[b-hebrew] Amalekites!

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Aug 12 04:31:04 EDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl Randolph" <kwrandolph at email.com>
> Yigal:
> You assume that when Noah and his sons got off the ark, that they saw the
same landscape with which they were familiar from before the Flood.

Karl, I assume nothing of the sort. In fact, I don't know what to assume
about the Flood as a historical of geological event. All I'm trying to do is
understand what the author of Genesis "assumed", and I think that he did
assume that the world "went back" to what it was before the flood. When he
said "Havilah", he meant "Havilah", and not some "other" "Havilah" that this
"Havilah" was named after.

>But if the flood were world wide, as reported in Genesis, then what is to
prevent the old world from being completely wiped out and replaced by a
completely different landscape? Then, when Noah and his sons came across a
river, they just named it with a name they knew from before, in the same way
immigrants from England named towns and other features of America (Canada &
U.S.) with English names?
> Nowhere in Tanakh does it claim that the tribe of Amalek was descended
from Esau. Who is to say that it was not named from a previous person with
that name? Even assuming that the Bible is a true history does not assume
that it is an exhaustive history, and the people of Amalek is a loose thread
that comes into the story from who knows where, and were wiped out.
> Karl W. Randolph.

Karl, many of the names given in the biblical genealogies are also known as
names of places, people and tribes/nations. In some cases, such as Edom,
Moab, Ammon and Israel, the author makes a point of telling us that the
character was the ancestor of the nation. But he only bothers to do this
when it is relevant to the story.
In a tribal society such as ancient Israel and Judah (and in many tribal
societies that have been studied by anthropologists to this day), it is
assumed that all members of the tribe (except, of course, "gerim") are
descended from an eponymous ancestor. Often, the ancestor's name is the same
as that of the region that the tribe lives in, and is also used as a
geographical name (e.g. "Mount Ephraim"). The same is true for smaller
units, such as clans living in a village (that is, the inhabitants of Tekoa
were assumed to be descended from a man named Tekoa), and for larger units,
such as nations (the Arameans were descended from a man called Aram). The
genealogies are (in part - they have other purposes as well) a literary
convention for describing the "relationships" between these various units.
And so, the inhabitants of Tekoa would describe their "ancestor" Tekoa as
being a "grandson" of Ephrathah, which they identified with Bethlehem, a
"wife" of Caleb (1 Chr. 2:24, 50-51). The Calebites were the main Judahite
phratry in the Bethlehem area, and the relationship of Tekoa to Bethlehem
reflects the relationship between the tiny village and the midsize town at
the time reflected in the genealogy.
Now I know that "historically", Tekoa may not have been named after a man
named Tekoa, and Caleb may never have had a "wife" named Ephrathah. And Esau
may not have had a "real" grandson named Amalek. I also think that the
authors of Chronicles and Genesis might have known this. Or not. But I do
think that when the author of Genesis bothers to "place" Amalek in the
genealogy of Esau, it is precisely because he wished to show how that evil
nation is related to Israel. So yes, Esau's "grandson" Amalek IS the
eponymous ancestor of the nation of Amalek, at least in the world of the
biblical authors.


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