[b-hebrew] The Meaning of the Name "Bera", Ruler of Sodom

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Dec 5 11:32:47 EST 2008


Karl:
 
1.  You wrote, regarding the question of whether Bera of Sodom dies at 
Genesis 14: 10:  “Who cares what the scholars say?”
 
When several important scholars have focused on the specific issue of whether 
Bera dies at Genesis 14: 10, and concluded that he did not, I myself consider 
that to be important.
 
2.  You wrote:  “Abraham wants to remain free from any answerability to the 
wicked king of wicked Sodom. Therefore, he refuses the reward so as to remain 
free of any leverage that the king of Sodom might bring to bear. You in your 
cultural isolation of modern Illinois, you can’t see this.”
 
Then why on earth does Abraham hand his nephew Lot back to the ruler of 
Sodom?  Karl, if the ruler of Sodom were “the wicked king of wicked Sodom”, there’
s no way that righteous Abraham would place his own nephew back into that foul 
den of iniquity.  Can’t you see that your reading of the text here makes no 
sense?
 
3.  You wrote:  “Already by the 15th century BC, late middle bronze age, when 
Moses compiled the record of the patriarchs, the Hebrew language was fully 
developed such that a final ayin was never dropped. You have no evidence to back 
up your claim
 that iron age Hebrew was significantly different than bronze age Hebrew.”
 
(a)  The 15th century BCE is the Late Bronze Age, not the late Middle Bronze 
Age.  The Middle Bronze Age ended in 1550 BCE.
 
(b)  There was no Hebrew language in existence in the 15th century BCE, based 
on evidence from secular history.
 
(c)  There’s plenty of evidence to back up my claim that Iron Age Hebrew was 
significantly different in certain respects than the west Semitic languages 
that are evidenced in the 15th and 14th centuries BCE.  For example, let’s look 
at the west Semitic word for the number “four” in Akkadian, Assyrian, 
Ugaritic and Biblical Hebrew.  Akkadian, Assyrian and Ugaritic are the three 
best-documented Semitic languages in the Bronze Age.  
 
In Akkadian , the word for “four” is “erbe”, with no ayin.  Akkadian did 
not have an ayin.  In Assyrian, the word for “four” is (per BDB) “arba’u 
(rarely irba’), irbitti”.  Note the lack of an ayin, though Assyrian had an ayin.  
Two of the forms have an aleph at or near the end, but there’s no ayin.  In 
Ugaritic, the word for “four” is arb’t.  Once again, there’s an aleph near 
the end, but no ayin.  It’s not until we get to Biblical Hebrew in the Iron Age 
that, for the first time, we see an ayin at the end of a west Semitic word for 
“four”, in the Biblical Hebrew word )RB(/“arbe”.  All four languages have a 
roughly similar word for the number “four”, except that there’s no ayin at 
the end to be found until we leave the Bronze Age and get to the later Iron 
Age.  In Iron Age Biblical Hebrew, that final ayin is indeed an integral part of 
a 3-consonant root for the word “four”, with the Iron Age root being RB-ayin. 
 But in the Bronze Age, there was no ayin at the end of the west Semitic 
words for “four”!  Back in the Bronze Age, a final ayin was a mere suffix.
 
That’s why the Bronze Age name of the Anakim giant in Joshua, “Arbe”, means “
Mr. Big”, instead of nonsensically meaning “Mr. Four”.  The ayin at the end 
of the Bronze Age proper name “Arbe” is a mere suffix that means “Mr.”, 
rather than being part of a 3-consonant Iron Age root meaning “four”.  In the 
Bronze Age, the final ayin in the man’s name “Arbe” was not part of the root, 
whereas in the Iron Age, by sharp contrast, the final ayin in the Biblical 
Hebrew common word is an integral part of the 3-consonant root.
 
Because the Patriarchal narratives are so old, the names in the text are 
Bronze Age names, and hence frequently do not conform to all the specific rules 
that govern Biblical Hebrew common words in the Iron Age.  That’s the key 
linguistic point I am trying to make.  In particular, a final ayin in a Bronze Age 
proper name has a different significance than a final ayin in a Biblical Hebrew 
common word from the mid-1st millennium BCE.
 
