Abraham Sacrificing Isaac

Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, Rembrandt

In the June 1978 BAR, we published a seminal article by Norman Gottwald entitled, “Were the Early Israelites Pastoral Nomads?” BAR 04-02. Professor Gottwald there argued that the Patriarchs were not semi-nomads, instead, they lived in small countryside villages and engaged in agriculture. Professor Gottwald called for the systematic excavation of often-ignored “minor” sites and the environment in which they existed to get a better idea of patriarchal life. One of the few such excavations of this kind, to which Professor Gottwald referred, is Givat Sharett. Here, one of the directors of the Givat Sharett excavation reports.—Ed.

Listen to the Bible tell us where Abraham dwelt—never in a town but always in the neighborhood of the town, with the town nearby-

“And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, to the plain (or terebrinth) of Moreh” (Genesis 12-6).

“Then Abram moved his tent and came to dwell at Hebron in the plain (or at the terebrinth) of Mamre” (Genesis 13-18).

“From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east” (Genesis 12-8).

“And Abraham journeyed from there to the Negev (the southern country) and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur” (Genesis 20-1).

Abraham doesn’t dwell simply in Shechem or Hebron or Bethel or Kadesh, but rather in what appears to be a smaller, nearby settlement—as Moreh is to Shechem, or Mamre to Hebron.

Read the rest of Did the Patriarchs Live at Givat Sharett? in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.