[b-hebrew] Afula vs. Biblical Ephrathah

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Thu Mar 13 06:21:49 EDT 2008

Dear Jim,

I'm glad to see that you accept my explanation about why Afula is not 
Ophrah. The ancient site that is within the modern city of Afula is a cute 
little tell, with rows of Roman-period sarcophagi (did I spell that right?) 
re-used by the crusaders as building blocks surrounding its summit. For some 
more information about the site look here:

You are correct, Jim, that there are remains from most periods all the way 
back to the Early Bronze Age represented at the site. However, as far as I 
remember, the Late Bronze Age, which you insist is the time of the 
Patriarchs, is NOT represented.

There are lots of reasons to identify Ephrath(a) in the area of 
Bethlehem-Judah. Take a look at the genealogies in I Chr. 2 and 4, and 
you'll see that the "clan" of Ephrath is connected to such places as Etam, 
Tekoa, Zorah and Manahath, all in the Judean hills or Shephalah, certainly 
NOT in the Jezreel Valley.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 6:55 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Afula vs. Biblical Ophrah vs. Biblical Ephrathah

> Yigal Levin:
> You wrote:  “Afula used to be a popular suggestion [for being…t]he Ophrah 
> of
> Abiezer of Judges 6:11, hometown of Gideon, …until it turned out that 
> there
> is almost no evidence for Iron age I settlement at the site.  …Hanan Eshel
> makes a good case for identifying this Ophrah with a small Iron I site 
> south of
> Samaria.”
> 1.  Your geographical expertise is, as always, greatly appreciated.  I
> withdraw my suggestion that Biblical Ophrah is either modern Afula or 
> Biblical
> Ephrathah.  I believe that on p. 140 of “The Sacred Bridge” (2006), CARTA
> Jerusalem, Anson F. Rainey makes the very point you are making:
> “The story of Jotham (Judg 9: 7-21), the surviving son of Gideon, adds to 
> the
> impression that Ophrah must be in the Manassite area of the Samarian Hills
> somewhere southwest of Mount Gerizim (contra Gal 1982a).  Khirbet ‘Awfar, 
> about
> 3.7 miles (6 km) southwest of Shechem, has been suggested (Eshel 1982).”
> 2.  But now we move on to the exciting issues.
> (a)  “Afula” is a really, really old town, going all the way back to the
> Early Bronze Age.  We read at p. 45 of Rainey:
> “The transition to Early Bronze III is marked archaeologically by the
> appearance of ‘Khirbet Kerak Ware’….”  Rainey’s map at p. 45 shows “Afula”,
> located about 10 miles east of Megiddo, as being one of the “Sites where 
> Khirbet
> Kerak Ware was found.”
> Again at p. 49, “Afula” is shown on the map as being one of the “Early
> Bronze Age sites in ancient Canaan.”  “Afula” is east of Megiddo and north 
> of
> Taanach.
> (b)  Moving now to the Middle Bronze Age, “Afula” is still there.  At 
> Rainey’
> s map on p. 60, Afula (same location) is shown as being one of the “Middle
> Bronze archaeological sites in the southern Levant.”
> (c)  “Afula” is still there in the Early Iron Age.  On Rainey’s map on
> p.111, “Afula” (same location) is shown as being one of “[t]he most 
> prominent
> Early Iron Age sites.”
> (d)  Rainey shows “Afula” as being there in the Middle Bronze Age and in 
> the
> Early Iron Age.  Other sources reference “Afula” as being known in the 
> Late
> Bronze Age of the mid-14th century BCE (being the period between the 
> Middle
> Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age).
> 3.  Based on the foregoing information, including your correction of my 
> view
> concerning Biblical Ophrah, let me now reformulate my revised assertions
> regarding these key geographical matters as follows.
> (a)  “Afula”, located between Bethlehem of Galilee and ayin-dor/En-dor/”
> Migdal-eder” in northern Canaan, on the northern edge of the Jezreel 
> Valley, is a
> truly ancient city, long pre-dating the first Hebrews.  “Afula” remained
> prominent into the Early Iron Age, which is the time period when hundreds 
> of
> Hebrew villages suddenly show up in the highlands of Canaan (primarily 
> north of
> Jerusalem).  Though the linguistic match between “Afula” and “Ophrah” is
> tempting, Biblical Ophrah was apparently located much too far south to be 
> historical
> Afula.  Historical “Afula” is about 30 miles north of Shechem, whereas 
> Gideon
> ’s “Ophrah” may be located 3.7 miles southwest of Shechem.
> (b)  Of critical importance to an understanding of the Patriarchal
> narratives, historical “Afula” may be linguistically related to Biblical 
> “Ephrathah”.
> Since historical “Afula” long pre-dates the emergence of the Hebrews, and
> hence the emergence of the Hebrew language and Hebrew spelling, we should 
> not
> expect the spelling of these two names to be identical.  The first letter 
> of
> historical “Afula” is an ayin, whereas the first letter of Biblical 
> “Ephrathah”
> is an aleph.  Both are guttural sounds, so this difference in spelling the
> name of a pre-Hebrew town is not so surprising.  The next letter in both 
> cases
> is peh (P or PH).  “Afula” then has a vav, which is absent in “Ephrathah”,
