[b-hebrew] 1 Kings 20:14 Who are the young men, princes of the districts?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Apr 30 11:44:13 EDT 2010


James Spinti:
 
Thank you for your honest response.  But to my mind, the lack of specifics 
in your response shows that most people have not seriously considered those 
3 non-Semitic names in assessing whether or not chapter 14 of Genesis is 
accurate history in a Late Bronze Age context.
 
As to researching these 3 names, let me share with you part of what I have 
found so far on )LSR as Arioch’s kingly title.  My analysis will give 
Eisenbrauns a plug, which is a good thing.  But the darker side of my analysis is 
that it seems very suspicious to me that no mainstream scholar has ever, to 
the best of my knowledge, asked if )LSR may be a Hittite word.  If that 
question were asked, then as shown below, that question would go a very long way 
toward demonstrating the pinpoint historical accuracy of chapter 14 of 
Genesis in the secular historical context of the Great Syrian War during the 
mid-14th century BCE.  What bothers me is that university scholars so often 
carefully refrain from even  a-s-k-i-n-g  the key questions about chapter 14 of 
Genesis.
 
I’ll start with noting that today’s scholars have given up on the old view 
that ’LSR might be Larsa:  “Earlier scholars identified Arioch’s kingdom 
of Ellasar with the Babylonian town of Larsa, but phonetically that is 
impossible.”  Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17 (1990), 
William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, at p. 400.  My 
own view Is that Elassar is primarily a Hittite reference to the Hittite 
homeland in eastern Anatolia.
 
The geographical locale of Elassar is often considered an enigma.  But 
consider the perceptive comments of Gordon Wenham, who ties Elassar to eastern 
Anatolia:
 
“The identity of Ellasar is uncertain.  …A better suggestion [than various 
other possibilities] (P.R. Berger, WO 13 {1982} 50-78) identifies Ellasar 
with eastern Asia Minor on the basis of etymology, versional support, and 
intrinsic probability.  Ellasar could be related to )LSRYN ‘hazelnuts’, for 
which Pontus, on the southern coast of the Black Sea, was famous.  The Vulgate 
and Symmachus     translate it ‘Pontus’ [in northeastern Anatolia], while 
the Genesis Apocryphon says ‘Cappadocia’ [south-central eastern Anatolia].” 
 Gordon J. Wenham, “Biblical Commentary:  Genesis 1-15” (1987), Thomas 
Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee
 at p. 308.
 
But rather than the eastern Anatolian connection being a shortened, 
unattested version of a Hebrew  word (that is not found in the Bible) for “hazelnuts
”, a more convincing explanation is the Hittite word elassar.  The exact 
word, elassar, is attested in Hittite, perhaps meaning “oracle place”, that 
is, a place in eastern Anatolia where a Hittite would go to consult an oracle 
regarding omens, or perhaps a place in eastern Anatolia associated with “
omens”:
 
“An occasional alternate reading of IZKIM is H. ilessar, ilissar, ilassar, 
elassar ‘sign’ [or ‘omen’], of unknown origin (P 357-58, T 355).  
ariyasessar ‘oracle’, perhaps ariya- + asessar ‘place, site’, arises from ariya-, 
arai- ‘consult an oracle’ (generally accomplished by the observation of 
omina; cf. Gurney, The Hittites 156-60)….” David Michael Weeks, “Hittite 
Vocabulary:  An Anatolian Appendix to Buck’s Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in 
the Principal Indo-European Languages”, dissertation at the University of 
California Los Angeles (1985), at p. 243.  [James Spinti, I agree that 
dissertations on the Internet are great!]
 
In comparing ’LSR in early Biblical Hebrew to the Hittite word elassar, 
many scholars see the Hittite s (with a breve on top: š [my computer often does 
not handle diacritical marks well]) as likely having the same sound as a 
samekh/S in early Biblical Hebrew, which would mean that ’LSR and the Hittite 
word elassar may be virtual homonyms.  I asked the leading Hittite 
philologist in the world whether the Hittite word elassar would be expected to be 
)LSR in old Biblical Hebrew.  While insisting on not being quoted or even 
named, he did not disagree, even implicitly agreeing, but for the record he only 
wants the following published work cited:  the discussion of the Hittite 
sibilant at paragraph 1.93 on page 38 of Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. and H. Craig 
Melchert, “A Grammar of the Hittite Language” (2008), Languages of the Ancient 
Near East, 1, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns.  [James Spinti, I keep 
running into Eisenbrauns publications in researching these matters.  It seems I 
owe you some thanks.]  Moreover, although the grammatical function in 
Hittite differs, the sound of the –ssar at the end of elassar is the same as the 
sound of certain Hittite geographical place names in eastern Anatolia, in 
particular Kuššara, which is the Hittite name of the oldest known Hittite 
site (per Trevor Bryce, “The Kingdom of the Hittites” (1998), Clarendon 
Paperbacks, Oxford University Press, at pp. 37-38).  Thus not only is elassar a 
bona fide Hittite word, but to a contemporary audience (who knew little or no 
Hittite), it also would have sounded like a Hittite geographical place name.
 
