Table of Contents
Part V: The Genealogies of the Old Testament Chapter 1
The Genealogies of the Old Testament
THE BIBLE contains a number of genealogies, some of which cover periods of time measured in centuries, and some only a few generations. On the whole, if they are merely read without any particular attention ‹ as though it were a duty to read them since they are a part of the Bible ‹ they are apt to be dull indeed. But my experience has been that all kinds of hidden treasures are to be found in them for the searching. They are, in short, much more than merely family trees. Not all of them have yielded such rewards yet, but what has been found leads me to believe that all these genealogies or fragments of genealogies will in time be found to contain exciting truths. This, I suspect, will prove to be the case particularly where, on the surface, there seems least likelihood of finding very much. pg 1 of 27
The kind of information that careful study can bring to light can be summed up under several headings. For example, according to many notable scholars, genealogies can supply us with a chronology from the First Adam to the Last Adam which cannot be obtained in any other way. This statement will be disputed in some quarters, but the question will be studied subsequently. A genealogy will sometimes reveal a relationship between two people which sheds a new light upon their behaviour toward each other. By a study of the meanings of the names given in a genealogy ‹ that is to say, by substituting the meaning in English of the names of people who are said to be related in a certain way ‹ it is sometimes possible to discover certain great spiritual truths. In some genealogies there are gaps which are revealed only by reference to the narrative portions of the Old Testament which deal with that particular period, and these omissions will be found to reveal how God deals with man in certain circumstances. In one or two cases fragments of a genealogy, when illuminated by other parts of
Scripture, shed a wonderful light on cultural background. The earlier genealogies provide us not merely with information about the relationships between individuals, but the time frame within which succeeding generations followed one another. A statistical analysis of this time frame reveals a notable fact which finds its best explanation in the light of modern genetics. One of the earliest genealogies probably sheds a most interesting light on certain figures in the mythologies of classical antiquity. Finally, the genealogies of the New Testament which set forth the Lord's relationship to the Jews and to the Gentiles have so many wonderful things just below the surface of the text that it is amazing how few studies are made of them in modern Christian literature.
Such, then, are some of the things we intend to explore. In one case, which we shall note when we come to it, we may possibly be reading too much into the genealogy. But it seemed worthwhile to draw attention to its peculiarity because it may shed light on a very ancient problem, namely, the interpretation of Genesis 6 and the question of the meaning of demon possession in the New Testament.
pg.2 of 27
Consider, then, the matter of the relationship between the First and the Last Adam. It is clear from Luke's Gospel that a continuous succession of fathers and sons (or daughters) was believed to have been preserved in the archives of the Jewish people from the creation of Adam through several thousands of years until the time of Christ. We shall have occasion in the final chapter of this Paper to study briefly what is known at the present time about such continuous records and how they were kept. At the present moment the point at issue is not whether the people whose names are listed in Luke really existed, but whether they were related as successive generations or were merely selected as significant links in a chain composed of an untold number of other unidentified links. One hears people say sometimes, "My ancestors came over on the Mayflower and were descended through such-and-such a branch of the family from people who came into England with William the Conqueror." In other words, it is felt sufficient to pick out widely spaced individuals and assume that the rest of the links are there if one simply took the time to identify them. Thus a number of modern scholars who accept an antiquity for man reaching into hundreds of thousands of years are willing to agree that somewhere in the line there was an Adam and a Seth, and so on, but that they were not related as father and son in the sense that we attach to the terms.
On the other hand, there are many of us who feel that to establish a relationship between the Lord as the
Last Adam and the First Adam, from whom we are all assumed to have been derived, by such a non-specific and generalized kind of family tree in which there are perhaps several hundred times as many names missing as are listed, is something less than satisfying. One feels that one is on solid ground when you read that Adam had a son whose name is Seth, and Seth had a son whose name was Enos, and Enos had a son whose name was Cainan, and so on through an unbroken chain of real people, many of whom are introduced to us in Scripture in a way which makes them live even when we only have a single sentence about them. For such is the descriptive power of the Word of God.
So I think it makes good sense to take the Old Testament genealogies which supply the basis for the two genealogies to be found in Matthew and Luke with complete seriousness and assume that they mean what they seem to mean. It was the conviction of many of the older biblical chronologists that sufficient information was given in the Bible, not merely to establish this unbroken chain, but to set it within a quite precise time frame. It was the basis, of course, of Ussher's chronology, which so many people today consider more the naive endeavour of a misinformed man than a serious contribution to understanding the Bible. But while Ussher's chronology may be in error in small details, it appears to me to encompass an overall view of the time span of man which is the right order of magnitude ‹ though it is hopelessly in conflict with some modern Christian views. These modern views disagree with Ussher, and all those who have more or less followed his approach to the problem, by arguing that the genealogies in Genesis are not intended to provide us with an unbroken chain. We are told again and again that some of these genealogies contain gaps: but what is never pointed out by those who lay the emphasis on these gaps is that they only know of the existence of these gaps because the Bible elsewhere fills them in. How otherwise could one know of them? But if they are filled in, they are not gaps at all! Thus, in the final analysis the argument is completely without foundation. It is simply wishful thinking.
This is not a Paper on chronology, so we shall not pursue this matter further at this juncture, but return to it briefly when we come to deal with Matthew's genealogy. Meanwhile we share the conviction of people like Anstey, Mauro, Urquhart, (2) and a host of others, that one of the most important functions of the genealogies
2. See Martin Anstey, The Romance of Biblical Chronology, Marshall Bros., London, 1913, p.302; Philip Mauro, The Chronology of the Bible, Hamilton Brothers, Scripture Truth Depot, Boston, 1922, p.120; John Urquhart, How Old Is Man?, Gospel Publishing House, New York, 1904, p.116. pg.3 of 27
of the Bible is to provide a connected thread from Adam to Christ with a sufficiently precise chronology to satisfy our time sense and assure us by giving lifespans, up to a significant point which we shall consider subsequently, that allow us to discover for ourselves that these names are the names of real people, not merely of tribes or families or nations. God always deals with the individual as an individual, not merely impersonally as one of a group. Genesis 4:1, 16-24
Where ages are not given. . . .
Where the first city is named. . . .
Where Vulcan's history begins. . . .
