1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Genesis
GENESIS (Gr. γένεσις, becoming; the term being used in English as a synonym for origin or process of coming into being), the name of the first book in the Bible, which derives its title from the Septuagint rendering of ch. ii. 4. It is the first of the five books (the Pentateuch), or, with the inclusion of Joshua, of the six (the Hexateuch), which cover the history of the Hebrews to their occupation of Canaan. The “genesis” of Hebrew history begins with records of antediluvian times: the creation of the world, of the first pair of human beings, and the origin of sin (i.-iii.), the civilization and moral degeneration of mankind, the history of man to the time of Noah (iv.-vi. 8), the flood (vi. 9-ix.), the confusion of languages and the divisions of the human race (x.-xi.). Turning next to the descendants of Shem, the book deals with Abraham (xii.-xxv. 18), Isaac and Jacob (xxv. 19-xxxv.), the “fathers” of the tribes of Israel, and concludes with the personal history of Joseph, and the descent of his father Jacob (or Israel) and his brethren into the land of Egypt (xxxvii.-l.). The book of Genesis, as a whole, is closely connected with the subsequent oppression of the sons of Israel, the revelation of Yahweh the God of their fathers (Ex. iii. 6, 15 seq., vi. 2-8), the “exodus” of the Israelites to the land promised to their fathers (Ex. xiii. 5, Deut. i. 8, xxvi. 3 sqq., xxxiv. 4) and its conquest (Josh. i. 6, xxiv.); cf. also the summaries Neh. ix. 7 sqq., Ps. cv. 6 sqq.
The words, “these are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created” (ii. 4), introduce an account of the creation of the world, which, however, is preceded by a relatively later and less primitive record (i. 1-ii. 3). The Analysis. differences between the two accounts lie partly in the style and partly in the form and contents of the narratives. i. 1-ii. 3 is marked by stereotyped formulae (“and God [Elōhīm] said . . . and it was so . . . and God saw that it was good, and there was evening and there was morning,” &c.); it is precise and detailed, whereas ii. 4b-iii. is less systematic, fresher and more anthropomorphic. The former is cosmic, the latter is local. It is the latter which mentions the mysterious garden and the wonderful trees which Yahweh planted, and depicts Yahweh conversing with man and walking in the garden in the cool of the evening. The former, on the other hand, has an enlightened conception of Elōhīm; the Deity, though grand, is a lifeless figure; several antique ideas are nevertheless preserved. The account of the creation, too, is different; for example, in chap. i. man and woman are created together, whereas in ii. man is at first alone. The naiveness of the story of the creation of woman is in line with the interest which this more popular source takes in the origin or existence of phenomena, customs and contemporary beliefs (the garden, the naming of animals, &c.). The primitive record is continued in the story of Cain and Abel (iv.), where the old-time problem of Cain’s wife and the reference to other human beings (iv. 14 seq.) gave rise in pre-critical days to the theory of pre-Adamites, as though Adam and Eve were not the only inhabitants of the earth. But all the indications go to show that there were at least two distinct popular narratives, one of which ignores the flood. Cain the murderer, doomed to be a wanderer, now becomes the builder of a city, and his descendants introduce various arts (iv. 16b-24). (See the articles Abel; Adam; Cain; Cosmogony; Enoch; Eve; Lamech.) From the “generations” of the heavens and the earth (which one would have expected at the head of ch. i.) we pass to the “generations of Adam” (v. 1). The list of the “Sethites,” with its characteristically stereotyped framework, has an older parallel in iv. 25 seq. (with the origin of the worship of Yahweh contrast Ex. vi. 2. seq.), and a fragment from the same source is found in v. 29.
After the birth of Noah the son of Lamech (v. 29, contrast iv. 19 sqq.) comes the brief story of the demigods (vi. 1-4). It is no part of the account of the fall or of the flood (note verse 4 and Num. xiii. 33), least of all does it furnish grounds for the old view of the division of the human race into evil Cainites and God-fearing Sethites. The excerpt with its description of the fall of the angels is used to form a prelude to the wickedness of man and the avenging flood (vi. 5). Noah, the father of Ham, Shem and Japheth, appears as the hero in the Hebrew version of the flood (see Deluge; Noah). Duplicates (vi. 5-8, 9-13) and discrepancies (vi. 19 sq. contrasted with vii. 2; or vii. 11, viii. 14 contrasted with viii. 8, 10, 12) point to the use of two sources (harmonizing passages in vii. 3, 7-9). The later narrative, which begins with “the generations” of Noah (vi. 9-22; vii. 6, 11, 13-17a, 18-21, 24; viii. 1-2a, 3b-5, 13a, 14-19; ix. 1-17), is almost complete; note the superscription and the length of the flood (365 days; according to other notices the flood apparently lasted only 61 or 68 days). In the earlier source Noah collects seven pairs of clean animals, one of each kind; he sacrifices after leaving the ark, and Yahweh promises not to curse the ground or to smite living things again. But in the later, he takes only one pair, and subsequently Elōhīm blesses Noah and makes a covenant never again to destroy all flesh by a flood. The covenant (characteristic of the latest narratives in Genesis) also prohibits the shedding of blood (cf. the story of Cain and Abel in the earlier source). Mankind is now made to descend from the three sons of Noah. The older story, however, continues with another step in the history of civilization, and to Noah is ascribed the cult of the vine, the abuse of which leads to the utterance of a curse upon Canaan and a blessing upon Shem and Japheth (ix. 20-27). The table of nations in x. (“the generations of the sons of Noah”) preserves several signs of composite origin (contrast e.g. x. 7 with vv. 28 sq., Ludim v. 13 with v. 22, and the Canaanite families v. 16 with the dispersion “afterwards,” v. 18, &c.); see Canaan; Genealogy; Nimrod. The history of the primitive age concludes with the story of the tower of Babel (xi. 1-9), which, starting from a popular etymology of Babel (“gate of God”), as though from Balbel (“confusion”), tells how Yahweh feared lest mankind should become too powerful (cf. iii. 22-24), and seeks to explain the origin of the numerous languages in use. It is independent of x., which already assumes a confusion of tongues (vv. 5, 20, 31), the existence of Babel (v. 10), and gives a different account of the rise of the various races. This incident in the journey eastwards (xi. 2) is equally independent of the story of the Deluge and of Noah’s family (see Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 316). The continuation of the chapter, “the generations of Shem” (xi. 10-27, see the Shemite genealogy in x. 21 sqq., and contrast the ages with vi. 3), is in the same stereotyped style as ch. v., and prepares the way for the history of the patriarchs.
The “generations of Terah” (xi. 27) lead to the introduction of the first great patriarch Abraham (q.v.). There is a twofold account of his migration to Bethel with his nephew Lot; the more statistical form in xi. 31 sq., xii. 4b, 5 belongs to the latest source. The statement that the Canaanite was then in the land (xii. 6, cf. xiii. 7) points to a time long after the Israelite conquest, when readers needed such a reminder (so Hobbes in his Leviathan, 1651). A famine forces him to descend into Egypt, where a story of Sarai (here at least 65 years of age; see xii. 4, xvii. 17) is one of three variants of a similar peculiar incident (cf. xx. 1-17, xxvi. 6-14). The passage is an insertion (xii. 10-xiii. 2; xii. 9, xiii. 3 seq. being harmonistic). The thread is resumed in the account of the separation of the patriarch and his nephew Lot, who divide the land between them. Abraham occupies Canaan, but moves south to Hebron, which, according to Josh. xiv. 15, was formerly known as Kirjath-Arba. Lot dwells in the basin of the Jordan, and his history is continued in the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (xviii.-xix.; Hos. xi. 8, Deut. xxix. 23 speak of Admah and Zeboim). Lot is saved and becomes the ancestor of the Moabites and Ammonites, who are thus closely related to the descendants of Abraham (note xix. 37, “unto this day”). The great war with Amraphel and Chedorlaomer—the defeat of a world-conquering army by 318 men—with the episode of Melchizedek, noteworthy for the reference to Jerusalem (xiv. 18, cf. Ps. lxxvi. 2), has nothing in common with the context (see Abraham; Melchizedek). It treats as individuals the place-names Mamre and Eshcol (xiv. 13, cf. Num. xiii. 23 seq.), and by mentioning Dan (v. 14) anticipates the events in Josh. xix. 47, Judg. xviii. 29. A cycle of narratives deals with the promise that the barren Sarai (Sarah) should bear a child whose descendants would inhabit the land of Canaan. The importance of the tradition for the history of Israel explains both the prominence given to it (cf. already xii. 7, xiii. 14-17) and their present complicated character (due to repeated revision). The older narratives comprise (a) the promise that Abraham shall have a son of his own flesh (xv.)—the account is composite; (b) the birth of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar, their exile, and Yahweh’s promise (xvi., with a separate framework in vv. 1a. 3, 15 seq.)—before the birth of Isaac; and (c) the promise of a son to Sarai (xviii. 1-15), now combined with the story of Lot and the overthrow of Sodom. The latest source (xvii.) is marked by the solemn covenant between Yahweh and Abraham, the revelation of God Almighty (El-Shaddai, cf. Ex. vi. 3), and the institution of circumcision (otherwise treated in Ex. iv. 26, Josh. v. 2 seq.). The more elevated character of this source as contrasted with xv. and xviii. is as striking as the difference of religious tone in the two accounts of the creation (above). Abraham now travels thence (xx. 1, Hebron, see xviii. 1), and his adventure in the land of Abimelech, king of Gerar (xx.), is a duplicate of xii. (above). It is continued in xxi. 22-34, which has a close parallel in the life of Isaac (xxvi., below). Isaac is born in accordance with the divine promise (xviii. 10 at Hebron); the scene is the south of Palestine. The story of the dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael, and the revelation (xxi. 8-21) cannot be separated from xvi. 4-14, where vv. 9 seq. are intended to harmonize the passages. Although about sixteen years intervene (see xvi. 16; xxi. 5, 8), Ishmael is a young child who has to be carried (xxi. 15), but the Hebrew text of xxi. 14 (not, however, the Septuagint) endeavours to remove the discrepancy. “After these things” comes the offering of Isaac which implicitly annuls the sacrifice of the first-born, a not unfamiliar rite in Palestine as the denunciations prove (cf. Ezek. xvi. 20 seq., xx. 26; Mic. vi. 7; Is. lvii. 5), and thus marks an advance, e.g. upon the story of Jephthah’s daughter (Judg. xi.). The story may be contrasted with the Phoenician account of the sacrifice by Cronos (to be identified with El) of his only son, which practically justified the horrid custom. The detailed account of the purchase of the cave of Machpelah (contrast the brevity of xxxiii. 19) is of great importance for the traditions of the patriarchs, and, like the references to the death of Sarah and Abraham, belongs to the latest source (xxiii., xxv. 7-11a). The idyllic picture of life in xxiv. presupposes that Isaac is sole heir (v. 36); since this is first stated in xxv. 5, it is probable that xxv. 5, 11b (and perhaps vv. 6, 18) are out of place. It is noteworthy that the district is Abraham’s native place (xxiv. 4, 7, 10; contrast the Babylonian home specified in xi. 28, 31; xv. 7). In xxv. 1 sqq. Abraham takes as wife (but concubine, 1 Chron. i. 32 seq.) Keturah (“incense”) and becomes the father of various Arab tribes, e.g. Sheba and Dedan (grandsons of Cush in x. 7).
