#85. Is Moses’ father-in-law Reuel OR Jethro OR Hobab? (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29 vs Ex 3:1 vs Judg 4:11)

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There seems to be some confusion in the traditions preserving—or creating as the case may be—the name of Moses’ father-in-law, Zipporah’s father.

The textual tradition identified as the Yahwist consistently refers to him as Reuel (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29), while the Elohist tradition uses the name Jethro (Ex 3:1, 3:18, 18:1-27).

To further complicate issues, another source names Hobab as the father-in-law of Moses (Judg 4:11), and Num 10:29 refers to Hobab as Reuel’s son, implying therefore that Reuel was Moses’ grandfather-in-law!

These differences most likely represent varying oral traditions. Many scholars have sought to caution against using modern ideas to understand how texts were written in the ancient world. So rather than thinking about an author a more appropriate model might be a scribe who was himself merely copying down a handed-down tradition. This might be a good analogy to understand this textual contradiction. Indeed, it has often been conjectured that the Yahwist and Elohist were just that—scribes recording traditions that they themselves inherited, and who weaved these stories into unique narratives with particular political or religious orientations.

If you’ve ever read Herodotus’ Histories you might have an idea of what I’m referring to. In that ancient piece of historiography when Herodotus  discovers variant tellings of the same story on his wanderings, he informs his readers while nonetheless providing both variations. And he weaves these stories together into a narrative that he himself is composing, and one that nonetheless has a specific religious punch line—God does not tolerate hubris!

Could the biblical scribes have been doing a comparable thing? In this case the composite biblical text, or scrolls, might have been understood as a repository of conflicting stories rather than as a coherent and continuous “historical” narrative. Too often we impose our own ideas of text, narrative, and authorship onto these ancient texts.

65 thoughts on “#85. Is Moses’ father-in-law Reuel OR Jethro OR Hobab? (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29 vs Ex 3:1 vs Judg 4:11)

  1. Genealogies in the Bible are usually inventions used to explain relationships between tribes and clans in the author’s own day. “Moses” may have three daddies (-in-law), but all of them are stand-ins for Edomite/Midianite tribes. Hobab is a Kenite, Reuel is a tribal name (Gen 35, 1 Chr 1), and Jethro may be a variant of Ithran, yet another tribal name. A tradition relating Moses and the Yahweh cult to these tribes probably underlies the story of Moses’ marriage to a Midianite/Kenite.

  2. I didn’t read all the comments…so sorry there are just too many, hopefully this hasn’t been shared already….My food for thought…wasn’t Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all referred to as “fathers” many times even though they were great, great etc. fathers?….In Ex. 3:5-6 God said to Moses I am the God of your father Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (paraphrased)? It makes sense then to have Jethro and Reuel both be referred to as “father-in laws” be it they are the same person with different names (very common) or a grand-father-in-law and a father -in-law. Both ref. as just “father-in-laws”. Seems accurate to me!

  3. Maybe, Moses wasn’t a real person, rather a fictitious character and however wrote about him told the story the way they heard it.

  4. For those interested, here is the Brown Driver Briggs entry for H-T-N, father-in-law:

    http://www.ericlevy.com/revel/bdb/bdb/8/het230.html
    • חֹתֵן S 2859 TWOT 781a, 781b GK 3162 n .verb. 1. m. wife’s father ( Arabic خَاتِنٌ ( ḫātinun ) a circumciser , hence father-in-law, with ref. to circumcision performed on young men just before marriage; خَتَنٌ ( ḫatanun ) relation on wife’s side; v. We Prol. 1886, 355 Anm. 1; Skizzen iii, 154 Sta ZAW 1886, 143 Anm. Nö ZMG 1886, 187 ; otherwise Dl Pr 91 Lag BN 116) — cstr. חֹתֵן Ex 18:1 + 9 times, חֹתֶנְךָ Ex 18: 6, חֹתְנֹו Ex 3:1 + 9 times;—usually of Moses’ wife’s father Ex 3: 1; 4:18 ; 18:1 , 2 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 12 (×2), 14 , 15 , 17 , 24 , 27 (all E ), Nu 10:29 ( J ), Ju 1:16 ; 4:11 ; of a Levite Ju 19:4 , 7 , 9 . 2. f. wife’s mother , only sf. חֹתַנְתֹּו Dt 27:2 3.

  5. Your source, an article by Ouachita Baptist University professor J. Daniel Hays, who coauthored a book titled Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible ( so a truly unbiased source, I’m sure), says the following:

    If hoten is understood as “in-law,” then the problem with Reuel and Jethro disappears. Reuel is clearly identified as the father of Zipporah; thus he is Moses’ actual father-in-law. The reference to Jethro as hoten in Exodus 3:1 simply means that he belongs to this same Midianite family. Since he is also called a priest and since the flock belongs to him, the implication is that he has become the new family patriarch. Probably he has inherited this position as the oldest son of Reuel.

    N0tice that Hays refers to the Jethro-Reuel issue as a “problem,” which is only the case if one is determined that the Bible is inerrant. A better approach would be to see *why* both are referred to as Moses’ H-T-N. Hays then attempts to resolve this “problem” by making the baseless assertions that Jethro inherited his position as Reuel’s oldest son and that Jethro is just of “this same Midianite family.” Where is the textual support for this? By contrast, source criticism shows that Jethro occurs in E and Reuel in J. You can claim that you’ve investigated the DH and found it wanting. Fine. But the interesting thing is that when we separate the sources, the contradictions (or “problems” as Hays might call them), doublets, God’s name prior to the revelations of Exodus 3 (E) and 6 (P), etc. find resolution. Contrary to your response above, the tradition that Moses wrote the Torah is not at all parallel to the decision by multiple translation teams that in context, H-T-N is best translated father-in-law regarding Jethro. Although you don’t make this argument, I’ll also point out that there is zero evidence that Jethro and Reuel are titles rather than names. The only reason people offer this “solution,” and I would say the driving force behind Hays’ different-people argument, is to resolve a Bible discrepancy rather than acknowledging that different sources/traditions are behind the texts.

  6. John,

    //This statement of yours pretty much sums up the approach of Bible inerrantists://

    I have not found this to be the case. You may have run into some good inerrantists, but I personally have never seen one really provide reasonable doubt for issues. It seems you’re using that word as a blanket catch-all word, like you did for creationists. By “creationist,” I presume you mean young-earth creationist. I’m aware of the evidence for evolution and I support it, in case you were going down that road and trying to put me in a box.

    //First of all, when reconstructing events from history, what we talk about are probabilities, not absolute certainty,//

    That’s interesting, since we are apparently not discussing history as many on the Documentary Hypothesis side suggest. We are not talking about history at all, actually. We are discussing what the text is saying and/or not saying. To this regard, we will never know, but you said // I demonstrated thatconsidered collectively, my points lean toward Jethro and Reuel being the same person // which I have argued are irrelevant. You have not addressed my rebuttals to your points. One of your arguments was that translations prove you are correct, which is just a terrible argument.

    //And besides, even if you somehow think that a legal standard of proof is somehow applicable, which it’s not, that standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. Inerrantists, like creationists, seem to think that their position wins by default if they can create “doubt” about a competing position, despite the lack of evidence for their own. //

    There is no evidence on your side, other than a preferred translation of a word and the point that there may be sources that may use a different name for the same character. Again, the text only says directly that Zipporah’s father is Reuel. Not one time does it say Jethro is her father. You have no evidence for that; I am only effectively refuting your claim to evidence. I didn’t provide evidence because I was refuting your claim to evidence. All your evidence is obviously no evidence at all. Your answer is the dominant and standard paradigm. Mine is not. If you want evolution falsified, you challenge the paradigm. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve shown that your evidence isn’t evidence and that you’ve poorly supported your thesis.

    //No one disputes that the term translated “father-in-law” can mean another relative by marriage, but context indicates that “father-in-law” is the most likely. //

    Here’s where the problem lies. You assume that Jethro is the father-in-law, so you assume that the word means that, and is the most likely meaning. Again, you haven’t established that, and I honestly don’t think you could establish that. The problem is that you assume there are discrepancies instead of letting the evidence and the arguments for and against determine that. I assumed there was as well until I looked into it. The text in Exodus 2 says Reuel is the father of Zipporah. So when I get to Exodus 3 and I see Jethro and his relationship to Moses using that Hebrew word, why should I assume it means “father-in-law” when I’m already told Zipporah’s father is Reuel. To you, it’s because there is a contradiction and source division. We have so few passages that use the word Reuel that basing a whole point of contradiction on (I believe) two uses of a word being indicative of an E source is bound to be errant. Context doesn’t give you anything about Jethro, only that he is related to Moses by marriage and has some relationship to Zipporah, which the text doesn’t tell us.

    //You can’t just wave off the fact that numerous translators, as well as Josephus, Philo and Jewish exegetes through the ages, agree that Jethro was the same person as Reuel. //

    Tradition! Tradition! But, I love the contradiction. “You can’t just wave off the fact that numerous translators, as well as Josephus, Philo and Jewish exegetes through the ages, agree that” Moses wrote (most of) the Torah.

    //And your “refutation” of the Documentary Hypothesis–calling it “circular reasoning”–is a straw-man attack. Various lines of evidence converge to yield the DH; it isn’t just a matter of picking out names of a mountain or of God, then circularly assigning them to respective sources. If you haven’t done so, read Richard Elliott Friedman’s introduction to The Bible With Sources Revealed: //

    Of course it’s not. I have read RE Friedman’s book several times, cover to cover, analyzing his source divisions and his positions and arguments. I’ve also read several of his other books several times over as well. I’ve subscribed to an online repository for his lecture on the Hebrew Bible and watched those videos. I’ve attended the university he was working at. I was introduced to the hypothesis by his own Ph.D students. I’ve asked them to ask questions for me about certain passages, which ended up poorly on Friedman’s part I must say. Yes, I’ve read the introduction to the “Bible with Sources Revealed.” I’ve got copious notes in there as well, following his own logic and seeing his own errors. I’ve even recently found a new error. I also have a book by another person who supports the Hypothesis that takes a closer look at Hebrew and actually closes the “source contradictions” in a few passages that Friedman has highlighted in his other books to prove the hypothesis. So yeah, I know a thing or two about the arguments for the hypothesis. It isn’t a straw-man when you know their positions so well, but are able to see the root of the argument. I supported the hypothesis, just so you know, before I began looking more deeply at the “contradictions” cited. They end up being very weak arguments, much like your own. My position away from the hypothesis is from that of an insider.

