#43. Is it lawful to marry your sister OR not? (Gen 20:12 vs Lev 18:11, 20:17)

Customs, beliefs, and worldviews change, and with them so too laws—no mystery here. But when we have a so-called “Book” that in actuality is a collection of the laws and narratives that reflected the customs, beliefs, and worldviews of a people (and peoples!) spanning approximately 1,000 years, contradictions are bound to occur. There should be no mystery here either. Thus, reflective of archaic customs shared throughout the ancient Near East, the older Yahwist and Elohist traditionsRead More

#44. Is Beersheba named on account of Abraham’s oath with Abimelek and his digging a well there OR Isaac’s treaty with Abimelek and his digging a well there? (Gen 21:30-32 vs Gen 26:32-33)

The subject matter of this story is the origin behind the naming of Beersheba, which was an important Judean stronghold near the Philistine border in the 9th through the 8th centuries BC. Like the stories explaining the origins of the name Ishmael (#37) and Isaac (#41), it too is an etiological tale. Its purpose was to answer the question of how Beersheba came to be possessed and named by the Israelites. Yet, the book of Genesis asRead More

#45. Was Abraham dead OR alive when Jacob and Esau were born? (Gen 25:7-8 vs Gen 25:21-26)

This contradiction, like the one we saw in #42, is more of a narrative inconsistency in the chronology of the story which was created when the later Priestly source was redacted into the early JE storyline. Genesis 25:7-11 displays features and vocabulary typical to the P source: a heightened concern for ages, dates, genealogies, and marriage, death, and settlement records.1 In this passage we are informed of Abraham’s death: Abraham lived 175 years and expired—a term uniqueRead More

#46. Is Jacob blessed by a bedridden, blind, and old Isaac over a ceremonial meal OR by a relatively still youthful Isaac whose eyes are good via the transference of the blessing made to Abraham by El Shaddai? (Gen 27:1-29, 27:41 vs Gen 28:1-5)
#47. Does Jacob’s blessing come by means of deceiving and tricking his father Isaac OR is it knowingly and consciously given to Jacob by his father Isaac? (Gen 27:1-29 vs Gen 28:1-5)

The book of Genesis, as it has come down to us, recounts the blessing of Jacob on two separate occasions: Genesis 27:1-29 and Genesis 28:1-5. They are in fact doublets, and at this point it should not be surprising to learn that they are each a part of two, once separate, textual traditions which were later grafted together, and as a result created these contradictions. In the first account (Gen 27:1-29),Read More

#48. Is Jacob’s motive for leaving Beersheba fear of Esau’s revenge OR Isaac’s insistence that Jacob take a wife from Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:41-45 vs Gen 28:1-5)
#49. Does Jacob go to Haran OR Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:43, 28:10 vs Gen 28:2, 28:7)

Following what was said in #46-47, we now learn that the story of Jacob’s flight and the reason(s) why he leaves Beersheba are also variously given: to flee Esau’s wrath (Gen 27:41-45) and to find a suitable wife from among his own people (Gen 28:1-2). Additionally, the text also narrates Jacob’s departure twice and to two different locales: in Genesis 28:7 we are informed that he goes to Paddan-Aram, but then at Genesis 28:10 to Haran. Again,Read More

#50. Is it lawful to marry your wife’s sister OR not? (Gen 29:28 vs Lev 18:18)

And you shall not take a wife to her sister to rival, to expose her nudity along with her in her lifetime. (Lev 18:18) “To take a wife to rival her sister” and “to expose her nudity” along side her sister’s is the language of wedlock… and of course, sexual intercourse. As we saw in #43, here also this particular contradiction is one that highlights differences between the biblical writers’ cultural viewpointsRead More

