[b-hebrew] Seir and El Paran

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 15 07:29:45 EST 2010

Dr. Fournet:
You wrote:  “That place so far south cannot have a Hurrian name, unless Hurrians would have created it, which sounds beyond believable.  I still do not understand why and how Hurrians would have massively occupied these places so far south.”
1.  $(-R Is Not Too Far South
We know from Amarna Letter EA 197 that Hurrian maryannu operated in the central Transjordan, south of Ashteroth.  The $e-e-ri referred to by IR Heba of Jerusalem is likely the city north of the Dead Sea whose later name was Jazer.  The ruins of Jazer are called %R or CR, which vaguely recalls its original name.  Moran at p. 392 states as to $e-e-ri:  “perhaps Biblical Seir”.  So $(-R or $(-YR at Genesis 14: 6 is probably the city whose later name was Jazer.  Although Seir is traditionally thought to be southeast of the Dead Sea, in the Patriarchal narratives “Seir”/$erri must be located in Gilead, north of the Dead Sea [at or near the city later called “Jazer”, an important locale not too far from IR-Heba’s Jerusalem], because when Jacob is in the hill country of central Transjordan east of Shechem [15 miles north of Jazer] upon returning from Naharim in chapters 32 and 33 of Genesis, Jacob cannot avoid meeting his estranged older twin brother Esau coming up north from “Seir” or $(-R or $(-YR or $e-e-ri or $e-e-ir-ri.  Genesis 33: 14
2.  )L P-)R-N Is Not Too Far South
The traditional view is that this somehow refers to the far-off Gulf of Aqaba, but there is no linguistic, textual or historical support for such view.  Rather, this and the preceding geographical place name at Genesis 14: 6 are referring to Hurrian names of places in the central Transjordan, south of Ashteroth, in the mid-14th century BCE.  The first element of this Hurrian name, ’L/eli, may form the basis of the later west Semitic name of this city, ’L‘LH/Elealah, at Numbers 32: 3.  That city is located southeast of Jazer, near the desert, and as such fits Genesis 14: 6 perfectly.
It’s not surprising that after the Hurrians disappeared from the Transjordan and Canaan after the 14th century BCE, most of the places that had had Hurrian names changed their names to west Semitic names.  $(-R/“Seir” became Jazer, and )L P-)R-N/eli pu-ur-ni became Elealah.  But back in the mid-14th century BCE, at the time of the Amarna Letters, when the Hurrians were still at their height, these places in the central Transjordan had had Hurrian names, as Genesis 14: 6 reports with pinpoint historical accuracy.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list