After “the generations of Ishmael” (xxv. 12 sqq.) the narrative turns to “the generations of Isaac” (xxv. 19 sqq.). The story of the events at the court of Abimelech (xxvi.) finds a parallel in the now disjointed xx., xxi. 22-34; note the new explanation of Beersheba, the reference in xxvi. 1 to the parallel story in xii., the absence of allusion to xx., and the apparent editorial references to xxi. in vv. 15, 18. On the whole, the story of Isaac’s wife at Gerar is briefer and not so elevated as that of Sarah, but the parallel to xxi. 22-34 is more detailed. The birth of Esau and Jacob (xxv. 21-34) introduces the story of Jacob’s craft when Isaac is on the point of death (xxvii.). Jacob flees to Laban at Haran to escape Esau’s hatred (xxvii. 41-45); but, according to the latest source (P), he is charged by Isaac to go to Paddan-Aram, and take a wife there, and his father transfers to him the blessing of Abraham (xxvii. 46-xxviii. 9). On his way to Haran he stops at Bethel (formerly Luz, according to Judg. i. 22-26), where a vision prompts him to accept the God of the place should he return in peace to his father’s home (xxviii. 10-22). He passes to the land of “the children of the east” (xxix. 1), and the scenes which follow are scarcely situated at Haran, the famous and ancient seat of the worship of the moon-god, but in the desert. Here he resides fifteen years or more, and by the daughters of Laban and their handmaidens becomes the “father” of the tribes of Israel. There are numerous traces of composition from different sources, but a satisfactory analysis is impossible. The flight of Jacob and his household (from Paddan-Aram, xxxi. 18 P) leads over “the River” (v. 21, i.e. the Euphrates); though the seven days’ journey of this concourse of men and cattle suggests that he came to Gilead, not from Haran (300 m. distant), but from some nearer locality. This is to be taken with the evidence against Haran already noticed, with the use of the term “children of the east” (xxix. 1; cf. Jer. xlix. 28; Ezek. xxv. 4, 10), and with the details of Laban’s kindred (xxii. 20-24). The arrival at Mahanaim (“[two?] camps”) gives rise to specific allusions to the meaning of the name (xxxii. 1 seq., 7-12, 13-21); cf. also the plays upon Jabbok, Israel and Peniel in xxxii. 22-32. He meets Esau (xxxii. 3-21, xxxiii. 1-16, another reference to Peniel, “face of God,” in v. 10), but they part. Jacob now comes to Shechem “in peace” (cf. the phrase in xxviii. 21), where he buys land and erects an altar (xxxiii. 18-20, cf. Abraham in xii. 6 seq.). There is a remarkable story of the violation of his daughter Dinah by Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite (xxxiv.). It has been heavily revised; note the alternating prominence of Hamor and Shechem, the condemnation of Simeon and Levi for their vengeance (cf. the curse in xlix. 5-7), the destruction of the city Shechem by all the sons of Jacob, and the survival of the Hamorites as a family centuries later (xxxiii. 19, Judg. ix. 28). The narrative continues with Jacob’s journey to Bethel, the death of Deborah (who accompanied Rebekah to Palestine 140 years previously, see xxiv. 59, and the latest source in xxv. 20, xxxv. 28), the death of Rachel (xxxv. 16-20, contrast xxxvii. 10), and ceases abruptly in the middle of a sentence (xxxv. 22, but see xlix. 3-4). The latest source (xxxv. 9-13, 15, 22b-29) gives another account of the origin of the names Israel (cf. xxxii. 28) and Bethel (cf. xxviii. 19), and the genealogy wrongly includes Benjamin among the sons born outside Palestine (vv. 24-26). In narrating Jacob’s leisurely return to Isaac at Hebron, the writers quite ignore the many years which have elapsed since he left his father at the point of death in Beersheba (xxvii. 1, 2, 7, 10, 41).
“The generations of Esau, the same is Edom,” provide much valuable material for the study of Israel’s rival (xxxvi.). The chapter gives yet another account of the separation of Jacob and Esau (with vv. 6-8, cf. Abraham and Lot, xiii. 5 seq.), and describes the latter’s withdrawal to Seir (cf. already xxxii. 3; xxxiii. 14, 16). It includes lists of diverse origin (e.g. vv. 2-5, contrast xxvi. 34, xxviii. 9); various “dukes” (R.V. marg. “chiefs”), or rather “thousands” or “clans”; and also the “sons” of Seir the Horite, i.e. Horite clans (vv. 20 seq. and vv. 29 seq.). A summary of Edomite kings is ascribed to the period before the Israelite monarchy (vv. 31-39), and the record concludes with the “dukes” of Esau, the father of the Edomites (vv. 40-43, cf. names in vv. 10-14, 15-19).
Finally, Genesis turns from the patriarchs to the “generations of Jacob” (xxxvii. 2), and we have stories of the “sons,” the ancestors of the tribes. (In xxxiv. the incidents which primarily concerned Simeon and Levi alone have, however, been adjusted to the general history of Jacob and his family.) The first place is given to Joseph (xxxvii.), although xxxviii. crowds the early history of the family of Judah into the twenty-two years between xxxvii. 2 and Jacob’s descent into Egypt (see xli. 46, 47; xlv. 6). In xxxvii., xxxix. sqq. we have an admirable specimen of writing quite distinct in stamp from the patriarchal stories. The romance which has here been utilized shows an acquaintance with Egypt; the narratives are discursive, not laconic, everything is more detailed, and more under the influence of literary art. The Reuben and Simeon which appear in it are not the characters which we meet in xxxiv., xxxv. 22, or in the poem xlix. 3-7; and the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh do not scruple to claim ancestry from Joseph and the daughter of an Egyptian priest at the seat of the worship of the sun-god (xli. 45). The narratives are composite. Joseph incurs the ill-will of his brethren because of Israel’s partiality or because of his significant dreams. He is at Shechem or at Dothan; and when the brothers seek to slay him, Judah proposes that he should be sold to Ishmaelites, or Reuben suggests that he should be cast into a pit, where Midianites find and kidnap him (xxxvii., cf. xl. 15). The latter sell him to the eunuch Potiphar, but he appears in the service of a married householder (xxxix., the second clause of v. 1 harmonizes). Among other signs of dual origin are the alternation of “Jacob” and “Israel,” and the prominence of Judah (xliii. 3, 8; xliv. 14, 18) or of Reuben (xlii. 22, 37). The money is found in a “bag” as the brothers encamp (xlii. 27, 28a; xliii.), or in a “sack” when they reach home (xlii. 8-26, 29-35, 28b, 36 sq.). When Israel and his family descend into Egypt, the latest source gives a detailed list which agrees in the main with the Israelite subdivisions (xlvi. 6-27, cf. Num. xxvi. and 1 Chron. ii.-viii.). The families dwell in the land of Goshen, east of the Delta, “for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (xlv. 10; xlvi. 28-34; xlvii. 1-6); or they are in the “land of Rameses” (xlvii. 11, and Septuagint in xlvi. 28); Joseph’s policy during the famine is next described (xlvii. 13-26), although it would have been more in place after xli. (see ib. 34). There are several difficulties in Jacob’s blessing of the sons of Joseph (xlviii.). The blessing in xlix. is a collection of poetical passages praising or blaming the various tribes, and must certainly date after the Israelite settlement in Palestine; see further the articles on the tribes. Jacob’s dying instructions to Joseph (xlvii. 29-31) are continued in l. 1 sqq., his charge to his sons (xlix. 28 sqq., P) in l. 12 seq. It is significant that Jacob’s body is taken to Palestine, but the brethren return to Egypt; in spite of a possible allusion to the famine in v. 21, the late chronological scheme would imply that it had long ceased (see xlv. 6, xlvii. 28). The book closes with the death of Joseph about fifty years later, after the birth of the children of Machir, who himself was a contemporary of Moses forty years after the Exodus (Num. xxxii. 39-41). Joseph’s body is embalmed, but it is not until the concluding chapter of the book of Joshua (xxiv. 32) that his bones find their last resting-place.
