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IV. Saul and Benjamin. 

The ordinary conception of the history of Israel is necessarily 
founded upon that of the narratives of the Old Testament, and these, 
in their turn, naturally give expression to the views that prevailed at 
the time when the several sources were first written down, or when 
some compiler fitted them into his framework. But there is a funda- 
mental difference between objective and subjective history, between 
the actual course of the events themselves and the representation 
of those events from the pen of the historical writer, and it is the 
work of literary criticism in conjunction with historical criticism 
to investigate the character of the sources and to test them in the 
light of history. It is evident that both must be combined. We 
may find an approximate date for a narrative, psalm, or prophecy 
by considering the internal evidence in its relation to the historical 
situation at a certain specified period, but unless we are in a position 
to conclude that our historical sources for that period are trustworthy, 
the results must be somewhat provisional. It is necessary to lay 
particular emphasis upon the claims of historical criticism, since it 
forces us now and again to reconsider the results of literary criticism, 
and at times to qualify and correct them. Historical connexion or 
the continuity of histoiy, upon which historians naturally lay much 
weight 1 , accordingly compels us to go behind literary critical results-; 
and in view of the character of the material, strict methods of research 
can only be applied where the literary material is comparatively 

External witnesses before the period of Old Testament history, 
in particular the Amarna Letters, present a picture of early Syria 
and Palestine under certain political conditions, and when every 
allowance is made for the exceptional circumstances of that age, 
one is able to gain a faithful impression of internal relations, of 
the life, and even of the thought of the fifteenth century. Six 
centuries later the historical material is again comparatively rich, 
and the Assyrian evidence provides welcome independent testi- 

1 Cp. e. g. Kuenen, " The Critical Method,'' in the Modern Review, 1880, 
p. 481, etpassim. 


mony for the general situation in the middle of the ninth century 
(about 860-839 B.C.). With the help of the evidence based upon 
a critical study of this period, it is possible to estimate more safely 
the details of the scantier sources for the years which immediately 
precede and follow. Midway between these two important periods 
come the beginnings of Hebrew history. Here we are almost entirely 
without external evidence, and are practically confined to a con- 
siderable body of native literature of unequal historical value. The 
very bulk is overwhelming, and he who has followed the external 
evidence through the Amarna Letters and the Egyptian data, finds 
himself suddenly plunged into a new world. The work of literary 
criticism has successfully disentangled the threads, and enables us to 
view the whole in its proper perspective. It is the work of historical 
criticism to determine the historicity of these early traditions. As 
is well known, it is a matter of dispute at what point to begin the 
history of the Hebrews— with the patriarchs ; the Exodus ; the judges ; 
the first kings? Strictly speaking, the history presumably begins 
where the situation is such that it fits naturally into the course 
of events regarded as a whole. But in the scantiness of our external 
evidence, particularly for the twelfth and eleventh centuries, there 
is hardly sufficient material for our purpose. Hence it is necessary to 
examine anew the early traditions ; to attempt to classify them, and 
to resolve them, as far as possible, into their constituent elements 
in the hope of determining the relative position of each in the 
history of the people. 

When it is considered how remote is the period with which the 
narratives deal, it is proper to ask how far we are entitled to assume 
that early compilers arranged their material in strict chronological 
order, and when we realize the rapidity with which tradition springs 
up or reshapes itself in the East, it is difficult" to determine how 
much confidence can be placed in records, purporting to relate to 
events of —let us say— the eleventh century, which are preserved in 
a literary form of the seventh, eighth, or even ninth century B.C. 
It does not seem justifiable, at all events, to assume that there was 
a long gap between the earliest Written narratives and the con- 
siderably later exilic literary activity. Indeed, on the strength of 
literary criticism, it is evident that we possess a series of records 
which are obviously earlier than the Deuteronomic standpoint although 
approximating it. Accordingly, if many of the oldest portions of 
Samuel are to be regarded as almost — or, for historical purposes, 
practically — contemporary, we are forced to assume that for a con- 
siderable period the work of putting tradition into writing was at 
a standstill. This does not seem probable. 

