Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why Hebrew Rulers Denied Marriage to Royal women


Denying Marriage: A cunning royal strategy
Agata Agnieszka Pasieczna and Alice C. Linsley

ABSTRACT           Cultural anthropology assists in gaining a clearer understanding of the marriage patterns of the biblical rulers known as Hebrew (Habiru, ‘Apiru). This paper explores the various reasons why a biblical ruler might deny marriage to royal women of his household and clan. As with rulers throughout the ages, royal marriages required consideration of the lines of descent, the ancestral marriage and ascendancy pattern, rights of inheritance, rights of ascension, political alliances, and avoidance of war and potential bloodshed.


            The denial of marriage to daughters and nieces in the Bible is cited by feminists as an example of patriarchal oppression of women, but there is more to the story. The biblical accounts of marriage being denied to a woman reveal a great deal about the political, social, and religious concerns of biblical rulers. Some Bible scholars believe that Jephthah dedicated his daughter to the service of God to avoid having to give her in marriage to the son of one of his brothers. Jephthah does not seem to be impulsive, but rather a rational person and a capable leader; not the kind of person to make a foolish vow. This vow to dedicate the first living thing that he saw to God helped him avoid giving his daughter's hand in marriage. We do not know the exact reasons, but as the clan ruler, Jephthah had social and political reasons to deny her marriage. Possibly, the daughter was privy to the plan and played her part perfectly.

In the story of Ruth, the proper levir refused to redeem Ruth because marrying her compromised his son’s inheritance. Ruth’s adviser, Naomi, may have anticipated this when she advised her daughter-in-law to seek Boaz are her levir. As with Jephthah’s daughter, Naomi understood the rules of marriage and was aware of the options.

            It is clear that in some cases inheritance concerns motivated the denial of marriage. In Greek accounts, the Delphic oracle warned Aleus of Tegea that if his daughter Auge had a son, the grandson would kill Aleus' sons. To prevent this, Aleus made Auge a priestess of Athena, requiring her to remain a virgin.

A Roman narrative tells of how the daughter of Numitor Silvius was forced to become a Vestal Virgin after Numitor's younger brother Amulius seized the throne and killed Numitor's son. Amulius then forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin who was sworn to celibacy, thus ensuring that the line of Numitor had no heirs.

            Royal virgins posed both potential trouble and opportunity for rulers. In some cases the virgins themselves appear to have sought the ruler’s protection from marriages they found displeasing. C.S. Lewis presents a fictional example involving Queen Susan who is pursued by the despicable Prince Rabadash in The Horse and His Boy. The marriage would have put Narnia at a great political disadvantage, and Susan would have been treated as a hostage and slave in Rabadash’s household.

Rulers were wary of fortune seeking men who sought marriage with a royal daughter to advance their careers and raise their social status. These ambition suitors posed a threat to royal stability. For the sake of stability, some women were released from the monastery to marry. Matilda, the sister of Otto III, was permitted to marry Ezzo. The huge territorial concessions made to Ezzo after his marriage made him one of the most powerful princes in the Ottonian Empire.

At a young age, Matilda had been sent to Essen Abbey, where her older cousin Mathilde was abbess. It was presumed that Matilda would remain in the Abbey, but she was married to Ezzo, Count Palatine of Lotharingia, against the wishes of the Abbess Mathilde.

The first Polish king, Boleslaw I, called “the Brave,” won the crown thanks to the fact that his son, Mieszko II Lambert, married the emperor’s niece, Richeza of Lotharingia. She was the daughter of Matilda, Emperor Otto III’s sister. After her husband was deposed, Richeza entered the monastery in 1031 AD.

The aspiring men who managed to connect themselves with the ruling house, made every effort to see that the marriages of their daughters insured advantageous alliances. If this were not possible, daughters could influence others by placement in one of the prestigious royal nunneries. Many of these royal women attained high rank as abbesses in charge of monastic communities.

            Political, social, and religious concerns led the German emperors to place their daughters, granddaughters, and nieces in convents. In the 10th century, over thirty convents were built in Germany for imperial kinswomen. These women would remain unmarried. Doubtless, this was the choice of some of the women. The convents provided opportunities they would not have as wives and mothers. Hildegard of Bingen became known as the “Sibyl of the Rhine” because of her accomplishments in the monastic life. In Germany, she is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history.

Barbara Yorke (King Alfred’s College, Winchester) has written, “All the Anglo-Saxon nunneries in southern England for which we have the relevant evidence were founded by members of a royal house, usually by either the reigning monarch or one of his close female relatives; it is not always clear which should be described as the founder. Not only were the nunneries founded by one of the ruling house, but they continued to be regarded as possessions of the royal house throughout their existence.”

In the Middle Ages, many royal daughters were destined for the monastic life. Only in circumstances of political advantage were their marriages allowed. Not surprisingly, female convents sprung up in all the regions were monarchs had residences. Some royal women lived saintly lives in the monasteries and others lived mush as they had in their father’s palaces. The rich and powerful royal abbeys of Europe provided a luxurious lifestyle for the women who resided there.

However, this custom has a much more ancient tradition. Sargon (reigned from c. 2334–2284 BC) appointed his daughter Heduanna as the En of the shrine at Ur. This was a shrewd political move to secure power in the south of his kingdom. The Akkadian term En means lord, master, royal official, and priest or priestess. The Creator’s son was called En-ki, meaning “Lord of the Earth.” En-Heduanna served the Creator God Anu, at the House (pr) of Anu (Iannu). As with Roman Catholic nuns, she would have been considered “married” to deity she served. En-Heduanna is credited with a large body of cuneiform poetry.

