In this installment of the Old Testament series, we will review the curious ‘life’ of Isaac, the only son of Abraham ‘that counted’, and the father of Jacob, the metaphoric avatar for Israel. Jacob, in turn gave twelve grandsons to Abraham, and again we find that one appears to have ‘counted’ for more than the rest: Judah, who bequeathed his name to the Jews via a seemingly seamy contractual ‘affair’ with his dogged daughter-in-law. Most all worthy of a modern soap opera, as detailed below.
Just why did Isaac ‘count’, at least from the Judeo-Christian perspective? To reiterate what we learned previously: prior to Abraham, the Biblical grand narrative was somewhat expansive regarding the ever branching of genealogies. Obviously this is ignoring the apparently ineffectual morally and genetically cleansing consequences of the Flood, because the surviving humans didn’t seem to get the shock and awe message that God wanted them to change their ways. But in any case, with Abraham and God’s granting of the so-called Eternal Blessing, the focus begins narrowing quickly through Isaac, Jacob, and then onto Judah’s Jewish progeny, who appear to have been ‘chosen’ to receive the blessing, or curse depending on one’s perspective.
This is why Isaac ‘counted’ — as opposed to Ishmael and the other uncounted and erstwhile Semitic half-brothers sired from the concubines and wives, maids and slave women of Abraham.
Conversely, from the Islamic perspective, it was Ishmael (father of all the Arabs and Muslims) who counted. This contrast forms the foundation for yet another mirror image society to the Jews. Amazingly little commented upon by religionists is that Abraham and his two notable sons appear to assume a supernatural or quantum nature, even at the macroscopic level otherwise occupied by Schroedinger’s cat. This by acting in two separate geographic theaters at the same time, but with polar opposite outcomes as to the favored lineage. The opposite outcomes are presaged by the fact that according to the Quran, it was Ishmael who was the intended sacrifice victim for Islam’s first scion, as opposed to Isaac.
Keep this in mind when we discuss below the Eternal Blessing and the respective domination of one brother by another regarding Jacob and Esau.
And, of course, in this regard the uncounted Esau was in the same relation to his brother Jacob as Ishmael was to Isaac. Earlier, poor Canaan fared even worse for his father’s sin. All this should make us briefly stop again to wonder about the actual underlying basis of this curious god’s providential global real estate acquisition Plan, and the Chosen Family’s Values. And how is this all related to seemingly banal sibling rivalries, the order of male birth determining relative status (but curiously the traditional “pride of place” status frequently inverted in the Biblical narratives), and such inanity as Ham’s inadvertent viewing of his naked and drunk father? Is such human dreck as this all there is to our wonderous divinity’s manifest scheme, from the entity alleged to have created the entire universe? Perhaps more importantly, are we being subtly informed that there is one set of rules for the divine, err ‘royal’, family and another for the rest of us?
Wonder now …. OK, stop wondering.
With that pause, it is also a good time to alert the reader that because we are dealing throughout the series with the overlapping generational narratives of family individuals, that there can thus be no clear demarcation in the posts between one individual and the next. In this regard, we will shortly revisit Abraham via the alleged attempted sacrifice of his son, Isaac.
This seminal and aborted human sacrifice seems to be the dramatic high point of Isaac’s life, as the rest of it appears rather anticlimactic by comparison to his father’s and his progeny’s active and exciting lives. In this regard, Isaac seems to have been the Caspar Milquetoast of his time, and here we are wondering if our allusion to the early 20th century cartoon may have more than a superficial resemblance to it. For one thing, the creator of the cartoon, H.T. Webster, settled in New Canaan, Connecticut. Coincidence, or conspiracy? You ‘connect’ the dots.
Just kidding …. or are we?
Hear Ye, Laugh Ye
But seriously, the seemingly dramatic sacrificial high point does not mean that there was no levity involved in Isaac’s life, with his very improbable conception and birth giving impetus to his being named Isaac, which means laughter:
And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age. (Genesis 21:5-7 KJV)
While Abraham was only 100 years old, Sarah was more impressively age 90, and we are not kidding here, but maybe the authors were? As such, we remind the reader that this is yet another clue to the alert and less credulous, .. to “all that hear”, that we are meant to look for meaning beyond the literal sense. This evokes Jesus’s later message for “those with eyes to see and ears to hear”.
And before we go on further, and fitting in with our premise that these texts are really about elite families, we must add that we forgot to mention in the prior post that the name Sarah means ‘princess’:
The Hebrew name Sarah indicates a woman of high rank and is translated as “princess” or “noblewoman”.
Also, as for Sarah’s prior name:
The name Sarai uses the semitic root Šarai or law and like El has the sense of power, authority, lord, deity, natural law, law as might be expected for the lady of the house.
What, He’s No Rambo?
Isaac is indeed entirely passive in most everything that happens after he is made to carry the wood for his own burnt offering, a holocaust. At one point (Genesis 26) the text informs us that the adult Isaac has sown crops, but this is only euphemistically so, in an aristocratic sense. In reality, and as betrayed later in the very same paragraph, it is his ‘servants’ who do sow, as well as shepherding his flocks, and digging out the wells, just as they had done for Abraham in his time. And as we’ll discuss in more detail below, Isaac (as his father did earlier) appears to have had some dealings with phictional phantoms that make us wonder if perhaps ‘Casper and the Relatively Friendly Ghosts’ might be more appropriate for representing Isaac’s relationship with Abimelech and his Philistines ‘at that time’. As such, we must examine below whether Isaac himself, at least, is something of a literary puff piece, marking time for his literary creators.
But whatever the case with his relative fictionality, Isaac does not seem to fit in with his lineage as actively advancing the divine agenda, much less being in the heroic mold of a robust action man full of ‘manly’ adventures. He is an “odd man out”, even duped by his wife and her preferred twin son, for all the divine stakes of the Eternal Blessing, no less. Of course, we can’t really blame the female here, as God told her which son would prevail when they were yet fighting in the womb.
If not a Rambo, how’s about that thar Ram in the Boughs?
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. (Genesis 22:1-13 KJV)
Once Abraham had finally settled into family life with ol’ Sarah, God commands him to demonstrate his loyalty by sacrificing Isaac. This was allegedly a common practice in parts of the wider Semitic world (as well as other ancient cultures), and the existence of this practice is (arguably) supported in the archaeological record. According to the story, the Phoenicians would sacrifice their first born to Ba’al so as to ensure the coming of the season’s adequate rainfall, necessary for crop fertility and livestock survival. Whatever the extent of the practice, we notice that the biblical Abraham was in no way surprised by God’s demand. And apparently being a properly pious pagan at the time (evidenced by this and other wider familial practices), he went straight ahead and took Isaac up to Mt. Moriah and began to piously go through with the ceremony.
There is yet ongoing scientific debate about the actual existence of Semitic child sacrifice. One argument is that these claims were nothing more than typical Greco-Roman demonizing propaganda. If so, such propaganda was typically self-serving and hypocritical: the Greeks and Romans may have evolved beyond human sacrifice, but nevertheless it was considered perfectly respectable to expose unwanted children to the elements, with the justification that those babies might be saved by passers-by, or by God.
If such practices as ritual child sacrifice did not really exist, then it is somewhat ironic that the three Abrahamic religions each start with the attempted sacrifice, at least, of their respective firstborn sons: Isaac, Ishmael (as per the Quran), and Jesus.
In the following verses, when Isaac meekly asks where is the expected lamb to be offered up as a burnt sacrifice: is Abraham merely telling Isaac an ‘innocent’ white lie here so as to fool his son into proceeding peacefully to the altar of his demise? Or, instead is the verse’s author having some fun with his readers by allowing the possible interpretation that Abraham knows in advance that Isaac will not really be harmed?
We are also presented with the dilemma of wondering whether the supposedly all omniscient God of Abraham really has to test Abraham to see whether or not he will be faithful to God’s sadistic demand, before sending his angelic messenger to stop Abraham’s knife – just in time. After all, doesn’t divine prescience, at least, mean that such a god already knows in advance what will happen? As such, how can there be any valid test, in a rational sense, involving such a god? Here, and even given our concern about any such test — we suggest that a considerably better test would have been to let Abraham complete the gory sacrifice, and only then have this god restore Isaac to life, even allowing him to now ‘laugh’ at the imponderables of the whole affair. But just who was asking us at the time?
