[b-hebrew] Asher again

Arnaud Fournet fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr
Thu Jul 15 11:07:37 EDT 2010

----- Original Message ----- 
From: JimStinehart at aol.com
To: fournet.arnaud at wanadoo.fr ; uzisilber at gmail.com
Cc: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2010 4:13 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Asher again

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 

A general problem I see here is that during the Mitanni Period, the 
Hurrian-Mitanni upper-class bore Indo-Aryan sounding names.
You may agree or disagree that this upper-class was actually able to speak 
some Indo-Aryan language on a regular basis. But the fact *is* that these 
people bore Indo-Aryan sounding  names and they did not bear Hurrian 
sounding names.
For that matter it strikes me as a major historical contradiction that 
upper-class people involved in whatever "Hurrian" conquest or supremacy at 
that time would be referred to with Hurrian names.
In my opinion you have a major problem here in your approach.
We expect Indo-Aryan sounding names and the fact is what we have is 
Indo-Aryan names in that period.

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.
In all cases, there is no real proof that people would write vowels in 
Semitic alphabets that early.
You have to prove that ability first.
So Ea be it *[eja] or *[ija] or the like should logically be written <?_y_?> 
with implicit i_a vowels.
Ugaritic has three different alephs to solve that problem. [?i-] [?a-] and 
I'm not aware that any alphabet but Ugaritic ever used that system.

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?
If we follow the logic of Arabic writing, Hurrian [i] should be written with 
Aleph plus implicit i.
This is the kind of writing we should expect from early Semitic scribes.
Early Semitic writing worked that way.

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.
This choice is attested nowhere with certainty.
It's not brilliant, it's artificial.
There is no tradition nor attestation this ever happened, and that it ever 
happened so early.

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 direct equivalent of Hurrian short [i] is vowel [i] which Egyptian 
hieroglyphs and early Semitic writing and present day Arabic don't bother 

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.

There is utterly no reason why this letter should be used to write -i-.
Hurrian probably had long vowels at least at a phonetic level (and possibly 
phonemic level). It's completely artificial to imagine they would write 
short -i- and not the other vowels, some of them being long.
You either write no vowel (Egyptian way), or only the long vowels (Arabic 
and early semitic way) or all vowels (Greek way).
But you don't write only short -i- with Ayin, this is nonsense.

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 match).

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.

As stated before in a previous mail, your interpretation of these names as 
Hurrian is not acceptable on purely phonetic grounds.
They are not Hurrian and there is no room to doubt that they are decidedly 
and definitely not Hurrian for consistent and conclusive reasons.
In addition these names should be Indo-Aryan sounding.
So the conclusion is that these names do not refer to persons who have 
anything to do with Mitanni and Hurrian people.


Arnaud Fournet

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