Monday, November 9, 2020

Tracing the Israelites' Travels

In this article we will trace the travels of the Israelites moving backwards from Arnon to Hormah. By moving this direction possible connections between Arnon, Arad of Hormah, Mount Hor, and the Horite Hebrew of Edom become more evident.

Arnon refers to a canyon/valley and a river that rose in the mountains of Gilead, east of the Jordan. This was the land of the Ar of Moab whose lords resided in the high places. Deuteronomy 2:36 claims that the Israelites captured the town in the Arnon gorge and all the towns as far north as Gilead.

Ar indicates a ruling caste. The Aro were a militant caste of ruler-priests who spread out of the Benue Trough region of modern Nigeria. The Ar designation appears in many names, including Joseph of Arimathea, King Arthur, and King Arad who took some of the Israelites captive (Numbers 21:1). Arad was the ruler of Hormah according to Judges 12:14.

Iye or Ije Abarim was one of the wilderness places where the Israelites stopped at during the Exodus. The name means "Ruins of Abarim." According to Numbers 33:44, they traveled from Oboth, and encamped in Iye Abarim.

Oboth is one of the places where the Israelites stopped during their travels. They camped there after leaving Mount Hor in Edom where Aaron died.

Mount Hor in ancient Edom is where Aaron transferred his priestly office and garments to Eleazar before his death. It is also where he was buried. This mountain was sacred to the Horite Hebrew of Edom long before the Israelites arrived there.

Hormah was ruled by King Arad. It was a city north of Beersheba where Abraham's cousin bride, Keturah, resided. Sarah resided in Hebron.

There is evidence that the people who came out of Egypt had kinsmen at some of the sacred elevated settlements in Canaan and that their travels took them to where they could connect with those kinsmen. The Horite Hebrew ruler-priests like Moses, Aaron, and Korah were related to the priests of Aram, Edom and Moab. They shared a common male ancestor in Terah. The Moabites are descended from Terah through his deceased son Haran and his grandson Lot.

Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Moses's family reveals the distinctive pattern of the Horite ruler-priest caste. This should not surprise us since Moses is the half-brother of the ruler-priest Korah, a descendant of the Horite Hebrew ruler, Seir of Edom.

According to tradition, Moses died before the people entered the land of the Canaanite peoples. Before he died, Moses gave these instructions "when the Lord your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal" (Deut. 11:29).

Mounts Gerazim and Ebal rise on the south and north sides of the West Bank city of Nablus in the Vale of Shechem. Shechem became the first Israelite capital. Some scholars believe that the blessing-curse ceremony was not part of the initial travels of the Israelites, but instead reflects a covenant ceremony (Deut. 27) experienced by the second generation of Israelites in Canaan.

The root of Gerizim is garaz, which means to be cut off, implying destruction/infertility, or death of a people. From Gerizim, the priests declared the blessings and from Ebal they pronounced the curses (Deut. 11:29).

On Mount Ebal the Israelites built an altar using natural stones. The stones were whitened with lime and peace offerings were offered on that altar. Apparently, Ebal was a mountain sacred to the ancient Edomites. Genesis 36:31 notes that the Horite Hebrew rulers of Edom were an older royal lineage than the Israelite kings.

Mount Ebal is higher than Mount Gerizim. It rises 3084 feet above sea level, some 194 feet (59 meters) higher than Mount Gerizim. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bees and Honey in Biblical Societies

There are at least 53 references to honey in the Hebrew Bible. Archaeological discoveries reveal that the ancient Israelites kept bees as did their Hebrew ancestors. In Exodus 3:8, the land of Canaan is described as a place "flowing with milk and honey."

Honey was used as a sweetener and as a medicine. It was applied to wounds to prevent infection. This was done during World War I to help wounded soldiers. Honey draws the moisture out of wounds. It has antimicrobial and antibiotic properties, and can kill Staphylococcus and E. coli.

Among the Nilotic peoples honeybees were kept as early as 3500 BC. Egyptians made hives out of pipes of clay and stacked one on top of another (as shown in the image above). The hives were moved up and down the Nile on rafts, allowing the bees to pollinate flowers that were in season. A marriage contract has been found which states, "I take thee to wife... and promise to deliver to thee yearly twelve jars of honey."

The bee became the symbol of royalty in Lower Egypt where a temple known as “the House of the Bee” was visited by women seeking counsel. King Tut was buried with a jar of honey. When his tomb was opened, the jar of honey was found and the honey was unspoiled.

