Who are the ancestors of Israelites?

Who are the ancestors of Israelites?

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Who were the historical ancestors of the Israelites? Do they have no ancestors?

Please, try to avoid Biblical references to Genesis if there are there any scientific/archeological/historical references.

It is of course impossible for the Israelites to have no ancestors. It is also impossible to know their ancestors with absolute certainty. I give you here several quotations from "A History of the Jewish People", chapter 3 "The Dawn of Israel" by Abraham Malamat, edited by H.H. Ben-Sasson, from Harvard University Press to provide a modern historical answer.

"The genesis of every nation and tongue is enshrouded in obscurity, and generally there survive only a few vague recollections of limited historical value. Israel alone among the nations of the ancient Near East has preserved any organic, ramified tradition - as exemplified by the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua - recounting its origins and vicissitudes prior to its crystallization as a true historical entity."

"A cardinal question immediately poses itself and is the basis for any proper assessment of the historical beginnings of Israel: how is the biblical tradition (or, more precisely, the biblical traditions) to be evaluated from the standpoint of historical authenticity? The problem applies to the historical sketch in its broad outline as it emerges from the biblical account: the origin of the patriarchal family in Mesopotamia and its migration to Canaan; the social and religious modes of life followed by Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; the bondage in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus; the desert wanderings and the ultimate conquest of the Promised Land. Can this entire account or even a portion of it be viewed as faithfully mirroring historical reality?"

The book then goes into contrasts of various schools of thought from the radical denial of the biblical tradition to a blind respect for it, concluding with "In the subsequent sections, we shall employ a dialectal approach to the biblical material - in contrast to the one-sided radical methods noted above."

After discussing the difficulty of dating the Exodus we read: "Attempts to determine a comparatively accurate date for the Patriarchs are themselves doomed to failure, for in fact it is difficult to speak of the so-called 'patriarchal period' as a well-defined chronological entity, even where one accepts the biblical tradition as such. It would seem, rather, that imbedded in this narrative cycle are reminiscences of centuries-long historical processes that may hark back to the West Semitic migrations within the Fertile Crescent that made their way ever westwards and reached their apex during the first quarter of the second millennium [BCE]. These extended time spans were telescoped in the biblical narrative into a mere trigenerational scheme - Abraham, Issac, and Jacob."

Later we can find: "The Aramean element in the patriarchal stories is seemingly a later anachronism. There is thus no basis for the current scholarly contention that the Israelites were of Aramean or 'proto-Aramean' extraction. The Hebrews are, rather, to be linked with an earlier West Semitic stratum known in scholarly terminology as the Amorites (derived from the Akkadian designation 'Amurru', to be distinguished from the biblical usage of the Amorites), who first appeared in the Fertile Crescent towards the end of the third millennium [BCE]."

There is much more, bringing in extra-biblical material such as place names and archaeological finds, but the above is the crux of your answer. For more details, I recommend you get this or a similar historical work from the library.

Trying to find evidence of the existence of 3 people outside of their own version of history or cultural narrative essentially means that those 3 people would have to be famous outside of their own lineage. They would have to interact with a prominent member of another culture in such a way that was historically significant for that other culture to document.

So if your own people mostly know you as result of having children that wouldn't qualify as a reason for another culture to document that person's existence.

Archaeology of the Hebrews

Most scholars tend to agree that either these stories did not happen or they were overblown in order to establish an inspirational history that made them look good. Richard Elliott Friedman also seems to agree that the lack of evidence may simply indicate that stories are embellished, but that doesn't mean there is no truth to them. If you're talking about 2.4 million people in the desert that's different from the type of evidence you'd find with a much smaller group. Also there is a lot of evidence that different parts of the story were taken from Egypt and Canaan. Many details should not be held against the writers because much of this early history is taken from oral traditions.

The Exodus is not Fiction

I don't think the earnest beginnings of the Israelite people should begin with Abraham. Although from Abraham a great number of people came and a great nation was created, I would say the most definitive top of the tree is Terah. It is from Terah's children the real division of MOST ALL the tribes of middle east area came to be. Specifically, Abraham's (traditional 12 children) divided up the "promised land", but they often married and were punished for marrying "outside" the faith of Abraham's God. Those non-Abrahamic/Israelic tribes are many of the tribes that must be included in the settlement of the area.

The best example of this is Terah's son, Haran. Haran had a son Lot and it was through Lot came the Moabites and the Ammonites. To make my point additional clear, there were, of course, the 12 tribes of Israel that divided up the promise land but keep in mind… there were SIX ADDITIONAL sons of Abraham through his last wife Keturah. The most popular of the six additional sons was Midian who it appears to have settled east of the Gulf of Aqaba giving the ancestral background to Midianites and to Jethro and the future Mrs. Moses.


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Maccabees, also spelled Machabees, (flourished 2nd century bce , Palestine), priestly family of Jews who organized a successful rebellion against the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV and reconsecrated the defiled Temple of Jerusalem.

Origins of a modern Jewish state

Modern Israel springs from both religious and political sources. The biblical promise of a land for the Jews and a return to the Temple in Jerusalem were enshrined in Judaism and sustained Jewish identity through an exile of 19 centuries following the failed revolts in Judaea against the Romans early in the Common Era. By the 1800s, fewer than 25,000 Jews still lived in their ancient homeland, and these were largely concentrated in Jerusalem, then a provincial backwater of the Ottoman Empire.