After all, how was anyone to know whether or not the angel stopped Abraham a fraction of a second too soon? And thus no one can be sure whether or not Abraham was really planning, all along, to stop the knife of his own volition before crossing the Rubicon of Isaac’s carotid arteries? Maybe they were both playing Chicken? As an exemplary test of Free Will, the story falls short.
But, as the story goes: just before he terminates Isaac, and thus Israel-to-be (via Isaac’s son Jacob), Abraham is informed that he has sufficiently demonstrated his loyalty to God, and that he can therefore substitute a nearby, conveniently stuck ram in Isaac’s place. And thus the same will be so for Abraham’s descendants from then on, minus all the human dark comedy at least. Note that the angel has mentioned that Isaac is indeed the only son (that counted) of Abraham’s; despite Ishmael, at least, being born before Isaac; and all the other sons that didn’t count.
As we can see within the context of later posts, and what has already been discussed in Abraham and the Sabian Legacy, this episode can be taken as a message to the targeted audience: that in being converted to Hebrews, they will no longer be performing this human sacrifice; but rather, that animals will now be substituted in place of first born sons. And before long the previously widespread local sacrificial practices were consolidated to the Temple cult practice in Jerusalem, at least according to the redacted narratives. Ignoring for now that the Samaritans and other factions had their competing central temples (over time) — this centralization to the one temple, of course, made it easier to oversee control over the conversion process and ensure conformity to monotheistic Judaism.
In the aborted sacrifice of Isaac, a ram was substituted for the human victim. By the same token: some people, like the Muslims, don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross – possibly also having benefited by a body double substitution. But regardless of what might actually have happened: in both cases, at least via their narratives, their respective legacies went on to form the next two of the Abrahamic religions that have also stood the test of time.
Another curious parallel is Julius Caesar’s funeral bier. Upon its ignition, Caesar was seen to ascend to Heaven to join the gods. It was reported in several accounts that the loudest to mourn him were the Jews of Rome, because Julius had defeated the hated Pompey the Great, who had earlier defiled the Jerusalem Temple. With this action, Caesar joined the ranks of foreign Messiahs of the Jews, along with Cyrus, who had rescued them from Babylonian captivity. There are many typological parallels of Julius Caesar’s passion to Jesus’s Passion on the Cross, as recorded by Francesco Carotta in his Jesus was Caesar. Julius can readily be seen as a pure sacrificial lamb, being led along the Sacred Way to the slaughter at Pompey’s Theater in front of the Roman senators (≅Sanhedrin). And directly to our point here about staged contrivances: Julius had dinner with his claimed ‘assassin’, Brutus, the night before, and joked with everyone about his immanent demise. The Last Supper, indeed.
Within the contrivance of the aborted sacrifice, Abraham made Isaac, “thine only son”, sardonically carry the wood which was to be used to barbecue himself with. This forms a rather interesting typological link to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, who was also forced to carry his own wooden cross. And as well, Jesus was God’s firstborn and only son — except, that is, for those other sons of God mentioned in Genesis 6; which again reminds us of Abraham’s other sons that don’t seem to matter. Apparently the only sons that ‘count’ are the children of the primary wife of status.
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Genesis 6:2 KJV)
And thus we suggest that this sacrificial inside joke, with its white lie, might also be another possible basis for the name ‘yitzchaq’, meaning ‘laughter’, as mentioned earlier. Was Isaac like Caspar Milquetoast here, or was he really laughing internally, at least, when he stoically asked Abraham where the lamb was? For here he was old enough to know that, as he was technically the firstborn, it should otherwise have been his destiny to become the sacrificial ‘lamb’ himself.
Art Thou else a Seedy Wallflower?
According to the Biblical narrative (Genesis 24), Abraham must send his unnamed senior household servant to the city of Nahor in Aram-naharaim, the city of his uncle, Nahor, in order to obtain a wife for Isaac. This was Rebekah, Nahor’s granddaughter. This is not to conclude here that a literal Isaac was necessarily lazy, as it was not the custom in those days for a man to romantically go a-courting as in more recent times. As we have already discussed, marriage was a serious contractual matter in those days, usually arranged, and with romantic love being merely the optional icing on the begetting cake. And in this case, as explicitly stated, it was not desirable for Isaac to obtain a wife amongst the local Canaanites. This as they had been thrown out of the Semitic family tree, dis-graced long before by the propagandic, fictional misdeed of Ham with his drunken father Noah.
But if we are correct that Isaac is a fictive artifice, part of the narrative scaffolding of biblical Israel, then what are we to make of this marriage to his second cousin, Rebekah? We assert that this is merely indicating, to the alert reader, the traditional aristocratic manner of securing political alliances via the practice of marriage, and as well, that this is done frequently via a network of already related elites. Are we really to expect that some family of shepherd peasants would go to this extent? This is the traditional methodology of the entirely interbred (until recent generations) European royals. We already mentioned in the Intro post that there are some hints of elite familial connections between Rome and Judah that begin to make more sense in our false dialectic construct.
In that light, we can discern that Nahor is an important man, like his brother Abraham, because the city is named after him. After the proper dowry gifts are made, although Rebekah has never seen Isaac, she consents by simply saying “elek”, meaning “I will go”, after her family first approves by saying “She shall go.” (Genesis 24:55-58)
Next the family blesses her with more dark food for thought:
And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them. (Genesis 24:60 KJV)
At this very point in the long family saga, the very beginning of the metaphoric Israel: why, prey tell, should anyone hate the seed of Rebekah? What did those which hate them know, and when did those know it? Were they really prescient enough to understand that even their descendants would be hated by so many? Here again, we assert that this is evidence that verses like these were written by those pushing a hidden agenda upon another people who were undergoing a generations long, programmatic culture transplant. And as such, either the fictive patriarch characters were pushed far back in time, so that the targets of this social engineering had no means to disprove the narrative bring forced upon them, or there must be some other explanation for their presence.
And perhaps more importantly, we can see that the plan of God, or those writing in his name rather, is that those who label themselves Hebrews (but in reality Jews) shall indeed go forth and be hated by the rest of humanity. While perhaps most, whether religious or secular, take this premise as some form of given for various reasons, we assert that this reason was purposely baked into the matzo ball, so to speak. This is setting the foundation for the widespread Jewish belief in their universal raison d’etre, which is the neurotic assumption of the mantle of the Suffering Servant for the ostensible betterment of humanity. All stemming from the involuntary birthright into the Eternal Blessing first delivered to Abraham.
What better way to make people hate you, than to start out with the biblically inspired premise that … uhm … everyone hates you? This self-fulfilling prophecy is the black hole of the perverse and cynical nature of the Abrahamic divine plan and the false dialectic that we proposed. And imagine having to go through life with this heavy and cynical artificial chip yoked onto your shoulders. Some people say that it is better to be feared than to be hated. If so, with gods like this who needs enemies?
This hateful ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ really constitutes one means to facilitate the self-organizing principles that holds the Abrahamic religions together, but especially the Jews with their Chosen status and linked claim of ethnicity. Because, and central to the narrative, we are here tracing through the passage of the coveted Eternal Blessing from God to Abraham through his progeny, it will be interesting to pay attention to what happens to it by the time we reach the patriarch of the Jews, Abraham’s grandson Judah.
And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi. (Genesis 25:11 KJV)
Upon the death of Abraham, at age 175, both Isaac and Ishmael are present to bury their father. However, and seemingly in passing (no pun intended), God only blesses Isaac. This after Abraham had given Isaac everything he owned, excepting the unspecified ‘gifts’ that he gave to the sons of his concubines. Ishmael’s presence here raises some questions, as he and his mother had been sent packing long, long ago. In this case, however, Ishmael had at least become the father of a nation himself, as per God’s instructions (Genesis 21:13 KJV), albeit now presumably without the Eternal Blessing that came from proximity to the blessed family (excepting for his presence at this burial). Which makes one ponder what this additional blessing given to Isaac was all about?
Or does Ishmael’s presence at the burial indicate that Ishmael really is still part of the Eternal Blessing, perhaps covertly? If Ishmael is out founding a nation, how long of a journey would it be to have him alerted to his father’s passing, and then for Ishmael to travel there so as to attend the burial in a timely fashion? There is no explanation provided for this, but it seems to imply that Ishmael was not really that far away from his father and half-brother. Perhaps just on the other side of yonder mountain?
