Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Clarifying a Reader’s Comment

Sometimes readers make comments in relationship to a published article in our blog that needs a response for clarification. Recently one was received, which response requires more than a simple explanation in a brief sentence or paragraph in our comments section, but a full article. 
     Following is their recent statement in a comment received on February 25 of this year regarding a four-part article entitled The Man Jared and His Brother, posted on January 28-31, 2015, from an “Unknown” reader, whose name seems to trace back to Ree Campbell on the submission email. They state rather emphatically, “I will remind you that the progeny of Ishmael were called Princes, not Tribes, Like Israel. And, unlike Israel, women could be rulers, or princes; to that end, Sheba, also called Bilquis and Makeda, was a woman. It is important to keep your distinctions clear when trying to engage an educated audience that wants to read what you have written. I am happy to hear new and fresh ideas from outside voices, but as soon as I saw that you had labeled this incredibly famous woman as a male, the rest became suspect. I encourage you to read up on her, and on her son, and Aksum, it may lead you to artifacts lost in time! Happy researching!”
Left: Queen of Sheba; Right: Sheba, tenth son of Joktan (Genesis 10:25-26,28)

In response, first, lets’ deal with the comment about Sheba being a woman. In the two sentences of our article that mentions Sheba, they read: “His son, Sheba (Makeda/Bilqis), identified with Saba in southern Arabia,” and again in “Another extra-biblical tradition found in the “Kitab al-Magall” (Clementine literature), and the “Cave of Treasures,” holds that in the early days after the Tower of Babel, the children of Havilah, son of Joktan built a city and kingdom, which was near to those of his brothers, Sheba and Ophir, and tradition has it that Havilah settled on the west coast of Arabia, north of Yemen” (emphasis added).
    Consequently, we need to clarify this information since the comment does not take into account the entire statement, which was: “His son, Sheba identified with Saba in southern Arabia,” has to do with Joktan’s numerous sons, of which there were thirteen. Son #10 was named Sheba, sometimes referred to as Saba, which is what our sentence stated. However, the parenthetical line (Makeda/Bilqis) should have read (not to be mistaken for Makeda/Bilqis), which, by the way, are the accepted names of the Queen of Sheba. That was our mistake for not completing the parenthetical insert, but should not have been misunderstood since Sheba (sometimes referred to as Saban) was the name of the tenth son of Joktan, about whom the article was written and what the sentence was indicating, since the paragraph itself and the ones above and the one after was describing Joktan’s thirteen sons, and to the side was an image that listed these sons (with Jerah and Ophir highlighted in one since the article was about these two sons in particular).
Inserts in the article that was questioned by a reader. Note the fourth name from the bottom, “Sheba,” which was the tenth son of Joktan (Left: First insert in the article; Right: Second insert in the article, in the paragraph being questioned) 

