"oaks of" vs. "Ayalon --"

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James Stinehart

Re: "oaks of" vs. "Ayalon --"

Postby James Stinehart » Wed Mar 27, 2019 2:48 pm

Isaac Fried:

You wrote: “So, where exactly is this place Ayalon?”

Let’s talk about the town of Ayalon first, then the Ayalon Valley, and then the portion of the Ayalon Valley that was the Patriarchs’ “Hebron”.

1. Town of Ayalon = Modern Yalu or Yalo

In the Late Bronze Age there was a town in the southeastern Ayalon Valley called “Ayalon” / ia-lu-na. As the crow flies, it is located about 15 miles west of Jerusalem (slightly northwest). But due to the mountainous terrain in hill country, one of the two normal ways to get there from Jerusalem was to go north by northwest to Beth-Horon, and then straight south into the Ayalon Valley. The point is that it is difficult to get from Jerusalem to Ayalon or the Ayalon Valley, even though the distance as the crow flies is not great.

Although Ayalon has always been a small town, in particular being much smaller than Gezer in the southwest Ayalon Valley, nevertheless Ayalon gave its name to the Ayalon Valley because the Diagonal Route goes by the small town of Ayalon (while going nowhere near Gezer, far to the west). (The Diagonal Route goes all the way through the Shephelah, starting at Ayalon in the northern Shephelah, and ending on the southern tip of the Shephelah near Lachish.)

2. Ayalon Valley

The Ayalon Valley is the northernmost valley in the Shephelah. In southern Canaan, עמק / emeq (at Genesis 37: 14) refers to the Shephelah. Thus whereas Jerusalem and the city of Hebron are located in hill country (the heart of Judah), the Ayalon Valley is by contrast located in the northern Shephelah (being the southern edge of Israel). Although well-protected from hill country to the east, the Ayalon Valley has no natural protection whatsoever from invaders coming from the west.

If one is traveling from Bethel to the city of Hebron, one would of necessity go “up” to “hill country”, one would pass right by Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to the city of Hebron one could not travel “by stages” on the narrow Watershed Ridge Route. But when Abram travels from Bethel to the Patriarchs’ “Hebron / the Ayalon Valley, Abram does not go “up” / ‘LH / עלה, and he does not go to “hill country” / HR / הר, Abram is never near Jerusalem, and in traversing the Shephelah, Abram and his large entourage travel “by stages” along the Diagonal Route.

In the Late Bronze Age, by far the biggest city in the Ayalon Valley was Gezer in the southwest. Indeed, most of the population of the Ayalon Valley was crammed into Gezer. The Ayalon Valley as a whole had lost 50% of its Middle Bronze Age population, primarily due to drought conditions in the Late Bronze Age, and had lost an astonishing 90% of its Middle Bronze Age population in the rural northern Ayalon Valley: the Patriarchs’ “Hebron”.

3. The Rural Northern Ayalon Valley: Patriarchs’ “Hebron”

There were no cities or towns in the rural northern Ayalon Valley in the Late Bronze Age. Due to drought, and with all the streams being in the southern one-third of the Ayalon Valley, the northern two-thirds of the Ayalon Valley was practically deserted by the mid-14th century BCE. Instead of being used for viticulture, as in normal times, drought conditions had driven both nobles and peasants off the land. The land of the northern Ayalon Valley reverted to its natural state of pastureland, being unfit in the Late Bronze Age for agriculture. Note that the Patriarchs never engage in agriculture at the Patriarchs’ “Hebron”, though they do engage in agriculture at the Beersheba where Abraham and Isaac dig wells (which is Beersheba of Upper Galilee, not Beersheba of the Negev Desert as ordinarily supposed).

* * *

University scholars think that it is impossible that Abram could waltz into the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” unopposed (as opposed to sharp elbows being thrown left and right at the Beersheba where Abraham and Isaac dig wells), and yet have unlimited fine pastureland for a large flock of sheep and goats, and indeed be in confederate relationship with the Amorite ruling princeling of the valley (Biblical Mamre the Amorite = historical Milkilu the Amorite), as well as a Canaanite princeling (Biblical Eshcol / Iškul = historical Iškur) and a Hurrian princeling (Biblical Aner / E-na-ar = historical Tagi) as well. But though university scholars think that all this was “impossible”, in fact it was par for the course in the rural northern Ayalon Valley in Year 13 in the Amarna Age / mid-14th century BCE.

