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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 10 14:29:39 EDT 2008

Karl W. Randolph:
1.  You wrote:  “How do you know that this "suffix" [-WN] 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?  … 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.”
I agree.  Several people on this thread have made a similar point, and I 
accept it.
Your phrase “noun indicator” is probably exactly right.
The fact remains that –WN is a common ending for geographical place names in 
ancient Canaan.  But I accept your judgment that –WN does not really mean “
place”.  Rather, you are doubtless right that –WN is simply a “noun indicator”.
2.  You wrote:  “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.  …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.”
In the Patriarchal narratives, every important personal name, whether of a 
person or of a geographical place, is used as a pun.  In order to understand 
what the early Hebrew author is telling us, we must follow along with his puns.  
Thus, we would not be sure that Shechem was an Amorite city unless we take 
account of the pun on “shechem” at Genesis 48: 22, which explicitly refers to 
the Amorites, and in context must also be referring to the city of Shechem as a 
pun.  “Shechem” is the historical spelling of the historical name of the 
historical city of Shechem.  Yet that name is also used as a pun by the early 
Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives.  
The foregoing analysis then leads us to reassess the name Chamor/Hamor/XMWR.  
Since Hamor is the princeling ruler of the Amorite city of Shechem, it makes 
sense for his name to mean “the Amorite”.  Now we see the pun, which is a 
play on heth/X vs. he/H, and involves heth/X representing both he/H and aleph/), 
that is, both an H sound and a guttural sound:  XMWR  =  XMR  =  H + )MR  =  “
the Amorite”.  That is not a “coincidence”.  That is a deliberate pun.
Since heth can represent he-aleph in the name “Hamor”, the same is true in 
the name “Hebron”.  XBRWN  =  H + )BR + WN  =  H + “JBR” + WN  =  “the 
well-watered meadowland”.  “JBR” is the mid-15th century BCE word for the Aijalon 
Valley.  The pun makes perfect sense if the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is the ideal 
pastureland of the luxuriant Aijalon Valley located 17½ miles west of Beth-el, 
because the Aijalon Valley, so unlike the city of Hebron way up in austere 
hill country, is a “well-watered meadowland”.
If we do not try to understand the author’s deliberate puns, we will not 
understand what the author is saying.  That is to say, the historical content of 
this text only becomes apparent once one understands the author’s constant 
punning.  If we ignore these unremitting puns, we will fail to understand what the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives is actually saying.  “Hamor” refers to 
an “Amorite” ruler, and “Hebron” is a play on Late Bronze Age “JBR”, being “
the well-watered meadowland” of the Aijalon Valley.  The puns here are 
critical to understanding the substantive content of the text.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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