Biblical Archaeology Review 30:6, November/December 2004

The Name Game

Dating the Book of Judges

By Richard S. Hess

I study names. We can learn an enormous amount from names and their etymology. Since one of the issues raised in BAR recently has been the historicity of early sections of the Bible, I wondered whether names could make a small contribution to that discussion.

Let’s look at the personal names in a famous poem, the Song of Deborah in Judges 5.1 It is generally agreed that this is one of the oldest compositions in the Bible; its archaic language bears all the hallmarks of its hoary origins. According to the traditional Biblical chronology, the poem describes events occurring during the period of the Judges (1200 to 1000 B.C.), before the establishment of the United Monarchy. To understand the poem, we should also look at Judges 4, a later prose account of the same episode. To paraphrase:

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