M m 2 


In the conjectural attempts which have been made in the course of 
the present series of notes to sift the traditions extending through 
the books of Judges and Samuel, one definite goal has been kept 
in view, viz. the oldest traditions of the time of Saul. It was held, 
that (a) on literary grounds there was support for the belief that the 
introduction to the oppression of Israel by Ammon and the Philistines 
(Judges x. 6 sqq.) marked the commencement of a period which ended 
with Samuel's great victory at Mizpah (i Sam. vii)\ These chap- 
ters cover the ground from Jephthah to the rise of Saul, (b) On 
literary grounds, again, it was held that the appendix to Judges 
(Judges xvii-xxi) was of distinct origin ; that the stories of Samuel's 
youth arose after his life-work, and that the older portions of i Sam. 
i-vii are confined to those narratives which relate to Eli and the 
ark a . (c) The establishment of the monarchy under Saul is marked by 
literary features analogous to those of the Introduction, in so far that 
the former contains recognizable secondary tradition (i Sam. viii, 
x. 17 sqq., xii) overshadowing the earlier narratives where the figure 
of Samuel is less idealized. It seemed necessary (d) that for histori- 
cal criticism the attempt should be made to realize how the history 
originally read before the late (Deuteronomic) redaction, and the 
Introduction in an earlier form appeared to imply an earlier account 
of Saul's accession. From the historical point of view, the stories of 
Samson could be readily ignored, since with the history of Central 
Palestine (already detailed in Judges vi-ix) they had no points of 
contact. But they dealt with a Danite hero and with affrays with 
Philistines, and thus appeared to have some material connexion with 
Judges xvii sq., and these in turn appeared to be linked with the older 
passages in I Sam. i-vii. Moreover, their contents appeared on 
historical grounds to be unsuitable to their context ; they broke 
the continuity of history, and were associated with other cycles of 
tradition which implied other circumstances and conditions. On 
these grounds the tradition which had placed them in the days 
before Saul's accession was regarded as untrustworthy. Literary 
points of contact between the Introduction and Saul's rise, the 
impossibility of finding the historical situation which the latter 
presupposed save in Judges x. 6 sq., and the unsuitability of the 
intervening narratives thus appeared to point independently to the 
conclusion that the original object of this Introduction was to prepare 
the way for the last judge and the first king of Israel. Although 

1 For earlier views regarding the connexion between the chapters of 
Judges and 1 Sam. in question, see G. F. Moore, Judges, 276; H. P. Smith, 
Samuel, 4 ; K. Budde, Samuel, 2. 

2 See above, pp. 126, 129, 347 sq. 


these intervening narratives do not appear to be available for the 
history of this period, they have a distinct value of their own. 
History is something more than the bare record of facts, and even 
the most untrustworthy of accounts is precious material for the study 
of the development of thought and tradition. Although removed, 
therefore, they are not altogether rejected, and it is not improbable 
that room for some of them could be found in certain other cycles 
of tradition which they both illustrate and supplement. 

The importance of observing carefully the literary features of a 
document as a preparation for its historical criticism is obvious. 
If, in the study of the history of a certain period, it is found that 
the narratives are derived from two or more sources, it by no means 
follows that each separate source represented the same historical back- 
ground as or was parallel to the others. The critical investigation 
of the Hexateuch teaches that the attempt must be made to view 
each separately in the first instance : the mere presence of literary 
complexity being an indication that for some reason an editor or 
compiler has exchanged one source for another. Naturally, a break 
in the literary continuity does not necessarily entail a break in the 
historical continuity ; it may happen that the sources will sometimes 
appear to have traversed the same ground. On the other hand, the 
whole standpoint may be markedly different, and it may have to 
be recognized that the two not only cannot belong to the same 
period, but also cannot reflect the same historical situation. It is 
at once clear that the later theocratic account of Saul's election 
cannot be reconciled with the oldest narratives, and this is now 
very generally admitted ; but the exilic standpoint was no sudden 
growth, it was the outcome of a gradual development which must 
have left its mark somewhere in tradition, whether oral or written. 
It is precisely these stages in its growth which seem to account for 
the accumulation of tradition around Saul and the circumstances 
attending his rise : the intervening narratives representing the 
progress of tradition in the intervening centuries between the earliest 
written narratives and the latest exilic (or rather post-exilic) 

It has been suggested that the traditions which have grown up 
around Samuel find their analogy in the literary history of the 
figures of Elijah and Elisha (p. 349 above). Originally, it is possible 
that Saul rose without the intervention of Samuel 1 . There was 
a tendency in certain circles to magnify the part played by prophetic 

1 Similarly, several critics are of opinion that the account of the 
anointing of David by Samuel (1 Sam. xvi. 1-13) is a late addition. 


or priestly figures in the history of great political events, and consider- 
ing the immense importance of Saul's period it would not be surpris- 
ing if tradition, perhaps at a comparatively early stage, associated the 
rise of the new king with the prophet's activity. The literary evidence 
is not conclusive, but the following notes will show how far the belief 
can be justified. 

