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Updated: 2019.10.30 

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Jawbone Of An Ass

Hogleg - 1873 Cavalry Colt 45 Peacemaker
Hogleg1873 Cavalry Colt 45 Peacemaker

The enigma of Shi•mᵊsh•ōn slaying 1,000 Pᵊli•shᵊt•in with a jawbone of an ass has baffled every rabbi, commentator and interpreter from time immemorial—until now.

When I searched the web for how a jawbone from an ass might be used as a weapon, it was simply unwieldy. Additionally, a fresh jawbone (15.15) would be messy and slippery with blood. Beyond that, in the scene where Shi•mᵊsh•ōn breaks off his ropes while standing between 1,000 Pᵊli•shᵊt•in and his own 3,000 Yᵊhud•im, why would a freshly-killed donkey be within reach? And why would the Pᵊli•shᵊt•in simply stand around and watch Shi•mᵊsh•ōn remove the head from the donkey, clean its skull and remove its jawbone for a weapon?

Over decades, Ive found that reality, science and logic always explain the supernatural miracles that cause so many to dismiss Ta•na"kh stories as silly fairytales. The story of Shi•mᵊsh•ōn and the jawbone of an ass turns out to be no exception.

Growing up watching Old West cowboy TV shows, I remember Festus and Gabby Hayes types referring to the famous 1873 Colt .45 six-gun revolver as a hogleg.

A prior, this had to be a colorful and metaphorical descriptive and—instantly—the hogleg six-gun came to mind. Was there an ancient weapon that resembled the jawbone of an ass enough to inspire it to be called by that name? In 1972, A.A. Barb had traced similar metaphorical usage of animal body parts to sickle-like weapons of the Biblical era—including a jawbone of a camel; and one of his photos vaguely resembled a jawbone.

Was Shi•mᵊsh•ōns Jawbone A Sickle? 

Khopesh-style weapon from Byblos
Type II Sickle Sword, c. BCE 1900-1700
Jawbone of an ass
Jawbone of an ass; either side resembling a weapon.
In 1972, A.A. Barb noted that The Hungarian archeologist, J. Makkai has recently shown in a detailed study, abundantly documented by literature and illustrations, how the primitive jawbone tool became not only the toothed sickle as well as the serrated saw, but also and most conspicuously a fearful weapon, status symbol in the hands of gods, heroes and kings.

Barb includes, among a number of other sword type depictions, a photograph of a Khopesh-type ceremonial sickle from Byblos (photo f).


[T]here might have existed an old popular name for the sickle which meant verbally just such a jawbone. There have always been in use in all languages similar picturesque animal names for tools, like ram, crane, monkey-wrench, rat-tail (for a thin round file [or comb with a thin round handle, ybd] in English… and the Babylonian name gamlu for the sickle-weapon of Marduk has been explained etymologically as jawbone of a camel.

The Khopesh Sword Of Kᵊna•an

Egyptian khophesh Tel Apheq
Reproduction of Bronze Age Lᵊkhi-Kha•mōr (Jawbone Of An Ass) Khopesh Sword from the time of Shi•mᵊsh•ōn, found at , Yi•sᵊr•â•eil—possibly (remotely) the Shi•mᵊsh•ōns Jawbone, ≈26 km (16 mi) north of Shi•mᵊsh•ōns documented travels. Weight: c. 960 grams, Length: 60.5 cm, Material: bronze.

The Khopesh, also known as the sickle-sword, is a curved, single edged sword from the Near East, mainly Egypt and Canaan. The Egyptian term "khepesh", hinted at the resemblance to the foreleg of a cow or an ox, as well as it was its owner's "mighty arm".

The khopesh first appeared in the Middle Bronze Age, in the centuries before 2000 B.C., and went out of use after 1200 B.C. For the Middle Bronze Age specimens, the typology established by H.W. Müller (1986) seems still sound (groups I, II and III).

The spur, or hook, on the outside curve of the weapon was used to hook the enemys shield and, in one continuous quick motion, pull it out of the way in order to push the outside of the curved blade in the enemies now-unprotected neck. While some - swords were sharpened only on the outside curve of the blade, others have been found sharpened only on the inside curve of the blade. Ceremonial swords aside, doubtless, battle swords were sharpened on both edges.

Transliterating the Egyptian Khopesh into Hebrew, the ' (or ') thereby came to mean The Peacemaker (lit. The Freedom).

Fresh Jawbone

The text reads - — a freshly-forged - sword. He didnt jump any old sword. He jumped a freshly-forged, new weapon in mint shape, fit for battle.

He Put Out His Hand And Took It

The text doesnt read that he reached down or simply picked it up from a dead donkey on the ground. Rather, the text reads . While this could refer to taking a fresh jawbone of an ass, there is no mention of him cleaning off the flesh, tough hide and hair, or the weapon being slippery because of the fresh blood. However, it makes more sense to refer to finding a Pᵊli•shᵊt•in with a shiny, new, freshly-forged sword and, like jumping his gun today, Shi•mᵊsh•ōn jumped his sword.

Shi•mᵊsh•ōn Killed 1,000 Pᵊli•shᵊt•in

Throughout history, historians have credited battle victories, along with the slain, to the general or king. Dâ•wid ha-Mëlëkh alone provides a number of such examples. Thus, instead of ascribing supernatural foreign hero-god status to Shi•mᵊsh•ōn, we should read the text like all of the other examples: Shi•mᵊsh•ōn mustered an army that, armed -, ; -, he attacked 1,000 Pᵊli•shᵊt•in.

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