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Genealogy, or Geography?
There has long been a tendency among the people of our race to draw their allegiances along geographical lines, often to the detriment of the more natural genetic allegiances. When we move into a land, and multiply and spread ourselves throughout it, we tend to adopt regional names for ourselves. Thus we have Norsemen and Franks, Englishmen and Germans, Yankees and Rednecks, and Buckeyes and Tarheels, and yet they all came from the same place. After years of separation, we then have situations where the aliens in a land, eventually accepted to one degree or another, and for one reason or another, are esteemed to be closer in relationship to us than our own cousins from other lands. And so a crowd of Americans – in spite of their own English descent – may be seen cheering on a negro against an English boxer in a game, simply because the negro is wearing an American insignia. That is just one modern example. More dreadfully, a tribe of Benjamintes would go to war against the surrounding related tribes to defend crimes perpetrated by men of dubious background, and for that the entire tribe was at one time reduced to merely a few hundred, nearly being decimated entirely.
That is how old this phenomenon truly is: as old as the Book of Judges in the Bible, and probably much older than that. In Judges Chapters 19 and 20, we see related an account where the entire tribe of Benjamin stood up to defend a town, Gibeah, which would not turn some murderers and rapists over to judgement. The criminals were called sons of Belial from the beginning of the account, and it is evident that they were not Benjaminites. The word Belial, as can be proven from an examination of the Hebrew language, refers to the state of being mixed. In 1 Samuel 10:26, much later, we see that these same children of Belial were still in this same town, and they were still causing problems for the Israelites!
In 1 Samuel 17:12 we see David, the future King of Israel, identified as an “Ephrathite of Beth-lehem-Judah”. And even several generations before his time, his ancestors Elimelech and Naomi are also called “Ephrathites of Bethlehem-Judah”. That is because Ephrath, as we learn from Genesis 35:19 and 48:7, was the older name for Bethlehem, as many of the Canaanite towns were renamed when the Israelites took Canaan. So we see a geographical distinction rather than a tribal one, although David is identified elsewhere as being of the tribe of Judah. This means of identifying Israelites, and other peoples, happens often in Scripture. However people reading their Bibles today tend to overlook it, and that leads us into many false conclusions when interpreting scripture.
However to see that we have done this same thing in other periods of history, before moving forward, let us take a diversion, and examine the Saxon settlement of Britain as related to us from the pages of the ecclesiastical historian Bede, someone who lived rather close to that time.
The following is adapted from my paper, Classical Records and German Origins, Part Six: Who are the English?: In his Ecclesiastical History [E.H.] Bede discusses a certain English preacher, Egbert, who made missionary journeys to the continent, and Bede says that he “... by preaching of the Gospel to bring the word of God to some of those nations which had not yet heard it: and many such countries [Latin nations, WRF] he knew to be in Germany, of whom the English [Angli] or Saxons, which now inhabit Britain, are well known to have had beginning and offspring; whereby it is that to this day they are corruptly called Garmans by the Britons that are their neighbours. Such now are the Frisons, Rugins, Danes, Huns, Old Saxons, and Boructuars ...” (E.H. 5.9), where it is evident that not only does Bede count the Angles themselves as Saxons, stating “English or Saxons”, but he refers to the Saxons of Germany as “Old Saxons”. Also, the Britons knew these new inhabitants of Britain as Germans, but called them “Garmans” instead. Bede’s Saxons must be those same tribes who, along with the Angli, Tacitus had described as Suebi, and while a district in Germany which was once inhabited by Angli evidently remained vacant for some time after their move to Britain, as Bede has told us, indeed not all of the Angli on the continent moved to Britain, as may be seen from the writings of Procopius and others. That Saxon is a general name for a group of German tribes is also evident with Bede, since while he calls them by this name generally, aside from the Angli he also refers to other individual tribes among those who settled in Britain, namely the Gewissas or West Saxons (E.H. 2.5; 3.7; 4.15), the Grywas (E.H. 3.20; 4.6, 19), the Hwiccas (E.H. 2.2; 4.13, 23), and the Meanwaras (E.H. 4.13).
While Bede gives us the specific names of Saxon German tribes settled in England, and relates that these settled among the Britons already inhabiting the island, we see that all of these quickly forgot any former tribal distinction, and all rather quickly became known as Wessexmen, Sussexmen, Essexmen, or Northumbrians. After a few centuries, not even the Britons left among them would be distinguished, and while the full story is somewhat more complicated, eventually all would become known as both Englishmen and Britons, and they would also distinguish themselves from their own Saxon brethren who remained behind in Germany. Much later on, they would even deny their German brethren in favor of another alien: the “British” jew.
