This article examines two types of foundation narrative prevalent in the biblical literature in light of as-yet-undiscussed parallels from ancient Greek and Mediterranean texts. The first type, embodied in the Genesis narratives and Greek genealogical traditions, portrays the founders as leaving a distant land to settle peacefully in a new land. The second is exemplified by the central hexateuchal theme of the Israelites’ migration to Canaan by dispossessing the native population as well as the Dorian migration traditions. Several factors indicate that the foundation story genre also became central and foundational in other small kingdoms around the Mediterranean—as indicated, for example, by the Phoenician– Luwian inscriptions referring to bt Mpš/Mopsus and related classical sources. The popularity of the genre in the ancient Mediterranean is striking in light of the fact that, while experiencing tribal migrations and wanderings, the great Mesopotamian and Egyptian kingdoms never represented themselves as “immigrants.” It is suggested that this genre may have emerged with the rise of the new, small-scale kingdoms in the Mediterranean basin toward the end of the second millennium b.c.e. The Phoenician and Greek colonization enterprises of the first third of the first millennium b.c.e. in particular increased awareness of the newly emerging states and focused attention on ethnic identity.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.