Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Phallacy of Genesis: A Feminist-Psychoanalytic Approach

Book reviews -- The Phallacy of Genesis: A Feminist-Psychoanalytic Approach by Ilona N. Rashkow

Williams, James G
ILONA N. RASHKOW, The Phallacy of Genesis: A Feminist-Psychoanalytic Approach (Literary Currents in Biblical Interpretation; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993). Pp. 144. Paper $14.99.

Rashkow draws upon Sigmund Freud's work, particularly as revised by Jacques Lacan and others, in order to give her own feminist reading of certain biblical texts. The highlighted texts are Gen 12:10-20 and Gen 20:1-18.

The author's revised Freudian approach focuses on transference, dream theory, and seduction hysteria. Transference is the analysand's or patient's unconscious "transfer" of conflicts onto the analyst or doctor. These conflicts have basically to do with repressed sexuality. The model of dream interpretation emphasizes censorship, displacement, and condensation as the dream work moves from latent to manifest form. Freud's seduction theory began with his early inference that hysterical symptoms stem from childhood sexual abuse. However, he soon rejected this position and articulated the hypothesis of the "Oedipus complex." R. does not discuss the ongoing and sometimes inconsistent character of Freud's reflections on the Oedipus complex, but after almost thirty years he arrived at the clear position that desire for the parent of the opposite sex is inherent, biogenetic, it would seem, and this innate desire precedes even identification with the model parent of the same sex. The Oedipus theory, already in its early form in the 1890s, was the theoretical basis for holding that hysteria was occasioned not by actual sexual abuse, but by the repressed sexual desire for the putative abusing parent. R., in keeping with many current studies, sees Freud's shift as an expression of his own "phallocentrism," a phallocentrism that is shared with the biblical texts.

One example of the way the author uses these elements of Freudian theory is her reader-response approach to the dream of Abimelech in Genesis 20. Abimelech rejects the idea of sexual intercourse with Sarah as if it never occurred to him at all. But this is only the manifest scenario whose latent core is his desire for Sarah and fear of Abraham (p. 62). An instance of implementation of the seduction theory is the discussion of Genesis 2-3. The prohibition of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil "forbids Eve, the daughter, from obtaining the father's potency and privilege" (p. 78). But she rebels, and at her instigation, the son, Adam, loses his perpetual security. The burden of R.'s readings as a whole is that in "biblical narratives, as in Freud, female sexuality is subordinated to and subsumed by the male"(p. 108).

The author gives an "afterwards" which briefly responds to the question, Why read my readings? (pp. 110-11). There are four points: (1) because there is no absolutely true reading, all readings, including her feminist reading, can coexist; (2) the Hebrew Bible is approached as a single literary work; (3) the approach is literary: "The literary text is considered as a body of language to be interpreted, while psychoanalysis is a body of knowledge used to interpret"(p. 111); (4) we invest the Scriptures with our own cluster of wishes, which has something to do with our everyday relations with people around us.

Each of these points, however, has a flip side which could be pernicious. (1) If there is no absolutely true reading that could be recognized in principle, and if every reading is as "authentic" as every other, then all readings could be at war with one another-unless there is a political consensus to accept all of them and avoid offending anyone. This is one of the chief factors in "political correctness." (2) Approaching the Hebrew Bible as a literary text means one approaches it as if it is not canonical Scripture. But then why be interested in it at all? Is it really great "literature"? The answer must be rooted in history and historical community (which tellingly qualifies the literary approach) or in serendipity. (3) Psychoanalysis is not just a body of knowledge used to interpret but, like the Bible, is also body of language to be interpreted. To disguise this fact is to ignore that Freud and Lacan really attempt to save a subject or self by means of the unconscious as the dwelling place of the Other. They must see human origins and development as inherently conflictual. Freud himself conceived of a "death instinct," a new myth for explaining human self-destructiveness, (4) There is no explicit connection between self and community that is articulated in R.'s assumptions and approach. Without a real basis for human community, one's own cluster of wishes and everyday relations could simply lead to conflict and violence. Which brings us back to our first point about "political correctness," "multiculturalism," and the like, being thin and fragile veils over the abyss of war.

In short, there are interesting readings in this book, and some valid points about biblical patriarchy, but the author's assumptions contradict and undermine her own case. If "the Hebrew Bible makes phallocentrism synonymous with logocentrism" (p. 109)--and logocentrism was already bad enough, according to Heidegger and Derrida--then why bother with it? To discard it? If it speaks only with a male voice and witnesses only to a male God concerned about a male people and about male victims, then we have inherited nothing but a long past of deceit and oppression, and we can blame our forebears for the present sorry state of things. But that is a position that sells the biblical birthright for a bowl of multicultural stew.

Copyright Catholic Biblical Association of America Apr 1995
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

Lot and daughters, Abraham and Abimelech: Genesis 19:30-20:18

Lot and His Daughters

30Afterward Lot left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there, and he went to live in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters. 31One day the older daughter said to her sister, "There isn't a man anywhere in this entire area for us to marry. And our father will soon be too old to have children. 32Come, let's get him drunk with wine, and then we will sleep with him. That way we will preserve our family line through our father." 33So that night they got him drunk, and the older daughter went in and slept with her father. He was unaware of her lying down or getting up again.
34The next morning the older daughter said to her younger sister, "I slept with our father last night. Let's get him drunk with wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him. That way our family line will be preserved." 35So that night they got him drunk again, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. As before, he was unaware of her lying down or getting up again. 36So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father.

37When the older daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Moab.[b] He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites. 38When the younger daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Ben-ammi.[c] He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites.


Genesis 19:22 Zoar means "little."
Genesis 19:37 Moab sounds like a Hebrew term that means "from father."
Genesis 19:38 Ben-ammi means "son of my people."

Genesis 20

Abraham Deceives Abimelech

1Now Abraham moved south to the Negev and settled for a while between Kadesh and Shur at a place called Gerar. 2Abraham told people there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. So King Abimelech sent for her and had her brought to him at his palace.
3But one night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, "You are a dead man, for that woman you took is married."

4But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, "Lord, will you kill an innocent man? 5Abraham told me, `She is my sister,' and she herself said, `Yes, he is my brother.' I acted in complete innocence!"

6"Yes, I know you are innocent," God replied. "That is why I kept you from sinning against me; I did not let you touch her. 7Now return her to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don't return her to him, you can be sure that you and your entire household will die."

8Abimelech got up early the next morning and hastily called a meeting of all his servants. When he told them what had happened, great fear swept through the crowd. 9Then Abimelech called for Abraham. "What is this you have done to us?" he demanded. "What have I done to you that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? This kind of thing should not be done! 10Why have you done this to us?"

