Sunday, October 31, 2010

E. A. Speiser and Deuteronomy 21:16


Alice C. Linsley


While doing research I compare and contrast versions of the Bible and sometimes find that my knowledge of the Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern is critical to a detecting a good translation.  Consider the case of Deuteronomy 21:16, which was accurately translated by E.A. Speiser (The Anchor Bible) in this way:

"He shall not be able to give the birthright to the younger son of the beloved wife, in disregard of the older son of the un-loved wife." (Speiser, Genesis, p. 118)

Analysis of the kinship pattern of the Horite ruler-priests shows that each ruler had 2 wives.  He married the first wife at a young age.  She was his half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham.  This is the wife of his youth who was closer to his age than the second wife.  Through a long acquaintance, the first wife would be most likely to lose her husband's attentions. Her firstborn son received the birthright of his biological father and ruled in his place.  This means that Isaac (Yitzak) ruled as Abraham's heir.

The second wife was married when the man approached the age of ascent to his father's throne. She was a patrilineal cousin or niece, as was Keturah to Abraham.  She was a younger wife, whose firstborn son would rule after her father. This means that Joktan, Abraham's firstborn son by Keturah, ruled in the place of Keturah's father who was also called Joktan. The Bible cautions the ruler not to neglect his first wife and not to permit her firstborn son's birthright to pass to the cousin bride's ruling line.

Now we see why Speiser's translation is a good one.  He distinguishes between 2 wives and 2 firstborn sons.  Deuteronomy 21:16 forbids breaking the kinship pattern by giving to the firstborn of the cousin bride what rightfully belonged to the firstborn son of the sister wife.

Note how the following translations suggest that there is only one birthright and only one first-born son.

New International Version:  when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.

New Living Translation: When the man divides his inheritance, he may not give the larger inheritance to his younger son, the son of the wife he loves, as if he were the firstborn son.

English Standard Version:  then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn,

New American Standard Bible:  then it shall be in the day he wills what he has to his sons, he cannot make the son of the loved the firstborn before the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn.

GOD'S WORD® Translation:  When the day comes for the father to give his sons their inheritance, he can't treat the son of the wife he loves as if that son were the firstborn. This would show a total disregard for the real firstborn (the son of the wife he doesn't love).

King James Bible:  Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit [that] which he hath, [that] he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, [which is indeed] the firstborn:

American King James Version:  Then it shall be, when he makes his sons to inherit that which he has, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

American Standard Version:  then it shall be, in the day that he causeth his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved the first-born before the son of the hated, who is the first-born:
Douay-Rheims Bible:  And he meaneth to divide his substance among his sons: he may not make the son of the beloved the firstborn, and prefer him before the son of the hated.

Darby Bible Translation:  then it shall be, in the day that he maketh his sons to inherit what he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, who is the firstborn;

English Revised Version:  then it shall be, in the day that he causeth his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved the firstborn before the son of the hated, which is the firstborn:

World English Bible:  then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he has, that he may not make the son of the beloved the firstborn before the son of the hated, who is the firstborn:

Young's Literal Translation:  then it hath been, in the day of his causing his sons to inherit that which he hath, he is not able to declare first-born the son of the loved one, in the face of the son of the hated one -- the first-born.
 
So we see that Speiser's translation is the best because he appears to understand the kinship pattern of the ruler-priests.  E.A. Speiser understood it better than he lets on in his commentary on Genesis.  He is the scholar who speaks of "Lamech the Elder" and "Lamech the Younger", indicating that he knew that Genesis 4 and Genesis 5 are different but related king lists, NOT different accounts of the same king list.


Related reading: Pepinakht-Heqaib: Upholding the Rights of Two Sons; Answers to Recent Questions; Twins, Sent-Away Sons and Heirs to the Throne


2 comments:

maximus said...

Hi Alice,

Do you know of a tradition which holds that Melchizedek is actually Shem?

"Melchizedek is identified in the Jewish Targums and midrashic sources as Shem, the first-born son of Noah. Joseph Fitzmyer cites the Targum Neofiti I, the Fragmentary Targums, and the Targum Pseuto-Jonathan, all of which identify Melchizedek as Shem..."

"In this interpretation, the blessing by Noah of Shem-Melchizedek in Gen. 9:26 is understood as the patriarchal priestly blessing, which is then passed on by Shem-Melchizedek to Abraham in Gen. 14:19. Hence, Shem-Melchizedek, the first-born son of Noah, is the chief priest and patriarch (father figure) over his house, that is over all of his extended family which through ten generations includes Abraham as well (cf. Gen 11:10-26). Abraham, after receiving the blessing from Shem-Melchizedek, is designated to become the new chief priest and patriarch over all his descendants." (Father Gadenz, pp. 217-218).

St. Jerome: They say that he [Melchizedek] was Shem, the son of Noah, and calculating the years of his life, they declare that he lived to the time of Isaac, and that all the first-born [from] Noah, until Aaron exercised the priesthood, were high priests. (Epistle 73 Patrologica Latina, vol. 22, 676-81)

St. Ephrem of Syria believed the same.

Alice Linsley said...

Read this:

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2012/03/who-was-melchizedek.html

Jerome and Ephrem were referring to extra-Biblical Jewish sources. If we look at the Biblical text alone we get a different picture of Melchizedek.