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

dwashbur at nyx.net dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Oct 9 18:46:28 EDT 2008

On 9 Oct 2008 at 17:39, JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:

> Dave Washburn: 
> You wrote:  "I'm not sure where you got the idea that the H- prefix would 
> cause a 
>  non-guttural to "drop out completely."  This is simply not the case.  There 
> are two basic H- prefixes in biblical Hebrew, the article and the 
> interrogative.  The interrogative has no effect at all on the consonant that follows it, 
> while the article causes the following consonant to double, i.e. far from 
> assimilating or dropping out, it actually strengthens.  This is why we have no less 
> than 35 examples of HY$R ranging from Deuteronomy to Micah.  So this 
> hypothesis breaks down at the very first step, and anything built on this step or 
> corollary to it is likewise invalid."
> 1.  Before we get to your examples of HY$R, let me first point out that when 
> H/he is not a prefix (or separate word) meaning "the", there are only 12 
> Hebrew words in one of the dictionaries I consult where H/he is followed by Y/yod, 
> and several of those words are of foreign origin.  Thus HY/he-yod at the 
> beginning of  Hebrew word, where the H/he does not mean "the", is not very 
> common, although there are 12 words like that.  I know you are not referring to that 
> situation, but it´s perhaps worth noting in passing.  Those 12 words do not 
> include a single geographical place name, and it is geographical places names 
> that are my concern.  Moreover, not a single such word begins with HY$, which 
> is the case we are discussing in particular. 

We can infer a couple of things  from this data: first, Hebrew words that begin with H at all 
are rare, most being loanwords; second, no place names begin with HY.  In the present 
context, both inferences are meaningless.
> 2.  What you are referring to is Y$R, which in 35 cases, you assert, is 
> preceded by the word H/he meaning "the".  In particular, I think you are 
> referencing Deuteronomy 6: 18, where Y$R means "straight" or "right" or "right (thing)
> ".  Deuteronomy 6: 18 admonishes us to do H + Y$R or HY$R, that is, do "the 
> right (thing)".  There the word/prefix/article H/he/"the" appears before a 
> noun that begins with yod/Y, and the yod/Y remains in place, not being swallowed 
> by the he/H.  I presume that you have identified 34 additional instances like 
> this.  Is that what you are saying?

Correct.  But bear in mind also that I said there are only two H-prefixes in biblical Hebrew.  
Put this with the fact, as you stated, that Hebrew didn't make a habit of beginning "regular" 
words with H, and we conclude that virtually all Hebrew words and expressions beginning 
with H- are either words with the article or words  with the interrogative.
> I should not have used the word "swallowed".  I stand corrected.  What I 
> should have said is that in geographical places names, unlike in other instances, 
> a he/H + a root word that begins with a yod/Y may result in the root word 
> being abridged, and losing the yod/Y.  That is the standard analysis of how the 
> word "the Sharon (Plain)" came about.

This is what's known as "special pleading" and I have yet to see such pleading pan out.  If 
you're going to claim special pleading for behavior "in geographical places names, unlike 
other instances," you're going to have to go a LONG way toward proving it.  It's not enough 
just to claim it.
> Thank you for pointing out that this is not a general grammatical phenomenon 
> in Biblical Hebrew.  But I do see it as happening with H + Y$R + WN coming out 
> as H$RWN, where we are dealing with a geographical place name. 

So you agree it doesn't happen, but say it did happen here.  Have I got that straight?
> 3.  I am quite sure that there is not a single Hebrew geographical place name 
> in the entire Bible whose first two letters are he-yod/HY, where the he/H 
> does not mean "the".

This does not help your argument.
> Moving now to he/H as a prefix in a geographical place name, I see no such 
> example where the first two letters in the root word are Y$.  Nehemiah 11: 26 
> has Y$V( as a geographical place name, but it is not preceded by a he/H.  II 
> Chronicles 13: 19 has Y$NH as a geographical place name, but it is not preceded 
> by a he/H.

