[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
(BDB does say that RK$ is broad enough to include livestock in certain
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
4. Other translators use the following English words for RK$ at Genesis 12:
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"
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
"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
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.
************************************** See what's new at http://www.aol.com
More information about the b-hebrew