The first genealogy (Genesis 4:1,16-24) takes us from Adam to Lamech and provides us with some very exciting insights into early human history. These insights stem as much from the names of individuals who are listed as they do from the things they are said to have done -- a circumstance which allows us, I think, to have considerable confidence that these are the names of real people. pg.4 of 27
It will be found, as a rule, that chronology per se was evidently not considered of importance except where the line from Adam to Christ was directly in view. Thus Cain bore Enoch, and Enoch Irad, and so on, but no information is given as to the age of the father at the time of his son's birth or at the time of his death. By contrast, in Genesis 5:6ff., which traces the line through Seth, complete chronological data is given. I think it is likely that this simple distinguishing mark in the Old Testament between the two types of genealogical trees -- those which are accompanied by a chronology and those which are not -- is a sufficient guide as to whether these individuals are in the line from the First to the Second Adam.
It is easy to be wise after the event and, in the light of the genealogies given in the New Testament, to look back through the record and identify the families which shared in this signal honor. But living in the Old Testament, even as late as the time of Malachi, one could still really have no assurance as to which line was to terminate with the Messiah. It seems necessary to qualify this statement and say rather that one could not identify the royal line with certainty unless one perceived that this line was provided also with a chronology.
Thus genealogies in the Old Testament which appear to be much the same are actually separated into two very different classes. This point is a very important one, but it may easily be overlooked.Only God could know precisely in which line (of many parallel lines available) the Messiah would arise. How then, humanly speaking, would a writer, making his contribution to Scripture as the years rolled by, know whether he should or should not include a chronology? He could not know, of course, except by inspiration. And, if by inspiration, one might have expected that he would discern a distinction between the different parts of the record that he was being led to set down. He might therefore be inclined to append a note wherever he added a chronology, explaining why he did so on this occasion but not elsewhere. Yet none of the writers did. Such is the reticence of Scripture which often reveals as much by what it does not say as by what it does: which makes the study of Scripture so different from that of other books. pg.5 of 27
That this chronological feature is not accidental is clearly borne out by the fact that it is a recurrent circumstance. In Genesis 10, which is the great Table of Nations, there is not a single chronological note in the entire list; but after the confusion of tongues at Babel and the dispersion of the nations, a new selection is made and the line of Shem is singled out. This time, however, while the successive generations are repeated, only one name in each generation is given, instead of several as in Genesis 10. And in this line the chronology re-appears. The withholding of any time reckoning from those lines of descent which do not lead directly to the Promised Seed and the most precise enumeration of years in the line which does lead to the Promised Saviour cannot be accidental.
We find the same thing recurring in Genesis 36, which gives a very complete list indeed of the descendants of Esau but without any time scale, whereas as soon as we enter chapter 37 we immediately find ages being recounted once more.
Reverting, therefore, to this first genealogy, we may note that the line of Cain is traced before the line of Seth, and this again will be found on a number of occasions where the two lines are being brought up to date: the earthly or carnal is dealt with first, and afterward that which is spiritual.
Now, in the line of Cain there are some interesting clues to the history of antiquity. To begin with, in Genesis 4:17, we are told that Cain produced a son named Enoch and that he then built a city and called the name of the city after the name of his son. The naming of cities and other such landmarks in honour of individuals is very ancient, obviously. Consequently a single name might stand for a city, a river, a mountain, or a country: and in cuneiform literature it was customary to associate with any name some identifying mark or determinative
in order to let the reader know whether it was the individual himself or the city or some other feature of the landscape that was intended. In the case where the name stands for a man, the name was preceded by the sign for man. In the case of a city, the name was followed by little mark which has the phonetic value -ki (and appeared thus: ).To my knowledge, all place names in cuneiform are followed by this determinative sign. But there is one exception, and this is the city known as "Unuk" (equated with Enoch), which later appears as "Uruk", (3) "Warka", and finally, "Perg-", or "Purg-". For those unfamiliar with such changes, the conversion of "wark" into "purg-" follows well-established rules in the development of language and in the transfer of words between languages of a different family.
Why is this singular exception made? I think the answer is to be found in Genesis 4:17. According to the Bible, this was the first city ever to be built, and it did not therefore form one of a class requiring an identifying determinative. It is rather analogous to calling London (England) "the City". When people in England say they are going up to the City, they do not need to identify it; and I suspect that in Palestine the word "city" is often substituted for the word "Jerusalem" with no less certainty as to its identity. As other cities began to be built in the time of Cain, it seems likely that they, too, were named in honour of individuals then alive. But it would soon become apparent that the means of identification needed refining, and the determinatives would begin to be developed and applied appropriately. Yet this one city never required a determinative, being the very first one.
It is a curious thing that the word Unuk persisted for so long in history, re-appearing finally in the Greek word Pergos which, significantly enough in the light of Genesis 11:4, means "tower". The word tower is the basis of the English word town. And as has been demonstrated with cogency, (4) the basic form purg- has come down into modern Indo-European languages in the form of burgh or the more extended form, borough. Thus, almost every day of our lives we are likely to come across a word meaning "city" which can be traced right back to within one generation of Adam to the City which Cain built and named in honour of his son.
3. Uruk: on this point, see John Urquhart, "The Bearing of Recent Oriental Discoveries on Old Testament History," Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol.38, 1906, p.48; and W. St. Chad Boscawen, The Bible and the Monuments, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1896, p.94. pg.6 of 27
4. City: R. Eiseler, "Loan Words in Semitic Languages Meaning 'Town,'" Antiquity, December, 1939, p.449.
Moving forward to verse 19, we are told that Lamech took unto him two wives, the name of one of which is given as "Zillah". In verse 22, Zillah is said to have borne Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. Tubal-Cain was thus the world's first metallurgist. This compound name, "Tubal-Cain", is worth examining. According to R. J. Forbes, (5) one of the outstanding authorities on metallurgy in antiquity, there was a tribe of people long associated in the ancient world with metal working who were known as the Tibareni. Many scholars identify this as a modified form of the name Tubal, the l and the r being interchangeable between dialects and often not even distinguished within a dialect. In his commentary on Genesis, Marcus Dods points out that things have been so faithfully perpetuated in the East that the blacksmith of the village Bubbata-ez-Zetua referred to the iron sparks struck off while working at his forge as "tubal". (6) We may go a step further than this by observing that, in ancient Rome, the name of the individual who came to be constituted as the god of the Tiber (a river whose name seems again to recall Tubal) was the well-known Vulcan, whose forges were the volcanoes.