In ancient Egypt, some royal daughters were appointed to the two highest ranks a woman could hold: the positions of the God’s Wife (Hemet Netjer) and the Divine Adoratrice (Duat Netjer). These offices were held by women of high status, like the queen’s mother, or the wife of the high priest of the most favored royal temple. Pharaoh Ahmose I married his (half?) sister, Ahmose-Nefertiri, who became the God's Wife of Amun.

Ahmose I (reigned from c. 1550-1525 BC) controlled access to the throne by prohibiting princesses from marrying anyone except their royal brothers. This custom did not begin with him, however. Royal priests of the Nile had been marrying their half-sisters for at least 1000 years before the time of Ahmose I.

Ahmose’s principal wife was appointed to the office of the God’s Wife of Amun, and Ahmose endowed the office with more than adequate means, providing financial income, servants, real estate, and her own royal retinue. Many royal women attained high rank as priestesses in charge of Hathor shrines.

The celibacy requirement for royal daughters dedicated to the temples and shrines certainly had religious significance, but it also served the ruler’s political purposes. Were some political advantage to be gained, the holders of the offices might be granted permission to marry.


Daughters dedicated to the temple

Royal daughters presented a challenge to their ruling fathers. Rarely did more than one daughter find a suitable royal spouse. Many without marriage opportunities were dedicated to a religious establishment. Some women may have chosen this option over marrying a man to whom they had been promised as a child. Being dedicated to the temple or entering the monastery provided an escape from an unwelcome marriage and allowed them to stay closer to home, rather than being sent to a distant kingdom. Not all noble women wished to marry.

The story of Jephthah’s daughter is an example. This story is usually cited as an example of child sacrifice, yet the biblical text implies that she was dedicated to God’s service. Jephthah was a ruler who led his men in a successful battle against the Ammonites (the descendants of Lot). Jephthah vowed to offer to God “whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me” (Judges 11:30). He does not appear to be an impulsive leader, but rather a capable and rational person. Had he seen a sheep, goat, or a cow, he would have sacrificed that to God. Strangely, no livestock were in sight upon his return. Instead, his daughter of marriage age came running out of the door to meet him, just as Jephthah had described. By dedicating her to God Jephthah saved face among this men and avoided open refusal of his daughter's hand to the son of one of his brothers.

His daughter was privy to the scheme because it is she who insisted that he fulfill his vow to God (Judges 11:36). Jephthah’s daughter may have wished to follow the career of her paternal grandmother who served at a shrine and is described (misleadingly) as a “prostitute” in Judges 11:1. Perhaps Jephthah’s daughter hoped that by giving up worldly aspirations to become the mother of kings, she might be chosen to bring forth the promised Messiah. It was long believed that the mother of the Messiah would be a temple or shrine woman who would conceive by divine overshadowing. This is why Sargon claimed that he did not have an earthly father and that his mother conceived him while in the temple at Azu-pir-Anu. It should be noted that the Virgin Mary was the daughter of the priest Joachim and she was said to conceive Jesus by the “overshadowing of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1).

In parts of Africa, virgins are dedicated to the shrines even today. Often these are girls whose mothers were not able to conceive. The barren women came to the water shrines to pray and if they conceived a female child, the girl was pledged to the shrine as a “trokosi.” This is similar to the story of Hannah, who pledged Samuel to service in the Temple in return for blessing her with a child (1 Samuel 1:21-28).

            The Ghanaian apologist for Traditional African Religion, Ofoso Kofitse Ahadzi, says that a man may not marry a trokosi without permission from the shrine because the girl is regarded as the wife of the shrine deity. He believes that marrying a trokosi without going through the proper procedure leads to supernatural punishment.

He explains, “When you go against any of the regulations, it is not human beings that will punish you. The deity will punish you because all the girls who go in there for training are the daughters and princesses of the divinity. So if you take liberties with them you will be punished.”

Temple virgins are described in the Old Testament as women who "watch [or wait] (צָבָא) at the door of the tabernacle.” In Exodus 38:8, we read that the laver of copper and its stand of copper were made “from the mirrors of the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (Hebrew Study Bible, p. 197). These women were consecrated to God, but this did not stop corrupt men of the temple from taking advantage of them.

“Now Heli was very old, and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel: and how they lay with the women that waited (צָבָא) at the door of the tabernacle:” (1 Samuel 2:22)

In this context, the sexual "spoiling" of temple virgins by the sons of Heli is a very grave and heinous violation which would bring divine judgement upon the offenders.



Dancing Virgins

In India, girls as young 8 years were given to the service of the temples. A devadasi or jogini girl was dedicated to worship and serve the temple deity for the rest of her life. The dedication is similar to a Hindu marriage ceremony.

The devadasi was trained to dance and sing, and in some temples she was initiated into tantric sex. In Tantric ritual, wine is called shakti or sakti. This is consumed at the time of the Hindu harvest moon festival. The word sakti is related to the Falasha word sarki, which also refers to the harvest moon festival overseen by the priests.

The role of devadasi was passed from mother to daughter. Temple women inherited gold, jewelry, and status from their mothers who also had been dedicated to the temple. The princes of India devoted some of their daughters to the service of the temples. The daughters were given with royal endowments to the temple.

It is likely that Miriam was among the women who held sacred duties in the Nilotic temples and at the Tent of Meeting. She led the people in singing and dancing. Being of Kushite extraction, Miriam likely represents the older custom of Nubian dancing girls. They were dancers at the Nile River inns. That suggests that Rahab of Jericho was an inn keeper, not a prostitute.

