פָּרָשַׁת וַיֵּרָא | Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24), color-coded according to its narrative layers

According to the poetry of the Midrash Tanchuma, Bereshit 1:1, the words of the Torah were inscribed “black fire on white fire.” For many years, I’ve wanted to look deeply into the black fire and visualize the full spectrum of the Torah’s sources, hidden within the black fire but revealed through a critical analysis of its layers of redaction. Below, I’ve set the text of the first Torah portion in the annual Torah reading cycle, using color-coding to distinguish the stratigraphic layers forming the composition of the Masoretic text according to the Supplementary Hypothesis presented by Tsemaḥ Yoreh in his Kernel to Canon series of books (2013-2017). As Dr. Yoreh explains,

The Supplementary Hypothesis asserts that the Pentateuch was composed by several different writers. This reflects an overwhelming academic consensus on Biblical authorship, even among scholars who do not subscribe to the Supplementary Hypothesis in particular.[….] According to the Supplementary Hypothesis, Biblical narrative is layered. No editor took a blowtorch to the parts of the Bible he disagreed with and destroyed them; if he had, we would not find these repetitions and contradictions. Instead, Biblical narrative began with a coherent, foundational bedrock, which over time accreted more and more storylines. Unlike geological processes, though, this process of addition was deliberate. What happened if one author disagreed with his predecessor’s storyline or worldview? He did not simply take an axe to the narrative; instead, he attempted to bury his predecessor’s point of view by repeating his own over and over again, thus skewing our understanding of the story in new ways. Every generation of readers sees the world differently, and thus every generation of writers seeks to adapt their predecessors’ cultural heritage to their own situation. We are not meant simply to dismiss earlier stories; rather, the intention of later writers is to transform our understanding of those stories via their additions.

⬛ Appearing for the first time in Sefer Bereshit with Parashat Vayera is the kernel of biblical text upon which all other narratives were laid, thought to have been composed in the mid- to late eighth century BCE toward the end of the heyday of the northern Kingdom of Ephraim (one of the two kingdoms that occupied Biblical Israel). This layer, commonly referred to as ‘E’, is indicated with INDIGO text.

⬛ The next oldest layer is thought to have been composed in the late eighth or early seventh century BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah. This layer, commonly known as ‘J’, is indicated with a BLUE text.

⬛ The next strata, thought to have been composed during the exilic to early post-exilic period (571–486 BCE) is, as Dr. Yoreh explains, “responsible for supplementing the ‘J’ narrative with dates, names, and numbers, thus ‘ordering’ and authenticating ‘J’s account.” This layer, commonly referred to as ‘P’ (for ‘Priestly’) appears here in GREEN text.

⬛ The most recent layer of text, is a post-exilic (pre-3rd century BCE) text that Dr. Yoreh refers to as the “Bridger” which supplements earlier strata with genealogies and popular myths, providing narrative bridges between distant story cycles. This ‘B’ layer is presented here in FUCHSIA.

Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24) in the annual Torah reading cycle, is read on the third shabbat of the month of Marḥeshvan. The parashah is preceded by Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27); parashat Ḥayyei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) follows it.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

יח א וַיֵּרָ֤א אֵלָיו֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּאֵלֹנֵ֖י מַמְרֵ֑א וְה֛וּא יֹשֵׁ֥ב פֶּֽתַח־הָאֹ֖הֶל כְּחֹ֥ם הַיּֽוֹם׃ ב וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּה֙ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֔ים נִצָּבִ֖ים עָלָ֑יו וַיַּ֗רְא וַיָּ֤רׇץ לִקְרָאתָם֙ מִפֶּ֣תַח הָאֹ֔הֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּ֖חוּ אָֽרְצָה׃ ג וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲדֹנָ֗י אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ אַל־נָ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר מֵעַ֥ל עַבְדֶּֽךָ׃ ד יֻקַּֽח־נָ֣א מְעַט־מַ֔יִם וְרַחֲצ֖וּ רַגְלֵיכֶ֑ם וְהִֽשָּׁעֲנ֖וּ תַּ֥חַת הָעֵֽץ׃ ה וְאֶקְחָ֨ה פַת־לֶ֜חֶם וְסַעֲד֤וּ לִבְּכֶם֙ אַחַ֣ר תַּעֲבֹ֔רוּ כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֥ן עֲבַרְתֶּ֖ם עַֽל־עַבְדְּכֶ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כֵּ֥ן תַּעֲשֶׂ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּֽרְתָּ׃ ו וַיְמַהֵ֧ר אַבְרָהָ֛ם הָאֹ֖הֱלָה אֶל־שָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מַהֲרִ֞י שְׁלֹ֤שׁ סְאִים֙ קֶ֣מַח סֹ֔לֶת ל֖וּשִׁי וַעֲשִׂ֥י עֻגֽוֹת׃ ז וְאֶל־הַבָּקָ֖ר רָ֣ץ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיִּקַּ֨ח בֶּן־בָּקָ֜ר רַ֤ךְ וָטוֹב֙ וַיִּתֵּ֣ן אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וַיְמַהֵ֖ר לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת אֹתֽוֹ׃ ח וַיִּקַּ֨ח חֶמְאָ֜ה וְחָלָ֗ב וּבֶן־הַבָּקָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֔ה וַיִּתֵּ֖ן לִפְנֵיהֶ֑ם וְהֽוּא־עֹמֵ֧ד עֲלֵיהֶ֛ם תַּ֥חַת הָעֵ֖ץ וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ׃
18 1 Now YHVH was seen by him by the oaks of Mamré as he was sitting at the entrance to his tent at the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and saw: here, three men standing over against him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them from the entrance to his tent and bowed to the earth 3 and said: “My lords, pray if I have found favor in your eyes, pray do not pass by your servant! 4 Pray let a little water be fetched, then wash your feet and recline under the tree; 5 let me fetch (you) a bit of bread, that you may refresh your hearts, then afterward you may pass on – for you have, after all, passed your servant’s way!” They said: “Do thus, as you have spoken.” 6 Avraham hastened into his tent to Sarah and said: “Make haste! Three measures of choice flour! Knead it, make bread-cakes!” 7 Avraham ran to the oxen, he fetched a young ox, tender and fine, and gave it to a serving-lad, that he might hasten to make it ready; 8 then he fetched cream and milk and the young ox that he had made ready, and placed it before them. Now he stood over against them under the tree while they ate.

ט וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֵׄלָ֔יׄוׄ אַיֵּ֖ה שָׂרָ֣ה אִשְׁתֶּ֑ךָ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּ֥ה בָאֹֽהֶל׃ י וַיֹּ֗אמֶר שׁ֣וֹב אָשׁ֤וּב אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ כָּעֵ֣ת חַיָּ֔ה וְהִנֵּה־בֵ֖ן לְשָׂרָ֣ה אִשְׁתֶּ֑ךָ וְשָׂרָ֥ה שֹׁמַ֛עַת פֶּ֥תַח הָאֹ֖הֶל וְה֥וּא אַחֲרָֽיו׃ יא וְאַבְרָהָ֤ם וְשָׂרָה֙ זְקֵנִ֔ים בָּאִ֖ים בַּיָּמִ֑ים חָדַל֙ לִהְי֣וֹת לְשָׂרָ֔ה אֹ֖רַח כַּנָּשִֽׁים׃ יב וַתִּצְחַ֥ק שָׂרָ֖ה בְּקִרְבָּ֣הּ לֵאמֹ֑ר אַחֲרֵ֤י בְלֹתִי֙ הָֽיְתָה־לִּ֣י עֶדְנָ֔ה וַֽאדֹנִ֖י זָקֵֽן׃ יג וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם לָ֣מָּה זֶּה֩ צָחֲקָ֨ה שָׂרָ֜ה לֵאמֹ֗ר הַאַ֥ף אֻמְנָ֛ם אֵלֵ֖ד וַאֲנִ֥י זָקַֽנְתִּי׃ יד הֲיִפָּלֵ֥א מֵיְהֹוָ֖ה דָּבָ֑ר לַמּוֹעֵ֞ד אָשׁ֥וּב אֵלֶ֛יךָ כָּעֵ֥ת חַיָּ֖ה וּלְשָׂרָ֥ה בֵֽן׃ שני טו וַתְּכַחֵ֨שׁ שָׂרָ֧ה ׀ לֵאמֹ֛ר לֹ֥א צָחַ֖קְתִּי כִּ֣י ׀ יָרֵ֑אָה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ׀ לֹ֖א כִּ֥י צָחָֽקְתְּ׃
9 They said to him: “Where is Sarah your wife?” He said: “Here in the tent.” Now he said: 10 “I will return, yes, return to you when time revives, and Sarah your wife will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 And Avraham and Sarah were old, advanced in days, the way of women had ceased for Sarah. 12 Sarah laughed within herself, saying: “After I have become worn, is there to be pleasure for me? And my lord is old!” 13 But YHVH said to Avraham: “Now why does Sarah laugh and say: ‘Shall I really give birth, now that I am old? 14 Is anything beyond YHVH?’ At that set-time I will return to you, when time revives, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah pretended (otherwise), saying: “No, I did not laugh. For she was afraid.” But he said: “No, indeed you laughed.”

טז וַיָּקֻ֤מוּ מִשָּׁם֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיַּשְׁקִ֖פוּ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י סְדֹ֑ם וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הֹלֵ֥ךְ עִמָּ֖ם לְשַׁלְּחָֽם׃ יז וַֽיהֹוָ֖ה אָמָ֑ר הַֽמְכַסֶּ֤ה אֲנִי֙ מֵֽאַבְרָהָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֲנִ֥י עֹשֶֽׂה׃ יח וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הָי֧וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֛ה לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל וְעָצ֑וּם וְנִ֨בְרְכוּ־ב֔וֹ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ׃ יט כִּ֣י יְדַעְתִּ֗יו לְמַעַן֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְצַוֶּ֜ה אֶת־בָּנָ֤יו וְאֶת־בֵּיתוֹ֙ אַחֲרָ֔יו וְשָֽׁמְרוּ֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת צְדָקָ֖ה וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט לְמַ֗עַן הָבִ֤יא יְהֹוָה֙ עַל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֖ר עָלָֽיו׃ כ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֔ה זַעֲקַ֛ת סְדֹ֥ם וַעֲמֹרָ֖ה כִּי־רָ֑בָּה וְחַ֨טָּאתָ֔ם כִּ֥י כָבְדָ֖ה מְאֹֽד׃ כא אֵֽרְדָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה הַכְּצַעֲקָתָ֛הּ הַבָּ֥אָה אֵלַ֖י עָשׂ֣וּ ׀ כָּלָ֑ה וְאִם־לֹ֖א אֵדָֽעָה׃
16 The men arose from there, and looked down upon the face of Sədom, and Avraham went with them to escort them. 17 Now YHVH had said to himself: “Shall I cover up from Avraham what I am about to do? 18 For Avraham is to become, yes, become a nation great and mighty (in number), and all the nations of the earth will find blessing through him. 19 Indeed, I have known him, in order that he may charge his sons and his household after him: they shall keep the way of YHVH, to do what is right and just, in order that YHVH may bring upon Avraham what he spoke concerning him.” 20 So YHVH said: “The outcry in Sədom and Amorah – how great it is! And their sin – how exceedingly heavily it weighs! 21 Now let me go down and see: if they have done according to its cry that has come to me – destruction! And if not – I wish to know.”

