Better than Rubies
|MY STUDY THOUGHTS, OBSERVATIONS,
QUESTIONS & CONCLUSIONS
Why Do the Egyptians Have Such a Problem
with Shepherds (Keepers of Livestock)
and Eating with Hebrews?
There are some curious claims made in the Joseph narrative or by Joseph in Egypt in Genesis 43:32 and Genesis 46:34. I don't
know if they have always struck me as curious or if it's only a question that has arisen in the last few years since I have become
so focused in my Bible study and prayer, but it is something I have come across without confronting several times, and every
time I have asked the same question. The question is: Why?
And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by
themselves; because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the
Egyptians. Gen. 43:32
That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our
fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians. Gen. 46:34
Now I've learned alot in my studies studying ancient history in line with my Biblical studies. Scholars and historians look at the
flood story and say the Hebrews just appropriated it from earlier sources and rather adopted it for their own emerging religion.
They look at the Greek gods and heroes (sons of these gods with mortal women) and say that these myths rose out of trying to
explain what they could not explain. They never just look at the Bible and say, all of these similarities exist because there was
one original story, and it was the truth however fantastic or supernatural, and you find it in the Bible. When you do say that,
then you look at all these stories and such and can see how they are the twisted and reworked stories born out of the original.
And I say this because they all go back to a God before the gods: one these gods had to kill before they could take their
'rightful' place. They take credit for His work with fantastic stories, of which always has the seed of what the Bible tells us in it.
And they invariably put forward the claim that men were created to serve them.
In other words all of these mythologies are working to explain why the behaviors of these 'new' gods, sons of this original, are
justified and why they should be the ones that are worshiped and served. That they aren't worshiped or served, in fact have
been relegated to nothing more than myths is the strongest evidence that they are the spin, the rewritten histories, and not the
original. In the 6000 years since the myths were conceived and passed down in oral tradition, honed and forgotten, dug back up
and reworked with new names for the newest conquerers use to fill that need to worship within mankind and that need to control
in men who would be king, this one original story has been faithfully passed down unchanged except for natural manifestations
that happen in language as it evolves or is translated.
This is not a bad thing in the Bible either. It doesn't change the story or the lessons or the truth. The example that comes to
mind is Jacob's wife Leah and her eyes. Today most Bible scholars translate the description of her in Gen. 29:17 (tender eyed
or weak eyed) to mean she was cross-eyed or squinted or something directly to do with the state of her eyes: the short of it
being that while Rachel her sister was very beautiful, Leah was not because of these strange eyes of hers.
When you start studying the phrase though, and you go back to meaning in the ancient time when this description would have
first been used, you discover that what they actually meant was that she made your eyes weak when you looked at her,
perhaps made your heart tender looking at her because you felt compassion. In other words, she was an eyesore. As an
eyesore in the modern vernacular doesn't mean that your eyes are sore, or that anything is wrong with your eyes at all, it refers
to what you are looking at with your eyes. Just so, the people who would have originally heard, then read, this original
description in the Bible weren't understanding it to be said that anything was wrong with Leah's eyes, though there could have
been, or that anything was wrong with the eyes of those who looked at her. They were saying that SHE was an eyesore: she
The meaning of what was meant when the description was originally written down has evolved and changed, but the point hasn't
been lost. Rachel was beautiful, and Leah wasn't.
Just so as I have begun to study ancient civilizations, most specifically those that Abraham would have come out of and through,
I have discovered that I see many things that don't seem puzzling to me at all any more in the Bible itself. As they've been
taught, or simply told, they were puzzling, but when you look at the history, they make perfect sense. There's not even any
mystery in them. You discover you don't question the Bible, but you do question the teaching that has come out of them.
This doesn't mean that the church and the rabbis before them got it wrong, then I came along and alone saw the truth! It's just
little things, like Leah's eyes. Or the questions as to why the Egyptians wouldn't eat at the table with the Hebrews and why the
Egyptians likewise found shepherds, or more specifically 'keepers of livestock' to be such an abomination? To those two
questions, I actually found the answer right there in the Bible for anyone to see if they would just look. But when I saw it, I had
done some extra-Biblical studies.
Nobody sat at the table with Pharaoh either. The King's table throughout civilization has always been set apart. It is elevated in
spirit even if it's on the floor level with everyone else. So we see the word 'abomination' and look at it like the Hebrew table being
set apart was because they felt the Hebrews were beneath even the most base Egyptian; even when that Hebrew had been set
above every Egyptian in the land except for Pharaoh himself. I won't even argue with the notion that at the time the story of
Joseph was first being told, or was first written down, or even when it was going on in the minds of the Egyptians that this was
the meaning that was evolving or that had evolved. We got from A to B, so there was obviously an evolution in the meaning of
these strange Egyptian behaviors/beliefs, but within the story of Joseph we can still see traces of the original despite the use of
the word 'abomination'.
