Show Less
Restricted access

Daily Life of the Patriarchs

The Way It Was

Shaul Bar

While the literature of the ancient Near East portrays legendary heroes, this is not the case with the biblical narrative, which portrays the patriarchs and matriarchs as fallible human beings. Their story is a multigenerational one of family and the dynamics that exist within. Reading these stories is like hearing the echo of family feuds, which is what makes them timeless.
Were the patriarchs real people? Or can we say that many details in the Book of Genesis are fictions that project later romantic ideals of life and faith? To answer these questions the author examines the patriarchs’ daily life, beliefs, and customs to provide provocative and useful insights into the life of the Patriarchs.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access



The patriarchal stories in Genesis do not describe typical historical events. There is no description of the nations or wars between them. There are no traces of major national events. It is a story of families and their struggles. Genesis portrays the epic story of a family wandering from one place to another, giving birth to children, enduring conflict within the family, celebrating life, and mourning death. The main interest of the stories is the fate of the heroes. Comparison with other stories and literature from the ancient Near East shows the unique quality of the stories of the patriarchs. In the ancient Near East literature, we find royal inscriptions of myths about the gods and imaginative, purely fictional stories about legendary heroes. Not so with the Hebrew patriarchs. There is no attempt to idealize them. They are described with all their faults and weaknesses, with stories portraying simple people who are living their daily life. However, there is a power that oversees the events. The interaction and exchange between human players and the divine powers makes Genesis a majestic drama.

The question of the composition of the patriarchal stories and their historical value captured the attention of Biblical scholars for centuries. Some authorities do not accept the Biblical accounts of the Jewish patriarchs as authentic, treating those accounts as myths or literary epics. Other authors identify historical facts that were expanded with later additions and revisions. In his Prolegomena to the History of Israel, published...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.