[b-hebrew] Genesis 12: 5: RK$
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 14 14:30:58 EST 2007
You wrote: "I would include in REKU$ cattle, goats, tents, indentured
garments, jewelry, gold and silver, and the basic household articles and
Now we're finally getting somewhere.
1. Cattle, goats
It is fascinating to note that there is no specific mention of cattle or
goats in the Patriarchal narratives until Abraham is in Egypt. We know from
Genesis 12: 16 that Abraham used funds obtained in Egypt to buy various listed
animals. And when Abraham gets back to Canaan, Abraham has "miqneh", which I
interpret to mean "livestock" (viewed from the standpoint of being a herd
that is a valuable possession). Miqneh/livestock would primarily be sheep and
goats in the Patriarchal narratives. In English, "cattle" usually, though not
always, is limited to cows, so I myself avoid the English word "cattle".
Miqneh/livestock usually would exclude draft animals.
Although the term RK$ is admittedly broad enough to include livestock and
other domesticated animals, it is notable that the very first mention of
miqneh/livestock in the Patriarchal narratives is in chapter 13 of Genesis (Genesis
13: 2), after Abraham has gotten back to Canaan from Egypt. It is hard for
me to believe that this is an "oversight" on the part of the author of the
Patriarchal narratives. If Abraham had brought a large flock of sheep and
goats with him out of Harran, surely the first half of chapter 12 of Genesis
would refer specifically to such miqneh, wouldn't it?
Thus I must disagree with you here. I do not see Abraham as bringing any
sheep or goats from Harran to Canaan. If he had done so, the text would refer
to miqneh, or would otherwise specifically mention such important animals,
prior to the time that Abraham is in Egypt.
2. Indentured servants
As to human beings who came with Abraham to Canaan from Harran (whether they
are indentured servants or otherwise), that is probably covered by a
separate phrase in Genesis 12: 5: "the souls that they had gotten in Haran". RK$
here appears to be applying to material goods only, not human beings.
3. Tents, garments, and the basic household articles and implements
Yes, the necessities of life would be covered by RK$. But that goes without
saying. In my view, the author of the Patriarchal narratives is trying to
tell us something special and important by specifically reporting that
Abraham brought from Harran into southeastern Canaan RK$, a word which he uses
repeatedly in chapter 14 of Genesis to refer to luxury goods/booty.
4. Jewelry, gold and silver
It is true that, out of context, the word RK$ is broad enough to include
"jewelry, gold and silver". But would that make sense here? If Abraham's
father's family had "jewelry, gold and silver" in Harran, then why on earth was
Abraham's father Terakh trying to lead the family into modest, unsophisticated
Moreover, the necessary implication of Genesis 13: 2 is that before Abraham
went to Egypt, Abraham had not had any appreciable amount of gold or silver:
"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 [miqneh], in
silver, and in gold." Genesis 13: 1-2
Genesis 13: 1-2 make no sense if, when Abraham left Harran on his way to
southeastern Canaan, Abraham already had "cattle"/miqneh, "silver" and "gold".
In context, RK$ at Genesis 12: 5 does not include "cattle, goats,…indentured
…jewelry, gold and silver". True, viewed in isolation, the word RK$ would be
broad enough to include all those items. But in the context of Genesis 12:
5, as we have just seen, none of those items make sense for Abraham to have
brought out of Harran. If Abraham's father's family had those very valuable
items in Harran, why then are they leaving Mesopotamia to make a very long,
hard journey to modest, unsophisticated Canaan? That simply does not make
What makes perfect sense, by sharp contrast, is if Abraham's father's family
left their homeland in northern Canaan/Lebanon on a one-time caravan trip to
Mesopotamia. While on this long and arduous caravan trip to Mesopotamia,
the family naturally bought luxury commercial goods, which was the purpose of
the caravan trip. Pursuant to YHWH's advice at Genesis 12: 1, Abraham does
not lead the caravan back to Lebanon. Rather, YHWH directs Abraham to go to
southeastern Canaan. There was no way to sell luxury commercial goods in
southeastern Canaan, so in effect YHWH has told Abraham to go into Egypt and sell
the luxury commercial goods directly to Pharaoh's court in Egypt. That is
what happens, and that is why Abraham comes out of Egypt rich in silver and
The key word RK$ at Genesis 12: 5 is cluing us into the key fact that
Abraham came from Harran to Canaan carrying luxury goods. The luxury goods/RK$ at
Genesis 12: 5 are similar to the luxury goods that function as booty, under
the word RK$, five times in chapter 14 of Genesis.
The text makes perfect historical sense, if we will only see RK$ at Genesis
12: 5 as having the same meaning as its primary meaning in chapter 14 of
Genesis: luxury goods. Abraham is not indigenous to Mesopotamia. He made one
caravan trip there, once. That's all. When Abraham got to southeastern
Canaan from Harran, Abraham had a lot of valuable luxury commercial goods, RK$,
and precious little else. That promptly changed when Abraham then went to
Egypt and sold such valuable luxury commercial goods/RK$ to Pharaoh's court for
a high price. Only then, and never before then, did Abraham have
"cattle"/miqneh, "silver" and "gold", just as Genesis 13: 1-2 tells us.
It all makes perfect sense, and is perfectly sensible, historically and in
every other way.
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