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Themelios 3.1 (September 1977): 9-16.
[Reproduced by permission of the author]

When John Bright's History of Israel seemed to ensure the rehabilitation of the patriarchal narratives in Genesis on the basis of comparative material from other Near Eastern cultures, many students rejoiced. But in the last few years this whole approach has been seriously called into question. In such an area the student feels at the mercy of the experts in ancient Semitic literature. So we are pleased to publish this assessment of the present state of the debate by Dr Selman, Tutor in Old Testament Studies at Spurgeon's College, London, who recently completed his PhD thesis on 'Nuzi and the Patriarchs'. The article was first presented to the Old Testament Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship at Cambridge in July 1976.

The twentieth century has witnessed a marked alteration in scholars' conclusions concerning the patriarchs. At the turn of the century, it was widely accepted that the stories about the patriarchs


possessed no historical basis but that they were probably the work of Israelite scribes of the monarchy period. There had been no such thing as a patriarchal era, since the scribes had merely projected back into an unknown past their own unhistorical understanding of Israel's genesis. Interpreters regularly explained the patriarchal narratives in terms of events and situations which could be dated no earlier than the first millennium BC. More recent opinion, however, which has gained ground steadily since the 1920s, has completely overturned this picture. The dominant view now is that a period frequently termed 'the patriarchal age' belongs with some certainty in ancient near eastern history at some time during the first half of the second millennium BC. Although the precise limits of this 'patriarchal age' will necessarily remain a matter of dispute for some time, very few scholars would deny at the present time that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob actually existed, and that their lives fit reasonably well against a historical backcloth.

One of the more surprising aspects of this change is that it has not been brought about by new information about the patriarchs themselves. In fact, we now possess no more direct evidence for Abraham than Wellhausen did when he first published his Geschichte Israels in 1878, or when Gunkel's commentary on Genesis first appeared in 1901. It is rather the vast increase of indirect evidence, literary and non-literary, which has enabled scholars to compare the patriarchal narratives with the rediscovered world of the ancient near east, particularly during the second millennium BC. Thus the study of topics such as name types, political movements and groupings, and family law has become a vital means of establishing parallel contacts between Genesis 12-50 and extra-biblical data, thereby enabling the patriarchs to be assigned to a comparatively fixed point in time.

Until recently, there has been little published discussion of methodology in the use of such parallels, although concern has been expressed occasionally.[1] The whole subject is of such crucial importance for a proper understanding of the background of the patriarchs, however, that the methods underlying the comparisons need to be carefully examined. An investigation of this kind is all the more vital at a time when both the parallels that have been claimed and the whole basis of this kind of comparison are being seriously challenged.[2]

Normal procedure

Briefly described, the usual method involves the assembling of extrabiblical evidence having a particular point of contact with one or two biblical passages, thus enabling one to draw implications for the date of the patriarchs and the historical reliability of at least that section of the patriarchal narratives. This non-biblical material, however, is not always what it appears to be. For instance, the evidence for a particular custom is often based on a single cuneiform document, and only rarely are more than two or three sources involved, though such limitations are frequently not made clear. In addition, in those works widely used by Old Testament students and teachers, the extrabiblical material is usually given only in summary form, often with no mention of the primary source(s) or translation of the cuneiform evidence, perhaps because it is thought to be so well known.[3] Thus anyone not acquainted with the extrabiblical text in question often has no real idea as to its extent or its contents. On many occasions too, the suggested parallel custom is automatically treated as though it were typical for the date and geographical location in which it occurs, though this cannot by any means be taken for granted.