11"Well," Abraham said, "I figured this to be a godless place. I thought, `They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.' 12Besides, she is my sister--we both have the same father, though different mothers--and I married her. 13When God sent me to travel far from my father's home, I told her, `Wherever we go, have the kindness to say that you are my sister.' "

14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and servants--both men and women--and gave them to Abraham, and he returned his wife, Sarah, to him. 15"Look over my kingdom, and choose a place where you would like to live," Abimelech told him. 16Then he turned to Sarah. "Look," he said, "I am giving your `brother' a thousand pieces of silver[a] to compensate for any embarrassment I may have caused you. This will settle any claim against me in this matter."

17Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and the other women of the household, so they could have children. 18For the LORD had stricken all the women with infertility as a warning to Abimelech for having taken Abraham's wife.

Genesis 20:16 Hebrew 1,000 shekels of silver, about 25 pounds or 11.4 kilograms in weight.


Genesis 20:16 Hebrew 1,000 shekels of silver, about 25 pounds or 11.4 kilograms in weight.

Abraham and Sarah: Genesis 18:1-19:29

Genesis 18

A Son Promised to Sarah

1The LORD appeared again to Abraham while he was camped near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day about noon, as Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent, 2he suddenly noticed three men standing nearby. He got up and ran to meet them, welcoming them by bowing low to the ground. 3"My lord," he said, "if it pleases you, stop here for a while. 4Rest in the shade of this tree while my servants get some water to wash your feet. 5Let me prepare some food to refresh you. Please stay awhile before continuing on your journey."
"All right," they said. "Do as you have said."

6So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, "Quick! Get three measures[a] of your best flour, and bake some bread." 7Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a fat calf and told a servant to hurry and butcher it. 8When the food was ready, he took some cheese curds and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them there beneath the trees.

9"Where is Sarah, your wife?" they asked him.

"In the tent," Abraham replied.

10Then one of them said, "About this time next year I will return, and your wife Sarah will have a son."

Now Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent nearby. 11And since Abraham and Sarah were both very old, and Sarah was long past the age of having children, 12she laughed silently to herself. "How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby?" she thought. "And when my master--my husband--is also so old?"

13Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, `Can an old woman like me have a baby?' 14Is anything too hard for the LORD? About a year from now, just as I told you, I will return, and Sarah will have a son." 15Sarah was afraid, so she denied that she had laughed. But he said, "That is not true. You did laugh."

Abraham Intercedes for Sodom

16Then the men got up from their meal and started on toward Sodom. Abraham went with them part of the way.
17"Should I hide my plan from Abraham?" the LORD asked. 18"For Abraham will become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the LORD and do what is right and just. Then I will do for him all that I have promised." 20So the LORD told Abraham, "I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are extremely evil, and that everything they do is wicked. 21I am going down to see whether or not these reports are true. Then I will know."

22The two other men went on toward Sodom, but the LORD remained with Abraham for a while. 23Abraham approached him and said, "Will you destroy both innocent and guilty alike? 24Suppose you find fifty innocent people there within the city--will you still destroy it, and not spare it for their sakes? 25Surely you wouldn't do such a thing, destroying the innocent with the guilty. Why, you would be treating the innocent and the guilty exactly the same! Surely you wouldn't do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?"

26And the LORD replied, "If I find fifty innocent people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake."

27Then Abraham spoke again. "Since I have begun, let me go on and speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose there are only forty-five? Will you destroy the city for lack of five?"

And the LORD said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five."

29Then Abraham pressed his request further. "Suppose there are only forty?"

And the LORD replied, "I will not destroy it if there are forty."

30"Please don't be angry, my Lord," Abraham pleaded. "Let me speak--suppose only thirty are found?"

And the LORD replied, "I will not destroy it if there are thirty."

31Then Abraham said, "Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue--suppose there are only twenty?"

And the LORD said, "Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty."

32Finally, Abraham said, "Lord, please do not get angry; I will speak but once more! Suppose only ten are found there?"

And the LORD said, "Then, for the sake of the ten, I will not destroy it."

33The LORD went on his way when he had finished his conversation with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his tent.


Genesis 18:6 Hebrew 3 seahs, about 15 quarts or 18 liters.

Genesis 19

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

1That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom, and Lot was sitting there as they arrived. When he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed low to the ground. 2"My lords," he said, "come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up in the morning as early as you like and be on your way again."
"Oh no," they said, "we'll just spend the night out here in the city square."

3But Lot insisted, so at last they went home with him. He set a great feast before them, complete with fresh bread made without yeast. After the meal, 4as they were preparing to retire for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. 5They shouted to Lot, "Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out so we can have sex with them."

6Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. 7"Please, my brothers," he begged, "don't do such a wicked thing. 8Look--I have two virgin daughters. Do with them as you wish, but leave these men alone, for they are under my protection."

9"Stand back!" they shouted. "Who do you think you are? We let you settle among us, and now you are trying to tell us what to do! We'll treat you far worse than those other men!" And they lunged at Lot and began breaking down the door. 10But the two angels reached out and pulled Lot in and bolted the door. 11Then they blinded the men of Sodom so they couldn't find the doorway.

12"Do you have any other relatives here in the city?" the angels asked. "Get them out of this place--sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. 13For we will destroy the city completely. The stench of the place has reached the LORD, and he has sent us to destroy it."

14So Lot rushed out to tell his daughters' fiances, "Quick, get out of the city! The LORD is going to destroy it." But the young men thought he was only joking.

15At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. "Hurry," they said to Lot. "Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out of here right now, or you will be caught in the destruction of the city."

16When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful. 17"Run for your lives!" the angels warned. "Do not stop anywhere in the valley. And don't look back! Escape to the mountains, or you will die."

18"Oh no, my lords, please," Lot begged. 19"You have been so kind to me and saved my life, and you have granted me such mercy. But I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die. 20See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don't you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved."

21"All right," the angel said, "I will grant your request. I will not destroy that little village. 22But hurry! For I can do nothing until you are there." From that time on, that village was known as Zoar.[a]

23The sun was rising as Lot reached the village. 24Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the heavens on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, eliminating all life--people, plants, and animals alike. 26But Lot's wife looked back as she was following along behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

27The next morning Abraham was up early and hurried out to the place where he had stood in the LORD's presence. 28He looked out across the plain to Sodom and Gomorrah and saw columns of smoke and fumes, as from a furnace, rising from the cities there. 29But God had listened to Abraham's request and kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain.

