[b-hebrew] "about" Josh. 7:4-5

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Wed Dec 15 10:48:10 EST 2004

According to Joshua 7:4, Joshua's first attempt at capturing Ai was made with ke$lo$et alapim i$, "about three thousand men". In the next verse, the men of Ai smote of them ke$lo$im ve$iSah i$, "about thirty six men".

The prefix kaph is usually translated "like", "about" and so on. However in this context, "about 36" does not make sense. 36 is an exact number. I know that the Greek gives "eis", "into", but that doesn't explain anything. I've seen theories ranging from scribal error (dittography due to the preceding "ke$lo$et" - but with no textual evidence) through a theory of a 6-based system of counting, to the midrash that only Jair ben Manasseh was killed, but he was "like 36 men". I know that "eleph" is often thought to be a military or clan unit, so "about three elephs" makes sense. I also know that "$elo$im" may also be a military unit (as in 2 Sam. 23), so that "about a $elo$im" would also work, but then what about the extra 6? "about a $elo$im and six" does not. 

And before anyone asks, the only known Qumran version (4QJosh a and b) is missing this particular column.

Any ideas?

Yigal Levin
(and please excuse the cross-posting)

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