Month: October 2008

Happy Fall Festival, er… Reformation Day, er… Halloween

October 31 has a number of traditions connected to it.

The Celts had Samhain, a celebration of the harvest that coincided with a day in which the dead were supposed to be able to interact with the world of the living, causing sickness or crop blights. Costumes and masks were worn to deal with the dead.

Coincidentally, the same day happens to be the day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of that church in Wittenberg, Germany, an act that is held to have heralded the start the Protestant Reformation. Church doors often served as bulletin boards in those days, so Luther’s posting his problems with Roman Catholic Church practices of his day there wasn’t entirely a symbolic act of defiance, especially since the theses were written in Latin.

Finally, the Fall Festival is a religious alternative to Halloween practiced by many churches that feel uncomfortable with the supernatural/pagan imagery involved in the traditional Halloween. One thing remains the same: when kids are involved, so is candy. How well advised the spreading of candy is is a subject for another post (says the diabetic blogger).

So there is a brief synopsis for those who actually expected my previous post about Halloween to actually say something a little useful. You don’t know me well, do you? 🙂

Here’s a link page courtesy of Tim Challies about Reformation Day (hat tip to Nephos, aka Pastor Cameron Cloud)


“Very Conservative”

That’s how N.T. Wrong rates my blog in his massive list of biblioblogs.

Hmm. Should I be insulted or praised, I wonder? And what will that rating do to my readership/stats?

Honesty forces me to rate my actual status as “wishy-washy”, “confused”, and “just learning”. But N.T. has yet to use any of those descriptors in his otherwise very useful list.

In return, I will rate N.T.’s blog as “often silly”. Make of that what you will. 😉

Elah Fortress: A Monumental Archaeological Find in Many Ways

The story just broke in the New York Times, and already the Internet is beginning to buzz. Archaeologists are excavating a five acre fortified site with massive walls, a multi-chambered gate and an estimate population of perhaps five hundred people, which just happens to sit two days walk from Jerusalem, and seven miles from the Philistine city of Gath. Two ancient olive pits discovered there are carbon dated to between 1050 and 970 BC. Pottery remains are reckoned to fit that same period. A pottery shard found within the site has writing tentatively identified as the Hebrew language written in an ancestor script to classical Hebrew. The writing itself is apparently of a quality expected of a trained scribe.

What, the scholars are asking, is this place?

If it is a Philistine site, what were they afraid of to build such a large walled (stones perhaps as heavy as eight tons) “city” in this place? On the other hand, if Israelite, does this finally show archaeological proof of the Biblical stories of a great Davidic kingdom?

Biblical believers and skeptics alike, to say nothing of trained scholars, all agree it is far too early to make firm judgements about the meaning of the site for our understanding of ancient history. Some ninety-five percent of the site is yet to be excavated, and owing to the care modern archaeology takes in uncovering such sites, it could be ten years or more before excavation is completed. But this excavation might well turn out to be one of the major discoveries in our lifetime.

More details about the excavation are found on Jim West’s blog here and here, and you’ll want to read the comments, for sure.

No doubt much more info is to come all over the Internet as more details are made public. The Elah Fortress excavation website, still in its infancy, so to speak, is located here.

The Lifeway Explore the Bible Sunday School study of 1-2 Samuel just got a lot more interesting, I think.

UPDATE: A link to a HaAretz article on the Elah potsherd and fortress, courtesy of John Hobbins.

UPDATE 2: Todd Bolen at his interesting BiblePlaces Blog has a fine post trying to match the Elah Fortress with a biblical place name.  He also has a link page of Elah fortress news coverage and his own brief analysis of the NYT article.

UPDATE 3: John Hobbins makes his own foray into the discussion of the Elah Fortress’ possible biblical name in this post.

UPDATE 4: An article on the San Francisco Chronicle’s SF Gate covers the Fortress, the potsherd, and now Yosef Garfinkel’s tenative identification as the biblical city of Sha’arayim, with words of caution from Aren Maeir. John Hobbins briefly discusses the article in this post on his blog.

UPDATE 5: John Hobbins has another update about the dating ramifications and ID of Khirbet Qeiyafa on Ancient Hebrew Poetry with several links and some more discussion. Have you bookmarked him yet?

UPDATE 6: Here is a chronicle of the events in the discovery and research on the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon. And here is an article about the company doing high tech photography on the ostracon in LA, CA.

