A reader has asked this question: "Alice, I read your post about Horites. Fascinating and very helpful. In my reading, I understand that Abraham is a descendant of Shem (Genesis 11). Can you explain how he is a descendant of Ham? Thanks!
Francien asks a question which is often posed to me, usually through email contacts. He has read Genesis 11 and concluded that Abraham is a descendant of Shem only. This is a common error. All the genealogical data in Genesis is related so we must look at all of it, not simply one section.
Abraham's ancestors and descendants were related by both blood and marriage. The clans intermarried (endogamy) and the rulers of the clans married according to a structure which is made evident in analysis of the Genesis King Lists found in chapters 4, 5, 11 and 36 with additional information in Genesis 10 and 22:20-24. Analysis of all the data makes it clear that Abraham was a descendant of both Shem and Ham.
Before Ham and Shem, the lines of Cain and Seth intermarried also. These were ruler-priest lines, so the Genesis King lists speak of the marriage and ascendency structure of the Horites.
The marriage structure of the Horite rulers involved two wives living in separate households. One wife was a half-sister (as was Sarah to Abraham) and the other wife was a patrilineal cousin or niece (as was Keturah to Abraham).
The brides were the daughters of ruler-priests. They contributed the mtDNA and their ruler husbands contributed the Y chromosome since males who share a common patrilineal ancestor also share a Y chromosome, diverging only with respect to accumulated mutations. The distinctive Kohan DNA or "priest marker" is identifiable because Horite priests married daughters of priests exclusively.
In 1995, Canadian nephrologist Karl Skorecki designed an experiment to find out whether the descendants of the ancient Jewish ruler-priest - kohamim - could be verified by genetics. Skorecki reasoned that Jewish males who claim to be kohanim should have an identical set of marker mutations that trace back to biblical times. So the researchers gathered saliva from 200 Jewish males, a third of whom identified themselves as kohanim, at the Western Wall during the High Holidays. No matter whether they were Sephardic, Ashkenazic, or Oriental Jews, 98.5% of those who said they were kohanim shared a genetic marker for a common male ancestor.
Were the same sort of study done of Arabs who descend from Abraham's Horite line by his firstborn son Joktan, it is likely that this same genetic signature would be found in at least 3% of the Joktanite population of Arabia.
In 1996, a more extensive study found a set of marker mutations common to approximately 60% of self-proclaimed kohanim. Using complex mathematical calculations the research team identified the Cohan Modal Haplotype (CMH), a series of six genetic markers common to the kohanim which originated more than 3,000 years ago.
It is evident from Genesis that the ruler-priests (Horim/Horites) originated well before 3000 years ago. Aaron and his half-brother Korah were not the first ruler priests. Their father Amram was a ruler-priest and the descendant of a long line of ruler-priests who can be traced to at least 6000 years ago (4000 B.C.).
DNA studies confirm that the Horite ancestors of the priests of ancient Israel did marry exclusively within the priestly divisions/lines, which is what analysis of the Genesis genealogical material shows. This is the ancestry of Jesus Christ who was born to Mary, the wife of Joseph, both in the ruler-priest lines.
Related reading: The Daughters of Horite Priests; Moses' Wives and Brothers