of any writings of questionable nature. (See APOCRYPHA.) Scrupulous care was exercised by the manuscript copyists called Sopherim, who at a later time were succeeded by the Masoretes.
Originally the Hebrew Scriptures were written without vowels or punctuation, and without our present chapter and verse divisions. In the second half of the first millennium C.E. the Masoretes, who were also very careful Bible copyists, established a system of vowel points and accent marks as an aid to reading and pronunciation.
PRESERVATION AND TRANSMISSION
The Sopherim, although meticulous as to avoiding errors in copying, made certain unauthorized emendations or changes in the text, where, in their opinion, the received text seemed to bring reproach on Jehovah or his servants. In some instances these were minor changes, but in more than 140 other cases they changed the Tetragrammaton (the consonantal equivalent of the name “Jehovah”) to read either “Lord” or “God.” From the marginal notations of these scribal changes, it has been possible to restore the original text. All together, then, the Divine Name occurs 6,961 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.
None of the original writings of the Hebrew Scriptures are extant today, but there are more than 1,700 handwritten copies of various portions in the libraries of the world. Among the oldest of these, dating back to the second or the first century B.C.E., are the Nash papyrus, which contains small portions of Deuteronomy, and the Dead Sea Scroll of the book of Isaiah. Besides copies of the Scriptures in Hebrew, many versions of the pre-Christian Scriptures have been made, either in whole or in part in many languages. The first of these was the Samaritan Pentateuch, which, strictly speaking, was a transliteration of the Hebrew text into the Samaritan alphabet. The Aramaic Targums are rather loose paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures. The first translation in the true sense was the Greek Septuagint, commenced about 280 B.C.E. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate also contained an early translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The New World Translation of the Hebrew text (used throughout this volume) was principally based on the seventh, eighth, and ninth editions of Rudolph Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica, a refined Hebrew text produced from the Ben Asher Masoretic texts, standardized during the tenth century C.E.
Critics of the Bible have expended considerable effort in an attempt to discredit the Hebrew Scriptures, as being either forgeries or simply folklore lacking historic authenticity. One line of attack has been to dissect the different Bible books in an effort to prove that they were written by different hands, as if a person were incapable of writing in more than one style. Such argument is altogether unsound, for today persons who write poetry can also write prose, and vice versa. A lawyer who formulates a legal document easily and quickly shifts his style when relating some personal experience. When the critics claim that certain verses, which they label “J” and in which the name Jehovah occurs, were written by men other than the writers of the verses where the title “God” (Heb., ʼElo·himʹ) appears, and which they designate as “E,” they demonstrate shallow reasoning.
One commentator (K. A. Kitchen of the University of Liverpool, writing in The New Bible Dictionary, p. 349), in pointing out the fallacy of the critics’ claim, says: “The practice of Old Testament criticism in attributing these characteristics to different ‘hands’ or documents becomes a manifest absurdity when applied to other ancient Oriental writings that display precisely similar phenomena.”
The importance of the Hebrew Scriptures cannot be overemphasized, for without their law code, history and prophecies much in the Christian Greek Scriptures would be doubtful in meaning. (Luke 24:27, 44) “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction.” “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) Hence, the Christian Bible writers quoted directly some 365 times, and, additionally, made about 375 allusions and references to the former Bible writings. In this way the Christian Greek Scriptures carried on and expanded many of the various themes and promises set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Without the Hebrew Scriptures we would be lacking many details about man’s origin, the cause of death and the Edenic promise that the Serpent’s head will be crushed by the seed of the woman. Without the Hebrew Scriptures we would not know many details about such things as the Noachian Flood, why blood is sacred, God’s covenant with Abraham, how Jehovah fought for his covenant people, and the history of the pictorial theocratic kingdom.
(Heʹbron) [association, league].
2. Son of Mareshah and father of Korah, Tappuah, Rekem and Shema; a descendant of Caleb of the tribe of Judah.—1 Chron. 2:42, 43.
3. An ancient city in the mountainous region of Judah that was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt. (Num. 13:22) Hebron is located about nineteen miles (c. 31 kilometers) S-SW of Jerusalem and lies approximately 3,000 feet (914 meters) above sea level. It has the distinction of being one of the oldest still-inhabited locations in the Middle East. Hebron’s ancient name “Kiriath-arba” (city of Arba) appears to have been derived from its Anakim founder, Arba. (Gen. 23:2; Josh. 14:15) The city and its neighboring hills have long been famous for their vineyards, pomegranates, figs, olives, apricots, apples and nuts. Blessed with numerous springs and wells, Hebron is surrounded by miles of greenery.
The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spent part of their alien residence at Hebron. (Gen. 13:18; 35:27; 37:13, 14) Sarah died there and was buried in a cave at nearby Machpelah. This cave, purchased along with surrounding land by Abraham from Hittite Ephron, became a family burial place, where Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah and Jacob were also buried.—Gen. 23:2-20; 49:29-33; 50:13.
At the time Moses sent the twelve spies into the Promised Land, the giantlike descendants of Anak were inhabiting Hebron. (Num. 13:22, 28, 33) About forty years later, Hoham the king of Hebron joined four other kings in an offensive against Gibeon, a city that had made peace with Joshua. The Israelites responded to Gibeon’s appeal for aid and, with Jehovah’s help, defeated the armies of the five kings that had come against Gibeon. Afterward these five kings, who had hidden themselves in a cave, were executed and their dead bodies hung upon stakes until evening.—Josh. 10:1-27.
As Israel’s campaign in southern Canaan continued, the inhabitants of Hebron, including their king (evidently Hoham’s successor), were devoted to destruction. (Josh. 10:36, 37) However, although the Israelites under Joshua broke the power of the Canaanites, it appears that they did not immediately establish garrisons to hold on to their conquests. Evidently while Israel was warring elsewhere, the Anakim reestablished themselves at Hebron, making it necessary for Caleb (or, the sons of Judah under Caleb’s leadership) to wrest the city from their control sometime afterward. (Josh. 11:21-23; 14:12-15; 15:13, 14; Judg. 1:10) Originally assigned to Caleb of the tribe of Judah, Hebron was afterward given a sacred status as a city of refuge. It also served as a priestly city. However, the “field of Hebron” and its settlements were Caleb’s hereditary possession.—Josh. 14:13, 14; 20:7; 21:9-13.