In the 1880s, however, a rise in European anti-Semitism and revived Jewish national pride combined to inspire a new wave of emigration to Palestine in the form of agricultural colonies financed by the Rothschilds and other wealthy families. Political Zionism came a decade later, when the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl began advocating a Jewish state as the political solution for both anti-Semitism (he had covered the sensational Dreyfus affair in France) and a Jewish secular identity. Herzl’s brief and dramatic bid for international support from the major powers at the First Zionist Congress (August 1897) failed, but, after his death in 1904, the surviving Zionist organization under the leadership of Chaim Weizmann undertook a major effort to increase the Jewish population in Palestine while continuing to search for political assistance.

These efforts could only be on a small scale while the Ottoman Turks ruled what the Europeans called Palestine (from Palaestina, “Land of the Philistines,” the Latin name given Judaea by the Romans). But in 1917, during World War I, the Zionists persuaded the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration, a document that committed Britain to facilitate the establishment of a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine. Amid considerable controversy over conflicting wartime promises to the Arabs and French, Britain succeeded in gaining the endorsement of the declaration by the new League of Nations, which placed Palestine under British mandate. This achievement reflected a heady mixture of religious and imperial motivations that Britain would find difficult to reconcile in the troubled years ahead.

Who are the Black Hebrews / Black Israelites?

The terms “Black Hebrews” and “Black Israelites” refer as a categorical whole to several independent sub-sects whose unifying characteristic is that their members are of black African descent who claim Hebrew / Israelite ancestry. Apart from this unifying characteristic, however, these sub-sects are very distinct from one another.

For example, members of the Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem (or the African Israelites, for short) believe that, after the Roman expulsion of the Jews from the land of Israel, many Jews migrated to West Africa. From there, their descendants were transported by slave ship to the United States, where the group began in the 1960s. According to this view, the biblical Hebrews of the Old Testament times had multiracial descendants.

Members of the Nation of Yahweh, on the other hand, believe that all of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus Christ, and God Himself are all black. They believe that all whites, but especially Jews, are infidels, whom they call “white devils.” Only blacks are “true Jews.” This group is considered a black supremacist group by many and has a history of violence and terror.

In 1966, African Israelite founder and leader Ben Ammi (the name literally means “Son of My People,” formerly Ben Carter of Chicago) claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. According to Ben Ammi, Gabriel instructed him to “lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land, and establish the long-awaited Kingdom of God.” Ben Ammi then established the Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem and led approximately 400 members to the West African nation of Liberia for a two-and-a-half year period of purification. From there, those who remained for the entire two-and-a-half years began migrating to Israel in waves, beginning in 1969.

The authorities in Israel did not accept Ben Ammi and his followers as biblical Jews and did not deem them entitled to citizenship under the Israeli “Right of Return” law. Instead, the African Israelites were granted temporary tourist visas. Legal troubles ensued when it became apparent that the African Israelites had no intention of ever leaving. The Jewish authorities did not want to expel them, however, and face accusations of racial discrimination. After much perseverance, the group was finally granted residency in 2004. This allowed them to stay in Israel, but not as full citizens. In 2008, there were approximately 2,500 African Israelites living in Israel. They adhere to strict dietary and behavioral laws, which include veganism and Old Testament Mosaic Law.

These are just two of many Black Hebrew / Israelite sub-sects, each one distinct and independent from the others. Other Black Hebrew / Israelite groups include the Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, and the Commandment Keepers. What they have in common is their race (i.e., black African descent) and their claim to have descended from the biblical Hebrews of Old Testament times.

Is it possible that Old Testament Hebrews left behind some black ancestors? Yes. Given Israel’s proximity to Africa, it is plausible that there are African Jewish groups, especially following the Roman expulsion and the Diaspora of the Jews. In fact, the entire Jewish nation spent four centuries in Africa before returning to the Promised Land (modern-day Israel), and interactions between the Hebrews and African nations are documented throughout the Old Testament.

There is a group of black Jews living in Africa today who practice a very ancient form of Judaism. Unlike the modern Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, the Beta Israel group of Ethiopia is accepted by the majority of Jews and by the nation of Israel as being historically Jewish. When it comes to the question of Black Hebrews / Israelites, it is not so much a matter of whether there are groups of blacks with partial Jewish ancestry living in the world today. The question is whether these particular groups claiming Jewish ancestry truly are descendants of the biblical Hebrews.

Whether or not any of the Black Hebrew / Israelite groups have Jewish ancestry is not the most important issue. Even if it could be conclusively proven that a Black Hebrew / Israelite faction is partially genetically descended from the biblical Israelites, what these groups believe is far more important than their ancestry. Each of these groups, to varying degrees, have beliefs that are unbiblical. Above everything else, the most crucial error is a misunderstanding, or in some cases denial, of who Jesus Christ is, what He taught, and how His death and resurrection provide the way of salvation.

Messiah returns to Jerusalem by Way of Edom

Isaaiah Chapter 63 is another picture of the judgment of God. It portrays the Messiah coming to Jerusalem from the south and entering into a dialogue with the believers there. He comes from Edom, in the Negeb, with blood-soaked garments. Those who see him coming ask,

Who is this that comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he that is glorious in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength? (Isaiah 63:1a RSV)

"It is I, announcing vindication,
mighty to save" (Isaiah 63:1b RSV)

Why is thy apparel red,
and thy garments like his that treads in the wine press? (Isaiah 63:2 RSV)

"I have trodden the wine press alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath
their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments,
and I have stained all my raiment.
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption has come." (Isaiah 63:3-4 RSV)

The parallel to this is found in Chapter 14 of the book of Revelation, where the apostle sees an angel coming out from heaven, having a great sickle in his hand,

Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has power over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who has the sharp sickle, "Put in your sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe." So the angel swung his sickle on the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth and threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God, and the wine press was trodden outside the city and blood flowed from the wine press as high as a horse's bridle for one thousand six hundred stadia. (Revelation 14:18-20 RSV)

That measurement is about two hundred miles -- which is the distance from Lebanon in the north down to Edom in the south of Israel. The whole land will be covered with blood from the great battle of Armageddon, the warfare that ends the struggles of earth, as depicted in other Scriptures. This is a terrible picture of the treading of the wine press. The "harvest" always deals with Gentiles, while the "wine press" is always a picture of God's judgment of Israel. This will be "the time of Jacob's trouble" which Jeremiah mentions. (Ray Stedman, Then Comes the End).

The Beta Israel (also known as Falashas) are Ethiopian Jews. Some members of the Beta Israel as well as several Jewish scholars believe that they are descended from the lost Tribe of Dan, as opposed to the traditional story of their descent from the Queen of Sheba.

Persian Jews (especially the Bukharan Jews) claim descent from the Tribe of Ephraim. Persian Jews (also called Iranian Jews) are members of Jewish communities living in Iran and throughout the former greatest extents of the Persian Empire.


Genesis appears to be structured around the recurring phrase elleh toledot, meaning "these are the generations," with the first use of the phrase referring to the "generations of heaven and earth" and the remainder marking individuals—Noah, the "sons of Noah", Shem, etc., down to Jacob. [9] The toledot formula, occurring eleven times in the book of Genesis, delineating its sections and shaping its structure, serves as a heading which marks a transition to a new subject:

  • Genesis 1:1 (narrative) In the beginning
  • Genesis 2:4 (narrative) Toledot of Heaven and Earth
  • Genesis 5:1 (genealogy) Toledot of Adam
  • Genesis 6:9 (narrative) Toledot of Noah
  • Genesis 10:1 (genealogy) Toledot of Shem, Ham, and Japheth
    • Genesis 11:1 (narrative without toledot) The tower of Babel

    It is not clear, however, what this meant to the original authors, and most modern commentators divide it into two parts based on the subject matter, a "primeval history" (chapters 1–11) and a "patriarchal history" (chapters 12–50). [12] [b] While the first is far shorter than the second, it sets out the basic themes and provides an interpretive key for understanding the entire book. [13] The "primeval history" has a symmetrical structure hinging on chapters 6–9, the flood story, with the events before the flood mirrored by the events after [14] the "ancestral history" is structured around the three patriarchs Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. [15] (The stories of Isaac do not make up a coherent cycle of stories and function as a bridge between the cycles of Abraham and Jacob.) [16]

    There are two distinct versions of God's creation of the world in Genesis. [17] God creates the world in six days and consecrates the seventh as a day of rest (which would then be known as Sabbath in Jewish culture). God creates the first humans, Adam and Eve, and all the animals in the Garden of Eden but instructs them not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They promise not to, but a talking serpent, portrayed as a deceptive creature or trickster, convinces Eve into eating it against God's wishes, and she convinces Adam, whereupon God throws them out and curses both of them — Adam was cursed with getting what he needs only by sweat and work, and Eve to giving birth in pain. This is interpreted by Christians as the fall of humanity. Eve bears two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain works in the garden, and Abel works with meat they both offer offerings to God one day, and Cain kills Abel after God liked Abel's offering more than Cain's. God then curses Cain. Eve bears another son, Seth, to take Abel's place.

    After many generations of Adam have passed from the lines of Cain and Seth, the world becomes corrupted by human sin and Nephilim, and God wants to wipe out humanity for their wickedness. However, Noah is the only good human so first, he instructs the righteous Noah and his family to build an ark and put examples of all the animals on it, seven pairs of every clean animal and one pair of every unclean. Then God sends a great flood to wipe out the rest of the world. When the waters recede, God promises he will never destroy the world with water again, making a rainbow as a symbol of his promise. God sees mankind cooperating to build a great tower city, the Tower of Babel, and divides humanity with many languages and sets them apart with confusion.

    From a long family tree down from Noah to a man named Abram, God instructs the man Abram to travel from his home in Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan. There, God makes a promise to Abram, promising that his descendants shall be as numerous as the stars, but that people will suffer oppression in a foreign land for four hundred years, after which they will inherit the land "from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates". Abram's name is changed to 'Abraham' (father of many) and that of his wife Sarai to Sarah (princess), and God says that all males should be circumcised as a sign of his promise to Abraham. Due to her old age, Sarah tells Abraham to take her Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar, as a second wife (to bear a child). Through Hagar, Abraham fathers Ishmael.

    God then plans to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sins of their people. Abraham protests but fails to get God to agree not to destroy the cities (his reasoning being that everybody there is evil, except for Abraham's nephew Lot). Angels save Abraham's nephew Lot (who was living there at the same time) and his family, but his wife looks back on the destruction, (even though God commanded not to) and turned into a pillar of salt for going against his word. Lot's daughters, concerned that they are fugitives who will never find husbands, get Lot drunk so they can become pregnant by him, and give birth to the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites.

    Abraham and Sarah go to the Philistine town of Gerar, pretending to be brother and sister (they are half-siblings). The King of Gerar takes Sarah for his wife, but God warns him to return her (because she's really Abraham's wife), and he obeys. God sends Sarah a son and tells her she should name him Isaac through him will be the establishment of the covenant (promise). Sarah then drives Ishmael and his mother Hagar out into the wilderness (because Ishmael is not her real son and Hagar is a slave), but God saves them and promises to make Ishmael a great nation.