The tradition that Saul*s home was in Benjamin is undoubtedly 
persistent, but it does not enter into the oldest account of his defeat 
of the Philistines * ; and the story of his deliverance of Jabesh-Gilead 
(on the analogy of the stories of the judges) might suggest that his 
home lay near that city. Where Saul's history is intertwined with 
that of Samuel or David, Benjamin is prominent, but in one note- 
worthy chapter, where we have an independent narrative of Saul, 
the indications point to a more northerly centre 2 . Here Israel is at 
Jezreel (cp. Saul at Endor, xxviii. 7), the Philistines at Shunem and 
Aphek, and the battle is on Mt Gilboa. Was Saul*s original home in 
this district? The evidence supplied by his genealogy (ix. 1) is 
indecisive, and, unfortunately, in addition to its unnatural length, 
the details are not above suspicion. It was enough to describe David 
as " a son of Jesse " or Jeroboam as a " son of Nebat " ; not until a 
considerably later date do the genealogies become extensive. Hence 
it is possible that the fullness of Saul's ancestry is due to conflation. 
It would be tempting to suppose that the traditional Benjamite 
origin has been combined with an older— the original one. We learn 
that Saul was the son of "a man of Benjamin, whose name was 
Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the 
son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite." Kish might suggest some 
connexion with Kishon; Zeror (aped, o-npa) might point to Z-r-d — 
thus suggesting Zeredah 3 ; Bechorath can stand for Bichri, the 
Benjamite clan, but Lucian's recension read Machir; Aphiah has 
been emended to " (from) Gibeah," but the LXX <«£« takes us north- 
wards to Aphek. We can scarcely venture to recover the oldest form 
of the genealogy from this, but it is clear that for some reason or 
other the text has suffered, and in its present form indisputably 
makes Saul of Benjamite origin. But the variant readings and 

1 See above, pp. 122 sqq. 

2 See above, p. 132. Josiah's tactics in marching north to Megiddo to 
arrest the progress of Necho can scarcely be cited as an analogy; the 
historical circumstances are entirely different. 

3 The reading Zeredah is not certain (Encyc. Bibl., s.v.). It is not safe, 
therefore, to associate the name in Saul's genealogy with the home of 
Jeroboam I (1 Kings xi. 26). But it would be very natural if tradition 
had held that this king was associated with Saul's home or family. 


the state of the text are phenomena which require to be kept 
in view. 

Next, the account of Saul's wanderings in search of the lost asses is 
again unfortunately indecisive (ch. ix). We are shown Saul and his 
servant journeying after the lost asses. The search is fruitless, and at 
length Saul proposes to abandon further attempts. He fears lest his 
father should grow anxious for their safety, and one could gain the very 
natural impression that their journey has been a long one (contrast 
ver. 20). The narrative describes the route in a somewhat remarkable 
manner (ver. 4): "And they passed through Mount Ephraim, and 
passed through the land of Shalishah, and did not find [them] ; and 
they passed through the land of Shaalim, and they were not there ; 
and they passed through the land of Benjamin, and did not find 
them * " : (by this time) they had come to the land of Zuph, and Saul 
learns that " in this city " there was a man of God who would be able 
to direct them (ver. 5 sq.). The place-names are lamentably obscure. 
Shalishah may be the Baal-Shalishah of 2 Kings iv. 42, whence came 
the man who visited Elisha at Gilgal ; Shaalim may suggest the land 
of Shual (1 Sam. xiii. 17), or Hazar-Shual in South Judah (1 Chron. 
iv. 28) ; but it is conceivably an error for Shaalbim near Aijalon and 
Betbshemesh. The site of Zuph and the identification of " this city " 
can scarcely be recovered from this passage. It will doubtless be readily 
admitted that the linguistic character of the verse is noteworthy; 
the passage has the appearance of being unduly loaded, and it seems 
safe to assume that it has been revised in favour of some specific 
tradition. If the present intention of the verse is to bring the 
scene of the wanderings into close connexion with Saul's tradi- 
tional home, it is conceivable that the earlier view implied another 

Again, when we turn to the account of the homeward journey, the 
evidence is still elusive. Rachel's sepulchre is to be placed either in 
the neighbourhood of Bethlehem (Gen. xxxv. 19, xlviii. 7, glosses ?), 
or north of Jerusalem ; Zelzah is obviously a corrupt reading, and 
emendations cannot be of any assistance. The oak of Tabor obviously 
suggests the north, but, following the prevailing tradition, has been 
identified with Deborah's tree, between Ramah and Bethel (Judges 
iv. 5). The question is here complicated by the probability that the 
successive charges are due to repeated redaction (J. Q.R., 1905, p. 124 
sq.), but one may attach some importance to the situation in ver. 3 
which implies that Saul on reaching the oak of Tabor would meet 
messengers on their way to Bethel. Even the name Deborah itself 

1 12S (" pass through," or " cross into ''), in the singular, in every case 
except the third. 


suggests a connexion with Daberath at the western foot of Tabor 
(see G. F. Moore on Judges iv. 5). 