UPDATE 7: Here is an mp3 wth Yosef Garfinkel about the Elah Fortress, hat tip to BiblePlaces Blog.

UPDATE 8: Todd Bolen is back with links and some thoughts. Duane Smith of Abnormal Interests has a post about probabilities and radiocarbon dating that requires a bit of an attention span but is well worth the effort. In fact, why am I not reading his blog regularly? He’s a Top 50 Biblioblogger!

So You Like Your Music Loud? Trailer Music for You

I’m talking about the thunderous bass, brass, and screaming chorus made popular by modern action movies scored by Remote Control Productions (formerly known as MediaVentures), whose most famous composer and stylistic godfather is Hans Zimmer.

So if you’ve worn out your CDs of _The Rock_, _Peacemaker_, _Gladiator_, _Pirates of the Carribean_, _Batman Begins_, _The Dark Knight_,  _Transformers: the Score_ and even the multi-CD _LOTR_ soundtracks (to name just a few),  I give you new albums to try:

Position Music- Orchestral Series Vol. 1 by Tom Salta

Position Music- Orchestral Series Vol. 2 by James Dooley

Position Music- Orchestral Series Vol. 3 by Magnus Christensen and Ryan Franks

Unearthed by E. S. Posthumus

Epicon by Globus

Trailerhead by The Immediate

These albums are basically commerical sample music for video trailers of all sorts, be they movie trailers, video game trailers, sports trailers, or business product trailers. They are short pieces done in the same bombastic style as Zimmer and his cohorts. They are meant to grab your attention and work you over emotionally in about four minutes or less. These do their job quite well, I think, and their sound quality is as good as any I’ve listened to.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add the name of John Beal to this post. Beal is pretty much the godfather of modern movie trailer music, which was built on close homages to popular pieces from movie scores (still a popular practice). Sadly the two CD collection of his more famous trailer pieces, Coming Soon is out of print and not so easily found.

So crank up the volume and enjoy! Just don’t blame me if you go deaf.

A Personal Last Minute Election Change of Mind

I’m seriously considering voting for all the candidates who don’t inundate my phone and mailbox with their automated “Elect Me!” propaganda. Never mind the party they are associated with. Color me annoyed!

The economy may be down, but I will give good odds sales of answering machines are up Up UP! just to avoid those electronic political phone calls.

Whatever the election results, at least I will be much less irritated. Sheesh!

2 Samuel 1:17- 2:7 Sunday School Notes

Here are some of my notes for Sunday, November 2, 2008 based on the Lifeway Explore the Bible curriculum

 Reference works cited include:

1)IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas

2) 1, 2 Samuel New American Commentary by Robert D. Bergen

3)The David Story by Robert Alter 

4)International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915): Studylight online edition; Esword dictionaries module download page


2 Sam 1:17
Lament is the Hebrew “qina”. The content and the beginning of each refrain with “How” mark this as a typical Hebrew dirge.(Bergen)

The cynical see David’s political purpose as primary here: write a public lament for the previous rulers to show David himself did not desire their death.(Alter)

2 Sam 1:18
To teach the Bow: Hebrew “qeshet”, bow, is absent from the Greek Old Testament, which becomes “to teach it”. Robert Alter changes qeshet to qashot, “the hard things”, in his translation. “Hard things” would presumably be a reference to the realities of war and politics; death and defeat.(Alter)

Book of Jashar: The only other reference to this book is Joshua 10:13. “Yashar” might be either a noun or adjective “Upright”, or a verb, “Singing, Songs”. (Alter, BBCOT)

Ordering Judah’s men to learn this dirge fulfills in part atleast David’s promise not to let Saul and Jonathan’s names wiped out. It glorifies and preserves the memory of Israel’s first royal line deals with national issues of war, death, and loss. (Bergen)

2 Sam 1:19
Glory/Gazelle found in different translations here are from the same Hebrew word “sebi” and is plainly a purposeful double meaning.(Alter)

