[b-hebrew] Song of Deborah

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sat Nov 19 21:07:48 EST 2011

Although II Samuel in its present form was probably pulled together late, in the 7th century BCE, are there nevertheless some parts of that text that are really old, dating all the way back to near the time of King David in the 10th century BCE?  The best way to determine that is to analyze the proper names in that Biblical text.  We know what the scholarly community has done in that regard, based on comments previously posted on this thread:  (1) “What's in a name?  Names are long-living, even if they contain long-vanished Gods as theophoric.  Names are worth almost few if anything when pondering the age of a text. With names, you can only prove that a text is young….” Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann.  (2) “The fact that ancient names are used proves nothing.”  David Steinberg.  

But has that peculiar mindset caused the scholarly community to miss all sorts of clues that parts of II Samuel are really old, and historically accurate?  Let’s take a look.

Scholars view II Samuel 24: 16 as containing a Biblical scribal error as to a proper name.  II Samuel has H-)WRN-H, with vav/W preceding resh/R, which scholars say is an error for what should be )RWN-H, where the resh/R allegedly should precede the vav/W, and where allegedly there should be no H- at the beginning [meaning “the” in Hebrew, and hence not being appropriate preceding a proper name].  By contrast, on seven occasions at II Samuel 24: 20-24 we see )RWN-H, with no H- [meaning “the” in Hebrew], and with resh/R preceding the vav/W.

HALOT is surely right in viewing )RWN as a Hurrian name [where the final -H is a Semiticization, which is also the case with “Uriah”/)WRY-H]:

“Hurr., cf. Ariwanna king of Abina in North Syria, Hitt. ariwanni free, noble…Ug. iwrn…Hurr. iwr = iwri lord” 

Note that the normal spelling of “lord” in Hurrian as a common word is iwri or ewri.  [That’s the spelling we see in “Uriah”/)WR-Y, which is Ewri-ya.]  But as a common word, there needs to be an -N suffix in Hurrian, meaning “the”;  that results in iwrn or ewrn [per HALOT above].  In a proper name, however, the consonants are often reversed in Hurrian:  “In the Nuzi dialect the form [of the Hurrian word for ‘lord’] found as an element in p[roper] n[ames] is erwi”.  Gelb & Purves, “Nuzi Proper Names”, p. 210b.  “Erwin” is a very common element in Hurrian proper names at Nuzi, meaning “the lord”.

If a Hebrew author wanted to use a Hurrian phrase to say “by the [Hurrian] lord” [with there being no proper name there at all], then the ideal way to do that is precisely what we see in the received text of II Samuel 24: 16:  H-)WRN-H, where “by” is -H in Hebrew, “the” is H- in Hebrew, and then the Hurrian word for “Hurrian lord” is used:  )WR-N, representing ewrn, which is a common way to spell “the lord” in Hurrian.  In my opinion, II Samuel 24: 16 says “by the [Hurrian] lord”, and does not set forth a proper name at all.  Then only beginning at II Samuel 24: 20 is this person’s actual name set forth, )RWN-H [“Araunah”], with the metathesis of the consonants that was commonplace at Nuzi in proper names [and without the Hebrew word for “the”, which would not be appropriate for a proper name].  The name Erwin means in Hurrian “the [Hurrian] lord”, and the -H is a Semiticization [as with “Uriah”/)WRY-H].

Rather than being a scribal error or a mistake of some kind, the received text of II Samuel 24: 16 works beautifully regarding Hurrian.  

The author of II Samuel also knew that unlike in the foregoing common word and proper name, the interior vav/W in YBWSY [“Jebusite”] is a mere vowel indicator, being an optional representation of the Hurrian vowel U:  A-bu-u-se-ya.  So it makes sense to drop that interior vav/W, as merely being a vowel indicator, which the Hebrew author of II Samuel consistently does for the proper name “Jebusite”.  Note that the interior vav/W is not dropped in either H-)WRN-H at II Samuel 24: 16 [which I see as being a phrase meaning “by the Hurrian lord”, not a proper name], or in the Hurrian proper name )RWN-H [“Erwin” with a Semiticized ending] at II Samuel 24: 20-24, because in those two cases that interior Hebrew vav/W represents a true consonant that cannot be dropped.  

This nimble handling of non-Semitic Hurrian proper names in II Samuel indicates that this part of II Samuel is really old, because the author knew what he was talking about concerning Hurrian proper names.

If we want to find out if a Biblical text is really old, then the best way to proceed is the opposite of the “scholarly” approach set forth at the beginning of this post.  We should take a long, hard look at the proper names in the Biblical text.  “Late” Biblical authors like Ezra could not possibly, under any circumstances, fake a deft knowledge of Hurrian like we see manifested in II Samuel.  Not.  The “Araunah” section of II Samuel is much older, and more historically accurate, than university scholars realize.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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