Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Pattern of Two Wives

Alice C. Linsley

Analysis of the king lists of Genesis 4, 5 and 11 reveals that the ruler-priests among Abraham's Horite people had two wives. This is explicit with Lamech, whose two wives are named in Genesis 4.  However, Lamech was not alone. Na'hor, Terah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their ruler-priests descendants had the same marriage pattern. Elkanah, is another example. He married Penninah and Hannah (1 Sam. 1:2). By Hannah, he became the father of the great prophet Samuel.

A reader has asked why the ruler-priests had two wives. That is an interesting question and there is more than one explanation.  For example, Abraham's ancestors were Kushites and it is customary in Africa for the chief to have more than one wife.  It is important to remember that the men listed in the Genesis genealogies are not common people but rulers for whom having a heir was extremely important.  Two wives increased the likelihood of having a male heir.

The men listed in the “begats” are all rulers. Therefore, we must be careful to identify the two-wife pattern with rulers, not with the common man. The ancients regarded the ruler as the Creator's representative and it was a sign of his blessedness that he should have many sons. Two wives helped to "build up the house" of the ruler and the bride's fatehr house as well. The first-born son of the half-sister wife would ascend to his father's throne, but the first-born son of the cousin bride ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather.  Likely, this was part of the arrangement whereby the cousin bride was to marry.  In exchange for his bride, the son-in-law agreed that his first-born son would belong to the house of his wife's father.

Because of this pattern of two wives (one half-sister and the other a patrilineal cousin or niece), it is possible to trace the line of descent from Genesis 4 to Jesus, the Son of God.

Lamech’s wives were named Adah and Zillah (meaning dawn and dusk). They are the only wives named in the Genesis 4 “begats” except for Namaah, who married her cousin Methuselah (Genesis 5) and named their first born son Lamech, after her father.

The “begets” of Genesis present an extremely old kinship pattern. I have diagrammed and analyzed the pattern using E.L. Schusky’s Manual for Kinship Analysis, probably one of the most important books of the 20th century as it has provided a method for diagramming familial (consanguine) and contractual (fictive) relationships. Once a diagram is completed, the anthropologist is able to sit with that diagram and analyze the kinship to determine its pattern.

Kinship patterns are like cultural signatures. Each has unique traits. It is the uniqueness of the pattern that makes it possible to trace the origin of peoples and their relationship to other tribes. My analysis of the kinship pattern presented in Genesis 4 and 5 can direct us to the homeland of some of Abraham’s ancestors.

Although Abraham never lived in the reagion of the Upper Nile, some of his ancestors did. This is evident in the kinship pattern of Genesis 4 and 5, a pattern which is found only in west central Africa.

What does analysis of the Genesis genealogical information reveal about the ruler-priests of Abraham's people? Analysis of the pattern shows that Cain and Seth married the daughters of a great Afro-Asiatic chief named Nok (Enoch in Hebrew). These brides named their first-born sons after their father. So it is that Cain's firstborn son is Enoch and Seth's firstborn son is Enosh. The names Enosh and Enosh are linguistically equivalent and are derived from the Chadic name "Nok".

In Genesis 5:26 we find the same pattern. Lamech’s daughter, Naamah, married her patrilineal parallel cousin, Methuselah, (Gen. 5:26) and named their first-born son Lamech, after her father. We find the pattern in Abraham’s time also. His cousin-wife Keturah name their first-born son Joktan after her father. From Keturah come all the Joktanite tribes of Arabia.

Before a man could become chief in his father's place, he had to have two wives. This explains the urgency of Abraham’s mission in seeking a wife for his son Isaac after Ishmael’s departure. It also suggests that Isaac already had a wife in Beersheba. That wife would have been his half-sister, a daughter of Abraham by Keturah. This follows the pattern of Abraham’s father Terah and of his grandfather Nahor. My analysis of the Genesis 4 and 5 kinship pattern reveals that one wife is a half sister and the other a patrilineal parallel cousin. So we are not surprised that Rebekah is Isaac’s cousin bride.

The wives maintained separate households on a north-south axis. Their households marked the northern and southern boundaries of the chief’s territory. Sarah was Abraham’s sister bride who resided in Hebron and Keturah was Abraham’s cousin bride who resided to the South in Beersheba.

The wives were placed on a north-south axis rather than on an east-west axis because these chiefs, with the exception of Lamech the Elder, did not presume to set themselves up as God, whose emblem, the sun, moved from East to West. Lamech’s wives represent a departure from the tradition of his people. This is evident in their names. Adah is related to the word “dawn” and Zillah is related to the word “dusk”, suggesting that Lamech’s wives resided in separate households on an East-West axis, Lamech therefore claiming equality with God.

Today this kinship pattern is still identifiable among clans in Niger, Nigeria and in the grasslands of Cameroon. The metal working chiefs of the Inadan who live in the Air Desert surrounding Agadez, maintain 2 wives in separate households on a north-south axis (National Geographic, Aug. 1979, p. 389). There appears to be a connection then between the priesthood and metalwork (this suggested further by the story of Aaron who made an idol).

