In Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5 it says that Shimshon's mother was called Hatzlelponi:

"אִמֵּיהּ דְּשִׁמְשׁוֹן הַצְלֶלְפּוֹנִי שְׁמָהּ, וְהִיא מְיֻחֶסֶת עַל שֵׁבֶט יְהוּדָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברי הימים א ד, ג): וְשֵׁם אֲחוֹתָם הַצְלֶלְפּוֹנִי."

Translation: The mother of Shimshon, her name is Hatzlelponi, and her lineage traces to the Tribe of Yehudah, as it says (Chronicles 1:4:3): "and the name of their sister was Hazlelponi".

However, in the gemara in Bava Batra 91a it says that her name was Tzelelponit:

"The mother of Samson was named Tzelelponit".

The midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah bases itself on the name used in the Tanach. Why then, did the gemara use a different name (albeit only slightly different)?

  • 2
    Bamidbar Raba is thought to be considerably younger than the Bavli. Just a thought: maybe her name was actually as it appears in the Bavli and it got transcribed into Raba mistakenly because a scribe knew the verse in Divre Hayamim.
    – msh210
    Oct 14, 2020 at 20:13
  • @msh210 I never knew that. Hmm. I suppose then the question will rest squarely on the Bavli: why change the name that appears in the Tanach?
    – Harel13
    Oct 14, 2020 at 20:36
  • 1
    Chochmas Shlomo - sefaria.org/…
    – Dov
    Oct 14, 2020 at 20:49

1 Answer 1


The derasha in Bemidbar Rabba (which is indeed "thought to be considerably later") includes the derivation from the verse in Divrei Hayamim, which would serve as a check from the name shifting. Meanwhile, the statement in Bava Batra does not include a derivation from a pasuk, and indeed, some commentators (such as Shteinsaltz) take the Talmudic statement which follows,

למאי נפקא מינה לתשובת המינים

to mean:

It is important with regard to an answer for heretics who inquire into the names of these women, which are not stated in the Bible. One can reply that there is a tradition handed down concerning their names.

Lack of an explicit verse means that the seemingly meaningless name, passed in tradition orally and then textually, could slightly shift.

Examining manuscripts of the gemara on the Hachi Garsinan website, I found that most agree with our printed Vilna Shas with צללפונית - namely, the Venice, Pizaro, Hamburg, Paris, and Escorial all have this reading.

In the Munich manuscript, they have צלולפוני with a final mark over the last letters, which would indicate a final ת but still is closer to the name as it appears in the verse in Divrei Hayamim. All you need is a scribe to assume that there should be an apostrophe there and it can get inserted.

Munich manuscript of Bava Batra 91a which is missing the final tav

Further, in the Vatican manuscript, we have הצללפונית, which has the initial ה though also unfortunately the final ת. Here is a picture of this:

snippet of Vatican manuscript for Bava Batra 91a, with the heh in Hatzlilponit

  • I'm not sure I follow...are you saying that הצללפוני and צללפונית are not the same person according to the gemara?
    – Harel13
    Oct 16, 2020 at 13:03
  • 1
    No, that they are the same person, but the gemara didn't include the derivation. Then oral or scribal shifting (during copying from one manuscript to the next) likely occurred in the spelling of the name of that same person, and that shift went unchecked because the pasuk wasn't there to prevent the scribe from making the mistake. הצללפוני is a weird name, so it makes sense for it to shift over time. Oct 16, 2020 at 13:23
  • So that correct name really ought to be הצללפוני?
    – Harel13
    Oct 16, 2020 at 13:32
  • 1
    yes, that is how it out to be. Oct 16, 2020 at 14:00
  • Thank you! (char)
    – Harel13
    Oct 16, 2020 at 14:01

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