[b-hebrew] Genesis 31: 47: What Foreign Language Is That?
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 21 15:35:37 EST 2007
1. The odd phrase 'yegar sahaduta' at Genesis 31: 47 could be based on
Hurrian. In mid-14th century BCE Hurrian, ugar sa-ha-du-tta would likely mean "to
show that I am purified". In context, Laban is claiming that the stones being
piled up in connection with his treaty with Jacob are "to show that Laban is
pure in heart" in promising to abide by this treaty.
2. As to 'ugar' in Hurrian, this word is used for example with 'tad', a
Hurrian word meaning "love" or "affection". In Hurrian, 'tad-ugar' is a
well-known phrase meaning "show affection". (In attested Hurrian, 'ugar' appears after
other words, not in an initial position.) It is not clear at this remove how
close 'ugar' in Hurrian would sound to 'yegar' in Hebrew, but the sounds
presumably are fairly close.
3. As to 'sa-ha-du-tta' in Hurrian, the Hurrian word for "pure" is either
sa-ha-la or se-e-ha-la. (All Hurrian S sounds, by the way, may sound closer to
SH than S.) The phrase sa-ha-la-su means "they shall purify". There is a
very long Hurrian phrase that begins "se-e-ha-du…", and presumably could
alternatively be spelled "sa-ha-du…", which is based on the word "pure". The ending
'-tta' is well-known in Hurrian as meaning "I" or "me". So although the tiny
corpus of Hurrian writing does not literally contain the phrase 'sa-ha-du-tta',
it seems likely that in Hurrian, 'sa-ha-du-tta' would mean "I am purified".
4. Without going into a long explanation, it is unlikely that the Hebrew
author of the Patriarchal narratives could have distinguished between T and D in
Hurrian. In the Hurrian index I looked at, for example, T words and D words
are put together, because T and D so often substitute for each other in Hurrian.
5. Now let's look at a possible Hebrew-Hurrian meaning of 'yegar sahaduta'
at Genesis 31: 47.
In the mid-14th century BCE, the Hurrian leader of the Hurrian state of
Mitanni had a similar situation to Laban. This untrustworthy man lived on the
upper Euphrates River. He had a son-in-law from far to the west, who was a
monotheist. That son-in-law rudely broke off relations with him, with the last
straw being, believe it or nor, certain statues that the irate Hurrian
father-in-law insisted that his monotheistic son-in-law should deliver to him, but which
in fact were never delivered. A long series of Amarna Letters documents this
in secular history. In the Patriarchal narratives, Jacob's wife Rachel steals
Laban's statues, called teraphim, and that is the last straw in Jacob's rude
break from his untrustworthy father-in-law Laban on the upper Euphrates River
in chapter 31 of Genesis.
The conventional English spelling of this mid-14th century BCE Hurrian
leader's name is "Tushratta". But the T could be a D:
"The name Tushratta is spelled Tui?srata in the Hittite cuneiform script,
which does not distinguish between \d" and \t" very well. Some have suggested
that the Sanskrit original is Dasaratha…."
Subhash Kak, at: _http://www.ece.lsu.edu/kak/akhena.pdf_
The Hurrian name of this mid-14th century BCE Hurrian leader could
alternatively be Du-shah-ra-tta. If we start with the R at the end of ygr, that phrase
at Genesis 31: 47 could be ra-shah-du-tta. We see the identical four
syllables, though out of order. Thus 'yegar sahaduta' could on one level be a
slightly disguised reference to the disliked Hurrian leader of the only Hurrian state
in the mid-14th century BCE: Du-shah-ra-tta/Tushratta. Laban is saying that
Laban is properly fearful of, and hence honors (ygr, in regular Hebrew),
Du-shah-ra-tta, whose name is slightly disguised as ra-shah-du-tta (starting with
the R at the end of yegar).
6. Note that both of my proposed Hurrian meanings of 'yegar sahaduta' at
Genesis 31: 47 make sense. On the all-Hurrian reading, the meaning would be "to
show that I am pure in heart [in promising to abide by this treaty]". On the
Hebrew-Hurrian reading, the slightly disguised meaning would be "in proper
fear of, and hence honoring, [my Hurrian king] Du-shah-ra-tta".
7. Meanwhile, we still have the all-Hebrew meaning there as well: "in
proper fear of, and hence honoring" (ygr), by my "witness" or "testimony" (shd,
plus the odd non-Hebrew suffix –uta). (Eric Forster has nicely pointed out the
Semitic root SHD in the odd word SHDUTA, where Shahid in modern Arabic means
"someone who dies as a witness to his faith".)
Thus it is possible to understand the odd phrase 'yegar sahaduta' at Genesis
31: 47 in terms of Hebrew, Hebrew and Hurrian, and Hurrian, without any resort
to Aramaic. Whether Aramaic picked up the word 'sahaduta' from Hurrian I do
not know, but that is definitely possible.
I myself view 'yegar sahaduta' at Genesis 31: 47 as being a clever play on
Hurrian and Hebrew words by the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives, who
lived in the mid-14th century BCE, and who had never heard of the Arameans or
Aramaic, which did not yet exist in the Patriarchal Age.
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