Alice C. Linsley
To understand the Bible we must look for patterns that first appear in Genesis. In this sense, Genesis is foundational to the whole of the Bible. The patterns are sometimes more evident when we focus on the women. This is true when considering blood lines among Abraham's Horite people because blood line was traced through the mother. Social status was according to the father's status, which is why all the first-born sons listed in the Genesis genealogies are rulers like their fathers.
Tamar, Who Builds Up the House of Jacob
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law who bore him twin sons after he had intercourse with her at a Canaanite shrine. Possibly, this was the shrine of her "father's house" to which she was sent by Judah when he refused to provide her another of his sons.
Tamar's name means date nut palm, a symbol of fertility. Judah praised her as "more righteous” than himself in (Gen. 38:26) because she found a way to fulfill the levirate marriage law. The younger of Tamar's two sons was Perez, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.
According Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (Gen. 38:6), Tamar is a daughter of Shem who is also identified as Melchizedek. Since Shem-Melchizedek was a priest, Tamar's punishment as demanded by Judah was that set in Lev. 21:9 for a priest's daughter guilty of prostitution.
Asenath, Daughter of Potiphera, High Priest of Heliopolis
Asenath was Joseph’s Egyptian wife. She was a woman of high rank whose father was a Horite Priest of Heliopolis (City of the Sun). Her son Manasseh probably belongs to her father's house and Ephraim, the younger belonged to the house of Jacob, which explains why Jacob gave Ephraim the blessing of the first-born.
Asenath's father was Putiphar or Potiphera. This is a title composed of the word pu and tifra. Putifra in ancient Egyptian means "this order." This may indicate the order of Horite ruler priests. The stela of Putiphar speaks of Putiphar as the "son of Horus, may He live forever."
Asenath's name means “holy to Anath”. Anath was a goddess throughout the Afro-Asiatic world. She is sometimes called Mari-Anath. She was believed to be the consort of the high God. Many shrines were built to her. These places had pools of water and were regarded as places where women could come to ask the Deity for children. These were also places of healing (compare to story in John 5).
Zipporah, Daughter of the Priest of Midian
Zipporah was Moses’ wife and a daughter of Jethro, Priest of Midian. Her name is derived from the word ציפור (tsipor, “bird”). Moses met Zipporah at a well, like a Midianite shrine. She bore Moses two sons: Gershom and Eliezer. The younger son was Eliezer. His Canaanite name means "God is my help”.
In all three cases, the younger sons were given priority over their older brothers. Tamar's son Perez is chosen over Zerah. Jesus Christ came from his line.
In Gen. 48, Jacob gives the blessing reserved for the firstborn to Asenath's younger son, Ephraim. Ephraim's descendents inhabited the principal settlements of Canaan, including Baal-shalisha which means the Three God or the God of Three.
In 1 Chronicles 23:17 we read this about Zipporah's youngest son: "The descendants of Eliezer: Rehabiah was the first. Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous.' Note that the name of Eliezer's first born son is a variant of the name Rehab. Rehab was another ancestor of Jesus Christ.
The Virgin Mary
Mary, the mother of Jesus Messiah, was a dedicated Temple virgin. The term "virginity" in Mary's case refers to her role as a priest's daughter who was dedicated to the temple, much as Hannah dedicated Samuel to the temple. In ancient times dedicated virgins led the people in singing. They played the timbrel and danced. There was a celibacy requirement for royal daughters dedicated to the temples and shrines. Temple virgins are described in the Old Testament as women who "watch [or wait] (צָבָא) at the door of the tabernacle.” In Exodus 38:8, we read that the laver of copper and its stand of copper were made “from the mirrors of the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (Hebrew Study Bible, p. 197).
Temple virgins performed many necessary tasks such as weaving. The connection between the the Virgin Mary and weaving is found in non-canonical books as well as in canonical books. Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew describes how Mary and the other virgins were spinning thread in the Temple compound. Carrying a pitcher, Mary went out to a fountain where the angel said to her, "Blessed art thou, Mary; for in thy womb thou hast prepared an habitation for the Lord." The next day the angel appeared to her again while she is spinning. This icon shows Mary, the Mother of God, weaving purple thread.
