Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew (Part 2)

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Alice C. Linsley

Patriarchy is often held up as an explanation for why no women served as priests among the Hebrew. The argument assumes that the social structure of the biblical Hebrew was patriarchal, following the lead of feminism and gender studies. Anthropologically, social structures are much more complex than generally presented in feminist literature. This is evident when we examine the biblical data to see if the Hebrew social structure is characterized minimally by the six conditions listed below.

In the most general sense, patriarchy refers to rule by men. However, this rule takes various forms. A pure patriarchy would have these conditions:
1. descent is traced through the paternal line only
2. inheritance rights come through the father's lineage only (Part 3)
3. right to rule is vested with males only (Part 4)
4. patrilocal residence; that is the bride lives with the groom's clan/family (Part 5)
5. governed by a council of all males (Part 6)
6. ultimate authority rests with a male figure such as a patriarch, chief or king. (Part 7)
Anthropologists never have found an absolute patriarchy or an absolute matriarchy. In an absolute matriarchy, the six conditions would be vested with the ruling females (matriarchs).

Today we will investigate whether the Hebrew social structure reflects the first condition: patrilineal descent.

Descent patterns of the biblical Hebrew

A pure patriarchy would trace descent through the paternal line only. This is not a characteristic of the biblical Hebrew. Instead, they had a pattern of double descent. One expression of this is the twin entrance pillars of Solomon's temple. They are named Boaz and Jachin and the pillars commemorate Solomon's righteous ancestors on his maternal and paternal sides. Boaz was Solomon's great great grandfather on his father's side and Jachin was his great great grandfather on Bathsheba's side.

Jachin (Yachin/Yaqtan/Joktan) is the name of Keturah's father and her first-born son. The cousin bride named her first born son after her father. Keturah is Abraham's cousin. She resided in Beer-Sheba, the well of Sheba (not the well of seven). One of his Jachin's descendants is Bath-Sheba, Solomon's mother.

The biblical Hebrew had a double unilineal descent pattern. This pattern pertains to more than ancestry. The Hebrew descent pattern also reflects the rights and responsibilities of the matriarch and the patriarch.

In a double unilineal descent pattern, both the patrilineage and the matrilineage are recognized and honored, but in different ways. The full names of ruler-priests often included the names of their mothers. Among the Horite Hebrew, ntjr designated God or the divinely appointed king. The Virgin Mary's father was Joachim, Son of Pntjr (Pa-netjer). Pntjr is the name of Joachim’s mother. It is a matronym. Evidence for this as a female name is found in archaeology. A limestone stela (1539-1291 BC) bearing the names of Pekhty-nisu and his wife, Pa-netjer, is on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

In the Hebrew double unilineal descent pattern the inheritance of land, the right to rule, and claim to wells pertained to the patriarch, while responsibility for movable objects such as tents, herds, and flocks pertained to the matriarch. In the ancient Hebrew culture, as in the Bedouin culture today, the family tent was owned by the wife. This is the pattern described in Scripture.

The patriarchs dug wells, defended wells, formed treaties over wells, and restored wells that collapsed or were vandalized. The east-west axis of Abraham's territory likely extended between the waters of Engedi to the wells he dug in Gerar.

Sarah's residence in Hebron was fitting the wife of a wealthy ruler. Hebron was a fortified city in Abraham's time. These stairs and walls are 4500 years old. Archaeologists believe the stairs led to Hebron's gate.

However, Sarah's herdsmen would have lived in tents that they moved, as needed, to new pasturage.  Their pattern appears to be that of transhumance, a type of pastoralism in which flocks are moved cyclically with the changing seasons, moving livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. Vertical transhumance involves movement between higher pastures in summer and lower valleys in winter. The herders have a permanent home in the valleys, typically in tents or sheep cotes such as the one show below. These had a beehive shape and were considered sacred places. 2 Samuel 7:8 describes the sheep cote as a dwelling place (naveh).

Stone sheep cote in Zanuta,West Bank
Photo: Emil Salman

Transhumance should not be confused with the nomadism of some itinerant populations who go where the work is found, such as the ancient metal workers (Kenites, Beja, etc.). Once Abraham arrives in Canaan his movements are always on a north-south axis, usually between two fixed settlements: one in Hebron and the other in or near Beersheba. The flocks were tended by his wives' servants. Abraham and Issac were responsible for maintaining water sources in Ein Gedi and Gerar (on an east-west axis).

The Hebrew pattern of double descent is also evident in the cousin bride's naming prerogative. Patrilineal cousin wives named their first born sons after their fathers. This is reflected throughout the Bible, beginning with Genesis 4 and 5 where we note that Lamech's daughter, Naamah, married Methuselah, her cousin, and named their first born son after her father.

Naamah belonged to the household of Methuselah, but her first born son belonged to the household of her father, after whom the son was named. Lamech the Younger served as a high ranking official in the territory of his maternal grandfather. This pattern is a characteristic of the Horite Hebrew ruler-priest caste. It explains why there are two men named Enoch, two named Lamech, two named Nahor, two named Joktan (Yaqtan), two named Esau, and two named Korah.

In the pattern of double unilineal descent there is a symmetrical division of responsibilities between the matriarchs and the patriarchs. The book of Ruth alludes to this. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to return to their "mother's house" so that they can prepare to remarry and have families (Ruth 1). The mother's house is responsible for wedding preparations and setting up new households. 

Contrast this to the story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. 38). Judah's sons who were married to Tamar die one after the other. He refuses to fulfill the law of levirate marriage by providing Tamar another son to marry. Judah tells Tamar to return to her "father's house" which was to relinquish his responsibility to her father. The father's house negotiated the terms of marriage and if the father did not give the woman to be married, she remained in his house.

In Part 3, we explore the Hebrew pattern of inheritance, one of the most complex areas of investigation. We will discover that the pattern does not fit that of an absolute patriarchy.


Anonymous said...

Yes same like a batak tradition where is the name of grandfather is always given to the grandson so it make twice name that when we found in the batak tradition its call panduahalion "

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Batak of Indonesia and Sumatra are primarily a highlands people. This suggests that they are some of the earliest peoples to inhabit these regions.

Richard Leigh said...

I note that you use material from the Protevangelium of James for the parentage the Blessed Virgin! Interesting.

Yashayah Ayayi El said...

Thank you, for your very informative research. It helps me understand my ancestry dna studies of the nilo Sub-saharan, Ethiopian, Igbo lines. I found it correlate with my family tree as far as Lc3 and l2af1.