Widows also found refuge in the temples, shrines and monasteries. Anna, a prophetess of the clan of Asher, lived most of her adult life in the Temple precincts. According to Luke 2, she “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”


Preserving royal bloodlines

Another motive for denying marriage to a female relative was the concern to preserve the royal bloodline. Royal intermarriage among ruling families went beyond strategic diplomacy and national interests. Persons of royal birth were expected to honor the traditions of their ancestors. The marriage and ascendancy traditions of their royal ancestors, their wealth, and their personal attributes, especially bravery on the battlefield, strengthened their right to rule, but most important was proof of royal blood.

            As Kamil Janicki explains in “History, Genealogy and Heraldry” (1994), “Among German elites there was a conviction that a king can only be a person in which veins runs the emperor’s blood. And this in a very narrow sense: the emperor’s blood meant - the blood of Charlemagne.”
            The concern for preserving the royal bloodline is especially evident among the Ottonian dynasty of monarchs (AD 919–1024), beginning with Emperor Otto I, who made the city of Aachen, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the site of future coronations.

            The Ottonian rulers were Saxon or Sacae. Their royal lines can be traced to the ancient Saka. It is likely, though still unproven, that they are related to the Sacae ruler Constantine. Constantine who was born in Niš on 27 February 273 AD. Nis is a very ancient city in southern Serbia that was populated by Saka in ancient times. The Hindu text Matsya Purana claims that the Saka (called “Scythians” by the Greeks) ruled the ancient world for 7000 years. Another text, the Mahabharata, designates “Sakadvipa” as the “land of the Sakas” in northern India. Assyrian documents speak of the Saka presence between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the time of Sargon (BC 722-705).


Avoiding bloodshed

For the royal elite of Medieval Europe real and alleged connections to the royals of Charlemagne’s court led to marriage alliances between ruling families. However, marriage was not the best option to prevent political chaos. It often posed threats to the established royal order. Rulers had good reasons to try to prevent the shedding of royal blood.

Ruling fathers dedicated their daughters to the shrine/temple to prevent marriage in cases that compromised inheritance, threatened the right of ascension, or presented the potential for bloodshed. In the ancient world royal wedding feasts sometimes became places of slaughter or assassination.

In BC 336, Philip II of Macedonia threw a lavish wedding for one of his daughters and invited members other royals to attend the occasion. As part of the festivities, Philip staged public games at the theater at Aigai. He strode into the stadium, with Alexander on one side and his new son-in-law on the other. Philip stood at the center of the theater, the large crowd began to roar with approval. Then an assassin rushed at Philip and stabbed him to death as the wedding guests watched in disbelief.

In 1572, the wedding of Margaret, the daughter of King Henry II, to Henry III of Navarre, became the occasion of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. It is thought that Margaret’s mother, Catherine de' Medici, was partially responsible for the killings of thousands of French Protestants.

The anthropologist, Goran Pavlovic, reports, “In Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia, there are many places, usually with ancient stone slabs or standing stones, which local population calls svatovska groblja or wedding party graveyards." These places are found in remote areas with ancient necropolises dating from the beginning of the fourth millennium BC. Many ancient necropolises were royal burial grounds where ancestors were called upon to witness the marriage bond.

On the other hand, should a ruler seek to incite war with an enemy, he could deny marriage or take back a daughter who had been given in marriage. This may be what motivated King Saul to take back Michal who he had given as a wife to David. Saul sought provocation to eliminate David who, by that time, had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king.

            When Shechem fell in love with Jacob’s daughter, his father Hamor met with Jacob to arrange for his son to marry Dinah. Apparently, this marriage was approved by Jacob. However, Jacob’s sons, Levi and Simeon, did not approve of the marriage and used this as an excuse to massacre Hamor’s men and loot the city. In Genesis 34:13, there is an admission that the sons of Jacob “answered Shechem and his father Hamor in a deceitful way.” The violence against the Shechemite community put Jacob’s clan in jeopardy by making subsequent peaceful coexistence and marriage alliances in that region impossible. That is why Jacob reprimanded his sons for the bloodshed.


Preserving the ancestral marriage pattern

            The biblical Hebrew rulers maintained a marriage and ascendancy pattern that they received from their archaic ancestors. Using kinship analysis, this pattern has been identified and traced from the rulers of Genesis 4, 5, 10, 11, 25 and 36 to the Jerusalem elite of the New Testament. Obviously, the preservation of the marriage and ascendancy pattern was important to the biblical rulers, and would have been a reason to deny marriage arrangements that were not consistent with the ancestral pattern.

            Proper marriage arrangements were especially important in the cases of the ruler’s first born son. This was the first born son of the ruler’s half-sister wife, the bride of the man’s youth. This son was the heir to the throne. The first born son of the second wife became a high official in the territory of his maternal grandfather. In the Genesis king lists, the son of the cousin bride is usually named after his material grandfather. Thus there are two persons named Enoch, two named Lamech, two named Joktan, two named Esau, etc.

©1988 Alice C. Linsley



The identical marriage pattern was preserved by Amram, the father of Moses, Aaron, Korah and the dancing daughter Miriam. The diagram below shows that the cousin bride’s naming prerogative. Ishar, the daughter of Korah, called her first born son Korah. These are the descendant of Seir the Horite Hebrew ruler of Edom (Genesis 36).




Denial of marriage by maternal uncles

The Hebrew rulers practice avunculocal residence, in which young men left their natal homes and joined the household of a maternal uncle. In the cases of avunculocal residence, royal uncles sometimes denied marriage to their nieces. This happened when the niece and her brother came under the care of a maternal uncle.

Examples of avunculocal residence are found in the stories of Abraham and Jacob. When the patriarch Terah died, Abraham's older brother Nahor ruled over Terah's holdings in Mesopotamia. Abraham went to live near Sarah’s maternal uncle in the land of Canaan. According to the Talmud, Sarah was the daughter of a ruler named Karnevo. Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister. They had the same father, but different mothers (Genesis 20:12). So Sarah’s father was Terah, not Karnevo.  However, Kar-nevo/nebo is also a place name. Kar-Nebo refers to Mount Nebo, near Jericho. This appears to be where Sarah’s maternal uncle ruled.