כב וַיִּפְנ֤וּ מִשָּׁם֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ סְדֹ֑מָה וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם עוֹדֶ֥נּוּ עֹמֵ֖ד לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃ כג וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַאַ֣ף תִּסְפֶּ֔ה צַדִּ֖יק עִם־רָשָֽׁע׃ כד אוּלַ֥י יֵ֛שׁ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים צַדִּיקִ֖ם בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעִ֑יר הַאַ֤ף תִּסְפֶּה֙ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֣א לַמָּק֔וֹם לְמַ֛עַן חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים הַצַּדִּיקִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבָּֽהּ׃ כה חָלִ֨לָה לְּךָ֜ מֵעֲשֹׂ֣ת ׀ כַּדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה לְהָמִ֤ית צַדִּיק֙ עִם־רָשָׁ֔ע וְהָיָ֥ה כַצַּדִּ֖יק כָּרָשָׁ֑ע חָלִ֣לָה לָּ֔ךְ הֲשֹׁפֵט֙ כׇּל־הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יַעֲשֶׂ֖ה מִשְׁפָּֽט׃
22 The men turned from there and went toward Sədom, but Avraham still stood in the presence of YHVH.[1]This verse is marked as one of the tikkunei soferim, as identified in the Midrash Tanḥuma and Bereshit Rabbah. The alternate reading here, preferred by Rashi and Ben Asher, is “וה׳ עודנו עמד לפני אברהם” (And YHVH yet stood before Avraham) 23 Avraham came close and said: “Will you really sweep away the innocent along with the guilty? 24 Perhaps there are fifty innocent within the city, will you really sweep it away? Will you not bear with the place because of the fifty innocent that are in its midst? 25 Heaven forbid for you to do a thing like this, to deal death to the innocent along with the guilty, that it should come about: like the innocent, like the guilty, Heaven forbid for you! The judge of all the earth – will he not do what is just?”

כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֔ה אִם־אֶמְצָ֥א בִסְדֹ֛ם חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים צַדִּיקִ֖ם בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעִ֑יר וְנָשָׂ֥אתִי לְכׇל־הַמָּק֖וֹם בַּעֲבוּרָֽם׃ כז וַיַּ֥עַן אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הִנֵּה־נָ֤א הוֹאַ֙לְתִּי֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־אֲדֹנָ֔י וְאָנֹכִ֖י עָפָ֥ר וָאֵֽפֶר׃ כח א֠וּלַ֠י יַחְסְר֞וּן חֲמִשִּׁ֤ים הַצַּדִּיקִם֙ חֲמִשָּׁ֔ה הֲתַשְׁחִ֥ית בַּחֲמִשָּׁ֖ה אֶת־כׇּל־הָעִ֑יר וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית אִם־אֶמְצָ֣א שָׁ֔ם אַרְבָּעִ֖ים וַחֲמִשָּֽׁה׃ כט וַיֹּ֨סֶף ע֜וֹד לְדַבֵּ֤ר אֵלָיו֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם אַרְבָּעִ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֔ה בַּעֲב֖וּר הָאַרְבָּעִֽים׃ ל וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאדֹנָי֙ וַאֲדַבֵּ֔רָה אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם שְׁלֹשִׁ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֔ה אִם־אֶמְצָ֥א שָׁ֖ם שְׁלֹשִֽׁים׃ לא וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּֽה־נָ֤א הוֹאַ֙לְתִּי֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־אֲדֹנָ֔י אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם עֶשְׂרִ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית בַּעֲב֖וּר הָֽעֶשְׂרִֽים׃ לב וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אַל־נָ֞א יִ֤חַר לַֽאדֹנָי֙ וַאֲדַבְּרָ֣ה אַךְ־הַפַּ֔עַם אוּלַ֛י יִמָּצְא֥וּן שָׁ֖ם עֲשָׂרָ֑ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א אַשְׁחִ֔ית בַּעֲב֖וּר הָעֲשָׂרָֽה׃ לג וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר כִּלָּ֔ה לְדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְאַבְרָהָ֖ם שָׁ֥ב לִמְקֹמֽוֹ׃
26 YHVH said: “If I find in Sədom fifty innocent within the city, I will bear with the whole place for their sake.” 27 Avraham spoke up, and said: “Now pray, I have ventured to speak to my Lord, and I am but earth and ashes: 28 Perhaps of the fifty innocent, five will be lacking – will you bring ruin upon the whole city because of the five?” He said: “I will not bring ruin, if I find there forty-five.” 29 But he continued to speak to him and said: “Perhaps there will be found there only forty!” He said: “I will not do it, for the sake of the forty.” 30 But he said: “Pray let not my Lord be upset that I speak further: Perhaps there will be found there only thirty!” He said: “I will not do it, if I find there thirty.” 31 But he said: “Now pray, I have ventured to speak to my Lord: Perhaps there will be found there only twenty!” He said: “I will not bring ruin, for the sake of the twenty.” 32 But he said: “Pray let my Lord not be upset that I speak further just this one time: Perhaps there will be found there only ten!” He said: “I will not bring ruin, for the sake of the ten.” 33 YHVH went, as soon as he had finished speaking to Avraham, and Avraham returned to his place.[2]If Chapter 17 was typically Priestly, Chapter 18 is typically Yahwistic. 1. The narrative style is quite terse and fast paced until vs. 23. 2. The chapter is anthropomorphically ambivalent; there are three angelic figures that appear throughout the story, one of which may be the Lord, but not necessarily. 3. The promise vocabulary is typically Yahwistic, thus vs. 18: “Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”. 4. It continues the narrative thread of Chapter 16 – Sarah is still barren; 5. The Yahwistic theology of mercy is apparent in vss. 23-33, Abraham intercedes on behalf of the Sodomites, establishing the pattern for Moses’ intercession in Exodus 32 and Numbers 13.

שלישי יט א וַ֠יָּבֹ֠אוּ שְׁנֵ֨י הַמַּלְאָכִ֤ים סְדֹ֙מָה֙ בָּעֶ֔רֶב וְל֖וֹט יֹשֵׁ֣ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־סְדֹ֑ם וַיַּרְא־לוֹט֙ וַיָּ֣קׇם לִקְרָאתָ֔ם וַיִּשְׁתַּ֥חוּ אַפַּ֖יִם אָֽרְצָה׃ ב וַיֹּ֜אמֶר הִנֶּ֣ה נָּא־אֲדֹנַ֗י ס֣וּרוּ נָ֠א אֶל־בֵּ֨ית עַבְדְּכֶ֤ם וְלִ֙ינוּ֙ וְרַחֲצ֣וּ רַגְלֵיכֶ֔ם וְהִשְׁכַּמְתֶּ֖ם וַהֲלַכְתֶּ֣ם לְדַרְכְּכֶ֑ם וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י בָרְח֖וֹב נָלִֽין׃ ג וַיִּפְצַר־בָּ֣ם מְאֹ֔ד וַיָּסֻ֣רוּ אֵלָ֔יו וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אֶל־בֵּית֑וֹ וַיַּ֤עַשׂ לָהֶם֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֔ה וּמַצּ֥וֹת אָפָ֖ה וַיֹּאכֵֽלוּ׃
19 1 The two messengers came to Sədom at sunset, as Lōt was sitting at the gate of Sədom. When Lōt saw them, he arose to meet them and bowed low, brow to the earth 2 and said: “Now pray, my lords, pray turn aside to your servant’s house, spend the night, wash your feet; (starting-early) you may go on your way.” They said: “No, rather we will spend the night in the square.” 3 But he pressed them exceedingly hard, so they turned in to him and came into his house. He made them a meal-with-drink and matsot/baked flat-cakes, and they ate.

ד טֶ֘רֶם֮ יִשְׁכָּ֒בוּ֒ וְאַנְשֵׁ֨י הָעִ֜יר אַנְשֵׁ֤י סְדֹם֙ נָסַ֣בּוּ עַל־הַבַּ֔יִת מִנַּ֖עַר וְעַד־זָקֵ֑ן כׇּל־הָעָ֖ם מִקָּצֶֽה׃ ה וַיִּקְרְא֤וּ אֶל־לוֹט֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ ל֔וֹ אַיֵּ֧ה הָאֲנָשִׁ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥אוּ אֵלֶ֖יךָ הַלָּ֑יְלָה הוֹצִיאֵ֣ם אֵלֵ֔ינוּ וְנֵדְעָ֖ה אֹתָֽם׃ ו וַיֵּצֵ֧א אֲלֵהֶ֛ם ל֖וֹט הַפֶּ֑תְחָה וְהַדֶּ֖לֶת סָגַ֥ר אַחֲרָֽיו׃ ז וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אַל־נָ֥א אַחַ֖י תָּרֵֽעוּ׃ ח הִנֵּה־נָ֨א לִ֜י שְׁתֵּ֣י בָנ֗וֹת אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־יָדְעוּ֙ אִ֔ישׁ אוֹצִֽיאָה־נָּ֤א אֶתְהֶן֙ אֲלֵיכֶ֔ם וַעֲשׂ֣וּ לָהֶ֔ן כַּטּ֖וֹב בְּעֵינֵיכֶ֑ם רַ֠ק לָֽאֲנָשִׁ֤ים הָאֵל֙ אַל־תַּעֲשׂ֣וּ דָבָ֔ר כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֥ן בָּ֖אוּ בְּצֵ֥ל קֹרָתִֽי׃
4 They had not yet lain down, when the men of the city, the men of Sədom, encircled the house, from young lad to old man, all the people (even) from the outskirts. 5 They called out to Lōt and said to him: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, we want to know them!” 6 Lōt went out to them, to the entrance, shutting the door behind him 7 and said: “Pray, brothers, do not be so wicked! 8 Now pray, I have two daughters who have never known a man, pray let me bring them out to you, and you may deal with them however seems good in your eyes; only to these men do nothing, for they have, after all, come under the shadow of my roof-beam!”

