[b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Nov 15 09:55:02 EST 2011

Chavoux Luyt wrote:
“My first reaction was that Shamgar is as Semitic as you can get.  But yes, 
it might be uncommon in later periods and common in the Late Bronze Age.  I 
would still not give much weight to proper names in determining the age of 
any text, but it can be an additional piece of evidence if there are other 
facts that point to a certain date.”
I have not found any Semitic etymology for “Shamgar”.
Although his title “ben Anat” is west Semitic and honors a Canaanite god, 
nevertheless as an honorific military title that title could be held by a 
non-Semitic person.  In evaluating the name “Shamgar” in the Song of Deborah, 
we might first take note of the Hurrian atmosphere of that ancient poem.  
QYNY means “Hurrian”, according to H.L. Ginsberg, B. Maisler and S. 
Abramsky.  Othniel Margalith, “The Sea Peoples in the Bible” (1994), p. 147.  
Accordingly, the names XBR [‘Heber’] and Y(L, who are said to be QYNY/“Kenites”
, might be expected to be Hurrian personal names.  [XBR means “Sky” or “Hea
ven” in Hurrian.  The name of his wife Y(L would not be expected to be a 
west Semitic name, nor would it be expected to have the incongruous west 
Semitic meaning in this ancient poem of “Male Ibex”.  A-al-la means “the lady” 
in Hurrian, which is the ideal meaning of the name of the wife of XBR, as 
Judges 4: 9 explicitly tells us that the point of the Song of Deborah is that 
Israel’s enemy General Sisera will not die a manly death on the battlefield, 
but rather will suffer the humiliation of being killed by “a woman”.]  At 
Judges 5: 6, Jael is linked to Shamgar ben Anat.
My prior post noted that ben Anat is an honorific military title that is 
attested in the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.  Shamgar is often viewed 
as being a Hurrian mercenary.  John H. Walton, Daniel I. Block, “Joshua, 
Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel” (2009), p. 132;  Richard A. Gabriel, “The Military 
History of Ancient Israel” (2003), p. 156.  The name $MGR has no known west 
Semitic etymology, and often is considered to be a Hurrian name.  “Shamgar’
s name does not seem to be Israelite.  Hamlin considers it to be a Hurrian 
name and suggests that Shamgar ‘was of Hurrian descent’ (Hamlin, 78).”  J. 
Clinton McCann, “Judges: Interpretation” (2011), p. 47.  “The name Shamgar 
is non-Semitic (HALOT 4:1552, s.v. $MGR), and likely would have been 
recognized as such even in antiquity….”  Marc Zvi Brettler, “The Book of Judges” 
(2002), pp. 24-25.   “Shamgar.  The name is apparently Hurrian, occurring in 
Nuzi texts.”  Robert G. Boling, “Judges: Volume 6, Part 1” (1975).  
The Hurrian name $a-am-xa-ri is attested at the Late Bronze Age Hurrian 
province of Nuzi in eastern Syria.  Nozadze, “Vocabulary of the Hurrian Language
” (2007), p. 298.  The consonants match, even though the third consonant is 
written gimel/G in Hebrew but heth/X in Hurrian.  “Hurrian had both 
voiceless and voiced velar fricatives, /x/ and /γ/, both of which were written [in 
Hurrian] with the sign for x.”  Fournet Bomhard, “The Indo-European 
Elements in Hurrian” (2010), p. 151.  That voiced velar fricative γ, though 
written heth/X in Hurrian, would likely have been written as a gimel/G by a Hebrew 
author [as such sound is often transliterated as G in English].  Even in 
Hurrian itself, the word “throne” is alternatively spelled gisxi or xisxi 
[that is, with the first letter alternatively being G or X].  Fournet Bomhard, 
p. 86.
Shamgar ben Anat is one of the most magnificent names in the entire Bible.  
That grand name literally reeks of the Hurrians’ declining fortunes at the 
close of the Late Bronze Age, as the Hebrews at long last definitively 
displace the Hurrians as the dominant people in Canaan, just as accurately 
predicted at Genesis 15: 18-21.  If we focus on proper names, we see how 
incredibly old the Song of Deborah is.  There’s no way that a post-exilic author 
could be coming up with all these vintage Late Bronze Age proper names.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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