And from there he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher:…
The name Kirjath-sepher, that is Book-Town, has been supposed to point to the existence of a semi-popular literature among the pre-Judaean inhabitants of Canaan. We cannot build with any certainty upon a name, but there are other facts of some significance. Already the Phoenicians, the merchants of the age, some of whom no doubt visited Kirjath-sepher on their way to Arabia or settled in it, had in their dealings with Egypt begun to use that alphabet to which most languages, from Hebrew and Aramaic on through Greek and Latin to our own, are indebted for the idea and shapes of letters. And it is not improbable that an old-world Phoenician library of skins, palm-leaves or inscribed tablets had given distinction to this town lying away towards the desert from Hebron. Written words were held in half-superstitious veneration, and a very few records would greatly impress a district peopled chiefly by wandering tribes. Nothing is insignificant in the pages of the Bible, nothing is to be disregarded that throws the least light upon human affairs and Divine providence; and here we have a suggestion of no slight importance. Doubt has been east on the existence of a written language among the Hebrews till centuries after the Exodus. It has been denied that the law could have been written out by Moses. This difficulty is now seen to be imaginary, like many others that have been raised. It is certain that the Phcenicians trading in Egypt in the time of the Hyksos kings had settlements quite contiguous to Goshen. What more likely than that the Hebrews, who spoke a language akin to the Phoenicians, should have shared the discovery of letters almost from the first, and practised the art of writing in the days of their favour with the monarchs of the Nile valley? The oppression of the following period might prevent the spread of letters among the people; but a man like Moses must have seen their value and made himself familiar with their use. The importance of this indication in the study of Hebrew law and faith is very plain. Nor should we fail to notice the interesting connection between the Divine lawgiving of Moses and the practical invention of a worldly race. There is no exclusiveness in the providence of God. The art of a people, acute and eager indeed, but without spirituality, is not rejected as profane by the inspired leader of Israel. Egyptians and Phoenicians have their share in originating that culture which mingles its stream with sacred revelation and religion. Letters and religion, culture and faith, must needs go hand in hand.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher: