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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ABRAHAM, GENESIS 20â€“22, AND THE NORTHERN ELOHIST
First, we must ask whether the mere fact that Abraham is called nÄbÃ®â€™
and given a role of intercession constitutes enough evidence to mark
this text as prophetic. True, the protagonist is given a prophetic vocation.
God acknowledges the efficacy of the prophetâ€™s intercession (Gen 20,7).
Still, whether Abrahamâ€™s prophetic office is depicted positively in the
text remains debatable. The disobedience of the prophet, namely, failing
to protect the matriarch, once again, before a foreign king â€” this time,
more importantly, in the wake of the eventual birth of the promised son
â€” is contrasted with the seemingly just actions of the antagonist. This
reminds the reader of the account of Jonah and the Gentile sailors (Jonah
1). One can also read this in light of false prophecy insofar as God grants
Abraham a prophetic office despite ascribing a less just status to the
seeker of prophetic service (reminiscent of 1 Kgs 13,11-32) 39. One may
even take the above-mentioned character portrayals as anti-prophetic
sarcasm. If so, this twisted attitude toward prophecy may not necessarily
point to the time of Elijah and Elisha.
Second, we must ask whether a mere indication of a prophetic
quality proves its northern provenance. In the past, scholars have
generally ascribed prophecy somewhat exclusively to the north be-
fore it allegedly found its way to the south after the fall of Samaria
in 722 BCE 40. The unstated assumption behind this idea is Jâ€™s tradi-
tional early dating, based on which J predates the rise of prophecy.
Some have made this objection on the grounds of evidence of early
prophetic activity in Judah, found either in J (cf. Gen 15,1) or in
Davidâ€™s history 41. More problematic, however, is todayâ€™s dominant
tendency to give a late date to J. If its late date is accepted, there re-
mains no reason to disqualify J from containing prophetic qualities.
In fact, the main argument in support of H.H. Schmidâ€™s late date for
J was precisely this â€” Jâ€™s wide-ranging affinity with prophetic liter-
ature. A closely related point is Altâ€™s influential thesis concerning the
charismatic monarchy of north Israel, since the role of prophet is
prominent in Israelâ€™s supposed charismatic leadership (Cf. 1 Samuel
12, Deut 17,14-20). This thesis, however, is widely contested 42. As
a result, it became more difficult to take a prophetic quality as an in-
dicator of a northern provenance.
Cf. VON RAD, Genesis, 225-228.
E.g. E.W. NICHOLSON, Deuteronomy and Tradition (Philadelphia, PA
NOTH, Pentateuchal Traditions, 230, n. 604.
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