Like the set apart table (not only Joseph set apart from the Egyptians eating with him, but also set apart from his fellow
Hebrews), there is also the place where Joseph told his father to stress that they were shepherds and had been all their lives
because this was what their fathers (their Hebrew ancestors) had been, too. Joseph even told Jacob that he was to specifically
say this so that Pharaoh would let them live in the land of Goshen. (Gen. 46:34). Then when Jacob does this, Pharaoh tells
Joseph that he can have the pick of the land of all of Egypt but that he should "in the best of the land make thy father and
brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell".
So to set the point: these "abominations" are to be set apart at their own table, like the king's table, and they are to be given the
best of the whole land of Egypt for their dwelling place. The actions don't go with the word as we understand it.
But, let's go back a couple hundred years. When another Hebrew keeper of livestock came down to sojourn in Egypt.
Pharaoh treated Abram well. We know that. For Sarai's sake, he gave Abram alot of gifts of wealth; specifically alot of livestock.
It makes you wonder what Sarai was doing that such gifts were given to her "brother". We know there was no sex involved
because in Gen.12:19 Pharaoh tells Abram that he "might have taken her to me to wife". But we also know it was for her sake.
"And he entreated Abram well for her sake" (Gen.12:16). Preachers and teachers tend to teach this story like Pharaoh took
Sarai into his haram and God just started swatting him at once for this affront. That's not the picture I get when I look at these
few verses (Gen12:14-19).
First, Abram didn't go into Egypt a poor man. He went in a man of breeding and substance and education: a prince of a known
family. He didn't go in an ignorant shepherd. This was a man out of Ur and then from Haran. Both cities of the
Sumerian/Akkadian god Nanna or Sin (Hebrew letter sin or shin --shen??? Goshen perhaps because is was first inhabited by a
man associated with the go(d) shen (shin)?--That's just speculation, but what isn't in the study of ancient history?).
Abraham would have been well educated, especially in mathematics and astrology; he would have known how to write not only
in cuneiform (symbols) but would have also been conversant in hieroglyphics (pictures) because cuneiform was derived from
hieroglyphics, and it was all begun in his part of the world (Mesopotamia and further south, perhaps into India). And add to
which, he was a son of a powerful family. Nimrod and his association with Cush (Ham) and Mizraim is for another study page, but
the land of the "fertile crescent" was the land of the sons of Shem. Asshur (Assyria), and Elam (Medes/Persia), and Arphaxad
(Abraham's own father-to-son line and his territory was in the area of Ur- Arphaxad's land). Abram would have been a prince in
Ur, and a prince in Haran; and not just because of his association with the guardian prince Nanna/Sin of these cities, but
because of who his family was..
We tend to put thousands and thousands of years between these men of the Bible, but the truth of the matter is that they were
still alive contemporary to each other. By Biblical accounts Shem would have been about 406 years old when Abram was born
and he lived to be 602. That would mean he was still alive when Abraham died, 175 years later. He lived 56 years after Jacob
and Esau were born. From the Flood until Abraham left Haran, there had only been about 500 years of history. The Hebrew
calendar puts the flood about 2350BC and historical scholars would put the Ur of Abraham about 2000-1700BC, and the Bible
chronology would also put the Exodus at about 1450BC. (And this dating is being collaborated by the work of modern scholars
with more recent scholarship and study of "finds" of tablets written during these times--and the modern work of astrology which
is able to date things like eclipses mentioned in these ancient records.) A thousand years is not really a great seperation of
time when you still had men living that were close to 200 years old when they died. (Abraham and Jacob -- discounting Shem,
Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, Peleg [in whose time we had the confusion/scattering because of the Tower of Babel], Reu, and Serug,
who were all still alive when Abraham was born.)
With all of this in mind, Abraham was a son of Shem (Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah being his
lineage), who was an uncle of Mizraim (Egypt-son of Ham) and he is coming out of Ur and the cradle of civilization--which just
happened to be a delta civilization as well and a people who built their great cities having learned to tame the rivers Euphrates
and Tigris. Hence because of his lineage, because of his fathers, he came out of that land a prince of those lands of Arphaxad
and Asshur (Arphaxad's brother). He is a keeper of livestock as the Bible tells us straight out. But the Bible tells also tells us
within the history he would have been a prince. History itself tells us as a prince of Mesopotamian he would have been
educated by the priests and the king-priests of these city states. He would have been taught to read and write, and would also
have been a mathemetician (using the decimal [units of 10s/100s], but also 60, ie, 360 degrees in a circle, still used in figuring
angles--and significant in Joseph's own later determining of "the fifth" for Pharaoh's portion as 60 divided by 12 is 5.), and he
would have been educated in astrology.