    Then, God tests Abraham by demanding that he sacrifice Isaac. As Abraham is about to lay the knife upon his son, God restrains him, promising him numberless descendants (again). On the death of Sarah, Abraham purchases Machpelah (believed to be modern Hebron) for a family tomb and sends his servant to Mesopotamia to find among his relations a wife for Isaac after proving herself worthy, Rebekah becomes Isaac's betrothed. Keturah, Abraham's other wife, births more children, among whose descendants are the Midianites. Abraham dies at a prosperous old age and his family lays him to rest in Hebron (Machpelah).

    Isaac's wife Rebecca gives birth to the twins Esau (meaning velvet), father of the Edomites, and Jacob (meaning supplanter or follower). Esau was a couple of seconds older as he had come out of the womb first, and was going to become the heir however, through carelessness, he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. His mother, Rebecca, ensures Jacob rightly gains his father's blessing as the firstborn son and inheritor. At 77 years of age, Jacob leaves his parents and later seeks a wife and meets Rachel at a well. He goes to her father, his uncle, where he works for a total of 14 years to earn his wives, Rachel and Leah. Jacob's name is changed to 'Israel', and by his wives and their handmaidens he has twelve sons, the ancestors of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, and a daughter, Dinah.

    Joseph, Jacob's favourite son of the twelve, makes his brothers jealous (especially because of special gifts Jacob gave him) and because of that jealousy they sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Joseph endures many trials including being innocently sentenced to jail but he stays faithful to God. After several years, he prospers there after the pharaoh of Egypt asks him to interpret a dream he had about an upcoming famine, which Joseph does through God. He is then made second in command of Egypt by the grateful pharaoh, and later on, he is reunited with his father and brothers, who fail to recognize him and plead for food. After much manipulation to see if they still hate him, Joseph reveals himself, forgives them for their actions, and lets them and their households into Egypt, where Pharaoh assigns to them the land of Goshen. Jacob calls his sons to his bedside and reveals their future before he dies. Joseph lives to old age and tells his brothers that if God leads them out of the country, then they should take his bones with them.

    Title and textual witnesses Edit

    Genesis takes its Hebrew title from the first word of the first sentence, Bereshit, meaning "In [the] beginning [of]" in the Greek Septuagint it was called Genesis, from the phrase "the generations of heaven and earth". [18] There are four major textual witnesses to the book: the Masoretic Text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, and fragments of Genesis found at Qumran. The Qumran group provides the oldest manuscripts but covers only a small proportion of the book in general, the Masoretic Text is well preserved and reliable, but there are many individual instances where the other versions preserve a superior reading. [19]

    Origins Edit

    For much of the 20th century most scholars agreed that the five books of the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—came from four sources, the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist and the Priestly source, each telling the same basic story, and joined together by various editors. [20] Since the 1970s there has been a revolution leading scholars to view the Elohist source as no more than a variation on the Yahwist, and the Priestly source as a body of revisions and expansions to the Yahwist (or "non-Priestly") material. (The Deuteronomistic source does not appear in Genesis.) [21]

    Scholars use examples of repeated and duplicate stories to identify separate sources. In Genesis, these include three different accounts of a Patriarch claiming that his wife was his sister, the two creation stories, and the two versions of Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael into the desert. [22]

    This leaves the question of when these works were created. Scholars in the first half of the 20th century concluded that the Yahwist is a product of the monarchic period, specifically at the court of Solomon, 10th century BC, and the Priestly work in the middle of the 5th century BC (with claims that the author is Ezra), but more recent thinking is that the Yahwist is from either just before or during the Babylonian exile of the 6th century BC, and the Priestly final edition was made late in the Exilic period or soon after. [8]

    As for why the book was created, a theory which has gained considerable interest, although still controversial, is "Persian imperial authorisation." This proposes that the Persians of the Achaemenid Empire, after their conquest of Babylon in 539 BC agreed to grant Jerusalem a large measure of local autonomy within the empire but required the local authorities to produce a single law code accepted by the entire community. The two powerful groups making up the community—the priestly families who controlled the Temple and who traced their origin to Moses and the wilderness wanderings, and the major landowning families who made up the "elders" and who traced their own origins to Abraham, who had "given" them the land—were in conflict over many issues, and each had its own "history of origins", but the Persian promise of greatly increased local autonomy for all provided a powerful incentive to cooperate in producing a single text. [23]

    Genre Edit

    Genesis is an example of a creation myth, a type of literature telling of the first appearance of humans, the stories of ancestors and heroes, and the origins of culture, cities and so forth. [24] The most notable examples are found in the work of Greek historians of the 6th century BC: their intention was to connect notable families of their own day to a distant and heroic past, and in doing so they did not distinguish between myth, legend, and facts. [25] Professor Jean-Louis Ska of the Pontifical Biblical Institute calls the basic rule of the antiquarian historian the "law of conservation": everything old is valuable, nothing is eliminated. [26] Ska also points out the purpose behind such antiquarian histories: antiquity is needed to prove the worth of Israel's traditions to the nations (the neighbours of the Jews in early Persian Palestine), and to reconcile and unite the various factions within Israel itself. [26]