2 Sam 1:20
Gath– From ISBE: “gath (גּת, gath; Septuagint Γέθ, Géth, “winepress”): One of the five chief cities of the Philistines (Jos_13:3; 1Sa_6:17). It was a walled town (2Ch_26:6) and was not taken by Joshua, and, although many conflicts took place between the Israelites and its people, it does not seem to have been captured until the time of David (1Ch_18:1). It was rendered famous as the abode of the giant Goliath whom David slew (1Sa_17:4), and other giants of the same race (2Sa_21:18-22). It was to Gath that the Ashdodites conveyed the ark when smitten with the plague, and Gath was also smitten (1Sa_5:8, 1Sa_5:9). It was Gath where David took refuge twice when persecuted by Saul (1Sa_21:10; 1Sa_27:2-4). It seems to have been destroyed after being taken by David, for we find Rehoboam restoring it (2Ch_11:8). It was after this reoccupied by the Philistines, for we read that Uzziah took it and razed its walls (2Ch_26:6), but it must have been restored again, for we find Hazael of Damascus capturing it (2Ki_12:17). It seems to have been destroyed before the time of Amos (Amo_6:2), and is not further mentioned in the Old Testament or Macc, except in Mic_1:10, where it is referred to in the proverb, “Tell it not in Gath” (compare 2Sa_1:20). Since its destruction occurred, probably, in the middle of the 8th century bc, it is easy to understand why the site has been lost so that it can be fixed only conjecturally.”

Actually, Gath is currently identified with Tell Es Safi, and is even now being excavated by Aren Meir.

Ashkelon–From ISBE:”Ashkelon ask´ke-lon, esh´ka-lon, as´ke-lon (the King James Version Eshkalon, (Eshkalonites; Jos_13:3); Askelon, (Jdg_1:18; 1Sa_6:17; 2Sa_1:20); אשׁקלון, ‘ashḳelōn; modern Askelan): A maritime town between Jaffa and Gaza, one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. The Ashkelonites are mentioned by Joshua (Jos_13:3), and the city was taken by the tribe of Judah (Jdg_1:18). One of the golden tumors (the King James Version “emerods”) sent back with the ark by the Philistines was from Ashkelon (1Sa_6:17). David couples Ashkelon with Gath in his lament over Saul and Jonathan (2Sa_1:20) indicating its importance, and it is joined with Gaza, Ashdod and Ekron in the denunciations of Amos (Amo_1:7, Amo_1:8). It is referred to in a similar way by Jeremiah (Jer_25:20; Jer_47:5, Jer_47:7). Zephaniah (Zep_2:4, Zep_2:7) speaks of the desolation of Ashkelon and Zechariah announces the fear of Ashkelon on the destruction of Tyre (Zec_9:5). The city is mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, and a certain Yitia is referred to as king. It revolted against Rameses II and was subdued, and we have mention of it as being under the rule of Assyria. Tiglath-pileser III names it among his tributaries, and its king, Mitinti, is said to have lost his reason when he heard of the fall of Damascus in 732 bc. It revolted in the reign of Sennacherib and was punished, and remained tributary to Assyria until the decay of that power. In Maccabean times we learn of its capture by Jonathan (1 Macc 10:86; 11:60, the Revised Version (British and American) “Ascalon”). Herod the Great was born there (BJ, III, ii, 1ff). In the 4th century ad it was the seat of a bishopric. It became subject to the Moslems in the 7th century and was taken by the Crusaders. It was taken in 1187 by Saladin, who dismantled it in 1191 to make it useless to Richard of England, into whose hands it was expected to fall. Richard restored it the next year but it was again destroyed by Saladin. It was an important fortress because of its vicinity to the trade route between Syria and Egypt.”

2 Sam 1:20
Philistine daughters rejoice: Even today in many cultures it is the women’s role to celebrate victories won by the men.

Uncircumcised: Many ANE cultures practiced circumcision, but not the Philistines. Still, the term is less about physical realities than ethnic identification. Circumcision was a major sign of Israelites’ obedience to their covenant with God, so it served as shorthand for identification of Jews and non-Jews.(BBCOT)

The exact meaning of this verse eludes me. Is David telling the Philistines not to rejoice in victory lest they anger the Israelites, and/or telling the Israelites not to give comfort to the Philistines by speaking of Israel’s loss?