Now, the traditions regarding Vulcan are very interesting. He is, of course, associated with fire and the working of metals, later appearing as the divine Smith of the Roman Tubilustrum. (7) He is said to have been a cripple, having been thrown out of heaven by his father Jupiter as a punishment for having taken his mother's side in a quarrel.
In Genesis 4:23, there is the always-puzzling story of how Lamech took vengeance on a young man who had injured him in some way "wounding him." Lamech's son was Tubal-Cain, and it would not be at all difficult to imagine how, by simply dropping the initial consonant tu--, the name "Vulcan" might easily have arisen. This son was subsequently deified. In this first of all biblical genealogies, it is stated that Lamech had two wives, one of whom was named Zillah. By making a further quite reasonable assumption -- namely, that it was with Zillah that Lamech had quarreled and that it was Zillah's part which Vulcan (as we may now call him) had taken -- we find a possible reason why, in the struggle with his father, the son had ended up as a cripple and had been turned out of the house, leaving behind him an enraged and wounded father. If this is allowed, one further interesting discovery emerges. In many societies, polygamy is common, and where this occurs it is customary to call the
5. Forbes, R.J., Metallurgy in Antiquity, Brill, Leiden, 1950, p.88. pg.7 of 27
6. Dods, Marcus, Genesis, Clark, Edinburgh, no date, p.26.
7. Vulcan: H. J. Rose, "The Cult of Vulcanus at Rome," Journal of the Royal Society, vol. 23, 1933, p.40.
children, as a means of more precise identity, after the name of the mother rather than the father. Thus, while Tubal-Cain was undoubtedly the son's given name, he may very well have been more readily identified by his contemporaries simply as Zillah's son. In a Semitic form of speech, this would appear as "Bar Zillah", i.e., "son of Zillah". The curious thing is that the Sumerian word for "iron" is found to be Parzillu or Barzillu, which would appear to be nothing less than a further link between subsequent tradition and this early genealogy, bearing a remarkable testimony to its historicity. Sumerologists have often expressed curiosity about the origin of this word for "iron." Of Giants and Demons
Putting all these things together, one has a remarkable series of fragments of information set in the form of a genealogy shedding a wonderful light on tradition, in which there is a continuity of name forms -- all related in meaning or association to a form of metalworking that is very ancient, and attached to a deity who had the strange experience of being ejected from his home and being made lame for taking his mother's part in a quarrel with his father. This genealogy is certainly worth studying very carefully, and I suspect that Lamech's other wife, Adah, will also prove in time to shed unexpected light on early events, along with Tubal-Cain's sister, Nahma. I cannot believe that such detailed records from within a generation or two of Adam have been so perfectly preserved by accident. God had some purpose in mind: we have yet to discover what it was.
There is one further observation I should like to make about the genealogy of the line of Cain as opposed to the line of Seth. In this one section of the Paper I must confess that I am not certain that the text warrants what I am reading into it. Of the descendants of Cain, we are never told of their death. This might be simply the result of the fact that we are not given their age. But there were many subsequent historical figures in the Old Testament who were either enemies of the Lord's children or, though actually Israelites, were without faith, yet these people have their deaths recorded even though we are not told how old they were when they died. pg.8 of 27
There are those who believe that Cain was supernaturally born of Eve through the agency of Satan, who thereby hoped to present the Antichrist, supposing that Abel was actually the Promised Seed. The Hebrew of Genesis 4:1,2 has always presented problems to the translator; it almost seems as though Adam knew his wife only once
in spite of the birth of two children who are not presented to us in usual terms reserved for the birth of twins. There is a very ancient belief -- and one still preserved by many primitive people that when twins are born, one of them is actually a child of the devil. (8) Having no means of identifying which child is the evil one, such societies customarily insisted that all twins must be destroyed at birth.
Now, however fanciful such an idea may be, we are not together without some warrant for holding it in this instance, in light of other passages of Scripture that bear upon the subject. For example, we are told that Cain was "of that wicked one" (1 John 3:12), a curious Greek phrase which in other contexts implies something more than merely being a servant of Satan; the phrase is a employed when speaking of the Lord's supernatural conception "of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 1:20). If we attach any importance to ancient traditions, we may observe that the legendary giants of antiquity were believed to have had supernatural birth and to have enjoyed a kind of super-natural life. They lived and continued to grow in size as long as they lived, and because they lived for such lengths of time they became giants in size and vastly superior knowledge. If these beings were descendants of one supernaturally born, they may have formed a race of giants and given rise to the tradition which seems to be reflected in Genesis 6:4. These men were not merely giants in size, but were also men of renown. And certainly one gets this feeling of those who are listed as Cain's descendants. While they did not die naturally, they were surely capable of being slain -- as Goliath was. In Matthew 24:39, which speaks of the circumstances of the Flood destroying the old world, we are told, not that they died in the Flood, but merely that they were "taken away".
There are many people who believe that demons are disembodied spirits of humanl-ike creatures, who seek embodiment again because for some reason they have not been "laid to rest" like the spirits of ordinary men. It is a curious fact that demons were notable for their physical strength, and it is also a curious fact that they had for some reason a fear of water. The instance of the Gadarene swine could conceivably be a case where the Lord permitted the evil spirit to enter animal bodies only because He knew that the animals would react to rid themselves of those who possessed them. It is a curious fact, too, that the Lord should have said that when the evil spirit has gone out of a man, he goeth through waterless places [so the Greek] seeking rest
8. Twins: Loomis Havermeyer, Ethnology, Grinn, London, 1929, p.81. pg.9 of 27
(Matthew 12:43). And it is another curious fact that in the day of judgment death and hell will deliver up its dead, but the sea will also deliver up its dead (Revelation 20:13). Perhaps these things are not really related in the way I have implied. On the other hand, such connected clues often lead a reader into new and fruitful lines of fresh inquiry.
Following this, we once more pick up the threads, in Genesis 5:6-32, of the line in which Messiah is to appear. Expectedly we observe that the details of the chronology are again introduced. Of the great ages achieved by these antediluvians we have written at some length elsewhere, (9) but we shall refer briefly to the subject subsequently.
