Monday, December 16, 2013

Mistakes of Moses Expanded Universe: Genesis 24

In this chapter we see a bit of Love Ancient Hebrew Style, featuring all the typical trappings of an Ancient Near Eastern romantic comedy. And what shall we call this comedy? Romancing the Stoning? The 40-Year Old Virgin? Failure to Launch? One Funeral and a Wedding? When Isaac Met Rebekah? Sleepless in Beer Lahai Roi? Sweet Home Aramea? Purchase Actually? How to Buy a Bride in One Day? I'll let the reader decide.

Genesis 24:1-9
Isaac is 40 and still unmarried and living in his dead mother’s tent (v. 67). Abraham, who is now 140, decides it's time to find a bride so the young mean middle-aged man can settle down. Note that even though Isaac is 40, he's being treated like a youth. Abraham calls his chief servant and tells him not to let Isaac leave the land, as though a servant would have that kind of say over Isaac, a grown-ass 40-year-old man man who will one day own him once old Abe kicks the bucket. In normal cases a servant would only be able to exercise this kind of authority over an heir that was not yet of age.

Is it possible that the writer of this portion (typically identified as part of the Yahwist or "J source" by those who adhere to the Documentary Hypothesis) had in mind a much younger Isaac who was only then approaching marrying age? After all, the only way we know Isaac's age is by using material found in chapter 23 along with 25:20, both of which are typically passages attributed to the Priestly or "P source".  Incidentally, the P source also puts Esau at 40 when he gets married. Recall that we ran into a similar age-inappropriate problem in chapter 21 with a teenaged Ishmael being treated like a toddler.