The Pre-Priestly Abraham Story as a Unified Exilic Work

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In this article I argue that the pre-Priestly Abraham story was originally a unified and coherent composition, written as part of a larger literary-historical work that describes the history of Israels three ancestors. None of the three patriarchs belong to either Israel or Judah; they belong to the entity of the "New Israel." The story was composed around the mid-sixth century BCE and reflects the anxieties and hopes of the people who remained within the land. Its author was guided by distinctive historiographical and theologicalconcepts and reconstructed the remote past on the basis of some oral stories and his creative imagination. Hence, the cultural memories embedded in the stories cannot be separated from the other literary and theological elements included therein. The Patriarchal story-cycle is wholly innovative in its concepts of both the three ancestors of the people of Israel and the 12 tribes as an embodiment of Israels segregated origin. It was written in order to support the claim of the remainees that they are the heirs of Abraham and hence the land had been given to them in possession. These messages did not fit the theology of the returnees, who took over the story-cycle, reshaped the figure of Abraham, and depicted him as a faithful observer of the laws of the Torah.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-181
Number of pages25
JournalScandinavian Journal of the Old Testament
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2015


  • Abraham
  • Ishmael
  • Jacob
  • Lot
  • Patriarchal stories
  • Remainees
  • Returnees


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