Copyright © 1958 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
THE HA-BI-RU--KIN OR FOE
MEREDITH G. KLINE
II. Ha-BI-ru--HEBREW RELATIONS
A fascination with the possibilities of illuminating Hebrew
origins has characterized studies of the ha-BI-ru. As observed
at the outset, popular theory has it that the Hebrews were
one offshoot of the ha-BI-ru. This theory may start with
the supposition that the ha-BI-ru were a social class or an
ethnic group. Although some form of either approach can be
developed without the assumption that the terms ha-BI-ru
and 'Ibri can be equated phonetically or at least semantically
they are greatly strengthened if such equation can be estab-
lished. It is necessary in this connection to survey the usage
of 'Ibrim in the Old Testament and to face the question of
the phonetic relation of ha-BI-ru and 'Ibri.
A. The Usage of 'Ibrim in the Old Testament.
Support for the view that the term ha-BI-ru denotes a
larger whole from which the biblical Hebrews originated has
been claimed in the usage of the term 'Ibrim in the Old
Testament. There is no doubt that the gentilic 'Ibri is
ordinarily used in the Old Testament as an ethnicon for
Abraham and his descendants of the Isaac-Jacob line.178 In a
178 The word is found almost exclusively in a few clusters which suggests
that particular circumstances account for its employment. One such
group appears in the narrative of the Egyptian sojourn and bondage; a
second in the record of Israelite-Philistine relationships during the days of
Samuel and Saul; and a third in a series of texts dealing with the manumis-
sion of Hebrew servants. There are besides only the isolated appearances
in Genesis 14:13 and Jonah 1:9. The great majority of these are instances
of non-Israelites speaking to or about Israelites, or of Israelites speaking to
foreigners, or of declarations of God destined for foreigners. Where it is
few passages, however, some have judged that 'Ibrim is used
in a non-Israelite or even appellative sense and that in such
texts an original, wider (i. e., ha-BI-ru) connotation emerges.
These passages must be examined.
1. The 'Ebed 'Ibri Legislation.
In the legislation of Exod. 21:2 and Deut. 15:12 and in
the references to these laws in Jer. 34:9, 14 the term Ibri has
been thought to denote not the ethnic character of the servant
but a particular variety of servanthood. J. Lewy develops
this theory on the basis of his interpretation of the term
ha-Bl-ru in the Nuzu contracts as an appellative meaning
"foreign-servant", and his judgment that the parallels between
the status of the ha-BI-ru servants and the 'ebed Ibri of
Exod. 21:2 (and the associated passages) are so close and
numerous as to indicate identical institutions and identity
of meaning for ha-BI-ru and 'Ibri.179
the Israelite author who employs the term he is often adapting his ter-
minology to the usage in the context. In several passages a contrast is
drawn between Israelites and other ethnic groups.
It has been suggested that Ibri uniformly possesses a peculiar connota-
tion. For example, DeVaux (RB 55, 1948, pp. 344 ff.) maintains that it
has a derogatory nuance and finds the common element in the fact that
the 'Ibrim are strangers in the milieu, while Kraeling (AJSL 58, 1941
pp. 237 ff.) suggests that 'Ibri is an alternate for "Israelite" in situations
where the designee is not a free citizen in a free community or on free soil.
The latter formulation seems to be successful in unravelling a strand
common to all the 'Ibri contexts but it remains uncertain whether such a
nuance necessarily attached to the employment of the word. Cf. Green-
berg, op. cit., p. 92.
179 HUCA XIV, 1939, pp. 587 ff.; XV, 1940, pp. 47 ff. Cf. his note in
Bottero, op. cit., pp. 163-4, where he translates ha-BI-ru as "resident
alien". Lewy supports his thesis with the considerations that the ha-BI-ru
are present in the Mitannian orbit in the period during which the 'Ibrim
became a nation and that the whole area in question had been unified
under the Hyksos with the result that the same technical terms and
analogous institutions are found throughout. He holds that this social-
legal appellative usage of Ibri represents the earliest stage (noting its
appearance in the first paragraph of
that later the term was used in an ethnic sense for the descendants of the
"Hebrews par excellence". Cf. supra WTJ XIX, pp. 183, 184.
But is the situation on the Nuzu side clearly as Lewy has
reconstructed it? There are texts180 in which the person(s)
concerned is not designated as an ha-BI-ru and
tial clauses of the contract are those characteristic of the
contracts where the persons are labeled as ha-BI-ru. It is,
therefore, difficult to insist that we are dealing with a specif-
ically ha-BI-ru type of servanthood.181 While, therefore,
ha-BI-ru are found in the great majority of these contracts,
they are not necessarily involved in all of them,182 and one
may not assume then the existence in the Nuzu area of a
specifically ha-BI-ru brand of slavery.
Moreover, even if Lewy's view of the Nuzu evidence were
to be adopted, the biblical evidence would contradict the
translation of Ibri as "foreign-servant" in the ebed Ibri
legislation. For the biblical law is patently not dealing with
foreign servants but with those who were their masters'
brethren. The Deut. 15:12 expansion of the original state-
ment reads, "If thy brother183 a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew
woman, be sold unto thee"; while Jeremiah, further expanding
it urges "that every man should let go free his man-servant
and every man his maid-servant, that is a Hebrew or He-
brewess ; that none should make bondmen of them, namely,
of a Jew, his brother" (34:9, cf. vs. 14). While one may then
recognize the instructive parallels in the conditions of servant-
hood at Nuzu and in the biblical legislation, it is impossible
to hold that Ibri is in this legislation a technical term for a
180 JEN VI, 610, 611, 613 (cf. JEN V, 456:9-23); JEN V, 446, 449,
457 and 462.
181 An alternate interpretation has been advocated in the present study.
See supra WTJ XIX, pp. 179, 180, 183, 184.
182 Especially relevant is the figure of Attilammu the Assyrian in the
servant contract JEN VI, 613:2. Even when this text in abbreviated form
is included in the Sammelurkunde JEN V, 456 between two contracts in
which the persons are specifically designated as ha-BI-ru (i. e., in a situation
where there would be a tendency to uniformity), Attilammu is not
described as an ha-BI-ru. It is further to be observed in connection with
the use of as-su-ra-a-a-u for Attilammu in JEN VI, 613 that when ha-BI-ru
from Ashur are so described it is as sa-mat as-su-ur.
