Baal, Shechem, And The Text Of Joshua XXIV -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 073:292 (Oct 1916)
Article: Baal, Shechem, And The Text Of Joshua XXIV
Author: Harold M. Wiener

Baal, Shechem, And The Text Of Joshua XXIV

Harold M. Wiener

In Gen. 12:6 we read that Abram on his first arrival in Canaan passed through the land “to the place (מקום) of Shechem unto the terebinth of Moreh.” The Hebrew word, like the cognate Arabic, has a special religious significance, and it is generally admitted that it here bears that sense. Thus Skinner ad loc. writes: “The historic truth is that the sanctuaries were far older than the Hebrew immigration, and inherited their sanctity from lower forms of religion. That fact appears in verse 6 in the use of the word מָקוֹם which has there the technical sense of ‘sacred place,’ as in 22:4, 28:11, 25:1 (LXX), Ex. 3:5, 1 Sam. 7:16, Jer. 7:12.” In this he is merely echoing recent German commentators.

It is obvious that at the time of Abram’s first entrance into Canaan a sacred place cannot have been sacred to the God of Israel eo nomine. The utmost that can be suggested is that by a kind of religious syncretism the patriarch identified the Deity worshipped at that place with the Being Who had commanded him to leave his home and his family. We find an instance of a similar identification in the words “I am the God of Bethel,” etc., in 31:15.

This and similar passages are, however, in defiance of the clear evidence of the text interpreted by the Wellhausen school as later explanations to account for the sacredness of the spots named. Thus Skinner writes: “The original motive of this and similar legends is to explain the sacredness of the principal centers of cultus by definite manifestations of God to the patriarchs, or definite acts of worship on their part” (Genesis, p. 246). To this there are at least three good answers.

First, as already pointed out, the text treats the sacred place as being already a sanctuary when Abram immigrated. If we read a statement that A came to the city of London, we should infer that he found such a city in existence, and not that the story was written to account for the city. Similarly if we read that A came to the place of Shechem, we must infer that he found such a place in existence, and not that the story was written to account for the place. Secondly, it has been well shown by Eerdmans (Al...

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