Alice C. Linsley
How Binary Distinctions Shaped Horite Culture
Archaic Nilotic peoples were attuned to the patterns observed in nature and aligned their thinking with those patterns. This is evident in the orientations of their tombs and in the astronomical alignments of their monuments. It is also evident in their binary theological perspective which frames the Biblical worldview.
The binary sets are expressed in the distinctions and separations within "kinds" or essences. The waters (firmament) above are separated from the waters below. Male and female are of the same kind yet distinct. Other binary sets include heaven-earth; God-mankind; day-night, sun-moon, and life-death. One of the entities in the binary set is superior to the other in strength, brilliance, glory, or purpose and its lesser is a reflection of the greater. So humans reflect the image of the Creator, the moon reflects the light of the sun, and Adam recognizes the woman as distinct from him but of his essence, i.e., "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh..." (Genesis 2:23)
The superiority of one of the entities of the binary set kept the Horites from slipping into the dualism that characterizes other world religions.
Observed natural entities were associated with gender, numbers and symbols. The sun, for example, was associated with a male ruler over the universe and represented the masculine principle of rule and insemination. It was the emblem of Re, the father of Horus. Hathor, Horus’ virgin mother, was believed to conceive the son of God by the overshadowing of Re. Because of this association of the sun with maleness, the ancient Egyptian rulers exposed themselves to the sun’s rays to turn their skin reddish brown (edom, odam, adam). Their royal wives, on the other hand, were covered with chalk to make them white like the moon.
In the Song of Songs the sister bride praises her beloved whose skin is dark as the tents of Kedar because he, like David, was made to work in the sun by his brothers. The tents of Kedar were woven with the black wool from the Nubian desert goats. His dark skin is associated with the masculine virtues of the sun. The sister bride was "made white" through the application of a white chaulky powder. Her pale skin is associated with the feminine virtues of the moon.
The moon was associated with femaleness or the feminine principle. This intuitive association extends to semen and milk. The sun inseminates the earth and the moon stimulates female reproduction and lactation. Because the moon affects water, tides, and body fluids in a repeating cycle there is a natural association of the moon with the periodicity of the menstrual cycle. Many ancient peoples associated pregnancy with the moon and in France menstruation is called “le moment de la lune.”
In a dualistic view, the sun and the moon are equals so both are worthy of veneration. In a binary view, one of the entities of the binary set is always superior and to venerate the lesser entity is a form of idol worship. This is what stands behind the Joshua 24 criticism of Terah. (Note this is not a criticism of Abraham.) There is no other verse in the Bible to support the view that Terah, a Horite, worshiped the moon god contrary to the practice of his ancestors who regarded the sun as the emblem of the Creator. Abraham's Horite ancestors did not worship Napir/Sin as was done in Ur and Haran and later in Mecca. The Horite ruler-priests were devotees of Horus who was called "son of God," and his emblem was the sun. The ossuaries of the Horite members of the Sanhedrin during the Second Temple bore the 6-prong solar symbol image.
|Ossuary of Miriam, the daughter of Y'shua|
Genesis 1:16 expresses the binary view in these words: "God made the two great lights; the greater to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night." Sometimes the binary distinction is rather subtle and easy to miss. Consider, for example, the binary set of hot and cool encounters with God. Abraham was visited “in the heat of the day” by God in three Persons (Gen. 18:1). The binary opposite is “in the cool of the day”, the time of God’s visitation to Adam and Eve in Paradise (Gen. 3:8). We have encounters with God described as hot and cool. We must always pay attention to such distinctions. In the first God has come to punish Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the second God has come to enjoy fellowship with the Man and the Woman.
Another example involves trees, specifically those that relate to the male-female distinction, The prophetess Deborah sat under her tamar tree (Judges 4:4-6). A tamar is a date nut palm and was associated with the female principle. The prophet or "moreh" consulted by Abraham sat under an oak (Genesis 12). This tree was associated with the masculine principle.
