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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Oct 13 11:38:12 EDT 2008


Kenneth Greifer:
 
You wrote:  “If the writer of these names wanted them to be puns you would 
either not have to change any letters or you would do it in a way that follows a 
pattern ( I guess.) I don't know where you came up with the letter change 
patterns that you use all the time. You add and drop letters in a way that no one 
else knows to see these puns, but somehow I think you do it to fit the 
Egyptian words. Do you see the puns first or do you change the letters in order to 
fit the Egyptian words in the Egyptian records? If you are intentionally fixing 
the words to fit places in the Egyptian records then you are not really 
seeing puns, but maybe using that as a secondary proof that these original Hebrew 
words should be re-spelled in a way that fits the Egyptian records.”
 
 You make a good point.  In fact, I listen to, and learn from, the attacks on 
my views by people like you, Dave Washburn and Karl W. Randolph.  I take your 
comments far more seriously than you think I do.
 
After the withering criticism of my attempt to view a heth/X as being a 
he-aleph/H) in XBRWN/“Hebron”, I went back to basics.  It turns out that I 
grotesquely over-simplified what a J means in an Egyptian transcription.  When a J is 
the first letter in an item on the Thutmosis III list, in 6 cases it comes 
into Biblcial Hebrew as an aleph, in 3 cases it comes into Biblical Hebrew as a 
different letter, and in 11 cases there is no Biblical Hebrew equivalent to 
serve as a comparison.  So by no means does J always come out as an aleph in 
Biblical Hebrew.  Even more importantly, that J is not an aleph!  That J is a 
single reed, which is called an Egyptian “yodh”, whereas an eagle is the 
Egyptian equivalent of the Hebrew aleph.  That single reed/yodh has no equivalent in 
either Hebrew or English.  Especially at the beginning of a word, it may 
represent the vowel sound A.  Unlike a Hebrew aleph, the single reed/J does  n-o-t  
represent a glottal stop.  Remember, we are talking about ancient town names 
that pre-date the emergence of the Hebrew language.  There is no one-to-one 
direct matching of letters in certain cases, such as this J/single reed/Egyptian 
“yodh”.  That is simply impossible.
 
I also realized that in the pre-Hebrew west Semitic languages, there were two 
different kinds of heths, which are carefully distinguished on the Thutmosis 
III list.  But Biblical Hebrew has only one heth.  In the 10 cases where there 
is a direct Biblical Hebrew equivalent of a specific town name on the 
Thutmosis III list, 9 come out as a heth/X in Biblical Hebrew (without regard to 
which one of the two heths was on the list).  But one comes out as a he/H.
 
Finally, in one case, a J may come out in the Akkadian cuneiform of the 
Amarna Letters as a heth.  At least that is one possible interpretation, where 
J-heth may indicate a double heth.
 
There is also a Biblical Hebrew word XBL, which means “a measured field”, “
tract of land”, or “region”.  Compare )BL, which means “a well-watered 
meadowland”.  The Aijalon Valley could have been referred to in ancient times as 
either XBL or )BL [with each such word in the Late Bronze Age having ended in 
resh/R, not lamed/L], or both XBL and )BL.  So “JBR” could simply be reflecting 
XBR/XBL, in which case the first letter is always a heth/X, with no change in 
spelling of any kind.  
 
The point is that in evaluating “JBR” as item #99 on the Thutmosis III list, 
and asking if it is the forerunner of XBRWN/“Hebron”, the fact of the matter 
is that no one can say for certain what Biblical Hebrew letter “should” have 
been used to represent that J.  In 6 out of 20 cases, J as an initial letter 
is known to come into Biblical Hebrew as an aleph regarding geographical place 
names.  But a J was  n-o-t  an aleph, that’s for sure!  So perhaps J on 
occasion could come into Biblical Hebrew as a different guttural, namely heth/X.
 
It is interesting that both on the Thutmosis III list and in Biblical Hebrew 
(in a point that I got from Dave Washburn, though I am sure to be misquoting 
him, as always), the letter he/H is very rare in geographical place names, 
whereas the letter heth/X, by stark contrast, is commonplace.  Thus there is a 
bias against he/H, and a bias for heth/X, both in pre-Hebrew west Semitic 
geographical place names, and in Biblical Hebrew geographical place names.
 
I am learning much more about these Egyptian transcriptions.  I naively 
thought a J was an aleph, simply because I quickly discerned that in several 
prominent cases, a J comes out in a Biblical Hebrew geographical place name as an 
aleph.  But the actual facts are much more complex, and murkier, than that.  So 
it is by no means certain that “JBR” on the Thutmosis III list should be 
expected to come out in Biblical Hebrew as aleph-bet-resh/lamed.  Yes, we do have 
the Biblical Hebrew word aleph-bet-lamed that seems to have the same meaning 
as “JBR”.  But its verbal root is spelled with a yod (not an aleph), and there’
s also a Biblical Hebrew word with an applicable meaning that is spelled 
heth-bet-lamed/XBL.
 
Given the extreme complexity of that J, who knows what Biblical Hebrew letter 
“should” have been used to represent it?
 
Now consider this.  Perhaps you would agree that if JBR means “well-watered 
meadowland”  (per aleph-bet-lamed in Hebrew, with scholars routinely viewing “
JBR” as meaning “stream” or “wadi”), then the easiest way to turn that 
generic description into a geographical place name would be for an early Hebrew to 
add a “noun identifier” at the end:  -WN.  That’s basically 
non-controversial.  So “JBR” as a generic description becomes JBR + WN = JBRWN as a proper 
name, of the type that is very often used for geographical place names in 
Biblical Hebrew.  (By the way, I also learned that this was the case before the 
Hebrew language emerged.  27 of the specific town names on the Thutmosis III list 
end in N.)
 
So to get JBRWN from “JBR” is relatively non-controversial.
 
The only difference between JBRWN and XBRWN/“Hebron” is the first letter.  
But is that a real difference?  No one really knows how a J/single 
reed/Egyptian “yodh” should come into Biblical Hebrew, because Biblical Hebrew does not 
have such a concept. 
 
So perhaps a better way to look at this is that JBRWN is the west Semitic 
version of a proper name for JBR, with JBR itself being merely a generic 
description of a well-watered meadowland, and/or the word XBR/XBL meaning “a specific 
tract of land”.  That is to say, I can get JBRWN instantly, as it were, with 
little controversy, starting from JBR meaning “a well-watered meadow”/“a 
specific tract of land” .  That limits the linguistic controversy to a single 
letter, that initial J.  But since there is no Biblical Hebrew equivalent of that 
J, who’s to say that it might not come into Biblical Hebrew as a heth/X?  The 
early Hebrews liked heth/X in geographical place names, that’s for sure.  That 
J is not an aleph, much less a Biblical Hebrew aleph, so there’s no guarantee 
that it would come into Biblical Hebrew as a Hebrew aleph.  And if XBL is the 
underlying word involved here (or is one of the two underlying words involved 
here), then the expected spelling would be XBRWN.
 
I want to thank you and everyone else for sending me “back to the drawing 
boards”.  I always learn from harsh critiques of my views, even if I do not 
initially agree with the critique, and even if the critique is a bit more personal 
than perhaps it should be.  But so be it.  We’re all here on the b-hebrew list 
to learn.  I only hope that at least, I may have gotten some people 
interested in the controversial name “Hebron”, and the possibility that XBRWN/“Hebron”
 may derive from the JBR on the mid-15th century BCE Thutmosis III list, if 
JBRWN comes out in Biblical Hebrew as XBRWN.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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