2 Sam 1:21
Hills of Gilboa: David calling for the area where Saul and Jonathan died to be barren is in order that it serve as a physical monument to their death. Gilboa is only ever spoken of in the OT in connection with Saul (1 Sam 28:4, 31:1-8; 2 Sam 1:6, 21:12, 1 Chr 10:1,8). (Alter, Bergen, BBCOT)

unanointed shield: Israelite shields at this time were made of wood, with leather stretched over them and even metal plates attached in some cases. Oil was used to clean the blood from the shields, keeping the metal plates rust free and/or keeping the leather supple. (Alter, BBCOT)

Shield can refer to both the defensive weapon and a human defender, and the reference to anointing with oil invokes samuel’s anointing as king.(Bergen)

2 Sam 1:22
David here praises Saul and Jonathan’s military prowess, identifying Jonathan with his bow and Saul with his sword, both of which defended Israel as good leaders of ancient times would, in battle.(Bergen)

2 Sam 1:23
they were not parted in life or death: Hard to know what exactly David meant by this, other than to praise Saul and Jonathan for working together for Israel. In actual fact Saul and Jonathan were plainly at odds often, specifically over David, and Saul nearly killed Jonathan twice. (Alter)

2 Sam 1:24
who clothed, who decked: This is praise for the economic effect of Saul’s reign, which allowed Israel’s women to wear better clothes and jewelry, likely because Saul’s opened trade routes to Israel by keeping the Philistines at bay.(BBCOT)

2 Sam 1:25
“How the mighty have fallen” is repeated, beginning a new section, mourning Jonathan alone. David’s grief is shown by here by the fact that he himself mourns, rather than telling Israel’s women to mourn. (Bergen)

2 Sam 1:26
In a warrior, male-dominated culture such as ancient Israel, it is not surprising to see David extolling his relationship with Jonathan above his relationship with women. Ancient marriages were arranged, seeking an increase in wealth or influence, or at least the creation of a large family of sons who could support the family unit. Romance was a byproduct of ancient marriage, not a primary purpose.

Jonathan was David’s brother by marriage and by mutual affection and affinities.

It is also useful to remember David is using hyperbole throughout this lament to honor the dead.(Bergen, Alter)

2 Sam 1:27
Third repetition of refrain, “How the mighty are fallen”, signaling final section.

weapons of war: “perished” is the typical translation of the weapons’ fate here, but it seems David is using an image a broken sword and bow to symbolize Saul and Jonathan’s death, so perhaps “destroyed” or “lost” is more appropriate.

2 Sam 2:1
Apparently with the addition of Abiathar the high priest David began the practice of consulting God in major decisions, through use of the ephod’s urim and thummim. (1 Sam 23:9-12, 30:7-8)

From ISBE:”Urim and Thummim ū´rim and thum´im (והתּמּים האוּרים, hā-‘ūrīm weha-tummīm (article omitted in Ezr_2:63; Neh_7:65); perhaps “light and perfection,” as intensive plurals):
1. Definition:
Articles not specifically described, placed in (next to, or on (Hebrew ‘el; Septuagint epí; Samaritan-Hebrew ‛al)) the high priest’s breastplate, called the “breast-plate of decision” (English Versions of the Bible, “judgment”). (Exo_28:30; Lev_8:8). Their possession was one of the greatest distinctions conferred upon the priestly family (Deu_33:8; Ecclesiasticus 45:10), and seems to have been connected with the function of the priests as the mouthpiece of Yahweh, as well as with the ceremonial side of the service (Exo_28:30; compare Arabic kahīn, “soothsayer”).

2. Use in the Old Testament:
Through their use, the nature of which is a matter of conjecture, the divine will was sought in national crises, and apparently the future foretold, guilt or innocence established, and, according to one theory, land divided (Bābhā’ Bathrā’ 122a; Sanhedrin 16a). Thus, Joshua was to stand before Eleazar who was to inquire for him after the judgment (decision) of the Urim (Num_27:21). It seems that this means was employed by Joshua in the matter of Achan (Jos_7:14, Jos_7:18) and overlooked in the matter of the Gibeonites (Jos_9:14). Though not specifically mentioned, the same means is in all probability referred to in the accounts of the Israelites consulting Yahweh after the death of Joshua in their warfare (Jdg_1:1, Jdg_1:2; Jdg_20:18, Jdg_20:26-28). The Danites in their migration ask counsel of a priest, perhaps in a similar manner (Jdg_18:5, Jdg_18:7). It is not impossible that even the prophet Samuel was assisted by the Urim in the selection of a king (1Sa_10:20-22).

