[b-hebrew] Ezekiel 38:2f.; 39:1

Peter Kirk 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 
place name?

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 Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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