Friday, October 6, 2017

The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew

All rights reserved. If you borrow, please cite this page. This information represents about 35 years of research.

Alice C. Linsley

It has been argued that the social structure of the biblical Hebrew was patriarchal and oppressed women. In a January 2014 Oxford Biblical Studies online paper, patriarchy is blamed for abortion. Yet, it is mainly feminists who insist that abortion is a woman's right and it is feminist interpretations of the Bible that create this false narrative about Hebrew patriarchy.

The article goes on to say, "the picture given in the Hebrew scriptures of society in Iron Age Israel is likewise patriarchal: the biblical legal codes are addressed to males throughout and conceive of men alone as the legal actors, even at one point listing women alongside house, oxen, asses, and servants as men’s property (Exod 20:17). In addition, the sign of the covenant between God and Israel of which the laws are supposedly an expression is male circumcision (Gen 17:9–11), which excludes women."

This cherry picking approach to Scripture creates distortion. Women were essential to the ruler's establishment of a territory, and they were considered part of his territorial property. Each ruler-priest had two wives living in separate settlements at the northern and southern boundaries of their territories. Without these wives, there was no way to build his kingdom and maintain his territorial boundaries. To cite an example, Abraham's territory extended between Sarah in Hebron and Keturah in Beersheba. The wives' separate settlements were on a north-south axis.

The Hebrew were a caste of ruler-priests. In the ancient world they were known for their sexual purity, sobriety, wisdom, technical skills, and devotion to the Creator. They are one of the oldest known royal priest castes, if not the oldest. We know this from archaeological finds at temples dating to 4000 BC. Everything I am about to explain pertains to rulers and priests, not to ordinary people.

Many mistakenly think that the Hebrew priesthood began with Aaron. The priesthood of Aaron and the Levite clan are not the first priests, but their service follows the practice of their Hebrew ancestors. They served at the temples and shrines in rotation after a period of ritual purification and fasting. It was common for them to shave their bodies.

Habiru (Hebrew) priests are known from ancient documents and archaeological discoveries going back to at least 3800 BC. Melchizedek was the ruler-priest of Salem (Jerusalem) and his ministry to Abraham (Gen 14) represents a long-standing custom of ritual purification following combat. Analysis of the biblical kinship pattern of the Hebrew ruler-priests suggests that Melchizedek was the maternal uncle of Abraham's second wife, Keturah.

Josephus calls the descendants of Abraham by Keturah "Horites" and quoting another ancient historian, speaks of them as "conquerors of Egypt and founders of the Assyrian Empire."

Moses's entire family were Horite Habiru priests.They are descendants of Seir, the Horite ruler of Edom (Gen. 36). Aaron and Korah were his brothers. Korah means "shaved one" and refers to a priest. Here is a diagram of Amram's Hebrew clan. Also note that Anah, a female, is listed in the lineage as a chief.

The patriarchal system

Patriarchy is given as an explanation for why there were no female priests among the Hebrew. This is a false picture of the biblical Hebrew and one which should be corrected. Using the anthropological definition of patriarchy, I will expose that falsehood.

The term "patriarchy" is one of the most abused anthropological terms. In feminist and gender studies, patriarchy refers to the universal oppression of females in male-dominated societies. This is not a scientific definition. It is an ideological definition, and one which lacks empirical support.

In the most general sense, patriarchy refers to rule by men. However, this rule takes various forms. A pure patriarchy would have these conditions:
1. descent is traced through the paternal line only (Part 2)
2. inheritance rights come through the father's lineage only (Part 3)
3. right to rule is vested with males only (Part 4)
4. patrilocal residence; that is the bride lives with the groom's clan/family (Part 5)
5. governed by a council of all males (Part 6)
6. ultimate authority rests with a male figure such as a patriarch, a chief or a king (Part 7)
It should be noted that anthropologists never have found an absolute patriarchy. Neither have they found an absolute matriarchy.  In an absolute matriarchy, the six conditions would be vested with the ruling females (matriarchs).

Image result for Image of the Hebrew ruler priest
A tera or terah is a priest. The priest carries a staff, sign of his ruler status.

Anthropologically, social structures are much more complex than generally presented in feminist literature. This is evident when we examine the biblical data to see if the Hebrew social structure is characterized by the 6 conditions listed above.

In Part 2 we investigate whether the Hebrew social structure traces descent through the paternal line only. We will discover patterns that largely have been ignored by feminists and Bible scholars.

Related reading: The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew (Part 3); Who Were the Horites?; Samuel's Horite Family; Abraham's Authority and Ancient Law Codes; Abraham's Ancestral Faith; The Priesthood in England; Denying Marriage: A cunning royal strategy


Jason said...

Thank you so much for your hard work and thought provoking dedication Ms. Linsley.

Alice Linsley said...

Thank you, Jason. Much appreciated.