THE PATRIARCHAL GENEALOGY
In this study we will take a look at the genetic beginnings of the nation of Israel. I have attached a chart of the family of Terah, Abram’s father. (Click here on Patriarchal Genealogy for a larger PDF version of the chart.) In the Bible Abram and Abraham refer to the same man and Sarai and Sarah is the same woman. You may find even more things in the chart than I will point out, but here is a start.
Abraham and Sarah were half brother and sister, having the same father but different mothers. Abraham’s brother Nahor married their other brother Haran’s daughter Milcah. Milcah’s siblings, Lot and Iscah, were not allowed to become part of the nation of Israel. The single Biblical exception to this is Ruth the Moabitess who married Boaz and became the great grandmother of King David.
Abraham had eight children by three wives: Sarah (Isaac), Hagar (Ishmael) and Keturah (Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah). Of these eight only Isaac was accepted by God as the promised seed. The descendants of these other children became, to a greater or lesser degree, enemies of Isaac and his descendants.
Isaac’s uncle, Nahor and cousin, Milcah, had a son, Bethuel, who in turn had two children: Laban and Rebekah. Isaac married Rebekah and they had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau wound up married to Canaanites and was a great grief to his parents. Because of major problems between the twins it became necessary for Jacob to leave home and go stay with his uncle Laban for about twenty years.
Meanwhile, back in Mesopotamia, Laban had married and fathered two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Through a series of deceptions and jealousies Jacob got married to both of these girls, his cousins, and to their handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah – a total of four wives and thirteen children, twelve boys and one girl.
Now that we have the basics of this family tree down, (and this one hardly forks at all), let me draw a quick conclusion of the matter. Am I the only one who has looked at this family tree and seen what appears to be a breeding chart used to fix certain characteristics in the offspring? It seems to me that those who had the traits God wanted were kept in the breeding program. Those, like Lot and Ishmael, who did not possess those qualities were shunted to the side. Then after four (through Abraham), five (through Nahor) or six (through Haran) generations the attributes were so firmly fixed in the family that there was not a need for such intense inbreeding, though of course it did continue as they became slaves in Egypt.
This inbreeding was for a purpose. Ranchers reinforce characteristics of their stock for their own purposes. We are not entirely sure for what or how God was selecting characteristics for His chosen people.
Even though the Bible makes plain that there were pleasing physical characteristics in the family (Sarah – Genesis 12:11 “…a fair woman to look upon:..,” Rebekah – Genesis 24:16 “very fair to look upon…,” Leah – Genesis 29:17 “…tender eyed…,” Rachel – Genesis 29:17 …beautiful and well favoured…,” Joseph – Genesis 39:6 “…a goodly person, and well favoured.”) this was obviously not most important to the Creator.
It was not a matter of good decisions. Abraham and Isaac were deceptive about their relationships with their wives. Rebekah and Jacob conspired in chicanery to obtain the blessing of Isaac. Jacob and Laban (one accepted and one rejected) deceived each other, each giving about as good as he got. Jacob was not wise is showing favoritism to Joseph. Joseph was unwise in the way he shared his dreams. The ten older brothers had fratricidal jealousy.
The Egyptians built better buildings (pyramids). The Hittites were better fighters. The Greeks were better at math and philosophy. The Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks and Romans were more advanced in human governance. All peoples outnumbered the old couple that started all of this.
If there is a way to transfer an inclination to faith thru DNA modern science has not discovered it. We may not figure out all that is involved here, but we can trust God to do all things well.
A continuing tragedy is that once someone was culled from the chosen group, their descendants, with the exception of Ruth, were cut off through succeeding generations. Do not cull yourself from the household of faith and deprive your descendants of a contact with the holy. Do not break the chain.
* Remember this – God will have his way in the midst of the confusion of our lives.