Likewise, Jacob was sent to live with his maternal uncle Laban. There he gained the wealth, herds, and wives needed to establish himself in another place (neolocal residence). He set out for his natal home in Edom, and after making peace with his estranged brother Esau, he settled in the area of Shechem. Shechem later became the first capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 

Laban is another example of a father who used the marriages of his daughters for personal gain. He forced Jacob to work for him for an additional seven years by promising him Rachel’s hand in marriage. When Jacob left, the daughters’ marriages to Jacob led Laban to formalize a treaty (Genesis 31:43-55) that required Jacob not to marry other women.


Selected bibliography

Eckenstein, Lina, Woman under Monasticism. Chapters on Saint-Lore and Convent Life between AD 500 and AD 1500, Cambridge (1896).

Jasiński K., Rycheza, żona króla polskiego Mieszka II, “Herald. Historia, Genealogia, Heraldyka”, nr 8 (1994).

Leyser K., Rule and Conflict in an Early Medieval Society. Ottonian Saxony, London (1979).


Linsley, Alice, “The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of the Hebrew Rulers”

Linsley, Alice, “The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew” (Part 5)

Magonet, Jonathan, “Did Jephthah Actually Kill his Daughter?

Parson, Marie, “Women in Ancient Egyptian Religion, Part II”, The Divine Adoratrice and God's Wife of Amun in the Third Intermediate Period. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/women2.htm

Pavlovic, Goran, “Svatovsko groblje - Wedding party graveyard” http://oldeuropeanculture.blogspot.ie/2015/08/svatovska-groblja-wedding-guests.html

Orr, Leslie C., Donors, Devotees, Daughters of God: Temple Women in Medieval Tamilnadu, Oxford University Press (2000).

Teeter, Emily, “Celibacy and Adoption Among God’s Wives of Amun and Singers in the Temple of Amun: A Re-Examination of the Evidence,” in Gold of Praise: Studies on Ancient Egypt in Honor of Edward F. Wente, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (1999).

Yorke, Barbara, “Sisters Under the Skin?” Anglo Saxon Nuns and Nunneries in Southern England,” p. 99 (1989).



Monday, February 5, 2018

Twin Cities of the Ancient World




Tomb painting at Nekhen


Many of the cities of the ancient world were royal cities with shrines, temples, palaces, and treasuries. These edifices of stone were characterized by many columns or pillars. The glyph for pillar looks like the letter i.

The shrine cities were built along the ancient waterways and the cargo that moved along the rivers was taxed. To insure that no ships passed the royal cities without paying the required tribute, the rulers built twin cities on opposite sides of the river.

On the Nile there were the twin cities of Nekhen and Nekheb (Elkab). These were built on the opposite sides of the river. The tomb of Horemkhawef in Nekhen and the tomb of Sobeknakht in Elkab were painted by the same artist. Hormose, the chief priest of Nekhen, requested material goods from the temple at Nekheb for use at the temple at Nekhen. The Greeks called the shrine of Nekhen "Hierakonpolis," which means "city of priests." 

Nekhen is called the Falcon City, as the falcon was the animal totem of Horus, the son of the Creator God Ra. Votive offerings at the Nekhen temple were ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite Habiru (Hebrew) priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose.

Nekhen was a major city on the Nile, with an estimated population of 20,000. It was a bustling city with markets, breweries and fishing. The city stretched nearly 3 miles along the edge of the Nile floodplain. At Nekhen we find all the evidences of an advanced civilization in the Nile Valley before the emergence of Egypt. These features include city building, written communication, hierarchical social structure, ritual burial, ship building, river trade, and complex religious expressions.

Renée Friedman, who has direct knowledge of the excavations at Nekhen, has written that the "evidence of industrial production, temples, masks, mummies, and funerary architecture as early as 3500 B.C. is placing Hierakonpolis at the forefront of traditions and practices that would come to typify Egyptian culture centuries later. These discoveries may have knocked Narmer and his palette off their historical pedestal, but they confirm the central role the city played in the long development of Egyptian civilization. It is little wonder that for millennia the deified early kings of Hierakonpolis, called the Souls of Nekhen, were honored guests at the coronations and funerals of all pharaohs."

Nekhen and Nekheb are the oldest known Horite Hebrew shrine cities, dating to about 3600 BC. The Nekhen News (p. 7) reports, "The vast majority of hair samples discovered at Nekhen were cynotrichous (Caucasian) in type as opposed to heliotrichous (Negroid)."

One of the more intriguing discoveries at Nekhen was the recovery of an almost complete beard in association with the redheaded man in Burial no. 79. The facial hair of the man in Burial no. 79 had been trimmed with a sharp blade. The presence of long wavy natural red hair and a full beard suggests that this individual may be of the same ethnicity as the red haired Ur-David mummy (1900 BC) buried in a pyramid in the Tarum Valley of China. There may also be a relationship to the red-haired Amurru (Amorites?) who lived at the northern border of Egypt's ancient empire.


The map shows the location of Antioch/Hatay on the Orontes. Antioch's location was designated Anti-Meroe, or opposite Meroe on ancient maps. Apparently, Meroe (io) and Anti-Meroe (antiok) were twin cities.


Twin cities on the Orontes River

The ancient Egyptians were excellent sailors and built sea-worthy ships. They controlled commerce on the Nile and the Orontes. The Orontes was also called the Draco, or the Asi. It was the chief river of the Levant, and had sufficient depth for sail boats to come up the river from the Mediterranean. This was aided by the north-flowing currents.

