Monday, January 08, 2007

Illuminating the Israelite Family Compound

I have created a short video from scratch with the help of my friend and colleague Joseph Constant here at Virginia Seminary. In it, I try to use comparisons with the traditional Haitian Lakou to flesh out the workings of the typical homestead of the Israelite extended-family or בית אב. I've posted my video on YouTube and nested it below in this post, so please take a look at it and add your comments when you get a spare five minutes.

Joseph Constant, the person whom I interview in the video clip, is himself from Haiti and has loaned me the following idealized painting of a Lakou family compound in his native land (click to enlarge):

You can see from the painting that, like the Israelite family compound, the Haitian compound consists of multiple dwelling units clustered around a shared courtyard. Joseph describes in the video the sorts of typical activities that take place in the various parts of the compound, the importance of keeping the compound within the family, and the place of dead ancestors in its ongoing life.

The idea of comparing the Bet-'Ab and the Lakou came to me from two directions. Joseph himself first showed me the painting above and suggested the parallelism after hearing some of my OT-1 lectures on the archeology of the Israelite family. At about the same time, I heard a fascinating talk at the SBL in our Social Sciences section by Carolyn S. Leeb, which made the self-same comparison (23 November 2002, at the SBL annual meeting in Toronto).


Blogger PamBG said...

Interesting. Thank you for doing that.

Mon Jan 08, 11:01:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Given your earlier postings, I would be very interested in any connections you would draw between the "iwa" and the "elohim" that accompany Samuel in 1 Sam 28:13 or maybe even the "people of elohim" in 2 Sam 14:13. Thanks for the very informative video.


Mon Jan 08, 11:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Yes, I think the parallelism is clearly there. In both Haiti and Israel, family-bonds are meant to keep the dead bundled up in lovingkindness with the living. As to 2 Sam 14:13, however, I admit to not having looked at this verse closely recently. Do you know of any interpretations of it that might be of interest here? ---S.

Mon Jan 08, 08:28:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Theodore Lewis wrote a nice piece ("The Ancestral Estate (nhlt elohim)in 2 Sam 14:16" 110 JBL (1991):597-612)that argues well for "elohim" in 14:16 as a reference to "the dead," based on 1 Sam 28:13 and many of the ANE parallels that your previous blog noted. Yet, he doesn't say anything about "the people of elohim" a few verses earlier (14:13), which occurs nowhere else in the OT. I haven't worked out what to do exegetically if it means "people of the dead" or something like that. After all, David seems to be promoting the interests of the dead in 2 Sam 14 rather than ruling against them.

Tue Jan 09, 01:24:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing: I haven't had a chance to look at it, but I wonder if Jon Levenson's brand new book on resurrection would have anything related to this topic.


Tue Jan 09, 01:26:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Fascinating; Definitely worth following up on. Thanks! ---S.

Tue Jan 09, 07:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed that a copy of Levenson's book is available for review on rbl, if you want a free copy.


Tue Jan 09, 12:23:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks for the tip! I just put my name in for it! ---S.

Tue Jan 09, 12:35:00 PM GMT-5  

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