Only on the assumption that the book of Genesis is a composite work is it possible to explain the duplication of events, the varying use of the divine names Yahweh and Elōhīm, the linguistic and stylistic differences, the internal intricacies A composite work. of the subject matter, and the differing standpoints as regards tradition, chronology, morals and religion. The cumulative effect of the whole evidence is too strong to be withstood, and already in the 17th century it was recognized that the book was of composite origin. Immense labour has been spent in the critical analysis of the contents, but it is only since the work of Graf (1866) and Wellhausen (1878) that a satisfactory literary hypothesis has been found which explained the most obvious intricacies. The Graf-Wellhausen literary theory has gained the assent of almost all trained and unbiased biblical scholars, it has not been shaken by the more recent light from external evidence, and no alternative theory has as yet been produced. The internal features of Genesis demand some formulated theory, more precise than the indefinite concessions of the 17th century, beyond which the opponents of modern literary criticism scarcely advance, and the Graf-Wellhausen theory, in spite of the numerous difficulties which it leaves untouched, is the only adequate starting-point for the study of the book. According to this, Genesis is a post-exilic work composed of a post-exilic priestly source (P) and non-priestly earlier sources which differ markedly from P in language, style and religious standpoint, but much less markedly from one and another. These sources can be traced elsewhere in the Pentateuch and Joshua, and P itself is related to the post-exilic works Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. In its present form Genesis is an indispensable portion of the biblical history, and consequently its literary growth cannot be viewed apart from that of the books which follow. On internal grounds it appears that the Pentateuch and Joshua, as they now read, virtually come in between an older history by “Deuteronomic” compilers (easily recognizable in Judges and Kings), and the later treatment of the monarchy in Chronicles, where the influence of the circle which produced P and the present Mosaic legislation is quite discernible. There have been stages where earlier extant sources have been cut down, adjusted or revised by compilers who have incorporated fresh material, and it is the later compilers of Genesis who have made the book a fairly knit whole. The technical investigation of the literary problems (especially the extent of the earlier sources) is a work of great complexity, and, for ordinary purposes, it is more important to obtain a preliminary appreciation of the general features of the contents of Genesis.
That the records of the pre-historic ages in Gen. i.-xi. are at complete variance with modern science and archaeological research is unquestionable. But although it is impossible to regard them any longer either as genuine Value of traditions. history or as subjects for an allegorical interpretation (which would prove the accuracy of any record) they are of distinct value as human documents. They reflect the ideas and thoughts of the Hebrews, they illustrate their conceptions of God and the universe, and they furnish material for a comparison of the moral development of the Hebrews with that of other early races. Some of the traditions are closely akin to those current in ancient Babylonia, but a careful and impartial comparison at once illustrates in a striking manner the relative moral and spiritual superiority of our writers. On these subjects see further Cosmogony; Deluge.
The records of the patriarchal age, xii.-l. are very variously estimated, although the great majority of scholars agree that they are not contemporary and that they cannot be used, as they stand, for pre-Mosaic times. Apart from the ordinary arguments of historical criticism, it is to be noticed that external evidence does not support the assumption that the records preserve genuine pre-Mosaic history. There are no grounds for any arbitrary distinction between the “pre-historic” pre-Abrahamic age and the later age. External evidence, which recognizes no universal deluge and no dispersal of mankind in the third millennium B.C., throws its own light upon the opening centuries of the second. It has revealed conditions which are not reflected in Genesis, and important facts upon which the book is silent—unless, indeed, there is a passing allusion to the great Babylonian monarch Khammurabi in the Amraphel of Gen. xiv. Any careful perusal of modern attempts to recover historical facts or an historical outline from the book will show how very inadequate the material proves to be, and the reconstructions will be found to depend upon an interpretation of the narratives which is often liberal and not rarely precarious, and to imply such reshaping and rewriting of the presumed facts that the cautious reader can place little reliance on them. Whatever future research may bring, it cannot remove the internal peculiarities which combine to show that Genesis preserves, not literal history, but popular traditions of the past. External evidence has proved the antiquity of various elements, but not that of the form or context in which they now appear; and the difference is an important one. We have now a background upon which to view the book, and, on the one hand, it has become obvious that the records preserve—as is only to be expected—Oriental customs, beliefs and modes of thought. But it has not been demonstrated that these are exclusively pre-Mosaic. On the other hand, a better acquaintance with the ancient political, sociological and religious conditions has made it increasingly difficult to interpret the records as a whole literally, or even to find a place in pre-Mosaic Palestine for the lives of the patriarchs as they are depicted. Nevertheless, though one cannot look to Genesis for the history of the early part of the second millennium B.C., the study of what was thought of the past, proves in this, as in many other cases, to be more instructive than the facts of the past, and it is distinctly more important for the biblical student and the theologian to understand the thought of the ages immediately preceding the foundation of Judaism in the 5th century B.C. than the actual history of many centuries earlier.
A noteworthy feature is the frequent personification of peoples, tribes or clans (see Genealogy: Biblical). Midian (i.e. the Midianites) is a son of Abraham; Canaan is a son of Ham (ix. 22), and Cush the son of Ham is the father of Ramah and grandfather of the famous S. Arabian Fusion of diverse features. state Sheba and the traders of Dedan (x. 6 sq., cf. Ezek. xxvii. 20-22). Bethuel the father of Rebekah is the brother of the tribal names Uz and Buz (xxii. 21 sqq., cf. Jer. xxv. 20, 23). Jacob is otherwise known as Israel and becomes the father of the tribes of Israel; Joseph is the father of Ephraim and Manasseh, and incidents in the life of Judah lead to the birth of Perez and Zerah, Judaean clans. This personification is entirely natural to the Oriental, and though “primitive” is not necessarily an ancient trait. It gives rise to what may be termed the “prophetical interpretation of history” (S. R. Driver, Genesis, p. 111), where the character, fortunes or history of the apparent individual are practically descriptive of the people or tribe which, according to tradition, is named after or descended from him. The utterance of Noah over Canaan, Shem and Japheth (ix. 25 sqq.), of Isaac over Esau and Jacob (xxvii.), of Jacob over his sons (xlix.) or grandsons (xlviii.), would have no meaning to Israelites unless they had some connexion with and interest for contemporary life and thought. Herein lies the force of the description of the wild and independent Ishmael (xvi. 12), the “father” of certain well-known tribes (xxv. 13-15); or the contrast between the skilful hunter Esau and the quiet and respectable Jacob (xxv. 27), and between the tiller Cain who becomes the typical nomad and the pastoral Abel (iv. 1-15). The interest of the struggles between Jacob and Esau lay, not in the history of individuals of the distant past, but in the fact that the names actually represented Israel and its near rival Edom. These features are in entire accordance with Oriental usage and give expression to current belief, existing relationships, or to a poetical foreshadowing of historical vicissitudes. But in the effort to understand them as they were originally understood it is very obvious that this method of interpretation can be pressed too far. It would be precarious to insist that the entrances into Palestine of Abraham and Jacob (or Israel) typified two distinct immigrations. The separation of Abraham from Lot (cf. Lotan, an Edomite name), of Isaac from Hagar-Ishmael, or of Jacob from Esau-Edom scarcely points to the relative antiquity of the origin of these non-Israelite peoples who, to judge from the evidence, were closely related. Or, if the “sons” of Jacob had Aramaean mothers, to prove that those which are derived from the wives were upon a higher level than the “sons” of the concubines is more difficult than to allow that certain of the tribes must have contained some element of Aramaean blood (cf. 1 Chron. vii. 14, and see Asher; Gad; Manasseh). Some of the names are clearly not those of known clans or tribes (e.g. Abraham, Isaac), and many of the details of the narratives obviously have no natural ethnological meaning. Stories of heroic ancestors and of tribal eponyms intermingle; personal, tribal and national traits are interwoven. The entrance of Jacob or Israel with his sons suggests that of the children of Israel. The story of Simeon and Levi at Shechem is clearly not that of two individuals, sons of the patriarch Israel; in fact the story actually uses the term “wrought folly in Israel” (cf. Jud. xx. 6, 10), and the individual Shechem, the son of Hamor, cannot be separated from the city, the scene of the incidents. Yet Jacob’s life with Laban has many purely individual traits. And, further, there intervenes a remarkable passage with an account of his conflict with the divine being who fears the dawn and is unwilling to reveal his name. In a few verses the “wrestling” (’-b -ḳ) of Jacob (yăʽăqōb) is associated with the Jabbok (yabbōq); his “striving” explains his name Israel; at Peniel he sees “the face of God,” and when touched on his vulnerable spot—the hollow of the thigh—he is lamed, hence “the children of Israel eat not the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh unto this day” (xxxii. 24-32). Other examples of the fusion of different features can be readily found. Three divine beings appear to Abraham at the sacred tree of Hebron, and when the birth of Isaac (from ṣāḥaq, “laugh”) is foretold, the account of Sarah’s behaviour is merely a popular and trivial story suggested by the child’s name (xviii. 12-15; see also xvii. 17, xxi. 6, 9). An extremely fine passage then describes the patriarch’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah, and the narrative passes on to the catastrophe which explains the Dead Sea and its desert region and has parallels elsewhere (e.g. the Greek legend of Zeus and Hermes in Phrygia). Lot escapes to Zoar, the name gives rise to the pun on the “little” city (xix. 20), and his wife, on looking back, becomes one of those pillars of salt which still invite speculation. Finally the names of his children Moab and Ammon are explained by an incident when he is a cave-dweller on a mountain.