Looking beyond the surface narrative here, imagine if instead of rude and nomadic ‘shepherds’, we are really cryptically talking about Egyptian ‘kings’ and their kin. In that case, maybe there was enough time for Ishmael to be notified and travel to the funeral. Here we are alluding to the extended period of time necessary to properly prepare a deceased body for mummification. And in this regard, we have previously mentioned Ralph Ellis’s suggestion of a sequential correlation of Patriarchal names with Egyptian king names.
With this last in mind, then what can we make of stories about the scioness of a Mesopotamian city being the “mother of thousands of millions”, and her half-brother-in-law who is round and about fathering yet another nation? For one thing, this definitely evokes “X fecund, if not Y naughty”. More importantly, this type of situation fits our Postflavian premise discussed previously regarding all of these tales of Hebrew Patriarchs actually being stories about high status elites and their artifice of a synthetic nation as their veiling and protective foil – also floating their stated global pretensions.
With Holy Kin Like These Who Needs Twinemies?
With Isaac and Rebekah’s sons, some prior themes are re-enacted. First we have the issue that Rebekah is barren for the first 20 years of the marriage, and thus requires God’s intervention in order to conceive. Secondly, we have a similar sibling rivalry as with Isaac and Ishmael, this time starting to play out while the two twin boys are still within the womb, and the younger son will, again, predominate.
Another remarkable aspect of the Isaac narrative, besides Isaac’s general passivity, is the ubiquity of interfamilial deception practiced by various holy family schemers. Here, Isaac’s sons and Rebekah conspire together, both against each other and against Isaac himself. But at least in this one case, namely the respective outcomes for Isaac’s feuding sons who are to become fathers of neighboring feuding nations — God has already foretold the outcome to Rebekah while they were yet fighting in the womb. So now we are left to ponder whether this deception and feuding was sanctioned by God. Why not? God logically states that he is the Creator of everything, including all that is evil (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).
But we don’t have to go to this extreme, as we have discussed in the prior post that the moral nuances in those times were different than today’s. Albeit with all the moralizing hype heaped upon us today, all this otherwise grifting behavior might seem to some a little too discordant to reconcile. Perhaps this is why such lurid tales have been adorned with a sacred gloss?
And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:21-28 KJV)
Here, Rebekah is disturbed by the conflict between the two in her womb, and God answers her inquiry by explaining that she will bring forth two nations from her womb. One can either take this as a metaphor for representing pre-existing peoples, or in the case of fundamentalists, one can see this as a euphemism for the two offspring literally fathering separate nations.We assert the former proposition as a key component to our main thesis in this series.
In any case, as we mentioned earlier, God additionally tells Rebekah which son will earn the Eternal Blessing over the other, and we are left to wonder whether this conditions her preference for Jacob. Did Isaac ever learn of this oracle? If he prefers Esau to the end, why does he pass the Eternal Blessing onto Isaac without a fuss?
With the ‘older’ twin, Esau, we are uniquely and curiously informed that he is ‘red’ and ‘hairy’ all over. Esau is said to become the father of Edom, perennial nemesis of the Hebrews. Here the Hebrew word admoni, for ‘red’, seems to be etymologically connected to Edom, as with the word se’ar, for ‘hairy’, is similarly connected to Seir, as spelled out in the Genesis 36 genealogy for Esau. Why should we care about this character having red hair, as nothing is mentioned about Isaac’s hair? For all we know, Isaac’s unstated hair might have been red as well, but instead we are left to guess that it is not red, perhaps to be of a more typical raven hair of the Semites. Hmmm, who knows?
The Birthright or My Brother’s Keeper?
And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34 KJV)
The color red comes into play once more, as it is the color of the ‘pottage’ food, most likely lentils, that the starving Esau begs of his brother so as to save his life. Instead of being his brother’s keeper, and kindly feeding his starving brother (as Semitic custom demands hospitality to even strangers), instead Isaac uses Esau’s sorry condition (belying Esau’s depiction as a cunning hunter) as leverage to negotiate for obtaining what is Esau’s traditional firstborn ‘birthright’. Here, the narrative is referring to the traditional mundane material inheritance, and not the Eternal Blessing.
Also, little comment is heard of this aspect, that is, compared to Jacob becoming ‘Israel’, but notice that Esau quietly assumes an alter ego of Edom. With this, once more, and as with Isaac and Ishmael, the narrative creates an geopolitically based enmity that is to continue in perpetuity, and all within one special family. Thanks God.
We are also left to ponder why Esau, the cunning hunter, was starving — especially considering that his father had abundant herds. This question will loom large in the next deception regarding the Eternal Blessing. The last verse of the prior excerpt says that Esau ate of his father’s venison, and curiously that Isaac loved him for this and doesn’t mention any other reason for such a preference towards Esau. We are also left pondering that Jacob, always dwelling in his tent, is the stronger. Stronger in what way than his brother, who is the cunning hunter who loves his father’s venison? Like the unilateral mention of Esau’s red hair, what are we supposed to presume about Isaac’s diet or lifestyle and what it implies by comparison? Is this all an allusion to the ultimate superiority of the city dweller, who has gained by cunning subterfuge?
So once again, we suggest that the alert reader is figuratively being shouted at to ignore the superficial narrative and examine the much more important subtext.
Philistine Phictional Phantoms?
Per the Jewish and Christian canon, at least, while whether Ishmael strayed very far from home is a question, it seems certain that Isaac never did. That is, except for one odd and nearby excursion at least, as by inheriting Abraham’s flocks and other wealth he generally stayed around Hebron, and was buried there as well. This excursion apparently comes after the birth of his sons and the birthright issue, and it is made to Gerar because of a famine around the area of Hebron. From the text Isaac amazingly goes there of his own volition, however God appears to him and tells him to stay put instead of seeking famine relief in Egypt – as would be the case for Joseph’s brothers later on.
It is in the Philistine city of Gerar that we once again encounter its king, Abimelech. And while Isaac repeats the mistake of Abraham in trying to pass off his beautiful wife as his sister, the very old Abimelech has not forgotten the previous incident and thus upbraids Isaac for the possibility of getting himself and his people in trouble with Isaac’s god again. But Abimelech does not send Isaac off just yet, letting him grow crops nearby:
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we. And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. (Genesis 26:12-18 KJV)
But it is only after Isaac’s success at growing crops (a hundredfold), and apparently the additional sight of Isaac’s large herds, that Abimelech now enviously sends Isaac off. To where? From the city of Gerar to the … valley of Gerar. And here Isaac’s men dig wells, and apparently they are very successful at all this too, and this becomes a source of contention with the people and Abimelech. The overt takeaway from all this is that Isaac has shown up the Philistines, and doubly so because these were the same wells that Abraham and his men had dug earlier, and which the Philistines had filled in upon Abraham’s death for some unknown reason. Perhaps to discourage alien squatters?
As a result, and apparently to avoid garnering more punishment from Isaac’s god, as he had already experienced from Abraham’s time, Abimelech ends up requesting to make a covenant with Isaac. One that implies that Isaac will continue to be able to peacefully graze and water his herds in the valley of Gerar, in exchange for Isaac and presumably Isaac’s god leaving Abimelech and his people alone.
This apparently is what God’s Eternal Blessing provides to the worthy, a cheap real estate acquisition, aka Providence. Earlier, with Abraham, he declines to profit materially from the king of Sodom upon defeating the forces of the Elamite Chedorlaomer, but as we can see now merely upon having the divine blessing, little else is needed if such as (promised) land is the objective. However, we are left with the seemingly oxymoronic question of why God must keep refreshing the Eternal Blessing first granted to Abraham?
But since we are now talking about real estate once again, we have to wonder if anybody bothered to do a proper escrow title search before approving these transactions with the Philistines. Odd, it seems that during the rather generous time window allowable for either Isaac or Abraham, that there is no record of any Philistines being in the general area. Evidence of these Philistines is so sketchy today that it seems that there is no consensus on just who they were. Oddly, the Septuagint translation bifurcates the original term with the vast majority of the references taking a curiously nondescript nature:
The Hebrew term “pelishtim” occurs 286 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible (of which 152 times in 1 Samuel), whereas in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, the equivalent term phylistiim occurs only 12 times, with the remaining 269 references instead using the term “allophylos” (“of another tribe”). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philistines
Why not just stick with the same translated term instead of attempting to redirect our focus onto a generic term? If these people ever existed, could it be that we, and all the previous western scholars have been looking in the wrong place, if not the wrong time, for them? It seems that just this case is being made these days.
