[b-hebrew] HALOT Etymologies

Arnaud Fournet fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr
Mon Dec 6 04:30:11 EST 2010

From: JimStinehart at aol.com

Dr. Fournet:
You wrote:  “I read it as a polite though ironic request not to defend that 
point of

1.  When the freshmen ask Prof. Yigal Levin what the name BR$( at Genesis 
14: 2 means, do you think he answers as follows?
 “Per HALOT at p. 163:  ‘Arabic…ugly’.”
I'm not sure to understand what you mean.
In all cases what is your objection to a purely Semitic explanation of BR$?

2.  Don’t’ you think Prof. Levin is suspicious of the fact that HALOT is not 
aware of the Hurrian name Bi-ri-a-a$-$u-ra at Nuzi (p. 114b of “Nuzi 
Personal Names”), where -sura is a Hurrian suffix (see p. 260a), and 
Be-er-$i-ya (p. 114a), where the final -ya is a common Hurrian theophoric 
second element in a name?  Since HALOT has never considered those two 
Hurrian names in evaluating BR$(, why would you think that Prof. Levin would 
blindly accept HALOT’s “Arabic…ugly”?
Well, my own mind is already enough for me to figure out and I have never 
met Yigal, so I will refrain from any speculation about what he thinks.

The page is 245b. The word is correctly identified by NPN as Aryan: 
It can be noted that the plene writing -a-aS- is even coherent with 
Sanskrit's accent on that vowel -a-.

More generally speaking, you keep transforming syntagms made up of 
words+case marks into Person names.
This kind of Name formation is completely un-heard-of in Hurrian. The 
regular formation is Verb+Noun.
I'm not aware of a single language in the world where Person Names can be 
syntagms made up of words+case marks, to which extra case-marks would be 
added in actual use in a sentence.
In my opinion there is a flaw, an irremediable flaw, in your method here.
First show me a language where Person Names are syntagms made up of 
words+case marks to which extra case-marks are added in actual use in a 


3. And if we’re willing to consider adding prosthetic vowels, which we 
should, since early Biblical Hebrew defective spelling rarely recorded 
prosthetic vowels, then BR$( could well be viewed as being the Hurrian 
common word ewre$$e [or, substituting B for W, which as you know often 
applies in Hurrian, ebri$$e], meaning “lordship”.  Frederic William Bush, “A 
Grammar of the Hurrian Language” (1964), at pp. 170, 172.  “At Nuzu the form 
erwi$$e occurs with the force of ‘rights pertaining to the king’….”  Bush at 
p. 347, footnote #193.  Your own website has a nice example at p. 84 of P 
and B and W being interchangeable in Hurrian:  the Hurrian common word for 
“good, beautiful” has all of the following attested spellings:  baxri, 
waxri, pa-ax-ri.
The suffix -SSi or -SSe is used to form abstract nouns: ebri "king, lord" > 
ebri-SSe "kinghood"
Why would somebody be called "kinghood" when you can just call him "king"?

Another point is that I suspect ebri to be a loanword from Akkadian abaru 
"strong, powerful", just like Sarri is from Akkadian Sarru "king".
If b_r is a root in Akkadian, borrowed in Hurrian to mean "Lord, king", why 
would it not exist in other Semitic languages and be used in Western 
Semitic: BrS = the king, a native Semitic word.
I do not perceive any reason to think these names would be foreign. It's 
perfectly logical that a Semitic king in a Semitic place would be called 
"king" in the Semitic language spoken on that spot.


4.  You’re probably thinking that Prof. Levin accepts without question your 
own argument that since the Biblical name BR$( has an ayin, then it could 
not possibly, under any circumstances, be a Hurrian name, since Hurrian has 
no ayin.  But Hurrian has no aleph either,
It probably does, considering that there are plenty of hiatuses in Cuneiform 
and Ugaritic script tends to used -?u- in a word like SauSka UG=[T ?u T k], 
even though just w is also attested in SauSka.

and everyone [perhaps even including you] views )R[Y]WK/“Arioch” at Genesis 
14: 1, 9 as being a bona fide Hurrian name.  And if each and every Biblical 
rendering with an ayin precludes a Hurrian name, as you have asserted on a 
prior thread, then we’re in big trouble all over the place.  For example, 
most scholars see KN(N/“Canaan” at Genesis 11: 31, etc. as being Hurrian, 
deriving from kina, the root of the Hurrian word that means “purple”.
It's quite obvious that this "Hurrian" word is a loanword.
It's rare to have the sequence i_a in a truly Hurrian word. It occurs 
preferably in detectable loanwords.