ט וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ ׀ גֶּשׁ־הָ֗לְאָה וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ הָאֶחָ֤ד בָּֽא־לָגוּר֙ וַיִּשְׁפֹּ֣ט שָׁפ֔וֹט עַתָּ֕ה נָרַ֥ע לְךָ֖ מֵהֶ֑ם וַיִּפְצְר֨וּ בָאִ֤ישׁ בְּלוֹט֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַֽיִּגְּשׁ֖וּ לִשְׁבֹּ֥ר הַדָּֽלֶת׃ י וַיִּשְׁלְח֤וּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁים֙ אֶת־יָדָ֔ם וַיָּבִ֧יאוּ אֶת־ל֛וֹט אֲלֵיהֶ֖ם הַבָּ֑יְתָה וְאֶת־הַדֶּ֖לֶת סָגָֽרוּ׃ יא וְֽאֶת־הָאֲנָשִׁ֞ים אֲשֶׁר־פֶּ֣תַח הַבַּ֗יִת הִכּוּ֙ בַּסַּנְוֵרִ֔ים מִקָּטֹ֖ן וְעַד־גָּד֑וֹל וַיִּלְא֖וּ לִמְצֹ֥א הַפָּֽתַח׃ יב וַיֹּאמְר֨וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֜ים אֶל־ל֗וֹט עֹ֚ד מִֽי־לְךָ֣ פֹ֔ה חָתָן֙ וּבָנֶ֣יךָ וּבְנֹתֶ֔יךָ וְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־לְךָ֖ בָּעִ֑יר הוֹצֵ֖א מִן־הַמָּקֽוֹם׃ יג כִּֽי־מַשְׁחִתִ֣ים אֲנַ֔חְנוּ אֶת־הַמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה כִּֽי־גָדְלָ֤ה צַעֲקָתָם֙ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה וַיְשַׁלְּחֵ֥נוּ יְהֹוָ֖ה לְשַׁחֲתָֽהּ׃
9 But they said: “Step aside!” and said: “This one came to sojourn and (wants to) judge, play-the-judge?! Now we will do worse to you than (to) them!” And they pressed exceedingly hard against the man, against Lōt, and stepped closer to break down the door. 10 But the men put out their hand and brought Lōt in to them, into the house, and shut the door. 11 And the men who were at the entrance to the house, they struck with dazzling-light – (all men) great and small, so that they were unable to find the entrance. 12 The men said to Lōt: “Whom else have you here – a son-in-law, sons, daughters? Bring anyone whom you have in the city out of the place! 13 For we are about to bring ruin on this place, for how great is their outcry before YHVH! And YHVH has sent us to bring it to ruin.”

יד וַיֵּצֵ֨א ל֜וֹט וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר ׀ אֶל־חֲתָנָ֣יו ׀ לֹקְחֵ֣י בְנֹתָ֗יו וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ ק֤וּמוּ צְּאוּ֙ מִן־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה כִּֽי־מַשְׁחִ֥ית יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶת־הָעִ֑יר וַיְהִ֥י כִמְצַחֵ֖ק בְּעֵינֵ֥י חֲתָנָֽיו׃ טו וּכְמוֹ֙ הַשַּׁ֣חַר עָלָ֔ה וַיָּאִ֥יצוּ הַמַּלְאָכִ֖ים בְּל֣וֹט לֵאמֹ֑ר קוּם֩ קַ֨ח אֶֽת־אִשְׁתְּךָ֜ וְאֶת־שְׁתֵּ֤י בְנֹתֶ֙יךָ֙ הַנִּמְצָאֹ֔ת פֶּן־תִּסָּפֶ֖ה בַּעֲוֺ֥ן הָעִֽיר׃ טז וַֽיִּתְמַהְמָ֓הּ ׀ וַיַּחֲזִ֨יקוּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֜ים בְּיָד֣וֹ וּבְיַד־אִשְׁתּ֗וֹ וּבְיַד֙ שְׁתֵּ֣י בְנֹתָ֔יו בְּחֶמְלַ֥ת יְהֹוָ֖ה עָלָ֑יו וַיֹּצִאֻ֥הוּ וַיַּנִּחֻ֖הוּ מִח֥וּץ לָעִֽיר׃ יז וַיְהִי֩ כְהוֹצִיאָ֨ם אֹתָ֜ם הַח֗וּצָה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הִמָּלֵ֣ט עַל־נַפְשֶׁ֔ךָ אַל־תַּבִּ֣יט אַחֲרֶ֔יךָ וְאַֽל־תַּעֲמֹ֖ד בְּכׇל־הַכִּכָּ֑ר הָהָ֥רָה הִמָּלֵ֖ט פֶּן־תִּסָּפֶֽה׃ יח וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹט אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אַל־נָ֖א אֲדֹנָֽי׃ יט הִנֵּה־נָ֠א מָצָ֨א עַבְדְּךָ֣ חֵן֮ בְּעֵינֶ֒יךָ֒ וַתַּגְדֵּ֣ל חַסְדְּךָ֗ אֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשִׂ֙יתָ֙ עִמָּדִ֔י לְהַחֲי֖וֹת אֶת־נַפְשִׁ֑י וְאָנֹכִ֗י לֹ֤א אוּכַל֙ לְהִמָּלֵ֣ט הָהָ֔רָה פֶּן־תִּדְבָּקַ֥נִי הָרָעָ֖ה וָמַֽתִּי׃ כ הִנֵּה־נָ֠א הָעִ֨יר הַזֹּ֧את קְרֹבָ֛ה לָנ֥וּס שָׁ֖מָּה וְהִ֣וא מִצְעָ֑ר אִמָּלְטָ֨ה נָּ֜א שָׁ֗מָּה הֲלֹ֥א מִצְעָ֛ר הִ֖וא וּתְחִ֥י נַפְשִֽׁי׃ רביעי כא וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו הִנֵּה֙ נָשָׂ֣אתִי פָנֶ֔יךָ גַּ֖ם לַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה לְבִלְתִּ֛י הׇפְכִּ֥י אֶת־הָעִ֖יר אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּֽרְתָּ׃ כב מַהֵר֙ הִמָּלֵ֣ט שָׁ֔מָּה כִּ֣י לֹ֤א אוּכַל֙ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת דָּבָ֔ר עַד־בֹּאֲךָ֖ שָׁ֑מָּה עַל־כֵּ֛ן קָרָ֥א שֵׁם־הָעִ֖יר צֽוֹעַר׃
14 Lōt went out to speak to his sons-in-law, those who had taken his daughters (in marriage), and said: “Up, out of this place, for YHVH is about to bring ruin on the city!” But in the eyes of his sons-in-law, he was like one who jests. 15 Now when the dawn came up, the messengers pushed Lōt on, saying: “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the iniquity of the city!” 16 When he lingered, the men seized his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hand of his two daughters – because YHVH’s pity was upon him – and, bringing him out, they left him outside the city. 17 It was, when they had brought him outside, that (one of them) said: “Escape for your life, do not gaze behind you, do not stand still anywhere in the plain: to the hill-country escape, lest you be swept away!” 18 Lōt said to them: “No, pray, my lord! 19 Now pray, your servant has found favor in your eyes, you have shown great faithfulness in how you have dealt with me, keeping me alive – but I, I am not able to escape to the hill-country, lest the wickedness cling to me, and I die!” 20 Now pray, that town is near enough to flee to, and it is so tiny; pray let me escape there – is it not tiny? – and stay alive! 21 He said to him: Here then, I lift up your face in this matter as well, by not overturning this town of which you speak. 22 Make haste, escape there, for I am not able to do anything until you come there. Therefore the name of the town was called: Tso’ar/tiny.

כג הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ יָצָ֣א עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְל֖וֹט בָּ֥א צֹֽעֲרָה׃ כד וַֽיהֹוָ֗ה הִמְטִ֧יר עַל־סְדֹ֛ם וְעַל־עֲמֹרָ֖ה גׇּפְרִ֣ית וָאֵ֑שׁ מֵאֵ֥ת יְהֹוָ֖ה מִן־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ כה וַֽיַּהֲפֹךְ֙ אֶת־הֶעָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔ל וְאֵ֖ת כׇּל־הַכִּכָּ֑ר וְאֵת֙ כׇּל־יֹשְׁבֵ֣י הֶעָרִ֔ים וְצֶ֖מַח הָאֲדָמָֽה׃ כו וַתַּבֵּ֥ט אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ מֵאַחֲרָ֑יו וַתְּהִ֖י נְצִ֥יב מֶֽלַח׃ כז וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֥ם אַבְרָהָ֖ם בַּבֹּ֑קֶר אֶ֨ל־הַמָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁר־עָ֥מַד שָׁ֖ם אֶת־פְּנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃ כח וַיַּשְׁקֵ֗ף עַל־פְּנֵ֤י סְדֹם֙ וַעֲמֹרָ֔ה וְעַֽל־כׇּל־פְּנֵ֖י אֶ֣רֶץ הַכִּכָּ֑ר וַיַּ֗רְא וְהִנֵּ֤ה עָלָה֙ קִיטֹ֣ר הָאָ֔רֶץ כְּקִיטֹ֖ר הַכִּבְשָֽׁן׃ כט וַיְהִ֗י בְּשַׁחֵ֤ת אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־עָרֵ֣י הַכִּכָּ֔ר וַיִּזְכֹּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיְשַׁלַּ֤ח אֶת־לוֹט֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַהֲפֵכָ֔ה בַּהֲפֹךְ֙ אֶת־הֶ֣עָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־יָשַׁ֥ב בָּהֵ֖ן לֽוֹט׃
23 (Now) the sun was going out over the earth as Lōt came to Tso’ar. 24 But YHVH rained down brimstone and fire upon Sədom and Amorah, coming from YHVH, from the heavens, 25 he overturned those cities and all of the plain, all those settled in the cities and the vegetation of the fertile-ground. 26 Now his wife gazed behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 Avraham started-early in the morning to the place where he had stood in YHVH’s presence, 28 he looked down upon the face of Sədom and Amorah and upon the whole face of the plain-country and saw: here, the dense-smoke of the land went up like the dense-smoke of a furnace![3]The opening of this Yahwistic chapter echoes the beginning of Chapter 18. The angels arrive in Sodom, where they are immediately greeted by Lot and invited into his house; there they reveal their function as divine messengers. 29 Thus it was, when Elohim brought ruin on the cities of the plain, that Elohim kept Avraham in mind and sent out Lōt from the overturning, when he overturned the cities where Lōt had settled.[4]Note the switch to “God” (Elohim) as the divine name. Vs. 29 (P) is a theologically sculpted recap of the preceding events. The reason God saves Lot is because of his relationship to Abraham, as opposed to J who hints that the Lord saved Lot on the strength of his own merits. The motif of God remembering is present throughout Priestly narrative. God remembers Noah when he’s in the ark during the flood. God remembers his covenant with the Israelites in Exodus 2, God will remember the land and the people after smiting them in Leviticus 26.