Other evidence to support the hypothesis that Abraham’s ancestors came from west central Africa is found in the place names Nok, Kano, Bornu and Adamah. Nok and Kano (Kain) are found in the Jos Plateau of Nigeria and are located on a north-south axis. Nok is the oldest site of metal working in Africa, verifying the claim that Tubal-Cain was a worker of metal.

Additionally, only one place on the surface of the earth is claimed by the locals to be the homeland of Noah and that is Bornu (“Land of Noah”) near Lake Chad in central Africa. The region of Adamah (place of red clay) is also found here.

There is further evidence in the discovery of a large walled city connected to the house of Sheba in a dense rain forest on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria. Sheba the Elder was an ancestor of Abraham, the grandson of Eber (Gen. 10:28). The House of Sheba was closely aligned with the House of Joktan and the Horites.

Related reading:  Who were the Horites?; Who Were the Kushites?


Richard Leigh said...

I am intrigued by the north/south axis concept. Do you believe that the West Saudi Arabian mountain of Jabel al-Lawz is the Horeb/Sinai of the Bible? Did you know that it is virtually directly south of Jerusalem? I think that's important.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I don't think we can assume that Horeb and Sinai are the same mountain or mountain range. There is no doubt that Horeb was sacred to the Horite Hebrew.

Christopher said...

Alice, what a wonderful blog! Thank you for hours of stimulating thoughts.

I have a question about the two-wives scheme. I get that the 1st born son of the 1st wife (also half-sister) is the father's inheritor. But how is the 1st born son of the 2nd wife (also cousin), who is his maternal grandfather's inheritor (for whom he is also named) if that maternal grandfather himself has his own 1st born son of his 1st wife (also half-sister). I recall you mention a role as prime minister but I don't know what that really means in this context. Thanks!

Alice C. Linsley said...

The first-born of the cousin bride/second wife wld serve the rler of his maternal grandfatehr's territory. Some texts refer to this role as a vassal, but it is more likely the role of a court official or a royal advisor.

Christopher said...

Thank you. Are there any examples of daughters of Abraham's line being married off as sister-wives or cousin-wives? Also, of any daughter married off as a cousin-wife, are there any examples of her 1s son being named after her father and coming back to the clan to serve as advisor, etc?

Alice C. Linsley said...

It is significant that no daughters of Abraham are mentioned in the Bible.It is even more significant that we have no information about Abraham's mother in Genesis, other than the fact that she was one of two women married to Terah. Why is this information left out? I believe it is because it would disprove the claim of modern Jews that Abraham was a Jew. Jewish ethnicity is traced through the mother, not the father. In the Book of Jasher we find this: "Terah took a wife and her name was Amsalai, the daughter of Karnevo; and the wife of Terah conceived and bare him a son in those days." (Jasher 7:50) I would be willing to bet that Karnevo is Kar Nebo or Mount Nebo where there was a Horite Hebrew presence. This would explain why Abraham, as a sent-away son, headed south to where he had kinsmen.

Unknown said...

I am working to wrap my head around this new information (just amazing, thank you for your time to reveal this revelation to us, your sisters and brothers). If Isaac already had a 'half - sister wife' and any son(s) with her...would not have been recognized in scripture? Possibly he did not have any? So Abraham's servant traveled to Abraham's family area and prayed for God to direct him. God showed him Rebekah - Isaac's now cousin/wife. So Esau's birth right and inheritance now would inherit Abraham's legacy since he was the Grandfather? That is where i am not clear on...who inherited what? Also, if i am understanding correctly, in that case of cousin/wife, (Esau and) Jacob would have been considered 'property' of Rebekahs family, right? Which played a part in Jacob's sent away Rebekah's brother Laban then 'had to accept' Jacob, even though he may not have wanted to. Then in Jacob's situation, he actually married 2 cousin/wives, correct? (Which your knowledge has helped me to see why, when Jacob left that Laban was mad, and stated that his daughters and sons -- grandsons -- were his.) Another Question: So how do concubines (one from Leah and one from Rachel) affect inheritances? Are they official wives after bearing a child? As Abraham with Hagar having Ishmael, rubbing her bearing a son in Sarahs ears? Which then created the setting of Ishmael being a sent-away son. (Another point i learned through your sharing.) Any information you can shed upon my questions, i greatly appreciate. Blessings upon you my sister in Christ.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Some wives are not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. The focus is on Jacob (Israel) and the people/clan of Israel's claim to the land. That Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had Hebrew children by other wives is problematic for the final hand on the biblical material, which was a Jewish hand from a time long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Two wives meant that there were two first-born sons, but in the social structure of the biblical Hebrew the proper heir was the first-born son of the first (principal) wife who was usually a half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham.

The first-born son of the second wife (usually a cousin) became a high official in the territory of his maternal grandfather.

The first-born sons of concubines were usually sent away from the proper heir. Read more about concubinage among the Hebrew here: