[b-hebrew] Ephron

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Jun 22 10:12:32 EDT 2010

Professor Yigal Levin:
1.  You wrote:  “Jim, if we are to assume, as you do, that the patriarchal 
narratives are historical, than it would hardly matter if at birth Ephron's 
parents named him "Bambi" or "Lord". He could still grow up to be a big man. 
Using his assumed status as an adult in order to understand his name would 
only work if you assumed that his name reflected his adult status. This 
could only be true either if the name that the story gives him is a literary 
device meant to sharpen the message (very common in the Bible - we've recently 
discussed the same feature in Ruth)….”
Yes, virtually all of the names in the Patriarchal narratives are 
Patriarchal nicknames.  As in the Book of Ruth, almost all of the names in the 
Patriarchal narratives reflect a key aspect of the person’s role as an adult in 
the Patriarchal narratives.  The Patriarchal narratives are full of 
sophisticated literary techniques like that.  The Hebrew author did not passively 
record, as an altruistic antiquarian, what literally happened.  No one on earth 
did that in the Late Bronze Age.  There’s no way that a Hebrew author would 
give the imperious great lord who sells Abraham Sarah’s gravesite a west 
Semitic name meaning “Bambi”.  Not!
The Patriarchal narratives cannot possibly be 1st millennium BCE mythology, 
given the incredibly detailed knowledge of the world of the mid-14th 
century BCE that jumps out at us on virtually every page of the text. 
2.  You continued:  “…or that "Ephron" is actually not a name but a title. 
The latter would seem to be negated by the use of the patronymic "Ephron 
ben Coxar".”
Perhaps we can discuss the name CXR/Zohar in a later post.  Just like 
Ephron, the name CXR makes perfect sense in Hurrian, while not having an 
appropriate meaning in west Semitic.  Same.
3.  You wrote:  “Second, I'm not at all sure that Ephron was as prominent 
as Jim thinks. All the text says is that he owned a field with a cave in it 
outside of town. So he wasn't dirt-poor. If the only alternative that he was 
filthy rich?”
Are you kidding?  Only the top Hurrian in this Hurrian-dominated city, “the 
great (Hurrian) lord”/ep-ri-ni/(PRWN, would have the power and authority to 
sell land to a tent-dwelling outsider.  The Hurrian ruling class was 
extremely thin.  Each city with a Hurrian princeling ruler may have had only one 
or two Hurrian families, with all the underlings being indigenous Canaanites. 
 In order for tent-dwelling Abraham to buy real estate, he had to deal with 
this imperious Hurrian magnate. 