    I’ll give you something to read that I came across when I first came to conclusions that Reuel and Jethro were not the same person. Apparently I’m not the only one thinking this, and this person makes arguments for my position, which hasn’t been my reason for discussing here, only to rebut some of your less-than-stellar assertions that do not have a basis in evidence. If you want to rebut his arguments, that’s fine, but they’re not mine and unnecessary for this thread.

    At any rate, I think two long comments are enough for me. Your arguments are baseless, clearly, and when rebutted, you didn’t even bother to tackle most of my points against yours. You contradicted yourself, which was quite amusing for me to read. There really is no reason to continue this discussion. This is my last comment here.

    http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/mosesprivate.htm

    David

  7. This statement of yours pretty much sums up the approach of Bible inerrantists: “Since my analysis has provided reasonable doubt, which is the basis for establishing that a positive claim is incorrect, I do suggest you go back to the drawing board and re-investigate your own claims.” First of all, when reconstructing events from history, what we talk about are probabilities, not absolute certainty, and I demonstrated that considered collectively, my points lean toward Jethro and Reuel being the same person. And besides, even if you somehow think that a legal standard of proof is somehow applicable, which it’s not, that standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. Inerrantists, like creationists, seem to think that their position wins by default if they can create “doubt” about a competing position, despite the lack of evidence for their own. No one disputes that the term translated “father-in-law” can mean another relative by marriage, but context indicates that “father-in-law” is the most likely. You can’t just wave off the fact that numerous translators, as well as Josephus, Philo and Jewish exegetes through the ages, agree that Jethro was the same person as Reuel. And your “refutation” of the Documentary Hypothesis–calling it “circular reasoning”–is a straw-man attack. Various lines of evidence converge to yield the DH; it isn’t just a matter of picking out names of a mountain or of God, then circularly assigning them to respective sources. If you haven’t done so, read Richard Elliott Friedman’s introduction to The Bible With Sources Revealed: https://biblebrisket.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/biblewithsources-intro-and-first-chapter.pdf

  8. //Oh, the irony of someone who misspells a name that’s right in front of him telling me to “re-read.” //
    It shouldn’t be ironic. You need to re-read a text, I misspelled your name because of the limitations of my mobile device, but go on.

    //1) Reuel is called “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 2:16). Jethro is called “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 18:1).//

    Aaron is a priest of the Israelites (Ex. 28:1). Eleazar is a priest of the Israelites (Num. 3:4).

    //2) Exodus 2:21 says that Reuel “gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. ” Exodus 18:2 says, “After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back…”//
    Reuel is clearly the father, as the text establishes Reuel’s connection to Zipporah very clearly. Your second citation from Exodus 18:2 doesn’t connect Zipporah to Jethro as her father, but as a connection to Moses. It also uses that word that I will bring up in a moment. The “E” source, conveniently divided up so as to exclude Jethro from the “J” source, doesn’t connect Zipporah to Jethro as her father, but rather connects Jethro only to Moses. Of course, E is conveniently divided out in Exodus 3:1, even though all of Exodus 2 besides part of v. 23 and v. 24 are divided into P (probably because the word Elohim is used, can’t have J using it!). Rather strange. I wonder how we know 3:1 is E when everything surrounding it is J. Oh, because it uses the word Elohim and refers to the mountain of God as Horeb (though mountain can be translated as mountain region which even the biased BDB concedes). It leaves one a little suspicious on why J could not have called God Elohim and the mountain as Horeb. Because only E does it. E does it because the text is divided out with E only having Horeb outside of Deuteronomy. Yes, I’ve heard this explanation. We know J only uses Sinai because E uses Horeb, and we know that because Sinai is only used in J (and P) and Horeb only used in E (and D in Deuteronomy). Circular reasoning. We don’t even know if J and E are two sources. Some disagree. Who knows. Sorry for the ramble. I’ll continue from here.

    //3) Exodus 4:18 says that Moses asked Jethro for permission to go back to Egypt. Permission was granted, and “Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt” (v:20). This makes sense if Jethro/Reul are the same person, Moses’ father-in-law, but not if Jethro and Reuel are different people.//

    Well, not quite. Moses is attending Jethro’s flock according to 3:1, so he could simply be asking for permission to leave the flock behind to continue the narrative. v.18 just has Moses asking for Jethro’s permission to have a leave of absence, probably from attending his flock. I don’t see a basis for your argument, unless you are trying to connect the idea that Jethro is giving Zipporah permission to leave, as her father, even though it doesn’t say that.

    //4) ALL translations of Exodus 3:1 and 4:18 that I am familiar with say that Jethro is Moses “father-in-law.”//

    Because the tradition is that Jethro is the father-in-law and all translations work off that tradition, it makes it true? Are you really calling in translations as part of your evidence? That’s not evidence. It would appear that you are not working from Hebrew. This would have been a perfect opportunity to show me that the Hebrew means this, but you didn’t, but instead appealed to translation, which is really an appeal to tradition. Here is where the Hebrew argument comes in. If you look at the HALOT lexicon, it says under the entry for חתן “Syr. also father-in-law, brother-in-law; Arb. and OSArb. (ZAW 75:309) häatan son-in-law, bridegroom; Akk. häat(a)nu relative by marriage, son-in-law, brother-in-law, bridegroom, (AHw. 335, WSem. ? Goetze Orient. 16:246f…one who by marriage (as daughter’s husband or brother-in-law) has become a relative to another man and his family and enjoys their protection… related by marriage to the house of Ahab 2K 827.

    I’m trying to copy the whole entry without causing errors, so sorry it is not the full entry. I would provide a screenshot, but I do not believe I can do it on this blog. I apologize for this. If we take a look at the Greek, just to see what the 3rd century BCE writers were thinking, they actually translated it with an ambiguous word as well. From the Liddell & Scott (LS) lexicon: γαμβρός, ὁ, (γαμέω) any one connected by marriage, Lat. affinis, Aesch.: 1. a son-in-law, Lat. gener, Hom., Hdt., Eur. 2. a brother-in-law, a sister’s husband, Il., Hdt.; or, a wife’s brother Soph. 3. = πενθερός, a father-in-law. My BDAG lexicon links me to the LS entry, so that is what I have provided.

    //5) As Steven notes above, the different names for Moses’ father-in-law fall are consistent with the sources: “The textual tradition identified as the Yahwist consistently refers to him as Reuel (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29), while the Elohist tradition uses the name Jethro (Ex 3:1, [4]:18, 18:1-27).”//

    Ah, but Steven would say that. You provide one text that is clear (Ex. 2:18), but provide one that isn’t so clear (Num. 10:29). In Num. 10:29, it uses that ambiguous word again, and it seems a little ambiguous as to who it is referring to, Reuel or Hobab. So technically, you only have one text, one to cite for the “Yahwist” tradition. Again, you’re making the connection that Reuel and Jethro are the same person. Your citation only allows for J to call Reuel the father. That establishes a clear connection between Reuel and Zipporah. In the supposed E text, Jethro is used throughout, never called Zipporah’s father, but called some male relative related to Moses by marriage using that ambiguous word. You must appeal to tradition to get Reuel = Jethro here by appealing to two sources that tries to explain why Zipporah seems to have two people’s names as her father, even though it doesn’t seem that has to be the connection. This is appealing to a simple Jewish tradition of Jethro being the father, and a connection we cannot establish.

    //The typical inerrantist quibble is that Jethro or Reuel is a name, while the other name is actually a title, but not that Jethro and Reuel are different people! Rather than taking your whatever-it-takes-to-resolve-a-contradiction approach, why not look at the evidence and go where it clearly points?//

    I have entertained the idea that there are contradictions for years. Only when I started focusing on the Hebrew and seeing bad assertions and poor circular arguments did I start getting out of the rut of just listening to what scholars have to say, but investigating their claims. So, while you claim I have a // whatever-it-takes-to-resolve-a-contradiction// approach, that really presumes that you know my history, which you do not. That would be an assumption, and a bad one, just like some Documentarians make when trying to play with sources. I do not believe that there is one author to the text, but the text division currently proposed by Higher Critics involving the JEPD/JEDP hypothesis has no merit because it is based on a lot of circular reasoning. However, you’ve simply regurgitated these arguments by going on presuppositions that you hold, even if the text doesn’t necessarily support your assertions. It would seem you take the whatever-it-takes-to-see-a-contradiction approach to the text. It is the same line of logic of those who take the supposed-contradiction-represents-multiple-sources approach. Since my analysis has provided reasonable doubt, which is the basis for establishing that a positive claim is incorrect, I do suggest you go back to the drawing board and re-investigate your own claims. You followed the spoon-fed “evidence” that was really no evidence at all. I’d be interested to see your reply, but forgive me if I do not continue the dialogue as I’ve done this too many times, and it consumes time that I could have put to other tasks.

    Have a nice day, John.

    David

  9. David wrote: John Kesslr [sic], I suggest you go back and re-read.

    Oh, the irony of someone who misspells a name that’s right in front of him telling me to “re-read.” Let’s review the evidence:

    1) Reuel is called “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 2:16). Jethro is called “the priest of Midian” (Exodus 18:1).
    2) Exodus 2:21 says that Reuel “gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. ” Exodus 18:2 says, “After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back…”
    3) Exodus 4:18 says that Moses asked Jethro for permission to go back to Egypt. Permission was granted, and “Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt” (v:20). This makes sense if Jethro/Reul are the same person, Moses’ father-in-law, but not if Jethro and Reuel are different people.
    4) ALL translations of Exodus 3:1 and 4:18 that I am familiar with say that Jethro is Moses “father-in-law.”
    5) As Steven notes above, the different names for Moses’ father-in-law fall are consistent with the sources: “The textual tradition identified as the Yahwist consistently refers to him as Reuel (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29), while the Elohist tradition uses the name Jethro (Ex 3:1, [4]:18, 18:1-27).”