Many examples of bee and honey hieroglyphs have been found in ancient Egyptian records.

Indo-European languages have words for honey which are based on the two phonetically very similar proposed Proto-Indo European (PIE) roots: medu and melid. The name Melissa is related to the word for honey. The root is found in the Anglo-Saxon word "mead," an alcoholic beverage made with honey, water, and a fermenting agent. In Spanish, the word for honey is miel.

The biblical name Deborah is a reference to bees. Rebecca's nurse, Deborah, was buried near Bethel beneath the “tree of weeping” or the “Oak of Weeping" (Gen. 35:8). The Hebrew word allon can refer to a large tree species, but here probably refers to either an oak, a terebinth, or sycamore fig. There is evidence that graves were sometimes placed beneath fig trees which attracted bees. The wasp lays its eggs inside the ripening figs.

Related reading: Oldest Bee Hives Discovered in Israel; The Buzz About Bees; Bees in Religion; Asian Hornets Kill Honeybees; Ancient Mythology About Bees; Deborah's Tree of Weeping; The Sacred Bee in Ancient Egypt; The Fig Tree in Biblical Symbolism

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Early Resurrection Texts

Alice C. Linsley

When did belief in the resurrection of the body arise? In the Psalms and in the book of Job there is reference to bodily resurrection, and in Jesus' time the Pharisees held to the belief, but the Sadducees rejected the belief.

The earliest textual evidence of belief in bodily resurrection is found in ancient Nilotic texts dating to 2400-2000 BC. These texts are royal funeral prayers and rituals performed by royal priests on behalf of the deceased kings. 

In his resurrection body the ruler is to "traverse the Mound of Horus of the Southerners" and "traverse the Mound of Horus of the Northerners" (Pyramid Texts, Utterances 536 and 553).

The risen king restores his settlements and cities, and opens doors to the Westerners, Easterners, Northerners and Southerners (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 587). He is to "betake himself to the Mansion of Horus which is in the firmament" (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 539).

The risen king unites the peoples, restores the former state of blessedness, and joins heaven and earth. When seen from this perspective, the Horite Hebrew religion appears to be the foundation of the Messianic hope that is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

In the ancient world, the ruler-priest was regarded as the mediator between God and the people and he served as the principal spiritual adviser of the high king. If God turned His face away from the king, the people suffered from want and war. If the king found favor with God, the people experienced abundance and peace.

The king was to intercede for his people before God in life and in death. The king's resurrection meant that he could lead his people beyond the grave to new life. Great pains were taken to ensure that the ruler’s body was preserved in death. The royal priests were experts in the process of mummification. The king's burial was attended by prayers, sacrifices, and a grand procession to the royal tomb.

Heavenly recognition for the ancient Hebrew was never an individual prospect. Heavenly recognition came to the people through the righteousness of their King and ruler-priests. There was hope that the King would rise on the third day and lead his people to immortality. This processional language appears in reference to the Messiah, who has the power to deliver captives from the grave to the throne of heaven (Ps. 68:18; Ps. 7:7; Eph. 4:8). Paul speaks of Christ leading captives in his royal train.

The Sadducees rejected belief in life after death because that is how they interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). They settled on this position because, as N.T. Wright points out, “resurrection from the beginning was a revolutionary doctrine" (The Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 138). The idea of an eternal kingdom of immortals under the rule of God rather than the Sadducees would have been extremely troubling to the ruling elites in Jerusalem.

Related reading: Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; Gathered to His People; Burial Practices of the Rulers of Old; Heart Scarabs

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Scatter-Gather Motif in Judges

Alice C. Linsley

The book of Judges contains interesting details about various clans, tribes, and scattered peoples living in Canaan before the establishment of the monarchy. We will focus on three groups whose stories illustrate the scatter-gather motif in Judges. These are the clans of Caleb, Ephraim, and the scattered peoples called “Perizzites.”

The Clan of Caleb

Caleb's name is spelled with the same consonants as כֶּלֶב kéleḇ,  meaning “dog.” The dog was the totem of Caleb’s clan and the clan understood the canine nature. Dogs tend to move in packs and they are the most dangerous when together. They gather to hunt and kill, but they often separate to eat the kill, dragging their piece of flesh away from the pack. In other words, they gather, then scatter.

