[b-hebrew] Habiru/Apiru/Ibrim (was: Date of the Jericho Battle)

Uri Hurwitz uhurwitz at yahoo.com
Sun May 23 10:59:25 EDT 2004

   First, the linguistic association.  Clearly  the consonants are identical in Akkadian and Heb. The Akkadian cuneiform sign for the first consonant can be either Kha  as in Arabic, ( fused with H (.) chet in Heb.), or -- Ayin. That the latter was the pronounciation in this case is  evident in the first letter of the same social term in such disparate linguistic cultures as Ugaritic and Egyptian, Ayin in both. The second consonantis B or P , these are quite interchangeble as is known.The third  is R in both.
  As for historical , anthropological  correspondence between )abiru and Ibrim.: The first are known throughout the ANE mostly in the second millennium,  not as an ethnicum, rather as landless outsiders, marauders but sometimes as mercenaries. In short an ill defined appellation. Ibrim in  the HB is a term used mostly by others such as the Philistines to describe the Herews or Israelites, not by the latter to describe themselves. Again an ill defined appellation.
  The )Apiru of the El-Amarna tablets may refer to the groups we read about in Genesis in the Patriarchial narratives that are involved in skirmishes and even battles (see the enigmatic chapt. 14). It is  certainly a period that preceeds the settlement/conquest,  but only five or six generations seprate Amarna from Merenpath. Perhaps some Hebrews  remained in Canaan, not all went down to Egypt, but this is ouside the scope of this list. 

Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:
OK, let's do it.

My impression has always been that the initial connection was made simply because, to the European scholars who first translated the el-Amarna letters, "Habiru" sounded lot like "Hebrew". However, even assuming an etymological connection between (PR and (BR,
a. A careful analysis of the EA texts finds no mention of the Apiru as "tribes", "invaders", "conquerors" or anything else that is similar to the biblical account of the conquest. Many of the cities mentioned in the conquest story, such as Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Hebron, Debir, Shimron, Achshaph are not mention in the EA texts (and indeed many were not even settled at the time). 
b. The term "Ibri" and its uses in the Bible are also unclear. DOES it refer to an "ethnicity"? Is it a social status?
c. IF the EA letters were to be taken as evidence of a "Hebrew" invasion of Canaan during the 14th century, such an invasion had no real effect: the "wave" of destructions, the appearance of "Israelite" settlements in the hill country and the end of Egyptian rule of the country all began in the 12th century. 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Uri Hurwitz 
To: Yigal Levin ; b-hebrew 
Sent: Saturday, May 22, 2004 10:48 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] True Date of the Jericho Battle

Yigal wrote: "However, even if that date is off by about a century either way it would not
make a difference, as there is NO archaeological OR textual evidence of any
appearance of anything that anyone could identify as "Israelites" until the
very end of the 13th century.

I believe you refer here to the the "Israel Stele" by Merenptah; indeed late 13th cent., and there the matter could rest.

But some timid souls would still support Th. Meek's thesis, and he was not the first or the only one, that the infamous Habiru of the Amarna tablets in the 14th century were the Hebrews. He made this connection on clear linguistic grounds, which makes this worth discussion on this list. And it would push back the external references to biblical Hebrews by over a century. But please don't tell Rainey (among those who violently deny any connection with the Habiru) what I wrote here.


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