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Les vaisseaux du désert et des steppes

 | 
Damien Agut-Labordère
, 
Bérangère Redon

Dromedaries in the Hebrew Bible towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE

Martin Heide

Texte intégral

  • 1 Many thanks to Joris Peters for sharing his insights on the early history of the dromedary, to Jan (...)

1In the book of Judges, camels suddenly become populous in the Gideon narrative (Judges 6‑8), where they are the means of transport for some of Israel’s neighbors that entered Israel from the east.1 In addition, they receive a short mention as the riding animals of the Amalekites in the first book of Samuel. Both books relate to incidents that occurred towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE.

  • 2 Commentaries are usually reluctant to date the final composition of the book; cf. the introduction (...)

2Judges is the second book of the Former Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, which comprise Joshua, Judges, I‑II Samuel, and I‑II Kings. It is usually assumed that the various narratives in the book of Judges were woven together into an elaborate composition somewhere during the 10th‑6th centuries BCE.2

Archaeological considerations

3There is at least indirect archaeological evidence prior to the 10th century BCE that points to the people of Israel as it is delineated in the book of Judges. Most notably, there is the victory stela of Pharaoh Merenptah (1213‑1203 BCE), erected ca 1209 BCE in commemoration of the defeat of various intruders into the Delta. This stela mentions Israel in the form Yisra’il and claims that “Israel is laid waste; his seed is not”. The Egyptian determinative sees Israel not as a fixed foreign entity, such as a “state” or “country”, but simply as a “people”. While three city‑states mentioned in the stela, Ashkelon, Gezer and Yenoam, have the throw‑stick determinative for “foreign” entity and the three‑hills sign for foreign territory, “Israel” is written with the throw‑stick of foreigners, plus man and woman including plural strokes. This is the usual determinative for a people‑group. As Ashkelon in Merenptah’s stela represents the coastlands:

  • 3 Kitchen 2004, p. 272.

Gezer represents the inlands behind the coast and below the hill‑country proper, and Yenoam represents the Galilee region, the logic of the situation leaves only the hill‑country to which “Israel” may be assigned. Which […] is precisely where the biblical traditions about the Hebrew pre‑monarchic period place that entity.3

  • 4 Dever 2017, p. 191.

4However, a total Egyptian victory over the Israelite people, as claimed in the propagandistic stela, was obviously not the case.4

  • 5 Dever 2017, p. 188; cf. Stager 1985.

5The book of Judges describes pre‑monarchial Israel as a group of people or tribes without any king (Judg 21:25). Several details of everyday life in the book of Judges, especially in the Gideon narrative (Judg 6‑8), correlate well with archaeological observations, such as the designation of the “house of the father”, the worship of Baal and Asherah, the use of an oxen for heavy deconstruction work, and the mention of “threshing floor, winepress, household shrine, and village kinsmen and collaborators”.5

  • 6 Levin 2012; Dever 2017, p. 323, 324, 344.

6Archaeological evidence from the subsequent times of Samuel during the early Israelite monarchy (ca 11th‑10th centuries BCE) is scarce, but the recently excavated, strategically located fortress at Khirbet Qeiyafa, near the border with Philistia, points to the existence of a centralized government.6

The Hebrew text of the books of Judges and Samuel

7The Hebrew text widely in use today is the Masoretic text (MT) as known from Codex Leningrad B19A (1009 CE). It is used in the diplomatic editions of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the Biblia Hebraica Quinta. The Leningrad Codex preserves a Hebrew text that originally circulated during the late Hellenistic period, enriched by vowels and accents.

  • 7 Tov 2012, p. 158‑160.

8The forerunner of the MT, also called “proto‑MT”, preserved in various manuscripts from Qumran and its environment, is dating to the late Hellenistic and Roman periods. Manuscripts witnessing to this text were especially favored in rabbinic circles.7 The proto‑MT is one of many differing texts that were around during that time. The rich textual tradition of the late Hellenistic and the Roman periods as evidenced in Qumran and its surroundings shows features that are partly known from the later MT, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Greek Septuagint (LXX), the Syriac Peshitta, and the Targumim. These texts were copied from Hebrew Vorlagen of Hellenistic and Roman times that are not any more extant. They ultimately reach back to texts that received their final shape during the 6th‑5th centuries BCE or shortly thereafter.

9Despite the plurality of copies that basically are textual witnesses of the same text and that were around during the late Hellenistic Period and beyond, the differences between these texts are rarely consequential for our subject.

  • 8 Joosten 2016.

10Taking the Hebrew text from Qumran with its variants into consideration (see the appendix), it becomes clear that the various camel traditions of Judg and 1 Sam must be older than the oldest textual witness of each reference that is cited in the appendix or discussed below. Now the Hebrew employed in the earlier books of the Hebrew Bible from the late Hellenistic Period and from later times has linguistic features that point to a pre‑exilic form of Hebrew, or to Classical Biblical Hebrew (CBH), a form of Hebrew that was in use in pre‑exilic times, before ca 590 BCE. This applies mainly to the books of the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets (Joshua‑Kings) as well as the prose sections of the pre‑exilic prophets. On the other hand, the later books of the Hebrew Bible, especially Daniel, Esther, and Ezra‑Nehemiah, reveal linguistic elements that are characteristic of Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH).8 This means that the camel traditions from the earlier books of the Bible got their final linguistic shape between the pre‑exilic period (e.g. Judges, Samuel) and the exilic or immediate post‑exilic period (e.g. Kings) at the latest.

Camels in the books of Judges and Samuel

  • 9 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 251.

11In the Gideon narrative (Judg 6‑8), camels in large numbers were used by eastern tribes who repeatedly invaded Israel. On the other hand, their number is only relatively large, from the perspective of the Israelites, who had no camels at all. The camels of the eastern coalition in Judg 6 were probably the results of the first successful dromedary breeding endeavors (Camelus dromedarius).9 This happened, according to the chronology inherent to the early books of the Hebrew Bible, somewhere around 1100 BCE.

