Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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August 27, 2012
Last Updated :
August 27, 2012
Origin Of The Hebrews, Noah's Sons: Three Branches Of Human Family, Survivors Of The Flood, Descendants Of Noah Shem And Heber, Ur In the Land Of The Chaldees, One From Beyond, The Region Beyond, Ark Settles In Mountains Of Ararat, Friction Between Sarah And Hagar Leads To Abraham Sending Away Hagar And Ishmael, Ishmael Fathers Twelve Arab Nations, Egyptian Blood In Ishmaelites, Paran And Beersheba, Ishmaelites Join Forces With Midianites, Ishmaelites Seem To Disappear From History, Abraham Sends Away Keturah's Sons, Arabs Settle In Jordan And Saudi Arabia, Abraham's Demise, Esau Marries One Of The Daughters Of Ishmael, An Alliance Between Ishmael And Esau?, Seriousness Of Marriage In Old Days, The Midianites, Moses And Jethro Priest Of Midian, Moabites And Midianites Visit Balaam, Moses And Israelites War Against Midianites
Continuing our discussion from part two regarding the origin of the Hebrews, we first learn about Heber -- who was the father of the Hebrews -- in the following verses which reveal the descendants of Noah's son Shem:
"These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees."
Genesis 11:10-28, KJV
If we simplify the previous genealogies, what we are left with is the following:
Thus we see that by following the genealogies of the Book of Genesis, we can determine that while Abraham was a Hebrew -- having descended from Heber -- he was likewise a Semite as well, which was one of the three branches of the human race which survived the Flood. In other words, there were Semites, Hamites and Japhethites, as is revealed by these verses:
"And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth."
Genesis 5:32, KJV
"And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth."
Genesis 6:10, KJV
"And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood . . . In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark . . . And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark."
Genesis 7:7, 13, 21-23, KJV
"And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him:"
Genesis 8:15-18, KJV
"And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan."
Genesis 9:18, KJV
"Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood."
Genesis 10:1, KJV
"Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth."
1 Chronicles 1:4, KJV
"Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."
1 Peter 3:20, KJV
If we look at it from this perspective, and consider that the word "hebrew" means "one from beyond", it may be correct to say that in an ethnic sense, "hebrew" isn't so much a racial term, as it is a descriptive term which describes a place of origin, just as the word "Texan" does not imply a particular race, but rather someone who is from the state of Texas. From the perspective of the Canaanites, the Patriarch Abraham was indeed a stranger from "the region beyond", because as the following verses reveal, his place of origin was actually Ur in the land of the Chaldees, which at that time was ruled by the Babylonian kings:
"And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."
Genesis 11:28-31, KJV
"And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it."
Genesis 15:7, KJV
"Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;"
Nehemiah 9:7, KJV
While I have sometimes referred to Abraham as a Babylonian, that may not be a totally correct description. My reason for saying this is that, as we have seen, Heber means "the region beyond". Why would his father Salah give him that name? Does it imply that for several generations before Abraham was even born, his family of Semites had been traveling about, and had eventually settled in Ur of the Chaldees? Exactly where was this "region beyond"? One good possibility is either northern Iran, eastern Turkey, or Armenia. Why there of all places? Because following the Great Flood that occurred in the days of Noah and his three sons, the Ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat, which are located in the area that I have just mentioned. In other words, Noah's family may have eventually migrated to the area that we know today as southern Iraq and Kuwait.
Before leaving the issue concerning the origin of the Hebrews behind, allow me to offer you one more interesting tidbit. If we turn to the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke and examine the genealogy of Jesus Christ, we find the following verse:
"Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe . . ."
Luke 3:35-36, KJV
Please take note of the fact that being as the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, the Patriarchs' Hebrew names are also written in Greek, and then transliterated here into our English language. Thus we have:
Saruch = Serug
Ragau = Reu
Phalec = Peleg
Heber = Eber
Sala = Salah
Cainan = Cainan
Arphaxad = Arphaxad
Sem = Shem
Noe = Noah
There is what appears to be one discrepancy which I do not know how to resolve. According to the genealogies in Luke, Arphaxad fathered Cainan, who in turn fathered Salah, who then fathered Heber. However, in the Book of Genesis we are informed that Arphaxad fathered Salah directly. There is no mention of Cainan whatsoever. Furthermore, the first chapter of the first Book of Chronicles likewise omits Cainan, as we see by these verses. Please note that Shelah is the same as Salah, or Sala:
24 Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah,
25 Eber, Peleg, Reu,
26 Serug, Nahor, Terah,
27 Abram; the same is Abraham.
If you are interested in exploring another mystery which may be concealed in the name "Heber" and the word "Hebrew", let me again suggest that you consider reading my article called "One From Beyond: Hebrew of Hebrews".