During Saul’s war with the Philistines, he made inquiry of God with the aid of the priest (1Sa_14:36, 1Sa_14:37), Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who at that time wore the ephod (1Sa_14:3). Although on two important occasions Yahweh refused to answer Saul through the Urim (1Sa_14:37; 1Sa_28:6), it appears (from the Septuagint version of 1Sa_14:41; see below) that he Used the Urim and Thummim successfully in ascertaining the cause of the divine displeasure.

The accusation of Doeg and the answer of the high priest (1Sa_22:10, 1Sa_22:13, 1Sa_22:15) suggest that David began to inquire of Yahweh through the priesthood, even while he was an officer of Saul. After the massacre of the priests in Nob, Abiathar fled to the camp of David (1Sa_22:20), taking with him the ephod (including apparently the Urim and Thummim, 1Sa_23:6) which David used frequently during his wanderings (1Sa_23:2-4, 1Sa_23:9-12; 1Sa_30:7, 1Sa_30:8), and also after the death of Saul (2Sa_2:1; 2Sa_5:19, 2Sa_5:23; 2Sa_21:1).

After the days of David, prophecy was in the ascendancy, and, accordingly, we find no clear record of the use of the Urim and Thummim in the days of the later kings (compare, however, Hos_3:4; Ecclesiasticus 33:3). Still, in post-exilic times we find the difficult question of the ancestral right of certain priests to eat of the most holy things reserved till there would stand up a priest with Urim and with Thummim (Ezr_2:63; Neh_7:65; 1 Esdras 5:40; Ṣōtāh 48b).

3. Older (Traditional) Views:
Though Josephus sets the date for the obsolescence of the Urim and Thummim at 200 years before his time, in the days of John Hyrcanus (Ant., III, viii, 9), the Talmud reckons the Urim and Thummim among the things lacking in the second Temple (Ṣōtāh 9 10; Yōmā’ 21b; Yeru Ḳid. 65b). Both Josephus and the Talmud identify the Urim and Thummim with the stones of the breastplate. The former simply states that the stones shone whenever the shekhīnāh was present at a sacrifice or when the army proceeded to battle.

“God declared beforehand by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God’s being present for their assistance” (Ant., III, viii, 9).

The Talmudic explanation suggests that by the illumination of certain letters the divine will was revealed, and that in order to have a complete alphabet, in addition to the names of the tribes, the breastplate bore the names of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. and the words shibhṭē yeshūrun. A later scholar even suggests that the letters moved from their places to form words (Yōmā’ 73a,b). Characteristically enough the Talmud prescribes rules and suggestions for the consultation of the non-existing Urim and Thummim: that the one asking must be a man of public importance, that the question must pertain to the public weal; that the priest must face the shekhīnāh (west); that one question be asked at a time, and so forth (same place).

It is difficult to tell just how much, if anything, of a lingering tradition is reflected in the view that the Urim and Thummim and stones of the breast-plate were identical. In the absence of other ancient clues, however, it is not safe to reject even the guesses of the Jews of the second temple in favor of our own. We do not even know the meaning of the word ḥōshen, so confidently translated “pouch” or “receptacle” by opponents of the older view, without any basis whatever. On the other hand the theory of identification was widespread. Even Philo leans toward it in his De Monarchia, although in his Vita Mosis (iii) he seems to have in mind two small symbols representing Light and Truth embroidered on the cloth of the ḥōshen or hung round the neck of the high priest, similar to the Egyptian symbol of justice. Another very old view is that the Urim and Thummim consisted of a writing containing the Ineffable Name (Pseudo-Jonathan on Exo_28:20; compare Rashi and Nachmanides at the place).

4. Recent (Critical) Views:
The view most generally held today is that the Urim and Thummim were two sacred lots, one indicating an affirmative or favorable answer, the other a negative or unfavorable answer (Michaelis, Ewald, Wellhausen, Robertson Smith, Driver, G. F. Moore, Kennedy, Muss-Arnolt). The chief support of this view is found, not in the Massoretic Text, but in the reconstruction by Wellhausen and Driver of 1Sa_14:41 ff on the basis of the Septuagint: “If this fault be in me or in Jonathan, my son, give Urim (dós dḗlous), and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim (dós hosiótēta).” The following sentence clearly suggests the casting of lots, possibly lots on which the names of Saul and Jonathan were written, and “Jonathan” was taken. Efforts have been made to support the view that the Urim and Thummim themselves were sacred lots on the basis of analogous customs among other peoples (e.g. pre-Islamic Arabs (Moore in EB) andBabylonians (W. Muss-Arnolt in Jewish Encyclopedia and AJSL, July, 1900)).

