The opening pages describe a typological comparison of the roles of the ancestors of Rome and Israel. I have tried to capture the main outline.
1. A Man Leaving a Great Civilization and Charged with a Universal Mission
A man escapes the land of a famous civilization and departs with his wife and his father … in order to establish a new nation and a new culture. — Weinfeld (6)
Aeneas leaves the famous city of Troy
leaves with wife Creusa
(who died on the way),
and son Ascanius
Abraham leaves the famous city of Ur of the Chaldees
leaves with wife Sarah,
(cf Rachel’s death on the journey)
and stays for a while in Carthage which later becomes Rome’s enemy;
and pauses for a time in Aram (Syria) which later becomes Israel’s enemy,
Eventually his son Ascanius reaches Lavinium (south of the future Rome), and later reaches Alba Longa, closer still. His descendants reach Rome
and reaches Canaan,
which is destined to rule the world.
the Land of promise and from which his descendants will rule other peoples.
In both cases:
an ethnic tradition later developed into an imperial ideology
a divine promise to a father of a nation who later becomes a messenger for a world mission
2. Gap Between Migration of the Ancestor and the Actual Foundation
The lengthy interval between the stories about the first heroes and the real foundation of the oikist existed in both cultures. — Weinfeld (6)
Jupiter prophesies to Aeneas that 333 years will pass before the birth of the twins and founding of Rome
God promised Abraham that 400 or 430 years would pass before his descendants inherited the land.
In both cases:
two founding legends were combined (one of the actual foundation or conquest and another of an earlier tradition)
the gap of centuries between the two stories was joined by a long line of descendants, a long Trojan dynasty on the one hand, ten generations between Ephraim and Joshua on the other (1 Chron 7:25-27). Inconsistencies are extant in both accounts of the number of generations.
3. Promise at Stake
The promise is seen, then, in Israel, as well as in the Roman epic, as something that could not be taken back: a divine commitment not to be violated. — Weinfeld (9)
When Aeneas is threatened by the storm at sea his mother goddess Venus prays to Jupiter:
“O you . . . who rule the world of men and gods, what crime . . . could my Aeneas have done. . . . Surely it was your promise . . . that from them the Romans were to rise . . . rulers to hold the sea and all lands beneath their sway, what thought . . . has turned you?”
When Jacob is threatened by Esau’s approaching army, he prays:
“Save me from my brother Esau; else I fear he may come and strike me down . . . yet, you have said . . . I will make your offspring as the sand of the sea”
As Aeneas and his men sat at the sacrificial table in honour of Jupiter, Harpies descended and contaminated the food. Aeneas and his men drive them away with their swords. —
The event was interpreted by the prophet Calaens as a prediction of famine before the promise is fulfilled.
As Abraham is cutting the pieces of the sacrificial animals of the covenant birds of prey descend upon the carcasses. Abraham drives them away. —
The event is followed by God declaring that Abraham’s descendants will be enslaved in Egypt before the promise is fulfilled.
In both cases:
The deity cannot violate his promise
omens presage difficulties before the fulfillment of the promise.
4. The Pious Ancestor
Like the Abraham-David imagery in Israel, the Aeneas-Augustus imagery in Rome reflects a later stage of the crystallization of the story. — Weinfeld (11)
The image of Aeneas as most pious is very likely a back projection from the Roman “emperor” who made a great show of his piety, Augustus.
Abraham is described in the same terms as King David: “walking before” God righteously, “listening to his voice”. Both Abraham and David received special promises, a “covenant of mercy/grace”. Both men are given a special promise concerning “one of your own issue” (same phrase); Abraham acts like a conquering warrior (Gen. 14) like David.
Weinfeld adds that the Jacob stories contain motifs even closer to the foundation stories of the Greek-Roman world.
5. The Ancestral Gods
Let us … consider the motif of the ancestral gods transferred to the newly founded site, a motif of extremely ancient origin both in Israel and in the Greek-Roman world. — Weinfeld (11)
The story about the settlement of the Danites reflects, then the pattern of the foundation of a new city, a pattern shared by Israel and Greek world. (13)
Amphora art depicts the wife of Aeneas, Creusa, carrying cushion shaped object apparently containing the family guardian gods.
The image evokes the story of Rachel taking the teraphim (household gods) of her family on her journey to the new land (Gen. 31:19, 34). Rachel hid them in the riding cushion of a camel. David’s wife Michal also hid the teraphim in a cushion and placed them in David’s bed.
Multiple traditions speak of how Aeneas stole the sacred images from Troy when he was leaving to settle a new territory.
600 men guarded the images in Lavinium in Italy.
Compare Rachel stealing the teraphim from her father’s house.
Danites steal the teraphim from Micah’s house on their journey to found a new territory.
600 Danites guarded the men who stole the teraphim.
The household guardian gods are prominent in the many stories of the journey of Aeneas from Troy to Italy. Troy’s gods are committed to Aeneas for safekeeping, and they accompany him and comfort him throughout his journey.
Josephus informs us that it was the custom to take along ancestral images of the gods when traveling abroad (Ant. 18:344).
Theological developments saw the removal of this motif from the later Abraham narratives. “The older Jacobic cycle” preserved the accounts of the ancestral gods. See Genesis 31:53 “The god of Abraham, and the god of Nahor, the god of their father, judge between us.”
6. Burial Place of the Founder
This emphasis on the place of burial (of Aeneas) explains the importance attached to the tombs of the Patriarchs in Shechem and in Hebron. — Weinfeld (15)
The transfer of the bones of the hero from a foreign country, which is attested in connection with Jacob and Joseph… was also an important matter with Greek founders. (15)
Rival traditions assigned different burial places to the founder Aeneas.
The Jacobic cycle:
Shechem was the foundation city; the place where the ancestral gods were hidden; location of Jacob’s and Joseph’s tombs
Hebron was the original capital of Judah; the place where Abraham was buried.
A later priestly editor moved the burial places of Jacob and Joseph from Shechem to Hebron to be buried in same place as Abraham.
Bones of Theseus, national hero of Athens, were brought from island of Skyros to Athens (Plutarch)
The Spartans sought for and returned the bones of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, to Sparta.
Bones of Joseph, ancestor of Joshua, were carried from Egypt to Shechem.
7. Canaan versus Aram, Rome versus Carthage
An important theme in the Aeneid is the tension between Rome and Carthage. . . . A similar situation may be discerned in the Jacob stories. — Weinfeld (16)
Aeneas is in danger of marrying Dido, queen of Carthage, threatening the survival of the entire future mission and destiny.
Jupiter sends Mercury to warn Aeneas to leave Carthage quickly and not forget the promise
Aeneas delays and Mercury is sent a second time to warn him in a dream to leave Carthage.
Jacob is in danger of staying in Aram (where he journeyed to flee his brother Esau and to marry Laban’s daughters)
God appeared to tell him to return to the land of promise (Gen. 31:3)
An angel came to Jacob a second time in a dream to warn him to leave (31:11)
In our canonical version of Genesis we read that Jacob left Aram because of a quarrel with Laban. But “an older stratum (Elohistic?) in the chapter (vv. 10, 12a, 13) creates the impression that the affluence of Jacob (vv. 10, 12a; cf. 30:43) might have caused him to stay in Aram, necessitating the divine call to return to Canaan.” (Weinfeld, 16)
Weinfeld, Moshe. 1993. The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites. Berkeley: University of California Press.