#51. Is the origin of the name Rebeun “Yahweh has seen” or “he will love me”? (Gen 29:32 vs Gen 29:32)
#52. Is the origin of the name Issachar “for I have hired you” or “God has granted me my reward”? (Gen 30:16 vs Gen 30:18)
#53. Is the origin of the name Zebulun “my man will bring me presents” or “God has given me a precious gift”? (Gen 30:20 vs Gen 30:20)
#54. Is the origin of the name Joseph “may Yahweh add” OR “God has removed”? (Gen 30:24 vs Gen 30:23)

More fun with duplicate etymologies (see also: #37, #41, #44)! In the ancient word, people told (and created) stories about the origins of names and what those names meant. There are numerous stories of this sort told in the Bible’s various different textual traditions. Not surprisingly all of the names of the children of Jacob, the eponymous twelve tribes of ancient Israel, were given fanciful etymologies where the meaning of each nameRead More

#55. Does Jacob initiate the spotted-speckled sheep and goat deception OR does Laban? (Gen 30:31-33 vs Gen 31:7-8)
#56. Is it through Jacob’s own cunning tactics that spotted and speckled sheep and goats are engendered OR is this God’s doing? (Gen 30:31-43 vs Gen 31:7-13)

The text of Genesis 30-32 as it now stands is actually a compilation of two different tellings of the same story. These different versions (the Yahwist and the Elohist) have been carefully stitched together by later editors that they past undetected by the casual reader. Nevertheless, attentive readers and scholars have long noticed narrative inconsistencies, contradictions, and differences in style, theological emphasis, and the portrait of Jacob, which in the end have revealed twoRead More

#57. Is the mound of stones set up to ratify the covenant between Jacob and Laban called Gilead OR Mizpah? (Gen 31:48 vs Gen 31:49)

The book of Genesis preserves two different etiologies—origin stories—for the naming of the boundary marker set up to ratify the covenant-treaty made between Jacob (Israel) and Laban (Aram). Presumably they were originally from two different oral traditions that were both preserved at a later time. In one version, it was the mound of stones (gal), which served as the symbol of the covenant between, not only Jacob and Laban, but remembering that these names are eponymous,Read More

#58. Does the naming of Mahanaim derive from Jacob’s vision of the angels of God OR the division of Jacob’s entourage into two camps? (Gen 32:2-3 vs Gen 32:8-9)

Mahanaim is supposedly located along the Jabbok across from Penuel and there seems to have been a couple traditions associated with the origin of its name, which in Hebrew is a dual noun meaning “camps” or “two camps.” Apparently the Elohist tradition from the north accredits Jacob with its naming because, as with his vision in Bethel when he left the land of Canaan (Gen 28:11-22), so too here upon entry Jacob seesRead More

#59. Does Jacob split up his camp in order to save half of them from a vengeful Esau OR in order to placate Esau with an offering of livestock? (Gen 32:7-12 vs Gen 32:14-22)

The reconciliation story between Jacob and Esau is also variously told in Genesis 32, as we saw with the Jacob and Laban story (#55-56). In one version (J) Jacob’s return to the land of Canaan is presented under the ominous fear and threat that Esau will dispense his revenge and strike him (see #48-49 for the story). Compounded by the account of his messenger claiming that Esau is approaching him withRead More

#60. Does Esau settle in Seir before or after Jacob’s return? (Gen 32:4, 33:14, 33:16 vs Gen 36:6-8)

This is yet another example of a contradiction that occurs within the narrative chronology of the combined JEP storyline (the text as we now have it) when the later Priestly text, with its own narrative and theological details and agendas, was cut and pasted into the JE narrative (see also #32, #42, #45). All of the Pentateuch’s textual traditions (J, E, P, D) connect the eponymous father of Edom, that is Esau, with the region of Seir. GenesisRead More

#61. Is Shechem purchased by Jacob OR taken by the guile and violence of Simeon and Levi? (Gen 33:19 vs Gen 34:25-29)

There are two accounts in the book of Genesis detailing how the Israelites came to possess Shechem, which became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Butchered or Bought? might have made for a more dramatic title to today’s contradiction. The southern Yahwist account is telling. It reveals how the southern storytellers viewed their northern brethren. For according to this version, the founding of Shechem was achieved through a deceptive, brutal, andRead More

