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

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Dec 29 12:13:05 EST 2004

On 26/12/2004 04:18, Heard, Christopher wrote:

> ...
>Peter, thanks for working with the whole phrase, and not the word RO)$ in
>isolation. The word sequence N&Y) + R)$ is attested also in Num 10:4; 36:1,
>in the phrase HANN:&IY)IYM RF)$"Y )LP"Y YI&RF)"L (Num 10:4) and HANN:&IY)IYM
>RF)$"Y )FBWT LIBN"Y YI&RF)"L (Num 36:1). In translating these verses, the
>major North American commercial translations (the only ones I have easy
>access to at this moment) all treat N&Y) and R)$ as appositive, yielding
>such translations as "the princes, the heads of the clans of Israel" and
>"the princes, the heads of the fathers[' houses] of the Israelites."

These are quite different because they consist of N&Y) in the absolute.

>Your hypothetical reverse, however--R)$ + N&Y) as "head of the princes"--is
>not attested in the Tanakh.
>On the strength of these parallels, few as they are--as far as I can tell,
>Num 10:4; 36:1; Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1 are the _only_ verses to contain N&Y) +
>R)$--I would suggest that the R)$ and N&Y) in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1 ought to be
>treated as appositive, and the translation something like "the prince, the
>head of Meshekh and Tubal ..."

This would be an error because N&Y) is in the construct state in each 
Ezekiel reference. So the translation could be more like "the prince of 
the head of Meshech and Tubal". But in this case, what is the head? It 
only makes sense as a headland.

>>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.
>Fourth, we have a category where R)$ + the name of a mountain means the
>"head" or "peak" of the mountain, attested twice in Song 4:8: M"RO)$
>):AMFNFH M"RO)$ &:NIYR. Other than this, I cannot find any places in the
>Tanakh where R)$ + toponym itself refers to a geographical or topographical
>feature. That is, I cannot find any attestations of R)$ + toponym to mean
>"headland" in a compound place name, _unless_ the three instances in Ezek
>38:2, 3; 39:1 constitute such.

I never claimed that there was any such case. In fact I implied that it 
was not in the Bible by saying that this is a modern Hebrew usage. This 
usage may be borrowed from Arabic. On the other hand, what was the 
ancient Hebrew for "headland"? There is no word attested in the Bible 
largely because the coast of Israel lacks such features, apart from Carmel.

>Fifth, we have three verses where, in the phrase R)$ + proper noun, the
>proper noun names a political unit with a recognizable territory. I take
>this to be the sense in Micah 3:1: $IM(W-NF) RF)$"Y YA(:AQOB UQCIYN"Y B"YT
>YI&RF)"L. This usage appears several times in Isaiah 7:8-9:
>    W:RO)$ DAME&EQ R:CIYN ...
>In these instances, RO)$ + proper noun clearly refers to rulership of a
>particular place, by a particular person or from a particular place within
>the larger unit, such that RO)$ here points up the political hierarchy. This
>seems to me the usage that most illuminates the usage in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1.
The problem with these is that none of them are or can possess a N&Y) as 
the grammar in Ezekiel requires.

> ...
>However, I don't find the analysis convincing. Peter, I realize that you are
>offering merely an exploratory possibility, not a dogmatic prouncement or
>even really an argument. I think the analysis is actually reasonable. But I
>don't think it's persuasive. I think for the analysis to be convincing, I
>would also have to be convinced of a synchronism between Persian rakhs,
>Byzantine Greek RWS, and Hebrew RO)$. You well know that you haven't gone so
>far as to present that evidence; as far as I can tell, you didn't intend or
>pretend to do so, so I don't mean that as a criticism.

Absolutely. There is no synchronism. The Byzantine Greek form RWS for 
Rus' is identical to the form RWS used in these three verses in the LXX, 
and that may suggest that the Byzantines identified Rus', the early form 
of Russia, as Ezekiel's Rosh. That doesn't mean that their 
identification corresponded with Ezekiel's, any more than the modern 
Hebrew use of Sepharad for Spain implies that Obadiah 20 is a reference 
to Spain.

>Even if I were convinced of those cross-linguistic toponymic equivalencies,
>however, I would still need to be convinced that RO)$ was actually a proper
>noun in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1. Yet the N&Y) + RO)$ constructions in Numbers
>10:4; 36:1 and the use of RO)$ + toponym in Isa 7:8, 9 persuade me that RO)$
>is not a toponym in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1.
>My conclusion: N&Y) and RO)$ are appositive in Ezek 38:2, 3; 39:1, and thus
>the question of any link between the RO)$ there and Russia is moot because
>that RO)$ is not a toponym.
I think you need to reconsider your conclusions on the basis of the 
construct form of N&Y).

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

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