Listening to Abraham-Listening to Yhwh: Divine Justice and Mercy in Genesis 18:16-33

Listening to Abraham-Listening to Yhwh: Divine Justice and Mercy in Genesis 18:16-33

MacDonald, Nathan
AN ABIDING vision of the task of the theological interpreter of Scripture, from ancient times up to the present day, has been the faithful listening to the voice of God in the words of Scripture. The changing shape of our interpretations witnesses to the difficulties that attend this task. A significant contribution to the difficulties comes from the nature of the biblical material. Which voice should be recognized as the authentic voice of God, or witness to God? A good example of this problem is found in Gen 18:16-33, the dialogue between Abraham and Yhwh over Sodom. Here the voice of Yhwh is clearly delimited, and yet Abraham speaks about an alternative vision of deity. To whom should the good reader of Scripture listen? To the voice of Yhwh, or to the voice to which Yhwh himself listens? Or both?

In the following pages, I want to suggest that interpreters have listened only to Abraham and have misheard Yhwh. Indeed, I want to argue that it is precisely because they have listened to Abraham that they have misheard Yhwh. ' Rather than survey every interpretation of Genesis 18, I wish to examine a single exposition in order to set forth my alternative reading. For this purpose, I have selected Walter Brueggemann's account as found in his commentary on Genesis.2 There are a number of reasons for selecting Brueggemann. First, Brueggemann has been more attentive than most exegetes to the problems of discerning the voice of God in the voices of Scripture, as his Theology of the Old Testament testifies.3 second, Brueggemann is an advocate of theological readings of the biblical text. Since Gen 18:16-33 is a significant theological text, which I wish to examine with theological questions foremost, Brueggemann makes an ideal dialogue partner.4 Finally, although the significance of the passage has been understood in a number of different ways,5 there is substantial agreement about the general direction of exegesis. Brueggemann's work, therefore, will provide a detailed example of what I take to be a typical exegesis of the passage. I will, however, interact at various points with other interpreters, as appropriate.

I. Brueggemann on Genesis 18:16-33

The dialogue between Yhwh and Abraham is located between the announcement of the birth of Isaac in 18:1-15 and the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in chap. 19. Despite a preference in his commentary for the final, canonical form of the text, Brueggemann considers the dialogue after treating Genesis 19, "because 18:16-32 seems to be a later reflection on the early narrative of 19:1-28."6 Historical layering of the passage allows the nature of the dialogue to be seen more clearly, for Gen 18:16-32 presumes the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the earlier story, we have a simple theology of divine retribution for sins; the dialogue offers a corrective to such moralism. "The argument of 18:16-32 seeks to break open the closed, fated view of the world given in 19:1-28."7 Although Genesis 19 still dominates the canonical form of these chapters, Gen 18:16-33 provides a critique that cannot be silenced.

so unacceptable to the early scribes, who reversed the subject and predicate.

In the dialogue, Abraham appeals to Yhwh's character and challenges the conventional view that a few guilty people should bring destruction on an entire city. he offers an alternative calculus, which gives the righteous the capacity to save the guilty. The dialogue explores the number of righteous people needed. "The process, like a barter in a Near Eastern bazaar, moves from fifty to ten." The numbers are not to be taken literally but are merely illustrative of the general principle that "one is enough to save."8

Having provided an* interpretation of the dialogue, Brueggemann then pursues in a number of different directions the subject of the new "righteousness" that Abraham has established with Yhwh. he touches on subjects such as vicarious suffering and Pauline teaching on righteousness before concluding with a reflection on the vocation of Abraham and that of the reader. Abraham is seen as a strident intercessor, and his role as God's theological teacher is emphasized.

[Abraham] does not flinch from urging God and even offering himself as a theological teacher to God so that God may think more clearly and responsibly about his own vocation. . . . Abraham disputes with God about the meaning of Godness. It is clear to both Abraham and to Yahweh (in that order) that God is not a tyrant but really God. And from that flows good news.9

It may justly be questioned whether Brueggemann's interpretation of Gen 18:16-33 is really "gospel." For it to be so, the voice of Abraham, the call to exercise mercy, must be recognized to be what Israel discerned, through the development of its traditions, to be in some sense the voice of God. In other words, the presentation of God in this passage must include the human voice of Abraham, for without this element God would be lacking in "Godness." It is not surprising, perhaps, that some interpreters have been less able to hear the good news. Norman Whybray, for example, sees the portrayal of Yhwh in this dialogue as an example of the "dark side" of Yhwh. For Whybray, this is an uncomfortable aspect of the OT that must be taken with all seriousness; but he recognizes that passages such as this one justify, for many, a modern Marcionism.10

Faced with this troubling passage, theological interpreters have a number of options. First, we may recognize, with Brueggemann, that Scripture contains a number of (often dissonant) voices, all of which contribute to what we must now hear as Scripture, and in which we should discern the voice of God. second, we may recognize, with Whybray, that in Genesis 18 Yhwh's dark side emerges, a troubling element which threatens other passages that suggest Yhwh's readiness to give blessing. Third, we may choose to reject the passage as Unholy Scripture. Each of these options strikes me as problematic (in different ways) for a Jewish or Christian appropriation of Scripture, and I propose an alternative understanding of the passage. Taking Brueggemann's interpretation as the point of departure, I suggest that he, with most other interpreters, makes three unnecessary assumptions about the passage.

II. The Assumption of Imminent Destruction

Two objections may be raised. First, the closest parallel to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not the Tower of Babel but the Flood.19 This is true, but all these parallels appear later on in the story of destruction. second, a more serious objection is that the reader has already been informed in chap. 13 not only that "the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against Yhwh" (v. 13), but also that Yhwh would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 11). Although, for the reader, the destruction of Sodom is an event waiting to happen, there is no prescription for how or when it should occur. Already in the invasion of the four kings (14:1-12), the reader was drawn to expect the imminent end of Sodom and Gomorrah, but on that occasion Abraham successfully intervened. The reader might wonder whether

Abraham will again mediate salvation in the face of this new threat. Why, then, have so many interpreters been convinced that Yhwh's words are an announcement of destruction? I believe that Westermann's comments may suggest an answer. "After the mere hint given in v. 17, 'what I am to do,' one expects some such statement as, 'Because the sin of Sodom is very great I will destroy the city.' Abraham's reply in v. 23b is something of this kind."20 Abraham's understanding of Yhwh's words is definitive; for him they are an announcement of destruction: "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? ... Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?" (vv. 23-25). Yet Abraham may not necessarily have listened well to Yhwh. Despite this possibility-or in view of our argument for the likelihood of this-most interpreters have been persuaded by Abraham's rhetoric.

