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In Ruth Rabbah 5:5 it says:

"...And similarly "And Nobah went and took Kenath, and the villages thereof, and called it Nobah, after his own name (Numbers 32:42) this teaches that her own name did not remain to her..."

This is also brought by Rashi in the name of Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan in Bamidbar 32:42.

Yet the city Novach is mentioned in Shoftim 8:11, hundreds of years after the capture of Kenat and its name-change to Novach. What, then, does the midrash mean that the name didn't remain to her?

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  • Interestingly Rabbeinu Bachya also picks up on this grammatical structure and brings other examples - sefaria.org/…
    – Dov
    Mar 6 at 21:44
  • 1
    Answer is potentially brought here - judaism.stackexchange.com/a/43679/22152 - i.e. the grammatical structure of the word alludes to the fact that this legacy did not endure. I guess a few hundred years is not a lot in the grand scheme of things :-)
    – Dov
    Mar 6 at 21:56
  • @Dov Thanks, but it doesn't answer the question. Just to clarify, the question is not on the linguistics of the word לה in the verse, as presented by the midrash and R' Moshe, but on the city Novach itself and its history.
    – Harel13
    Mar 6 at 21:58
  • Apparently hundreds of years is not enough, at least compared to the other cities mentioned there.
    – N.T.
    Mar 7 at 8:58
  • @N.T. On the other hand, Chavot Yair, the only other place that's contrasted to Novach, is last mentioned in Shoftim 10:4 though highly unclear if it's referring to the same place or if it's even a place-name at all in that context. But even if it is, that's only a number of decades after Novach's last mention.
    – Harel13
    Mar 7 at 9:06
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As @Dov and @N.T. wrote in the comments, a couple of centuries isn't a long enough time to be considered having a lasting name, and there is indeed evidence that the name didn't last: In Divrei Hayamim 1:2:23 it says:

"But Geshur and Aram took from them Havvoth-jair, Kenath and its dependencies, sixty towns. All these were the sons of Machir, the father of Gilead."

While Chavot Yair's name lasted until the time of Ezra and Nechemiah who wrote Divrei Hayamim, Novach reverted back to Kenat.

Furthermore, Kenat is mentioned in Yerushalmi Shvi'it 16a as one of the boundary-towns from the time of Shivat Tzion:

"תחומי א"י כל שהחזיקו עולי בבל...וקנת ורפיח..."

Translation: "The boundaries of Eretz Yisrael - everything held by the people who came from Babylon...and Kenat and Rafiach..."

Finally, Josephus in Wars of the Jews mentions a city called Kanatha, which according to Wikipedia, can be identified with Kenat.

While Chavot Yair, the city compared and contrasted to Novach, on the other hand, is mentioned three more times after the time of Moshe: Shoftim 10:4, Melachim 1:4:13 and Divrei Hayamim 1:2:23, with no name-change.

To conclude, the midrash is indeed correct that Novach's name did not last and at some point its name reverted back to Kenat.

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