[b-hebrew] Joshua 15: 52-59: Hill Country Cities?

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Dec 29 14:52:59 EST 2008

Hi Jim,

Nice try, but it doesn't work. And thanks for the compliment, but please 
don't over-do it.
I'll try to be brief.

1. The Judahite town-list in Josh. 15:20-62 is a self-contained document. 
Most modern scholars would assert that it cannot reflect the reality of 
Joshua's day and so must reflect a later period, sometime during the 
Monarchy, but this does not effect our geographical discussion.
2. The list divides the land of Judah into four geographical regions: the 
Negev (sometimes translated simply "south", but better understood as a 
proper name) in vss. 21-32; the Shephelah (sometimes translated "valleys" or 
"lowlands", but better understood as a proper name) 33-44; the Hill Country 
48-60; and the Desert (or "steppes"), 61-62. This is a real geographical 
division of the land, which is also reflected in other biblical texts.
3. The first and last of these regions are areas of low population density, 
and so large areas are listed as a single area. The Shephelah and the Hills, 
which are more crowded, are further sub-divided into "districts"; the 
Shephelah into three and the Hills into five. The towns of each "district" 
are counted seperately, and each ends with the formula "so-and-so towns and
their fields" (I'm not getting into a discussion of what "Hatserim" are in 
this context). And each of these "districts" is in fact a well-defined 
geographical area. The first Shephelah district (33-36), for example, is 
made up of the Sorek and Elah valleys.
4. What Jim did not mention, is that the Septuagint version of this list 
preserves an additional Hill-Country district, which includes the area 
immediately south of Jerusalem, with places like Bethlehem and Tekoa. This
makes a total of 11 "districts".
5. Jim did note that vss. 45-47 seem out of place. They begin with Ekron, 
which is in the Shephelah, but then continue with Ashdod and Gaza on the 
coast. These are of course three of the five Philistine cities that were not 
under direct Judahite rule. They are also worded differently, and include a 
segment of a border description. The general scholarly consensus is that
these verses were taken from a different source and added here by an editor, 
in order to make the "ideal" terretory of Judah include the coast. Maybe.
6. It's important to note, that translating the Hebrew word 'ir, plural 
'arim, as "city" is misleading. In biblical Hebrew, an 'ir is really any 
place of permanent settlement that is larger than a farm. An 'ir can be 
large or small, fortified or not. So really "town" would be better, and some 
of them would really have been "villages" to us. So Jim's comment about "it 
is hard to see how hill country south of Jerusalem could contain that many 
cities" is really irrelevant.
7. True, not all of the towns in the list can be identified. But of the 
towns that Jim would like to "transfer" from the Shephelah to the Ayalon 
Valley (52-59), quite a few ARE identified in the Hills, either through 
additional refferences to them or through preservation of their names to 
this day in Arabic, or by both means. These include Dumah, Beth-tappuah, 
Maon, Ziph,
Carmel and Juttah in the southern district, and Halhul, Beth-zur and Gedor 
in the area north of Hebron and south of Bethlehem. Maarath, while itself 
unidentified, is clearly within this district.
8. It is true that the Ayalon Valley seems to be outside this list. This is 
because in the tribal lists, the Ayalon Valley is the inheritance of Dan, 
not of Judah. The Danite towns, including Ayalon itself, as well as 
Shaalabin, are listed in Josh. 19:40-46. So they are not listed in the 
Judahite list. And yes, I do realize that Zorah and Eshtaol are listed in 
both the Judah and the Dan lists. This is usually taken to mean that the two 
lists do not reflect the same time, and that the border shifted between the 
9. It is true that the MQRT of the Thutmose III list is unidentified, and 
that it MAY be in the Ayalon Valley, since it comes after Gezer and Rabbah. 
However, the next towns on the list are in the Beth-shean Valley in the 
north, so it could be in that area as well.
10. For the Egyptian MRQT to be a Hebrew Ma'arath, you would have to prove 
that: a. the Ayin in Maarath is originally a Ghayin, and b. that such a 
Ghayin would be transcribed by Egyptian Q rather than G or R. And even then, 
the toponym "Ma'arah/th" is fairly common. Josh. 13:4 refers to a Ma'arah in 
the north.

So, nice try, but no.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, December 29, 2008 5:32 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Joshua 15: 52-59: Hill Country Cities?