If we can get the geography right (as to the locales of both the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” and the Beersheba where Abraham and Isaac dig wells), and if we ask if the reference to “Year 13” that is explicitly set forth at Genesis 14: 4 may be the real Year 13 (the most awkward year of the 17-year reign of Egypt’s only monotheistic pharaoh), then the Patriarchal narratives lose their fairy tale quality, and instead are revealed to have p-i-n-p-o-i-n-t historical accuracy in that particular time and place. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g fits, once we figure out the right time (Year 13) and the right place: אלניממרא / ’LNYMMR’ = ’LN -Y- MMR’ = “Ayalon -- Mamre” = “Ayalon [in the days of] Mamre the Amorite”

Jim Stinehart

Isaac Fried
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Re: "oaks of" vs. "Ayalon --"

Postby Isaac Fried » Wed Mar 27, 2019 8:56 pm

And where exactly was Abraham's tent said in Gen. 18:1?

Isaac Fried, Boston University

James Stinehart

Re: "oaks of" vs. "Ayalon --"

Postby James Stinehart » Thu Mar 28, 2019 8:59 am

Isaac Fried:

1. You wrote: “And where exactly was Abraham's tent said in Gen. 18:1?”

Abraham’s tent at Genesis 18: 1 was pitched in the rural northern Ayalon Valley.

As I have noted throughout this thread, אלניממרא / ’LNYMMR’ = ’LN -Y- MMR’ = “Ayalon -- Mamre” = “Ayalon [in the days of] Mamre the Amorite”.

Genesis 37: 14 confirms that the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is in an emeq, and in southern Canaan, emeq consistently refers to the Shephelah. The Ayalon Valley is the northernmost valley in the valley complex that constitutes the Shephelah, west of hill country.

* * *

There are various further clues in chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis as to where the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” was located, which are examined below.

2. Cannot See Shunem / Lot’s Sodom in Jezreel Valley From Ayalon Valley

From the northern Ayalon Valley, one cannot see the low-elevation Jezreel Valley, which is 60 miles to the north, much less the city of Shunem / Lot’s Sodom.

From a mountaintop near Bethel, by contrast, Lot had been able to raise up his eyes at Genesis 13: 10 and see the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley (at Beth Shean), which was well watered every where, like the Nile River Valley in Egypt. But although the kikkar of the Jordan (the Jezreel Valley) can be seen from a mountaintop near Bethel, note that the city of Shunem / Lot’s Sodom itself could not be seen from that vantage point. However, Lot had recently crossed the Jezreel Valley in traveling south through northern and central Israel, so Lot knew that once one got to Beth Shean, there were several wealthy cities, including Shunem / Lot’s Sodom, in the Jezreel Valley to the west. (See #4 below re Abraham.)

At Genesis 18: 6, the divine figures and Abraham look “toward” Lot’s Sodom / Shunem to the north, but they cannot see Lot’s Sodom / Shunem from that far south in the Ayalon Valley.

Likewise, at Genesis 18: 22 the divine figures go “toward” Lot’s Sodom / Shunem, meaning that they are going north in the direction of the Jezreel Valley.

3. Lot’s Sodom / Shunem in Jezreel Valley Is at Lower Elevation Than Ayalon Valley

The town of Ayalon is 300 meters above sea level, and the northern Ayalon Valley where Abraham lived is at a higher elevation than the town of Ayalon in the southeast Ayalon Valley. By contrast, Shunem is only 97 meters above sea level. So in terms of elevation, one goes “down” from the northern Ayalon Valley to Lot’s Sodom / Shunem in the Jezreel Valley.

At Genesis 18: 21, the Lord says that He will go “down” to see if Lot’s Sodom / Shunem is as sinful as “the cry of it” is reporting. That makes sense, because Shunem and the lush, low-lying Jezreel Valley are at a significantly lower elevation than the northern Ayalon Valley. The verb YRD / ירד usually means “to go down” or “to descend” in the literal sense of going to a place of lower elevation (often where water is located), and usually does not mean “to go south” (unless the southern locale where one is going is, like Egypt, at a lower elevation).