Joseph would have understood that Mary was consecrated to God, being a Temple virgin. He also was aware through angelic intervention that she was to bring forth the long-awaited Messiah.
"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged in marriage to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with Child through the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 1:18)Joseph became Mary's spouse protector rather than he sexual partner. As a righteous man, he did not presume to take that which rightfully belonged to God. Therefore, Mary remained a virgin both by virtue of her dedicated status and because of Joseph's righteous regard for her.
A Canaanite Shrine
The ancient mound of Tel Nahariyah is located in Israel south of the Lebanon border and north of the ancient maritime city of Akko. (Tel Akko is where an unusual sign of TNT has been found, showing an anchor.) The name Nahariyya means "River of God." Horite shrines were located a major water systems: rivers or an oasis or a well. This is why so many of the heros of Genesis and Exodus meet their brides at wells or river shrines.
The excavated remains of Tel Nahariyah have revealed it as an open-air Canaanite sanctuary. Like many such sites, it was established near a fresh-water spring. The shrine was founded about 2000 BC and was used as late as about 1250 BC.
Excavations have uncovered the remains of three buildings. The first was a small, square temple accompanied by a circular open-air stone altar. The other buildings were probably residences. Here there is a large standing stone. The third and most recent shrine building had auxiliary buildings and a smaller standing stone.
At the Nahariyah, archaeologists found evidence of offerings placed on the altar and oil oblations poured over the offerings. There was also considerable evidence that the sanctuary had been the location of sacrificial feasting (Pettey 1990: 179).
Excavators also found naked female figurines in silver and in bronze on the "high place" of the shrine, and in a pottery jar under the plaster pavement (Keel and Uehlinger 1998: 31; Negbi 1976: 64 and #1525-1534).
A mold was also found of a slim naked figure standing with her arms at her sides and hands framing her pubic area. She is small-breasted, and she has a protruding navel. Her hair flows about her shoulders. Her tall, conical hat has a horn sticking out on each side, suggesting that this may be an image of Hathor (shown below). Hathor was venerated by the Horite Hebrew priests and she was the patron of the Horite Hebrew metal workers. Her appointment as the mother of the son of God is depicted by the Sun resting over her head. This indicates divine overshadowing such as the Angel Gabriel described to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1).
Although two of the cut-out metal figures from Tel Nahariyah wear short skirts, the others are naked. One of the skirted figures was worn as a pendant, as evidenced by a loop on the back of the figure's head. The figurines were probably made in workshops at the shrine suggesting a connection between priests and metal-workers. This sheds light on the metal-working activities surrounding Aaron after the Israelites had left Egypt.
Such Shrines are Still Found in Africa
The Canaanite shrine has a contemporary counterpart in parts of West Africa. Osofo Ahadzi, spokemen for Africania Mission (Ghana), explains that women consult deities at the water shrines in order to have children. These children are often pledged to the shrine or to the deity (as Hannah pledged Samuel to God in return for blessing her with a child). Ahadzi says that people who fail to redeem such pledges eventually lose those children.
People come to the shrines for other reasons as well. Ahadzi explains, “If there is a calamity befalling a family and they go back to the divinity or shrine and it is said that such a person should be trained in the shrine to learn the skills and acquire the power of divination to protect the family, that is when that person is devoted to the shrine."
The girls who are presented to serve at the shrines are usually young virgins. Sometimes their families are too poor to provide a marriage dowry. This is similar to the way that Catholic girls from poor families were sent to the convents during the Middle Ages.
Ofoso Ahadzi says that men may not marry a trokosi (indentured girl) without permission from the shrine. This is because the girls are also regarded as spirit wives of the deity. He said marrying a trokosi without going through the proper procedure will attract very severe punishment.
“There was a situation where the divinity asked one of the keepers not to marry this woman and he decided to go forward and marry. He thought that he was powerful and he went ahead and married. The mother died, he was going and the car had an accident. He died with his wife. In the traditional African religion the commandment is thou must not do this, if you do that you will get your punishment,” he said.