III. The Assumption of Bargaining

A second assumption in Brueggemann's work is that the dialogue between Yhwh and Abraham is an act of bargaining. While many interpreters describe the discussion as "bargaining," "bartering, "or even "haggling, "Brueggemann paints a more vivid picture, comparing it to "a barter in a Near Eastern bazaar."21 In this section I will consider this suggestion, asking what Gen 18:16-33 means if we take this idea seriously, and whether the bazaar is the appropriate image for the dialogue between Yhwh and Abraham. I will highlight elements often missed in the examination of this passage.

The danger of impressionism is clearly present in the suggestion that the dialogue in Gen 18:16-33 is similar to the haggling or bargaining that go on in a Middle Eastern bazaar. Both commentator and reader may inadvertently smuggle into their understanding of the text a personal or secondarily mediated experience of "oriental" haggling, which is unlikely to be scientific and would reflect the perception of an alien participant or observer. Fortunately, "bazaar economies" have been the subject of anthropological research, and I offer a brief summary of that work in order to assess the claim that Genesis 18 is an example of haggling.22

Haggling is a form of economic exchange of nonstandardized goods. The focus of the buyer's energies is not on comparison of prices between sellers but on determining and obtaining a good price for the chosen object. Similarly, the vendor seeks to maximize profit in a sale, rather than being concerned with attracting customers through advertising. Thus, competition is located between buyer and seller, rather than between sellers. This relationship between buyer and seller is complex: although each party's gain is made at the other's expense, each needs the other to consummate the exchange.

An important component of the economy of the bazaar is an asymmetry of knowledge between buyer and seller, for the seller has an intimate knowledge of his goods and of the market. The seller seeks to take advantage of this and often employs various tactics, such as swapping goods or changing currencies, in order to confuse the buyer. The buyer's knowledge may be increased by various means, for example, by exchanging information about price with other buyers or breaking off a bargaining episode to explore other stalls. Since the price of frequently exchanged items, such as food, is well known, bargaining over them is limited. Bargaining over rarely purchased items will cover a greater price range and may be protracted.

Extravagant language and behavior often accompany the haggle: friendliness and expressions of affection may give way to ridicule and oaths. In the Middle East, the buyer may be addressed with kinship language and offered the item as a "gift." However, haggling is usually perceived as a practice that is socially negative; this is true of customers, traders, and anthropologists. For this reason, the practice usually requires a degree of social distance.

The technical rules of haggling are essentially universal. The buyer approaches the vendor, who gives the initial price; bids then alternate between the two and converge. If complete convergence is reached, the sale is consummated. In the haggle, backward moves are forbidden and accepted bids must be honored.

Haggling was certainly known in ancient Israel, as texts such as Genesis 23, judges 11, and 2 Samuel 24 demonstrate, and it is reasonable to assume that the author and intended readers of Genesis 18 would have been familiar with the practice. If we return to Gen 18:16-33, what bargaining elements are to be found? First, there is use of extravagant language. Abraham's speech has rhetorical flourishes, such as "shall not the judge of all the earth do what is right?" he abases himself before Yhwh, describing himself as "dust and ashes." His language suggests that the conversation is far from refined, with emotions close to the surface. Twice he says, "since I have undertaken to speak to my lord"; and twice, "do not be angry." second, this extravagant language suggests a distance between the participants that is characteristic of the bazaar. Yhwh is "the judge of all the earth," while Abraham is but "dust and ashes." Third, the difference in knowledge is consciously articulated. Abraham is unaware of the number of righteous persons in Sodom; each of his requests is hypothetical: "suppose." Fourth, the conversation between Yhwh and Abraham is one in which bids and acceptance of the offer alternate. The movement from fifty down to ten is calibrated to the downward movement of a vendor's offer in a typical haggle.

It is immediately obvious, however, with this final comparison, that there are significant differences from a typical bargain. For one thing, there is no corresponding bidding from Yhwh's side. Although the conversation may alternate, the bids do not. In order to provide a correspondence with a typical bargain, we might expect Yhwh to have a price that slowly rises, corresponding to the increasing bids of a buyer. For the model of bargaining to make sense, then, Abraham must be the vendor and Yhwh the buyer. But such a reading is deeply problematic. If we listen to Abraham's rhetoric, how can we tell who is doing the buying and who the selling? If we read up to 18:25 with a typical model of bargaining in mind but with no knowledge of how the rest of the conversation proceeds, what might we expect to happen? Abraham's opening salvo of questions includes the implicit rebuke: "Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is right?" Yhwh is being too harsh; his standards of justice are too stringent-or, to remain in the picture of economic bargaining, he is too expensive. Abraham's rhetoric requires that he be the buyer and Yhwh the vendor. Abraham offers to buy the city for fifty righteous.

One of the unresolved problems in the passage is Abraham's decision to begin with the figure of fifty. Various suggestions have been mooted.23 If Abraham is the buyer, the reason he begins with fifty is not as a tentative test of Yhwh's patience before dropping to a lower figure; instead, the logic of the bargain requires that what Abraham has offered is a low price. Behind this lie two assumptions. First, the buyer can pay the price he offers. second, he expects the vendor to suggest an alternative and higher price, and agreement to be reached somewhere between the two prices. In other words, the significance of the number fifty in my reading of the dialogue is that Abraham begins with a figure that is easily attainable. he anticipates that Yhwh, as the overbearing judge upon whom he is trying to impress a measure of proportion and reasonableness, will require a greater number of righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah in order to forgo destroying them. Abraham anticipates that Yhwh will come back with a figure of, say, two hundred. The bargaining can continue in the usual way and settle somewhere between the two numbers, maybe one hundred and ten. In the bargaining, both parties will hope to get a good deal. Yhwh will maintain an appropriate level of justice, and Abraham will hope to get a price for the city that is attainable and not beyond his (or rather, its) means.

The conversation between Yhwh and Abraham, however, does not follow along these lines. First, Abraham, though he is the buyer, begins by naming a price. second, in the dialogue Abraham's price moves progressively lower rather than upward. These points are connected because, while Abraham offers various prices, at no point does Yhwh offer any price for Sodom. In the absence of an initial asking price for the city, Abraham is forced to name a price. To each price that Abraham offers, Yhwh surprisingly acquiesces. This in no way accords with the principles of bargaining, and Abraham is unexpectedly found to be dropping his price. At first, Abraham reduces the number only by five, but, as Yhwh continues to acquiesce in the bidding, a greater boldness appears and the number is reduced by ten at a time.