Meroe was the farthest outpost of the Egyptian Empire and at its peak the city would have had Amurru. Amurru is the name of the northernmost district of Egypt's empire and it included the coastal region from Ugarit to Byblos. The Orontes marked the northern boundary of Amur-ru. Meroe on the Orontes likely was one of the northern-most Egyptian outposts.

It is interesting that the Amurru are described as having the same physical traits as the mummified ruler buried of Nekhen. According to the Assyriologist Archibald Sayce: "The Amorites… were a tall, handsome people, with white skins, blue eyes and reddish hair..." (The Hittites, 1889). Tomb No. 34 at Thebes, belonging to the Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1550-c. 1292), illustrates a bearded Amorite chief with fair skin and red-brown hair.

Meroe and Antioch were twin settlements when the Orontes River was under Egyptian control. Meroe was an ancient Egyptian settlement on Mount Silpius. The shrine city of Meroe was called IO. Many shrine cities were identified with the I (i) which presents a pillar or column. The ancient shrine cities were characterized by many columns. Some were called Ianna or Iunu. 

The royal city of Heliopolis on the Nile was called “Iunu” (iunu) which means "place of pillars." In the book of Genesis this city is called On. Joseph married the daughter of the priest of On. Here is the hieroglyph for the shrine city of On/iunu on the Nile:




Across from Meroe (IO) was Ant-IO (Antioch), also called Anti-Meroe. The i represents a pillar and the O is a solar symbol of the Creator. On ancient maps the location of Antioch is designated Anti-Meroe, meaning opposite Meroe.

Meroe on the Orontes was a high place about 1600 years before Antioch (Antakya, Hatay) became a Greek city in 307 BC. Antioch became the more important city, with 500,000 inhabitants by the 2nd century AD. It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus Messiah were first called "Christians."

The Meroe on the Orontes, called IO (Iunna/Iunu/Iwnw), was about 2200 miles from the shrine city of Meroe on the Nile.


Related reading: The Shrine City of Nekhen; Why Nekhen is Anthropologically Significant; The Ancient Egyptians Were Seafaring; Sun Cities of the Ancient World

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Science and Miracles


Rock moving in Death Valley
Credit: Richard and James Norris
Alice C. Linsley

I am a naturalist who believes in miracles. People sometimes ask how I can be both.

There are natural explanations for many of the miraculous events recounted in the Bible. Walking rocks is an example. The Bible tells us that the people with Moses drank “from the spiritual rock that followed them” during their wilderness wanderings. This is an example of something natural that is understood spiritually. What makes this miraculous is the providential timing.

Scientists have observed "walking rocks" in various deserts, among them Death Valley and the Atacama Desert in Chile. The phenomena is so common in the Atacama that the Atacama is referred to as a "rock tumbler." The movement of rocks happens under certain conditions at former lake beds where there is underground water. The underground water acts as a lubricant, resulting in surface movement when there is a small tremor or an earthquake.

The same conditions which move stones can move bones. In July 2013, movement of cattle skeletal remains was noted across the surface of Smith Creek Valley Playa in central Nevada.

There is a natural explanation for the rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness. This also sets forth a message about something miraculous: “… For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

How the Israelites found water in the wilderness has a natural explanation also. In stone deserts the rocks that hold water usually have a darker color called "desert varnish." Lichen and cushion plants grow on these rocks. The fine roots penetrate rock crevices and absorb the capillary water retained by the dark sandstone. People accustomed to deserts know to look for water in these places. The rocks are easier to split because they have natural crevices. One need only strike the rock in the right way and it will crack open.

In Exodus 17:5-7 we read that the Lord told Moses to “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

What makes this event miraculous is the timing. Miracles do not represent an overthrow of the divinely established laws of nature. Miracles are a clear divine response to a specific need at the greatest moment of need. This is the nature of prophesy also. Prophets deliver a word from God to the community at a time of crisis. (The greater miracle is when the community heeds the prophetic word!)

Consider the account of the Nile waters turning to blood. In Exodus, God commanded Moses to “stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt … that they may become blood.” There are times when the Nile looks like blood due to the proliferation of a certain type of algae. This satellite photo taken by the European Space Agency's Sentinel-3A satellite shows the Nile River colored blood red from an algae bloom.


Credit: European Space Agency


This type of algae is highly toxic. It kills fish and drives frogs from the water, so there is a natural explanation for the plague of frogs. However, there is no natural explanation for their sudden departure (Exodus 8:7) .

What makes the plagues of Egypt miraculous is the timing. The Pharaoh and his men prayed at the Nile each morning (Exodus 7:15, 8:16). Moses was told to meet the ruler there. He was to declare the Lord's message to let the Hebrew go three days journey into the wilderness to hold a religious feast (Exodus 5:1-3). The consequence of ignoring the Almighty's order would be a bloody Nile. When the Pharaoh refused, Moses struck the water and at that moment the most powerful ruler on earth beheld the bloom spreading. The king may have been skeptical because algae blooms were known to happen, but the perfect timing would have given him pause.

One of the themes of Exodus is providential timing. When Pharaoh asks Moses to "Entreat YHWH to take the frogs away...," Moses asks the king, "When would you like for me to pray...?" Pharaoh replies "tomorrow" and the frogs leave the houses of the Egyptian the next day.

Moses later reports the time when the horseflies will leave (Ex. 8:25). In Exodus 9:5, we read that God announces the time when the livestock will stop dying: "YHWY has fixed the time." In Exodus 9:18, God announces that He will send hail "at this time tomorrow."

