Jethro, Balaam, & Job
© Charles Chandler
With a clear distinction between Israelites & Hebrews, several more pieces fit into place. First, Eusebius considered Job to be a Patriarch:1:b1:ch2
Add to these Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, include as is right the patriarch Job, and all the rest who lived according to the ideals of these men;
In order to be a Patriarch, one had to be an ancestor of the Israelites. The Septuagint says that Job was the grandson of Esau, but the relationship might have been closer than that. The Talmud has Job as a contemporary of Moses,2:15a important enough to be consulted by the pharaoh, along with Jethro & Balaam, on what to do with the Hebrews.3:28-30 The three most powerful people in Canaan in were Isaac, Esau, & Jacob. The article on Moses, Isaac, & Jacob noted the possibility that Jethro was a title used by Isaac — if so, it was Isaac, Balaam, & Job who met with the pharaoh. It's also possible that Job was short for Jacob,4:89 in which case it would have been Isaac, Balaam, & Jacob in the meeting, where the decision was for the same Jacob to personally escort the 1312-Exodus to Moab.
Job's story begins with him in the land of Uz (modern-day Syria), which would have been during the 20-year period that Jacob spent working for his uncle Laban the Syrian. Job's actual strife began with the appearance of Satan, who would have been Seti I (whose name stems from the same root: Set), and who campaigned first in the Levant as crown prince under Ramesses I, , when Jacob would have been 58~60 years old. This puts it roughly 10 years after his "conquest" of the Judaean Mountains in . So Seti I, as crown prince under Ramesses I, took away all that had been granted to Jacob by Horemheb, the previous pharaoh. But then Jacob was relocated to Goshen, which he found the "land of Ramesses" (the only pharaoh mentioned in the Torah). So Satan (Seti I) took away everything, but the Lord (Ramesses I) compensated Job (Jacob) for his losses in the end.
We know from other sources that in , the Hebrews in Moab pressed westward into Canaan, and this is when the Hebrew settlements started popping up in the Judaean Mountains. So Jacob was dispossessed of Canaan in , in exchange for grants in Goshen, and the Hebrews moved in just a few years later. This would have been the Hebrews claiming what had been promised to them on the West Bank after Moses died in .
The Book of Job mentions Sabaeans,5 would be anachronistic, aside from being geographically awkward. This might have been just a euphemism for the sabbath-observing Hebrews who were attacking Jacob's people in . This would have been the work of the Deuteronomists, who wanted to downplay direct conflicts between Israelites & Hebrews.
We can also sort out the oddities introduced by the Talmud. In the Torah, Job is a model of unflinching faith, but in the Talmud, he is a Gentile, and little friend to the Hebrews, for he said nothing when Balaam suggested that the first-born of the Hebrews be slain.3:28-30 The discrepancy can only be resolved by seeing these as two different perspectives on the same person. To the Egyptian loyalists on the West Bank, Jacob was a fine example of faith in "God" (i.e., the pharaoh), and who was rewarded handsomely in the end, while to the Hebrews on the East Bank, Jacob was a Gentile who did nothing to protect them from Balaam. Thus the Book of Job tells the Israelite version, while the Talmud tells the Hebrew version.
And who was Balaam, son of Beor? This is actually one of the larger curiosities in the Torah. Balaam was a Gentile, and no friend at all to the Hebrews, for it was he who suggested that the first-born of the Hebrews be slain, and later advised the Moabites to entice the Hebrews into immoralities that would cause 24,000 of them to die of the plague.6,7 He wielded great powers in Canaan, for "whoever he blessed was blessed, and whoever he cursed was cursed."8 He was known for his arrogance and avarice, and yet he was a loyal servant of God, who refused to say anything except what God told him. So like Job, Balaam was a fine example of faith in "God," but who cared even less for the Hebrews.
Some scholars believe that Balaam was the same as Bela, also son of Beor, and king of Edom.9,10 If so, much more can be deduced. If Balaam was the king of Edom, and if Balaam & Job were contemporaries, and if Job was Jacob, then Balaam was the king of Edom during Jacob's time, who would have been Esau.11
Several other passages fall easily in line with this identification.
  1. Balaam's native land was Mitanni,8 the birthplace of Esau's mother & grandmother (i.e., Rebekah & Sarah).
  2. The Talmud says that Jethro, Balaam, & Job were important enough to be consulted by the pharaoh on what to do with the Hebrews.3:28-30 If Jethro was Isaac, and Job was Jacob, Esau's father & younger twin were at the meeting, so of course he would be there too.
  3. In the Talmud, "Balaam" is spelled "Belo 'Am," meaning "without a share with the people in the world to come."12:19 In other words, he was disinherited. The Torah says little about Esau, except that he was tricked out of his birthright by Jacob. "Without a Share" would then be an apt nickname for Esau.
