Friday, June 3, 2016

How to tell a Hebrew from a Jew

Semites, Hebrews, Israelites, Jews... we moderns just love our labels. In the Hebrew Bible, however, he various categories don't just occur side by side but often within each other, like a Babushka doll.

Most ethnonyms that are associated with Biblical heroes are subsets of other ethnonyms, much rather than indicative of some group within an ocean of equivalent but competing groups.

The following list of more or less familiar ethnonyms do not denote certain parallel sections of the general population, but rather categories that become more and more narrow. The list starts with the most general category of them all, into which all corporeal creatures fit. All categories that follow are subsets of the previous one(s).

It should further be noted that according to the following model, Biblical time is not the same as real time. In the following model, time is like the four years of high school, which in actuality take six years to complete. It's a journey down a complexity scale and not a temporal one. The following list is not based on the ticking of a clock, but rather of a huge birthday calendar that hangs fully formed on the wall and covers the entire living past:


In the Biblical sense, Adamites are descendants of Adam, and while Adam is commonly celebrated as being the first human male, at the Biblical level of Adam the symmetry in the world of the living is total. That is to say: at the complexity level of Adam, all living things have a body. Eve, after all, was the "mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20) and not only humans. The phrase 'all living' or kal hay occurs six more times in the Bible and always denotes, well, all living things or the whole biosphere (Genesis 8:21, Job 12:10, 28:21, 30:23, Psalm 143:2, 145:16).

With this we are NOT saying that Adam was a paramecium (please hold your emails), we are saying that whatever goes for Adam goes for every corporeal living thing.

This is the reason why the original sin passes over into the entire biosphere (Romans 8:20-22).


The second major breach in symmetry occurs in Noah, or rather the flood of Noah, at which point in complexity the human mind becomes distinguishable from animal intelligence - where the 'Sapiens' part of Homo Sapiens becomes distinct from other living beings.

Obvious to all but a few, Noah and the animals in the ark again represent the whole biosphere, but now humans are clearly set separate.

Note that Noah's family consists of seven, like the clean animals (Genesis 7:2), which sets Noah, as solitary head of his family in a literary parallel with God.

Again, with this we are not saying that Noah was an Australopithecus, we're only saying that prior to the complexity level of Noah, humans operate on the same mental software that runs the animal world.

On several occasions the Bible demonstrates a full human-animal symmetry (Ecclesiastes 3:18, Jude 1:10) and Jesus even states quite blatantly: "...and they knew not until the flood came" (Matthew 24:39).


The Shemites - or in the modern spelling: Semites - are the descendants of Shem, one of the three sons of Noah, who coincide with the most basic structure in all human minds (not wholly on a par with Freud's id and ego and what not, but close).

Traditional models regarded the three sons of Noah as patriarchs of geographically dispersed people groups (after Genesis 10), and had the Shemites people the middle east. Here at Abarim Publications, however, we're pretty sure that the authors of the Bible were not so interested in the physical descent of nations but rather the theological descent of their schools of thought. After all Abraham, arguably the father of all arch-fathers, was not a father in the biological sense but rather the "father of all believers" (Romans 4:16). Likewise the brothers Jabal and Jubal (Genesis 4:20-21) were the "fathers" of flute players and tent dwellers, while their physical lineages were terminated by the flood.

Here at Abarim Publications we hold that all of the genealogies of the Bible are solely about the evolution of wisdom; how different interests and different schools of thought descended from ancestral common ones (and with wisdom we mostly mean practical skills, technology and the science needed to grow crops and defend one's realms and such).

Traditionally Shem's brother Japheth was thought to have peopled Eurasia, with Shem's famous grandson Javan peopling Greece. Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that Javan rather sums up Greek's famous wisdom schools (math, literature, but also the statesmanship that resulted in the invention of democracy, and so on). Ham and his Hamites peopled Africa, which corresponds to mankind's oldest scientific systems, which were considered the 'smallest' rather than the 'youngest' by the authors (Genesis 9:24).

Also note that all three sons of Noah were born before the flood (Genesis 5:32, 11:10). In this particular model this insinuates that the basic structure of the human mind is still wholly pre-human and should be recognized in intelligent animals.


