[b-hebrew] The Meanings of "Nahor", "Hamor" and "Hebron"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 6 10:02:36 EDT 2008


The Meanings of “Nahor”, “Hamor” and “Hebron”
 
Each of “Nahor”, “Hamor” and “Hebron” is spelled with a heth/X.  Yet in 
each case, the main meaning of the name is a pun, based on seeing a heth/X as 
representing a he/H.  A guttural [aleph/) or ayin/(] may also be implied, since 
the heth/X in the spelling is a guttural, whereas the implied he/H is not.  A 
heth has the sound of both H and a guttural.  In these three names, heth/X 
represents either he/H [the H sound alone], or he-aleph/H) [the H sound + a 
guttural], or he-ayin/H( [the H sound + a guttural].  For punning purposes, all of 
these are quite similar sounds, and as we shall now see, the author of the 
Patriarchal narratives makes liberal use of these precise sounds for important 
puns.
 
1.  Nahor
 
“Nahor”, which could alternatively be spelled “Nachor” in English, is 
nun-heth-vav-resh/NXWR.  NXWR means “snore”, but that has little to do with Abraham
’s middle brother.  (Nahor might be viewed as “snoring” through the 
Patriarchal narratives, in the sense that Nahor does nothing after chapter 11 of 
Genesis that is reported in the text, other than siring children.)  The key fact, 
rather, about Abraham’s middle brother is that Nahor stays at the  r-i-v-e-r, 
that is the Euphrates River at Harran, instead of going to Canaan with Abraham. 
 And Nahor’s most important descendant, Rebekah, grows up at the  r-i-v-e-r, 
that is, at Harran on the Euphrates River, before graciously agreeing in 
chapter 24 of Genesis to go all the long way out to rural Canaan to marry Isaac.  
The name “Nahor”/NXWR is a pun on NHR, where heth/X represents he/H as a pun.  
(The vav/W is an optional vowel-type sound that can be dropped.)  
NHR/nun-he-resh/“nahar” means “river”.
 
2.  Hamor
 
“Hamor”, whose name could alternatively be spelled “Chamor” in English, is 
heth-mem-vav-resh/XMWR.  As a common noun, XMWR can alternatively be spelled 
XMR (dropping the optional vav/W).  XMR means burro/donkey/ass, without the 
pejorative connotation those words have in modern English.  True, that word 
(spelled XMR) is used at Genesis 34: 28 in describing some of the things that Jacob’
s sons looted from the town of Shechem.  Yet that word is not central to Hamor
’s role in chapter 34 of Genesis as the ruler of Shechem.  The heth/X here 
represents he-aleph/H).  A heth/X has both an H sound and a guttural sound, so 
it is not surprising for a heth/X to represent he-aleph/H) as a pun.  “Hamor”
/XMWR = XMR, which as a pun represents H + )MR, meaning “the Amorite”.  He/H 
means “the”, and )MR/aleph-mem-resh are the three significant letters in “
Amorite” (which is spelled )MRY).  [The final yod/Y is merely a generic suffix, 
meaning “people”.]
 
Hamor indeed is “the Amorite”.  Hamor is the most powerful single Amorite we 
meet in Genesis.  Jacob’s #2 and #3 sons end up killing Hamor, his son 
Shechem, and the other men who were with those Amorites in Shechem in a sneak attack 
to revenge the semi-rape of their sister Dinah.  We know from Genesis 48: 22 
that the people of Shechem are Amorites, based on a pun on the word “Shechem”/
“shechem”:
 
“‘I [Jacob] have given to thee [Joseph] one ‘shechem’/portion above thy 
brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my 
bow.'”
 
(The Amorites of Shechem are disparagingly referred to by the made-up, 
non-historical nickname of “Hivites” in chapter 34 of Genesis, to assert that the 
Amorites of Shechem are the regional version of the international villains on 
the scene at the time:  the classic Hittites from the north, who had just now 
ruthlessly conquered Syria and as such were rationally viewed as being a 
legitimate threat to invade Canaan.)
 
3.  Hebron
 
“Hebron”, which could alternatively be spelled “Chebron” in English, is 
XBRWN/heth-bet-resh-vav-nun.  The –WN suffix means “place”.  XBR + WN means “
binding friendship place”, and that does reflect Abraham’s binding 
friendship/covenant relationship with certain tent-dwelling Amorites at Hebron at Genesis 
14: 13.  As is invariably the case with all three of these names, the literal 
meaning, where heth = heth, gives us a secondary meaning of the name.  But 
that is not the essence of Hebron.
 
As one important pun, the heth/X represents he-ayin/H(.  As such, XBRWN = H + 
(BR + WN = “the Hebrew place”.  That meaning is perfect, as Hebron is the 
first place where we are told that Abraham is “the Hebrew”/H + (BRY.  Genesis 
14: 13  [Once again, the final Y/yod is merely a generic suffix meaning “people”
.]
 
