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

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Oct 10 11:44:32 EDT 2008


On Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 2:10 PM, <JimStinehart at aol.com> wrote:

> 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.

Where's your evidence for this? How do you know that this "suffix" is not
merely an indicator that we are dealing with a noun, sort of like -tion in
English? And in some cases is not a suffix at all, just part of the noun?

> 1.  Hebron
> What is your analysis of the geographical place name "Hebron"/XBRWN?

With personal and place names, there could be all sorts of reasons for the
name, and unless we are privy to the origin of the name, all we can do is
speculate fruitlessly.

> 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?

 Yes, of course.

First as Dave Washburn correctly pointed out, prefixes don't swallow up
beginning yods and waws. It's a grammar thing that has lexicographic import.
You're all wet on this argument.

Secondly, as I stated above concerning Hebron, there can be all sorts of
reasons for the name that unless we are privy to the reason, all we can do
is speculate fruitlessly.

> 3.  Shimron
> 4.  Ashkelon
> 5.  Mt. Hermon
> 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
> "
> place".

This is a claim that you have no way to back up. Most of the iron age,
pre-Exile villages survive only as stones, but no names. Hence, your claim
that -WN is the most common suffix is neither verifiable nor falsifiable.

Even if your claim were true, the grammatical use throughout the whole
language rules it out as meaning "place", more likely merely a noun
indicator, in these cases the noun of a 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?

As I wrote above, we can speculate, but that won't answer the why a place
has its name. A person name XBR could have founded the city and named it
after himself, it could have referred to an action that happened there, we
weren't there when it was named, and the reason for the name has not come
down to us. Similarly $RWN could come from the roots $WR, $YR, $RH or $RR,
which was it? Possibly even a non-Semitic name. Again the reason for the
name has not come down to us. Grammatically, lexicographically and
linguistically speaking, it is impossible for it to have come from Y$R.

> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois

You came on this list not knowing Hebrew, or at least not much, asking if
there were linguistic support for your theories. When those of us who know
much more Hebrew than you and have deigned to respond to you have
unanimously responded to the negative, shouldn't that indicate that maybe,
just maybe, you should go back to the drawing board? That you're barking up
the wrong tree?

Whether your theory that Abraham was a late bronze age citizen is correct or
not will stand or fall on other grounds. But the linguistic support you seek
just does not exist.

Karl W. Randolph.

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