[b-hebrew] Potiphar's title

Bearpecs at aol.com Bearpecs at aol.com
Wed Jul 16 22:40:54 EDT 2003

The following is from Akkadian Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew by Paul V. 
Mankowski [Harvard Semitic Studies, no. 47], Eisenbrauns, 2000, pp. 123-125.

"BH xh¦r¨x is a certain loan from Akkadian ša reši, a word of disputed 
lexicology and application, used of a category, or possibly several categories, of 
palace officials, which category also came to be associated with a castrated 
superintendent or palace servant, whence it was used of castrates simply.  The 
precise semantic value and extension of the related terms … in the various 
dialects and periods in which they occur are still much contested.  The fact that 
the word came to be used as a euphemism for a castrate served to blur many of 
the finer gradations of usage, and the tendency of scholars to use the 
equally euphemistic and polysemic term 'eunuch' in the discussion has not 
contributed to lucidity.  [Footnote 453:  "It is often difficult to know, when it is 
used as a gloss by Semitic lexicographers or in the general discussion of ša reš
i, whether 'eunuch' is intended to mean a castrated male simply, or a (usually 
privileged) court functionary of a particular type, …."]
"The ambiguity present in the Akkadian term has carried over into the BH use 
of the word,…[Footnote 455:  "For an explanation that Potiphar was a castrate, 
see Hayim Tadmor, 'Was the Biblical sarîs a Eunuch?' in Ziony Zevit et al., 
eds., Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic and Semitic 
Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995, p. 
" The rendering of Akkadian /š/ by NWS /s/ points to an Assyrian 
transmission, a conjecture nearly universally accepted….  Yet the possibility of an 
intermediate loan-vector is also raised by the anomalous pointing for the plural 
forms…  This paradigmatic incongruity may point to borrowings from multiple 
sources, reflecting different phonetic imitations of the ancestral form(s)...."

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