> Joshua 15: 52-59:  Hill Country Cities?
> Yigal Levin is one of the leading experts in the world on the subject of
> the
> identity of Biblical cities in southern Canaan.  But let me venture a few
> thoughts of my own on that important subject.  I think I may have located
> a main
> source of the longstanding post-Biblical misunderstanding of Biblical
> geography:  a mis-reading of Joshua 15: 48-60.
> A.  The text of Joshua 15: 48-60 unambiguously states that the first 11
> cities listed there (Joshua 15: 48-51) are located in hill country.  These
> 11
> cities include Debir, a well-known city located in hill country south of
> the city
> of Hebron.  Socoh is located on the western edge of hill country.  I do
> not see
> any of the 11 cities there as being known not to be located in hill
> country.
> So far, so good.
> But as I see it, the text, out of context, is inherently ambiguous as to
> whether or not the next 27 cities listed thereafter are, or are not,
> asserted by
> Joshua to be located in hill country.
> For starters, it is hard to see how hill country south of Jerusalem could
> contain that many cities.  38 cities in that part of hill country?  The
> flip side
> is that it seems very odd that on what I believe is the customary reading
> of
> the text, not a single city in the attractive Aijalon Valley is assigned
> to
> Judah in the Book of Joshua.  (I realize that Gezer, and the city of
> Aijalon,
> are dealt with separately, at Joshua 16: 10;  19: 42.)
> I note that the cities in the Shephelah well south of the Aijalon Valley
> are
> well represented at Joshua 15: 33-47, along with several cities on the
> coast
> which are not in the Shephelah.  Joshua 15: 33-36 lists 14 cities “in the
> valley
> ”, which apparently means the Shephelah south of the Aijalon Valley, and
> perhaps south of the Sorek Valley as well.  All 14 of those cities may
> well be
> located in the Shephelah (not on the coast).  But as for the next 28
> cities
> listed (at Joshua 15: 37-47), although many such cities are located in the
> Shephelah, not all of them are.  Ashdod and Gaza at Joshua 15: 47
> certainly are
> located on the coast, not in the Shephelah.  Moreover, in this list of 44
> cities, I
> see not a single city located in or near the Aijalon Valley.
> Most of the foregoing problems disappear entirely if one recognizes that
> (i)
> not all of the 28 cities listed at Joshua 15: 37-47 are asserted by Joshua
> to
> be “in the valley”, that is, in the Shephelah, and that (ii) the cities
> listed at Joshua 15: 52-60 likewise are not being asserted by Joshua to be
> located
> in hill country.
> Yes, the reference to “hiy Hebron” at Joshua 15: 54 is a major concern.
> The
> city of Hebron is definitely located in hill country, south of Jerusalem,
> though the city name “Hebron” is not attested in secular history prior to
> the
> 8th century BCE.  But other than that one controversial reference (which
> looks
> like a gloss, and can be discussed in a later post), it appears to me that
> all
> 25 cities listed at Joshua 15: 52-59 may be located in or near the Aijalon
> Valley, not in hill country.
> B.  In this post, I will start things out by mentioning just one specific
> city:  MQRT.  [The letters “Mqrt” are set forth as item #106 on the
> Thutmosis
> III list from the mid-15th century BCE here:
> http://www.archaeowiki.org/Topographical_List%2C_First_Campaign_of_Thutmose_III
> P. 74 of Anson Rainey’s “The
> Sacred Bridge” adds in some vowel sounds and sets forth either “ma-q-r-tu”
> or “
> ma-q-ra-tu”.  (The final U there is a pre-12th century BCE case ending
> that
> would not be reflected in the Bible.)]
> Nadav Na’aman, who is one of the best historians in the world, states that
> he
> and other scholars have not been able to figure out what the city of MQRT
> is
> at item #106 on the Thutmosis III list.    “The place of Mqr/lt (No. 106)
> is
> unknown.”  [The 3rd letter is an Egyptian R, which could be either resh/R
> or
> lamed/L, hence Prof. Na’aman’s rendering of “r/l”.  Here, I see that R as
> being a resh/R.]
> _http://books.google.com/books?id=HmTOoQmf23AC&pg=PA208&lpg=PA204&ots=9b0fS9ucF2&dq=rubutu+letter&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html_
> (http://books.google.com/books?id=HmTOoQmf23AC&pg=PA208&lpg=PA204&ots=9b0fS9ucF2&dq=rubutu+le
> tter&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html)   MQRT comes immediately after Gezer and
> Rubutu on the Thutmosis III list, and right before the geographical focus
> of the
> Thutmosis III list appears to shift to the Jezreel Valley (at item #107).
> We
> would logically expect MQRT to be the last of 7 straight cities listed on
> the
