Trade Routes & Biblical Genealogy
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
The biblical, ancient Arabian kingdom of Sheba is Saba and refers to the Sabeans. The Sabean kingdom, located on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in what is now Yemen, is personified in the Bible as the Queen of Sheba who visited the Israelite King Solomon according to 1 Kings 10. It appears that the Septuagint authors used Hatshepsut’s famous expedition into Punt as the basis for Sheba’s journey to Solomon. Hatshepsut was the 5th pharaoh (queen in her case) of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty.The story is an attempt by these authors to claim hegemony over the trade routes known as the Via Maris aka the International Trunk Road, the King’s Highway and the Incense Road. (If one thinks that idea is fantastic, read Gen 15:18 where the authors of Genesis claimed all the land between the Nile and Euphrates as Hebrew territory). According to Wikipedia:
“Via Maris is the modern name for an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia — modern day Iran, Iraq, Israel, Turkey and Syria. In Latin, Via Maris means “way of the sea.” It is a historic road that runs along the Israeli Mediterranean coast. It was the most important route from Egypt to Syria (the Fertile Crescent) which followed the coastal plain before crossing over into the plain of Jezreel and the Jordan valley.
Its earlier name was “Way of the Philistines”, a reference to a passageway through the Philistine Plain (which today consists of Israel’s southern coastal plain and the Gaza Strip). The name “Via Maris” is not ancient and academic researchers prefer other names, for instance “International Trunk Road”.
Together with the King’s Highway, the Via Maris was one of the major trade routes connecting Egypt and the Levant with Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The Via Maris was crossed by other trading routes, so that one could travel from Africa to Europe or from Asia to Africa. It began in al-Qantara and went east to Pelusium, following the northern coast of Sinai through el-Arish and Rafah. From there it followed the coast of Canaan through Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Joppa, and Dor before turning east again through Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley until it reached Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Again turning northward along the shore, the Via Maris passed through Migdal, Capernaum, and Hazor. From Hazor it crossed the northern River Jordan at Jacob’s Daughters’ Bridge then climbed sharply over the Golan Heights and wound its way northeast into Damascus. Here travellers could continue on the King’s Highway as far as the Euphrates River or proceed northward into Anatolia.”
Another vital trade route was the King’s Highway, which according to Wikipedia:
“The Highway began in Heliopolis, Egypt and from there went eastward to Clysma (modern Suez), through the Mitla Pass and the Egyptian forts of Nekhl and Themed in the Sinai desert to Eilat and Aqaba. From there the Highway turned northward through the Arabah, past Petra and Ma’an to Udruh, Sela, and Shaubak. It passed through Kerak and the land of Moab to Madaba, Rabbah Ammon/Philadelphia (modern Amman), Gerasa, Bosra, Damascus, and Tadmor, ending at Resafa on the upper Euphrates.
Iron Age: Numerous ancient states, including Edom, Moab, Ammon, and various Aramaean polities depended largely on the King’s Highway for trade.
Classical Antiquitys: The Nabataeans uesd this road as a trade route for luxury goods such as frankincense and spices from southern Arabia. It was possibly the cause of their war with Hasmonean Alexander Jannaeus and with Iturea in the beginning of the 1st century BC.
During the Roman period the road was called Via Regia. Emperor Trajan rebuilt and renamed it Via Traiana Nova, under which name it served as a military and trade road along the fortified Limes Arabicus.”
A third vital trade route was the Incense Road. According to Wikipedia:
“The Incense trade route or the Incense Road of Antiquity (see also the spice trade) comprised a network of major ancient land and sea trading routes linking the Mediterranean world with Eastern and Southern sources of incense, spices and other luxury goods, stretching from Mediterranean ports across the Levant and Egypt through Northeastern Africa and Arabia to India and beyond. The incense land trade from South Arabia to the Mediterranean flourished between roughly the 7th century BC to the 2nd century AD. The Incense Route served as a channel for the trading of goods such as Arabian frankincense and myrrh; Indian spices, precious stones, pearls, ebony, silk and fine textiles; and the Horn of African rare woods, feathers, animal skins, Somali frankincense, and gold.
The Egyptians had traded in the Red Sea, importing spices, gold and exotic wood from the “Land of Punt” and from Arabia.Indian goods were brought in Arabian and Indian vessels to Aden. Rawlinson identifies the long-debated “ships of Tarshish,” as a Tyrian fleet equipped at Ezion-Geber that made several trading voyages to the east bringing back gold, silver, ivory and precious stones. These goods were transshipped at the port of Ophir.