One of the more famous ethnonyms of this list is also one of the most misapplied: in the Biblical sense the Hebrews are the Eberites or "sons of Eber" as mentioned in Genesis 10:21 and 10:25. Who precisely these Eberites are is not clear from the text, but the context within this particular model suggests that the Eberites distinguish from other humans by some ability having to do with language. It might be speech, it might be writing, and it might even be narrative story telling, which marked the beginning of modern information technology.

The Semitic alphabet was invented by the Phoenicians and perfected by the Bible writers (whoever they were) through their brilliant contribution of vowel notation (note that the name of the Lord, YHWH, consists solely out of these vowels; this is no accident). The alphabet lifted writing out of the realm of the esoteric and made it available to the common man (hence a nation of priests ; Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9). This allowed for a huge influx of mental energy in the academic arena, which in turn resulted in superior wisdom traditions and hence stronger nations.

On the complexity scale, the invention of the alphabet appears to coincide with Israel's exodus from Egypt. In this sense Egypt is not the nation by that name but rather its wisdom tradition that refused to adapt to the alphabetic notation.

In Eber also arises a perspective beyond one's immediate frame of reference. Eber had two sons, namely Peleg and Joktan. In the days of Peleg "the earth was divided" (Genesis 10:25), which, beside all else, marks a global consciousness. The descendants of Joktan culminate in the tower of Babel (10:26-11:1). In other words: The two sons of Eber embody the fundamental competition between empire (Joktan, from Babel to Rome) and autonomous individual (Peleg, from Abraham to Christ).


In modern times, the adjective Abrahamic usually refers to the Abrahamic religions of Judiasm, Christianity and Islam, but on the Biblical stage Abraham is firstly a son of Peleg (anti-empire), and secondly the embodiment of an international exchange of good and ideas; precisely the opposite of a hoarding, centralized empire. Read our article on the name Abraham for a long look at this particular point on the complexity scale.


The name Isaac means laughter and his story is permeated with precisely that: comedy. It's often overlooked that comedy is one of the central and most dominant genres within Biblical Scriptures, but the power of comedy has been recognized and utilized long before Aristotle and Chevy Chase came along.

It may not agree with our modern sense of refined jest, but a centenarian who knocks up his only slightly younger wife (Genesis 17), a son who tries to trick his blind father with a visual disguise (Genesis 27, see Hebrews 11:20), the absurd assassination of fat Eglon (Judges 3:24), Manoah's silly antics, the whole Saul-versus-David roadrunner cycle (on from 1 Samuel 13), even up to Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus (John 3), the latter's whopping 100 liters of myrrh (John 19:39), and even the Pharisees' clownesque ignorance about the birth place of the prophet Jonah (John 7:52, see 2 Kings 14:25 and Matthew 12:40) are all undisguised instances of literary slapstick.

The "great joy" of which Jude so famously speaks (Jude 1:24) is often explained to be some austere and reserved sense of inner glee but no, it's swinging-from-the-rafters and thigh-slapping merriment.

The crucial element of all this is that laughter is a response to something unexpected (because nothing funny is ever seen coming). The original, or animal function of this same mental process is of course fear. That's why laughing and crying are so alike: physically they are exactly the same thing.

The single most repeated command in the Bible is to be not afraid, and although that may sound like the command to suppress a very useful sensation, it's obviously a command to secure your safety.

Laughter comes when one's sense of safety is so strong that strangeness is no longer seen as something potentially harmful, but rather as something potentially beneficial. The Athenian altar dedicated to the "unknown God" (Acts 17:21-23) stood doubtlessly in a comedy club.

Jacob => Israelites

In Isaac the range of human mentality hits an obvious ceiling (and this on a complexity scale; we're still not looking at evolution over time). Isaac marks the level of ultimate personal joy, and there's no bettering that. His son Jacob, subsequently makes no improvement in the vertical sense but rather in the horizontal one. Up to Jacob the covenant of God with humanity was always carried by one man, but in Jacob the earthly partner of the divine covenant becomes a people: Israel (Genesis 32:28).