  • 10 Heide 2011.

12There is also inscriptional evidence for the camel outside of the Hebrew Bible. During the 14th‑12th centuries BCE, the earliest written evidence for the dromedary turns up in Sumerian as the “donkey of the Sea[land]”. This term appears in lexical lists, which are comparable to bilingual dictionaries. They were used for the training of Mesopotamian scribes. These lists were unearthed from Nippur in southern Mesopotamia as far as Ugarit in northern Syria.10

  • 11 For the location of the בְּנֵי־קֶדֶם and their allies, see Jericke 2013, p. 187‑188.
  • 12 Bulliet 1990, p. 36.
  • 13 Albright 1942, p. 96; Henninger 1968, p. 18; Wilson 1984, p. 9; cf. Barako 2000, p. 520; Uerpmann  (...)
  • 14 This is a modified version of Sasson’s (2014, p. 324) translation; see also the discussion below.

13The famous passage of Judg 6 seems to portray the Midianites, Amalekites, and the Bene Qedem or “sons of the east” (בְּנֵי־קֶדֶם) as camel warriors.11 This is the impression given by Bulliet,12 who refers to the Midianites and Amalekites as “the camel riding foes of Gideon”. Albright also maintained that camel‑riding nomads first appeared with Gideon.13 However, the Midianites and their allies are not described as camel riders or camel warriors, but more likely as cameleers leading pack animals. It is worth taking a detailed look at the text in question (Judg 6:3‑6):14

3 For it was whenever Israel seeded its land, Midian would come up with the Amalekites and the Bene Qedem, and they would go against it. 4 And then they would encamp against them and ravage the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock, and their tent‑dwellers would march in, like locusts in number. Both they and their camels were innumerable, and they came into the land just to devastate it. 6 So Israel was brought very low because of Midian.

  • 15 The connection of the Hebrew conjugations with tenses is misleading. Therefore, the designations u (...)
  • 16 Joüon and Muraoka 2008, § 118h‑ia.
  • 17 Joüon and Muraoka 2008, § 113e‑ga.

14Looking closer at the MT, its various conjugations are peculiar. The text changes, from stating the norm through several weqatals15 with iterative force in Judg 6:3 (וְהָיָ֖ה אִם־זָרַ֣ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל ... “it was whenever Israel seeded…”), to wayyiqtol to describe the extent of these raids (וַיַּחֲנוּ עֲלֵיהֶם ... עַד־בּוֹאֲךָ֖ עַזָּ֑ה “then they would encamp against them… as far as Gaza”),16 and a negated yiqtol to summarize the repeatedly bitter outcome (וְלֹֽא־יַשְׁאִ֤ירוּ מִֽחְיָה֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל .... “and leave no sustenance in Israel…”, 6:4). Next, the narrator introduces כִּי to particularize the force of the enemy in 6:5. Then, he uses yiqtol to detail the repeated actions (כִּ֡י הֵם֩ וּמִקְנֵיהֶ֨ם יַעֲל֜וּ וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם יבאוּ “for they would come up with their livestock, and their tent‑dwellers would march in”), and some nominal phrases to describe the enemy’s superior numbers. Judg 6:5 is background information and does not introduce actions subsequent to 6:3‑4.17 Finally, the narrative makes use of some wayyiqtols to summarize the aim of the enemy and the impact of the repeated raids (וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ בָאָ֖רֶץ לְשַׁחֲתָֽהּ׃ וַיִּדַּ֧ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מְאֹ֖ד מִפְּנֵ֣י מִדְיָ֑ן “they came into the land just to devastate it. So, Israel was brought very low because of Midian”).

  • 18 Dawson 1994, p. 130. See also Judg 12:5, where וַיֹּאמְרוּ introduces the reaction to the request (...)

15A similar array of Hebrew conjugations is found in Judg 2:17, where a wayyiqtol (וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲו֖וּ), embedded in a series of weqatals representing iterative actions, is udes to express the impact and climax of apostasy.18

  • 19 Eph’al 1982, p. 63.
  • 20 Sasson 2014, p. 328.
  • 21 Jabbur 1995, p. 224.

16Judg 6:5 gives a lively description of the irresistible supremacy of the enemy. In the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets, the Ishmaelite, Midianite, and Amalekite people groups are only distinguished in narrative contexts set prior to the 10th century BCE; after that, they are collectively called “Arabs”, and various tribes not mentioned in the earlier sources begin to appear instead, such as Dedan and Dumah. In contrast, the Bene Qedem or “sons of the east” appear in both earlier and later sources.19 This phrase applied to (a) specific tribal group(s).20 In Judg 6, the Midianites and their allied tribesmen would come up with their livestock of cattle, goats, and sheep. The tribesmen, including their families, would pitch their tents anywhere, and numerous camels would roam the land (וְלָהֶ֥ם וְלִגְמַלֵּיהֶ֖ם אֵ֣ין מִסְפָּ֑ר). The Midianite tactic was to consume and destroy the livelihood of Israel by damaging its crop before the harvest. First, humans consumed the legumes, fruits, and vegetables that were available. Then, their cattle roamed the fields and devoured the cereal grasses before the harvest. Sheep, and especially goats, are quite modest in their demand for grass and shrubs, so they would consume what was left. However, camels in great numbers that were led into the area would consume shrubs that even small livestock flocks had passed over and higher above ground vegetation.21 Moreover, the Israelites at that time did not know how to capture or handle camels and thus were at the mercy of their oppressors. In this way, the Midianites consumed the produce of the land (יְבוּל הָאָרֶץ). Finally, to make sure that they did not oversee any food or means of transport, they took away the cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys of the Israelites.

