When was Hormah aka Zephath named?

The book of Numbers gives a detail about Hormah being named for a particular reason during their journey outside the promised land. The same is named again with the same name after they entered the promised land.

Num 21:3-4 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah. They traveled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. The soul of the people was very discouraged because of the journey.

Judg 1:17 And Judah went with his brother Simeon, and they attacked the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah.

So, what’s going on on the above two verses? This post explains what causes this confusion.

Where is Hormah?

Num 20:23 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying:

Hormah is well within the promised land, between Beersheba and Hebron as we can see in the below map. Mount Hor is at the border of Edom as per the above verse. Hence, it is simply not possible to go from Mt Hor well within the promised land to capture Hormah and then return.

Num 14:45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah. (NKJV)

Num 14:45 And Amalec and the Chananite that dwelt in that mountain came down, and routed them, and destroyed them unto Herman; and they returned to the camp. (LXX)

A small difference could change the entire story. As we can see, the Amalekites and the Canaanites routed and destroyed the children of Israel unto Hormah and they returned the camp. The camp is not located at Hormah.

Num 21:3-4 And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah. They traveled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. The soul of the people was very discouraged because of the journey.

In chapter 21 of Numbers, the first 3 verses were from Yahwist source and it is a recollection of the same event mentioned in the book of Judges 1:17 by a later redactor who was stitching the different early sources into one book.

Num 33:40 Now the king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel.

It is also a recollection of the same event by the redactor. The references from the book of Numbers were a later recollection and redactor’s effort in retelling the story with additional information on what happened in the book of Numbers. This apparently causes confusion. Hence, Hormah was named after Joshua died as mentioned in the book of Judges.