The Table of Nations and the History of the Three Branches of the Human Race
We come now to the tenth chapter of Genesis which, because it does not concern itself specifically with the line of the coming Saviour, does not provide us with a chronology. However, it does provide us with a great deal more than merely an uninteresting list of names. To what extent the whole genealogical tree in this chapter could be so treated, I do not know: but at least in one instance the names given provide us, when the English meanings are extracted, with an unexpected truth. I have in mind verse 15 which reads, "And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn and Heth", the only verse in which the first born is identified as such, and therefore to this extent, a verse which is apt to catch the eye. At any rate, the children of Canaan were to Israel what sin is to the Christian: a constant source of defeat. It is therefore not surprising to find that the name of the firstborn (of sin) is Sidon which means "snare", and the next born Heth which means "terror".
The really exciting thing about this Table of Nations, to my mind, is the clear light it throws upon the relationships between the various nations of the world who can be shown with reasonable assurance to have originated here. I am fully persuaded that this Table does provide us with a comprehensive view of the origins of all nations and not merely those which -- to use a popular phrase of commentators -- were within the purview of the writer. There are many who feel that the history is not intended to include the population of the
9. "Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology,"
Part I in The
Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series,
Zondervan Publishing Company.
pg.10 of 27
Far East or the New World or even many of the present peoples of Africa. This is a subject dealt with at some length in Volume I of the Doorway Papers and will not be argued further here. (10) But what I should like to draw the reader's attention to is one aspect of the genealogy which has also been elaborated at some length in two other papers, (11) but which, to my mind, is so fascinating that it is worth thinking about for a few minutes, even if the extended supporting evidence has to be merely referred to as being elsewhere.
Essentially, the genealogy traces the descendants of Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In a previous passage of Scripture we have been given a cryptic statement about them which in point of fact summarizes to a remarkable degree the subsequent history of these three branches of the human race. This particular statement is found in Genesis 9:25-27 and reads:
And Noah said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
God shall enlarge Japheth and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
There will not be much argument if it is said that Shem and his descendants are here singled out as being appointed to perform a special role among the nations which is religious in character. Of Japheth we are told two things: the first is that he will be enlarged, and the second is that he will take over a position originally appointed to Shem. The enlargement will, I think, be admitted to have occurred in two directions, geographically and intellectually. By this I mean that the children of Japheth, who can be shown to be represented by the Indo-Europeans, have spread over the whole world largely at the expense of those people who were not Indo-European. And even if history should show in the future that some of this expansiveness is to be curtailed, there are still very large areas of the world in which such curtailment is never likely to occur: for example, in Europe, Russia, Australia, India, and of course, the New World. At the same time, there is no doubt that intellectually the children of Japheth have tremendously extended the bounds of man's understanding and mastery of the earth. This is not to say for one moment that the Negro people and the Mongol races have not
10. "A Study of the Names in Genesis 10,"
in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1, The Doorway Papers Series.
pg.11 of 27
11. "The Part Played by Shem, Ham, and Japheth in Subsequent
World History" and "The Technology of Hamitic
I and IV in Noah's
Three Sons, vol.1, The Doorway Papers Series.
made an equally tremendous contribution to modern technology: this is a subject of a very careful study in another Doorway Paper. (12) But this technology, everywhere marked by great ingenuity and creative power as it was, remained at a certain fixed level which it seemed it could not improve until Japheth's descendants became the inheritors of it and made it their own in a unique way by converting technology into science. So much, then, for Shem and Japheth.
We come, therefore, to the third branch of Noah's family, who is here represented by Canaan. It is curious that Canaan, rather than Ham, should be chosen to stand representatively for the third branch of the family. It is curious because the pattern has been broken at this point: Shem is singled out properly as standing for the Semitic people who became the religious leaders of the world, whether in true or false religion. I have in mind, not merely Judaism as representative of the true, but of Islam as a departure from, and the Babylonian cults which provided the groundwork of most other religions of antiquity as a defilement of the truth. All these were contributed out of the family of Shem. And of course, Japheth stood very properly as head of the Indo-European people. The question is, Why is Canaan mentioned rather than Ham?
I think there are two ways of accounting for this. One way is to suppose that something has been dropped from the text, either in error or deliberately, by some Jewish scribe and that this omission comprised the words, "Cursed be Ham, the father of Canaan."
There is some manuscript evidence for this. (13) It would seem logical, since Ham was really the offending individual and since, by the inclusion of his name rather than Canaan's, there would have been a greater consistency in the literary form of the passage in question to read some such emendation of the text. However, there is an interesting reason why Canaan rather than Ham might have been used by Noah in making this pronouncement. It sheds an intriguing light on certain cultural patterns of thought which probably existed in Noah's time, are repeated in the time of David, and appear to have persisted right through into New Testament times.
It is customary in many parts of the world today to attribute to a father the credit or blame of anything which has rendered his son notable. Thus, the Japanese, for example, will not congratulate a son for some commendable act, but will commend the father for having produced a notable son. In our own culture we
12. "The Technology of Hamitic People,"
Part IV in Noah's
Three Sons, vol.1, The Doorway Papers Series.
pg.12 of 27
13. "Why Noah Cursed Canaan Instead of Ham,"
Part III in Noah's
Three Sons, vol.1, The Doorway Papers Series.
sometimes accept this principle, but in a rather more negative way, blaming the parents for the misdeeds of the son without feeling it proper at the same time to credit them with his successes. pg.13 of 27
The circumstance is interestingly reflected in the story of David and Saul, which is to be found in 1 Samuel 17:50-58. In this instance David had performed a deed of great national importance by destroying Goliath. David himself was certainly no stranger to Saul, for he had on many occasions played his harp to quieten the king's distracted spirit. Yet, when Saul saw David go forth against Goliath (verse 55), he said to Abner, the captain of his hosts, "Abner, whose son is this youth?" Although Abner must certainly have known David by name, he replied, "As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell."
This has always seemed a strange circumstance. But the explanation lies in a proper understanding of the social significance of verse 58, where Saul said to David, "Whose son art thou, young man?" And David had answered, "I am the son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite." The key to this is the realization that while Saul recognized David well enough, he wished to honour his father according to the proper custom ‹ but he did not know who his father was. It was Jesse whom the king wished to honour on behalf of David.
