[b-hebrew] "Sary" vs. "sary"

pporta at oham.net pporta at oham.net
Thu Mar 27 01:26:12 EDT 2008


Jim,

you are putting here a lot of questions, of which maybe each would require a 
mail.
Sincerely, I do not know if -ai is a feminine archaic Hebrew suffix...
Those who stated so must prove it, I feel.
Is there any relation between "(El) Saddai" and the usual noun for "breast" 
(shad)?  I do not know.
Some say this noun comes from "she" + "dai" = "that enough". Others derive 
it from verb "shadad", deal violently with, devastate.
I am very sorry at being unable to answer your questions. Maybe someone in 
this list who knows more than you and than me will help. Let us hope it!
Only to remember that in Gn 11:29 we are told that when Abram married his 
wife, her name was already "Sarai", disregarding any thought of Egypt.

Pere Porta



> Pere:
>
> You wrote:  “I think, Jim, that in medieval times the points were either
> created or put
> on the consonantal text just to get a BETTER understanding of the text.
> Namely, I see the points not as something troubling or creating troubles 
> or
> making the text understanding more difficult.. but just the contrary!
> Now, maybe in this or in that word ... the pointing is wrong?...  Yes, it 
> is
> quite possible! But from a global viewpoint the points are here to help, 
> not
> to make thing more difficult...  …I feel that at making your comparisons
> between words, vowels must be taken into account.”
>
> O.K., let’s look at the vowels in sin-resh-yod/sary.
>
> Scholars tell us that the yod here, in Sarah’s birth name (but not in the
> common noun having the same three Hebrew letters), is an archaic feminine 
> ending.
> Is that true?
>
> “[T]he only difference between Sarai and Sarah is that the former reflects 
> an
> archaic feminine suffix, the latter, the normative feminine suffix:  both
> versions of the name mean ‘princess’.”  Robert Alter, “Genesis: 
> Translation
> and Commentary” (1996), at p. 73.
>
> Let’s leave aside the facts that sin-resh does not mean “prince” when
> applied to a human being, and that Abraham’s wife was not a “princess” 
> (with a “
> princess” being a female whose father is the king, and who is not a 
> queen).
>
> If we focus exclusively on Biblical Hebrew grammar, which is the long suit 
> of
> the b-Hebrew list, is it true that a yod suffix is sometimes “an archaic
> feminine suffix”?
>
> This argument is made in an article on the Internet:  “The Engendered 
> Shema:
> Sarah-Echoes in the Name of Israel”, in “_Judaism_
> (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411) ”, _Summer, 2000_
> (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411/is_3_49) , by _Elizabeth 
> Wyner Mark_
> (http://findarticles.com/p/search?tb=art&qa=Elizabeth+Wyner+Mark) :
>
> “The original name Sarai bears the archaic feminine suffix ai, as in 
> shaddai,
> the name of God related to the word ‘breast’.  [19] This suffix is found 
> in
> early West Semitic, usually in the names of deities or mythical beings, 
> and
> appears in Ugaritic in the names of a series of nature goddesses. [20]
> Significantly, Sarai is the only feminine biblical name with this suffix.
>
> …(19.) David Biale, "The God with Breasts: El Shaddai in the Bible," 
> History
> of Religions 2l.3 (1982): 240-256. W. F. Albright, "The Names Shaddai and
> Abram," Journal of Biblical Literature 54.3 (1935): 173-204.
>
> (20.) Harriet Lutzky, "Shadday as a Goddess Epithet," Vetus Testamentum 
> 48,1
> (1998): 15-36.”
>
> _http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411/is_3_49/ai_66353962/pg_3_
> (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411/is_3_49/ai_66353962/pg_3)
>
> Is that grammatical argument correct?  Is Abraham’s wife the only female
> human being in the entire Bible whose birth name embodies an archaic 
> feminine
> suffix?  Wouldn’t that normally be called “special pleading”?  Is the 
> divine name
> “shaddai” a feminine word, related to the word “breast”?  I do not think
> that mainstream scholars buy that argument (see below).  Does the name
> sin-resh-yod/Sary/Sarai embody a “suffix [that] is found in early West 
> Semitic, usually
> in the names of deities or mythical beings, and appears in Ugaritic in the