It is also important to notice that, except in the case of two particular phrases,[4] none of the comparisons that have been put forward for the patriarchs are actually identical. Rather, attention is drawn to similar features in the two areas, and the non-biblical data can function in three separate ways. The cuneiform material (a) may simply provide a further example of a similar practice without adding in any way to our understanding of the biblical passage in question, so that it acts as a straightforward parallel; e.g., the Nuzi texts compared with the sale of Esau's birthright (Gn. 25: 29-34)[5] and the oral grant of Isaac's blessing (Gn. 27);[6] (b) it may furnish a fuller background to a biblical passage; (e.g., Old Babylonian shepherding contracts and Genesis 31);[7] or (c), sometimes, in addition to giving further background detail, it may offer an explanation of a poorly understood


biblical custom; e.g., the Nuzi text Gadd 51 and Rachel's theft of Laban's gods (Gn. 31: 19ff.)[8]; Hittite Laws §§46, 47 and Abraham's purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Gn. 23).[9]

The third of these functions deserves a closer examination. Since in these cases, features additional to those found in the Old Testament are introduced, the cuneiform material acts as more than a parallel. In such instances, the Mesopotamian evidence is used to fill gaps in our under standing of Old Testament customs, and there are important details in the cuneiform texts unparalleled in the Old Testament but which are a major feature of the comparison. This is quite clear, for example, in the case of Eliezer's adoption. The legal status of Abraham's steward cannot be deduced from the biblical text but depends entirely on extrabiblical analogies. It should be axiomatic that the element of elucidation involved depends upon the establishing of the validity of the initial parallel-the explanation is worthless if there is no basic agreement. This, however, is not always the case, as in the incident of Rachel's theft of the teraphim. Since the traditional understanding of the function of the household gods as a title to an inheritance is no longer valid for the Nuzi texts, the usual explanation of Rachel's action on the basis of Nuzi material must be rejected. Some other interpretation of Rachel's motives must be sought, such as the suggestion that she was seeking protection on her journey.[10]

This additional aspect of explanation in the parallels has featured prominently in traditional approaches to the patriarchal narratives in recent years, and on occasion it has involved a marked change in our understanding of certain passages. C. H. Gordon, for instance, was able to declare of the Jacob-Laban narratives that they had taken on 'an entirely new meaning in the light of the Nuzi documents'.[11] In one notable case, that of wife-sister marriage, the explanation proposed was sufficiently far-reaching for it to be suggested that the supposed original tradition of wife-sister marriage was not understood by those who brought together the biblical text. A hypothetical stage in the history of this particular tradition had to be reconstructed in order to provide a suitable link between Speiser's interpretation of the Nuzi texts and the present form of Genesis. It also had to be assumed that between the hypothetical stage and the present form of the narratives, a major change had taken place in the understanding and purpose of the custom. This methodological weakness does not of itself make the proposed comparison invalid, but it does emphasize the frailty of the connecting link and the impossibility of proof.[12]

The main results of the current method concern the date of the patriarchs and the reliability of the patriarchal narratives. The date of the 'patriarchal age' given on the basis of the usual parallels varies from the beginning of the second millennium BC (Albright, Glueck), to the middle of the first half of the second millennium (Wright, Bright), to the 'Amarna age' (Gordon). The main support for Gordon's position, which represents a minority view, is that many of the relevant cuneiform texts (Nuzi, Ugarit, Alalah) date from after the midpoint of the millennium.

The second millennium date for the patriarchs in its various forms is based on a two-pronged argument. In addition to the extrabiblical parallels, it also takes into account certain differences between the customs described in Genesis and those of later Israel as found mainly in Exodus-Deuteronomy. This argument is partly an ex silentio one in that many of the patriarchal customs do not reappear in the rest of the Old Testament, but there are three explicit examples of different practices: (a), in Deuteronomy 21:15-17 an eldest son received a double share in the inheritance,[13] whereas in Genesis the eldest appears to have received the whole or almost the whole of his father's property (Gn. 25:5-6); (b) marriage to two sisters is forbidden by Leviticus 18: 18, though it was practised by Jacob; and (c), Abraham married his half-sister Sarah (Gn. 20: 12), whereas this practice is proscribed in Leviticus 18: 9, 11; 20: 17; Deuteronomy 27: 22 (cf Ezk. 22: 11; 2 Sa. 13: 13).

