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24.10.2017 12:42    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  parashah  lechlecha  ben-artzi  

Where was Abraham promised the land?

1.  Elon Moreh

Abraham’s first station in the land of Israel was at Elon Moreh in the vicinity of the city of Shechem, situated in the middle of Samaria:  “Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, at the terebinth [Heb. Elon] of Moreh” (Gen. 12:6).  There Abraham received his first promise of the land, and gave thanks to the Lord by setting up an altar:  “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will assign this land to your offspring.’  And he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him” (Gen. 12:7).  Where is this place, Elon Moreh?

It turns out that Abraham received this promise at the most elevated spot near Shechem, a place from which one can see the entire land.  The expression, “I will assign this land to your offspring,” implies that He actually showed him the land.  The city of Shechem is surrounded by four hills:  Mt. Kabir (elev. 770 meters) to the northeast; Mt. Yinon (elev. 870 meters), on which the settlement of Itamar now stands, to the southeast; Mt. Gerizim (elev. 880 meters) south of Shechem; and Mt. Ebal (elev. 940 meters) north of Shechem.

The highest of all is thus Mt. Ebal, from which one has a magnificent prospect of the entire land, which is probably the reason the IDF set up a large radar installation there.  Presumably our patriarch Abraham stood on Mt. Ebal, which is also called Elon Moreh, because the terebinths atop the hill could be seen from everywhere, and thus were a landmark, Heb. moreh derekh, for all passing caravans.[1]

2.  East of Bethel

The second station in Abraham’s journey was “east of Bethel”:  “From there [Elon Moreh] he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to the Lord and invoked the Lord by name” (Gen. 12:8).  There Abraham called on the Lord by name for the first time, and there he received his second promise of the land:  “for I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever” (Gen. 13:15).

Where was Abraham standing when he was “east of Bethel”?  He must have been on a markedly elevated spot (as it says, “to the hill country”), east of Bethel.  This elevation also provides a breathtaking view of the entire land, and here, too, the IDF situated a radar installation for precisely the same reason as they did on Mt. Ebal.  Indeed, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an apocryphal scroll on Genesis, says explicitly that the Lord told Abraham to ascend “the heights of Hazor.”  This indicates that by the Second Temple period there was a tradition that Mt. Ba`al Hazor was the place from which Abraham viewed the land, and there he called on the name of the Lord.[2]

3. Elonei Mamre

The third station in Abraham’s journey was Elonei Mamre:  “And Abram moved his tent, and came to dwell at the terebinths of Mamre, which are in Hebron; and he built an altar there to the Lord” (Gen. 13:18).  There Abraham was promised the land for the third time:  “I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding.  I will be their G‑d” (Gen. 17:8).

Here, too, as with the two previous sites, Abraham built an altar in order to give thanks to the Lord.  Where is “the terebinths of Mamre, which are in Hebron”?  The place is generally identified with an important archaeological site situated at Zekhukhit Junction, north of Hebron.  Next to the site is a high peak (elev. 1020 meters), and also from there one can see extensive panoramas of the south of the land.

4.  The common denominator

So we see that the land was promised to Abraham in three places:  at Elon Moreh near Shechem, on a hilltop east of Bethel, and at Elonei Mamre near Hebron.  According to the suggested identification of these spots, they would be Mt. Ebal near Shechem (940 meters), Mt. Ba’al Hazor near Bethel (1016 meters), and the peak between Hebron and Halhul (1020 meters).  All three places are elevated locations from which one can see the land, as the Lord said to Abraham:  “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west” (Gen. 13:14).

Essentially these three spots are the three summits of the central mountain range of the land of Israel:  Mt. Ebal is the most elevated peak of the hills of Samaria (north), Mt. Ba`al Hazor is the highest of the hills of Bethel (center), and Elonei Mamre is the highest spot in the hills of Hebron (south).  Thus, Abraham could encompass with his gaze all parts of the land of Israel—“to the north and south, to the east and west.”

Gazing is not sufficient to make it yours, and therefore Abraham was also commanded:  “Up, walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you” (Gen. 13:17).  Indeed, Abraham fulfilled this command assiduously:  “And he proceeded by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been formerly, between Bethel and Ai” (Gen. 13:3).

Translated by Rachel Rowen

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