[b-hebrew] Addition of Heh to names

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sun Apr 24 10:08:37 EDT 2011

Hi Gad,

As I just noticed that besides coming down on you for not signing your full
name, no-one actually answered your question, I'll give it a shot. 

Av-ram (and Aviram as well) falls into a well-documented type of Western
Semitic "theophoric" names (that is, names that include a divine name or
title, usually with a verb or adjective), in which the divine is expressed
in terms of kinship: "My father (the god) is high/exalted". Abi-melekh: "My
father is king". Compare the well-known Phoenician "Ahiram" - "My brother is
high". As such, Abram is a fairly common name. 

Av-ra-ham is more complicated. As such, it is not known outside of the
Bible. Scholars are divided over whether it is a by-form of Avram, perhaps
reflecting a dialect or a spelling convention, or whether the element
"raham" actually means something. We do not know of "raham" meaning
"multitude" in Hebrew or any related language. 

Sarah simply means "ruler/officer" in the feminine, and is occasionally
attested as a personal name in ANE languages. "Sarai" seems to simply be a
by-form, with no specific different meaning. It is interesting to note that
Sarah's sister-in-law Milkah, wife of Nahor Abraham's brother, has a name
that means basically the same thing. 

Of course the whole idea of God "changing" their names is a sign of their
"belonging" to God. God also names Isaac and Ishmael, and changes Yeshua
bin-Nun to Yehoshua (Joshua). Necho and Nebuchadnezzer do the same to their
vassals the kings of Judah. And God commands Adam to name the animals as a
sign of his mastery over them.

Hope that helped.

Yigal Levin

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Zack .
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2011 9:46 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Addition of Heh to names

The Bibles tells us that with the move to monotheism the names of Avram and
Sarai were changed to Avraham and Sarah.

I wonder whether other than the biblical explanation and story, were the
heh-less names of Avram and Sarai typical in the region at large and has the
addition of hehs to names been a convention seen elsewhere or having a
significance other than that of the biblical context? Would it have a known
semantic evolution, characteristic or significance of no religious
conotation or explanation?

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