    The typical inerrantist quibble is that Jethro or Reuel is a name, while the other name is actually a title, but not that Jethro and Reuel are different people! Rather than taking your whatever-it-takes-to-resolve-a-contradiction approach, why not look at the evidence and go where it clearly points?

  10. John Kesslr,

    I suggest you go back and re-read. It is clear that Reuel is the father of Zipporah. Jethro’s relationship directly to Zipporah is never mentioned. We only have the relationship between Moses and Jethro. The word “father in law” for Jethro doesn’t necessarily mean “father in law,” but could refer to a male relative. Jethro could be Reuel’s son, making Jethro the brother of Zipporah and the brother in law of Moses. There is no way to tell from the text, so asserting that Jethro is the father in law based on the word that seems to have a dubious meaning is simply an ad hoc assertion. Jewish tradition says Jethro is the father in law, but I don’t buy it.

  11. OK David let me challenge you to stick around then and share in more specific detail what you just said. It looks like you deal with the “Steves” of this world on a pretty regular basis. And as you said. the pagan mindset doesn’t want to entertain another point of view or even address it unless it has to. I would be interested in hearing some of your personal stories that you referred to in which you indicate that you regularly deal with (to quote you) “the scholars of the profession”. Do you mean, the JDEP theorists as the scholars? Your insights could bring light to this place that insists on “darkness being its only friend”. Just because, as you ascertained, there are few here reading and commenting, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. And besides, you already have a “pocket friend” in John Kesler, at least as it concerns this topic. Did you notice his response? He highlighted some of the facts that easily prove your case. He was like your “amen!”

    What I am saying is that you’re being here on this forum (have you commented anywhere else on this site?) or “your work in YHVH” is not is vain.

    As a side note, this is not my first time here. I in the past (see comments above) or “in my other life on this forum” and commenting as you did on this topic, I had another name to go with my “previous life”. Sabba AbuShy. I lost my life, it was taken away, all in the name of even handedness or maybe even in just making sure that someone else had a chance (like you) to comment. I was taking up too much “band width” perhaps.

    Anyway, the memory has been expanded and maybe even speeded up a bit. That happens when people like you come in and stick around. Please do so…(;~))

  12. David McElroy wrote:The contradiction is resolved when one realizes that the same word for “father in law” in Hebrew refers to any male in law.

    Context indicates that “father in law” is the correct meaning:

    Exodus 2:
    18When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, ‘How is it that you have come back so soon today?’…21Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. 22She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, ‘I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.’

    Exodus 18:
    1 Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how Yahweh had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back, 3along with her two sons. The name of one was Gershom (for he said, ‘I have been an alien in a foreign land’)

  13. The contradiction is resolved when one realizes that the same word for “father in law” in Hebrew refers to any male in law. I’m not the only one to notice this. I’ve seen an article that addressed this and I believe the HALOT offers the alternative translations behind the Hebrew word as well. This is a popular so called contradiction used by JEPD theorists, but it’s based on confusion of terms.

    I was thinking about going through your list of contradictions in the Bible and offering my own refutations of them because I’ve already dealt with them while having discussions with grad students and professors, the scholars of the profession, but I think that would be a waste of time and not many people read these comments. Atheists usually won’t look for contradictory evidence and Christians often get stressed with this type of challenge to their faith. Nevertheless, you have an answer and proper refutation of his contradiction which you can look at the text and challenge if you so please.

  14. This is my first time here. Though, i appreciate your work, i would have love to find simple, not-too-technical or theological complications that can address my Biblical confusion.

  15. In continuation of my post above, I submit that if one is able to convince himself/herself that the Bible has inconsistencies that therefore negate the overall message, then one could argue he/she doesn’t have to follow the instructions nor fear God’s judgment after death. To pick apart Scripture over and over…what is your purpose? Do you want to not have to follow nor believe? If so, why not just do that? I pray you will have a change of heart and come to see the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and the Old Testament points to him.

    1. Elaine,

      Your final word on the matter—“Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and the Old Testament points to him—actually exemplifies why I care. For the 40 some ancient texts that only centuries after their compositions became the Hebrew Bible does not, in no way, “point to Jesus.” This is not a matter of differences in subjective beliefs. It is a matter of properly and objectively understanding these ancient texts and being honest to their individual authors and their beliefs—not what later readers, such as yourself and the interpretive tradition you’re pulling from, claim, think, or believe about these texts. There is ZERO textual proof for this reader-imposed centuries-later belief.

      Furthermore, in imposing your own beliefs upon these ancient texts it is you who have disrespected and even neglected these texts, their authors, and their messages and beliefs. Moreover, to substantiate your misappropriation of these texts to support your personal beliefs—which I might say is a rather self-centered enterprise—you or the interpretive tradition to which you belong actually creates a new author—God himself—who miraculously believes what you believe! The point I’m trying to make is that all of this is not only abusive to these texts, since they are interpretive prisms that neglect the texts themselves, their independent messages, the cultural contexts that produced these texts, to whom, why, etc., but also are all representative of centuries-later reader-imposed beliefs and meanings onto these ancient texts.

      So in the end, as I have expressed elsewhere, it is I who am defending these texts—not what the theological convictions implied and imposed onto these texts through this centuries-later label, “the Holy Bible,” but the texts themselves on their terms and each from within their own historical and literary contexts. As a biblical scholar, I care because I’m tired of seeing these texts misappropriated and disdained and particularly by a group of individuals who hypocritically and ignorantly (lack of knowledge of the texts themselves) claim to be people of this only centuries-later created Book. As mature and responsible readers of these ancient texts it is incumbent upon us to understand them as their authors intended—-not as later readers dictated—and give these books back to their authors—rather than perverting their messages by imposing later theologies onto their texts and then claiming that their 2,500 year old beliefs confirm modern readers beliefs. This is just hybristic and negligent.

  16. If you see a lot of contradictions in the Bible, I’m curious why it’s so important to you to point them out. Are you trying to discount the integrity of the Bible? If so…If you don’t believe it…why do you care? I certainly don’t believe in a lot of other “holy writings” (Koran, any Hindu our Buddhist writings), but I haven’t made it a goal to daily expose them. To quote Shakespeare, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Why not just decide we Christians and Jews are poor, ignorant people, and go do something else? Again, why do you care? I encourage you to evaluate your motives.

  17. Daniel Snooks, you write your comment is for Dr. Steven DiMattei but I am going to post a comment anyway. You ask, “What is the purpose of the Bible?” I suggest your read Dr. DiMattie’s articles “What is the Bible?” and “Studying the Bible” linked at the top of the website.

    As to your second concern, which is also addressed in Dr. MiDattie’s “Studying the Bible” article, you write you “can’t for the life of me understand why someone would bother studying the Bible devoid of theology.” I suggest you try harder. The Bible has had and continues to have a huge impact in the world, for good and bad.

    Finally, as to your statement that the Bible ‘is the revelation of God to man.” To quote Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

  18. Hobab is the son of Reuel Moses’ father Inlaw according to new international version of the bible( NIV). Numbers 10:29. Reuel, Raguel, and Jethro is the same person- moses, father inlaw

  19. This comment is for Dr. Steven DiMattei.
    I have read through the entire series of replies on this page and it seems to me that there is a central point of conflict among the various contributors.
    What is the purpose of the Bible? And in light of that question How are we to understand what we are reading?
    You will notice that both of these questions go much deeper than the original query “Who was the father-in-law of Moses?” The same questions will present themselves in every instance of contradiction (contrary, whatever word is used to describe) related to Biblical study.
    Might I be so bold as to suggest that no person can approach study of the Bible without bringing some manner of personal conviction/belief with them into it. Many a respected scholar has admitted that studying has in fact led to a shift in their thinking, an exposure of the fact that something they had believed before was in fact not supported by Scripture.
    I hold two concerns regarding your assertions in your replies:
    1) it appears that you have convinced yourself that you are not in fact applying any personal beliefs in your approach to studying. I would appeal to you that you consider the impossibility of this conviction. I am not suggesting that your are by default in error, only that in presuming that you don’t have them there is self-deception
    2) the idea that Biblical text can be effective studied apart from a theological mindset. This is something that I never even considered before, simply because I can’t for the life of me understand why someone would bother studying the Bible devoid of theology. I am aware of the immense historical importance of the Bible as a literary piece, especially in light of it’s rarity as a source of ancient poetic example. That does not trump the Purpose of the Bible, the reason it exists … it is the revelation of God to man.

    I have to go for now, time flies … but I would appreciate your thoughts regarding what I have said, and will check back later this evening when I get home from work.

    Dan

    1. Dan,

      Welcome. These are good questions. Before, I attempt an answer I might initially respond by saying that these questions reveal more about your assumptions about the Bible than my own — that’s not to say that I don’t have any assumptions.

      The Bible—or more appropriately this diverse collection of ancient literature—is my object of study. . . like a scientist might study a natural object, or a political historian might study political trends objectively. So the knowledge I have about my object of study comes from said object itself and is not dependent on or conditioned by what later readers have come to claim, think, or believe about this collection of ancient literature. Indeed, I may be interested in this, but then my object of study switches to the reception of the Bible, and not the texts per se.

      Furthermore, knowledge about the texts of the Bible has to come from the text’s historical and literary contexts. Any knowledge about the book of Leviticus, for example—notice I’m interested first and foremost in the texts of the Bible before the Bible ever was, and secondarily the Bible itself—must come from what the text itself reveals about its compositional history, its literary context, its author and audience, perhaps even the historical circumstances that prompted its composition, etc. The short of this, I don’t have a subjective engagement with these texts. I don’t subjectively believe things, any thing, about these texts; rather the texts themselves on their own terms and from within their own historical and literary contexts reveal things about their own natures and the beliefs and views of their authors to me. I’m interested in what the authors, individually believed.