He says, “It is completely out of place for anybody to claim that the keeper of the shrine plays around with the girls. You can’t do that. When you go against any of the regulations, it is not human beings that will punish you. The deity will punish you because all the girls who go in there for training are the daughters and princesses of the divinity. So if you take liberties with them you will be punished,” he said.
Osofo Ahadzi said the girls have a good life at the shrine although they do not receive a formal Western education.
“I have a whole lot of problems about this so called formal school not because it does not promote development. But we are realizing that the formal education is actually foreign cultural mis-education. You see our people, they come out of the universities and they have no work to do. What we are being taught in the classroom is not what we need in our society. Look at our environment. You go to the villages and the villages are cleaner than the cities where the so-called intellectuals live. So the people who don’t go through our so called formal education are better off than those who go through the formal education,” he said.
Osofo Ahadzi said the girls are not taken advantage of even though they are used as free labour on the farms. He said the chores they perform can be likened to what students are made to do in boarding schools. And are the trokosi girls, some of whom are as young as two years allowed freedom of movement like students undergoing formal education? (Read more on trokosi shrines here.)
The Shrine Across the Afro-Asiatic Dominion
The sheltering of girls at shrines was common from Africa to India in the Afro-Asiatic Dominion. The Canaanite shrine has a counterpart in Hindu temples. In this tradition also abuse of girls is regarded as very serious. Dr. Shabhash C. Sharma writes, "Regarding the treatment of people (including the young girls and widows) in shelters, temples and orphanages, Hinduism is quite emphatic in its opposition to any abuse and exploitation at the hands of those in positions of power and authority: 'He, who betrays one who has sought refuge, will meet destruction. The very earth will not let the seed, that he sows, sprout.' The Mahabarata (1, p. 181).
Dr Sharma explains: "Sometimes even if the parents of a young girl or boy are alive, they might not be in a good socio-economic condition to take care of their kid and thus could decide to send her/him to live in a temple thinking that the temple would do a better job in raising their child. Thus the temple might be considered by some people an ideal place to raise their child where free room, board and education (in spirituality, arts, music, dancing etc.) are available, perhaps in return for a small or light physical (manual) service (work) to the temple. "
Widows also may attach themselves to the shrine or temple once their husabnds have died. This is likely what happened in the case of the Prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38) and happens in both west central Africa and in India (the western and eastern ends of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion). Dr Sharma explains: "The same type of consideration, as indicated above for young girls, is generally applicable to adult women, especially the widows, when they decide to live in temples and religious places like Vrindavan. Note that even though the widows living in such places (temples etc.) might number in several thousand they still represent an extremely small minority relative to millions of Indian widows..."
Some believe that the Prophetess Anna is related to the priest Matthan who was the father of three daughters: Sobe (Salome's mother), Elizabeth (John the Baptist's mother) and Anne, the mother of Mary, the Theotokos. Anne is a version of the name Anath, who was sometimes called Mari-Anath.
The Christ in Nilotic Belief
Genesis tells us that Abraham's ancestors came from the Nile region (Kushites). In Nilotic belief, the Promised Son of God would be miraculously conceived by a daughter of the ruler-priests (Horites). That is why the daughters of ruler-priests were married only to ruler-priests. So it is that the lines of Cain and Seth intermarried exclusively, as did the lines of Ham and Shem, and Abraham and Nahor.
Allusion to this practice has been found in ancient texts. In Amarna letter EA 4, Amenhotep III is quoted by the Babylonian king Kadashman-Enlil I as firmly rejecting his request to marry one of Amenhotep's daughters: "From time immemorial, no daughter of the king of Egypt is given to anyone.”
Amenhotep III's refusal to allow one of his daughters to marry the Babylonian monarch was motivated, not only by political concern to preserve Egyptian sovereignty, but also because marriage to the ruler's daughter was reserved for ruler-priests.
Related reading: Was the Virgin Mary a Dedicated Royal Woman?; Wells and Brides; Potiphar, Son of Horus; A Woman at a Well; The Afro-Asiatic Dominion; Who Were the Horites?; Mount Mary and the Origins of Life; Mary's Priestly Lineage; The Christ in Nilotic Mythology