ל וַיַּ֩עַל֩ ל֨וֹט מִצּ֜וֹעַר וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב בָּהָ֗ר וּשְׁתֵּ֤י בְנֹתָיו֙ עִמּ֔וֹ כִּ֥י יָרֵ֖א לָשֶׁ֣בֶת בְּצ֑וֹעַר וַיֵּ֙שֶׁב֙ בַּמְּעָרָ֔ה ה֖וּא וּשְׁתֵּ֥י בְנֹתָֽיו׃ לא וַתֹּ֧אמֶר הַבְּכִירָ֛ה אֶל־הַצְּעִירָ֖ה אָבִ֣ינוּ זָקֵ֑ן וְאִ֨ישׁ אֵ֤ין בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ לָב֣וֹא עָלֵ֔ינוּ כְּדֶ֖רֶךְ כׇּל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ לב לְכָ֨ה נַשְׁקֶ֧ה אֶת־אָבִ֛ינוּ יַ֖יִן וְנִשְׁכְּבָ֣ה עִמּ֑וֹ וּנְחַיֶּ֥ה מֵאָבִ֖ינוּ זָֽרַע׃ לג וַתַּשְׁקֶ֧יןָ אֶת־אֲבִיהֶ֛ן יַ֖יִן בַּלַּ֣יְלָה ה֑וּא וַתָּבֹ֤א הַבְּכִירָה֙ וַתִּשְׁכַּ֣ב אֶת־אָבִ֔יהָ וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע בְּשִׁכְבָ֖הּ וּבְקוּׄמָֽהּ׃ לד וַֽיְהִי֙ מִֽמָּחֳרָ֔ת וַתֹּ֤אמֶר הַבְּכִירָה֙ אֶל־הַצְּעִירָ֔ה הֵן־שָׁכַ֥בְתִּי אֶ֖מֶשׁ אֶת־אָבִ֑י נַשְׁקֶ֨נּוּ יַ֜יִן גַּם־הַלַּ֗יְלָה וּבֹ֙אִי֙ שִׁכְבִ֣י עִמּ֔וֹ וּנְחַיֶּ֥ה מֵאָבִ֖ינוּ זָֽרַע׃ לה וַתַּשְׁקֶ֜יןָ גַּ֣ם בַּלַּ֧יְלָה הַה֛וּא אֶת־אֲבִיהֶ֖ן יָ֑יִן וַתָּ֤קׇם הַצְּעִירָה֙ וַתִּשְׁכַּ֣ב עִמּ֔וֹ וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע בְּשִׁכְבָ֖הּ וּבְקֻמָֽהּ׃ לו וַֽתַּהֲרֶ֛יןָ שְׁתֵּ֥י בְנֽוֹת־ל֖וֹט מֵאֲבִיהֶֽן׃ לז וַתֵּ֤לֶד הַבְּכִירָה֙ בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ מוֹאָ֑ב ה֥וּא אֲבִֽי־מוֹאָ֖ב עַד־הַיּֽוֹם׃ לח וְהַצְּעִירָ֤ה גַם־הִוא֙ יָ֣לְדָה בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ בֶּן־עַמִּ֑י ה֛וּא אֲבִ֥י בְנֵֽי־עַמּ֖וֹן עַד־הַיּֽוֹם׃
30 Lōt went up from Tso’ar and settled in the hill-country, his two daughters with him, for he was afraid to settle in Tso’ar. So he settled in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 Now the firstborn said to the younger: “Our father is old, and there is no man in the land to come in to us as befits the way of all the earth! 32 Come, let us have our father drink wine and lie with him so that we may keep seed alive by our father.” 33 So they had their father drink wine that night, then the firstborn went in and lay with her father – but he knew nothing of her lying down or her rising up. 34 It was on the morrow that the firstborn said to the younger: “Here, yesternight I lay with father. Let us have him drink wine tonight as well, then you go in and lie with him, so that we may keep seed alive by our father.” 35 They had their father drink wine that night as well, then the younger arose and lay with him, but he knew nothing of her lying down or her rising up. 36 And Lōt’s two daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name: Mo’av/By Father, he is the tribal-father of Mo’av of today. 38 The younger also bore a son, and called his name: Ben-Ammi/Son of My Kinspeople, he is the tribal-father of the children of Ammon of today.[5]This narrative echoes Noah’s son Canaan’s (or Ham) indiscretion in Chapter 9:18-28, although here the daughters explicitly engage in sexual intercourse with their father, as opposed to Canaan who just “reveals his fathers’ nakedness”.

כ א וַיִּסַּ֨ע מִשָּׁ֤ם אַבְרָהָם֙ אַ֣רְצָה הַנֶּ֔גֶב וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בֵּין־קָדֵ֖שׁ וּבֵ֣ין שׁ֑וּר וַיָּ֖גׇר בִּגְרָֽר׃ ב וַיֹּ֧אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־שָׂרָ֥ה אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ אֲחֹ֣תִי הִ֑וא וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח אֲבִימֶ֙לֶךְ֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ גְּרָ֔ר וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־שָׂרָֽה׃ ג וַיָּבֹ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶל־אֲבִימֶ֖לֶךְ בַּחֲל֣וֹם הַלָּ֑יְלָה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ הִנְּךָ֥ מֵת֙ עַל־הָאִשָּׁ֣ה אֲשֶׁר־לָקַ֔חְתָּ וְהִ֖וא בְּעֻ֥לַת בָּֽעַל׃ ד וַאֲבִימֶ֕לֶךְ לֹ֥א קָרַ֖ב אֵלֶ֑יהָ וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אֲדֹנָ֕י הֲג֥וֹי גַּם־צַדִּ֖יק תַּהֲרֹֽג׃ ה הֲלֹ֨א ה֤וּא אָֽמַר־לִי֙ אֲחֹ֣תִי הִ֔וא וְהִֽיא־גַם־הִ֥וא אָֽמְרָ֖ה אָחִ֣י ה֑וּא בְּתׇם־לְבָבִ֛י וּבְנִקְיֹ֥ן כַּפַּ֖י עָשִׂ֥יתִי זֹֽאת׃ ו וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ אֵלָ֨יו הָֽאֱלֹהִ֜ים בַּחֲלֹ֗ם גַּ֣ם אָנֹכִ֤י יָדַ֙עְתִּי֙ כִּ֤י בְתׇם־לְבָבְךָ֙ עָשִׂ֣יתָ זֹּ֔את וָאֶחְשֹׂ֧ךְ גַּם־אָנֹכִ֛י אֽוֹתְךָ֖ מֵחֲטוֹ־לִ֑י עַל־כֵּ֥ן לֹא־נְתַתִּ֖יךָ לִנְגֹּ֥עַ אֵלֶֽיהָ׃ ז וְעַתָּ֗ה הָשֵׁ֤ב אֵֽשֶׁת־הָאִישׁ֙ כִּֽי־נָבִ֣יא ה֔וּא וְיִתְפַּלֵּ֥ל בַּֽעַדְךָ֖ וֶֽחְיֵ֑ה וְאִם־אֵֽינְךָ֣ מֵשִׁ֔יב דַּ֚ע כִּי־מ֣וֹת תָּמ֔וּת אַתָּ֖ה וְכׇל־אֲשֶׁר־לָֽךְ׃
20 1 Avraham traveled from there[6]The words “From there” (משם) imply a specific starting point previously mentioned. No such place is present in the canonical text. The expression is thus an artificial device meant to connect this text with previous narratives, much like: אחר הדברים האלה (after these occurrences or this speech) in 22:1. Since this is the first Elohistic narrative, and the Elohistic narrative is the oldest of the sources, the words “From there” were probably added by a redactor attempting to contextualize this narrative within the framework of the Abraham Cycle. to the Negev, and settled between Ḳadesh and Shur, sojourning in Gerar. 2 Avraham said of Sarah his wife: “She is my sister.” So Avimelekh king of Gerar sent and had Sarah taken. 3 But Elohim came to Avimelekh in a dream of the night and said to him: “Here, you must die because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a wedded wife!”[7]God frequently appears to characters within dreams in E narratives. Thus the angels of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28:10-21 or God appearing to Balaam warning him not to curse the Israelites in Num 22:9-21. ¶ Elohistic narratives are usually very terse, imparting only the most basic information necessary for the advancement of the plot, thus Abraham’s arrival, the ruse, and the taking of Sarah to Abimelech’s house all occur within two verses. 4 Avimelekh had not come near her. He said: “My Lord, would you kill a nation, though it be innocent? 5 Did he not say to me: ‘She is my sister,’ and also she, she said: ‘He is my brother!’ With a whole heart and with clean hands have I done this.” 6 Elohim said to him in the dream: “I also know that it was with a whole heart that you did this, and so I also held you back from being at fault against me, therefore I did not let you touch her.[8]Abimelech answers God’s accusations and protests his innocence of malfeasance. This dream dialogue is in fact sui generis in the Bible. There is literally no other occasion of such give and take between the deity and humans in a dream revelation such as this, it is almost as if Abimelech were on the stand instead of asleep in his bed. The author, cognizant of this anomaly conscientiously reminds the reader through a resumptive repetition that Abimelech is still in a dream (vs. 6 Then God said to Him in the dream). Abimelech quotes an imaginary statement, supposedly made by Sarah, of which there is no record in the text, it strengthens his protestation of innocence, but sits uneasily in the text. For these reasons it seems likely that this jural dialogue was added on by a second author. 7 But now, return the man’s wife – indeed, he is a prophet, he can intercede for you – and live! But if you do not return her: know that you must die, yes, die, you and all that is yours!”

