November 26, 2006

Breadcrumb: More of the same

We have already mentioned that both Sarah and Rebekah were barren when they married their husbands, while the other wives and handmaidens were fertile. The same is true of Rachel and Leah. Leah has four children, while Rachel is barren. Yet again, the main protagonist of Jewish tradition (Joseph, Rachel's son) comes about through divine intervention. (Gen. 30:22-24)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is all about the history of the Israelites, not real people called "Joseph" or "Reuben".

The Israelites emerged from the Canaanites like Jazz emerged from Ragtime - they are the same people, but followed a different fashion in regard to religion. This is what the archaeology shows. Similarly, Israel and Judah were ALWAYS distinct entities.

"Levi" was originally just a job description; it simply means "priest", in Minaean. That's why its treated like that in several passages, like Judges 17-18.

The confederation started with the Leah tribes, plus Machir and Gilead (you'll meet those tribes in later passages) who have been edited out, and minus Judah and Simeon who have been edited in.

Then a small minority of Israelites of various tribes migrated to Egypt and settled. Gradually they gained power in Egypt, after several decades, but were eventually overthrown and expelled ("the Exodus"). These Israelites were the "Joseph"/"Rachel" tribe (singular).

The Joseph/Rachel tribe returned to Canaan, and being richer and more powerful (due to their experiences in Egypt) usurped the previously most powerful tribe (Reuben). Part of Joseph/Rachel merged with Machir, becoming Manassah (the disconnected eastern "half" being Machir), while the other part became Ephraim.

Various clans and tribes south of Israel started coalescing into a tribe called Judah. These clans, many of which were foreign, included the Kenites, Calebites, and Jerahmeelites. Simeon was another of these groups that had started coalescing into Judah when the bible started being written down; Simeon's destruction by coalescing into Judah had completed by the 7th century.

Part of Ephraim split off and joined the kingdom of Judah instead, becoming Benjamin (note that the name means "son of the south").

Foreign groups like the sea peoples also tried to join the confederation. The Philistines, Dan , Issachar, and possibly Asher, were originally sea peoples, but all but the Philistines joined the Israelite confederation (this is why Dan was still in its ships in Judges 5). In the east, a foreign group called Gad (named after a Canaanite god) swallowed up the Gilead tribe, and joined the confederation in its place; Asher may have been a similar example.

This is why they are divided in the manner that they are between the first and second wives of Jacob, and the women's servants.

Judges 5 shows an earlier state, when Judah and Simeon hadn't joined the confederation, Levi was just a job title, Manasseh hadn't been formed, and Gad was still foreign. Its also why a number of passages, which the JEPD thing attribute to J or E, often seem to refer to Machir and Gilead where you would expect it to mention Manasseh instead.