Friday, May 10, 2024

Features of the Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

1. The Hebrew ruler-priests were a caste. The most significant feature of a caste is the practice of taking marriage partners only from members of the caste (caste endogamy).

2. The Hebrew caste is characterized by cognatic double descent or bilateral descent. The individual’s descent is traced through both the father’s line and the mother’s line. With bilateral descent, there is a doubling of ancestors. Lamech the Younger could claim descent from both Cain and Seth since his father and mother had Cain and Seth as common ancestors. Nimrod could claim descent from both Ham and Shem since those lines intermarried.

3. In the Hebrew cognatic double descent system, caste members receive some rights and obligations from the father’s side and some from the mother’s side. Those rights and responsibilities depend on the parent’s status and the order of marriage. The rights and responsibilities of the firstborn son of the first wife (usually a half-sister) are different than those of the firstborn son of the second wife (usually a cousin).

4. Hebrew men who ruled over territories maintained two wives in separate settlements. These settlements marked the boundaries of the ruler’s territory. The wives’ settlements were usually on a north-south axis.

5. Only males offered blood sacrifice at the altars. Women were not permitted in the area where animals were sacrificed. Likewise, men were not permitted in the birthing chambers where women shed blood in childbirth. These distinct types of blood work speak of death and life and the two were never to be confused. Therefore, the blood work of the Hebrew priests and the blood work of the Hebrew women never shared the same space.

Related reading: The Hebrew Were a Caste; Hebrew Rulers with Two Wives; Cousin Brides Among the HebrewThe Cousin Bride's Naming Prerogative; The Hebrew Hierarchy of SonsThe Genesis "Begats"; Understanding "Biblical" Marriages

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