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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 10 10:18:57 EDT 2008

Pere Porta:
Thank you for your helpful comments.  I have learned a lot from what you and 
several others have said on this thread.
1.  I will accept your view that the suffix –WN can mean “a noun that means 
the fulfillment of the basic concept”.  Yet it is also true that the most 
common geographical place name ending in the entire Bible is –WN.  So adding a –
WN suffix to the noun XBR does two things:  (i) it makes the noun mean, in your 
words, “fulfillment of the friendship”,  a-n-d  (ii) it makes the noun 
suitable to be a geographical place name.
2.  I disagree, however, that “Sharon” has anything to do with “song” or “
rejoice”.  That does not make sense for the Plain of Sharon.  Most analysts 
agree that “Sharon” means “plain” or “the level place”, as the Sharon Plain is 
a “plain” that is “level”.  The logical root word for “Sharon” is thus 
Y$R, meaning “level” or “plain”.  As is often the case, a –WN suffix is added 
to make Y$R into a geographical place name (which also means, per your analysi
s, “fulfillment of level”).   Usually, though not always (as Karl Randolph 
properly pointed out), H/he is used as a prefix with this name.  H + Y$R + WN.  
But as Dave Washburn and I discussed, there is not a single geographical place 
name in Biblical Hebrew that begins HY$ (even though for common words, such as 
at Deuteronomy 6: 18, HY$R is fine).  Something had to go in this 
geographical place name, so the Y/yod was dropped.  I see the etymology of “Sharon” as 
being as follows:
H + Y$R + WN  =  H + (Y)$R + WN  =  H$RN  =  “the level place” [or “the 
(geographical place where) level is fulfilled”)]  =  “the Sharon (Plain)”.
There’s no “song” or “rejoicing” involved here.  Rather, Sharon is “the 
level place”, based on the root word Y$R meaning “plain” or “level”.
3.  Now let’s apply the same approach to “JBR”, the mid-15th century BCE 
general description of the Aijalon Valley (located 17½ miles west of Beth-el).  
JBR = )BR.  In order to turn the )BR into a geographical place name, start with 
the Sharon approach above:  H + )BR + WN.  But note first that there appears 
to be not a single geographical place name in the Hebrew Bible that begins 
with a mandatory H/he, except for words of foreign derivation.  An alternative 
here is X/heth.  Note for example that whereas the person’s name “Haran” is 
spelled with a H/he, the geographical place name “Haran” is spelled with a 
heth/X.  A heth/X can represent he-aleph/H).  Each of heth and he-aleph has both an 
H sound and a guttural sound as well.  So the etymology of “Hebron”, as I 
see it, is:
H + JBR + WN  =  H + )BR + WN  =  XBR + WN  =  XBRWN/“Hebron”  =  “the 
well-watered meadowland place” [or “(the geographical place where) the 
well-watered meadowland is fulfilled”].  JBR/)BR/)BL means “well-watered meadowland”.
We know that the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives sometimes 
uses heth to represent he-aleph in a proper name, because Hamor/Chamor  =  
XMWR  =  XMR  =  H + )MR  =  “the Amorite”.  The essence of the character Hamor 
as the princeling ruler of Shechem in chapter 34 of Genesis is that Hamor is “
the Amorite”.  See Genesis 48: 22, which references both “shechem” and “
Amorite”.  Two other examples of this general phenomenon in the Patriarchal 
narratives are the names of Abraham’s two brothers.  Eldest brother’s name HRN 
implies XRN, whose non-west Semitic meaning is “road”  The key fact about HRN is 
that he dies “on the road”/XRN, in far-off Ur.  Middle brother’s name NXWR 
implies NHR, meaning “river”.  The most important thing about NXWR is that he 
stays behind at the river/NHR/Euphrates River when Abraham goes to Canaan, and 
the descendants of NXWR, including all-important, lovely Rebekah, remain at 
the river/NHR/Euphrates River until Rebekah graciously agrees to go all the long 
way out to rural Canaan to marry Isaac.  The point is that the early Hebrew 
author of the Patriarchal narratives is  c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y  playing off 
heth/X vs. he/H.  His puns routinely have one such letter imply the other such 
letter.  That is the way the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives does 
names and puns.  If we ignore that clever Hebrew wordplay and those unending puns, 
we thereby miss out on what the text is actually trying to tell us. 
Since the author of the Patriarchal narratives uses heth to reflect he + 
aleph in the name “Hamor”, it makes sense that he wants us to realize that “Hebron
” is, at least on one level, the same.  “Hebron” = “the well-watered 
meadowland place”.  XBRWN  =  H + )BR + WN  =  “the well-watered meadowland place”. 
 XBRWN is the formal Biblical Hebrew version of the mid-15th century BCE “JBR”
, which was a general description of the Aijalon Valley.  Abraham sojourns 
primarily in the ideal pastureland of the Aijalon Valley, not in the harsh 
highlands where the city of Hebron is located.  The Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the 
Aijalon Valley.  The Patriarchs’ XBRWN is indeed “the well-watered meadowland 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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