[b-hebrew] The Name "Chedorlaomer" in Hebrew and Ugaritic

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Jan 28 09:35:32 EST 2008


The Name “Chedorlaomer” in Hebrew and Ugaritic
 
Chedorlaomer is one of four attacking rulers in chapter 14 of Genesis.  
Chedorlaomer is viewed negatively by the author of the Patriarchal narratives.  No 
ruler in secular history ever had the exact name “Chedorlaomer”.  Could “
Chedorlaomer” then be a nickname, created by the author of the Patriarchal 
narratives, for an historical princeling ruler of Ugarit, who was viewed negatively 
by the northern pre-Hebrews for selling out to the dreaded Hittites from the 
north and threatening to plunge all of Canaan into a terrible war?
 
This theory of the case can be tested, in the first instance, linguistically. 
 On this theory of the case, the name “Chedorlaomer” should make sense both 
in Hebrew and in Ugaritic, and should convey a dark, sinister image of a ruler 
who may be plunging Canaan into a terrible war involving the dreaded Hittites.
 
“Chedorlaomer” is kaf-dalet-resh-lamed-ayin-mem-resh or KDRL(MR.  If we use “
Ao” to symbolize the ayin, per the usual English transliteration of this 
name, we have KDRLAoMR.
 
In Hebrew, the name “Chedorlaomer” easily breaks down into the following 
three Hebrew words:  kaf-dalet-resh + lamed + ayin-mem-resh/K-D-R + L + Ao-M-R.
 
1.  K-D-R/kaf-dalet-resh
 
Here is the BDB definition of K-D-R (kaf-dalet-resh):
 
“Shoot or rush down (of hawk, star, etc.;  also of an attacking force)…
annoy, vex reprimand,…oftener be dark, gloomy, turbid, whence 
kaf-yod-dalet-vav-resh [K-I-D-U-R] seething tumult, of battle….”
 
If we add in implied vowels, BDB gives us two more words here, as follows:
 
K-I-D-U-R/kaf-yod-dalet-vav-resh:  “onset, [as in] Job 15: 24, a king ready 
for the onset” [which presumably means a king ready for the onset of the 
seething tumult of war].
 
K-D-U-R/kaf-dalet-vav-resh:  “ball…;  circle, cordon”.
 
When we get to the Ugaritic analysis, we will see a similar range of meanings 
of the Ugaritic word “kdr”.
 
Thus K-D-R, as the first component of the name “Chedorlaomer”, can be viewed 
as meaning “an attacking force rushing down like a hawk or vulture in 
vexatious, dark, gloomy, turbid seething tumult of battle”. 
 
If one wanted to castigate a northern Amorite ruler for threatening to bring 
on a terrible war in a feared invasion of Canaan by the dreaded Hittites, it 
is hard to imagine a better word in the entire Hebrew language than K-D-R.
 
2.  L/lamed
 
According to “The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew” by Van Pelt and 
Pratico, L/lamed is the third most common word in the entire Hebrew Bible.  It 
means “to, toward, for”, and can be used in a wide variety of applications.  For 
example, in context it could mean “leading to”.
 
Thus K-D-R + L could mean: “an attacking force rushing down like a hawk or 
vulture in vexatious, dark, gloomy, turbid seething tumult of battle [K-D-R], 
which leads to [L]”
 
We are well on our way to understanding the name “Chedorlaomer” in Hebrew.
 
3.  Ao-M-R/ayin-mem-resh
 
BDB gives Ao-M-R/ayin-mem-resh both as a noun and as a verb.
 
As a noun:  “sheaf (swath, row of fallen grain)”.
 
Adding one implied vowel gives us Ao-M-I-R/ayin-mem-yod-resh:  “swath, row of 
fallen grain”.  
 
As a verb:  “deal tyrannically with…cherish enmity, rancour, malice, plunge 
into a conflict”.
 
The name “Gomorrah” also appears in chapter 14 of Genesis.  The spelling of “
Gomorrah” is simply Ao-M-R/ayin-mem-resh with an H/he added at the end.  (The 
ayin is probably an archaic ghayin, though, hence the Septuagint’s use of a G 
at the beginning of this name.)  Strong’s explains “Gomorrah” as coming from 
Ao-M-R/ayin[ghayin]-mem-resh, and meaning “a (ruined) heap”.
 
So Ao-M-R/ayin-mem-resh could mean “(the land) being dealt tyrannically with, 
cherishing enmity and malice, and plunging (the land) into a conflict (that 
will result in the land [of Canaan] becoming) a ruined heap”.
 
4.  Summary of Hebrew Meaning of the Name “Chedorlaomer”
 
Based on the foregoing, the name “Chedorlaomer” could have the following 
incredibly dark, gloomy meaning:
 
“an attacking force rushing down like a hawk or vulture in vexatious, dark, 
gloomy, turbid seething tumult of battle [K-D-R], which leads to [L] (the land) 
being dealt tyrannically with, cherishing enmity and malice, and plunging 
(the land) into a conflict (that will result in the land [of Canaan] becoming) a 
ruined heap [Ao-M-R]”.
 
Ironically, “Chedorlaomer” is routinely referred to as being a “grand” 
name.  True, it is a long name, containing 7 Hebrew letters.  But on the foregoing 
analysis, “Chedorlaomer” is just about the worst name/nickname that could be 
imagined in Hebrew.  As such, on the foregoing Hebrew analysis, “Chedorlaomer”
 is an ideal nickname for a northern pre-Hebrew to apply to the historical 
princeling ruler of Ugarit whose actions brought the dreaded Hittites into 
Lebanon, and as such gravely threatened the very existence of the fledgling new 
Hebrews.
 
Next up is to examine the name “Chedorlaomer” in Ugaritic.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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