> but the presence or absence of a vav in alternative spellings of 
> geographical
> place names in the Hebrew Bible is commonplace.  “Afula” then has a lamed,
> whereas “Ephrathah” has a resh.  But in the ancient languages, L and R are 
> often
> interchangeable.  As I noted in my previous post, “Egyptian r and Semitic 
> l
> are interchangeable”.  The endings then differ, but after about 1200 BCE, 
> many
> endings of place names changed.  “Afula” ends with he, whereas “Ephrathah”
> ends with tav-he (in two cases in Genesis;  in the third case, it ends 
> simply
> with tav).
> Thus the names “Afula” and “Ephrathah” seem fairly close linguistically.
> When one considers how many centuries went by, it is not surprising that a 
> town
> name that pre-dates the emergence of the Hebrew language by many, many
> centuries would have variations as to how such town name is spelled in 
> Hebrew.
> (c)  The geographical location of historical “Afula” is absolutely perfect
> for making sense out of Genesis 35: 16, 19 and Genesis 48: 7, on my theory 
> that
> Biblical “Ephratah” is historical “Afula”.  Jacob, starting out west of
> Bethlehem, is on the road to Afula/Ephratah when Rachel dies at Bethlehem, 
> 10
> miles northwest of Afula/Ephratah.  Jacob then proceeds past 
> Afula/Ephrathah to
> historical ayin-dor/En-dor, which is Biblical “Migdal-eder” (where 
>  “migdal”
> means “the fortified town of” and ayin-dor/En-dor/eder are linguistically
> indistinguishable).
> 4.  Yigal Levin, what is your own view of the geography cited at Genesis 
> 35:
> 16, 19, 21 and Genesis 48: 7?  If JEPD composed or heavily edited this
> material, then the one thing that you and I would surely agree upon is 
> that JEPD,
> being southern Hebrews in the mid-1st millennium BCE, certainly knew the
> geography of southern Canaan like the back of their collective hand. 
> Would it make
> sense for them to stud their composition with impossible geographical 
> claims
> about southern Canaan?  Certainly that makes no sense, even if the entire
> storyline of the Patriarchal narratives were a myth (not my view).  Why 
> would JEPD
> reference an “Ephrathah” as being either (i) an earlier name for Bethlehem 
> of
> Judea, or (ii) a town located fairly near Bethlehem?  Most of their 
> audience
> would have known that was not so.  And why reference a fictional fortified 
> town,
> called En-dor, between Bethlehem of Judea and Hebron, when most if not all 
> of
> their audience would know that (i) there never was a fortified town 
> between
> Bethlehem of Judea and Hebron, and (ii) there never was a town named 
> “En-dor”,
> or anything like that name, between Bethlehem of Judea and Hebron?  And if
> beloved Matriarch Rachel is being portrayed as dying within eyesight of 
> holy
> Jerusalem, why then not at least mention the beloved name “Jerusalem”?
> I believe that you and I may agree that JEPD had an encyclopedic knowledge 
> of
> every ridge and rill of beloved southern Canaan.  Why then would JEPD put 
> in
> a bunch of geographical references in the Patriarchal narratives that (a) 
> make
> no sense at all in southern Canaan, yet (b) make perfect sense, on all
> levels, for northern Canaan in the mid-14th century BCE?  (There’s no 
> Jerusalem in
> northern Canaan.  A single mention of “Jerusalem” in this sequence would 
> rule
> out my northern Canaan hypothesis.  How could JEPD “forget” Jerusalem, if
> JEPD are composing or heavily editing a story about Rachel dying at nearby
> Bethlehem of Judea?)
> Based on your publications, I believe that you are one of the leading 
> experts
> in the entire world on the geography of the tribes of Israel. 
> Accordingly,
> it stands to reason that you probably know more about the geography of 
> Biblical
> Canaan than most other people do, even most scholars in this field.  Thus 
> you
> of all persons are in a perfect position to judge whether the traditional,
> 2,500-year-old view is accurate that “Bethlehem” in chapter 35 of Genesis
> refers to Bethlehem of Judea, rather than to Bethlehem of Galilee in 
> northern
> Canaan.  There’s no “Ephrathah” near Bethlehem of Judea, but historical
> Afula/Ephrathah is near Bethlehem of Galilee.  There’s no “Migdal-eder” 
> near Bethlehem
> of Judea either, but the historical fortified town of ayin-dor/En-dor is 
> near
> Bethlehem of Galilee, in northern Canaan.
> What is your own explanation for the fact that the traditional,
> 2,500-year-old interpretation of the geography of chapter 35 of Genesis, 
> which tries to
> locate most sites in southern Canaan, appears to make no geographical 
> sense,
> whereas viewing these locales in a northern Canaan locale makes perfect 
> sense?
> You know more about these geographical issues than virtually any other 
> human
> being on the face of the planet.  Your considered view on this is of 
> critical
> importance.  As I see it, the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives is
> riding on these geographical issues.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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