4.  You wrote:  "Heth" is the second "son" of Canaan in Gen. 10:15.”
That has nothing to do with the Patriarchal narratives.  That’s your 1st 
millennium BCE mythology, big as life.
5.  You wrote:  “In almost all of the lists of the peoples of Canaan, the 
Hittites are included, beginning with Gen. 15:20.  This means that TO THE 
BIBLICAL AUTHOR, the Hittites were Canaanites.”
Where are you getting that?  The text says  n-o-t-h-i-n-g  of the sort!  
Genesis 15: 18 clearly and unequivocally refers to “this land, from the river 
of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” [ESV].  The peoples in 
that huge swath of territory include, among others, (i) the classic Hittites, 
who had just now [in the mid-14th century BCE] conquered most of Syria;  (ii) 
the Rephaim, who literally are the Hurrian charioteer maryannu, and who as 
such represent the Hurrians generally, in particular the Hurrian 
mercenaries/princelings who dominated much of Canaan and the Transjordan in the 
mid-14th century BCE [as we know from the Amarna Letters, and who are alternatively 
referred to at Genesis 23: 3 as being the “sons of the Hittites”, or just “
Hittites” for short], but also the many Hurrians who lived in Syria [for 
the Rephaim, see e.g. Anson Rainey, “The Military Personnel of Ugarit”, in “
Journal of Near Eastern Studies”, Vol. 24, No. ½ (Jan.-Apr., 1965), at pp. 
19-21, 24];  (iii) the Amorites, who were primarily located in Lebanon [though 
there were also some Amorite princeling landowners in Canaan as well];  and 
(iv) the “Girgashites”, that is the Gasgeans, who are referenced in Amarna 
Letters EA 1: 38 and EA 31: 25, who lived just north of the Hittites, and 
who had recently threatened to wipe out the Hittites completely [as reflected 
in Amarna Letter EA 31].  The Hittites, the Rephaim/Hurrians, and the 
Gasgeans were not Canaanites.  Rather, they were non-Canaanites who lived between 
Egypt and the Euphrates River.  [True, the nomenclature in Genesis 
regarding the Hurrians can be a bit confusing, as the Hurrians are referred to as 
the Rephaim here and at Genesis 14: 5, as the Hurrians at Genesis 14: 6, as 
the “sons of the Hittites” at Genesis 23: 3, and most confusingly as just the 
“Hittites” for short in chapters 23, 26 and 27 of Genesis.]  The 
Canaanites are, of course, also listed here, but as a people who are clearly distinct 
from the other peoples who are listed.  The Canaanites are indigenous 
people who were native west Semitic speakers, and had nothing to do whatsoever 
with the Hittites.  
Professor, Genesis 15: 18-21 is a comprehensive listing of all 10 peoples 
who were located between Egypt and the Euphrates River, and who seemed to be “
in play”, in Year 15 of pharaoh Akhenaten’s troubled 17-year reign.  Only 
1 of these 10 named peoples are indigenous Canaanites:  the “Canaanites”.  
[The Amorites were west Semitic speakers in and from Lebanon;  the 
Perizzites were non-indigenous modest people who were now living in Canaan and 
adopting west Semitic.  The other 4 named peoples lived in the now vulnerable 
areas just north of Canaan:  1 in the Beqa Valley, 1 in the northern 
Transjordan, and 2 in southern Syria.]  In Year 15, there was a realistic possibility 
that Egypt’s influence over all 10 of these peoples would be irrevocably lost 
to the seemingly unstoppable Hittite war machine.  While making perfect 
historical sense in Year 15, this listing of 10 peoples makes little sense in 
any other historical time period.  Nobody in the 1st millennium BCE 
remembered, or cared a hoot about, the Gasgeans, for heaven’s sake.
6.  You wrote:  “I don't deny that there were Anatolian elements within the 
population of Canaan or "Hurrian" names in the Amarna letters. However 
Abdi-Hepa is NEVER accused of having Hatti loyalties, something that his enemies 
would be quick to point out. There is no evidence of any Anatolians living 
in large numbers or as a recognizable community in Canaan. And so there's no 
reason from within the Bible to assume that the author thought that, say, 
the "Bene Heth" of Hebron, of whom Ephron was one, were anything else than 
Yikes!  Abdi-Heba wasn’t a Hittite from Anatolia!  Abdi-Heba was a 
displaced Hurrian mercenary from Syria.  “They [the Hurrians] are found in Canaan as 
members of the ruling elite.  …The cause of the migration(s) [of Hurrians 
from Syria into Canaan beginning in the early 14th century BCE] was probably 
not a Mittanian policy of expansion but rather a movement of surplus 
mercenaries, seeking new homes in the southern Levant.”  Anson Rainey, “The Sacred 
Bridge” (2006), at p. 76.  The name Abdi-Heba honors the Hurrian goddess 
Heba/Khipa.  [Note how B and P are interchangeable in Hurrian, and how 
spellings vary.]  Most Hurrians in the mid-14th century BCE truly hated the 
Hittites, who had just now destroyed the Hurrian great power state of NHRYM/Mitanni 
in the Great Syrian War.
You unwittingly make my point when you state, correctly, that “There is no 
evidence of any Anatolians living in large numbers or as a recognizable 
community in Canaan.”  That’s for sure.  But there’s incontrovertible evidence 
that Hurrian princelings dominated Canaan in the mid-14th century BCE.  They’
re referred to at Genesis 23: 3 as being the “sons of the Hittites”, 
because the Hurrians, while being non-Semitic speakers like the Hittites whose 
colorful culture was to a large extent adopted by the Hittites, had just now 
become junior to, or “sons of”, the Hittites regarding control of Syria.  
These ubiquitous Hurrian princelings in Canaan had Hurrian [not Hittite!] 
non-Semitic names in the Amarna Letters:  Biridiya, Biryawaza, Yasdata [who may 
possibly be the Hurrian princeling ruler of Rubutu in the Aijalon Valley], 
Shuwardata, Arsawuya, Mayarzana, Satatna, Turbazu, Endaruta, Yamiuta, 
Zirdamyasda, etc.  The ruler in the Amarna Letters of the city 20 miles south of 
Jerusalem, which city was then called Qiltu and was later called XBRN/Hebron, 
was a Hurrian:  Shuwardata.  Shuwardata of XBRN or Yasdata of RB + T 
[Rubutu]:  that’s the type of great Hurrian lord that Abraham had the unfortunate 
pleasure of dealing with.
7.  If a tent-dweller like Abraham wanted to buy land for a gravesite in 
the mid-14th century BCE, he would likely have to deal with an imperious 
Hurrian princeling, a great Hurrian lord in the southern half of Canaan, who 
would bear a classic Hurrian name like ep-ri-ni/(PRWN, which fittingly means “
the great (Hurrian) lord”.  Yes, it’s a Patriarchal nickname, but it makes 
sense in one, and only one, tiny period of time in the secular history of the 
ancient world [far removed in time and memory from the 1st millennium BCE 
world of JEP]:  the mid-14th century BCE of the Amarna Letters.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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