[b-hebrew] The Name "Chedorlaomer" in Ugaritic, Part II

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jan 31 10:04:39 EST 2008


The Name “Chedorlaomer” in Ugaritic, Part II
 
In the previous post, we saw that kdr at the beginning of the name “
Chedorlaomer” could mean, in Ugaritic, “dark, turbulent warfare”.  Now we turn to the 
Ugaritic words comprising the rest of “Chedorlaomer”:  L and Ao-M-R.
 
L  
 
There are few prepositions in Ugaritic, and most of them contain more than 
one letter.  One of the two main exceptions to that rule in Ugaritic is that L 
is a frequently-used, one-letter preposition in Ugaritic, just as in Hebrew.  
In Ugaritic, L means "to" or "from" or “into” or "for".
 
Here, the L in the middle of "Chedorlaomer" links the first and third 
Ugaritic words.  As we shall see, its meaning here can be viewed as being “leading to”
, as in Hebrew.
 
Ao-M-R
 
The final Ugaritic word in "Chedorlaomer" is Ao-M-R/ayin-mem-resh.
 
In Ugaritic, ayin-m-r means “ash(es), dust” or “ears of grain, sheaf”.  It 
is related to Arabic gamar and gamir, and to Hebrew ayin-m-y-r (which Hebrew 
word means, per BDB, “a row of fallen grain”).  “HdO, A Dictionary of the 
Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition”, G. del Olmo Lete & J. Sanmartin, 
Brill, Boston (2003).  
 
Note that the word spelled ayin-mem-resh-he in Hebrew is spelled in English 
(with an assist from the Greek-language Septuagint) “Gomorrah”.  The G sound 
at the beginning reflects the archaic ghayin, which was such a harsh ayin sound 
that it almost sounded like a G.  Arabic “gamar” and “gamir” may likewise 
be reflecting this confusion in the various ancient languages between an 
archaic ghayin and a true G.  The concept of “ashes” obviously reflects the fact 
that in chapter 19 of Genesis, Gomorrah is reduced to ashes.  The Ugaritic word 
Ao-M-R is part and parcel of this west Semitic vocabulary of destruction.
 
Thus Ao-M-R in Ugaritic can easily have the negative meaning of “ashes” or “
a wasted heap”.  
 
Summary of Ugaritic Meaning of the Name “Chedorlaomer”
 
We can now analyze the name "Chedorlaomer" in Ugaritic in much the same way 
as we previously analyzed it in Hebrew.  K-D-R/kdr in Ugaritic may refer to “
dark, turbulent warfare”.  L in Ugaritic can mean “leading to”.  Ao-M-R in 
Ugaritic basically means “ashes”, or “a wasted heap”.  As such, “Chedorlaomer” 
can mean in Ugaritic, very similar to its meaning in Hebrew:   
 
“dark, turbulent warfare that leads to [the land of Canaan being reduced to] 
ashes, a wasted heap”
 
In creating the nickname "Chedorlaomer", the author of the Patriarchal 
narratives has brilliantly managed to create a name which does all of the following: 
 (i) it sounds Ugaritic (because of the kdr at the beginning of this name, 
which is common in Ugaritic names but unknown in Biblical Hebrew);  (ii) it 
conveys an extremely negative impression of a ruler of Ugarit, who historically 
threatened the future viability of the new Hebrews by inviting the fearsome, 
militaristic Hittites into greater northern Canaan (since K-D-R in Hebrew has a 
terribly dark, sinister meaning, and kdr in Ugaritic may well have a similar 
connotation, and since Ao-M-R in both Hebrew and Ugaritic suggests the 
disastrous result of the land of Canaan becoming “ashes” or “a wasted heap”);  (iii) 
it is made up of three Hebrew words which accurately describe the first Hebrews
’ negative view of this ruler of Ugarit;  and (iv) it also comprises three 
appropriate Ugaritic words, which equally accurately describe the first Hebrews' 
negative view of this ruler of Ugarit.
 
As such, “Chedorlaomer” is a perfect nickname for a northern pre-Hebrew 
author of chapter 14 of Genesis to create for a hated ruler of Ugarit north of 
Canaan, who was blamed by the early Hebrews for inviting the dreaded, 
militaristic Hittites into northern greater Canaan, and thereby potentially threatening 
the very existence of the first Hebrews in Canaan proper.  A Hebrew and 
Ugaritic linguistic analysis is perfectly consistent with this view, while throwing 
grave doubt on the traditional view that Chedorlaomer is being presented to us 
in chapter 14 of Genesis as being a (fictional) ruler of Hatamtu, the far-off 
non-Semitic predecessor of Persia.  
 
The extreme ease with which the name “Chedorlaomer” can be analyzed in both 
Hebrew and Ugaritic strongly suggests that the author of chapter 14 of Genesis 
wants us to view Chedorlaomer as being a west Semitic-speaking, hated 
princeling ruler of Ugarit, who threatened to engulf all of Canaan in flames by 
inviting the dreaded Hittites into northern greater Canaan.  Chedorlaomer is not a 
grand monarch of far-off, non-Semitic Hatamtu as the predecessor of Persia, a 
country which never threatened the historical Hebrews, and a country (as 
opposed to the later Persia) with which the historical Hebrews essentially had no 
contact.       
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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