#62. Is it at Penuel OR Bethel that El (Shaddai) changes Jacob’s name to Israel? (Gen 32:29 vs Gen 35:10)

The biblical stories of the patriarch Jacob preserve two accounts of his name change to Israel: Genesis 32:23-33 and Genesis 35:9-15. Unfortunately these two traditions do not agree on when and where this name change occurred, at Penuel before Jacob enters Canaan or at Bethel after he has entered Canaan. Both Penuel and Bethel were important northern towns and each one perhaps sought to traditionally align itself with stories about its founding patriarch Jacob.Read More

#63. Can a mortal see God face-to-face and live OR not? (Gen 16:13, 32:30; Ex 24:9-11, 33:11; Num 14:14; Deut 5:21, 34:10 vs Ex 33:20; John 1:18, 5:37; 1 Tim 6:16)

This is an oldie but a goodie as they say, and can be found on numerous other sites and throughout the literature. I will keep to my procedure of stressing that such contradictions are the result of an editorial process that brought together different textual traditions written over a period of 1,000 years, each expressing divergent and contradictory beliefs, worldviews, and theologies. In fact, contradictory traditions now preserved side-by-side in the Bible yieldRead More

#64. Does Jacob name Bethel before he leaves Canaan OR on his return? (Gen 28: 11-19 vs Gen 35:11-15)
#65. Does Jacob erect a stone-pillar altar to the god at Bethel before he leaves Canaan OR when he returns? (Gen 28:18 vs Gen 35:7, 35:14)

The book of Genesis gives 2 different stories about how and when Bethel was named, which was an important cultic center in northern Israel, until its destruction in 722 BC by the Assyrians. Stories about its founding were no doubt important and most likely played a prominent role in cultic festivals at Bethel. These stories were told from generation to generation with variations in narrative details and emphases until they were finally writtenRead More

#66. Where was Benjamin born: Bethlehem OR Paddan Aram? (Gen 35:16-19 vs Gen 35:23-26)

The book of Genesis gives 2 contradictory responses to the question where was Benjamin born: Bethlehem and Paddan Aram. And they traveled from Bethel, and there was still a span of land to come to Ephrath; and Rachel gave birth and she had a hard labor… And it came to pass as her soul was departing—for she died—that she called his name Ben-oni [i.e., son of my sorrow], but his father called him BenjaminRead More

#67. Who were Esau’s wives: Judith and Basemath OR Adah, Aholibamah, and Basemath? (Gen 26:34 vs Gen 36:2-3)

Back to looking at some of the discrepancies in the book of Genesis’ genealogical lists (see also #7, #8-9, #20-21, #23). Genesis 26:34 states that Esau’s wives were: 1) Judith daughter of the Hittite Beeri, and 2) Basemath, daughter of the Hittite Elon. Genesis 36:2-3 lists: 1) Adah, daughter of the Hittite Elon, 2) Aholibamah, daughter of the Hivite Zibeon, and 3) Basemath, but here daughter of Ishmael. Both of these passages areRead More

#68. Do Esau and his descendants live with the Horites in Mount Seir OR did they dispossess them and destroy them? (Gen 36:6-8, 20-21 vs Deut 2:12)

The Bible employs 2 different land-settlement models when speaking about the conquest of the promised land and its environs: a co-habitation or displacement model and a butcher’em and burn’em up model, man, woman, children, and livestock! You’ll be happy to know that both are narrative constructs, each one composed by different authors. Both Genesis 36:1-30 and Deuteronomy 2:12 preserve 2 settlement stories about the land of Edom or Seir as it is often referred to. The PriestlyRead More

#69. Is the conflict between Joseph and his brothers, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah only OR all his brothers? (Gen 37:2 vs Gen 37:4)

