[b-hebrew] Genesis 12: 5: RK$

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Nov 13 14:52:11 EST 2007


 
One of the keys to understanding the Patriarchal narratives is the word  RK$ 
("rekush" or "rekuwsh") at Genesis 12: 5. 
In chapter 14 of Genesis, the word RK$ is used five times to mean  "booty", 
or "luxury goods".  Genesis  14: 11, 12, 16, 16, 21 
What really counts for us, however, is how  this same word, RK$, is to be 
understood at Genesis 12: 5.   
(Elsewhere in the Patriarchal narratives, this word is alternatively  spelled 
RKW$.  Gesenius views RK$ as  being a "defective" spelling.  But  at Genesis 
12: 5, and in chapter 14 of Genesis, the spelling is RK$.) 
1.  Here is the JPS1917  translation of Genesis 12: 5: 
"And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son,  and all their 
substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had  gotten in Haran;  
and they went  forth to go into the land of Canaan;  and into the land of 
Canaan they  came." 
Note the odd and ambiguous word used to translate RK$  there:  "substance". 
2.  Not  surprisingly, the best explanation I have found of RK$ is in BDB.  
Here is part of BDB's  explanation: 
"property, goods…gen. term for movable possessions of all  kinds…Gn 12: 5;  
15: 14….  esp. as booty Gn 14:  11,12,16,16,21" 
Booty, by its nature, consists of luxury goods.  Though RK$ is a fairly broad 
and  somewhat ambiguous word, it fits luxury goods perfectly.  In chapter 14 
of Genesis, RK$ clearly is  referring to luxury goods that are functioning as  
booty. 
(BDB does say that RK$ is broad enough to include  livestock in certain 
contexts.) 
3.  Gesenius  is also somewhat helpful in explaining RK$ as follows:  "that 
which is acquired, earned, hence  'substance', 'wealth'". 
RK$ brought from Mesopotamia to Canaan could be "wealth"  that had been 
"acquired" in far-away Mesopotamia on a long caravan trip.  That would fit the 
concept of luxury  goods that have been purchased in Mesopotamia for the purpose 
of being sold in  Egypt. 
RK$ does not seem to fit at all well for inherited  property, or family 
heirlooms, or necessities of life such as tents, etc.  The term RK$ conjures up an 
image,  rather, of something that has been "acquired" or "earned", and that 
represents  "wealth" of an obvious and readily marketable sort.  Though RK$ is a 
broad term that can  potentially include "movable possessions of all kinds", 
nevertheless one  specific type of item that fits the term RK$ particularly 
well would be luxury  commercial goods purchased in Mesopotamia for re-sale in  
Egypt. 
4.  Other  translators use the following English words for RK$ at Genesis 12: 
 5: 
JPS1985:  "wealth" 
KJV:  "substance"  [The annotated  Zondervan KJV Study Bible makes no comment 
as  to what such "substance" may have  consisted of.] 
English Standard Version:  "possessions" 
Young's Literal Translation:  "substance" 
Darby:  "possessions" 
American Standard Version:  "substance" 
Robert Alter:  "goods"  [with no comment in his long book as to  what such 
"goods" might be] 
E.A. Speiser:  "possessions"  [with no comment in his long book as to  what 
such "possessions" might be] 
Gerhard von Rad:  "possessions"  [with no comment in his long book as to  
what such "possessions" might be] 
Strong's says "goods, riches,  substance". 
5.  Other than BDB's nice treatment, and the brief comment by Gesenius, I  
have been unable to find any commentary on what exactly Genesis 12: 5 is  
referring to when it says that Abraham and Lot brought their RK$ into  Canaan. 
6.  I  view the RK$ at Genesis 12: 5 as consisting primarily of luxury 
commercial  goods.  As such, I see RK$ at  Genesis 12: 5 as having a very similar 
meaning to RK$ at Genesis 14: 11, 12, 16,  16, 21. 
7.  If Abraham and Lot brought luxury commercial goods with them to Canaan  
from Mesopotamia, then we can figure out what is going on in the first several  
chapters of the Patriarchal narratives.  These luxury goods would have just 
recently been purchased in  Mesopotamia, on a one-time caravan expedition to 
that far-away locale, for the  purpose of selling such luxury goods/RK$ in Egypt 
for a sky high price.  In my view, that is the main reason, not  any supposed 
beauty of 65-"year"-old Sarah, why Abraham is able to spend only a  very 
short time in Egypt, and then come back to Canaan from Egypt a wealthy  man.  When 
Abraham gets back to  Canaan from Egypt, Abraham has gold and silver, which 
were so very rare in  modest Canaan.  Virtually the only  realistic way that a 
tent-dweller in Canaan could have any substantial amount of  gold and silver 
is if that tent-dweller had managed to sell in Egypt luxury  goods that such 
tent-dweller had acquired on a long and arduous caravan trip to  far-off 
Mesopotamia.   
"And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife,  and all that he had, and 
Lot with him, into the South.  And Abram was very rich in cattle, in  silver, 
and in gold."   Genesis  13: 1-2 
No tent-dweller would come out of Egypt laden with  silver and gold on the 
basis of having tricked a pharaoh as to the marital  status of the 
tent-dweller's wife age 65.  That makes no sense.  A much  more realistic scenario is that 
Abraham sold in Egypt luxury commercial goods  that Abraham's father's family 
had acquired for that purpose on a very long  caravan trip to far-off 
Mesopotamia. 
In my view, the key to understanding the opening  chapters of the Patriarchal 
narratives lies in how we understand the key Hebrew  word RK$ at Genesis 12: 
5.  I see  RK$ at Genesis 12: 5 as primarily meaning, in context, "luxury 
commercial  goods".  Importantly, this is quite  similar to the well-recognized 
meaning of RK$ in chapter 14 of  Genesis. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois



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