On the meaning of Genesis 22:17, the words ‘and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies’

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Many bible-translations have in Genesis 22:17 such wordings as “and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies”. Some Anglo-Israelist writers have interpreted the word “seed” as referring to the ten “lost” tribes of Israel. They have claimed that that verse means that those tribes would be, in our day, a great, rich and powerful nation which possesses “the gates of their enemies”, “strategic passes and sea-sounds”. Is that correct?

Let us consider the passage in question. The context is that the Lord promised certain things to Abraham, when he at the Lord’s command had almost given his son Isaac to death, as a sacrifice.

Genesis 22:15 And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said, By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies (ASV, highlighting added)

(Some translations have in verse 17 a plural form, “your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies”.)

A note regarding the context, Genesis 22:1–14: We can understand that Abraham’s act of going as far as giving his own son, was a symbol of what God then did when he gave his son Jesus to death, so that mankind could be saved. See John 3:16–17.

The promises which are recorded in the above-quoted Genesis 22:17–18 were unconditional, and had to be fulfilled. Regarding the first part of verse 17, the promise that Abraham would have many descendants, in number as “the stars of heaven” and “the sand which is on the sea shore” – Deuteronomy 10:22 records that that promise had been fulfilled already in the days of Moses, before the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 10:22 Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now Jehovah thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude. (ASV, highlighting added)

This was still so, in the days of king Solomon. We read:

1 Kings 4:20 Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry. (ASV, highlighting added)

So, the promised recorded in the first part of Genesis 22:17 was fulfilled. But, regarding the last part of that verse, the words “and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” – what did that refer to? The following considers that matter.

On the word shaar in the Hebrew text of Genesis 22:17.

In the Hebrew text of that verse, the word for “gate” is shaar. In old Hebrew, that word had different uses and meanings, such as these (the following is from the OLB Hebrew lexicon):

a. gate (of entrance)
b. gate (of space inside gate, i.e. marketplace, public meeting place)
1. city, town
c. gate (of palace, royal castle, temple, court of tabernacle)
d. heaven

So, did the Hebrew word shaar in the last part of Genesis 22:17 refer to cities (towns), or something else?

One way of interpreting the last part of Genesis 22:17 is found in the Septuagint version (LXX). Here is an English translation of Septuagint’s wording:

Genesis 22:17 surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is by the shore of the sea, and thy seed shall inherit the cities of their enemies. (LXXE, highlighting added)

The highlighted part is translated from the Septuagint’s wording καὶ κληρονομήσει τὸ σπέρμα σου τὰς πόλεις τῶν ὑπεναντίων. The Hebrew verb which the LXX in that verse translates into Greek as κληρονομησει (“inherit”), is yarash which was used in such meanings as “to seize, dispossess, take possession off, inherit, disinherit, occupy, impoverish, be an heir”.

We know, of course, that when the Israelites in the days of Joshua entered the Promised Land (they had inherited a right to that land from their ancestors Jacob, Isaac and Abraham), and then settled there, they took over that land and its towns.

Another way to interpret Genesis 22:17 would be to view the last part of that verse as referring to a singular descendant of Abraham, Jesus, and a singular “gate” – “and your Seed shall possess the gate of His enemies” as the LIT has it. (The Bible shows that after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, there was a war in Heaven, Revelation 12:7, and that the rebels lost and were thrown out from Heaven.)

In any case, Genesis 22:17 is fulfilled prophecy, and has nothing to do with our day and age. (Concerning what biblical prophecy says on how the “lost” tribes of Israel would to be doing in our day, see the other parts in this series. You can find them in the “recommended reading” section, below. Begin with the article rya011.htm.)

Where did Anglo-Israelism, including its ‘gates’ dogma, really come from?

Possibly from Richard Brothers and Piazzi Smyth – or John Dee.

Some have suggested that the originator of British-Israelism (which later evolved into Anglo-Israelism) might have been an Englishman by the name Richard Brothers (1757–1824). After him, there was another man, a Scottish astronomer by the name Piazzi Smyth (1819–1900), who apparently combined British-Israelist teachings with mystic dogmas regarding the Egyptian pyramids. Smyth claimed that the rulers of England were “descendants of king David”, and that the people of England are “Israelites”. (The articles rya101.htm and rya091.htm sort out the “line of David” matter.)

But, it could be that British-Israelism (Anglo-Israelism) has its roots in the 1500s and a certain John Dee (ca. 1527–1608) who was an alchemist, astrologer and occultist and the founder of Rosicrucianism, and also an adviser to queen Elisabeth I. Some have said that it was Dee who invented a number of British-Israelist ideas, including the claim that the British rulers were of “Davidic lineage”. If so, then it could be that he created those stories as an excuse for Britain’s sprouting imperialism. (He was an advocate of England’s imperial expansion. Some say that it was he who coined the phrase “British empire”.) It could be that even the “gates” dogma, or some precursor to it, was produced by John Dee.

Links to the other 14 parts in this series on the tribes of Israel are found in the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please send or mention the address to this site to others. Please also link to this site. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters.

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa091.htm

On the words “gentiles”, “pagans” and “heathen” and what they actually mean and refer to. → rga011.htm

The other parts in the ‘tribes’ series:

What biblical prophecy says about the fate of the lost ten tribes of Israel. → rya011.htm

Leviticus 26:19, “and I will break the pride of your power”. How and when was the Israelites’ pride broken? → rya021.htm

Jacob’s birthright, and that of his son Joseph. On what the concept “birthright” meant and referred to, in regard to inheritance, in ancient times. → rya041.htm

On the meaning of the words “seven times” in Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24 and 28. Does the wording in the Hebrew text mean “seven times more” or “sevenfold” as many translations have it, or “2520 years” as some writers have claimed? → rya051.htm

Jeremiah 30:7, “the time of Jacob’s trouble”. On what chapter 30 in the book of Jeremiah means and refers to. → rya061.htm

On the prophet Ezekiel and his mission, and the “Ezekiel message” dogma. → rya071.htm

Matthew 10:5–6, “do not go into the way of the gentiles and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Who and where were those “sheep”? Where did the apostles go? → rya082.htm

Did the ten lost tribes of Israel move to Europe? Are the white north-west Europeans Israelites, as some say? → rya091.htm

Is the line of David the king of Israel still ruling somewhere on Earth? → rya101.htm

The meaning of the words “branch” and “twig” in Ezekiel 17:22. Some notes on Anglo-Israelist dogmas regarding king Zedekiah’s daughters. → rya111.htm

The prophet Jeremiah – where did he die? Did he go to Ireland, as some have claimed? Also, what about the “stone of destiny” which some writers talk about? → rya121.htm

Did people of the ten “lost” tribes of Israel travel to Greece, Denmark and Ireland? Some notes on certain Anglo-Israelist dogmas. → rya131.htm

Regarding Anglo-Israelism: What if Russia with her Slavic sister nations are the lost ten tribes of Israel? → rya141.htm

Ethnic groups which could eventually belong to the “lost” tribes of Israel. → rya151.htm


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