[b-hebrew] Sahaduta at Genesis 31: 47

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jul 14 12:28:10 EDT 2010

Dear Dr. Fournet:
1.  You wrote:  “Something that puzzles me is that a Hurrian or Mitanni 
Aryan could be attested as late as the 1st millenium BCE.”
In my view, the Patriarchal narratives were composed in the mid-14th 
century BCE, and have no knowledge of the 1st millennium BCE (except for a handful 
of later editorial additions).  For a small sampling of the evidence I have 
to support that dating, see my earlier post today to Uzi.
2.  You wrote:  “Leaving that aside, another issue is that NHRYM cannot be 
completely equated with Mitanni or Hurrian-peopled areas.”
NHRYM is all over the Amarna Letters, with that precise meaning.  Amarna 
Letters EA 75: 39;  EA 140: 32;  EA 194: 23;  EA 288: 35.  NHRYM is vintage 
mid-14th century BCE nomenclature for Mitanni in eastern Syria.
3.  You wrote:  “Actually TeSSub is a thunder-god.  Apart from that minor 
issue, the problem is that -ta or maybe even -tta with a geminate can only be 
suffixed to a passive verb or an intransitive verb. In addition this kind 
of person-name formation is unattested.  Personally I would favor a purely 
Indo-Aryan analysis: Su-war-da-ta, Su-ar-da-ta "given by the sun".  It's 
unclear to which extent Sahaduta can be equated with *suwardata.  This would 
entail that Sahaduta is a distortion of an original *suhadata.  What is 
interesting is that the laryngeal of "sun" *saH2w- seems to be still there!?  All 
this would be coherent with this name being very much older than the 1st 
millenium. I have no idea if we have the right to push the dating back that much.”
As I noted in my earlier post today to Uzi, there are many reasons for 
viewing the Patriarchal narratives as having been composed in the mid-14th 
century BCE.  Your main point seems to be that the presence of a Sanskrit word 
Sahaduta used by a Hurrian is out of place in the 1st millennium BCE.  I agree 
completely!  But consider that the  o-n-l-y  time in 5,000 years of human 
history when Hurrian princelings were widespread throughout Canaan was the 
14th century BCE.  So the only time when it makes sense for a Biblical text 
like the Patriarchal narratives to have so many Hurrian words is precisely if 
such text was composed in the mid-14th century BCE.
4.  You wrote:  “This meaning is not possible.  Hurrian never had 
person-names with that syntax or formation.”
You may well be right about that.  But then again, the early Hebrew author 
of the Patriarchal narratives was no expert in Hurrian.  He only knew a few 
Hurrian words.  He might well have known the Hurrian princeling name 
$u-wa-ar-da-ta/$u-ar-da-ti, because that princeling in Year 13 lost Qiltu (later 
called the city of Hebron, 20 miles south of Jerusalem), operated in the 
Shephelah (at or near where the Patriarchs’ “Hebron” was located) while trying 
to find some non-Hurrian allies, and then ended up at the end of Year 13 
having regained Qiltu/Hebron in hill country, but only after embracing as allies 
the Hurrian princelings referenced in Amarna Letter EA 366: 20-28:  
IR-Heba, Surata, and Endaruta.  Sahaduta at Genesis 31: 47 can be seen as being a 
variant of Suwardata.  If the Biblical name is improper Hurrian as to syntax 
or formation, we must remember that (i) the name is Sanskrit, as filtered 
though the Hurrians, not Hurrian per se, and (ii) the early Hebrew author was 
no linguistic expert, knew very few Sanskrit words and very few Hurrian 
words, and was simply trying to come up with a word which would sound like a 
Sanskrit word the Hurrians might use, and which would have an appropriate 
5.  Your post seemed to focus on the issue of dating, more than on purely 
linguistic issues.  In order to keep my own post fairly short, I have 
responded primarily regarding the issue of dating, which is an issue I have studied 
for many years.  When I have time, I will re-examine the linguistic issues 
here.  I am only gradually coming to appreciate the subtleties of Hurrian 
and the Hurrian use of Sanskrit.  Both of those languages are totally 
different than Hebrew.  Moreover, I have recently modified my prior views as to how 
Hurrian words were rendered in Biblical Hebrew, and I have not yet gone back 
to re-examine my old analysis of Sahaduta on that basis.  
For example, the Hurrian W plays several different roles in Hurrian, and it’
s not immediately obvious how an early Hebrew author who knew only a little 
Hurrian might react to that.  The Hebrew vav/W in $HDWT) at Genesis 31: 47 
may be more important than I originally thought.
But let me react tentatively to your fascinating comment:  “What is 
interesting is that the laryngeal of "sun" *saH2w- seems to be still there!?  All 
this would be coherent with this name being very much older than the 1st 
If *saH2w- is in the Biblical word $HDWT), then the literal meaning could 
be “sun” or “sky”, and the implied meaning could be “the 
sky-god/thunder-god (Tessup)”, who was the main Hurrian god.  So instead of your “given by 
the sun”, which is a more literal meaning, the implied meaning could be “
given by the (Hurrian) sky-god (Tessup)”.  If Biblical $HDWT) has a similar 
meaning to Suwardata, and if one then pairs that with the Hebrew word YGR 
meaning “fear”, then one gets the following Biblical phrase at Genesis 31: 47:  “
fear, given by the (Hurrian) sky-god (Tessup)”.  That could be an 
appropriate oath (primarily in Hurrian, using Sanskrit, but being preceded by a west 
Semitic word) for bi-lingual Laban to give in a mid-14th century BCE 
historical context.  A few lines later, at Genesis 31: 53, Jacob mentions the “fear 
of his father Isaac”, which ambiguous phrase may imply:  “fear, being the 
righteous fear of YHWH that Jacob shared with his father Isaac”.  That’s 
roughly comparable to a Hurrian phrase “fear, given by the (Hurrian) sky-god 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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