    Promises to the ancestors Edit

    In 1978 David Clines published his influential The Theme of the Pentateuch – influential because he was one of the first to take up the question of the theme of the entire five books. Clines' conclusion was that the overall theme is "the partial fulfilment – which implies also the partial nonfulfillment – of the promise to or blessing of the Patriarchs". (By calling the fulfilment "partial" Clines was drawing attention to the fact that at the end of Deuteronomy the people are still outside Canaan). [27]

    The patriarchs, or ancestors, are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with their wives (Joseph is normally excluded). [28] Since the name YHWH had not been revealed to them, they worshipped El in his various manifestations. [29] (It is, however, worth noting that in the Jahwist source, the patriarchs refer to deity by the name YHWH, for example in Genesis 15.) Through the patriarchs, God announces the election of Israel, that is, he chooses Israel to be his special people and commits himself to their future. [30] God tells the patriarchs that he will be faithful to their descendants (i.e. to Israel), and Israel is expected to have faith in God and his promise. ("Faith" in the context of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible means an agreement to the promissory relationship, not a body of a belief. [31] )

    The promise itself has three parts: offspring, blessings, and land. [32] The fulfilment of the promise to each patriarch depends on having a male heir, and the story is constantly complicated by the fact that each prospective mother – Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel – is barren. The ancestors, however, retain their faith in God and God in each case gives a son – in Jacob's case, twelve sons, the foundation of the chosen Israelites. Each succeeding generation of the three promises attains a more rich fulfilment, until through Joseph "all the world" attains salvation from famine, [33] and by bringing the children of Israel down to Egypt he becomes the means through which the promise can be fulfilled. [28]

    God's chosen people Edit

    Scholars generally agree that the theme of divine promise unites the patriarchal cycles, but many would dispute the efficacy of trying to examine Genesis' theology by pursuing a single overarching theme, instead citing as more productive the analysis of the Abraham cycle, the Jacob cycle, and the Joseph cycle, and the Yahwist and Priestly sources. [34] The problem lies in finding a way to unite the patriarchal theme of the divine promise to the stories of Genesis 1–11 (the primeval history) with their theme of God's forgiveness in the face of man's evil nature. [35] [36] One solution is to see the patriarchal stories as resulting from God's decision not to remain alienated from mankind: [36] God creates the world and mankind, mankind rebels, and God "elects" (chooses) Abraham. [6]

    To this basic plot (which comes from the Yahwist) the Priestly source has added a series of covenants dividing history into stages, each with its own distinctive "sign". The first covenant is between God and all living creatures, and is marked by the sign of the rainbow the second is with the descendants of Abraham (Ishmaelites and others as well as Israelites), and its sign is circumcision and the last, which does not appear until the Book of Exodus, is with Israel alone, and its sign is Sabbath. A great leader mediates each covenant (Noah, Abraham, Moses), and at each stage God progressively reveals himself by his name (Elohim with Noah, El Shaddai with Abraham, Yahweh with Moses). [6]

    It is a custom among religious Jewish communities for a weekly Torah portion, popularly referred to as a parashah, to be read during Jewish prayer services on Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays. The full name, Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ ‎ Parashat ha-Shavua, is popularly abbreviated to parashah (also parshah / p ɑː r ʃ ə / or parsha), and is also known as a Sidra (or Sedra / s ɛ d r ə / ).

    The parashah is a section of the Torah (Five Books of Moses) used in Jewish liturgy during a particular week. There are 54 weekly parshas, or parashiyot in Hebrew, and the full cycle is read over the course of one Jewish year.

    The first 12 of the 54 come from the Book of Genesis, and they are:

    Who are the ancestors of Israelites? - History

    Genesis 10:1 - Now these [are] the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.

    List of the Table of Nations Mentioned in the Old Testament. This chart contains a list of the nations descending from the three son's of Noah. They formed after the Tower of Babel and are mentioned in Genesis 10 of the Old Testament. Scroll down to see maps, references, and Bible verses for more background information.

    The Son's of Noah - Shem, Ham, and Japheth

    List of Nations Descended from Noah's 3 Sons
    Shem (Semitic Race) Ham (Turanian Race) Japheth (Aryan Race)
    Elam (Elamites) Cush (Ethiopia) Gomer (Celts)
    Asshur (Assyrians) Seba (meroe) Ashkenaz (Nysia, Phrygia)
    Arphaxad (Chaldeans) Havilah (Arabia) Riphath (Riphaean)
    Shelah Sabtah (Sabbatha) Togarmah (Armenia)
    Eber Raamah (Persian Gulf) Magog (Scythians)
    Peleg Sheba Madai (Medes)
    Joktan (Arabia) Dedan Javan (Greeks)
    Almodad Sabtecah Elishah (Aeolians)
    Sheleph Nimrod Tarshish (Tartessus)
    Hazarmaveth Mizraim (Egypt) Kittim (Cyprus)
    Jerah Ludim (Nubia) Dodanim (Trojans)
    Hadoram Anamites Tubal
    Uzal Lehabim (Libya) Meshech
    Diklah Naphtuhitim (Napetu) Tiras (Thracians)
    Obal Pathrusim (Pathros)
    Abimael Casluhites (Philistia)
    Sheba Philistines
    Ophir Caphtorites (Crete)
    Havilah Phut (Libya)
    Jobab Canaan (Canaanites)
    Lud (Lydians) Sidonites
    Aram (Syrians) Hittites
    Uz Jebusites
    Hul Amorites
    Gether Girgashites
    Meshach Hivites

    According to the Bible the sons of Noah were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. these three sons of Noah represented the three great races of mankind. The above chart shows a table of God's dispersion of the nation's after they migrated from the Tower at Babel.

