1

25 There be two manner of nations which my heart abhorreth, and the third is no nation: 26 They that sit upon the mountain of Samaria, and they that dwell among the Philistines, and that foolish people that dwell in Sichem.(Sirach 50:25-26, KJV Version)

It seems like in the time of the 3rd century BCE, Sirach is saying that Shechem and Samaria are two different nations though Shechem and Samaria are pretty much similar as far as population. Jeremiah also separates Shechem from Samaria as well.

That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord. (Jeremiah 41:5)

My question is: By the time of Sirach, were Shechem and Samaria considered to be two different nations?

1
  • Hello, @Servant, please do not put questions in all caps.
    – Robert
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 9:38

1 Answer 1

2

Ben Sira 50:26 manuscript B from the Cairo Geniza is:

יושבי שעיר ופלשת וגוי נבל הדר בשכם

Which in English is:

the inhabitants of Seir and the coastal plain and the foolish nation that lives in Sechem.

It appears that the KJV used a Greek translation that had "Shomron" instead of "Seir". Now that we have Manuscript B from the Cairo Geniza, it is clear that the Greek translation on which the KJV is based is incorrect.

The term "Seir", meaning the mountainous area to the east of the southern Jordan valley is a derogatory reference to the descendants of Esau who in the time of Ben Sira were identified with ethnic Arab marauding tribes.

The Hebrew text does not say "those who live among the Philistines". It says "those who live in paleshet, meaning the people of the coastal areas of the land of Israel. The use of the word "paleshet" is a derogatory reference (read, a "dog whistle" reference for those familiar with the Hebrew Bible) to the non-Jewish Latin and Greek speaking majorities in this region at the time of Ben Sira.

The ultimate pejorative reference in this verse, to Shechem, today's Nablus, is a reference to the Samaritan population with whom the Jews at the time of Ben Sira still had an acute ideological conflict. The fact that the Samaritans were in control of the tomb of Joseph is mentioned in the unidentified fragments of the Qumran manuscripts as one of the points of conflict.

The Hebrew גוי (goy) used in this verse to refer to the inhabitants of Shechem ranges in meaning from any identifiable collective group of people to "nation" in the ethnic sense but not in the nation state sense that it is used in modern American usage. In this verse it is clearly referring to the Samaritans and in the word choice there is a clear echo of Deuteronomy 32:6.

Regarding the Greek translation, it could refer either to the city of Shomron also known as "Sebastia" located at 32°16′34″N 35°11′42″E, which is historically distinct from the nearby Shechem (Nablus), located at 32°13′13″N 35°16′44″E, though at the time of Ben Sira, Shomron was no longer a significant city, or could refer to the general area of the hill country of Ephraim, of which Nablus is the center).

I speculate that the Greek translation using "Samaria" is an error that is based on the fact that in Hebrew, Samaritans are called "Shomronim" (those who live in Shomron) and that the subject of the verse is clearly the Samaritans even though they are not mentioned by name.

In summary, in one pithy verse Ben Sira dismisses the three major ethnic groups with whom the Jews of his time were in conflict.

References:

  1. Purvis, J. D. 1965. Ben SIRA' and the Foolish People of Shechem. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 24(1–2): 88–94
  2. Purvis, J. D. 1975. Joseph in the Samaritan Traditions. In G. W. E. NickelsburgJr. (Ed.), Studies on the Testament of Joseph . Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, pp. 147–153
  3. Schuller, E. M. 1990. "4Q372" 1: A text about Joseph. Revue de Qumrân 14(3): 349–376
2
  • Thank you, this was a tremendous help and I greatly appreciate it. One thing however is you said that the phrase "those who live among the Philistines" is not in the Hebrew. The Philistine word is the word I am focused on. The hebrew verse you posted of verse 26 which was "יושבי שעיר ופלשת וגוי נבל הדר בשכם" which when I translated it into english, the phrase came out like this "The inhabitants of Seir and Philistia and the Nabal Hadar Gentiles in Nablus". It does appear that the word Philistia does apply and not just the costal cities.
    – Servant
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 9:38
  • @Servant The phrase גוי נבל is "a foolish people", not a proper name. See Deuteronomy 32:6 for similar wording. the phrase הדר בשכם is "that lives in Shechem". The first letter, ה, is definite article prefix (ה"א הידיעה). The next letters, דר, means "dwells" or "lives". Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 10:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.