[b-hebrew] The Names for Mt. Hermon, Part III

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jul 23 10:35:23 EDT 2008


The Names for Mt. Hermon, Part III
 
Mt. Hermon is two-faced.  On the one hand, Mt. Hermon has one foot in beloved 
Canaan.  But on the other hand, Mt. Hermon has one foot in Syria, a locale 
through which the Hebrews’ greatest enemies invariably marched.
 
If an early Hebrew author wanted to emphasize the fearsome Syrian aspect of 
Mt. Hermon, could that be done by using a non-standard spelling for Mt. Hermon?
 
Based on Deuteronomy 3: 9, one standard spelling of Mt. Hermon would be the 
Amorite word for Mt. Hermon:  sin-nun-yod-resh/S-N-Y-R/Shenir.  
 
But consider the effect if the author of Genesis 14: 1 deliberately chose the 
following non-standard spelling for Mt. Hermon:  
sin-nun-ayin-resh/S-N-Aa-R/Shinar.
 
1.  Since both Shenir and Shinar are geographical place-names, “Shinar” 
seems redolent of “Shenir”, even though the yod in Shenir has been replaced by an 
ayin in “Shinar”.  (The Septuagint rendering of these various words suggests 
that the first letter in all these words was sin/S, not shin/Sh.)
 
2.  But pronounced with a regular ayin, “Shinar”/“Sanaar” could also sound 
a good deal like “Sanhar”.  At Amarna Letter EA 35, “Sanhar” probably means “
Syria”.  (Though not free from controversy, the following two cites take the 
sensible view that: “Shanhar: country in northern Syria”.  
http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/alasiya.htm
Same comment:  _http://www.touregypt.net/amarna5.htm_ 
(http://www.touregypt.net/amarna5.htm) .)
 
3.  We know that there is a realistic possibility that the ayin in “Shinar” 
could be alternately pronounced as a (soon to be) “archaic” ghayin.  The ayin 
in “Gomorrah” at Genesis 14: 2 is pronounced as an archaic ghayin, a 
guttural sound that was so harsh that the Septuagint renders it with a G (even though 
there is no gimel, just an ayin, which is pronounced as an archaic ghayin).  
Pronounced as an archaic ghayin, “Shinar”/“Shingar”/“Sangar” sounds very 
much like “Sangar”.  We know from a story told by Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep II 
in the late 15th century BCE that “Sangar” means “Syria”.  (Donald Redford, 
“Akhenaton: The Heretic King” (1984), at p. 32.)
 
4.  Likewise, if pronounced with an archaic ghayin, “Shinar”/“Singar” 
sounds very much like “Singara”, a very ancient city located in the heart of 
eastern Syria, east of the upper Euphrates River.  
 
The name Si-n-ga-r-a is inscribed on a chariot of Thutmosis IV between the 
names Naharin, in easternmost Syria and east of Syria, and Tunip, in 
west-central Syria.  That indicates that in the late 15th century BCE, the name “Singara”
 was well known as a truly ancient city located in the heart of eastern 
Syria.  Anson Rainey asserts that the Egyptian scribe who did that transcription 
made a scribal error:
 
“Thutmosis IV.  ...There are a few allusions to a campaign [by Thutmosis IV]…
in Nahrina.  …[There is a] list of places on the inside of the chariot found 
in this king’s grave….  The places listed in the chariot are:  Na-h-ri-na 
[the Egyptian word for Mitanni, located in easternmost Syria and east of Syria], 
Si-n-ga-r, Tu-nip [in west-central Syria], Sa-su, Qid-si [Qadesh on the 
Orontes, in western Syria] and Tah-su [southwest of Qadesh on the Orontes;  all 6 
names are places in Syria, listed in geographical order from east to west].  …
Singar, which would otherwise might be thought to represent Sangar (Hebrew 
Shinar), is evidently an erroneous substitution….”  P. 71 of “The Sacred Bridge” 
(2006)
 
But “Singar” is not “an erroneous substitution”!!!  No way.  Rather, “Singar
” is both the historical name of the truly ancient town of “Singara”, 
located in the heart of eastern Syria, and “Singar” is “Sangar”, representing and 
meaning “Syria” as a whole.
 
An ancient Egyptian inscription that supports the historicity of the 
Patriarchal narratives should not be written off by scholars as being “an erroneous 
substitution”.  That inscription says what it says, which strongly supports the 
view that one meaning of the Hebrew word “Shinar” is “Syria”.
 
