Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/January 1893/Marriage and Kinship Among the Ancient Israelites

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 42 January 1893  (1893) 
Marriage and Kinship Among the Ancient Israelites
By Alfred Burdon Ellis

MARRIAGE AND KINSHIP AMONG THE ANCIENT ISRAELITES.
By Colonel A. B. ELLIS.

IN the article on Polyandry which appeared in The Popular Science Monthly for October, 1891, we had occasion to refer to the custom of raising up seed to a deceased elder brother as indicating that the Israelites had formerly practiced that form of polyandry in which the associated husbands are brothers; and in the present article we propose to pursue the investigation there hinted at, and to inquire to what extent the Israelites conformed to what appear to have been the normal phases of evolution of marriage and kinship in early times. To clear the ground, it will be convenient to commence by briefly stating what those phases were:

1. There was a primitive condition of which we can ascertain with certainty little or nothing; but, from the analogy of the lower animals, we infer that unions were not for life, and that couples paired for as long as it suited them, or until the child was weaned.

2. This condition was upset by the practice of female infanticide, which caused men to become much more numerous than women.

3. The inevitable result of this disproportion was either that the men of a community held their women in common, or that several men attached themselves to each woman, forming unions of the type of the ruder polyandry.

4. At the same time men strove to add to the number of their women by seizing and carrying off the women of other communities. Marriage by capture commenced.

5. As a result of a community in women, or of polyandry, and also as a result of marriage by capture, the paternity of children would always be uncertain. Hence, fathers being unknown, there could be no kinship in the male line. Kinship and descent would be traced solely through mothers, as we find is the case among nearly all the lower races at the present day.

We need go no further than this, though many other changes ensue; and we will now see what traces may be found in the books of the Old Testament, to indicate that the Israelites passed through these several phases.

First, as to marriage by capture. We read in Genesis, xxxi, 26, that when Jacob had secretly made off with his wives and flocks, Laban upon overtaking him asked, "What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters as captives taken with the sword?" From which it is evident that the practice of carrying off women by force was not unknown. In Numbers, xxxi, we read that the Israelites, having defeated Midian, saved thirty-two thousand virgins as booty. They had at first spared all the women, as spoil, which shows that it was quite usual to do so; but on this occasion Moses induced them to murder all those who were not virgins. In Deuteronomy, xx, 14, women are classed as spoil; and in Deuteronomy, xxi, 11, 14, are the regulations to be observed in taking to wife a woman captured in war. In the song of praise attributed to Deborah and Barak, when exulting over the defeat and death of Sisera, we find (Judges, v, 30): "Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey: to every man a damsel or two?" These are all cases of capture de facto, and they show conclusively that the Israelites captured women and took them to wife. That it was also a common practice among the neighboring nations we infer from I Samuel, xxx, 5, where David's two wives are carried off by a raiding party of Amalekites.

But, besides hostile captives, the Israelites had also marriage with the form of capture — an important point, for it shows that marriage by capture had formerly been the normal mode of obtaining a wife, and that the custom of ages had caused a semblance of violence to be considered necessary, even in marriages made by arrangement. The Old Testament phrase is to "take" a wife, as for example Genesis, xxiv, 67: "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife"; Genesis, xxxviii, 2: "And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her"; Numbers, xii, 1: "For he (Moses) had taken an Ethiopian woman"; Judges, xiv, 7, 8: "And he went down and talked with the woman, and she pleased Samson well, and after a time he returned to take her"; Tobit, vii, 12, 13: "Then take her from henceforth according to the manner"; and "Behold, take her after the law of Moses." This "taking" was a form of capture. Dr. Smith, in his Dictionary of the Bible, article "Marriage," remarks that "taking a wife" seems to be literally meant, and that the "taking" was the chief ceremony in the constitution of a marriage. In the case of Samson we read: "They brought thirty companions to be with him" — that is to say, they brought thirty men to represent the party of the bridegroom in the form of capture, the bringing being necessary in Samson's case because he had none of his own people with him. One of these thirty acted as leader, or best man, and Samson's wife was afterward given to him (verse 20) — a proceeding quite in accordance with existing practices among some people who marry with the form of capture.