    Map of the Descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Click to Enlarge)

    Genesis 10:32 - These [are] the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.

    Shem (Asia)
    Shem (Heb. "Name") was Noah's oldest son and part of Noah's family of eight who survived the great flood. Shem and his wife were childless before the flood, but after the flood Shem bore a son at 110 years of age. He was father to five sons who became the fathers of the five Semitic nations as shown below. Shem was actually the father of the nations of the ancient Near East including the Israelites and the Jewish religion, and therefore Judaism, Islam, and Christianity sprang from the line of Shem. The Semites were particularly known for their religious zeal.

    1. Elam (The Persians) settled northeast of the Persian Gulf.

    2. Asshur (The Assyrians) the Biblical name for Assyria, settled between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

    3. Arphaxad (The Babylonians) settled in Chaldea.

    4. Lud (The Lydians) settled in Asia Minor, but some of them sailed across the Mediterranean and settled in northern Africa.

    5. Aram (The Syrians) the Biblical name for Syria, located north and east of Israel.

    Ham (Africa)
    Ham (Heb. "hot" or "Black") was Noah's second oldest son and part of the family of eight who survived the great flood. Ham and his wife bore 4 sons who became the fathers of the nations of Africa. Ham's fourth son Canaan was prophetically cursed because he gazed at his fathers nakedness while he was drunk. This curse would mean later that Canaan would lose his land to the Hebrews and would be subservient to the descendants of Shem. The Hamites were known for their physical endurance.

    1. Cush (The Ethiopians) settled in Ethiopia south of Egypt, also early in their history some of them migrated to an area north of the Persian Gulf (Gen. 10:8-10).

    2. Mizraim (The Egyptians) the Bible name for Egypt, settled in northeastern Africa.

    3. Phut (The Libyans) sometimes translated Libya, settled in northern Africa.

    4. Canaan (The Canaanites) settled above Africa east of the Mediterranean (Later was given to the Hebrews).

    Japheth (Europe)
    Japheth (Heb. "God will Enlarge)") was Noah's third oldest son and part of the family of eight who survived the great flood. Japheth and Shem were both greatly blessed for respecting their father Noah. Noah's blessing on Japheth was far reaching for all of his descendants being the European (Caucasian) nations that were mentioned in Genesis 10. The Japhethites were known for their intellectual activity.

    The Seven Japhetic Nations:

    I. Gomer (The Cimmerians) settled north of the Black Sea, but afterwards his descendants probably occupied Germany, France, Spain and the British Isles.

    2. Magog (The Scythians) lived north of the Caspian Sea.

    3. Madai (The Medes) settled south of the Caspian Sea.

    4. Javan (The Ionians or Greeks) Javan is the Hebrew name for Greeks, they settled in Greece.

    5. Tubal (The Turks) lived south of the Black Sea.

    6. Meshech (The Slavs) lived between the Black and Caspian Seas,

    7. Tiras (The Etruscans) located west of the Black Sea.

    Genesis 10:32 - These [are] the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.

    Scriptures related to Shem

    Genesis 7:13 - In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem , and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark

    Genesis 9:23 - And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid [it] upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father and their faces [were] backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

    Genesis 5:32 - And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem , Ham, and Japheth.

    Genesis 10:1 - Now these [are] the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem , Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.

    Genesis 10:21 - Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were [children] born.

    Genesis 11:11 - And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.

    1 Chronicles 1:17 - The sons of Shem Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram, and Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Meshech.

    Genesis 9:27 - God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant.

    Genesis 9:18 - And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem , and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham [is] the father of Canaan.

    Genesis 10:22 - The children of Shem Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram.

    Genesis 10:31 - These [are] the sons of Shem , after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.

    Genesis 6:10 - And Noah begat three sons, Shem , Ham, and Japheth.

    Genesis 9:26 - And he said, Blessed [be] the LORD God of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant.

    Genesis 11:10 - These [are] the generations of Shem : Shem [was] an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:

    Scriptures related to Ham

    Genesis 10
    1. Son of Noah Ge 5:32 9:18,24 1Ch 1:4 Provokes his father's wrath and is cursed by him Ge 9:18-27 His children Ge 10:6-20 1Ch 1:8-16 -2. Patronymic of the descendants of Ham 1Ch 4:40 Ps 78:51 105:23,27 106:22 -3. Place where Chedorlaomer struck down the Zuzims Ge 14:5

    Scriptures related to Japheth

    Genesis 7:13 - In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth , the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark

    Genesis 9:23 - And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid [it] upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father and their faces [were] backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.

    Genesis 5:32 - And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth .

    Genesis 10:1 - Now these [are] the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth : and unto them were sons born after the flood.

    Genesis 10:21 - Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were [children] born.

    Genesis 10:2 - The sons of Japheth Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.

    1 Chronicles 1:5 - The sons of Japheth Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.

    Genesis 9:27 - God shall enlarge Japheth , and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant.

    Genesis 9:18 - And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth : and Ham [is] the father of Canaan.

    Genesis 6:10 - And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth .


    Gibeonites are the people of Gibeon who descended from Hivites and Amorites. Hivites are the descendants from one of Ham’s sons, Canaan and one of those that occupied the Promised Land before the arrival of Israelites. They are found on the Bible Timeline around 2300 BC.

    God ordered the Israelites to avoid making any covenants with the Gibeonites and to expel them from the land. But after putting on worn out clothing, the Gibeonites were able to make the Israelites, headed by Joshua, believe that they were people from a far away place. They were able to persuade the Israelites to make a covenant and allowed the Gibeonites to live with them.

