[b-hebrew] The Name "Judah"
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Dec 23 15:44:53 EST 2007
1. There is a danger in viewing yod-heh/YH as referring to the Hebrew
deity in the Patriarchal narratives. The fact is that “Yah” or some minor
variant thereof is all over the ancient near east as the name of a deity,
including in both Egypt and Ugarit. By contrast, the full name “YHWH” seems u
nique to the Hebrews.
I am not saying that YH could never be short for YHWH. In the 1st
millennium BCE, that may have been commonplace.
2. At Genesis 29: 35, Leah uses two words in a short phrase, “praise” and “
YHWH”, in explaining why she has chosen the name “Judah” for her fourth
son. The name “Judah” has five letters, four of which are the four letters in “
YHWH”, in order. I do not think that is a coincidence. I think that the
author of the Patriarchal narratives did that deliberately. To me, that is a
far more brilliant feat of informative Hebrew wordplay than your suggestion of
having YH be short for YHWH.
1. As far as “praise YHWH” (my suggestion) vs. “G-d was praised”
(your suggestion) as the meaning of the name “Judah”, I do not see much
difference in the substantive meaning.
1. The big huge question here is not the relatively minor differences
between your suggestion and my suggestion. Rather, the big huge question
here is that some scholars claim that “Judah” is a pun merely on the word “
praise” alone. That is the view that I am adamantly opposing.
1. Believe it or not, scholars are not comfortable with viewing Judah
as being appointed the sole leader of the next generation of the new
monotheists, while Joseph is passed over in that regard. One aspect of that
scholarly discomfort comes out in the scholarly reluctance to analyze their
respective names. “Judah” is a truly grand name, which is not merely a play on the
word “praise” alone, but rather has YHWH integrally embedded in that name
(whether as “YHWH”, per my view, or as “YH”, per your view). By contrast, the
name “Joseph” is not grand at all, as we will soon see.
If we pay close attention to the puns that the author of the Patriarchal
narratives explicitly makes on the names of Jacob’s sons, it is much easier, in
my view, to discover the main themes that the author is trying to get across
in his composition.
Jim StinehartEvanston, Illinois
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