Except for the name of the dominant tribe, the Angles, the names of the Gewissas, the Grywas, the Hwiccas and the Meanwaras were quickly and rather easily lost to history, and geographical names came to dominate the vernacular. So it is also with the Bible, when we examine the Judges period and into the time of David and Solomon. David, a man of great favor in the eyes of Yahweh our God, wrote in the 139th Psalm: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
Yet if David hated the enemies of God with a “perfect hatred”, how may we perceive the enemies of God among the mighty chieftains of David's own army? That is right, perusing 2 Samuel Chapter 23 and 1 Chronicles Chapter 12, where we see a list of these men, thirty-seven in number, we see names such as Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, Benaiah the Pirathonite (Pirathon was “in the mount of the Amalekites”), Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash, Abialbon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, Hezrai the Carmelite and Naharai the Beerothite. Nearly all of these labels are clearly geographical, of places that can easily be detected as dwelling-places of the Israelites, while some of them are also early Israelite patronyms which also later became geographical identifications.
However in this list we also see names such as these: Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite (a non-Israelite kingdom east of the Jordan) Paarai the Arbite (Arbite is said by Strong's to mean “a native of Arabia”), Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah (a Syrian kingdom), Zelek the Ammonite, Ismaiah the Gibeonite (the original Gibeonites were Canaanites). Now the texts never tell us that any of these men are non-Israelites, but there are many interpreters who make such conjectures. Yet if David hated the enemies of Yahweh, how could he have embraced the enemies of Yahweh? Was David a hypocrite, or are today's commentators simply wrong?
We also see Jashobeam, labeled as an Hachmonite (or Tachmonite), meaning sagacious or skillful. In that same manner we can see that the appellation Hittite (Strong's # 2850) where Uriah the Hittite is mentioned can mean terrible one, which is the original meaning of the root word (Strong's # 2845) and a very fitting name for a great warrior.
Deuteronomy 23:3 states thus: “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever”. Therefore we must either accept the names of David's mighty chieftains as geographical and descriptive names, or we insinuate that David is a liar. And furthermore there is the story of David's own grandmother, Ruth. Was Ruth a Moabite? Certainly not! For David was a man after Yahweh's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), and racial Moabites were excluded without exception from the congregation
There is much internal evidence in the Book of Ruth that the woman was actually an Israelite – one of many – who dwelt in the land of Moab, as that portion of the ancient Moabite land which Israel took from the Amorites was still called hundreds of years after the Israelites came to inhabit it (see Judges 11:26). The words “God” and “gods” in Ruth 1:15-16 could just as well have been translated “judge” and “judges”, valid translations of the Hebrew words el (Strong's # 410) and elohim (# 430). Boaz is presented as a pious man, and not a law-breaker, and the unnamed man who was even closer in kinship to Naomi than Boaz, who is publicly disgraced in Ruth chapter 4 because he was unable to redeem Naomi, may have avoided such disgrace simply by citing the law found at Deuteronomy 23:3! Ruth was redeemed by Boaz through the law of kinsman redemption which only binds Israelites, and is not at all applicable to non-Israelites. This act was a legal act performed before the elders of the city, and it cannot be inferred that a racial alien could have been accepted in such manner without mention.
In like manner, so also Naamah the “Ammonitess” mother of Rehoboam, a wife of Solomon, must have also been an Israelitess from the land of Ammon, which Israel also came to destroy and to inhabit in the days of David (see 2 Samuel Chapter 12). Seeing that “Ammonitess” is certainly also a geographical term by this time, if one insists that it is a racial term only, then one is also by necessity accusing Yahweh of hypocrisy too, since there is no getting around Deuteronomy 23:3, even for Yahweh Himself! And since Christ descended from Rehoboam, that would only compound the problem further! But all of these conflicts disappear once it is realized that these terms were often used in a geographical sense, and not genealogical one, as it is fully evident here that they were often used in that manner Scripture.
Interpreting the Scriptures, the Christian must ask himself whether he believes that Yahweh God is supreme, or if his own modern thinking is supreme; whether he is even a Christian, or if he is really a humanist! God assures us in His word that He does not ever change (i.e. Malachi 3:6), that He is the same throughout the ages (Psalm 102:26-27), and that His word never fails. Christ assures us that the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Once we realize that it is God who is supreme, we must ourselves be very wary of taking any of His words as we take our own: too lightly. Yahweh said that an Ammonite and a Moabite would never enter the congregation forever, and He meant just that!