Even at the end of the dialogue, when Abraham reaches ten, no figure is forthcoming from Yhwh. This raises what is, perhaps, the most puzzling element of the dialogue for the reader: why, in terms of the narrative and the characters portrayed, Abraham halts at the figure of ten. Surely, since Yhwh has named no price and has even agreed to only ten, Abraham could drop the figure still further? Gordon Wenham seeks an explanation in Yhwh's replies, in which he detects a perceptible cooling.

Abraham starts off with a confident appeal in vv 23-25 and ends with a hesitant "Do not be angry, my sovereign." On the other hand, while the LORD in each case accepts his plea, the tone of the acceptance perceptibly cools. he begins with the positive pair of words "If I find ... I shall spare." he ends with two more ominous pairs, "I shall not ruin it ... for the sake of." So it is not altogether surprising that Abraham ends his intercession where he does; the tone of God's replies conveys the feeling that he cannot be pushed much further,24

This is one possible reading of Yhwh's replies, but it is by no means the only one. Discerning the meaning and the tone of replies in a bargain is difficult, especially in a dialogue that is textually mediated, since much remains unexpressed or coded. An examination of Abraham's request and Yhwh's replies can suggest a different understanding:

Abraham's words, as we have seen, reflect the extravagant language of the bazaar, but there is no obvious heightening of tension or cooling in the replies of Yhwh. More significantly, the language that Yhwh uses in his replies to Abraham is not of his own creation but is provided by Abraham. To the initial request to spare the city, Yhwh agrees to spare it. Abraham then asks if he will ruin the city, and Yhwh replies that he will not ruin it. Though Abraham does not use the language of ruin in his last two requests, it is he and not Yhwh who has introduced this vocabulary earlier in the dialogue.

It is still odd, however, that Abraham should break off the discussion at this point. Why not pursue the argument beyond ten? Since Yhwh does not break off the conversation, we are left with the impenetrable thoughts of Abraham's mind. Perhaps, having begun at fifty persons, with ten Abraham has received far more than he expected; he is now at the limits of satisfaction in fleecing his opponent, the level at which embarrassment is the stronger emotion. After all, haggling satisfies only when there is a genuine disagreement about the price. Or perhaps ending at this incomprehensible point reveals a confusion in Abraham's mind that the progressive reduction in his pleas obscured. What is the purpose of this contention with Yhwh when its original aims have been lost sight of?25 However the number ten might be explained, its chief significance seems to lie in the fact that this is a number of Abraham's choosing.

We may now return to the question of whether the dialogue between Abraham and Yhwh may appropriately be described as "haggling." An affirmative answer is hardly possible, for there are too many anomalous features. Nevertheless, the comparison with haggling proves useful in capturing significant aspects of Genesis 18. As we have noted, the parameters of the dialogue over Sodom are entirely dictated by Abraham. he decides where it begins and where it ends, and he provides the vocabulary of the conversation. Yhwh is not proactive; instead, he reacts to each request by acceding to it. To the question, then, of whether there is haggling in Genesis 18, one might, perhaps, say yes, but haggling seems to be the intention of only one of the participants. Abraham sets up the exchange in such a way as to emphasize the distance between himself and Yhwh. It is his language that is extravagant; he is the one who requires Yhwh's justice to be quantifiable.

On the other hand, Yhwh refuses to participate in this game. There is no extravagant language; instead, Yhwh acquiesces in a straightforward manner. To every bid that Abraham lodges there is only a divine yes and never a no. The parameters of the argument are set by Abraham, and Yhwh only responds to them. Where Abraham emphasizes the distance between himself and Yhwh, affirming the asymmetry of knowledge that is characteristic of the bazaar, Yhwh seeks to undermine it. That an imbalance exists is certain, as has already been seen in the announcement of Isaac's birth (18:1-15); but Gen 18:16-33 begins with a conscious decision by Yhwh to overturn that disparity. Abraham is not to be kept in the dark, but is to be made party to the divine counsel. If we listen to Yhwh's answers apart from Abraham's requests, it is like listening to a different conversation.

If we wish to preserve the analogy of haggling, it might be better to speak of Yhwh's subversion of the pattern of haggling. Yhwh's opening soliloquy (18:17-19), in which he emphasizes that he will not hide from Abraham his intent toward Sodom and Gomorrah, expresses his desire to remove the asymmetry of knowledge between the parties that makes haggling not only possible but rational. Abraham, however, acts as though this significant move has not been taken. He continues to work within parameters that are obsolete, and it is perhaps this confusion that leads him to conclude at the perplexing figure of ten. If one were to search for a parallel other than haggling, comparison might be made to a child persistently testing parental boundaries, whether real or imagined.26 The appearance of parental education in v. 19 makes this a suggestive parallel.

IV. The Assumption of a Shared Concern with judicial Principles

A final assumption that Brueggemann makes is that Yhwh and Abraham are both concerned with judicial principles. Yhwh is associated with the harsh judicial principle of retributive justice, which receives narrative articulation in Genesis 19. Abraham, on the other hand, is the voice of the writer, a creative theologian, who advocates a different "righteousness." In this dialogue, Abraham is Yhwh's teacher. In support of such a reading, Brueggemann appeals to the tiqqûn sôpërîm in v. 22. According to an early Jewish tradition, the narrator envisaged Yhwh standing before Abraham, a portrayal that seemed impious to the scholars and was thus altered so that Abraham stood before Yhwh. The original text placed Yhwh in a position subordinate to Abraham, stressing Yhwh's accountability to Abraham and need to learn from him. Verse 19, too, depicts Abraham as a teacher of "justice and righteousness"-a portrayal that Brueggemann describes elsewhere as "an extravagant credentialing of Abraham, perhaps the most extravagant of all of Scripture."27 Support for Brueggemann's understanding might be found by comparing this with other instances of such questioning in the OT. Job 38-41 and Jonah 4 both portray Yhwh questioning his servant, and in these encounters it is the teacher who questions the learner.

On closer examination, however, Brueggemann's reading of Genesis 18 is less compelling. First, the emendation of v. 22 cannot be accepted. Not only can no support for this reading be found in the versions; it appears, too, that the tiqqûn soperim-as Carmel McCarthy has argued-represents not an ancient tradition but the midrashic conjecture of some rabbis.28 second, although the credentialing of Abraham is indeed striking, it does occur on the tongue of Yhwh and includes a mention of the "way of Yhwh." How strange that Yhwh must be taught about the very way he himself has been speaking a few verses earlier!

