In the previous article on Brian Schwertley’s sermon series “The Kinist Heresy,” I addressed three of Schwertley’s examples designed to deny that Israel’s nationhood was constituted by heredity – to demonstrate that ethnic foreigners could be integrated into Israel without any ancestry-based impediments. Schwertley’s examples are often based upon mistaken assumptions and serve as a weak foundation for his conception of ancient Israel as a propositional nation, i.e. constituted merely by a common profession of faith. Besides the specific problems with his examples’ details (which Schwertley often confuses as well), there is the overarching problem underlying all assimilation-based arguments: appealing to ethnically-defined nations’ inclusion in Israel as a way to disprove an ethnic definition of nationhood is severely self-contradictory. Furthermore, there is the additional problem of trying to make over-generalizations based upon outlier examples, rather than directly addressing the broad moral principles pertinent to the issue.
In this article, we will specifically analyze Schwertley’s use of Deuteronomy 23:1-8 in his polemic against Kinism, especially as it pertains to the provisions for Egyptians’ assimilation in verses 7-8. First, the passage itself:
1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.
2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.
3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever:
4 Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.
5 Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee.
6 Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.
7 Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.
8 The children that are begotten of them shall enter into the congregation of the Lord in their third generation.
This passage is noteworthy for its terms’ obscurity, though the points of obscurity can be reduced to three: (1) the meaning of “enter into the congregation of the Lord,” (2) the meaning of “even to their tenth generation,” and (3) the specific content of the multi-generational waiting periods. As understanding these terms is conducive to grasping the passage’s wider meaning and application, we will cover these obscurities in order.
(1) Numerous historic commentators express confusion as to the meaning of “the congregation of the Lord” in this passage. As Nil Desperandum notes in commenting on the mamzer of Deuteronomy 23, it is unclear which rights it endows upon the recipient: “is this a purely ecclesiastical privilege? A civil privilege? Both? Does it reflect only the privilege of attaining some sort of office, or does it apply to membership in the Israelite covenant community? Does it permit membership, but only in creating an even lower tier of member? If it denotes office-holding, what level of organization in particular? Tribal, or pan-Israel?” This is a tricky question. Schwertley asserts, though without offering supporting argumentation, that it denotes rights of full citizenship. In the end, this answer is plausible, and Kinist principles do not hinge on this contingency one way or the other, but it would be profitable to inquire into some arguments yielding this conclusion.
To start, we have a pair of reasons to deny that entering into the congregation of the Lord automatically confers rights of full citizenship. At least two Mosaic precepts regard rights reserved to hereditary Israelites. Only hereditary Israelites could hold office in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:15; 2 Samuel 5:1, cf. 1 Chronicles 11:1), and only Israelite families were accorded permanent land-grants as members of the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 25:8-17); the land was required to stay in the possession of the appropriate tribe (cf. Numbers 36:5-9). These reasons cast some doubt that entering into the congregation of the Lord necessarily confers the rights of full citizenship, as these privileges were strictly confined to ethnic Israelites.
Yet when we consider that, at minimum, entering into the congregation of the Lord grants the right to form valid intermarriages with Israelites (as Nehemiah’s enforcement of Deuteronomy 23 makes clear), we can then understand how the preceding arguments should be qualified. For if a naturalized foreigner is legally permitted to marry an Israelite, then he ipso facto assumes the communal property rights involved in that marriage. A naturalized Edomitess marrying an Israelite man would be part of a household corporately owning the property which both spouses bring to the marriage (even if fundamentally under the control of the patriarch), and all children born of such a marriage would be heirs to that property. Similarly, a naturalized Edomite man marrying an Israelitess would gain communal property as well. Simply from the nature of marriage, then, if entering the congregation of the Lord involves the right to form valid marriages with Israelites, then it necessarily involves partaking of all the property rights which those native Israelites enjoyed as well.
This stands true from the nature of marriage, but we can also receive further illumination on the topic from the example of the daughters of Zelophehad. In Numbers 27:1-11, because Zelophehad had no sons to receive his inheritance, Moses issued a new inheritance law incorporating daughters into the succession of inheritance. Later, in Numbers 36:1-9, a further law was issued to ensure that any Israelitesses with an inheritance (through the law of Numbers 27) kept their inheritance within their tribe; the law required them to marry intratribally. As land, like any other property, was also passed down to heirs, this law demonstrates how property could be transferred via marriage. Therefore, if a naturalized foreigner married an Israelitess, he would acquire the property to which she was entitled. Hence we see that the right of marriage, by its nature, logically precludes any possible discrimination regarding property rights favoring ethnic Israelites over naturalized foreigners, if their intermarriage is legally valid. And this can lead us to conclude that the text of the law establishing permanent land-grants in Israel (Lev. 25:8-17) was not intended to exclude naturalized foreigners from ever owning such land.
This does not explain the law of kin-rule summarized in Deuteronomy 17:15, however, since it is logically possible for a naturalized foreigner to have legal rights of intermarriage without supplementary privileges regarding civil office. Unclarity enters here, for it is hazy whether naturalized foreigners were intended to be excluded as non-brothers in Deuteronomy 17:15. Though Egyptians would not seemingly be “brothers” of Israel in this ethnic sense, yet Edomites are explicitly termed “brothers” in Deuteronomy 23:7. This leaves us a few different logical possibilities: (a) “brother” in Deut. 17:15 is used even more restrictively than in Deut. 23:7, so no naturalized foreigners are ever permitted to become king; (b) “brother” in Deut. 17:15 is inclusive of Edomites, but not Egyptians, so only sufficiently ethnically similar naturalized foreigners can become king, but not other naturalized foreigners; or (c) all naturalized foreigners are to be comprehended within the “brethren” described in Deut. 17:15. I lean towards (a), for (b) appears to be an unstable answer, and (c) would seemingly remove the significance of the native/foreigner distinction in Deut. 17:15 itself, as obviously only Israelite citizens, whether naturalized or not, would ever be considered eligible for kingship. (The rejoinder to this consideration regarding (c) would be that Deut. 17:15 might forbid imperial rule by a foreign nation, and/or that the law emphasizes the immorality of any ethnic foreigner, even one who should never have become citizen in the first place, becoming king.)