  • 22 Some words in the Hebrew Bible preserve two different readings, known as Khetiv and Qere. The Khet (...)
  • 23 This particular Khetiv/Qere variation may have been caused due to a graphical error (a simple vari (...)

17Prima facie, the verbal translation of Judg 6:5, “For they would come up with their livestock, and their tents would come like locusts in number” (כִּ֡י הֵם֩ וּמִקְנֵיהֶ֨ם יַעֲל֜וּ וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם יבאו כְדֵֽי־אַרְבֶּה֙ לָרֹ֔ב), based on the Kethiv,22 seems to result in an awkward expression. Although the Qere disconnects the expression וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם “and their tents” from the verbal form יבאו, the general meaning remains unchanged (כִּ֡י הֵם֩ וּמִקְנֵיהֶ֨ם יַעֲל֜וּ וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם וּבָ֤אוּ כְדֵֽי־אַרְבֶּה֙ לָרֹ֔ב “For they would come up with their livestock, and their tents, and they came like locusts in number”).23 Either way, both expressions, וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם יבאו (Khetiv) andכִּ֡י הֵם֩ ... יַעֲל֜וּ ואְָהֳליֵהֶ֗ם (Qere), have “tents” as their subject. Tents are normally not expected to “come up” or “walk in”. However, the “walking tents” of Judg 6:5 can at least be interpreted in two ways.

18a. The camels were probably packed and overloaded with dwelling tents and their furnishings. Thus, the intruding pack train would give the impression of tents marching in. They would be, quite naturally, the first detail noticed by an observer from afar. By comparison, Wilson describes a train of camels on a 160 km journey in Sudan. They carried each three 100 kg sacks of sugar over long distances, “festooned like Christmas trees with various other bits of baggage” (1984: 166).

  • 24 Gesenius 1987‑2012, p. 20.
  • 25 Lane 1863‑1893, p. 121.
  • 26 Beeston et al. 1982, p. 3.

19b. It is more likely to understand the expression אָהֳל “tent” in the context of mobile desert‑dwellers, having the same connotation as Arabic أهل ahl.24 This semantic connection is known from 1 Chr 4:41 and 2 Chr 14:14, but it very likely applies here as well. Ahl expresses “the people of a house or dwelling, and of a town or village, and of a country”.25 The same meaning is known from Epigraphic South Arabian.26

20Thus, respecting the Kethiv, Judg 6:5 could be translated as, “For they would come up with their livestock, and their tent‑dwellers would come in like locusts in number”. With the Qere, Judg 6:5 reads, “They and their camels would come up, and their tent‑dwellers – and they came like locusts in number.”

  • 27 Wong 2007, p. 539f.
  • 28 Bulliet 1990, p. 77.

21It is noteworthy that the Israelites of that time apparently had no camels – only flocks, oxen, and donkeys (Judg 6:4). As Wong and others have observed, the whole scene is a vivid reminiscence of a real locust‑like invasion as narrated in Exod 10:14‑15 (cf. also Joel 1:4).27 In Exod 10:14, the locusts are advancing against Egypt, then they settle down, damage the vegetation, and spare next to nothing – just as in Judg 6:3‑4. Here, however, the locust‑like Midianite oppressors are sent against God’s own people. Whereas the camel itself does not seem to have struck the writer as extraordinary, its large numbers (Judg 6:5), “as the sand on the seashore” (Judg 7:12), surely did.28

  • 29 The Egyptian word used here is a loanword from Semitic ʾhl “tent; family”, such as in אֹהֶל or in (...)
  • 30 Weippert 1974, p. 275.

22Judg 6:5, with its description of the Midianites (“for they would come up with their livestock, and their tent‑dwellers would march in”), has some similarity to Papyrus Harris I, where Ramesses III is described as destroying “the people of Seir among the Shasu tribes”. Although the Egyptian text bypasses any specific information about transport animals that would have carried the tents of the Shasu, the very mention of tents, as a Semitic loanword,29 and small cattle,30 is noteworthy:

I raized their tents: their people, their property, and their cattle as well, without number, pinioned and carried away in captivity, as the tribute of Egypt (Giveon 1971: 136).

  • 31 The Amarna letters, written some 200 years before this event, also testify to an abundant provisio (...)

23After the defeat of the Midianites, Gideon killed the two Midianite kings Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away “the crescents on their camel’s necks” (אֶת־הַשַּׂהֲרֹנִים אֲשֶׁר בְּצַוְּארֵי גְמַלֵּיהֶם, Judg 8:21). The Midianite kings had a similar kind of jewelry (Judg 8:26), and some “Ishmaelites” had golden earrings (Judg 8:24). In sum, Gideon got 1,700 shekels of gold (Judg 8:26).31

  • 32 Gesenius 1987‑2012, p. 1279; Lane 1863‑1893, p. 1612.
  • 33 Zalmunna, צַלְמֻנָּע, with its Hebrew meaning “shadow is denied”, seems to be a euphemistic reinte (...)
  • 34 Dalley 1986, p. 86.
  • 35 Zebah, זֶבַח “offering”, reflecting the Semitic root ḏbḥ, is a name known in Ancient South Arabian (...)
  • 36 Knauf 1988, p. 1‑2.

