The Patriarchal Period is defined here as those living after the Flood until the Law was given on Mt. Sinai.  Atheists and Liberal Protestantism scholars claim there is no historical evidence that supports the Biblical portrayal of this period.  On this page we will explore some of the historical evidences that do support the historicity of Genesis.


In Genesis 10-11, there are lists of peoples/nations coming from the three sons of Noah.  Including Noah, there are 81 names listed.  Of these, Stewart shows that 31 (39%) names can be confirmed from ancient Assyrian Records or other ancient sources, excluding the Bible.1  Clearly, Table of Nations is not some fictitious piece of literature.  Rather, other ancient documents show that the Table of Nations is credible evidence of the historicity of Genesis.  To see how this list was viewed by Josephus (A.D. 37-c100), you can find his discussion in The Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 6.2


In Genesis 14, the life of Abraham intersects with 4 kings who invade Canaan, and these kings were named Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim.  Liberal scholars proclaim this chapter a myth.  For example, Heard makes this statement:

14:1-7  All attempts to identify Amraphel, Arioch Kedorlaomer, and Tidal with known historical figures have failed.3

However. Dr. John T. Willis in his 1979 commentary on Genesis makes this statement:

Some scholars have contended that Gen. 14 "is a legend pure and simple, without the slightest historical basis" (Morgenstern, Genesis, p. 113). However, by no means is this the common view, for there is weighty archeological and linguistic evidence indicating that the core of this chapter is very ancient and historical.4

Wikipedia has a good overview of this issue, and offers the following table summarizing the names in the Bible with the probable names in non-biblical resources:

Name from Genesis 14:1 Name from Archaeology
Amraphel king of Shinar Hammurabi (="Ammurapi") king of Babylonia
Arioch king of Ellasar Eri-aku king of Larsa (i.e., Assyria)
Chedorlaomer king of Elam (= Chodollogomor in the LXX) Kudur-Lagamar king of Elam
Tidal, king of nations (i.e., goyim, lit. 'nations') Tudhulu, son of Gazza5

Among conservative scholars, the association of Amraphel with Hammurabi has been viewed as the most probable of those mentioned above.  According to T.G. Pinches, there are two remaining problems with the Amraphel/Hammurabi association.  These are

  1. The "l" at the end of Amraphel as well as the "ph" instead of "p" or "b"
  2. The expedition in Genesis 14:1 has not yet be recognized among the campaigns of Hammurabi.6

The Wikipedia article gives the following explanation for Pinches' first concern:

The terminal -bi on the end of Hammurabi's name was seen to parallel Amraphel since the cuneiform symbol for -bi can also be pronounced -pi. Tablets were known in which the initial symbol for Hammurabi, pronounced as kh to yield Khammurabi, had been dropped, such that Ammurapi was a viable pronunciation. Supposing him to have been deified in his lifetime or afterwards yielded Ammurabi-il, which was suitably close to the Bible's Amraphel.7

Pinches' second concern is reasonable.  However, it should be noted that the ancient non-biblical historical texts treated their self-aggrandizing pagan heroes with the greatest compliments, and were very reluctant to mention their defeats.  A good example of this is when the Assyrian Sennacherib invaded Judah and conquered every city except Jerusalem.  He had conquered every city up to that point.  He doesn't say he conquered Jerusalem in his own account, but rather that he shut up Hezekiah like a bird in a cage.  Sennacherib didn't mention that he suddenly lost 185,000 men one night as 2 Kings 19:35 says, or that he had departed in defeat and went back to Nineveh.  Thus, the obvious, that he couldn't conquer Jerusalem, Sennacherib admitted indirectly, but his defeat is not mentioned because pagan kings seldom if ever admit such things.  You can read his own account in the translation of his six-sided Sennacherib Prism, column #3, not only of this incident, but of his extraordinary pride and arrogance in all his invasions of all people within his reach in all 6 columns of his Prism.8

Pinches also points out the historical agreements with the Amraphel/Hammurabi, showing that he is the first one mentioned in Genesis 14:1, which would be expected because of the renown Hammurabi had at that time.