At any rate, whether “entering into the congregation of the Lord” confers the exact same rights as for a homeborn Israelite, or whether it still bars naturalized foreigners from a number of civil privileges, it is clear that it involves the right to form valid marriages with Israelites, at minimum, and that it is generally focused upon secular privileges (residence and citizenship, if not more), not ecclesiastical privileges.1 This is plenty sufficient to understand the passage’s Kinist implications over against Schwertley’s objections.
(2) Schwertley displays uncertainty as to the exact meaning of “even to their tenth generation.” Egyptians and Edomites are allowed to enter the congregation of the Lord after three generations, while Moabites and Ammonites are forbidden from entering the congregation of the Lord until at least ten generations have passed. So the question is whether the eleventh generation of an Ammonite or Moabite would be granted entrance, or whether all their posterity would be banned forever. Fortunately, we have a direct answer to this question from another Scripture: “On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever” (Neh. 13:1). This interpretation is definitive; “even to their tenth generation” is designed to indicate that up until and beyond their tenth generation, no descendants of Ammonites or Moabites should ever enter into the Israelite congregation. No Ammonite or Moabite descendant could enter Israel, not even their tenth generation.
(3) Independent of questions regarding the interpretation of the number ten, there also is the issue of what is occurring during the three generations for the permitted nations. The number of generations could refer to residence in Israel or among the Israelites, in which case an Edomite or Egyptian whose ancestors had dwelt among the Israelites for three generations could then enter into the congregation of the Lord. Another possible interpretation is that the number of generations represents ethnic dilution, where a foreigner, to be naturalized, must have three generations of ancestors intermarrying with full-blooded Israelites in order to become an Israelite citizen himself. In this case a person could enter into the congregation of the Lord if he had an ancestor living three generations ago who was a full-blooded Edomite or Egyptian. As a man has eight great-grandparents, or third-generation ancestors, he could enter the congregation as long as he possessed no more than one-eighth Edomite or Egyptian ancestry.
Purely from the text of Deuteronomy 23, either interpretation is plausible, and I’m inclined more towards the opinion that this refers to three generations of peaceful residency. Yet we have solid reasoning to reject the ethnic-dilution view in favor of a residence view: on the ethnic-dilution view, full-blooded Edomites (or Egyptians), 50% Edomites, and 25% Edomites would all be outside the congregation of the Lord, and hence, per Ezra and Nehemiah’s application of the law, they would not be eligible to marry any of the Israelites. There simply could not legally be any Edomites or Egyptians with 7/8 Israelite blood on this view, since their less-diluted ancestors would be forbidden from marrying in the first place! As this ethnic-dilution view cannot even get off the ground, then, evidently the generational waiting periods refer to mere residence in Israel, the new households absorbing and internalizing the nation’s laws and customs before naturalization becomes permissible.
Note, however, that this legal and cultural internalization, established through prolonged residence, is quite different from the notion which P.C. Craigie, as cited by Schwertley, promotes: “After the lapse of three generations, there would be no doubt that the Edomites and Egyptians resident in Israel were genuine in their desire to become full members of the worshipping family of God.” The passing of generations does not ensure genuine commitment in one’s posterity, but sometimes rather militates against it, as the many examples of sons’, grandsons’, and great-grandsons’ apostasy from their fathers’ religion testifies, both within Israel and without. Yet the base indoctrination and acculturation provided by a full, multigenerational displacement from one’s previous country into Israel would provide a sturdy ground for incorporating naturalized foreigners into Israel’s civic and national life. Besides being more prima facie plausible, our answer also has the added benefit of clearly explaining why certain nations were forbidden outright and others were granted a three-generation naturalization process. On Craigie’s view, ensuring the sincerity of later generations’ profession provides no basis for forbidding certain nations from naturalization (unless we posit certain nations’ untrustworthiness!), but on our view, we can suppose that some nations, despite prolonged residence, would still not assimilate into Israel, by virtue of their greater ethnic distance.
Immigration Based on Kinship and History
From the facts of the passage, we can see that Deuteronomy 23:1-8 refers to an immigration and naturalization policy. Entering into Israel’s civil framework, including property ownership, required one to be of a certain nation specifically enumerated in the law. And while fools like Bojidar Marinov would drive a wedge between immigration and naturalization,2 these restrictions on naturalization entail restrictions on immigration as well: Israel not merely denied civil privileges and citizenship to forbidden nations, but to some extent must have restricted their movement into Israel as well. So far this passage seems remarkably consistent with, and strongly supportive of, Kinist principles.
Notwithstanding, Schwertley sees this passage as a thoroughgoing disproof of Kinism, based specifically on the prohibition of Ammonites and Moabites and the provision for Egyptians:
Here is a section of Scripture that explicitly contradicts the racist concepts of nationalism and the church found within kinism. In verses one through eight we have a discussion dealing with the right of full citizenship in the congregation of Israel. . . . What the kinist or racist needs to explain is why are the Egyptians, which are descendants of Ham, not only treated much kinder than the Moabites and Ammonites who were Semites; but also how is it that Egyptian Hamites are allowed to be full Israelite citizens after only 3 generations? It is obvious from this section of Scripture that race is essentially irrelevant whereas ethics or the lack thereof especially in reference to the treatment of God’s people is very important.
Schwertley contends that the privilege given to the (presumably Hamitic) Egyptians over the Shemitic Moabites and Ammonites demonstrates the insignificance of race unto Israel’s identity. Egyptians, though ethnically foreign to Israel, gained rights of entrance by virtue of their benevolent behavior towards the Israelites, while Moabites and Ammonites, though more closely related to Israel, were barred by their antagonistic behavior. According to Schwertley, this proves the irrelevance of race and the all-importance of ethics unto the question of nationhood. As nations are permitted or prohibited based on their progenitors’ behavior, not their ancestry, we should conclude that ancestry is entirely irrelevant to considerations of nationhood; Kinism is thereby false.