4.  You wrote:  “You make the assumption that Bera is a Hebrew name.  That is 
an assumption that is logically not allowed. As a possible different 
language, it is
 possible that it has a completely different meaning than what it appears to 
have from a Hebrew standpoint.”
 
It is impossible that “Bera” could be a Hebrew name, because Bera obviously 
was not a Hebrew.  Yet the name “Bera” could easily be a west Semitic name.  
And if the Patriarchal narratives are truly ancient, then the name “Bera” is 
coming from the Bronze Age.  That’s why the ayin at the end has a different 
function than in Biblical Hebrew common words from the Iron Age.  That’s the 
very point I keep trying to make.  One of the reasons why no one has figured out 
the meanings of the names “Bera” and “Birsha” is that they try to analyze 
such names as if they were Biblical Hebrew common words from the Iron Age.  
Nothing could be further from the truth.  The names “Bera” and “Birsha” must, 
rather, be analyzed from a Bronze Age perspective.  Then those two important 
names make perfect sense.  
 
“Bera” means “Mr. Clean”.  The linguistic key is to recognize that in the 
Bronze Age proper name “Bera”, the final ayin is a mere suffix that 
effectively means “Mr.”, rather than being part of an Iron Age 3-consonant root.  BR( = 
BR + (.  BR = “clean” or “pure”, as verified by the Bronze Age languages 
Akkadian and Ugaritic.  And in a Bronze Age context, the final ayin = “Mr.”.  
So “Bera” means “Mr. Clean”.  Bera was a good person who was a good ruler of 
formerly virtuous Sodom/Beth Shan.  But then Bera was wrongfully ousted from 
power, just as the article you cited documents that Beth Shan was ransacked by 
local Canaanites on three different occasions in the Late Bronze Age.  Once 
Bera/“Mr. Clean” is out of the picture at Sodom, then Sodom commits the 
ultimate iniquity (from an early Hebrew point of view) by selling out to the 
expansionist-minded Hittites.  Bera and Sodom are good in chapter 14 of Genesis.  
Sodom goes over to the dark side only in chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis, after 
wrongfully ousting Bera as the proper leader of Sodom/Beth Shan.  The name “Bera”/
“Mr. Clean” is important in letting us know that the problem was not the 
virtue (or lack of virtue) of the current ruler of Sodom/Beth Shan.  No, the 
potential problem was the realistic danger that the ruler of Sodom/Beth Shan might 
be ousted by the locals, who might decide to throw in their chips with the 
seemingly unstoppable Hittites (just as the Amorites of Amurru in northernmost 
Canaan historically had iniquitously done the previous year).  The “iniquity” 
of Sodom at Genesis 19: 15 is the same “iniquity” as the historical “iniquity 
of the Amorites” at Genesis 15: 16:  selling out Canaan to the dreaded 
Hittites.  We come to see that if we understand what the name “Bera” means (being a 
morally positive name, instead of referencing “evil” as often thought), it 
greatly helps us understand what is going on in the Patriarchal narratives.  We 
are tapping into the realistic, historical fears of the first Hebrews.
 
Similarly, because Birsha is the ruler of Megiddo/Gomorrah, it makes all the 
sense in the world that, in a Bronze Age context, “Birsha” means “Mr. Cypress”
 or “Mr. Megiddo Cypress Harp”, since Megiddo was world-famous for the 
Megiddo Harp made from the local cypress trees at Megiddo.  As we have seen, the 
final ayin in BR$( means “Mr.”, in a man’s name from the Bronze Age.  I 
consider the match of the Bronze Age archaic root “Birsh”/BR$ [without the final 
ayin] to “birosh”/BRW$, meaning “cypress” or “musical instrument made from 
cypress” (as verified by the Bronze Age language Assyrian), to be strong support 
for my view that Biblical “Gomorrah” represents historical Megiddo (which was 
famous for the Megiddo Harp made of local cypress), and that the five 
defending parties in chapter 14 of Genesis were located in the Jezreel Valley.  The 
key to understanding this is the linguistic point I keep making:  in a Bronze 
Age proper name (unlike in an Iron Age common word), a final ayin was not part 
of the root, but rather was a mere suffix.  
 
If we can recognize that a final ayin in a Bronze Age proper name is a mere 
suffix (as opposed to the different rules that govern Iron Age common words), 
then the longstanding mystery of the meaning of the names “Bera” and “Birsha” 
has finally been solved!
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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