In the New Testament there is another interesting illustration of this principle. While it is quite proper that a man may publicly give credit to the father of a worthy son, a woman could not discreetly compliment the father in the same straightforward way for fear of being misunderstood. In such a case, then, she could refer to the mother as sharing in the worthiness of her children rather than the father. This fact is clearly reflected in Luke 11:27, where we read of a woman who, suddenly perceiving the true greatness of the Lord Jesus, cried out in spontaneous admiration, "blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the breasts which Thou hast sucked."
It is apparent from this, therefore, that Noah could not really curse Ham without discrediting himself, and he was thus forced to go one further generation and so by this means to attach the blame according to social custom where it really was ‹ i.e., on Canaan's father, Ham.
One further point needs consideration, and this is the meaning of the phrase, "servant of servants". a phrase which is taken almost universally by commentators to mean "the most servile" of nations. But it requires only a comparatively small knowledge of Hebrew to discover that this reduplicated form ‹ which is found so frequently throughout Scripture and is to be observed again in such phrases as "Lord of Lords", "God of Gods", "King of Kings", "Heaven of Heaven", "Beauty of Beauties", "Song of Songs", "Holy of Holies", and so forth ‹ is
always a term of excellence, not debasement. The expression of debasement in Hebrew is provided for in quite another way -- as for example in Daniel 4:17, where the text speaks of the basest of men and where the Hebrew is of a very different construction. The main objection generally raised against the above interpretation is that such a title, "servant par excellence", would hardly constitute a curse. However, I think that there ought to be some degree of relationship between the seriousness of the offense and the severity of the judgment: and it has never seemed to me altogether justice that the descendants of one man should be condemned to abject servility because of the action of an ancestor who possibly did no more than fail in respect for a father who was accidentally discovered in a situation for which the father was entirely culpable. The behaviour of the father was in a way far worse than the behaviour of the son. On the other hand, history shows that the descendants of the offending party have in fact ministered to the physical well-being of mankind by providing us until comparatively recent times with our basic technology, and they have done this in such a way that we have ultimately benefitted from it far more exceptionally than they have themselves. It is not difficult to demonstrate this historically in virtually every area of technology, and this truth in itself lends strong support to the view that the judgment pronounced by Noah really fell upon the descendants of Ham as a whole and not merely upon that small segment of his family represented by the Canaanites. pg.14 of 27
In short, what we are saying is that this little cameo in Genesis 9 gives us a preview of the course of events throughout history as it unfolded in the three branches of the human race as defined in biblical terms ‹ the Semites, Japhethites (Indo-Europeans), and the coloured races (black, brown, "red", and "yellow") ‹ even to the extent of showing that Japheth would one day and for a season assume the spiritual responsibility originally assigned to Shem, an event foretold in Genesis 9:27, reiterated in Matthew 21:43, and initiated in Acts 18:6.
Now, representatives of these three branches of the human race are constantly cropping up throughout Scripture in a significant way. We shall not elaborate this statement, since this has been done elsewhere, beyond pointing out that Abraham married three wives, one of whom was a Semite, one a Japhethite, and one a Hamite. Three Gospels (the Synoptic Gospels) were written and rather specifically directed to Shem, Ham, and Japheth in that order. In the story of the Nativity three men ‹ at least men bringing three kinds of gifts ‹ came in a body seeking "the young Child". Tradition, supported by some historic evidence, seems to indicate that one was
a Semite, one a Hamite, and one a Japhethite. In the Crucifixion, we may discern the same pattern of events -- a representative of each branch of the family of man directly involved in one way or another in the completion of that judgment, the part played by a representative of Ham being appropriately the actual carrying of the Cross to the scene of execution.
In none of these instances will this discovery be made, this recurrent pattern of events discerned, except one has the clue provided by Genesis 10 and the detailed genealogy it sets forth. Here, then, is another instance where an apparently barren and uninspiring portion of Scripture, rightly used, can be a very storehouse of treasure, for without it we could not know which descendants belong within which branch.
After what was said in introducing this particular section of the paper, it seems appropriate to quote the words of J.J. Blunt: (14)
Genesis 11:10-29: The Probable Cause of the Sudden Reduction in Human Longevity
All that I wish to impress is that in the book of Genesis a hint is not to be wasted but improved: and that he who expects every probable deduction from Scripture to be made out complete in all its parts before he will admit it, expects more than he will in many cases meet with, and will learn much less than he might otherwise learn.
In contrast with Genesis 10, which receives no time structure in Scripture, the next genealogy in Genesis 11:10-29 is once more provided with a precise chronology, because it is concerned with the line of the Promised Seed.
We shall examine two aspects of this genealogy. The first has to do with the light it throws upon the gradual decline in life span following the Flood, and the second has to do with the immediate relatives of Abraham as set forth from verses 26 to 29.
Consider, then, the decline in life span. Before the Flood, men normally were living to be almost a thousand years old. With the rise of that spirit of skepticism regarding Scripture which began during the last century, it became increasingly difficult for anyone who accepted these great ages to reconcile his faith with current scientific opinion about the potential of human life. While it was true, as we have shown in another Paper, (15)
14. Blunt, J. J., Undesigned Coincidences in the Old and New Testament, Murray, London, 1869, p.8.
pg.15 of 27
15. "Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology,"
Part I in TheVirgin
Birth and The Incarnation, vol.5, The Doorway Papers Series.
that records of longevity amounting to 150 to 200 years were acknowledged to have some basis in fact, the idea of a man living to be a thousand years of age was considered quite absurd. But the climate of opinion has changed in this respect: while we do not find too many biologists willing to admit the possibility of any individual having reached any such age in the past, they are willing to admit the possibility of man surviving to such an age sometime in the future.
It appears that after the Flood, the life span of man was drastically reduced until, within a dozen generations, the mean had fallen to about 120 years. This decline in expected life span, when examined carefully, proves to be very revealing and to have a certain character about it which greatly strengthens one's confidence in the figures that are provided. While the population of the world was very small immediately after the appearance of Adam and Eve, and while, therefore, inbreeding was necessary, this apparently had no deleterious effect upon the population as a whole, if we are to judge by the ages to which people survived. When the Flood had once again reduced the world's population to only eight souls, close inbreeding naturally recurred: but this time manifestly the effect was deleterious in terms of life expectancy. Why should this be so?