Before addressing this contention of Schwertley’s regarding the incorporation of Hamites and exclusion of Shemites from the congregation of the Lord, let’s begin by discussing the overarching, comprehensive folly of this line of argument. Remember that Schwertley is here arguing for the exclusive importance of “faith and ethics” to the question of immigration and nationhood – that entrance into Israel (qua nation, not qua church) required a credible profession of faith in Israel’s God, and hence that the collective bond of Israelite membership was nothing more than such a common assent, without regard for any blood-ties. If this is so, then he cannot in any way appeal to other nations as by definition ethnically foreign to Israel; he cannot presuppose that Israelites were definitionally constituted by a particular ancestry and Egyptians by another. His entire argument depends upon the premise that Israelites are Shemites by definition, in which case the integration of a Hamitic people, the Egyptians, proves that foreign assimilation was not restricted at all by ancestry, and thus that the sole common bond of Israelite membership was a common faith. But as this error has manifested in the previous articles, it equally manifests itself here: if ethnonationalism is false – that is, if Israel’s nationhood is constituted not by a common ethnicity or ancestry but by a common faith – then Israel is not Shemitic by definition, so his central premise is false, and his argument overthrown. Schwertley’s argument fails before any other details receive any investigation.
Anyone who grasps this counterargument easily sees the grounds for rejecting Schwertley’s Alienism and affirming our Kinist principles, but he also should see the material which a fuller explanation ought to cover. Even if we grant ethnonationalism in affirming the Shemitic ethnic character of Israel and the Hamitic ethnic character of Egypt, it at least appears very unfitting that Hamites would be granted assimilation into a Shemitic nation. Even presupposing a broadly ethnonationalist understanding of nationhood, the integrative provisions of this particular law still militate against the ethnonationalist principle that a nation ought not to grant naturalization to ethnically distant foreigners. That being said, the details, upon investigation, do vindicate Kinist principles on this matter – and indeed, anyone who observes the force of this preliminary counterargument must also weightily desire biblical coherence in denying that Israel was permitted to become a multiracial amalgam. That is to say, if we apprehend that Israel, like any other nation, possessed a particular ethnic character, then we should already be inclined to uncover a harmonizing thesis which explains how this assimilative provision does not, in fact, entail the propriety of interracial immigration policies.
But prior to delving into the specific details of the Egyptian provision, we should reflect on Schwertley’s other errors in his comments on the other nations in this passage. He holds that Kinists cannot explain the exclusion of the Moabites and Ammonites in vv. 3-6, but from the Kinist perspective, this makes sense and lacks any difficulty of explanation. To put it simply, this exclusion proves that both race and ethics are important, as it is a shift from the baseline rights to which the Ammonites and Moabites would have otherwise been racially entitled. That is, these laws based on progenitors’ behavior should be seen as forfeitures of the default rights of entrance which those nations would otherwise have possessed by virtue of their Shemitic ancestry; hence blood carries a significant degree of importance without being all-important. This is analogous to how the rights of inheritance in a family can be forfeited by the scandalous behavior of an heir: a son may have rights of inheritance solely due to his biological descent from his father, even though those rights remain forfeitable through grievous sin. Therefore, far from posing a problem for the Kinist understanding of nationhood, the exclusion of the Moabites and Ammonites on the basis of their historical antagonism rather fits quite nicely. Indeed, the gravity of their antagonism is actually increased by their near relation – harming a brother is worse than harming a foreigner – in which case their kinship is necessary to explain in the first place why their antagonism was sufficient to exclude them from integration.
Schwertley’s argumentation here is based entirely off the provisions for the Moabites, Ammonites, and Egyptians; he passes over the rationale for the Edomites’ inclusion after three generations without comment. In verse 7, we are told that the reason an Edomite could be included after three generations was that “he is thy brother.” This is obviously not referring to brotherhood in a spiritual sense, since most Edomites at this time were pagan. This is instead a clear reference to their physical brotherhood with the Israelites, since both nations descended from Abraham and Isaac. This brotherhood is also referenced by Moses himself in Numbers 20:14. Matthew Henry comments on the relationship between the Israelites and the Edomites: “The unkindness of near relations, though by many worst taken, yet should with us, for that reason, because of the relation, be first forgiven.”3 The brotherhood of the Israelites and the Edomites presupposes that Israel has a coherent hereditary identity. If Israel had been mixed – or was easily mixable – such that heredity was no longer a factor of identity, then it would make no sense to say that the Edomites were the brothers of the Israelites. In fact, as mentioned above, all the nations in this passage have a discernible hereditary identity. In the case of the inclusion of the Egyptians in the congregation of the Lord, the stated cause of their inclusion isn’t their heredity (as it was for the Edomites), but even then, the legal effect is related to their ancestry, since the kind treatment of their ancestors to the Israelites is the reason this privilege is extended to them. This completely explodes Schwertley’s premise that “race is essentially irrelevant” for Israel in this passage. On the contrary, notwithstanding the details regarding the Egyptian provision (to be covered below), this passage is a straightforward Kinist manifesto, outlining a naturalization and immigration policy based on kinship and history.
Discerning the Egyptians’ Identity
A good way to understand the Egyptian provision in this passage is to ascertain what the implications would be in a “worst-case scenario” for the Kinist, i.e. if the Egyptians were greatly morphologically distinct racial foreigners, and then to provide some modifications to arrive at a more realistic conception of the Egyptians’ identity. Specifically, we can retort using the following structure: (1) Even if the Egyptians were morphologically distinct racial foreigners, this passage does not disprove Kinism. (2) Yet we have reason to believe that Egyptians and Israelites were racially similar, even if they were descended patrilineally from Shem and Ham, their racial similarity being evidenced by their similar appearances. (3) But beyond this, there is good evidence that the Egyptians referenced in Deuteronomy 23 are not Hamitic Egyptians, but rather the Shemitic Egyptians known as the Hyksos. I’ll now move on to unpack these summarizing theses.
