Sunday, December 16, 2012

How the Deuteronomist Changes the Genesis Narrative

The Joktanite clans of Southern Arabia
Among them were Horite Hebrew priests.

Alice C. Linsley

The whole canon is inspired and has been superintended by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is self-interpreting. We must use our God-given intelligence to sort through the material, context by context, to discover the various concerns of Biblical writers. For example, the Deuteronomist Historian seeks centralized worship at the Jerusalem temple, and the reshaping of the Passover and Tabernacles into national observances. This theological account does not align well with the historical, archaeological, and anthropological data concerning Abraham and his cattle-herding ancestors.

The Deuteronomist Historian is the final hand on the Genesis. This presence represents fundamentalism and iconoclasm and attempts to reshape Hebrew history. The book of Genesis contains information about Abraham and his ancestors who lived long before the Neo-Babylonian Period (about 700-300 BC), the period of the Deuteronomist Historian.  The DH stresses rejection of images, exclusive devotion to Yahweh, and obedience to his prophet Moses (Deut. 18:18; cf. Mark 6:125; Matt. 16:13-20; John 1:21).

Thankfully, this source preserved the King Lists in Genesis, by which another version of the history of Abraham's ancestors is told. These were the Nilo-Saharan and Saharo-Nubian cattle herding rulers who lived between the Nile and Lake Chad. Analysis of their marriage and ascendancy pattern reveals that Moses, Aaron and their half-brother Korah were Horite priests, as was their father Amram. The idea of Moses as a prophet is an anachronism.

From the Neo-Babylonian perspective, Genesis is about the people who dwelt in the Western Asian satrapy of Eber-Nahar which was comprised of Syria, Phoenicia, and Cyprus. Eber-Nahar or Eber ha-nahar means the "territory beyond the river." Eber as the eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews is problematic since analysis of the Genesis king lists makes it clear that Eber is a descendant of both Ham and Shem and the father of both Afro-Arabians (the Joktanite clans of Southern Arabia) and Afro-Asians (the Mesopotamian clans of Peleg).

An overlooked effect of the Deuteronomist's perspective is that it cuts out of the picture the importance of the Arabians, especially the Horites of Edom (Gen. 36). The word "Hebrew" does not come from Eber, as is often reported. It comes from ha-biru and refers to an ancient priest caste that included Arabians. In fact, one of the oldest words for priest is "Korah" from which comes the Arabic word for priest which is Khouri or Hori, referring to the Horite priesthood.

Some Jews and some Arabs have Horite blood. Arab historians identify twenty Jewish clans living in Arabia, including two priestly lines. The priestly lines intermarried exclusively, with priests marrying the daughters of priests according to a fixed marriage and ascendancy pattern. This intermarriage began long before Jews can be identified as a distinct ethnic group. The ruling ancestors of Jews and Arabs intermarried so that the two groups are blood kin.

One of Moses' older brothers held the title "Korah" before Aaron was consecrated a priest. Korah relates to the practice of the Horite priests to shave in preparation for their terms of service in the temples. (See Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2007, p.37)

The Neo-Babylonian Empire had two main provinces: Eber-Nahar and Babylonia.The satrap of Eber-Nahar resided in Babylon and he was served by governors who lived in Eber-Nari. One of the local governors was Tettenai, who is mentioned in the Bible and in Akkadian cuneiform documents.

Genesis took shape under the Neo-Babylonian rulers. In other words, the story is told from the perspective of those who lived east of Arabia. This perspective does not recognize the traditions of the Arabians who were never Babylonian subjects. The Babylonians and Assyrians were not able to defeat the warriors of Arabia. Nor were the Greeks able to defeat the Nabataean warriors. The Greeks called them the Idumea, meaning red people. 

The Deuteronomist Historian shapes Genesis in a way that distorts the image, just as photo-shopping a portrait gives a false impression. Ignoring the Arabians in Genesis makes it appear that they have no place in Biblical history. Nothing could be farther from the truth! 