24Besides the plural form שׂהרנים “crescents”, the root śhr “moon” is uncommon in Classical Hebrew. It is probably of Aramaic origin and is also common in Arabic and Epigraphic South Arabian.32 A stela that records an offering to Ṣalm, a divine name that is part of the personal name Zalmunna,33 displays a winged disk, a star, and a crescent moon.34 In addition, their camels had collars (עֲנָקוֹת) around their necks (Judg 8:26). The names of Zebah and Zalmunna,35 as well as the ornaments, reveal features that are similar to those of the later inhabitants of the northwestern Arabian Peninsula. This makes it plausible to locate the Midianites of the Hebrew Bible geographically in the wider region of the Gulf of Aqaba.36

25The continued attacks of the Midianites seem to have originated in the northeast of Israel. According to the book of Judges, they penetrated through the Lower Galilee into the Jezreel Valley and raided the northern tribes of Israel. After years of assault, Gideon and his band of gallant warriors managed to defeat and pursue them through the northern part of the Jordan valley until Succoth, where they tried to escape to the east but finally had to accept total defeat (Judg 7:22‑8:12).

Camels in the books of Samuel

26The narrator of the books of Samuel introduces the prophet Samuel, who is a key figure in bringing the period of Judges to an end, and in defining and establishing kingship in early Israel. Samuel anoints, introduces, and approves Saul, Israel’s first king, toward the end of the 11th century BCE.

  • 37 Fokkelman 1986, p. 89; Sternberg 1992, p. 239; Dietrich 2015, p. 154.
  • 38 Klein 1983, p. 149f.; Dietrich 2015, p. 156‑157.
  • 39 For camps and villages side‑by‑side, and tents in a sedentary context, see Cribb 1991, p. 151‑161; (...)

27Shortly after his enthronement, Samuel orders Saul to “strike Amalek and all that belongs to him […] and slay from man to woman, from infant to suckling, from ox to flocks, from camel to donkey” (1 Sam 15:3). This long and all‑inclusive series is reinforced by way of structural as well as thematical allusions to Judg 6:3‑5.37 The idiom מן ... עד “from… to”, repeatedly employed in the phrase of 1 Sam 15:3, “from man to woman, from infant to suckling, from ox to small cattle, from camel to donkey” (מֵאִ֣ישׁ אִשָּׁ֗ה מֵֽעֹלֵל֙ וְעַד־יוֹנֵ֔ק מִשּׁ֣וֹר וְעַד־שֶׂ֔ה מִגָּמָ֖ל וְעַד־חֲמֽוֹר), expresses the all‑inclusiveness of the destruction, brought upon humans and beasts alike. The idiom always runs from the larger to the smaller object, so that camels are named before donkeys, although they belonged to the least important animals in the eyes of the Israelites. This is the only time that Amalekites are portrayed as city dwellers in the Hebrew Bible (1 Sam 15:5).38 According to Gen 36:12‑16, the Amalekites were closely related to the Edomites, and they had good relations with nations to the southeast of Israel, such as Moab and Ammon (Judg 3:13). In Judg 6:3, they allied with the Midianites and the “sons of the east”. In the period portrayed in 1 Sam 15, however, the Amalekites were partly sedentary and occupied a sparsely populated area of southern Palestine as far as the Egyptian border (1 Sam 15:7). They used donkeys and camels as transport animals.39

  • 40 Mešaʿ Inscription, lines 14‑17. Lines 10‑14 of the same inscription give further details, namely “ (...)
  • 41 Sternberg 1992, p. 243‑245.

28Saul obeyed Samuel’s command to put the Amalekites and their livestock under a ban (הַחֲרַמְתֶּם), a practice known from the books of Deuteronomy (7:2; 20:17) and Joshua (6:21). It is also known some 150 years later from king Mešaʿ of Moab: he took men, boys, women, girls and maid‑servants and devoted them (החרמתה) to Ashtar‑Chemosh, i.e. to destruction.40 In the end, Saul’s mission failed, because he spared (וַיַּחְמֹל) king Agag and the best of the livestock, against Yhwh’s and Samuel’s order respectively (לֹא תַחְמֹל, literally “do not have pity”).41 The text does not suggest, however, that he spared donkeys and camels, but only animals that were good for meat of future breeding: “the best of the small cattle, the oxen, the fattened calves, the lambs, and all that was good” (1 Sam 15:9.14‑15).

29Some years later, Samuel anoints David as a replacement for Saul by the order of Yhwh, while Saul is still in office. The new king has to flee for his life. He is forced into exile in Ziklag in the neighboring country of the Philistines. From Ziklag, he leads repeated attacks on traditional enemies of Israel:

  • 42 The Geshurites here are not to be identified with the people living in Geshur further north (Deut  (...)
  • 43 According to the Qere, supported by Codex A (Γεζραιον; B א omit), the Targumim (גזראי), and the Vu (...)

His men went up, and made a raid upon the Geshurites,42 and the Girzites,43 and the Amalekites: for those nations were the inhabitants of the land from of old, as far as Shur, to the land of Egypt. David would strike the land, and would leave neither man nor woman alive, but would take away the flocks, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels, and the garments, and come back to Achish (1 Sam 27:8‑9).

  • 44 This is obvious from the weqatals and the lō‑yiqtol employed in verse 9וְהִכָּה ... וְלֹא יְחַיֶּה (...)
  • 45 Sima 2000, p. 11‑17.

30David’s spoil of the repeated raids consisted of “flocks, oxen, donkeys, camels, and garments” (צֹאן וּבָקָר וַחֲמֹרִים וּגְמַלִּים וּבְגָדִים).44 This list runs reverse to the campaign reports of the southwest Arabian kings from the 7th century BCE onwards, where dromedaries are always listed first, so that a typical list would include “camels, oxen, donkeys, and small cattle” (ʾʾblm wbqrm wḥmrm wqnym).45

  • 46 The Cherethites are associated with the Philistines and lived south and southeast of Gaza, “but it (...)
  • 47 The “Negev of Caleb” is the homeland of the Calebites in southern Palestine (Fretz and Panitz 1992 (...)

