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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Biblical Forms of Speech: prolepsis

Abraham, My Friend 47 refers to Abimelech; who was he?

Gerar is in the territory that later was to be known as ‘the land of the Philistines’. The lands now known as Lebanon, West Bank, Israel, Gaza were all originally known as ‘the land of the Philistines’; in modern English, Palestine; although modern day Palestinians are not descendents of the Philistines. Later, in Genesis 26 their king is referred to as ‘king of the Philistines’ but it is unlikely that their king whose name is Abimelech was himself a Philistine and this is more likely to be a reference to territory rather than the people we later know as Philistines. His name is Semitic and means Father-King. Confused

Genesis 10 carries forward the family tree of Shem, Ham and Japheth beyond the dateline of Chapter 10 to give the origins of many of the future players in the Bible story. In the listing for Ham it traces many generations and refers to the Philistines; [b] and Pathrusim, and Casluhim (whence went forth the Philistines), and Caphtorim. [/b] (Gen 10:14 ASV) The Hamitic peoples included many known to secular history. The last Hamitic kingdom fell to Rome in the Punic Wars. The people of Carthage had originated in Phoenicia, hence the description of these wars against Carthage as Punic, not punitive as in punishment, but Punic deriving from Phoenicia.

The Philistines are thus from Ham. Abimelech, meaning Father-King is a Semitic (descending from Shem) word indicating his origin was Semitic and not Hamitic The Philistines are called Pulsata or Pulista on the Egyptian monuments; the land of the Philistines (Philistia) being termed Palastu and Pilista in the Assyrian inscriptions. They occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath, in the south-western corner of Canaan, which belonged to Egypt up to the closing days of the Nineteenth Dynasty.

Their occupation took place during the reign of Rameses III. of the Twentieth Dynasty. The Philistines had formed part of the great naval confederacy which attacked Egypt, but were eventually repulsed by that Pharaoh, who, however, could not dislodge them from their settlements in Palestine. As they did not enter Palestine till the time of the Exodus, the use of the name Philistines in Gen_26:1 must be proleptic. (see next paragraph) Indeed the country was properly Gerar, as in Gen. 20. The name Philistines comes from the name of the territory they inhabited; The name Palestine itself (Hebrew pelesheth) refers to their country. The word means “migrants,” and they came from another country. So Philistines are people from the land of the Philistines; migrants.

The Bible sometimes uses what scholars call prolepsis which implies ‘by anticipation’. For example in almost all of the early episodes of Abraham, My Friend devotions I referred to the man as Abraham, proleptically. That is to say in anticipation. Just as in the accounts of the Acts a preacher will usually refer to Paul’s time as persecutor. At that time Paul was known as Saul, so the preacher is using the name ‘Paul’ proleptically. I might say King John visited Reading and I can show the bridge where he stood, but in fact, Reading was not in existence when John visited the bridge; this is prolepsis.

Sometimes even Bible Dictionaries seem to miss this point and talk happily of the Philistines in Genesis 20. When the ‘inaccurate’ use of a word appears we usually call it anachronistic. The classic example is Shakespeare

How goes the night, boy?
The moon is down; I have not heard the clock.

But as Macbeth takes place in the 11th Century the reference to the clock is anachronistic. Liberal scholars sometimes see Bible references ‘before their time’ and say it is an anachronistic error. However, when a word ‘out of its time’ is used intentionally for clarification purposes it is not error a but a prolepsis.

The point of all this is to say that Abimelech was not a Philistine king, but King of Gerar the territory later known as the land of the Philistines. Phew!!!

Ron Bailey

 2004/11/30 8:38Profile

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