In addition there is evidence that Abraham was a contemporary with these 4 kings and even knew of Hammurabi's Law.  For example, when one considers the problem of Sarah not being able to have children, we find this passage in the Bible:

Genesis 16:1-2 (ESV)
1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

This episode is very similar to Hammurabi's 146th Law:

If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.9

As the reader may recall, the dating of the Old Testament discussed in shows that there is good evidence to indicate that Abraham and Hammurabi were contemporaries.  Therefore, the discussion of Abraham on this page strengthens that conclusion.

In summary, then, Genesis 14:1 does connect Abraham with the wider political/historical setting of 19th century B.C..  Genesis is not a myth.


Liberal theologians say that the cities on the Plain of the Jordan (or the Jordan Valley, Gen 13:10), namely, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which were destroyed by God because of their sexual immorality, are fictitious.  These cities are mentioned in Gen 10:19; 14:2, 8; and Deut 29:23, and Zoar is also included in some of these descriptions.  If you look at maps of Palestine drawn for this period of time, you are not likely to find any of these cities' locations except for Zoar on some maps.  Wright says,

Sodom was probably located in a plain S. of the Dead Sea, now covered with water. The name is still preserved in Jebel Usdum (Mt. Sodom).10

Others have said that the location of Sodom was on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, but Canaan was never located on the eastern side of the Dead Sea because that was the region of Edom and Moab.  Mount Sodom is a hill along the Southwestern part of the Dead Sea, and it is made out of halite, or rock salt.11  Therefore, it seems likely that the ancient Sodom was located close to Mt. Sodom on the southwestern end of the Dead Sea.12  Josephus, after describing the Dead Sea, describes the area of Sodom:

(483) The country of Sodom borders upon it. It was of old a most happy land both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. (484) It is related how, for the impiety of its inhabitants it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the traces [or shadows] of the five cities are still to be seen, as well as the ashes growing in their fruits, which fruits have a color as if they were fit to be eaten; but if you pluck them with your hands, they will dissolve into smoke and ashes. (485) And thus what is related of this land of Sodom hath these marks of credibility which our very sight affords us.13

Josephus, commenting again on Sodom, tells about seeing with his own eyes the pillar of salt that was attributed to Lot's wife:

(203) God then cast a thunderbolt upon the city, and set it on fire, with its inhabitants; and laid waste the country with the like burning, as I formerly said when I wrote the Jewish war. But Lot’s wife continually turning back to view the city as she went from it, and being too nicely inquisitive what would become of it, although God had forbidden her so to do, was changed into a pillar of salt; for I have seen it, and it remains at this day.14

In more recent history, encapsulated sulfur has been found in this region, giving further evidence to the account that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by "sulfur and fire" (Gen 19:24).15,16 

In addition to this information, it appears that the Ebla Tablets may also refer to Sodom and Zeboiim.  In the Afterword by Mitchell Dahood, S.J., he mentions the possible reference to these ancient cities in the words si-da-muki (TM.76.G.524) or sa-damki (TM.75.G.2231, obv. X 4) and sa-bí-imki (TM.75.G.2231, obv. I 7).17

Genesis is not a myth.

  1. Stewart, Ted. Apologetics 2: New Discoveries that Confirm the Bible.  Sunset International Bible Institute, Lubbock, TX, ©2001, p 194.,
  3. Heard, RC. "Genesis" in The Transforming Word, Mark W Hamilton, General Editor. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, TX, ©2009, p 117.
  4. Willis, JT. The Living Word Commentary: Genesis. (Electronic Edition). Copyright © 1979 by R. B. Sweet Publishing Company, Inc. Copyright © assigned 1984 to Abilene Christian University. (Comments on Genesis 14.)
  6. Pinches, TG. "Amraphel," in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, James Orr, General Editor, Vol 1:126, WM B Eerdmands Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, ©1939, 1956.
  10. Wright, GF. "Sodom" in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, James Orr General Editor. Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, ©1920, 1939, 1956, Vol IV, p 2821.
  12. Stewart, ibid., pp 111-113.
  13. Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Wars 4.482-485) (electronic Ed.). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  14. Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Ant 1.202-203) (electronic Ed.). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  16. Stewart, ibid., p 113.
  17. Pettinato, G. The Archives of Ebla: An Empire Inscribed in Clay, with Afterwood by Mitchell dahood, S.J.. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, ©1981, p 287.