchs in the second edition of 1972 is slightly more cautious, but the major conclusions remain unaltered. All references in footnotes will be to the second edition.

[7] Ibid., 79.

[8] For more details concerning the main argument see, e.g., J. Bright, History, pp. 78ff.; W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (Harper, New York, 1963), pp.1-9; idem, Yahweh and the gods of Canaan (Athlone, London, 1968), pp.47-95; H. H. Rowley, 'Recent discoveries and the Patriarchal Age,' BJRL 32, 1949-1950, pp.44-79, (= The Servant of the Lord and Other Essays (Blackwell, Oxford, [2]1965), pp.281-318); R. de Vaux, RB 53, 1946 , pp.321-348; 55, 1948, pp.321-347; 56, 1949, pp.5-36; C. H. Gordon, lntroduction to Old Testament Times (Ventnor Publ., Ventnor, NJ), 1953, pp.l00f.: idem, Journal of Bible and Religion 21, 1953, pp.238-243; R. T. O'Callaghan, CBQ 6, 1944, pp.391-405; G. E. Wright, op.cit., pp.40-52; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Tyndale, London, 1966), pp.41-53; R. Martin-Achard, Actualité d'Abraham (Delachaux, Neuchatel, 1969); A. Parrot, Abraham et son temps (Delachaux, Neuchatel, 1962), (= Abraham and his Times (Fortress, Philadelphia, 1968)).

[9] W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (Revell, New York, 1932), pp.138 and 209, n.25; idem, 'Abram the Hebrew: a New Archaeological Interpretation', BASOR 163, 1961, pp.36-54. See also, idem, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (Harper, New York, 1963), pp.7-8; Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (Athlone, London, 1968), p.58.

[10] Gn. 15:2. For the textual problems of Gn. 15: 2-3, see N. Weippert, Bib 52, 1971, p. 420, n.1; and especially H. L. Ginsburg, BASOR 200, 1970, for the difficulties involved in Albright's translation 'Damascene' (quoted in M. F. Unger, Israel and the Arameans of Damascus (J. Clarke, London, 1957), p.114, n.21.

[11] W. F. Albright, 'Abram the Hebrew: a New Archaeological Interpretation', BASOR 163, 1961, pp. 36-54.

[12] For a detailed refutation of Albright's interpretation of Abraham, see M. Weippert, Bib 52, 1971, pp.407-432.

[13] For the interpretation of these texts, see E. Chiera and E. A. Speiser, JAOS 47, 1927, pp.36-40; E. Cassis, L'adoption à Nuzi (Maisonneuve, Paris, 1938), pp.1-48; H. Lewy, OrNS 11, 1942, pp.15-32; N. B. Jankowska, in I. M. Diakonoff (ed.), Ancient Mesopotamia (USSR Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1969), pp. 235-252; T. L. Thompson, Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (BZAW 133), (De Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 1974) , pp.209-212.

[14] C. H. Gordon, 'Biblical customs and the Nuzi tablets', BA 3, 1940, pp.1-12.

[15]A. Altmann (ed.), Biblical and Other Studies (Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass., 1963), p.5.

[16] C. H. Gordon, JNES 13, 1954, pp.56-59; Biblical and Other Studies, pp.5-6; Introduction to Old Testament Times, pp.102ff. See also T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.201.

[17] Jos. 7:1; Nu. 26:5ff.; cf.Gn. 15:16.

[18] Gn. 15:13; Ex. 12:40; cf. Gn.15:16. Both H. H. Rowley (From Joseph to Joshua, Oxford UP, London, 1950, pp.57-77) and O. Eissfeldt (CAH 2/2, 1975, p.312) have proposed a similar date for the patriarchs on grounds similar to those of Gordon, though Eissfeldt gives little weight to the extrabiblical material.

[19] A. Speiser, Genesis (Anchor Bible, Doubleday, New York, 1964).

[20] Gn 27: 1ff. 'I Know Not the Day of my Death', JBL 74, 1955, pp.252-256.

[21] Gn. 12:10-20; 20:1-18; 26:6-11. 'The wife-sister motif in the patriarchal narratives', in A. Altmann (ed.), Biblical and Other Studies, pp.15-28 (reprinted in J. J. Finkelstein and M. Greenberg, ed., Oriental and biblical studies. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1967, pp.62-82).

