The belief that the descendants of
Canaan are cursed with black skin
is also genetically incorrect, as we
can see many otherwise ‘African’
Y-chromosome lineages in Greece
today, 11 probably a result of interactions
between the Greeks and the Cretans
over many centuries. There are also
‘African’ Y-chromosome lineages
in Spain and Italy (not surprising,
considering ancient history12), and also
England (this was a surprise! 13). So the
biblically and scientifically ignorant
people (mostly of European descent)
who want to claim the Africans are
cursed would also be cursing many of
their fellow Europeans.
This is just an illustration to show
that if we want to account for the origin
of the Hebrews, or any other people
group for that matter, we have to focus
on the post-Babel time period.
The starting point of the Hebrews
Abraham is the father of the
Hebrews. He was the 10th-generation
descendent of Noah through Shem
(Genesis 11: 10–26) and it was with him
that God made an important covenant
(Genesis 15, 17). He was called a
‘Hebrew’ in Genesis 14: 13. 14 The word ‘Hebrew’ could also
be translated ‘Eberite’ (Hebrew: י ִ רְבִע ‘Ibri, cf. רֶב ֫ ֵע ‘Ēber). A
great-grandson of Shem and the father of Peleg, Eber was an
important patriarch in his own right. Hence, he is mentioned
along with Shem in Genesis 10: 21.
Thus, all of Abraham’s descendants are technically
Hebrews/Eberites also. This includes his half-Egyptian son
Ishmael (Genesis 16: 15) (figure 1), who in turn took an
Egyptian wife (Genesis 21: 21) and had many sons that
settled to the east (Genesis 25: 12–18). But it also includes
the six sons Abraham had with his third wife, Keturah,
whose lineage is unknown. These also settled to the east,
and in the account of Joseph the two tribes are discussed
almost interchangeably (Genesis 37: 25–28); that is, the
Ishmaelites, who came through Sarah’s Egyptian servant
Hagar (Genesis 16: 1), and the Midianites, who came through
Keturah (Genesis 25: 1–6).
Later, Isaac’s son Esau married two Canaanites (a Hittite
and a Hivite) and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 10: 6, 15; 26: 34;
28: 9; 36: 1–3). These became the Edomite nation east of the
Dead Sea (Genesis 33: 16, Genesis 36).
Lot was Abraham’s nephew, the son of Abraham’s
(deceased) brother Haran. Two tribes that lived east of the
Jordan, Ammon and Moab (Genesis 19: 36–38), descended
from him (figure 2).
As we narrow our focus to the origin of the Israelites, we
need to remember that there would have been a significant
diffusion of ‘Hebrew’ genes out into the surrounding nations,
right from the start. But we also expect a reverse flow of
genes from the surrounding peoples into Israel.
Abraham received menservants and maidservants from
Pharaoh (Genesis 12: 10–16). Since they came from Africa
there is a strong possibility that many had African/Hamitic
roots. When Abraham rescued Lot, he had 318 trained
men “born in his house”. The household is numerically
dominated by people not descended from childless Abraham.
In fact, as late as Genesis 15: 2–3 Abraham was worried that
a relative named Eliezer of Damascus would be his heir.
Figure 1. Abraham sends Hagar away (by Gustave Doré). This important biblical event led to the
establishment of a major non-Jewish people group founded with Abraham's Y chromosome.