Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Terah's Territory and Legacy

Alice C. Linsley

Abraham's father was Terah, a great Kushite ruler and a descendant of Nimrod (Sargon the Great). His kingdom extended the length of the Euphrates River.

This kingdom was called Aram-Naharaim. In Old Syrian/Aramean aram means "high ground" and naharaim means "between the rivers."  Genesis 24:10 says that Abraham's servant Eliezar took gifts and set out for the city of Terah in Aram-Naharain. This may refer to Damascus, and who better to send than his own son by his concubine Masek who was Syrian?

Other regions are designated as aram in the Bible. For example, the ruler of Aram Soba (Zobah) was defeated by Saul, according to 1 Samuel 14:47, and Joshua confiscated the land of the ruler of Aram Maaka, according to Joshua 12:16.  It was typical for rulers to built their cities on high ground near sources of water.  The Jebusites were especially famous for this and according to Joshua 15:63, the Israelites were never able to uproot the Jebusites from Jerusalem.

The rulers of Genesis controlled vast territories along the ancient rivers.  The extreme boundaries of their territories were marked by the cities or settlements of their two wives.  As the rivers were oriented more or less on a north-south axis, so were their wives.  The ruler traveled between his wives on a north-south axis, as the sun travels between the horizons from east to west. Knowing the marriage custom helps us to identify the extent of  Terah's territory.  One wife lived in Ur to the south and the other wife lived in Haran to the north.

Abraham also set his wives on a north-south axis, with Sarah in Hebron and Keturah in Beersheba.

There is another explanation in Genesis for why the ruler's two wives were placed on a north-south axis rather than on an east-west axis. The explanation involves Lamech who bragged to his two wives Adah and Zillah (Gen. 4). Theodor H. Gaster noted that the names Adah and Zillah seem to have a relationship to words for dawn and dusk, suggesting a celestial or sacred marriage motif.  However, it was not unusual for archaic rulers to brag about their greatness by claiming to control all the land from the sunrise to the sunset.

For the author of Genesis, Lamech the Elder is portrayed as a braggart and a murderer.  As such, he set himself above God's law. In other words, he posed himself as God by placing his wives on an east-west axis, for this is the territory of the Creator, whose solar emblem moves daily from east to west.

Lamech the Younger is the firstborn son of Methuselah by his cousin wife Naamah. He is the great great grandfather of Nimrod/Sargon the Great who apparently shared his ancestor's hubris because he claimed to rule from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean or "from sunrise to sunset."

It is likely that the final redactor of Genesis was a priest living during the reign of David. He would have known that the name Naamah was associated with David's dynasty.  The mother of Rehoboam, David's grandson, was a princess by that name.  If so, he would have mentally connected Lamech and David, both of whom shed innocent blood.  David was repentant and almost inconsolable. Lamech, as far as we know from the Bible, was not repentant.  On the other hand, the redactor may have intended a comparison rather than a contrast. This is the view of St. John Chrysostom who believed that by confessing his sins to his wives, Lamech brought to light what Cain tried to hide from God, and “by comparing what he has done to the crimes committed by Cain he limited the punishment coming to Him.” (St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on Genesis, Vol. 74, p.39. The Catholic University Press of America, 1999.)


Jonathan said...

What significance do you think we can we attach to the chroniclers' identification (II Chron 12:13) of Naamah, the wife of Solomon, as an Ammonite? Would this be understood as a sort of blot on the "house of David" dynastic claims (in that, it was not clear which of David's sons should properly succeed him to the throne of Judah), or would it have been placed there in Scripture as a source of some aspersions that could be cast towards Solomon's bad character in choosing a wife from the Ammonite nation (among about 400 other possible such aspersions of his bad character (!). Whereas, for Messianic believers, is there possibly a different, more redemptive significance to be learned, in terms of the way God's grace was extended towards the line of David (the grand-son of a Moabite (!) woman, after all), as well as towards the line Ammon, etc. by placing the Messiah in their blood-line?

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Ammonites were descendants of Lot, Sarah's nephew. Haran, Sarah's brother, was Lot's father. As the son of Haran, Lot was a Horite, as were Abraham, Job, Moses and David. In other words, these peoples were kin.

This historical detail furthered David's claim to the throne, as the Horites were the indigenous rulers of the region and Bethlehem - the "city of David" - was a Horite settlement.

Jonathan said...

Yes, but can you uphold that, more than just conferring this authentic 'Horite' and 'indigenous' stamp and affiliation to Bethlehem, the marriage of Solomon to Naamah (from which union sprang Rehoboam, the blood-ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ), was fully consistent with the pattern that you have researched and that you have (persuasively, by the way) shown to have existed in so many other of the Genesis (and beyond) narratives, namely, that "the Horite ancestors of the priests of ancient Israel married exclusively within the priestly divisions/lines ..." (as you wrote somewhere in this blog in June 2011) and where you go on to state that: "This is the blood ancestry of Jesus Christ our Lord" So, are you still contending that Rehoboam, being part of the blood ancestry of Jesus (according to Matt. 1:7), fits the described marriage pattern unmistakably? Or, rather, perhaps is there something that is "not quite right" about the marriage of Solomon to Naamah, which might explain why the geneology in Luke (Luke 3:31) by-passes Solomon-Rehoboam and takes a strange detour at the point in the ancestry descending from King David?

Alice C. Linsley said...

It would be consistent for Horite royal lines to intermarry, so I see nothing irregular about Solomon's marriage to Naamah. It is more regular than David's marriage to Bathsheba.

Solomon is not mentioned in Luke's genealogy because the promise wasn't made concerning his throne that it would be established forever. That promise was made concering the throne of David.

Rehoboam inherited some of the negative tendencies of his father. For all his wisdom, Solomon is not regarded as a righteous king by the prophets who criticize him for taking many foreign wives, thus departing from the marriage pattern of his forefathers. To his credit, he wasn't the first to depart from the pattern. David started with two wives. (Abigail may even have been his cousin or half-sister.) However, he formed political alliances by taking more than two wives. Solomon is said to have had many, many wives and concubines.