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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 21 12:22:57 EST 2007

Kenneth Greifer:
Yes, you are following my argument.
1.  You wrote:  "I think you are saying that Laban the Aramean came from a 
place called Aram, but he did not speak Aramaic."
That's right.  Throughout the 2nd millennium BCE, the upper Euphrates River 
area, which is where Laban lives at Harran, was referred to as "Aram".  That is 
clear from the Mari archives and from 14th century BCE Ugarit.  In the 2nd 
millennium BCE, the fact that a person was from Aram did not imply any 
particular ethnicity or language.  The Aramean people did not arrive on the scene until 
very late in the 2nd millennium BCE, and the first attested use of Aramaic 
does not occur until about 900 BCE, in the 1st millennium BCE.
2.  You wrote:  "[Laban] called the rocks some words in Hebrew and Hebrew 
mixed with Hurrian that later became Aramaic words that coincidentally meant the 
same thing as the Hebrew words Jacob used 'heap of witness (testimony)'."
Yes, that is my basic theory of the case.  However, I do not think that in 
Hebrew, ygr means only "heap".  I think that in Hebrew, ygr retains its normal 
meaning of "to fear", or in context here, "to properly fear, and so honor".
There is no surprise that Aramaic may have adopted many Hurrian words.  The 
Aramean people displaced the Hurrians on the upper Euphrates River.  Though we 
have precious few facts explaining exactly how that process worked, it seems 
inevitable that the new Arameans would have been exposed to a lot of Hurrian 
3.  You wrote:  "What are you trying to prove by your ideas about this quote? 
Are you trying to show that the story took place at an earlier time before 
Aramaic was spoken?"
Yes.  If we take at face value the scholarly assertion that the odd words at 
Genesis 31: 47 are classic Aramaic, nothing else, then we must buy into the 
secular scholars' assertion that the Patriarchal narratives, or at the very 
least this portion of the Patriarchal narratives, are 1st millennium BCE fiction 
that is not accurately reporting the lives of the Patriarchs in the 2nd 
millennium BCE.  There is no attested written Aramaic before 900 BCE.  So if the 
words at Genesis 31: 47 are classic Aramaic, nothing else, then this part of the 
Patriarchal narratives could not have been composed before the 9th century BCE 
at the earliest.
Moreover, consider how befuddled the author of the Patriarchal narratives 
would be, if he is viewing Jacob's uncle Laban as being a member of the Aramean 
tribe, who spoke Aramaic.  Such people are 1st millennium BCE people, who are 
profoundly out of place in the Patriarchal narratives, which purport to be 
telling us about the first Hebrews in the 2nd millennium BCE.
So in fact, a lot is riding on the analysis of Genesis 31: 47.  If there is 
no Hurrian or other pre-Aramaic basis for that odd phrase at Genesis 31: 47, 
then the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives (or at least this portion of 
the Patriarchal narratives) would take a big hit.
4.  I have not yet set forth my Hurrian analysis.  When I do, it is sure to 
be controversial.  But you are understanding exactly where I am going with this.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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