While reading the recent Amren link about non-African humans having some Neanderthal DNA, I remembered one of my old, and silly, theories: That Esau was a Neanderthal, or more accurately, that he represented Neanderthals in Scripture:
“23”: And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
“24”: And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
“25”: And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
“26”: And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
“27”: And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
Esau is also called Edom, which means “ruddy” (Gen. 36:1). In Genesis 36:8, it says, “Esau dwelt on Mount Se’ir. Esau is Edom”. The word “Se’ir” is the same root as the word for hair. As we know, Esau was hairy. Esau was a “cunning hunter”. The evidence points to Neanderthals being, if not necessarily cunning, certainly effective hunters. If Esau was Neanderthal, then wouldn’t his brother, Jacob, also have been Neanderthal? The story is, of course, allegorical, not to be taken literally. Furthermore, it is possible that one twin inherited more Neanderthal genes than the other, that Esau was a throwback. Why was Jacob so fearful of Esau? In Genesis 32: 12 he expresses his fear that Esau will kill his whole family. But given the immense physical strength of Neanderthals, it is easy to appreciate his fear.
Tradition has it that Europeans are the descendants of Esau, but judging from the names of his descendants in the Bible, most of them seem to be pretty well integrated into the Semitic world.
It has come to my attention that the common transliterations have left the names of these individual practically devoid of their Semitic flavor. So I’ll list some of the names – but with my own transliterations (the apostrophe and underscore represent gutturals with no Western equivalent. All vowels are continental and are approximate. “bh” is a soft “b” as sometimes found in Spanish. Double/soft Hebrew letters were left out):
Men: Elifaz, Ya’ish, Ya’alam, Omar, Ga’atam, Qenaz, ‘Amaleq, Zerah, Lotan, Shobhal, ‘Alwan, Manahat, ‘Ebhal, Hemdan, Eshban, Yitran, Bilhan, Za’awan, ‘Aqan, Bela’, Yobhabh, Husham, Hadad, Hanan ben ‘Akhbor, Hadar
Women: ‘Ada, Aholibhama, Basmat, Timna’, ‘Ana, Mehetabh-el, Matred
These names would be right at home among the Arabs, and some of them are, indeed, still used. The name “Basmat” would mean “perfume” or “sweet scent” in Hebrew – but it would mean “smile” in Arabic. Either one is acceptable as a female name. The meanings of most of these names remain unknown – though we can guess about some of them. “Zerah” has to do with shining. “Lotan” would appear to have something to do with a curse, or one who curses (based on Aramaic). “Yitran” could be “one who has an advantage/wealth”. “Omar” could be “one who gives commands” (based on Arabic). “Hanan” could mean “handsome” or “favored”. Aholibhama means “tent of a lofty place”. “Manahat” has to do with comfort or relaxation.
According to the research cited at the beginning of this post, all non-Africans have some Neanderthal DNA. So, even if Esau represents a specifically Mideastern version of Neanderthal, there might have been other Esau’s in Europe and the Far East. But is it possible that the persona of Esau represents a distant memory of the Neanderthal? If so, it would have been the longest-lasting tradition ever – spanning tens of thousands of years. It would be quite remarkable. Unless, of course, Neanderthals survived until much later than is currently thought. Or maybe Esau was part… bigfoot.