[b-hebrew] Ezekiel 38:2f.; 39:1
peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Dec 25 18:44:39 EST 2004
On 25/12/2004 07:50, trepp at telus.net wrote:
>What are B-Hebrew subscribers' ideas on grammatical possibility for "RO)SH"
>equalling Russia? I'll withhold comment until I have had the chance to hear
>others' uninfluenced answers.
I notice that everyone else who has commented on this so far seems to be
presuming a link to theories like Hal Lindsey's. But your question was a
grammatical one. So let me answer it purely on that basis.
It seems to me that there are two questions here:
1) Does ro'sh here have the common noun meaning "head", or could it be a
2) If it could be a place name, is there a chance of a link with the
place name "Russia"?
On point 1), the wording is N:&IY) RO)$ in all three of these verses.
Grammatically, this is a noun meaning "prince" in the construct state
followed by the word RO)$, in the absolute state but without the
article. RO)$ is also followed by two undisputed place names linked by
the waw conjunction. Now RO)$ generally means "head", and can mean
"chief" in an adjectival sense. But RO)$ is not syntactically an
adjective, and so the adjectival sense has to be shown by a variety of
syntactical constructions. The commonest of these seems to be RO)$ in
the construct followed by the noun to be modified in the definite
absolute plural, e.g. "head of the princes". If that is the sense in
these verses, the construction is reversed and would be glossed "prince
of a head". Now I don't say that this is impossible or unprecedented
(although I don't have another example). But it is an unusual and
surprising construction. However, it would be the normal construction if
RO)$ were a place name or ethnic group name. I guess it is for this
reason that the translators of the English Revised Version (at least)
rendered this as a place name, "Rosh".
I wonder if RO)$ ME$EK could be a compound place name meaning "the
Meshech headland", given that the Arabic cognate of RO)$, Ras, is
commonly used meaning "headland" in compound place names, and the modern
Hebrew word can also have that sense: Rosh Hanikra is a headland in Israel.
On point 2), if Rosh is a place name (and not a compound), there is a
reasonable chance of a link to the name Russia. The word "Russia" (in
Russian, Rossiya) first appears in the form Rus', the name of a state
founded about 860 CE in modern Russia and Ukraine. The Byzantine Greek
form of the name was RWS, rho-omega-sigma. The etymology of this name is
disputed (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rus%27_%28people%29 and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_Rus_and_derivatives), but one
possibility is that the name comes from the Rhoxolani (see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhoxolani), Sarmatian tribes known from the
3rd and 4th centuries BCE, named from the Persian word rokhs = "light"
because of their light-coloured hair - something they share with at
least prototypical modern Russians. These Sarmatians lived in an area
adjacent to one likely location of Meshech and Tubal, in modern Georgia
(cf. "Meskheti", the modern name for western Georgia) - their modern
descendants include the Ossetians, who also live partly in Georgia.
So I conclude that there is a real possibility that Ezekiel was at this
point using RO)$ as the name of an area or an ethnic group, parallel to
Meshech and Tubal, and that the modern name Russia is derived from this
place name Rosh - and even that the modern Russians are at least in part
descended from the people of the Rosh referred to by Ezekiel.
Of course this is something that we cannot be sure of. And my conclusion
by no means implies that I support the prophetic theories of Hal Lindsey
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
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