There's that "special pleading" again; we haven't established that there is such  a thing as 
"he/H as a prefix in a geographical place name."
> I see no other geographical place names that begin with Y$.  So I see not a 
> single instance in the Hebrew Bible where a he/H precedes a geographical place 
> name that starts Y$.  As stated in my post, Y$R is generally seen as being the 
> root of "the Sharon (Plain)"/H + $RWN or H$RWN, where the yod/Y has 
> disappeared.

"Generally" meaning what?  Gesenius and Strong?  Or do you have other more current 
> Of course, "Israel" starts with Y&.  The word "Israel" appears almost 2,500 
> times in the Bible, so I cannot check every instance.  However, in the 
> instances I looked at, I did not see "Israel" preceded by the word he/H/"the".

Also meaningless.
> So if "the Sharon (Plain)" were spelled HY$RWN, that might be the only 
> geographical place name in the Bible where H/he precedes Y$.
> My point is that a geographical place name is different than the Hebrew 
> common word Y$R.  HY$R is commonplace as meaning "the right (thing)".  I agree.  
> But by stark contrast, I myself have not seen any geographical place name that 
> starts HY$, even if the H/he is a separate word meaning "the":  H + Y$.  I 
> may have overlooked it, but I have never seen it.

We're not getting anywhere here.  This is not evidence backing up the theory, it's merely 
restatement of the theory.
> Do you know of a geographical place name whose first three letters are HY$ or 
> H +Y$?  If not, I do not see how your example of HY$R invalidates my point, 
> since HY$R is not a geographical place name.

I haven't actually looked, since I don't see why place names require any kind of special 
> 4.  Do you disagree with the standard explanation of "the Sharon (Plain)" 
> that I set forth?  Here is how Gesenius explains it:
> "$RWN, for Y$RWN, `plain´, `plain country´, every where with the article H"
> .
> Strong´s is comparable, explaining $RWN as "prob. abridged from 3474", where 
> 3474 is Y$R.
> How do you explain the derivation of $RWN, which often appears as H$RWN?  Are 
> you saying that both Gesenius and Strong´s are in error here?

Gesenius is badly outdated, and I have serious problems with Strong.  If you have other 
more current sources, I would like to know what they are so I can check them out.  As for 
how I explain the derivation of $RWN, I don't.  I leave that to lexicographers like Karl.  I'm 
just a grammarian.
> I should not have used the word "swallowed", which is misleading.  What I 
> should have said is that in the geographical place name "the Sharon (Place)", 
> the yod/Y at the beginning of the root word gets dropped, and that word is 
> often preceded by he/H meaning "the".
> 5.  Of course, my real concern is the geographical place name "Hebron", 
> which begins with a heth/X, not a he/H.  But if you think that I misunderstand 
> what is going on regarding H + Y$R + WN  =  H$RWN  =  "the level place"  =  "the 
> Sharon (Plain)", please let me know.  I see the root as being Y$R, where the 
> Y/yod has disappeared in this geographical place name, as the H/he prefix is 
> added.  I myself know of no geographical place name whose first three letters 
> are either H + Y$ or HY$.

Let me see if I'm following this.  The H- prefix isn't the article and it isn't the interrogative, 
but some heretofore-unknown prefix that applies only to geographical names, and even then 
only to certain specific geographical names, even though those certain specific 
geographical names are the only evidence that can be adduced for this heretofore-unknown 
prefix.  How am I doing?

In a response to Karl, you also wrote:

> 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".

When we boil this down to its essence, it means "When it's in a place name it's a suffix that 
means 'place.'  When it's not, it isn't."  I'm afraid that's not much to go on, and once again 
amounts to special pleading.  Sorry, but I'm just not buying it.

Dave Washburn
"I'll hold the nail.  And when I nod my head, you hit it with the hammer."

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