We find a clear case of marriage with the form of capture in connection with the civil war with the tribe of Benjamin. The remnant of Benjamin, six hundred in number, who survived the war, were all men. There were no women left, and as the other tribes had sworn that they would not give their daughters in marriage to the men of Benjamin, there was a prospect of that tribe becoming extinct. In this dilemma the tribes attacked Jabesh-gilead and captured four hundred women, who were handed over to Benjamin; but, as this left two hundred men still unprovided for, they contrived the following plan: A yearly festival was held at Shiloh, at which it was customary for the girls to come out and dance. So they instructed the men of Benjamin to lie hid in the vineyards, and when the girls appeared each man was to seize one and carry her off. So it was done, and in this way the tribes kept the letter of their oath and evaded the spirit. They did not give their daughters to Benjamin, but they connived at their being carried off with the form of capture (Judges, xxi).

The Israelites thus had both marriage by capture de facto and marriage with the form of capture, and in the former article we showed that they had once been polyandrous. Now we know that marriage by capture is in its origin due to a scarcity of women, though it is persevered in through custom after that scarcity has ceased to exist. Likewise, polyandry, the marriage of one woman to two or more men, only exists where women are less numerous than men. Consequently, since the Israelites had both these practices, there must have been a period in their history when women were fewer in number than men, and experience and observation all over the world have shown that such a disparity can only be brought about by female infanticide. We conclude, therefore, that the Israelites passed through our second, third, and fourth phases, and will now proceed to see if they also passed through the fifth.

From the fact of their having been polyandrous and having married by capture, we should infer that they must, at the period when these were the normal types of marriage, have had a system of kinship through females. If there were two or more husbands to one wife, the father of a given child could not be determined; and if women were carried off by force from neighboring tribes and then married, there could be no certainty that the child borne by a captive woman was the offspring of one of the men in whose keeping she happened to be at the time of its birth. Fathers being thus uncertain, if not absolutely unknown, the paternal tie could not be taken into account. Blood-relationship would be traced through the mother, and this system would, through custom, prevail long after the conditions which gave rise to it had come to an end. Independently, then, of any evidence that may be forthcoming, we should conclude that the Israelites must at one time have had a system of kinship through mothers.

We now come to another point. There is no known case of a nation having marriage by capture and marriage with the form of capture without being exogamous; and since the Israelites had both these customs we infer that, unless they were altogether exceptional, they were also exogamous — that is, they prohibited marriage between those who were recognized as being related by blood. When we examine in detail all the marriages mentioned in which it is possible to trace the pedigrees both of husband and wife, we find that there is not one that would violate the principle of exogamy if descent were in the female line, while there are a great number which could not possibly occur if the Israelites were exogamous and traced descent in the male line. For instance, Nahor, Abraham's brother, married the daughter of his brother Haran (Genesis, xi, 29) — his niece, if descent were in the male line, but no relation if in the female. Abraham married his father's daughter (Genesis, xx, 12) — his half-sister if kinship was traced through males, but if through females, no relation. Marriages of this kind, it may be mentioned, are peculiar to the system of female descents and could not occur under any other system of kinship, if marriages between blood-relations were forbidden. We see in this case, too, what a point Abraham made of explaining that his wife was not the daughter of his mother, but only of his father. Isaac married Rebekah, granddaughter of his paternal uncle Nahor, who had himself married his brother's daughter (Genesis, xxiv, 15). Isaac and Rebekah would not be blood-relations if descent were in the female line. Esau married the daughter of Ishmael, his uncle on the father's side (Genesis, xxviii, 9; xxxvi, 3). Jacob married the daughters of his maternal uncle, Laban (Genesis, xxix, 10, 16). With descent in the female line Laban would be Jacob's blood-relation, but his daughters would not, since they would be of the kin of their mother. Laban and Jacob were both great-grandsons of Terah, and the following "tree" will show to what an extent, if kinship was reckoned in the male line, the descendants of Terah knowingly intermarried in the same blood.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Terah
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Abraham
(mar. Sarah).
 
 
 
 
Nahor
(mar. Milcah).
 
 
 
Haran. Sarah
(mar. Abraham).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ishmael.
 
 
 
Isaac
(mar. Rebekah).
 
Bethuel.
 
 
 
Milcah
(mar. Nahor).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mahalath
(mar. Esau).
 
Esau
(mar. Mahalath).
 
Jacob
(mar. Leah
and Rachel).
 
Rebekah
(mar. Isaac).
 
Laban
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Leah
 
Rachel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(mar. Jacob).
 

That the Israelites married relations on the father's side is thus indisputable, but if they were exogamous, as we must believe them to have been, since they had marriage by capture and marriage with the form of capture, marriages between blood-relations were forbidden; hence we must conclude that relations on the father's side were not accounted blood-relations, and that kinship and descent were traced through mothers exclusively.