  4. The Talmud identifies Balaam's father as Laban the Syrian,12:19-23 Rebekah's brother.13 This is a problem if Balaam was Esau, whose father was said to have been Isaac. One possibility is that Isaac was Laban.
    1. Isaac & Laban are never mentioned together, meaning that the acts of both could have been accomplished by the same person. In fact, there is a conspicuous absence of the other in their stories, despite their being contemporary key personnel. For example, when Jacob returned to Canaan, Laban pursued him to Gilead, where they set up a monument to be the border between their territories. This was before Jacob inherited the Covenant from Isaac. So what right did Jacob have to set borders, without even mentioning Isaac's authority? This reads easier if Laban was Isaac, who did have the right.
    2. The Seder HaDoroth claims that Laban's wife's name was Adinah. This was clearly an Atenist name, very similar to Adonai. If Laban was Isaac, and if Isaac's wife Rebekah was Tudukhipa, then she was previously the wife of Akhenaten, who would have given her an Atenist name.
    3. If Isaac was banished to the Valley of the Cedar (modern Lebanon) as described in the Tale of Two Brothers, it associates Isaac with Lebanon, whose eponymous founder was Laban.
    4. Lebanon is the homeland of the Druze, who are disciples of Jethro, which the present thesis identifies as Isaac.
    5. Laban's sons were deprived of their birthrights by Jacob,14 just as Esau was.
    6. (Note that if Isaac was Laban, his daughters Leah & Rachel would be poorly suited to marry his son Jacob, suggesting that Leah & Rachel were adopted, or Jacob's children were sired by other men.)
  5. The characterization of Balaam as arrogant wouldn't preclude his being the hereditary administrator of Canaan, and bitterness at being tricked out of it could have even sharpened such an edge. But Balaam showed no arrogance toward God. In fact, he was credited with having a more direct connection to God than all other mortals.15 If "God" is taken to mean the pharaoh, Balaam would have been the senior Egyptian official in Canaan at the time, who would have been Esau, grandson of Amenhotep III. Then the "direct connection to God" was political, not messianic — people wanting to know the pharaoh's will would consult Esau, who would then be obligated to say only what the pharaoh had told him.
  6. Balaam was later slain for his part in the Heresy of Peor.16 If this was Bela, king of Edom, his successor was Jobab.9,10 And if we're actually talking about Esau, his successor would have been Jacob, the younger of the twins. So "Jobab" might have been an obfuscation of "Jacob."
  7. Philo (as quoted by Eusebius) identified Jobab with Job,17:b9:ch25 who the present thesis identifies as Jacob.
Several of these constraints allow rather short lists of candidates. When the lists are overlapped, Balaam could hardly have been anyone other than Esau.
Balaam is mentioned in the Chronicles of Moses, where he seizes a city, later to be ousted by Moses once on the Exodus.18 The present thesis identifies Moses with Ramose, and the king of Ethiopia in the story with Tutankhamun, whose wife Ankhesenamun (as Aksah) married Moses (as Otni'el) after Tut died.19 Balaam held the city for 9 years, matching Tut's tenure of . The "Exodus" that occurred in that range would have been the exile of the Atenist high priests when Tut abandoned Amarna in , including Moses, who contended for the city, ultimately prevailing in when Tut died, suggesting that Tut had sponsored Balaam's claim to the city. From this we get that Balaam was powerful enough to compete directly with a former vizier to the pharaoh. The most powerful person in Canaan in would have been Isaac, son of Amenhotep III by Sarah, and Isaac's heir apparent at the time would have been Esau, who would have been 18 years old in , being born in , same as Jacob. This puts Esau on the short list of people powerful enough to be the "Balaam" mentioned in the Chronicles. The city in question can be read from the Deuteronomic History, in that Otni'el was given Aksah for capturing Kiriath Sepher (near Hebron).20,21 The picture that emerges is rather simple. In , Isaac son of Sarah & Amenhotep III would have been the senior Egyptian vassal in Canaan, with his twin 18-year old sons Esau & Jacob coming of age. Jacob was sent back to Mitanni to find a wife, while Esau, the heir apparent of the Covenant, was made lord of Hebron, to begin honing his political skills. In Tut abandoned Amarna, exiling the Atenist high priests, while standing by grants already made to the Patriarchs, including the claim to Hebron. But when Tut died in , the new pharaoh Ay arranged for Aksah to be taken in by Moses, and with Hebron as a dowry, at Esau's expense.