31After that, the Amalekites launched a counter‑attack and made a large raid against the Philistines and Judah (1 Sam 30:15), more specific “against the Negev of the Cherethites,46 and against that which belongs to Judah, and against the Negev of Caleb”,47 and burned Ziklag to the ground (1 Sam 30:14). Finally, David struck them down. The victory over the Amalekites allowed him to gather spoils, which consisted of sheep and goats (1 Sam 30:20). However, 400 Amalekites “mounted camels and fled” (רָכְבוּ עַל־הַגְּמַלִּים וַיָּנֻסוּ, 1 Sam 30:17). This is the first time that camel riders are mentioned explicitly in the Hebrew Bible. These “young men” (אִישׁ־נַעַר) had to know how to ride and control a camel, how to make it gallop – camels usually walk in a pace of 3.5‑5 mph, and never trot – and how to control it until the camel had left the area of battle.

  • 48 Macdonald 2000, p. 64.
  • 49 In the famous panel from Aššurbanipal’s palace at Niniveh, Arabian warriors are pictured as sittin (...)

32By comparison, Arabian warriors used dromedaries as riding animals in the battle of Qarqar in 853 BCE. They used the animals to approach the battlefield, where they dismounted and went into battle. In the event of defeat, the camel was used to make a speedy escape,48 just as in 1 Sam 30:17. The 400 men who רָכְבוּ עַל־הַגְּמַלִּים וַיָּנֻסוּ “mounted camels and fled” availed themselves of camels as soon as they saw that the situation was becoming desperate, probably using much less than 400 camels.49

  • 50 Hill 1975, p. 34; Macdonald 1991, p. 103; Macdonald 2015, p. 67; Schmitt 2005, p. 285.
  • 51 Thesiger 1991, p. 59.
  • 52 Livy, History of Rome 37:40, about the famous Battle of Magnesia 189 BCE: “In front of this mass o (...)

33There is no evidence that the early mobile camel pastoralists of Syria and Arabia ever used the camel as a fighting mount, except in an emergency.50 “Riding a galloping camel, especially over rough ground, is like sitting on a bucking horse”,51 and does not permit any effective fighting technique. There are only some later incidents where Arabian archers mounted on dromedaries fought directly against their enemies, as told by Classical authors.52

34The incidents portrayed above, which happened towards the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE respectively, give a lively description of the earliest camel exploitation by peoples that practiced transhumance and that sometimes raided the sedentary population of the Levant. It is noteworthy that the Israelites of that time were stunned by large numbers of camels (Judg 6). They had neither horses nor camels and were unable to follow warriors that escaped on camel backs (1 Sam 30).

Appendix: The Hebrew text of the camel passages in the books of Judges and Samuel

  • 53 For easy access to these texts, see Ulrich and Cross 2015 (all texts in Hebrew) and Abegg, Flint, (...)
  • 54 Trebolle Barrera 1995, p. 162; Trebolle Barrera 1989, p. 239.
  • 55 Tov 2012, p. 313‑314.
  • 56 Ausloos 2014, p. 370; cf. Rezetko 2013.
  • 57 Fernández Marcos 2011, p. 67*; Sasson 2014, p. 6‑7.
  • 58 Hendel and Joosten 2018, p. 57‑58.

35Various textual witnesses from Qumran give the earliest material evidence for texts that deal with camels in the books of Judges and Samuel.53 Three Hebrew manuscripts of the book of Judges that are known from Qumran and its environment confirm the general textual character of the early biblical text provided by the MT and the early translations (1QJudg, 4QJudgb and XJudg). However, fragment 4QJudga “is independent from any other known text‑type, although it shares readings with the proto‑Lucianic text”.54 This fragment, dated to 50‑25 BCE, may point to a different literary edition of Judg 6, wherein Judg 6:7‑10 is missing.55 Some scholars find such a possibility “very attractive”,56 while others think that the paragraph was skipped erroneously.57 Be that as it may, the paragraph Judg 6:7‑10 is written in Classical Hebrew prose, so that it is possible that both versions, with and without the paragraph, existed side by side for some time.58

  • 59 Rahlfs‑Hanhart 2006.

36The ancient texts of Judges in the Greek codices Vaticanus (4th century CE) and Alexandrinus (5th century CE) seem to be the result of two different recensions and are edited separately in the critical edition of Rahlfs‑Hanhart.59 Only part of Judges is preserved in Codex Sinaiticus, but in the passage cited here, it agrees with Codex Vaticanus except for orthographic matters. Codex Alexandrinus disagrees with the other two codices in minor substitutions of nouns and verbs, which do not affect the general meaning of Judg 6:5 and its immediate context (see the table below).

  • 60 The omission of the Syriac slipped the attention of Rezetko (2013) and Fernández Marcos (2011); cf (...)
  • 61 Rezetko 2013, p. 38.

37At the end of V3, 4QJudga lacks ועלוּ עליו, “and they came up against them”, in agreement with the Latin Vulgate and the Syriac Peshitta.60 This phrase has been suspected to be a secondary addition.61 It is attested in the MT, the LXX, and Targum Jonathan. However, one of the basic principles of textual criticism is to prefer the reading that best explains the development of all other readings. There was certainly no pressure for any scribe to include the phrase, but there was reason enough to eliminate it, as it prima facie sounded repetitive in face of the immediate preceding וְעָלָ֨ה מִדְיָ֧ן וַֽעֲמָלֵ֛ק וּבְנֵי־קֶ֖דֶם “and Midian and Amalek and the sons of the east came up”.

38Therefore, it may be argued that this phrase is the lectio difficilior and has a higher probability to be original than its omission. However, since it seems to be superfluous, and is not widely attested in the versions, it remains uncertain.

39In V4, the scribe omitted בישׂראל “in Israel” and squeezed it in above the line. He seems to have abbreviated the subsequent listing of וְשֶׂה וָשׁוֹר וַחֲמוֹר “neither sheep, nor ox, nor donkey” to שׂה שׁוֹר וחמוֹר “[neither] sheep, ox, nor donkey”, but it is difficult to decide what was original, and it does not change the meaning anyway.

