Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why Eliezer was Abraham's Heir

William Dyce's oil painting of Eliezer (1860) is on permanent exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Alice C. Linsley

Abraham said, "O my Lord, what would you give me seeing that I am going to die accursed [Hebrew: ariri], and the one to inherit my household is Dam-Mesek." Genesis 15:2

The Hebrew is challenging as apparently there is an attempt at play on the sound ben meshek (meseq) with dam mesek, or more likely a parallel between the terms ben and dam. However, the two mean the same thing: the one born to Masek.

The reference to Masek as a "handmaid" is clear in the Orthodox Study Bible, based on the Septuagint. Genesis 15:2 reads: "And Abraham said, 'Lord, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus, the son of Masek, my domestic maid servant."

The "of Damascus" is probably redundant and a mistake, but the Orthodox Study Bible committee decided to leave the place name.

Eliezer was not Abraham's proper heir. That role was to the first-born son of the first wife, who was Sarah. Abraham had another first-born son by his second wife Keturah. However, in the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Horite Hebrew, the first-born son of the second wife belonged to the household of his maternal grandfather.

Lacking a proper heir, the son of a concubine would be the rightful heir. As was the case with Jacob, Abraham had two concubines, Hagar and Masek. By these concubines, Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Eliezer. Eliezer was the older of the two sons.

Isaac was born after the conversation Abraham had with God about Eliezer being the heir to Abraham's throne in Genesis 15. God reassures Abraham that he will have a son by Sarah. In the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the rulers among Abraham's people, the firstborn son of the half-sister wife ascended to the throne of his biological father. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister and their only child was Isaac, Abraham's proper heir.

Before Isaac was born, Abraham had a first-born son by his cousin wife Keturah. However, the first-born son of the cousin wife was to serve in the territory of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named. Consider Lamech the Younger (Genesis 5) who was to serve Lamech the Elder (Genesis 4).

Ishmael already had been born, and would have been Abraham's heir by adoption according to Horite/Hurrian law. According to this practice, the concubine gave birth on the lap of the half-sister wife, as was the case with Hagar's delivery of Ishmael, whereby Sarah built a family through Hagar (Gen. 16:2). This was Sarah's plan.

By this time Abraham was well-established as a "mighty prince" (Gen. 23:6) among the clan of Canaan. Abraham's defeat of the kings who had attacked his Horite Hebrew people (Gen. 14:6) and he was served by Melchizedek, the ruler-priest of Salem (Genesis 14).

Abraham had two wives, as was the pattern for all high ranking Horite Hebrew (Terah, Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, etc.) Sarah was Terah's daughter by one wife and Abraham was Terah's son by the other wife. This pattern of two wives meant that there were always two firstborn sons; one by the half-sister wife and the other by the cousin wife. The first-born son of the cousin wife served as a prime minister or vizier in the territory of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was titled/named. Likewise, Esau the Younger served Esau the Elder (Genesis 36).

The firstborn of the half-sister wife ascended to the throne of his biological father, so Isaac was Abraham's heir. However, he was not Abraham's firstborn. Neither was Ishmael. Ishmael was conceived late in Abraham's life, after Abraham had married Keturah. Keturah's firstborn son was Joktan (Yaqtan), the head of the Joktanite Tribes of Arabia. As Keturah was Abraham's cousin wife, Joktan ascended to the throne of his maternal grandfather. As Sarah was barren, Abraham was still desperate for an heir. This is when he prayed about having an heir and received the promise (Gen. 15:4) that a son would come from his own "loins" (meaning blood descent from him and his half-sister).

Eliezer was born of Masek before Ishamael was born of Hagar and this made him Abraham's only natural heir until Isaac was born. Here we have a glimpse into the complexity of the Horite Hebrew marriage and ascendancy pattern.

The name Eliezer/Eleazer appears twice in the Horite Hebrew ancestry of Jesus Christ.

Related reading: Abraham's Complaint; Abraham's SonsWho Were the Horites?; The Marriage and Ascendency Pattern of Abraham's People; Abraham's Cousin Wife; Abraham's Concubines; Answers to More Questions


DorBat said...

Very interesting. I needed this clarification. Family members have asked me about Abraham's lineage for years. Most pastors have difficulty with the subject, too.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I recommend getting my book "The First Lords of the Earth: An Anthropological Study" for yourself and to share with your pastor.