[b-hebrew] Hurrian Analysis of "Shinar"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Apr 26 10:33:56 EDT 2010

Hurrian Analysis of “Shinar”
In addition to XCCN TMR/“Hazezon Tamar”, there is another mysterious name 
in the Hebrew Bible that can be understood with the help of the 
Fournet/Bomhard Hurrian website that I previously referenced:  “Shinar”/$N(R.  As we 
will see, a better English transliteration of $N(R would be:  “Sheni-ra”.  
[We will also see that scholars have not been helpful on this Biblical 
identification.  As explained below, a key Hurrian word has not been focused upon 
since 1948.]
The Hurrian word for “brother” is she-ni [or shani or sheni or she-e-ni].  
P. 98.  [As discussed at pp. 5-6, due to the foreign cuneiform in which 
Hurrian was written, in some cases English A cannot be distinguished from 
English E.  In particular, for the Hurrian word for “brother”, it is not 
possible to distinguish English A from English E.  “In some words like šeni ‘
brother’, <e> is never attested as <i>, which may well indicate that the 
underlying phoneme in šeni */sani/ is */a/.”  At p. 6.  So some scholars 
conventionally use A, and some use E, in transliterating the Hurrian word for “brother”
.]  The common Hurrian suffix –ra means “together with”.  P. 126.  So 
Sheni-ra means “with (the Hurrian) brothers”.  
$N(R is the ideal way to render this Hurrian word in old Biblical Hebrew.  
The ayin/( needs to be there as a glottal stop in order to emphasize that 
the final R is its own separate syllable, being the Hurrian suffix –ra.  
[Secondarily, if the ayin were pronounced as an archaic ghayin, sounding like G, 
this word would then sound quite a bit like Sangar, the pre-Hurrian ancient 
city in east-central Syria.  That similarity in sound may have been one 
reason why, as discussed below, the Hurrian word for “with (Hurrian) brothers” 
or “with the road (of Hurrian) brothers” came to signify Syria in the Late 
Bronze Age.]  $N(R is Sheni-ra, and means “with (the Hurrian) brothers”.  
In historical context, $N(R was referring to all of Syria that was dominated 
by Hurrian ethnic rulers in the Late Bronze Age (not limited to the Hurrian 
great power state of Mitanni in eastern Syria).
In the only Amarna Letter written in Hurrian, we see the above analysis 
verified in two ways.  (Suspiciously, scholars don’t seem to want people to 
know about the first way, though that’s the more important way.)  First, at 
Amarna Letter EA 24 III 64, we see the phrase “with my brother” written as 
follows:  she-e-ni-iw-wa-ra.  The second E is optional.  The double WW, or 
iw-wa, means “my”.  Taking out the optional second E and the concept of “my” 
would leave:  she-ni-ra.  (For people who are not Hurrian scholars, I believe 
the only way to find out the above is to look at p. 111 of E.A. Speiser’s 
old 1948 classic, “Introduction to Hurrian Grammar”.  Since 1948, I don’t 
think this key fact has been generally disclosed, though of course Hurrian 
specialists have always known it.)  The implied meaning of 
she-ni-ra/Sheni-ra/$N(R as a geographical place name would be “with (Hurrian) brothers”, and 
would reference all the many Hurrian kings in Syria.
Secondly, in a heavily damaged section of this Amarna Letter, namely IV 95 
(which interestingly enough is mentioned by many scholars, such as Wm. Moran 
in his Geographical Index to the Amarna Letters, at p. 391), we see the 
following proper name:  Sha-an-xar-ra [where I am using X for a heth].  Xara 
means “road” in Hurrian.  P. 87.  [Now all of a sudden we understand the name 
of the city where Abraham’s father died, which in Hebrew is XRN.  That’s 
xa-ra/XR, meaning “road” in Hurrian, plus –N suffix, meaning “the” in 
Hurrian.  The city name is “the road”, referencing the fact that a lot of trade 
and people passed through Harran.  Please notice that in the full spelling 
of west Semitic words in the received Masoretic Text the west Semitic suffix 
is spelled –WN, meaning “place”, which is totally different than the 
Hurrian suffix, a naked –N, meaning “the”.  Each of XRN and XCCN TMR features a 
naked –N suffix, being the classic Hurrian suffix meaning “the”.]  The 
literal reference here seems to be to “with the road (of Hurrian) brothers” -- 
that is, the king of the Hurrian state of Mitanni and all the Hurrian 
princelings throughout Syria:  all the Hurrian kings in Syria.  It seems likely 
that she-e-ni-ra and sha-an-xar-ra [where E and A are interchangeable here in 
these varying English transliterations] are similar in concept.  As a proper 
name, both would refer to “the Hurrian brothers”, that is, all the rulers 
in Syria who were Hurrians.  Based on the rest of that Amarna Letter, we know 
that Tushratta is emphasizing how important it is for the Hurrians of 
Mitanni to have good relations with Egypt.  In that context, it makes all the 
sense in the world for Tushratta to claim that he is the unofficial leader of 
all of the Hurrians in Syria, the leader of all the “Hurrian brothers”/$N(R 
in Syria, the “road” of Hurrian brothers in Syria, in addition to being the 
king of the Hurrian great power state of Mitanni.  Just as surely, it would 
make no sense at all for Tushratta to bring up the irrelevant topic of 
southern Mesopotamia, nor would Hurrian King Tushratta use the Hurrian word for “
brothers” to reference Babylonia.  So even though most of that part of the 
text is illegible, the reference there to Sha-an-xar-ra is likely to the 
Hurrian “brothers” throughout Syria, and cannot possibly be, as scholars would 
like to imagine, a reference to Babylonia.