183 Note the clear distinction drawn in verse 3 between "the foreigner"
and "thy brother" in the law of the seventh year release with respect
specific type of servanthood184 and least of all for the
idea of "foreign-servant". Its usage is rather ethnic, as
2. The Ibrim in I Samuel 13 and 14.
It has been affirmed that the 'Ibrim here (cf. 13:3, 7, 19;
14:11, 21) are quite clearly non-Israelites.185 The proper
interpretation of these verses is, indeed, difficult; nevertheless,
to distinguish between the Ibrim and the Israelites would
be at odds with the decisive evidence in this context of their
identity. Thus, in 13:3, 4, Myrib;fihA and lxerAW;yi-lkA are obvious
equivalents (cf. Ufm;wA lxerAW;yi-lkAv; :Myrib;fihA Ufm;w;yi).186 More-
over, it is apparently in reference to the hiding of those de-
scribed in 13:6 as the "men of
"Behold, the Ibrim are coming out of the holes where they had
hid themselves" (14:11b). Again, the equivalence of Myrib;fihA
with the inhabitants lxerAW;yi Cr,x, lkoB; and with lxerAW;yi-lkA
in 13:19, 20 is evident.
To find, then, in the Ibrim of 13:7 a group ethnically
distinct from the "men of
the term Ibrim a change from its contextual significance too
abrupt to be plausible. Verses 6 and 7 are concerned with
two groups of Israelites. Verse 6 refers to those excused by
Saul from military service (cf. vs. 2).187 These hide in the
hills and caves west of
the selected troops who were with Saul at Gilgal near the
184 The 'ebed in the phrase ebed Ibri (Exod. 21:2) would then be tau-
tological, and Alt feels obliged to exscind it from the text.
185 Cf. e. g., A. Guillaume, PEQ, 1946, p. 68.
186 The LXX rendering of the end of verse 3, h]qeth<kasin oi[ dou?loi
(as though the Hebrew were Myrbfh vfwp) seems to be a conjectural emenda-
tion occasioned by the fact that Myrib;fihA comes somewhat unexpectedly
on the lips of Saul.
187 13:4b does not describe a regathering of those sent home but simply
indicates the new location of Saul and his chosen army at Gilgal.
188 There were originally 3000 chosen by Saul (13:2), but after the
approach of the Philistines in force and Samuel's delay there were only
600 left (13:11, 15; 14:2).
In 14:21 it is not necessary to follow the English versions in
regarding the Ibrim as men who had been serving in the
Philistine army. Even if such a translation were adopted, it
would still be gratuitous to identify these Ibrim as non-
Israelites for they might be Israelite turn-coats.
But verse 21 may be translated : "Now the Hebrews were
towards the Philistines as formerly when189 they went up
with them in the camp round about;190 both they were with
the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan and...".
The antecedent of Mm.Afi, "with them", appears to be "Saul
and all the people (or army)" of verse 20. Another possibility
is to regard "the Philistines" as the antecedent of "them"
but to translate the preposition "against".191 In either case
this passage would contain no mention of Ibrim as having
served in Philistine forces. Verses 21 and 22 rather distinguish
as two elements swelling the unexpectedly triumphant rem-
nants of Saul's army those who had deserted after being
selected by Saul to encamp against the Philistines (vs. 21)
and those who, after being dismissed by Saul,192 were fright-
ened into hiding by the alarming course of the conflict (vs. 22).
This distinction in 14:21, 22 is the same as that found in
13:6, 7a. Indeed, the terminology in the two passages is
deliberately made to correspond. Ibrim is used in both
and 14:21 for the deserters; and "men of
13:6 and 14:22 for the people who hid in the hill-country of
Ephraim. The Ibrim of 14:21 will then be the deserting
soldiers of Saul who had crossed over193
resume their former position in the Israelite ranks against
189 Cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old
190 Is this an allusion to the circumstance that the original three Israelite
garrison at Geba? If the Massoretic text and accentuation (bybisA) stand,
the next clause will be a pseudo-verbal construction (as translated above).
The LXX and Syraic would read MGa Ubb;sA, "they also turned", which would
provide a parallel to Mga UqB;d;y.ava (vs. 22).
191 Cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, op. cit., under Mfi lc.
192 For a similar military development see Judg. 7:3-7, 23, 24.
193 The use of Urb;fA. in 13:7a suggests the possibility of Myrib;fohAv;, "those
who passed over", as the original in 14:21 (cf. the participle, MyxiB;Hat;mi.ha,
3. Abraham the Ibri (Gen. 14:13).
Is Ibri in this its earliest biblical appearance used eth-
nically? This question may be dealt with in connection with
an inquiry into the origin of the term Ibri. Broad contextual
considerations indicate that in his use of Ibri in Gen. 14:13,
the author had in mind Eber of the line of Shem (cf. Gen.
10:21, 24, 25; 11:14-i 7).194 The direct descent of Abraham
from Eber had already been traced in the genealogy of
Gen. 11:10-26. Moreover, the departure from the stereotyped
presentation of the genealogical data in Gen. 10 to describe
Shem as "the father of all the children of Eber" (vs. 21)195
is most readily accounted for as an anticipation of the author's
imminent concentration (cf. Gen. 11:27 ff.) upon the Semitic
Eberites par excellence, i. e., the "Hebrews" whom Yahweh
chose to be the channel of revelation and redemption. In
Gen. 14:13 then, Ibri is a patronymic, applied in this isolated
way to Abraham perhaps to contrast him with the many other
ethnic elements which play a role in this context.
On the other hand, many regard this usage of Ibri as
appellative and then find their interpretations of the term
ha-BI-ru reflected in it.196 The appellative view is ancient,
for the LXX renders yrib;fihA as o[
perai~thj; Jerome, as transeuphratensis; and the prevailing
view of the rabbis a generation after
in the corresponding member of 14:21). Such a change in the Massoretic
pointing would support a corresponding change to Myrib;fov; in 13:7a. If
the Massoretic Myrib;fiv;. is original, the author perhaps employed this
designation of the Israelites to produce a word play with Urb;fA.
194 yrib;fi (ibri) is the gentilic formation of rbAfa (eber).
195 Cf. also the additional remark in Gen. 10:25.
196 For example, W. F. Albright, JAOS 48, 1928, pp. 183 ff., once found
in both the idea of "mercenary"; and DeVaux, op. cit., pp. 337 ff., that of
"stranger". Kraeling, op. cit., held that Ibri is used to underscore Abra-
ham's role as a sojourner who pays tribute to Melchizedek.
197 Parzen, AJSL 49, pp. 254 ff., is mistaken in his opinion that the
LXX actually found rbfh in the Hebrew text. Noth, "Erwagungen zur
Hebraerfrage", in Festschrift Otto Procksch
probably correct in stating that the LXX translator simply regarded it as
desirable at this first appearance of Ibri to indicate what was, in his
opinion, its significance.
designated Abraham as "from the other side of the river".198
All of these derived 'Ibri from the substantive meaning "the
other side" rather than from the verb br.199 In line with this
view of the etymology is the emphasis in Joshua 24:2, 3 on
Abraham's origin "beyond the River". But these facts are
far from possessing the weight of the more immediate con-
textual considerations cited above. Here too then Ibri is
not appellative but ethnic.
