Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cousin Brides and Their Ruler Sons

Alice C. Linsley

The succession of rulers in Genesis indicates that first-born sons of sister brides were in line to rule after their fathers. So Isaac was in line to rule after Abraham, since Sarah was Abraham's half-sister. The first-born sons of cousin brides did not rule over their fathers’ territories. Instead they ascended to the throne of their maternal grandfathers. So Joktan, Abraham's first-born by his cousin bride Keturah, would succeed to the throne of Joktan, Keturah's father.

After years of studying descent systems, Claude Levi-Strauss noted that in patrilineal systems mother and child belong to different clans. In the case of Abraham’s ancestors, the cousin bride belongs to her husband’s house while her first-born son belongs to her father’s house. This is confirmed in Genesis 10:22, where we find that Nimrod’s first-born son by a daughter of Asshur is called a “son” of Shem.

Ham                Shem

Kush               Asshur

                 Nimrod      =     Asshur’s daughter
                Asshur the Younger (“son” of Shem)


Georgia said...

It is interesting to me that Rachael was only maternal death in childbirth noted in Scripture.

Alice C. Linsley said...

There were others who died in childbirth but they were not the wives of rulers. I assume that the rulers' wives received the best care.

The "begats" in Genesis 4 and 5 speak of other sons and daughters. We are not told about their lives.

Jonathan said...

Does the necessity for a ruler to stay within the bounds of these prescribed-marriage patterns (one wife a half-sister bride, one wife a patrilineal cousin bride) leave any choices, if there would have been several bride-candidates? Or was the marriagibility within those pre-determined classes strictly determined according to some other preferential rules? So, for example, if Asshur were to have had several daughters to offer Nimrod, could Nimrod have been given the liberty of exercising any freedom of choice in the matter? Or, suppose there were a younger brother of Asshur, and if in this brother's house there were born a daughter who comes of marriagable age before any of Asshur's daughters, could that make her a potential contender to get married to Nimrod? Or does Nimrod have to wait until Asshur's quiver fills up with daughters that he can choose from?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Good questions, Jonathan.

There was probably some choice involved, but not much. Such choices are not presented as having positive outcomes in the Old Testament. Remember how Samson's marriage ended? Delilah was not his father's choice. Even when marriages were arranged by the fathers according to the groom's choice, as in the case of Shechem the Hivite and Dinah, daughter of Jacob, the outcome was not good (Gen. 34).

The matter of marriage was settled by arrangement between fathers and even grandfathers. Great care was taken in deciding the best bride choices for the 2 first-born sons since they were to rule. The first son of the half-sister bride ruled in his father's place. The first-born son of the cousin bride ruled in his maternal grandfather's place. For sons who were not going to rule, the decision was less weighty. The marriage pattern which I've identified is that of the ancient Horite ruler-priests, Abraham's people. The first-born sons married only daughters of priests. The two ruler-priests lines descending from Cain (Gen. 4)and Seth (Gen. 5) intermarried exclusively.