[b-hebrew] What Is "Enaim" at Genesis 38: 14, 21?
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Sep 2 09:46:38 EDT 2008
What Is “Enaim” at Genesis 38: 14, 21?
At Genesis 38: 14, Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar is at Enaim, when Tamar
dresses as a prostitute and thereby tricks Judah into impregnating his own
daughter-in-law with twin sons/grandsons.
What is Enaim? Where is Enaim? What does “Enaim” mean? Is “Enaim” the
historical name of an historical Late Bronze Age city in Canaan?
We may be able to learn a lot about the Patriarchal narratives by examining
the town name “Enaim”.
1. Meaning of “Enaim”
“Enaim” is ayin-yod-nun-yod-mem/(YNYM. If the ayin is represented by an E,
then this town’s name is Eynym. (No one in the Middle Ages knew how to
pronounce the truly ancient name of this town, so we should not worry too much about
the medieval pointing, which is where the “ai” comes from in the traditional
transliteration. On the other hand, there may be an ancient tradition that
this yod represented a dual vowel-type sound.)
Most translators view Eynym at Genesis 38: 14, 21 as being the proper name of
a town. (KJV is in the minority in viewing it as being an adjective meaning “
open”. But the majority view, to which I subscribe, is as follows: “The
occurrence in v 21 [of chapter 38 of Genesis] of ‘enayim by itself…supports the…
interpretation as a place-name….” Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. II, p. 505.)
Eynym/“Enaim” is the dual of eyn/“ayin”. In the singular, eyn means “eye”
or “well” or “fountain”. But the dual, Eynym, means only “eyes”, or, as
is very often the case, has the figurative meaning of “judgment” or “opinion”
. In the Bible in general and in the Patriarchal narratives in particular,
one of the most common expressions is to say that something is good or bad in
the “eyes” of a person, that is, in the “judgment” or “opinion” of such
person (similar to English).
In the Patriarchal narratives, the exact spelling Eynym only applies to the
name of this town where Judah meets a disguised Tamar. The most common
spelling of this word elsewhere in the Patriarchal narratives is eyny (with no final
mem/M), though often one of several consonants is added at the end, such as
kaf/K to make it mean “your eyes”/“your judgment”/“your opinion”, etc.
(Since the final mem/M in the town name “Eynym” is somewhat unusual, but is
present both at Genesis 38: 14 and 38: 21, we would expect to see that final mem/M
in this town’s historical name, if it turns out that Eynym is the historical
name of an historical town.)
[Note that a lamed/L can be attached at the beginning of this word, creating
the phrase “before [someone’s] eyes”. Note in particular Genesis 42: 24,
where “before their eyes” comes out as lamed-ayin-yod-nun-yod-he-mem/LEYNYHM.
(This identical phrase appears at Exodus 8: 26.) A similar phrase, meaning “
before your eyes”, and hence having a different final consonant (kaf/K), appears
at Genesis 47: 19. One possibility is that originally, this town’s name was “
before (the) eyes”, or L + Eynym/Leynym/LeyNyM, featuring L-N-M as the key
consonants, which later got shortened to “eyes” (as in “judgment”)/Eynym. On
that theory of the case, a conquering Egyptian pharaoh in the mid-15th century
BCE might record the equivalent of L-N-M as being the three key consonants in
this town’s name, whereas a century later, the Amarna Letters may set forth
the Akkadian cuneiform equivalent of the shortened form Eynym that we see in
Genesis, that is: vowel sound + N + vowel sound + M + case ending (with such
case ending routinely being dropped in Biblical Hebrew). We cannot expect the
spellings in Egyptian or in Addadian cuneiform to be identical to the Hebrew
spelling of this town’s name in the received text of Genesis, especially as to
On the basis of the foregoing analysis, Eynym/“Enaim” is probably the proper
name of a town, that literally means “eyes”, but that actually means, in a
figurative sense, “judgment”.
2. Does the Meaning of “Enaim” Fit the Plot Line of Chapter 38 of Genesis?
The meaning of Eynym/“Enaim” (“eyes” or “judgment”) fits the plot line of
chapter 38 of Genesis perfectly. Tamar covers all of herself except her “eyes”
at Eynym (with “Eynym” literally meaning “eyes”), as Tamar puts on a veil
in order to impersonate a prostitute. Genesis 38: 14-15 The two questions
raised then concern “judgment” (which is the figurative meaning of “Eynym”).
Will Judah have the “judgment” to see that this supposed prostitute, of whom
all he can actually see are her “eyes”, is actually his own daughter-in-law
Tamar? And more importantly, once Judah finds out the actual facts, and Tamar
turns out to be pregnant with Judah’s twin sons/grandsons, will Judah then
have the good “judgment” to see that Tamar’s controversial actions should be
revered, rather than reviled? Showing his good “judgment”, despite having been
fooled by Tamar’s “eyes”, Judah famously states at Genesis 38: 26:
“'She is more righteous than I….’”
3. But Is There an Enaim in Secular History?
So far, so good. But the really exciting question is the following. Is
there an historical town in Late Bronze Age Canaan whose historical name was Eynym/
“Enaim”? Is it located somewhere fairly near Dothan (the last place [north
of Shechem], whose location we’re certain of, where Judah is before he goes “
up” to Eynym). Does “up” indicate that Eynym is located in the high altitude
area of eastern hill country, perhaps in eastern Lower Galilee? Or, perish
the thought, are scholars right that Eynym is a fictional name created by JEPD
in the 1st millennium BCE for a fictional town that is fictionally located in
southern Canaan (far south of Shechem)?
As noted at the beginning of this post, we can find out a lot about the
Patriarchal narratives by examining the town name Eynym/“Enaim”. For example, if
Eynym is located in Late Bronze Age northern Canaan, we can be quite sure that
JEPD knew nothing about Eynym, and hence that JEPD neither composed nor
edited chapter 38 of Genesis. So Eynym/“Enaim” is v-e-r-y exciting. (As is “
Timnah”, which would then logically be the next town name to investigate, since
Judah goes to nearby Timnah to have his sheep sheared immediately after being
with a disguised Tamar at Eynym/“Enaim”.)
Is Eynym/“Enaim” JEPD fiction, or is it Late Bronze Age northern Canaan
historical fact? We may find that Eynym/“Enaim” is one key to understanding the
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