Later Esau (as Balaam) participated in the Heresy of Peor, and he might have had an accomplice in Eglon, king of Moab. The latter was said to have been so obese that when Ehud attacked him with a knife that was one cubit long, the entire knife, handle & all, ended up inside Eglon's stomach, and the only thing that came out of the wound was the contents of his bowels.22 The servants outside the door just thought that Eglon was relieving himself, and didn't enter the room to render assistance, later discovering that Eglon had died of the wound. This unusual story is clearly allegorical, but of what? Perhaps the scribes were alluding to a rather disgusting ritual involving bowel movements practiced at Peor, suggesting that Eglon was an accomplice in the heresy committed there. Hence it's possible that both Esau & Eglon were killed for the same reason — they conspired to get a bunch of Hebrews infected with diseases.
The significance is that the ascendancy of Ehud in (see Figure 1) can be used as the terminus ante quem for the demise of both Eglon & Esau (then 62 years old, having been born in ), and the Heresy of Peor would have happened just before. We might also have a terminus post quem for the Heresy. If the Book of Job details Jacob's losses at the hands of the advancing Hebrews in , and if the mentions of Satan23 are references to Seti I, it couldn't have been before , when Seti became pharaoh. So we can fix the date for the Heresy of Peor at .
A similar and slightly stronger inference can be drawn from the fact that Satan is mentioned by name (i.e., as a proper noun in the original Hebrew) in the story of Balaam's Donkey,24,25 which occurs just before the Heresy of Peor. In those passages, "Satan" is typically translated as a common noun, meaning "the adversary." But if that was the intent, the word would have been prefixed by "the" (in Hebrew, the letter "heh"), and it wasn't.26 So it should be read as "Adversary" (proper noun), not "the adversary" (common noun), or more easily just as "Satan," since it was a name, not its definition. And as a name, it's cognate with Seti. Outside of its historical context, these passages have presented an interesting challenge to redactors, translators, and theologians. Satan is described as a supernatural being who harassed Balaam and Job, but not as a god — rather, Satan was one of God's messengers. Then the interpretations range from Satan being the preferred messenger when somebody on Earth was due for some conflict, to Satan being an adversary of God himself. The secular treatment is simpler — Satan was originally Seti I, who was sympathetic to the cause of the Hebrews, and who harassed Balaam & Job (i.e., Esau & Jacob) because they were harassing the Hebrews. For Seti to be described as a messenger, instead of God himself (i.e., the pharaoh), the donkey incident would have occurred when Seti was still the crown prince under Ramesses I, , a time when Seti was actively campaigning in the Levant. Esau & Jacob's descendants seem never to have forgiven Seti, remembering him as an evil god (i.e., bad pharaoh).
Thus the two brothers appear to have been Esau-Edom-Balaam-Bela, and Jacob-Job-Jobab-Hobab-Israel-Yeshurun-Joshua-Hoshea. Both of them outlived Moses, who passed away in . Moses was succeeded by Eglon, who took Jericho and perhaps other towns on the West Bank.27 (This was when Jericho was burned,28 not by Yashuya the Habiru in .) To check the advance of the Hebrews, Jacob tried to form an alliance with the Shechemites in ,29 only to see them slaughtered by the Levites.30 Jacob sought the support of Horemheb, who rewrote the Covenant in Jacob's name,31 thereby disinheriting Esau, who (as Belo 'Am, the one without a share) continued on as the pharaoh's envoy in Canaan. Esau-Balaam & his donkey were confronted by Seti I (as Satan) in , but Esau was undaunted, and proceeded to entice the Hebrews into immoralities that would get a bunch of them killed at Peor in . The Hebrews rebelled from Eglon's control, and crossed the Jordan in . Seti I had Esau-Balaam killed, and made arrangements for Jacob's clan to move to Goshen, where Jacob lived another 17 years,32 finally passing away in (aged 76), in the land of Ramesses. This would be the beginning of the actual Israelite "captivity" in Egypt, persisting through the long reign of Ramesses II, culminating in the oppression under Merneptah.
As a sidenote, saying that the key personnel went by a variety of names is not problematic — to ancient rulers, names were like titles, which they accumulated more or less at the same rate as modern scholars — one for each major milestone in their lives (coronation, deification, fellowship, etc.). While official documents tended to start with a complete list of titles, any given fragment might only use one. The unique thing here is that the redactors of the Torah might have deliberately left out the name lists. In other words, if Jacob also went by the name of Job, the original version would have introduced him as "Jacob a.k.a. Job," but after the redaction, the name list is gone, and now only with careful analysis can the identifications be re-established. Why would the redactors do this? If they were trying to mask the identities for fear of persecution, it would have happened while Egypt still had a strong hold over the Levant, which puts it before — before the fusion of the Jahwist & Elohist sources.
Next, if Isaac was Reuel, this passage gives us yet another version of Jacob's name:
Numbers 10:29