[22] Genesis, xliii.

[23] Ibid., xliv.

[24] Ibid., xxxvii-xliii.

[25] See also T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.202. Apparently van Seters' rather general objections are also directed at Speiser's method (J. van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition, Yale UP, Hew Haven and London, 1975, pp.67-68).

[26] In many cases too, general works on the patriarchal period quoted only a small number of cuneiform texts in their comparisons, of which the majority were usually from Nuzi (cf. M. J. Selman, TB 27, 1976, pp.116-117).

[27] E. A. Speiser, JBL 74, 1955, pp.252-256, cf. C. H. Gordon, BA 3, 1940, p.8.

[28] C. H. Gordon, ibid., p.5.

[29] C. H. Gordon, BASOR 66, 1937, p.26; cf. M. J. Selman, loc. cit., p.130.

[30] J. J. Finkelstein, JAOS 88, 1968, pp.30-36; cf. R. Frankena, OTS 17, 1972, pp.58-59.

[31] C. H. Gordon, RB 44, 1935, p.35; cf. M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.127-129.

[32] C. H. Gordon, BASOR 66, 1937, pp.25-27; BA 3, 1940, pp.5-7; Introduction to Old Testament Times, pp. 115-118; Biblical and Other Studies, p.6.

[33] W. F. Albrtght, The Archaeology of Palestine, pp.138 and 209, n.25; C. H. Gordon, BA 3, 1940, pp.2-3; M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.125-127.

[34] E. A. Speiser, Biblical and Other Studies, pp.15-28. But cf. also, C. J. Mullo Weir, Transactions of the Glasgow University Oriental Society 22, 1967/8, pp.14-25; D. Freedman, Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University 2/2, 1970, pp.77-85; T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.234-248; M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp. 119-121; S. Greengus, HUCA 46, 1975, pp.5-31; H. Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Review 1/3, 1975, pp.22-26.

[35] See above, p.97.

[36] Cf. Gordon's frequently quoted statement that the Jacob-Laban narratives have taken on 'an entirely new meaning in the light of the Nuzi documents' (BASOR 66, 1937, p.25), and his treatment of Genesis 29-31 in ibid., 25-27; cf. also J. Bright, History, p.79.

[37] J. Bright, History, p.76.

[38] See also the criticisms of J. van Seters (Abraham. pp.8-9), and W. G. Dever, in J. M. Hayes and J. M. Miller (ed.), Israelite and Judean History (SCM, London, 1977) , pp. 91-96.

[39] J. Bright, History, p.83.

[40] W. G. Dever, Israelite and Judean History, p.95.

[41] Three clear cases of conflict between the pentateuchal laws and patriarchal custom can be distinguished; (1) the patriarchal birthright appears to have included the major part of the father's property (Gn. 25:5-6), whereas in Dt. 21:15-17 the eldest's share is strictly defined as a double share (or perhaps 'two-thirds', of. M. Noth, Die Ursprünge des alten Israel, Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, Köln, 1961, pp.19-20; J. van Seters, Abraham, p.97); (2) marriage to two sisters is forbidden in Lv. 18:18, contrary to Jacob's union with Leah and Rachel (Gn. 29:15-30); and (3) Abraham's marriage to his half-sister Sarah (Gn. 20:12) would be prohibited according to Lv. 18:9, 11; 20:7; Dt. 27:22; cf. Ezk. 22:11; 2 Sa. 13:13. For a recent investigation into the relationship between Old Testament law and Israelite practice, see H. McKeating, 'Sanctions against Adultery in Ancient Israelite Society', JSOT 11, 1979, pp.57-72.

[42] See e.g., R. R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (Yale UP, New Haven and London, 1977), pp.33-36, 65-69, 126, 162-163, 197; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Tyndale, London, 1966), pp. 36-39.

[43] T. L. Thompson, Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (BZAW 133, De Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 1974); J. van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (Yale UP, New Haven and London, 1975).

[44] R. de Vaux, 'Les patriatches Hebreux et les découvertes modernee', RB 53, 1946, pp. 321-348; 55, 1948, pp.321-347; 56, 1949, pp.5-36.

[45] RB 53, 1946, p.328.

[46] See, for example, his comments on the adoptions of Eliezer and Jacob, and the interpretation of Laban's household gods, RB 56, 1949, pp.34-35.

