Thursday, September 15, 2005

Am I my brother's keeper? (Gen 11:10-32)

Yay! This will be a short post. I've already addressed just about everything that's to be found in the rest of chapter 11, so I'll drop some links and give a few short comments. At least, I hope so.

The extraordinarily long lives of these people are, in my opinion, a residual effect of whatever let people live so long before the flood. Whatever was making these people so healthy is quickly going away, as their lives get progressively shorter generation after generation. I've already commented on the paternity of Salah, but there are new problems that must be sorted through when we finally get to Abram in verse 26.

The first question is regarding the timeline of Abram's life. How old was Abram when he left Haran? Okay, let me sort some things out. First of all, although the SAB probably knows better since it gave no comment on it, it's worth nothing to alleviate confusion that the city Abram's family moved to after Ur was "Charan", which has a similar pronunciation to "Haran", Abraham's brother and Lot's father; that's why the KJV renders both names the same. I just wanted to make sure nobody gets stuck there, because it is easy to get confused.

Okay, back to the first verse in question. The quote of Gen 11:26 on the above page in the SAB is a partial quote. The full verse is important. When the Bible says "And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran." there's no reason to believe that these three sons are triplets, nor that the verse is giving them in birth order. (See the final paragraph of this post.)

5:32 "And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth."
7:6 "And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth."

So Shem should have been one hundred when the flood started, and "two years after the flood" he ought to be 102, or even 103 or 104 if by "two years after the flood" the Bible means two years after the end of the flood. The fact is, I strongly believe that Shem was Noah's second son, and Japheth was the first-born, two or three years older than Shem. Likewise, Haran was Abram's older brother; older by about 60 years. This leads to the interesting concept that Lot, while Abram's nephew, could easily have been older than Abram. His age is never mentioned to my knowledge.

But, was Lot Abram's nephew? Well, yes, he was. The SAB notes accurately that Lot is referred to as Abram's "brother", but this is hardly a problem. The real problem is in understanding the looseness of the way familial relationships are expressed in the Biblical Hebrew. Ancestors, regardless of the number of generations past, are often called "father", while likewise descendants are called "sons". In this case, "brother" is a word that can literally mean brother, or it can also mean a man who is a near relative. Heck, it can also mean a really close friend, as David referred to Jonathan as his "brother", and Solomon referred to his wife as his "sister", which I believe he meant in a non-literal sense, unlike Abraham. I think in chapter 14, the word "brother" is used to emphasize how important Lot was to Abram, and it may have also been the case that they were raised like brothers since, as was noted before, Lot's father died, and he was possibly raised by his grandfather.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that I have removed the "Was Lot Abraham's brother or nephew?" contradiction. I think it is likely that "brother" was used to mean close relative, which nephew would certainly be.

But I couldn't quite follow you on the "How old was Abram when he left Haran?" contadiction. It seemed to have something to do with a belief of yours about how old Terah was when Abraham was born. So how old was he?

Brucker said...

I'm guessing 130. Nahor could have been born any time; he could have even been first-born.

Anonymous said...

“I'm guessing 130.”

And that guess comes from Gen.11:26, I suppose.

“Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. – Gen.11:26

Why did you pick 130? It wasn’t to try to avoid a contradiction, was it?
(Or do you figure Terah didn’t reach puberty until 125 or so?)

Brucker said...

"Why did you pick 130? It wasn’t to try to avoid a contradiction, was it?"

That's exactly why, Steve. I'm glad you're paying attention. ; )