Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew (Final)

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Alice C. Linsley

When it comes to understanding the gender distinctions in the sacred Tradition received from the Hebrew and which are implicit in Scripture, we must dismiss the false narrative that the social structure of the biblical Hebrew was patriarchal. It was not. See the Introduction to this 7-part study.

In anthropology, a patriarchal social structure is defined by the following conditions:

1. Descent is traced through the paternal line only (Part 2)
2. Inheritance rights come through the father's lineage only (Part 3)
3. The right to rule is vested with males only (Part 4)
4. A pattern of patrilocal residence; that is, the bride lives with the groom's clan/family (Part 5)
5. The ruling body or governing council consists exclusively of males (Part 6)
6. Ultimate authority rests with a male figure such as a patriarch, a chief or a king (Part 7)

None of these conditions are true of Abraham’s Horite Hebrew people. In fact, the Horite Hebrew appear to be unusually respectful of their women compared to other ancient populations. 

The biblical Hebrew traced their lineages through both the male and female lines. This is why Luke and Matthew give two genealogies for Jesus. This double unilineal descent pattern is expressed in the entrance twin pillars of Solomon’s temple. One pillar was called Boaz, after Solomon’s paternal great great grandfather and the other pillar was called Jachin after Solomon’s maternal great great grandfather.

The biblical Hebrew traced lineage both patrilineally and matrilineally, with a particular focus on prominent or "righteous" ancestors. Both male and female ancestors are remembered, though it is more common for male ancestors to be named in the biblical texts. 

Inheritance was passed down through both the mother and the father. The inheritance laws among the biblical Hebrew are complex because the ruler had two first born sons. Provision was made for both sons to receive an inheritance. Additionally, grants were made to the sent-away sons of concubines.

Daughters could petition to receive inheritance. If a land owner died without a male heir his land was to go to a ranking daughter (Numbers 27:8). If he died without a son or daughter, the land was to go to his brothers.

By levirate marriage a widow was able to preserve her deceased husband's holdings for his son. In an extremely archaic practice, inheritance rights were attached to whoever had possession of  “teraphim” which were ancestor figurines.

The Right to Rule
The right to rule depended on one’s rank and authority more than one’s gender. Rank and authority were determined by the antiquity of the clan and its reputation. According to Genesis 36:31, the Horite Hebrew “are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel.” That being the case, the Horite clans of Edom were especially respected. Jeremiah notes that the rulers of Edom and Teman of Edom were renown for their wisdom (Jer. 49:7).

The biblical data reveals that Hebrew women ruled their households and exercised considerable influence in their social circles as the wives and daughters of high-ranking priests. These women invested wisely, had servants, managed real estate, and owned property. Some are so important that they are named in the Genesis king lists: Naamah, Anah and Oholibamah are examples. Anah is called a "chief" in Genesis 36.

Residence: Scripture indicates that the biblical Hebrew had at least four residential arrangements: patrilocal, matrilocal, neolocal, and avunculocal. The residence of married couples depended on the social position of the groom. 

The residence of widows depended on their eligibility to remarry. Widows who were not eligible to remarry lived in the households of their fathers. This is why Judah told Tamar to return to her father's house (Gen. 38:11). On the other hand, Naomi told her widowed daughter-in-law to return to their “mother’s house” in the hope that they would remarry (Ruth 1:8).

Some widows resided in the Temple precincts or at shrines. Anna is an example. She was a widow for 84 years. "She never left the temple, but continued to worship there night and day with times of fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:36-38)

Upon the death of Terah, Abraham's older brother ruled over Terah's holdings in Mesopotamia. Abraham became a sent-away son. Sent-away sons, like Abraham and Jacob, often lived in the households of their maternal uncles. This is called "avunculocal residence.” This is why Jacob was sent to live with his maternal uncle Laban.

The clan to which the individual belonged was not based on where the person resided. It depended on the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Hebrew people. For example, upon her marriage to Methuselah, Naamah belonged to her husband's clan, but her first born son belonged to the clan of Naamah's father, Lamech the Elder. That is why the son was given the name Lamech.

It is not true that the ruling body or governing council consisted exclusively of males. Ruling persons included males and females, and gender was not the only factor in determining who would govern.

In determining who should govern, the status and antiquity of one's clan was a factor. Certain Hebrew clans were known to produce rulers. Among them were the clans of Ram, Sheba, and Shobal. Other clans, such as the clan of Asher, were known to produce prophets, and still other clans, such as the clan of Caleb, produced great warriors.

Totems can be used to trace ancestry, the relationship between clans, marriage ties, and prominent rulers. The rank of the clans depended on their animal totem. The totems represented the position of planets and constellations. The lion is one of the four figures of Ezekiel's merkabah (solar chariot), a six-spoke symbol that appears on the ossuary boxes of the high priests and their family members. The lion was associated with the Sun. Therefore, the lion clans were preferred when selecting a high king. These clans included the clans of Judah and Shobal.

1 Chronicles 2:50 gives Hur as the firstborn son of Caleb and Ephrathah. Hur is associated with the Horite settlement of Bethlehem. Hur’s first born son was Shobal, a high-raking Horite Hebrew chief.

Women also ruled. Salome Alexandra ruled over Judea from BC 76-67. She was one of two queens who ruled in Judea. Huldah served as a royal adviser to the king. She lived in Jerusalem with her husband, Shallum, who was in charge of the priestly vestments. The narrative in 2 Kings 22 reveals the high esteem with which she was regarded by the king and the people.

Deborah's ruled over Israel from her oasis that was marked by a large date nut palm. It was between the settlements of Ramah and Bethel. The people had to go out to her for counsel, just as people had to travel to the wilderness to consult with John the Baptist.

The first born son of the ruler-priest's second wife (usually a patrilineal cousin) became a high ranking official in the territory of his maternal grandfather. Abraham's son Joktan (Yaqtan) was a high ranking official in the territory of his maternal grandfather, after whom he was named. This first born son of the second wife was named after his maternal grandfather. This explains why the Bible speaks of two men named Joktan, Esau, Enoch, Lamech, Nahor, etc. This "cousin bride's naming prerogative" is a distinctive feature of the social pattern of the biblical Hebrew.

Anah is listed as a clan chief among the Horite Hebrew of Edom. She was the mother of Oholibamah and Dishon. The clan totem for Dishon was the gazelle.

Finally, we glimpse the powerful influence of the royal mother in the story of Bathsheba appearing before King Solomon. When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at his right hand. (1 Kings 2:19)

Ultimate Authority

For the Horite Hebrew ultimate authority is expressed in the pervasive representation of the High God by the sun, the great light that gives light to the world. Abraham’s Horite Hebrew people perceived the High God as having male qualities. He (Ra or Ani) was called the father of a divine a son (Horus or Enki). He was believed to appoint by overshadowing, and to inseminate the earth.

We are not inclined to worship God in the same way or to agree on every point of theology. Nevertheless, there is an overarching Tradition upon which all who follow Jesus Messiah agree: that God has self-revealed in the God-Man Jesus, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners, to overcome death, and to restore perfect communion with the Father. This is the unique claim of Christianity.

To that claim, we must add that the Messianic Tradition is received, not invented. The Messianic Faith has very deep roots in the religious yearnings of archaic populations. The Church builds and edifies its members by continually resourcing in the Messianic tradition received from our spiritual father Abraham and his Horite Hebrew people.

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