Problems and criticisms

The now widely accepted view of the patriarchal period has of course never received universal acclaim. German scholars, in particular, though accepting a few of the better-known parallels,[14] have exhibited little enthusiasm for this kind of approach, and the cuneiform material has made


little difference to their over-all view of the patriarchal narratives. Opposition has been mainly confined to brief comments, but more recently, much more detailed criticisms of the traditional arguments have been offered by T. L. Thompson and J. van Seters,[15] and some of their objections will be considered in this section along with other material. Although Thompson and van Seters approach the subject from different perspectives, their contributions can be examined together, though only their more significant points can be discussed here.

1. The outstanding problem at the present time is that the cuneiform documents selected as parallels are usually merely isolated examples, and cannot be assumed to be representative in character. The extrabiblical texts have not always been related to other documents dealing with the same subject, whether from the same site or from different sites and periods. The most notable example of this concerns the custom of a barren wife presenting a slave girl to her husband to raise up children. The accounts of Sarah, Rachel and Leah[16] in the patriarchal narratives are frequently compared with a single Nuzi text, HSS 5 67,[17] but this tablet is not only the sole example of such a practice in Nuzi, it is actually untypical of the Nuzi texts as a whole. A Nuzi husband with a childless wife was much more likely to take a second wife (five examples) or a concubine (four examples). However, practices similar to that described in HSS 5 67 are found elsewhere, in the Hammurapi laws of the Old Babylonian period, possibly in four private contracts of the same period, and in a Neo-Assyrian marriage contract of the seventh century BC.[18] In this case, therefore, a custom parallel to that described in Genesis is found in different places and periods in the ancient world, and is not common at Nuzi. Another example concerns the Nuzi text (JEN 204) which is usually thought to record the sale of a birthright to a brother for the price of three sheep, so providing a background to the story of Jacob and Esau.[19] The difficulty here is that JEN 204 does not in fact indicate whether the eldest son was involved, or whether the land comprised the seller's entire inheritance, and in any case the text must be compared with several other cuneiform texts from various sites in which part of an inheritance was sold.

Both these examples emphasize the absolute necessity of examining prospective parallel material in its proper context, and in many instances there is no shortage of available texts. In Nuzi alone, some 300 texts relating to family law are known, but only four or five are regularly considered in discussion of the patriarchal narratives.

Van Seters and Thompson have both recognized this weakness, though they have expressed their concerns somewhat differently from the way described above and from each other. Van Seters in particular is quite severe in his criticisms, even questioning the honesty of other scholars. In drawing attention to what he calls the 'almost exclusive' (p. 66) concentration on second millennium sources, though acknowledging that this is partly due to the greater number of texts available from the second as compared with the first millennium, he sees the primary reason as 'the prejudicial treatment that the second millennium has had in the area of law and social customs, which was a direct influence from Old Testament studies' (p. 67). He further asserts that 'there was simply an assumption beforehand that the patriarchal folk culture must be second-millennium and that anything later was irrelevant' (p. 67). Van Seters then goes on from these unhelpful comments to draw several links between extrabiblical first millennium sources and the patriarchal narratives in support of his main contention that the Abraham stories are a literary creation of the exilic and post-exilic eras.[20] However, he is only able to arrive at this conclusion by a marked preference for first millennium sources and a cavalier dismissal of evidence from the second millennium texts. The greater numerical weight of relevant second millennium material cannot be so easily cast aside.

Thompson is even more negative than van Seters about the value of the cuneiform texts. Whereas van Seters is confident that a mid-first millennium date for the patriarchs can be based partly on external contacts, Thompson feels that it is im possible to date patriarchal practices to any specific period because of the serious lack of sources, even for the comparatively well-known period in the first part of the second millennium. Such links as do exist between Genesis 12-50 and extrabiblical texts are of so general a character that 'any attempt to place them chronologically or geographically seems hopeless'.[21] Nevertheless, Thompson does


make an attempt to examine the patriarchal narratives against a much wider background of extra-biblical texts than is usually the case, but his achievement does not match up to his good intentions. In Thompson's discussion of Eliezer's possible adoption, for instance, he discusses only eleven of the Nuzi real sonship adoption contracts against an actual total of almost fifty documents, which though it represents an improvement on the maximum of five texts normally considered, still falls far short of an adequate investigation.