      To exemplify: I was once asked by an atheist if I believed (subjective opinion) that the Bible is the word of God. I knew the answer he was looking for, but I responded by saying that I don’t engage with the Bible on a subjective level. I don’t have a belief one way or the other. I don’t ask questions such as these, nor am I able to conceptualize questions such as these. Since the Bible is my object of study and my methodology dictates that any knowledge (or hypotheses) about this object must come from the object itself, then such subjectively oriented questions are basically useless and irrelevant. Analogously, it’d be like asking a astrologer if he believed the moon was made of cheese or not? It is or it is not — beliefs are irrelevant here.
      So I don’t engage with these texts on this subjective level. Now, I could be completely naive about all of this. . .

      Your second question is the same issue: how can the Bible be approached without a theological mindset? Again, we’re on the opposite sides of the coin. You’re asking the question with reference to the reader. I’m not interested in that subjective (the subject being the reader) pursuit, from myself as reader or any other reader. I’m interested in asking the question with the author and his original context in mind! I’m very much interested in learning about the theological mindset of say the author of Leviticus. What was his theology and what historical and literary influences shaped it. How does it compare to other ancient Near Eastern literature, what does it tell me about its author, audience, date of composition, etc. And then move on and ask the same set of questions about the author of Deuteronomy, or Paul, and so on and so on.

      You notice on the flip side of this is the title of this collection of ancient literature, “the Holy Bible,” and it does indeed impose—nay, create—a specific theological mindset. So indeed, anyone reading these texts through that centuries-later interpretive prism is applying consciously or not a specific theological mindset created centuries after these texts were written onto these texts. My point is precisely that that mindset may—and in fact often does—clash with the theological mindset of say the author of Leviticus specifically, or the author of Jeremiah, or of the gospel of Luke, and so on and so on. Thus, I am not interested in applying a centuries-later reader-created theological mindset no matter of what nature onto the particular text I am studying; rather I’m interested in listening to the theological mindset of that particular text—not believing in it (a subjective engagement)—but understanding it, understanding its historical and literary context, the worldview and beliefs of its author, his audience, etc.

      So again, I’m studying texts, and I’m not too interested in what later readers or interpretive traditions claim about these texts. So I’m not bringing anything to the texts except perhaps some methodological tools (or methodological assumptions?).

      Finally, your answer to the question about the purpose of the Bible is also an answer that is reader-created! — what is the purpose for you, or according to later readers, or according to those who labeled this collection of ancient texts “the Bible”! On the contrary, when I ask that question, I am looking for an author-centered response—the author who wrote that particular text, what was his purpose in composing his text, what purpose did he envision his composition to have. Note, in this paradigm there has not yet been created the idea of “the Bible”!! So the theological mindset of the author who penned Leviticus, for example, and his purpose of writing (author and text centered meaning) differ from the theological mindset and purpose imposed by the centuries-later label “the Holy Bible” (reader imposed meaning).

      So my question—those things that I cannot fathom—are: why would anyone approach this ancient literature with a pre-imposed theological mindset created by later readers (many of whom are now writers of the texts of the NT) and devoid of any text-based knowledge itself? It seems, later readers have appropriated (stolen) both meaning and purpose from these original authors, and indeed this later reader-centered label “the Holy Bible” even postulates a new author—God himself—to legitimate this newly created reader-oriented meaning now imposed upon these ancient texts and, it must be said, at the expense of the purposes and meanings originally intended by these texts’ authors, historical circumstances, literary contexts, audiences, etc.

      I hope these rather wordy responses shed light on my approach and what we’re doing here.

      Cheers

      Steven

  20. The reason why Jethro is called “Reuel” is because he was a grand priest of all the idol worshippers, and respected far and white in this role. But when Moses only TOLD the story of the true 1 Lord, Jethro converted to believe this 1 Lord !! Making him a true friend of G’d – which is exactly what this title means “Reuel” = friend of G’d.

    Jethro isn’t the only one called a “Reuel”
    There are 4 other people in the Bible that are also reffered to as “Re-u-el” , together with mentioning their true name.

    1. I love the exegesis advocated here, might as well label it “anything but the text”! For there is no textual support to this assessment and as often voiced here this and similar assessments reveal more about the reader’s beliefs than those about the author(s) of these texts. You have shown yourself to have very little interest in the author, his beliefs and messages, and the whys and hows behind them. Instead the text has become merely a shell through which to promulgate your own beliefs, about the text and otherwise.

  21. Robert M said: ” Why would an author call him Jethro in one story and Reuel in another story? ”

    Why would such a simple thing be of a big issue for you? It’s not even a spiritual matter! (And we are living in the END TIMES when we need to be STRONG in the FAITH to DEFEND our CROWN.)

    Firstly, the Author of the Holy Bible is the HOLY SPIRIT.

    And secondly, the answer is -AGAIN- easy: God deliberately allowed some doubt-points for the ones who have a proud heart and oppose, to pass people’s “””FAITH””” through a SIEVE, to see WHO is REALLY a humble, devoting LOVER / CLINGER and who is a proud, selfish goodbye-saying KISSER. (Read the Book of Ruth for the kisser and the clinger) God CHALLENGES people if they have any claim against Him. (Read the Book of Job) And God HUMBLES the PROUD. (Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream / his son’s story of the Divine Writing on the wall)

    LORD JESUS’ Parables of the SEEDS > four kinds of FAITH > one is for the REAL LOVERS’!

    By the Grace of the LORD, as for me…
    So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

    GOD bless you.

    1. Michael, Sorry you are just about incorrect an every issue expressed above. You are voicing your BELIEFS, (misguided ?) theological musings, and the beliefs and views of a long standing, and indeed, authoritative interpretive tradition. Study of these ancient texts themselves, however, which only later became “the Holy Book” and were perceived by its later readers living centuries after these texts were composed and clueless about their authors and historical contexts as written by the holy spirit, refute these centuries-later reader-oriented subjective beliefs and claims ABOUT the text. This is precisely what reading the texts ON THEIR TERMS—and not the terms of later readers or through the theological prism imposed by the label “the Holy Book”—and from within their own historical and literary contexts—not the contexts imposed by later readers—has revealed!

      You’re taking a subjective reader-oriented theological position, and this website is trying to direct the conversation to the texts themselves, their authors, and their messages and historical and literary contexts. You have apparently opted to side with a longstanding interpretive tradition, and perhaps I understand that, but that position comes at the expense of understanding the texts on their terms (not the terms of this centuries-later interpretive framework), their authors’ unique and yes at times competing beliefs and messages, etc. Granted the present contradiction is moot; it’s not a theological issue. But the issue is—the textual issue is—that stories about Moses were told with variation, modified by scribes to suit changing needs, etc. before these traditions were written down and then collected together and centuries later codified as scripture.

      That said, please keep in mind that this site makes no claims, for nor against, God, faith in general, etc. It is strictly devoted to re-presenting the views and beliefs of the various authors who penned these ancient texts on their terms long before later readers codified these texts, collected them together and labeled them “the Holy Book” and then furthermore imposed beliefs and ideas onto this collection of ancient literature, such as written by God, inerrant, a homogenous narrative. An honest, unbiased, and historically contextualized reading and understanding of these texts on their terms reveals that these later theological positions are not tenable! The texts themselves refute these later-forged theological assertions! It’s a textual demonstration. Biblical illiteracy is a rampant and systemic problem in this country mainly because most Christians, perhaps such as yourself, mistake the belief claims of these texts interpretive tradition for the varying and, yes, contradictory belief claims and messages made in these texts by their once independent authors, many of whom wrote against other powerful priestly guilds or scribal schools that wrote of differing theological positions. How do we know this? Because the Bible tells us so—listening to the texts and their authors’ messages, not the prescribed dictates of a later interpretive framework.

      Explore the site if your interested in learning about the texts and the traditions that went into their composition. . .

  22. I think it’s always possible to come up with a scenario in which something is not a contradiction. Then question then becomes how likely the scenario becomes.

    The reason to point out that Jethro is known by other names is to argue that there were different sources, each of which used a different name. Maybe the father-in-law of the historical Moses went by multiple names and maybe he didn’t. Why would an author call him Jethro in one story and Reuel in another story, without even saying they were two names for the same person? It still indicates multiple authors.

  23. It is sooooo common to name a father after his son in the entire Arab world (see my second name after the Jewish one).

  24. The answer is SO SIMPLE:

    People of the land of Midian have at least three names (sometimes even ten names) – like Persians!
    In Iranian and Arab “””CULTURE””” we have a name in the ID we are NEVER called! (They believe in VooDoo a lot!) And Iranians have nicknames they are CALLED.

    I am Persian. My real name, under the attack of Arabs and the influence of forced-Islam in Iran is Arabic “Hassan”, my Persian name is “Arash”, and my CHRISTIAN name is Michael. So I literally have THREE NAMES – like Moses’ father-in-law.

    By the way. it is soooooo usual to name a child after his father in Midian ARAB countries.

    GBU. :)

    Reuel was originally Jewish? Jethro is Midian Arabic name YETROON, and Hobab is DEFINITELY Arabic name.

  25. If Hobab had a daughter through a marriage to Cushite woman, and Moses married her after Zipporah’s death, that would make Hobab both Moses’ brother-in-law and father-in-law, and it would also explain Aaron and Miriams animosity toward their marriage.

  26. I have studied the Scriptures for over 25 years…all I can say is God bless you Sabba. “Dr” Stevens…wow. more and more fluff. “Dr.” Stevens there’s an old saying, “throw a rock into a pack of dogs and the one that barks is the one who got hit.” I recommend you go back and read your responses. You sir have gotten hit by the Truth (rock) of God. My prayer for you is to repent and recognize God. There is forgiveness for you too in Christ. 1 Timothy 2 14-16. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

    1. Gary, That’s theology you’re spouting, not biblical studies. And I have likewise been studying the Bible’s text for the same period of time, have advanced degrees in that field of study, and have read extensively the work of others doing the same thing.

      Moreover if you can’t answer any of these questions —

      Who wrote Leviticus? When? To whom? Why? What are the core beliefs of this author? Why did he believe what he did? How did he express these beliefs and his message? How do they compare to his contemporaries? What ideology was he promulgating and why? What was his perception and experience of the world he lived in? What was his views on the sacrificial cult, blood, death, the priesthood, Yahweh, Yahweh’s covenants, foreigners in the land, circumcision, the Passover and Yahweh’s other “eternal” holy days, etc.? What historical circumstances was he seeking to address and why? What historical crisis influenced his composition? What literary conventions did he employ in composing his text? How did his text come about? How does it linguistically compare to other texts of the Bible? What other pieces of literature influenced his composition? What other peoples, guilds, etc. did he see himself in agreement with and disagreement with? Etc.