We have next to consider where Samuel's home was placed. 
The genealogy in 1 Sam. i. 1 is exceptionally long and in all proba- 
bility conflate, and it is quite uncertain whether two views of 
Samuel's ancestry have been combined 1 , or whether some of its 
members should not belong to the genealogy of Eli who is so 
abruptly introduced into the narrative. Tradition has placed his 
home at Ramah, and the name is common enough : Bet Rima, north- 
east of Lydda ; Ram Allah, nine miles, and er-Ram, four miles north 
of Jerusalem ; a south Judaean site has also been thought possible. 
But Ramah is said to be Zuphite, and it was in Zuph that Saul found 
Samuel (ix. 5). Here, unfortunately, the name of the city is not 
stated (ver. 6), whence it has been conjectured that the narrative 
implies that Ramah was not his city. But it must be admitted that 
if a scribe could easily delete the original name, it would have 
been equally easy to add Ramah as a gloss. Zuph has even been 
identified with Zephath, south of Beersheba, and it has been observed 
that Samuel's sons were judges in Beersheba (viii. 2) ; David's flight 
to the south of Judah, it has been thought, was for the object of 
being near Samuel, and support for this has been found in the 
appearance of Samuel near Carmel (south of Hebron) in 1 Sam. xv. 
The evidence which has been surveyed is hardly strong enough to 
allow any confident conclusion. There can be no doubt respecting 
the view which the present traditions would have us take, but con- 
sidering the character of the texts it is hardly an unfair suggestion 
that attempts have been made to modify and adjust some earlier 
tradition. On the analogy of the stories of Elisha, for example, we 
may hesitate to confine Samuel to one particular home ; one cycle of 
traditions may have placed him in the vicinity of Saul's court ; whilst 
in another the scenes of his activity may have been among the 
prophetic guilds. 

The particular details which have been noticed are extremely compli- 
cated, and tantalizing in the possibilities they afford. Leaving these 
on one side, it is noteworthy that in 1 Sam. ix. 1-14, Saul (of Gibeah ?) 
seems to be ignorant of Samuel (cp. ver. 19), although the whole 
trend of the traditions in their present form would show that they 
lived within a few miles of each other. This might be explained away 
by the view that Saul is here represented as a raw stripling 2 . In 

1 Marquart, Fundamente israel. u. jild. Gesch., p. is sq. 

2 See above, p. 124. Those who regard the discrepancy as illusory must 
find Saul's ignorance perplexing. 


ix. 15 sqq., the fact that Saul is to come " from the land of Benjamin " 
(ver. 16) points somewhat forcibly to the view that their homes were 
remote. If Saul came from Gibeah we might expect his journey 
to have taken him far away from Benjamite territory ; is it safe to 
assume that the time had been spent in wandering about a com- 
paratively restricted area? 1 

These considerations, however, are not of great weight by them- 
selves. But on the strength of one cycle of traditions, it is reasonable 
to conclude that Jerusalem, if not the district immediately sur- 
rounding it, was Jebusite (cp. above, p. 356 sq.), and it does not seem 
to accord with ordinary probability that Saul's home was at Gibeah, 
only a few miles to the north. Moreover, when we turn to another 
cycle of traditions, it is not easy to reconcile the ordinary view with 
the circumstance that the country was in the greatest distress owing 
to the Philistines, and that some of the Hebrews had deserted to the 
enemy, whilst others had taken refuge beyond the Jordan. The state 
of affairs, already outlined in Judges x. (p. 127 above), demanded 
prompt action, and leaves no room for aught else. The oldest 
traditions of Saul knew of a crisis when the people were plunged 
in the lowest depths of despair, and only those statements can be 
regarded, as appropriate which agree with this situation. Conse- 
quently, one has only to endeavour to realize the internal situation 
to perceive that the narratives in ix. sq. do not bear the impress 
of being contemporary. The people's hopeless position points 
to a time when the only security was to be found in flight or in 
hiding in caverns and holes; the roads were doubtless unsafe for 
travel, and there were some who may well have been forced to beat 
out their wheat in wine-presses to save it from the enemy. It was 
scarcely a time to hunt for lost asses when the land was in the hands 
of spoilers, and the peaceful picture of the seer and the sacrificial 
feast ill accord with the disturbances which the sequel presupposes. 
But Saul gained his magnificent victory through the help of Yahweh ; 
it was no mere feat of arms, but an event of far-reaching consequences 
for the future of Israel. The circumstances were exceptional, and led 
to an epoch-making sequel ; and whilst the achievements of an Ehud, 
a Gideon, or a Jephthah are related simply as isolated incidents 
without further ado, the history of Saul's rise has been built up 
into its present form by successive stages, in the course of which 
later ages sought to illustrate its importance in accordance with 
the beliefs that prevailed 2 . 