Where does Brueggemann find the basis of his interpretation? It is, again, in Abraham's words. As we have seen, according to Abraham, Yhwh has made an unjust decision to destroy the city. Abraham takes it upon himself to advocate justice, rebuking Yhwh with the exclamation "far be it from you," and even asking "Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?" In the dialogue that follows, the patriarch attempts to set a more equitable standard. The words of Abraham suggest that he and Yhwh share a common concern, the nature of true justice. Yhwh has a deficient understanding, which can be corrected through the patient questioning of his teacher.

"Doing justice and righteousness" is an active attempt to negate the forces of injustice, equivalent, as Moshe Weinfeld has argued, to enacting "social justice."31 This activity is characteristic of the divine king (Ps 99:4; Jer 9:24) and was to be exemplified also in the human king, whether real (2 Sam. 8:15 || 1 Chr 18:14; 1 Kgs 10:9) or idealized (Jer 22:3; 23:5). The meaning of doing justice and righteousness is clearly indicated in places where it is related to deliverance from oppression and violence (Ps 103:6; Jer 22:3, 15-16; Ezek45:9).

Understood in these terms, the concerns of Yhwh and Abraham appear to share elements in common. Both Yhwh and Abraham are concerned with two particular groups of people, the innocent and the oppressed, which may substantially overlap. Yhwh and Abraham differ only in the manner in which the concern is expressed: Yhwh speaks of social justice, Abraham of judicial procedure. Such relative concordance would be out of keeping with the rest of the passage, where Abraham has fundamentally misunderstood Yhwh's intentions. Two significant verbal parallels-one well known and the other, to my knowledge, unnoticed-will show that the difference between Yhwh and Abraham is more radical.

The parallel between Ezekiel 18 and Genesis 18 has often been taken as evidence that both are concerned with replacing notions of corporate responsibility with that of individual responsibility; but recent work on Ezekiel 18 raises questions about this interpretation.32 It has been argued that Israelite law already recognized the principle that responsibility did not extend through generations (see, e.g., Deut 24:16). Furthermore, Ezekiel, though he rejects intergenerational responsibility, nevertheless addresses not individuals but Israel as a corporate whole and demands communal repentance. Ezekiel's specific aim in his parable was not to subvert traditional notions of responsibility but to remove the grounds for moral disengagement by the Israelites. Yhwh judges each generation according to its own deeds; thus, the prophetic imperative to a people who believe they can excuse themselves of any blame is "Repent" (Ezek 18:30-32). In Ezekiel 18, the "way of Yhwh" is Yhwh's willingness to forgive the Israelites despite their own and their fathers' sins.

These verbal parallels allow a number of observations to be made. First, as was also the case in Ezekiel 18, Genesis 18 contains elements that are both "corporate" and "individual." Abraham seems to be concerned with righteous individuals, but he appeals for corporate forgiveness based on these individuals.35 The simple evolutionary trajectory from corporate responsibility to individual, such as Brueggemann's interpretation reflects and so much modern OT scholarship posits, cannot be maintained. In Genesis 18, as in Ezekiel 18, the intent is not likely to proclaim an alternative idea of divine retribution.

A second observation: at the heart of Psalm 103 and Ezekiel 18 is the character of Yhwh, and in particular the affirmation that he is a deity who forgives. This is the way of Yhwh. To recognize this is not to deny important differences between these texts. In Ezekiel 18, forgiveness can occur when the people repent in response to the prophetic message. Psalm 103 stands closer to Genesis 18 because, in both, forgiveness occurs through the intervention of a prophetic mediator. The links between Genesis 18 and Psalm 103 confirm the supposition of many commentators that the dialogue between Yhwh and Abraham is a prophetic intercession: Yhwh has decided to examine the conduct of a city with the possibility of judging it; and Abraham, like the prophets, is given insight into the plans of Yhwh in order that he may make intercession.36

The programmatic function of this passage for Israel's subsequent history is made clear in 18:17-19. At this decisive juncture, Yhwh begins to reveal his plans to his chosen servant for the first time. From this point on, Israel, through its prophets, will be given privileged access to Yhwh's counsel. Abraham is commissioned to teach his children the way of Yhwh, but the patriarch must first learn it himself. That he does learn Yhwh's way-that is, the forgiving mercy of Yhwh-is clear from all subsequent intercessions; but the anomalous course of this first intercession suggests that this exchange is a learning incident. The dialogue begins with Yhwh's indication that he is about to go down to discover the truth about Sodom's deeds. Punishment is by no means certain, but it is a distinct possibility. Abraham is given the opportunity to intercede for the city; he is treated as Yhwh's partner and told of Yhwh's plans, and he is then allowed to make his own contribution. Unlike Moses, Amos, and the other prophets, however, Abraham does not appeal to the mercy of God and ask for full forgiveness; instead, presuming Yhwh to be a harsh judge, he prepares to barter with him. His strategy is undone by Yhwh's persistent acceptance of Abraham's offer; Yhwh turns out to be far more merciful than Abraham imagines. Drawing the line at ten indicates not only the depth of Sodom's sin but also that Abraham has not plumbed the depths of Yhwh's grace.

An objection to this interpretation readily presents itself. Genesis 19:29 concludes the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with the observation: "when God destroyed the cities of the plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities where Lot lived." Surely, the plain sense of this verse is that Abraham's intercession achieved something. Before mentioning possible solutions, we should observe that the verse is not easy to fit into any interpretation of these chapters. The salvation of Lot and the destruction of the cities are not what Abraham envisages in his dialogue with Yhwh. One approach, which circumvents this problem, is found in Brevard S. Childs's study of the Priestly writer's usage of the phrase "God remembers." Childs observes that "the object of God's remembering is either the recipient of the covenant (Noah, Gen. 8.1 ; Abraham, Gen. 19.29) or the covenant itself."40 The verse would then have in view the relationship between Yhwh and Abraham in Genesis 17; Yhwh rescues Abraham's relatives for his sake. Though this would have the virtue of explaining why Abraham, rather than Lot, is remembered, I think it is more likely that the verse refers to the dialogue in chap. 18. However, the fact that Abraham is being taught by Yhwh need not make the intercession any less genuine or its effect any less real. Comparison may be made to Moses in Exodus 32, where it appears to be Yhwh who opens up the possibility of intercession and forgiveness. Though the initiative lies with Yhwh, Moses still must intercede.41 It is a consistent aspect of the biblical portrayal of the relationship between God and human beings that human response is crucial. Genesis 19:29 affirms that Abraham has genuinely been made party to Yhwh's decisions and may have a role in shaping them. The tragedy is that, in comparison with the intercessions of other biblical prophets, Abraham's for Sodom and Gomorrah might have saved the cities had he asked for mercy. The irony is that Abraham gains what he requests: the righteous are not treated as the wicked.42

A third observation may be made on the parallels to Genesis 18. We have noticed that both Psalm 103 and Ezekiel 18 are concerned with "justice and righteousness." In Ezekiel 18, it characterizes the activity of the righteous person, who shows compassion to the poor; in Psalm 103, it characterizes the action of Yhwh in his merciful forgiveness of Israel. In Genesis 18, however, it both characterizes Yhwh-it is "his way"-and is to be taught by Abraham to his descendants. If, as we have suggested, Yhwh is Abraham's teacher, then the dialogue at Mamre is an important moment in the moral education of Abraham. It is the moment when Yhwh seeks to instruct Abraham about "his way," and the dialogue is an interactive lesson in which Abraham learns the extent of Yhwh's mercy toward his creation, so that Abraham and his descendants may follow in that same way.

