[b-hebrew] Genesis 31: 47: What Foreign Language Is That?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Nov 20 08:26:40 EST 2007


1.  Our first clue as to a possible Hurrian origin of the foreign phrase “
yegar sahaduta” comes from our own Yigal Levin.  In a November 20, 2004 post, he 
wrote:
 
“[T]he Aramaic word "sahaduta" (testimony) in Gen. 31:47 is spelled with a 
Sin, while in standard Aramaic it would be spelled with Samekh.  Is this a 
"Hebraized" spelling, or does it reflect use of Sin in early Aramaic.”
 
The Masoretic pointing did not come in until the Middle Ages.  So a Sin can 
be a Shin.
 
I do not think that Hurrian had a true S sound, like Samekh.  Rather, Hurrian 
has the SH sound, like Shin.  So by spelling “sahaduta” with a Shin/Sin, 
rather than with the standard Aramaic Samekh, the Hurrian SH possibly comes into 
play.
 
2.      There was probably no spacing in the original text of the Patriarchal 
narratives.  Most of the relevant ancient languages, including Hebrew, 
Hurrian and Aramaic, often require us to imply vowel sounds.  So there may be 
another syllable in the middle of this foreign phrase.
 
3.       Finally, a Heh following a consonant could possibly be an AH sound, 
not the beginning of a new, separate syllable.
 
4.      Given those three facts, consider the following alternative English 
transliteration of the foreign phrase at Genesis 31: 47:
 
ye-ga-ra-shah-du-ta
 
5.      Finally, consider that a Hurrian word or name that is customarily 
spelled with a T in English may actually be a D.  Those two sounds are similar in 
the ancient languages.  A customary modern English transliteration of an 
ancient Hebrew author’s rendering of a Hurrian (non-west Semitic) phrase may 
easily get T and D mixed up.  (The Hebrew author may even have done this 
deliberately, to slightly disguise his clever Hebrew wordplay on a Hurrian name.)  So 
when we’re looking at a Hurrian word or name, be alert to the fact that a T in 
the English transliteration of a Hurrian name may come out as a D in the 
English transliteration of an ancient author's Hebrew version of a Hurrian word.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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