ח וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם אֲבִימֶ֜לֶךְ בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַיִּקְרָא֙ לְכׇל־עֲבָדָ֔יו וַיְדַבֵּ֛ר אֶת־כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה בְּאׇזְנֵיהֶ֑ם וַיִּֽירְא֥וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים מְאֹֽד׃ ט וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֲבִימֶ֜לֶךְ לְאַבְרָהָ֗ם וַיֹּ֨אמֶר ל֜וֹ מֶֽה־עָשִׂ֤יתָ לָּ֙נוּ֙ וּמֶֽה־חָטָ֣אתִי לָ֔ךְ כִּֽי־הֵבֵ֧אתָ עָלַ֛י וְעַל־מַמְלַכְתִּ֖י חֲטָאָ֣ה גְדֹלָ֑ה מַעֲשִׂים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־יֵֽעָשׂ֔וּ עָשִׂ֖יתָ עִמָּדִֽי׃ י וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֖לֶךְ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם מָ֣ה רָאִ֔יתָ כִּ֥י עָשִׂ֖יתָ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃ יא וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם כִּ֣י אָמַ֗רְתִּי רַ֚ק אֵין־יִרְאַ֣ת אֱלֹהִ֔ים בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַהֲרָג֖וּנִי עַל־דְּבַ֥ר אִשְׁתִּֽי׃ יב וְגַם־אׇמְנָ֗ה אֲחֹתִ֤י בַת־אָבִי֙ הִ֔וא אַ֖ךְ לֹ֣א בַת־אִמִּ֑י וַתְּהִי־לִ֖י לְאִשָּֽׁה׃ יג וַיְהִ֞י כַּאֲשֶׁ֧ר הִתְע֣וּ אֹתִ֗י אֱלֹהִים֮ מִבֵּ֣ית אָבִי֒ וָאֹמַ֣ר לָ֔הּ זֶ֣ה חַסְדֵּ֔ךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּעֲשִׂ֖י עִמָּדִ֑י אֶ֤ל כׇּל־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָב֣וֹא שָׁ֔מָּה אִמְרִי־לִ֖י אָחִ֥י הֽוּא׃
8 Early in the morning Avimelekh called all his servants, he spoke all these words in their ears, and the men became exceedingly afraid.[9]The original dream dialogue in my isolation of the text consists of a simple warning to Abimelech: 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.” 9 Then Avimelekh had Avraham called and said to him: “What have you done to us? In what did I fail you, that you have brought me and my kingdom into such great fault? Deeds which are not to be done, you have done to me!”[10]Note Abimelech double query to Abraham in vss. 9 and 10: 1.”Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.” 2. “And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?”” ¶ The first is very melodramatic, the second is very terse. It seems likely that the first is a Yahwistic expansion of the second [The expression: (חטאה גדולה) “A great guilt” appears elsewhere in J (Exodus 32:31)]. 10 And Avimelekh said to Avraham: “What did you foresee, that you did this thing?” 11 Avraham said: “Indeed, I said to myself: Surely there is no awe of Elohim in this place, they will kill me on account of my wife![11]Fear of God is the most prominent theme in E narrative. Here it appears for the first time: “Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.” 12 Then, too, she is truly my sister, my father’s daughter, however not my mother’s daughter – so she became my wife. 13 Now it was, when Elohim caused me to roam from my father’s house, that I said to her: ‘Let this be the faithfulness that you do me: in every place that we come, say of me: He is my brother.'”[12]Vss. 12-13 are a second moralistic excuse for Abraham’s actions. It is quite clearly a secondary addition to the text, and is phrased as such: “Besides, she is indeed my sister…” No such relationship is recorded elsewhere in Genesis; cohabitation with ones sister may be a mythic detail [compare the incestuous marriages among gods in many mythologies]. Vs. 14, provides the global background for Abraham’s behavior and knows of the parallel narrative in Genesis 12:10-20. I attribute these verses to the Bridger seeking to unify the Abraham narratives.

יד וַיִּקַּ֨ח אֲבִימֶ֜לֶךְ צֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֗ר וַעֲבָדִים֙ וּשְׁפָחֹ֔ת וַיִּתֵּ֖ן לְאַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיָּ֣שֶׁב ל֔וֹ אֵ֖ת שָׂרָ֥ה אִשְׁתּֽוֹ׃ טו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֔לֶךְ הִנֵּ֥ה אַרְצִ֖י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ בַּטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵינֶ֖יךָ שֵֽׁב׃ טז וּלְשָׂרָ֣ה אָמַ֗ר הִנֵּ֨ה נָתַ֜תִּי אֶ֤לֶף כֶּ֙סֶף֙ לְאָחִ֔יךְ הִנֵּ֤ה הוּא־לָךְ֙ כְּס֣וּת עֵינַ֔יִם לְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתָּ֑ךְ וְאֵ֥ת כֹּ֖ל וְנֹכָֽחַת׃
14 Avimelekh took sheep and oxen, servants and maids,[13]The detail of sheep, oxen, male, and female slaves is comparable to the wealth Pharaoh gives Abimelech in Gen 12:10-20 (J), and was perhaps added by this source. The only detail essential for the continuation of the narrative is the return of Sarah. and gave them to Avraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 Avimelekh said: “Here, my land is before you, settle wherever seems good in your eyes.” 16 And to Sarah he said: “Here, I have given a thousand pieces of silver to your brother, here, it shall serve you as a covering for the eyes for all who are with you and with everyone, that you have been decided for.”[14]The Hebrew of this verse is very likely corrupt, though it clearly alludes to the brother sister relationship mentioned in vs. 12, and is thus attributed to the same source as vs. 12.

יז וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיִּרְפָּ֨א אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־אֲבִימֶ֧לֶךְ וְאֶת־אִשְׁתּ֛וֹ וְאַמְהֹתָ֖יו וַיֵּלֵֽדוּ׃ יח כִּֽי־עָצֹ֤ר עָצַר֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה בְּעַ֥ד כׇּל־רֶ֖חֶם לְבֵ֣ית אֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ עַל־דְּבַ֥ר שָׂרָ֖ה אֵ֥שֶׁת אַבְרָהָֽם׃
17 Avraham interceded with Elohim and Elohim healed Avimelekh: his wife and his slave-women, so that they gave birth.[15]This verse conclude the Elohitic narrative of this chapter. It implies that God smote the female members of Abimelech’s household with infertility, and Abimelech himself with an unknown sickness, an appropriate punishment for taking another man’s wife. In Chapter 21, Sarah’s gives birth to Isaac following possible cohabitation with Abimelech. ¶ The E text does not specify the paternity of Isaac, it is likely that the E text intends for this detail to be ambivalent. 18 For YHVH had obstructed, obstructed every womb in Avimelekh’s household on account of Sarah, the wife of Avraham.[16]Note the abrupt switch in the names of the deity. The final verse of this chapter further elucidates what sickness Abimelech suffers, perhaps to make sure we understand that he couldn’t have possibly fathered Isaac.

כא א וַֽיהֹוָ֛ה פָּקַ֥ד אֶת־שָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמָ֑ר וַיַּ֧עַשׂ יְהֹוָ֛ה לְשָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֵּֽר׃ ב וַתַּ֩הַר֩ וַתֵּ֨לֶד שָׂרָ֧ה לְאַבְרָהָ֛ם בֵּ֖ן לִזְקֻנָ֑יו לַמּוֹעֵ֕ד אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר אֹת֖וֹ אֱלֹהִֽים׃ ג וַיִּקְרָ֨א אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶֽת־שֶׁם־בְּנ֧וֹ הַנּֽוֹלַד־ל֛וֹ אֲשֶׁר־יָלְדָה־לּ֥וֹ שָׂרָ֖ה יִצְחָֽק׃ ד וַיָּ֤מׇל אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֔וֹ בֶּן־שְׁמֹנַ֖ת יָמִ֑ים כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה אֹת֖וֹ אֱלֹהִֽים׃ חמישי ה וְאַבְרָהָ֖ם בֶּן־מְאַ֣ת שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִוָּ֣לֶד ל֔וֹ אֵ֖ת יִצְחָ֥ק בְּנֽוֹ׃ ו וַתֹּ֣אמֶר שָׂרָ֔ה צְחֹ֕ק עָ֥שָׂה לִ֖י אֱלֹהִ֑ים כׇּל־הַשֹּׁמֵ֖עַ יִֽצְחַק־לִֽי׃ ז וַתֹּ֗אמֶר מִ֤י מִלֵּל֙ לְאַבְרָהָ֔ם הֵינִ֥יקָה בָנִ֖ים שָׂרָ֑ה כִּֽי־יָלַ֥דְתִּי בֵ֖ן לִזְקֻנָֽיו׃
21 1 Now YHVH took account of Sarah as he had said, YHVH dealt with Sarah as he had spoken.[17]A direct allusion to the promise narrative of Genesis 18 (J), and note the use of the Lord / Yhwh. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the set-time of which Elohim had spoken to him. 3 And Avraham called the name of his son,[18]In the Elohistic account, the birth of Isaac immediately follows Sarah’s sojourn in Abimelech’s house, where it’s implied that she and Abimelech cohabited. Thus, the statement that Isaac was Abraham’s son is somewhat ironic. who was born to him,[19]The emphasis upon Abraham’s paternity is a later addition to the text to prevent any implication that the issue of paternity is in doubt, and see the above comment. whom Sarah bore to him: Yitsḥak/He Laughs.[20]Sarah bore Isaac – though in E it’s not clear whether Abraham was the father, and see first comment on this verse (21:3), as well as my commentary on Chapters 20 and 22. 4 And Avraham circumcised Yitsḥak his son at eight days old, as Elohim had commanded him. 5 Avraham was a hundred years old when Yitsḥak his son was born to him. 6 Now Sarah said: “Elohim has made laughter for me, all who hear of it will laugh for me.” 7 And she said: “Who would have declared to Avraham: Sarah will nurse sons? Well, I have borne him a son in his old age!”[21]Both Abraham’s age and Isaac’s circumcision notice allude back to P’s Chapter 17, and note the use of behivaled – “when he was born” – in the nifal as is common in Priestly genealogies.

ח וַיִּגְדַּ֥ל הַיֶּ֖לֶד וַיִּגָּמַ֑ל וַיַּ֤עַשׂ אַבְרָהָם֙ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה גָד֔וֹל בְּי֖וֹם הִגָּמֵ֥ל אֶת־יִצְחָֽק׃ ט וַתֵּ֨רֶא שָׂרָ֜ה אֶֽת־בֶּן־הָגָ֧ר הַמִּצְרִ֛ית אֲשֶׁר־יָלְדָ֥ה לְאַבְרָהָ֖ם מְצַחֵֽק׃ י וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לְאַבְרָהָ֔ם גָּרֵ֛שׁ הָאָמָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את וְאֶת־בְּנָ֑הּ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יִירַשׁ֙ בֶּן־הָאָמָ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את עִם־בְּנִ֖י עִם־יִצְחָֽק׃
8 The child grew and was weaned, and Avraham made a great drinking-feast on the day that Yitsḥak was weaned. 9 Once Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Mitsri-woman, whom she had borne to Avraham, laughing. . . . 10 She said to Avraham: “Drive out this slave-woman and her son, for the son of this slave-woman shall not share-inheritance with my son, with Yitsḥak!”