All the above cases, and that of Amram, father of Moses, who married his father's sister (Exodus, vi, 20), are anterior to the Levitical law, which forbade marriage with a sister-german, or by the same father, and also with a father's sister; and so, had it been then in force, would have prevented the marriage of Abraham with Sarah, and that of Amram with Jochebed. The Levitical law was therefore an innovation, since it prohibited marriages which had formerly been allowed. It also prohibited marriage with a brother's wife, which is generally taken as meant to include his widow; but as in Deuteronomy, xxv, 5, a man is enjoined to marry his brother's widow, if the brother had died childless, it seems probable that the prohibition in Leviticus, xviii, 10, was directed against that form of polyandry in which the associated husbands are brothers, which, as we have before shown, the Israelites certainly at one time had.

As we have said, the Levitical law changed the existing custom; yet, strangely enough, long after the supposed date of its promulgation, we find Tamar, in the affair with her half-brother Amnon, saying (I Samuel, xiii, 13): "Speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from thee," just as if marriage with a sister-german was quite customary and had not been forbidden. From this we are driven to conclude that the Levitical law is misplaced chronologically — a conclusion which M. Renan seems also to have arrived at.[1] It seems probable that the Levitical code was really adopted at a much later period than is commonly supposed, probably not very long before the Babylonian captivity, and was a complete revolution, substituting kinship through males for that through females. It perhaps was included in the book of the law so mysteriously found in the reign of Josiah, and of the provisions of which both he and the people had been entirely ignorant (II Kings, xxii, xxiii). The marriage law seems to have been drawn up for a people just adopting a system of female descents. This is shown by the fact that the only aunt by marriage that a man might not marry was his father's brother's wife; he might marry his mother's brother's wife, or his wife's father's sister. It is also shown in the particular stress laid upon the prohibition of marriage with a father's daughter. This is forbidden in verse 9, and again, with more detail, in verse 11. Such a marriage would be perfectly lawful under a system of female descents, and that of Amnon with Tamar would have been one of this class. From Ezekiel, xxii, 11, it would appear that such marriages continued to be common among the Israelites up to the time of the overthrow of Jerusalem. If the Levitical law is not misplaced, how comes it that, in spite of the particular manner in which such marriages are forbidden, David would not have withheld Tamar from Amnon?

There are, besides, other reasons for supposing that if the books of the Old Testament were arranged in order of publication, Leviticus ought to be placed toward the end of Kings. By the Levitical law only priests and Levites were to offer sacrifices and "inquire of the Lord," yet Samuel, who was neither, did both, as did Saul, and David, and many others, among them Joshua, a Beth-shemite (see I Samuel, vi, 14, 15; xiii, 9; xiv, 37; xxiii, 2, 4; II Samuel, ii, 1; v, 19, 23; vi, 18). The Levitical law also condemned those who sacrificed in "high places," or away from the sanctuary, where the ark was present; yet Samuel (I Samuel, ix, 13) went up to a "high place" to sanctify the sacrifice, and afterward disposed of that portion which, according to Leviticus, vii, 31-34, belonged to the priest; and David is made to say (I Chronicles, xiii, 13), "Let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul." All these acts and omissions were violations of stringent laws, yet no one seems to have been aware that they were doing wrong, and the only inference to be drawn is that the laws did not then exist. This gains further support from the fact that we read in I Kings, viii, 9, that when Solomon brought the ark to the temple there was nothing in it but the two tables of stone, though the ark was the place in which the book of the law was to be kept (Deuteronomy, xxxi, 26), and that we hear nothing of any book of the law till Hilkiah, the high priest, alleged that he found one during the reign of Josiah.

Moreover, when we look into the marriages mentioned in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, we find that they exhibit the same peculiarity as do those mentioned in Genesis. They could all take place if the Israelites were exogamous, and had descent in the female line, while many could not possibly take place if they were exogamous, and had descent in the male line. It is needless to multiply examples, and the two following will be sufficient. (Joshua, xv, 17:) Othniel, son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, married Caleb's daughter. (II Chronicles, xi, 18:) Rehoboam, son of Solomon, (1) Mahalath, his first cousin on the father's side; (2) Abihail, his father's first cousin; and (3) Maachah, his first cousin on the father's side. There may be some doubt about the last wife. In II Chronicles, xi, 20, and I Kings, xv, 2, she is called the daughter of Absalom; but in II Chronicles, xiii, 2, she is called the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.