The clan of Caleb was known to produce brave and bold warriors. The Hebrew word for warrior is gid'on (Gideon). This allusion to the dog clan is found in Judges 7:4-7:

But the Lord said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you, he shall go; but if I say, this one shall not go with you, he shall not go."  So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.  The Lord said to Gideon, "With the 300 men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.

Here we have an acknowledgement of the Caleb clans as chosen warriors. Gideon was a descendant of Caleb.  As such, he might have shown preference to his clansmen who he knew to be great warriors (and loyal to him as their leader), but Gideon can not be accused on showing favoritism since God gathered the warriors from among the many tribes and clans of Israel.

1 Chronicles 2:50 tells us that Caleb’s firstborn son was Hur (HR). Hur’s firstborn son was Shobal, the founder of Kiriath-jearim where the Ark resided until it was moved to Jerusalem. Shobal the Younger was named after his maternal grandfather, according to the Horite pattern whereby the cousin or niece bride named her firstborn son after her father. Shobal is a Horite name, so some of Gideon’s clan can be traced through his cousin or niece wife to the Horites of Genesis 36.

Caleb is noted as being the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (Numbers 32:12). The Kenizzites are often listed with the Perizzites as in Genesis 15:18-21. Kenizzite derives from an ancestral name Kenaz and is related to the name Kain and Kenan (Gen. 4).  Caleb’s brother was named Kenaz (Jos. 15:17; Jg 1:13; 1Ch 4:13).  After killing Abel, Kain was banished or told to scat from his homeland.  "Scat" is related to the verb to scatter.  His descendants scattered abroad (cf. Genesis 11:8).

The Clan of Ephraim

A reader from Nigeria who posts as “YT” wondered if some of the Yoruba might be related to the Ephraimites.  He noted that during the Yoruba intertribal wars, a subgroup living in the area of Ibadan in Southwestern Nigeria were identified by their difficulty in pronouncing the sh sound (as in shoe).  The sh sound is not common in the dialect of this Yoruba people. YT wondered if these people might be related to the Ephraimites. He is referring to this verse of Scripture:

The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.'" If he said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time. (Judges 12:5-6)

The strange thing about the Judges story is that the Ephraimites should have been familiar with the sh sound. Egyptians had this sound in their language and Ephraim is associated with Joseph of Egypt. The Egyptian sh was represented by this hieroglyph:

It appears that this Ephraim's descendants spoke a different dialect that their brothers in the clan of Manasseh. This suggests that Ephraim and Manasseh were the firstborn sons of two different wives.  It was the custom of Horite rulers to have two wives.  Since the Egyptians were able to pronounce the sh, we must consider the possibility that Ephraim's mother was not Egyptian. The Egyptian rulers took wives from the Upper Nile, so it is likely that Ephraim's mother was Nubian. In Old Nubian, the sh phoneme (as in shoe)was much less common than the s sound (as in sand).

The historical background of this reference is important. Ephraim was located next to Dan. Joppa, a principal city of Dan, was occupied by an Egyptian garrison during the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 BC). Ephraim and some of Manasseh's descendants lived on the west side of the Jordan directly opposite the other half of Manasseh and their kinsmen of Gad. Ephraim and Manasseh were of the Niolitic House of Joseph. Their plant totem was the ceph or sedge (Nile reeds). The clans of the so-called "half-tribe of Manasseh" and Gad were of the House of Jacob (Aramean). Living on the opposite sides of the Jordan these clans had to cooperate in their control of the river commerce. The scattered were gathered around the Jordan River, which like tied these clans together.

The Perizzites

After Levi and Simeon murdered the men of Shechem, Jacob declared to them: “You've made the people living in the area, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, hate me.”

In Judges we read that the king of the Scattered People resided in Bezek (Bezeq as in the shattering lightning of Ezekiel 1:14). Bezek means “scatter.”  The king of Bezek delighted in cutting off the toes and thumbs of the rulers he conquered. This was his trademark form of torture. The toes and thumbs were scattered and the rulers were made to gather crumbs like dogs under the Bezek’s table. When Judah and Simeon captured the King of Bezek, they did to him what he had done to the other rulers. Perhaps word of this retributive justice took some of the edge off the Canaanites hatred of Jacob’s people.

Later God warns the clans of Jacob and Joseph through Joshua (Yeshua) that they will be treated the same if the people slip into idolatry: "The LORD will scatter you among the peoples” (Deut. 4:27). This came true as is evident in the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman, a Greek who was born in the land of Canaan. Note how her story relates to this theme of being scattered and gathered.  Here again we find the reference to the dog under the king’s table.

