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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 14 14:30:58 EST 2007

Isaac  Fried: 
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". 
5.  Conclusion 
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. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston, Illinois

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