29 (J) And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, 'I will give it to you.' Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the Lord has promised good to Israel."

The last sentence implies that Hobab was Israel (i.e., Jacob). Now notice the awkward wording concerning the Covenant. In the conventional reading, Moses was an Israelite, while Hobab was a Midianite, and the Promised Land had been promised to Israelites, not Midianites. So why didn't Moses just say that they were setting out for the place that God had granted to the Israelites, and that Hobab should join them? If this was Moses talking to Jacob, it certainly wouldn't have been said that way, since everybody knew that the land in question was Jacob's inheritance, and not Moses'. So it had to be worded such that it wasn't clear who had inherited what. Before the obfuscation, it would have read like this:
And Moses said to Jacob the son of Isaac the Mitannian, Moses' father-in-law, "We are setting out for the place that the Lord Amenhotep III gave to your family. Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the Lord Horemheb has promised good to you."
Hobab responded that he would rather return to his homeland.33 We don't hear of Jacob until a good deal later, as the one who negotiated the trip through Edom.34 Thus Jacob would have met with Horemheb, Isaac, Esau, & Moses, to decide what to do with the Hebrews. The decision was that Jacob would move to Shechem, so he returned to Mitanni to gather up his possessions.
Next, we can consider one more oddity in the Talmud, even if the evidence here is far less convincing. Ruth was said to be the daughter of Eglon, who was the grandson of Balak, and that these were the ancestors of King David.12 Considering the unfavorable treatment of Balak & Eglon in the Torah, why would this ancestry legitimize King David's claim to the throne, instead of invalidating it? Perhaps there was more to the story. A slight possibility is that Balak's father Zippor was somehow related to Isaac's daughter Zipporah — maybe Balak was actually Gershom, son of Moses & Zipporah, and who wasn't mentioned after the Exodus, despite the detailed descriptions of dispensations to everyone else. If so, King David would have been descended from the union between the Patriarchs and the most significant prophet in Jewish history, which indeed would have legitimized his regency. And if there is any truth to that, we can understand why 400 years later, the redactors under the direction of King Josiah would have dropped such detail — they were downplaying the conflicts between the Patriarchs & the Levites, in the interest of unifying the nation. So in , after Moses had passed away, Balak summoned Balaam to put a curse on the Hebrews, and nobody needed to know that the players were actually Gershom & Esau. But these are all negative arguments, and absence of evidence is to be scrutinized carefully before being taken as evidence in its own right. Aside from the scribes failing to show why the son of Zippor was a noteworthy ancestor, and failing to mention whatever became of Zipporah's sons, there is nothing positively linking these people.
Now if we take a step back, an interesting picture emerges. The Abrahamic faiths in general, and Judaism & Islam in particular, have God as an overbearing authority figure, known for being strict and capable of being ruthless. He is a fully personified God, who can be angry, jealous, & vengeful. And He insists that He be worshiped exclusively. His followers are portrayed as an errant bunch, quick to turn away from Him, and bitter from the harsh punishments meted out. This wasn't typical of Egyptian religion, nor Indian. Perhaps this characterization of God is the lingering memory of Egyptian pharaohs, who ruled by divine right, and where refusal to recognize the divinity of the current regime tacitly challenged the right to rule, and thus was prosecutable as treason against the king. This would have begun in earnest with the Lord Horemheb, and it would have continued until Egypt's control over the Levant waned, allowing the establishment of the First Temple in Jerusalem. So there's 300 years during which the prevailing religious experience in Canaan would have been people worshiping the pharaoh when they had to, and their own god(s) when they could, at their own risk. Curiously, in the fusion of the Israelite & Hebrew perspectives, the pharaohs persecuting the Hebrews got fused with Adonai. For the Israelite audience, it's a story of Egyptian kings rewarding loyalty generously while punishing the strays viciously, while Hebrews hearing the same story think of Adonai punishing anyone worshiping pagan gods, including Egyptian kings.


