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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Dec 30 09:40:19 EST 2008

Dear Prof. Yigal Levin:
We all learned a lot from your informative post, and we thank you for that.  
But let me take issue with the fact that in your post, you support the 
following two mainstream scholarly views:
(1)    Joshua was composed “late”:  “it cannot reflect the reality of Joshua’
s day and so must reflect a later period, sometime during the Monarchy”.
(2)    Joshua asserts that every city listed at Joshua 15: 48-60 is located 
in hill country, south of Jerusalem:  “the Hill Country 48-60”.
If your view were correct, then none of the cities in the Aijalon Valley on 
the Thutmosis III list would be found at Joshua 15: 52-59.  Or to put the 
matter the other way round, I can prove that your mainstream scholarly view of this 
matter is wrong, if I can show that 5 cities in the Aijalon Valley are both 
(i) on the Thutmosis III list, and (ii) in Joshua 15: 52-59.
In this post, I will limit myself to discussing one city that you yourself 
raised in your post:  Halhul.
In your point #7, you wrote:
“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 
references 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.”
Reading what you said closely, you seem to be saying that you have no support 
whatsoever for your view of Halhul from secular historical documents that 
pre-date the common era.  You talk about “preservation of their names to this day 
in Arabic”.  I myself cannot imagine a less credible source than that.  Given 
the likelihood that people in Palestine in the Middle Ages and later would 
have logically chosen names for their small villages based on Biblical names, I 
cannot for the life of me see how an Arabic town name could possibly prove or 
disprove any Biblical city name under any circumstances.
Your delicate reference to “additional references to them” means, I presume, 
other references in the Bible, not references from secular historical sources 
from a time period prior to the common era.  But there is no other reference 
in the Bible to Halhul.
I fear that your view of Halhul may be based on a source from the 14th 
century AD, as well as two early common era sources whose letters do not seem at all 
similar to Halhul to me:
“[Halhul] is conspicuous from a considerable distance on account of its 
ancient mosque, Wely Nebi Yulnas, the "shrine of the Prophet Jonah"--a tradition 
going back at least to the 14th century. The mosque, which has a minaret or 
tower, is built upon a rock platform artificially leveled. In the 14th century it 
was stated by Isaac Chilo (a Jewish pilgrim) that the tomb of Gad the Seer (_1 
Sam 22:5_ (http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=1sa&chapter=22&verse=5) ; _2 
Sam 24:11_ (http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=2sa&chapter=24&verse=11)  f) 
was situated in this town. Beth-zur (Belt Sur) and Gedor (Jedur) are both near. 
In Josephus (BJ, IV, ix, 6) we read of an Alurus (where the Idumeans 
assembled), and in Jerome (OS 119 7) of a village Alula near Hebron, which both 
probably refer to the same place (PEF, III, 305; Sh XXI).”  From ISBE here:  
Do you have better sources for Halhul than the above?  The above seem to me 
to be very weak sources, that either do not pre-date the Middle Ages, or that 
do not seem at all close to the letters in Halhul.
For my part, I see Halhul as being located in the Aijalon Valley, pursuant to 
a corresponding mid-15th century BCE inscription on the Thutmosis III list.  
Let me set forth my evidence for that assertion, based on the well-documented 
secular history of the Late Bronze Age (rather than relying on any common era 
HRKuR = Biblical “Halhul”.  HRKuR is item #101 on the Thutmosis III list.  
In my view, items #100 - #106 on the Thutmosis III list are 7 straight cities 
in or near the Aijalon Valley.  Item #100 is the city of Aijalon (as can be 
discussed in a later post).  Everyone agrees that item #104 is Gezer.  So HRKuR, 
being between the cities of Aijalon and Gezer on the Thutmosis III list, 
should logically itself be located in the Aijalon Valley.
The question then is whether HRKuR and Biblical Halhul are a linguistic 
match.  (On my reading of Joshua, the towns listed at Joshua 15: 52-59 are  n-o-t  
expressly asserted by Joshua to be in hill country, so it is little surprise 
if many such towns are located in or near the Aijalon Valley, west of hill 
In HRKuR on the Thutmosis III list, the H has a dot under it, meaning that it 
is one type of heth/X.  (Hebrew has only one heth, so both of the two earlier 
types of heths come into Biblical Hebrew as heth/X.)  Each R, as is probably 
the case slightly over half the time on the Thutmosis III list, represents a 
lamed/L here.  (For example, RWS at item #31 on the Thutmosis III list is 
Biblical “Laish”/historical “Lus”, where the Egyptian R represents a Hebrew 
lamed/L.  That is why Nadav Na’aman in my earlier post said that Egyptian R could 
be either resh/R or lamed/L.)  