(1) As Racially Distinct Foreigners
The worst-case scenario for a Kinist would be that the Egyptians were racially distinct from the Israelites with substantial morphological differences, effectively as different as blacks and whites. Alienists like Schwertley might see such a scenario as a definitive refutation of Kinism, as a clear-cut proof that race should never be a barrier for immigration or intermarriage. But even in such a multiracial scenario, we could still justifiably interpret the law as an example of the exception proving the rule, and hence still compatible with Kinism. That is, we could see this legal dispensation provided by God, as a divine positive law within the Israelitic theocracy, precisely because it runs counter to the ordinary principles of national polity, in order to establish a separate point. For example, as the Egyptians are granted entrance into Israel on the grounds of their benevolence, we could see their legal permission to integrate as emphasizing the providential repercussions of benevolence: here, that God will bless those who bless His people (Gen. 12:3), and that He will show mercy to the descendants of those who love Him (Ex. 20:6). Hence the principle undergirding this law could be remarkable because it is an extraordinary diversion from the normative pattern of intraethnic immigration. In such a case, the law would still be compatible with Kinism, as exceptions to rules by their nature do not discard the rule entirely, but rather highlight them. This answer admittedly contains a measure of speculation, but it remains a reasonable hypothesis for those who see ethnonationalism taught elsewhere throughout the Scriptures. Hence, even in the bizarre case where the referenced Egyptians are of a substantially dissimilar race from the Israelites, a legal provision for their assimilation into Israel would not necessarily disprove Kinism.
(2) As Racially Similar Foreigners
As one could imagine from the portrayals of ancient Egyptians and Israelites in artwork and in media, and from the understanding that Egyptians are part of the Middle East, partitioned from sub-Saharan Africa, there is evidence that these two peoples are not that dissimilar after all. In the first place, the biblical narrative presupposes a good degree of morphological similarity between them. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him after a long absence in Egypt (Gen. 42:8). If there was a great racial difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians of this time, wouldn’t it have been easier for Joseph’s brothers to pick him out of a crowd of Egyptians? If the Israelites and the Egyptians were racially dissimilar, we would expect this to manifest itself physically, just as we can extremely easily distinguish among blacks, whites, and every other color of man. While racial differences are not reducible solely to mere differences in appearance, racial differences are often readily identified by these differences. For example, the natural difference between the Israelites and the Ethiopians in skin color is what allows Jeremiah to compare the skin of the Ethiopian to the spots of a leopard when he asks rhetorically, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” (Jer. 13:23).4 Jeremiah’s observation wouldn’t fit if the Israelites and the Ethiopians shared the same complexion, or if in theory through mass immigration they could share such a complexion. Consequently, we would expect that if the Israelites and Egyptians were racially different, they would at least vary in skin color, and probably other features such as eye shape and color, hair texture, facial structure, and so on. The fact that Joseph’s brothers don’t recognize him after a long absence is understandable, but it wouldn’t make sense if the Egyptians were racially distinct from the Israelites.
Likewise, during the Egyptian purge of the infant sons of the Israelites, Moses is rescued from the river by the daughter of Pharaoh and raised as a member of Pharaoh’s household. Given Pharaoh’s antipathy towards the Israelites – enough to kill their children – would we really expect him to raise such a child knowingly? The only plausible resolution is that Moses could fit in among the Egyptians. Moreover, after killing an Egyptian for beating an Israelite at age forty (Acts 7:23f.), Moses flees Egypt from the wrath of Pharaoh and dwells in Midian. He delivers the seven daughters of Reuel the priest from shepherds seeking to drive them from the well. When they bring Moses back to their father, they identify Moses as an Egyptian (Exodus 2:19). Assuming they’re not providing a merely geographic or political description, their identification of Moses as an Egyptian makes sense given his appearance – but it would not make sense if the Israelites and Egyptians were racially dissimilar.
An Alienist might retort here that we are shifting the point of dispute from heredity to appearance – that we are no longer defending ancestry-based immigration restrictions, and instead moving towards purely appearance-based immigration restrictions – and consequently that we are abandoning the principles of national polity which we have previously advocated on hereditary, ethnic grounds. But the argument which we here promote is not that the similar appearances of Egyptians and Israelites would ipso facto cause the Egyptian provision to be ethnonationalist, but rather that their similar appearances indicate an underlying racial similarity, despite their differing Hamitic and Shemitic ancestries, which in fact makes the Egyptian provision to be ethnonationalist.
Of course, the remaining question, then, is how the Israelites, who descend from Shem (Gen. 11:10ff.), could be racially similar to the Egyptians, who descend from Mizraim, the son of Ham (Gen. 10:6). The resolution here would be derived from the earlier lineage of both the Israelites and the Egyptians, specifically from the fact that their status as Hamites or Shemites concerns purely their patrilineal ancestry. After the Flood, it is likely that the progeny of Noah’s sons intermarried in order to avoid having siblings marry each other, even though the specific Mosaic prohibition against incest would not be given until later. This means that, especially prior to the division during the generation of Peleg (Gen. 10:25), there likely had been intermarriage among the descendants of Ham, Shem, and Japheth, notwithstanding their ongoing patrilineal identification. For example, if a daughter of Shem were to marry a son of Ham and bear a son, he would have had an equal degree of genetic heritage from each ancestor despite being identified as a Hamite; and if he were to himself marry a 100% Shemite woman, their offspring would be 75% Shemite despite patrilineally identifying as Hamite. Hence, we can see how, further downstream these family trees, there could be a closer relationship between the Israelites and the Egyptians through their mutual matrilineal ancestors, even while they respectively patrilineally identified as Shemites and Hamites. Their matrilineal ancestors may have caused these nations to be more closely related to each other than a purely patrilineal recounting of their ancestry would indicate.5 This proposition would harmonize the apparent racial-morphological similarity of Israelites and Egyptians with their differing patrilineal ancestries.
(3) As Shemitic Hyksos
Previously, I had suggested that the period in which the Israelites were in Egypt could have corresponded to the period of the Shemitic Hyksos kings in Egypt. The Hyksos were a Semitic-speaking contingent who ruled parts of Egypt for a period of time which possibly corresponds to the period of time in which the Israelites were in Egypt. Schwertley dismisses this suggestion out of hand as absurd. He writes,
The kinist attempts to deal with this devastating proof against their position by arguing that the Egyptians were Hyksos-Semites and this allowed them to be engrafted into Israel. This argument is pitiful for the following reasons.