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”(Mark 7:24-29)

The brilliant Anglican liturgist Thomas Cranmer understood the scatter-gather motif behind this story. He placed the “Prayer of Humble Access” before the distribution or scattering of the consecrated bread and wine. The prayer appeared in the Order for Communion in 1548 and in First Prayer Book of Edward VI (largely Cranmer’s work) published in 1549. It does not appear in any previous liturgical texts.

Prayer of Humble Access

We do not presume to come to this thy Table (O merciful Lord) trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We be not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, in these holy Mysteries, that we may continually dwell in him, and he in us, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood. Amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Resolving the Lukan and Matthean Genealogies


The Betrothal of Joseph and Mary

Nathan is named as one of David's sons in 2 Samuel 5:1; 1 Chronicles 3:5 and 14:4. Luke's list of ancestors is traced from King David through his so Nathan (Luke 3:31). It appears that he was Solomon's older brother. One theory is that Nathan may have been viewed as David's legal heir by right of primogeniture. However, it more likely that Luke's tracing of Jesus' ancestry through Nathan and Matthew's tracing through Solomon (Matthew 1:6) is because the lines of the brothers Nathan and Solomon intermarried. 

The pattern of rulers taking marriage partners from their brother's family is evident with Cain and Seth, Ham and Shem, and Abraham and Nahor. The daughters of ruler-priests married the sons of ruler-priests from patrilateral clans.

It is likely that Luke's list traces Jesus' ancestors through his mother. A reference in the Talmud refers to "Mary daughter of Eli" and we know that these ruler-priests had more than one name. According to Patristic tradition, Mary's father was called Joachim. A king of Judah (reigned 609–598 BC) named Jehoiakim had the birth name Eliakim, which is shortened to Eli. Jehoiakim is a variant of Joachim.

The expectation of Messiah, preserved through thousands of years by the Hebrew, focuses on the clan of Judah. Matthew 1:1–6 and Luke 3:32–34 are in agreement on that.

Perez – son of Tamar by Judah
Ram (Aram)
Salma (or Salmon), married Rahab
Boaz, married Ruth

Luke 3:23–31 continues the list as follows and highlights the royal priests designated by variant spellings of Matthew/Mattatha/Mattathias/Mattai. Notice the recurrence of names, marked with an asterisk.

Mattatha *
Eliakim (Eli is the shortened form.)
Joseph *
Judah – father of Er
Matthat *
Er – descendant of Er
Zerubbabel – who returned to Judah from Babylonian captivity with Mordecai
Mattathias *
Mattathias *
Joseph *
Matthat *
Joseph *

The name Matthan/Mattai and its variants appear six times in Luke’s list. The name Mattan appears in Matthew's list. The name derives from a Hebrew word for “gift” - Mattanah. The word first appears in the Bible in Genesis 25:6.
But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

Mattaniah means “gift of God” and is a name found among the priests in I Chronicles.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Trinitarian Correspondences Between Mesopotamia and the Nile

Image of Enki in the primordial Abzu

In ancient Akkadian the title Enlil refers to the High God who appoints High Kings. En means Lord or Master, and Lil refers to the wind, air, or God's breath (Ruach in Hebrew). Many ancient texts make reference to Enlil's connection to rulers. Here is an example: "Enlil, the Great Mountain, has commissioned you to gladden the hearts of lords and rulers and wish them well." (See section 38-47.)

Enlil's divine appointment of rulers is evident from Sumerian early dynastic royal inscriptions. King Zagesi (Lugalzagesi) of Umma and Uruk was said to be appointed king over all of Mesopotamia by Enlil:
"Enlil, King of all the lands, gave kingship of 'the Land' to Lugalzagesi, pointed the eyes of 'the Land' toward him, set all the lands at his feet, from sunrise to sunset." (G. Magid 2006)

Lugalzagesi conquered the Sumerian city-states and united all of them under his authority. He is believed to be the first to do so and the last emperor of Mesopotamia. Lugalzagesi was the "ishib priest of An," a title which Sargon I also took when he captured Lugalzagesi. The ishib priest is said to perfect the holy vessels used in the temple. 