  • 62 Trebolle Barrera 1995, p. 162.
  • 63 Trebolle Barrera 1989, p. 236‑237; Trebolle Barrera 1995, p. 163; Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich 1999, p (...)

40Looking into the specific verse that mentions camels (Judg 6:5), 4QJudga omits וגמליהם “and their camels” at the expected location. However, 4QJudga sometimes agrees with the later Lucianic tradition of the LXX,62 so that 4QJudga very likely shifted the reference to camels from the end of verse 5 (ולהם ולגמליהם אין מספר) to its beginning (ואהליהם וגמליהם יבאו), in the same way as the Lucianic recension:63

MT (Masoretic Text)
כִּ֡י הֵם֩ וּמִקְנֵיהֶ֨ם יַעֲל֜וּ וְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם יבאו ...וְלָהֶ֥ם וְלִגְמַלֵּיהֶ֖ם אֵ֣ין מִסְפָּ֑ר For they came up with their livestock, and their tents came in; … both they and their camels were without number
4QJudga
כי הם ומקניהם יעלו ואהליהם וגמליהם יבאו ... ולהם אין מספר For they came up with their livestock and their tents, and their camels came in; … and they were without number
LXX (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus)
ὅτι αὐτοὶ καὶ αἱ κτήσεις αὐτῶν ἀνέβαινον καὶ αἱ σκηναὶ αὐτῶν, … καὶ αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς καμήλοις αὐτῶν οὐκ ἦν ἀριθμός For they came up with their livestock, and their tents, … both they and their camels were without number
LXX, Lucianic recension
ὅτι αὐτοὶ καὶ αἱ κτήσεις αὐτῶν ἀνέβαινον καὶ τὰς σκηνὰς αὐτῶν παρέφερον καὶ τὰς καμήλους αὐτῶν ἤγον … καὶ αὐτοῖς οὐκ ἦν ἀριθμός For they came up with their livestock and brought in their tents and led in their camels; … and they were without number

Early variants of Judges 6:5

41As the table demonstrates, the various readings provided by the MT, by 4QJudga and its supposed restitution, by the LXX according to the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (4th century CE), and by the later Lucianic recension provide some rearrangements in phraseology and word order, but do not imply any substantial alteration of meaning regarding camels and their use.

42Moreover, the reading provided by the MT in Judg 6:5 is the shorter and the more difficult one (lectio brevior and lectio difficilior). It was already known during the Second Temple Period and very likely caused the variants presented above. It seems that especially the phrase ואהליהם יבאו “and their tent‑dwellers came in” was misunderstood and interpreted as “and their tents came in” (see discussion above). This in turn led to the rearrangement of “camels” as displayed in the table to create a more natural meaning. In this way, it can be argued that the Masoretic reading best explains the origin of all other readings.

The Hebrew text of the camel passages in the books of Samuel

  • 64 See e.g. Tov 2012, p. 311‑313.
  • 65 Hugo 2010, p. 2.
  • 66 Fincke 2001, p. 3‑8.

43It seems that 4QSama, the Qumran scroll of the books of Samuel, generally reflects a more reliable text than the MT, which has many textual corruptions.64 4QSama (50‑25 BCE)65 is written in Hebrew Herodian script and provides about 60% of the Hebrew text of Samuel. It often agrees with the LXX, with readings that are known from Josephus’ Antiquities, or goes its own ways.66 Unfortunately, the two explicit camel traditions of Hebrew Samuel, 1 Sam 15:3 and 1 Sam 30:17, are not extant in 4QSama. However, the immediate context of 4QSama gives at least an impression of the textual condition of the two passages under consideration.

  • 67 Hugo 2010, p. 4.

44Further early readings are provided by fragments of 4QSamb (ca 250‑200 BCE), another textual witness that often agrees with the LXX against the MT, and that is typical of the complex and eventful history of the Hebrew text of Samuel.67 4QSamb, fragment no. 3, allows with 1 Sam 15:16‑18 a glimpse into the larger context of the chapter. The fragment is very scrappy and had to be largely restored, but it seems to have no deviations from the MT at this place.

  • 68 Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich 1999, p. 227.
  • 69 Ulrich 2013, p. 276.

454QSama, fragment no. 8, allows to read some phrases of 1 Sam 15:24‑32, providing five textual variants that deviate from the MT.68 Besides some minor readings that would not affect the meaning of the passage, 1 Sam 15:29 has two noteworthy variants: Instead of נצח ישראל לא ישקר “the glory of Israel does not lie”, 4QSama reads with (the Greek of) Josephus’ Antiquities 6:153 נצח ישראל לא ישוב “the glory of Israel does not change his mind”. In 1 Sam 15:31, 4QSama leaves the grammatical subject open (וישתחו ליהוה “and he worshipped Yhwh”), in agreement with Codex Vaticanus (LXX), the Lucianic recension (LXX), and Josephus’ Antiquities 6:154, but against the MT and other early versions that define the subject as Saul (וישתחו שאול ליהוה “and Saul worshipped Yhwh”).69 In both cases, 4QSama seems to provide the preferable reading, especially in 1 Sam 15:31. Saul was expected to be the logical subject here (cf. 1 Sam 15:30), so that there was no need to introduce it expressis verbis.

  • 70 Dirksen 1978, p. 35.

46The old versions (LXX, Vulgate, Peshitta, Targum Jonathan) of 1 Sam 15:3 and its immediate context provide no variants that would point to a different setting or meaning of the event, or that would fundamentally alter the specific mention of camels. For instance, some manuscripts of the Syriac Peshitta have a different word order, shuffling ܬܘܪ̈ܐ “oxen” with ܓܡ̈ܠܐ “camels” in 1 Sam 15:3.70 There are also some variants in the larger contexts of each version, and some harmonizations and additions in Targum Jonathan in accordance with its general character.

