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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:1, Spring 2022

Name of Biblical Judge Surfaces

By Yosef Garfinkel

An inscription bearing the personal name Jerubba‘al was uncovered in 2019 at Khirbet al-Ra‘i, a small Iron Age site located near Lachish in the Judean Foothills. Written in black ink on a small sherd from a ceramic jug, the inscription was found inside a grain silo dated to the late 12th or early 11th century B.C.E., the time of the biblical judges.1 The name Jerubba‘al appears in the Book of Judges (Judges 6:32), where it is given as another name for Gideon: “Therefore on that day he was called Jerubba‘al.”

A few years earlier, an inscription bearing the name Eshba‘al was uncovered at the nearby site of Khirbet Qeiyafa, incised on the shoulder of a storage jar.2 That inscription, found on a floor of the fortified city thought to be biblical Sha‘arayim, dates to the early tenth century B.C.E., the time of King David. The name Eshba‘al is also known in the Bible, as the name of the son of Saul who challenged David’s kingship (1 Chronicles 8:33; 2 Samuel 2-4).

These are the first occurrences of the names Jerubba‘al and Eshba‘al in the archaeological record. Taken together with the biblical evidence, they contribute to our understanding of naming practices in Judah during the time of the judges and the formative years of the Judahite kingdom, respectively.

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