    King Saul and his sons violated the covenant made at Joshua’s time hundreds of years later when they murdered some of the Gibeonites and planned to slaughter the rest. This angered God and was only amended years later after sacrificing seven of Saul’s sons to the Gibeonites by hanging them before Jehovah at Saul’s hometown, Gibeah.

    After that, Gibeonites were no longer mentioned though there are some writers who believed that they were among the Nethinim, the ones selected to serve the temple.

    Gibeonites as mentioned in the Bible.

    • Joshua 10:12. Stating Amorites as the people of Gibeon.
    • 2 Samuel 21:1. Years of famine in David’s time as a result of King Saul killing the Gibeonites.
    • 2 Samuel 21:2. Gibeonites as the remnant of the Amorites.
    • 2 Samuel 21:3-14. Details about sacrificing the seven men of Saul’s sons to the Gibeonites as atonement after Saul’s treatment to the Gibeonites.
    • Joshua 9:3-21. The Gibeonites were able to trick Joshua and the Israelites that they came from a very far away place. They were able to make a covenant with the Israelites and had been allowed to live with them as the woodcutters and water carriers for the whole congregation.
    • Joshua 9:22-23. Joshua found out about the deception but spared the Gibeonites, yet cursed them by saying “you shall never cease being slaves.”

    The Place Called Gibeon

    Gibeon which means “hill-city” was a Canaanite town led by Joshua located to the northwest of Jerusalem. Remains of this 16 acres prehistoric city that was excavated after 6 expeditions headed by James B. Pritchard around 1956-1962 can be found at the south border of the modern Arab village named El-Jib.

    Gibeon as found in the Bible

    • Joshua 10:2. Gibeon “was a great city” being “greater than Ai” and all of “its men were mighty.”
    • Joshua 18:25. Gibeon as one of the cities to be inherited by Benjamin’s sons.
    • Joshua 21:17. Gibeon, with its pasture lands, became a Levitical city.
    • Joshua 10:12. A place where God made the sun stands still during the war between the Israelites and the Amorites.
    • 2 Samuel 2:12-17. Abner and Joab, along with their armies, met and fought at Helkath-hazzurim, a place found in Gibeon.
    • 1 Kings 3:4-5. In a “high great place” inside Gibeon, King Solomon offered sacrifices, and in his dreams God appeared and asked him what was it that he wished to receive.
    • Nehemiah 3:7. Gibeon became a part of Judea.
    • Jeremiah 28:1. Azzur’s son, Hananiah came from Gideon.
    • 1 Chronicles 21:29. The tabernacle of the Lord that Moses created and the “altar of burnt offering” can be found at a high place in Gideon.

    Gibeonites Today

    You may ask what happened to the dark-skinned Gibeonites? Their descendants are believed to be the people known today as Falashas, meaning migrants, for they are thought to have journeyed from Palestine to Ethiopia to run away when Israelites were expelled from Palestine. At the northwest of Ethiopia, a small Jewish religious community known as Beta Israel or Falasha can be found.

    The 12 Tribes of Israel

    Jacob and Esau : The story of Jacob and Esau has fascinated and puzzled scholars for centuries. The struggle between twin brothers would later manifest itself in the struggle between their respective countries Israel (Jacob) and Edom (Esau).

    Jacob & The Tribes of Israel : The triumphs and tragedies of Jacob and his sons in Canaan would lay the foundation for the development of the tribes of Israel. All but one of Jacob's sons were born in Haran. In Canaan, they were foreigners in a foreign land.

    Organization of the Twelve Tribes of Israel : The twelve tribes of Israel fled Egypt in haste. They possessed no means of settling disputes, maintaining law and order, or set chain of command. God, however, would use the time in the wilderness to establish an organized and efficient government. Under the leadership of Moses, the wandering Jews were shaped by the hand of God into a formidable nation. 

    The Tribe of Manasseh: The Tribe of Manasseh was the only tribe of Israel to inherit land on both sides of the Jordan River. This was a result of the double-portion inheritance given to Manasseh, the eldest son of Joseph. The oldest son receiving the double portion was a cultural element in many cultures of the Ancient Near East.

    The Tribe of Reuben : The tribe of Reuben descended from the firstborn son of Jacob and Leah, Reuben. As the firstborn son, Reuben played a prominent role in the early accounts. However, his role as a tribe would diminish significantly as a consequence of transgressions.

    The Tribe of Simeon : The tribe of Simeon was descended from the second born son of Jacob and Leah, Simeon. This tribe dwelt in relative obscurity, and had very little impact on the history of Israel.

    The Tribe of Levi : The tribe of Levi was descended from Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah. Through an act of faithfulness in the wilderness, this tribe would become set apart by God as His priests. The Levites would end up living among all of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

    The Tribe of Judah : The tribe of Judah became one of the most prominent tribes in all of Israel. The Davidic Dynasty emerged from this tribe, a lineage which culminated in Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Judah was the royal tribe of Israel.

    The Tribe of Dan : The tribe of Dan is, perhaps, the most enigmatic of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Danites failed to drive out their Philistine and Canaanite neighbors. As a result, they migrated to another land, in the northernmost limits of Canaan.The mighty Judge, Samson, was from the tribe of Dan.

    The Tribe of Naphtali : Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob, and the second son of Bilhah. Naphtali was blessed by Jacob on his deathbed. The tribe of Naphtali was a tribe of great warriors, and took part in some of the Old Testament's most important battles.