1 It is possible that in one form of the tradition it was only Saul's did 
who lived at Gibeah (x. 14). 

a The growth of Judges vi sq. is partly parallel (see e.g. G. P. Moore's 


The attempt to recover the oldest traditions resulted in the view 
that two leading episodes form the basis of the history of the period : 
(1) The great victory over the Philistines, and (2) the deliverance 
of Jabesh-Gilead. Both of them are closely associated with the 
earlier phases of the "Introduction" and the present history of 
Jephthah. With the latter we may associate the subsequent events 
in which Gilead plays a prominent part, whilst in the former the 
scene is shifted to the southern part of central Palestine, and takes 
us to a series of traditions with which the history of David is now 
combined. It is here that we find particular interest in the district 
of Benjamin. 

If Saul is traditionally associated in the closest manner with 
Benjamin, it is not improbable that it was through him this tribe 
first attained any prominence 1 . It is natural to suppose that the 
tribes had their own cycles of traditions regarding their heroes, and 
if the smallest of them all first came into existence under Saul, it 
is possible, perhaps, to recover one of the motives of the remarkable 
stories in Judges xix-xxi. Many influences have tended to shape 
the narrative, and a new one now seems clear. It is evident that 
when once the theory prevailed that Israel had always been a national 
confederation of a certain number of tribes, there would be no room 
for the later origin of Benjamin. It could be, and indeed was said, 
that the youngest of Jacob's sons was born in Palestine, but the 
whole trend of tradition from the descent of the children of Israel 
into Egypt to the invasion of Canaan by the tribes would stand 
in contradiction to the older view. For the purpose of recon- 
ciliation, it might be assumed that at an early date, " when there 
was no king in Israel," the whole tribe was practically wiped out 
of existence 2 . It will be noticed that the narrative betrays no 
friendly feeling towards the tribe, and consequently its details can 

analysis in the Polychrome Bible). Here one can observe the old story of 
Gideon's achievement, E's account with its stories of the fleece and the 
episode of the altar of Baal ; the preliminary account (also by E) of the 
prophet sent to the Israelites, and finally the Deuteronomic intro- 
duction and conclusion, the former preserving some traces of older 

1 On Ehud the Benjamite, see Ency. Bibl., s.v., and observe that although 
the tribe is mentioned in Judges v. 14, the connexion with Hos. v. 8 
makes the reference perplexing. 

2 The historical foundation for the story of the offence of Gibeah is 
quite obscure. Even in Hosea's time (x. 9) the sin of Benjamin would 
hardly have been applied to all Israel, who in point of fact justly 
punished the sinful city. 


only be used with great caution ; but it implies that the decimated 
tribe was huilt up by marriage with the maidens of Shiloh (xxi), 
and a post-exilic section, which might be based on a sound 
tradition, has prefaced this by the account of an alliance with 

Thus outlined, the details are suggestive. The youngest of the 
tribes after entering Canaan (it scarcely appears in the old stories of 
the Judges) is practically exterminated, and starts a new lease of 
life with the influx of fresh blood from Shiloh and Jabesh-Gilead 
at the very time that the narratives are preparing the way for the 
rise of Saul. The motive for the extermination of the tribe now 
seems apparent, and if the account of its reconstruction may be 
accepted, new light is thrown upon the earliest traditions of 

A number of indications have seemed to point to the belief that 
Saul was originally not Benjamite, and since it has been found that 
part of the work ascribed to Joshua appears to have been based upon 
traditions of Saul, it is not unlikely that other features in the life 
of Joshua may prove helpful. If Saul, like Joshua, had come from 
without, it is not improbable that his obscure relations with the 
Gibeonites ought to be read more closely in the light of Joshua ix. 
We are accustomed to assume that for some reason or other Saul 
entered into a covenant with the Amorites of Canaan, and whilst 
it is far from easy to explain why the Benjamites of Gibeah found it 
necessary at this stage of their history to enter into an alliance, 
it becomes readily intelligible if we suppose that a body of immi- 
grants had newly settled in the district *. It may be gathered from 
2 Sam. iv. 2 so.., Joshua ix. 17, that Beeroth had been effected at the 
same time, and the murder of Ishbaal may reasonably be regarded 
as an act of vengeance analogous to that demanded by the Gibeonites 2 . 

1 H. P. Smith, on 2 Sam. xxi. a, remarks that "such covenants were 
very common during the process which ended in the establishment of 
Israel in Canaan." To this it is to be added that they would naturally 
be made at the earliest opportunity, and not at a comparatively late stage 
in their traditional history. 