It may be objected that the Israelites could not have been exogamous because they were endogamous; but the fact is that they were not endogamous till after the Babylonian captivity, and were not endogamous in the true sense even then. Endogamy is that law which allows marriage only between persons who are recognized as being of the same blood; and though, after the captivity, the Israelites made a law against marrying foreigners (Ezra, x; Nehemiah, x, xiii; I Esdras, ix), yet at the same time they observed the Levitical law forbidding marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity. They had thus an endogamy of nationality, coupled with exogamy within the nation.

But even this external endogamy, so to speak, did not exist before the captivity, for the evidence that the Israelites did marry foreigners is overwhelming. There was marriage with foreign women taken in war, and rules governing the procedure in such cases. Then of individual examples we have the following: Abraham took Hagar, an Egyptian, and Keturah, an Arab (Genesis, xvi, 3, and xxx, 1). Esau married a Hittite and a Hivite (Genesis, xxxvi, 2). Judah married Shuah, a Canaanitish woman (Genesis, xxxviii, 2). Joseph married Asenath, an Egyptian (Genesis, xli, 45); and Moses, Zipporah, an Ethiopian (Exodus, ii, 21, and Numbers, xii, 1). Simeon married a Canaanitish woman (Exodus, vi, 15).

The first limitation of marriage with foreigners is found in Deuteronomy, vii, 1-3, where the Israelites are forbidden to intermarry with seven nations — the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. But the Israelites did not obey this prohibition[2] (Judges, iii, 6, and I Kings, xi, 2), and marriages with the women of other nations naturally continued. Thus, Boaz married Ruth, a Moabitess; David, the daughter of the King of Geshur (II Samuel, iii, 4), and Solomon married a number of foreign women (I Kings, xi, 1). We equally find cases of Israelite women having married foreign men. In Leviticus, xxiv, 10, we read of a woman of Israel who had a son by an Egyptian. Abigail, David's sister, married an Ishmaelite (I Chronicles, ii, 17); and the daughter of Sheshan married an Egyptian (I Chronicles, ii, 34, 35). In Judges, xii, 8, 9, we read that Ibzan had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He sent the latter abroad, and took in thirty women from abroad for his sons. All these examples show conclusively that the Israelites married foreigners, and that therefore they were not endogamous.

"When a nation adopts an endogamy of nationality, it may invariably be ascribed to one of two causes: either the nation is, or considers itself to be, superior to its neighbors, and, having become dominant in war, refuses to intermarry with those it considers inferior; or the surrounding nations consider themselves superior, and refuse to intermarry with a people whom they regard as inferior. In the one case the endogamy is voluntary, in the other it is involuntary. Now the first could not have been the case with the Israelites; they were not dominant in war, and if they considered themselves superior to their neighbors, they did not carry their exclusiveness so far as to decline to marry their women. But during the captivity it is exceedingly probable that, as a conquered people, they were despised by their conquerors, and compelled, to a great extent, to marry among themselves. In Tobit, iv, 12, 13, we find a father saying to his son, "Despise not in thy heart thy brethren, the sons and daughters of thy people, in not taking a wife of them" — a speech which seems to acknowledge that the Israelites were despised. The number of those who married foreign women, as given in Ezra, x, is exceedingly small out of a body of 42,360 males (Ezra, i, 2, 64); and it is most probable that a national endogamy was forced upon the Israelites during the captivity. Then, it seems that the priests took advantage of the opportunity, and endeavored to make it a national characteristic, alleging for this purpose that it was an old law, and that all the misfortunes of the nation were to be attributed to its violation in times past.

From this necessary digression we return now to the consideration of the evidence of female descents. Another indication of that system is the strong affection between brothers and sisters uterine, as compared with that between brothers and sisters german; for, if descent were in the male line, the blood-tie derived from the common father ought to have had the greater weight. It is Simeon and Levi, uterine brothers of Dinah, who revenge the affront offered her, and when reproved by Jacob they say, "Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?" The other sons of Jacob took no part in the act of treachery (Genesis, xxix, 33, 34; xxx, 21; xxxiv, 25, 31). Notice, too, the love which Joseph has for Benjamin, "his mother's son" (Genesis, xliii, 29, 30), and how cold by comparison is his regard for his brothers-german. The rape of Tamar is revenged by her uterine brother Absalom, who causes Amnon to be murdered (II Samuel, xiii, 28). It is interesting to note the language used in this case (II Samuel, xiii, 1): "And it came to pass after this that Absalom, the son of David, had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon, the son of David, loved her"; and (verse 4), "And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister." The relationship between Tamar and Absalom is evidently regarded as something very different from that between her and Amnon. Indeed, in our view, Tamar and Amnon were not regarded as related at all. In verses 2, 5, 6, etc., Tamar is spoken of as Amnon's sister; but then it must be remembered that the term sister was used in a very comprehensive sense, and included female cousin, and in fact women generally of about the same age as the speaker. In Tobit, v, 20; vii, 16; and xviii, 14, are examples of a husband addressing his wife as sister.