 It must be borne in mind, however, that whatever the lot-theory has to recommend it, it is inconsistent not only with the post-Biblical traditions, but also with the Biblical data. For those who are not inclined to give much weight to the passages connecting the Urim and Thummim with the high priest’s apparel (Exo_28:30; Lev_8:8, both “P”), there is of course no difficulty in dissociating the two, in spite of the fact that for the use of this system of divination the one thing necessary in the historical passages on which they rely seems to be the ephod. Still, if we are to think of two lots, one called and possibly marked “Urim” and the other “Thummim,” it is difficult to get any meaning from the statement (1Sa_14:37; 1Sa_28:6) that Yahweh did not answer Saul on certain occasions, unless indeed we surmise for the occasion the existence of a third nameless blank lot. A more serious difficulty arises from the fact that the answers ascribed to the Urim and Thummim are not always the equivalent of “yes” or “no” (compare Jdg_1:2; Jdg_20:18; 1Sa_22:10; 2Sa_5:23; 2Sa_21:1), even if we omit from consideration the instances where an individual is apparently pointed out from all Israel (compare the instances of the detection of Achan and the selection of Saul with that of Jonathan, above).

5. Etymology:
If we turn to etymology for assistance, we are not only on uncertain ground, but when Babylonian and other foreign words are brought in to bolster up a theory abput anything so little understood as the Urim and Thummim, we are on dangerous ground. Thus, Muss-Arnolt is ready with Babylonian words (urtu, “command,” and tamītu, “oracular decision”); others suggest tmē, the Egyptian image of justice; still others connect Urim with ‘ārar, to curse,” in order to make it an antonym of tummīm, “faultlessness.” It is generally admitted, however, that, as pointed in the Massoretic Text, the words mean “light” and “perfection,” on the basis of which the Talmud (Yōmā’ 73b) as well as most of the Greek versions translated them (dḗlōsis kaí alḗtheia; phōtismoí kaí teleiótētes), although Symmachus in one place (Deu_33:8), who is followed by the Vulgate, connects Urim with the word Tōrāh and understands it to mean “doctrine” (teleiótēs kaí didachḗ). Though loth to add to the already overburdened list of conjectures about these words, it appears to the present writer that if Urim and Thummim are antonyms, and Urim means “light,” it is by no means difficult to connect Thummim with darkness, inasmuch as there is a host of Hebrew stems based on the root -tm, all indicating concealing, closing up, and even darkness (compare אטם, חטם, חתם, עתם, טמה, טמן (see Job_40:13), סתם and תמם even and cognate Arabic words in BDB). This explanation would make Urim and Thummim mean “illuminated” and “dark” (compare Caster in Hastings, ERE, IV, 813), and, while fitting well with the ancient theories or traditions, would not be excluded by the recent theory of lots of opposite purport.”

2 Sam 1:1

David’s city at this time was Ziklag, a Philistine- held border city given him by Achish, king of Gath. It was plainly too close to Philistine territory for the comfort of a new Israelite king. (Alter)

From ISBE: “Ziklag zik´lag (צקלג, ciḳelagh, צקלג, ciḳelāgh (2Sa_1:1), ציקלג, cīḳelagh (1Ch_12:1, 1Ch_12:20); usually in the Septuagint Σεκελάκ, Sekelák, or Σικελάγ, Sikelág): A town assigned (Jos_19:5; 1Ch_4:30) to Simeon, but in Jos_15:31 named, between Hornah and Madmannah, as one of the cities of the Negeb of Judah, “toward the border of Edom.” It is said (1Sa_27:6) to have remained a royal city. In Neh_11:28 it is in the list of towns reinhabited by the returning children of Judah. Its chief associations are with David. Achish the Philistine king of Gath gave it to David as a residence (1Sa_27:6 f; 1Ch_12:1, 1Ch_12:20); it was raided by the Amalekites, on whom David took vengeance and so recovered his property (1Sa_30:14, 1Sa_30:26); here the messenger who came to announce Saul’s death was slain (2Sa_1:1; 2Sa_4:10). The site of this important place is not yet fixed with certainty; Conder proposed Zucheilīka, a ruin 11 miles South-Southeast of Gaza, and 4 miles North of Wâdy es-Sherī‛ă, which may be the “Brook Besor” (1Sa_30:9, 1Sa_30:10, 1Sa_30:21); Rowland (1842) proposed ‛Aslūj, a heap of ruins South of Beersheba and 7 miles to the East of Bered. Neither site is entirely satisfactory.”

