Benjamin Netanyahu claims historical basis to Abraham’s purchase of Tomb of Patriarchs. But forgets that the Giants owned it.

At the beginning of his weekly cabinet meeting, on 9 July 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu read from Genesis 23.16, 19-20. This passage narrates the story of Abraham’s purchase of a tomb for the burial of his wife, near the city of Hebron.

16 Abraham agreed with Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants…. 19 After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 The field and the cave that is in it passed from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burying place.

Hebron is a city in Palestine which is currently under military occupation by Israel.

On 7 July 2017, UNESCO voted to recognize the Mamluk-era Old Town of Hebron (Al-Khalil), including its first-century CE Tomb of the Patriarchs (the Ibrahimi mosque), as a protected World Heritage site.

In response, Netanyahu argued, based on the legendary account in Genesis 23, that Hebron was Jewish. “The connection between the Jewish people and Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs is one of purchase and of history which may be without parallel in the history of peoples.” Netanyahu also had a bit of a tantrum, and said that he wouldn’t pay $1 million from Israel’s United Nations membership dues, but would instead transfer the funds to the establishment of The Museum of the Heritage of the Jewish People in Kiryat Arba and Hebron.

But did Abraham really buy the tomb?

According to Genesis 23, Abraham bought the tomb from a Hittite man named Ephron. However, Abraham’s legal title to the land is highly questionable, in light of the rival account in the Torah, in Numbers 13. Here, the city of Hebron clearly belongs to three Giants (Anakim), named Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. It doesn’t belong to Hittites at all. So on the basis of Numbers 13, we have to question whether the Hittite Ephron ever had a good legal title to give to Abraham. Hebron, according to this account, belonged to Giants.

Therefore, under the legal principle of Nemo dat quod non habet (a person cannot grant a better title than they have), Abraham never legally bought the land. He could only have bought it from its legal owners, the Giants. If we treat the Torah as history, we must respect the legal ownership of Hebron by ancient Giants.

… unless, of course, both Genesis 23 and Numbers 13 are just legends, and neither should be cited as “history” by a modern Prime Minister.

But then, might the Israeli government have to admit that the notion of modern Israel’s right to “Greater Israel” (Kol Yisrael) might itself be based on legends?

 

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Dancing on “The Tomb of Caleb” – The Facts Under the Ground

According to Numbers 13-14, Moses sent a group of spies to spy out the promised land. The spies returned to the whole assembly of Israel, and discouraged them from entering into the land, claiming that they had seen giants there. But Caleb, along with Joshua, encouraged the Israelites to kill all the prior inhabitants of the land and settle in their place. For this, Caleb was praised for “fully following after” the Israelite god, Yahweh.

Orthodox Jewish men dance near the alleged tomb of the biblical figure Caleb in the Palestinian town of Kifl Hareth in the West Bank. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Orthodox Jewish men dance near the alleged tomb of the biblical figure Caleb in the Palestinian town of Kifl Hareth in the West Bank. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

Earlier this year [2010], a decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to add two West Bank shrines to a list of Israeli heritage sites set off weeks of clashes between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli troops in the biblical city of Hebron. Both of those sites, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, hold great significance for Muslims and Jews.

No clashes were reported during the pilgrimage to Kifl Hares, which began late Thursday and ended early Friday. The Palestinian mayor, however, called it “a serious bother.”

Israeli soldiers, some using glow sticks to direct traffic in the darkness, imposed a curfew on the Palestinian residents. The Jewish visitors, some carrying children or pushing strollers, walked the village’s narrow streets. Near the tombs, groups of ultra-Orthodox men with sidelocks and black hats recited prayers, sang and danced in circles.

Some devout Jews claim biblical Joshua, along with his father, Nun, and companion Caleb are buried in Kifl Hares.

– Ben Hubbard, “Thousands of Jews visit disputed West Bank tombs”, Boston.com, 9 April 2010

This is causing some bother:

Thousands of Jewish settlers raided Friday the West Bank town of Kifl Hares north of Salfit to perform traditional prayers at what they have claimed is the tomb of Joshua the son of Nun.
Israeli Radio put the number of settlers that raided the site from Thursday night to Friday morning at 15,000. They were protected by Israel occupation forces (IOF).

Uprooted Palestinians, “Jewish settlers raid Kifl Hares in bid to claim shrine”, 30 April 2011

The tomb of Caleb at Kifl Hares
The tomb of Caleb at Kifl Hares

Ahmed Bouzia, the mayor of Kifl Hares, called the most recent visit “a serious bother” and said many villagers worry Israel will try to take the sites away from them.

“All three are Islamic graves,” Bouzia said, adding that one contains the remains of an ancestor. “Anyone who uses his eyes and head can see that these are Islamic graves.”

– Ben Hubbard, “Thousands of Jews visit disputed West Bank tombs”, Boston.com, 9 April 2010

So right now, in Israel, a tradition is being invented about the tomb of Caleb.

According to a fresh report by the PIC, there are three Islamic shrines in Kifl Hares, Dhul-Kifl, Dhul-Nun, and a shrine built by Sultan Saladin, which Israelis wish to convert into a biblical site, naming it the shrine of Joshua, who led Moses’ army into Palestine from Jericho.
Palestinians fear Israel wants to hijack the shrine in the center of the village and add it to the alleged Jewish heritage list, as was done with Ibrahimi and Bilal Ben Rabah mosques.
Uprooted Palestinians, “Jewish settlers raid Kifl Hares in bid to claim shrine”, 30 April 2011

Raiding Jewish Settlers at Kifl Hares
Raiding Jewish Settlers at Kifl Hares