Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who was Eliezer? Was He from Damascus?


William Dyce's oil painting of Eliezer (1860) 
is on permanent exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

"O Lord God, what can You give me seeing that I shall die accursed, and the steward of my household is Dam-Mesek Eliezer?" Genesis 15:2


If we include Eliezer as a son (following the Septuagint), Abraham had nine sons by two wives and two concubines. The first of the sons born to Abraham was Joktan (Yaqtan), son of Keturah.

Eliezer was Abraham's son by his concubine Masek (Mesek). He was one of the nine sons named in Scripture who were born to Abraham. However, his relationship to Abraham is only clear in the Septuagint. Bibles based on the Masoretic text do not include this information. The term dam means "blood" or "offspring" of Masek. Some Bibles have that Eliezar is from Damascus or that he is Damascene, but this is not implied in the older Greek version of the Old Testament.

To understand who Eliezar is and his importance, it is necessary to have some understanding of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's Horim (called "Horites" in Genesis 36.)

Abraham had two wives, as was the pattern for Horite rulers. His father Terah had two wives. Sarah was Terah's daughter by one wife and Abraham was Terah's son by the other wife. This pattern of two wives meant that there were usually two firstborn sons; one by the half-sister wife and the other by the cousin/niece wife. As with all royal lines, there is problem when the wives are barren. 

In the Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern, the firstborn son of the cousin wife ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was titled/named. Lamech the Younger (Gen. 5) ascended to the throne of Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4) Likewise, Esau the Younger ascended to the throne of Esau the Elder (Gen. 36). The first born sons of the cousin wives were not the proper heirs to the thrones of their biological fathers. Joktan, Abraham's first born son, the child of his cousin bride, Keturah, was never considered as Abraham's heir. He belonged to the household of Abraham's father-in-law.

The firstborn of the half-sister wife ascended to the throne of his biological father, so Isaac was Abraham's heir. However, he was not Abraham's firstborn. Neither was Ishmael. Ishmael was conceived late in Abraham's life, after Abraham had married Keturah. Keturah's firstborn son was Joktan (Yaqtan) of the Joktanite Tribes of Arabia. As Keturah was Abraham's cousin wife, Joktan ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather.  

Sarah was barren. This meant that Abraham was without a proper heir, and growing desperate it appears. This is when he prayed about having an heir and received the promise (Gen. 15:4) that a son would come from his own "loins" (meaning blood descent from him and his half-sister).

Eliezar, as the firstborn of Masek, one of Abraham's concubines, was Abraham's only natural heir. Clearly before Isaac arrived, Eliezar was considered Abraham's rightful heir according to the Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern.

The name Eliezar/Eleazar appears twice in the Horite ancestry of Jesus Christ.


10 comments:

Jonathan said...

Alice, You have probably come across Joseph and His Brothers, by Thomas Mann (written from 1926-1943). I hesitate to come right out and recommend it: given its gargantuan length, it could immobilize you for a year or more if you decide to take it up. But one thing that stays with me from my attempts at this novel, is how wonderfully the depiction of the character of Eliezer provides a springboard for one of Mann's most intriguing themes, having to do with the way that cycles of repetitiveness in human history can make distortions of the real span of time, so that events that happened once-upon-a-time in a collective memory of a people tend to get foreshortened in the retelling, and the whole panorama in which the events must have actually occurred is probably abbreviated: The novel tells of how a young Joseph would have carried around a repository of stories that were told to him by a family servant by the name of "Eliezer," but as time goes on, how easy it is for one Eliezer to take the place of another in a succession of family stories, until it becomes unclear who was the original Eliezer-- Jacob's servant, or Abraham's, or servant to some ancestor of Abraham's.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Interesting, Jonathan. It is how some people explain the couplets in Genesis. Scratches at the layer of oral tradition.

yemitom said...

From another website and about the Egba people:


Consider the phrase "Egba omo Lishabi" . This is actually Egba omo ti Lisha bi - Egba a child born of Lisha. In the Bible there were a couple of people named Eber and this is in reference to one of them,. . . . but which one? It qualifies itself - the one born of Lisha! So this particular Eber must have had a parent named Lisa, Eliza or Eleazer. To add credit to this qualification, in Abeokuta "Lisa" is a high ranking chief.

YT

Anonymous said...

Granted that biblical events are not always listed in strict chronological order, but one aspect of the original question you
refer to does not seem to be addressed at all. The writer stated that Ishmael had already been born. But this concern Abraham expressed about a possible future heir occurs before the birth of Ishmael, who does not come on the scene until later in the narrative.

Alice C. Linsley said...

What an excellent question you've raised!

Remember that Abraham had two wives, as was the pattern for all Horite rulers. His father Terah had two wives. Sarah was Terah's daughter by one wife and Abraham was Terah's son by the other wife. This pattern meant that there were always two firstborn sons; one by the half-sister wife and the other by the cousin/niece wife. The firstborn son of the cousin/niece wife ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was titled/named. So Enoch the Younger ascended to the throne of Esau the Elder (Gen. 36). The firstborn of the half-sister wife ascended to the throne of his biological father, so Isaac was Abraham's heir. However, he was not Abraham's firstborn. Neither was Ishmael. Ishmael was conceived late in Abraham's life, after Abraham had married Keturah. Keturah's firstborn son was Joktan (Yaqtan), the head of the Joktanite Tribes of Arabia. As Keturah was Abraham's cousin wife, Joktan ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather. As Sarah was barren, Abraham was still desperate for an heir.

Eliezar, as the firstborn of Masek, one of Abraham's concubines, was apparently the next in line, since Ishmael had been sent away.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I've just written a more thorough explanation, which you may read here:
http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2011/12/why-eliezar-was-abrahams-heir.html

Dawne Rodela said...

I would like special permission to post your work on my ministry website in the Forum. I am so pleased in the findings you have discovered and would like to share with others about your work.

Thank you
Prayer Mantle
Apostle Dawne

Please, email me: dawne2015@gmail.com

Alice Linsley said...

Dawne, I can't remember if I emailed you back in May. That was a busy time - end of school year, finals to grade, etc.

You have permission to post any of this research as long as you credit me and link to the original post here at Just Genesis.

Best wishes and God's blessings on your ministry!

Phillip Jiyane said...

The answer to the Misery hidden behind this name is very simple. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is spiritual - meaning it is easy to understand these characters when you are filled with the holy spirit. In addition to this, it very important to have a continuous fellowship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ Through the same Holy Spirit.

So what am I saying to you reader?

Eliezer was a human representation of the Holy Spirit before Jesus Christ Just like Melchizedek. The high priest, King and full of majestic peace and righteousness of God in the name of Jesus.

Alice Linsley said...

Phillip, your mystical typology is wonderfully rich. There is a place for this approach in building up the believer.

My approach is different. I'm more of a Biblical literalist in that I believe Eliezar actually was one of Abraham's sons, and Melchizedek was a historical person who was a ruler-priest and an ancestor of Jesus Christ.