יא וַיֵּ֧רַע הַדָּבָ֛ר מְאֹ֖ד בְּעֵינֵ֣י אַבְרָהָ֑ם עַ֖ל אוֹדֹ֥ת בְּנֽוֹ׃ יב וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֗ם אַל־יֵרַ֤ע בְּעֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ עַל־הַנַּ֣עַר וְעַל־אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ כֹּל֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֥ר אֵלֶ֛יךָ שָׂרָ֖ה שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹלָ֑הּ כִּ֣י בְיִצְחָ֔ק יִקָּרֵ֥א לְךָ֖ זָֽרַע׃ יג וְגַ֥ם אֶת־בֶּן־הָאָמָ֖ה לְג֣וֹי אֲשִׂימֶ֑נּוּ כִּ֥י זַרְעֲךָ֖ הֽוּא׃ יד וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֣ם אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ בַּבֹּ֡קֶר וַיִּֽקַּֽח־לֶ֩חֶם֩ וְחֵ֨מַת מַ֜יִם וַיִּתֵּ֣ן אֶל־הָ֠גָ֠ר שָׂ֧ם עַל־שִׁכְמָ֛הּ וְאֶת־הַיֶּ֖לֶד וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֶ֑הָ וַתֵּ֣לֶךְ וַתֵּ֔תַע בְּמִדְבַּ֖ר בְּאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע׃ טו וַיִּכְל֥וּ הַמַּ֖יִם מִן־הַחֵ֑מֶת וַתַּשְׁלֵ֣ךְ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד תַּ֖חַת אַחַ֥ד הַשִּׂיחִֽם׃ טז וַתֵּ֩לֶךְ֩ וַתֵּ֨שֶׁב לָ֜הּ מִנֶּ֗גֶד הַרְחֵק֙ כִּמְטַחֲוֵ֣י קֶ֔שֶׁת כִּ֣י אָֽמְרָ֔ה אַל־אֶרְאֶ֖ה בְּמ֣וֹת הַיָּ֑לֶד וַתֵּ֣שֶׁב מִנֶּ֔גֶד וַתִּשָּׂ֥א אֶת־קֹלָ֖הּ וַתֵּֽבְךְּ׃ יז וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־ק֣וֹל הַנַּ֒עַר֒
11 The matter was exceedingly bad in Avraham’s eyes because of his son. 12 But Elohim said to Avraham: “Do not let it be bad in your eyes concerning the lad and concerning your slave-woman; in all that Sarah says to you, hearken to her voice,[22]Hagar’s son remains anonymous in the E narrative, as opposed to J’s Chapter 16. In E Abraham banishes his only true son, leaving him with Isaac whose paternity is in doubt. Abraham then sacrifices Isaac to prove his faithfulness to God, after not trusting in him in Chapter 20. for it is through Yitsḥak that seed will be called by your (name). 13 But also the son of the slave-woman – a nation will I make of him, for he too is your seed.”[23]There are no divine promises of progeny in the E narrative, in the Abraham cycle or elsewhere, and thus their appearance here is likely secondary. According to E’s theological perspective God does not need to give Abraham a reason, since the primary directive in the E source is obedience through fear of God. Abraham must simply heed God’s instruction to obey Sarah. ¶ God’s promise: “As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring”, in this verse and in vs. 18, is quite similar to the promises made to Hagar’s son in Genesis 17:20 (P). 14 Avraham started-early in the morning, he took some bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar – placing them upon her shoulder – together with the child and sent her away. She went off and roamed in the wilderness of Be’er-shava. 15 Now when the water in the skin was at an end, she threw the child under one of the bushes, 16 and went and sat by herself, at-a-distance, as far away as a bowshot, for she said to herself: “Let me not see the child die!” So she sat at-a-distance, and lifted up her voice and wept. 17 But Elohim heard the voice of the lad.

וַיִּקְרָא֩ מַלְאַ֨ךְ אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶל־הָגָר֙ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר לָ֖הּ מַה־לָּ֣ךְ הָגָ֑ר אַל־תִּ֣ירְאִ֔י כִּֽי־שָׁמַ֧ע אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶל־ק֥וֹל הַנַּ֖עַר בַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר הוּא־שָֽׁם׃ יח ק֚וּמִי שְׂאִ֣י אֶת־הַנַּ֔עַר וְהַחֲזִ֥יקִי אֶת־יָדֵ֖ךְ בּ֑וֹ כִּֽי־לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל אֲשִׂימֶֽנּוּ׃
Elohim’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her: “What ails you, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for Elohim has heard the voice of the lad there where he is.[24]The call of God from heaven is a feature this narrative shares with E’s Chapter 22. 18 Arise, lift up the lad and grasp him with your hand, for a great nation will I make of him!”[25]See comment on 21:13, note also the slight discrepancy between God’s command to lift up the boy and what Hagar actually does (i.e. she gives him water to drink), though this usage may be metaphorical.

יט וַיִּפְקַ֤ח אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־עֵינֶ֔יהָ וַתֵּ֖רֶא בְּאֵ֣ר מָ֑יִם וַתֵּ֜לֶךְ וַתְּמַלֵּ֤א אֶת־הַחֵ֙מֶת֙ מַ֔יִם וַתַּ֖שְׁקְ אֶת־הַנָּֽעַר׃ כ וַיְהִ֧י אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הַנַּ֖עַר וַיִּגְדָּ֑ל וַיֵּ֙שֶׁב֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וַיְהִ֖י רֹבֶ֥ה קַשָּֽׁת׃ כא וַיֵּ֖שֶׁב בְּמִדְבַּ֣ר פָּארָ֑ן וַתִּֽקַּֽח־ל֥וֹ אִמּ֛וֹ אִשָּׁ֖ה מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃
19 Elohim opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; she went, filled the skin with water, and gave the lad to drink. 20 And Elohim was with the lad as he grew up, he settled in the wilderness, and became an archer, a bowman. 21 He settled in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took him a wife from the land of Mitsrayim.

ששי כב וַֽיְהִי֙ בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔וא וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֗לֶךְ וּפִיכֹל֙ שַׂר־צְבָא֔וֹ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר אֱלֹהִ֣ים עִמְּךָ֔ בְּכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֖ה עֹשֶֽׂה׃ כג וְעַתָּ֗ה הִשָּׁ֨בְעָה לִּ֤י בֵֽאלֹהִים֙ הֵ֔נָּה אִם־תִּשְׁקֹ֣ר לִ֔י וּלְנִינִ֖י וּלְנֶכְדִּ֑י כַּחֶ֜סֶד אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂ֤יתִי עִמְּךָ֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה עִמָּדִ֔י וְעִם־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־גַּ֥רְתָּה בָּֽהּ׃
22 It was at about that time that Avimelekh, together with Pikhol the commander of his army, said to Avraham: “Elohim is with you in all that you do. 23 So now, swear to me here by Elohim: If you should ever deal falsely with me, with my progeny and my posterity . . . ! Rather, faithfully, as I have dealt with you, deal with me, and with the land in which you have sojourned.”

כד וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם אָנֹכִ֖י אִשָּׁבֵֽעַ׃ כה וְהוֹכִ֥חַ אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־אֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ עַל־אֹדוֹת֙ בְּאֵ֣ר הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר גָּזְל֖וּ עַבְדֵ֥י אֲבִימֶֽלֶךְ׃ כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֔לֶךְ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי מִ֥י עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וְגַם־אַתָּ֞ה לֹא־הִגַּ֣דְתָּ לִּ֗י וְגַ֧ם אָנֹכִ֛י לֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖עְתִּי בִּלְתִּ֥י הַיּֽוֹם׃
24 Avraham said: “I so swear.” 25 But Avraham rebuked Avimelekh because of a well of water that Avimelekh’s servants had seized. 26 Avimelekh said: “I do not know who did this thing, nor have you ever told me, nor have I heard of it apart from today.”[26]In E the deal between Abraham and Abimelech is a local pact of goodwill between two groups of inhabitants in the same area and equitable division of wells within the territory. In J the pact carries a broader significance. J refers to the Gerar (Abimelech’s city) as the land of the Philistines and Abimelech as the king of the Philistines in 26:1. In J Abraham makes a non-aggression covenant with Abimelech, implying that Abimelech and the Philistines have the right to reside in the land of Canaan, which is contra the Lord’s promise to Abraham in 13:16-18. These are the same Philistines who will prove to be Israel’s toughest enemy throughout Judges and Samuel according to J. J thus takes the very long view of what goes around comes around: Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech abrogating God’s promise (to a degree), and these same Philistines will threaten Israel’s survival in the land time and time again. This is a frequent literary device throughout J, e.g. Laban cheats Jacob by giving him Leah, so Jacob in turn cheats Laban by purloining his flock through tricks of animal husbandry. Joseph’s taxation system helps Pharaoh enslave the Egyptian, who, in turn, will enslave the Israelites.

כז וַיִּקַּ֤ח אַבְרָהָם֙ צֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר וַיִּתֵּ֖ן לַאֲבִימֶ֑לֶךְ וַיִּכְרְת֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם בְּרִֽית׃ כח וַיַּצֵּ֣ב אַבְרָהָ֗ם אֶת־שֶׁ֛בַע כִּבְשֹׂ֥ת הַצֹּ֖אן לְבַדְּהֶֽן׃ כט וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֲבִימֶ֖לֶךְ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם מָ֣ה הֵ֗נָּה שֶׁ֤בַע כְּבָשֹׂת֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֥ר הִצַּ֖בְתָּ לְבַדָּֽנָה׃
27 So Avraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Avimelekh, and the two of them cut a covenant.[27]See last comment. 28 Then Avraham set seven ewe-lambs of the flock aside. 29 Avimelekh said to Avraham: “What mean these seven ewe-lambs that you have set aside?”

ל וַיֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֚י אֶת־שֶׁ֣בַע כְּבָשֹׂ֔ת תִּקַּ֖ח מִיָּדִ֑י בַּעֲבוּר֙ תִּֽהְיֶה־לִּ֣י לְעֵדָ֔ה כִּ֥י חָפַ֖רְתִּי אֶת־הַבְּאֵ֥ר הַזֹּֽאת׃ לא עַל־כֵּ֗ן קָרָ֛א לַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא בְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע כִּ֛י שָׁ֥ם נִשְׁבְּע֖וּ שְׁנֵיהֶֽם׃ לב וַיִּכְרְת֥וּ בְרִ֖ית בִּבְאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיָּ֣קׇם אֲבִימֶ֗לֶךְ וּפִיכֹל֙ שַׂר־צְבָא֔וֹ וַיָּשֻׁ֖בוּ אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּֽים׃ לג וַיִּטַּ֥ע אֶ֖שֶׁל בִּבְאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיִּ֨קְרָא־שָׁ֔ם בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהֹוָ֖ה אֵ֥ל עוֹלָֽם׃ לד וַיָּ֧גׇר אַבְרָהָ֛ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֖ים יָמִ֥ים רַבִּֽים׃
30 He said: “Indeed, these seven ewe-lambs you should take from my hand, so that they may be a witness for me that I dug this well.” 31 Therefore that place was called Be’er-shava/Well of the Seven-swearing,[28]The origin of the name Beersheva according to E, is the seven (sheva) sheep Abraham offers Abimelech, whereas in J, it is because they took an oath to one another (shevua). J is perhaps emphasizing the importance of the pact between them as more than a local agreement, and see comment on 21:26. for there the two of them swore (an oath). 32 Thus they cut a covenant in Be’er-shava. Then Avimelekh and Pikhol the commander of his army arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Now he planted a tamarisk in Be’er-shava and there he called out the name: YHVH El of the Ages. 34 And Avraham sojourned in the land of the Plishtim for many days.[29]See the above comment regarding the origin of the name Beersheva. Note the resemblance between the tree Abraham plants here to commemorate the pact and his call to “the Lord everlasting”, and the altar he erects to commemorate the Lord’s promise to him in 12:8 (J), which he also seals with a call to “the Lord”.