Today we meet skeptics like Pharaoh at every turn. They are quick to dismiss the Bible as a book of myths and superstitions. They offer natural explanations for biblical events, but ignore the providential nature of these events. Their minds are not open to the mysteries that lay beyond scientific explanation.

Rocks move in the wilderness. Water can come from desert rocks. The Nile can turn blood red. The story does not end there. These events occur exactly when God's people need them to occur. The Christian has a more open mind. We are able to accept natural explanations and still recognize that God is at work. Miracles and natural phenomena are not mutually exclusive, and science does not have all the answers.

Related reading: Anthropological Evidence for the Exodus; The Serpent on Moses's Staff


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David


Was this the house in Nazareth where Jesus grew up?


Alice C. Linsley

Nazareth was the home of Jesus, a descendant of King David. There appears to have been a connection between the clans of Nazareth and the clans of Bethlehem. In Jesus' day, both towns were small and essentially comprised of one family. These kinsmen had common Horite Hebrew ancestry. I Chronicles 4:4 lists Hur (Hor) as the "father of Bethlehem." No priestly division was assigned to Bethlehem by King David because his sons served as the rulers over all the priestly divisions (2 Sam. 8:18).

Nazareth sat in a basin. It was described as a flower or a shell protected all around by hills. A caravan route connected Nazareth and Jerusalem. To the south of Nazareth, a road led to Egypt. This would have been the route that Joseph traveled with Mary and Jesus on their return from Egypt.

Archaeological findings in Nazareth include an ancient wine press, terraced hillsides used as vineyards, an irrigation system, and three watchtowers in the fields. These date to Jesus' time. Perhaps these were in Jesus' mind when He told the parables of the sower, the wheat and the tares, and the vineyard workers.

Archaeologists working in Nazareth also have identified a first-century house that has been regarded as the place where Jesus lived with Mary and Joseph. The house is cut into a rocky hillside and built out from the hill with mortar-and-stone walls. It was first uncovered in the 1880s, but it wasn't until 2006 that archaeologists dated the house to the first century. The Horite Hebrew ruler-priests were famous for their monumental stone work. They were responsible for building the tombs of rulers, so this house would have been a rather humble home in comparison.

Nazareth of Galilee was of less concern to Herod than Bethlehem. Herod knew that the Messiah's birthplace was prophesied to be Bethlehem, David's city, and that the eternal kingdom was to be that of David's lineage. His slaughter of the baby boys in Bethlehem was to eliminate this future king who posed a threat to Herod's dynasty. Herod was born in Idumea or Edom around 74 B.C. He knew that Messiah's appearing would change everything because his Edomite ancestors were the Horite Hebrew of Edom (Gen. 36). They expected Messiah to be born of a virgin of their Horite Hebrew ruler-priests lines. Some of those priests resided in Bethlehem, and some in Nazareth.

Nazareth was on an ancient trade route that went north from Egypt through Galilee. It was called the "Via Maris" in Roman times, but the route was traveled for many centuries before the Roman presence in Palestine. Another ancient road went from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It was along this road that the priests of Nazareth traveled to the temple to perform their sacred duties when it was their appointed time of service.

In 1962, excavators discovered in the ruins of a Caesarea synagogue a small 3rd to 4th century marble fragment with a list of the twenty-four priestly divisions. This list names the places where four of the divisions resided, including Nazareth, the home of the eighteenth priestly division, hapiTSETS (Happizzez). Until the discovery of this fragment, there was no extra-biblical record of Nazareth's existence before the sixth century A.D, and no identification of a priestly division at that town.

According to 1 Chronicles 24:15, the eighteenth priestly division was called hapiTSETS (Happizzez). The name is related to the ancient Egyptian word for the life-sustaining Nile, Hapi. Many claim that the word Nazareth is related to the Hebrew word for branch, but it is more likely that Nazareth is related to the Ge'z rwt, meaning king, and the Nilotic Shilluk word reth, also referring to a king. According to Strong's Hebrew Concordance: 5145. נֵ֫זֶר (nezer) refers to consecration or a crown. Melchi, a name that appears twice in the Virgin Mary's ancestry, means "my image" in Amharic, a language spoken in the Upper Nile.

The Apostle Peter performed a miracle in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Acts 3:6). The phrases "Jesus of Nazareth" and "Jesus, Son of David" apparently became synonymous in the minds of people who had heard about Jesus. When the blind beggar Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was near him, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)



Friday, November 24, 2017

Houses in Iron Age Beersheba


Photo: The Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University/Courtesy Ze’ev Herzog.


Iron Age settlements excavated in Judah and Edom reveal that the houses were oriented to the rising sun. This is what Avraham Faust, Professor of Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, noticed in his excavation at Beersheba, the southern boundary of Abraham's territory in Edom.



Abraham's territory extended between the settlements of his two wives. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah resided in Beersheba to the south. This was his territory about 1000 years before the Iron Age (c.1200-550 BC).

The Iron Age settlement at Beersheba demonstrates its ancient residents preferred their houses oriented to the east. Of the houses excavated at the site only one in 29 doorways was built facing west. Avraham Faust argues that Israelite cosmology is responsible for this pattern. However, the pattern is found among other peoples in settlements that are even older. The sun was a sacred symbol for many ancient peoples among whom the Hebrew were living. It represented the Creator who was known by many names: Ra, Anu, Asu, YHWH, El, etc.

Both Edomite and Midianite pottery have been discovered at Beersheba. A four-horned brazen altar identical in structural to the altar used later by the Israelites was uncovered in 1973. This discovery was made by a team under the direction of Yohanan Aharoni and Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University. The team first encountered an ancient storage wall that contained the stones of the altar. Three of the stones still had large horns projecting from them, but the horn of the fourth stone had been broken off. Yet still another stone had the carved image of a serpent, probably indicating Kenite construction. The stones, which had been incorporated into a wall, were reassembled to assume their former shape and dated to the time of the Patriarchs. The altar may have been destroyed during Hezekiah’s attempts to eradicate all shrines outside Jerusalem.

