[b-hebrew] Archaic Word for "The Older" at Genesis 25: 23
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jun 26 14:53:44 EDT 2008
Archaic Word for “The Older” at Genesis 25: 23
It has often been noted that the famous prophecy at Genesis 25: 23 concerning
Rebekah’s unborn twins Esau and Jacob can be interpreted in opposite ways in
Hebrew, either “the older shall serve the younger”, or “the older shall be
served by the younger”. Yet of equal interest here is the less-commented upon
fact that the word for “the older” here is archaic, going all the long way
back to the mid-2nd millennium BCE.
The word for “the older” at Genesis 25: 23 is resh-bet/rab. That word would
normally mean “numerous” or “plentiful”, though it could mean “great”.
But only at Genesis 25: 23 does resh-bet/rab mean “the older”.
Bruce K. Waltke observes at p. 358 of “Genesis: A Commentary” (2001):
“the older. The Hebrew here for the eldest son has so far been found only in
an Akkadian cognate from the middle of the second millennium [BCE].”
A much longer explanation, to the same effect, is provided by E.A. Speiser at
p. 194 of “Genesis” (1962):
“The normal sense of Heb ‘rab’ is ‘numerous, plentiful,’ rather than ‘great
’; actually, the two adjectives are etymologically distinct. In the latter
connotation, ‘rab’ is a cognate of Akk. ‘rabu’. And it is worthy of special
notice that the present pair ‘rab : sair’ has its exact counterpart, both in
etymology and usage, in the Akk. pair ‘rabu : sehru’, which has a precise
function in family law.”
Why are there so many words in the Patriarchal narratives that are either (i)
unique in the Hebrew Bible, and/or (ii) not attested in secular history
except in the mid-2nd millennium BCE?
All mainstream scholars staunchly reject my theory that the Patriarchal
narratives were composed in the mid-2nd millennium BCE. But if mainstream scholars
are right that the Patriarchal narratives are coming out of the 1st
millennium BCE, by the same authors (JEPD) who brought us most of the rest of the
Bible, then why is it that the Patriarchal narratives uniquely feature so many
words that are either (i) unique in the Hebrew Bible, and/or (ii) not attested in
secular history except in the mid-2nd millennium BCE?
Isaac Fried has pointed out that “aqad” occurs only at Genesis 22: 9,
We have seen that Genesis 34: 3, 12 describes Dinah as being a “boy” (an
archaic usage that has its only Biblical parallel in Deuteronomy).
Many scholars have observed that chânîykîm, referring to Abraham’s “armed
retainers”, is unique to Genesis 14: 14, with its only secular historical usage
coming in the 15th century BCE.
“Naharim” at Genesis 24: 10 is unique to the 16th - 14th century BCE period.
“Paddan-Aram”, used 10 times in the Patriarchal narratives (for example at
Genesis 25: 10) but nowhere else in the Bible, comes right out of 14th century
Can we really believe mainstream scholars that JEPD somehow shrewdly managed
to stud the Patriarchal narratives with all this unique, archaic vocabulary,
whose only secular historical precedent is often in the mid-2nd millennium BCE?
Is that a believable theory of the case?
If we do not believe in miracles (and I do not), then how could JEPD in the
1st millennium BCE have managed, on a non-miraculous basis, to come up with all
this vintage mid-2nd millennium BCE vocabulary in the Patriarchal narratives?
The substantive content of every story in the Patriarchal narratives is,
without exception, redolent of the well-documented world of the mid-2nd millennium
Every number in the text is, without exception, redolent of the peculiar
circumstances of the mid-14th century BCE. And so much of the vocabulary in the
Patriarchal narratives comes right out of the mid-2nd millennium BCE. Yet
mainstream scholars, on a unanimous basis, tell us not to worry, the Patriarchal
narratives are nevertheless coming out of the same time period -- the 1st
millennium BCE -- and from the same authors -- JEPD -- as the rest of the Hebrew
Bible. How could that possibly be? No matter how shrewd JEPD may have been,
how could JEPD possibly, under any circumstances, have come up with this
veritable cornucopia of vintage mid-2nd millennium BCE substantive content, numerical
symbolism and vocabulary in the Patriarchal narratives? I myself do not see
the mainstream scholarly view here as being plausible, much less as being
Here, in the specific context of the unborn twins Esau and Jacob, why is it
that resh-bet/rab, a usage unknown since the mid-2nd millennium BCE, is used to
mean “the older” at Genesis 25: 23?
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