2. A problem closely related to the previous discussion is the difficulty of using customs in the ancient world for dating purposes, since individual practices tend to continue in a variety of places over a very long period. Notice, for example, the custom described above of a barren wife's slave girl producing children for her mistress known in Mesopotamia for over a thousand years; or the use of the term 'great sin' as a synonym for adultery in thirteenth century Ugarit and in Egypt in the ninth to sixth centuries, a phrase which also appears in Genesis 20: 9 and 26: 10.[22] Noting a variation of some 800 years in the dates suggested for the 'patriarchal age', ranging from the beginning of the second millennium as advocated by Albright and Glueck, to the early settlement period according to Noth and Eissfeldt, Van Seters has argued that therefore a historical period has not really been established at all.[23] Although of course, no individual scholar uses so wide a range of dates, and the large majority prefer a period between the twentieth and seventeenth centuries, the problem of chronological imprecision, which is particularly acute as far as social customs are concerned, remains.

3. A different kind of problem, and one to which there is no complete solution, involves a recognition of the limitations of the biblical passages concerned. Whereas the extrabiblical data are sometimes comparatively plentiful, most customs are only briefly described in Genesis, several of them in only a single passage. Since in most cases they are incidental to the main thrust of the context, and many of their details are omitted, it is never possible to form a complete picture of any individual practice. It is only natural in such situations to attempt to fill in at least some of the gaps in our knowledge, but great care is essential to ensure that justice is done to the biblical context. In particular, it is not good methodology to put forward an explanation of a poorly understood patriarchal custom on the basis of one which is equally uncertain in the cuneiform material, as was done, for instance, in the case of the theory of wife-sister marriage.[24] Even in a case where the non-biblical evidence provides a reason able explanation for a patriarchal practice, as with Eliezer's adoption, the limits of the biblical context must be carefully weighed.

4. Thompson raises the matter of the relationship between the cultural parallels and the documentary hypothesis, a difficulty which he argues has been largely ignored. If it is accepted that some of the patriarchal traditions go back to the first half of the second millennium, then according to Thompson two particular problems emerge; (a) that the tradition must be assumed to be intact for some 800 years, and (b) that the independence of the Genesis pericopes and the increasing fragmentation of sources the further one goes back in time is ignored.

These two factors do cause genuine problems for the documentary hypothesis which current theories of the transmission of early tradition have barely recognized. In practice scholars have simply treated the supposed early traditions of the patriarchal narratives as sources which somehow became incorporated into J, E and P. There are of course differences in detail about the way in which individual scholars have dealt with this problem,[25] but those passages with early parallels have usually been loosely appended to literary theories of Pentateuchal criticism without either of them being greatly affected. Conservative scholars have in practice assumed a similar procedure, except that they would prefer an earlier date for the compilation and final writing and a less complicated 'history of tradition'. There is, however, a basic similarity in that accounts of particular patriarchal events remained essentially untouched for several centuries before their inclusion in the final form of Genesis.

Thompson therefore offers an alternative approach in which he maintains the unhistorical character of the patriarchal narratives, thus removing any real link with the second millennium. In practice, however, whatever view one takes of the prehistory of the patriarchal narratives, there is very little direct external evidence on which to base one's opinions. Current theories of pentateuchal composition are based largely on internal criteria and analogies from other literatures, some of them far removed in time and location from Palestine in the biblical period. If ancient near eastern data suggest that at least some parts of Genesis may date


from the early or mid-second millennium, then it is not good method to overthrow this just because it causes difficulties for widely accepted but unproven theories. Thompson's remarkable statement that 'what is objective in archaeology are the potsherds, and in biblical criticism, the manuscripts' (p. 7) also needs correction. The cuneiform textual discoveries have a greater intrinsic objective relevance in this matter than the usually non-literary potsherds, and they provide a necessary alternative perspective alongside the results obtained by biblical scholars using the methods of literary criticism, form criticism and the history of traditions. Thompson's attempt to put the clock back fifty years by returning to the approach of Gunkel is unconvincing because it fails to take proper account of textual material unearthed by archaeology in the last half century or more. One cannot simply assert the folkloristic nature of the patriarchal narratives, while at the same time treating the cuneiform material as largely irrelevant. The cuneiform tablets provide original evidence, and if some of them describe aspects of life similar to those found in the patriarchal narratives, then the reasons must be investigated.