To primitive minds which speculated upon the “why and wherefore” of what they saw around them, the narratives of Genesis afforded an answer. They preserve, in fact, some of the popular philosophy and belief of the Hebrews. They furnish what must have been a satisfactory origin of the names Edom, Moab and Ammon, Mahanaim and Succoth, Bethel, Beersheba, &c. They explain why Shechem, Bethel and Beersheba were ancient sanctuaries (see further below); why the serpent writhes along the ground (iii. 14); and why the hip sinew might not be eaten (xxxii. 32). To these and a hundred other questions the national and tribal stories—of which no doubt only a few have survived, and of which other forms, earlier or later, more crude or more refined, were doubtless current—furnish an evidently adequate answer. Myth and legend, fact and fiction, the common stock of oral tradition, have been handed down, and thus constitute one of the most valuable sources for popular Hebrew thought.
The book is not to be judged from any one-sided estimate of its contents. By the side of much that seems trivial, and even non-moral—for the patriarchs themselves are not saints—it is noteworthy how frequently the narratives are didactic. The characteristic sense of collective responsibility, which appears more incidentally in xx. 7, is treated with striking intensity in a passage (xviii. 23-33) which uses the legend of Sodom and Gomorrah as a vehicle for the statement of a familiar problem (cf. Ezek. xviii., Ps. lxxiii., Job). It will be observed that interviews with divine beings presented as little difficulty to the primitive minds of old as to the modern native; even the idea of intercourse of supernatural beings with mortals (vi. 1-4) is to-day equally intelligible. The modern untutored native has a not dissimilar undeveloped and childlike attitude towards the divine, a naive theology and a simple cultus. The most circumstantial tales are told of imaginary figures, and the most incredible details clothe the lives of the historical heroes of the past. So abundant is the testimony of modern travellers to the extent to which Eastern custom and thought elucidate the interpretation of the Bible, that it is very important to notice those features which illustrate Genesis. “The Oriental,” writes S.I. Curtiss (Bibl. sacra, Jan. 1901, pp. 103 sqq.), “is least of all a scientific historian. He is the prince of story-tellers, narratives, real and imaginative, spring from his lips, which are the truest portraiture of composite rather than individual Oriental life, though narrated under forms of individual experience.” There are, therefore, many preliminary points which combine to show that the critical student cannot isolate the book from Oriental life and thought; its uniqueness lies in the manner in which the material has been shaped and the use to which it has been put.
The Book of Jubilees (not earlier than the 2nd century B.C.) presents the history in another form. It retains some of the canonical matter, often with considerable reshaping, omits many details (especially those to which exception Questions of date. could be taken), and adds much that is novel. The chronological system of the latest source in Genesis becomes an elaborate reckoning of heavenly origin. Written under the obvious influence of later religious aims, it is especially valuable because one can readily compare the two methods of presenting the old traditions. There is the same kind of personification, fresh examples of the “prophetical interpretation of history,” and by the side of the older “primitive” thought are ideas which can only belong to this later period. In each case we have merely a selection of current traditional lore. For example, Gen. vi. 1-4 mentions the marriage of divine beings with the daughters of men and the birth of Nephīlīm or giants (cf. Num. xiii. 33). Later allusions to this myth (e.g. Baruch iii. 26-28, Book of Enoch vi. sqq., 2 Peter ii. 4, &c.) are not based upon this passage; the fragment itself is all that remains of some more organic written myth which, as is well-known, has parallels among other peoples. Old myths underlie the account of the creation and the garden of Eden, and traces of other versions or forms appear elsewhere in the Old Testament. Again, the Old Testament throws no light upon the redemption of Abraham (Is. xxix. 22), although the Targums and other sources profess to be well-informed. The isolated reference to Jacob’s conquest of Shechem in Gen. xlviii. 22 must have belonged to another context, and later writings give in a later and thoroughly incredible form allied traditions. In Hosea xii. 4, Jacob’s wrestling is mentioned before the scene at Bethel (Gen. xxxii. 24 sqq., xxviii. 11 sqq.). The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah is described in Genesis (xviii. seq.), but Hosea refers only to that of Admah and Zeboim (xi. 8, cf. Deut. xxix. 23, Gen. x. 19)—different versions of the great catastrophe were doubtless current. Consequently investigation must start with the particular details which happen to be preserved, and these not necessarily in their original or in their only form. Since the antiquity of elements of tradition is independent of the shape in which they appear before us, a careful distinction must be drawn between those details which do not admit of being dated or located and those which do. There is evidence for the existence of the names Abram, Jacob and Joseph previous to 900 B.C., but this does not prove the antiquity of the present narratives encircling them. Babylonian tablets of the creation date from the 7th century B.C., but their contents are many centuries earlier (viz. the age of Khammurabi), whereas the Phoenician myths of the origin of things are preserved in a late form by the late writers Damascius and Philo of Byblus. Gen. xiv., which may preserve some knowledge of the reign of Khammurabi, is on internal literary grounds of the post-exilic age, and it is at least a coincidence that the Babylonian texts, often quoted in support of the genuineness of the narrative, belong to about the same period and use early Babylonian history for purely didactic purposes. In general, just as the Book of Jubilees, while presenting many elements of old tradition, betrays on decisive internal grounds an age later than Genesis itself, so, in turn, there is sufficient conclusive evidence that Genesis in its present form includes older features, but belongs to the age to which (on quite independent grounds) the rest of the Pentateuch must be ascribed.
Popular tradition often ignores events of historical importance, or, as repeated experience shows, will represent them in such a form that the true historical kernel could never have been recovered without some external clue. The Historical backgrounds. absence of definite references to the events of the Israelite monarchy does not necessarily point to the priority of the traditions in Genesis or their later date. Nevertheless, some allusion to national fortunes is reflected in the exaltation of Jacob (Israel) over Esau (Edom), and in the promise that the latter should break the yoke from his neck. Israelite kings are foreshadowed (xvii. 6, xxxv. 11, P), and Israel’s kingdom has the ideal limits as ascribed to Solomon (xv. 18, see 1 Kings iv. 21; but cf. art. Solomon). Judah is promised a world-wide king (xlix. 8-10), though elsewhere the supremacy of Joseph rouses the jealousy of his “brothers” (xxxvii. 8). Different dates and circles of interest are thus manifest. The cursing and dispersion of Simeon and Levi (xlix. 5-7) recall the fact that Simeon’s cities were in the territory of Judah (Josh. xix. 1, 9), and that the Levitical priests are later scattered and commended to the benevolence of the Israelites. But the curse obviously represents an attitude quite opposed to the blessing pronounced upon Levi by Moses (Deut. xxxiii. 8-11). The Edomite genealogies (xxxvi.) represent a more extensive people than the references in the popular stories suggest, and the latter by no means indicate that Edom had so important a career as we actually gather from a few allusions to its kings (xxxvi. 31-39). The references to Philistines are anachronistic for the pre-Mosaic age, and it is clear that the tradition of a solemn covenant with a Philistine king and his general (xxi. 22 seq., xxvi. 26 sqq.) does not belong to the age or the circle which remembered the grievous oppressions of the Philistines or felt contempt for these “uncircumcised” enemies of Israel. Finally, the thread of the tradition unmistakably represents a national unity of the twelve sons (tribes) of Israel; but this unity was not felt at certain periods of disorganization, and the idea of including Judah among the sons of Israel could not have arisen at a time when Israel and Judah were rival kingdoms. In so far as the traditions can be read in the light of biblical history it is evident that they belong to different ages and represent different national, tribal, or local standpoints.
