[b-hebrew] The Name "Judah"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Dec 23 15:44:53 EST 2007

Kenneth  Greifer: 
    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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