Enlil appears to be one of the three divine persons in something similar to the Trinity. Belief in the Three-Person God appears to be a core belief of the Hebrew priests who served the early kingdom builders like Nimrod. These are described as "mighty men" and "heroes" in Genesis 6. They built temples and employed priests and temple servants. The Hebrew royal priests were dispersed geographically, but it seems that they promoted their unique understanding of God Father, God Son, and God Spirit wherever they lived. 

Among the Nilotic Hebrew, God Father was called Re (Father). God Son was called Horus (Most High One), and God Spirit was called Akh (Spirit). Among the Mesopotamian Hebrew, God Father was called An or Anu. God Son was called Enki (Lord Over All), and God Spirit was called Enlil (Lord wind/breath). 

That Enki is the son of God is evident from ancient texts such as this one: "Enki, the king of the Abzu, justly praises himself in his majesty: 'My father, the king of heaven and earth, made me famous in heaven and earth." (See section 61-80.)  

In the early 2nd millennium BC version of the Atrahasis Epic, Anu is described as both father and king. “Anu their father was king.” (S. Dailey. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood. Gilgamesh and Others; Oxford University Press. 1989, p. 9.)

Likewise, Horus was said to recognize his father in the king. "Horus is a soul and he recognizes his Father in you..." (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 423)

Even ancient terms for the royal first person are derived from the name of the High God. Examples include anaku, the royal I in Akkadian, and anochi, the royal I in ancient Egyptian.

In Canaan shrines to the Three God were dedicated to Baal Shalisha, literally the Three God, or Masters Three. One such shrine was in the hill country of Ephraim and is mentioned in 2 Kings 4:42 and 1 Samuel 9:4.

Solar Symbolism

The High God's symbol or emblem was the sun. It was a common belief in the ancient world that high kings served by the authority of the High God who shone his light (rays of the sun) upon them. This divine overshadowing is depicted on many ancient stone reliefs and tomb paintings. 

Hathor, the mother of Horus, conceived by divine overshadowing.

If this understanding of divine appointment was spread by the Hebrew ruler-priests it is misleading to speak of the High God as the "Sun God." The Hebrew distinguished between the High God and the solar symbol of the High God. They employed solar imagery such as rays of sunlight and solar crowns to speak of blessings from on high. Malachi 4:2 uses solar language in exactly this way: "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings (rays)." Likewise, the Psalm 92:2 description of the Lord as “a sun and a shield” is not to be taken literally. 

Psalm 19:1-4 clearly distinguishes between the High God and the sun by asserting that God makes a tent for the sun.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their measuring line goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

Friday, July 31, 2020

War in the Old Testament

Ramses II at the battle of Kadesh

The Old Testament does not set forth a consistent picture of war or battle. In Genesis, Abraham refuses any personal gain as victor after the battle at Siddim (Gen. 14). He also received what appears to be absolution of blood guilt from Melchizedek, the high priest of Jerusalem.

When Levi and Simeon used the rape of their sister Dinah as an excuse to decimate the male population of Shechem, Jacob objected (Gen. 34:30) and later Jacob pronounced a judgment on their evil deeds. “Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel” (Gen. 49:7). This judgement on Levi and Simeon removes any ambiguity about their deeds. Their slaughter of the entire male population of Shechem was wrong, and their families suffer the consequences.

Some biblical writers present YHWH as a warrior who fights for Israel to install Israel as a kingdom. This meant uprooting the populations that already lived there and toppling the rulers who controlled Canaan. The accounts vary. In some, all the inhabitants and their livestock are to be destroyed (a holocaust). In some accounts, the women and children are taken captive and only the men are killed. The accounts in the book of Joshua of the Israelite victories are inconsistent. Joshua 11:11 claims that "None of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor only; that Joshua burned." However, Joshua 6:24 credits Joshua with burning Jericho, and Joshua 8:28 reports that he also burned Ai.

Israel Finklestein and other archaeologists question the Deuteronomist Historian's claim of the swift invasion of Canaan and the Israelite conquest and destruction of fortified cities such as Jericho and Hazor. The evidence of excavations at those sites does not support the claim. Hershel Shanks has written that archaeology "sometimes provides evidence that seems to refute the Biblical account. That is the case, for example, with the Israelite conquest of the land as described in the Book of Joshua. The various cities that the Israelites supposedly conquered simply cannot be lined up with the archaeological evidence." (BAR, July-August 2013, p. 6)

Related reading: Battles in the Bible; INDEX of Topics at Biblical Anthropology; Understanding the Science of Biblical Anthropology; Does the Bible Advocate Genocide?