[b-hebrew] Asher again

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jul 15 10:13:15 EDT 2010

Dr. Fournet:
The key to the exact dating of the composition of chapter 14 of Genesis is 
to determine whether or not the four personal names of the five rebellious 
parties at Genesis 14: 2 are Hurrian names (that is, Hurrian common words 
being used as apt nicknames for Hurrian princelings).  If the league of five 
rebellious parties consists of Hurrian princelings, then that would be a 
perfect match to the Great Syrian War in western Syria in the mid-14th century 
BCE.  Determining whether the four names at Genesis 14: 2 are Hurrian common 
words, which are being used as apt nicknames for Hurrian princelings, in turn 
depends primarily upon figuring out what Hebrew letter an early Hebrew 
author would choose to represent the Hurrian vowel i.  As you note, the most 
obvious choice would be yod, because the sound is somewhat similar.  But that 
would not be the best choice, as we will now see.
First let’s look at pp. 20-22 of the Fournet/Bomhard Hurrian language 
website, where we see the following:  “RS 24.261 in Laroche (1968:499—504) “
Sacrifice to Astarte-Šauška”:  “…iyd…to E(y)a….”  “iydm…and to Ea….”
The god Ea was important, being mentioned repeatedly in the Mitanni Letter 
[Amarna Letter EA 24, from the mid-14th century BCE].  If the Hebrew author 
had picked yod to represent Hurrian i, then he could not have written the 
name Ea!  YY won’t work.  YYD won’t work as meaning “to Ea”.  But if the 
ayin were picked to represent Hurrian i, then everything works perfectly, as (Y 
means “Ea”, spelled iy in Hurrian.
The common Hurrian word for “which” is the same problem.  Per p. 90 of the 
Fournet/Bomhard Hurrian language website:  “*[ija]/[iji] ‘which’.  EL 
ya/ye <i-ya->. Often used with andi. Derivative: yame-, yeme- ‘anyone’.”
The spelling is i-ya.  If Hebrew yod represented Hurrian i, then what 
Hebrew letter would represent Hurrian y?
We see that it is not self-evident that it would be superior to use Hebrew 
yod to represent Hurrian i, rather than, as on my view, using Hebrew ayin to 
represent Hurrian i.
Note also that many, many Hurrian words feature an i as the initial letter, 
which is a syllable in and of itself.  For all of the following Hurrian 
words, an initial Hebrew yod would work very poorly, because in Hebrew an 
initial yod is a true consonant, not a vowel indicator.  Per pp. 89-91 of F/B:  
(i) i-ya, (ii) i-t-, (iii) i-ki, (iv) i-$a-a-we, (v) i-$a-a$, (vi) 
i-$i-ik-ku-un-n, and (vii) i-zu-u-zi
So although a Hebrew yod is the “obvious” choice to represent the Hurrian 
vowel i, in fact it’s not the best choice.  The early Hebrew author made a 
much superior choice:  he decided to use ayin to represent Hurrian i, because 
the Hebrew ayin (unlike Hebrew yod) was not otherwise needed to represent 
any other Hurrian letter.  It was a brilliant choice.  
Hurrian was usually recorded in Akkadian cuneiform, which had no ayin.  
Hurrian itself seems to have had no ayin, except in occasional foreign proper 
names used in Hurrian.  To quote the F/B website at p. 13:  “The Ugaritic 
writing indicates that the goddess Anat, of Cananean origin, was *[«anat] with 
«ayin. There is another instance of that letter in the obscure word [t « n]. 
This is not a sufficient basis to posit that Hurrian may have had 
pharyngeal phonemes.”
Since neither Hurrian itself, nor the writing system usually used to record 
Hurrian, had an ayin, the Hebrew ayin had no natural role to play in 
recording Hurrian words.  Yet Hurrian often uses the commonplace vowel i, as to 
which there is no direct equivalent in Hebrew.  The two choices here were 
probably ayin or yod.  Although centuries later yod came to be routinely used as 
a vowel indicator in full spelling, yod did not usually function in that 
way in the old Biblical Hebrew defective spelling originally used in the 
Patriarchal narratives.  Yod as an initial letter was a true consonant in Hebrew; 
 an interior yod in the days of old defective spelling often was simply a 
way to ease pronunciation, with )BYRM likely having the identical meaning as 
)BRM, but being easier to pronounce;  and in final position it meant 
possessive or “a people”.  Moreover, as noted above regarding the Hurrian word for 
“which”, Hurrian does have y in ordinary Hurrian words, sometimes paired 
with i (!), so it would be awkward to have Hebrew yod consistently represent 
Hurrian i.  But with Hebrew ayin otherwise having no role to play in setting 
forth Hurrian words, it made sense to choose Hebrew ayin, rather than 
Hebrew yod, to represent Hurrian i.
Once one realizes that Hebrew ayin is being used to represent Hurrian i, 
then it’s easy to see all four names at Genesis 14: 2 as being simple Hurrian 
common words (which are being used as appropriate nicknames for the Hurrian 
princelings who historically made up the league of five rebellious parties 
in the Great Syrian War in the Orontes River Valley in western Syria in the 
mid-14th century BCE).  Look at those four names at Genesis 14: 2, assume 
that Hebrew ayin is Hurrian i, and further assume that the Hebrew author is 
using Hurrian common words as nicknames for these Hurrian princelings.  On 
those straightforward assumptions, all four names make perfect sense as Hurrian 
common words.  BR( is ebri.  BR%( is ebri-ssi.  $M)BR is $umi-ebri.  [The 
aleph there indicates a discrete syllable ‘eb’, which is how we know to imply 
an e at the beginning of the first two words in Hurrian.  All three of 
those words are based on ebri.]  And $N)B is $ana-b.  [Note that the final vowel 
in $ani or $eni would normally be i, but for the meaning “your brother” it 
changes to a (per p. 19 of the F/B website), which is why we see the aleph 
there, not an ayin.]  The first three names effectively mean “lord” or “
Hurrian princeling”, and the fourth name means “your brother” or, in effect, “
Hurrian princeling” [because Hurrian princelings historically referred to 
each other as “brothers”].  Thus all four names at Genesis 14: 2 effectively 
mean:  “Hurrian princeling”.  The early Hebrew author is telling us that 
the league of five rebellious parties consisted of Hurrian princelings.
Analysts have missed this Hurrian analysis because, like you, they have 
always assumed that a Hurrian i would naturally be represented by Hebrew yod.  
Although that’s an “obvious” choice, it would have been a bad choice.  The 
actual decision to use Hebrew ayin to represent Hurrian i was a far superior 
choice, albeit admittedly not an obvious choice (because the sounds don’t 
So take a look at the four names at Genesis 14: 2 and think “lord” and “
brother” in Hurrian.  It’s super-simple Hurrian.  The key is simply to 
recognize that the early Hebrew author made the brilliant decision to represent 
Hurrian i by Hebrew ayin, not by Hebrew yod.     
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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