From ISBE: “Hebron hē´brun (חברון, ḥebhrōn, “league” or “confederacy”; Χεβρών, Chebrō̇n): One of the most ancient and important cities in Southern Palestine, now known to the Moslems as el Khalîl (i.e. Khalîl er Rahmān, “the friend of the Merciful,” i.e. of God, a favorite name for Abraham; compare Jam_2:23). The city is some 20 miles South of Jerusalem, situated in an open valley, 3,040 ft. above sea-level.

I. History of the City
Hebron is said to have been founded before Zoan (i.e. Tanis) in Egypt (Num_13:22); its ancient name was Kiriath-arba, probably meaning the “Four Cities,” perhaps because divided at one time into four quarters, but according to Jewish writers so called because four patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Adam were buried there. According to Jos_15:13 it was so called after Arba, the father of Anak.

1. Patriarchal Period: Abram came and dwelt by the oaks of MAMRE (which see), “which are in Hebron” Gen (Gen_13:18); from here he went to the rescue of Lot and brought him back after the defeat of Chedorlaomer (Gen_14:13 f); here his name was changed to Abraham (Gen_17:5); to this place came the three angels with the promise of a son (Gen_18:1 f); Sarah died here (Gen_23:2), and for her sepulcher Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah (Gen_23:17); here Isaac and Jacob spent much of their lives (Gen_35:27; Gen_37:14); from here Jacob sent Joseph to seek his brethren (Gen_37:14), and hence, Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt (Gen_46:1). In the cave of Machpelah all the patriarchs and their wives, except Rachel, were buried (Gen_49:30 f; Gen_50:13).

2. Times of Joshua and Judges: The spies visited Hebron and near there cut the cluster of grapes (Num_13:22 f). HOHAM (which see), king of Hebron, was one of the five kings defeated by Joshua at Beth-horon and slain at Makkedah (Jos_10:3 f). Caleb drove out from Hebron the “Three sons of Anak” (Jos_14:12; Jos_15:14); it became one of the cities of Judah (Jos_15:54), but was set apart for the Kohathite Levites (Jos_21:10 f), and became a city of refuge (Jos_20:7). One of Samson’s exploits was the carrying of the gate of Gaza “to the top of the mountain that is before Hebron” (Jdg_16:3).

3. The Days of the Monarchy
David, when a fugitive, received kindness from the people of this city (1Sa_30:31); here Abner was treacherously slain by Joab at the gate (2Sa_3:27), and the sons of Rimmon, after their hands and feet had been cut off, were hanged “beside the pool” (2Sa_4:12). After the death of Saul, David was here anointed king (2Sa_5:3) and reigned here 7 1/2 years, until he captured Jerusalem and made that his capital (2Sa_5:5); while here, six sons were born to him (2Sa_3:2). In this city Absalom found a center for his disaffection, and repairing there under pretense of performing a vow to Yahweh, he raised the standard of revolt (2Sa_15:7 f). Josephus mistakenly places here the dream of Solomon (Ant., VIII, ii, 1) which occurred at Gibeon (1Ki_3:4). Hebron was fortified by Rehoboam (2Ch_11:10).

4. Later History
Probably during the captivity Hebron came into the hands of Edom, though it appears to have been colonized by returning Jews (Neh_11:25); it was recovered from Edom by Simon Maccabeus (1 Macc 5:65; Josephus, Ant, XII, viii, 6). In the first great revolt against Rome, Simon bar-Gioras captured the city (BJ, IV, ix, 7), but it was retaken, for Vespasian, by his general Cerealis who carried it by storm, slaughtered the inhabitants and burnt it (ibid., 9).

