[b-hebrew] Early and late biblical Hebrew

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Nov 27 14:53:52 EST 2011


Isaac Fried:
 
In response to my statement that “The PRZY did not live ‘spread out’.  The 
most famous PRZY lived in Jerusalem”, you wrote:
 
“PRAZOT TE$EB YRU$ALAIM ... Zechariah 2:8”
 
Neat!  PRZWT at Zechariah 2: 4/2: 8 is somewhat similar to PRZY at Genesis 
15: 20.
 
But Jerusalem was a walled city, not “open country”.
 
Moreover, Zechariah is usually dated to the 6th century BCE.  That’s 800 
years after I see Genesis 15: 18-21 as being composed.
 
The proper conclusion here is that post-exilic Biblical authors like 
Zechariah no longer understood the Hurrian references in the Patriarchal 
narratives.
 
But that’s a neat quote nonetheless. 
 
Pre-exilic Biblical authors, by contrast, recognized all six Hurrian-based 
Patriarchal nicknames at Genesis 15: 19-21 as referring to the Hurrians, and 
they deftly paired Hurrian personal names with those Hurrian group 
nicknames.  But that Hurrian knowledge was lost permanently in the Exile.
 
In 1943, Gelb and Purves at p. 115b of “Nuzi Personal Names” noted the 
following Hurrian name at Late Bronze Age Nuzi in eastern Syria:  Pirzu.  The 
consonants are PRZ [or BRZ], and in that name the Hurrian theophoric suffix 
-ia does not appear.  One of the odd things about Hurrian is that P and B and 
W are all three interchangeable.  So “to be lord” can be piri or biri or 
wi-ir [or ew-ri or er-wi, etc.].  Using that third spelling, we see attested 
at Nuzi:  Wi-ir-zi-ia-e (GP at p. 174a).  After accounting for W and P 
interchanging in Hurrian, that Hurrian name is the exact equivalent of the 
Biblical rendering PRZY.  Biblical PR = Wi-ir at Nuzi, meaning “to be lord”.  
Biblical -Z- = -zi- at Nuzi, meaning “blessed”.  Biblical -Y [with Hebrew 
yod/Y routinely being used to represent the Hurrian vowel A as its own separate 
syllable in the Hebrew rendering of Hurrian names] = -ia at Nuzi, being a 
theophoric that in a Hurrian context implies “Teshup”, the storm-god who was 
the Hurrians’ chief god.  So despite the one orthographic variance [W vs. 
P], the underlying names are identical, with each meaning:  “Blessed Teshup Is 
Lord”.
 
One of the colorful Patriarchal nicknames for the Hurrians is the 
Blessed-Teshup-Is-Lord people:  PRZY = Piri-izzi-ya = Wi-ir-zi-ia-e.  All 6 
Hurrian-based Patriarchal nicknames for the Hurrians at Genesis 15: 19-21 have names 
of that type.
 
In using the name PRZY, Genesis 15: 18-21 is not referencing foreigners who 
are “spread out”.  PRZY is a non-Semitic Hurrian name, and as such is not 
properly fit for a west Semitic etymology [though Zechariah probably did not 
know that].  Rather, PRZY is an attested Hurrian personal name from the 
Late Bronze Age that the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives used 
to create one of his 6 Hurrian-based Patriarchal nicknames at Genesis 15: 
19-21.  One of the most underappreciated themes throughout much of the Hebrew 
Bible is the frequent set of references to the Hebrews displacing the 
Hurrians as the dominant people of beloved Canaan.  If we ignore the Hurrians, we 
thereby ignore what the Hebrews themselves considered to be one of their 
greatest accomplishments:  supplanting the Hurrian foreigners as the dominant 
people of non-coastal Canaan.
 
No 1st millennium BCE Hebrew or Jewish ghost-writer could possibly have 
come up with 6 Hurrian-based Patriarchal nicknames at Genesis 15: 19-21, two of 
which are uniquely based on Akkadian verbs.  No, those Hurrian names are 
redolent of the turbulent Years 12-14 of the Amarna Age, which is the 
historical time period I see as being the birth of Judaism.  The whole world seemed 
in danger of disintegrating, but against all odds, the first Hebrews somehow 
emerged, ready to begin their outsized role on the world stage.  If we don’
t realize how thoroughly Canaan was dominated by Hurrian princelings in the 
mid-14th century BCE [per the Amarna Letters], we will not appreciate the 
enormity of the Hebrews managing to accomplish precisely what Genesis 15: 
18-21 says:  the Hebrews in due course supplanted the Hurrians as the dominant 
people in Canaan.  I don’t know why people seem to want to ignore one of the 
Hebrews’ greatest historical triumphs.  Plus, the presence of all those 
delightful Hurrian proper names in the last 40 chapters of Genesis helps date 
the Patriarchal narratives to the mid-14th century BCE.  That text is much 
older, and more historically accurate, than university scholars realize.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois


More information about the b-hebrew mailing list