[47] The Early History of Israel (Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1978), translated from Histoire ancienne d'Israel (Gabalda, Paris, 1971). See also RB 72, 1965, pp.5-28.

[48] For example, the following customs were seen as irrelevant for Genesis 12 - 50; the use of household gods as a title to an inheritance, the parallels to Jacob' s purchase of birthright, the adoptions of Eliezer and Jacob, the practice of errbu and wife-sister marriages.

[49] R. de Vaux, Early History, 1, pp.241-256.

[50] Ibid., p.259.

[51] C. J. Mullo Weir, 'Nuzi', in D. W. Thomas (ed.), Archaeology and Old Testament Study (Oxford UP, London, 1967), pp.73-86.

[52] Ibid., p.83.

[53] For the view that Noth and Bright stand closer to each other than is often represented, see J. A. Soggin, BA 23, 1960, pp.95-100; R. de Vaux, Bible et Orient (Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1967), pp.175-185, = The Bible and the Ancient Near East, (Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1972), pp.111-121.

[54] Cf. M. Noth, VTS 7, 1959, p.267.

[55] M. Noth, 'Hat die Bibel doch Recht?', in H. Schneemalcher (ed.), Festschrift für G. Dehn (Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen, 1957) , pp.7-22; G. von Rad, Genesis, (SCM, London, [3]1972), pp.184, 191, 192, 310.

[56] N. Noth, VTS 7, 1959, pp.269-270.

[57] G. von Rad, Genesis, pp.30-42.

[58] M. Noth, VTS 7, 1959, p.270.

[59] M. Greenberg, 'Another look at Rachel's theft of the teraphim', JBL 81, 1962, pp.239-248.

[60] Ibid., pp.241-245; cf. M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.123-124; R. Frankena, OTS 17, 1972, p.56; B. Vorländer, Mein Gott (AOAT 23, Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer, 1975), pp.64-65, 178; T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.272-278; J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.93-94; R. de Vaux, Early History, 1, pp.251-253.

[61] C. J. Mullo Weir, 'The Alleged Hurrian Wife-Sister Motif in Genesis', Transactions of the Glasgow University Oriental Society 22, 1967/8, pp.14-25.

[62] For references, see above, n.34.

[63] E. A. Speiser, AASOR 10, 1930, No.2; J. B. Pritchard, ANET, p.220; text only in R. Chiera, Excavations at Nuzi, 1 (Harvard Semitic Series, 5, Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass., 1929, No.67).

[64] J. van Seters, 'The problem of childlessness in Near Eastern law and the patriarchs of Israel', JBL 87, 1968, pp.401-408; cf. M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.127-129; R. Frankena, loc. cit., pp.56-57; C. J. Mullo Weir, Archaeology and Old Testament Study, p.75; T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.253-268; G. von Rad, Genesis, p.191; R. de Vaux, Early History, 1, pp.244-245.

[65] J. van Seters, JBL 87, 1968, p.405.

[66] J. van Seters, 'Jacob's Marriages and Ancient Near Eastern Customs, a Reexamination, HTR 62, 1969, pp.377-395; cf. R. de Vaux, RB 56, 1949; idem, Early History, 1, pp.246-247; R. Frankena, loc. cit., pp.54-56; 0. von Rad, Genesis, p.310; T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.269-280; M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.124-125.

[67] J. van Seters, HTR 62, 1969, p.388.

[68] H. Petschow, JCS 19, 1965, pp.103-120; G. M. Tucker, JBL 85, 1966, pp.77-84; cf. J. J. Rabinowitz, Journal of Juristic Papyrology 13, 1361, pp.131-135. This interpretation of Gn. 23 involved a rejection of Lehmann's view that Abraham's purchase should be understood against the background of Hittite law (BASOR 129, 1953, pp.15-18).

[69] For reference, see above, n. 43.

[70] S. N. Warner, JSOT 2, 1977, p.50, with full approval from J. M. Miller, ibid., p.62.

[71] Especially T. L. Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, pp.2-43.

[72] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.315.

[73] Ibid., p.3.

[74] See D. Irvin, Mytharion (AOAT 32, Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer, 1978), to which Thompson frequently refers, cf. Historicity, pp.202, 246, 293.

