—Biblical Data:

David, while he was a refugee at the court of Achish, King of Gath, is said to have made a raid against the "south of the Jerahmeelites" (I Sam. xxvii. 10) and after his raid to have sent a part of the spoil to the "cities of the Jerahmeelites" (ib. xxx. 29). In I Chronicles (ii. 9) Jerahmeel appears as a great-grandson of Judah (i.e., he was the son of Hezron, the son of Pharez, the son of Judah); and Caleb is said to have been a brother of Jerahmeel (ib. verse 42).

—Critical View:

From the foregoing references the natural inference is that the Jerahmeelites were a Judean clan, to the south of whose habitat a part of the Negeb extended. But Professor Cheyne has put forth concerning the Jerahmeelites a most surprising theory. In his view they were a powerful north-Arabian tribe, with which the Hebrews came into conflict on their first approach to the land. A part of the Jerahmeelites was absorbed by the Hebrews, but there were many contests between the Israelites and the main body of the Jerahmeelites all through the period of the Kings. Even amongthe post-exilic opponents of Nehemiah, the Jerahmeelites appear again. Cheyne believes that echoes of these conflicts once reverberated throughout the Old Testament, but that, owing to the corruption of the Masoretic text, they must now be reawakened by conjectural emendation of the text.

Carrying out this idea, Cheyne finds the chief elements of Israel's origin, religion, and history in Jerahmeel. Babylonia and Assyria sink into insignificance beside Jerahmeel in so far as influence on the Old Testament is concerned. "Amalekites" is a corruption of "Jerahmeelites"; "Beer-lahai-roi" (Gen. xvi. 14) is a corruption of "Well of Jerahmeel"; "Ephraim" is often a corruption of "Jerahmeel." The epithet of Jericho, "city of palm-trees," is a corruption of "city of Jerahmeel"; the names of Saul, of Kish, his father, and of most of the sons of Saul are held to be corruptions of "Jerahmeel"; and Isaiah's "Maher-shalal-hash-baz" is held to be a corruption of "Jerahmeel will be deserted." "Jerahmeel" has been displaced by "Babylon" in Isa. xiii. and xiv.; and Ezekiel's three wise men were "Enoch, Jerahmeel, and Arab." This list might be continued indefinitely.

The ingenuity of Cheyne's method may be admitted; but the thesis must be rejected as altogether arbitrary. That it has received serious attention is owing solely to the great service rendered by its sponsor in other departments of Old Testament research.

  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. passim, especially the articles Jerahmeel, Negeb, (§ 2), Saul, and Sargon (§ 20);
  • Cheyne, Critica Biblica, 1903, passim;
  • Peake's review of Encyc. Bibl. vol. iii., in Hibbert Journal, No. 1, and Herford's review (vol. iv.) of the same work, ib. No. 6.
E. G. H. G. A. B.
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