Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jacob Leaves Beersheba

Genesis 28:10-17

Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; , and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place-- and I did not know it!" And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Alice C. Linsley

Beersheba was the southern boundary of Abraham's territory and the territory that Isaac received as his birthright.

When Abraham was approaching his death he arranged for Isaac to take a second wife from among Nahor's clan. Nahor was Abraham's older brother. Nahor ascended to the throne of their father Terah and ruled a territory between Ur and Haran. Abraham, as the younger son, was sent away. Sent away sons receive their territories through conquest or marriage. This is a feature of the Kushite marriage and ascendancy pattern and is reflected in the Zulu word Kushwa, which means one expelled from home, cast out, or sent away.

Isaac was Abraham's first born son by his half-sister wife Sarah. As the firstborn son of the sister wife, Isaac was to rule over the territory of his father Abraham. Abraham's territory extended from Beersheba in the south to Hebron in the north. Hebron is where Sarah lived. Beersheba is where Keturah lived. Keturah was Abraham's patrilineal cousin. Her firstborn son was Joktan (Yaqtan) who ruled over holdings in the territory of his maternal grandfather in southern Arabia.  Josephus calls the descendants of Abraham by Keturah "Horites" and, quoting an ancient historian, speaks of them as "conquerors of Egypt and founders of the Assyrian Empire."

Isaac was living in Beersheba when Jacob was sent away.  Jacob was heading to the land of His mother's kin in Mesopotamia, to the "padan" of Aram in Haran. This story is laced with irony because we are told that Jacob was a "hogareƱo" who enjoyed staying home. He was not one who enjoyed hunting trips or other activities that took him away from his mother's settlement. We can imagine how insecure he must have felt as he crossed the Jabok into unfamiliar territory and an uncertain future.

Behold the pattern!

Jacob was returning to the homeland of his mother's people and was uncertain as to his reception. This also happened to his grandfather Abraham. Abraham left his father's territory to journey to the homeland of his mother in Canaan. Abraham’s mother was a daughter of Terah the Elder and likely the sister of Keturah’s mother. It appears that Terah the Elder and Joktan the Elder (Keturah's father) married sisters. This marriage pattern is typical of the Horite rulers. It is seen as early as Genesis 4 and 5 where we find that Cain and his brother Seth married sisters. They were the noble daughters of an African chief Nok.

The Babylonian Talmud names Abraham's maternal grandfather as Karnevo, an Akkadian form of Karnak. Karnak was a Horite temple along the Nile. Horite ruler-priests maintained shrines along all the major water systems in East Africa, Arabia, Canaan and Mesopotamia. Most of the women in Genesis are Horite wives and daughters. The Jews acknowledge their Horim or Horite ancestors.

In Haran Jacob found a cousin wife, Leah. Among the Horites, the cousin wife is the second wife, suggesting that Jacob may already have had a wife. Was Rachel is half-sister bride? In Canaan, Abraham found a second wife, Keturah, his cousin. Abraham's first wife Sarah came with him to Canaan. The manner in which Jacob came by his two wives appears to be unusual. It is blamed upon Laban's deception, but this is problematic since no kingdom is gained by deception.

On the way to his mother's people, Jacob had an encounter with God in a dream. On the way to his mother's people, Abraham had an encounter with God. Both received divine promises. God's promise to Abraham is "I shall give this country to your progeny" (Gen. 12:7) and God's promise to Jacob is "the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth."  The promise received by Jacob is essentially the same as that received by Abraham.  Abraham had 8 or 9 sons and an unknown number of daughters. His offspring became too numerous to count.  Jacob had even more sons and at least one daughter.  The offspring of both Patriarchs spread throughout the land.

At the time that Jacob received the promises in Genesis 28:10-17, he was in great need of a word from the Lord about his future. When his grandfather Abraham had been at a loss about his future, he consulted the moreh (prophet) at the great Oak between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east (Gen. 12:6). Notice that the west has priority in this list.  This cardinal direction represents the future. The promise made to Abraham is to be fulfilled in the future, west being listed first. Jacob had no prophet to consult, but instead was visited in a dream. He beheld a great ladder reaching to heaven. Above the ladder stood the Lord who said to him, "Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth and shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south." Again we note that priority is given to the west in the list of cardinal points.  Despite his attempt to deceive and usurp the birthright of his older brother Esau, Jacob would see the divine promise fulfilled in the future.

Your kingdom, O Lord, is an eternal kingdom. Your dominion endures through all the ages. Faithful is the Lord to his word and gracious in all His works. (Psalm 145:13)


Jonathan said...

I read your posts all the time, and while I am getting comfortable with the idea of deriving rewards of discovering hidden meanings in passages of Scriptures from the application of the tools of kinship analysis, as you are continually projecting here, I am getting uncomfortable with the notion that, whenever a text is "problematic" it means that the kinship analysis has supersede what the text literally says. So, in the passage at hand, while I am willing to go along with you to the points that, notwithstanding our traditional understanding, Leah might actually have been the cousin (second) bride, and that no kingdom is gained by deception, so Laban's deception cannot be the whole story, etc., it is troubling that, in order to achieve the result of Rachel having actually been a half-sister bride, you seem to need to negate the text of the Scriptures where it says (Gen. 29:16) that Rachel and Leah are two "daughters" of Laban. Or is the Hebrew word for "daughters" (Gen. 29:16) flexible enough that it could include the possibility of a more distant relationship? For Rachel to have been the half-sister bride, it means that Rachel's father would have to have been Isaac, right?

Alice Linsley said...

You are asking excellent questions and I don't have the answers. Leah and Rachel are called the daughters of Laban. The words "cousin" and "sister" are often interchanged in some places in Scripture. Likely Leah and Rachel were Laban's duaghters, but I tend to read the text with some suspicion since elements in the story come from different perspectives. Certainly Jacob's marriage to these 2 women doesn't fit the pattern for first born sons who ascend to the throne, but then Jacob was not the first born son.

Alice Linsley said...

If Rachel were the half-sister, Jacob and Rachel would have had different mothers, but the same father. There are hints that Isaac had a wife before Rebecca arrived in Beersheba.