No Philistines, Pharaohs, or Pyramids?
Authors such as Kamal Salibi (The Bible Came from Arabia), Assraf Ezzat (Egypt Knew No Pharaohs and Israelites), and Bernard Leeman (Queen of Sheba University) have been arguing that the true locale for the biblical patriarchal and king narratives should be placed in the southwest Arabian peninsula, where much of the otherwise odd context for them suddenly becomes coherent. Ezzat demonstrates that the Egyptians never identified their leaders as ‘pharaohs’, but rather that the Arabic term faraon is the common term for a tribal chief. If the true locale for the origin of these biblical ‘pharaoh’ related stories is not in Egypt, it helps explain why there is no mention of pyramids or similar details. As well as to why there are other anomalies and anachronisms such as Isaac and Abraham’s phony Philistines.
However, Ellis’s comparisons between Egyptian king lists and Patriarch names would then be dismissed as coincidence, or weird typology, or that there is yet another explanation for their presence. With the latter, Ezzat seems somewhat too ‘romantic’ in ascribing purely benign motives to the entire lineage of Egyptian dynasts, except for the Hyksos aliens of course.
In regards to these Philistines, Ezzat believes that the Yemeni Phalist tribe of Arabia were the people relocated to what then became known as Palestine. And that it was the various neighboring and feuding tribes of Arabia that were eventually taken into Exile and relocated several times by the Assyro-Babylonians before becoming the ‘original’ Hebrews and Jews more familiar to us, with their quaint and sordid homeland tales being heavily recontextualized in the Septuagint translation.
Among other things, Ezzat’s hypothesis can provide solutions to problems in historical Chronological Revisionism as advanced by Immanuel Velikovsky. Perhaps most prominent of which is related to the actual location of Queen Hatshepsut’s land of Punt, what her relationship, if any, to the Biblical Queen of Sheba was, and thus providing a corroboration with ancient commentators regarding the origins of the ‘Punic’ Phoenicians. Velikovsky claimed that the two women were one and the same, based upon parallels between the Bible and Hatshepsut’s wall murals – and many other sequential parallels. But what happens if Punt was really located somewhere in southwest Arabia and/or central eastern Africa just across the Red Sea?
Of note here, it has recently been claimed by some Israeli archaeologists that the famous terraces of Jerusalem are simply too late to have been in Solomon’s time. The terraces of Punt are a prominent feature in the story of Hatshepsut’s temple mural. As such, is this a case of someone wanting to make the evidence fit the new narrative?
We believe that there is a considerable amount of merit in this general thesis, with the major caveat that we believe that the hypothesis has the same shortcoming as the mainstream theory asserted by the Biblical subtext. Namely, there is no rational explanation how Abraham’s obscure family rose up to the extent that it has effected the course of Western civilization to the extent that it did. But nevertheless, that family, real or fictional, did just so; and as such we assert that there was, and still is, a real and veiled human agency behind all this. In this regard then, we suggest that Ezzat, Salibi and Leeman may indeed have provided the actual structural narrative origins for the Biblical patriarchs. As such, we assert that the Egyptian kings had a common long term motive, along with their Mesopotamian ‘brother’ kings, to advance a global agenda veiling the machinations of their scions.
Jacob and Rebekah’s Deception of Isaac regarding the Eternal Blessing
Jacob’s opportunistic purchase of Esau’s birthright is not yet enough, as passive Isaac must next be deceived by both Jacob and Rebekah into having the dying man grant the Eternal Blessing to Jacob under false pretenses. Here Jacob falsely appears before him in Esau’s stead, wearing distinctive smelling clothing and sporting goat hair over his skin, all at his mother’s urging and assistance. Remember that Rebekah has been told long ago that Isaac was to receive the blessing, and she makes sure that this will happen by her agency, and apparently not trusting in the supernatural means ostensibly at God’s disposal.
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me. And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed: Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed. And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing. And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. (Genesis 27:1-36 KJV)
As we had mentioned previously, regarding the birthright sale: Esau, the great hunter, was curiously starving; not to mention the great domestic herds of Isaac’s that should have been available to the favorite son. Yet in this second episode, Esau returns fairly quickly with the successful catch of his hunting, only a little too late.
Both Jacob and Rebekah are clearly conscious that they are deceiving Isaac, and here Rebekah tells Jacob that she will take all the blame, … for fulfilling God’s promise. Also interesting is that Jacob incorporates God in the lie to his father.
And next Isaac informs the distraught Esau:
And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother [Jacob, aka Israel]; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck. (Genesis 27:40 KJV)
With the red hair of Esau’s Edomomites, we are reminded that the later Herodians are stated to have been from Edom, and thus if we are to believe the biblical narrative, then the Herodians were also of the Abrahamic blood line, via Esau. The New Testament depicts the Herodians being viewed with suspicion and distrust by the Jews because of their contentious Edomite origins, despite their claim of conversion to Judaism.
If we apply the Postflavian lens that Jesus Christ was a product of the Romans, and we know of the long relationship of the Herodians with the Roman royals, including romantically to such as Titus (or the hypothetical Arrias Calpurnius Piso), then we can see a path for this dominion to extend all the way to modern times. Julius Caesar, as discussed by Carotta in Jesus was Caesar, was one typological source informing the Christian narrative. As discussed in Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul, the Romans expected marriage alliances to occur to cement political ties with the newly conquered European tribes. In this light, we might understand the claims of many European nobility that they had descent from Christ, via a Caesarian lineage.
Some of the Herodians ended up in either Rome or today’s southern France, and legends have it that the Virgin Mary and children of Jesus ended fleeing there as well. This leads to the claims of the Merovingian kings, with their long, uncut red hair, perhaps odd remembrances of the Nazarite vows from Leviticus.
Medieval artwork almost always depicts the divine family characters with red or red/orange hair for some reason, and this includes even depictions of the pagan gods and related characters. Considering that most all this artwork was produced for paying clients, where did this impetus for depicting red hair come from?
The late Nicholas DeVere, in his sweeping The Dragon Legacy, claimed that his red headed, green eyed clan were the real Jews of the Old Testament; presumably in opposition to Ashkenazi pretentions. The historical implications of this enigmatic claim are manifold.
Well now!! Just when does this prophecy come to pass? That is, when does Esau have dominion, and when does the yoke of Israel come off of Esau’s neck? Certainly not in Esau’s lifetime, but what about for some of his Edomite progeny? And what does this imply as relates to the Eternal Blessing?
If this is not a reference to at least the Herodians, then to who? Previous rebellions of the Edomites against the dominant Judeans can’t qualify as gaining ‘dominion’. These rebellions were quickly put down, according to the chronicles of the kings, and thus can’t qualify as ‘dominion’.
Can this seemingly grifted Eternal Blessing be grafted onto later, perhaps by inserting a “wild branch” into the “natural root”? This referring to the grafting of the Root of Jesse found in Romans 11. If the verse predicting the future dominion of Esau verse is related to this, then might it also be a later interpolation created by the Herodians during their collaboration with the Flavians?
Jacob Flees from Esau’s Rage
After obtaining the mundane birthright inheritance, via fire sale discount pricing from Esau, and in short order obtaining the separate familial and divine Eternal Blessing from Isaac by deception, Jacob is forced to flee. Esau believed, after the fact, that both inheritances belonged rightfully to him. From Isaac’s and his mother’s deception, and Esau’s seller’s remorse, ignorance and/or jealousy, Esau is none too happy with Jacob. This to the point that Esau has expressed the intent to kill Jacob after the immanent mourning period for the waning Isaac is over. Fortunately for Jacob, and for the sake of maintaining the veracity of God’s oracle about Jacob’s success (and in the divine plan’s subsequent need to assume the mantle of Israel via his later renaming), Rebekah overhears Esau’s comments and warns Jacob to flee to Haran.