[75] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.3, n. 6. Thompson's approach naturally involves a much greater use of archaeological material than that ot these earlier scholars, but his interpretation of tha patriarchal narratives follows closely their convictions concerning the unhistorical character of Genesis.

[76] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.3.

[77] Ibid., p.201.

[78] Ibid., pp.6-7.

[79] See e.g., Historicity, pp.246-248 on the motif of 'Despoiling the Egyptians' in Gn. 12; p.293 on the motif of 'The success of the Unpromising' in Gn. 27; and pp.311-314 on the unhistorical genealogies of Gn. 11:10 - 12:9.

[80] J. M. Miller, 'The Patriarchs and Extra-biblical sources: a Response', JSOT 2, 1977, pp.62-66.

[81] Ibid., p.64.

[82] Ibid., p.64.

[83] J. T. Luke, 'Abraham and the Iron Age: Reflections on the New Patriarchal Studies', JSOT 4, 1977, pp.35-47.

[84] Ibid., p.36.

[85] Ibid., pp.37, 39.

[86] Ibid., p.37.

[87] Cf. ibid., p.37.

[88] See above, nn. 55, 56, for the view of von Rad and Noth. A literary investigation of the historical characteristics of the patriarchal narratives is certainly overdue and likely to be most instructive, but in the absence of such a work, the following include some recent contributions in this area: J. Bright, History, pp.73-76; K. A. Kitchen, The Bible in its World (Paternoster, Exeter, 1977), pp.61-65; R. de Vaux, Early History, I, pp.161-185; R. C. Culley, in J. W. Weyers and D B. Redford (ed.), Studies on the Ancient Palestinian World (Toronto UP, Toronto, 1972), pp.102-116.

[89] S. Talmon, 'The 'Comparative Method' in Biblical Interpretation - Principles and Problems', VTS 29, 1977 (publ. 1978), pp.320-356.

[90] S. M. Warner, 'The Patriarchs and Extra-biblical Sources', JSOT 2, 1977, pp.50-61.

[91] J. M. Miller, 'The Patriarchs and Extra-biblical Sources, a Response', JSOT 2, 1977, pp.62-66.

[92] S. Talmon, loc. cit., p.356, quoting W. Goldschmidt, Comparative Functionalism (California UP, Berkeley, 1966), p.131.

[93] S. M. Warner, loc. cit., p.52.

[94] Ibid., p.55, cf. p.52.

[95] J. M. Miller, loc. cit., p.63.

[96] See above pp. 99-101. On this problem, see the rather inconclusive discussions of H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (Oxford UP, London, 1950), pp.57-77, and T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.9-16, 298-314. Cf. also W. M. Clark's statement of 'a non-existent consensus as to when the ancient Hebrews dated the patriarchs' (J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller, eds., Israelite and Judean History, SCM, London, 1977, p.122), and his own assessment of the main alternatives to a Middle Bronze date for the patriarchs (ibid., pp.145-148).

[97] See above, pp.98-99.

[98] See for example, the chapter by J. A. Wilcoxen on 'Narrative' in J. B. Hayes (ed.), Old Testament Form Criticism (Trinity UP, San Antonio, 1974), pp.57-98, and the strong criticism of Gunkel and his dependents by S. M. Warner, VT 29, 1979, pp.325-335.

[99] T. L. Thompson, JAOS 98, 1978, pp.83-84.

[100] R. Rendtorff, Das Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Problem des Pentateuch (BZAW 147), (De Gruyter, Berlin and New York, 1977); idem, VTS 28, 1975, pp.158-166 (= JSOT 3, 1977, pp.2-10); H. H. Schmid, Der sogenannte Yahwist (Theologischer Verlag, Zurich, 1976); J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.123-313.

[101] N. K. Weeks, Abr-Nahrain 16, 1976, pp.79-80.

[102] J. van Seters, Abraham, p.65.

[103] See above, pp.102-103.

[104] S. Greengus, HUCA 46, 1975, pp.5-31; N. K. Weeks, Abr-Nahrain 16, 1976, pp.73-82; W. M. Clark, in J. H. Hayes and J. M. Miller (eds.) Israelite and Judean History (SCM, London, 1977), p.143; R. de Vaux, Early History, 1, 1978, pp.241-256.

[105] See Thompson's approval of van Seters' conclusions on the negative value of the Nuzi texts, JAOS 98, 1978, p.78 (for van Seters' own reaction to Thompson, see Abraham, x). Note also the author's conclusion on the special relationship with Nuzi, TB 27, 1976, p.135.