It has appeared from this study that, the term 'Ibrim in
the Old Testament has uniformly an ethnic meaning and
denotes descendants of Eber in the line of Abraham-Isaac-
Jacob exclusively. Deriving from the eponymous ancestor
'Eber the term is probably early;200 in particular, its applica-
tion to Abraham need not be proleptic. To judge from
its characteristic association with foreigners in the biblical
contexts and the general avoidance of it by the Israelites,
it possibly originated outside the line of Abraham. Orig-
inally it may have been of wider application than is the
usage in the Old Testament, denoting other descendants of
Eber than the Abrahamites. This is perhaps suggested by
the use of 'Eber in Gen. 10:21 and Num. 24:24.201 In that
199 Greenberg, op. cit., p. 5, n. 24, directs attention to the evidence for
this in Beresit Rabba 42, 8. A minority opinion of the rabbis was that
Abraham was called the 'Ibri because he was a descendant of 'Eber.
199 This appears to be so even in the LXX, although later Patristic
writings in treating the LXX rendering derived it from a verbal base.
(cf. Greenberg, ibid.).
200 Kraeling, op. cit., offers the strange hypothesis that "Hebrews"
is a secondarily personalized form of a geographical name, i. e., "Overites"
from rhAnA.ha rbAfa adopted by the Israelites as late as the early monarchy in
an attempt to orientate themselves to the world in which they had just
become prominent. The usage would thus be that of the first millennium
even when applied to the Patriarchs. H. H. Rowley counters: (a) in the
early monarchy, consciousness of being from over the
apparent among the Hebrews; (b) the term disappeared almost completely
from the Old Testament with the establishment of the monarchy; (c) The
Israelites would hardly adopt as a symbol of self-esteem a term "generally
employed in a pejorative sense". PEQ, 1942, pp. 41-53; From Joseph to
Joshua, 1952, pp. 54-5; cf.
further O'Callaghan's criticism in
Naharaim p. 216, n. 4.
201 The validity of conclusions based on the tradition of descent from
case the appearance of such gentilic but non-Abrahamic
Ibrim in some non-biblical text of the patriarchal age need
not come altogether unexpectedly.
Do the ha-BI-ru qualify? According to the conclusions
already reached in this study concerning the probable ge-
ographical and ethnic origins of the ha-BI-ru they do not
qualify as Semitic let alone Eberite kin of the Hebrews.202
On the other hand, a final judgment on this larger issue is
Eber is challenged by DeVaux's contention (op. cit.) that there are diver-
gent views within the Old Testament. He grants that the composer(s)
of the biblical genealogies derives Ibri from the ancestor Eber, but finds
in the reference to Jacob as a "wandering Aramean" (Deut. 26:5) a
conflicting tradition of Aramaic origin (cf. Gen. 10:22-24). DeVaux
believes the latter to be further supported by the description of Laban,
grandson of Abraham's brother Nahor, as an "Aramean" (Gen. 31:20).
According to the record, however, the term "Aramean" could have been
applied to both Jacob and Laban in virtue of their long residence in
Paddan-aram and so construed would say nothing about their lineage.
DeVaux also insists, but unnecessarily, on identifying the Aram of Gen.
10:22 and the Aram of Gen. 22:21, which would then bring the two passages
into hopeless confusion. Finally, DeVaux appeals to the prophetic denun-
the land of the Canaanite; the Amorite was your father and the Hittite
your mother". Actually, as is apparent from the context (cf. especially
vss. 45 ff.), Ezekiel is using a scathing figure to say that from the first
relationship with Yahweh as were her despised heathen neighbors--the
point being that
of divine grace. But even if Ezekiel were speaking of literal racial inter-
mixture, the reference would be not to Abraham's family origins but to the
subsequent mingling of the racial strain of his descendants with those of
the inhabitants of
BI-ru were of common Aramaean descent. Starting with the notion that
the ha-BI-ru were desert nomads, DeVaux seeks to relate the ha-BI-ru
to the Aramaeans by a partial identification of them with proto-Aramaean
202 Greenberg, op. cit, pp. 93 ff., provides an example of how the biblical
usage of Ibrim can be regarded as consistently ethnic, and ha-BI-ru be
deemed an appellative for a social class, and yet the terms be equated
and the Hebrews derived from the ha-BI-ru. He suggests that Abraham
was an ha-BI-ru, but this epithet as applied to Abraham's descendants
became an ethnicon. Later biblical genealogists, unaware of this, invented
the ancestor 'Eber, man of many descendants, in order to explain at one
stroke the known kinship of the Hebrews to other Semitic tribes and the
origin of their name!
bound to be seriously affected by one's opinion on the phonetic
question of whether the term ha-BI-ru can be equated with
the term 'Ibri (and so be derived from 'Eber).203
B. Phonetic Relation of Ha-BI-ru to 'Ibri.
1. Consonants. The common cuneiform spelling of the name
is ha-BI-ru the final u being, according to the usual assump-
tion, the nominative case ending, which yields as the grammat-
ical relations require to other case or gentilic endings.204 In this
cuneiform rendering the identity of the first two radicals is
ambiguous. The initial consonant is ambiguous because
Accadian h may represent other letters than Hebrew H;205
among them, Hebrew f.206 The second is ambiguous because
203 In addition to the supposed phonetic equivalence of ha-BI-ru and
'Ibri, support has been sought for the derivation of the Hebrews from the
ha-BI-ru by appeal to certain parallels in the careers of the two. But the
similarities are for the most part superficial or based on misinterpretations
of the data on one side or the other. For a recent popular example see
H. H. Rowley From Joseph to Joshua, 1952, p. 53, n. 1. Items like the
following have been or might be mentioned: (a) In each case there is a
westward movement about the
demonstrated for the ha-BI-ru and, in the case of the Hebrews, it applies
not to the group as such but only to Abraham.) (b) The chronological
span of the use of the terms ha-BI-ru and 'Ibri is roughly the same. (c)
Both groups move in the Hurrian cultural orbit and exhibit the influence
of this fact. (d) The military activity of Abraham the Hebrew in Genesis
14 and the attack of Simeon and Levi on Shechem are comparable to
ha-BI-ru razzias. (But this involves a superficial estimate of both biblical
instances.) (e) The ha-BI-ru mercenary activity is paralleled by the
Hebrews in the Philistine army. (But this is a misinterpretation of the
biblical data.) (f) Both groups are in
(g) The ha-BI-ru are frequently strangers in the milieu and such are the
Hebrew patriarchs in
204 Cf. supra, WTJ XIX, pp. 9-11.
205 Indeed, as A. Ungnad observes, "Bisweilen wird h fur 3 gebraucht"
(Grammatik des Akkadischen, 1949, p. 9).
206 In the Canaanite glosses in the Tell el Amarna tablets are found, for
example: hu-ul-lu (EA 296:38) = lfo (cf. XXX) ; and hi-na-ia (EA 144:17) =
ynayfa (cf. XXXX). Cf. E. A. Speiser, Ethnic
Movements in the
the Second Millennium B.C., 1933, p. 39.