I think it safe to say that the reason for avoiding inbreeding lies in the fact that human beings, individually, are the carriers in their germ cells of genes which are mutant, i.e., have deteriorated. Many of these deteriorated genes are harmless enough when they are crossed in the mating partner with other genes which are not mutant. But if a mother and father produce several children, these children are likely to share between them a large number of the same mutant genes, so that the chances of them becoming united should they marry one another is very considerable. In small towns or villages in some parts of the Old World where much inbreeding has taken place, there is a high incidence of deaf-mutism and other such evidences of reduced viability. (16) Willard Hollander made the following observation in an article on this aspect of the problem: (17)
The quickest way to expose lethal traits is by intensive and continued in-breeding. In man such matings are generally illegal or taboo; the experience of the race indicates bad results. But brother-sister matings in animals, and self-pollination in plants are a standard laboratory practice. The outcome is generally detrimental unless it has
16. Deaf-mutism: Ballinger, "Diseases of the Nose, Throat and Ear," p.1025, and E. B. Dench, "Diseases in the Ear," in the chapter entitled "Deaf Mutism," in Salous, Analytical Cyclopedia of Practical Medicine, p.450 pg.16 of 27
17. Hollander, Willard, "Lethal Heredity," Scientific American, July, 1952, p.60.
pg.17 of 27
become customary in the species. When in-breeding begins, the heredity seems to be breaking down, all sorts of defects and weaknesses appear. The average life span decreases. . . . But if the family can weather the first few generations (five with plants, and ten with animals) a levelling off sets in. Members of the family may show defects and weaknesses but not new ones, and there is a striking uniformity. The type has become fixed.
It will be noted here that in the case of animals, ten generations of inbreeding are required to maximize the effect, after which the process slows up significantly and finally levels off. In other words, closely related parents normally tend to produce less viable children. The most important single factor in the question of longevity is believed by some authorities [Maynard Smith, (18) for example] to be the degree of relatedness of the parents. An analysis of the data given in this genealogy reveals some interesting facts. Chronological information is provided whereby one may establish the temporal ordering of some fifteen generations in the line of Shem for whom the ages at time of death are given. Curiously enough, beyond this it is not possible to determine except by inference the total life span of an individual, not even of such great figures as Solomon or David. It seems as though the actual life spans of representative individuals in this initial period are given for a specific reason, after which no purpose would have been served by their inclusion ‹ except to satisfy idle curiosity, of course.
It is important to note that what is not given thereafter is the total life span. What is provided in the line of the Promised Seed is the age of the father at the birth of his son. It is this information which makes a chronology possible. But the omission of a total life span once we leave this genealogy is, I think, significant for the following reasons. There is no reason to suppose that Shem's wife was closely related to him by blood, for the population at the beginning of the Flood may have been quite extensive. And therefore their son, Arphaxad, was not a child of inbreeding in any significant sense. But from then on, inbreeding would become necessary, for Arphaxad must have married either a sister or a first cousin. If we then plot the successive life spans of Arphaxad's descendants (representing the first generation of inbreeding) down to Jacob (the tenth generation) ‹ and if we impose on these plots a smooth curve as is shown in Figure 18 above (the solid line) ‹ we see that the life span has fallen drastically from the pre-Flood average of over 900 years (excluding Enoch) to 147 years. From this time on,
18. Smith, Maynard, "Biology of Aging," Nature, vol.178, November 24, 1956, p.1154. pg.18 of 27
taking all those individuals whose total life span is recorded in Scripture -- namely, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses, Aaron, and Joshua -- we have an average of life of only 123 years.
There has always been some question about the precise meaning of Genesis 6:3, which some people take to mean that hereafter the Lord would plead with men to repent before the judgment of the Flood was imposed for a period of only 120 years, while others take it to mean that God would only leave man's spirit within him (i.e., leave him alive) for 120 years before He would call it home to Himself. If the second interpretation is the correct one -- and evidence in favour of this will be found in another Doorway Paper (19) -- it implies that God saw that it would no longer be safe for man to live to the great age that he did formerly, since his cumulative experience had led him into a degree of wickedness which could in part be avoided by shortening his life. At any rate, it seems highly significant to me that the ages of the post-Flood patriarchs are recorded just long enough to show that man had by this time reached the appropriate life span for the new age. And perhaps it is not without significance that Moses and Aaron almost perfectly fulfilled their time, living to be 120 and 119 years respectively. After this, only Joshua's age at death is given, as 110 years. In the meantime, we see that the modern discovery mentioned earlier -- that in animals the effect of inbreeding is observed progressively for about ten generations -- lends strong support for the veracity of the numbers given in this genealogy and the circumstances which accompanied their decline. For, if inbreeding is the most likely cause of this decline, then a real Flood reducing the world's population to eight people is the most likely cause for this inbreeding.
The curve is a normal one and appears undoubtedly to represent an historical sequence. This is all the more remarkable, considering the antiquity of the data from which it has been derived, and it supports the genuineness of the record and tends to establish three facts:
1. The Flood did reduce the population of the world to a single family of small size, leaving no other people for intermarriage;
2. The original life span was at first six-hundred years or more;
19. "Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing
on Chronology," Part
I in The Virgin Birth and The Incarnation, vol.5, The Doorway
pg.19 of 27
3. The record of names and ages is not a literary invention, but factual, with no extensive gaps -- in fact, with no gaps at all in all probability, if the figure of ten generations has any genetic significance for an inbreeding population of mammals.
pg.20 of 27
Furthermore, several doubles of names and ages are given. They appear at significant points. At the end of the ten generations, Jacob is preceded by Isaac and Ishmael, both of the same generation, who nicely straddle the curve to even it out: and immediately after Jacob two more are given whose average confirms the line.
What is even more surprising, as we have already noted, is that once the life span had fallen to the appointed level, the recording of ages at death ceases. Job, who must surely be placed back somewhere in Abraham's time, is only said to have exceeded 140 years. (Job 42:16) His age, therefore, being of the proper order for Abraham's time was not being recorded precisely, because he did not fall in the line to the Promised Seed.