      And then move on to Deuteronomy and do the same thing, then the books of Kings, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Chronicles, Daniel etc.

      — then you haven’t in fact been studying the texts of the Bible. You’ve been doing something else, most likely theology, or the study of yourself and your own beliefs through the understanding of these texts as its centuries-label “the Holy Bible” dictates. In either case, none of these is studying the biblical texts. And if you don’t know how, when, and why that label came about, and by whom, and what these texts were before that label was imposed upon them, then you’re also not studying these texts.

  27. Scott,

    I don’t amend the texts. That is untruthful. I read and report on this site what they actually say. Sans the Graf-Wellhausen theory. Period.

  28. Socrates instructed with analogies, maybe that’s what we need here. It’s really a simply critical thinking task, that most humans can successfully perform.

    OK, so let’s try one here:

    Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard,
    To get her poor dog a bone.
    When she got there, the cupboard was bare,
    And so the poor dog had none.

    In the uncritical ages of the past, this poem was believed to be the composition of a single person—a very ancient English woman by the name of Goose. Whether we should style her Mrs. Goose, or Miss Goose, we have no means of deciding with certainty, for the stories which have come down to historical times concerning her are mostly legendary. It might be supposed that the title “mother” would settle this difficult question; but, as in certain convents of our day, venerable spinsters are styled Mother, so may it have been in the days of Goose.

    But, leaving this interesting question as one for further historical inquiry, we turn to the poem itself, and by applying to it the scientific process of literary analysis, we find that the document did not originate, as our fathers have supposed, from a single author, but that it is a composite structure, at least two original documents having been composed within it by a Redactor. This appears from the incongruities between the two traditions which evidently underlie the poem.

    One of these traditions represents the heroine of the poem, a venerable Mrs. Hubbard, as a benevolent woman, who loved her dog, as appears from the fact that she went to the cupboard to get him some food. If we had the whole story, we should doubtless find that she did this every time the dog was hungry, and as she surely would not go to the cupboard for the dog’s food unless she knew there was some in the cupboard, we can easily fill out the story of her benevolence by assuming that she put something away for the dog when she ate her own meals.

    Now, in direct conflict with this, the other tradition had it that she kept the dog “poor;” for he is called her “poor dog;” and, in keeping with this fact, instead of giving him meat, she gave him nothing but bones. Indeed, so extreme was her stinginess toward the poor dog that, according to this tradition, she actually put away the bones in the cupboard with which to mock the poor dog’s hunger.

    A woman could scarcely be represented more inconsistently than Mrs. Hubbard was by these two traditions; and consequently none but those who are fettered by tradition, can fail to see that the two must have originated from two different authors.

    For the sake of distinction, we shall style one of the authors, Goose A, and the other, Goose B. In these two forms, then, the traditions concerning this ancient owner of a dog came down from prehistoric times. At length there arose a literary age in England, and then R [Redactor] put together into one the accounts written by the two gooses, but failed to conceal their incongruities, so that unto this day, Mother Hubbard is placed in the ridiculous light of going to the cupboard when there was nothing in it; of going there, notwithstanding her kindness to her dog, to tantalize him by getting him a mere bone; and to cap the climax, of going all the way to the cupboard to get the bone when she knew very well that not a bone was there.

    Some people are unscientific enough to think, that in thus analyzing the poem, we are seeking to destroy its value; but every one who has the critical faculty developed can see that this ancient household lyric is much more precious to our souls since we have come to understand its structure; and that, contradictory as its two source documents were, it is a blessed thing that, in the providence of God, both have been preserved in such a form that critical analysis is capable of separating and restoring them…(;~))

    ******In order to expose the utter folly of the so-called “critical” methods, J. W. McGarvey authored (in 1893) a piece titled, “A Literary Analysis of an Ancient Poem.”*****

  29. A couple of thoughts:

    1. To summarize some parts of the preceding comment thread, those who follow the view that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch take s handful of passages within that collection of books that mentions Moses writing down certain laws and assume that what he was said to have been writing are the entire set of books we now hold in our hands, including the many narrative and quasi-historical (like genealogies) sections they contain. I have seen explanations of the variations in style, grammar, and language (which are even noticeable to non-Hebrew speakers, like me, in English translations) as being intentional variations by a single author (Moses) to highlight differing aspects of God, his will, and his relationship to man and the rest of his creation. Well, that’s possible; people certainly do write different things in different styles. However, that’s a lot tougher explanation than assuming multiple authorship, especially considering correlations in between the styles, grammar, language, and agendas of the Pentateuch and those of biblical texts recognized by all to have been composed later. I guess people also do occasionally write about themselves in the third person, like Moses would have to have done if he wrote the Pentateuch, but the easier explanation is that someone else was writing about Moses. The assertions that I have seen for Moses’ authorship of the entire Pentateuch are often also accompanied by a bit of magic, to explain Moses being able to write about his own death and other matters that he would not likely have direct knowledge of or worldly sources for. In summary, the texts talk about Moses, in the third person, doing some writing, but nowhere assert that the entirety, or even close to it, of what we are now reading as the Pentateuch was what he wrote.

    2. I think the mentioning of Moses writing might have been intended by the actual authors of the texts, at least in some cases, to suggest that they had his writings and were using it as source materials for their compositions. I say “in some cases”, because based on my studies up to now, I think Deuteronomy (at least most of it) was written by, or under the direction of, the priest Hilkiah and Judean king Josiah, and was presented by them as being an actual authentic text authored by Moses. Perhaps some of the narrative elements of that book were added later.

    3. As for the original topic—the name of Moses’ father-in-law—we can say that we don’t know. The texts give contradictory names. Apologists who are concerned about the implications of this, like Sabba, amend the text with an explanation that the one guy not just had (like unused middle names, Egyptian secret names, etc., etc.), but actually went by, multiple names. Some people do have multiple names that they go by. They did back then, and they do today. However, the texts do not explain that this is why the father-in-law is referred to by different names; it is an amendment to add this clarification. The Bible does explicitly note some places in which a person goes by different names. The case of Jacob/Israel is noted in the thread above, and throne names given by the Egyptians and Babylonians to two late Judean kings are noted in 2 Kings (perhaps also in 2 Chronicles—I am writing hastily, so won’t take time to look this up; got to take my sons to soccer). That doesn’t mean that there are not other cases in which a biblical character went by multiple names without remark in the related biblical text. It does show that, at least in some cases, the author considered it something worth remarking about, though. In summary, maybe Moses’ father-in-law had only one name, and some (or even all) of the names given are in error. Or maybe he had more than one, and the names given are correct. The latter case, along with other textual differences among the places where the varying names are used, suggest different authorship using different source material.

  30. Robert M,

    I could go into exhaustive detail. Except for Genesis, the other 4 books of Torah specifically say that Moses/Moshe wrote it. As I said earlier, he was over-qualified for the job that he was attributed as having accomplished. And if YHVH could speak to him out of a burning bush, the story of the first book, about the beginning of it all, would be simply inspiration and revelation to a brilliant scholar of world renowned reputation. He was the next Pharoah until a funny thing happened after he visited his people under the lash of slavery…Or how do you spell: “Losing a ‘life’, getting a wife, and a free, voluntary 40 year job as a shepherd?”

    Robert, you didn’t go to a basket weaving/lgbt U majoring in social studies/psychiatry to become a physicist. You did like my son, I assume, who went to the local (for east Texas) “Letourneau University” to become an engineer. Speaking rhetorically, you went to the source for your education.

    Same here. You don’t “do” biblical scholarship without the source material. You don’t run the race to get second place. Secondary and third and fourth level sources are only that.

    And you either believe it or you don’t. The key is the encryption code. And as Major See of the “Down Beats” says, tapping his temple with his right forefinger and grinning like a goofball, “…yah gotta know the code!”

    https://www.google.com/search?q=carman%3A+Sunday+School+Rock&rls=com.microsoft:en-US:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7WQIA_enUS568&gws_rd=ssl

    1. Blatantly wrong again Sabba. And basically everyone here is getting sick of your lies. But as I said, it’s not so much your need to justify your own beliefs that bothers me—I can understand this. But it’s your insistence on treating these texts as your own personal vehicle to spout and legitimate your own personal bullshit, and furthermore at the expense of these texts and their messages. Your disdain and neglect for what these ancient texts actually say and do not say—let alone embarking on a conversation about why they say what they do on their terms and from within their historical contexts, because frankly you could not even begin to be honest to these texts. . .

      It wouldn’t hurt to at least make an effort to educate yourself on these texts rather than to simply impose your beliefs onto them. For here’s the real textual truth about the matter, excerpted from How the Bible was discovered to be a collection of contradictory texts—a process of accumulated textual knowledge spanning 10 centuries!

      The traditional view held in both Jewish and Christian circles was that the Pentateuch, the Torah, was penned by Moses under divine inspiration. This traditional claim, however, should be tempered by a couple of initial observations. First, the Torah makes no such claim. Nowhere does the Pentateuch claim to have been written by Moses, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, the sparse references to Moses writing in the Pentateuch are rather specific in nature. For example, it is claimed that Moses writes a memorial reminding later generations that the Amalekites must be exterminated (Ex 17:14); Moses writes “the words of Yahweh” (Ex 24:4) which contextually most likely refer to the Covenant Code of Exodus 21-23; in Ex 34:27 Moses is instructed to write “these words” which again are contextually the ten commandments (Ex 34: 14-26); and finally in Deut 27:8 and 31:9 we are informed that Moses wrote “this torah” (i.e., this teaching or instruction), which again most likely refers to specific instructions within its context, possibly even the core of the book of Deuteronomy.

      It should furthermore be mentioned that just because the text claims particular words, commandments, or even sections were penned by Moses does not mean that this was actually the case. Ancient Near Eastern literature—not to mention the ancient literature of Greece, China, and India as well—is full of these sorts of practices. Authorizing a politically or religiously oriented text by assigning its authorship to an ancestral hero, or even a god, is common practice in the ancient Near Eastern world. This is called reading and understanding our biblical text contextually.

