Saturday, February 21, 2015

Abusing Biblical Lists

Alice C. Linsley

Over the years I have come across some strange ideas about the peoples named in different Biblical lists. It seems everyone has a theory about their identity. The interpretations of the "Table of Nations" to the right contains many erroneous connections. It reminds me of the false correlations that have been made between Brahma and Abraham and between Brahma's wife Saraswati and Sarah.

The book of Joshua contains lists of people who were to have been driven out of Canaan by Joshua's army:

Joshua 3:10: This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.

In Joshua 24:11 we find the same names in a different order: Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands.

The Joshua lists parallel the list of Israel's enemies in Deuteronomy 7:1-3:

When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;  And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, [and] utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

This list comes from a time long after Abraham and suggests that intermarriage between these peoples was forbidden, yet the rulers of most of these peoples were related. The Jebusites were a Kushite people with whom Abraham and his descendants had close interaction.

Under Jebusite rule and earlier, Jerusalem was divided into two cities.  The western part was called Jeru  or Yiru, and the eastern part called Salem. Both of these names appear in Genesis. In Genesis 21:14 we read that "Abraham called that place...Yiru" and Genesis 21:14 speaks of Melchizedek the King of Salem, who likely was the maternal uncle of Abraham's wife Keturah.

A Jebusite ruler called Araunah sold David a threshing floor upon which David constructed an altar. Araunah means "the lord". Threshing floors were built at high windy elevations so the wind could carry away the chaff. These were also places of worship in the ancient world. The daily activities of cooking, sowing, harvesting and threshing grain had religious significance. Threshing floors also were used to determine times and seasons. A center post served to cast a shadow on the same principle as a sundial. Threshing floors were associated with the Sun, which was regarded as the emblem of the Creator among many ancient peoples. 

According to this end times enthusiast, Psalm 83 names the alliance of peoples who "will soon attack Israel." Here is the passage to which he refers:

Psalm 83:5-12

With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them
to reinforce Lot’s descendants.
Do to them as you did to Midian,
as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
who perished at Endor
and became like dung on the ground.
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
who said, “Let us take possession
of the pasturelands of God.”

Here is his interpretation:

Somebody needs to sit this man down and have a conversation about hermeneutics!

The ten groups named in Psalm 83 represent a list of Israel's traditional enemies, but there are many such lists and they are not consistent in the groups they name. However, the mysterious "Hagrites" or "Hagarites" appear only in this list.

The House of David had close connections to many of these peoples, so it is possible that Psalm 38 is one of the later psalms. Though it is thought to be from David's time, it has passages that resemble portions of the much older book of Job and the post-exilic poem of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 (as interpreted by Jews to be about Israel.) In most Bibles, Psalm 83 is attributed to Asaph, one of the leaders of David's choir mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:39. It was recited by Jews as an act of repentance whereby they hope to spare Israel from its enemies, and probably dates to the time after Ezra.

David was related to the rulers of Edom, and Gebal was part of Edom. Abraham's territory was entirely in the land of Edom, shown below.

Both Hebron (where Sarah lived) and Beersheba (where Keturah lived) are in Idumea. Abraham's territory extended on a north-south axis between the settlements of his two wives and was entirely in Edom, the region called "Idumea" by the Greeks.

David was also descended from a Moabite, Ruth. He received materials and technical assistance from King Hiram of Tyre in building his palace. It was in Tyre that Jesus' true identity was known. The rulers there had preserved elements of Messianic expectation that were neglected or rejected by the rulers in Jerusalem.

The Ammonites were related to the Israelites also. They are the descendants of Lot, Abraham's nephew. The casting of the Moabites and the Ammonites as the fruit of incest is the work of the same writer who told us about Noah becoming drunk and exposing himself to his sons (Gen. 9:21-27). These stories of drunken fathers are used to bolster claims of one people over another by denigrating the ancestors. When this happens, God often overrules. According to Deuteronomy 23:3, no descendant of Moab was allowed in the assembly of Israel, yet David appeared in the assembly and he is a descendant of the Moabite woman Ruth.

The mysterious Hagrites

The peoples listed in Psalm 83 are all identified except the Hagrites. They pose a mystery. A man named Haggeri or Hagri is listed among David's great men in 1 Chronicles 11:38. He is of the line of Nathan. This suggests a possible connection to the Virgin Mary, known as "Miriam Daughter of Joachim, Son of Pntjr, Priest of Nathan of Bethlehem." Among Abraham's Horim, ntjr designated God or the divinely appointed ruler. Pntjr is Pa-Netjer, the name of Joachim’s mother. A limestone stela (1539-1291 B.C.) bearing the names of Pekhty-nisu and his wife, Pa-netjer, is on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

It is curious that Ishmaelites and Hagrites would be grouped separately if Hagrite is a reference to Ishmael's mother, Hagar. Among Abraham's people, blood line was traced through the mothers, not the fathers. However, regional identity was linked to the ruler, who often was an outsider, a conqueror.

Hebrew and Proto-Hebrew have no vowels. The root of this word is hgr and can appear in many forms. Hagrite has variant spellings, including: Hagarenes, Hagarite, Hagri, Haggeri. The word is also a girl's name - Hagrita - among the descendants of Noah who populated ancient Hungary. The Hungarians call themselves the Magyar and some Magyar-ab (people of Magyar) still live along the Nile Valley. I suspect that the Hagrites of Psalm 83 is a reference to the sea-faring ancestors of the Sardinians and Hungarians. 

This study compared the Y-DNA of Hungarians with other Finno-Ugrian populations to understand why modern Hungarians have so little of the typical Uralic haplogroup N1c. A few individuals from a 10th-century cemetery were tested and half of the individuals belonged to N1c. Ob-Ugrian is in the the macro-haplogroup N, with its sibling M, and is a descendant of haplogroup L3, originating in the Nile Valley. They are people whose ancestors moved through the Mediterranean into Europe. Multiple studies have verified that the Neolithic Hungarians are genetically close to Sardinians, and the data obtained from archaic Sardinian samples enabled Italian researchers to go back in time to the African ancestors of all humans.

It is also possible that the term Hagrite simply refers to traders. This theory deserves more research. The word "ha" means "the" and "gr" is an ancient reference to traders who moved from the Nile Valley and the Sahara into Pakistan, India, Anatolia and as far as Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They are called Gur, Gar, Gurguri, Gurgar, and Gurjars in history books.  In their efforts to control borders and protect their holdings, the rulers of Israel would have encountered problems with the Gurjars or the Ha-grs.

One thing is certain: Biblical lists are important. They often tell us more about the composer of the list than about the peoples listed.


Richard Høy said...

" According to Deuteronomy 23:3, no descendant of Moab was allowed in the assembly of Israel, yet David appeared in the assembly and he is a descendant of the Moabite woman Ruth.

Ruth was called a Moabite because she lived in the land of Moab, she came from the loins of Jacob, just as any (most) other Hebrew. This is a problem when people take scripture literally, without understanding how ancient Hebrew works, nor how their culture operates.

Saying that Ruth is a Moabitess (by blood) is basically akin to saying that the most high himself is a liar, since no person from Moab (by blood) were allowed to enter into the congregation of the most high.

Alice C. Linsley said...

That was my point, of course. Ruth and David were related by blood to Abraham and Moses. These ruling lines intermarried.

The Deuteronomist Historian would like us to forget that.