Genesis Overview: Lot's Daughters and Abraham in Gerar

a) Lot's Daughters (19.30-38 in J)

19.30-38: Nothing further is said about Lot but we see he has abandoned Zoar for Moab in spite of God's special dispensation, faint hearted and frightened, putting more distance between himself and god. In his intoxication he becomes a tool of his unmarried and childless daughters. Incestuous measures taken for family survival (J, as usual, reports uncritically) but the popular understanding of Ammonites and Moabites as these descendants is unreliable; nonetheless, one explanation of the survival of this material is that it was derogatory towards enemies and their disgraceful origins. Alternatively, this could be a testimony about purity of blood and the heroism of the two women. "Without doubt the narrative now contains indirectly a severe judgment on the incest in Lot's house," (p224). Lot is weak and manipulable but VR shows no evidence.

There is evidence that Chapters 13, 18 and 19 came to J as an already formed unit.

b) Abraham and Sarah in Gerar (20 in E)

cf Genesis 10.12-20 with which this passage must be compared.

20.1: Abraham probably moved from the depressing location of Mamre; the new Beersheba location allows various traditions to be gathered.

20.2-3: Obviously, Sarah is younger, an inconsistency the redactors could not correct. VR thinks the terseness makes the arrangement less offensive than 12.11. The affair less doubtful if Sarah was Abraham's half-sister to whom marriage was then but not later possible. "... our narrator knows exactly the captiousness of this half-truth" (p227).

20.4-6: Whereas J was concerned with Yahweh's relationship with the characters, E is concerned with guilt; there is a contrast between the (ancient) idea of collective punishment for an unwitting offence and the (modern) idea of Abimilech's good faith; the king's ignorance humiliates Abraham. "Audacious" to put a heathen in converse with Yahweh. The violation unquestioned by the ancients; although a party Abraham is characterised as the mediator who can resolve the problem.

20.7: cf. 2 Kings 2-4, written in the prophetic tradition, locates Abraham here as a prophet which, at the time, referred less to the proclamation of eschatological messages than of authorised intercession; the ancient narrative is formulated to accord with the author's cultic position.

20.8-18: Abraham is surpassed by Abimilech in his fear of God and in his recognition of what God demands; he also assumes the high ground by his gifts and he avoids compromising Abraham by officially referring to Sarah as Abraham's sister. 20.18 almost certainly a late addition.

Where J leaves open all possibilities, E is clear that Sarah was never touched by Abimilech who is portrayed in highly reflective terms.

c) Abraham and Abimilech of Gerar (21.22-34 in E)

This passage is very uneven and has a complete break between verses 24 and 25. There are two entangled issues: the first an initiative by Abimilech to put his relations with Abraham on a safe footing; the other an agreement to settle a dispute.

21.22-24,27,31: With reference to Chapter 20, Abimilech, who is very frightened of Abraham because of his powerful God, wants a stable relationship as he does not want Abraham as his enemy.

21.25-26, 28-30, 32: In the dispute over a well, Abraham takes the initiative. Beersheba means "well of the seven" for the lambs offered as a gift of settlement or "the well of an oath". The passages are not a mixture of J and E but are the union of two stories in E.

21.33: There was a very ancient tradition that the one God was worshipped in Beersheba.

KC V/14

Buy this book from

Related Study Sheets…