[b-hebrew] The Zincirli stele: B vs. P

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Nov 18 17:09:34 EST 2008

Yitzhak Sapir wrote: “The paper quotes Pardee to the effect that ‘nabsh’ is 
Aramaic.  In fact, it is more accurate to say that standard Biblical Hebrew 
has ‘nefesh’ and
 Zincirli Aramaic has ‘nabsh’.  But nb$ in this sense also occurs on one of 
the Arad ostraca.”
In this connection (though not directly on topic), we might note that bet/B 
and peh/P (which can be pronounced as P or Ph or F) are frequently confused in 
going from one ancient language to another, even if they are not usually 
confused within Biblical Hebrew itself.
1.  “Amur-Ba(la” at Amarna Letter EA 170: 38, with a B, or the shortened 
form “Baaluya” at Amarna Letter EA 170: 2, also with a B, is the linguistic 
equivalent of “Amrapel” at Genesis 14: 1, with a peh/P:  
aleph-mem-resh-peh-lamed/)MRPL.  (The name of the god Baal or Ba(lu or Adad or Addu or Hadda is 
represented by “dIM” in the text of the Amarna Letters.  Apparently that was 
pronounced as “B + vowel or guttural sound + L”.  There is no ayin in Akkadian 
cuneiform, so editor Wm. Moran is implying an ayin in the first form of this 
name.)  Once one sees that the B and P are interchangeable, one can see that “
Amrapel” may well be the Patriarchal nickname for the historical brother of 
Amur-Ba(la, the Amorite leader whose iniquitous selling out to the dreaded Hittites 
in northernmost Canaan (the historical “iniquity of the Amorites” at Genesis 
15: 16), and whose allying with three other attacking rulers, with such four 
attacking rulers totally destroying a coalition of five defending rulers in the 
historical “four rulers against the five” referred to at Genesis 14: 9, 
potentially threatened the existence of the first Hebrews.  The PL (with a P) at 
the end of “Amrapel” may well be a reference to the pagan god Baal (with a B).  
The linguistic key is to see that B and P can be interchangeable in going 
from one ancient language to another, even if such letters are rarely confused 
within Biblical Hebrew itself. 
2.  The Ugaritic word “prgn”, meaning “meadow-sheep”, probably is prg + n, 
literally meaning “meadow being”.  The prg element of Ugaritic prgn is likely 
closely related to PLG/peh-lamed-gimel in Hebrew (where the resh/R in Bronze 
Age Ugaritic has softened to lamed/L by the time we get to Iron Age Biblical 
Hebrew).  The literal meaning of PLG is “a stream dug in the ground”, which is 
similar to the concept of a “well-watered meadowland”.  But also, and more 
importantly here, the pr element of Ugaritic prgn (with the resh/R having 
softened to lamed/L, as above) may be closely related as well to (i) )BL at Daniel 
8: 3, 6, (ii) )BL at Judges 11: 33, and (iii) YBL at Isaiah 44: 4.  All three 
of those Hebrew words basically mean “well-watered meadowland”, or “wadi or 
stream (surrounded by a meadow)”, which is the likely meaning of the PR element 
of the Ugaritic word prgn that means “meadow-sheep”.
The point is that in going from one ancient language to another, B and P are 
often in effect interchangeable.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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