From Adam to Noah this steady deterioration in the viability of man is absent. The reason is not difficult to find. Adam and Eve were perfect as created, and therefore without defective or mutant genes. They would perhaps pass on to their children some defective genes when children were born later in their lives by which time such genes might have appeared. With each succeeding generation, more and more defective genes would arise in the population, but at the same time the population itself would be growing. This growth in population made it less and less likely that close blood relations (who shared more of the same defective genes) would marry. Thus the chance of defective genes at the same locus on the chromosome (i.e., of the same kind), being "married" together and appearing in the children with pronounced effect would be smaller and smaller as time went on. Only when the Flood reduced the population, and only because this reduction took place when the eight survivors had already accumulated within themselves a fair percentage of defective genes, did close inbreeding have the effect of greatly reducing viability. It is also quite possible that the atmosphere itself prior to the Flood may have been such that the mere process of living did not at that time lead to the steady accumulation of defective genes to anything like the same extent ‹ if at all.
Genesis 11:25-29: Abraham Marries His Sister
The second feature of this genealogy that we want to touch upon briefly has to do with Abram and Sarai (Genesis 11:25-29). In another Doorway Paper, (20) we have dealt at some length with certain important events in Abram's life. These show why Abram felt that, if he claimed Sarai as his sister, he might expect not only to be quite safe at Pharaoh's court where he knew Sarai's beauty would arouse envy, but even that he would be specially favoured. His surmise proved to be quite correct. His statement regarding his relationship to Sarai was ultimately challenged, of course. When Abraham was accused of lying, he excused himself with a reply which can best be described as a "white lie". "Indeed, she is my sister", he said. "She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother." What did he mean by this?
The background of this undoubted truth is a little complicated, but worth taking time to examine because it only goes to show that there is no part of this early record, including the genealogies, which cannot be taken literally and studied with profit. In view of what we now know about family relationships both in Abraham's time and even quite recently among non-Indo-European people, his reply states exactly the position in which Abraham stood with respect to Sarai. We need only to study carefully two sets of genealogical information provided in Scripture, the present passage and a passage in Genesis 24. In Genesis 11:25-29 we have: "And Nahor lived after he begat Terah a hundred and nineteen years and begat sons and daughters. And Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. These are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran: and Haran begat Lot." This can be set forth schematically as follows:
20. "Some Remarkable Biblical Confirmations From
Archaeology", Part IV
in Hidden Things of God's Revelation, vol.7 in The Doorway Papers
pg.21 of 27
Up to this point, the sons and daughters of Nahor (Terah's brothers and sisters) are not named, but information given in the following verses provides very good grounds for believing that one of these was named Haran. We shall examine this shortly, but for clarity we now modify the above genealogy as follows:
It will be noted that Terah's brother Haran had two daughters, Iscah and Milcah. The former of these, Iscah, was Sarah by another name. This identification is very widely agreed upon, was accepted in Jewish commentaries, and is assumed by Josephus in his Antiquities (Book 1, vi, 5). pg.22 of 27
It may appear to the reader that large liberties are being taken with the text, but this is not really the case. Like many others, the Jewish people commonly accepted the principle that if a man's brother married a woman and subsequently died before the children were married, he took his brother's place and became in effect both her husband and the father of her children. This is the basis of the Pharisees' hypothetical question in Luke 20:27,28. If, therefore, Terah's brother Haran had died, the duty of becoming in effect the father of Iscah and Milcah would automatically devolve upon Terah. Terah's new children would then become sisters to his own sons; and when Abraham and Nahor subsequently married Iscah and Milcah, they would, socially, be marrying their own "sisters", though in fact they were not ‹ the girls being cousins. However, they were a special kind of cousin, namely, "parallel cousins". The term has been invented by anthropologists to signify the following relationship: my father's brother's children are parallel cousins; by contrast, my mother's brother's children are cross cousins. In a Semitic society, the ideal wife for a man was one of his parallel cousins. Furthermore, where several sons existed and several female parallel cousins, it was assumed that the oldest son would marry the oldest girl and so on down the line. The expected wife for Abraham would, therefore, be his uncle Haran's daughter of comparable age.
Now this seems a little complex, but it is particularly striking in this instance, because even today among many Arab tribes, in their love stories, the man looks upon his paternal uncle's daughter as his princess. This is the term by which he refers to her in his poetic moments. In Hebrew, the word for "prince" is Sar, the feminine form of which is Sara, meaning "princess". The terminal possessive pronoun "my" is a long i so that Sara becomes Sarai, meaning '"my princess". This is how Abraham referred to his beautiful wife. Her name was Iscah, but he called her "My Princess," or "Sarai."
Thus Terah's brother Haran, who predeceased him, is identified in verse 29 as the father of Milcah and Iscah, whereas Terah's son Haran, who also predeceased him, is referred to as the father of Lot (verse 31). Because his son Haran (no doubt named after his uncle) died prematurely, Lot became in a special sense the charge of Terah and subsequently of Abraham.
It is interesting to find that the American Indians adopted virtually the same forms of social responsibility. According to Lowie (21) the Seneca reckons the father's brothers as "fathers," exactly as Abraham and Nahor, by reckoning Haran as a father, would look upon Iscah and Milcah as sisters. The same is true in Hawaii, where a single word exists for "father" and "father's brother", the two individuals being considered as standing in the same relationship simply because if the one dies, the other assumes his position.
So when Terah's brother died, Terah took his brother's wife and became the father of his brother's children. Because he was also the father of Abraham, this allowed Abraham to say with perfect truth (though with ulterior motives) that Sarai, his princess, was indeed his sister, being the daughter of his own father ‹ but not the daughter of his own mother. There is, therefore, not the slightest element of invention here insofar as the record of Genesis goes. Genesis 11 gives us sufficient information, if carefully read, to see that there is nothing fanciful about the circumstance which so compounded Abraham's relationship with his own wife.
Only one further observation seems appropriate here. And this is that every brother in a society of this nature is given a particular responsibility for the sister who is next to him in age. He bears a special protective relationship toward her and must approve her husband. He will, moreover, be called upon to chastise her children if necessary ‹ while the husband will not be allowed to do so. It was thus important to curry the
21. Lowie, Robert, Social Organization, Rhinehart, New York, 1948, p.62. pg.23 of 27
favour of any brother who was manifestly the protector of the sister whose hand might be sought in marriage, in which position Abraham must have appeared in the eyes of Pharaoh. This is why Abraham felt sure of his own safety, and indeed of being favoured by Pharaoh or anyone else who might be in a position to desire Sarai. And it worked!
