Alice C. Linsley
In our study of The Biblical Theme of Two Sons we discovered that the number 2 symbolizes binary oppositions, territory and boundaries. This theme is fundamental to the Biblical worldview. It is found in the order of creation: night and day, waters above and waters below, seas and dry land, male and female. It is found in the theme of 2 sons, and it is reflected in the bi-consonantal languages of central Africa from which Abraham’s ancestors came.
Genesis reflects the ancient metaphysics and practices of Abraham's Horite ancestors. Their's was a world quite removed from our post-modern materialist world. As heirs of the Enlightenment and empiricism we want evidence to back up statements about the figures in the Bible. The fact that the text does not come out and tell us that all the rulers in Genesis 4, 5 and 11 had 2 wives might trouble us, but this would not have been a problem for Abraham’s Horite people, since it was customary for Horite rulers to have 2 wives. In fact, the neglect of mentioning Isaac's first wife would have stirred their interest. They would be compelled to investigate why this break in the generations long kinship pattern? Mysteries interest Semitic peoples, as do number symbolism, binary oppositions, and reversals. This is the basis of Jacques Derrida's method and also that of St. Ephrem, the Syrian.
In our study of the significance of The Theme of Hidden Sons we discovered that the number 3 symbolizes realities that are not readily apparent. Just as Abraham needed 2 wives to establish himself in the land, so Isaac needed 2 wives to maintain the territory. With 2 wives we are now able to see that Isaac had 3 sons: Jacob and Esau by Rebecca, and by his first wife a son who is not named in the text. Here the theme of a 'hidden son" appears for the first time. We had to dig into Scripture to find the hidden third. We had to discover the pattern before we even knew to look for the anomaly. Anomalies speak to us of mysteries such as The Incarnate Word, a Son begotten of God, death trampled down by death, the Trinity.
The number 3 is repeatedly found in connection to the most astonishing acts of God. Jonah was 3 days in the belly of the whale. Moses was hidden for 3 months (Ex. 2:2). Job's 3 friends struggled with the mystery of why the righteous suffer. Moses asked permission to go 3 days journey into the wilderness to worship. Abraham traveled 3 days to a mountain only God could reveal and upon which God provided His own sacrifice. The Covenant God made with Abraham involved cutting up 3 animals that were 3 years old. The visit by 3 "Men" to Abraham's tent. The 3 measures of flour made into cakes for those Visitors. The 3 gifts offered them: curds, milk and a calf. Abraham prayed 3 times for Sodom. Joseph had a dream of a vine with 3 branches (Gen 40:10-12). The “Son of Man” appeared with 3 men in the fiery furnace. Jesus rose on the third day. The Afro-Asiatics even had a trinitarian name for God -"Baal Shalisha" (The 3 God).
The number 3 also symbolizes unity in the Scriptures. This is represented in familial triads:
Cain Abel Seth (Gen. 4-5)
Ham Japeth Shem (Gen. 5-9)
Og Gog Magog (Gen. 10, Nu. 21:33)
Haran Nahor Abraham (Gen. 11-12)
Ishmael Jokshan Isaac (Gen. 16, 21, 25)
Jeush Jalam Korah (Gen. 36: 4-18)
Lehab Lesha Letu (Gen. 10:6-19, Gen. 25:3)
Dedan Tema Buz (Jeremiah 25)
The 3 sons have one father (or a common paternal ancestor). The husband and his 2 wives are one territory, one kingdom. All of this is about Christ's Kingdom and the revealing of the Hidden Son of Man.
Georgia (a reader of Just Genesis) has asked, "Does Christ presently have two wives?” The short answer is that Christ has 2 brides, not 1 divided bride. To express this another way: the Good Shepherd has two flocks grazing in different pastures, but both belong to Him. As He has said, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one Shepherd." (John 10:16)
The Church is one flock and the other flock are those who died in expectation of Messiah's appearing. The last of that generation were Simeon, Anna and John the Baptist. They are the 3 witnesses to the Kingdom's appearing. Simeon, a priest, represents the Blood, Anna, a prophetess, represents the Spirit, and John the Forerunner represents the Water. These are the 3 witnesses to which John alludes when he tells us "This is He who came by water and blood - Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and these three agree as one." (1 John 5:6-8)
Related reading: Did Jesus Have a Wife?; The Kingdom of God in Genesis; No Kingdom By Deception