First, while it is true that the Hyksos rulers bore Semitic names, the Hyksos domination was brief (about 150 years) and it was a small ruling class, not a mass migration of Hyksos into Egypt. In addition, the Hyksos were allied with the Nubians (a black empire) and if the kinist wants to assume assimilation between the Hyksos and the Egyptians, then there is no reason to rule out assimilation with the black Nubians also. In any case, the Egyptians were predominately [sic] Hamite in their stock, so the kinist must admit that race was not a crucial factor. In addition, many reputable scholars place the Hyksos in a time frame that makes the kinist argument irrelevant.
Second, the kinist argument is based on the assumption which we have already disproved that all the descendants of Ham were under some kind of curse. That is not true. The racist interpretation of the curse on Canaan lies behind a lot of their thinking.
Third, if the kinist or racist argument is that the Egyptians became acceptable for Israelite citizenship quickly because of Hyksos intermarriage and genetic mixture of Hamite and Hyksos peoples, then American blacks should be acceptable to them as well because the vast majority of blacks that descended from slaves have Scottish, Irish or English blood in them due to the sexual escapades of white slaveholders.
Any Kinist considering the Hyksos hypothesis would be rightly baffled by this argumentation (and displeased by his potshot at the Confederacy). First, Schwertley seems to believe that the sole Kinist opposition to a Shemite/Hamite integration would be based upon the curse of Ham, which is entirely wrongheaded: we believe that various nations, having become separate and dissimilar through the course of Providence, should retain their relative seclusion, independent of any curses which may be upon other nations. Second, Schwertley evidently interprets the Kinist argument as predicated upon the entire Egyptian nation receiving an infusion of Hyksos blood through their intermarriage with the remainder of the Egyptians, on which basis we believe that the fullness of Egypt, referenced in Deuteronomy 23:7, becomes permitted to integrate with Israel – as if Egypt received Shemitic blood through Egyptian-Hyksos miscegenation, thereby causing subsequent Egyptian-Israelite integration to not constitute miscegenation. This strange construction is whence his extraneous strawmen concerning the Nubians and the American blacks arise. But, of course, it is not our proposal at all; on the contrary, the Hyksos hypothesis maintains that the reference to Egyptians in Deuteronomy 23:7 is solely a reference to the Hyksos, and thus solely to fellow Shemites, on which grounds Deuteronomy 23:7 clearly preserves ethnonationalist principles of international immigration and naturalization. With this confusion cleared, we can proceed onward to superior portions of Schwertley’s argument.
We can charitably interpret Schwertley’s misconstrual of the Hyksos proposal by assuming he saw no other reference for the Egyptians of Deuteronomy 23:7 than to the entire nation of Egypt. This is not an unreasonable assumption: given that Scripture could have utilized an alternate term to signify the Hyksos, we should grant a presumption that “Egyptians” here indicates the entire nation of Egypt. This presumption, however, like all presumptions, is overridable, and we have two prevailing reasons to override it. First, the language given in the Deuteronomic provision itself is that an Egyptian should be granted assimilation “because thou wast a stranger in his land” (23:7). As the Scripture elsewhere constantly reminds Israel of the horrid cruelties they suffered under Egypt (e.g. Judges 6:8-9), even including such a reminder in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:2), this rationale given in verse 7 is unmistakably referring to Egypt’s benevolent permission of Jacob and his descendants into Goshen (Gen. 47:5-6; Ex.1:1-4), not to their later enslavement. Yet if the provision in Deut. 23:7 is based on ancestors’ behavior, then we are left with only two possibilities: either the descendants of a single people who both permitted Israel into Goshen and later enslaved Israel are permitted into Israel, or a separate people enslaved Israel than the ones who permitted them into Goshen. As the other assertions in Deuteronomy 23:1-8 forbid entrance to other nations due to their maleficence, and as Egypt’s enslavement of Israel is clearly an instance of such maleficence, an extremely likely conclusion is that the Egyptians who granted Goshen to Israel and the Egyptians who enslaved Israel are separate peoples altogether. This overrides any assumption that “Egyptians” must always refer to one monolithic group of people. Second, even though Egyptians are granted rights of integration into Israel in Deut. 23:7, later in Israel’s history we find Ezra inveighing against Israelite-Egyptian intermarriages (Ezra 9:1), subsequently annulling those marriages and expelling the foreign wives and children (Ezra 10:3, 11). Given that Ezra was extolled at such a point as a paradigmatic legal reformer of Israel, we can’t assume that he got the rules on one nation backwards; instead, we must posit that he correctly understood the Law to forbid only a certain type of Egyptian people, and to permit another type. Again, this swiftly undercuts any attempt to argue that “Egyptians” must always refer to a singular people-group, providing a stronger background probability for the Hyksos hypothesis.
The gist of Schwertley’s argument against this hypothesis is that the Hyksos presence was too small and too short to have had a significant correspondence with the Israelite presence in Egypt. Schwertley asserts that the Hyksos period was brief, since it lasted only about 150 years, and moreover that this brief period was too distant from the Israelites’ residence in Egypt. From the sources I have consulted, the period of Hyksos ascendancy is indeed restricted to about 150 years. However, the Hyksos would still have been present in Egypt outside these 150 years of political rule, and the Hyksos population in Egypt would have been significantly larger than the aggregate of the dynasties, notwithstanding Schwertley’s denial of any “mass migration” of Hyksos. This makes the identification of the Deuteronomy 23:7 Egyptians as Hyksos to be much more plausible, as that legal provision may in fact be referencing a substantial segment of the Egyptian population.
