[b-hebrew] Hebron: The Linguistic Search for the Patriarchs' Bronze Age "Hebron"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Oct 9 17:10:41 EDT 2008

Karl W. Randolph:
You wrote:  “I just took at random a dozen words ending in -WN:
$KRWN drunkedness
 $L+WN authority
 $RYWN mail (a type of armor)
 %%WN gladness
 TXTWN lower
 TYKWN middle
 TMHWN wonderment
 )BDWN making lost
 )BYWN needy person
 )GMWN rush, marsh reed
 )DWN lord
 )LWN oak
 It is clear from this list that the suffix -WN does not mean ‘place’.”
This is an important issue to discuss on the b-hebrew list.  I maintain that –
WN means “place” when it appears at the end of a geographical place name.  
In those cases, -WN is a suffix meaning “place”, and is not part of the root 
word.  I do not dispute that words that are not geographical place names may 
end in WN.  What I am asserting, rather, is that geographical place names, like “
Hebron” and “Sharon”, that end in      –WN feature a root plus the suffix –
WN, where the final WN means “place”.
1.  Hebron
What is your analysis of the geographical place name “Hebron”/XBRWN?  As you 
are probably well aware, the standard analysis is that XBR/“Hebr” is the 
root, meaning “binding friendship”, “alliance”, etc., to which has been added 
the suffix –WN/“on”, which effectively means “place”.  Thus on the standard 
analysis, “Hebron” means “alliance place” or “Binding Friendship place”.  
XBRWN = XBR + WN.  How else would you propose to explain the WN at the end of 
the geographical place name “Hebron”?
2.  The Sharon (Plain)
I set forth the standard analysis of the geographical place name “the Sharon 
(Plain)”.  The root is Y$R, meaning “level”, to which has been added –WN as 
a suffix meaning “place”.  A prefix has also been added, H/he, meaning “the”
, and that prefix “swallows” the initial yod/Y, resulting in H$RWN:  “the 
Sharon (Plain)”.
(Thank you so much for correctly pointing out that at I Chronicles 5: 16, the 
Hebrew word “Sharon” appears without he/H/“the” preceding it.  I had 
improperly relied on the statement by Gesenius as to “Sharon” that “every where 
with the article [he/H]”.  I now see that such is not always the case.  But in 
the following cases, “Sharon” is preceded by he/H/“the”, being the majority of 
the seven appearances of this word in the Bible:  Song of Solomon 2: 1;  
Isaiah 33: 9;  Isaiah 35: 2;  Isaiah 65: 10.)
For our purposes here, it seems clear that the WN at the end of the 
geographical place name “Sharon” is a suffix meaning “place”.  H$RWN  =  H + (Y)$R + 
WN  =  “the level place”.  Do you disagree?
3.  Shimron
Joshua 11: 1 and Joshua 19: 15 refer to “Shimron”
/shin-mem-resh-vav-nun/$MRWN as being a city.  The standard analysis of this city name is that it starts 
with the common Hebrew verb $MR, meaning “to keep, watch or observe”, and 
then WN is added at the end as a suffix, which in the case of a geographical 
place name means “place”.  That is one standard way of turning a verb into a 
geographical place name:  add on –WN as a suffix meaning “place”.  I realize that 
either -WN or just -N, as a suffix added to $MR, also produces a person’s 
name, called “Shimron”.  So I am not saying that WN at the end of a word always 
means “place”.  But I am saying that –WN at the end of a geographical place 
name always is a suffix that means “place”, and is rarely part of the root 
4.  Ashkelon
“Ashkelon” is aleph-shin-qof-lamed-vav-nun/)$QLVN.  This city name may 
likely be of non-Hebrew derivation.  It is a Philistine city.  Gesenius opines:  “
perhaps ‘migration’ from the word $QL, Aram. to migrate”.  Even if the 
underlying root word may be disputed or conjectural, the one thing that seems clear 
is that –WN is a standard suffix for a geographical place name like this, 
meaning “place”.
5.  Mt. Hermon
“Hermon”, being a geographical place name for a famous mountain, is XRMWN.  
We had a long discussion about that word on another thread.  But I believe the 
standard analysis is that XRMWN = XRM + WN, where XRM means “consecrated”, 
and WN is a suffix meaning “place”.  On that standard analysis (which I myself 
see as being only one of several layers of meaning of “Hermon”), “Hermon” 
means “consecrated place” (and hence can mean “sanctuary”).
6.  Common Ending of City Names in Canaan
On another thread, I listed 19 names of cities in ancient Canaan that end 
with “-on” in their English translations.  In fact, that is the most common 
ending for a city name in ancient Canaan.  When part of a city name, I see the 
ending –on as usually, and perhaps always, being a suffix meaning “place”.  But 
it is not only city names.  “Sharon” and “Hermon” are important instances of 
a WN ending where the –WN is a suffix on a geographical place name meaning “
I do not deny that in words that are not geographical place names, a WN 
ending is not a suffix meaning “place”.  But I continue to assert that in 
geographical place names, -WN is a routine, generic suffix that means “place”.  One 
of the important things about that is that in trying to determine the 
underlying meaning of a geographical place name such as “Hebron”/XBRWN, the –WN ending 
can usually be ignored completely.  (“Hermon” may be a rare exception to 
that rule, but that is a controversial case.)  In most cases, one simply lops off 
the final WN, and then looks at what is left as being either the root, or as 
being a prefix + root, to which the standard –WN suffix has been added, 
meaning “place” in a geographical place name.
In particular, I see the –WN at the end of each of “the Sharon (Plain)” and “
Hebron” as meaning “place”.  Do you have a different analysis of either of 
those two geographical place names?
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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