Shoftim is translated in English as “judges,” but in Japanese as shishi rather than saibakunin, the usual word for judge. Shishi is composed of the characters for “retainer” or “warrior” and for “master” or “teacher.” One of my online resources claims it was used for some judges in ancient China, but every other resource lists this as only for the Judges in the Book of Judges. Whether it’s adapting an obsolete term or a neologism, “warrior-teacher” isn’t a bad term for the Judges and their role in ancient Israel.

The Judges haven’t appeared yet in this chapter, which is a recap of a number of the invasion stories from the last book. What becomes immediately obvious is how Judah and Simeon are being set up as the good guys while the rest of the tribes are failures. With the exception of a few cities, they are depicted as successfully conquering all their territory. Even those cities are a little vague. The Hebrew mentions that they couldn’t take the inhabitants of the plain because they had iron chariots (apparently divine intervention doesn’t cover superior technology…?), but the Greek fixes verse 18 to say they didn’t take Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron either, since later books attribute those conquests to David. While the remainder of the Jebusites is attributed to a Judahite failure in Joshua, here the blame is shifted on Benjamin. And then every passage after that is about how the other tribes didn’t do their job and drive the Canaanites out, and instead live alongside them or keep them as slave labor.

Can you tell this was written by Judahites? Everyone else screwed up, not us, that’s why we’re the only tribe left, along with the Levites.

Another change from previous versions is that Moses’ father-in-law is now called a “Kenite” rather than a Midianite, and rather than the Midianites all being killed, the Kenites were still living with them. This point is interesting because of the translation difference.

In the Hebrew, verse sixteen goes something like “The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad. Then they went and settled with the people.”

The NRSV, following other leads, has it as “The descendants of Hobab the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad. Then they went and settled with the Amalekites.”

The name Hobab comes from Judg. 4:11, and them moving to the Amalekites, rather than a generic “people” is from 1 Sam. 15:6. “Hobab” is also referred to as Moses’ brother-in-law in Num. 10:29, so the options are that (1) Moses married his brother-in-law’s daughter at some point later, ew, (2) Reuel/Jethro was also called Hobab, odd, or (3) somebody made a typo.

The other difference is more pertinent, I think, because the Amalekites were very much their enemies. They’d attacked the Israelites and the Midianites/Kenites together on their way across the wilderness, and it doesn’t make much sense for them to have moved in with them now. Sure, by David’s time, a few centuries later, maybe they had made peace with the Amalekites, but I can’t see that happening at this juncture in the story. So maybe “the people” are other Canaanites, or maybe they’re the Israelites themselves, with the Midianites/Kenites as the Token Foreigners who were good by virtue of their marriage ties to Moses.

The Japanese: uchiyaburu “to beat, to break” (v 4), kousen suru “to engage in battle with” (v 5), setsudan suru “to cut off, to amputate, to mutilate” (v 6), tabekasu “leftovers, food scraps,” shikaeshi suru “to avenge, to retaliate” (v 7), kouchi “arable land,” unagasu “to urge, to prompt” (v 14), shuuto “father-in-law,” natsumeyashi “date palm,” kinben no “adjacent to, neighboring” (v 16), saguri o ireru “to probe, to sound out, to investigate” (v 23), miharu “to watch over, to guard” (v 24), utsu “to defeat, to destroy” (v 25), oikomu “to drive, to corner” (v 34).

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