  • 71 Jastrow 1992, p. 582; Harrington and Saldarini 1987, p. 158.
  • 72 Sokoloff 1992, p. 66.
  • 73 Sperber 1992, II, p. 156.

471 Sam 30:17 is not preserved in 4QSama. Of the larger context, fragments no. 45‑46 provide only some words that are, however, in agreement with the MT. The LXX, Peshitta, and Vulgate have no variants that significantly affect the meaning of 1 Sam 30:15‑20, let alone the camel tradition of 1 Sam 30:17. In 1 Sam 30:17, some manuscripts of Targum Jonathan render Hebrew גמלים “camels” with Aramaic ינקיא that seems to denote “young [camels]”,71 but ינקיא is an orthographic variant of אנקיא “female camels”, which is related to Arabic ناقة nāqa “female camel”.72 Most manuscripts read גמליא “camels”.73

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Notes

1 Many thanks to Joris Peters for sharing his insights on the early history of the dromedary, to Jan Joosten for sending me his comment on Judg 6 prior to its publication, and to the peer reviewer for his very helpful comments.

2 Commentaries are usually reluctant to date the final composition of the book; cf. the introductions in Niditch 2008; Groß 2009 and Sasson 2014.

3 Kitchen 2004, p. 272.

4 Dever 2017, p. 191.

5 Dever 2017, p. 188; cf. Stager 1985.

6 Levin 2012; Dever 2017, p. 323, 324, 344.

7 Tov 2012, p. 158‑160.

8 Joosten 2016.

9 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 251.

10 Heide 2011.

11 For the location of the בְּנֵי־קֶדֶם and their allies, see Jericke 2013, p. 187‑188.

12 Bulliet 1990, p. 36.

13 Albright 1942, p. 96; Henninger 1968, p. 18; Wilson 1984, p. 9; cf. Barako 2000, p. 520; Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 251.

14 This is a modified version of Sasson’s (2014, p. 324) translation; see also the discussion below.

15 The connection of the Hebrew conjugations with tenses is misleading. Therefore, the designations used here are qatal for the suffix conjugation (older designation: “perfectum”), yiqtol for the prefix conjugation (“imperfectum”), wayyiqtol for consecutive yiqtol (“imperfectum consecutivum”) and weqatal for consecutive qatal (“perfectum consecutivum”).

16 Joüon and Muraoka 2008, § 118h‑ia.

17 Joüon and Muraoka 2008, § 113e‑ga.

18 Dawson 1994, p. 130. See also Judg 12:5, where וַיֹּאמְרוּ introduces the reaction to the request of each Ephraimite who wanted to cross the river Jordan (וְהָיָה כִּי יֹאמְרוּ פְּלִיטֵי אֶפְרַיִם אֶעֱבֹרָה). A similar resultative wayyiqtol is found in Judg 16:16 “so that his soul was vexed to death” (וַתִּקְצַ֥ר נַפְשׁ֖וֹ לָמֽוּת׃). Burney’s (1920, p. 176) comment on Judg 6:3‑6 that, “the somewhat curious combination of tenses in the Heb[rew] suggest that elements from more than one source have been combined; and these it is useless to attempt to unravel” is based on a misunderstanding of the embedded wayyiqtols. The same applies to Moore’s (1966, p. 178) remark that, “the confusion of tenses, which in English is only awkward, is in Hebrew ungrammatical”.

19 Eph’al 1982, p. 63.

20 Sasson 2014, p. 328.

21 Jabbur 1995, p. 224.

22 Some words in the Hebrew Bible preserve two different readings, known as Khetiv and Qere. The Khetiv refers to what is written in the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible, as preserved by scribal tradition, while the Qere points to the actual reading of the MT, indicated by the vowels.

23 This particular Khetiv/Qere variation may have been caused due to a graphical error (a simple variation between waw and yod at the beginning of a word). Some of the Greek textual witnesses read παρέφερον, which would require the hifil יביאוּ “they brought their tents”, thereby corroborating the Kethiv (Fernández Marcos 2011, p. 65*), albeit in their own interpretation.

24 Gesenius 1987‑2012, p. 20.

25 Lane 1863‑1893, p. 121.

26 Beeston et al. 1982, p. 3.

27 Wong 2007, p. 539f.

28 Bulliet 1990, p. 77.

29 The Egyptian word used here is a loanword from Semitic ʾhl “tent; family”, such as in אֹהֶל or in أهل ʾahl; see Rosen and Saidel 2010, p. 71.

30 Weippert 1974, p. 275.

31 The Amarna letters, written some 200 years before this event, also testify to an abundant provision of gold; see EA 16: 13‑34; EA 19: 34‑38; Moran 1992.

32 Gesenius 1987‑2012, p. 1279; Lane 1863‑1893, p. 1612.

33 Zalmunna, צַלְמֻנָּע, with its Hebrew meaning “shadow is denied”, seems to be a euphemistic reinterpretation superimposed on the text by the Masoretes, of a personal name that is composed of the divine name Ṣalm and the root manaʿ “to hinder, prevent, ward off s.o.” This root is known from Ancient South Arabian (Beeston et al 1982, p. 86) and from Arabic (منع Lane 1863‑1893, p. 3024), so that Zalmunna means “Ṣalm has prevented” (cf. Knauf 1988, p. 91), “Ṣalm has denied”, or “Ṣalm has protected”. The deity Ṣalm is known from Akkadian texts of the 2nd millennium BCE (Dalley 1986, p. 89‑90). He was worshiped in Taymāʾ in northwestern Arabia in the first millennium BCE. It is not entirely clear whether Ṣalm was a sun god (Maraqten 1996, p. 19‑22) or a moon god (Knauf 1989, p. 78‑80, 150‑151; Wenning 2013, p. 336).