BI represents among other values that of pi as well as that
of bi in all periods of the cuneiform literature.
Further evidence is available, however, for in some cases
other signs of the cuneiform syllabary are used to write this
name and, moreover, the name has appeared in other systems
of writing, syllabic and alphabetic. From Ras Shamra207
comes the form 'prm written in the alphabetic cuneiform
common in texts from that site, in which the 'Ayin is distinct
from other gutturals and the b is distinct from p. This form
is, therefore, unambiguous. But the question has been raised
whether this form, in particular the second consonant, is
original or secondary. If the phonetic equivalence of 'prm
and 'Ibrim were to be maintained, the primacy of the p would
still he favored by the fact that Ugaritic often preserves a
more primitive Semitic form than does the Hebrew.208 On
the other hand there is evidence of an original b becoming p
In Egyptian hieroglyphics appears the form 'pr.w which
is also without ambiguity. But here again the question arises
as to whether the p is primary or secondary. It can be shown
that Egyptian p may represent foreign, including Semitic, b,
especially when the b is immediately preceded or followed by l
207 Virolleaud, Syria 21, 1940, p. 132, pl. 8 and p. 134, pl. 10.
208 So Kraeling, AJSL 58, 1941, pp. 237 ff. Cf. W. F. Albright, BASOR
77, 1940, pp. 32-3; DeVaux, RB 55, 1948, p. 342, n. 3. In an effort to
show that it is "quite possible that the isolated Ugaritic as well as the
Egyptian 'pr are secondary forms due to Hurrian influence" J. Lewy
observes that "the population of
that the Hurrians, wherever they appear, are responsible for a confusion in
the rendering of Semitic b and p because their scribes did not distinguish
between voiced and voiceless stops" (HUCA 15, 1940, p. 48, n. 7). C. H.
Gordon, however, informs me that the Ugaritic scribes who wrote the
tablets bearing 'prm carefully distinguish p and b. J. W. Jack (PEQ, 1940,
101) attributes the Ugaritic spelling to Egyptian
309 There are, e. g., the variants lbs/lps and nbk/npk. Cf. Greenberg,
op. cit., p. 90, n. 24. For evidence of confusion in Ugaritic between b
and p, and that in the very name ha-BI-ru, attention has been called to
the Ugaritic text 124:14, 15 (Gordon, Ugaritic Manual, 1955). Cf. Virol-
and H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua, 1950, p. 50. Actually, the
text has nothing to do with the ha-BI-ru or with the Hebrews (as suggested
or r.210 Such, however, is not the rule211, and, as Kraeling
observes,212 in the case of the 'pr.w, a people
itself, it is difficult to assume an error of hearing on the
part of the scribe.
The spelling ha-BIR-a-a is found twice in Babylonian
documents of the 12th and 11th centuries B.C.213 Commenting
on this form, B. Landsberger observes that "b nicht p als
mittlerer Radikal steht durch die Schreibung ha-bir-a-a (IV
R 34 Nr. 2, 5) fest".214 In signs, however, of the variety
consonant-vowel-consonant there is not only vocalic var-
iability but flexibility of both consonants within the limits of
210 For the evidence see B. Gunn apud Speiser, op. cit., p. 38, n. Cf. J. A.
Wilson, AJSL 49, 4, pp. 275 ff. W. F. Albright (JAOS 48, 1928, pp.
183 ff.) argues that the equation of Egyptian 'pr with 'eber is difficult
since Egyptian of the New Empire regularly transcribes Semitic b by
Egyptian b. As for Egyptian hrp for
it only shows there was the same tendency for a final vowelless sonant
stop following a consonant to become voiceless that there is in the modern
pronounced as a voiceless p. It should be noticed, however, that in some
instances of the use of Egyptian p for foreign b, the b is medial: thus,
isbr varies with ispr
("whip") and Kpn
(O. K. Kbn)
211 Gunn op. cit., p. 38, n.: "There are many cases (36 counted) in which
a foreign b with r or l either before or after it is represented by b and not
by p in the Egyptian writings".
the most straightforward equation is 'pr =rpf.
212 Op. cit., pp. 237 ff.
Cuneiform Inscriptions of
Hilprecht, Old Babylonian Inscriptions, I, 2, pl. 66, no. 149, 22.
214 ZA, N. F. 1, 1923, p. 214, n. 1.
215 See the remarks of C. H. Gordon, Orientalia 19, 1950, pp. 91 ff. There
is specific evidence that BIR was used (though not commonly) for pir in
the neo-Assyrian period and possibly (the evidence is doubtful) in the
middle-Assyrian period. Cf. Von Soden, Das Akkadische Syllabar, 1948,
p. 73, no. 237. Bottero, op. cit., p. 132 urges against reading pir here the
absence of specific Babylonian evidence for this value to date, plus the
availability of the sign UD (pir). However, he acknowledges (p. 156)
that this form is not decisive for a root 'br. It may be additionally noted
that J. Lewy in defense of reading the second radical as b appeals to the
occurrence of the god "dHa-bi-ru in an Assyrian text (Keilschrifttexte aus
Assur verschiedenen Inhalts, no. 42), i. e., in a text in which ha-bi-ru can
hardly stand for *ha-pi-ru" (HUCA 15, 1940, p. 48, n. 7). Bottero (op. cit.,
p. 135) agrees on the grounds that in the neo-Assyrian era one normally
By way of conclusion, there can be no doubt that the
Ugaritic and Egyptian forms of the name definitely require
that the consonant represented in the cuneiform syllable ha
be read as 'Ayin.216 They also strongly support an original p.
While there is a possibility that 'br is primary, it is highly
probable that 'pr is the original form. In fact, unless it can
be shown that ha-BI-ru is to be equated with the biblical
'Ibri there is no unquestionable evidence for 'br as even a
2. Vowels. That the first vowel is A-type and the second
is I-type is obvious from the cuneiform, ha-BI-ru;211 but it is
more difficult to determine the length of these vowels. This
question requires examination before one attempts to draw
conclusions concerning the possibilities of phonetic equation
used PI to signify pi. For evidence that BI = pi in all periods see Von
Soden, ibid., p. 53 no. 140. Also J. W. Jack states, "In the Hittite doc-
uments, for instance, habiru clearly has bi" (PEQ, 1940, p. 102). E.
Laroche (in Bottero, op. cit., p. 71, n. 2) argues, "D'apres le systeme en
usage a Boghazkoy, ha-bi-ri note une pronunciation habiri (sonore inter-
vocalique non geminee) ". But ha-ab-bi-ri appears twice. Moreover, P.