V. Genesis 18:16-33 in Early Exegesis

Our analysis of Gen 18:16-33 has been undertaken in dialogue with modern critical interpretations. I have sought to offer a fresh reading of this passage that departs from the reigning interpretative paradigm; and, further, I have claimed that this is a more compelling theological interpretation. Confirmation of the latter claim would require some contextualizing of this interpretation within the wider interpretative tradition, for, on most accounts of the nature of a theological interpretation, faithfulness-to God, the Scriptures, tradition-is valued over novelty, however much the latter might be promoted in the academy. Briefly, then, I wish to examine some of the concerns of early exegesis.

Gaining a sense of how the dialogue between Abraham and Yhwh was understood by early Jewish and Christian writers is not a simple task, because they were frequently more concerned with other elements in Genesis 18-19.43 A significant interest of ancient interpreters was God's descent to investigate the sins of Sodom (18:21), which seemed prima facie to jeopardize God's transcendence and omniscience. Against the heretics, earlier Christian interpreters consistently affirmed God's omniscience, as did their Jewish counterparts (e.g., Origen Hom. in Gen. 4.6; Gen. Rab. 49:6).

Thus, early interpreters worked with a different set of assumptions, and the non-negotiable affirmation of God's omniscience has two significant effects on the interpretation of the dialogue. First, it seems to minimize any genuine divine responsiveness, since God was already aware of the two cities' wickedness (Josephus A.J. 1.11.3 §199; Ephrem the Syrian Comm. in Gen. 16.1). God's condescension to the human need of discovery is justified in a number of ways: as a divine example to human judges (Ephrem the Syrian Comm. in Gen. 16.1), or for the purpose of a final offer of forgiveness if Sodom and Gomorrah should repent (Origen Hom. in Gen. 4.6; Gen. Rab. 49:6; Tg. Neof. 18:21; Tg. Ps.-J. 18:21). Second, divine omniscience excludes the possibility that God might learn from Abraham. Instead, as an early Syrian commentary notes, "he said these things ['I will go down and see'] in order to rouse Abraham, that he should learn his mercy."44 This extension of mercy to the many on the basis of the righteous few provided good grounds for moral exhortation to Christian communities in pagan settings (Ambrose Abr. 1.6.48).

Brueggemann seems to me to present a modified version of the first consequence of God's omniscience in such a way as to dispense with the second consequence altogether. The God of the dialogue cannot be fully responsive, because the God of the earlier tradition is already determined to destroy the cities. However, the lesson that Abraham teaches God mitigates this harsh portrayal. My reading attempts to present a modified version of the second consequence of God's omniscience, but with the loss of the first consequence. That is, God teaches Abraham about divine mercy in a dialogue in which, since Abraham is a prophetic mediator, the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is genuinely at stake.

VI. Conclusion

The dialogue between Yhwh and Abraham is one of the densest passages in the Book of Genesis, touching on many significant theological themes. At its heart are the character of Yhwh and the problem of listening to Yhwh. I have suggested that Yhwh's voice has not been heard aright, because we have been too taken with the voice of Abraham. Abraham's response to Yhwh results from misunderstanding Yhwh's words. The problem of recent exegesis, as exemplified by Brueggemann, is that we have listened to Abraham listening to Yhwh, rather than the other way around. If we listen to Yhwh, we learn that Abraham's exchange with Yhwh teaches the kind of response expected from Yhwh's elect so that the divine blessing may be mediated to the nations (12:1-3).

1 While differing in certain ways from the recent work by W. J. Lyons (Canon and Exegesis: Canonical Praxis and the Sodom Narrative [JSOTSup 352; London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002]), my argument is not too far removed from Lyons's suggestion that Abraham's response to Yhwh's words is incoherent. I am grateful to Dr. R. W. L. Moberly and the Biblical and Theological Seminars at St Andrews for comments on earlier versions of this paper, and also to Dr. and Mrs. J. Bentham for their help.

2 W. Brueggemann, Genesis (IBC; Atlanta: John Knox, 1982) 162-77.

3 W. Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997).

4 What a "theological reading" should be and how it is defined over and against other types of interpretation would require a lengthy discussion. In short, what I understand by the term is a reading that attempts a critical engagement with the central subject matter (Earth's die Sache) of the biblical witness: God and his relationship to his people and to the world. It takes seriously the claim of Jewish and Christian communities that Scripture is both from and about an extratextual and extracommunal reality known as God. It presumes (reflective) speech about God to be possible and necessary, resisting the temptation to transform such speech into (mere) history of religions, sociology, or rhetoric, even thouph these discinlines nlav an imnortant ancillary role.

6 Brueggemann, Genesis, 163. One can only assume from the commentary's introduction that this is because Gen 18:16-32 is one of the "few places in which source analysis might. . . change . . . things greatly" (p. 6).

7 Brueggemann, Genesis, 167.

8 Ibid., 172, 173.

9 Ibid., 176.

10 N. Whybray, " 'Shall Not the judge of all the Earth Do What is just?': God's Oppression of the Innocent in the Old Testament," in "Shall Not the judge of all The Earth Do What is Right?": Studies on the Nature of God (Festschrift J. L. Crenshaw; ed. D. Penchansky and P. L. Redditt; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000) 1-19, here 17.

11 Many scholars could be quoted, for example, J. Blenkinsopp ("Abraham and the Righteous of Sodom," JJS 33 [1982] 119-32, here 122): "the divine decision to destroy the entire city"; F. O. Garcia-Treto ("Crossing the Line: Three Scenes of Divine-Human Engagement in the Hebrew Bible," in Teaching the Bible: The Discourses and Politics of Biblical Pedagogy [ed. F. F. Segovia and M. A. Tolbert; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998] 105-16, here 110): "an unquestionable fait accompli, that is, his decision to destroy Sodom"; or Whybray ("Shall Not the judge ... ?" 5): "God has determined to destroy Sodom."