      Second, Israelite writing, or writing in antiquity in general, required large economic and political institutions that would have necessarily been absent in the context of the wilderness narratives of the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy—institutions that would have been quite present in the late 8th century BC and onwards however. (I’d recommend Schniedewind, How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel, if you dared sought to educate yourself).

      Third, there is strong evidence from the biblical texts themselves for a post-Mosaic, late monarchal, and even exilic date for the composition of much of the Pentateuchal narrative, especially the book of Deuteronomy whose date of composition has unanimously been shown to be the 7th century BC, under king Josiah’s reign.

      Furthermore, as we shall see, the actual 8th through 6th century BC authors of the Pentateuch’s texts and traditions had specific theological and ideological agendas in claiming that Moses wrote such and such part of the text, many of which were used to legitimate and authenticate political and/or religious claims of the factual author’s time period, and often against other and earlier authors who had also employed the same literary technique. As a final note, the process of collecting and canonizing the various texts and traditions that now make up the Pentateuch was a lengthy one that culminated in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Due to specific social, religious, and even pedagogical needs of this period, Israel’s ancient writings were not only collected and read as instruction (torah) to the public, but they were authenticated, that is hailed as authoritative, by appealing to, and even creating, Mosaic authorship.

      The traditional claim of Mosaic authorship for the Pentateuch first emerges in, and thus seems to have been fabricated for, a specific time—the 5th century BC religious reforms and scriptural canonization of the Torah under Ezra in the Persian period.

      It may more appropriately be asked, then, how and why did the traditional belief of Mosaic and/or divine authorship arise in the first place. The view that the text was somehow divinely inspired is itself an interpretive stance that gets formed from the specific theological, ideological, and even polemical concerns of late antiquity. Consequently, from late antiquity through the Dark Ages and into the Middle Ages, the biblical text was received, understood, and read by means of this prevailing, and rarely questioned, theological interpretive framework.

      Against this traditional view, however, it should be recalled that the biblical texts make no such claim. The scholastic endeavor, therefore, might be seen as one that pushes back beyond this traditional and theological understanding, which in the end is not founded on any textual data but carved out of theological conviction, to get at the texts before they came under the scrutiny of this theological postulate. In other words, what we are involved with here, is what do the texts themselves tell us about their own compositional history!

      In short, Sabba, the texts themselves tell us they were not authored by Moses. But hey, why start listening to these texts now. You’ve been doing such a good job advocating your own beliefs, or those of readers living centuries after these texts were written, all at the expense of the texts themselves. So it really makes no sense for you to start listening to them now, I know. Just maybe, however, you might want to question your accepted reader-oriented man-made traditions, and start looking at what the text says about its own compositional history.

      Socrates instructed with analogies, maybe that’s what we need here. It’s really a simply critical thinking task, that most humans can successfully perform. I mean let’s say you watched a couple of movies and based on whether the movie was black and white, the clothes and cars used in the film, the quality of the acting, when the actors themselves lived, and indeed the historical references, city buildings, subways, etc. we would be able to from the films themselves despite what we might have been told about them, deduce their dates of composition with some relative success. A film, for example, that had the twin Towers standing in them would be a film composed prior to 9/11. You’d be the only guy in the room arguing that this film was composed in the 1600s!

      Get real. The texts themselves, read and understood from within their own historical and literary contexts informs us critical readers and sentient beings quite convincingly of their own compositional histories.

  31. It says that Moses wrote down the laws and ordinances. It doesn’t say he wrote the entire books of the Pentateuch.

    If I read a book and it says “at that time Jefferson was president”, my expectation would be that the book was written sometime after Jefferson was president, likely many years after. Similarly, when Genesis contains a passage like “at that time the Canaanite was in the land”, I expect that it was written at a time when the Canaanite was not in the land, which does not match up with a time Moses was alive. When I see a list of kings of Edom in Genesis being spoken of in the past tense, my expectation is it was written after those kings were alive. Furthermore, since it says they reigned before any king reigned in Israel, I expect the text was written after kings started to reign in Israel.

  32. What can I say? I’ll tell you the real facts, which you insist you know but never give anything but “that is a fact” as your proof.. I don’t say or do anything that I cannot “attribute”. You make claims that we have to take on face value, such as the 60-70 different authors. I have asked you just who these non existent sources are on more than one occasion and you do nothing but claim they are there. Ok, name ’em! And I have also addressed you and this “flipping out”. This is not the first time you have lost it. You have even confessed that you find everyone who doesn’t look at life like you do is spiritually arrogant. Everyone has an opinion. You too. But that is all you got.

    Here is the fact that I have also personally addressed to you as one person to another. And with that I will boast:

    It is Paul to the believers in Corinth:

    “18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]

    20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

    26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

    AND PAUL CONTINUES:

    6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

    “What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
    and what no human mind has conceived”[a]—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

    10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

    The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.[b] 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

    “Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”[c]

    But we have the mind of Christ.

  33. Why am I here? I have been over this several times, but the first cause for being here was the thought that I might find out why Moses couldn’t enter the Promised Land. That led to reading around and familiarizing myself with this place. Why am I still here therefore? KW, who doesn’t bite or go and hide said it best—today in fact: “But there may not be a tactful way to challenge someone’s confidence that the Bible is a single, infallible book. Ultimately we all have our beliefs challenged or put down by other people from time to time. It’s part of life, and so it falls on us to decide whether we want to listen to the other person’s viewpoint or to run from the conversation.”

    Jacob, verse 9, is back in Bethel. As the text (v. 7) tells us, he has made it back to the place where it all began, as far a having a living relationship with this God who has done it all. He acknowledges this by renaming the place from the “house of God” to “the God of the house of God”. It is another layer of his life walking with this Creator of heaven and earth. You have to go back to where it all began to get into the spiritual aspect. Chapter 28. You have to go back to 31: 3 to understand the Paddan-aram comment. There YHVH tells him to return to where he came and that He would be with him. He meets Esau and survives, stops and builds a place to give shelter his livestock in Succoth (which mean “booths” and later would be the same name as the last and the greatest of the 3 yearly Festivals). He moves to Shechem and all that happened there. Who knows exactly how long all of this goes on but it is probably in years, not days or months even.

    So verse 9 says that then, after what I have just described to you, God appears to him again and reiterates what he told him about in chapter 28: 13-15, and more along the lines of his father’s prayer for him and his blessing in verses 3-4. 35:16 “Then they journeyed from Bethel.”

    “So what is your point?” I have addressed this and that was expressed thusly: “To say that the theme of this passage in question has as one of its main points that this is the growing relationship that God is unilaterally making with Jacob— and that this is lost on this site’s mindset, is putting it mildly.” The Bible is about relationships and especially about ours in relation to Him. Maybe that is why I am here too.

    As per Moses authorship, what do you need? An exact formula that says in a rather insipid way, “Moses wrote the Torah.” Now I might be able to find that for you. But, let us start with say, Exodus 21 which is in the context of the 10 commandments. Is it all right to point out that God, speaking to Moses, wrote those down? So you’re right, Moses had nothing to do with that. Then in Chapter 21, YHVH tells Moses “Now these are the ordinances you are to set before them.” Again, you win. Moses only sets these ordinances, which go on for 3 chapters and about 101 verses down before the Israelites, like on a table, I guess. Moses the waiter, not the author. Then in Chapter 24, after the people proclaim, “All the words which YHVH has spoken, we will do!” They obviously know that these are words of YHVH, not Moses. Wow, you win again!

    But alas! Before they could make that proclamation, it appears that he did recount (whatever that means—math formulas?) “all the words of YHVH and all the ordinances… verse 3 and then in the next verse your position starts to fall apart: “Moses wrote down all the words of YHVH.” Robert, that is NOT A TRADITION OF MEN. That is Scripture stating who wrote it down. Let me find another somewhere here…24:12 YHVH says there that what He has “…written for their instruction” He has entrusted to Moses. Then in chapter 25 He “spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell the sons of Israel…”. Except for the golden calf incident in chapter 32, the rest of the book of Exodus is basically instructions leading up to the Tabernacle and when YHVH then comes and tabernacles with the people. Leviticus is entirely a set of laws and instructions starting with the statement of YHVH to Moses (which is a pattern in the way YHVH tells Moses to): “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them…” Exodus and Leviticus are recorded while the people are residing below Mt. Sinai in Arabia. One year will pass while the events of these two books takes place. Numbers picks up the action as they leave for the Promised Land. 40 years that place here. Deuteronomy is written to the children who survived the 40 years in the desert and just before they go into the Land. Moses spoke to a host of different issues and even audiences(Levites, Aaronic priests, rebellious people, and children, etc.) He was preparing to be Pharaoh with the greatest education under his belt that a man of 40 years old could muster. Then he learned other things for 40 years as a shepherd.

    He was over qualified to have written and done so with nuance and a bigger picture in mind than you and your ilk give him credit for. Jesus made many statements about him that were clear references to his authorship and authority that was as if from the mouth of God. They are throughout the Gospels.

    Only those who discount the authority (author is found in that word) of Scripture make such a statement. Your approach tries to put the stamp of “bible scholarship authority” when it is anything but that. IMHO (;~)) I don’t just dismiss someone or their points…

    1. I don’t just dismiss someone or their points…

      To the contrary, this is exactly what you do, repeatedly and apparently ignorantly. But what is most disturbing to me is that you employ this same dismissal to the beliefs of the authors of these texts. You are supercharged with so much bullshit and theological premises that you no longer are capable of even reading these texts on their terms, no longer capable, perhaps never were, of being honest to these texts and their messages. Every post you post here is subjective me, me, me personal theology, nothing textual about them, and when you attempt any textual analysis it merely gets reduced to your subjective theological musings.

      The subjective belief that these texts were authored by a single author, be it Moses, God, or holy Krishna, is a man-made interpretive framework that gets created centuries after these texts were written. This is fact. The texts themselves bear witness to this. But hey, you’ve been for so long now ignoring these texts, why start now.