Sturtevant maintains that in cuneiform Hittite "the Akkadian distinction
between ... p and b did not exist", adding, "To all intents, therefore,
Hittite has dispensed with the means of writing b" (Comparative Grammar
of the Hittite Language, 1933, p. 66). Similarly, J. Friedrich, Hethitisches
Elementarbuch I, 1940,.p. 6(21). Accordingly, even the form ha-ab-bi-ri
(KBo V, 9, IV, 12) is quite ambiguous, as it would also be in Akkadian
cuneiform where AB stands in all periods for both ap and ab. Greenberg
(op. cit., p. 90, n. 20) suggests the possibility that a Hittite scribe utilized
a native convention, doubling the labial to indicate a sound heard by
him asp. Also ambiguous is the sign BAD (bi or pi) used in the Alishar text.
2,6 Cf. Bottero, op. cit., p. 154.
217 Speiser (op. cit., p. 40), writing at a time when he did not have the
benefit of the Ugaritic evidence, begged the question of the phonetic
equation with 'Ibri in concluding, "The second consonant is ambiguous
both in cuneiform and in Egyptian, but not so in Hebrew: since the latter
has b, the labial must be read as voiced in cuneiform, while the voiceless
correspondent in the Egyptian form of the name is to be ascribed to local
218 As far as it goes the Egyptian data is compatible. Gunn (op. cit.,
p. 38, n.) concludes from a survey of the evidence that "we seem to have
the alternatives 'apar, 'apir, 'apur, with a possible indication in" the
Beth-shan stele of Seti I "in favor of 'apir".
a. The A-Vowel: According to Gustavs,219 the form ha-
AB-BI-ri220 shows that the a is short. He explains the doubling
of the middle radical on the ground that consonants in
Akkadian are often doubled after an accented short vowel .221
This possibility, however, rests on the doubtful opinion that
the following I-vowel is short, for otherwise the penult would
receive the accent.222 Another possible explanation of the
doubling of the middle radical, although the phenomenon is
rare and late, is that it indicates that the preceding vowel is
Other unusual forms have appeared which suggest that the
A-vowel is long. One is ha-a-BI-ri-ia-as.224 Another is ha-
a-BI-i-ri-a[n?] (cf. ha-a-BI-i-ri-ia-an).225 Finally, from Alalah
comes the form ha-a'-BI-ru.226
b. The I-Vowel: Inasmuch as short unaccented vowels
between single consonants often drop out227 and the name
219 ZAW, N. F. 3, 1926, pp. 28 f.
220 KBo V, 9, IV, 12. Cf. also ha-AB-BI-ri-ia-an (KUB XXXV, 43,
221 Cf. Ungnad, op. cit., p. 18 (6p); W. Von Soden, Grundriss der Ak-
kadischen Grammatik, 1952, p. 21 (20g).
222 Cf. Von Soden, op. cit., p. 37 (38 f).
223 Cf. Ungnad, op. cit., p. 7 (3d).
224 HT 6, 18. This text is a variant of KUB IX, 34, IV. Greenberg
(op. cit., p. 90, n. 20) comments, "Were this writing not unique and not
in a word foreign to the Hittites it might have deserved consideration as
indicative of a participial form".
225 KUB XXXI, 14 (XXXIV, 62), 10; and KUB XXXV, 49, I, 6 ff.
(cf. IV, 15).
226 AT 58:29. E. A. Speiser (JAOS 74, 1954, p. 24) observes that the
main purpose of this unique form may be to indicate a form like *Habiru.
He suggests that even if the sign be given its value ah4 instead of a' the h
might be a graphic device signifying a long vowel or stressed syllable.
Cf. Greenberg (op. cit., p. 20): "Assuming that the scribe was West Semitic
he may have noted that his alephs became long vowels in Akkadian:
hence, by a sort of back analogy he may have converted what he took to
be a long vowel into an aleph". Wiseman (in Bottero, op. cit., p. 37)
"The word is unusually written ha-'a-bi-ru. This may be either a case of
HAR=AB4 or, as I am inclined to think, a case of the scribe erasing by
the three small horizontal strokes of the stylus".
227 Cf. Ungnad, op. cit., pp. 12, 13 (5c). The possibility that the i is
short but accented is obviated by the fact that were it short, the antepenult
with its long a (as maintained above) would receive the accent.
ha-BI-ru is never found without the i, it would seem that
this i is long.228
Further support for this is found in the spelling ha-BI-i-ra229
used for the Nuzu personal name (assuming this name may be
identified with our ha-BI-ru). There are also the forms noted
above: ha-a-BI-i-ri-a[n?] and ha-a-BI-i-ri-ia-an.
c. Conclusion: The vocalization is largely a question of
how much weight to attach to the exceptional spellings.
Quite possibly they require two long vowels, producing the
(apparently non-Semitic) form, 'apir. Perhaps only one vowel
is long. It would be precarious, however, to assume that
every indication of a long vowel is misleading and to adopt
the form 'apir --or still less likely--'abir.
3. The Hebrew Equivalent. The difference in middle radicals
between ha-BI-ru (read as ha-pi-ru) and 'Ibri would not be
an insuperable obstacle for the phonetic equation of the two.
There are a few examples of a shift in Hebrew from p to b.230
Nevertheless, this shift is not the rule23l and the difference in
labials must be regarded as a serious difficulty in the case for
If we allow the consonantal equation and examine the
vowels it will be found that the difficulties increase and the
equation can be regarded as at best a bare possibility. The
following are the possible vowel combinations of ha-BI-ru
(reading bi for the moment and listing the more probable
combinations first) along with their normal Hebrew gentilic
equivalents: 'abir, yriybiOf; 'abir, yriybifE; 'abir, yrib;Of; 'abir,
yribefE; and 'abr, yrib;fa.
Attempts have been made, however, to derive 'Ibri from
one or other of these vowel combinations. The most plausible
efforts are those which assume two short vowels, 'abir .232
228 So C. H. Gordon (Orientalia 21, 1952, p. 382, n. 2) : "That the i is
long follows from the fact that it is not dropt to become *hapru".
229 JEN 228:29.
230 dpr-dbr, "drive"; parzillu, 511 ; dispu, wbd. Cf. W. F. Albright,
BASOR 77, 1940, p. 33; H. H. Rowley, PEQ, 1940, p. 92; DeVaux, RB
55, p. 342.