Another noteworthy feature is the interest taken in sacred sites. Certain places are distinguished by theophanies or by the erection of an altar (lit. place of sacrificial slaughter), and incidents are narrated with a very intelligible Interest in holy places. purpose. Mizpah in Gilead is the scene of a covenant or treaty between Jacob and his Aramaean relative commemorated by a pillar (Maṣṣēbah). It was otherwise known for an annual religious ceremony, the traditional origin of which is related in the story of Jephthah’s vow and sacrifice (Judg. xi.), and its priests are denounced by Hosea (v. i). Shechem, the famous city of the Samaritans (“the foolish nation,” Ecclus. I. 26), where Joseph was buried (Josh. xxiv. 32), had a sanctuary and a sacred pillar and tree. It was the scene of the coronation (a religious ceremony) of Abimelech (Judg. ix.), and Rehoboam (1 Kings xii. 1). The pillar was ascribed to Joshua (Josh. xxiv. 26 seq.), and although Jacob set up at Shechem an “altar,” the verb suggests that the original object was a pillar (Gen. xxxiii. 20). The first ancestor of Israel, on the other hand, is merely associated with a theophany at an oracular tree (xii. 6). The Benjamite Bethel was especially famous in Israelite religious history. The story tells how Jacob discovered its sanctity,—it was the gate of heaven,—made a covenant with its God, established the sacred pillar, and instituted its tithes (xxviii.). The prophetess Deborah dwelt under a palm-tree near Bethel (Judg. iv. 5), and her name is also that of the foster-mother of Rebekah who was buried near Bethel beneath the “oak of weeping” (xxxv. 8). Bochim (“weeping”) elsewhere receives its name when an angel appeared to the Israelites (Judg. ii. 1, Septuagint adds Bethel). To the prophets Hosea and Amos the cultus of Bethel was superstitious and immoral, even though it was Yahweh himself who was worshipped there (see Bethel). South of Hebron lay Beersheba, an important centre and place of pilgrimage, with a special numen by whom oaths were taken (Amos viii. 14, see Sept. and the commentaries). Isaac built its altar, and Isaac’s God guarded Jacob in his journeying (xxxi. 29, xlvi. 1). This patriarch and his “brother” Ishmael are closely associated with the district south of Judah, both are connected with Beer-lahai-roi (xxiv. 62, Sept. xxv. 11), whose fountain was the scene of a theophany (xvi.), and their traditions are thus localized in the district of Kadesh famous in the events of the Exodus (cf. xvi. 14, xxi. 21, xxv. 18, Ex. xv. 22). (See Exodus, The.) Abraham planted a sacred tree at Beersheba and invoked “the everlasting God” (xxi. 33). But the patriarch is more closely identified with Hebron, which had a sanctuary (cf. 2 Sam. xv. 7 seq.), and an altar which he built “unto Yahweh” (xiii. 18). The sacred oak of Mamre was famous in the time of Josephus (B. J. iv. 9, 7), it was later a haunt of “angels” (Sozomen), and Constantine was obliged to put down the heathenish cultus. The place still has its holy tree. Beneath the oak there appeared the three divine beings, and in the cave of Machpelah the illustrious ancestor and his wife were buried. The story of his descent into Egypt and the plaguing of Pharaoh is a secondary insertion (xii. 10-xiii. 2), and where the patriarch appears at Beersheba it is in incidents which tend to connect him with his “son” Isaac. There is a very distinct tendency to emphasize the importance of Hebron. Taken from primitive giants by the non-Israelite clan Caleb (q.v.) it has now become predominant in the patriarchal traditions. Jacob leaves his dying father at Beersheba (xxviii. 10), but according to the latest source he returns to him at Hebron (xxxv. 27), and here, north of Beersheba, he continues to live (xxxvii. 14, xlvi. 1-5). The cave of Machpelah became the grave of Isaac, Rebekah and Leah (but not Rachel); and though Jacob appears to be buried beyond the Jordan, it is the latest source which places his grave at Hebron (1. i-11 and 12 seq.). So in still later tradition, all the sons of Jacob with the exception of Joseph find their last resting-place at Hebron, and in Jewish prayers for the dead it is besought that their souls may be bound up with those of the patriarchs, or that they may go to the cave of Machpelah and thence to the Cherubim. The increasing prominence of the old Calebite locality is not the least interesting phase in the comparative study of the patriarchal traditions.
The association of the ancestors of Israel with certain sites is a feature which finds analogies even in modern Palestine. There are old centres of cult which have never lost the veneration of the people; the shrines are known as the tombs of saints or walis (patrons) with such orthodox names as St George, Elijah, &c. Traditions justify the reputation for sanctity, and not only are similar stories told of distinct figures, but there are varying traditions of a single figure. The places have retained their sacred character despite political and religious vicissitudes; they are far older than their present names, and such is the conservatism of the east that it is not surprising when, for example, a sacred tomb at Gezer stands quite close to the site of an ancient holy place, about 3000 years old, the existence of which was first made known in the course of excavation. Genesis preserves a selection of traditions relating to a few of the old Palestinian centres of cult. We cannot suppose that these first gained their sacred character in the pre-Mosaic “patriarchal” age; there is in any case the obvious difficulty of bridging the gap between the descent into Egypt and the Exodus, and it is clear that when the Israelites entered Palestine they came among a people whose religion, tradition and thought were fully established. It is only in accordance with analogy if stories were current in Israel of the institution of the sacred places, and closer study shows that we do not preserve the original version of these traditions.
A venerated tree in modern Palestine will owe its sanctity to some tradition, associating it, it may be, with some saint; the Israelites in their turn held the belief that the sacred tree at Hebron was one beneath which their first ancestor sat when three divine beings revealed themselves to him. But it is noteworthy that Yahweh alone is now prominent; the tradition has been revised, apparently in writing, and, later, the author of Jubilees (xvi.) ignores the triad. At Beer-lahai-roi an El (“god”) appeared to Hagar, whence the name of her child Ishmael; but the writer prefers the unambiguous proper name Yahweh, and, what is more, the divine being is now Yahweh’s angel—the Almighty’s subordinate (xvi.). The older traits show themselves partly in the manifestation of various Els, and partly in the cruder anthropomorphism of the earlier sources. Later hands have by no means eliminated or modified them altogether, and in xxxi. 53 one can still perceive that the present text has endeavoured to obscure the older belief that the God of Abraham was not the God of his “brother” Nahor (see the commentaries). The sacred pillar erected by Jacob at Bethel was solemnly anointed with oil, and it (and not the place) was regarded as the abode of the Deity (xxviii. 18, 22). This agrees with all that is known of stone-cults, but it is quite obvious that this interesting example of popular belief is far below the religious ideas of the writer of the chapter in its present form. There were many places where it could be said that Yahweh had recorded his name and would bless his worshippers (Ex. xx. 24). They were abhorrent to the advanced ethical teaching of prophets and of those imbued with the spirit of Deuteronomy (cf. 2 Kings xviii. 4 with v. 22), and it is patent from Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Is. lvi.-lxvi. that even at a late date opinion varied as to how Yahweh was to be served. It is significant, therefore, that the narratives in Genesis (apart from P) reflect a certain tolerant attitude; there is much that is contrary to prophetical thought, but even the latest compilers have not obliterated all features that, from a strict standpoint, could appear distasteful. Although the priestly source shows how the lore could be reshaped, and Jubilees represents later efforts along similar lines, it is evident that for ordinary readers the patriarchal traditions could not be presented in an entirely new form, and that to achieve their aims the writers could not be at direct variance with current thought.
It will now be understood why several scholars have sought to recover earlier forms of the traditions, the stages through which the material has passed, and the place of the earlier forms and stages in the history and religion of Israel. These labours are indispensable for scientific biblical study, and are most fruitful when they depend upon comprehensive methods of research. When, for example, one observes the usual forms of hero-cult and the tendency to regard the occupant of the modern sacred shrine as the ancestor of his clients, deeper significance is attached to the references to the protective care of Abraham and Israel (Is. lxiii. 16), or to the motherly sympathy of Rachel (Jer. xxxi. 15). And, again, when one perceives the tendency to look upon the alleged ancestor or weli as an almost divine being, there is much to be said for the view that the patriarchal figures were endowed by popular opinion with divine attributes. But here the same external evidence warns us that these considerations throw no light upon the original significance of the patriarchs. It is impossible to recover the earliest traditions from the present narratives, and these alone offer sufficiently perplexing problems.
From a careful survey of all the accessible material it is beyond doubt that Genesis preserves only a selection of traditions of various ages and interests, and often not in their original form. We have relatively little tradition from North Israel; Beersheba, Beer-lahai-roi and Southern interests. Hebron are more prominent than even Bethel or Shechem, while there are no stories of Gilgal, Shiloh or Dan. Yet in the nature of the case, there must have been a great store of local tradition accessible to some writers and at some periods. Interest is taken not in Phoenicia, Damascus or the northern tribes, but in the east and south, in Gilead, Ammon, Moab and Ishmael. Particular attention is paid to Edom and Jacob, and there is good evidence for a close relationship between Edomite and allied names and those of South Palestine (including Simeon and Judah). Especially significant, too, is the interest in traditions which affected the South of Palestine, that district which is of importance for the history of Israel in the wilderness and of the Levites. It is noteworthy, therefore, that while different peoples had their own theories of their earliest history, the first-born of the first human pair is Cain, the eponym of the Kenites, and the ancestor of the beginnings of civilization (iv. 17, 20-22). This “Kenite” version had its own view of the institution of the worship of Yahweh (iv. 26); it appears to have ignored the Deluge, and it implies the existence of a fuller corpus of written tradition. Elsewhere, in the records of the Exodus, there are traces of specific traditions associated with Kadesh, Kenites, Caleb and Jerahmeel, and with a movement into Judah, all originally independent of their present context. Like the prominence of the traditions of Hebron and its hero Abraham, these features cannot be merely casual.
