Query: Hebron and Kiryat Arba

Reuven Chaim (Rudolph) Klein's picture

Have there been any serious academic works which discuss the relationship between the two names of the ancient city Hebron/Kiryat Arba, especially dealing with the meaning of the name Kiryat Arba?

Reuven Chaim Klein
Beitar Illit, Israel

Categories: Query

Ephraim A. Speiser in his 1964 Anchor Bible volume, Genesis (1963), p. 169 writes:
Some passages –
(Joshua 14:15) 15The name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba: [Arba] was the great man among the Anakites. And the land had rest from war.
(Joshua 21:11) 11To them were assigned in the hill country of Judah Kiriath-arba—that is, Hebron—together with the pastures around it. [Arba was] the father of the Anokites. –
take the second element as a personal name, i.e., Arba, father of the giants. Not improbably “four” was merely a popular adaptation of another name, perhaps non-Semitic, which is exactly what happened with the celebrated Mesopotamian city of Arbilum (older Urbilum), incorrectly etymologized as “four gods.” In other words, the possibility of non-Semitic origin of the name cannot be discounted, and this could have some connection with the tradition about the “children of Heth.”
Nahum M. Sarna in his Genesis volume of the JPS Torah Commentary (1989), p. 157, echoes the above and suggests that the place could be a confederation of four cities and then its renaming “Hevron” might refer exactly to this act of confederation.

Dear Reuven Chaim Klein,

On the giants of Kiryat Arba, see also E. Lipinski, " 'Anaq -- Kiryat 'Arba' -- Hebron et ses sanctuaires tribaux", Vetus Testamentum, 24 (1974), pp. 41-55;

Francis Landy, "Judges 1: The city of writing, the sacred, and the fragmentation of the body", in Voyages in Uncharted Waters: Essays On the Theory and Practice of Biblical Interpretation in Honor of David Jobling (Sheffield, 2006), pp. 41-43;

Ilana Pardes, The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible (Berkeley, 2000), p. 114.

Best wishes,

Liran Yadgar
University of Chicago

Has anybody suggested the meaning or etymology of a possible non-Semitic origin for the term Kiryat Arba?

Reuven Chaim Klein
Beitar Illit, Israel