And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padanaram [aka Haran – ed.], to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother. (Genesis 28:1-5 KJV)
Note here that even though Esau is the favorite son, Isaac does not punish Jacob for the deceptions, but rather he blesses Jacob once more for good measure, this time invoking Abraham’s name. Perhaps he forgot to do so the first time? Jacob is told, while waiting out Esau’s anger there, to obtain a wife from his mother’s brother, Laban. This immediately after an express prohibition not to take a Canaanite wife. Esau, careful here not to displease his father, heeds the warning about Canaanite women, and seeks a wife from uncle Ishmael:
And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife. (Genesis 28:8, 9 KJV)
On Jacob’s flight to Haran he spends the night in Bethel, where he observes angels ascending and descending the so-called “Jacob’s Ladder to Heaven”. This is taken by many Bible scholars to be a reference to a temple that was there in the later times after the succession of the northern tribes from the United Monarchy, and thus closer to the time of the textual redaction.
And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. (Genesis 28:10-17 KJV)
On his way back home, decades later, Jacob will stop again in Bethel and have a very odd wrestling match with God. This is taken by some scholars to be an indication that an earlier layer of the story had Jacob fighting a pagan god who didn’t want him to return to Canaan cum Israel, perhaps akin to the warning to Julius Caesar not to cross the Rubicon on his way home. In this view, this version of the story admits, as per the earlier monolatrous times, that there were other gods besides El Shaddai, as he was known then. And thus the later redactors made the curious change to have God himself fight Jacob, after having told him to return home to face Esau. Compared to his milquetoast father, Jacob must have been a real bad ass dude, to take on the Creator of the Universe – and survive no less. Hmm, or maybe this was staged like professional wrestling?
We assert that Jacob’s Ladder was indeed related to an important temple, but likely the event represented an important meeting of the imperial interests launching their ersatz proxy project of Israel. Here, Jacob not only sees the angels, but he sees God who reiterates the Eternal Blessing to him for some reason. Perhaps God didn’t think that Jacob trusted him?
The metaphor of a ladder is similar to a Stairway to Heaven found in relation to other ancient temples such as ziggurats with external stairways. Importantly, for us, the prior Hittite name of Bethel (House of God) was that of Luz, which in a PIE context translates to “light”. Here we curiously see that Jacob not only gives his name to the ladder, but he has the honor of renaming Luz to Bethel. And also, as people do later with hotel robes and other items, he makes off with the stone pillow he had slept and dreamt upon. This allegedly becoming the famous Stone of Destiny in Scotland, .. or is that England?
And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. (Genesis 28:18-22 KJV)
Jacob’s Got Stones
And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth. And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place. … And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. (Genesis 29:2-10 KJV)
Jacob has just previously had a mystical experience ostensibly from using a stone as his pillow, and from the nature of the dream, we might wonder if he was indeed ‘stoned’. And so now when he approaches the outskirts of Haran, he comes across his relative’s three flocks and their shepherds. Jacob ends up rolling the stone from covering the well’s mouth that had taken all the other shepherds to do so. We are left to wonder then if it was the sight of the beautiful Rachel who inspired this display of manly virility, and as to whether we are supposed to take this as having some supernatural aspect. Especially given what we have previously previewed about Jacob’s coming successful wrestling match with none other than God Almighty himself. If Rachel was indeed the inspiration for this act, then certainly she must have been exceedingly beautiful, perhaps akin to the famous Helen.
In any case, could this rolling away of the stone serve as some sort of typology for the supernatural rolling away of the stone at the Resurrection?
Upon his arrival in Haran, Rachel’s father, Laban, another nephew of Abraham, welcomes Jacob warmly as the close kin that he was. Jacob asserts his desire to wed Rachel and agrees to serve Laban for seven years in exchange. However, when the seven years is up and upon the wedding feast, Laban substitutes Rachel’s older sister, Leah, into Jacob’s wedding bed, and we are to assume that Jacob cannot tell the difference, either because of a lack of light, or because he is either inebriated, and/or perhaps stoned once again.
In any case, Jacob discovers the deception in the light of morning. Laban explains, only now, that it is unacceptable in these parts for a younger sister to be wed before older ones. In this case, Jacob makes yet another contract with Laban to serve yet another seven years so that he can also take Rachel to wife. Based upon the texts, we might presume here that there was no sacramental wedding ceremony as we have today, only a drunken feast for the tribal men (Genesis 29:22), for then there would be no need to present the ‘proposed’ bride to the groom before the presence of others and God. And thus the sexual consummation act being the primary or sole determinant of the contractual marital bond, in this case presumably poorly lit – for romance’s sake.
And so Jacob eventually completes his second seven year bondage to Laban and wins the hand of his desired Rachel. And thus we become witness to more of the divine soap opera, this time as pertains to sisterly jealousies. Perhaps in this and other cases the authors are trying to communicate the necessity to later command monogamy as the true desire of God for humanity, but then why not just have the divine family depicted as always having done so? And why communicate that the future Chosen tribe will be the progeny of an unloved and unwanted wife?
And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him [Laban – ed.] yet seven other years. And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing. (Genesis 29:30-35 KJV)
The second verse above is correctly translated that Leah was hated, as opposed to being merely ‘loved less than’ Rachel. While Rachel, like Sarah and Rebekah before, is barren, Leah apparently doesn’t conceive in this second seven year period, for what we can only guess is due to the loathing that Jacob is made to feel because of what he is made to endure for his desire for Rachel.
And somewhere upon the commencement of the third period (14+ years in) the Lord has figured out that Leah was hated and decided to “open her womb”, yet leaving Rachel’s womb barren. All this is rather incoherent, but what else should we expect from the supposed world’s greatest literature? If the Lord opened Leah’s womb, then either Jacob or some other entity had to fill it. Whatever the case, it is directly stated that Jacob is the father of the twelve Hebrew tribes (including Judah, the father of the Jews) via his twelve scions.
Despite the stated ‘hatred’, Leah gets hooked up with Jacob somehow and delivers him four sons, each time hoping in vain that her relative success will win Jacob over to her. This, of course, is a common theme yet today, for many young wives whose husbands have their attentions elsewhere. Perhaps this ‘hatred’ is nothing more than a feint, a spur to jealousy, to compete with the boredom which would otherwise set in. In any case, Judah is the last and fourth son of Leah’s and is named so because of her praising the Lord for this last son.
And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing. (Genesis 29:35 KJV)
Similarly, Levi, Leah’s third son, was named for this third position (Genesis 29:34), and his progeny would become the priesthood of Judea and Israel, including Moses and Aaron.
Barren Rachel, like Jacob’s grandmother Sarah, takes the approach of offering her husband her maid, Bilhah, who delivers two sons to Jacob, Dan and Naphtali. This prompts the desperate Leah to offer her maid, Zilpah, similarly to Jacob. He being no fool, takes up the challenge, being rewarded with two more sons, Gad and Asher.
As such, one wonders if this is where the term ‘one-upmanship’ came from? Leah continued to play the game with another innovative strategy:
And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes. And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes. And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. (Genesis 30:14-16 KJV)
Mandrake, what is this some kind of human/duck hybrid like a Centaur? No, mandrake is rather a common Mediterranean plant … with hallucinogenic properties. Additionally, if prepared properly, it can be used as an anesthetic, or for our immediate purposes here: an aphrodisiac, aka the Love Apple. There are also some associated claims for it to act as a fertility aid, or perhaps, a “womb opener”. As Joseph Atwill has noted, the mandrake is also the species mentioned in the “root and branch” metaphor for Messianic grafting, found in Josephus, the Gospels, and Shakespeare.
This all begs a few questions now. Leah has already borne Jacob four sons, but now needs to purchase the right to sleep with Jacob by paying off her sister with the mandrake plants? The apparent result of this union, explicitly stated and not implied, is that of Issachar. We are not told what circumstances brought Jacob’s seed to visit Leah’s open womb yet again, but two more children ensued: son Zebulon and daughter Dinah. So what is the mention of this mandrake all about then, at least as far as Leah is concerned?
At long last, God remembers to take care of Rachel, as he did for Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah, and he opened her womb as well. This is indeed a very unusual … and sterile clan. But in any case, we are left to wonder whether the mandrake might have played played a role here too, especially considering that Jacob had already been so enamored of Rachel all along. Surely he was not otherwise too exhausted from servicing his hated wife and the maids? So, was it God or the mandrake that finally opened Rachel’s womb? And if so, why didn’t the Bible just say so, rather than obliquely hinting that ever-fertile Leah had the benefit?
