A professor of mine made an interesting claim in class today with regard to 2 Samuel 2:8:

But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul's army, had taken Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim.

The claim is that Ish-bosheth's real name is "Eshbaal," and that the only reason manuscripts exist today that say "Ish-bosheth" is that, at some point in history, scribes decided to change the name to make it appear as if the Israelites weren't Baal-worshippers. Wikipedia says this is "one possible explanation" provided by "critical scholarship." According to my professor, this claim is accepted by a consensus of scholars.

Is this idea of scribes changing this name accepted by a consensus of scholars? Is this position widely accepted, generally contested, or uncommonly held?

  • 4
    Have you considered asking your professor what the support really is, whether he is excluding some scholars from his consensus, and also what the evidence on which these scholars based their conclusions is? That's what professors are there for. Feb 11 '19 at 18:26
  • @DJClayworth His general response is that there are a lot of things one needs to read to understand biblical scholarship, which he has, so we should trust him. He doesn't make himself very available for inquiry.
    – Zenon
    Feb 11 '19 at 18:40

@Zenon......--Too bad your Prof. did not really answer you. I have Logos Bible Software with 7,000 $ of resources in my Libary since I bought it in 2008 (10 years of spending!). Your Prof. is correct. It's well attested in the Hebrew bible that Ish-baal was later replaced with Ish-bosheth. I cannot fully reproduce an exhaustive answer here because it would require a short paper. But, the NET Bible translation notes on 2 Samuel 2:8 gives you the answer:

The name Ish-bosheth means in Hebrew “man of shame.” It presupposes an earlier form such as Ish-baal (“man of the Lord”), with the word “baal” being used of Israel’s God. But because the Canaanite storm god was named “Baal,” that part of the name was later replaced with the word “shame.”

Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005).

I just pulled up " 1 & 2 Samuel: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary " by Harry A. Hoffner Jr. (Lexham Press, 2015). Hoffner points to the following:

  1. Hosea 2.16 : " And on that day— a declaration of Yahweh— you will call me, “My husband;” you will no longer call me, “My Baal.”
  2. Ba'al in ancient Israel could be used in names to not necessarily refer to the Canaanite storm god, but also to Yahweh, since "ba'al" basically means "lord".
  3. However, due to the idolatry in the northern kingdom of Israel in the reign of Ahab in relation to the Canaanite god ba'al, God demanded ( as quoted in Hosea 2.16 ) through the prophets that Israelites stop calling him ba'al.
  4. Lastly, it is well-known in scholarship that 1-2 Chronicles is synoptic with 1-2 Samnuel and 1-2 Kings. 1 Chronicles 8.33 and 1 Chronicles 9.39 both reflect the older form of Ishboshet's name.
  5. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) also documents this, but I cannot reproduce it here.

In all, there is a lot of textual evidence for this and your Prof. is correct. It is well documented in scholarly resources and the textual arguments are convincing, which is why it's a consensus.

  • Thank you for the answer. I appreciate the corroboration, as this professor has made some claims in the past that turned out to be spurious, to say the least.
    – Zenon
    Feb 17 '19 at 5:13

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