As to how a Hittite word might make it into the Hebrew Bible, consider that 
there are two Amarna Letters in Hittite (though not from the Hittites, and 
written to Amenhotep III), and the second one even explicitly states:  “The 
tablets that are brought here always write in Hittite!”  Amarna Letter EA 
32: 24-25.  So if the early Hebrew author of the “four kings against five” 
was temporarily a guestworker at Amarna in Year 15 of Akhenaten’s reign in the 
mid-14th century BCE, he could have asked the Hittite translator there for 
a Hittite word to use to reference eastern Anatolia.  To the Hebrew author, 
this had to be sure to “sound” like a Hittite word, as most of the audience 
would certainly not know the actual meaning of the word, but if it sounded 
Hittite, it would do the job.  Note that elassar sounds like a Hittite word, 
with the ending even making it sound like a Hittite geographical place 
name.  Amarna Letter 31: 1-6 may have the Hittite word upessar (per Wm. Moran’s 
footnote 3 at p. 102), whose last two syllables are likely the same as 
elassar.
 
Elassar and ilessar (elaššar and ileššar) may both be the same word, and 
they may both mean “omen, sign”.  In fact, elassar may even mean “place of 
omens” or “place to consult an oracle regarding omens” in Hittite, and as 
such suggest a locale in eastern Anatolia.  On balance, the existence of the 
Hittite word elaššar, which may refer to an “omen” or “place of omens” or 
“place to consult an oracle regarding omens” in eastern Anatolia, and the 
fact that the ending of such word seems consistent with the word sounding 
(to a non-Hittite audience) like a Hittite geographical place name in eastern 
Anatolia, are further support for the emerging scholarly view (based in part 
on the Septuagint and the Genesis Apocryphon) that there may well be a 
connection between Biblical Elassar and the Hittites’ homeland in eastern 
Anatolia.  
 
But the Hurrians were not that far north, so why would a ruler bearing the 
Hurrian princeling name of “Arioch” be associated in chapter 14 of Genesis 
with the heartland of the Hittites?  The answer, in my controversial view, 
is that Elassar is referencing where historical Hurrian princeling Etakkama 
was re-educated by the Hittites in eastern Anatolia, before returning to 
Qadesh on the Orontes as a Hittite partisan in Year 13 and Year 14.  
 
“Suppiluliuma was quick to retaliate [against Qadesh on the Orontes, 
perhaps in Year 11].  The Kadesh force was defeated, and its king and leading 
citizens, along with the king’s son Aitakkama [Etakkama], were led off in 
captivity.  …Suppiluliuma [who I view as being Biblical “Tidal”, and who rescued 
Ugarit’s King Niqmaddu, who I view as being Biblical “Chedorlaomer”] 
subsequently [likely shortly before Year 14] allowed Aitakkama to return to 
Kadesh, where he occupied his father’s throne, and probably formalized his status 
as a Hittite vassal….  Aitakkama [who I view as being Biblical “Arioch”] 
used his Hittite backing…to establish regional alliances with other rulers, 
notably Aziru [who I view as being Biblical “Amrapel”], king of Amurru….”  
Bryce, at p. 176.  
 
Etakkama was virtually the only Hurrian princeling in history who was 
re-educated in the Hittite heartland before becoming a princeling ruler in 
greater Canaan.  If Biblical “Elassar” (and/or the name “Arioch”) is a reference 
to the ancient Hittite heartland in eastern Anatolia, which on various 
grounds seems quite likely, then the Hebrew nickname “Arioch, king of Elassar” 
would uniquely fit historical Etakkama, and would not fit anyone else.
 
James Spinti, I would greatly appreciate any substantive comments that you 
or anyone else may have on my analysis of )LSR.  In my opinion, one key to 
establishing the pinpoint historical accuracy of the “four kings against five”
 at Genesis 14: 1-11, in the historical context of the Great Syrian War in 
the mid-14th century BCE, is to be willing to do what university scholars 
seem unwilling to do:  a-s-k  if )LSR at Genesis 14: 1, 9 may be a Hittite 
word.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois



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