The transition between masculine individual and feminine collective is most fundamental in the arsenal of Biblical principles. It's initially (of archetypally) expounded in the creation week, in which the one light of day one becomes the many lights of day four, and also lies at the heart of the relation between Jesus (male) and the church (female).

Judah => Jews

Israel expresses safety and joy on a national scale, and there appear to be twelve main sub-functions to that, corresponding with the twelve tribes of Israel. Which traits the twelve tribes specifically represent is not wholly clear at this remove, except for one, namely Joseph, who obviously represents oneirocritics or dream-interpretation.

What this skill is supposed to be on a national scale is not clear, but the story seems to suggest that there is a measurable social equivalent of the memory of a dream that a person might wake up with. Perhaps the ministry of Joseph denotes the systematic analysis of a society's informal or sub-culture. Ancient China had ministers who traveled the lands and viewed people's arts and listened to their music to learn which sentiments played among the people. Perhaps Joseph's ministry was something like that.

Joseph's skill appears to have originated somewhere in Canaan where it was not appreciated (Genesis 37:19). Then it was picked up by Midian in Arabia, who delivered it to Egypt. There too it was first underestimated but then recognized and ultimately firmly incorporated into the nations primary wisdom tradition (Genesis 41:45).

Today the most famous of the twelve tribes is Judah and if the name is anything to go on, these guys where the Praisers. What that precisely means isn't clear, but it probably wasn't anything like what we call praising today. Judah's mother Leah explained the name Judah by saying "this time I will praise the Lord" (Genesis 29:35), which isn't so much about praising as to the object of the praising.

Prior to Judah's birth, Leah was trying to bank the appreciations of Jacob, and Judah's birth marks a shift of focus toward YHWH. That still doesn't make praising a religious endeavor because the name YHWH probably means something like "The Way Things Are/ The Way It Is", and the "praise of YHWH" probably has to do with the pleasure of studying the laws of nature in which the Creator so clearly expresses Himself (Romans 1:20).

While the other Israeli tribes found themselves shanghaied by Assyria (from a word probably also meaning joy or happiness) the Judahites stuck to their turfs slightly longer, until they too were deported but to Babylon.

But the folks living in Judah were not merely the descendants of Judah, since Judah the tribe also contained the descendants of the brothers Levi and Simeon (Genesis 49:5-6). What Levi and Simeon represent isn't clear, except that from Levi came the priestly caste of the Levites, and since back then there was no separation of state and religion, a priest then was of course a wholly different thing than a priest now.

Levi, Jacob Levi
Judging from their names, Simeon (from the verb to hear, a name similar to that of older brother Reuben, from a verb meaning to see) may represent national intelligence.

Levi, from a verb that means to join or couple -- or even to bond -- may have originally represented a kind of diplomatic office (that pieced intel together).

This mixture of Judahites, Simeonites and Levites became collectively known as Jews, and while the other tribes were assimilated by Asshur, the Jews famously thrived in Babylon and later Persia. The exile ended in the so-called return, but the people who returned were a minority compared to those who stayed. The Jews of Babylon/Persia became politically enormously influential, and their wisdom schools enjoyed such enormous respect that emperor Cyrus himself decreed, designed and funded the restored Temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 6). The Jewish centers in Persia kept going strong for centuries. Even long after the age of Christ, the "Babylonian" Talmud vastly outshone the volume and scope of the Jerusalem Talmud.

The prominence of the Jewish elite in Persia became celebrated in the story of Esther, and even when the long awaited Messiah was born, the brethren from Persia seem to have been the first in the know. The Magi who famously showed up in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1) where clearly well-versed in matters of Judaism, and while the Magi were an actual Levite-like tribe of Babylon, the Magi mentioned by Matthew may in fact have been Jews from the Magi region.

It's been long thought that Luke with his "shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flocks" tells a wholly different story (Luke 2:8), but here at Abarim Publications we suspect that these shepherds too are the Jewish leaders of Persia, and Luke and Matthew tell of precisely the same events: the liberation movement of Jesus originated in Roman Judea but was first discovered and subsequently heavily financed by the Jews of Babylon/Persia.

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