[b-hebrew] )BYMLK vs. Abimelech vs. Abi-Molech

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Apr 14 10:05:42 EDT 2009

On my prior thread, George Athas wrote:  “The methodological flaw in your 
argument is that you are treating Hebrew as if it is ancient Egyptian. It 
isn't. Everything you do progresses on that premise, and it is a false premise. 
Ergo, your argument is fatally flawed and ill-conceived. It just doesn't 
Let me take George’s good advice and not mention anything about the 
Egyptian language in this post.  Focusing on Biblical Hebrew and the Canaanites can 
give us excellent clues as to the geographical locale of GRR/Gerar in the 
Patriarchal narratives.
Everyone knows that when in GRR/Gerar, each of Abraham and Isaac deals with 
a ruler whose name is spelled in Hebrew:   )BYMLK.  The Hebrew name )BYMLK 
is conventionally (though somewhat misleadingly, as we shall see) 
transliterated into English as “Abimelech”.
My previous thread discussed whether Gerar should be viewed as being a town 
in southwest Judah (the traditional view), or rather whether Gerar should 
be viewed as being somewhat akin to Galilee, being a Late Bronze Age 
historical name of a region in northern Canaan.  One important clue in considering 
that important issue is to analyze the name )BYMLK, the name of a ruler whom 
Genesis presents as operating in GRR/Gerar in the Patriarchal Age.
1.  Linguistic Analysis of )BYMLK
)BYMLK is )BY-MLK.  At the beginning of a ruler’s name, )BY-/Abi- can mean 
either “father of…” or “my (spiritual) father (is)…”  In the latter case, 
one would then expect to see the divine name of a pagan deity, with the 
ruler thus proclaiming his loyalty to (not biological derivation from) that 
pagan deity.  As to the second half of the name )BY-MLK, in unpointed text each 
of MLK/melek, translated as “king”, and MLK/Molech, transliterated as 
Molech, are identical to the second half of this ruler’s name:  MLK.  One key 
question then is whether the MLK after )BY in the name )BY-MLK is a reference 
to the common noun “king”, or is rather a reference to the name of the 
pagan deity “Molech”.  (The pagan deity’s name means “king”.  The unpointed 
text simply gives us MLK.)  Does )BYMLK mean “Abi-melek”, where MLK is the 
common word for “king”?  Or, rather, does )BYMLK mean “Abi-Molech”, where 
MLK is the name of the pagan deity Molech?
The name )BYMLK has two possible main meanings:  either (1) “father of 
(the) king”/Abi-melek, referring to a claim that this person’s son will be an 
earthly king, and not having any divine reference at any level;  or, much 
more likely in a secular historical context, (2) “my (spiritual) father (is the 
pagan god) Molech”/Abi-Molech, with the person bearing that name 
ostentatiously claiming to be especially devoted to a local pagan god named Molech.  
(Less likely, though perhaps possible, is “my father (is the) king”.  Even 
less likely is a purely figurative meaning,  such as “a man having kingly 
characteristics, such as power and wealth”.)
(We don’t know the actual vowel sounds for the name of the pagan god Molech 
from the ancient texts.  BDB and others note that the Hebrew vowel sounds 
in “Molech” were probably deliberately chosen by the Hebrews to be a 
derogatory reference to this disliked pagan god.)
The conventional English transliteration “Abimelech” (or “Abimelek”, 
where “melech” or “melek” is the Biblical Hebrew word for “king”) follows the 
medieval pointing done in the Middle Ages.  But even BDB, 100 years ago, 
says that such pointing is probably not historically accurate.  It makes 
virtually no sense for a ruler to be called Abi-melek, meaning “father of (the) 
king”.  Moreover, in addition to not making sense on a secular historical 
level, such a view would have a horrific result in the context of the story of 
Isaac’s birth, remembering that Sarah spent a night in this ruler’s bedroom 
right before she got pregnant with Isaac.  If this pagan ruler’s name 
really meant “father of the king” (which in my view clearly is  n-o-t  what this 
name means), the name could then be viewed as having the horrific, false 
meaning that Abimelech is divinely destined to be the biological father of 
Isaac, who is a Hebrew “king”/Patriarch, with Abimelech being “father of the 
king”, and the name “Abimelech” meaning “father of the king”.  No way!