Beersheba had strategic importance because it was the largest settlement in the Negev. It guarded the trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt and between the Nile Delta and Southern Arabia. Its fortifications in the late Iron Age were impressive and included a moat that encircled the city and a steeply-sloped earthen rampart. Beyond the rampart the city was surrounded by thick stone walls. The gate was a chambered type, and inside the gate archaeologists found an incense altar at the high place, just as described in II Kings 23:8.

The miners of this region venerated Hathor, the mother of Horus, called the "son" of God.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Biblical Anthropology is the Work of Christians




Alice C. Linsley

The science of Biblical Anthropology is primarily the work of Christians. In part, this is because Christians regard the Bible as the primary authority in matters pertaining to salvation. It has also been noted that Christianity has a tradition of reasoned inquiry. Ian Hutchinson, a world-renown plasma scientist at MIT, did a study of Christians in science and found that about 60% of the pioneers in the physical sciences were Christians. My own research suggests that the figure is closer to 70%.

Obviously, Jews study the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and many Jews have made contributions in the sciences. Yet none have contributed directly to the advancement of Biblical Anthropology. In fact, some have been hostile to the findings of Biblical Anthropology. This is because the hard data does not support their narrative of Abraham as the first Jew, and Judaism as his religion.

Jews are less than enthusiastic about Biblical Anthropology because the ancestral faith confirmed by Biblical Anthropology is not the faith of Judaism. Honest rabbis admit this. Rabbi Stephen F. Wise, former Chief Rabbi of the United States, answers this question in part. He wrote: "The return from Babylon and the introduction of the Babylonian Talmud mark the end of Hebrewism and the beginning of Judaism.”

For Jews the Bible is less important than the Talmud. The Talmud encourages them to place it above the authority of the Scriptures. Consider this: “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah." (Talmud Erubin 21b)

Consider this from a SUNY professor, Robert Goldberg, who explains; “The traditional Jew studies Talmud because it communicates ultimate truth—truth about God, truth about the world, and most important, truth about how God wants the holy community of Israel to live.” Christians are advancing the field of biblical anthropology because we take the biblical texts seriously and we regard them as truthful.

Biblical Anthropology provides the unique and exciting opportunity to explore biblical data through the lens of anthropology. This hasn't been done in the seminaries so pastors are largely unaware of the findings in Biblical Anthropology. In fact, when they hear "biblical anthropology" they think of the theological discussion of human nature as it is presented in the Bible. Our task is to think more scientifically than theologically. We want to read the biblical texts very carefully, paying close attention to information that helps us to better understand the religious practices and social structures of biblical peoples.

I recommend not reading the Scripture through the lens of rabbinic writings. By 90 AD the rabbis were so hardened against the Messianic Faith that they worked to disguise the evidence of Jesus' Messianic identity by willfully misinterpreting scriptural references to Messiah. This often took the form of applying Messianic passages to Israel as God's anointed people.

Another means of misleading people concerning Jesus' identity was to elevate the Law over the Prophets. Judaism maintains that the Major and Minor Prophets are subordinate to the Law of Moses on the basis of Malachi 3:22, which reads: “Remember the Torah of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him at Horeb for all of Israel – its decrees and statutes.”

Maimonides quoted this verse in the Mishneh Torah as a proof that prophets are not to be interpreted as bringing new teaching, but should be understood as warning people not to trespass Torah. This is a mistaken view since critical scholarship has demonstrated that the Torah and the Prophets "are separate corpora originating in the same time period" (The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1144).

Jesus' Messianic identity is obfuscated further by the rabbinic elevation of the Talmud over the Torah. Jews believe that the Talmud contains truth of greater authority than the Bible. The Talmud itself encourages readers to place it above the authority of the Old Testament. We read this explicit instruction: “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah." (Talmud Erubin 21b)

SUNY history professor, Robert Goldberg, writes; “The traditional Jew studies Talmud because it communicates ultimate truth—truth about God, truth about the world, and most important, truth about how God wants the holy community of Israel to live.”

Note that the Talmud is not studied for information about Messiah. In fact, it is generally anti-Jesus in tone. It says that Messiah is Yeshu, the son of Joseph, yet it claims in Sanhedrin 43a that Jesus (Yeshu) the Nazarene was executed because he practiced sorcery. Sanhedrin 106a says Jesus' mother was a whore: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.”

The Talmud teaches that Jesus Christ was illegitimate and was conceived during menstruation; that he had the soul of Esau; that he was a fool, a conjurer, a seducer; that he was crucified, buried in hell and set up as an idol ever since by his followers.

Finally, to steer their people from the truth concerning Jesus Messiah, the rabbis elevate their own doctrines over the “doctrine of the Lord." In the tract Babha Metsia, fol. 33a, we read: "Those who devote themselves to reading the Bible exercise a certain virtue, but not very much; those who study the Mischnah exercise virtue for which they will receive a reward; those, however, who take upon themselves to study the Gemarah exercise the highest virtue."

Likewise in the tract Sopherim XV, 7, fol. 13b: "The Sacred Scriptures is like water, the Mischnah wine, and the Gemarah aromatic wine."

The following is a well-known opinion in the writings of the Rabbis: "My son, give heed to the words of the scribes rather than to the words of the law."

The tract Sanhedrin X, 3, f.88b says: "He who transgresses the words of the scribes sins more gravely than the transgressors of the words of the law."