1. Eusebius (311): Demonstratio Evangelica.

2. Adsole, A. (ed.) (500): Baba Bathra 15. In "Babylonian Talmud."

3. Ashi, R.; Ravina (ed.) (500): Sotah 11. In "Babylonian Talmud."

4. Chandler, T. (1976): Godly Kings and Early Ethics. Exposition Press

5. Job 1:13-15

6. Numbers 31:16 (P)

7. Numbers 25:6-9 (P)

8. Numbers 22:1-6 (S,E,J)

9. Genesis 36:31-33 (J)

10. 1 Chronicles 1:43-44

11. Numbers 20:14 (E)

12. Adsole, A. (ed.) (500): Sanhedrin 105. In "Babylonian Talmud."

13. Genesis 24:29 (J)

14. Genesis 31:1 (E)

15. Numbers 24:16 (J)

16. Numbers 31:8 (P)

17. Eusebius (313): Præparatio Evangelica.

18. Jellinek, A. (ed.) (1853): The Chronicles of Moses.

19. Chandler, C. (2021): Akhenaten, Moses, & Atenism. QDL, 5678

20. Joshua 15:16-19 (DH)

21. Judges 1:12-13 (DH)

22. Judges 3:15-30 (DH)

23. Job 1:6

24. Numbers 22:22 (J)

25. Numbers 22:32 (J)

26. Heiser, M. S. (2017): The Absence of Satan in the Old Testament.

27. Judges 3:13 (DH)

28. Bruins, H. J.; van der Plicht, J. (2006): Tell Es-Sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon Results of Short-Lived Cereal and Multiyear Charcoal Samples From the End of the Middle Bronze Age. Radiocarbon, 37 (2): 213-220

29. Genesis 34:15-16 (J)

30. Genesis 34:25 (J)

31. Genesis 35:12 (P)

32. Genesis 47:28 (P)

33. Numbers 10:30 (J)

34. Numbers 20:14-21 (E,J)

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