And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son. (Genesis 30:22-24 KJV)
The famous Joseph and finally Benjamin are the sons of Rachel, Jacob’s preferred, but second wife. The latter son would be born upon the return to Canaan cum Israel, but Rachel would not survive the birth of this last son.
And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:18 KJV)
The name Benoni allegedly means ‘son of my sorrow’, while Benjamin supposedly means ‘son of my right hand’. Later in the biblical narrative, we will be told that Joseph was the favorite son. But it is Jacob himself (via his name change) who becomes the namesake of the northern polity of ‘Israel’, while fourth son Judah becomes the tribal patriarch of southern ‘Judea’. The texts describe the bitter animosities between the two polities in both the prior United Monarchy of David and Solomon, and the later Divided Monarchy. Ultimately here, after exiles and forced migrations, it will be younger Benjamin’s progeny who will survive in Palestine (along with Judah’s and Levi’s), but not Joseph’s, nor any of the rest of the twelve brothers born of four mothers.
The Odd Return
With the birth of Joseph, the eleventh son, and first of Rachel’s, the preferred wife, Jacob demands that Laban let him return home to Isaac (Genesis 30). This leads to some negotiation over how Jacob and Laban will divide up the herds, so that Jacob will have earned some wages, in order to maintain his immense household: not just the wives, concubines, and sons, but various other servants. In addition to being delayed so long regarding the marriage to his beloved Rachel, he is upset at Laban having changed the terms of their initial wage agreement 10 times over the years.
In this case, Jacob agrees to take only the spotted, speckled, and otherwise imperfect livestock, which were apparently considered less desirable, and in any case were in the minority of the flock. But before doing so, Jacob performs some rather detailed wizardry of animal husbandry in order to make the coming generation of livestock be delivered so as to his benefit and not Laban’s.
Jacob and household then take off for Palestine unbeknownst to Laban (Genesis 31), and here Rachel absconds with Laban’s household patron god figurines. No reason for her doing so is given, but this does help the soap opera continue along. All this angers Laban, and thus he attempts to overtake Jacob, eventually doing so. But God has told Laban to leave Jacob alone, and thus Laban and Jacob agree that the place of meeting up will be their boundary that will not be violated. But Laban insists on searching Jacob’s belonging for his gods. This ends up in failure for Laban, as Rachel has placed them in her camel’s luggage and then sat upon this. And next told her father that she can not allow herself to be searched because the monthly “custom of women” was upon her. Laban then returns home, leaving Jacob to continue on his way home.
If Not for Those Lentils I Wouldn’t Be in This Stew
And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. (Genesis 33:1 KJV)
Next Jacob worries about Esau’s reaction to his returning (Genesis 32), considering Esau’s original desire to kill Jacob. So Jacob first sends advance messengers to Edom to inform Esau of his intent. Esau decides to come and greet Jacob with 400 retainers, and this, of course, has Jacob very worried that Esau has not had a change of mind towards him. So Jacob obsequiously sends a series of livestock gifts to curry favor with his brother, while also hedging his bets by splitting his party in two, so as to try to save at least one of the two.
But this proves all for naught as Esau seems to have indeed had a change of heart, even not wanting to accept Jacob’s gifts at first. Interestingly, this warmth between the brothers does not seem to last into the subsequent generations, as Judah will be a yoke over Edom for some time. Perhaps more importantly, one wonders why Jacob should ever get so concerned in such matters, as God has not only told him what to do and where to go, but has also told him that he has the protection implied by the Eternal Blessing.
As with Abraham and his 318 retainers, Esau, the supposed first generation of biblical Edom, already has 400 men at arms. This meaning that he is either a very prolific breeder or that, like the rest of these stories, he and his lineage manage to be very good at insinuating themselves into power – wherever they go. Except perhaps with their fellow kin, like Laban.
As Jacob continues on he retraces his original path back through Luz (Genesis 32:22-32), which he renames to Bethel, meaning House of El. Which is somewhat odd because these patriarchs only know the name El Shaddai, one ‘el’ among many, until then. Here Jacob must engage in a night-long wrestling match with a theophany of God. The outcome of the struggle is that God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, thus signifying that all these odd machinations prior are cryptically leading to the artifice of Ersatz Israel (more on this below).
Additionally, during the all night wrestling match (or mandrake flashback?), Jacob’s thigh or hip was injured by God’s touch, and thus observant Jews are not allowed to eat of shrunken thigh sinews yet today. Strangely, neither do your authors, but we are not aware of any such prohibitions placed upon us. In any case, this all points out the odd nature of this wrestling contest. Why wasn’t the rest of Jacob’s body so injured via God’s touch during such an epic encounter? Or did God himself also suffer any injuries, as tough Jacob gave as good as he got? At any rate, Jacob continues on to a place named Succoth where he builds a house and corrals for his cattle. Then he curiously names the place Succoth, which seems rather redundant.
Night of the Bloody Cocks
Next he heads to the Canaanite city of Shechem, where Jacob buys a parcel of land (Genesis 33:18-20). Here, daughter Dinah gets loose just long enough to be defiled by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite, prince of the country, not just the city (Genesis 34). This, of course, does not go over well with Jacob and the twelve brothers, despite Shechem wanting to marry Dinah, and Hamor wanting Jacob and his kin to dwell together with them at Shechem (the city) in peace.
We wonder if Hamor, the Hivite, just might be the anachronistic inspiration for Ham, the one who condemned his Canaanite progeny to biblical perdition. However, in this case it was Hamor’s son, Shechem, who committed a sexual sin, apparently otherwise only acceptably performed with a harlot. Hamor is also unusually attested to be a “prince of the country” as opposed to a mere typical city king.
Jacob and his sons agree to do so, but only on the condition that all the males of Shechem undergo circumcision. The Shechemites agree, and foolishly they agree to undergo this rather uncomfortable procedure all on the same day. While they were recovering, Simeon and Levi decide to take terminal revenge for Dinah’s sake, and thus smite all the ‘foreshortened’ Shechemite males and plunder their goods for good measure. And almost as the ‘conquering’ Israelites would do later coming back from Egypt, they recorded that they allowed the Canaanite children and wives to survive and join Jacob’s growing band of Blessed Men. But in what capacity?
Because of Simeon and Levi’s executive actions, Jacob is thus angry, afraid that they will now have to incur revenge via all the Canaanites of Palestine. But the brothers were still angry that Dinah was treated as if a harlot. This makes an interesting juxtaposition with the coming episode of Judah and his daughter-in-law.
Turn out the Luz … again, the Terror-ific Party is Over
To assist Jacob, God tells him to return to Bethel (Genesis 35), but someone is confused and has him return to Luz, such that Jacob can rename it Bethel once again, before renaming it to Elbethel, God’s House of Gods? Maybe Jacob got stoned again? But in any case, God also terrorizes the neighboring Canannites and Perizittes, such that they leave Jacob and his family alone.
Back at … that place originally called Luz, God again renames Jacob to henceforth be ‘Israel’, apparently forgetting that he had already done so after the wrestling match that happened there just recently. And then Jacob reciprocates and renames Elbethel to Bethel. We wonder what the county recorder was thinking about having to deal with all these name changes? Was he mumbling something about mandrakes? (Of course, in this case and many others, scholars following Wellhausen’s Documentary Hypothesis believe that the multiple divergent and sometimes contradictory accounts are a result of the compilation of the Old Testament by late redactors working from four or more independent source documents.)
Once things have stabilized with the Canaanites, Jacob is again on the move, this time to Ephrath, otherwise known as Bethlehem. Here Rachel give birth to Benjamin, and dies doing so.
Jacob then continues on to Hebron, the city of his father and grandfather. And rather laconically, we find out that Isaac then “gives up the ghost” at the ripe old age of 180. Esau is close by enough to come and help Jacob bury Isaac. But we are left to wonder at Isaac’s reaction to the return of ‘Israel’ and the friendly reunion of his sons.
You say Eretz Israel, I say Ersatz Israel
Another possible reason for Isaac’s ‘funny’ name might be that when Jacob gets his name changed to ‘Israel’ this creates a telling problem – or clue, of sorts. Importantly, to us, Jacob becomes the metaphor for the synthesis of a newly engineered Israel.