This last observation is important on account of a peculiarity of the brief genealogy which is given subsequently for Rebekah in Genesis 24:15-24. The circumstances surrounding the search for a wife for Abraham's son, Isaac, are particularly beautiful; the literary form in which the story is cast in Scripture is surely the equal of any such love story in the English language. The old and faithful, though nameless servant, is sent by his master Abraham to find a wife for Isaac from the land from which Abraham himself had come to this present place. So the servant sets forth with camels and gifts, and he comes to the city of Nahor, that Nahor whose relationship to Abraham was established in Genesis 11. In due time, he comes to a well outside the city and there he decides to wait, asking the Lord to send out to him the maid of his choice and will reassure him by this sign, namely, that she will offer, not merely to allow him something to drink, but to draw water also for his camels.
It would be a pity to tell the story in any other words than those of the original, but we may note that before the faithful old servant has finished praying (verse 15), a girl comes to the well, very fair to look at. Her name is Rebekah, "born of Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother."
The genealogy which we have already reported twice is now repeated a third time in order to bring out a striking fact about the relationship in time between Isaac and Rebekah. The fact is that Isaac was born so late in the lifetime of Abraham and Sarah that he could not appropriately have found a wife in what would strictly have been his own generation, namely, the generation in which Bethuel was born. Had he married a sister, let us say, of Bethuel's, he would have been marrying a woman perhaps twenty or twenty-five years older than himself. Now, the interesting thing about Bethuel is that, although he was the father of the girl whose hand was sought in marriage, it is very evident from the record ‹ as Blunt ( 22) was perhaps the first to underscore ‹ that he is virtually ignored in all the transactions which surrounded the betrothal of Rebekah. It is Rebekah's mother and Rebekah's brother, Laban, who are the chief actors in the story. When the servant first speaks with
22. BIunt, J.J., ref.14, p.31. pg.24 of 27
Rebekah, he asks her, "Whose daughter art thou? Tell me, I pray thee, is there room in thy father's house to lodge in?" She answers that she is the daughter of Bethuel and that there is room. But when the servant thereupon declares who he is and whence he has come, we are told that "the damsel ran and told them of her mother's house these things also." This is not the normal thing for her to do, as is evident by Rachel's behaviour when, later, Jacob introduces himself (Genesis 29:12) under somewhat similar circumstances. pg.25 of 27
This might all be accidental, except for the fact that we are then told that Rebekah has a brother whose name is Laban and that "Laban ran out unto the man and invited him in."
This strange circumstance in which Laban acts as host instead of the father of the household has led some people to propose that perhaps Bethuel is dead at this time. But this is clearly ruled out by the subsequent statement (Genesis 24:50) to the effect that Laban and Bethuel together answer the servant's inquiries once he is in the house. So everything is agreed upon, and Rebekah is to go with the servant, who then makes the presentation of gifts. But these gifts are now presented, not to the father but to Rebekah's brother, Laban, and to her mother (Genesis 24:53). At the same time, it is suggested she should stay a few days before leaving: and once more the suggestion comes, not from Bethuel, but from her brother and her mother.
Some encyclopedias propose that Bethuel may have been sickly or even imbecile, able to assent to what is proposed but not to make decisions nor to be a sensible recipient of valuable gifts. Personally I think there is another possible reason for his taking such an insignificant part in all these proceedings which in no way casts doubt upon his character but results from the fact, already noted before, that in oriental society, as among many native people today, there normally exists a special relationship between each brother in a family and the sister nearest to him in age. There are several reasons accounting for this, the chief of which is probably that, as a guarantee of good faith in marriage, it was always customary for the groom to provide a substantial gift for his bride. This gift is known variously as the "bride price" or lobolo; among Europeans, to whom the idea seems strange, it has been somewhat misunderstood as though the husband-to-be was "purchasing" his wife, thereby making her virtually a chattel. It is a purchase in one sense -- in that the more of outstanding the status of the groom, the more necessary he feels it to demonstrate how worthy he feels the girl is to share his life. The actual gift itself has a special importance to the "particular" brother, because it in turn provides him with the means of performing the same office toward the maid of his choice. It all becomes a kind of status symbol which bounces back and forth between relatives, no one in the end being any richer, but each family feeling that they have honoured the bride. pg.26 of 27
In the present context, because Isaac was born at least one generation late, Bethuel himself could not have had a sister of the appropriate age to be Isaac's wife and therefore he did not receive the gifts. Because the two families were closely related, it is virtually certain that Bethuel would know very well that Isaac was a special child of his parent's old age. Even if he didn't know this already, the faithful old servant would surely explain it all while he was in the house: and since he was not looking for one of Bethuel's sisters and did not wish to cause embarrassment to them, he would almost in certainty avoid Bethuel's household. Thus the two people chiefly interested in the proposal being made would be Rebekah's mother (who would be very anxious to see her daughter so well married) and this Laban (who would be very happy to see the valuable gifts exchanging hands).
Now, part of this cultural pattern of behaviour led to an accepted practice which extended the interests of the brother beyond his sister to his sister's children. This is commonly found among non-Indo-European people. It is the maternal uncle who rewards the children when they are to be rewarded and punishes them when
they are to be punished. Thus Laban, in due time, bore a special relationship to Rebekah's children, a fact beautifully reflected in the subsequent history of Jacob. When Jacob fled from the wrath of Esau, he found refuge by going to Haran and searching out his maternal uncle, Laban. It is true that he asked, "Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?" (Genesis 29:5), rather than "Laban the son of Bethuel"; but this may not mean very much in the light of the fact that Nahor, as the older man, would almost certainly be widely known, and the term "son" is quite often used merely to mean "descendant of".
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
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These observations illuminating the story unexpectedly reinforce its veracity in little circumstantial details. The fact that Isaac was born one generation late and that therefore Bethuel plays an insignificant role in his daughter's marriage, and the fact that Jacob subsequently takes refuge with Laban, who promptly takes advantage of him ‹ all this is of a piece. It ultimately bears witness to the reality of the remarkable circumstances surrounding Isaac's birth. Only some such exceptional circumstance could begin to explain why the father of the bride played such an insignificant role. And only because sufficient detail is given to allow us to reconstruct the genealogy do we have this insight into this wonderful story.