(Often text that supports the historicity of the Patriarchal narratives, 
whether Biblical text or text from the secular history of the Late Bronze Age, is 
routinely written off by modern scholars as being a “scribal error”.  One 
wonders how so many “scribal errors” could have been made, especially in secular 
history, each of which, if not a scribal error, would dash the scholarly view 
that the Patriarchal narratives are non-historical fiction, and each of which 
would, if genuine, strongly support the Late Bronze Age historical 
credentials of the Patriarchal narratives.  Don’t these repeated scholarly claims of “
scribal errors” seem suspicious?  For example, can we really take seriously the 
scholarly insistence that the Egyptian scribe did not intend to write down “
Singara” on that chariot, being the name of a famous ancient town in the heart 
of eastern Syria, in connection with Thutmosis IV’s successful military 
expedition through Syria, an expedition that took Thutmosis IV to and past Singara, 
and that resulted in Egypt’s claimed re-conquest of Syria, including the 
conquest of Singara?  How could anyone honestly believe that such an inscription on 
a pharaoh’s chariot was “an erroneous substitution”?  Isn’t that “special 
pleading”, writ large?  People should be aware that many scholarly attacks on 
the historicity of the Patriarchal narrative rest fundamentally on repeated 
scholarly claims of there being manifold “scribal errors” in the secular 
historical record.)
 
5.  Note that by the clever device of using the non-standard spelling “Shinar”
 for Mt. Hermon, the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives deftly 
emphasizes the Syrian aspect of Mt. Hermon.  That spelling, while still 
redolent of “Shenir”/Mt. Hermon, is equally redolent of “Sanhar”, “Sangar” and “
Singara”, all of which mean “Syria”.
 
6.  Now we can understand the long-misunderstood phrase “Amrapel, ruler of 
Shinar” at Genesis 14: 1.  The name “Amrapel” sounds like Amur-bala, which 
Amarna Letter EA 170 tells us is the name of the most prominent brother of 
infamous Aziru.  Aziru was the Amorite “bandit king” (Prof. Redford’s 
characterization) who sold out Amurru in northernmost Canaan to the new masters of Syria:  
the dreaded Hittites.  Not only that, but Aziru aligned with three rulers in 
Syria to make a total of four attacking rulers, who destroyed a league of five 
rulers, in the historical “four rulers against the five” in the Late Bronze 
Age, just as described with such accurate detail in chapter 14 of Genesis.  Thus 
historically, Aziru is very closely linked to Syria, even though Aziru lived 
in Canaan and ruled the Amorite state of Amurru in northernmost Canaan.  Like 
Mt. Hermon, Aziru had one foot in Canaan, and one foot in Syria.
 
Importantly, two inscriptions from the Late Bronze Age expressly link Aziru 
with Mt. Hermon.  The first is noted at footnote 246 on p. 177 of Donald B. 
Redford’s “Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times” (1992).  Much better 
known is the Hittite treaty concluded with Aziru’s successor (his grandson), in 
which Aziru is mentioned in line 1, and then at footnote 18 one of the “witnesses
” to this treaty is expressly stated to be “Mount Sariyana”, that is, Mt. 
Hermon.  _http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/Contracts/treat01.html_ 
(http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/Contracts/treat01.html) 
 
If the Hebrew author had used the passive, standard spelling “Shenir” for 
Mt. Hermon, that would not have emphasized Aziru’s nefarious (from an early 
Hebrew point of view) connection to Syria.  But by using the non-standard spelling 
“Shinar”, the connection to “Shenir”/Mt. Hermon was maintained, while 
creating three separate links to fearsome Syria:  “Sanhar” and “Sangar” and “
Singara”.  That is to say, the early Hebrew author is deliberately emphasizing 
that “the iniquity of the Amorites” at Genesis 15: 16 is when Aziru, the 
iniquitous Amorite of Amurru in northernmost Canaan, sold out Amurru in the Late 
Bronze Age to the new masters of Syria:  the dreaded Hittites.  By emphasizing the 
Syrian aspect of Mt. Hermon with that non-standard spelling, the early Hebrew 
author deftly emphasized the great iniquity of Aziru the Amorite of 
Amurru/Amrapel of Shinar, who traitorously (from a Hebrew perspective) sold out the 
northernmost portion of beloved Canaan to the new Hittite masters of Syria, an 
iniquitous act that greatly jeopardized the future existence of the new Hebrews.
 
Aziru is (i) an Amorite leader of Amurru (the A-M-R/aleph-mem-resh in “Amrapel
”), whose most prominent brother was named Amur-bala, which is essentially 
the same name as “Amrapel”, who (ii) like Mt. Hermon/Shenir/Shinar, had one 
foot in Canaan, and one foot in Syria/Shinar/Singara/Sangar/Sanhar.  Hence “
Amrapel, ruler of Shinar” is the best Patriarchal nickname possible for the 
historical figure Aziru, whose infamous actions in northernmost Canaan and just north 
of Canaan gravely threatened the future existence of the new Hebrews in 
Canaan proper. 
 
7.  It is true that “Shinar”, with an ayin, is not the expected spelling of 
Mt. Hermon.  We might have expected the spelling “Shenir”, with a yod.  Yet 
the sound is still fairly similar, and three of the four letters are the same.  
By deliberately using that innovative, non-standard spelling for Mt. Hermon, 
the Hebrew author brilliantly emphasized the Syrian aspect of Mt. Hermon, as “
Shinar” is strongly redolent of “Sanhar” and “Sangar” and “Singara”, all 
which historically meant “Syria” in the Late Bronze Age.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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