Hebrew historians, the most famous being Josephus (circa 70AD with the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem), state in their
histories that Abraham was in fact not just an astrologer but a very good one. Having been his sister (or his niece, same
father-Terah as she was his brother Haran's daughter, but different mother's because she was the daughter of Haran's
wife--who was no doubt of the same family, too.), in any event a daughter of a princely family, Sarai too would have been
educated. Anyone doubting that should read the duties of a Proverbs 31 woman which match very well with the historical
Sumerian/Akkadian (Mesopotamiam) roles and duties of women. Which would very much demand an extensive education.
I can, and will in some other study page put down all of this that I have found in my studies, and am still studying, about the
ancient origins and civilizations of Mesopotamia, but for now, it is enough to say that there is no reason whatsoever to suppose
that when Abram and Sarai came into Egypt that they came as some backwards, wandering shepherds without power or status
of their own.
That Sarai actually came to the attention of the princes of Egypt who told Pharaoh about her says right in the Bible that they
were mixing it up with the Egyptian princes and their peers. And the Bible also tells us that Pharaoh gave Abram all these
princely gifts for her sake. If she was just some captured nobody amongst them, why the gifts? They were somebodys in a big
way. Not Pharaoh of course, and it was his land so he could do what he wanted, but he did it in such a way as not to show
offence to Abram.
In short, Pharaoh and the Egyptians knew his lineage or enough about Mesopotamian princes to know who he was; and they
also knew who God was. As in The God of Shem who was The God, because they knew what this lineage meant. They weren't
living as long as this family still did, but they were still trading with this older kingdom/civilization just as they had been for over a
thousand years. They knew their roots in other words. They welcomed Abram and they were willing to take his "sister" as
suitable to be a member of Pharaoh's own household. With gifts given to sanction this trade (as Eliezar gave gifts to the mother
and brothers of Rebekah when he went back to Mesopotamia to get a wife for Abraham's later son Isaac): bride's gifts. Not gifts
to the bride, but to the bride's family to show their respect.
Then after this time of gifts (weeks or months or even years) then God starts smacking Pharaoh and Egypt around for having
Sarai in their household. Why? She doesn't belong there. She isn't a daughter of Mizarim, she is a pure daughter of Shem, and
she is the wife of Abram. The Bible doesn't say that God did this because of Abram or for Abram's sake. The gifts were for
Sarai's sake and God's wrath was for Sarai's sake. (Gen.12:16,17) And Abram himself asked her to submit to this so that his
soul might be saved for her sake. (Gen12:13). My point is that the Egyptians learned a very hard lesson at that little juncture in
their history. They might think they were good enough to have someone of this lineage at their table, even at their king's table,
but God didn't agree. This was someone who got their own table, just like a king. And if their king wanted to eat with them, then
he could sit himself down at their table.
I'm not meaning to take away from the fact that Abraham was The Man (modern vernacular there) in the Bible. But I am pointing
out a little overlooked fact that she was the wife of Abraham because of who SHE was. She was the suitable helper chosen by
God for this man God had chosen to put forward His kingdom promises. You can't discount the women in the Bible. God chose
them just as specifically as He did the men. Look at Jacob's children by Leah and Rachel. Yes, grandchildren of Abraham and
Sarah, but through their mothers' line, they go right back to the same line. When you look at the genealogy of Jacob's sons
through Rachel and Leah, you find in fact that it is actually Milcah who is the ultimate grandmother because through Isaac (her
"daughter" Rebekah) you find her in Jacob's family tree; Jacob who then marries two more of her "daughters". God was
breeding for a specific seed (Mary) to reach the ultimate Seed (Jesus) and both sides of the bloodline were significant: they
weren't random chance.
All of that is for another day/study page though. In this one, I see the answer to my question "why" about the Egyptians of
Joseph's time in this story of Abraham's and Sarah's. The enemy was already at work trying to change the status to less-than,
and perhaps the word abomination was just as much a slur as we use it now, but it wasn't so far advanced that they had let go
of the actions that went with the original use/seperation between Hebrews and Egyptians.
That the Hebrews were keepers of livestock and that they were set-apart at their own table (like a king) came from their
experience with Abram and Sarai. It was a lesson God Himself taught them and they weren't going to forget it.
