[b-hebrew] Asher again

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Jul 16 14:53:41 EDT 2010

Dr. Fournet:
You wrote:  “These people had names, why use nicknames if people have 
names. How many people in Genesis are not named by their real names?”
1.  To answer your second question first, I see only one person in the 
Patriarchal narratives as having his historical name:  )B-Y-MLK.  That’s the 
same name as the mid-14th century BCE ruler of Sur [in Greek and English, “Tyre”
] at (for example) Amarna Letter EA 149: 1.  Both in eight Amarna Letters, 
and in chapters 21 and 26 of Genesis, Abimelek is always complaining about 
not having access to water wells.  (No other character in the Amarna Letters 
or in the Bible has that complaint.)  The reason why the early Hebrew author 
of the Patriarchal narratives decided not to use a nickname for the 
princeling ruler of the arrogant island city-state of Sur was because this ruler’s 
historical name was a natural pun.  The actual meaning of )B-Y-MLK is 
probably “(the divine) Father is king”.  However, since people in southern 
Lebanon often referred to Baal as MLK, or Molech, a second, pagan meaning would be 
“(the divine) Father (is) Molech”.  Despite the second meaning which 
honors a pagan deity, the early Hebrew author liked this name, because of its 
possible third meaning:  “father of the king”.  Though that probably is not 
the real meaning, it is a possible meaning.  That highlights the possibility 
that perhaps Abimelek is the biological father of Isaac?  Or, because in fact 
Abimelek is not the biological father of Isaac, it serves to highlight the 
much more realistic view that Abraham may well have worried for years that 
perhaps Abimelek was the biological father of Isaac (since Sarah was in 
Abimelek’s bedroom right before she got pregnant with Isaac, with Sarah never 
before having succeeded in getting pregnant by Abraham).  This third-level pun 
on the name Ablimelek neatly shows one of the great tribulations that 
righteous Abraham had to endure in order to show himself worthy of being chosen 
for greatness by YHWH.
2.  All other names of individuals in the Patriarchal narratives are 
nicknames, in my view.  Many scholars have pointed out that virtually every name 
in the Patriarchal narratives fits the role that the person plays in the 
Patriarchal narratives.  Also, note that no king of Egypt is called by his 
formal historical name, but rather is referred to generically as “Pharaoh”.  
Most notably, however, all 17 names and titles of the nine contending 
rulers at Genesis 14: 1-2 are nicknames.  No Hittite king whose actual name was “
Tidal” ever did what Biblical Tidal does.  But mighty Hittite King 
Suppiluliuma I historically did everything that Biblical Tidal is portrayed as doing 
at Genesis 14: 1-11.  “Tidal” is a perfect, nasty nickname here, because 
Suppiluliuma gained the Hittite throne by the dastardly expedient of murdering 
his own older brother named “Tidal”/Tudhaliya.  So “Tidal” at Genesis 14: 
1 effectively means “Murderer”.  It’s an appropriately pejorative nickname 
for a Hittite king who was truly hated by the early Hebrew author of the 
Patriarchal narratives.  “Chedorlaomer” is a curse in Ugaritic, which is a 
suitable pejorative nickname for Ugaritic King Niqmaddu II.   “Amraphel” 
means “Amorite Splittest” in west Semitic, which is a suitable pejorative 
nickname for west Semitic-speaking Aziru, who split off the Amorite state of 
Amurru from the rest of Canaan and sold out to the Hittites.  (That’s the 
historical “iniquity of the Amorites” at Genesis 15: 16, with all of these 
various events dating to the mid-14th century BCE.)  And Arawa-ka is a Hurrian 
name.  The diminutive ending highlights the fact that this is the son, not the 
father.  As such, it’s a nasty nickname for Etakkama, a Hurrian princeling 
who was re-educated by the Hittites in eastern Anatolia, and who apparently 
left his own father high and dry up there in Anatolia, while Etakkama himself 
(the son, alone) came back and reclaimed his patrimony of Qadesh on the 
Orontes as a Hittite partisan.  (If we had time to look at the nicknames used 
for the titles of the four attacking rulers, we would see that each of the 
last three rulers is effectively called a “Hittite Puppet”, whereas the 
mighty Hittite king, Biblical “Tidal”, is appropriately called “king of nations”
3.  No one could do nicknames better than the early Hebrew author of the 
Patriarchal narratives.  The foregoing is but the tip of the iceberg.
I think I may have said enough for you to be able to see that the perfect 
generic, non-pejorative nicknames for the 4 named members of the doomed 
league of five rebellious Hurrian parties would be Hurrian common words that each 
effectively means “Hurrian princeling”.  Note that every single detail 
matches perfectly to everything we know from non-biblical sources about the 
Great Syrian War in western Syria, when the Hittites at the head of a coalition 
of four attacking rulers absolutely destroyed a league of five rebellious 
Hurrian princelings in the Orontes River Valley in Year 14 of Akhenaten’s 
troubled reign:  the “four kings against five” at Genesis 14: 9.  Every detail 
matches.  Since the rebellious princelings were Hurrians, their nicknames 
at Genesis 14: 2 need to reveal their status as being Hurrians.  That’s why 
all four personal names at Genesis 14: 2 are plays on two simple Hurrian 
words, ebri and $eni, each of which can effectively mean “Hurrian princeling”.
Every detail matches perfectly.  Two of the keys to seeing the pinpoint 
historical accuracy of the “four kings against five” at Genesis 14: 1-11 in a 
mid-14th century BCE context are as follows:  (i) recognize that all 17 
names and titles at Genesis 14: 1-2 are nicknames, and (ii) recognize that all 
four personal names at Genesis 14: 2 are Hurrian common words, rendered in 
defective early Biblical Hebrew spelling (which omits most vowels), each of 
which effectively means, as a generic, non-pejorative, apt nickname:  “Hurrian 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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