[b-hebrew] Karnaim

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sun Nov 7 17:59:03 EST 2004

On 07/11/2004 21:52, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:

> Dear Marianne,
>> I am busy with the Samaritan chronicles right now and want to ask about
>> something.  I came across a Samaritan ketubah in which the bridegroom 
>> was
>> described, among other things, as "baHr karnaim" (the Samaritans 
>> actually pronounce the
>> first as "bakur"--but their dialect is another matter).  The footnote 
>> stated
>> that the scribe had probably made an error for "kohanim"--but I find 
>> this
>> rather spurious.  The Samaritans, being led since the collapse of the 
>> Israelite
>> kingdom by a series of High Priests, are very conscious of their 
>> kohanim.  Ever
>> since the time of Moses, they had a high priest from the line of 
>> Eleazar, but
>> this line died out at some point in the Middle Ages and then the 
>> Levites took
>> over, a situation that prevails to this very day.
>> Anyway, don't we encounter this "karnaim" business in connection with 
>> Moses? Moses, one supposes, didn't actually have horns and any 
>> Samaritan capable of
>> writing a ketubah is not going to be ignorant of how to spell 
>> "kohanim". Anyone have any ideas about this "karnaim" matter?
> HH: If "baHr" mans "son," then the horns could be part of a phrase 
> indicating a man of strength. Presumably a groom in a marriage would 
> be a person of strength. Horns are a symbol of strength in the Old 
> Testament.
I assume that "baHr" is not a rather crude attempt at phonetic spelling 
of Aramaic "bar" = "son", but rather the H is a het and this is Hebrew 
"baHur" (or perhaps "baHir") = "chosen one" or "young man". I note that 
the Samaritan pronunciation given has a U sound, but maybe this is not 
represented in the spelling.

So perhaps the meaning is "one chosen by Karnaim". I assume the K is in 
fact a qof. Could Karnaim be a divine title? This would be a likely 
development from the common use of QEREN = "horn" as a symbol of divine 
strength. But then it could be a place name as in Amos 6:13 (referring 
there to a place in Bashan, cf. Gen 14:5), hence perhaps "a young man 
from Karnaim".

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

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