[b-hebrew] yhwh pronunciation

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Jul 24 07:53:08 EDT 2005

Dear Bryan and Peter,

Several questions have brought me back to this thread. Se my comments below.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
To: "B. M. Rocine" <brocine at twcny.rr.com>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, July 23, 2005 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] yhwh pronunciation

> On 23/07/2005 12:25, B. M. Rocine wrote:
>>Hi Peter,
>>The Mesha stele, in line 18, has the Tetragrammaton (all four letters).
>>  Did Rolf respond to your request below?  I didn't see a response.
> Thank you, Bryan. No, I haven't had another reply to this. But does the
> Mesha stele use other final he matres lectionis? If so, this is no
> indication that the final he was not a mater lectionis. If not, it is in
> fact quite powerful evidence against the standard understanding of YHWH
> as derived from the root HWH, as in forms of such "lamed-he" verbs the
> final he is always a mater lectionis.
Several list-members have referred to old occurrences of the tetragrammaton
outside the Tanakh. I will just give some comments on the oldest example,
namely the one from the Amun temple in Soleb, Sudan, which was mentioned by
Jack Tladatsi. A friend of mine recently visited the place and sent me
photographs of the inscription. Jack renders the name as YHW3, which is
correct. After these consonants the text is broken, but the remains may be
interpreted as the bird representing the letter W. If the sign did represent
W  this is different from the W3 sign. Regarding vowels we have the same
problem in Middle Egyptian as in unpointed Hebrew texts, the vowels are
unknown. If this inscription really refers to the God of Israel, which is
very likely, we learn that the the name probably was written with four
letters, and that in the fourteenth century "the land of the nomads of YHWH"

On the basis of the final MA (WA) of names including YHWH or an abbreviation
in Babylonian cuneiform (see my answer to Yitzhaq), there are clues for the
name ending in WA. If the last sign in the Soleb inscription really is W, we
possibly can identify the two last syllables of the name as -HUWA, and
before this we have a Y with a vowel we do not know. The U in HUWA is based
on a vocalic reading of the W3 sign, but the last W can also be read as an
U, and could in that case be a grammatic element which could be added to
foreign names.  (See J. E. Hoch (1995). "Middle Egyptian Grammar" pp. 10, 11

The Tanakh also bears witness to the existence of YHWH in ancient times. In
Genesis 13:4 it is said that Abraham called upon the name of YHWH. Against
taking this passage as a witness for the existence of YHWH in the first part
of the second millennium B.C.E. we have the Deuteronomistic historical
hypothesis and other hypotheses telling that the text of the Tanakh is very
young.  These hypotheses build on nothing but speculation and I do not
accept using them for dating purposes.  We may say that parts of the Tanakh
represent Early Biblical Hebrew, others Standard Biblical Hebrew, and still
Late Biblical Hebrew, but this is a rough distinction, and to date different
books on linguistic grounds is not possible. However, YHWH is found in all
parts of the Tanakh, also those which are viewed as old. The inscriptions
that others have referred to lend credence to the witness of different books
in the Tanakh that the tetragrammaton is very old. All this evidence speak
in favor of the existence of the tetragrammaton before the plene writing was
invented in Hebrew.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

> -- 
> Peter Kirk
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> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
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