Several sources suggest that the Hyksos Shemites entered Egypt without violence during a period of severe famine. This migration into Egypt occurred during what is known as the Second Intermediate Period, comprising Dynasties Thirteen through Seventeen.6 Consequently, our main task is to see how these dynasties align with the biblical timeframe. Because determining the beginning and ending of ancient Egyptian dynasties is an inexact science, different dates often emerge for when particular dynasties were ascendant. Many sources list the Second Intermediate Period as spanning the eighteenth through sixteenth centuries B.C. For example, this article provides the dates 1786–1570 B.C. for the whole period, and different Egyptologists have suggested that the Thirteenth Dynasty, which is associated with the Hyksos period (though prior to their political rule), began to rule ca. 1805–1720 B.C. Sources confirm that the expulsion of the Hyksos occurred under Pharaoh Ahmosis I ca. 1530 B.C.7 Similarly, Old Testament scholar K.A. Kitchen discusses the Thirteenth Dynasty as beginning in 1795 B.C., with the Hyksos taking over ca. 1650 B.C.8 We are on good footing, then, in seeing the Hyksos in Egypt around the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries B.C.
How does this compare with the timing of Joseph and his family in Egypt? K.A. Kitchen can provide us with extra help here. He lists a number of internal (biblical) and external (extrabiblical) chronological indicators for Joseph and the patriarchs, such as various technological, social, and religious features of the different time periods within the second millennium B.C.9 Kitchen then concludes that the data affords us a clear answer: their narratives unfolded in the earlier second millennium, about 1900–1600 B.C., or 2000–1500 B.C. at the most.10 As Joseph would have been at the tail end of this segment, we can see how he would easily fit into the timeframe of the Hyksos pharaohs. This not merely disproves Schwertley’s vague pronouncement from unnamed “reputable scholars” against the Hyksos theory, but positively supports our hypothesis.11
Besides providing a generally coincident timeline, we can also link certain events in Exodus with this Hyksos epoch. Exodus 1:8 speaks of a new king arising in Egypt “who did not know Joseph.” This likely does not refer to his lacking any knowledge about Joseph, as certainly this new king would have learned of Joseph’s incredible, supernatural efforts to preserve Egypt through the years of plenty and of famine. Instead, this refers to a king who, for some reason, gave no regard to Joseph or his people, being disposed to spurn them rather than favor them. This would fit perfectly with the expulsion of the Hyksos dynasty from the throne at the hands of the first Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh, Ahmosis I,12 the new regime being opposed to the Israelite immigration permitted under the former regime. Furthermore, sources describe this expulsion of the Hyksos as corresponding with the Exodus of the Israelites. It seems likely that many of these Hyksos people may have voluntarily left Egypt with the Israelites. This was the interpretation of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, based upon his reading of the Egyptian historian Manetho.13
Now, Schwertley’s criticism is predicated partly on his assumption that the Hyksos population in Egypt was meager. But was the presence of the Hyksos in Egypt small, as Schwertley contends? This, too, seems incorrect. There were times when the Hyksos population in Egypt was substantial. One source confirms that from the Twelfth Dynasty onward, the Hyksos segment constituted between 1/6 and 1/3 of the Egyptian population.14 These Hyksos populations contained, but were not solely constituted by, the dynasties who ruled over Egypt. Moreover, many of these Shemites took Egyptian names, similar to the way in which post-imperial Germans and Britons used Roman names in addition to ethnic names.
Contrary to Schwertley’s claim that “many reputable scholars place the Hyksos in a time frame that makes the kinist argument irrelevant,” the testimony of many historians and scholars, ancient and modern, makes an overlap between the ascendancy of the Hyksos and the presence of the Israelites in Egypt to be quite likely. While it is difficult to use ancient historians and archaeology to construct an exact timeline of events, it does seem highly plausible that the expulsion of the Hyksos occurred around the same time as the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. In this case, we can see that the incorporation of the third-generation Egyptians as stipulated by Deuteronomy 23:7 doesn’t pose a challenge to Kinism in the least. On the contrary, a law permitting assimilation as reciprocation for the benevolence previously extended by fellow Shemites – and not just any Shemites, but Shemites expelled from their former land and in need of a home – would provide a beautiful ethnonationalist coherence to the Deuteronomic legislation, substantially more reasonable than any of the alternatives.
Synthesizing the Facts on Egypt
The book of Psalms presents a few passages discussing Israel’s time in Egypt which ought to be included among the relevant facts here, given their mentioning of Ham. For example, Psalm 78:51 asserts how God “smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham.” Furthermore, Psalm 105:27 speaks of how Aaron and Moses “shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham,” and Psalm 106:22 cites God’s “wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.” These collectively provide steady (though not decisive) evidence that Hamites were in power during Moses’s dealings with Pharaoh and the Exodus. We can see, then, how these scriptural facts accord well with the foregoing timeline we have established,15 whereby Egypt shifted from Shemitic to Hamitic rule at the time of Exodus 1:8.
If the ruling dynasty subsequent to Exodus 1:8 was Hamitic, then we ought to interpret the evidence of Moses’s blending into Pharaoh’s family in a different light. He was apparently racially similar to Pharaoh’s household, growing up among them without raising suspicion, so these Hamites must have, despite their Hamitic ancestry, remained racially similar to the Israelites. And prior to Moses’s birth, Joseph’s marriage to Asenath occurred during the Hyksos dynasty, in which case she was herself a Shemitess, thus making Ephraim and Manasseh and their descendants to also be full Shemites. To close out this portion, then, the above section describing the Egyptians as racially similar foreigners should be combined with the Hyksos hypothesis to explain how all this evidence accords: per our construction of the historical timeline, the pharaohs prior to Moses were Shemites (Hyksos), whereas the pharaohs starting in Exodus 1:8 were Hamitic, although also racially similar to Israel (or, at the very least, morphologically similar to Israel even if racially unrelated). Furthermore, when the Law was proclaimed for a second time in Deuteronomy, the 23rd chapter’s integrative provision was specifically for the Hyksos – the Shemitic peoples, now dispossessed, who previously offered land to Israel in Goshen. This provision was given solely to them, not to the infamously cruel Hamitic Egyptians, whose presence in Israel was disallowed (cf. Ezra 9:1).
