Before Judah and Tamar arrived on the scene (and while they lived), most families or tribes lived in cities that were actually known as city-states. These places had as few as 50-100 people in them or as many as tens of thousands. They were politically autonomous and generally, at least in— Kn’n—their rulers were called “kings.”
Hence, the “King of Adullam,” for instance, actually meant the principal or main ruler of Adullam and generally meant the person who was the most successful merchant. So, king did not mean king in the sense that we think of in regards to European history.
There are a number of historical sites in and around the region of our Judah and Tamar story. The cities (or city-states) found in archeological digs give evidence that the places mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Bereshis (Genesis) actually existed.
Explore cities before/during Judah and Tamar era
We will be including several important cities (city-states) that relate to our Judah and Tamar story. Either these places are mentioned in the actual Genesis (Bereshis) 38 story itself, or beforehand. For instance, Ur, the first city mentioned below existed long before the Judah and Tamar story but relates to them because of their back stories.
Ur or Ur Kasdim, one of the oldest cities of antiquity
Ur’s history relates directly to our story, for out of that ancient city came the patriarch,
The history or Ur also relates directly to the modern-day situations in the Middle East. But since the connection to current situations in the Middle East is not part of the story in our Song of the Terebinths Trilogy, we will not even attempt to cover that subject here.
Suffice it to say that the religion, commerce and way of life in the city and the surrounding city-states directly influenced the way Avraham viewed the world. He would have passed that worldview on to his children and grandchildren, who, in turn, would have passed it on to their own children and grandchildren, which included Judah and Tamar.
Sh’chem, as mentioned in the Ebla Tablets
The old city of Shechem dates back to about an estimated four thousand years.
Shechem is mentioned in the third-millennium Eblaite Tablets found at Tell Mardikh in the context of a city of which Rasap (Resheph) is the patron deity. Shechem was a commercial center due to its position in the middle of vital trade routes through the region. It traded in local grapes, olives, wheat, livestock and pottery between the middle Bronze Age and the late Hellenic Period (1900-100 BC).
Shechem had been a Canaanite settlement, mentioned on an Egyptian stele of a noble at the court of Senusret III (c. 1880–1840 BC). In the Amarna Letters of about 1350 BC, Shachmu (i.e. Shechem) was the center of a kingdom carved out by Labaya (or Labayu), a Canaanite warlord who recruited mercenaries from among the Habiru. Labaya was the author of three Amarna letters, and his name appears in 11 of the other 382 letters, referred to 28 times, with the basic topic of the letter, being Labaya himself, and his relationship with the rebelling, countryside Habiru. It may be identical to the Sakama mentioned by the ancient Egyptian traveler Mohar in an account dated to the 14th. century BCE.
Shechem first appears in the Bible in Genesis 12:6-8, which records how Abraham reached the “great tree of Moreh” at Shechem and offered sacrifice nearby. Genesis, Deuteronomy, the Book of Judges and Joshua hallow Shechem over all other cities of the land of Israel. At Shechem, Abram “built an altar to the Lord who had appeared to him … and had given that land to his descendants” (Gen 12:6-7). The Bible states that on this occasion, God confirmed the covenant he had first made with Abraham in Harran, regarding the possession of the land of Canaan. In Jewish tradition the old name was understood in terms of the Hebrew word shékém — ‘shoulder, saddle’, corresponding to the mountainous configuration of the place.
On a later sojourn, the sons of Jacob avenged their sister’s rape (or by another interpretation, seduction) by “Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land” of Shechem — by massacring the city’s inhabitants. Later, following the Exodus, Joshua assembled the Israelites in Shechem and encouraged them to reaffirm their adherence to the Torah.
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