Another indication is found in the numerous cases in which men are described as the sons of their mothers, as if the maternal descent were of more moment than the paternal. Bethuel is described as "son of Melcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother" (Genesis, xxiv, 15). Joab is generally styled "the son of Zeruiah" — that is, after his mother (II Samuel, xxiii, 18; I Kings, i, 7; I Chronicles, xxvi, 28). Abishai, Joab's brother, is also called the son of Zeruiah (II Samuel, xiv, 21; xviii, 2). David calls them both "ye sons of Zeruiah" (II Samuel, xix, 22).

Much more important, however, than these, are the cases in which the son is clearly regarded as being of the kin and nation of the mother rather than of the father. Abimelech was son of Gideon by a Shechemite woman, and, if descent were in the male line, he could not have been considered a Shechemite; but the story, as narrated in Judges, ix, shows clearly that he was considered one. His mother's brethren say, "He is our brother," and support his cause. Amasa was the son of Abigail, David's sister, by Jether the Ishmaelite (I Chronicles, ii, 17). If descent were in the male line, Amasa would have been reckoned an Ishmaelite, and not one of the Beni-Israel at all. But what are the facts? David sends to him, saying, "Art thou not of my bone, and my flesh?" and makes him captain over the host of Judah, his mother's tribe. Again, Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to his servant Jarha, an Egyptian, and the offspring of this union were regarded as Israelites (I Chronicles, ii, 34, 35) — that is to say, they traced descent and nationality through the mother. Here, then, we have three cases, one in which the male parent is an Israelite, and two in which the female parent is. In the former case the son is not considered an Israelite, and in the two latter he is — that is, in each case he is regarded as belonging to the nation of his mother. In this connection it is curious to note that in the list of the kings of Edom given in Genesis, xxxvi, 31-39, no king is the son of his predecessor; and in verse 39 we have a clear case of descent being traced through females: "His wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab."

All these examples are found prior to the Babylonian captivity, after which the custom was changed. In Ezra, ii, 61, and Nehemiah, vii, 63, we read that the children of a daughter of Barzillai, the Gileadite, were called after her family name, and were reckoned as not of Israel, because "they could not show their father's house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel" (Ezra, ii, 59).[3] Before the captivity Amasa, the son of an Israelitish woman by an Ishmaelite, and Attai, the son of an Israelitish woman by an Egyptian (I Chronicles, ii, 35), were reckoned as of Israel, the maternal descent was sufficient; but after the captivity it was considered necessary to show "the father's house." This seems to indicate that the change from a system of descents through females to one through males, which had no doubt been gradually taking place for some generations, was fully accomplished by the time that the two tribes returned from Babylon.

A point not to be overlooked is the inferior position held by women in post-captivity times. When kinship is traced through females, the position of women is necessarily high, for they are the heads of families; but when they lose the latter position through a change in the system of descents, they are commonly reduced to a condition more or less servile. Now we have some cases of women holding high positions before the captivity, notably Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah. The first is mentioned in Micah, vi, 4, as the equal of Moses and Aaron: "For I brought thee out of the land of Egypt,...and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam." In Exodus, xv, 20, she is styled a prophetess, and in Numbers, xii, 2, she and Aaron rebel against the leadership of Moses. She was evidently a person of authority, and so was Deborah the prophetess, for she judged Israel (Judges, iv, 4). Huldah, a prophetess, is mentioned in II Kings, xxii, 14, and II Chronicles, xxxiv, 12, as being consulted by the high priest and others. After the captivity we do not find women holding any such positions.