Returning to our discussion regarding the identities of the nations which are mentioned in Psalm 83, we last discussed Abraham's son Ishmael, and his descendants, the Ishmaelites. As I explained in part two, while Sarah gave Hagar to her husband Abraham so that he could have an heir, once the heir -- Ishmael -- was born, Hagar turned against Sarah. While Hagar returned to Abraham and Sarah after trying to run away with her son, the animosity between the two women apparently continued unabated, until it finally reached a level where Sarah asked Abraham to cast out Hagar and Ishmael. By this time, Sarah had already given birth to Isaac, and this fact no doubt affected her decision to rid herself of Hagar.
As you can see by the verses below, initially, the idea of sending away Hagar and Ishmael grieved Abraham; but notice how the Lord intervened in that situation, and informed him that He would bless Hagar, and make her son Ishmael a great nation. In fact, as we saw in part two, just as Jacob was blessed with twelve sons who became the founders of twelve tribes or nations of Israel, Ishmael likewise fathered twelve sons who also became the princes of twelve Arab nations:
"And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son. And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt."
Genesis 21:9-21, KJV
As you can see, upon reaching adulthood, we are told that Ishmael dwelt "in the wilderness of Paran", and he married an Egyptian woman. This demonstrates that the Ishmaelites were not only part Egyptian due to their grandmother Hagar being Egyptian, but also because their own mother was too. Concerning the wilderness of Paran, it was -- and is -- a part of southern Israel, and is located on Israel's eastern border. Today, Paran is a small "moshav" -- a communal farm settlement -- populated by Zionist Jews. It is located about sixty-two miles north of the Israeli port of Eilat on the northern tip of the Red Sea. The wilderness of Beersheba -- where Hagar fled with young Ishmael -- is known today as the city of Be'er Sheva. It is also located in southern Israel in the Negev Desert, and is Israel's seventh largest city.
Considering the passage of time, the many wars which were fought, and the assimilation of societies and cultures by more powerful ones, it should come as no surprise to us that by the time of King David, the Ishmaelites seem to disappear from the world stage of the Middle East as a separate and distinct group of people. In the Book of Judges there is a small piece of evidence which suggests that the Ishmaelites were either assimilated by -- or at the very least made an alliance with -- the Midianites. As we see by the following verses, when Gideon pursued the kings of the Midianites, he encountered certain Ishmaelites amongst them. These men were recognized as Ishmaelites due to their custom of wearing golden earrings:
"Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that were about their camels' necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, even in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon."
Judges 8:22-28, KJV
Just as Abraham sent away Hagar and her young son Ishmael, the Book of Genesis also informs us that he did the very same thing with the sons who he fathered by his second wife Keturah, as well as by his concubines. His purpose in doing this was to preserve Isaac, so that he could receive the full inheritance from his father, and no doubt to avoid problems with his jealous siblings as well. Consider these verses:
"And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country."
Genesis 25:5-6, KJV
Please notice that while Hagar and Ishmael traveled south and southeast into the Negev Desert, according to the above verses, Abraham's other sons moved "eastward, unto the east country". This would seem to suggest the land that is today a part of Jordan, and quite possibly Saudi Arabia as well.
In fact, the Book of Jubilees provides even more detail, and states that after Abraham provided for Ishmael and his sons, as well as for the sons of his second wife, Keturah, all of these joined forces and settled in the region "from Paran to the entering in of Babylon in all the land which is towards the East facing the desert." So this does seem to indicate that at the very least, they settled up to the borders of the deserts in Arabia, which today is known as Saudi Arabia due to the al-Saud dynasty being in power. Notice too that the Book of Jubilees specifically refers to them as Arabs:
"And he gave to Ishmael and to his sons, and to the sons of Keturah, gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, and he gave everything to Isaac his son. And Ishmael and his sons, and the sons of Keturah and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering in of Babylon in all the land which is towards the East facing the desert. And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishmaelites."
Book of Jubilees 20:11-13
Despite the fact that Abraham sent away Hagar and her son Ishmael, as well as all of the sons of Keturah, the Bible informs us that upon Abraham's death, both of his sons -- Isaac and Ishmael -- attended his funeral service at the cave of Machpelah, as we see by these verses:
"And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years. Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife."
