THE MOTHER’S HOUSE: EVE TO MARY
Ancient Israel: Matrilineal descent
The promise given to Eve: the “Seed of the Woman” (Gen 3:15.)
Jewish and Christian interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis vary. Some believe that the early chapters of Genesis are to be read in a literal sense, others that it is allegorical, a myth. Interestingly, a literal interpretation of creation among classic rabbinic commentators is as uncommon as it is common among Christian believers. Either way, how this text is interpreted is especially significant for women. It is my intention therefore, to demonstrate that Jewish and Christian translators and commentator’s patriarchal interpretation imposed on the Scriptures have marred the image of Christ’s relationship with his bride (the Church). Below is a short introduction to my teaching here on the “Mother’s House.”
The House of Leah
Mary’s Mother’s House traces back to the House of Leah (of King David’s Royal House of Judah – Leah’s tribes.)
Leah’s Mother’s House (matriline) traces directly back to Rebekah, (daughter of Milcah in the city of Nahor. (Gen 24)
Leah’s Father’s House (patriline) also stems from her matriline: Isaac: son of Sarah and Abram, marries Rebekah – his second cousin on his mother Sarah’s side.
Rebekah’s maternal grand-mother, Milcah, is sister of Sarai (Iscah) and her maternal uncle, once removed, is Lot.
The recorded paternal links of Israel’s early patriline: the extended Father’s House (Heb: ‘bet ab’): extends back to Terah (Abram’s grandfather.)
Rebekah, “born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, wife of Nahor, brother of Abram. Milcah is Sarah’s sister.
Israel’s early Matriline (Gen 11:27-28, 29.)
Terah – unnamed wife, mother of three sons:
1st born: Abram – wife: Sarai, daughter of Haran (deceased).
2nd born: Nahor- wife: Milcah daughter of Haran (deceased). – children – Bethuel – grand children: Rebekah and Laban (Gen 29:13.)
3rd born: Haran (deceased) – children: Milcah, Iscah (Sarai), & Lot – son of Haran – (deceased).
Abram and Nahor, uterine brothers, married uterine sisters, Sarai and Milcah, respectively: the daughters of Haran, their deceased brother.(Gen 22:20.)
(N.B. the Jews identify Iscah as Sarah: (Genesis 11:29.) This gives the Jews their matriline: they claim you are a Jew if your mother is a Jew.
The Mother’s House is identified only through the practice of the endogamous marriage relationship: The men of zisrael must marry the ‘chosen’ women of the House of Milcah: Sarai’s uterine sister.
Ancient Israel practiced endogamy, (as opposed to exogamy), thus ensuring the land was retained within each individual Mother’s House and tribe. For Israel it meant only those men in covenant with the God of Israel, having the sign of circumcision, a sign showing their having direct descent from the original Mother’s House in Mesopotamia that resulted in the fout matriarchs: Leah, (handmaid: Zilpah) and Rachel, (handmaid: Bilhah (Gen 29: 24. The Jewish patriline began with Terah through Abraham. The Jewish matriline began with Milcah’s daughter, Rebekah, Sarah’s maternal niece.
The endogamous social order ensured Israel’s land retention and long term survival.
To remain true to the ‘pure’ endogamous line, Sarah’s son, Isaac, (sired by Abraham,) married Milcah’s daughter, Rebekah, and Jacob Isaac’s son married Milcah’s grand-daughters, the ‘right woman’ (within a specific social group, caste, or ethnic group, rejecting ‘outsiders’ (exogamy) as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.)
Endogamy is common in many cultures and ethnic groups. Endogamy is the social norm prescribed in Genesis 2: 24:
‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh’.
This kind of social order relies on female kinship with the chief wife of a household having a special relationship with the land (holding the land rights and land right’s distribution. The women were the gatekeepers of the land and the initial recording of the male genealogies (having intimate knowledge of their own children) and who was the chosen male heir. Ancient Near East (ANE) documents record women’s association with the land. (see my recent thesis here ##)
The Matriline of Sarah
Ancient Israel’s biblical record (also ANE documents) traces the endogamous household and the mother’s line springing from Milcah’s House (Heb: ‘bet em’): Rebekah’s grand-mother. ANE history shows the women’s relationship with the land, albeit Israel originally lived in tents. As the land of Canaan was settled, regions, cities, towns and heroic events in early Canaan history were named after some of the famous mothers in Israel. Sarah;s Matriline
Those faithful women of Sarah’s matriline (uterine descendants: kinship group) paid special attention to the oral history passed from mother to daughter, the prophecy that Messiah would come from the ‘seed of the woman.’ Each woman’s monthly period of menstruation, with the same steady uninterrupted flow of moon and tides, acted as a continual physical and spiritual reminder both for the women in particular that through one of those chosen women Israel’s promised Messiah would come. The faith of these women is shown by their actions, their determination to take and hold of the hope given to their first mother. The women’s faith in the promise kept them and thereby Israel on its divinely intended, ordained, and prescribed course.
Finally, In the fullness of (God’s) time
Mary was the chosen one. Mary’s matriarchal lineage stems from Leah. Judah, the Messiah was promised from Leah’s tribe. No doubt Mary was surprised by a stranger at her doorway but perhaps not by the messenger’s announcement. It is plain she understood that a child was conceived through sexual intercourse, but shows no surprise that she is the chosen one. In her case, however, she is told, it will be a different conception. Thus, Mary’s seed, the ‘seed of the woman’, was born into this world, born under the law of sin and death, born without man’s intervention. She gave birth to Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. His mission was to reverse what the first Adam brought upon all humankind. (Romans 5:12)
The coming of Jesus: the Seed of the Woman
Jesus birth cannot be traced through Israel’s Judah’s patriarchal genealogy alone. It cannot be reliably traced through the seed of Abraham or Israel’s male ancestors. Indeed, male genealogies cannot be trusted.
Jesus was born of a woman like any other.
The focus of God has always been on the woman’s seed and this is, in its finality, is only traceable through women. To fulfil the word in Genesis regarding the seed of the woman (the proto-evangel: the first hint of the gospel) God ‘took flesh’ and became human. God stepped down from the throne of glory and laid aside God’s divinity. Instead, God, in the form of a human, humbled self. Jeus lived on this earth as the sone of God’; a human, tempted on all points as we are and learned obedience through the things that he suffered. He was put to death, nailed on a common cross, died and was resurrected.
Jesus returned to the presence in the godhead from whence he came. Jesus promised to return again. In place of the son, God, the Holy Spirit cam as another Comforter, present with the ‘Ecclesia’, the ‘called out’ ones, Jew and Gentile: the body of Christ: the church. Jesus will return as the bridegroom to join his bride here on earth. Where Adam failed, Jesus obeyed. Jesus fulfilled the Law – the will of God. The Apostle Paul describes Jesus as the ‘second Adam.’
It is my hope that by putting aside constricting, stale patriarchal interpretations of this ancient holy text we can rediscover the bloodline of faithful women together with faithful men, were instruments in God’s purpose to bring us the full redemption in which we stand.