The Remaining Context of Deuteronomy 23:1-8
This synthesized understanding of the Egyptians comports splendidly with the remainder of this passage, particularly verse two. This verse reads, “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” The Hebrew word used here is mamzêr,16, typically translated as “bastard” in most English translations – but this can be misleading. This likely doesn’t refer to those who were merely born out of wedlock, since this law didn’t apparently apply to the judge Jephthah, who was born of a harlot or concubine (Judges 11:1); he was allowed to serve as a judge without any record of his being rejected as a bastard. The word itself is defined by Strong, “to alienate; a mongrel,” so this word does seem to take racial identity into account. The only other time the word mamzêr is used in the Old Testament is in Zechariah 9:6, where many translators have taken the proper meaning of mamzêr into account. The English Standard Version translates this verse, “a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.” Similarly, the New American Standard Version translates this verse, “a mongrel race shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.” Even John Wycliffe notes in his English translation that the word mamzêr denotes half-breeds.
With this meaning of mamzêr in mind, we can surmise that Nehemiah conceived of this broader context when he cited Deuteronomy 23.17 This was likely the reason that Ezra records that children were sent away (10:3). This could also explain why Ephraim is said to have “begotten strange children” (Hosea 5:7), having mixed among the people (Hosea 7:8). This segment of the Law forbade mongrelization, and hence would have forbidden any Israelite-Egyptian unions which would have counted as mongrelization.
Finally, in order to understand more clearly what the precepts of Deuteronomy 23:1-8 mean – and though this has been touched upon in the two previous articles – it is paramount to apprehend the application made of this law in Nehemiah 13. Using the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, we can be assured that Nehemiah’s interpretation and application of Deuteronomy 23:1-8 is the correct one. Nehemiah states that the Law was read to the people, referring back to Ezra’s reading of the Law recorded in Nehemiah 8. Deuteronomy 23:3-4 is quoted in Nehemiah 13:1-2, with the conclusion that the mixed multitude was to be separated from Israel (v. 3).
Of interest is that Nehemiah and the Israelites make a broader application of this legal principle. The foreigners with whom Ezra and Nehemiah contended during Israel’s return from exile were not confined strictly to Moabites and Ammonites. Nehemiah complains of intermarriage between the Israelites and the people of Ashdod, a city of the Philistines (13:23), in addition to the Moabites and Ammonites. Yet Deuteronomy 23:1-8 doesn’t mention the Philistines. It is likely that while only verses three and four were directly quoted by Nehemiah, he had the entire passage in mind, including the prohibition against mongrels from incorporation into the people of Israel.
Likewise, Ezra (in chapters 9–10, especially in 9:1-2) alludes to Deuteronomy 7:3, which prohibits the Israelites from intermarrying with the Canaanites, but again, the foreigners against whom the Israelites were struggling during their return from exile were not all Canaanites. Both Ezra and Nehemiah seem to be operating on the application of a basic principle taught in these passages in Deuteronomy rather than on the premise that these passages prohibited intermarriage only with specific nations. Schwertley seems to agree that there is a broader application being made here, but concludes that this is a concern only due to the unbelief of foreigners. He writes:
[I]t is noteworthy that the account in Nehemiah 13 makes it perfectly clear that these foreign women were pagan (i.e. unbelieving) women. Nehemiah 13:27 says, “Should we hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?” Ruth was a Moabite by birth but she was no longer a pagan woman. We must be careful not to interpret Scripture in a manner in which it contradicts itself. Also note Nehemiah 13:30, “Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan.”
Here Schwertley is using a Bible translation particularly suited to his agenda. The New King James Version does seem to render these verses as speaking of pagan women, but this is only a connotation, not a denotation, of the term; consequently, most other translations disagree. The King James, New International Version, English Standard Version, American Standard Version, and New American Standard Version all translate these words as either “strange” or “foreign.” The Amplified Bible mentions “heathen” as a possible secondary meaning. It seems that the majority of Schwertley’s Bible quotations are from the King James Version, so it is possible that he intentionally selected a different version here to support his conclusions. There is no question, of course, that religion and pagan idolatry were of concern for Ezra and Nehemiah. Both Ezra (9:14) and Nehemiah mention the abominations of the foreigners whom the Israelites had married. Nehemiah references King Solomon (13:26), whose wives, we are told, led him into idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-4). Presumably, a central objection of Nehemiah’s to these marriages is that these particular foreigners were heathens who would lead the Israelites astray, as they had King Solomon.
Clearly, this is a major concern for Ezra and Nehemiah, but we cannot believe that this is the only concern that these men addressed, nor should we forget that these two concerns are deeply intertwined. Nehemiah mentions that the “mixed multitude” was separated from Israel as a result of the reading of the Law. Ezra specifically mentions that the children born of these marriages were also separated. This raises the question about the religion of these children. Children who were young could have been circumcised (if they were boys), and brought up in the true faith. Furthermore, it seems hard to believe that there was no one among this mixed multitude willing to at least publicly convert for the sake of preserving their family ties. Yet no provision is mentioned for their incorporation into the people of Israel.
Heredity and the God-given right of the people of Israel to their homeland is a theme running through both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. A census was taken of the Israelites returning from captivity, and those who could not demonstrate their descent from the tribes of Israel were excluded (Ezra 2:59-62). Initially the adversaries offered to help the Israelites rebuild Jerusalem, even making a claim to worship the God of the Israelites (Ezra 4:1-2). The Israelites expressed concern that any help from foreigners would be used as a basis to assert that the foreigners had as much right to Israel as the hereditary Israelites themselves. Their offer of help was rebuffed on ethnonationalist grounds, since the decree from Cyrus was given specifically to the Israelites. The consternation of the foreigners at the presence of the Israelites wasn’t stated so much as a hatred of the Israelite God, but as an opposition to the welfare of the children of Israel themselves (Nehemiah 2:10). Nehemiah couldn’t have been clearer when he said, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem” (2:20). For these reasons, we cannot conclude that the concern of Ezra and Nehemiah, along with the other righteous leaders of Israel such as Zerubbabel, was solely a matter of religious purity. While it is true that religion was of paramount importance to Ezra and Nehemiah, it wasn’t their only consideration, and of course religion is entwined with the divine norm of ethnonationalism. Both Ezra and Nehemiah defended the separation of the mixed multitude on ethnonationalist grounds in addition to religious grounds. Consequently, Schwertley’s contention that Ezra and Nehemiah were concerned merely with religion is manifestly false, and we are given a vividly ethnonationalist picture of Israel’s assimilation legislation in Deuteronomy 23:1-8.
