This article offers a critical reassessment of the Bible’s עברים (ʿibrîm) and the problems of identification associated with the label with a focus on the two anomalous cases in 1 Sam 13–14 that deviate from an overarching pattern of the gentilic term’s etic usage. Building on the literary-historical and philological analysis of 1 Sam 13:3 and 14:2, I delineate the limits of a previous interpretive spectrum and argue that the identity of the “Hebrews” in these two passages is characterized by their collective capability of choosing and transferring political allegiance. This mobile aspect of negotiating political identity that the label “Hebrew” carries is further compared with the usage of the Akkadian term ʿibrum from Mari and the depiction of David’s loyalty to the Philistines and the designation of Hebrews in 1 Sam 29:3. By offering an alternative translation of the “Hebrew(s),” I challenge a conventional categorical paradigm associated with the interpretation of gentilics in biblical scholarship.

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