We are almost through the book of Genesis. What remains is a discussion of the Joseph story or stories as we shall see. A close reading of Genesis 37-50 would reveal that the Joseph story is a composite of two once separate versions of this story. When these two versions were later edited together minor narrative inconsistencies and contradictions were created. Since Joseph is a hero of the north, it is notRead More

#70. Is Rachel dead OR alive when Joseph has his dream? (Gen 35:19 vs Gen 37:11)

And Joseph had a dream… and told it to his brothers. And he said… “here were the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowing down to me.” And he told it to his father and brothers. And his father was annoyed at him and said to him: “What is this dream that you’ve had? Shall we come, I and your mother and your brothers, to bow to you to the ground?” (GenRead More

#71. Is it Reuben OR Judah who saves Joseph’s life? (Gen 37:21-22 vs Gen 37:26-27)

There are a number of textual inconsistencies in Genesis chapter 37 that have consistently led commentators to the same conclusion: the Joseph narrative is a composite text of two, once separate, Joseph stories each with their own particular vocabulary, themes, and plot devices. The editor of these two textual traditions carefully attempted to safeguard both by stitching them together in an almost seamless and unperceivable manner. The first doublet in theRead More

#72. Who sells Joseph to the Ishmaelites: his brothers OR the Midianites? (Gen 37:27 vs Gen 37:28)
#73. Who sells Joseph to Potiphar: the Midianites OR the Ishmaelites? (Gen 37:36 vs Gen 39:1)

These two contradictions, like those of the flood narrative (#14-18), are also used as a classic example to demonstrate the Documentary Hypothesis. Genesis 37:28 provides us with our first clue. And Midianite merchants passed, and they pulled and lifted Joseph from the pit. And they sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty weights of silver and they brought Joseph to Egypt. As the grammar of the sentence now stands, verse 28 claimsRead More

#74. On their first trip back to Canaan from Egypt, the brothers open their bags and find their silver at a lodging place en route OR home in front of Jacob? (Gen 42:27-28 vs Gen 42:35)

Continuing our examination of the two Joseph stories (#69, #71, #72-73), which a later editorial endeavor had woven together in Genesis 37-48, this contradiction picks up where we left off. Genesis 42 displays a variety of doublets that reenforce our hypothesis that the Joseph story is in fact a compilation of two once separate Joseph stories. These duplicate renditions of the same narrative details once belonged to each of the two originally separate sources.Read More

#75. Who vouches for Benjamin’s security: Reuben OR Judah? (Gen 42:37 vs Gen 43:8-9)

Reuben and Judah each make one last appearance in the Joseph story, err… stories. As in the previous case (#71), where Reuben denounces his brothers’ plan to kill Joseph in the Elohist version, so too Reuben acts as surety for Benjamin’s safe return. “And Reuben said to his father: ‘Kill my two sons if I don’t bring him [Benjamin] back to you’” (42:37). The Yahwist version of the story, however, keepingRead More

#76. Was it 66 OR 70 OR 75 males from Jacob’s loins who came to Egypt? (Gen 46:26 vs Gen 46:27, Ex 1:5, Deut 10:22 vs Acts 7:14)

The passage in question is Genesis 46:8-27 which breaks from the narrative to offer yet another genealogy: “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt…” We have seen elsewhere that such interest in genealogies, dates, and ages were evidence of the Priestly writer’s hand. Yet this passage also evidences editorial reworking, possibly even done by a scribal hand during the recopying of the manuscript. InRead More

#77. Benjamin had 10 sons OR 5? (Gen 46:21 vs Num 26:38-41)

The genealogy in Genesis 46:8-27, which we concerned ourselves with in contradiction #76, interrupts the narrative, as many close readers have noticed. In fact, if we took this material out, which has been unanimously identified as part of the Priestly source (Gen 46:6-27), what’s left is a narrative that precedes as a coherent and whole unity. Here is Genesis 46:5 + 46:28 5And the children of Israel carried Jacob their father and theirRead More

