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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Oct 10 15:20:30 EDT 2008


Dave Washburn:
 
You wrote:  “The rest of this material, and especially the speculation about 
H/X and all that, is so lame that I can't even think of a good way to address 
it.”
 
That is a critical part of my argument.  Perhaps you could specifically state 
why you disagree with the following four key points of mine:
 
1.  Nahor/NXWR is a deliberate pun on nahar/NHR/river, as Abraham’s middle 
brother is closely associated with the Euphrates  R-i-v-e-r.
 
2.  Haran/HRN is a deliberate pun on XRN/“road”/“caravan”, because Abraham’
s oldest brother dies on the “road” on a long “caravan” trip to far-off Ur.  
The Hebrew author knew what Anson Rainey states at p. 112 of “The Sacred 
Bridge”:  “[The Mesopotamian city of] Haran [was] the great crossroads (the 
meaning of its name in Akkadian, harranu = road, caravan)….”
 
3.  Hamor/XMWR is a deliberate pun on H + )MR, meaning “the Amorite”.  
Genesis 48: 22 confirms that Hamor was the Amorite princeling ruler of Shechem in 
chapter 34 of Genesis.
 
4.  Hebron/XBRWN is a deliberate pun on H + )BR + WN, meaning “the 
well-watered meadowland”.  The Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is not the city of Hebron located 
high up in forbidding hill country, but rather is the ideal pastureland of the 
Aijalon Valley, located 17½ miles west of Beth-el.  Lot “journeyed east” of 
Beth-el, going 17½ miles east of Beth-el to the Jordan River, right after 
Abraham had told Lot that “if you take the right hand, I’ll take the left hand, 
and if you take the left hand, I’ll take the right hand”.  Abraham then 
logically went in exactly the opposite direction, namely 17½ miles west of Beth-el 
to the Aijalon Valley, rather than going south to the city later called Hebron. 
 Unlike later books in the Bible, Genesis never says that anyone goes “up” 
to Hebron, never associates the word “hill” country with Hebron, and never 
says that Hebron is a “city”, even though the city later called Hebron is the 
highest altitude “city” “up” in the highest part of “hill” country.  That’s 
because the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” is not a ‘city” “up” in “hill” country, 
but rather is Canaan’s finest pastureland, namely the Aijalon Valley.  That’s 
the logical place for Abraham and his 318 armed retainers to take Abraham’s 
huge flock of sheep and goats.  “JBR” is a mid-15th century BCE general 
description of the Aijalon Valley, meaning “a well-watered meadowland”.  The Aijalon 
Valley, so unlike the city of Hebron, is a “well-watered meadowland”. 
 
I see all four of these words as being deliberate puns by the early Hebrew 
author of the Patriarchal narratives.  In all four cases, he is punning based on 
clever Hebrew wordplay that plays off heth/X vs. he/H.  Those two letters had 
somewhat similar sounds, they were written in a somewhat similar way, and 
ancient scribes often made mistakes regarding those two words for precisely those 
two reasons:  they sound somewhat similar, and they look somewhat similar.  
In all these cases, English uses the letter H, not differentiating between X 
vs. H.  Though that’s English, it does in part reflect the underlying reality 
that these two different Hebrew letters had somewhat similar sounds.  Based on 
the examples of “Nahor” and “Haran” and “Hamor”, it seems to me quite clear 
that the author of the Patriarchal narratives is  d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e-l-y  
making puns on heth/X vs. he/H.
 
Is it your view that the names “Nahor”, “Haran” and “Hamor” have no 
particular meaning?  Is it your view that it is a mere “coincidence” that if heth/X 
represents he/H in these three names and vice versa, then all three names 
have a perfectly sensible meaning, as puns?
 
In my view, the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives is making 
these puns on these four names on purpose.  Even when the author uses a fully 
historical name, like “Shechem”, he still puns on it, as we see at Genesis 48: 
22.  The objective fact of the matter is that whether we like it or not, the 
Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives puns on every single important 
proper name in the text, both of individuals and of geographical place names.  He 
wants us to realize precisely what puns he is making, and to think along with 
him, so that we will understand the text.
 
If we close our eyes to the unending puns in the Patriarchal narratives, we 
will not understand the historical content of the Patriarchal narratives.
 
In particular, we will not understand the geographical location of the 
Patriarchs’ Bronze Age “Hebron” unless we pay close attention to the puns 
deliberately embedded in the name XBRWN/“Hebron”.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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