4. Viewing the Devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah

At Genesis 19: 27, Abraham gets up early in the morning and goes back to that mountaintop near Bethel (see #2), which is about 18 miles northeast of the Ayalon Valley. This is a fairly short distance that Abraham could travel in the morning, in time to see the aftermath of the divine devastation of Lot’s Sodom / Shunem that began about mid-morning. (Lot had already gotten to the nearby village of Zoar at sunrise. Genesis 19: 23.)

Per #2 above, from the mountaintop near Bethel (unlike the situation at the Ayalon Valley), Abraham can see the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley. At Genesis 19: 28, Abraham looks “toward” Lot’s Sodom / Shunem and Tel ‘Amr / Gomorrah, meaning that Abraham looks toward the northwest, though Abraham cannot literally see those two cities. What Abraham does literally see is the smoke rising from the Jezreel Valley, pursuant to the fire and brimstone that rained down upon the Jezreel Valley: the kikkar of the Jordan.

In Year 13, much of the Jezreel Valley had rebelled against law and order, which potentially could have threatened the tent-dwelling Hebrews in the northern Ayalon Valley. That is why in Year 13, the Jezreel Valley deserved to be devastated by the worst east wind of all time, the mother of all east winds, which is portrayed (with a great deal of artistic license) as being divinely-sent as apt punishment for the sin of political rebellion.

Jim Stinehart

James Stinehart

Re: "oaks of" vs. "Ayalon --"

Postby James Stinehart » Fri Mar 29, 2019 3:48 pm

I should have made one more comment about the location of the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” in the rural northern Ayalon Valley, in relation to the location of Lot’s Sodom / Shunem in the Jezreel Valley.

Shunem is about 60 miles north of the northern Ayalon Valley. It took God’s two messengers about a half a day to traverse that distance. The two “angels” probably left Ayalon about 1 p.m. (after having lunch with still-sonless Abraham and Sarah), and they arrived in Shunem about 7 p.m. (at, or just after, sunset).

We are not told how God’s messengers traveled, but the text does portray them as being very human-like, to the point that neither Lot nor the people of Lot’s Sodom know that they are not humans, until violence breaks out.

One suspects that the two angels divinely commandeered camels.

A camel carrying only a rider (and no baggage) can travel up to 120 miles in a day. So 60 miles in half a day is just about right: 60 miles from Ayalon to Lot’s Sodom / Shunem.

“The name "Dromedary" is properly reserved for the Arabian racing camel such as those used in the various military camel corps. These camels can travel 80 to 120 miles per day carrying a rider.” “Camels: Sinai Travel Guide”. http://www.allsinai.info/sites/fauna/camel.htm

God’s messengers make a long, half-day camel ride 60 miles from the Ayalon Valley to Shunem / Lot’s Sodom. The angels seem to be a bit tired and out of sorts when they finally get there. The angels probably had hoped to get there earlier, so that in the afternoon they could ask the townspeople if Lot’s Sodom / Shunem was indeed fully committed to a terrible political rebellion in Year 13. But it was already sunset when they got to Shunem, they were tired, they were hungry, and it wasn’t quite clear how they were going to be able to do God’s bidding in determining whether there were at least 10 people in Lot’s Sodom / Shunem who virtuously were resisting the call to political rebellion. (Historically, Labaya of Shechem [Biblical Hamor of Shechem] had forced anyone opposed to this disastrous rebellion to leave Shunem: “he deported the evil ones”. Amarna Letter EA 250: 40-47. T-h-a-t is why there were no innocent persons in Lot’s Sodom / Shunem at all! It all makes perfect sense, once you know the history of the Jezreel Valley in Year 13.)

Note how the angels sound tired and out of sorts, and are actually quite rude to Lot. Lot politely says to the two men: “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways.”

To which the tired messengers of God abruptly respond: “Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.”

* * *

Without wishing to belabor the point, what I am trying to show is that e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g makes perfect sense, on all levels (including the historical level, but also the geographical level as well), if (i) the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the rural northern Ayalon Valley, (ii) Lot’s Sodom is Shunem in the lush Jezreel Valley, 60 miles north of the Ayalon Valley, and (iii) the historical time period is Year 13 in the mid-14th century BCE / Amarna Age / Late Bronze Age. That’s the winning combination.

Jim Stinehart

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