In Part I of this discusiion I present my thesis that the religious views and practices of ancient Afro-Asiatics spread through the agency of ruler-priests who controlled water systems at a time when west central Africa, Canaan and Mesopotamia were wetter.
In 1892, the New York Times reported on the Jebu tribe, which controlled the water systems of the Port of Lagos. The Jebu are classified as Yoruba, but the term 'Yoruba' applied to related tribal groups only after the 18th century. The Jebu are also called Ijebu and in the Bible they are called Jebusites. The Jebu identify themselves as distinct from other Yoruba sub-groups by calling themselves Nago-Jebu, just as Yoruba from Ketu would be Nago-Ketu. (See the NYT report here: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=2&res=9E06EEDB...
While there are 2 Jebu provinces, there are 3 brothers: Yoruba, Egba and Ketu. In Genesis we find this 2 kingdoms-3 brothers pattern throughout the book. One brother is often hidden or more peripheral to the events described. For example, we are told that Noah had 3 sons and Genesis makes it clear that the lines of Ham and Shem intermarried, but we know very little about the descendents of Japheth. Likewise, Abraham had 3 first-born sons: Joktan, Ishmael and Isaac, but we really have to dig into the text for information on Joktan, the first-born of Keturah.
We also discover from study of the Jebu that a kingdom is established when the ruler-apparent marries a second wife. This explains Abraham's urgency to fetch a cousin bride for Isaac before his death. Following the marriage pattern of the rulers of his people, Isaac would already have had a half-sister wife in Beersheba. For more on this go here: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/03/pattern-of-two-wives.html
According to the New York Times report, the king of the Jebu levied taxes on all products carried through his territory. This is consistent with the biblical information concerning Abraham’s ruler-priest ancestors who controlled water systems in Nigeria (where the Jebu still reside), Canaan and Mesopotamia. Read more on this here: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/05/locating-biblical-ur.html
According to African legend, the Yoruba migrated into west central Africa from the east. Some stopped in the region of Lake Chad where they had kin in Bor'nu (land of Noah). Their kin were likely the Kanuri tribe (descendents of Kain), which explains why some Yoruba have tribal marks similar to those of the Kanuri.
This explains the relationship between Abraham and Melchizedek, a Jebusite ruler-priest, mentioned in Genesis 14 to whom Abraham offered tribute. Abraham's people were Horites and the Horites apparently intermarried witt the Jebusites. Both groups lived in the region of Judea. For more on Abraham's Horite family, go here: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/05/horite-territory.html
The principal ruler of the two Jebu provinces in NIgeria - Jebu Remu and Jebu Ode - is called "awujali." Jebu rulers are installed with palm branches. Jude Adebo Adeleye Ogunade writes in his memoir about growing up Ijebu. He was warned not to touch the leaves of the Igi-Ose tree, because as his Mama Eleni explained: "That tree is the tree whose leaves are used to install Chiefs and Kings of Ijebu and as your grandfather was a custodian of the rites of chieftaincy and kingship you must not play with its leaves."
The association of palm trees (tamars) with rulers and prophets is a common among many Africans and Arabians and is found in the Bible. Fresh palm tree fronds are used ceremonially at the installation of rulers and are used to decorate places of worship. The tamar as a sacred symbol is analogous to the oak tree. Male rulers and oracles apparently sat under oaks while female rulers and oracles sat under tamars. Deborah sat under a tamar as a judge and a prophet in Israel.
This also sheds some light on the origins of the word "Torah" which means 'that which is thrown by the hand' of the Moreh (oracle or prophet). In Genesis 12:6 we read that uponhis arrival in Canaan Abraham sought guidance from the Morah when he pitched his tent at the Oak of Moreh. The word "Torah" is usually rendered guidance or instruction, but is also associated with a prophet sitting under a tree.
When the people used palm fronds to greet Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, they greeted him as one to be enthroned. Among the Yoruba, fresh palm tree leaves are employed on occasions of installation of a sovereign, and to the office of high priest. (Read more about the palm tree in connection with rulers, prophets and shrines here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/mind/mind24.htm
I've yet to present key features of ancient Afro-Asiatic religious life, of which I have identified seven. The seven features are: Triune God; the Sun as emblem of the Deity; concept of the incarnate Son of God; fixed order of creation; hereditary priesthood; blood sacrifice at altars, and the widespread use of the number seven. I will take up these features in Part III next week.