[b-hebrew] Initial Consonant Clusters in Biblical Hebrew

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Jun 13 09:07:01 EDT 2010



Yitzhak Sapir:
 
You wrote:  “There is no evidence at all that the Kassite name for Babylonia - Karaduniash - ever had an /sh/ in the first or second syllable.  It wasn't Ka-shraduniash,
or Kash-raduniash,  or Ka-sh-raduniash.  There was simply no /sh/ at all.  Even if there were, it would not be transcribed in Hebrew as Ka&dim.  It is not "likely" that there was an /sh/ either.  You and Karl and James have a habit of saying something is likely when really you have no evidence for it at all.  That's now [not?] how it works in scholarship!  In scholarship, something is likely if you can show evidence that it is reasonable and likely.  If your evidence that the Kassite name for Babylonia had a /sh/ is from the Hebrew name Ka&dim, then that makes your theory circular.”
 
A.  For starters, you are factually wrong about the evidence for the scholarly view that K$DYM is a forerunner of the name Kaldu.  If pressed, scholars will admit that there is  n-o-t-h-i-n-g  in the secular history of the ancient world to support their view as to that.  There is not a single inscription from the ancient world (excluding the Bible) that ever refers to the Chaldeans by using a term that has $ or %, etc., instead of L, for the second consonant in their name.  Historically, the Chaldeans were Kaldu from day #1.
 
B.  Since this is the second time that you have in effect asked me for my analysis of K$DYM at Genesis 11: 28, 31, I hope the moderators will allow me to set it forth here.
 
(1)  As previously noted, Ka-$ra in the original Kassite likely came out as Ka-ra in the Akkadian cuneiform of the Amarna Letters sent from Kassite Babylonia.  The Akkadian scribes had dropped the shin/$ in order to avoid a very awkward consonant cluster in the Kassite pronunciation.  Adding back in that dropped shin/$ restores Ka-$ra.  [Compare Ka-$a-ra in Sanskrit, being the auspicious 7th mountain in the Rig Veda.  But in Kassite it was likely only two syllables:  Ka-$ra.  In Sanskrit, it is perhaps possible that it could even have been a single syllable!  Kr$a is well-attested in Sanskrit (though possibly there may be an undisclosed syllable break).  In any event, it is absolutely clear that $ra is one of the most common single syllables in the entire Sanskrit language, which indeed is one of the signature elements [along with similar consonant clusters like BRA, GRA, PRA, etc.] of all Indo-European languages.  Accordingly, it is likely that the Kassites, whose names are often based on Sanskrit words, could effortlessly pronounce $ra as a single syllable, just as we can in English (so very unlike Semitic speakers), such as shrill, shriek, shrewd, shredded, etc.]   The Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives chose to render this portion of the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia as Ka-$a, so that his Hebrew audience would easily make the connection between the Ka$-$u people [“Kassites” in English], and the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia.
 
We have so far accounted for the first two letters of the name K$DYM at Genesis 11: 28, 31.  The name at Amarna Letter EA 200: 9 is Ka-ra-du-ni-a$;  and at Amarna Letter EA 255: 21 it’s Ka-ra-du-ni-ia-a$.  But as to those first two syllables, Ka-ra in the Amarna Letters reflects an original Ka-$ra in Kassite, and the Hebrew version of that is Ka-$a [not Ka-ra].  The Hebrew author may not have known that Ka-ra was an Akkadian simplification of Kassite Ka-$ra.  But the Hebrew author needed to make sure that his Hebrew audience would know that he was talking about Ur in contemporary [Late Bronze Age] times, under the Kassites, not ancient Ur which, in the Early Bronze Age, had dominated all of Mesopotamia.  So the Hebrew author brilliantly chose to use Ka-$a as the first two syllables of the Hebrew version of the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia.  The Hebrew author himself knew the name Karaduniash from the Amarna Letters, but not many other early Hebrews knew that strange name of that very faraway place.  Given the specific situation, it made sense for the Hebrew author to choose to deviate from the Akkadianized version of the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia in the Amarna Letters.
 
