[b-Hebrew] Elohim

Trevor Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Wed Jan 28 21:47:17 EST 2004

Peter wrote:

> Well, is there any evidence from early non-Jewish Aramaic, I wonder? 

There is. Not that you would ever be able to get this from the way HALOT
presents the evidence, but there is quite a bit cited in DNSI.

> These forms appear in HALOT. I don't have any further information. I 
> took "=Heb" as implying support for the Hebrew reading; I have never 
> heard of cuneiform writing of Hebrew.

Well, presumably everything presented is intended to support the Hebrew
reading in one way or another. What bothers me is that "cuneiform" is
rather general--too general, I would think, even for HALOT. By saying
"cuneiform," rather than presenting a specific language, I suspect that
they mean something written in cuneiform that is not identifiably
Akkadian or Sumerian. They could be talking about some sort of
peripheral Akkadian--maybe Amarna material? This would betray influence
of something like Canaanite. They could also mean an Akkadian text with
foreign words in it--perhaps proper nouns (which might make sense,
considering the leading hyphen). Since there are Akkadian texts that
talk about that area, I wouldn't be surprised if some of them contain
Hebrew personal or geographical names.

> I forgot to point out that 'el has a perfectly good regularly formed 
> plural of its own, 'elim, used more than ten times mostly of 
> pagan gods 
> but see e.g. Ps 29:1.

On the other hand, elohim is also used of pagan gods, so that the two
seem to be at least overlapping, if not more or less synonymous.

> Trevor, it is possible that 'eloah/'elohim is etymologically derived 
> from a Ugaritic plural form of which a new singular was back-formed. 
> That is speculative and essentially without significance. 
> What matters 
> is how the words are used in biblical Hebrew. We have two clearly 
> attested singular words for god/God, 'el and 'eloah, and each of them 
> has a regularly formed plural, 'elim and 'elohim. 'elohim is 
> disproportionately more common than  'eloah mostly because 
> this plural 
> form is commonly substituted for the singular, for unknown 
> reasons. But 
> that doesn't make 'elohim the plural of 'el.

Granted. My main point is that I think it's hard to separate the two in
such a clear-cut way.

Trevor Peterson

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