[b-hebrew] Etymology of "'Eylam" at Genesis 14: 1: Part II
pbekins at fuse.net
Wed Feb 6 13:34:00 EST 2008
On Feb 6, 2008, at 11:02 AM, b-hebrew-request at lists.ibiblio.org wrote:
> Etymology of “’Eylam” at Genesis 14: 1: Part II
> HALOT’s Reference to “cf. Sum. Elam”
> When confronted with the claim in my prior post that the Hebrew
> word ’Eylam
> is not related to the name of the predecessor of Persia, most
> people on the
> b-Hebrew list might be expected to turn to HALOT. HALOT says that
> the Hebrew
> word ayin-yod-lamed-mem/(YLM/’Eylam means the predecessor of
> Persia, and then
> sets forth the following seemingly airtight etymology:
> “Haltam/ti, cf. Sum. Elam, Akk. Elamtu”...
> In order to get Sumerian “NIM” and Akkadian “KUR elammatum” to look
> the Hebrew word “’Eylam”, no fewer than 11 changes of letters are
> there is no reasonable basis for supposing that the
> sumerogram “NIM” is anything like the Hebrew word ’Eylam.
> HALOT knows all that. HALOT is trying to mislead people into
> thinking that
> the Sumerians called the predecessor of Persia “Elam”, a word that
> fairly close to the Hebrew word ’Eylam. But that’s not true, as
> HALOT knows. The
> Sumerians called the predecessor of Persia “NIM”, a word that bears no
> reasonable relationship to the Hebrew word ’Eylam.
> The inconvenient truth is that there simply is no “Elam” in any
> language attested anywhere....
> No matter how many times HALOT
> says “cf. Sum Elam”, there was no word “Elam” in Sumer, there was
> only “NIM”,
> and HALOT knows that.
For anyone interested, the relevant article is Arno Poebel, "The Name
of Elam in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hebrew," The American Journal of
Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 48, No. 1. (Oct., 1931), pp.
Poebel argues that NIM is not a phonetic rendering of the name of the
country (contra EA Speiser), but a sign that can also be read
"Elam". He cites the phonetic value e-la-am for NIM attested in CT,
XI, 5: 4152 (Syll. A.) rev 9 and also in an unpublished Nippur
tablet containing part of the Nippur syllabary. Further in CT, XI,
5:4152 rev 10 is reference to the name of the sign being "Elam".
Accordingly, Labat (a standard Akkadian signlist) lists ELAM as a
reading of NIM.
Poebel also refutes the idea that elam and elamtum are translations
of NIM.KI as "highland" related to Akkadian elû "upper" (also contra
Speiser). Rather he sees Sumerian Elam and Akkadian Elatum as
separate borrowings of the original Ha(l)tam/Ha(l)tam-ti.
In other words, cuneiform signs can have multiple values, both
phonetic and logographic. They can represent either a phonetic sound
(syllabic) or a word which need not have any phonetic association
with the normal "syllabic" value of the sign. The Sumerian sign used
to write "Elam" was the sign that scholars label NIM, but (according
to Poebel) a Sumerian would have understood the word "Elam". Elam was
not the result of a process of historical sound change originating
with a word "nim".
Note: CT = Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum
Grad Student - Bible and Comparative Semitics
Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, OH
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