The K in HRKuR is not a regular K.  Rather, it is an unusual letter that only 
appears in 2 of the 119 items on the Thutmosis III list, and never at the 
beginning of a name.  This special Egyptian K represents two sounds, not just 
one.  The second sound is now often thought to be a U, so Anson Rainey shows a U 
after the K here.  That would be a vav/W in Biblical Hebrew.  The first sound 
is more difficult to pin down, as its pronunciation is not certain.  We might 
normally guess kaf/K (or perhaps qof/Q) as the Hebrew equivalent of the first 
sound, but then again, the Hebrew letter kaf/K is usually represented by a 
regular Egyptian K.  So we cannot be sure what the Hebrew letter equivalent would 
be here for this special Egyptian K.  A kaf/K in Hebrew sometimes sounds 
quite a bit like a heth/X.  So although kaf/K would probably be our first guess 
for this rare Egyptian K, a heth/X might well be our second guess.  The Internet 
states:  “In modern Israeli Hebrew the sound value of Chaph [kaf without the 
dagesh] is the same as that of heth….”  We do not know the exact 
pronunciations for either ancient, special Egyptian K or early Biblical Hebrew heth/X, but 
they likely were somewhat similar.  We do know for certain that the Thutmosis 
III list has a somewhat different usage of heths than does Biblical Hebrew.  
So our first guess as to this special Egyptian K would probably be kaf-vav/KW 
in Biblical Hebrew, and our second guess could well be heth-vav/XW.
If we go with the second guess, we have a letter-for-letter equivalent at 
Joshua 15: 58!
HRKuR = XLXWL = heth-lamed-heth-vav-lamed/Halhul, which is letter for letter 
what we find at Joshua 15: 58.
Yigal Levin, do you have a secular historical source from prior to the Middle 
Ages that supports your contention that Halhul is located “in the area north 
of Hebron and south of Bethlehem”, and that is a closer linguistic match than 
my proposed match of Biblical Halhul to HRKuR at item #101 on the Thutmosis 
III list?
We do need to consider that I am comparing what’s said in Joshua to a 
mid-15th century BCE listing done by an Egyptian scribe.  So it’s no real surprise if 
the treatments of heths are somewhat different in those two ancient sources. 
I myself see HRKuR on the mid-15th century BCE Thutmosis III list as being a 
much closer linguistic match to Biblical Halhul than, for example, either 
Alurus (Josephus, in the 1st century AD) or Alula (Jerome, in the 4th – 5th 
century AD).  I see no heth/X in either “Alurus” or “Alula”, yet certainly the 
heth/X, or some rough equivalent harsh sound, is a critically important letter.  
HRKuR starts with a heth/X, and the two sounds of the special Egyptian K 
probably are somewhat similar in sound to a heth-vav/XW in Biblical Hebrew.  So it 
seems to me that my proposed match is closer linguistically than anything else 
I’ve seen prior to the Middle Ages.  As to looking at modern Arabic town 
names, I myself give that approach zero credibility.  Arabic town names often were 
simply taken from the Bible in modern times.
Do you have anything from a secular historical source prior to the common era 
to support your view as to where Halhul was located in ancient times?  I 
consider my proposed linguistic match from the mid-15th century BCE to be a very 
close linguistic match, which would place Halhul in the Aijalon Valley.  Are 
your sources providing a linguistic match that is that close or closer?  My 
approach would tend to validate the antiquity of some of Joshua’s sources of 
Canaan city names.  So a lot is riding on this issue.
If you would set forth your secular historical source(s) for Biblical Halhul, 
then people on the b-hebrew list can evaluate what the secular historical 
basis is for Biblical Halhul.  I see Biblical Halhul as dating back at least to 
the mid-15th century BCE.  That’s a pretty exciting match to my interpretation 
of Joshua 15: 52-59.  If you want to recite the modern Arabic town name of 
Halhul, I guess I cannot stop you from doing that.  But for the life of me, I 
cannot see how that modern Arabic town name proves anything, other than that 
people in Palestine in  m-o-d-e-r-n  times often have chosen their village names 
from Biblical names.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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