231 Cf., e. g., rpAfa, rpefo, rpAKo, rpAse, rpAxa.
232 J. Lewy (op. cit.), assuming the form Habiru, suggests that it "is
Speiser suggests that "the form qitl may go back to an older
qatil" with the restriction that such forms derive from stative,
not transitive, verbs.233 In line with this, attention has been
called to the derivation of late Canaanite milk, "king", from
older malik, "prince.234 "Whatever validity there may be in
the theory of a qatil to qitl shift,235 it must be remembered that
such is not the dominant tendency. Moreover, the degree of
plausibility in applying such a principle in the present case
is greatly diminished by the following considerations: a) The
combination of two short vowels ('abir) is one of the less
likely possibilities; b) The supposed shift from 'abir to 'ibr
did not occur according to our evidence in extra-biblical
documents either earlier than, or contemporary with, the
appearances of 'Ibri in the Bible. It is necessary to assume
that the shift took place first and only with the Hebrew
authors. And if we may not assume that the Hebrew form is
based on a previous shift to ibr elsewhere, then proof is
required within the Hebrew language itself, and not merely,
for example, from inner-Canaanite developments, of a shift
from qatil to qitl.236
to rbAfe and yrib;fi as the Akkadian proper name Zakiru(m) [for references
see, e. g., A. T. Clay, Personal Names from Cuneiform Inscriptions of the
Cassite Period (New Haven, 1912) p.- 145] is to rkAze and yrik;zi (Ex. 6:21,
etc.) ". There is, however, no evidence that the Hebrew form rkAze represents
the Akkadian Zakiru.
233 Op. cit., p. 40, n. 96. Cf. T. J. Meek, Hebrew Origins, 1936, p. 7.
Similarly Bauer-Leander (Grammatik, 459), on the basis of a possible
relation of adjectival qatil and abstract qitl: e. g.., sapil-sipl, "base-
So, e. g., Albright, Archaeology of
1935), p. 206, and Bohl, Kanaander and Hebraer 1911, p. 85. In an earlier
article (JBL 43, 1924, pp. 389 ff.), Albright stated that Hebrew 'Eber for 'Ibr
stands by epenthesis for *'Apir, adding that the philological process is
familiar in all the Semitic languages; e. g., Arab. bi'sa from ba'isa. Cf. the
alternation of ma-si-ri and mi-is-ri in syllabic texts from
235 DeVaux (op. cit.) goes to the extreme of describing the passing of
apir into 'ipr as "normal".
236 The qatil type of noun does appear at times in Hebrew like a segholate;
cf. Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, 1910, 93 hh, ii. Most of these are of the
getel-type which is usually the A-type but is sometimes the I-type (e. g.,
bcAq,, rtAy,, fmaD,); but lz,Ge (Eccles. 5:7; Ezek. 18:18) is also found and that is
clearly I-type. This phenomenon is, however, confined to the construct
Conclusion: The complete phonetic equation of ha-BI-ru
and Ibri is at most a bare possibility. If a difference in
morphology were to be allowed while identity of denotation
was assumed the difference in the vowels could be explained237
and only the labial problem would remain as a phonetic
obstacle for the theory of common derivation. Even that
assumption, however, is implausible in dealing as we are
not with appellatives but proper names. The phonetic situa-
tion, therefore, is such as would weaken an otherwise strong
case for tracing Hebrew origins to the ha-BI-ru, not such as
to strengthen a theory already feeble.
C. Amarna Age Encounter.
In spite of the negative conclusions reached thus far the
investigation of ha-BI-ru--Hebrew relationships is not much
ado about nothing. For history apparently did witness an
How is the ha-BI-ru activity
the Amarna letters to be integrated with the Israelite con-
quest of their promised land as described in the books of
Joshua and Judges? That is the question.
1. Conquest. The Amarna activity of the ha-BI-ru has
been identified by some with the Hebrew Conquest, more
specifically, with its first phase led by Joshua. But quite
apart from all the aforementioned obstacles to any identifica-
tion of the two groups, the Conquest under Joshua differed
from the Amarna military operations of the ha-BI-ru even in
broadest outline and fundamental character.
(a) The Hebrew conquerors were a people which had long
Ugaritic and Alalah evidence reveals that the ha-BI-ru were
state. This restriction would not, of course, be significant so far as the
gentilic form yrib;fi is concerned. It becomes significant though when
account is taken of the derivation of yrib;fi from the patronymic rbAfa which
is found in the absolute state.
237 Albright compares a development of gentilic Ibri from an appellative
ha-BI-ru to Lewi, "Levite", probably derived from *lawiyu, "person
pledged for a debt or vow"; Qeni, "kenite", from qain, "smith"; or hopshi,
"free-man", from hupshu.
view of its date). Moreover, since in
long enjoyed permanent settlements of their own in well-
regulated, peace-time integration with the local population
and authorities, while the Amarna letters show the ha-BI-ru
without absolute loyalty to any one party, it seems clear
that the Amarna ha-BI-ru were
militarists to exploit the anarchy there for their northern
(b) Also in conflict with this picture of the ha-BI-ru
operating in relatively small, detached companies and fighting
as mercenaries with no apparent national aspirations of their
own as ha-BI-ru is the biblical picture of the Hebrew Conquest
as an invasion by a united multitude, advancing in their own
name in a concerted effort to achieve a common national goal.
The natives of
to be exterminated; the acceptance of them as allies would
had no special antipathy for the Canaanites as such. Quite
the contrary, the Canaanites were their employers, and for
the most part the ha-BI-ru are found abetting the attempts
of those Canaanites who strove to gain independence from
Egyptian domination. Complaints are frequently heard from
the loyalists that Canaanite rebels are going over to the
cause of the SA-GAZ.
(d) The goal of
was to gain possession, and agreeably their general policy in
dealing with cities was to exterminate the population and
seize the spoil but to refrain from destroying the cities by fire.
The ha-BI-ru, however, after conquering and plundering,
frequently set the city on fire,239 apparently having no designs
to acquire territory or to build an empire.
The difference between the two movements can also be
traced in matters of detail.
238 Cf. Josh. 11:19. Nothing underscores this more than the anomalous
character of the Gibeonite alliance. It should not be overlooked, however,
that after the days of Joshua's leadership the original determination gave
way frequently to a fraternizing attitude (e. g., Judg. 3:5-6).
239 So repeatedly in EA 185.
(a) Names: None of the names of the Israelite leaders
is found in the Amarna letters.240 Moreover, where the names
of the rulers of specific Canaanite cities can be checked (as at
disagreement between the Bible and the Amarna texts.
(b) Numbers: In the pleas of the loyalists for military
assistance it appears that Egyptian support in the form of
fifty or so men will be adequate to turn the tide of battle. It
seems unlikely then that these Canaanite kings were con-
fronted with an assault on the scale of Joshua's army.241
(c) Places: The ha-BI-ru operated successfully in
tribal efforts penetrated that far.242
(d) Military Technology: The Israelites made no use of
chariotry,243 whereas chariots were a standard division of the
ha-BI-ru corps at Alalah and in Palestine.244
2. Pre-Conquest. An alternative must be found then to
identifying the biblical Conquest under Joshua with the
Amarna disclosures. The procedure of the majority of scholars
is to place Joshua after the Amarna events. Thus Meek,
240 Proposals to equate Joshua with Yashuia and Benjamin with Benenima
(or Ben-elima) are phonetically impossible. Furthermore the Amarna
men were pro-Egyptian.
