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

dwashbur at nyx.net dwashbur at nyx.net
Fri Oct 10 15:36:44 EDT 2008

I said I wouldn't respond again unless directly challenged.  I suppose this qualifies *sigh*

On 10 Oct 2008 at 15:20, JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:

> 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.

"Closely associated" how?  What's your source, beyond your own purported word-
association?  We are told nothing about Nahor except his name and his wife's name.  
You're pulling this association with the rivers - note plural, so for your "pun" to work his 
name would actually need to be Nahoraim, and that's not even getting into the vowel 
change - out of your perceived word-game, then you're using this "association" to justify the 
idea of the word-play.  That's called circular reasoning.
> 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.  

No, the text says Haran died "in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth."  That's Gen 
1128, NIV.  So there's no need for any kind of pun on "road," deliberate or otherwise.  
Furthermore, if we take the text at face value, this was his name at birth and had nothing at 
all to do with any travel plans by Terah or anybody else.

> 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)...."

Irrelevant.  He died in Ur, the place of his birth, not in Haran or on the road to anywhere.
> 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.

Gen 48:22 says nothing at all about Shechem, nor does it mention Hamor; it speaks of a 
piece of land that Jacob took from the Amorites "with my sword and my bow."  Gen 33:19 
and Joshua 24:32 both say that Jacob *bought* some land from Hamor's sons.  And 
according to chapter 34, Jacob didn't take anything from the Shechemites, he was furious 
with his sons for their treacherous actions.  Hamor is described in Gen 34:2 as a "Hivite, not 
an Amorite.  You're still getting nowhere.

> 4.  Hebron/XBRWN is a deliberate pun on H + )BR + WN, meaning "the 
> well-watered meadowland".  

Once again, it's not necessary.

[snip - nothing but rehash]
> 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.  

No, and no.  They look similar in square script, but their resemblance in the paleo script that 
a pre-exilic author would have used is only superficial, and I don't know of any examples in 
that script where the two are confused.  As for the sound, they do sound similar to English-
speaking ears, but to the Middle-Eastern ear there's a clear distinction.  Arabic actually has 
more than just these two gutterals, because the phonology of the semitic languages is quite 
different from what you and I are used to.  There may or may not be some word-play going 
on, but you can't prove it by resorting to English pronunciation.

> 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?

There is no need for these names to have any particular meaning.  They may or may not, 
but it really doesn't matter.  As for coincidence, I'm reminded of the Bible Code: we can find 
most anything we want to find if we look hard enough and use enough imagination.
> 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.  

Gen 48:22 isn't a pun on anything.  It's a perfectly legitimate and common Hebrew word, 
and once again, it says Jacob took by force the piece of land he's describing, whereas the 
texts talking about Shechem say he bought land.  You're not doing good exegesis.

> 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.

There's nothing "objective" about it.
> 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".

This is getting nowhere.  I have answered your questions and shown how your "puns" are 
nothing more than wishful thinking.  Once again, you asked the question of people who 
knew more Hebrew than you.  You have your answers.  I recommend you take several giant 
steps back and learn from those answers.

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

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