There was no suggestion or indication that we were talking either about a woman in general, or in particular the Queen of Sheba, referred to as malkat-šəḇā in the Hebrew Bible. Nor should anyone have arrived at such a conclusion in reading the overall article—after all, the writing was about the sons of Joktan, and one of them was named Sheba, which any simple check would reveal (Genesis 10:26,28; 1 Chronicles 1:19-20). By the way, the Queen of Sheba as mentioned in the Old Testament, is referred to only as Regina austri (queen of the south) in the New Testament in: “the queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from then uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). That she was an important person in her day is suggested in her visit to Solomon that she felt it necessary to “come and prove him with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1), evidently to entrap him and show the world that Solomon was not the all-wise leader he was reported to be (1 Kings 10:3). 
    She was obviously quite wealthy from the camel train and gifts she entered Jerusalem with, and asked Solomon all the questions “that was in her heart,” and when he answered all that she desired, she acknowledged how great and wise he really was, even to exceed his reputation and returned to her own country (1 Kings 10:13). Nothing more than this is known of her, and all else is merely myth and legend built up over this brief mention of her written by poets and much later scholars. In fact, early on, writers like Josephus claimed the Queen of Sheba was the queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, and that the capital of Aethiopia along the east bank of the Nile was at one time called Saba or Seba, in the kingdom of Cush in the Nubia (today’s Sudan), but that Egypt’s conquest in 525 B.C. by Cambyses II, emperor of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, resulted in a name change to Meroë.
    For those who claim that the “Song of Solomon” writing, called Šīr HašŠīrīm in Hebrew, or Song of Songs, is the writing of Solomon about the Queen of Sheba, modern scholars have shown that the language used, wich is Aramaic, and the date in whidh it replaced Hebrew after the Babyonian exile in the late 6th century B.C., and the evidence of vocabulary, morphology, idiom and syntax clearly points to a late date, centuries after king Solomon to whom it is traditionally attributed.
    The point is, little is known about the Queen of Sheba, other than she was contemporary with Solomon, around 950 B.C., while our discussion in the article was about Joktan, the brother of Peleg, both sons of Eber, who was the great-grandson of Shem, the oldest son of Noah, who built the Ark to survive the Flood in about 2344 B.C. Thus, Joktan lived more than a thousand years before Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
    As for the comment about “Princes” and “progeny,” while the sons of Ishmael may have been referred to in Arab sources as “Princes,” [though the correct word is “amr,” today: “amir” (emir), meaning commander, prince or ruler], and also in the Bible: “Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bore unto Abraham: "And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: The firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth, and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedmah. These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns and by their encampments; twelve princes according to their nations" (Genesis 25:12-16, emphasis added).
    As far as “the progeny of Ishmael,” we know that the sons of Ishmael were called Princes according to the scripture quoted above, and it should be noted that “Prince,” like “duke” (Genesis 36:15,40-43; 1 Chronicles 1:51-54), from Latin dux, meaning “leader” or “chief”, and “king” were titles—and as such, the sons of Ishmael would be entitled to such a title, as it is used today for the Princes in Saudia Arabia.
    It should also be noted that the Hebrew term Nāśī’, meaning “prince,” as in “Prince of the Sanhedrin” in Mishnaic Hebrew, is used for Israel. This term nāśī’ occurs 132 times in the Masoretic Text (the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism) of the Hebrew Bible and in the English version is translated as “prince” or occasionally “captain.”    
    It might be noted that in the book of Numbers, the leaders of each tribe is referred to as a nāśī’, (prince) and each one brings a gift to the Tabernacle, 12 consecutive days, with each one being listed individually by name even though they all brought the same set of gifts.
    In fact in the times of the kings of Israel, the nāśī’ held a close relationship with the king until the tenth century. Later, in the 17th to the 20th centuries, the title of nāśī’ was conferred upon a man belonging to the Jewish community’s most noble and richest family.
    “Prince” was also used in the Jewish work in Latin called Philo of Alexandria, or the Book of Biblical Antiquities and the Chronicles of Jerahmeel, written by Eleasar ben Asher, the Levite, about a period in 70 A.D., in which it states: “Joktan was first made prince over the children of Shem, just as Nimrod and Phenech were princes over the children of Ham and Japheth respectively,” and when several of Joktan’s sons refused the orders to bake bricks for the Tower, “Joktan smuggled them out of Shinar and into the mountains, to the annoyance of the other two princes.” The point is, no matter the authenticity of the writing, the term “prince” was not restricted to Ishmael’s sons or his progeny, but was also used among the Hebrews and later Jews. Consequently, it cannot be said the term “Prince” was restricted to Ishmael’s descendants and not that of Israel.
    Now, for the statement about “tribes,” the reader’s comment is wholly inaccurate based on the information stated and the information available for dozens of sources on the subject of naming Ishmael’s sons and their groupings as “tribes.”
    Referring to the questioned statement in our article: “According to several writers (Tuch, Halle, Knobel, Ritter, Ley, etc.), these three tribes, along with the name Joktan, held pre-eminence in the area of modern-day Yemen,” these writers and numerous others are well known theologians of Ecclesiastical Literature, and specifically, the word “tribe,” as used in the article, was taken from several sources besides these.Therefore, the groups or clans in Arabia were labeled “tribes” as found in numerous ancient and modern commentaries by highly respected and sometimes well-known historians, such as:
1) Anciently, Pliny the Elder referred to these Arabs as “tribes” and referred to the tribe called Atramitae, placed by him between the Homerites and the Sachalites on the south coast of Arabia (Pliny 6:28, as recorded in James Gracey Murphy [professor of Hebrew, Belfast], A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Genesis, T & T Clark, Edinburg, 1863, p264; W.F. Draper, Boston, 1866).
2) More recently: “The tribe of Jurhum is involved in the Arabic accounts of the sons of Ishmael. This was an old Arab tribe, which played an important role in the history of the two cities with which Byzantium had relations, Najran and Mecca” (Irfan Shahid, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fifth Century, Dunbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University, Washington DC, 1989, p336).
    In Nabataean History (, The 12 Tribes of Ishmael, are referenced as “These sons eventually took wives, had children, and through these children, tribes were formed. These tribes made up the nations that dwelt from Havilah to Shur, and from Egypt to Assyria. The descendants of Ishmael, however, were not the sole tribes in the Arabian Desert. Other tribes emerged from other sources. Some of these became the people of South Arabia and others also wandered and settled in Arabia.”
    It might also be of interest to know that the definition of this found in “Tribes of Arabia,” states that the “tribes of Arabia” are the clans that originated in the Arabian Peninsula, and that there were three types: 1) the Arabs that have perished are an ancient group of tribes with unknown history. They include Aad, Thamud, Tasm, Jadis, Imlaq (who included branches such as Banu al-Samayda) and others… 2) According to tradition, Pure Arabs were from Yemen and were descendants of Ya’rub bin Yashjub bin Qahtan, who was a descendent of Ishmael. They were also called Qahtanite Arabs. According to tradition and studies on genealogy, and 3) Arabized Arabs originated from the progeny of Ishmael the firstborn son of the patriarch Abraham and the Jurhum tribe, also called Adnani Adnani Arabs. The Hawazin tribe are considered to be of Adnani Arabs, as well as Muhammad.
    Now the most prominent of such Arabian tribes were the Banu Quraish (Arabic for "Sons of Quraish") which were in turn divided into several sub-clans. The Qur'aish sub-clan of Banu Hashim was the clan of Muhammad (a mercantile Arab tribe that historically inhabited and controlled Mecca and its Ka'aba. The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born into the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe), while their sister sub-clan, the Banu Abd-Shams (a clan from the great-grandfather of Muhammad and parent clan of Banu Umayya sub-clan, the widely known Umayyad dynasty who ruled as the second Islamic Caliphate established after Muhammad’s death), became known as his most staunch enemies.
    Thus, we see that the people of Arabia were known by tribes, and within a tribe by a clan or sub-clan).

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