In the more usual sense of other biblical characters being eponymously considered as the respective patriarchal fathers of their namesake tribal progeny, Isaac, via his son Jacob, is somewhat unusual. Because Jacob will be granted the new name Israel, in this unusual sense then Isaac breaks the mold, passively once again, by posthumously becoming the literal father of metaphoric ‘Israel’ in the more mundane and secular sense of using the term ‘father’ as the parent of an individual. In this case then, the child, Jacob/Israel then becomes the patriarch in the more typical eponymous sense seen with other Biblical patriarchs. And as we have discussed previously, a Biblical name change signifies a change of primary agenda for the affected person (and/or perhaps the signified tribe).
And even if such names should really normally signify tribes or groups of people, what might we infer if Jacob, the ‘person’ who becomes ‘Israel’, has deceptively secured the birthright from his older brother? Given what we discussed in the Intro post about the appearance of the creation of the false dialectic of Jew versus Gentile, is all this yet another cryptically humorous (given the meaning of Isaac’s name: laughter) indication of the ersatz synthesis of the Israel side of the equation?
And as we explained in the introductory post, the subtext of the OT historical narrative of the formation of Israel and Judea is one of ethnic cleansing, forced migrations, and massive religio-political re-education. So here we suggest that the name change for Jacob, mimicking the prior names changes for Abram and Sarai, are to cynically memorialize the new demographic ‘character’ and outlook of the newly minted ‘nation’ of Israel. At the start of the process ‘laughing’ Isaac starts out as merely being the father of Jacob, but ends up being the father of Ersatz Israel.
Yet another possible benefit of this name change might have been to actually help facilitate the slipstreaming of the newly introduced masters and their religious paradigm on top of the old, by incorporating an older accepted name, Israel, into the new paradigm. If this was not ‘Israel’ itself, then the Canaanite heavenly ‘father’ god, El, certainly was known everywhere. ‘Jacob’ is similarly a theophoric name referring to Jah, or Yah.
It is thought by some that ‘Israel’ means some human agency’s struggle with El. ‘Ish‘ means man in Hebrew. In this light we see that the incoming agents of Yah struggle in a wrestling match with El, and El concedes victory to the agents of Yah and thus gives Jacob rights to incorporate his name and what advantages might go with it.
The Hebrew Bible says at Genesis 32:28-29 and 35:10, that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Etymologically, it has been suggested that the name “Israel” comes from the Hebrew words Hebrew: לִשְׂרות (lisrot, “wrestle”) and Hebrew: אֵל (El, “God”). Popular English translations typically reference the face off with God, ranging from active “wrestles with God” to passive “God contends”, but various other meanings have also been suggested. Some commentators say the name comes from the verb śārar (“to rule, be strong, have authority over”), thereby making the name mean “God rules” or “God judges”; or “the prince of God” (from the King James Version) or “El (God) fights/struggles”.
His original name Ya’akov is sometimes explained as having meant “holder of the heel” or “supplanter”, because he was born holding his twin brother Esau’s heel, and eventually supplanted Esau in obtaining their father Isaac’s blessing. Other scholars speculate that the name is derived from a longer form such as Hebrew: יַעֲקֹבְאֵל (Ya’aqov’el) meaning “may God protect”.
Judah, Chosen Scion of an Unwanted Wife
We will finish this post by focusing on Judah, the fourth scion of Israel, and his typically odd progeny. It is from Judah, the namesake of the foundational Abrahamic religion, that we uniquely and curiously get both a claimed Chosen ethnicity and what becomes the centerpiece Western religion. The former ethnic claim is rather ironic considering the nature of Judah’s profane choices of begetting partners, and all the periodic fuss over maintaining the purity of the murky gene pool. Doubly ironic via the Ashkenazi issue, as well as the earlier biblical introduction of Hosea’s offspring with the whore Gomer (Hosea 1). And as we’ll see, Judah and his Jewish progeny became the moral foil for Christianity.
With his first action detailed in the Bible we see Judah looking to profit from the sale of his brother Joseph into slavery, rather than to simply kill him, which would not yield any cash payment. This would be selling Joseph to their Ishmaelite relatives, only one generation removed from them, therefore making them their cousins. Real cousins unless, of course, one chooses to interpret these narratives in a non-literal fashion.
Here Judah is also juxtaposed with his oldest brother Reuben, who merely wants to return Joseph to his father, perhaps somewhat shaken up and scared. Of course, this doesn’t say much for the others who wanted to kill Joseph (Jacob’s favorite scion, the firstborn of Rachel), but at least it is not for money’s sake. This theme gets repeated in the typology of Judas, where Judas betrays Jesus to the priests in exchange for some coins.
And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard. (Genesis 37:23-36 KJV)
Note here that Jacob (who is supposed to be ‘Israel’ now, but the authors and redactors forgot) has ‘daughters’, meaning at least one more than Dinah. Does this mean that Dinah was only mentioned by name because of the ravishing incident with Shechem? Who was the mother, and were there more mothers … and sons that aren’t mentioned?
Smite the Canaanitish Seed Waster and Levirate Scofflaw
And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan. And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. (Genesis 38:1-11 KJV)
In the OT’s parsimonious style we see that Judah does not accomplish much of note, until he finds a wife, Tamar, for the sons of his unnamed Canaanite wife. So much contempt is shown for Canaanites, that Judah’s wife’s name is not mentioned despite her father being named. This seems to redundantly predispose the outcome away from the favor to any Canaanite bloodline, despite the marriage to Judah, whose subsequent progeny become the Chosen. We are also left to wonder if Jacob had forgot to tell Judah, at least, about not marrying Canaanites, or if this is supposed to be an example of the rebellion of youth?
With the first son, Er is apparently so evil that his sins cannot even be mentioned, and so bad that it is God himself who smites Er. Next we observe the workings of the levirate marriage practice that we mentioned in the Intro post. In this case, the next oldest brother must step up and provide seed for the sake of allowing the bride to fulfill her end of the marriage contract. Namely, in delivering progeny that will also ensure her security.
But in this case, for some unexplained reason, Onan knows that “the seed should not be his.” But if not his, then whose? This is a mystery for sure, but in any case God decides that this failure to launch is worthy of his directly smiting Onan as well. But here we are also left wondering what the actual offense was, or if it was a combination of factors. Did Onan’s, and Er’s Canaanite blood play any role here, perhaps giving them an eternal evil tinge, of the “Bad Seed”? Was it the failure of the levirate contract terms, or was it that Onan spilled his seed, however the latter was accomplished?
Even more curious is just what factor(s) caused Onan to make this abortive seed delivery in the first place. The term “go in unto” means to consummate, and thus activate the initiation of marriage. That he “went in unto her” means that his seed delivery plumbing was so primed and enabled for delivery, and yet he spilled the seeds anyways. In other words: that he ‘went into her before he went out of her’.
This whole business, termed Onanism, is frequently taken as a general proscription against male masturbation, at least, but we are not so sure that this was not really meant to only apply to premature withdrawal after arousal. Meaning that sexual union is for procreation purposes only, and not for pleasure’s sake. That is: one, if a woman that is not a harlot is involved; or two, if anyone but a man of Canaanitish blood is involved. The latter remembering the curse of Ham visited upon Canaan. If one violates these terms then they are subject to being smitten by God, while this yet says nothing about whether or not you might be smitten with your partner.
The Case of the Faux Harlot and the Seed Gone to Naught..y
And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep. And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not. Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place. And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place. And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.
And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more. (Genesis 38:13-26 KJV)
With Tamar acting as a prostitute to fool her father-in-law into complying with the terms of the customary Indic levirate marriage contract, and as we had pondered in previous posts with what all the Hittites were doing appearing centrally to the Judaic foundational narrative, we must now wonder what all the appearances of prostitutes are similarly doing there. This with such as Hosea’s Gomer and now Tamar, albeit that the latter, a fine and proper lady in the context of her times, is only pretending to be a street walker so as to gain her just due.
Note that in line with the levirate marriage practice indicating Indic heritage, that burning of wives for various reasons is also of such an origin. It is also a good time to ask what sin or contract breach, if any, was incurred when Shelah was passed over in the proper groom order? In any case, neither Judah or Tamar get smitten, either directly or indirectly, by God.