2 Kennedy (Century Bible: Samuel, p. 325 sq.) conjectures that Saul 
attempted to recover the ark from Kirjath-jearim (leagued with Gibeon 
and Beeroth in Joshua ix. 17), and rejects Rosters' view that 1 Sam. 6 
is unhistorical by urging "the antiquity and general credibility" of that 
source. The argument that very early sources are therefore credible, 
or that those which appear to be credible are therefore ancient, requires 
to be supported by other considerations, and Prof. Kennedy himself is 
obliged to assume that although the Philistines sent the ark from their 


Both Beeroth and Gribeon play an important part in the history of 
Saul's house after the disaster of Mount Gilboa, and if it is to be 
inferred that they seized the first opportunity of vengeance, the 
circumstance would seem to point either to the success with which 
Saul ruled over these people or to a comparatively late date in his 
lifetime for the occupation of the district. 

The old name of Benjamin was Ben-Oni, the latter half of which 
has been compared with Beth-On (Beth-Aven) to the east of Bethel, 
near Ai 1 . Other comparisons have been made, but this is inter- 
esting on account of the associations of the district. According to 
the story, Jacob had crossed from Gilead to Shechem, and had 

confines, it "remained within the sphere of their political jurisdiction, 
and so was inaccessible to the Hebrew authorities." This explanation of 
Saul's dealings with the league and the attempt to reconcile divergent 
traditions appear to ignore the plain sense of i Sam. vi. The whole 
chapter would be stultified and its credibility endangered, if it meant 
that the ark was not returned to the Hebrews. What writer, even of 
the latter half of the tenth century (Kennedy's date) would have described 
the Philistines' anxiety to rid themselves of the dangerous object, the joy 
of the men of Beth-shemesh, and the contented return of the Philistine 
lords, if the sacred ark still remained inaccessible to Israel ? But if it be 
granted that the narrative belongs to an entirely distinct tradition of the 
fortunes of the ark, one of the great embarrassments of the history of 
the period disappears ; see above, pp. 351 sqq. 

1 The account of the battle of Ai is extremely complicated, and in an 
earlier stage of the narrative Bethel presumably was more prominent 
than it is now. The magical effect of Joshua's outstretched javelin is 
noteworthy (Joshua viii. 18, 26) as also are the precise allusions to his 
preparations for spending the night (verses 9, 13). When we consider the 
sacred associations of Bethel and the site between it and Ai, it may not 
be too bold to conjecture that a theophany in the style of v. 13-15 once 
found a place here. The vision in question is located at Jericho, but it is 
possible that the traditions have been confused. The capture of Bethel 
is ascribed to the Joseph tribes in Judges i. 22 sqq., and one may notice 
the parallels with the story of the fall of Jericho (especially Joshua ii. 
12-14, vi. 23, 25). 

In considering the various traditions of Joshua and Saul it is also 
necessary to bear in mind the possibility that some confusion may have 
been caused by the existence of several Gilgals (see JEnoy. Bibl., col. 
1730 sqq.). Finally, it has been suggested (p. 123 sq.) that Saul's defeat 
of the Philistines was concerned with a story of Gilgal, "rolling," (1 Sam. 
xiv. 33) . Tradition has associated with the former the story of a broken 
vow, and Jonathan's words, " My father has brought trouble (or disaster 
■OS) upon the land " (ver. 29), recall the story of the naming of Achor after 
the defeat of Israel at Ai (Joshua vii). 


thence turned southwards to Bethel, in which district Rachel died 
in childbirth 1 . Another of the ancestral legends narrates Abram's 
journey from Haran through Shechem to Bethel (without stating 
whether the Jordan was crossed), and at a spot between Bethel and 
Ai the patriarch is said to have pitched his tent and to have built 
an altar to the name of Yahweh (Gen. xii. 8). The importance of 
the spot in early tradition is shown further by Joshua viii. 9, and it 
is interesting to observe that if Joshua commemorated his victory, 
the account has been omitted by a later compiler in favour of the 
story of the erection of another altar — at Ebal. There is some reason 
to believe that according to one tradition Joshua himself crossed the 
Jordan at a more northerly ford than that in the present account, 
and that his first step was the occupation of central Palestine. 
This theory of the invasion of central Canaan is supported partly 
by the analogy of the story of Jacob, and partly by the book of 
Joshua itself, whose account of the erection of an altar on Mount 
Ebal presupposes a conquest which is nowhere narrated. From 
Deut. xxvii. 1-8, and Joshua viii. 30-ix. 2, it may be inferred 
that this altar was erected on the day that the Jordan was crossed, 
and that this event was the signal for the rising of the Canaanites 2 . 
If Joshua, like Jacob, crossed at the Jabbok, an easy road leads to 
Shechem, and the arguments of those who support the theory show 
that there is some room for this tradition by the side of the more 
familiar one. 

