Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Unnamed and Forgotten Hebrew Daughters


Rebecca at the Well, Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The canonical Scriptures are a reliable source of information about the early Hebrew ruler-priest caste, their endogamous marriage custom, and the rights and responsibilities of Hebrew women. Because the Hebrew caste resisted innovations, their customs persisted among Abraham’s numerous Hebrew descendants. Some of Abraham's Hebrew ancestors lived in the Nile Valley, some lived in Canaan, and others lived in Mesopotamia and Anatolia. That is why it is possible to speak of Kushite Hebrew, Canaanite Hebrew, and Anatolian Hebrew.

Jacob and Esau were both Hebrew rulers as they were members of the Hebrew ruler-priests caste. A trait of castes is endogamy, the custom of marriage only to members of the caste or blood relatives. Jacob and Esau married Hebrew women, including women of the clan of Seir the Horite Hebrew (Gen. 36), and women of the clan of Nahor the Younger of Paddan-Aram. One of Esau's wives was the daughter of the Hittite Hebrew ruler, Elon. The Hittites were descendants of Heth, a Hebrew ruler listed in Genesis 10:15. Some of his descendants lived in Hebron (Gen. 23:3,7) which was in Abraham's territory.

Hebron and Beersheba were the northern and southern settlements of Abraham's territory.

Abraham's territory extended between Hebron and Beersheba (shown on the map). Both settlements were in ancient Edom. Edom was called "Idumea" by the Greeks. The place names - Edom and Idumea - refer to a land of red people. In Abraham's time, the red people were associated with Nilotic populations before the Bantu arrived in the Nile Valley about 1000 years later.
Some of the practices of the early Hebrew are found in Judaism: circumcision, ritual washing, dietary restrictions, etc. However, the faith of Abraham and his Hebrew ancestors predates the emergence of Judaism by several thousand years, and there were many Hebrew clans other than the clan of Jacob (Israel) which is the focus of the Jewish narrative.

The unnamed or forgotten wives and daughters of the Hebrew ruler-priests are one of the least understood biblical populations. However, the application of kinship analysis clarifies their familial relationships. These were women of high social status who kept the bonds between the Hebrew clans strong. Many were women of strength and courage. Some exercised considerable authority in their time and place as heads of clans, judges, royal officials over water shrines, and queens. The Hebrew daughters of priests at Heliopolis (biblical On) fulfilled their responsibilities to the temple there. They wove vestments, prepared dyes, baked bread, drew water, led the temple women in singing, and played instruments such as the harp, the lute, the lyre, and the sistrum. We may learn about their activities from historical studies, but other than Asenath of On, very little information about these women is given in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Some Hebrew women are named in the canonical texts, but many are not. Lot’s daughters are not named, but they are identified as the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites (Gen. 19:30-38). The Bible provides very little backstory for these Hebrew daughters and no information at all about many other Hebrew daughters. For example, Jacob produced children by four women, yet only one daughter is mentioned, Dinah (Gen. 30). If the sex ratio of about 105 boys to 100 girls has remained consistent throughout the generations, Jacob likely fathered at least six daughters. Some of his daughters would have married men of Esau’s clan because marriage between the clans of two brothers was a common practice among the biblical Hebrew.

Abraham had nine sons by four women, but no daughters are named. This raises a suspicion that certain ancestors have been forgotten on purpose because they do not serve the Jewish narrative of twelve tribes of Israel as Abraham's only descendants. Given the sex ratio, Abraham likely had at least four daughters. One of them would have married her half-sibling, Isaac. She would have been Isaac’s first wife, the bride of his youth just as Sarah was Abraham’s half-sibling and the bride of his youth. Rebekah was Isaac's second wife. That marriage took place shortly before the death of Abraham. Rebekah was to Isaac what Keturah was to Abraham. Both Keturah and Rebekah were second wives, and both were cousin brides. Hebrew men of high status had two wives.

Abraham's rightful heir was Isaac so Abraham took great care to assure that he married according to the custom of the Hebrew rulers. This way Issac's rule was less likely to be challenged.

As Abraham approached his death in Beersheba, Isaac had not taken his second wife, a prerequisite for ascension to his father's throne. As the second wife was usually a patrilineal cousin, Abraham enjoined his servant to seek a wife for Isaac among the women of Paddan-Aram in the territory of Abraham's older brother Nahor. Abraham's servant asks what he is to do if the woman refuses to come back with him to Beersheba. Abraham answered: "If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there." (Gen, 24:8) Isaac was to remain in the territory over which he would rule. As Abraham's proper heir, Isaac was not to leave Abraham's territory in Edom. Abraham was confident that the Lord would ensure the servant's success, and this would not require Isaac to leave the territory over which he was to rule.

Esau's inheritance as Isaac's proper heir was consistent with the marriage and ascendancy pattern of his Hebrew ancestors. Jacob's situation (sent away to serve a maternal uncle) fits the pattern of sons born to cousin brides such as Rebekah. Esau may have been the firstborn son of Isaac's first wife, a daughter of Abraham and Keturah. In other words, Jacob and Esau were probably half-siblings and a later source poses them as twins.

Jacob's two wives and his two concubines follows the pattern of his high-ranking Hebrew ancestors. Abraham also had two wives and two concubines

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