34 Dalley 1986, p. 86.

35 Zebah, זֶבַח “offering”, reflecting the Semitic root ḏbḥ, is a name known in Ancient South Arabian and Arabic (Hayajneh 1998, p. 137).

36 Knauf 1988, p. 1‑2.

37 Fokkelman 1986, p. 89; Sternberg 1992, p. 239; Dietrich 2015, p. 154.

38 Klein 1983, p. 149f.; Dietrich 2015, p. 156‑157.

39 For camps and villages side‑by‑side, and tents in a sedentary context, see Cribb 1991, p. 151‑161; cf. also Rosenhouse 2010, p. 101: “Wherever they [Arabs during the early Islamic conquest] reached, their temporary camps often became new Arab settlements and permanent towns”.

40 Mešaʿ Inscription, lines 14‑17. Lines 10‑14 of the same inscription give further details, namely “deux caractéristiques importantes du ḥérem: le massacre de toute la population et le transfert d’une partie du butin, concrètement des objets de culte de la divinité ennemie, dans le sanctuaire de la divinité nationale. Bien plus, la mention de l’installation de nouveaux groupes, apparemment moabites, semble révéler que la pratique du ḥérem se situe dans le cadre d’une guerre offensive d’annexion de nouveaux territoires et d’installation d’une nouvelle population” (Lemaire 2015, p. 90).

41 Sternberg 1992, p. 243‑245.

42 The Geshurites here are not to be identified with the people living in Geshur further north (Deut 3:14; Josh 12:5), but with people living southwest of the Philistine settlements (Josh 13:2).

43 According to the Qere, supported by Codex A (Γεζραιον; B א omit), the Targumim (גזראי), and the Vulgate (Gedri), the text reads גזרים “Gizrites”, probably denoting the inhabitants of Gezer, or people that lived in its vicinity. The Semitic roots gzr and grz have nearly identical meanings in the various languages, and the letters r an z are sometimes subject to metathesis (Cohen et al. 1970‑2012, fasc. 3, p. 185).

44 This is obvious from the weqatals and the lō‑yiqtol employed in verse 9וְהִכָּה ... וְלֹא יְחַיֶּה ... וְלָקַח (cf. Stoebe 1973, p. 479).

45 Sima 2000, p. 11‑17.

46 The Cherethites are associated with the Philistines and lived south and southeast of Gaza, “but it is not clear whether they were identical with the Philistines, a subgroup of the Philistines, or a separate ethnical identity” (Ehrlich 1992, p. 899). The name itself seems to point to the island of Crete in the Aegean.

47 The “Negev of Caleb” is the homeland of the Calebites in southern Palestine (Fretz and Panitz 1992, p. 809).

48 Macdonald 2000, p. 64.

49 In the famous panel from Aššurbanipal’s palace at Niniveh, Arabian warriors are pictured as sitting behind the hump‑rider and firing arrows at their pursuers (WA 124926, British Museum), so that each camel bore two riders. This famous scene is painting a dramatic escape of Arabian warriors, not the normal riding mode.

50 Hill 1975, p. 34; Macdonald 1991, p. 103; Macdonald 2015, p. 67; Schmitt 2005, p. 285.

51 Thesiger 1991, p. 59.

52 Livy, History of Rome 37:40, about the famous Battle of Magnesia 189 BCE: “In front of this mass of cavalry were scythe chariots and the camels which they call dromedaries. Seated on these were Arabian archers provided with narrow swords four cubits long so that they could reach the enemy from the height on which they were perched”; cf. also Appian, The Syrian Wars 6: 32. The story is not very credible, as Macdonald has pointed out: “It is certainly difficult to imagine wielding a bow and a four‑cubit (ca 2 m) sword from a camel’s back, with or without the shadād [saddle]. Moreover, […] in a melée among infantry the rider’s height is a positive disadvantage for close fighting while his mount provides a large and easy target” (2015, p. 77).

53 For easy access to these texts, see Ulrich and Cross 2015 (all texts in Hebrew) and Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich 1999 (English translation). The dates given are based on the paleographical assessments according to Tov 2002, p. 351‑463, if not stated otherwise.

54 Trebolle Barrera 1995, p. 162; Trebolle Barrera 1989, p. 239.

55 Tov 2012, p. 313‑314.

56 Ausloos 2014, p. 370; cf. Rezetko 2013.

57 Fernández Marcos 2011, p. 67*; Sasson 2014, p. 6‑7.

58 Hendel and Joosten 2018, p. 57‑58.

59 Rahlfs‑Hanhart 2006.

60 The omission of the Syriac slipped the attention of Rezetko (2013) and Fernández Marcos (2011); cf. Dirksen 1978, p. 15.

61 Rezetko 2013, p. 38.

62 Trebolle Barrera 1995, p. 162.

63 Trebolle Barrera 1989, p. 236‑237; Trebolle Barrera 1995, p. 163; Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich 1999, p. 208. The Hebrew text extant in the fragment is underlined. The text of the Lucianic recension comes from Brooke and McLean 1917, p. 810.

64 See e.g. Tov 2012, p. 311‑313.

65 Hugo 2010, p. 2.

66 Fincke 2001, p. 3‑8.

67 Hugo 2010, p. 4.

68 Abegg, Flint, and Ulrich 1999, p. 227.

69 Ulrich 2013, p. 276.

70 Dirksen 1978, p. 35.

71 Jastrow 1992, p. 582; Harrington and Saldarini 1987, p. 158.

72 Sokoloff 1992, p. 66.

73 Sperber 1992, II, p. 156.

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Philipps‑Universität, Marburg

Acheter

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LCDPU
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