[b-hebrew] Mowledeth

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Nov 2 09:19:21 EDT 2007

We have seen that the last two of the nine uses of the  word 
MWLDT/"mowledeth" in the Patriarchal narratives, at Genesis 43: 7 and  Genesis 48: 6, mean 
"father's descendants", and do not mean "the geographical  locale of one's 
birth".  The other  seven uses of MWLDT in the Patriarchal narratives are all paired 
with the word  "land", although the pairing is done in many different  ways. 
In four of those seven uses of the word MWLDT, the word  MWLDT and the word 
for "land" are separated by the word "and".  In those four cases, the more 
natural  reading of the sentence is that two different things are being 
referenced:  (1) the word for "land" is referencing  land, whereas (2) MWLDT is, by 
contrast, referencing "father's descendants" or  "kindred".  As we will see in due 
 course, almost all well-known standard English translations of the 
Patriarchal  narratives translate MWLDT as "kindred", or some similar term that can 
refer to  "father's descendants", when MWLDT is paired with "land" and the two 
words are  separated by "and".  That is the  natural reading in those cases, and 
most translations follow that natural  reading. 
In this post we will look at Genesis 32: 10 as one key  example of this.  
This is a critical  use of MWLDT, because in this verse Jacob/"Israel" tells us 
how MWLDT should be  interpreted. 
The context is that Jacob is on the outskirts of Canaan,  having returned 
from Harran in accordance with YHWH's advice.  Jacob is terrified that his older  
half-brother Esau may murder Jacob and all of Jacob's family tomorrow.  In 
this passage, Jacob fervently reminds  YHWH that not only had YHWH directed 
Jacob to return to the land of Canaan, but  also YHWH had specifically directed 
Jacob to return to Jacob's father's  descendants, Jacob's MWLDT.  The one  very 
threatening member of Jacob's MWLDT (Jacob's "father's descendants" or  
"kindred") is, most obviously, Esau. 
Here is what Jacob says:   
"And Jacob said:  'O God of my father Abraham, and God of  my father Isaac, O 
LORD [YHWH], who saidst unto me:  Return unto thy country, and to thy  MWLDT, 
and I will do thee good".  Genesis 32: 10 
In context, Jacob is saying that YHWH had advised Jacob  to return to Jacob's 
MWLDT/"father's descendants", and hence YHWH should see to  it that Jacob is 
not murdered tomorrow by Esau, who is the most prominent member  (other than 
Jacob himself) of Jacob's MWLDT/"father's descendants".  In context, Jacob is 
not, at this  critical moment, making irrelevant remarks about the place where 
Jacob had been  born, or the place where Jacob had formerly  lived. 
1.  The place  of Jacob's birth is Beer-lahai-roi, south of Hebron, on the 
northern edge of the  Negev Desert.  (See Genesis 25:  11.)  Jacob never goes 
back to  Beer-lahai-roi.  In a matter that  can be addressed in more detail in a 
later post, it seems most doubtful that  YHWH ever told Jacob to go back to 
the place of Jacob's birth, because Jacob in  fact never goes back to the place 
of Jacob's birth.  Jacob at this point is just east of  Shechem, nowhere near 
Beer-lahai-roi on the northern edge of the Negev  Desert.  For years Jacob 
never  settles anywhere near the place of Jacob's  birth. 
2.  In context, Jacob is  making a clever argument to YHWH here.  Jacob is 
stating that Jacob has simply done what YHWH told Jacob to  do:  return to 
Jacob's country, and  return to Jacob's MWLDT.  Jacob at  this point is just east 
of the Jordan River, a short distance from Shechem,  which is west of the 
Jordan River.  Jacob has returned to Jacob's country, in the important sense that 
as  soon as Jacob goes a half-day's more travel west, Jacob will be in  Canaan. 
If MWLDT means "father's descendants", then Jacob has  certainly returned to 
Jacob's father's descendants as well (though not to the  place of Jacob's 
birth, which is located far away to the south, on the northern  edge of the Negev 
Desert).  At this  very moment, Jacob is terrified that his father's oldest 
son, Esau, who is  Jacob's older twin brother, is going to murder Jacob and all 
of Jacob's family  the next day.  Just two verses  later, Jacob says exactly 
that to YHWH: 
"'Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother,  from the hand of 
Esau;  for I fear  him, lest he come and smite me, the mother with the 
children.'"  Genesis 32:  12 
3.  Note that  the whole focus of attention here is on a human being, Esau, 
who is one of  Jacob's father's descendants.  There  is no focus whatsoever at 
this point on the geographical place of Jacob's birth,  which is a very long 
ways away, south of Hebron (which itself is far south of  Shechem), and is a 
place to which Jacob in fact never returns.  At Genesis 32: 10, Beer-lahai-roi 
is  entirely irrelevant, but the only other named brother of Jacob (namely 
Esau),  who is certainly one of Jacob's "father's descendants", is front and 
center as  the focus of attention. 
4.  In the  four cases in the Patriarchal narratives, such as here, where 
"land" and MWLDT  are separated by the word "and", the natural reading is that 
MWLDT means  "father's descendants" (or "kindred").  Note how awkwardly the 
following approach would read:  "Return unto thy country, and unto the  place of 
thy birth".  Instead of  this redundancy, the following reading is much more 
natural and meaningful:  "Return unto thy country, and unto thy  father's 
5.  We see  that MWLDT at Genesis 32: 10, as at Genesis 48: 6 and Genesis 43: 
7, in context  must mean "father's descendants", and cannot possibly mean 
"the geographical  place of the person's birth". 
6.  Almost  all of the standard English translations use "kindred" to 
translate the word  MWLDT at Genesis 32: 10.  That  includes JPS1917, English 
Standard Version, Darby, Young's Literal Translation,  and Revised Standard Version.  
King  James Version uses "family", but in context that has the same meaning 
here  (since Jacob is with all of Jacob's immediate family;  it is only Jacob's 
father's family, that  is Isaac's descendants, to whom Jacob is returning in 
going back to  Canaan).  The standard translation  here, which consistently is 
"kindred", reflects the fact that MWLDT is referring  to human beings at 
Genesis 32: 10, namely Esau as one of Jacob's "father's  descendants".   
7.  At  Genesis 32: 10, Jacob is forthrightly saying that since YHWH advised 
Jacob to  return to Jacob's father's descendants, then it is now incumbent 
upon YHWH to  make sure that no person who is one of Jacob's father's 
descendants, namely  Esau, murders Jacob and his family. 
In the Patriarchal narratives, the core meaning of MWLDT  is "father's 
descendants", or "kindred" in the narrowest sense of that English  word.  As we can 
explore in future  posts, if this core meaning of MWLDT is applied both at 
Genesis 12: 1 and  Genesis 11: 28, then there is no assertion whatsoever in the 
Patriarchal  narratives that the Hebrews or the pre-Hebrews were indigenous to  
Mesopotamia.  In secular history,  the Hebrews and the pre-Hebrews were 
indigenous to Canaan or greater Canaan, not  to Mesopotamia.  In my view, that  
important secular historical fact is consistent with, rather than contradicts,  
what the Hebrew text of the Patriarchal narratives says.  It all depends, you 
see, on how one  understands the key Hebrew word  MWLDT/"mowledeth". 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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