5. A further question raised by Thompson is whether the difference in form between the legal records of Mesopotamia and Syria and the narratives of Genesis allows any real comparison between them at all, since he argues that in some cases the Genesis stories do not reflect the practice of any group of people.[26] Thompson seems to have missed the point, however, since it is content rather than form which comprises the main grounds for com parison, and it is on the basis of content that he seeks to prove that the cuneiform materials are irrelevant for the patriarchal narratives. In any case, des criptions of customs in the ancient world were not confined to one type of text. In the Ugaritic tablets, for instance, the myths and epic literature provide an important source for the study of family law.[27]

Occasional attempts have been made to prove that the form of certain types of Mesopotamian contracts can be traced in parts of the patriarchal narratives, but they have generally been unsuccessful. Speiser's efforts to find the main elements of a Nuzi sistership adoption contract in Genesis 24, for instance, can no longer be upheld.[28] Similarly, the thesis that Neo-Babylonian 'dialogue documents' form the background to Genesis 23[29] can only be valid if the account of Abraham's purchase was preserved in a recognizable contract form. The dialogue in Genesis 23, however, is too general to warrant such a description, so that the main support for a formal comparison disappears.[30]

Alternatives and conclusions

Although some problems have clearly arisen in recent assessments of parallels to the patriarchal narratives, this does not mean that the cuneiform documents must now be treated with considerable suspicion, and that for all practical purposes they are of little value for the patriarchs. On the contrary, a stage has now been reached where initial enthusiasm must be supported by careful and accurate scholarship. Methods need to be refined and improved, not rejected altogether, since it is clear that parallels do exist in a wide range of cuneiform sources.[31] In this way, the background of the patriarchal narratives can be more clearly depicted, with genuine examples no longer being hampered by their association with other results reached at a time when more detailed evidence was not available. The need for certain safeguards is clear, however, and the following are offered as one set of suggestions.

1. It is absolutely essential that proposed parallel texts should first be thoroughly examined in their own context before any meaningful comparison with the Old Testament can be attempted. Three levels may be distinguished in this procedure. Firstly, in each individual text, due attention must be paid to literary character, date, and geographical location. As a second stage, further material of a similar nature from the same site should be considered,[32] and finally, comparison made with similar texts from different sites and periods, including of course, any relevant first and second millennium data, though one must accept for the present that much less is available from the first millennium. This wider perspective is essential, and in fact it is only by synchronic and diachronic surveys of this kind that the real worth of an


individual item can be evaluated. Its importance may be emphasized by a glance at practices related to birthright. Although it was generally recognized in the ancient near east that an eldest son received a larger inheritance share, the proportion could vary enormously. In Mari the eldest son received two-thirds of the estate,[33] but he enjoyed a double share in Nuzi, Old Babylonian Larsa, Assyria in the Middle Assyrian period, and in Israel according to Deuteronomy 21:17. In Middle Babylonian Nippur and Ur the advantage amounted to an extra 10%, whereas among the patriarchs the eldest seems to have taken almost the entire inheritance.[34] Even within this list of examples, different principles were in use at the same site in the same period.

2. In view of the continued existence of some customs over a period of centuries, great care is required when they are used for dating purposes. In fact, as a general rule, customs do not provide good evidence for chronology, though there may be certain exceptions. To qualify as relevant material for dating, there should be good evidence to show that a particular custom did not exist in another period, or that it existed in a different form. It is not generally sufficient to point to a single text that apparently provides a parallel, but if that is all that is available because of the uneven nature of archaeological discovery, appropriate caution should be exercised.