(2)  Now let’s move on, at long last, to analyzing the rest of the name Ka-ra-du-ni-ia-a$ in the Akkadian cuneiform of the Amarna Letters [known by the Hebrew author of Genesis 11: 28, 31, but likely not known by most of his Hebrew audience].  The third and fourth syllables, du-ni, probably derive from dun, attested in Hurrian, and ultimately deriving from Sanskrit “tanoti” [with Kassite names often being based on Sanskrit words], meaning “to win, overpower” and/or “to stretch, extend”.  From the Fournet/Bomhard Hurrian language website:
 
“du-ú-n- (< *t‚-) ‘to win, to overpower’ (Catsanicos 1996) *ten-/*ton-/*t‚- ‘to stretch, to extend’ (Pokorny 1959:1065—1066; Walde 1927—1932.I:722—724; Mann 1984—1987:1379, 1381, 1382, 1403, 1404, 1404—1405, and 1405) Sanskrit ‘tanóti’ ‘to extend, to spread, to stretch; to be protracted, to continue, to endure; to put forth; (passive) to be put forth or extended, to increase’”
 
The Kassites had a unique god named “Duniash”, featuring du-ni, and indeed being the same as everything in Karaduniash after the initial Ka-ra.  With dun as the root, and –iash as a standard Kassite suffix, that Kassite god’s name likely meant “Overpowerer”.  The unique part of that god’s name was dun, which per the foregoing Hurrian analysis appears to be based on the Sanskrit word tanoti.  [Our knowledge of Kassite is largely limited to names of Kassite gods and kings, so any Kassite analysis must rely heavily on such names.]  
 
Regarding the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia, the meaning is that the Ka$-$u people, being the Zagros Mountain people, now “extend”/dun to, and/or have “overpowered”/dun, the low-lying plain of southern Mesopotamia.
 
Although in full form this word dun includes an N, we know that in an abbreviated form it can be merely Du- or tu-, or even just D- or t-.  That is to say, the key part of this component of the Kassite name for Kassite Babylonia was D [ignoring vowel sounds].  So the third key consonant in the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia is dalet/D.
 
(3)  Thus we have now isolated the three key consonants in the Kassite name for Kassite Babylonia.  The first two key consonants are Ka-$a [using neutral vowels to show the syllable breaks].  [This compares to Ka-ra in the Amarna Letters, and Ka-$ra in the original Kassite.]  The only other key consonant is then Da.  [This corresponds to du-ni in the Amarna Letters.  We are ignoring the particular vowel sounds (since unpointed Hebrew text does not show vowels), so the U after the D is irrelevant.  Although the N would be there in full form, scholars agree that the N is not necessary.]
 
In Hebrew we have K$-D + standard Hebrew ending, as the Hebraized version of the Kassite name for Kassite Babylonia at Genesis 11: 28, 31.
 
(4)  One standard Hebrew suffix to indicate a people or country was –YM.  We see that suffix -YM for the Rephaim [RP) + YM], Egypt [MCR + YM], and Naharim [NHR + YM].  [The –YM suffix here is comparable to “ites” in English, as in the English word “Kassites”, where the “Kass-“ portion is a transliteration of the Kassite language pronunciation, but the “-ites” portion, by contrast, is pure English and has nothing to do with anything in the Kassite language.] 
 
(5)  Conclusion.  If the Hebrew author of Genesis 11: 28, 31 lived in the Late Bronze Age and was brilliant and wanted to create a Hebraized version of the Kassite name of Kassite Babylonia, the best possible result would be what we see in the received text of Genesis:  K$DYM.  That’s K$-D + YM.  The K$ represents Ka-$a, for the Ka$-$u people from the Zagros Mountains [where ku-$a in Sanskrit refers to fine, sharp qualities of a mountain, and Ka-$a-ra is even better, being the wondrous 7th mountain in the Rig Veda], and [whether knowingly or not] is a slightly simplified version of the Kassite 2-syllable version of Sanskrit Ka-$a-ra:  Ka-$ra.  The D represents Du, and is an abbreviated version of Du-ni [also from Sanskrit], where the nun/N was optional.  D- means “extend” or “overpower”, as the Zagros Mountain people now “extend” to, having “overpowered”, southern Mesopotamia.  The –YM suffix is one of the standard Hebrew suffixes for a people or country.
 
We have explained all 5 letters in K$DYM, and all 3 components of the name:  K$ + D + YM.  K$DYM at Genesis 11: 28, 31 makes perfect sense as the ideal Hebrew rendering of the Kassite name for Kassite Babylonia.  
 
Based on what is historically attested, it’s clear that K$DYM at Genesis 11: 28, 31 is a fine early Hebrew rendering of the Kassite name for Kassite Babylonia, with there being no historical anachronism of any type.  The second letter is shin/$, in order to make sure that the Hebrew audience knows that this is Ur of the Kassites/Ka$-$u, not Ur of the Sumerians.  The reference to the Kassites for the original Hebrew audience, and for us today, is explicitly telling us the time period of the Patriarchal Age and of the composition of the Patriarchal narratives:  the Late Bronze Age.  It’s not 1st millennium BCE fiction, as scholars would have it.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois



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