> names of a series of nature goddesses”?
>
>
> Why would the Jews in the Middle Ages, who put the pointing into the 
> Bible,
> have known that the birth name of Abraham’s wife is an archaic feminine 
> suffix,
> a “suffix [that] is found in early West Semitic, usually in the names of
> deities or mythical beings"?
>
> BDB says that “shaddai” is masculine, not feminine.  BDB says that the
> etymology of this word is “dubious”.  BDB references “mountain” as one 
> possible
> meaning, and BDB never mentions “breast”.  Gesenius sees “shaddai” as 
> being a
> plural masculine noun, meaning “powerful”.  I see no references to 
>  “breast”
> or “feminine” in BDB or Gesenius or Strong’s.  So why should one view “
> shaddai” at Genesis 17: 1 as exemplifying “the archaic feminine suffix ai, 
> as in
> shaddai, the name of God related to the word ‘breast’"?
>
> This all seems like special pleading to me.  I do not see “shaddai” as 
> being
> a feminine noun with an archaic feminine suffix, nor do I see sin-resh-yod
> (as Sarah’s birth name) as being a feminine noun with an archaic feminine
> suffix.  Abraham’s wife is a human being, not a deity or mythical being, 
> so why
> should I care about Ugaritic feminine endings of nature goddesses?
>
> I’m here to learn, like everyone else.  I myself see no “archaic feminine
> suffix” in Sarah’s birth name, that is unique in the Bible to Sarah.  All 
> I see
> in the unpointed text is sin-resh-yod, a word which applies to Pharaoh’s 
> top
> officials at Genesis 12: 15.
>
> Isn’t it more likely that medieval Jews pointed sin-resh-yod at Genesis 
> 12:
> 15 in a different way than when the same three Hebrew letters apply to 
> Abraham’
> s wife, precisely to prevent people from associating beloved Sarah with
> despised top officials of an Egyptian pharaoh?  (Egypt was hated because 
> of the Book
> of Exodus, a book the Masoretes read prior to pointing the Patriarchal
> narratives.  The Patriarchal narratives in and of themselves are not 
> anti-Egypt.)
> Or, on the contrary, was this based on the Masoretes correctly divining 
> that
> Sarah’s birth name is the only woman’s name in the entire Bible that 
> embodies
> an archaic feminine suffix?
>
> Whether the pointing is right or wrong, do you view the yod suffix in the
> birth name of Abraham’s wife as being “an archaic feminine suffix”?  If 
> that
> argument were accepted, would that indicate that the Patriarchal 
> narratives are
> much older than the rest of the Bible?  Can we really think that there is 
> one
> name of a female human being, and only one name in the entire Bible, that
> embodies “an archaic feminine suffix”, which is apparently otherwise only
> encountered regarding west Semitic non-Hebrew deities and mythical beings, 
> and
> Ugaritic nature goddesses?
>
> Instead, why not view sin-resh-yod (Abraham’s wife) as acting like
> sin-resh-yod (Pharaoh’s top officials)?  Like Pharaoh’s top officials, 
> Abraham’s wife
> is strong-willed and assertive.  Unlike the rest of the Bible, the author 
> of
> the Patriarchal narratives does not hate Pharaoh’s top officials.  In his 
> world,
> being compared to Pharaoh’s top officials would be a good thing, 
> especially
> in a birth name (before such person’s name is divinely changed to a much
> grander name -- “Sarah”).
>
> My own explanation is so very, very simple.  Is there any objective basis 
> for
> going the complicated route of seeing the Hebrews as ever having had “an
> archaic feminine suffix”, so that sin-resh-yod should be viewed as being 
> an
> archaic version of the name “Sarah”?
>
> As I see it, sary deal with Sary at Genesis 12: 15, and Sary acts like 
> sary
> in being strong-willed and assertive.  Neither “sary” nor “Sary” means 
> “prince
> ” or “princess”.  And “Sary” is not an archaic version of “Sarah”.
> Neither “Sary” nor “Sarah” means “princess”.  No matter how the Masoretes 
> decided
> to point sin-resh-yod in the Middle Ages, (1) “Sary” is not an archaic
> version of “Sarah”, and (2) neither “Sary” nor “Sarah” means “princess”.
> Unless, that is, the “archaic feminine suffix” theory could be documented 
> for the
> Hebrews.
>
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
>
>
>
>
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