The fact that one is not dealing with literal history complicates the question of the nomadic or semi-nomadic life of the Israelite ancestors. They are tent-dwellers, shepherds, sojourners (xvii. 8, xxiii. 4, xxviii. 4, xxxvi. 7, xxxvii. 1), and we breathe the air of the open country. But the impression gained from the narratives is of course due to the narrators. The movements of the patriarchs serve mainly to connect them with traditions which were originally independent. When Abraham separates from Lot he settles in “the land of Canaan,” while Lot dwells in “the cities of the plain” (xiii. 12). Isaac at Beersheba enters into an alliance with the Philistines (xxvi. 12 sqq.), while Jacob seems to settle at Shechem (xxxiv.), and there or at Dothan, a few miles north, his sons pasture their father’s flock (xxxvii. 12 sqq.). Indeed, according to an isolated fragment Jacob conquered Shechem and gave it to Joseph (xlviii. 22), and this tradition underlies (and has not given birth to) the late and fantastic stories of his warfare (Jub. xxxiv. 1-9, Test. of Judah iii.). Judah, also, is represented as settling among the Canaanites (xxxviii.), and Simeon marries a Canaanite—according to late tradition, a woman of Zephath (xlvi. 10; Jub. xxxiv. 20, xliv. 13; see Judg. i. 17). These representations have been subordinated to others, in particular to the descent into Egypt of Jacob (Israel) and his sons, and the Exodus of the Israelites. But the critical study of these events raises very serious historical problems. Abraham’s grandson, with his family—a mere handful of people—went down into Egypt during a famine (cf. Abraham xii. 10, and Isaac xxvi. 1 seq.); 400 years pass, all memory of which is practically obliterated, and the Israelite nation composed of similar subdivisions returns. Although the later genealogies from Jacob to Moses allow only four generations (cf. Gen. xv. 16), the difficulties are not removed. Joseph lived to see the children of Machir (l. 23, note Ex. i. 8), though Machir received Gilead from the hands of Moses (Num. xxxii. 40); Levi descended with Kehath, who became the grandfather of Aaron and Moses, while Aaron married a descendant in the fifth generation from Judah (Ex. vi. 23). On the other hand the genealogies in 1 Chron. ii. sqq. are independent of the Exodus; Ephraim’s children raid Gath, his daughter founds certain cities, and Manasseh has an Aramaean concubine who becomes the mother of Machir (1 Chron. vii. 14, 20-24). Moreover the whole course of the invasion and settlement of Israel (under Joshua) has no real connexion with pre-Mosaic patriarchal history. If we reinterpret the history of the family and its descent into Egypt, and belittle its increase into a nation, and if we figure to ourselves a more gradual occupation of Palestine, we destroy the entire continuity of history as it was understood by those who compiled the biblical history, and we have no evidence for any confident reconstruction. With such thoroughness have the compilers given effect to their views that only on closer examination is it found that even at a relatively late period fundamentally differing traditions still existed, and that those which belonged to circles which did not recognize the Exodus have been subordinated and adjusted by writers to whom this was the profoundest event in their past.
That the journey of Jacob-Israel from his Aramaean relatives into Palestine hints at some pre-Mosaic immigration is possible, but has not been either proved or disproved. The details point rather to a reflection of the entrance of the children of Israel, elsewhere ascribed to the leadership The Southern nucleus. of Joshua (q.v.). Though the latter proceeded to Gilgal, a variant tradition, now almost lost, seems to have recorded an immediate journey to Shechem (Deut. xxvii. 1-10, Josh. viii. 30-35) previous to Joshua’s great campaigns (Josh. x. seq., cf. Jacob’s wars). His religious gathering at Shechem before the dismissal of the tribes finds its parallel in Jacob’s reforms before leaving for Bethel (xxiv.; cf. v. 26, Gen. xxxv. 4). Owing, perhaps, to the locale of the writers, we hear relatively little of the northern tribes. Judah and Simeon are the first to conquer their lot, and the “house of Joseph” proceeds south to Bethel, where the story of the “weeping” at Bochim finds a parallel in the “oak of weeping” (Gen. xxxv. 8). In Gen. xxxviii. “at that time Judah went down from his brethren”—in xxxvii. they are at Shechem or Dothan—and settled among Canaanites, and there is a fragmentary allusion to a similar alliance of Simeon (xlvi. 10). The trend of the two series of traditions is too close to be accidental, yet the present sequence of the narratives in Joshua and Judges associates them with the Exodus. Further, Jacob’s move to Shechem, Bethel and the south is parallel to that of Abraham, but his history actually represents a twofold course. On the one hand, he is the Aramaean (Deut. xxvi. 5), the favourite son of his Aramaean mother. On the other, Rebekah is brought to Beer-lahai-roi (xxiv.), Jacob belongs to the south and he leaves Beersheba for his lengthy sojourn beyond the Jordan. His separation from Esau, the revelation at Bethel, and the new name Israel are recorded twice, and if the entrance into Palestine reflects one ethnological tradition, the possibility that his departure from Beersheba reflects another, finds support (a) in the genealogies which associate the nomad “father” of the southern clans Caleb and Jerahmeel with Gilead (1 Chron. ii. 21), and (b) in the hints of an “exodus” from the district of Kadesh northwards.
The history of an immigration into Palestine from beyond the Jordan would take various shapes in local tradition. In Genesis it is preserved from the southern point of view. The northern standpoint appears when Rachel, mother of Joseph and Benjamin, is the favoured wife in contrast to the despised Leah, mother of Judah and Simeon; when Joseph is supreme among his brethren; and when Judah is included among the “sons” of Israel. It is possible that the application of the traditional immigration to the history of the tribes is secondary. This at all events suggests itself when xxxiv. extends to the history of all the sons, incidents which originally concerned Simeon and Levi alone, and which may have represented the Shechemite version of a “Levitical” tradition (see Levites). However this may be, it is necessary to account for the nomadic colouring of the narratives (cf. Meyer, pp. 305, 472) and the prominence of southern interests, and it would be in accordance with biblical evidence elsewhere if northern tradition had been taken over and adapted to the standpoint of the southern members of Israel, with the incorporation of local tradition which could only have originated in the south. These and other indications point to a late date in biblical history. There is a manifest difference between the religious importance of Shechem in the traditions of Joshua (xxiv.) and Jacob’s reforms when he leaves behind him the heathen symbols before journeying to the holy site of Bethel (Gen. xxxv. 4). There is even some polemic against marriage with Shechemites (xxxiv.; more emphatic in Jub. xxx.), while in the story of the Hebronite Abraham, Bethel itself is avoided and Shechem is of little significance. Again, the present object of xxxviii. is to trace the origin of certain Judaean subdivisions after the death of the wicked Er and Onan. It is purely local and is interested in Shelah, and more especially in Perez and Zerah, names of families or clans of the post-exilic age. Elsewhere, in 1 Chron. ii. and iv., the genealogies represent a Judah composed of clans from the south (Caleb and Jerahmeel) and of small families or guilds, Shelah included. It is not the Judah of the monarchy or of the post-exilic Babylonian-Israelite community. But the mixed elements were ultimately reckoned among the descendants of Judah, through Hezron the “father” of Caleb and Jerahmeel, and just as the southern groups finally became incorporated in Israel, so it is to be observed that although Hebron and Abraham have gained the first place in the patriarchal history, the traditions are no longer specifically Calebite, but are part of the common Israelite heritage.
We are taken to a period in biblical history when, though the historical sources are almost inexplicably scanty, the narratives of the past were approaching their present shape. Some time after the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) there was a movement from the south of Judah northwards to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Bethlehem, Kirjath-jearim, &c.), where, as can be gathered from 1 Chron. ii., were congregated Kenite and Rechabite communities and families of scribes. Names related to those of Edomite and kindred groups are found in the late genealogies of both Judah and Benjamin, and recur even among families of the time of Nehemiah. The same obscure period witnessed the advent of southern families, the revival of the Davidic dynasty and its mysterious disappearance, the outbreak of fierce hatred of Edom, the return of exiles from Babylonia, the separation of Judah from Samaria and the rise of bitter anti-Samaritan feeling. It closes with the reorganization associated with Ezra and Nehemiah and the compilation of the historical books in practically their present form. It contains diverse interests and changing standpoints by which it is possible to explain the presence of purely southern tradition, the southern treatment of national history, and the antipathy to northern claims. As has already been mentioned, the specifically southern writings have everywhere been modified or adjusted to other standpoints, or have been almost entirely subordinated, and it is noteworthy, therefore, that in narratives elsewhere which reflect rivalries and conflicts among the priestly families, there is sometimes an animus against those whose names and traditions point to a southern origin (see Levites).