> Thutmosis III list that are cities located in or near the Aijalon Valley.
> Apparently, scholars have not looked at Joshua 15: 52-59 in trying to
> understand MQRT, on the grounds that (i) all of the cities listed there
> allegedly are
> asserted by Joshua to be in hill country, and (ii) pharaoh Thutmosis III
> never went anywhere near hill country.  But the text of Joshua does not
> say that
> those cities are located in hill country, as I read it.  Rather, I see all
> of
> the 25 cities listed at 15: 52-59 as likely being in or near the Aijalon
> Valley, rather than being in hill country (subject to the one
> controversial
> reference to “hiy Hebron”, which can be addressed later).
> If we are willing to look in Joshua 15: 52-59 for a MQRT located in or
> near
> the Aijalon Valley, we find it immediately, at Joshua 15: 59.
> MQRT = Biblical “Maarath”.  MQRT is item #106 on the Thutmosis III list
> (being the last of 7 straight cities on that list that appear to be
> located in or
> near the Aijalon Valley).  The letter Q on the Thutmosis III list often
> represents a gimel/G sound.  (Thus Gezer, at item #104 on the Thutmosis
> III list, is
> QDR, where the Egyptian Q represents a west Semitic gimel/G.)  An archaic
> ghayin in the Bronze Age had a sound similar to gimel/G, as we see in
> “Gaza” and
> “Gomorrah” in the Patriarchal narratives, each of which begins with an
> archaic ghayin, which is represented in Biblical Hebrew writing as a
> regular ayin,
> but which comes out as a G in the Septuagint in Greek.  If the Q here
> represents a ghayin/ayin (which sounded a lot like gimel/G), then the four
> Hebrew
> equivalent letters would be mem-ayin-resh-tav/M(RT.  That is exactly what
> is
> found, letter for letter, at Joshua 15: 59:  M(RT/“Maarath”.  MQRT as item
> #106 on
> the Thutmosis III list = Biblical “Maarath”/M(RT at Joshua 15: 59.
> Though scholars have been baffled by MQRT at item #106 on the Thutmosis
> list, it’s right there at Joshua 15: 59, plain as day, as a city in or
> near the
> Aijalon Valley, if we are willing to recognize that the text of Joshua
> does
> not assert that the cities at Joshua 15: 52-60 are located in hill
> country.
> In my view, the key to understanding what Joshua is doing with his
> controversial reference to “hiy Hebron” at Joshua 15: 54 is first to try
> to understand
> all that we can about the 25 cities that surround that apparent gloss.  It
> makes all the difference in the world whether those 25 cities are in or
> near the
> Aijalon Valley, or by sharp contrast are in hill country.  It makes no
> sense
> to ignore those 25 cities listed in Joshua.
> With 25 Biblical city names to look at in Joshua 15: 52-59, and with the
> mid-15th century BCE Thutmosis III list available to be consulted for Late
> Bronze
> Age cities in Canaan, which seems to include 7 straight cities located in
> or
> near the Aijalon Valley (items #100 - #106), surely we should we able to
> determine whether those 25 listed cities in Joshua are located in or near
> the
> Aijalon Valley, or rather are located in hill country south of Jerusalem.
> We have
> now seen that item #106 on the Thutmosis III list, MQRT, matches up very
> nicely
> to Biblical Maarath at Joshua 15: 59.  Knowing that pharaoh Thutmosis III
> never went anywhere near hill country, but did spend time in the Aijalon
> Valley
> area, that tends to indicate that MQRT/Biblical Maarath was located in or
> near
> the Aijalon Valley, not in hill country.  Granted, this post has only
> analyzed
> a single city name.  But we’ve got 25 city names at Joshua 15: 52-59, and
> 7
> consecutive cities at items #100-#106 on the Thutmosis III list which all
> appear to be located in or near the Aijalon Valley (the only place where
> pharaoh
> Thutmosis III recorded city names in Canaan that is south of the Megiddo
> area).
> I myself think that Joshua has a lot more accurate historical information
> in
> it than most people realize.  No, it’s not the pinpoint historical
> accuracy of
> the Patriarchal narratives.  But Joshua’s extensive listing of cities in
> Canaan should not be ignored.  We may be able to figure out where
> post-Biblical
> analysts have gone wrong as to Biblical geography if we pay close
> attention to
> the geographical place names in (1) Joshua, (2) the Patriarchal
> narratives, and
> (3) the Thutmosis III list.  Certainly the various authors of the Bible
> knew
> the  l-o-c-a-l  geography of southern Canaan.  It is post-Biblical
> analysts,
> not the Bible itself, who have gotten so very far off the track regarding
> Biblical geography.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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