Is it any wonder then that it is Christians, rather than Jews, who have pioneered the science of Biblical Anthropology? Science requires empirical evidence and the evidence of Scripture, archaeology, linguistics, anthropology and genetics supports the claim that Jesus is the Messiah.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Akkadian Lexicon


This fragment of a tablet from Nimrud contains a list of synonyms.
It gives Malku as a synonym for Šarru.
British Museum ND 5434
Alice C. Linsley


This partial list of Akkadian words will be helpful to biblical anthropologists. These words should be compared to words in ancient Egyptian, Old Arabic, Hungarian (Magyar), and Bulgarian (Thracian).

Akkadian is an inflected language with grammatical cases. It is a Semitic language with grammatical features similar to those found in Classical Arabic, and as with all Semitic languages, Akkadian words are built on consonantal roots. Most Akkadian roots are tri-consonantal. Some roots are composed of four consonants (four radicals). Between and around these radicals there are various infixes, suffixes and prefixes.

Akkadian has three numbers (singular, dual and plural) and three cases (nominative, accusative and genitive). However, the dual number is largely confined to natural pairs (eyes, ears, etc.) or binary sets. This appears to reflect a very archaic pattern. Adjectives are never found in the dual. In the dual and plural, the accusative and genitive are merged into a single oblique case.


abal - without
abaru - lead (metal)
abatu - to flee from, to run away; also to completely destroy
abnu - stone
abum - father
abdu - servant, slave
abru - priest
abrutu - priesthood, a caste of priests
adikanna - time
ammeni - why
amtu - handmaid
ana - to, for, after, approximately
anaku - the royal I  (compare ancient Egyptian anochi - I)
Anu/Anum - the High God whose son is called Enki.
arbu - fugitive, runaway
arhu - month
assatu (Variants: assutu/issutu) - principal wife
assatu awili - veiled principal wife (in public)
ayyu - which?
azu - physician priest (Sargon was born in Azu-pir-Anu - house of divine healing/temple)

ba - water
babum - gate, door
bantu - mother
bel - lord of
birûtu - human (clean, pure)
bit durani - fortress (bit tuklati - stronghold)
burumitu - sky blue; lapis lazuli

Da-odu - David (Corresponds to the Yoruba Daw-odu.)
dahh-ubu - gold (also hurusam)
dannum/danim - strong, powerful
daris - for ever
darutu - long life
datu - law, decreee
dû - hill

ebar - beyond, the other side of
ebebu - to be clean
Edinu - Eden
edû - flow, spring
eka - where?
ekallim - palace (place where deity resides?)
eli - up, over
ellum - ritually pure
em - wherever
en - lord, high official, priest, priestess
Enki - the son of the Creator God Anu (En-ki means "Lord of the Earth.")
erbe/arba - four
erebu/erbum - sunset, time of setting sun
eridu - home away from home
erimtu - baked brick
ersetu - Earth (also ki or gi)
ersu - bed (related to resû, Akkadian word for riverbed, channel.)
esirtu - concubine

gam - also
gārû - opponent in war
guruvash - servant (related to karauash - servant)
garru/garrum - a box
girginakku (Variant: garginakku) - a box for written tablets
gisnu - bed (also ersu or isersu)
gud - powerful bull (also a solar symbol)

haddu - joyful
ḫāpiru - human being
harrani - road (also yol?)
hirtu (Variants: hiratu/histu) - wife
hubullu - debt, obligation
hurusam - gold  (Hur/Horus + sam refering to the sun.)
hush - reddish

Idiqlat - Tigris
ilum - deity
im - rib (also ti)
immu - day
ina - in, on, out, through, under
isḫu - human, physical body (male)
ištēn (M); ištāt (F) - one (cardinal number)
itti - with, also

kabattu - liver
kalab - dog
kan - blood
kanu - convict
karmu - ruin
ki - earth
kiprat arba - four regions/four peoples (related to Kirat Arba, archaic name for Hebron.) 
kisallu - court
kulturi/kultari - dwellings, habitations
kur - land owned (related to kur/kar - rock shelter or fortified high place)
kurtum - territory

letu - cheek
lemnu - bad
lū - or

maklu - burnt offering (Variant: maqlu)
malku - ruler-priest (Synonym: Šarru)
mannu - who?
māru - son (māru rabu - eldest son)
martum - daughter
maṣṣarum - guards
matum - country
mīnū - what?
mittu - mace

nabu - prophet, seer
nagasu - roam  (naga - snake, Azag - the Great Serpent, one shining like metal - zag)
nanna - moon
nesû - (1) distant; from far, exotic; (3) to withdraw; to depart from, abandon; to remove; (3) to deport (people); to make recede/repel

parzillu - iron
pid - box, chest or arc
purkullu - stone cutter

qannu - horn
qannuntu - curly haired (F)
qaštu - bow (with arrow)
qātu - hand

rabum - great
rapšum - wide
resû - river bed, branch of river

sag - head
šamû - heaven
samsum - sun
sandu - red
šarratum - queen
šarrum - king
šarāqum - to steal
šattu - year
sebet babi - seven gates
šepum - foot; šepān - feet
sibbu - serpent
šinā (M); šittā (F) - two (cardinal number)
siparru - copper
sisu - horse
sittu - rest
šumeru - Sumerian

tamtu - sea
tiamatu - ocean, abyss

u - and
ud - fire
ul - high, elevated (sky)
utu - sun power, divine overshadowing, high noon (Similar to Aker in ancient Egyptian.)
ummum - mother

wasabu - sit  (Possibly related to the seated harwa, a healer-priest, called "wabau" in Egyptian.)
wasu - small

zag - shining, like copper
zeru - seed


Related reading: Ancient Egyptian Lexicon, Hungarian Lexicon; The Sumerian Language