As another important pun, and here is where the real excitement begins, the 
heth/X in “Hebron” represents he-aleph/H), just as was the case with “Hamor”. 
 XBRWN = H + )BR + WN = “the well-watered meadowland place” (per the meaning 
of )BR discussed below).  This is truly exciting, because it gives us an 
important clue as to where Abraham actually went after splitting from Lot at 
Beth-el.  Realistically, Abraham would not have taken his huge flock of sheep and 
goats and 318 armed retainers (Genesis 14: 14) high up to the mountainous city 
of Hebron, 20 miles south of Jerusalem, where there was little good 
pastureland.  No, with Lot having gone 17½ miles  e-a-s-t of Beth-el to the Jordan River 
(Genesis 13: 11), Abraham logically went in exactly the opposite direction 
(Genesis 13: 9), that is, 17½ miles  w-e-s-t  of Beth-el to “the well-watered 
meadowland place”, being the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” (which is not the same place 
as the city of Hebron referenced in later books of the Bible).  Note that 
whereas later books of the Bible sensibly refer to people as going “up” to the 
city of Hebron in “hill” country, neither of those two common words (“up” or “
hill”) is ever used in Genesis to describe the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” (though 
the Patriarchal narratives frequently use those two words in other 
connections).  That’s because the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is not a city located high “up”
 in “hill” country, but rather is a well-watered, grassy meadowland just 
west of hill country, in the northeastern Shephelah, northwest (not south) of 
Jerusalem.
 
But back to the Hebrew words, which are the key consideration here.  It seems 
likely that )BR in the Late Bronze Age eventually became )BL in the Iron Age 
(and thereafter), as Gesenius and other scholars recognize that resh/R often 
softened to lamed/L over the centuries.  We see )BL at Judges 11: 33, where it 
means, per Gesenius:  “a grassy place, a pasture, meadow”.  The corresponding 
verb means, per Gesenius:  “to be wet with the moisture of grass”.  We see 
the same spelling, but a different word, at Daniel 8: 3, 6.  There H + )BL 
means “the stream, river, wadi”.  Putting the two concepts together, we get “
well-watered meadowland”, or “fine grassy pastureland through which flows a wadi”
, as the meaning of )BL, which had originally been spelled and pronounced )BR 
centuries earlier, in the Patriarchal Age.  (In a later post, we can examine 
the Late Bronze Age inscription in secular history that documents 
)BR/aleph-bet-resh as a “well-watered meadowland”, in northeastern Shephelah, on the basis 
that )BR is the forerunner of the two Biblical Hebrew words spelled )BL.  
True, there is a verb )BR at Job 39: 26 meaning “to fly”, but that verb does not 
make sense as the root of a geographical place name, either in an ancient 
inscription in secular history, or in the Biblical Hebrew name “Hebron”.  By 
sharp contrast, if )BR is viewed as being the forerunner of )BL in the received 
text of the Hebrew Bible, which seems quite likely, then everything makes 
perfect sense -- both the ancient inscription in secular history, and the Biblical 
Hebrew word “Hebron”.) 
 
“Hebron”/XBRWN = H + )BR + WN.  [Heth/X = he-aleph/H).]
 
H + )BR + WN = H + )BL + WN.  [Resh/R later softens to lamed/L.]
 
H + )BL + WN = “the well-watered meadowland place” (which is the Patriarchs’ 
“Hebron”, and which is not the austere city of Hebron high “up” in the “hill
” country south of Jerusalem that has little good pastureland).
 
That is where the Patriarchs usually sojourn in Canaan.  It’s not the city of 
Hebron, 20 miles south of Jerusalem, a city high “up” in the “hill” 
country, which is not a place that is conducive to tending a large flock of sheep and 
goats for decades.  No, it’s a well-watered meadowland, the  i-d-e-a-l  place 
in Canaan for Abraham to pasture a huge flock of sheep and goats for decades, 
located 17½ miles west of Beth-el.  The name “Hebron”, as a city name, is 
not known prior to the 8th century BCE or so, many centuries after the 
Patriarchal Age, which in my opinion is many centuries after the composition of the 
Patriarchal narratives.  By contrast, we do have )BR in a Late Bronze Age 
inscription of a geographical place in Canaan in secular history, where )BR is not a 
city, but rather is a famous valley (see Genesis 37: 14, where “Hebron” is 
stated to be a “valley”).  The Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is a “well-watered me
adowland”, a “fine grassy pastureland through which flows a wadi”, that is the 
absolutely perfect place for Abraham to take his large herd of sheep and goats, 
as well as his large human entourage.  It never made sense to think of Abraham 
as taking his huge flock of sheep and goats and 318 armed retainers “up” 
into the forbidding “hill” country of the city of Hebron, where there is very 
little decent pastureland.  That is not logical at all.  But if we look both at 
linguistics (the long suit of the b-hebrew list), including the Hebrew puns in 
the text, and at the well-documented secular history of the Late Bronze Age, 
then everything in the text makes perfect sense, as is always the case 
regarding the Patriarchal narratives. 
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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