241 Cf. Exod. 12:37; 38:26; Num. 1:46; 2:32; 26:51. At the same time it
should not be overlooked that even fifty professional soldiers might
provide adequate leadership to defend a walled garrison. Moreover, there
are larger requests like that of Rib-Addi (EA 71:23-24) for fifty pair of
horses and 200 infantry as a merely defensive measure.
242 The way in which this argument is developed by Rowley (op. cit.,
pp. 42 ff.) is an illuminating exhibition of rewriting history to one's taste.
He argues that the exploits of Joshua were mainly if not entirely confined
to the central districts while the ha-BI-ru trouble was in the south and
north and only at Shechem in the center. It will be recognized that this
is the precise opposite of the prima facie biblical account, according to
which Joshua's campaigns were notably in the south (Josh. 10) and in
the north (Josh. 11:1-14). Rowley rejects Joshua 10 in favor of the
supposedly conflicting account in Judges 1; and Joshua 11, in favor of
the supposed variant in Judges 4. According to the record itself, Judges 1
records events after the death of Joshua and the events of Judges 4 fall
well over a century after those of Joshua 11.
243 Cf., e. g., Josh. 11:9.
244 Cf. EA 87:21; 197:2-11.
though he believes the Amarna ha-BI-ru and Joshua's cam-
paign belong to one movement, specifies that "the Amarna
account marks the beginning of the movement, while the
Old Testament account has to do largely with its final ac-
complishment".245 An odd quirk of Meek's view is that the
than a century.
Albright, though he posits an earlier, pre-Amarna exodus
tribes and finds their presence in central
major Hebrew arrival reflected in the ha-BI-ru of the Amarna
letters, dates the (second) exodus (i. e., Moses leading out
the Leah tribes) and the campaigning of Joshua in the 13th
century, long after the Amarna correspondence.246
To cite one further variety of this approach, there is
Rowley's intricate reconstruction. He also espouses a theory
of a two-fold entry into the land, according to which certain
Hebrew groups, notably Judah, press northward from Kadesh
c. 1400 B.C. (these Rowley would identify with the ha-BI-ru
of the Amarna letters) while kindred tribes, including Asher,
Zebulon, and Dan, exert pressure in the north (these, Rowley
conjectures, are the SA-GAZ of the Amarna letters). But
the exodus from
It will be observed that all these efforts to locate Joshua
after the Amarna episode involve drastic recasting of the
biblical data--the rejection not merely of points of detail
but of the biblical history in its basic structure. It requires
some ingenuity, indeed, to produce one of these elaborate
creations by weaving together a host of miscellaneous data
sublimated from their original contexts, but the result is
fiction not history. Under the mask of a claim of controlling
the biblical sources by means of archaeological and extra-
biblical sources an almost totally undisciplined biblical ex-
egesis has been introduced. But why the penchant for the
hasty rejection of the Old Testament source in favor of
245 Op. cit.
246 BASOR 58, 1935, pp. 10 ff.
247 See Rowley, op. cit., esp. pp. 140 ff. for a survey of the various views.
interpretations of archaeological evidence which are them-
selves so uncertain and disputed at countless points?
3. Post-Conquest. There is another alternative for the
integration of the Amarna and the biblical histories. It is
the reverse of those just surveyed in that it locates the Con-
quest under Joshua before rather than after the Amarna
letters, at least before those of Abdi-Hepa.248 This is in
248 The historian is at this juncture always embroiled in the complex
question of the date of the Exodus. Aware of the difficulties of the early
date (i. e., locating Joshua in or before the Armarna Age) and not aware of
the proper solution of them all, the writer nevertheless finds insuperable
the difficulties of a later date. Relevant as the problem is, limitations of
space allow only brief comment on a few salient points: a) The case
presented by H. H. Rowley (in From Joseph to Joshua) against a Hebrew
that majority of scholars which is certainly correct in dating the patriarchal
period early in the second millennium B.C. rather than (with Rowley)
in the middle of it must date the beginning of the sojourn before the Hyksos
period, not (with Rowley) after it. And that, in turn, virtually necessitates
the early date of the Exodus. b) Advocates of a 19th dynasty Exodus
constantly appeal to the archaeological evidences of royal building opera-
tions at the sites of Pithom and Raamses. G. E. Wright, for a recent
example, states, "We now know that if there is any historical value at all
to the store-city tradition in Exodus (and there is no reason to doubt its
Israelites must have been in
part of the reign of Rameses II" (Biblical Archaeology (
ment. Is it not rather the case that, if one has no reason to doubt the
reliability of the record in Exodus 1:11 that Pharaoh forced the Israelites
to build Pithom and Raamses as store-cities, he cannot possibly identify
that pharaoh with Ramses II? For it is inconceivable that anyone should
have described the magnificent operations of Ramses II at these sites,
transforming one of them into the
terms of Exodus 1:11. The Hebrew building and the Hebrew Exodus
must then precede Ramses II. c) Albright has dated the destruction of
century B.C., and would identify this destruction with Joshua's campaigns
as evidence of a late Exodus. Such a deduction does not do justice to the
biblical facts that Canaanite reoccupation frequently followed Joshua's
conquest of Canaanite cities and that destruction by fire was exceptional
in Joshua's campaigns. (Apparently only
southern cities were burned and only Hazor was burned in the Galilean
campaign. Josh. 11 .13.) The evidence of these Palestinian excavations,
therefore, actually requires a date for Joshua considerably earlier than the
precise agreement with the chronological data in Judges 11:26
and I Kings 6:1 and assumes a fairly brief period for Joshua's
campaigns which also agrees with the biblical record.249
Even more compatible with this view than with the iden-
tification of Joshua's campaigns and the Amarna activity are
certain facts which have long constituted a popular argument
in favor of the latter view.251 Giving it a somewhat different
turn than the advocates of identification, the argument is as
follows: Precisely those cities which appear in the Amarna
letters as under Canaanite control, whether pro-Egyptian or
rebel (and, therefore, likely allied to the SA-GAZ), are those
which were not permanently dispossessed either by Joshua251
or the early tribal efforts after the death of Joshua.252
13th century fall of these cities. A propos of Josh. 11:13, Yadin's recent
report of the second season of excavations at Hazor is of interest (cf.
Biblical Archaeologist, XX, 1957, pp. 34 ff.). In addition to the latest
Canaanite city which was destroyed in the 13th century (perhaps then,
according to an early Exodus, in the days of Deborah, cf. Judges 4 and 5),
remains were found of a 14th century city "approximately in the el-Amarna
period" (p. 44) and of an earlier city of the Middle Bronze Age which
"was effectively destroyed by fire, most probably by one of the Egyptian
pharaohs of the
mose III" (p. 44). The
supposition that a pharaoh of the
captured Hazor is questionable; for in spite of their many campaigns into
capture of a fortified city a rarity. But according to the early date of the
Exodus, Joshua was a contemporary of Amenophis II and as for Hazor,
"that did Joshua burn".
