[b-hebrew] The Names for Mt. Hermon, Part II
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Jul 22 12:47:09 EDT 2008
The Names for Mt. Hermon, Part II
Two different names for Mt. Hermon are set forth at Deuteronomy 3: 9, as
“which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion, and the Amorites call it Senir–”
The Sidonian name for Mt. Hermon is “Sirion”, which is
sin-resh-yod-nun/S-R-Y-N. Note that in the Sidonian name for Mt. Hermon, the R comes before the N.
The Amorite name for Mt. Hermon is “Senir”, which is
sin-nun-yod-resh/S-N-Y-R. Note that by contrast to the Sidonian name for Mt. Hermon, here the
Amorite name for Mt. Hermon reverses the R and N, so that the N comes before the R.
The only difference between these two words for Mt. Hermon is the order of
the N and R. (Throughout this post, which relates primarily to the Late Bronze
Age, I will not make any distinction between sin vs. shin/S vs. Sh, because
prior to the Middle Ages 2000 years after the Late Bronze Age, unpointed
Masoretic text did not preserve such distinction. The Septuagint text, part of which
is referenced below, suggests that all of the words discussed in this post
may have been pronounced with a sin/S, not a shin/Sh. Nevertheless, at times I
will use the traditional English transliterations of words, even if they have
Sh/shin instead of S/sin.)
It is a well-known fact that sometimes the order of consonants gets reversed.
For example, though most people in America pronounce the word “ask” in the
order the letters are written, a significant minority of people in America
pronounce that word as if it were written “aks”, with the K and S being reversed
in pronunciation. Here at Deuteronomy 3: 9 we see this reversal of
consonants in a single sentence, in setting forth two different words for the same
The likelihood of consonant reversal here, regarding two different names for
Mt. Hermon, is heightened when we look at the presumably inaccurate rendering
of Deuteronomy 3: 9 in the Septuagint:
“The Phoenicians call Aermon Sanior, but the Amorite has called it Sanir.”
The Amorite name for Mt. Hermon in the Septuagint is fine, as “Sanir” and “
Senir” are indistinguishable. (The first vowel is not recorded in unpointed
But the Septuagint presumably errs as to the Phoenician/Sidonian name for Mt.
Hermon, as the Septuagint reverses the R and N and comes out with “Sanior”,
as compared to “Sirion” in the Masoretic text.
We can be quite sure that the “Sirion” of the Masoretic text is the correct
reading, because we have the following attestations in the secular history of
the Late Bronze Age for names of Mt. Hermon, where R precedes N: “Siryanu”
The editor of the Septuagint, whether deliberately or inadvertently, simply
reversed these two key consonants: R and N. (In my limited experience, the
editor of the Septuagint is a good deal more activist than the editors of the
Masoretic text. The editor of the Septuagint unfortunately cannot refrain from “
correcting” the text when he does not understand the historical basis for the
text reading the way it does. Thankfully the Masoretic text is more passive
in simply recording, accurately, what the ancient texts said, without always
trying to “correct” the ancient texts.)
The original version of this consonant reversal regarding the names of Mt.
Hermon seems to have occurred in ancient times, in the Late Bronze Age. The
historical pattern may have been the following. The original alternate names for
Mt. Hermon were S-R-t or S-R-n, each meaning “highest place”. (S-R-t is
recorded in the 15th century BCE, apparently as the name of Mt. Hermon.) The
S-R-t variant then seems to have dropped out by the end of the 15th century BCE.
The S-R-n name for Mt. Hermon soon became S-R-Y-N, adding a yod, as attested
at least twice in the secular history of the 14th century BCE, and as
reflected in the Sidonian name for Mt. Hermon that is accurately set forth in the
Masoretic text version of Deuteronomy 3: 9. At about this same time, an alternate
name arose for Mt. Hermon, which reversed the consonants R and N. (This
ancient reversal of R and N was paralleled, many centuries later, by a similar
consonant reversal as to these same names done by the editor of the Septuagint.)
That gave us S-N-Y-R, probably as early as the 14th century BCE, which is the
Amorite version of the name of Mt. Hermon recorded at Deuteronomy 3: 9.
By giving us two non-Hebrew names for Mt. Hermon, and setting forth the
Sidonian name for Mt. Hermon before the Amorite name, perhaps Deuteronomy 3: 9 is
implying all of the following: (i) the more ancient, accurate name for Mt.
Hermon was the Sidonian name, S-R-Y-N; (ii) later the Amorites reversed two
consonants (R and N), resulting in the Amorite name for Mt. Hermon becoming
significantly different than the original Sidonian name, coming out now as S-N-Y-R
(with the R and N reversed); and (iii) despite the fact that the Amorite name
is later and less accurate, it was the Amorite name that nevertheless became
the best-known name for Mt. Hermon.
That is a key part of the background for the heated controversy that
continues to surround the name of Mt. Hermon. Is there any relationship between
S-N-Y-R at Deuteronomy 3: 9 and S-N-Aa-R (where there is an ayin instead of a yod)
at Genesis 14: 1? The only difference in the spelling of those two words is
the ayin instead of the yod. Are those two words related to each other?
Regarding “Amrapel, ruler of S-N-Aa-R/Shinar” at Genesis 14: 1, was there an
historical Amrapel (perhaps spelled “Amur-bala” in the Amarna Letters), who
operated within eyesight of Mt. Hermon/Senir/Shenir/Shinar? Was this
Amrapel/Amur-bala historically the most prominent brother of the infamous Amorite ruler of
Amurru who, exactly as stated in detail in chapter 14 of Genesis, was one of
four attacking rulers who historically demolished a league of precisely five
rebellious rulers in or near Canaan? Should all of that be dismissed as a mere “
coincidence”, on the basis of an ayin being in S-N-Aa-R/Shinar, instead of the
yod that might have been expected for Senir/Shenir/Mt. Hermon? Is there a
good historical reason why the author of the Patriarchal narratives may have
deliberately “misspelled” S-N-Y-R as S-N-Aa-R, in order to tie the iniquitous
Amorite ruler of Amurru (“the iniquity of the Amorites”) in northernmost Canaan
both to Syria (S-N-H-R/S-N-G-R), and to the dreaded Hittites who had just now
conquered all of Syria, and who as such were an immediate threat to the
continued existence of the first Hebrews?
Whether chapter 14 of Genesis is an extremely close fit to the
well-documented secular history of the Late Bronze Age, as opposed to the scholarly view
that chapter 14 of Genesis is non-historical complete fiction, is riding to no
small extent on how one interprets the various words that the Bible and secular
history give us for Mt. Hermon. One of the most important issues in that
regard is whether S-N-Y-R at Deuteronomy 3: 9 may be related to S-N-Aa-R at
Genesis 14: 1.
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