[106] T.L. Thompson, Historicity, p.294.

[107] T. L. Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, p.4.

[108] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.203-230; J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.85-87.

[109] M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.125-127. For the real adoption of a slave as distinct from adoption for the purposes of manumission, see e.g., J. Köhler and A. F. Ungnad, Hammurabis Gesetze (Pfeiffer, Leipzig, 1904-1923), Nos. 22, 23; K. Köhler and F. E. Peiser, Aus dem babylonichen Rechtsleben (Pfeiffer, Leipzig, IV, 1898), pp.13-14; R. H. Pfeiffer, Excavations at Nuzi, 2 (HSS 9, Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass., 1932), No.22.

[110] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.230-234.

[111] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.234-248; J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.71-76.

[112] See above, n.61.

[113] For references, see above, n.34.

[114] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.248-252; J. van Seters, pp.76-78; cf. M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.121-123.

[115] See above, n.59.

[116] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.272-278; J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.93-94; cf. also the references in n.60.

[117] E. A. Speiser, Biblical and other studies, p.24, n.40.

[118] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.273-280; J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.78-81. See also the references above, n.66.

[119] E. A. Speiser, AASOR 10, 1930, No.18 (text only in E. Chiera, Excavations at Nuzi, 1 (HSS 5, Harvard UP, Cambridge, Mass., 1929), No.99.

[120] E. Cassin, L'adoption à Nuzi (Maisonneuve, Paris, 1938), pp.230ff.; H. Lewy, (OrNS 9, 1940, pp.369-370 (text only in E. Chiera, Joint Expedition with the Iraq Museum at Nuzi, 2, Geuthner, Paris, 1930, No.204).

[121] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.280-285; J. van Seters, Abraham, p.93.

[122] R. H. Pfeiffer and E. A. Speiser, AASOR 16, 1936, No.56.

[123] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.285-293; J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.94-95.

[124] J. van Seters, Abraham, p.99.

[125] J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.98-100; T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.295-296; cf. M. R. Lehmann, BASOR 129, 1953, pp.15-18; G. M. Tucker, JBL 85, 1966, pp.77-84; H. Petschow, JCS 19, 1965, pp.103-120.

[126] W. von Soden, Akkadisches Handwörterbuch (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden), I, 1965, p.350.

[127] J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.95-98, commenting on J. J. Finkelstein, JAOS 88, 1968, pp.30-36; cf. also R. Frankena, OTS 17, 1972, pp.58-59. Thompson is aware of Finkelstein's proposals, but he makes no comment on them (Historicity, p.279, n.360).

'[128] See K. A. Kitchen, The Bible in its World, p.71; H. A. Hoffner, TB 20, 1969 pp. 33-35.

[129] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.294.

[130] Gn. 29:74, 29; cf. 24:59, 61. T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.264, 270-271; J. van Seters, Abraham, p.84.

[131] T.L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.260-269.

[132] C. J. Gadd, RA 23, 1926, No.51.

[133] T. L.Thompson, Historicity, p.269.

[134] pp.260-270; 3. van Seters, Abraham, p.84.

[135] Ibid., pp.249-250, especially n.236.

[136] e.g., the Laws of Hammurapi paras.168-169, where disinheritance was allowed by a court only after a second serious offence, or the experience of Reuben who lost him birthright after immoral sexual behaviour with him father's concubine (Gn. 35, 22; 49:3-4).

[137] T L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.285, 290-293.

[138] See above, pp.101-102; also M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp. 125-131; N. K. Weeks, Abr-Nahrain 16, 1976, pp.73-82; R. de Vaux, Early History, I, pp.241-256.

[139] N. K. Weeks, loc. cit., p.78 (though only a single example, that of the wife's substitute slavegirl, is actually mentioned).

[140] T .L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.294-296, 321-324.

[141] T. L. Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, p.5.

[142] J. Bright, History, p.86.

[143] See below, p.127.

[144] J. van Seters, Abraham, p.75.

[145] Ibid p.76; of. W. L. Moran, JNES 18, 1959, pp.280-281; J. J. Rabinowitz, JNES 18, 1959, p.73.

[146] J. van Seters, Abraham, p.77.

[147] Ibid., p.84.