#78. Before giving his blessing does Jacob know OR not know who Manasseh and Ephraim are? (Gen 48:5 vs Gen 48:8)
#79. Does Jacob adopt Joseph’s two sons OR merely bless them? (Gen 48:5-6 vs Gen 48:9-20)

As we’ve already seen in previous entries, the Priestly writer had a vested interest in rewriting  earlier Yahwist and Elohist covenant or blessing passages and in the case of the latter even converting them into covenantal ceremonies. This was so in the case of the Abrahamic covenant (#28), the transference of that covenant to Isaac (#40), then Jacob (#46-47), and finally Joseph’s two sons here in Genesis 48. We also saw thatRead More

#80. Were the children of Jacob given the land of Rameses to inhabit OR did they build it generations later? (Gen 47:11 vs Ex 1:11)

This is our last contradiction for the book of Genesis and it should be held in tandem with tomorrow’s #81, our first Exodus contradiction. The various textual traditions that we have been examining in Genesis—the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly—continue into the book of Exodus. The Yahwist source makes minor appearances in Exodus and when it does it often presents duplicate traditions to those narrated by the Elohist. The Elohist has aRead More

#82. How long were the Hebrews enslaved: 400 years OR a mere generation? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex1:6-12)

As I was typing up yesterday’s contradiction (#81), it dawned on me that the imposition of the later Priestly writer’s chronology onto the older JE sources was not the only visible discrepancy in the narrative’s chronology. It was also there in the older sources themselves. So we’ll backtrack a bit here and note one more Genesis-Exodus contradiction. In Genesis 15:13, Yahweh is presented as claiming/prophesying to Abraham that the Hebrews willRead More

#300. Is Bechar Benjamin’s son OR Ephraim’s son? (Gen 46:21; 1 Chr 7:6 vs Num 26:35)
#301. Were Ard and Naaman sons of Benjamin OR sons of Benjamin’s son Bela? (Gen 46:21 vs Num 26:40)
#302. Are Benjamin’s 5 sons Bela, Ashbel, Ahiram, Shephupham, and Hupham OR Bela, Ashbel, Aharah, Nohah, and Rapha? (Num 26:38-39 vs 1 Chr 8:1-2)

The Priestly genealogy preserved in Numbers 26 serves as a book-end to the whole wilderness period where the first registry, narratively speaking, was recorded in the Priestly tradition of Genesis 46:8-27 (see #76). In comparing the two lists—which for the most part are similar—we notice nevertheless some minor discrepancies, most of which deal with different spellings for names, or missed or unlisted clans (specifically compare the clans listed for the Simeonite,Read More

#343. What were the borders of the land of Canaan promised to the patriarchs by Yahweh: from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates OR from the Red Sea to the Euphrates OR from the Wilderness to Lebo-Hamath OR from Beersheba to Dan (Gen 15:18; Deut 1:7, 11:24; Josh 1:4 vs Ex 23:31 vs Num 34:1-12; Josh 13-19; Ezek 47:13-21 vs Judg 20:1; 1 Sam 3:20; 2 Sam 3:10, 17:11, etc.)?
#344. Did Yahweh promise Gilead and Transjordan as part of the promised land OR not (Deut 1-3, 34:1-3 vs Num 34:1-12; Ezek 47:13-20)?

The Bible as it has come down to us preserves a number of varying traditions concerning the size and border of the promised land. Said differently, throughout the roughly six centuries that defined the monarchy, Israel’s exile, and its post-exilic restoration, biblical scribes variously delimited Israel’s borders, often in idealized and utopian ways. This fact the biblical record bears witness to. And Yahweh spoke to Moses: “This is the land thatRead More

Offer of Publication: Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate

I am glad to officially announce to my readers that my Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate: Being Honest to the Text, Its Author, and His Beliefs—Not Ours about Them has been accepted for publication by Wipf & Stock, a small academic/trade publisher. It should be available Fall/Winter 2015. I will certainly keep you updated here. The primary aim of this book is to present readers with an accurate, unbiased, andRead More