249 Josh. 14:7 and 10 indicate that the initial phase was completed
within five years of the entry into
Cf., e. g., Olmstead, History of
pp. 196-197; Meek, op. cit., p. 20.
251 Joshua 10 and 11.
252 The situation at Shechem is problematic. Nothing is said about an
conquest of central
implies Israelite control of Shechem, they subsequently lost their foothold,
for Labaya ruled Shechem some thirty years after the Israelite entry
(cf. EA 289:22 ff.). Similarly, if Albright (BASOR 87, 1942, p. 38) is
correct that Debir became the seat of a local chieftain after the Amarna
period, not only Joshua's raid but even Othniel's capture of that city
(Josh. 15:15-17; cf. Judg. 1:11 ff.) failed to be permanently effective.
though Joshua's raid had depopulated
cities fell again into Canaanite hands according to EA 287:14-15, whether
these lines mean that these cities had been assisting Pharaoh's enemies or
Albright has concluded that in southern
Amarna period the main city-states were
there are in this area five additional city-states: Jarmuth,
Makkedah, Libnah, Debir, and Eglon, with still others like
that from c. 1375-1250 there had been a gradual reduction in
the power of the city-states combined with an increase in
their number, which he attributes to a settled Egyptian policy
of divide et
impera. This decrease in the power of the
anite city-states is then
judged to have aided
Conquest. Indeed, this is seized upon as compelling evidence
that the Hebrew Conquest was late.
It will be recognized that this reconstruction of the 14th
century situation in southern
silences in the Amarna letters. Such a procedure is precarious,
however, for the silences might readily be accounted for by
the fact that the authors of the Amarna letters simply had no
occasion to mention the towns in question. To the extent,
however, that there may actually have been fewer city-states
in the Amarna period than in Joshua's day, a more plausible
explanation would be that between Joshua and the Amarna
situation the Israelites had been encroaching on the territory
of the old Canaanite city-states, reducing their number by
Furthermore, the spontaneous confederation of Canaanite
kings described in Joshua 10 is difficult to explain if it be
supposed that Joshua's campaigns were contemporary with
or subsequent to the ha-BI-ru activity of the Amarna letters.
For these letters graphically exhibit the mutual distrust and
growing antagonism among the Canaanite kings during this
period. Is it not apparent that neither in the midst of, nor
soon after, such intrigues and civil strife could a king of
were to provide for Pharaoh's archers. Such developments indicate that
process only initiated by Joshua's campaigns.
253 Besides these, Jarmuth was a minor independency and an Egyptian
garrison and official were stationed at Eglon. BASOR 87, 1942, pp. 37-38.
Cf. Wright, op. cit., pp. 75, 76.
a joint military venture against a common foe? Abdi-Hepa's
futile efforts during the struggle with the ha-Bi-ru is a witness
that a king of
Again a more plausible reconstruction is that the collapse of
the five-city alliance against Joshua terminated the southern
confederation and prepared for the Canaanite disunity ev-
idenced in the Amarna letters.
If Joshua is to be placed before the Amarna period, the
problem still remains of synchronizing the later Israelite tribal
efforts to take actual possession of their allotted inheritances
(i. e., the Book of judges) with the Amarna ha-BI-ru move-
ments. The arguments already presented against the pos-
sibility of identifying the ha-BI-ru with the Israelites of
Joshua's day for the most part hold against any such iden-
tification at this point as well. However, in view of the known
tendency of the authors of the Amarna letters to stigmatize
the cause of all enemies (or at least all accused of disloyalty
dogmatic in denying the possibility that some Hebrew
activity might be hidden in the Amarna letters under that
More significant is the fact that on the chronology followed
here the first oppression of
second and in the third decade of the 14th century B.C. This
corresponds with part of the era of the ha-BI-ru in Canaan.255
Naharaim".256 The area designated by "Aram Naharaim"
would include within its southwestern limits the region about
Alalah (and probably still farther south) which was a strong
ha-BI-ru center in the 14th century B. C.257 Though styled
254 Judg. 3:9-10.
255 part of this era corresponds to the career of Labaya which can be
dated in the second and third decades of the 14th century on either
Albright's or Knudtzon's reading of the date on the hieratic docket on
Labaya's letter, EA 254.
256 Judg. 3:8. It is possible that the additional MyitafAw;ri, "double wicked-
ness", was appended by Cushan's victims, perhaps as a pun on Myirahana Mraxa.
Cf. Burney, The Book of Judges, 1920, pp. 65-66.
melek, Cushan-rishathaim need not have been more than one
strong chieftain among several in Aram Naharaim.251
Moreover, the name Cushan is attested in this area both as
the name of a geographical district and as a personal name.
there was a district in northern
12th centuries B.C. called Qusana-ruma, is known from the
list of Ramses III.259 Still more pertinent is the 15th century
tablet from Alalah260 which contains the personal name
ku-sa-an.261 This tablet is a fragment of a census list of
unspecified purpose, on which 43 personal names remain
along with the phrase found on the left edge, "owner of a
chariot". The list then might well be one of the numerous
military lists and probably includes the names of several
Within the framework of synchronization proposed here
for Hebrew and ha-BI-ru careers, it is difficult to dissociate the
menace of the Amarna letters. The facts rather suggest that
elements of the ha-BI-ru corps from
in time to raid the settlements of the more recently arrived
Israelites. The Israelites were becoming, like the Egyptians,
too dominating a power in
the ha-BI-ru were engaged to further. It appears then that it
was from plundering ha-BI-ru mercenaries that Othniel
delivered oppressed Israel.262
If so, the ha-BI-ru, certainly not the kin of
And then, far from offering a Canaanite version of the Hebrew
258 Such is the usage elsewhere in judges. Thus Jabin of Hazor is called
several Canaanite kings (cf. Judg. 5:19). So also, O'Callaghan, op. cit.,
259 Cf. W. Edgerton, J. Wilson, Historical Records of Ramesses III,
pl. 101, p. 110.
260 Wiseman, AT 154.
261 Ibid., p. 140. 36 names end in -an (ibid., p. 10).
262 Since Othniel is associated with the south, this first oppression
probably centered there.
march of conquest, the Amarna letters dealing with the
ha-BI-ru are a Canaanite portrait of the first scourge employed
by Yahweh to chastise the Israelites for their failure to
prosecute the mandate of conquest.
It is not difficult to surmise what verdict the biblical
historians would have given if they had left to us their inter-
pretation of the data of the ha-BI-ru oppression of the
theocratic people in the early 14th century and the almost
total disappearance of the ha-BI-ru as a social-political entity
by about the close of that century. Surely they would have
judged that the brief Amarna
Age encounter with
for the ha-BI-ru a crucial hour of more than ordinary political
decision. It was an encounter that sealed their destined fall.
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