Tradition has its own way of recounting history, and it is a 
curious coincidence that the spot which, in one tradition, enters 
into the story of conflicts between Israel and the Canaanites, becomes, 
in another, the place where Abraham and Lot separate. Further, 
according to P, the theophany at Bethel and the change of Jacob's 

1 Apropos of the change of name in connexion with the birth of 
Benjamin, it may be noticed that Abram and Sarai receive their new 
names in a context associated with the birth of Isaac and the blessing of 
Ishmael. What old tradition underlies P's story of the introduction of 
circumcision (Gen. xvii, see especially ver. 18) can scarcely be ascertained. 
It is at least interesting to recall Robertson Smith's view of the con- 
nexion between the names Sarah and Israel (Kinship and Marriage 2 , p. 30), 
and to observe the separation of Ishmael and Isaac at the birth of the 

2 Many motives have been at work in the literary history of the Exodus 
and Conquest, and among them must be the removal of the body of Joseph. 
Despite the scanty references (Gen. 1. 25 sq., Exod. xiii. 19, Joshua xxiv. 
3a) in the present texts, this pious duty must have occupied a prominent 
part in the traditions of the Joseph tribes, the conquest of whose territory 
(one would imagine) would be recounted at length. 


name occurred after he had left Shechem (Gen. xxxv. 6 a, 9-13, 15), 
and that this view rests upon old tradition appears to follow from 
Hos. xii. 4. But how this source explained the name Israel cannot 
be conjectured ; it may have given a story of a striving at Bethel 
or another explanation of its origin. The account of the birth of 
Benjamin follows immediately, and to this the compiler has ap- 
pended a notice of Reuben's offence with Bilhah which is distinctly 
interesting on account of the points of contact between the tribes of 
Reuben and Benjamin. Unfortunately, only the merest fragment 
of the episode has survived, and the compiler for some reason pro- 
ceeds to enumerate the sons of Jacob (P), and adds an Edomite 
genealogical table in which is preserved a brief account of the 
separation of Jacob and Esau, singularly akin to the story of Abra- 
ham and Lot (xxxvi. 6-8, cp. xiii. 6). What this really means it is very 
difficult to say, but Professor Hogg has observed that the birth of the 
tribe in Gen. xxxv. 18 sq. is connected in some way with the disappear- 
ance of Rachel 1 , which might suggest that Rachel was the old name 
of the early population of this district. At all events it is interest- 
ing to find a recurrence of the same type of names in Benjamin, 
Judah, and the south 2 . 

It is notoriously hazardous to rely solely upon proper names, or 
even on national traditions themselves, but the evidence for the 
population of Benjamin is distinctly puzzling, and the fact that 
legend makes Rachel of Aramaean origin is probably of less sig-r 
nificance than the circumstances attending her death. Tradition is 
wont to build up its diverse elements into a harmonious whole, and 
it is hardly possible to determine with confidence where the grafting 
has taken place. Such points of contact as have been noticed appear 

1 Encyc. Bibl., "Benjamin,'' § 3. 

2 Thus the name Oni reminds one also of Onan, a son of Judah (Gen. 
xxxviii. 4), and of Onam, a name in a Jerahmeelite genealogy (1 Chron. 
ii. 26), and an Edomite clan (Gen. xxxvi. 23). Ono, too, is Benjamite, 
near Lod (Lydda). With the Benjamite Iri, cp. Iram, Ira, and Iru 
(Edomite, Judaean, and Calebite), and with his father Bela (1 Chron. vii. 7) 
cp. the first king of Edom. Jobab (ibid., viii. 9) is also Arabian and 
Edomite. See the Encyc. Bibl. on these names, also on Shephupham, 
Shupham, Shuppim (cp. Shepho, Gen. xxxvi. 23, LXX oaxpav) ; Jeush ; 
Ashbel (cp. perhaps Ashbea, 1 Chron. iv. 21) ; Naaman (Gen. xlvi. 21, 
cp. Kaam of Caleb and Naamah, Joshua xv. 41). Further, compounds of 
nn are practically South Palestinian, and the element Jeru-, Jeri-, seems 
to be distinctive of the same district (but note Jeriel in 1 Chron. vii. 2). 
Many of the names in as and the majority of animal names also prevail 
in the south. 


to be more than mere coincidences, and the attempt to understand 
the traditions of Saul with the help of certain of the traditions of 
Joshua seem to be justified. 