At Amarna Letter 35: 49, a letter from Cyprus uses the word Shanxar [where 
I am using X to refer to a heth, and Sh to refer to the Sh sound;  I am not 
sure of the full spelling in Akkadian].  That is the Akkadian cuneiform 
equivalent of She-ni-xar-ra or Sha-an-xar-ra in Hurrian, with both names meaning 
“with the road of Hurrian brothers”:  that is, both the Hurrian great 
power state of Mitanni in eastern Syria, plus all the small-time Hurrian 
princelings throughout the rest of Syria.  In that Amarna Letter, the ruler of 
Cyprus is reassuring Amenhotep III that he is more honored in Cyprus than are 
the rulers of the Hittites and of the “road of Hurrian brothers” in Syria.  
The Biblical reference at Genesis 14: 1, 9 uses the simpler form of this 
Hurrian word, leaving out the reference to “road”, and simply referring to “
with (the Hurrian) brothers” [throughout Syria].  $N(R is Sheni-ra:  sheni/“
brother” + -ra/“together with”.
Though scholars haven’t openly disclosed it for 62 years, the virgin pure 
Hurrian word she-e-ni-iw-wa-ra is probably but a variant of Sha-an-xar-ra.  
Hurrian is an agglutinative language, so the iw-wa in the first word could be 
deleted, to take out the concept of “my”, and the xar could be deleted in 
the second word, to take out the concept of “road”.  Then the two words are 
essentially the same, meaning “with (the Hurrian) brothers”:  she-ni-ra 
[or sha-ni-ra].  If that analysis is right, then this is a Hurrian word, 
describing Hurrian “brothers”, that is, all the Hurrian kings in Syria.  One 
scholarly view is, on the contrary, that Biblical $N(R is an unattested(!) 
pre-Babylonian word for Babylon.  But that’s not right, as $N(R is an accurate 
rendering of the Hurrian common word she-ni-ra, meaning “(the Hurrian) 
brothers”.  The key to seeing the Hurrian nature of this word, and hence its 
meaning, is the virgin pure Hurrian common word not openly disclosed since 1948:  
The concept of Hurrian “brothers” was important to the Hurrians (a people 
who are prominent only in the Late Bronze Age).  Though the language is 
different (being Akkadian cuneiform), we see the Hurrian maryannu Biryawaza 
referencing his Hurrian “brothers” in writing to Akhenaten at both Amarna 
Letter EA 195: 24-32 and EA 197: 31-42.  It was the “Hurrian way” to refer to 
fellow Hurrians as “brothers”, even where, as was often the case, they were 
not members of the same state.
The person in Egypt who translated the Mitannian Amarna Letter EA 24 (the 
only Amarna Letter written in Hurrian) would have known all of the following. 
 (1) she-e-ni-iw-wa-ra at III 64 means “with my brother”.  (2) 
Sha-an-xar-ra at IV 95 literally means “with the road of (Hurrian) brothers”, and 
implies “all the Hurrian kings in Syria”.  (3)  A simpler version of the 
foregoing two words would be she-ni-ra, meaning “with (the Hurrian) brothers”, 
and hence implying the same meaning as #2:  “all the Hurrian kings in Syria”. 
 (4)  The ideal rendering of #3 in the Western alphabet would be:  $N(R.  
That is how an early Hebrew who was temporarily a guestworker at Amarna could 
have come up with $N(R as a Hurrian name.  Those are the exact four letters 
we see at Genesis 14: 1, 9, for the word whose normal English 
transliteration (somewhat misleadingly) is “Shinar”.
Scholars today generally concede that there is no linguistic relationship 
whatsoever between Sumer and $N(R.  But there is a perfect linguistic match 
to Biblical $N(R in Hurrian.  The Hurrian word for “brother”, plus the 
common Hurrian suffix meaning “together with”, results in Sheni-ra, that is SN(R/
It is today universally agreed that Amrapel is not Hammurabi.  But that has 
left scholars baffled as to the identity of Amrapel, king of $N(R, at 
Genesis 14: 1, 9.  However, based on the foregoing, the analysis is now 
straightforward.  As I have noted before, )MR-PL is a virgin pure west Semitic name 
meaning “Amorite Splittest”.  Aziru was the west Semitic-speaking Amorite 
ruler of the Amorite state of Amurru (on the northern coast of Lebanon) who, 
in the Amarna Age, iniquitously split off Amurru from Canaan and sold out 
Amurru to the new masters of “the Hurrian brotherhood”/$N(R/Syria:  the 
Hittites.  The term “king of $N(R” is sarcastic:  far from being the ruler of any 
Hurrians, west Semitic-speaking Aziru was now a Hittite puppet, being as 
subject to the powerful Hittites as were the Hurrian kings themselves in 
Syria/$N(R.  That’s the historical “iniquity of the Amorites” at Genesis 15: 16, 
because selling out the northwest corner of Canaan to the Hittite rulers of 
the Hurrians in Syria potentially endangered the future viability of the 
early Hebrews.
Now that, as of 2010, we finally have a Hurrian website, the Hurrian 
analysis of $N(R is really quite straightforward (though one also needs that rare 
1948 reference to a key Hurrian word in Amarna Letter EA 24).  Here’s the 
cite again to that excellent Hurrian website:
It’s really quite amazing how the Masoretic Text made and preserved a 
perfect record of these various non-Semitic historical names from the Late Bronze 
Age:  XRN/Harran and XCCN TMR/Hazezon Tamar and $N(R/Shinar.  Rather than 
being “inexplicable”, all of those names in the Hebrew Bible make perfect 
sense, letter for letter -- in Hurrian.
Jim Stinehart                                                               
                                                        Evanston, Illinois

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