    The Tribe of Gad : Gad was the seventh son of Jacob and Zilpah, Leah's maiden. Gadites were the Marines of the 12 tribes of Israel. They were fierce, athletic, and skillful on the battle field. They played lead roles in the conquest of Sihon and Og, then led the Israelites across the Jordan to Jericho and into Canaan. 

    The Tribe of Asher : The tribe of Asher proved to be a tribe of contradictions. Influenced by the pagan religion of Phoenicia and chastised by Deborah, the tribe also came to the aid of Gideon, and supplied king David with one-third of his army in Hebron.

    The Tribe of Issachar : The tribe of Issachar earned a reputation as a tribe of students of the Law. They were wise men and well respected. Scripture calls them princes. However, the infamous King Baasha of Israel and his son were descended from this tribe.

    The Tribe of Zebulun : The tenth son of Jacob, Zebulun, would prove faithful throughout much of the Old Testament. The tribe fought bravely with Deborah and Barak. They were mentioned alongside Gideon. The tribe took part in a prophecy of Isaiah's fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

    The Tribe of Ephraim (part 1) : Perhaps no tribe symbolizes man's struggle with God more than the tribe of Ephraim. At once rebuked, then praised, Ephraim was always under the watchful eye of God. The name would come to represent the entire Northern Kingdom of Israel. Ephraim was the royal tribe of the Northern Kingdom, just as Judah was the royal tribe of the Southern Kingdom.

    The Ephraimites (part 2) : The Ephraimites participated in many of Israel's engagements throughout the period of the Judges. They played a significant role in both the United and Divided Monarchies.

    The Tribe of Benjamin: Of the 12 tribes of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin is one of only two to appear throughout the entire Bible. They are the only tribe to have belonged to both the north and the south. The tribe was nearly annihilated in a Civil War - one of the Old Testament's most dubious accounts.

    The Benjamites (part 2): The tribe of Benjamin played integral roles in a number of events from the Judges through Ezra. Benjamites such as king Saul and the great prophet Samuel significantly shaped the history of Israel.

    Queen Esther of the Bible: Esther was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin. She rose to become Queen of the Persian Empire in a divine twist of fate. The Tribe of Benjamin, thus, produced not only a king, but also a queen.


    Some claim the tribes were formed once they were inside of Canaan, toward the end of the Judges, and the beginning of Saul's reign. Still others claim the 12 tribes of Israel "may", in fact, have been formed in some sort of desert wandering. However, Canaan was certainly not conquered simultaneously by these twelve tribes. This school believes the conquest of Canaan took place over the course of multiple, smaller invasions, rather than one large conquering campaign and resettlement.

    These differing schools of thought, however, cannot agree on when these tribes formed, or, when these tribes united. They are unable to provide an explanation which accounts for the origin of the 12 tribes of Israel at their earliest stages.

    The Torah (Five Books of Moses), on the other hand, provides a detailed account of the origins of the 12 Tribes of Israel.

    The root origin of the 12 tribes of Israel can be traced in the genealogical records found throughout the Old Testament. Scholars simply dismiss the notion of detailed family records being kept in ancient Israel when assessing the validity of Scripture. The ancient Hebrews /Israelites maintained family records with excruciating detail. It is within these genealogies the birth of the 12 tribes of Israel may be found. The detailed accounts in the Old Testament have proven time and time again to accurately portray places and peoples from the ancient past. Archaelogy uses the Bible as a guide book when digging for answers. Why, then, would the Old Testament not accurately portray the development of the 12 Tribes of Israel? The answer, of course, is it does!

    The Tribe

    The fundamental social and family unit of the ancient world was the tribe. Tribes of the ancient world were composed of a number of different elements.

    Tribes consisted of families, typically extended families, and individuals not of blood relation. Oftentimes tribes would intermarry, and thus larger tribes, over years, may absorb lesser tribes. Tribes were more defined by geographical regions and territories, than by social position, or blood. Tribes served to unite diverse families and members of society from all levels. The tribe was the social, religious, political, and military backbone of society.

    Abraham, however, strayed from this tribal pattern popular amongst the Canaanite nations. He refused to intermarry and intermingle. He obtained a wife for Isaac from their own people, maintaining the integrity and purity God demanded. The Hebrew tribe, thus, was found upon pure blood relation. It would maintain its own autonomy and individuality. It would maintain its code of living and conduct, its own customs and traditions. It would maintain its One True God. The Hebrew Tribe remained a part of Canaanite society - yet distinct from many of its practices. This distinguished Abraham from his Canaanite neighbors.

    It quickly becomes evident in Scripture that the 12 tribes of Israel were seldom unified throughout much of the history of Israel. Though unified under Saul and then David, factions existed within certain tribes which always fought against common opinion. Intense and deep rivalries existed between tribes, in some cases leading to civil war, and ultimately responsible for the division into two separate countries: Israel and Judah.

    The situation is much the same today within the country of Israel. Many divisions exist within the Jewish people of Israel, indeed throughout much of the Jewish population worldwide. Though these divisions are real, in times of need, much like the tribes of the Old Testament, the Jewish people rally and unite fighting off threat and war.

    However, the prophet Ezekiel foresaw a time when such divisions would never exist within God's people in Ezekiel 37.

    "And when the sons of your people speak to you saying, 'Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?' say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: " Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."

    Bible Study Resources

    Zvi Ben-Dor Benite explores the 10 northern tribes of ancient Israel, exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C.E., in the context of global history. This intellectual, but readable, book fully explores the loss, and hope, God's people have endured over the centuries! Click on the link below to visit amazon.com and check out The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History!

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