The two great achievements which are ascribed to Saul are («) the 
deliverance of Jabesh-Gilead, and (b) the defeat of the Philistines. 
The former suggests a northerly position for the hero's home, in the 
latter Gilgal is the starting-point (cp. also in the story of Joshua, x. 6) 
Two of the patriarchal figures are found moving down from Shechem 
to Bethel, and a certain spot which owes its sanctity to one of them 
marks the division of Israel from the Lot tribes, and the overthrow of 
the older inhabitants of the land by a new race. So, in the story of the 
other patriarch, a new tribe is born, and whilst one cycle of tradition 
perhaps associated its growth with Saul, another makes the defeat 
of the older stock part of the great national epic of the conquest 
of Canaan. To one, the Philistines appear the most natural enemy, 
to another, the Canaanites ; but they agree that some alliance was 
made with the earlier inhabitants, and both leave it possible to hold 
that the movement had come in the first instance from the north 
or from the east (« and b above). It might even be conjectured that 
Saul, like Jacob, was supposed to have come from Gilead, in which 
case his relations to Jabesh-Gilead find a faint echo in the covenant 
between Laban and Jacob '. 

It seems not improbable that we may find in the present life of 
Saul the same variety of motives that has gone to build up the 
patriarchal figures. The memory of tribal migrations and feuds, 
the familiar experiences of daily life, and the personal history of 
noted ancestors appear to be blended, and the floating elements of 
tradition have attached themselves now to one and now to another 
of the ancient names. It would be arbitrary to draw a distinction 
between the literary and historical criticism of the narratives in 
Genesis and that of the records in the " Former Prophets," on the 
ground that the former belong to a pre-historic and the latter to 
a historic period. There is no reason to suppose that less care was 
taken in the compilation of the former than in that of the latter, 
or that the traditions of the great ancestors developed upon lines 
quite distinct from those of the early judges and kings. Historical 
criticism, to be consistent, cannot start with any undue presumption 
in favour of the trustworthiness of narratives relegated to the 
monarchical period to the detriment of those of the " patriarchal " 
age or of the book of Chronicles. All have had a complicated history, 
and it is not difficult to perceive that what has come down to us 

1 Cp. also the story of the bond between Benjamin and Jabesh-Gilead 
(Judges xxi). 


is the result of a long process of selection and rejection. There 
was a certain amount of material (written and oral) upon which the 
old historians could draw, and in investigating the use which they 
have made of it, it is indispensable to remember that their aim was 
above all a religious one. Their object was to demonstrate the work- 
ing of the Divine Will, and to adapt the history of the past to the 
needs of the present— even if it had been their purpose to relate 
the records of their country simply, they would have suffered from 
the same limitations as all other ancient historians. 

Had the books been written with the sole object of recording the 
secular history of Israel, it is obvious from the allusions in the book of 
Kings that there were many noteworthy events which (one might have 
supposed) would have been eminently suitable for the didactic writers. 
For example, it would appear from i Kings xv. 27, xvi. 15, that at 
least twice within a quarter of a century there was war with the 
Philistines in a district in which Judah was vitally interested. It 
is impossible to say how long it lasted, but it is evident that it must 
have impressed the districts affected. But the Israelite annals 
do not state what part Judah played in the events, and the Judaean 
annals of the contemporary king Asa ignore the war. Even before 
Omri became king of Israel there was serious internal dissension 
until the party under Tibni lost their leader. But of this formidable 
affair tradition seems to have preserved no recollection. It must 
appear extremely remarkable that such episodes as these which must 
have lingered in the memory of the people, if they did not actually 
exist in a written form, have disappeared entirely from the pages 
of history, whilst, on the other hand, the compilers have handed 
down stories of internal jealousy and conflict of the days of the 
Judges and wars with the Philistines of the time of Saul and 

Hence, in dealing with all historical material which is carried back 
to such an early period as that now under consideration, it is very 
important to remind ourselves of what must have transpired in the 
history of Israel and Judah between the time when certain events 
were supposed to have taken place, and the time when they were 
first put into writing. Even subsequent to the latter stage, as the 
various narratives were gradually reaching their present form, history 
was not stationary. But, on the one hand, the extent of our histori- 
cal material from the days of Saul and David onward is comparatively 
scanty, perhaps one may go so far as to say that it is suspiciously 
scanty. On the other hand, there are stories relating to the pre- 
monarchic period which in their present form at least belong to the 
centuries of the monarchy. In these circumstances, it becomes far 


from improbable that narratives dealing with comparatively remote 
events are coloured by the recollection of those comparatively recent. 
Thus, there is always the possibility (not to use a stronger word) 
that even in the older sources relating to the earlier periods, the 
memory of events still fresh in the mind has coloured the traditions 
of the past, and it would hardly be safe to assert that the events 
which have been considered in the course of these notes do not 
contain some fragments of genuine history subsequent to the days of 
Saul and David. 

Stanley A. Cook. 

(To be continued.)