Thursday, March 17, 2011

Abraham's Sons


If we include Eliezar 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 Keturan.

Alice C. Linsley

He probably had a number of daughters also, but they are not mentioned in Genesis since only ruling sons are listed in the king lists.

Here is a list of the sons born to Abraham by his two wives: Sarah and Keturah, and his two concubines: Hagar and Masek. Jacob, like his grandfather Abraham, also had two concubines: Bilhah (Rachel’s maidservant) and Zilpah (Leah’s maidservant).

Sarah, daughter of Terah (Gen. 20:12)
Yitzak (Issac)

Hagar the Egyptian (Sarah’s handmaid)
Yismael (Ishmael), who was Egyptian, since race/ethnicity was traced through the mother, as is true in Judaism today. This pattern is still recognized in Egypt, which is why the Egyptian government has made it illegal for Egyptian men to marry Jewish women.
Barent Fabritius' Hagar and Ishmael

Keturah, daughter of Joktan (Gen. 25)
Yisbak
Joktan – Keturah’s firstborn son
Midian
Zimran
Medan
Shuah

Masek (Keturah’s handmaid?)
Eliezar of Damascus


Tribal Confederations

Reviewing this list we note a linguistic correspondence between three sons: Yitzak, Yismael and Yisbak. This triad of sons appears to represent a tribal unit. Other tribal units are Og, Gog and Magog and Uz, Buz and Huz.

Some triads represent heads of clans that may not be in confederation. This seems to be the case with Jacob, Esau and Seir the Horite, although these blood relatives might have been a tribal confederation had Jacob not fled to Padan-Aram.

When twin sons were born it was important to determine which breached first; thus the midwife’s use of the scarlet cord (Gen. 38:28). Some name pairs suggest twins, such as Perez and Zerah, Dishon and Dishan (Horites, according to Gen. 36:21), and Letush and Leum (Dedanites, according to Gen. 25:3). Dedan is where the oldest Arabic texts have been found.


Who Out of Four Firstborn Sons Rules?

Abraham actually had four firstborn sons: Joktan, Yismael (Ishmael), Eliezar, and Yitzak (Isaac), probably born in that order. Joktan became the head of the Joktanite tribes of Arabia. Yismael became the father of the Sinai Bedouins. No sons are named for Eliezar. Yitzak fathered Yisreal (Jacob), and Esau the elder. Esau and Jacob were contemporaries of Seir the Horite.

The firstborn sons ruled among Abraham’s people. However the first-born sons of wives were ranked above the firstborn sons of concubines. So Joktan ranked over Eliezar, and Yitzak ranked over Yishmael. Joktan would rule over the southern settlements of his maternal grandfather (Dedan, Ramaah and Beersheba) and Yitzak would rule the northern settlements of his father Abraham (Hebron, Bethel and Shechem).


Two Kings and Two Kingdoms

Abraham married according to the pattern of his Kushite royal ancestors. These kings had two wives. One was a half-sister (as was Sarah to Abraham) and the other was a patrilineal cousin or niece (as was Keturah to Abraham). Analysis of the Genesis genealogical data indicates that the firstborn son of the cousin/niece wife ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather. This is indicated by the consistent pattern of the cousin bride naming her firstborn son after her father. So Lamech (Gen. 5), the firstborn of Methuselah, was named after his mother’s father, Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4). Joktan, the firstborn son of Keturah, was named after Keturah’s father Joktan. Esau, the husband of Oholibamah (Gen. 36), was named after his maternal grandfather Esau the Elder, the son of Yitzak.

The firstborn son of the half-sister wife ascended to the throne of his biological father. So Yitzak (Isaac) ascended to the throne of Abraham. Genesis tells us that Abraham's other sons were given their inheritance and sent away from the territory of Yitzak. 

This is the dynamic by which the Kushite rulers spread so quickly across the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. Raamah and Nimrod ruled separate territories that had once been united under their father Kush. Asshur and Arpachshad ruled separate territories that had once been united under their father Shem. Likewise, Peleg and Joktan ruled separate territories that had once been unified under their father Eber.


Firstborn Sons of Concubines

Had Sarah remained without a son, the rightful heir to Abraham’s throne would have been Eliezar (Gen. 15). The Masoretic and Greek texts do not agree on Eliezar. The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) clearly states that he was a son of Abraham by Masek, but this is not found in the Masoretic text. This suggests a peculiar characteristic of this unique kinship pattern: the assignment of territories to the firstborn sons of concubines. If the pattern of Hagar and Masek is like the pattern of Bilhah and Zilpah, then Yismael and Eliezar received lands/settlements to govern and were included as tribal heads along with Joktan, Yitzak, Yisbak, Midian, Medan, Zimran and Shuah.

Concerning Ishmael, his assignment of a settlement in or near Paran on the way to Egypt is indicated by these words: This is the genealogy of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, bore to Abraham. And these were the names of the sons of Ishmael: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth, then Kadar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and settlements… (Genesis 25:12-16).

So it appears that firstborn sons of wives ruled territories and firstborn sons of concubines ruled cities or settlements as regional rulers in obedience to their brother Kings. This is similar to the "nomes" of Egypt, each ruled separately by a tribal chieftain. This sheds light on the relationship between Jacob's sons and can help us to understand the apportionment of land and settlements to their descendants.


Related reading:  Abraham's Firstborn Son; Abraham's Two Concubines; Abraham's Nephews and Niece; The Conversion of Hagar; The Genesis King Lists; Peleg: Time of Division; Abraham's Horite Mother; Answers to More Questions

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