The best the enemy had been able to work by the time of Joseph's Pharaoh was that this separation, this set-apartness if you
will (set apart also being a definition of consecrated) was because the Egyptians were somehow better than them.
Which is how the enemy always works: trying to make anything/everything the opposite of what God said/says. By the time to
the Exodus Pharaoh this had come to the point where the Hebrews were slaves (which there's more to that than just that
because by Joseph's acts EVERYONE in Egypt, meaning the Egyptians, with the exception of the priests and of course his own
Hebrew family, were slaves) But even just before the Exodus Pharaoh, even Pharaoh's own daughter had no problem taking a
Hebrew child into her home to be raised as her son when she found Moses. What did she think she was doing when she did
that? Why would a prince of the land, one educated in the history and lore of the ancients as opposed to what would have been
communicated through the temples to the masses, think that a Hebrew child was perfectly suitable as a member of her own
royal household if the consensus was that these were people more in line with something the average Egyptian would scrape off
the bottom of their shoe? As was the case with the Exodus Pharaoh. And why did her father, or brother, Pharaoh, let her get
away with it if the Hebrew=scum transition had been completed even just one generation before the Exodus Pharaoh?
You have to encapsulate this timeline in your mind. God told Abraham his people would come out in the fourth generation. This
is also translated to 400 years in some Scriptures, but even in those places where 400 years is used, the scholars will point to
the veracity of the "fourth generation" pointing to the Moses being the fourth generation after Jacob (Levi, Kohath, Amram,
Moses), but 400 years just doesn't work for the historical chronology of the years in Egypt, and it overlooks the fact of the
women again. Jochebed, the wife of Amram and the mother of Moses was the daughter of Levi, born to him after Levi came to
Egypt (Num.26:59) which would make Moses the fourth generation of those in Egypt including Jacob. When you take into
account the practice of fathers claiming sons of their sons or daughters as their sons (as Jacob did with Ephraim and Manasseh
and as Laban did with his daughters' sons), then that would make Moses a Biblical fourth generation after Abraham.
It is also interesting, to me at least, that in Gen.15:13, what God says is "Know positively that your descendants will be strangers
dwelling as temporary residents in a land that is not theirs and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them for 400 years."
Abraham and his descendants were strangers in a strange land from the moment he came out of Haran into Canaan. And it was
about 400 years from his little visit to Egypt when God gave them a serious smacking around, (I think specifically for the
purpose to make sure the Egyptians could never say they didn't know the Hebrews were special and "set apart" to God) and
when God gave them another serious smacking around bringing his descendants of that fourth generation back as He had
promised Abraham "But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again" (Gen.15:16). Disregarding (not really but for want
of a better term) the fact that the Hebrew calendar actually puts the number of years from Jacob entering Egypt to the Exodus at
215 years, you can also understand these two verses (13 and 16) to mean 400 years from Abraham and Isaac (since God was
talking to him about the birth of his son Isaac) to the Exodus, with 4 generations in Goshen (about 200 years), when you take
into account the fact that we judge Egypt by the Upper and Lower Kingdoms, but in Abraham's time, Egypt was alot of the land
where he traveled. There were little kings and kingdoms of course, but they were considered part of Egypt's kingdom. (consider
that to Rome, Jerusalem was Rome,despite Herod their king. Rome was wherever Rome ruled and Rome ruled where ever it
had conquered and was paid tribute to by the local government.) By this definition, Abraham and Isaac were strangers in a
strange land and that land was Egypt's, even before Jacob and his sons actually moved down into Goshen to be with Joseph.
But that too is for another study page. This page is about the simple question why did the Egyptian's find all keeper's of
livestock and why did they call it an abomination to eat at the table with Hebrews. Why? I think it's pretty clear.
One is that we have the wrong understanding of the word abomination. We think it means something bad, and I would not want
to be called an abomination, but what if an abomination is not something bad so much as something which is not to be mixed up
with normal things? I am going to do some further research and find out which word was actually used in the Biblical Hebrew to
say what we are translating into English as "abomination". I can think of one or two other places where this word is translated
and either they are all bad or they are all not bad...but I am thinking maybe it just means something unique to pagan
worship...Exodus 8:26 is a perfect example: And Moses said, "It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the
abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their
eyes, then will they not stone us? The Amplified translates this to mean they would be sacrificing the animals that are
sacred to the Egyptians. In any event, it certainly doesn't translate to mean what we think so much...
The second thing though is pretty clear though--just a couple hundred years earlier God had afflicted the Egyptian royals with
some serious plagues the last time this family came to town with their livestock and they thought they could just appropriate one
of them to sit the table with them.