As a matter of historical linguistics, it is much more likely that )BYMLK 
has the routine, standard meaning of Abi + DN [where DN means “divine name”
].  The ruler having such a name asserts that he is devoted to that 
particular pagan deity.  Thus in the Amarna Letters, the ruler of Ssur/Tyre is named “
Abi-Milku” (or “Abimilki”), meaning “my (spiritual) father is the god 
Molech” [or “the god Milku”, remembering that we’re not sure of the vowels, 
and English K and CH in these transliterations are interchangeable].  Molech 
was the guardian god of the wealthy island city-state of Ssur/Tyre in 
western Galilee.  A slight variant of that style of ruler’s name is ubiquitous in 
the Amarna Letters, where the first part of the name is “Abdi-” (instead of 
Abi-), meaning “servant of”.  So we have “Abdi-Asirta”, meaning “servant 
of Asirtu”;  “Abdi-Astarti”, meaning “servant of Astartu”;  “Abdi-Hadda”, 
meaning “servant of Haddu” [with Haddu, like Molech, being local names for 
the famed pagan god Baal];  “Abdi-Heba” of Jerusalem, meaning “servant of 
the (Hurrian goddess) Heba” [or Khipa], etc.
Thus on a linguistic basis, )BYMLK of Gerar in the Patriarchal narratives 
is likely the name of a ruler who is devoted to the famous god Baal, in one 
of the relatively few locales (all in northern Canaan or the Transjordan) 
where this god was referred to by the name “Molech” (using the Hebrew vowels, 
which historically likely are not correct).  
(As can be deduced from the corresponding Hebrew common words, each of “Baal
” and “Molech”/“Melek” is a title, meaning “King” or “Lord”, etc.  Many 
pagan gods’ names were really titles, with the title being used as the 
proper name of the pagan deity.)
2.  Historical Analysis of )BYMLK
If )BYMLK means “my (spiritual) father (is) Molech”, per the foregoing 
analysis, that means that in secular history, that ruler must be in northern 
Canaan, or just north of Canaan, or possibly in the Transjordan.  Most likely, 
such ruler ruled at Ssur/Tyre, on the west coast of Galilee. 
Most pagans in the ancient world used some form of the name “Baal” or “
Haddu” for this famous pagan god.  But at Ssur/Tyre, this god was called “
Molech”.  A few other places in northern Canaan, or just north of Canaan, or 
possibly in the Transjordan, are known to have used the name “Molech” for this 
famous pagan god.  By contrast, in secular history the pagan god’s name “
Molech” is unknown in southern Canaan, much less south of Gaza.
As noted above, we know for certain that the name of the ruler of Ssur/Tyre 
in the Amarna Letters was Abi-Molech (in the form of Abi-Milku or 
Abimilki).  That makes all the logical sense in the world, because in the ancient 
world, the god Molech (or Moloch) was more closely associated with Ssur/Tyre 
than with any other place:
So a name that references the pagan god Molech would be most appropriate 
for a ruler of Ssur/Tyre in Late Bronze Age western Galilee.  Molech was 
viewed by the pagan Canaanites of Ssur/Tyre as being the guardian deity of their 
beloved island city-state of Ssur/Tyre.  Accordingly, a very appropriate 
name for the ruler of Ssur/Tyre in the Late Bronze Age would be “Abi-Molech”, 
meaning:  “My (spiritual) father (is) Molech[, the guardian god of our fine 
island city-state of Ssur/Tyre]”.
3.  Conclusion
In the Patriarchal narratives, the name )BYMLK probably means “Abi-Molech”
, and probably refers to Molech as the guardian pagan deity of Ssur/Tyre in 
Late Bronze Age western Galilee.
Accordingly, it would make perfect sense if at Genesis 20: 1, (i) GRR/Gerar 
is an historical Late Bronze Age reference to “Galilee”, in northern 
Canaan, and (ii) Sur/&WR is a non-deferential play on the similar-sounding 
historical city name Ssur/CWR, referencing the wealthy, arrogant, super-famous 
Late Bronze Age island city-state of Ssur/Tyre in western Galilee, in northern 
If we look at the well-documented secular history of the ancient world 
(even if we studiously avoid the Egyptian language), the historical analysis 
always comes out the same.  GRR/Gerar is a Late Bronze Age historical name for 
a region in northern Canaan that is somewhat akin to the later notion of 
Galilee.  The name )BYMLK/Abi-Molech honors Molech, the guardian god of Late 
Bronze Age Ssur/Tyre, and was the semi-unique historical name of the ruler of 
Ssur/Tyre in the mid-14th century BCE.  The scholarly view that )BYMLK 
[Abi-Molech] and GRR/Gerar are referencing a ruler and city in southwest Judah 
has not a single inscription in secular history pre-dating the common era to 
support it!  Rather,  e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g  in the well-documented secular 
history of the ancient world supports the view that GRR/Gerar is Galilee in the 
Late Bronze Age, and that )BYMLK is an historical name that perfectly fits 
a ruler of Ssur/Tyre in Late Bronze Age GRR/Gerar/GLL/GLYL/Galilee in 
northern Canaan.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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