שביעי כב א וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וְהָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים נִסָּ֖ה אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֔יו אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ ב וַיֹּ֡אמֶר קַח־נָ֠א אֶת־בִּנְךָ֨ אֶת־יְחִֽידְךָ֤ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַ֙בְתָּ֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֔ק וְלֶ֨ךְ־לְךָ֔ אֶל־אֶ֖רֶץ הַמֹּרִיָּ֑ה וְהַעֲלֵ֤הוּ שָׁם֙ לְעֹלָ֔ה עַ֚ל אַחַ֣ד הֶֽהָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר אֹמַ֥ר אֵלֶֽיךָ׃
22 1 Now after these events it was that Elohim tested Avraham and said to him: “Avraham!” He said: “Here I am.” 2 He said: “Pray take your son, your only-one, whom you love, Yitsḥak, and go-you-forth to the land of Moriyya/Seeing, and offer him up there as an offering-up upon one of the mountains that I will tell you of.”

ג וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם אַבְרָהָ֜ם בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַֽיַּחֲבֹשׁ֙ אֶת־חֲמֹר֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֞ח אֶת־שְׁנֵ֤י נְעָרָיו֙ אִתּ֔וֹ וְאֵ֖ת יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיְבַקַּע֙ עֲצֵ֣י עֹלָ֔ה וַיָּ֣קׇם וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָֽמַר־ל֥וֹ הָאֱלֹהִֽים׃ ד בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֗י וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֧ם אֶת־עֵינָ֛יו וַיַּ֥רְא אֶת־הַמָּק֖וֹם מֵרָחֹֽק׃ ה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶל־נְעָרָ֗יו שְׁבוּ־לָכֶ֥ם פֹּה֙ עִֽם־הַחֲמ֔וֹר וַאֲנִ֣י וְהַנַּ֔עַר נֵלְכָ֖ה עַד־כֹּ֑ה וְנִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֖ה וְנָשׁ֥וּבָה אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃
3 Avraham started-early in the morning, he saddled his donkey, he took his two serving-lads with him and Yitsḥak his son, he split wood for the offering-up and arose and went to the place that Elohim had told him of. 4 On the third day Avraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Avraham said to his lads: “You stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad wish to go yonder, we wish to bow down and then return to you.”

ו וַיִּקַּ֨ח אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֲצֵ֣י הָעֹלָ֗ה וַיָּ֙שֶׂם֙ עַל־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֣ח בְּיָד֔וֹ אֶת־הָאֵ֖שׁ וְאֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֑לֶת וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם יַחְדָּֽו׃ ז וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יִצְחָ֜ק אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֤ם אָבִיו֙ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אָבִ֔י וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֶּ֣נִּֽי בְנִ֑י וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֤ה הָאֵשׁ֙ וְהָ֣עֵצִ֔ים וְאַיֵּ֥ה הַשֶּׂ֖ה לְעֹלָֽה׃
6 Avraham took the wood for the offering-up, he placed them upon Yitsḥak his son, in his hand he took the fire and the knife. Thus the two of them went together. 7 Yitsḥak said to Avraham his father, he said: “Father!” He said: “Here I am, my son.” He said: “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering-up?”

ח וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֱלֹהִ֞ים יִרְאֶה־לּ֥וֹ הַשֶּׂ֛ה לְעֹלָ֖ה בְּנִ֑י וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ שְׁנֵיהֶ֖ם יַחְדָּֽו׃ ט וַיָּבֹ֗אוּ אֶֽל־הַמָּקוֹם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָֽמַר־ל֣וֹ הָאֱלֹהִים֒ וַיִּ֨בֶן שָׁ֤ם אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ וַֽיַּעֲרֹ֖ךְ אֶת־הָעֵצִ֑ים וַֽיַּעֲקֹד֙ אֶת־יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֔וֹ וַיָּ֤שֶׂם אֹתוֹ֙ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ מִמַּ֖עַל לָעֵצִֽים׃ י וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־יָד֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֑לֶת לִשְׁחֹ֖ט אֶת־בְּנֽוֹ׃
8 Avraham said: “Elohim will see-for-himself to the lamb for the offering-up, my son.” Thus the two of them went together. 9 They came to the place that Elohim had told him of; there Avraham built the place-for-slaughter and arranged the wood and bound Yitsḥak his son and placed him on the place-for-slaughter atop the wood. 10 And Avraham stretched out his hand, he took the knife to slay his son.

יא וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֜יו מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהֹוָה֙ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃ יב וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אַל־תִּשְׁלַ֤ח יָֽדְךָ֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔עַר וְאַל־תַּ֥עַשׂ ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה כִּ֣י ׀ עַתָּ֣ה יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּֽי־יְרֵ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אַ֔תָּה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֛כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידְךָ֖ מִמֶּֽנִּי׃
11 But YHVH’s messenger called to him from heaven and said: “Avraham! Avraham!” He said: “Here I am.” 12 He said:[30]Abraham takes the knife to slaughter his son, and the angel then exclaims how righteous Abraham was for not sparing Isaac. In vs. 19 Abraham returns alone, and Isaac does not appear again in the Elohistic narrative which suggests that according to E he was sacrificed and not saved as in vss. 11-12. “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, do not do anything to him! For[31]Seeing that Abraham does not return with his son, I conjecture that the angel’s command to Abraham is a later addition to the text, meant to rescue Isaac so that he will become a link in the genealogical chain which will lead to the Israelites. now I know that you are in awe of Elohim – you have not withheld your son, your only-one, from me.”[32]Read on its own this half verse (since you have not withheld your son…) implies that not only was Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, but that he actually went through with it.

יג וַיִּשָּׂ֨א אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֵינָ֗יו וַיַּרְא֙ וְהִנֵּה־אַ֔יִל אַחַ֕ר נֶאֱחַ֥ז בַּסְּבַ֖ךְ בְּקַרְנָ֑יו וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אַבְרָהָם֙ וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־הָאַ֔יִל וַיַּעֲלֵ֥הוּ לְעֹלָ֖ה תַּ֥חַת בְּנֽוֹ׃ יד וַיִּקְרָ֧א אַבְרָהָ֛ם שֵֽׁם־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַה֖וּא יְהֹוָ֣ה ׀ יִרְאֶ֑ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יֵאָמֵ֣ר הַיּ֔וֹם בְּהַ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה יֵרָאֶֽה׃
13 Avraham lifted up his eyes and saw: here, a ram was caught behind in the thicket by its horns! Avraham went, he took the ram and offered it up as an offering-up in place of his son. 14 Avraham called the name of that place: ‘YHVH Sees.’ As the saying is today: ‘On YHVH’s mountain (it) is seen.’

טו וַיִּקְרָ֛א מַלְאַ֥ךְ יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֑ם שֵׁנִ֖ית מִן־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ טז וַיֹּ֕אמֶר בִּ֥י נִשְׁבַּ֖עְתִּי נְאֻם־יְהֹוָ֑ה כִּ֗י יַ֚עַן אֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשִׂ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה וְלֹ֥א חָשַׂ֖כְתָּ אֶת־בִּנְךָ֥ אֶת־יְחִידֶֽךָ׃ יז כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכוֹכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם וְיִרַ֣שׁ זַרְעֲךָ֔ אֵ֖ת שַׁ֥עַר אֹיְבָֽיו׃ יח וְהִתְבָּרְכ֣וּ בְזַרְעֲךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ עֵ֕קֶב אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ בְּקֹלִֽי׃
15 Now YHVH’s messenger called to Avraham a second time from heaven 16 and said: “By myself I swear – YHVH’s utterance – indeed, because you have done this thing, have not withheld your son, your only-one, 17 indeed, I will bless you, bless you, I will make your seed many, yes, many, like the stars of the heavens and like the sand that is on the shore of the sea; your seed shall inherit the gate of their enemies, 18 all the nations of the earth shall enjoy blessing through your seed, in consequence of your hearkening to my voice.”[33]The angel’s second call is widely seen as a secondary addition to this narrative. Couldn’t the angel have delivered his message when he first called upon Abraham? Moreover, the promise theme in vss. 16-18 is a prominent feature of J narratives which have a wider historical scope, as opposed to the narrower scope of Elohistic narratives. Note also the abrupt switch to “Elohim” (God)[vs. 12] from “Yhwh” (the Lord) [vs. 14].

יט וַיָּ֤שׇׁב אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶל־נְעָרָ֔יו וַיָּקֻ֛מוּ וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ יַחְדָּ֖ו אֶל־בְּאֵ֣ר שָׁ֑בַע וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב אַבְרָהָ֖ם בִּבְאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע׃
19 Avraham returned to his lads, they arose and went together to Be’er-shava. And Avraham stayed in Be’er-shava.[34]Abraham returning alone from the mountain as opposed to walking together with Isaac in vss. 6 and 8 implies that he was sacrificed. This verse has engendered many post-biblical retellings and elaborations to this narrative.

מפטיר כ וַיְהִ֗י אַחֲרֵי֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וַיֻּגַּ֥ד לְאַבְרָהָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר הִ֠נֵּ֠ה יָלְדָ֨ה מִלְכָּ֥ה גַם־הִ֛וא בָּנִ֖ים לְנָח֥וֹר אָחִֽיךָ׃ כא אֶת־ע֥וּץ בְּכֹר֖וֹ וְאֶת־בּ֣וּז אָחִ֑יו וְאֶת־קְמוּאֵ֖ל אֲבִ֥י אֲרָֽם׃ כב וְאֶת־כֶּ֣שֶׂד וְאֶת־חֲז֔וֹ וְאֶת־פִּלְדָּ֖שׁ וְאֶת־יִדְלָ֑ף וְאֵ֖ת בְּתוּאֵֽל׃ כג וּבְתוּאֵ֖ל יָלַ֣ד אֶת־רִבְקָ֑ה שְׁמֹנָ֥ה אֵ֙לֶּה֙ יָלְדָ֣ה מִלְכָּ֔ה לְנָח֖וֹר אֲחִ֥י אַבְרָהָֽם׃ כד וּפִֽילַגְשׁ֖וֹ וּשְׁמָ֣הּ רְאוּמָ֑ה וַתֵּ֤לֶד גַּם־הִוא֙ אֶת־טֶ֣בַח וְאֶת־גַּ֔חַם וְאֶת־תַּ֖חַשׁ וְאֶֽת־מַעֲכָֽה׃
20 Now after these events it was, that it was told to Avraham, saying: “Here, Milka too has borne, sons to Naḥor your brother: 21 Ūts his firstborn and Būz his brother, Qemuel father of Aram 22 and Kesed, Ḥazo, Pildash, Yidlaf, and Betuel.” 23 Now Betuel begot Rivqa. – These eight Milka bore to Naḥor, Avraham’s brother. 24 And his concubine – her name was Re’uma – bore too: Tevaḥ, Gaḥam, Taḥash, and Maakha.[35]Note the use of the qal passive yulad (to be born to) which characterizes the Bridger’s genealogies, as opposed to the nifal or hifil forms of this verb in the Priestly genealogies (as throughout Genesis 11, and in 22:5). After these things (vs. 20) is a common conjunctive addition and doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific event.