We may now claim to have shown that the Israelites passed through our fifth phase, and had a system of descent through mothers before they had one through fathers. We have shown that they had marriage by capture, and marriage in the form of capture, from which we must believe them to have been exogamous. They were certainly not endogamous, for they married foreigners. If they were exogamous, they could not have married in the recognized blood-stock, and we can not find that they married into the maternal blood, though there is abundant evidence that they married into the paternal blood. We find a much stronger tie between brothers and sisters uterine than between brothers and sisters german; some cases in which men are styled the sons of their mothers, and others in which kinship and nationality are distinctly traced through the mother exclusively. It is only after the captivity that it is necessary to show the paternal descent. The system of kinship through females being the simplest, is naturally the first that is established; for kinship depends upon a perception of the unity of blood, and the most obvious and unmistakable case is that between mother and child. Once established, it lingers on, through custom, even after the tie between father and child has been recognized; and in the case of the Israelites it appears to have lasted till about the days of David, at which time they appear to have been in a state of transition,[4] as the Polynesians are now; and, finally, after contact with the Babylonians and Greeks, they effected a change to descent in the male line.

The Hebrew books are stated to have been restored by Esdras, when they had been destroyed by the Chaldeans (II Esdras, xiv, 21, 47), and, according to Eusebius, it is solely to his recollection that we are indebted for the books of the Old Testament. Now, at that time it was necessary for a man who claimed to be of Israel to show his father's house; Esdras was one of those who made this a sine qua non. The change to this system had, as we have said, been probably gradually taking place for some generations, and what is certain is that the system of female descents had been left so far behind, that the compiler or compilers of the books had not the least suspicion that it had ever existed. That they had no knowledge of it is shown by the trouble they took to connect themselves in the male line with the traditional patriarchs by long lists of names of men. They filled up the gaps between persons mentioned in the traditions by lists of names of fathers and sons, as in Genesis, xi, between Shem and Terah; and that the indications of female descents we have noted were preserved, was doubtless due to the superstitious regard they had for the actual words of the oral traditions, and to the fact that the compilers had not the slightest conception of the inferences to be drawn from them. It is inconceivable that, after having invented pedigrees to connect themselves in the male line with the traditional patriarchs, they should knowingly have left evidence that affords a prima facie proof that descent was formerly in the female line, and the pedigrees consequently fictitious.

These pedigrees were no doubt introduced in support of the endogamy of nationality, which the priests enforced after the captivity. They were designed to prove that the Israelites were a chosen people, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so all of one blood; but they were drawn up with so little care, that it is easy to prove from the books themselves that they are inventions of a later date. For example, we read in Exodus, vi, 3, that the national god, Jahveh, or Jah, only revealed his name shortly before the exodus, and expressly stated that his name was not known to the patriarchs; yet in Genesis, xlvi, among a number of names compounded of the names of "heathen" gods, we find some compounded of Jah. Reuben (verse 9) has a son named Carmi (Jah makes fruitful). Gad (verse 16), himself named after the Phoenician goddess of good fortune, has a son Areli (Jah is powerful). Asher (verse 17), named after the Assyrian god, has a son Beriah (Jah is vigorous, or Jah is my maker). Now, either these names must have been put into the text subsequent to the revelation of the name to Moses, or else the story of that revelation is apocryphal.

In regard to these pedigrees, the ancient Greeks furnish an exactly parallel example. They, like the Israelites, had arrived at a system of kinship through males, and had connected themselves by long lists of names of fathers with the traditional heroes and gods. They had so completely forgotten that they had ever had any other system of descents, that Herodotus, speaking of the Lycians, said that they differed from every other nation in the world in tracing descent through mothers. Yet the traditions of the Greeks, like those of the Israelites, contained indications of the earlier system, which those who reduced the traditions to writing suffered to remain in ignorance of their real meaning; and, as Mr. McLennan, who collected those indications, has shown,[5] there can be no reasonable doubt but that the Greeks had a system of descents through mothers before they had one through fathers.

 
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  1. History of the People of Israel, vol. i, p. 166; vol. ii, pp. 169, 298.
  2. We suppose here, for the sake of argument, that the prohibition existed at this time, though there are good reasons for believing that Deuteronomy was really written by Jeremiah.
  3. In I Esdras, v, 38, this family is called "the sons of Addus, who married Augia, one of the daughters of Berzelus, and was named after his name."
  4. The normal course seems to be that the female system of descents is changed for one under which relationships are traced on both sides of the house, and this in turn is replaced by one through males. In the reign of David, relationship was certainly traced on both sides, for we read in II Samuel, xxi, that when it was considered necessary to sacrifice a number of members of Saul's family in order to stay a famine, the persons selected were two sons of Saul and five grandsons. The latter were the sons of Merab, daughter of Saul, by her husband Adriel the Meholathite. The sacrifice of the sons of Saul shows that descent was traced from father to son, and that of Merab's children, that it was also traced from mother to son.
  5. Studies in Ancient History.