According to the story in Genesis, there were around 2,300 years from the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden to the exodus of the Israelites in Egypt. Along the way, there were 23 generations, a flood, several famines, and generation after generation of lost stories. Many readers skim over these sections for the narrative portions of the book, but if we look carefully at these “begats” we can not only seeing biblical man becoming more like us, but there is also plenty of room for surprise. Did you know that Abraham could have met Noah? Or that Eber, for whom the Hebrew tribe is named, outlived his great-great-great-great grandson?
Come, take a look! There will be graphs!
Continue reading Timeline of Genesis From Adam to Joseph
After coming down from Mount Sinai and the death of his mother, Sarah, Isaac was in a bit of a funk. He may not have been on speaking terms with his father and had gone off with his mother’s tent to live near Beer-lahai-roi, in the south of Israel. Abraham knew that the future of his line, of God’s promise, rested in the unsteady hands of his second son. But Abraham had a plan to set things right: he would find a bride for Isaac, someone that could take his mind away from his troubles. It was time for some matchmaking!
Although this is Isaac’s second story as an adult, this is really the story of Abraham’s final victory. This is the moment when he makes his inheritance secure and could go off and be happy on his own. In the process, we also get to meet one of the strong-willed wives of the patriarchs, Rebekah. What are you waiting for? Read on!
Continue reading Matchmaking of the Patriarchs – Finding a Bride for Isaac
Where we left off in our story, Deborah and Barak– with an assist from a housewife and a tent spike– had succeeded in conquering Jabin, one of the kings of the Canaanite kingdoms, and his 900 iron-fortified chariots. This post will revisit a lot of that material, so see my previous entry if you want a refresher.
What did they do when they won this peace? Like any great Broadway musical, they sang a song about it. I will leave you to imagine the choreography, but it probably didn’t involve dancing girls. The Song of Deborah offers a second look at the events of Judges 4, but also depicts how Deborah wanted the story to be remembered. This song, far from being just an epilogue, depicts a woman that was both an expert at statecraft and perhaps a little bit of propaganda. Read on for the end of the story about this amazing woman.
Continue reading Stateswoman or Propagandist? Unraveling the Song of Deborah
I’ve finally finished: a family tree / genealogy of every named figure in the Torah, the first five books of the bible. I’ve been on this project off-and-on for two years– not because I didn’t have the data (that part was easy), but because creating a tree of more than six hundred nodes is more than I wanted to do by hand, especially because I intend to move on to the next books soon. My end goal is to produce a tree of every figure in the bible.
Geeks can work awfully hard at being lazy. Since I refused to do the layouts by hand, I wrote my own software. I first built a flatfile database of everyone in the Torah, then built software to convert that into the DOT graphing format for processing by the open source tool “graphviz”. I complete a first pass (in Perl) almost a year ago, but it was broken and difficult to maintain before it was done. I completed a second pass (in Java) this month. As annoying as Java is for text processing, I needed type safety and modern data structures. I spent the last several weeks massaging the output to work around weaknesses in Graphviz: it wasn’t designed for this sort of abuse either.
The end result isn’t perfect:
- Relationship boxes still don’t show up correctly with unnecessarily wavy lines and the “offspring” dots sometimes misaligned. You can tell what’s what, but it’s not great.
- Sometimes paths can be confusing. Even a computer can’t perfectly lay out such complex data!
This is a draft. The first draft. It has errors. My next step will be to carefully comb over the data, using the “plain” meaning of the text whenever possible, to make a better version. The Torah presents many challenges in this project such as names that may refer to multiple people (Abimelech), multiple names that refer to only one (Moses’s father-in-law), places where it isn’t clear if a “son” refers to a direct son or a descendant, etc. I will also produce an appendix (interesting to very few) where I will itemize these decisions and describe why I made each one.
I hope you find this tree as interesting as I do. I had great fun putting it together. You can download the draft genealogy of the torah here. (PDF)
(The old PNG image version is available here. Still a 5MB file.)
- Black lines are direct descendants
- Red lines are tribal descendants (Canaan -> Caananites & Midianites -> Reuel)
- Blue lines are royal lines of kings / other rulers
- Triangles represent tribes/races/nations
- Round boxes are individuals
- Rectangles define relationships/families
In my last post, I asked whether or not Abraham was cheated out of his land deal by Ephron the Hittite. 400 shekels of silver mean nothing to us, but the early readers of the bible toiled in their labors for a few shekels and would have known immediately what one was worth. To answer this question, we need some basis for comparison, a pricing guide in shekels. I’ve scoured the bible for every listed price and put a few of them together for this chart:
Continue reading Biblical Price Index