[b-hebrew] Eve and the Hivites
jimstinehart at aol.com
jimstinehart at aol.com
Mon Nov 1 08:30:06 EDT 2010
Karl and George Athas:
George Athas wrote: “‘Tent Village’ in Hebrew is חַוָּה. ‘To declare’ in Hebrew is חוה. How ‘bout that! Must be a lot of announcements made in tent villages. I wonder what language they’re made in?”
Before following up on the key clue that George Athas’s apt comment presents [as noted by many scholars, three of whom are quoted below], let me first note that the main meaning of “Eve”/XWH is “life”, based on the Hebrew verb XWH, literally meaning “to breathe”, but hence meaning “to live”. Karl makes an interesting point when he says: “This is an etymological error in that the noun for Eve is a feminine with the final -H part of the noun, not an add-on.” The underlying verb is XWH, with a final he/H, and the name “Eve” is XWH, with that same final he/H. But to me, the archaic 2-consonant root here is XW, and the final he/H is a suffix. But having said that, and be that as it may, on this thread we should give careful consideration to the sound of XWH, including the final he/H, in trying to understand the names XWH and XWY.
Note that the meaning “life” is super-positive as the main meaning of the name “Eve”/XWH. But something seems askew here. Adam does not give his woman that name until after Eve has first led him [and hence all mankind] astray, and after YHWH has reamed out both of them but good for their improper actions in the Garden of Eden. Thus one would rightly expect that the name XWH may well have a secondary meaning, which is not positive. The XW-Y/Hivites for their part are certainly viewed negatively in the Bible, that’s for sure. It seems odd that the Hivite bad guys would be given a fictional name based on the super-positive word for “life”. Perhaps for that reason the traditional etymology of “Hivites” is “tent villagers”, a meaning that George Athas specifically references [though George rightly does not purport to tie that meaning to the Biblical Hivites at Shechem]. But a meaning of “tent villagers” for XWY in fact makes no sense at all in chapter 34 of Genesis, where we’re dealing with the city of Shechem [which both Biblically and historically had a “gate”, per Genesis 34: 20], not a tent village.
The new idea I want to explore on this thread is whether there may be some connection of XWY/“Hivites” to XWH/ “Eve”. Such connection, if it exists, would be to the secondary, negative meaning of her name. With Eve/XWH definitely being a woman, and perhaps in some ways being like a less-than-perfect goddess, doesn’t it make sense to ask what pagan goddess was historically worshipped at Shechem in the Patriarchal Age/Late Bronze Age? Did the name of a famous, notorious pagan goddess, as pronounced in H-e-b-r-e-w [that’s the key to this whole thread, in my opinion], sound quite a bit like XWH, even though the spelling is completely different?
Although [to the best of my knowledge] no one but me has ever tried to tie together XWH and XWY, scholars routinely do make the following analysis of “Eve”:
1. “Khawwah…is Eve’s name in Hebrew. …Khawwah may be a Hebracized form of Heba, Hebat, Khebat or Kheba, who was the wife of the Hittite storm god worshipped in Jerusalem.” Shoni Labowitz, “God, Sex and Women of the Bible” (2001) at p. 86. [That last comment, though it’s not fully accurate, is based on the fact that in the Amarna Letters, the name of the ruler of Jerusalem is IR-Xeba (where I am using X for heth, instead of H or Kh).]
2. “Eve can be identified with the goddess Hepa, Hiptu, Hebatu, or Hebat, wife of the Hittite storm-god….” Raphael Patai, “Robert Graves and the Hebrew Myths” (1992), at p. 225.
3. “[I]ntervocalic *b [in Hurrian] may develop to West Semitic b > w [w]…. Therefore…there may have been an identification of Hurr. Xeba…with West Semitic Xawwa…‘Eve’.” Martha A. Morrison, “Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi and the Hurrians” (1981), at p. 85. [Here I am rendering the heth in the original as X.]
The new issue I would like to raise on this thread is whether the name XWH may be a critical key to figuring out who historically the XWY at Shechem were. This new idea of mine is based on comparing the name XWY to XWH and the name of the notorious pagan goddess, whose name as pronounced in Hebrew sounded a good deal like XWH, who was historically worshipped at Shechem in the Patriarchal Age/Late Bronze Age. How close did an intervocalic vav sound to an intervocalic bet, in Hebrew, in Biblical times? Are scholars right in tying Eve to Heba? If so, then isn’t that a huge clue as to figuring out who the historical Hivites at Shechem were? Are the bad guy Hivites in chapter 34 of Genesis worshippers of the notorious pagan goddess Heba? On the historical side, it’s easy to document that there were Heba worshippers at Late Bronze Age Shechem. The linguistic question for the b-hebrew list then is whether the above three scholars are right that intervocalic bet/B in a foreign language could come over into Hebrew as an intervocalic vav/W. If so, then for the first time in more than 2,000 years, we on the b-hebrew list may have figured out who the Biblical Hivites are in chapter 34 of Genesis, and why the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives gave them the killer nickname XW-Y: “the Heba people”.
Historical linguistics is really neat, when it solves actual substantive problems like this. (But to figure out the meaning of the Biblical Hebrew word XWY, it helps to know the non-biblical history that underlies chapter 34 of Genesis.)
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