Thus the book of Genesis represents the result of efforts to systematize the earliest history, and to make it a worthy prelude to the Mosaic legislation which formed the charter of Judaism as it was established in or about the 5th Summary. century B.C. It goes back to traditions of the most varied character, whose tone was originally more in accord with earlier religion and thought. Though these have been made more edifying, they have not lost their charm and interest. The latest source, it is true, is without their freshness and life, but it is a matter for thankfulness that the simple compilers were conservative, and have neither presented a work entirely on the lines of P, nor rewritten their material as was done by the author of Jubilees and by Josephus. It is obvious that from Jubilees alone it would have been impossible to conceive the form which the traditions had taken a few centuries previously—viz. in Genesis. Also, from P alone it would have been equally impossible to recover the non-priestly forms. But while there is no immeasurable gulf between the canonical book of Genesis and Jubilees, the internal study of the former reveals traces of earlier traditions most profoundly different as regards thought and contents. It is not otherwise when one looks below the traditional history elsewhere (e.g. Samuel, Kings). An explanation may be found in the vicissitudes of the age. The movement from the south, which seems to account for a considerable cycle of the patriarchal traditions, belongs to the age after the downfall of the Israelite and (later) the Judaean monarchies when there were vital political and social changes. The removal of prominent inhabitants, by Assyria and later by Babylonia, the introduction of colonists from distant lands, and the movements of restless tribes around Palestine were more fatal to the continuity of trustworthy tradition than to the persistence of popular thought. New conditions arose as the population was reorganized, a new Israel claimed to be the heirs of the past (cf. e.g. the Samaritans, Ezr. iv. 2, Joseph. Antiq. ix. 14, 3; xi. 8, 6), and not until after these vicissitudes did the book of Genesis begin to assume its present shape. (See Jews; Palestine: History.)
The above pages handle only the more important details for the study of a book which, as regards contents and literary history, cannot be separated from the series to which it forms the introduction. As regards the literary-critical problems it is clear that with the elimination of P we have the sources (minor adjustment and revision excepted) which were accessible to the last compiler in the post-exilic age. Most critics have inclined to date these sources (J and E) as early as possible, whereas the admitted presence of secondary and of relatively late passages (e.g. xviii. 22 sqq., J; xxii., E) shows that one must work back from the sources as known in P’s age, and that one can rely only upon those criteria which can be approximately dated. It is usual to regard the more primitive character of J and E as a mark of antiquity; but this ignores the regular survival of primitive modes of thought and of popular tradition outside more cultured circles. It is also recognized that J and E are non-prophetical and non-Deuteronomic, but it has not been proved that the present J and E are earlier than the prophets or the Deuteronomic reforms of Josiah (2 Kings xxii. seq.). J and E are linguistically almost identical (in contrast to P), and differ from P in features which are often not of chronological but of sociological significance (e.g. the mentality of the writers). Their language is without some of the phenomena found in narratives which emanate from the north (e.g. Judges v., stories of Elijah and Elisha), and their stylistic variations may be, as Gunkel suggests, the mark of a district or region; for this district one would look in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The conclusion that P’s narratives and laws in the Pentateuch are post-exilic was found by biblical scholars to be a necessary correction to the original hypothesis of Graf (1866) that P’s narratives were to be retained (with J and E) at an early date. This view was influenced by the close connexion between the subject-matter, J, E and P representing the same trend of tradition. But by still ascribing J and E as written sources to about the 9th or 8th century (individual opinion varies), many difficulties and inconsistencies are involved. The present J and E reflect a reshaping and readjustment of earlier tradition which is found elsewhere, and the suggestion that they are not far removed from the age of the priestly writers and redactors does not conflict with what is known of language, forms of religious thought, or tendencies of tradition. We reach thus approximately the age when post-Deuteronomic editors were able to utilize such records as Judg. i., xvii. sqq., 2 Sam. ix.-xx. (see Judges; Samuel, Books of), which are equally valuable as specimens of current thought and of written tradition. In conclusion, the tendency of criticism has been to recognize “schools” of J and E extending into the exile, thus making the three sources J, E and P more nearly contemporaneous. The most recent conservative authority also inclines to a similar contemporaneity (“collaboration” or “co-operation”), but at an impossibly early date (J. Orr, Problem of the O. T., 1905, pp. 216, 345, 354, 375 seq., 527). By admitting possible revision in the post-exilic age (pp. 226, 369, 375 seq.), the conservative theory recalls the old legend that Ezra rewrote the Old Testament (2 Esd. xiv.) and thus restored the Law which had been lost; a view which, through the early Christian Fathers, gained currency and has enjoyed a certain popularity to the present day. But when once revision or rewriting is conceded, there is absolutely no guarantee that the present Pentateuch is in any way identical with the five books which tradition ascribed to Moses (q.v.), and the necessity for a comprehensive critical investigation of the present contents makes itself felt.
Literature.—Only a few of the numerous works can be mentioned. Of those written from a conservative or traditional standpoint the most notable are: W.H. Green’s Unity of Genesis (1895); and J. Orr, Problem of the O. T. (which is nevertheless a great advance upon earlier non-critical literature). S.R. Driver’s commentary (Westminster Series) deals thoroughly with all preliminary problems of criticism, and is the best for the ordinary reader; that of A. Dillmann (6th ed.; Eng. trans.) is more technical, that of W. H. Bennett (Century Bible) is more concise and popular. G. J. Spurrell, Notes on the Text of Genesis, and C. J. Ball (in Haupt’s Sacred Books of the O. T.) appeal to Hebrew students. W. E. Addis, Documents of the Hexateuch, Carpenter and Harford-Battersby, The Hexateuch, and C. F. Kent, Beginnings of Hebrew History, are more important for the literary analysis. J. Wellhausen’s sketch in his Proleg. to Hist. of Israel (Eng. trans., pp. 259-342) is admirable, as also is the general Introduction (trans. by W. H. Carruth, 1907) to H. Gunkel’s valuable commentary. Of recent works bearing upon the subject-matter reference may be made to J. P. Peters, Early Hebrew Story (1904), A. R. Gordon, Early Traditions of Genesis (1907), and T. K. Cheyne, Traditions and Beliefs of Ancient Israel (1907). Special mention must be made of Eduard Meyer and B. Luther, to whose Die Israëliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (1906) the present writer is indebted for many valuable suggestions and hints. Fuller bibliographical information will be found in the works already mentioned, in the articles in the Ency. Bib. (G.F. Moore), and Hastings’s Dict. (G. A. Smith), and in the volume by J. Skinner in the elaborate and encyclopaedic International Critical Series. (S. A. C.)
- The abrupt introduction of a small poem (iv. 23 seq.) was long ago regarded as due to the use of separate sources (so the Calvinist Isaac de la Peyrère, 1654).
- The divergences of detail, with corresponding stylistic variations, were recognized long ago (e.g. by Father Simon in 1682).
- As early as 1685 Jean le Clerc observed that Ur of the Chaldees (Chasdim) in xi. 28 anticipates Chesed in xxii. 22, and implied some knowledge of the land of the Chaldaeans (cf. Ezek. i. 3, xi. 24).
- The Catholic priest Andrew du Maes (1570) already pointed to the names Hebron and Dan as signs of post-Mosaic date.
- Note the repetitions in vv. 2 and 3; Abraham’s faith, vv. 4-6, and his request, v. 8; contrast the time of day, v. 5 and v. 12, and the dates, v. 13 and v. 16. In vv. 12-15 there is a reference to the bondage in Egypt.
- These and other chronological embarrassments, now recognized as due to the framework of the post-exilic writer (P), have long been observed—by Spinoza, 1671.
- Points of resemblance in xxiii. with Babylonian usage have often been exaggerated; comparison “shows noteworthy differences” (T.G. Pinches, The Old Testament, p. 238); see Carpenter and Harford-Battersby, Hexateuch, i. 64, Driver, Gen. p. 230, and Addenda.
- Note, e.g., the sudden introduction of xxix. 15, the curious position of v. 24 (due to P), the double play upon the names Zebulun and Joseph, xxx. 20, 23 seq., the internal intricacies in the agreement, ib. vv. 31-43; the difficulties in the reference to the latter in xxxi. 6 sqq. (especially v. 10).
- See Ed. Meyer (and B. Luther), Die Israëliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (1906), pp. 238 sqq.; also the shrewd remarks of C.T. Beke, Origines biblicae (1834), pp. 123 sqq.
- It is interesting to find that the Spanish Rabbi Isaac (of Toledo, A.D. 982-1057), noticing that the royal list must be later than the time of Saul (also recognized by Martin Luther and others), proposed to assign the chapter to the age of Jehoshaphat.
- But the chronology is hopeless, and only ten years are allowed according to another and later scheme (xxv. 26, xxxv. 28, xlvii. 9).
- Cf. the account of the Israelites in Egypt, where they are in Goshen, unaffected by the plagues (Ex. viii. 22, ix. 26), or, according to another view, are living in the midst of the Egyptians (e.g. xii. 23).
- V. 7 breaks the context; there is repetition in vv. 10b and 13b; interchange of the names Jacob and Israel; v. 12 suggests a blessing upon Joseph himself; and with vv. 15 seq. (the blessing of the sons, not of Joseph), contrast vv. 20 sqq. (the singular “in thee,” v. 20).
- Only the more noticeable peculiarities have been mentioned in the preceding columns.