Schwertley contends that Deuteronomy 23:1-8 easily refutes “the racist concepts of nationalism and the church found within kinism,” but this has been demonstrated to be false. Schwertley is incorrect in asserting that the laws of Deuteronomy 23 have nothing to do with race or heredity, because these laws powerfully presuppose that national identity is based upon heredity. In the first place, and most basically, the Moabites, Ammonites, Egyptians, and Edomites are all themselves discernible by ethnicity and heredity. If this was not the case, the Edomites could not be identified as brethren to Israel (Deut. 23:7; cf. Num. 20:14). The ability to be assimilated into Israel was partially based upon the historical relationship of one’s ancestors with the Israelites. The Moabites and Ammonites were barred from entering the congregation of the Lord due to their historical aggression against the Israelites, and the Hyksos Egyptians who fostered the Israelites during the time of Joseph were more easily assimilated. It is then true that heredity was not the sole factor considered in assimilation, but it was a substantive and necessary factor. The Edomites historically had an antagonistic relationship with the Israelites not unlike the Moabites and Ammonites, but they were more easily assimilated into the congregation of the Lord because of their close relationship to the Israelites. In sum, Deuteronomy 23 hardly refutes nationalism as Schwertley contends, but rather assumes a hereditary basis for national identity in the strongest manner. This hereditary basis is confirmed in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s inspired application of this law to expel the mixed multitude from Israel, proving that the law was not confined to a purely religious basis, but also extended to ethnonationalist concerns. Far from dispelling Kinist notions of national identity, Ezra and Nehemiah reaffirm them!
In the next article, we will address the New Testament passages that Schwertley uses in his attempted rebuttal of Kinism. We will discover that in many cases, his interpretation of New Testament passages and concepts is even worse than his treatment of the Old Testament.
- The language of “entering the congregation of the Lord” is insufficient to deem the included privileges as ecclesiastical, for Israel was at this time the one theocracy on the planet, the only nation personally and immediately ruled by the operation of God Himself , and hence even an articulation of secular or civil privileges could properly utilize such language. ↩
- In his recent lectures on a “Christian” view of immigration, he dared argue that the historic American position on immigration was completely open borders. When confronted with unassailable evidence that America was “racist” in its restriction of naturalization to whites, he responded that this had nothing to do with immigration – as if, although our American ancestors had no desire for nonwhite citizens or voters, they nevertheless were content with living in a 95% nonwhite area! This divorce of naturalization and immigration is a folly. ↩
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Deuteronomy 23. ↩
- The reference of “Ethiopian” to a black person does not entail that every usage of the term “Ethiopian” (or “Cushite”) in Scripture must refer to a black person, as I argued concerning Moses’s wife in the previous article. Sometimes terms can be used ethnographically, denoting a person’s ethnicity, while other times they can be used geographically, denoting a person’s (current or former) place of residence. This Jeremiah passage uses the term ethnographically, whereas we have good reason to suppose that “Cushite” in Numbers 12 uses the term geographically, or perhaps in some other way. ↩
- This should not invoke any Alienists, however, to assert that patrilineal identification is useless, or that all nations are completely mixed genetically so that any ethnic-national distinctions are useless. Such conclusions frankly do not follow from these premises. ↩
- See the entry of for the Hyksos on Ancient Egypt Online. See also Kim Ryholt, The Political Situation in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, Museum Tusculanum Press (1997), as well as Manfred Bietak, Egypt and Canaan During the Middle Bronze Age, BASOR 281 (1991), pp. 21-72; see in particular p. 38. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2003), p. 348. Kitchen’s whole section on the timeline of Joseph (pp. 343–360) well supports the coincidence of the biblical and Hyksos timelines, and he even includes a section called “Semites in Egypt” which speaks directly to this issue (p. 343f.). This section goes beyond our argument here, offering the distinct possibility that since other (non-Hyksos) Egyptian kings were also Shemites, our contention concerning a Shemite reference in Deut. 23:7 could have even broader support in the event that the Hyksos hypothesis is false. ↩
- Ibid., pp. 352-358. ↩
- Ibid., p. 358f. ↩
- Some commentators, e.g. John Gill, maintain that certain biblical references to the Egyptians’ hatred of shepherds (Gen. 43:32; 46:34) refer to the Hyksos, who may have been termed the “shepherd-kings.” If this were so, then the Hyksos must have been in power and then expelled from Egypt prior to all these events, thus falsifying our Hyksos interpretation of Deuteronomy 23:7. But rather than believing that the Egyptians’ abomination of shepherds was because shepherds arbitrarily reminded them of previous oppressors, it is more reasonable to hold that the cause of enmity was the shepherds’ domestication and consumption of animals whom the Egyptians worshiped. Furthermore, there is doubt that the Egyptian name for the Hyksos meant “shepherd-kings” at all, rather than simply “foreign kings.” ↩
- Reformation Study Bible, NKJV, p. 94. This source lists his year of rule as 1570–1546 B.C., whereas other sources list a different year. Our point is clear howsoever the exact years are identified. ↩
- See “The Expulsion of the Hyksos” on Bible History Daily. See also “Dating the War of the Hyksos,” pp. 49-59, for information from ancient historians which supports the dating of the expulsion of the Hyksos with the Exodus of the Israelites. ↩
- D. Arnold, “Image and Identity: Egypt’s Eastern Neighbours, East Delta People and the Hyksos in: The Second Intermediate Period” (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 192, 2010) pp. 183-221; qtd. in “Dating the War of the Hyksos,” p. 7. ↩
- Psalm 105:23 also attests that “Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham,” which could evince that Egypt was under Hamite control at that earlier time, but this is also compatible with the understanding that Egypt was a Hamite land, with a majority Hamite population, even if then under Shemite control. ↩
- See Strong’s Concordance, H4464 ↩
- For more information on the meaning of mamzêr, see Ehud Would’s article on Rahab and Nil Desperandum’s further commentary on the term. ↩