Very speculatively, it's possible that kinahhi "Cananean" is from some kind 
of Hatti or para-Hatti language.
If we compare Greek phoinikos < *khwoinik- with kinahhi, then we see two 
sound changes khw- > -k- and k- > -hh-
These changes can also be found in Hatti. For example kati "wheat". Cf. 
*kwoit- from which English wheat is derived. Possibly a wanderwort.
You can also compare Greek basi-leus < Mycenian qa-si-re-u where qa stands 
for labio-velar kwa. Now you can compare *kwasi- with Hatti katti "king".
All these "chance coincidences" are intriguing.
It's possible that Hatti originally had some presence or extension in 
North-Western Syria.

That analysis works well only if Hebrew ayin is representing a Hurrian vowel 
there.  And ([Y]LM at Genesis 14: 1, 9 looks like a dead ringer for at least 
having the same spelling as the Hurrian word for “Elam”, E-la-mi, if and 
only if the Hebrew ayin is representing a Hurrian vowel.  And besides, 
Phoenician and Punic did the same darn thing:  “Ayin seems to be written [in 
Phoenician names] for an “a” vowel P‘DY (P lx) and probably [the second 
ayin] in BD‘$T‘RT (P lx).  It records an “e” vowel in G‘R$TRT…and in YBR‘K 
(P lx).”  Franz L. Benz, “Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic 
Inscriptions” (1982), at pp. 199-200.  “The Punic name Pdy was vocalized 
Padi, as appears from the variant spelling P‘dy, where the vowel-letter 
‘ayin indicates an a.”  Edward Lipinski, “Studies in Aramaic Inscriptions 
and Onomastics, Volume 1” (1975), at p. 130.

5.  Prof. Yigal Levin may be a bit cynical at times, but he’s not so cynical 
as to think that the gold standard for etymologies of BR$( is HALOT’s 

HALOT seems to take pride in the fact that it has  n-e-v-e-r  considered a 
Hurrian etymology for most of the 27 names in the Patriarchal narratives 
that I myself see as being Hurrian names.  But since HALOT has never 
considered a possibly Hurrian derivation, then why should anyone -- whether 
Professor Yigal Levin or anyone else -- blindly accept HALOT’s proposed 
etymology of “Arabic…ugly”?

6.  Dr. Fournet, don’t you think it’s strange that not a single university 
scholar has ever  a-s-k-e-d  whether the names of the nefarious members of 
the coalition of four attacking rulers at Genesis 14: 1, 9 may be pejorative 
nicknames?  Doesn’t that seem a strange oversight on behalf of the entire 
academic community?  Yet just as surely, don’t you think it’s equally 
strange that  a-l-l  scholars rush to assert that the names of the members 
of the league of five defending parties, who like Abraham oppose the 
depredations of the feared four attacking rulers, allegedly have the most 
pejorative nicknames ever created in mankind’s long history?  If you don’t 
like HALOT’s brilliant etymology of BR$(, then do you prefer Gesenius:  “Son 
of Iniquity”?  And do you think Gesenius has it exactly right for BR( as 
well:  “Son of Evil”?  Aren’t those etymologies an embarrassment to the 
academic community?  Or at least, shouldn’t they be?
I suppose that you can probably find even worse, considering that people 
have kept writing on that topic for two thousand years. Some of them were 
crazy or incompetent, so I guess there is plenty of material to exhibit in a 
Museum of Horrors.
I'm ok with considering that BR$ and BR( are Semitic names derived from the 
Proto-Semitic root B_r "strong, powerful".

Meanwhile, not a single scholar has ever asked if KDRL(MR MLK (LM at Genesis 
14: 1, 9 is a nasty Biblical nickname that is a Ugaritic curse:  kdr l (mr 
mlk (lm.  Why not?  It’s a spectacular 13-letter match.  And not a single 
university scholar has ever let slip to the freshmen that the name of the 
older brother whom Suppiluliuma ruthlessly murdered to seize the Hittite 
throne, shortly before launching the Great Syrian War, at the invitation of 
the king of Ugarit, in Year 14 [with Genesis 14: 5 even setting forth the 
e-x-a-c-t  year of the Great Syrian War in western Syria], is a 4-letter 
exact match, per Ugaritic spelling [where the Hebrew ayin here is 
representing a Hittite voiced velar fricative]:  TD(L.  Gary A. Rendsburg, 
Aaron D. Rubin and John Huehnergard, “A Proper View of Arabic, Semitic, and 
More”, Journal of the American Oriental Society 128.3 (2008), at pp. 537-8.

7.  I’m not pretending that Prof. Yigal Levin accepts Jim Stinehart’s views 
of these matters.  But Prof. Yigal Levin’s post is, in my opinion, good 
evidence that Prof. Levin gives zero credibility to any proposed etymology 
of BR$( that is ultra-absurd on its face, and that obviously has never 
considered a Hurrian derivation, such as HALOT’s “Arabic…ugly”.  Prof. Levin 
is not that cynical.  No way.
I'll let that be.
"Apprenez que tout flatteur vit aux depens de celui qui l'écoute." La 
Fontaine, The crow and the fox.

Arnaud Fournet 

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