Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Wives' Settlements Mark the Boundaries


Alice C. Linsley

Abraham is often portrayed as a nomad contrary to the evidence that he was a ruler over a territory in ancient Edom. His territory extended on a north-south axis between the permanent settlements of his two wives: Sarah and Keturah. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah in Beersheba. Both settlements are shown on this map.

The Greeks called ancient Edom Idumea, meaning "Land of Red People."
Note the location of Hebron and Beersheba on a north-south axis, 
and the water system of Engedi and the wells in Gerar on an east-west axis.

Abraham divided his time between the settlements of his two wives. Abraham appears to have spent his old age in Beersheba. Genesis 22:19 reports that after offering Isaac on Mount Moriah, Abraham did not return to Hebron. He went to live in Beersheba with his cousin-wife Keturah. There he built an altar and planted a terebinth. In other words, Beersheba was both a shrine and a border settlement. A terebinth marker grew at the north end of Abraham's territory in Mamre (Gen. 12:6) and after Abraham's formed a treaty with Abimelech at Beersheba, he planted a terebint there at the southern end of his territory. Trees are often mentioned as territory markers in Genesis.

Abraham's settlements were guarded by trained warriors born to Abraham's household. Genesis 14:14 mentions an army of 318 warriors. The settlements included servants, herdsmen, hunters, stonemasons, tanners, potters, bakers, metal workers, physicians, and scribes. Abraham was a man of great wealth and prestige. The Hittites of Canaan recognized him as "a great prince among us" (Gen. 23:6).

Settlements required permanent water sources. The major water systems of Abraham's territory included the Well of Sheba (Beersheba), the Spring of Abraham in Hebron, Ein Gedi, and wells in Gerar. Genesis 26:18 reports that Isaac, Abraham's heir, had to reopen the wells in Gerar.

Entrance to the Spring of Abraham in Hebron

Dr. Avi Ofer of Tel Aviv University investigated the site (1984-1986) and reported that a massive thick wall inside the spring may have closed off an underground aqueduct that would have carried water from the pit to the upper level of Tel Hebron.

Abraham's Spring in Hebron

The biblical data suggests that Abraham controlled a sizeable territory that extended between Hebron and Beersheba and Ein Gedi and Gerar. This corresponds to ancient Edom, a territory associated with the Horite Hebrew (Gen. 36).

The Placement of Two Wives

The rulers of Abraham's people marked their northern and southern boundaries by their wives' settlements. Abraham's father Terah maintained two wives in separate households. One resided in Haran (to the north in southern Turkey), and the other resided in Ur of Chaldees (to the south in modern Iraq).

Terah was a powerful ruler-priest (Terah means "priest".) His territory was the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. His son Nahor ruled after Terah died (Gen. 11:32). Nahor was Abraham's older brother.

In Akkadian, "na" is a modal prefix indicating service to, affirmation, or affiliation.The name Na-Hor indicates a servant of Hor/Horus; further evidence that Terah and his sons were Horite Hebrew rulers.

For the Horite Hebrew the Sun was the symbol of the High God. The east-west solar arc was perceived as the High God's territory. Therefore, the Horite Hebrew did not settle their wives on an east-west axis. To do so would be to pose as equal to God. 

The Bible scholar Theodore H. Gaster noted that the east-west arrangement is suggested by the names of Lamech the Elder's two wives. Gaster noted that the wives' names - Adah and Tzillah - relate to the words for dawn and dusk. Lamech the Elder is posed in Genesis 4 as a braggart.

Related reading: Aaron Was Buried in EdomThe Antiquity of the Edomite Rulers; The Chiefs of Edom; The Edomites and the Color Red; The Pattern of Two Wives; Hebrew Rulers With Two Wives; The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of Abraham's People; Concubinage Among the Biblical Hebrew

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