The Horite ruler-priests of Arabia are among the great rulers named in Genesis 1-12. Abraham spoke Proto-Arabic dialects. His firstborn son was Joktan, which is Yaktan in Arabic. Josephus knew him as Joctan and his name is preserved in the ancient town of Jectan near Mecca. The Joktanite clans of Arabia are related to Abraham, and are the descendants of his Afro-Arabian forefathers Ramah, The brother of Nimrod, and Kush's grandsons, Dedan and Sheba.

Genesis 10:7 indicates that the Dedanites are related to the Kushite ruler Dedan. Dedan means "red" and is a cognate to the Egyptian didi (red fruit) and the Yoruba diden (red). Here we are scratching the older pre-Babylonian layer of Genesis. Old Arabic texts provide the closest cognates to the older stratum, which is Afro-Arabian. Dedan is where the largest collection of the oldest Arabic texts have been found at the oases of Tema and Dedan in the Hijaz. Tema (Taima) lies about 70 miles north-east of Dedan. Tema, Dedan and Dumah were caravan stops along the trade route from Sheba to Babylon.

Red Nubians wearing feathers
(Ippolito Rosellini)

Red Nubians wearing feathers
(Dr. Arthur Brack)

These resemble the Nabataean warriors (shown below) with their feathers and long wavy hair.

Dedan was the son of Ramah, the brother of Sheba and the grandson of Kush. This means that the peoples of the regions of Ramah, Dedan and Sheba were kin and Kushites. They appear to be related to the red Nubians. They spoke a North Arabian dialect referred to as Dedanite or Dedanitic. It has been grouped with Canaanite and Aramaic (Faber 1997).

We would expect to find parallels between Dedanite and the Kushitic/Nilotic languages. This is evident in the Dedanite and ancient Egyptian use of the root mr. The Egyptian word for love is mer which is related to the word for mother ‘m in Egyptian and in Dedanite. In both languages the word for woman is mr’t. Mer is also the root of the name Meri/Mary.

Dedanite shares some features with Hebrew also. The final /a/ was represented by –h, as in Hebrew, so the bi-consonantal word Rama (rm) becomes a tri-consonantal word Ramah (rmh). In both Dedanite and Hebrew the final /u/ is replaced by –w.

Linguistic connections between the Proto-Saharan, Nilotic, Dedanite, and Dravidian languages adds to the evidence of the Kushite expansion out of Africa. An example is the correspondence between Dedanite, the Nilotic Manding, and the Dravidian first person singular pronouns. The first person singular pronoun in Dedanite is ‘n which corresponds to the Dravidian first person singular an and to the Manding na.

It has been noted also that the qiblahs in the oldest mosques in Cairo and in Baghdad point to Dedan, about 500 miles north-northwest of Mecca.

Related reading: Abraham's Firstborn SonAbraham and Job: Horite Rulers; Petra Reflects Horite BeliefsThe Afro-Asiatic Dominion: The Shock of Mohammed Atta's Afterlife; The Afro-Arabian Dedanites; Understanding Violence in the Old Testament by Eric Jobe


Anonymous said...

You said, "Eber as the eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews is problematic since analysis of the Genesis king lists makes it clear that Eber is a descendant of both Ham and Shem". I would like to propose a theory that would answer this question. We can see from Genesis 10:21 that Eber is not only a contemporary (of sorts) of Shem but that she is likely female. As we know, the bible isn't always forth coming on the females. Is it possible that the person listed in the family line as Eber is not the first Eber? In other words, the second Eber would not be THE Eber. but named after him.

Anonymous said...

Among the Kikuyu, the name Kabiru and Kibiru is common among men. The difference between the 2 names is one is greater the other small. Additionally, there is a story of a great prophet called cege/Mugo Wa Kibiru. His father Kibiru came from one of the 9 clans called Anjiru. The medicine men/healers from this clan were traditionally associated with prophecy and strong medicine, divine priests and had a strong connection with nature. They were the guardian's of the drinking places at the rivers. Do you see any connection with the Ha-biru.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes! I see many connections. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

The oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship was at Nekhen on the Nile.The practices associated with the biblical Hebrew (early medical practices, water shrines and temples; a sacred caste of ruler-priets, circumcision, animal sacrifice, deified kings, cattle herding, sacred symbolism of the Sun, sacred mountains, etc.) are traced to East Africa, and suggest a Nilotic point of origin.