The male principle involves insemination, protection of the weaker, expansion and uprightness. It is symbolized in the ancient world by meteorites and iron seeds covering the surface of the earth, by the Sun's rays shining down, the lengthening of shadows, and the strength of mountains and pillars. The female principle involves receptivity, birthing, nurturing, fluidity and softness.
Binary Distinctions and Blood
Blood was also viewed according to a binary pattern. A distinction was made between the blood work of men in killing and the blood work of women in birthing. The two bloods represent the binary opposites of life and death. The blood shed in war, hunting and animal sacrifice fell to warriors, hunters and priests. The blood shed in first intercourse, the monthly cycle and in childbirth fell to wives and midwives. The two bloods were never to mix or even to be present in the same space. Women did not participate in war, the hunt, and in ritual sacrifices, and they were isolated during menses. Likewise, men were not present at the circumcision of females or in the birthing hut.
The mixing of life-giving substances with the blood shed in killing was absolutely forbidden among the Afro-Asiatics. This is why the Israelites were commanded never to boil a young goat it its mother’s milk. It also places into context the Judeo-Christian teaching against abortion, which mixes birth blood with killing blood, thus perverting the binary distinction between male and female to a point of desecration. It is also significant that among tribal peoples, brotherhood pacts are formed by the intentional mixing of bloods between two men, but never between male and female. The binary distinctions of male and female are maintained as part of the sacred tradition.
Early man had an intuitive anxiety about blood. We see this in the belief that the blood of Abel cries to God from the ground (Gen. 4:10). Anxiety about the shedding of blood is universal and very old. The sacrificing priesthood likely came into existence the first day that blood was shed and the individual and the community sought relief of blood anxiety and guilt.
As a point of fact, the first blood shed in the Bible was shed by Eve when she gave birth. This is significant because it places life-giving blood ahead of the blood shed when Cain killed Abel.
The second shedding of blood was when God made clothes of animal skins for Adam and Eve. Here we see the first sacrifice of animals for the benefit of humans. This places God at the center between the life-giving blood and the blood shed by Cain when he killed his brother. Between the two bloods (birthing and murder) God sacrifices an animal to provide for the needs of humanity. In this sense, God is the first Priest and that first animal is a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
According to the cosmology of Abraham’s people what is at the sacred center is of God. The image of blood at the center speaks of the blood of the Incarnate God. We glimpse this mystery of the sacrifice on the mountain where God has Abraham cut into half a 3-year old ram, a three-year old heifer and a three-year old she-goat (Gen. 15:9-21). This story and the story of the Three-Person God apparing to Abraham at Mamre (Gen. 18) are very old. The symbolism of the number 3 suggests the Egyptian/Kushite divine Triad.
When the sun set and it was dark a smoking firepot and a flaming torch passed between the animal pieces. On that day God promised Abraham that "this country" would be given his descendants. Here the descendants are not specified as Jews. As Abraham was a Horite and so were his sons and daughters, he would have understood this to mean that "this land" was to be a Horite possession.
God moved as a fire between the sacrificed animals that Abraham had cut into halves. God trailed across a bloody strip of earth, like a scarlet thread. God passed through it to confirm an unconditional covenant with Abraham concerning the land for his descendants.
The scarlet thread that hung from Rahab’s window brought salvation to her and to her household. The scarlet smudge over the doors in Egypt brought deliverance from the death of the firstborn. These images of blood speak of God’s prevenient grace whereby blessing precedes every human act, thought or intention.
Related reading: Rethinking "Biblical Equality"; The Horite Ancestry of Jesus Christ; Ontology and the Philosophical Project; Levi-Strauss and Derrida on Binary Oppositions; God as Male Priest; Blood and Binary Distinctions; Afro-Asiatic vs Aryan Religion: The Horse as Example; The Scarlet Cord Woven Through the Bible