[b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Mon Nov 14 00:51:57 EST 2011

In response to my question “In determining the date of composition of the Song of Deborah, how much weight, if any, should be given to the proper names in the received text?”, Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann responded:

“Nothing.  What's in a name?  Names are long-living, even if they contain long-vanished Gods as theophoric.  Names are worth almost few if anything when pondering the age of a text. With names, you can only prove that a text is young….”

By contrast, Dora Smith wrote:  “OF COURSE the Song of Deborah was written in the post-exilic period like the entire rest of the foundation of the Old Testament.”

My own fear is that if we ignore proper names, we may have little defense against Dora Smith’s view that the entire Bible is post-exilic.

Let’s check out Dr. Lehmann’s scholarly advice that proper names should be ignored in dating the Song of Deborah.  Per Dr. Lehmann’s suggestion, we’ll look at a “long-vanished god”.  And we’ll start with a west Semitic proper name [or title]:  BN (NT/ben Anat, which appears at Judges  5: 6 in the phrase “Shamgar ben Anat”.  

Anat is a Canaanite warrior goddess.  Contrary to Dr. Lehmann’s approach, to me it is implausible that a post-exilic Jew in Jerusalem could come up with the name/title “ben Anat”, which is redolent of the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age Canaan:

“The fact that the goddess Anat…is known as the warrior goddess and patroness of the soldier…leads one to assume that these seals could be linked to the warrior class known as the Beth-Anat both in Late Bronze Age Ugarit and Egypt and in early Iron Age Canaan….  About two dozen arrowheads from Lebanon and el-Hadr, near Bethlehem, dated to the eleventh century…apparently belonged to the members of the warrior class Ben-Anat.”  Othmar Keel, Christoph Uehlinger, “Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel” (Continuum International Publishing Group: 1998), p. 126

“This explanation of ‘son of Anat’ as an honorific military title in the name of ‘Shamgar ben Anat’ has been followed by such scholars as R. Kittel, C.H. Gordon, A. Van Selms, O. Eissfeldt, P.C. Craigie, and N. Shupak.”  John Day, “Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan” (Continuum International Publishing Group: 2002), p. 135.

>From the Late Bronze Age through the 11th century BCE, but not later, we have a warrior class that had the honorific military title “ben Anat”.  So even before we get to the name Shamgar itself, which is well-attested in the Late Bronze Age but is not attested thereafter, one has to wonder how a post-exilic Jew in Jerusalem could be thought to come up with the grand name “Shamgar ben Anat”.

The magnificent name “Shamgar ben Anat” seems perfectly at home in the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age, but would seem impossible for anyone to conjure up in the mid-1st millennium BCE.  And what about the following seemingly old names at Judges 5: 24:  H-QYNY and XBR and Y(L?  Nor have we yet considered that the Hebrew gimel/G in $MGR may represent ɣ, a voiced velar fricative, which other peoples may have recorded as a type of heth/X. 

If the names H-QYNY and XBR and Y(L and $MɣR BN (NT don’t get your motor running, what does?  All of those proper names are nicely attested in the Late Bronze Age, but most of them would have been entirely unknown [at least in my opinion] to post-exilic Jews in Jerusalem.  I myself see the Song of Deborah as being really, really old, only slightly post-dating the even older Patriarchal narratives.  Both texts deal with H-QYNY and XBR, as part of their shared vocabulary of truly ancient proper names.

To me, one of the best ways to date a Biblical text is on the basis of its proper names [especially, but not exclusively, its non-Semitic proper names like Shamgar].

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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