Historical Observations On Some Chapters Of Genesis -- By: Harold M. Wiener

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 074:293 (Jan 1917)
Article: Historical Observations On Some Chapters Of Genesis
Author: Harold M. Wiener


Historical Observations On Some Chapters Of Genesis

Harold M. Wiener

The problems of patriarchal history have given rise to the most diverse solutions. Certain schools of polymaths who are incapable of weighing evidence of any kind have put forward extraordinary theories; as, for instance, that in dealing with the narratives of Genesis we are faced with astral myths or stories of ancient deities. It is only on a certain type of mind that such views can make any impression at all; and, as they are unsupported by evidence and have frequently been refuted, I do not propose to enter upon them here. Those who wish to see what can be said for and against hypotheses of this character may be referred to such works as the first volume of R. Kittel’s “Geschichte des Volkes Israel” (2d ed., 1912), and B. D. Eerdmans’s “Vorgeschichte Israels” (1908).

We must look to history, archaeology, and textual criticism gradually to solve the difficulties that the last thirty-nine chapters of Genesis present to the modern inquirer. It has been one of the great misfortunes of the Biblical student of modern times that the historical method and the historical spirit have been entirely lacking in the thought of the dominant schools; and, if we wish to attain to true results in this field of study, it is from the historical spirit that we must seek our inspiration. In the present article I propose to offer some preliminary observations on some of the matters which will have

to be taken into account in any adequate discussion of the patriarchal history. It is useless to attempt to solve all the problems of Genesis by some hasty theory. Progress can be made only gradually, and we must walk before we run.

It is well to consider what archaeology has done for the patriarchal history. It has not provided direct confirmation of any event recorded in it, nor has it afforded any information as to any person mentioned in these chapters of Genesis. On the other hand, it has given us a good deal of background and atmosphere, especially in the Egyptian chapters of the Joseph story. We now know that those chapters are true to life in all the local coloring.1 We further know that at the time of Joseph, and indeed in the Egyptian references of the Pentateuch generally, the capital for the time being is correctly located. The proximity to Goshen is correct alike of the capital of the Hyksos2 and of that of Rameses II. and Merneptah.

When we turn to Abraham we find that the present state of our knowledge is singularly tantalizing. The Egyptians cherished an unquenchable hatred of th...

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