3. Although form criticism has been described as 'a methodologically reliable way of comparing biblical texts with Ancient Oriental and Hellenistic texts',[35] such optimism can hardly be applied to the present subject. The widely differing nature of the material prevents a straightforward comparison of forms. The Genesis narratives cannot be construed as though they were contracts of the type found in cuneiform tablets, though this does not prohibit a comparison of their contents. In fact, the literary character of each individual text needs to be duly recognized, and their special limitations noted. Narrative, for instance, often contains many personal details which a cuneiform contract does not, and its style is much freer in comparison with the stereotyped phraseology of legal documents. It is also important to determine the purpose of each text. An examination of Old Babylonian marriage documents, for example, reveals that many of them depict 'abnormal family situations', and that a written version of a marriage agreement was used mainly for 'legally vulnerable persons'.[36] Similarly, a study of Nuzi wills has concluded that 'wills were drawn at Nuzi only in unusual circumstances'.[37] The function of an individual text there fore could be perhaps to underline normal practice, or it may have the quite different purpose of making clear an exception. Considerations such as these can fundamentally affect the understanding of a passage, and one needs at least to be aware of such possibilities.

4. An important factor that is sometimes over looked is that the cuneiform tablets are preserved in the form of original documents. They can often be dated precisely, and their place of origin is also known in most cases. They thus provide very useful information describing current attitudes and practices of people at a verifiable time and place in ancient near eastern history, and at the same time, showing a marked contrast with the theoretical nature of our understanding of the precise origin and transmission of the patriarchal narratives. Objective data of this kind cannot be easily put aside, even where they conflict with hypotheses relating to the prehistory of the patriarchal narratives, and some explanation of these external factors must be attempted in an adequate account of the 'patriarchal age'.

5. Finally, some consideration should be given to the possible means of contact between the patriarchs and those parts of Mesopotamia from which the relevant parallels come, though this must inevitably remain partly hypothetical. Did the patriarchs borrow directly, for example, or was there a common source of customary law existing throughout the ancient near east? If the former is correct, did this transfer take place in the Harran area, through the Hapiru, or through the Hurrians either in Palestine or on the journey to Palestine (all these have been proposed), or did the process happen by some other means? Other important questions concern linguistic relationships (though this seems to be a major problem only if the Hurrians are involved), and the sociological dimension of the relationship between the customs of sedentary peoples, semi-nomads, and nomads, though this last point is also perhaps not the great


obstacle that van Seters has made it out to be. The patriarchs are not portrayed in the Old Testament as full nomads, since they exhibit several indications of settled life, and the cuneiform texts of both first and second millennia derive to a great extent from sedentary populations. Nevertheless, comparisons with nomadism and tribal activity as in the Mari letters is still of relevance, though such information needs to be used with care.

Only by giving due attention to the kind of guidelines suggested here can one gain a proper understanding of the setting of the patriarchal narratives. One can no longer on the one hand cast aside the clear evidence of extrabiblical material of the first or second millennium, nor on the other embrace with uncritical enthusiasm the contents of an isolated text. There still exists much relevant material which, rightly handled, provides considerable illumination of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their families, and encourages confidence in the historical reliability of Genesis 12-50.


[1] E.g. E. A. Speiser, JBL 74 (1955), p. 254; J. van Seters, JBL 87 (1968), pp. 401f.

[2] T. L. Thompson, The historicity of the patriarchal narratives (=BZAW 133), Berlin and New York, 1974 (cited as HPN); J. van Seters, Abraham in history and tradition, Yale, 1975 (cited as AHT).

[3] E. A. Speiser in particular is exempt from this criticism.

[4] 'kl ksp, lit. 'to consume silver' (Gn. 31: 15); and the supposed deathbed formula, 'and now I have grown old' (Gn. 27: 2).

[5] C. H. Gordon, BA 3 (1940), p. 5.

[6] E. A. Speiser, JBL 74 (1955), pp. 252-256.

[7] J. J. Finkelstein, JAOS 88 (1968), pp. 30-36.

[8] C. J. Gadd, RA 23 (1926), No. 51; C. H. Gordon, BA 3 (1940), pp. 5f.

[9] M. R. Lehmann, BASOR 129 (1953), pp. 15-18.