The Masoretic text presented here is from Rabbi Dr. Seth (Avi) Kadish’s Miqra al pi ha-Mesorah. For the translation in English, I have adapted the translation of Everett Fox in the Schocken Bible (1997), mostly to re-Hebraize divine names, place names, and personal names, but I have made other changes. In place of “slaughter-site,” I have offered “place-for-slaughter.” And in place of “soil” (for Adamah), I have chosen “fertile-ground.” Aside from these, I have made minor punctuation changes.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. This verse is marked as one of the tikkunei soferim, as identified in the Midrash Tanḥuma and Bereshit Rabbah. The alternate reading here, preferred by Rashi and Ben Asher, is “וה׳ עודנו עמד לפני אברהם” (And YHVH yet stood before Avraham)
  2. If Chapter 17 was typically Priestly, Chapter 18 is typically Yahwistic. 1. The narrative style is quite terse and fast paced until vs. 23. 2. The chapter is anthropomorphically ambivalent; there are three angelic figures that appear throughout the story, one of which may be the Lord, but not necessarily. 3. The promise vocabulary is typically Yahwistic, thus vs. 18: “Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”. 4. It continues the narrative thread of Chapter 16 – Sarah is still barren; 5. The Yahwistic theology of mercy is apparent in vss. 23-33, Abraham intercedes on behalf of the Sodomites, establishing the pattern for Moses’ intercession in Exodus 32 and Numbers 13.
  3. The opening of this Yahwistic chapter echoes the beginning of Chapter 18. The angels arrive in Sodom, where they are immediately greeted by Lot and invited into his house; there they reveal their function as divine messengers.
  4. Note the switch to “God” (Elohim) as the divine name. Vs. 29 (P) is a theologically sculpted recap of the preceding events. The reason God saves Lot is because of his relationship to Abraham, as opposed to J who hints that the Lord saved Lot on the strength of his own merits. The motif of God remembering is present throughout Priestly narrative. God remembers Noah when he’s in the ark during the flood. God remembers his covenant with the Israelites in Exodus 2, God will remember the land and the people after smiting them in Leviticus 26.
  5. This narrative echoes Noah’s son Canaan’s (or Ham) indiscretion in Chapter 9:18-28, although here the daughters explicitly engage in sexual intercourse with their father, as opposed to Canaan who just “reveals his fathers’ nakedness”.
  6. The words “From there” (משם) imply a specific starting point previously mentioned. No such place is present in the canonical text. The expression is thus an artificial device meant to connect this text with previous narratives, much like: אחר הדברים האלה (after these occurrences or this speech) in 22:1. Since this is the first Elohistic narrative, and the Elohistic narrative is the oldest of the sources, the words “From there” were probably added by a redactor attempting to contextualize this narrative within the framework of the Abraham Cycle.
  7. God frequently appears to characters within dreams in E narratives. Thus the angels of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28:10-21 or God appearing to Balaam warning him not to curse the Israelites in Num 22:9-21. ¶ Elohistic narratives are usually very terse, imparting only the most basic information necessary for the advancement of the plot, thus Abraham’s arrival, the ruse, and the taking of Sarah to Abimelech’s house all occur within two verses.
  8. Abimelech answers God’s accusations and protests his innocence of malfeasance. This dream dialogue is in fact sui generis in the Bible. There is literally no other occasion of such give and take between the deity and humans in a dream revelation such as this, it is almost as if Abimelech were on the stand instead of asleep in his bed. The author, cognizant of this anomaly conscientiously reminds the reader through a resumptive repetition that Abimelech is still in a dream (vs. 6 Then God said to Him in the dream). Abimelech quotes an imaginary statement, supposedly made by Sarah, of which there is no record in the text, it strengthens his protestation of innocence, but sits uneasily in the text. For these reasons it seems likely that this jural dialogue was added on by a second author.
  9. The original dream dialogue in my isolation of the text consists of a simple warning to Abimelech: 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”
  10. Note Abimelech double query to Abraham in vss. 9 and 10: 1.”Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.” 2. “And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?”” ¶ The first is very melodramatic, the second is very terse. It seems likely that the first is a Yahwistic expansion of the second [The expression: (חטאה גדולה) “A great guilt” appears elsewhere in J (Exodus 32:31)].
  11. Fear of God is the most prominent theme in E narrative. Here it appears for the first time: “Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”
  12. Vss. 12-13 are a second moralistic excuse for Abraham’s actions. It is quite clearly a secondary addition to the text, and is phrased as such: “Besides, she is indeed my sister…” No such relationship is recorded elsewhere in Genesis; cohabitation with ones sister may be a mythic detail [compare the incestuous marriages among gods in many mythologies]. Vs. 14, provides the global background for Abraham’s behavior and knows of the parallel narrative in Genesis 12:10-20. I attribute these verses to the Bridger seeking to unify the Abraham narratives.
  13. The detail of sheep, oxen, male, and female slaves is comparable to the wealth Pharaoh gives Abimelech in Gen 12:10-20 (J), and was perhaps added by this source. The only detail essential for the continuation of the narrative is the return of Sarah.
  14. The Hebrew of this verse is very likely corrupt, though it clearly alludes to the brother sister relationship mentioned in vs. 12, and is thus attributed to the same source as vs. 12.
  15. This verse conclude the Elohitic narrative of this chapter. It implies that God smote the female members of Abimelech’s household with infertility, and Abimelech himself with an unknown sickness, an appropriate punishment for taking another man’s wife. In Chapter 21, Sarah’s gives birth to Isaac following possible cohabitation with Abimelech. ¶ The E text does not specify the paternity of Isaac, it is likely that the E text intends for this detail to be ambivalent.
  16. Note the abrupt switch in the names of the deity. The final verse of this chapter further elucidates what sickness Abimelech suffers, perhaps to make sure we understand that he couldn’t have possibly fathered Isaac.
  17. A direct allusion to the promise narrative of Genesis 18 (J), and note the use of the Lord / Yhwh.
  18. In the Elohistic account, the birth of Isaac immediately follows Sarah’s sojourn in Abimelech’s house, where it’s implied that she and Abimelech cohabited. Thus, the statement that Isaac was Abraham’s son is somewhat ironic.
  19. The emphasis upon Abraham’s paternity is a later addition to the text to prevent any implication that the issue of paternity is in doubt, and see the above comment.
  20. Sarah bore Isaac – though in E it’s not clear whether Abraham was the father, and see first comment on this verse (21:3), as well as my commentary on Chapters 20 and 22.
  21. Both Abraham’s age and Isaac’s circumcision notice allude back to P’s Chapter 17, and note the use of behivaled – “when he was born” – in the nifal as is common in Priestly genealogies.
  22. Hagar’s son remains anonymous in the E narrative, as opposed to J’s Chapter 16. In E Abraham banishes his only true son, leaving him with Isaac whose paternity is in doubt. Abraham then sacrifices Isaac to prove his faithfulness to God, after not trusting in him in Chapter 20.
  23. There are no divine promises of progeny in the E narrative, in the Abraham cycle or elsewhere, and thus their appearance here is likely secondary. According to E’s theological perspective God does not need to give Abraham a reason, since the primary directive in the E source is obedience through fear of God. Abraham must simply heed God’s instruction to obey Sarah. ¶ God’s promise: “As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring”, in this verse and in vs. 18, is quite similar to the promises made to Hagar’s son in Genesis 17:20 (P).
  24. The call of God from heaven is a feature this narrative shares with E’s Chapter 22.
  25. See comment on 21:13, note also the slight discrepancy between God’s command to lift up the boy and what Hagar actually does (i.e. she gives him water to drink), though this usage may be metaphorical.
  26. In E the deal between Abraham and Abimelech is a local pact of goodwill between two groups of inhabitants in the same area and equitable division of wells within the territory. In J the pact carries a broader significance. J refers to the Gerar (Abimelech’s city) as the land of the Philistines and Abimelech as the king of the Philistines in 26:1. In J Abraham makes a non-aggression covenant with Abimelech, implying that Abimelech and the Philistines have the right to reside in the land of Canaan, which is contra the Lord’s promise to Abraham in 13:16-18. These are the same Philistines who will prove to be Israel’s toughest enemy throughout Judges and Samuel according to J. J thus takes the very long view of what goes around comes around: Abraham made a covenant with Abimelech abrogating God’s promise (to a degree), and these same Philistines will threaten Israel’s survival in the land time and time again. This is a frequent literary device throughout J, e.g. Laban cheats Jacob by giving him Leah, so Jacob in turn cheats Laban by purloining his flock through tricks of animal husbandry. Joseph’s taxation system helps Pharaoh enslave the Egyptian, who, in turn, will enslave the Israelites.
  27. See last comment.
  28. The origin of the name Beersheva according to E, is the seven (sheva) sheep Abraham offers Abimelech, whereas in J, it is because they took an oath to one another (shevua). J is perhaps emphasizing the importance of the pact between them as more than a local agreement, and see comment on 21:26.
  29. See the above comment regarding the origin of the name Beersheva. Note the resemblance between the tree Abraham plants here to commemorate the pact and his call to “the Lord everlasting”, and the altar he erects to commemorate the Lord’s promise to him in 12:8 (J), which he also seals with a call to “the Lord”.
  30. Abraham takes the knife to slaughter his son, and the angel then exclaims how righteous Abraham was for not sparing Isaac. In vs. 19 Abraham returns alone, and Isaac does not appear again in the Elohistic narrative which suggests that according to E he was sacrificed and not saved as in vss. 11-12.
  31. Seeing that Abraham does not return with his son, I conjecture that the angel’s command to Abraham is a later addition to the text, meant to rescue Isaac so that he will become a link in the genealogical chain which will lead to the Israelites.
  32. Read on its own this half verse (since you have not withheld your son…) implies that not only was Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, but that he actually went through with it.
  33. The angel’s second call is widely seen as a secondary addition to this narrative. Couldn’t the angel have delivered his message when he first called upon Abraham? Moreover, the promise theme in vss. 16-18 is a prominent feature of J narratives which have a wider historical scope, as opposed to the narrower scope of Elohistic narratives. Note also the abrupt switch to “Elohim” (God)[vs. 12] from “Yhwh” (the Lord) [vs. 14].
  34. Abraham returning alone from the mountain as opposed to walking together with Isaac in vss. 6 and 8 implies that he was sacrificed. This verse has engendered many post-biblical retellings and elaborations to this narrative.
  35. Note the use of the qal passive yulad (to be born to) which characterizes the Bridger’s genealogies, as opposed to the nifal or hifil forms of this verb in the Priestly genealogies (as throughout Genesis 11, and in 22:5). After these things (vs. 20) is a common conjunctive addition and doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific event.

Comments, Corrections, and Queries


בסיעתא דארעא