During the Muslim period Hebron has retained its importance on account of veneration to the patriarchs, especially Abraham; for the same reason it was respected by the Crusaders who called it Castellum ad Sanctum Abraham. In 1165 it became the see of a Latin bishop, but 20 years later it fell to the victorious arms of Saladin, and it has ever since remained a fanatic Moslem center, although regarded as a holy city, alike by Moslem, Jew and Christian.”

There are several reasons Hebron was an excellent choice for David’s new headquarters city:
1. Largest city of the region: Important since David was bringing six hundred men and their families with him, perhaps as many as a thousand new residents.
2. City of refuge (Josh 21:13): It was set side as a haven city for accused murderers, which doubtless many of David’s opponents suspected of David in the death of Saul and his sons.
3. City set aside for the priesthood: Abiathar’s membership in David’s group doubtless helped the city accept David. (Bergen)

Hebron lies about twenty miles South of Jerusalem, and is a good location for a city due to over twenty springs in the area providing water. The archaeological site covers some twelve acres, seems to have been founded about 1200 BC, and shows signs of having enlarged and strengthened its fortifications in the archaeological period associated with David. (BBCOT)

2 Sam 2:3
The size of David’s following may have overwhelmed Hebron’s resources, so the men and their families also settled towns, which refers to the settlements located near Hebron, but outside its walls.(Bergen)

2 Sam 2:4a
The leaders of Judah, Southern Israel, anointed David, symbolizing David’s rule over Judah and the people’s acceptance of his rule. That still left the Northern portions of Israel to the Philistines and Ishbosheth. David was likely following a policy of slow steps to becoming king of all covenantal Israel.(Bergen, Alter)

2 Sam 2:4b
David learned of how the men of Jabesh-Gilead buried Saul and his sons, whose corpses the Philistines had put on public display on one of their city walls.(1 Sam 31:8-13). Saul had won Jabesh-Gilead’s loyalty at the beginning of his reign by leading them in victory against Nahash the Ammonite (1 Sam 11:1-11)(Bergen, BBCOT)

2 Sam 2:5-6
David sent messengers to the men who buried saul, saying their act of loving loyalty (Hebrew “hesed”) would be matched in response by God and David himself.

2 Sam 2:7
David calls for the men of Jabesh-Gilead to be strong and brave yet again, for Saul, to whom they were loyal even after his death , is dead, and David is now is anointed king of parts of Judah. Thus David is asking for them to recognize himself as their king. This has its shrewd political point. As some of Saul’s earliest and most devoted followers, the men of Jabesh-Gilead’s accceptance of David as king would go a long ways to legitimize his kingship in the rest of Israel’s eyes.(Bergen, Alter)

Kingship in Israel was historically a tribal, not national affair. Abimelech (Jud 9) was the first instance of this, and even in Saul’s reign there were parts of traditional Israelite territory that likely couldn’t support him for Philistine occupation or nearness. Now after Saul’s death and defeat at Gilboa, central Israel was likely dominated by the Philistines. Also, the area had historically been dominated by a city state form of government, not the larger nation form of their neighbors Egypt and Babylon. (BBCOT)

New Testament Text and Translation Commentary– Just Arrived

 Fifteen years in the making according to the Preface, Philip W. Comfort’s New Testament Text and Translation Commentary just arrived at my front door.  I’ve barely had a chance to glance at it, but I can already say it will fill a needed niche on the bookshelves of “serious Bible readers” whose Greek and/or textual criticism knowledge is weak.

In nine hundred twenty four pages Comfort lays out the basics of textual criticism, the significant Greek witnesses, the significant Greek New Testaments, the significant English translations, a brief glossary of textual criticism terms, and a discussion of the value of current theories of textual criticism.

The actual commentary takes up eight hundred eighty-three pages of the nine hundred twenty four, and includes multiple variants in Greek text, English translation of the variants, Greek manuscript witnesses,  listings of which English versions follow which variants, and a discussion of the variants. The section on Acts of the Apostles includes a translation of the Western text.

I shall be examining the book more in coming days, but I foresee quoting it often in my notes, beginning in December when Lifeway switches to the study of Thessalonians. It seems an excellent one stop reference.  

Now is there a brave soul willing to do something like this for the Old Testament? OT textual criticism has far less reference materials for the Hebrew/text criticism impaired. In fact my first thought is the NET Bible is maybe your best quick reference that way.

UPDATE: Bill Warren gives a shout-out and brief assessment of the book at Evangelical Textual Criticism here.