And so it came to pass that Tamar would bear Judah the two sons that counted, the progeny of which became the Chosen of Judaism, along with the Benjamites and Levites. These are Pharez and Zarah, whose twin birth evokes that of their father and uncle’s. But here we only get to know the competitive birth details, an acknowledgement of the stakes involved in the order of birth, if only by minutes:
And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah. (Genesis 38:27-30)
Besides their place in the genealogy of Judah, below, why was the above vignette so important to solely detail about their lives? It would be with the second to appear, yet still firstborn, Pharez who fathers the royal and Blessed lineage. We seem to get the impression that Zarah may have been pulled back into the womb by Pharez. The midwife takes pains to declare to the covetous infant that in his haste to be first out of the womb, so as to seize the traditional birthright, that the responsibility would be upon him for any injury to his mother or brother.
Seriously, are we really to take this literally, that a newborn can have such an instinct and thus need be scolded so? As we have mentioned before, the inclusion of all these blessed family foibles are usually interpreted by the believers as just another sign of literal veracity. But this case seems especially obvious that it has been included to paint a different picture. Was this to place a sardonic scarlet letter on Pharez, the first born of the Jews? Or, as Cyrus H. Gordon had stated in his works, that such exhibitions of guile and chutzpah were more acceptable in those times, and thus Pharez’s behavior was to be seen as a competitive exemplar to be emulated in adult life, generation after generation? And only later to be turned on its head by early Christians looking to draw distinctions and wanting to inculcate passivism.
Note below that it was important for the redactors to reiterate into the separate 1 Chronicles genealogy that Judah’s first sons were born of an unnamed Canaanitess. And that Onan’s also being slayed by God was omitted, with only Er being listed as being evil. Shelah’s fate we never find out. Given the eternal damnation of the progeny of Canaan, placed in the time of Noah, what are we to make of Judah’s decision to go against this patently wrathful god and his parent’s proscriptions, based upon the respective starkly contrasting outcomes? We suggest that such as these are typical contrived object lessons for those being converted into the new religious paradigm and polity.
The sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah: which three were born unto him of the daughter of Shua the Canaanitess. And Er, the firstborn of Judah, was evil in the sight of the LORD; and he slew him. And Tamar his daughter in law bare him Pharez and Zerah. All the sons of Judah were five.
The sons of Pharez; Hezron, and Hamul. And the sons of Zerah; Zimri, and Ethan, and Heman, and Calcol, and Dara: five of them in all. And the sons of Carmi; Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the thing accursed. And the sons of Ethan; Azariah.
The sons also of Hezron, that were born unto him; Jerahmeel, and Ram, and Chelubai. And Ram begat Amminadab; and Amminadab begat Nahshon, prince of the children of Judah; And Nahshon begat Salma, and Salma begat Boaz, And Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, And Jesse begat his firstborn Eliab, and Abinadab the second, and Shimma the third, Nethaneel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David the seventh: (1 Chronicles 2:3-15 KJV)
And oddly, a son named Carmi appears miraculously from nowhere into the middle of the list. Consistent with the moral motif here, his son, Achar, will be singled out for trying to abscond with a forbidden object reserved for the Lord (Joshua 7:1), and which had been booty from the sack of Jericho, thus placing all of the Hebrews in mortal peril of God’s wrath. Similarly with Ham’s misdeed affecting all of Canaan’s progeny, one man’s greedy and blasphemous misdeeds can imperil the whole enterprise of the Blessed Family? We suggest that this is yet another ham-handed attempt to produce conformity via fear. God has already pushed the reset button once with Noah, and has placed Isaac (and thus the future Israel) at mortal risk supposedly as a sophomoric test of faith which the omniscient god should already have known the answer to.
Blessing, Blessing, Who’s Got the Blessing?
As we mentioned much earlier, the central thread of these narratives is the blessing given to Abraham, representing the imprimatur of God, which was then passed down through the generations, to the benefit of only one fortunate scion at a time. With the passage of several thousand years, we can now see that the progeny of Judah seem to have emerged as the dominant tribe. Accordingly, it seems logical that that they should have been the ones whose scion du jour received the blessing from Jacob / Israel.
But this was not the case. Here, we must take into account that Judah was the fourth son of the Hated Wife, and look briefly into the account of Joseph (whom we’ll cover next), the first son of the Beloved Wife. Upon the last days of Jacob / Israel, he meets his grandsons.
And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these? And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn. (Genesis 48:8-14 KJV)
This situation starts to get confusing (and will only get worse), as it turns out that Jacob blesses both sons and Joseph, contrary to the “only one at a time” rule. But the confusion here can be resolved by the fact that the younger son, once again, gets the big prize by Jacob’s witting choice of hands.
And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. (Genesis 48:17-19 KJV)
In the next chapter, Jacob calls all the sons together and announces their respective fates, a seemingly odd thing to do for a loving father considering some of what is said for them. As for Judah, we are given the following destiny:
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk. (Genesis 49:8-12 KJV)
This presents us with something of a interpretational conundrum, as Ephraim (and most all commentators agree) is truly the one with the Abrahamic Blessing. He is supposed to seed a multitude of nations, but then how does this relate to Judah’s destiny? The above states that the sceptre, the šê-ḇeṭ (shebet), shall not depart Judah, but is this the tribe or the land of Judah? ‘Shiloh’ is commonly agreed to mean the expected Messiah, and here one can speculate a range of time from that of Cyrus the Great till some time in the future.
Interestingly, the tribe of Ephraim was one of those stated to have been relocated by the Assyrians, but to where, and to what fate did the scions come to? This is one point where there is some solid archaeological grounds, in that the Assyrians recorded that they did conquer and relocate peoples of the area en masse. Prior to this, following Jeroboam’s abortive first revolt against Solomon, he ended up in exile for a time at the court of ‘pharaoh’. Jeroboam was of the tribe of Ephraim, but also a descendant of Joseph’s Egyptian wife selected by ‘pharaoh’. And considering the manner in which Judah’s behavior and his prophetic destiny are so darkly framed, we suggest that perhaps Judah is merely the greater scheme’s visible front or lightning rod, veiling the true fortunate scions, the pagan descendants of Jeroboam who consorted with ‘Pharaoh’ and wound up partnering with the Assyrians.
For now, we will just mention that the story with the blessing doesn’t end here, and we’ll return to it subsequently. Suffice it to say that a parallel to Romans 11 can be found in Ezekiel 37 which, at some point in time, is to bind Judah and Ephraim together as one. Some say that this was done at the time of Christ or earlier, but we don’t think this is the case, but rather that we are witnessing the process with the current state of Israel (whose name Ephraim was considered synonymous with – as opposed to Judea). The Jews today are living in Israel, not Judea.
There were only ten generations from Judah till King David, the last son of Jesse, who is later cryptically memorialized with the graft found in Romans 11, central to the thesis of Caesar’s Messiah. If the earlier stated assertion is true about Ersatz Israel, then how does this curious patrimony also reflect on the nature of the later graft of Christianity into it?
As we have mentioned before, the moral and cultural contexts of those times were different than the present one today, and thus we should not project our values onto what is clearly divine, … or rather claimed as such. Here, we are particularly focused on the present Judeo-Christian zeitgeist that their unchanging god is ‘now’ only about love, goodness, and redemption, despite explicit messages to the contrary. We are thus left with the oxymoronic conundrum that this once jealous and wrathful ‘eternal’ god has mellowed and matured with age, as some theologians posit, while the canonic texts statically record otherwise.
Christian theology, especially supercessionist (i.e. the First Covenant was wholly replaced by the Second), has been focused on the conceit that the relationship of the Abrahamic God was indeed changing with respect to mankind. It thus capitalized on the mystique of the ever pernicious sons of Judah, whose behavior had been framed so well. These who cravenly killed the Son of God, and sardonically one of their own.
Yet, having said all that, it is rather remarkable to view the wily and acquisitive moral behaviors that are associated with the Eternal Blessing, which grants the right to globally spawn kings of nations, garnering great wealth and such. If nothing else, at least we can say that the Blessed Family was living up to the high standards of our contemporary leaders today, and that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
But in another light, is the odd behavior so remarkable? Once we remove the ‘romantic’ gloss off of the narratives, we can see that the vaunted OT patriarchs are little different from the esteemed heroic foundational patriarchs of Rome, themselves equally murky in the dubious mists of time. These are all stories of acquisitive aristocrats seeking to impose a new order on their newly colonized domains.