According to one historian:
“ In the ancient period, it would seem that South Arabia and the Horn of Africa were the major suppliers of incense, while in modern times the commercial centre for the trade in gums has been Aden and Oman. Early ritual texts from Egypt show that incense was being brought to the upper Nile by land traders, but perhaps the most spectacular evidence of this trade is provided by the frescos dated to around 1500 BC on the walls of the temple at Thebes commemorating the journey of a fleet that the Queen of Egypt had sent to the Land of Punt. Five ships are depicted in these reliefs, piled high with treasure, and one of them shows thirty-one small incense trees in tubs being carried on board. ”
“ The Periplus Maris Erythraei and other Greek texts refer to several coastal sites in Somalia, Southern Arabia and India involved with trade in frankincense, myrrh, cassia, bdellium and a range of gum resins termed duaka and kankamon and mok rotu.
Among the most important trading points of the Incense Route from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea was Gerrha in the Persian Gulf, reported by the historian Strabo to have been founded by Babylonian exiles as a Chaldean colony. Gerrha exercised influence over the incense trade routes across Arabia to the Mediterranean and controlled the aromatics trade to Babylon in the 1st century BC. Gerrha was one of the important entry ports for goods shipped from India.
Due to its prominent position in the incense trade, Yemen attracted settlers from the fertile crescent. The frankincense and myrrh trees were crucial to the economy of Yemen and were recognized as a source of wealth by its rulers.
Assyrian documents indicate that Tiglath-Pileser III advanced through Phoenicia to Gaza. Gaza was eventually sacked and the ruler of Gaza escaped to Egypt but later continued to act as a vassal administrator. The motive behind the attack was to gain control of the South Arabian incense trade which had prospered along the region.
Tiglath-Pileser III attacked Gaza in order to control trade along the Incense Route.
I.E.S. Edwards connects the Syro-Ephraimite War to the desire of the Israelites and the Aramaeans to control the northern end of the Incense route, which ran up from Southern Arabia and could be tapped by commanding Transjordan. Archaeological inscriptions also speak of booty retrieved from the land of the mu-u-na-a-a, possibly Meunites mentioned in the Old Testament. Some scholars identify this group as the Minaeans of South Arabia, who were involved with the incense trade and occupied the northern trading outposts of the Incense Route.
Aromatics from Dhofar and luxury goods from India brought wealth to the kingdoms of Arabia. The aromatics of Dhofar were shipped out from the natural harbour of Khor Rori towards the western inhospitable South Arabian coast. The caravans carried these products north to Shabwa and from there on to the kingdoms of Qataban, Saba, Ma’in, and Palestine up to Gaza. The tolls levied by the owners of wells and other facilities added to the overall cost of these luxury goods.”
What is interesting is that, according to 1 Chron 1:8,9 the offspring of Ham (from the Egyptian word Kem meaning Egyptian) were Cush (Nubia), Mizraim (Egypt), Put (Punt=Abyssinia and Yemen) and Canaan. The offspring of Cush were Saba (Sheba) and Havilah (Havilah and Ophir both mean abundance in Arabic and refer to Oman and Yemen), Sabta, Raamah, Sabtecha and the sons of Raamah were Sheba (Sabeans) & Dedan (Mineans) & Nimrod (Ur Nammu of Sumeria/Mesopotamia). So, the Biblical authors regarded Egyptians, Puntians, Caananites, Sabeans, Mesopotamians (Nimrod) and Mineans as descendants of Ham or Egypt. They were all related because of the Eastern and Western trade routes, both sea and inland, that ran from the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and (Eastern Punt/Sabean territory) thru Dedan (Minean territory) into Canaan, Egypt and Nubia (Cush) & Abyssinia (Western Punt) in the West and thru Mesopotamia in the East. The Hebrews once considered Midianites as Cushites too as Zipporah, Moses’ Midianite wife, was a Cushite according to Number 12:1. So, it appears that the mysterious genealogical link between Canaan and Ham or Egypt has now been solved. They were linked thru trade and most probably thru tribal treaties and marriage alliances too making them all of one blood according to the endogamy promoting authors of these biblical texts. Mixing one’s blood with a non Hebrew would cause one to renounce Yhwh as a paternal parent (Yhwh was the sire of the Hebrews according to Isa 63:16) and transfer paternity to the god(s) of the foreign wife (Deut 7:3,4).