- On the course of modern criticism and on the various sources: P, J (Judaean or Yahwist), E (Ephraimite or Elohist), see Bible (Old Test. Criticism). The passages usually assigned to P in Genesis are: i. 1-ii. 4a; v. 1-28, 30-32; vi. 9-22; vii. 6 (and parts of 7-9), 11, 13-16a, 18-21, 24; viii. 1-2a, 3b-5, 13a, 14-19; ix. 1-17, 28-29; x. 1-7, 20, 22-23, 31-32; xi. 10-27, 31-32; xii. 4b-5; xiii. 6, 11b-12a; xvi. 1a, 3, 15-16; xvii.; xix. 29; xxi. 1b, 2b-5; xxiii.; xxv. 7-11a, 12-17, 19-20, 26b; xxvi. 34-35; xxvii. 46-xxviii. 9; xxix. 24, 28b, 29; xxxi. 18b; xxxiii. 18a; xxxiv. 1-2a, 4, 6, 8-10, 13-18, 20-24, part of 25, 27-29; xxxv. 9-13, 15, 22b-29; xxxvi. (in the main); xxxvii. 1-2a; xli. 46; xlvi. 6-27; xlvii. 5-6a, 7-11, 27b-28; xlviii. 3-7; xlix. 1a, 28b-33, l. 12-13.
- See on this, especially, S.R. Driver’s Genesis in the “Westminster Commentaries” (seventh ed., 1909).
- The above is typical of modern biblical criticism which is compelled to recognize the human element (and can thus have no a priori preconceptions in approaching the Old Testament), but at the same time reveals ever more decisively the presence of purifying influences, without which the records of Israel would have had no permanent interest or value. They thus gain a new value which cannot be impaired when it is realized that their significance is quite independent of their origins.
- See the remarks of W. R. Smith, Eng. Hist. Rev. (1888), pp. 128 seq. (from the sociological side), and for general considerations, A. A. Bevan, Crit. Rev. (1893), pp. 138 sqq.; S. R. Driver, Genesis, pp. xliii. sqq.
- Cf. Amos i. 11; 1 Chron. ii. iv. (note iv. 10), the Book of Jubilees (see above), and also Arabian usage (W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage, ch. i.). For modern examples, see E. Littmann, Orient. Stud. Theodor Nöldeke (ed. Bezold, 1906), pp. 942-958.
- The Book of Jubilees also enables the student to test the arguments based upon any study restricted to Genesis alone. Thus it shows that the “primitive” features of Genesis afford a criterion which is sociological rather than chronological. This is often ignored. For example, the conveyance of the field of Machpelah (xxiii.) is conspicuous for the absence of any reference to a written contract in contrast to the “business” methods in Jer. xxxii. This does not prove that Gen. xxiii. is early, because writing was used in Palestine about 1400 B.C., and, on the other hand, the more simple forms of agreement are still familiar after the time of Jeremiah (e.g. Ruth, Proverbs). Similarly, no safe argument can be based upon the institution of blood-revenge in Gen. iv., when one observes the undeveloped conditions among the Trachonites of the time of Herod the Great (Josephus, Ant. xvi. 9, 1), or the varying usages among modern tribes.
- On the Jewish forms, see R.H. Charles, Book of Jubilees (1902), pp. 33 seq.
- A.H. Sayce, Proc. of the Soc. of Bibl. Arch. (1907), pp. 13-17.
- xxvii. 27-29, 39 seq. This is significantly altered in the later writings (Jub. xxvi. 34 and the Targums). It is worth noticing that in Jub. xxvi. 35 a new turn is given to Gen. xxvii. 41 by changing Isaac’s approaching death (which raises serious difficulties in the history of Jacob) into Esau’s wish that it may soon come.
- See E. Meyer (and B. Luther), Die Israëliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (1906), pp. 386-389, 442-446.
- See Philistines. The covenant with Abimelech may be compared with the friendship between David and Achish (1 Sam. xxvii.), who is actually called Abimelech in the heading of Ps. xxxiv. (see 1 Sam. xxi. 10). If this is a mistake (and not a variant tradition) it is a very remarkable one. The treatment of the covenant by the author of Jubilees (xxiv. 28 sqq.), on the other hand, is only intelligible when one recalls the attitude of Judah to the Philistine cities in the 2nd century B.C.; see R.H. Charles, ad loc.
- In 2 Sam. xix. 43 (original text) the men of Israel claim to be the first-born rather than Judah; cf. 1 Chron. v. 1 seq., where the birthright (after Reuben was degraded) is explicitly conferred upon Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh).
- Cf. Josephus, Antiq. ii. 8, 2; Test. of xii. Patriarchs; Acts vii. 16 (where Shechem is an error); Oesterley and Box, Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, pp. 340 seq.; M.G. Dampier, in Church and Synagogue (1909), p. 78.
- See J.P. Peters, Early Heb. Story (1904), pp. 81 sqq.; S.A. Cook, Relig. of Anc. Palestine (1908), pp. 19 sqq.
- In like manner the Babylonian story of the flood has been revised and adapted to the Hebrew Noah (cf. Nippur, ad fin.).
- The writer in Jub. xxvii. 27 treats the pillar as a “sign.” Another useful example of revision is to be found in Josh. xxii., where what was regarded (by a reviser) as an object unworthy of the religion of Yahweh is now merely commemorative.
- For popular religious thought and practice (often described as pre-prophetical, though non-prophetical would be a safer term), see Hebrew Religion.
- Among recent efforts to find and explain mythical elements, see especially Stucken, Astralmythen: H. Winckler, Geschichte Israëls, vol. ii.; and P. Jensen, Das Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltlitteratur.
- Again the analogy of the modern East is instructive. Especially interesting are the traditions associating the same figure or incident with widely separated localities.
- See Exodus, The; Levites. On this feature see Luther and Meyer, op. cit. pp. 158 seq., 227 sqq., 259, 279, 305, 386, 443. Their researches on this subject are indispensable for a critical study of Genesis.
- The notion of an Eve (hawwah, “serpent”) as the first woman may be conjecturally associated with (a) the frequent traditions of the serpent-origin of clans, and (b) with evidence which seems to connect the Levites and allied families with some kind of serpent-cult (see Meyer, op. cit. pp. 116, 426 seq., 443, and art. Serpent-worship). The account of mankind as it now reads (ii. seq.) is in several respects less primitive (contrast vi. 1 seq.), and the present story of Cain and his murder of Abel really places the former in an unfavourable light.
- See the discussion between B.D. Eerdmans and G.A. Smith in the Expositor (Aug.–Oct. 1908), and the former’s Alttest. Studien, ii. (1908), passim.
- xxxiv. (note v. 9) indicates a possible alliance with Shechemites, and xxxv. 4 (taken literally) implies a residence long enough for a religious reform to be necessary. Yet the present aim of the narratives is to link together the traditions and emphasize Jacob’s return from Laban to his dying father (xxviii. 21; xxxi. 3, 13, 18; xxxii. 9; xxxv. 1, 27).
- Cf. Benjamin’s descendants in 1 Chron. viii. 6 seq. and see on the naive and primitive character of these traditions, Kittel, comment. ad loc.
- That there are traditions in Genesis which do not form the prelude to Exodus is very generally recognized by those who agree that the Israelites after entering Palestine took over some of the indigenous lore (whether from the Canaanites or from a presumed earlier layer of Israelites). This adoption of native tradition by new settlers, however, cannot be confined to any single period. See further, Luther and Meyer, op. cit. pp. 108, 110, 156, 227 seq., 254 seq., 414 seq., 433; on traditions related to the descent into Egypt, ib. 122 sqq., 151 seq., 260; and on the story of Joseph (ch. xxxv., xxxvii. sqq.), as an independent cycle used to form a connecting link, Luther, ib. pp. 142-154.
- Cf. the late “Deuteronomic” form of Judges where a hero of Kenizzite origin (and therefore closely connected with Caleb) stands at the head of the Israelite “judges”; also, from another aspect, the specifically Judaean and anti-Israelite treatment of the history of the monarchy. But in each case the feature belongs to a relatively late stage in the literary history of the books; see Judges; Samuel, Books of; Kings.
- Mahalalel (son of Kenan, another form of Cain, v. 12) is also a
prominent ancestor in Perez (Neh. xi. 4), and Zerah claimed the
renowned sages of Solomon’s day (1 Chron. ii. 6, 1 Kings iv. 31).
The story implies that Perez surpassed his “brother” clan Zerah
(xxxviii. 27-30), and in fact Perez is ultimately reckoned the head
of the Judaean subdivisions (1 Chron. ii. 4 sqq.), and thus is the
reputed ancestor of the Davidic dynasty (Ruth iv. 12, 18 sqq.).
The sympathies of these traditions are as suggestive as their presence in the canonical history, which, it must be remembered, ultimately passed through the hands of Judaean compilers.
- Neh. iii. 9, 14; see Meyer, pp. 300, 430; S.A. Cook, Critical Notes on O. T. History, p. 58 n. 2. While the evidence points to an early close relationship among S. Palestinian groups (Edom, Ishmael, &c.; cf. Meyer, p. 446), there are many allusions to subsequent treacherous attacks which made Edom execrable. Here again biblical criticism cannot at present determine precisely when or precisely why the changed attitude began; see Edom; Jews, §§ 20, 22.
- Although the movement reflected in 1 Chron. ii. is scarcely pre-exilic, yet naturally there had always been a close relation between Judah and the south, as the Assyrian inscriptions of the latter part of the 8th century B.C. indicate.
- The south of Palestine, if less disturbed by these changes, may well have had access to older authoritative material.
- For Orr’s other concessions bearing upon Genesis, see op. cit., pp. 9 seq., 87, 93, and (on J, E, P) 196, 335, 340. These, like the concessions of other apologetic writers, far outweigh the often hypercritical, irrelevant, and superficial objections brought against the literary and historical criticism of Genesis.