Koog P. Hong, «Abraham, Genesis 20–22, and the Northern Elohist», Vol. 94 (2013) 321-339
This article addresses the provenance of the Elohistic Abraham section (Genesis 20–22) in order to clarify the divergence between the source and tradition-historical models in pentateuchal criticism. Examining arguments for E’s northern provenance demonstrates that none of them applies directly to E’s Abraham section. The lack of Abraham tradition in early biblical literature further undermines the source model’s assumption of Israel and Judah’s common memory of the past. The southern provenance of Genesis 20–22 is more likely, and the current combination of Abraham and Jacob traditions is probably a result of the Judeans’ revision of Israelite tradition.
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326 KOOG P. HONG
that the Judean version of the Abraham story lacked a proper ending
(except for the alleged fragmentary J layers in Genesis 20â€“22) for
the story of their ancestor. It is equally difficult to suppose a later
Judean redactor would replace Jâ€™s (i.e., southern) original ending with
that from the northern version (E). Whether one posits the now dis-
puted RJE 20 or any other later exilic or post-exilic redactor, the Judean
orientation of the redactor is unquestionable. Why would a Judean
redactor choose a northern version for this important section of the
life of Abraham, the ancestor of the Judeans?
Indeed, no single classical source critic has argued for the north-
ern origin of E directly from Genesis 20â€“22. Only as a corollary to
the sweeping source-critical identification of E as a northern doc-
ument did Genesis 20â€“22, as a portion of E, begin to carry this
northern identification. In what follows, I have no intention of chal-
lenging the Elohistic character of Genesis 20â€“22*. My challenge
focuses on revealing the uncritical nature of the ensuing equation
of Elohistic with northern.
1. Popular Arguments for Eâ€™s Northern Origin Are Selective
Standard arguments for Eâ€™s northern provenance, mostly relying
on tradition-historical criteria (such as a northern geographic setting
and a pro-Israel, or anti-Judean, tendency 21), are surprisingly se-
lective. Since R.E. Friedman championed this particular point, the
following discussion concerns his argument.
Friedman, like many others, highlights the prominence of
Shechem or Penuel in some of the Elohistic accounts and contrasts
it with J material, which is predominantly rooted in southern loca-
tions, most notably Hebron; this is a classic source-critical argu-
ment 22. Since Shechem and Penuel are notable northern cities (1
Kgs 23,25), at first sight this argument appears cogent. Upon closer
examination, however, its selective nature becomes evident. All of
Friedmanâ€™s evidence, including points that are not mentioned here,
comes exclusively out of Eâ€™s Jacob, Joseph, and Moses sections.
Eâ€™s Abraham section (Genesis 20â€“22*) is entirely neglected. Fur-
thermore, to the extent of my knowledge, few scholars, including
BADEN, J, E, and the Redaction, 11â€“43, 188â€“195, 209â€“254.
E.g. FRIEDMAN, Who Wrote, 62. Cf. CARR, The Formation, 473-475.
FRIEDMAN, Who Wrote, 62.
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