[148] M. J. Selman, loc. cit., pp.131-133.

[149] J. van Seters, Abraham, p.93; cf. above, pp.111-112.

[150] J. van Seters, JBL 87, 1968, pp.401-408; Abraham, pp.68-71; A. K. Grayson and J. van Seters, OrNS 44, 1975, pp.485-486.

[151] For details, see above, n.63.

[152] J. van Seters, OrNS 44, 1975, p.486.

[153]1,46 (collation of J. N. Pomtgate, OrNS 44, 1975, p.485).

[154] See also M. J.. Selman, loc. cit., pp.127-130; K. A. Kitchen, op.cit., p.7l.

[155] J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.97-100.

[156] D. J. Wiseman, Bibliotheca Sacra 134, 1977, p.130, n.29, with reference to CT 45, 1964, No.60; cf. also T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.296; H. Petschow, JCS 19, 1965, pp.103-120; K. A. Kitchen, op. cit., p.71.

[157] J. van Seters, Abraham, p.121.

[158] Ibid., 10, pp.66-67.

[159] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.7, 320.

[160] For a very full bibliography on Nuzi up to 1972, see M. Dietrich, O. Loretz, and W. Mayer, Nuzi-Bibliographie (AOATS 11, Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer, 1972). The author also hopes to make available soon the results of a cosprehensive study of Nuzi social customs.

[161] R. Harris, Ancient Sippar (Nederlands Nistorisch-Archaeologisch Instituut, Istanbul, 1975).

[162] See above, pp.113-114, 117-118.

[163] M. J. Selman, loc. cit.; pp.127-130.

[164] L. Matou, Archiv Orientalni 17, 1948, pp.153-155; K. Klíma, Untersuchungen zum altbabylonischen Erbrecht (Orientalisches Institut, Prague, 1940), p.32.

[165] J. van Seters, Abraham, pp.91-92.

[166] R. T. O'Callaghan, JCS 8, 1954, pp.137-141.

[167] T. L. Thompson, JAOS 98, 1978, p.78.

[168] S. Greengus, JAOS 89, 1969, p.512; cf. R. Harris, JNES 33, 1974, p.368.

[169] J. S. Paradise, Nuzi inheritance practices (University microfilms, Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1972), p.12.

[170] S. M. Warner, JSOT 2, 1977, p.59.

[171] The earlier date for the exodus proposed by J. J. Bimson, (Redating the Exodus and Conquest, JSOT Suppl. 5, Sheffield, 1978) does not affect the principle involved here.

[172] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.7-8.

[173] G. E. Wright, ExpT 71, 1960, p.294; W. F. Albright, CBQ 25, 1963, pp.1-11; J. Bright, History, pp.68-76.

[174] E. A. Speiser, Genesis, xxxvii-xliii.

[175] C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Literature (Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, 1949), pp. 6f.; idem, Christianity Today 4/4, 1959, pp.131ff.; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Tyndale, London, 1970), pp.79-80, 515-516, 531-541; K. A. Kitchen, The Bible in its World, pp.19-36, 56-74; E. M. Yamauchi, The Stones and the Scriptures (IVP, London, 1973), pp.21-41; K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Tyndale, London, 1965), pp.17-34, 41-56, 112-135.

[176] W. M. Clark, in Israelite and Judean History, 1977, p.143.

[177] J. T. Luke, JSOT 4, 1977, pp.36-37.

[178] S. M. Warner, JSOT 2, 1977, pp.51-57.

[179] S. Talmon, VTS 29, 1977 (publ. 1978) , pp. 320-356.

[180] S. M. Warner, loc. cit., pp.52-55.

[181] J. T. Luke, loc. cit., p.37.

[182] S. M. Warner, loc. cit., p.56; W. M. Clark, Israelite and Judean History, p.143.

[183] S. Talmon, loc. cit., pp.326, 356, quoting M. J. Nerskovitz, Comparative Studies is Society and History 1, 1958/9, p.3.

[184] J. T. Luke, loc. cit., pp.36-37.

[185] T. L. Thompson, Historicity, pp.294, 320-321.

[186] S. M. Warner, loc. cit., pp.56-57.

[187] See A. van Selms, Marriage and Family Life in Ugaritic Literature (Luzac, London, 1954); A. F. Hainey, OrNS 34, 1965, pp.10-22; T. Jacobsen. JNES 2. 1943. pp.159-172.

