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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 19 11:54:45 EST 2008

Kevin Riley:
1.  In bringing the hated name “Amur-Ba(la” from Amarna Letter EA 170: 38 
into Hebrew at Genesis 14: 1, the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal 
narratives could have used the proper, respectful spelling of the name of the pagan 
god Baal:  B(L.  But the Hebrew author in fact respected neither Baal, nor 
Amur-Ba(la, nor Amur-Ba(la’s nefarious brother, whose brigandage as the ruler of 
the Amorite state of Amurru historically threatened the very existence of the 
early Hebrews.  So knowing that B and P have quite similar sounds, instead of 
the respectful B(L, we get the disrespectful PL, which has a somewhat similar 
Subject to the partial exception of the first letter, )MRPL in Hebrew 
contains no explicit vowel-type sounds, so we must imply various vowel sounds.  
Though the meaning of “Amur” in “Amur-Ba(la” is somewhat obscure, Gary H. Oller 
states in a 1998 review in “Journal of the American Oriental Society”, Vol. 
118, No. 4:  “…amur [may mean] "behold!" or "look!" as a presentation particle 
in the peripheral Akkadian of Canaanite scribes.”  [Wm. Moran, the editor of 
the Amarna Letters, agrees with that analysis.]  )MR in Hebrew has a similar 
sound, but could easily mean either “Amorite” or “Amurru”, depending on what 
vowel sounds are implied in Hebrew.  )MR = )MWR.  As to the PL in the second 
half of this name, a vowel sound can be implied before the P, perhaps an aleph.  
So PL = )PL.  A vowel-type sound might also be implied after the L [which is 
explicit in “Amur-Ba(la], and this final vowel sound might be represented in 
Hebrew as a final he/H, giving us an implied )PLH.  PL = )PL = )PLH.  )PL at 
Amos 5:20 means “darkness”.  The longer form, )PLH, is often used in the Bible, 
such as at Deuteronomy 28: 29, and means “darkness, gloominess”.  So instead 
of the proper, respectful spelling of Baal in this hated Amorite ruler’s 
name, what we get (after implying various vowel-type sounds) is a clever, nasty 
pun, substituting “gloomy darkness” for “Baal”.
2.  Indeed, Genesis 14: 1-2 is a goldmine of nasty puns like that. 
(a)  “Bera” of Sodom.  BR( sounds like B + R(:  “in evil”.  “Sodom” sounds 
like “scorched”.  (“Sodom” also sounds like “fields”, which were the 
source of Sodom’s wealth and great strategic importance.)
(b)  “Birsha” of Gomorrah.  BR$( sounds like B + R$(:  “in wickedness”.  “
Gomorrah” sounds like “a wasted heap”.  That same word, meaning “a wasted heap
”, is the second half of the Patriarchal nickname “Chedorlaomer”, the other 
hated Amorite ruler who was allied with “Amrapel” (along with a Hurrian ruler 
and a mighty Hittite king, who collectively comprised the unique ethnic 
makeup of the four attacking rulers in the historical “four rulers against the five”
 at Genesis 14: 9).  The Hebrew word meaning “a wasted heap” (with that old, 
archaic ghayin) is used in both “Gomorrah” and “Chedorlaomer” -- a plague 
on both your houses.
3.  Virtually every name at Genesis 14: 1-2 is quite nasty, and deservedly 
so.  One key to understanding the pinpoint historical accuracy of the 
Patriarchal narratives is to realize that as a pun, P could substitute for B in the 
Hebrew version of the name of a hated ruler of the Amorite state of Amurru.  So “
Amur-Ba(la”, having the respectful pagan meaning “Behold Baal!” in secular 
history, in the Patriarchal narratives becomes “Amrapel”/)MRPL [and after 
implying vowel-type sounds:  )MWR + )PLH], which though having a similar sound, 
means “Amurru -- gloomy darkness”.  Nasty!
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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