      The subjective reader-imposed belief that this collection of texts forms a “Holy Book”—a homogeneous divinely-inspired coherent narrative and message—is also a man-made interpretive framework that gets created and imposed upon these texts centuries after they were written and devoid of these texts’ independent messages. This is fact. The biblical texts themselves bear witness to this. But hey, why bother listening to their message when, I know, you can simply interpret them away and impose your own.

      Reading these texts as their authors intended—that is long before the two points expressed above were created by later readers—refutes the two points above. This too is fact.

      In the end, you have made a personal subjective, human choice to honor these later subjective reader-imposed theological frameworks rather than listen to the independent voices of the authors of these texts—their beliefs, their messages, their ancient worldviews, disputes, ideologies, concerns, historical contexts, literary precursors, etc. In the end, these texts could say anything, because you have already reduced them down and squeezed them into your subjective presuppositions that dictate that the two points above be your starting point in “reading” these texts, rather than the texts themselves. In other words, the meaning of these texts is conveyed to you through that which is implied in its centuries-later imposed title “the Holy Book.” And thus too the meaning of the texts themselves, their messages, are nothing to you. It is the title that conveys meaning to you, not the messages of these 60 some texts.

      But most infuriating is that you present yourself as someone who is smart, but in fact you are so ignorant that you fail to see these interpretive frameworks that you are imposing. Indeed, that really doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that you refuse to even entertain the possibility that you are imposing all of these centuries-later theological interpretations onto these ancient texts, and for one and only one reason—to sleep comfortably at night, having reaffirmed your most cherished wittle beliefs—and alas all at the expense of the beliefs and messages of these authors.

      Finally, because you are bringing your own subjective beliefs and concept of God to these texts, you 1) blasphemously fail to acknowledge the beliefs of these authors and their concept of Yahweh, and 2) think that textual criticism or source criticism is attacking God or faith in general, which it is not. It is properly defending the texts and their authors’ beliefs, competing messages, ideologies, etc. You, again, have made the conscious, or unconscious, choice that a centuries later reader-imposed interpretive framework is more important than the voices of these authors. It is you who have effaced them, defamed them, and replaced them with your own single-voiced interpretive framework that so conveniently meshes with your own personal beliefs.

      How arrogant and pompous to appropriate these ancient authors in order to affirm your belief system. How arrogant and pompous to appropriate their god and efface, defame, and replace him with your concept of God and impose all these subjective beliefs onto these texts. Your messages and hermeneutical violence to these texts clearly, time and time again, display that to you . . . well, it’s all about you, you, you, God believes exactly what you do, these 60 some authors of these texts written over a 1,000 years representing competing views, hopes, and beliefs. . .well they too all believe what you do. Your arrogance and stupidity is not only an affront to me, and my readers, but dear I make 1 theological claim here, to God as well.

      If you want to spout your own theology and pompous bullshit, deface the messages of these authors, arrogantly proclaim your abusive interpretive whims, etc. create your own blog. But here, a blog devoted to the texts—a point which you have also failed to recognize basically because you have already pompously decided that these texts support your beliefs—you have repeatedly displayed your inability to engage with the texts. Every single comment here is about you, you, you. The texts, you have prejudged, are all about you, you, you. Silly man.

  34. Sabba, it seems to me your argument is that the Biblical text is spiritual and therefore scholarly tools like source criticism are not appropriate for it. Fair enough. If that’s the case, why are you still here, on a website devoted to source criticism of the Biblical text? I’m just curious about what you hope to accomplish. Nobody is asking you to believe something you do not wish to believe. If you wish to convince others you would do well to at least address their arguments rather than offhandedly dismiss them.

    If I understand Benjamin’s argument correctly, the difficulty with Genesis 35:9-15 is in the geography. Before this point Jacob is in Shechem, but verse 9 says Jacob was returning from Paddan-Aram. As far as I can tell you have yet to address this issue. The question of whether God is appearing to Jacob “again” is irrelevant as far as I can tell. So what is your point?

    As for why Jacob and Israel are being used interchangeably, my guess is that the stories from E use Israel while the stories from J and P use Jacob. In other words, it is explained by the hypothesis of multiple sources. So again, what are you trying to say?

    Finally, I find your insistence on Mosaic authorship interesting. Moses is nowhere in the Bible named as the author of the Pentateuch as we have it, and there are multiple indications that the books were written from the perspective of people who lived much later. The idea that Moses wrote the text is a tradition of men.

  35. There’s the hypothesis that states that the text as we have it was meant as a unified whole. We then have one passage (vv. 9-15) which does not fit in this part of the text, chronologically (as Jacob is said to be journeying from Paddan-Aram, not from Shechem), and which only repeats one-time events which have already occurred. No literary or theological reason for this repetition is apparent. The other passage (vv. 21-22a) interrupts the narrative and exclusively uses the name Israel, in contradistinction to the surrounding use of Jacob. You might be able to think up reasons the text is structured in this way, but there’s no motivation for it in the text itself.

    Benjamin, this passage comes to mind. Verses 21-22a are the second example of what you describe as two variant passages that do “…not fit in this part of the text…”. Moses tells us that during these events described here that Rueben slept with his father’s concubine. It is like a parenthetical statement. Nothing strange about it. It doesn’t vary at all from what is going on. It gives you information about this eldest son whom we will see more prominently later when the brothers sell Joseph off into slavery. It will help you understand why Jacob says what he does when on his death bed…read through to the end of the Book of Genesis to that place where Jacob is talking to/and or about each of his sons.

    The first “variant passage” is the one that starts with verse 9. There it says quite clearly that God appears once more (“again”) to Jacob. The first time was on the east side of Jordon prior to Shechem. The second time it is after leaving that place and going on to the place farther south where God actually first appeared to Jacob as he was heading north and east to flee from the wrath of his bother Esau. When Jacob returns to Bethel, and before going on to Ephrath/Bethlehem, God appears to him AGAIN, the second time for this at Bethel/Luz. That makes 4 separate times when God appears to him.

    To say that the theme of this passage in question has as one of its main points that this is the growing relationship that God is unilaterally making with Jacob— and that this is lost on this site’s mindset, is putting it mildly. Hebrew thinking is cyclical in nature and your approach is linear. Big difference. Put another way, some things in Scripture are hard to understand, because the only way to do so is with spiritual (not intellectual) discernment which “…the untaught and unstable distort, as they also do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction…”

    The Bible is demonstrating, among other things that Jacob is coming back “full circle”. He has been here before, not just geographically but relationally in his walk with YHVH and now he is coming back a totally different person, as seen by his name change. The question you have to answer is why does the Bible continue to use Jacob and Israel interchangeably after this? Using the logic of your approach, shouldn’t this have been settled once and for all? Isn’t it a big contradiction that the Bible keeps using the word Jacob after this in reference to this man?

  36. Dear Sabba,

    I couldn’t agree more: language matters. If you reread my previous comments, you may find that the “new and unrelated episode” I state has “no connection to anything that directly precedes or follows” is Gen 35:21-22a. How exactly does the presence of ‘again’ in verse 9 affect this?

  37. Following the thread here concerning Adam…he was spot on with comments like: “…Trying to interpret ancient texts using our modern style of naming is dishonest and misinformed…promoting an alternate hypothesis that depends on outside manuscripts that are unrelated,…adds unnecessary complexity…Contrary terms are easily resolved by looking at the context and other clues…To answer your question, no, it does not look compatible at all with a hypothesis of two different sources. Have you read the story in its entirety?…the commentator needs to take his own advice: “Too often we impose our own ideas of text, narrative, and authorship onto these ancient texts.” That is a very strange hypothesis indeed. Can you not see the contextual and theological reasoning for using multiple names interchangeably?

    If Adam was still around I would answer, no, most on this site cannot and will not be able to use reasoning when the subject matter is discerned spiritually. No amount of intellect (or lack of the same which happens here just as frequently) will grasp much of if not indeed everything they are insisting to be bible scholars of and about.

    Benjamin, in answer to Adam, for instance goes off on a little soliloquy (“… There is no connection to anything that directly precedes or follows this fragment. Instead, the preceding and following material is clearly related…) that overlooks a very important and obvious word: “again” in Genesis 35:9 when he insists that this is a “new and unrelated episode”. Language matters! So does context which means that the standard operating principle being used here on this site of using extremely narrow focuses of a few words or verses, isolated from the complete picture that requires reading the whole related text (for example, reading a complete thought and narrative like Genesis 12-50) instead of cherry picking a verse here and there and trying to make a fruit salad out of it all in the name of contradictions. One way will go a long way in getting to the truth. The other comes up with statements like: ” Something’s wrong with the chronology.”

    No something is wrong with this preconceived view that refuses to read the obvious (in this case, verse 9 and the basic word: “again”) and refuses to see the over all picture of how God chose a group of people, even despite their obvious short comings that only accentuated His consistency and character–And that neither of these two aspects of His essence are contradictions in any way.

  38. Emma, the Hebrew word used in Judges 4 normally means ‘father-in-law’ and is only translated differently there to resolve this contradiction; and Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have any punctuation marks. So your points don’t apply to the original text.

  39. Please check your Bible again. Hobab was never anywhere referred to as the “father in law” of Moses. Judges 4:11 referred to him as the “brother in law”. When you read Numbers 10:29 just take your time and consider the punctuation marks, you’ll realize that the “father in law” used over there was for Raguel or Reuel. Hobab was once again referred to as the brother in law of Moses. Thank you

  40. Well I guess if your going to change the name,might as well change the mouitains name too!!? But the Egyptians&Israelite names stay the same!!!!!!!His a hint look it up JEPD!!

  41. Is there a reason the phrase “the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law” in numbers 10:29 cannot be referring back to Reuel?

    Num. 10:29
    Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law,

  42. adam,

    Thank you for your reply! If by “the story in its entirety” you mean Genesis 35, note that ‘Israel’ is only used two or three times in the whole chapter. Once is in the part where God gives Jacob his new name, for obvious reasons, and once (okay, twice) is in the story you mentioned. Let’s talk about those two episodes one by one.

