A reader has emailed me with this excellent question:
“I have a few questions about your blog, but don't remember the password I gave to get on, so haven't been able to write. I'm a little confused about "where you are going" with Genesis. I see Cultural Anthropology 101, kinship stuff, the afro-centric emphasis and literary criticism, deconstruction style, and a lot about priests and shamans (more cultural anthropology). I'm having trouble getting a coherent thread I can follow, but honestly, it's probably just me. Can you give me some hint of where you are going and the purpose of all of this?”
My concern at this blog is that Genesis be understood on the deepest possible level since misunderstanding Genesis skews our understanding of the entire Bible. Allow me to give just two examples.
Example One: If one insists that Adam and Eve are the original first parents of all humans (which Genesis doesn’t assert), then one must deal with all the anthropological, biological and linguistic evidence to the contrary. When people try to reconcile their insistence that Adam and Eve are historical and the progenitors of all humanity, they ignore the very evidence that actually verifies what Genesis tells us. Take the assertion in Genesis 11:1: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” This is told from the perspective of the Afro-Asiatic peoples who are mentioned in Genesis 10, from whom we receive the information in Genesis. It is true that all the languages in the Afro-Asiatic language are cognate languages. Now if somewhere in Genesis 10, a Chinese language appeared, we would have reason to suspect that someone had tampered with the text/tradition.
Example 2: Genesis 25:1 tells us that Abraham’s second wife was Keturah. The placement of this information after the death of Sarah, creates the impression that Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died. It is very important to understand that Abraham, like his father and his grandfather, had two wives simultaneously. This is a characteristic of the kinship pattern of the Kenite chiefs. The wives maintained separate households. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah resided in Beersheba, to the south.
Then we read verse 5: “Abraham left everything to his son Isaac. While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.” This verse shows evidence of being “glossed”, that is, edited with the intent to mislead. Keturah, a full-fledged wife, is labeled a “concubine” and her sons, who were chiefs in the Arabian Peninsula, are “sent to the east”. This puzzle piece is the only one left after we put the Genesis puzzle together. In other words, this piece doesn’t belong with this puzzle!
It is not difficult to see why this gloss entered the text. It attempts to exclude Keturah’s sons from any claim to lands within Abraham’s territory which extended from Beersheba north to Hebron along one of the richest trade routes in the ancient Near East. Unfortunately, the glossed passage has been used by Zionists to uphold their vision of a Jewish state in Palestine and exclusion of their brothers who are descended from Abraham by Keturah. Fighting between brothers brings shame upon Father Abraham. Thousands of lives have been lost because of the false claim that the land was promised only to the descendents of Isaac. They do well to hear Abraham’s words to Lot: “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.” (Gen. 13:8)
Likely Isaac did inherit at least a portion of Abraham’s territory, but he would have relied on his brothers to help him govern that territory, so in that sense they too had vested interest in the land. We know that Isaac was close to his Beersheba/Negev brothers because he was living among them when Abraham’s servant returned with Rebekah (Gen. 24:62).
The Genesis 25:5 gloss gives priority to the line of Isaac, and in so doing, discriminates against Abraham’s other descendents. It also causes us to lose sight of the fact that Abraham had eight sons: Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. This is significant for our understanding of Messiah, who according to the ancient Semitic numerology would be Son Number Nine, the Bridegroom who is to enter the Bridal Chamber to consummate the marriage that will lead to the birth of a new reality.
When that new reality dawns we will no longer concern ourselves with a deep reading of Genesis, but until then we have a responsibility to handle the text with as much skill as we can muster.