Koog P. Hong, «The Deceptive Pen of Scribes: Judean Reworking of the Bethel Tradition as a Program for Assuming Israelite Identity.», Vol. 92 (2011) 427-441
Nadav Na’aman has recently proposed that the Judean appropriation of Israel’s identity occurred as a result of the struggle for the patrimony of ancient Israel. This paper locates textual evidence for such a struggle in the Judean reworking of the Jacob tradition, particularly the Bethel account (Gen 28,10- 22), and argues that taking over the northern Israelite shrine myth after the fall of northern Israel was part of the ongoing Judean reconceptualization of their identity as «Israel» that continued to be developed afterwards.
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THE DECEPTIVE PEN OF SCRIBES
later Judean claim to its right to reclaim supremacy in Israel. If so, both
pre-P Genesis and DtrH contribute in overcoming the dominant memory
of the past by providing a powerful countermemory as the basis for a new
identity with which they define themselves in a new era 44.
In addition to this genealogical reworking, there is another hint of an
implicit polemic against the idea of Jacob as the founder of Israel. In the
beginning of his narrative and immediately after receiving the grand
divine commission (Gen 12,1-3), Abraham makes his journey to the land
of Canaan. Coming out of Haran, Abraham settles at Shechem and builds
an altar there (Gen 12,7); he moves down to Bethel and builds an altar
between Bethel and Ai (Gen 12,8) 45. After a brief sojourn in Egypt, he
comes back to Bethel and eventually moves down to Hebron (Gen 12,4-
13,18). Markedly, this repeats precisely Jacobâ€™s itinerary in his journey
back home when he comes out of Haran (Gen 33-35) 46. Perhaps what
we see is Abrahamâ€™s conquest of the lands that Jacob ownedâ€”not in
reality but in literature, by the tips of the scribesâ€™ styluses. As Assyrian
kings march through town after town in a palÅ« campaign 47, Abraham
marches through Jacobâ€™s land. Subtle though it may be, the skillful pen
of the scribes establishes a ground for the Judean claim to Abrahamâ€™s
founding role in the Israelite heritage. As a result, Abraham is now
remembered as the founder of Israel, though Jacob still may retain the
position as the father of the twelve tribes of Israel: Abraham is the re-
ceiver of the promise and blessing (12,1-3), the holder of the covenant
(15,18), and the founder of the major cultic sites (12,6-9; 13,18).
In this regard, Clementsâ€™s claim that Abraham narrative was used to serve
Davidic kingdom has to be modified. Traditions of both Abraham and David
appear to represent two contemporary attempts of the later period, responding
to the demand of their time, to legitimize Judeansâ€™ rightful heirship of Israel.
On the significance of the altar building, see W. ZWICKEL, â€œDer Altarbau
Abrahams zwischen Bethel und Ai (Gen 12f.). Ein Beitrag zur Datierung des
Jahwistenâ€, BZ NF 36 (1992) 207-219; ID., â€œDie Altarbaunotizen im Alten
Testamentâ€, Bib 73 (1992) 533-546; S. RIECKER, â€œEin theologischer Ansatz
zum VerstÃ¤ndnis der Altarbaunotizen der Genesisâ€, Bib 87 (2006) 526-530.
Scholars have long noted that the Abraham tradition parallels the Jacob story.
That parallel nature has normally been accounted for as a redactional device used
to mold the Abraham tradition into the Jacob story. E.g., A. DE PURY, Promesse di-
vine et lÃ©gende cultuelle dans le cycle de Jacob. GenÃ¨se 28 et les traditions pa-
triarcales (Paris 1975) 82. Yet the striking level of parallel suggests that below the
surface of the text lies an implicit polemic against Jacobâ€™s founding role.
See H. TADMOR, â€œThe Campaigns of Sargon II of Assur: A Chronological-
Historical Studyâ€, JCS 12 (1958) 22-40, 77-100. My thanks go to Professor M.
Sweeney for bringing my attention to this article and its implications on
Abrahamâ€™s itinerary in Gen 12-13.