    Gen 35:9-15, containing ‘Israel’ in verse 10, is interesting because it only contains repetitions of events that have already happened elsewhere in the text. God renames Jacob to Israel — but that had already happened (if you view all of Genesis as one narrative) in Gen 32:28. Jacob erects and anoints a standing pillar — but he’s already done that there in Gen 28:18. And he names the place Bethel, which, again, he has already done in Gen 28:19. To put the matter in the style of this blog: when did God change Jacob’s name to Israel, when did Jacob change Luz’s name to Bethel, and when did he erect the standing pillar there? Also note that in the running story, Jacob was previously in Shechem, in Canaan (Gen 33:18), while Gen 35:9 situates the story on the way back to Canaan from Paddan-Aram. Something’s wrong with the chronology.

    The second episode relates Reuben’s sleeping with Bilhah (verses 21-22a). There is no connection to anything that directly precedes or follows this fragment. Instead, the preceding and following material is clearly related: my namesake has been born and the sons of Jacob are thus complete. Time for a who’s who.

    Other than in these two fragments, Jacob is the only name that is used in the chapter. So while I can certainly appreciate the reasons for using multiple names interchangeably (Numbers 23 comes to mind), the names really aren’t used interchangeably here. Most of the time, it’s just Jacob, then we have one verse with Jacob = Israel and one-and-a-half with Israel exclusively.

    So, there are two competing hypotheses:

    There’s the hypothesis that states that the text as we have it was meant as a unified whole. We then have one passage (vv. 9-15) which does not fit in this part of the text, chronologically (as Jacob is said to be journeying from Paddan-Aram, not from Shechem), and which only repeats one-time events which have already occurred. No literary or theological reason for this repetition is apparent. The other passage (vv. 21-22a) interrupts the narrative and exclusively uses the name Israel, in contradistinction to the surrounding use of Jacob. You might be able to think up reasons the text is structured in this way, but there’s no motivation for it in the text itself.

    Alternatively, the documentary hypothesis states that these two passages are interpolations. If we ‘cut them out’, we’re left with a completely coherent narrative: God tells Jacob to journey to Bethel, he builds an altar there, he travels from there towards Ephrath, Rachel gives birth to Benjamin and dies, and “Now the sons of Jacob were twelve” (Gen 35:22b, KJV). Only Jacob is used throughout.

    I find the second hypothesis much preferable. If you don’t, what’s the reasoning behind the two ‘Israel fragments’ in this chapter?

  43. Benjamin,

    To answer your question, no, it does not look compatible at all with a hypothesis of two different sources. Have you read the story in its entirety? That is a very strange hypothesis indeed.
    Matt. 16-17a:
    ‘ 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for…’

    That would be like asserting that verse seventeen is from a different source than verse sixteen because Jesus says Simon Bar-jona.

    Can you not see the contextual and theological reasoning for using multiple names interchangeably?

  44. adam dyess, your example from Gen 35 is quite telling. Note how the switch from Jacob to Israel coincides precisely with the beginning of a new, unrelated episode. Doesn’t that look compatible with the hypothesis that those episodes are from different sources, one of which called the patriarch Jacob while the other preferred Israel, and that these two stories were later edited together?

  45. You might want to read Judges 4:11 again as I believe you misread it when you claimed that Hobab was Moses’ father-in-law. My bible says Hobab was Moses’ brother-in-law.

  46. “I respond to apologists who comment on this site and occasionally on other sites, but I am not writing articles. If there’s an issue that you’d like to see addressed, let me know and I can see if there’s something that I or someone else wrote that might be of assistance.”

    mr kesler

    i need help with understanding a verse in the gospel of matthew. there are christians who portray jesus as prince of peace and neighborly individual, but this verse :

    “Let the children first be fed, since it isn’t good to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to the dogs! [kynaria]” But as a rejoinder she says to him: “Sir, even the dogs under the table get to eat scraps dropped by children!”

    does not portray him as an equal rights prince.

    look at how matthew interprets mark

    A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ he answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’

    But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘lord, help me.’ he answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ (Matthew 15:22-28)

    so matthew does not say , “let the children first be fed” matthew’s jesus does not want the dogs to receive even the left overs.

    why , according to matthew, ” it is not fair to take the children’s food…”
    is the children’s food holy and throwing something holy to the unholy would be sacrilegious?

    can one throw that which is not holy to the dogs? do the words ” throw it to the dogs ” mean that jesus would TREAT non-jews as a people below him and his people ? are the words ” throw it to the dogs” a treatment?

  47. Adam,
    Your assertion that no contradiction exists is effected by begging the question: you assume that Moses’ father-in-law had more than one name and proceed from that premise. No one disputes that people can have more than one name, and as I pointed out, in your example of Jacob/Israel, we are explicitly told that his name was changed. Is it possible that Reuel and Hobab were alternate names for Jethro? It’s possible, but when looking at ancient texts, what we need to decide is what is the most likely interpretation of the text. In this case, we must consider the fact that in one of the passages in which the father-in-law is called Jethro, the “mountain of God” isn’t called Sinai, but Horeb, which other analysis by scholars shows was the preferred term of the “E” and “D” authors:

    Exodus 3:1:
    Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

    And so it is that other references to Jethro appear in one source, while Reuel appears in J material: Exodus 2:18 and Numbers 10:29. For what it’s worth, I consider Hobab in Judges 4:11 to be based on a misunderstanding of Numbers 10:29. I don’t expect to convince you based just on what I typed, but I think that looking big picture and realizing that different sources in the Torah have different vocabulary, agendas, etc. sheds light on many passages that contradict or are at least in tension with other texts. While the same-man-two-names explanation may seem attractive and jibes with an inerrantist view of the Bible, I think that each case needs to be individually analyzed. For your consideration, below are some other instances in which one author calls someone one name, and the Chronicler, a different name. To simply dismiss these as cases in which a man had two names is in my opinion to do injustice to the texts:

    Who was Korah’s father?
    Exodus 6:21
    21The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri.

    1 Chronicles 6:22
    22The sons of Kohath: Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son…

    Who was Kish’s father?

    1 Samuel 9:1-2
    There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish son of Abiel son of Zeror son of Becorath son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2He had a son whose name was Saul…

    1 Chronicles 8:33
    33Ner became the father of Kish, Kish of Saul

    Who was David’s second son?

    <2 Samuel 3:2-3
    2 Sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; 3his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel…

    1 Chronicles 3:1
    These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite…

    My point is that we need to think of authors’ tendencies and agendas when ascertaining why the texts read as they do and ascertain the most likely reason for disparities rather than approaching the texts with the preconceived notion of inerrancy.

  48. John,

    Pointing to outside texts is actually the second step that you would do when the conflict cannot be resolved within the text itself. The reason for this is because the margin of error goes up exponentially. I have already pointed out a place nearby in the text where it can be clearly demonstrated that one man may have multiple names that are used interchangeably. The point you made about God continuing to refer to Israel as Jacob is just further confirmation. The fact that He does so has theological motivations and is not do to textual variation. There is little value in promoting an alternate hypothesis that depends on outside manuscripts that are unrelated because it adds unnecessary complexity. I would also like to point out that a contradiction is a very technical term that has specific parameters. Something is considered a contradiction when a premise is stated and then negated (A + -A). On the other hand, the term contrary is used when two premises are stated as the same (A + B). The case that we are discussing about Jethro is not a contraction by any stretch (unless you just was to use this word colloquially). It is at most considered contrary (His name is A. His name is B). Contrary terms are easily resolved by looking at the context and other clues. Here is another example where the text gives two different names for the same person:

    ‘And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
    22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
    23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.’
    (Matt. 1:21-23).

  49. Rob,
    I respond to apologists who comment on this site and occasionally on other sites, but I am not writing articles. If there’s an issue that you’d like to see addressed, let me know and I can see if there’s something that I or someone else wrote that might be of assistance.

  50. Adam Dyess
    Hobab and Jethro are the same person. Having two names used interchangeably is also very common in old texts. Look at Genesis 35:20-21. Rachel dies. Jacob buries her in verse 20. Israel moves on in verse 21. Same person.

    That’s an interesting choice as a proof-text, because in Genesis 35 the text explicitly says that Jacob’s new name is Israel, something we don’t find regarding Jethro/Hobab/Reuel:

    Genesis 35:9-10:
    9 God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he was called Israel.

    What is also interesting is that even though God told the patriarch that he would “no longer…be called Jacob,” in chapter 46 God addresses him as Jacob:

    Genesis 46:1-2:
    When Israel set out on his journey with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. 2God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’

    There is no need to posit that Moses’ father-in-law had more than one name when source-criticism and variant traditions–the latter, as Dr. DiMattei points out, are also present in Herodotus’ Histories— explain the discrepancies.

  51. The answer is not that this is a contradiction. It seems very clear that Reuel is the grandfather, the patriarch of the family at the time moses fled Egypt. Therefore, Reuel is appropriately called father, even though he is the grandfather. This fusion of terms was very common in ancient writings and the commentator needs to take his own advice:
    “Too often we impose our own ideas of text, narrative, and authorship onto these ancient texts.”
    Trying to interpret ancient texts using our modern style of naming is dishonest and misinformed.
    Hobab and Jethro are the same person. Having two names used interchangeably is also very common in old texts. Look at Genesis 35:20-21. Rachel dies. Jacob buries her in verse 20. Israel moves on in verse 21. Same person.

  52. Is it not possible that one of the fathers-in-law could be the father of the Cushite woman that Moshe married?

  53. @Henk Beukes, a good number of the contradictions listed have nothing to do with the names of people and places, for example the very first contradiction: http://contradictionsinthebible.com/god-creates-the-heavens-and-the-earth/

    The purpose of this site is, of course, not to disprove any core “truths” but rather to explain, through the analysis of the textual anomalies, their authors and historical motivations, how the contents of the bible came to be. Much like the battle of blood river was exaggerated to further an afrikaaner nationalist agenda and, decades later, the facts of the armed struggle have been warped to suit the new nationalist agenda, these authors and the factions they belonged to had reasons to fudge facts and revise “history” in order to suit their own goals.

  54. It seems to me as if the core truths of the Bible message is not compromised by any of these apparent contradictions. It is only a matter of place and people names. Refering to me, I am called Henk, Hendrik, Beukes, omkulu, Oupa, Umlungu, and I am not very ancient. It is only a matter of names

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