[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 
follows:
 
“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 
place.
 
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 
text.)
 
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” 
and “Sariyana”.
 
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.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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