[10] M. Greenberg, JBL 81 (1962), pp. 239-248; M. J. Selman, TB 27 (1976).

[11] C. H. Gordon, BASOR 66 (1937), p. 25.

[12] In fact, the theory of wife-sister marriage cannot be supported on either the Nuzi or the biblical evidence offered by Speiser. See C. J. Mullo Weir, 'The alleged Hurrian wife-sister motif in Genesis', Transactions of the Glasgow University Oriental Society 22 (1967), pp. 14-25; T. L. Thompson, HPN, pp. 234-248; M. J. Selman, op. cit.

[13] Or perhaps 'two-thirds' (M. Noth, Ursprünge des a/ten Israel, Köln, 1961, pp. 19, 20; 5. van Seters, AHT, p. 92).

[14] E.g. G. von Rad, Genesis [3] (London, 1972), pp. 184, 191, 192, 310.

[15] For bibliographical details, see n. 2.

[16] Gn. 16:1-4; 30:1-13.

[17] E. Chiera, Harvard Semitic Series 5 (Cambridge (Mass.), 1929, No. 67 (text); translation in E. A. Speiser, AASOR 10 (1928) [pub. 1930], No. 2, and J. B. Pritchard (ed.) ANET, p. 220.

[18] M. J. Selman, op. cit.

[19] E. Chiera, Joint expedition to Nuzi 2 (Paris, 1930), No. 204 (text); translation in E. Cassin, L'Adoption à Nuzi (Paris, 1938), pp. 230ff., and H. Lewy, Orientalia, New Series 9 (1940), pp. 369f.

[20] AHT, pp. 310ff.

[21] HPN, p. 294.

[22] W. L. Moran, JNES 18 (1959), pp. 280f.; J. J. Rabinowitz, ibid., p. 73.

[23] AHT, pp. 9, 10.

[24] See above, n. 12.

[25] Compare, for instance, the Genesis commentaries by Speiser (Anchor Bible, New York, 1964) and von Rad (London, 3rd ed., 1972).

[26] HPN, p. 294.

[27] A van Selms, Marriage and family life in Ugaritic literature (London, 1954); A. F. Rainey, 'Family relationships in Ugarit', Orientalia, New Series 34 (1965), pp. 10-22.

[28] E. A. Speiser, in A. Altmann (ed.), Biblical and other studies (Cambridge (Mass.), 1963), pp. 26, 27; idem, Genesis (New York, 1964), pp. 180f., 184f.; cf. M. J. Selman, op. cit.

[29] G. M. Tucker, JBL 85 (1966), pp. 77-84; H. Petschow, JCS 19 (1965), pp. 103-120.

[30] In any case, Tucker's comparative argument (op. cit., pp. 82ff.) relates only to the last part of the chapter (verses 16ff.), whereas this is an integral part of the dialogue beginning at verse 3.

[31] E.g., C. J. Mullo Weir, in D. W. Thomas (ed.), Archaeology and Old Testament study (Oxford, 1967), pp. 73-86; M. J. Selman, op. cit.

[32] There is a real need for further work similar to R. Harris' demographic study of the Babylonian city of Sippar in the Old Babylonian period (Ancient Sippar, Istanbul, 1975).

[33] According to the one available text, G. Boyer, Archives royales de Mari 8 (Paris, 1957), No. 1; translated in idem, Archives royales de Mari: traductions 8 (Paris, 1958), No. 1; and by J. J. Finkelstein in J. B. Pritchard (ed.), ANET, p. 545, though Finkelstein translates 'a double share' on the basis of analogies from other sites.

[34] Gn. 25: 5, 6. It is noteworthy that all the available parallels to the firstborn's double share in Dt. 21: 17 come from the third quarter of the second millennium.

[35] K. Koch, The growth of the biblical tradition (London, 1969), p.74.

[36] S. Greengus, JAOS 89 (1969), p. 512; cf. R. Harris, JNES 33 (1974), p. 368.

[37] J. S. Paradise, Nuzi inheritance practices, PhD dissertation. (University of Pennsylvania, 1972), p. 12 (available on microfilm).