[188] S. M. Warner, loc. cit., p.51.

[189] J. M. Miller, loc. cit., pp.62-63; T. L. Thompson, Historicity, p.7.

[190] S. M. Warner, loc. cit., p.51.

[191] Ibid p.55; cf. Luke's reference to the exactness of the similarities, loc. cit., p.37.

[192] D. N. Freedman, in G. E. Wright (ed.), The Bible and the Ancient Near East (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1961), p.205.

[193] See above, pp. 120-121.

[194] E.g. E. A. Speiser, AASOR 10, 1930, No.4:12, 14 (= HSS 5 7), No.21:6 (HSS 5 72); D. J.. Wiseman, The Alalakh Tablets (British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara, London, 1953), No.87:7, 92,19-20; J. Nougayrol, etc., Ugaritica V (Geuthner, Paris, 1968), RS 17.36:5; G. H. Driver and J. C. Miles, The Assyrian Laws (Clarendon, Oxford, 1935), B 1:3, 11.

[195] E.g. K. Köhler and A. F. Ungnad, Hamaurabis Gesetze (Pfeiffer, Leipzig, 1904-1921), No.95; J. Köhler and A. F. Ungnad, Assyrische Rechtsurkunden (Pfeiffer, Leipzig, 1913), No. 41:96a.

[196] E.g. M. Schorr, Urkunden des altbabylonischen Zivil - end Prozessrechts (Winrichs, Leipzig, 1913, No. 12:8.

[197] E. A. Speiser, Genesis, pp.194-195.

[198] See above, pp.114-115.

[199] E. A. Speiser, AASOR 10, 1930, No.4 (= HSS 5 7); F. Thureau-Dangin, Syria 18, 1937, pp.249ff., RS 8.145.

[200] Keret 2:vi:54-57.

[201] F. Thureau-Dangin, loc. cit., RS 8.145.

[202] See above p.117; cf. e.g. C. F. A. Schaeffer, Palais royal d'Ugarit, 6 (Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1970), No. 40; H. San Nicolò, Babylonische Rechtsurkunden (Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Munich, 1951), No.11.

[203] See above, pp.110-111. For the Larsa letter, see M. David, Symbolae biblicae et mesopotamicae F. M. T. de Liagre Böhl dedicatae (Brill, Leiden, 1973), pp.90-94.

[ 204] I. Mendelsohn IEJ 9, 1959, pp.180-183.

[205] B. Stade, ZAW 6, 1886, pp.143-156.

[206] Gn. 30:3; 48:12; 50:23; Jb. 3:11-12; Is. 66:12.

[207] H A. Hoffner, JNES 27, 1968, 199 and 201, n.27; S. Parpola, Letters from Assyrian scholars (AOAT 5/1, Butzon & Bercker, Kevelaer, 1970), No.72:r.12-15; No.186:16-17.

[208] E.g. J. Köh1er and A. F. Ungnad, Hammurabis Gesetze, Nos. 2; 3; 9; M. Schorr, Urkunden (UKP), No.77; M. San Nicolò and H. Petschow, Babylonische Rechtsurkunden aus dem 6. Jahrhundert v. Chr. (Beck, Munich, 1960), Nos. 2; 3.

[209] Laws of Hammurapi, paras.144, 163; E. A. Speiser, AASOR 10, 1930, No.2 (= HSS 5 67); J. N. Postgate, Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents (Aris & Phillips, Warminster, 1976), No.14. Cf. also M. Schorr, Urkunden (UZP), No.77, where a girl is purchased as a slave for the wife and as a concubine for the husband.

[210] Reading uwr in HSS 5 67:22 (see AASOR 10, 1930, No.2), following Speiser's alternative reading (E. A. Speiser, Genesis, p.121), and following Postgate's collation of the Nimrud text ND 2307 in OrNS 44, 1975, p.485.

[211] Laws of Hammurapi, para.170, H. Schorr, Urkunden (UZP), No.18.

[212] On this section as a whole, see above.

[213] See above n. 114.

[214] See above pp. 114, 116-117.

[215] See above p. 116.

[216] Cf. e.g. C. F. Pfeiffer and E. A. Speiser, AASOR 16, 1936, No.56.

[217] See above, p.117.

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