Genesis 25:7-10, KJV
While Isaac and Ishmael were apparently able to maintain a level of civility at the time of Abraham's death, in spite of the fact that Isaac had received the inheritance of his father, it wasn't before long that their descendants became enemies, and were still enemies many hundreds of years later at the time of King Jehoshaphat. We have already discussed a few of the reasons concerning why Esau would hold negative feelings against his brother Jacob, feelings which were no doubt passed on to Esau's descendants, the Edomites. What I find interesting is the fact that after Isaac blessed Jacob and sent him on his way to Padanaram -- or modern Syria -- in order to find a wife amongst his next of kin, Esau his brother apparently made a political alliance with Ishmael's clan. This alliance seems to be indicated in the fact that Esau took one of Ishmael's daughters to be one of his wives, as we see here:
"When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; 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 28:6-9, KJV
Now, there are two ways that we can look at the previous verses. Either Esau was simply hoping to please his father Isaac by marrying someone within their family -- Mahalath would have been Abraham's granddaughter -- or else Esau was already scheming against his brother Jacob, while Jacob was away in Padanaram. If we consider that Ishmael was sent away by Abraham, and Esau was likewise rejected by Isaac who was Abraham's son, doesn't it seem likely that Esau and his kin Ishmael would harbor some negative feelings and possibly share some common interests, such as causing trouble for the other side of the family? In other words, Esau and Ishmael were outsiders to the core of Abraham's family. While God did bless both of them, nevertheless, it was Isaac and Jacob who received the greater inheritance.
Let us not forget that in those days, marriage was not just an act of finding a pretty girl and marrying her. A lot more was involved and at stake. This included dowries, political alliances, strategies against common enemies, etc. So while I cannot conclusively prove that this is why Esau chose to marry Ishmael's daughter Mahalath, the fact of the matter is that Psalm 83 indicates that by the time of King Jehoshaphat, the Edomites and the Ishmaelites were allies against Israel, who were descended from Jacob. This is why I suspect that the alliance between them may have been initiated when Esau chose to marry Mahalath.
Before identifying the next nation which we find mentioned in Psalm 83, allow me to comment on the Midianites. As you can probably guess, the Midianites -- who were defeated by Gideon -- were obviously the descendants of Midian. As we learned in part two, Midian was Abraham's son by his second wife Keturah. Thus again we can confirm that Abraham's other sons and their descendants -- through Hagar And Keturah -- eventually became the enemies of Jacob and his twelve sons, who became the leaders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. What is interesting is the fact that when Moses fled from Egypt following his slaying of the Egyptian, he found refuge in the land of Midian. Not only that, but as we learn in the Book of Exodus, Moses later married Zipporah, who was the daughter of Jethro. Also known as Jether and Reuel, Jethro was the high priest of Midian. Consider these verses:
"Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day? And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. And he said unto his daughters, And where is he? why is it that ye have left the man? call him, that he may eat bread. And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter."
Exodus 2:15-21, KJV
"Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb."
Exodus 3:1, KJV
"And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace."
Exodus 4:18, KJV
"When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt; Then Jethro, Moses' father in law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her back, And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land: And the name of the other was Eliezer; for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh: And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: And he said unto Moses, I thy father in law Jethro am come unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her. And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent."
Exodus 18:1-7, KJV
As you can see, Moses had a very cordial relationship with Jethro in the land of Midian. However, it was not long after this, that as a result of their fear of the huge number of Israelites who filled the plains of Moab following their exodus from Egypt, the Moabites and the Midianites formed an alliance against the Israelites, as we see by these verses:
"And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho. And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time. He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak."
Numbers 22:1-7, KJV
If you are familiar with the previous story, then you will know that Balaam refused to curse the children of Israel, and in fact blessed them instead, as per the commandment of the Lord. Nine chapters later, we find the Lord commanding Moses and the children of Israel to wage war against the Midianites. This ongoing struggle continued on and off again until Gideon finally defeated the Midianites once and for all. Consider these verses:
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people. And Moses spake unto the people, saying, Arm some of yourselves unto the war, and let them go against the Midianites, and avenge the LORD of Midian. Of every tribe a thousand, throughout all the tribes of Israel, shall ye send to the war. So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand. And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts."
Numbers 31:1-11, KJV
Please go to part four for the continuation of this series.
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