12 Brueggemann, Genesis, 163.

13 see, e.g., C. Westermann, Genesis 12-36: A Commentary (Continental Commentaries; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1985) 285-87.

14 see J. Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975) 212-15.

16 see Lyons, Canon, 175.

17 Westermann, Genesis 12-36, 289.

18 The recognition of Yhwh's investigation as prejudicial is found in some recent work. J. K. Bruckner (Implied Law in the Abraham Narrative: A Literary and Theological Analysis [JSOTSup 335; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001]) understands Gen 18:16-33 as pretrial, while 19:1-11 is the actual trial, with 19:13 the judgment. see also Lyons, Canon, 175-76.

19 Wenham, Genesis 16-50, 42-43.

20 Westermann, Genesis 12-36, 289.

21 Again, in this Brueggemann is far from unique: "he reminds us of a haggling shopper, or merchant, in a Middle Eastern bazaar" (M. Roshwald, "A Dialogue between Man and God," SJT42 [1989] 145-65, here 154); "by having everyday life scenes of the market place in its background" (Ben Zvi, "Dialogue," 36); "it is the sort of bargaining carried on today in Near Eastern bazaars" (J. R. Lundbom, "Parataxis, Rhetorical Structure and the Dialogue over Sodom in Genesis 18," in The World of Genesis [ed. P. R. Davies and D. J. A. Clines; JSOTSup 257; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998] 136-45,here 141); "just another bout of male bargaining" (P.R. Davies, "Abraham and Yahweh-A case of Male Bonding," Bible Review 11 [1995] 24-33, 44-45, here 32); "bartering scene" (L. A. Turner, Announcements of Plot in Genesis [JSOTSup 96; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990] 80).

22 A more detailed summary will be found in my essay, "Abraham's Purchase of the Cave of Machpelah and Anthropological Theories of Exchange," in Anthropology and Biblical Studies: The Way Forward (ed. M. I. Aguilar and L. J. Lawrence; Leiden: Deo, forthcoming 2004). A fuller bibliography will be found there, but note the following works: J. Alexander and P. Alexander, "Striking a Bargain in Javanese Markets," Man 22 (1987) 42-68; R. Cassady, "Negotiated Price Making in Mexican Traditional Markets: A Conceptual Analysis," America Indigena 28 (1968) 51-79; F. S. Fanselow, "The Bazaar Economy or How Bizarre Is the Bazaar Really?" Man 25 (1990) 250-65.

23 see especially L. Schmidt, "De Deo": Studien zur Literarkritik und Theologie des Buches Jona, des Gespraches zwischen Abraham und Jahwe in Gen. 18 22ffund von Hi l (BZAW 143; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976) 151-56.

24 Wenham, Genesis 16-50, 51 (Wenham's ellipses).

25 see Lyons, Canon, 211-14.

26 I am grateful to Bruce Longenecker for this suggestion.

27 W. Brueggemann, "A Shape for Old Testament Theology II: Embrace of Pain," CBQ 47 (1985) 395-415, here 409.

28 C. McCarthy, The Tiqqune Sopherim and Other Theological Corrections of the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament (OBO 36; Freiburg: Universitatsverlag, 1981) esp. 70-76. McCarthy notes that Gen 18:22 does not appear in the earliest lists of the tiqqune soenm (Sifre, Mekhilta, etc.), but only from the Tanhuma traditions onwards. Noting the lack of support in the versions, in contrast to some of the other tiqqune sopeRiIm (e.g., Zech 2:12), McCarthy argues "that it was in the light of the haggadic interpretations of Gen 18:1, where the LORD showed his condescension by standing while Abraham sat, coupled with the obvious difficulty encountered by the actual form of v. 22, that the inspiration for the interpretation of Gen 18:22 in a similar manner, and ultimately as a scribal emendation, was born" (p. 75).

29 see P. Bovati, Re-establishing Justice: Legal Terms, Concepts and Procedures in the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup 105; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994) 188.

30 Bruckner, Implied Law, 101; cf. Bovati, Justice, 171.

31 M. Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1995); contra Bruckner, Implied Law.

32 See P. Joyce, Divine Initiative and Human Response in Ezekiel (JSOTSup 51; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989); J. S. Kaminsky, Corporate Responsibility in the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup 196; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).

33 Psalm 99 refers to Yhwh's speaking to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel from the pillar of cloud. In the case of Moses, this seems to be a reference to Exod 33:9 (A. A. Anderson, Psalms 73-150 [NCB; London: Oliphants, 1972] 697).

34 L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC 21; Waco: Word Books, 1983) 18.

35 Lyons (Canon, 186-93) sees this as evidence of incoherence in Abraham's thought.

36 Genesis 18:22-23 suggests that Yhwh opened the possibility for Abraham to discuss the matter with him. Comparison may be made, in this respect, with Exod 32:7-14. " 'Let me alone that I may consume them'. The effect is that God himself leaves the door open for intercession. he allows himself to be persuaded. That is what a mediator is for" (B. S. Childs, Exodus [OTL; London: SCM, 1974] 567).

37 Westermann, Genesis 12-36, 291.

38 Note the similarities of Lot's request to Amos's intercession in Amos 7:1-6.

39 Comparison may be made with Gen 15:1, where the word of Yhwh comes to Abraham in a vision. Although receiving visions was part of the prophetic office, this passage lacks the element of intercession that Gen 18:16-33 and 20:7 have in common.

40 B. S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel (SBT 37; London: SCM, 1962) 43.

41 See n. 36.

42 Of course, the portrayal of Lot and his daughters in the story is ambiguous. Nevertheless, the contrast between the Sodomites and hospitable Lot suggests that the author understands Lot as a member of the "righteous."

43 See J. A. Loader, A Tale of Two Cities: Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament, Early Jewish and Early Christian Traditions (Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology 1; Kampen: Kok, 1990). Josephus's truncated retelling of the dialogue is instructive in this respect (A.J. 1.11.3 §199).

44 A. Levene, The Early Syrian Fathers on Genesis: From a Syriac MS. on the Pentateuch in the Mingana Collection; the First 18 Chapters of the MS. Edited with Introd., Translation and Notes, and Including a Study in Comparative Exegesis (London: Taylor's Foreign Press, 1951) 91. Others saw here a demonstration of God's mercy for Abraham's benefit. Chrysostom writes: "the Lord's goodness is immense, and he often finds his way to grant salvation to the majority because of a few just people" (Hom. in Gen. 42:19; cf. Origen Hom. in Gen. 4.6).


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