[b-hebrew] Exotic Names in II Samuel: Akkadian?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Sep 6 09:56:12 EDT 2011



II Samuel is generally viewed as having been composed in the late 7th 
century BCE.  [For example, I Samuel 27: 6, unless it is a later addition, would 
seem to entail that I and II Samuel were not composed prior to the division 
of Canaan between the states of Israel and Judah, that is, long after the 
date of the events described in II Samuel.]  If that 7th century BCE 
composition date is anywhere near being correct, then an obvious question arises.  
Where did all those exotic non-west Semitic names come from in II Samuel?
 
Let’s start this thread by examining the much-discussed name “Jebusites” 
at II Samuel 24: 16, 18.
 
First we should ask what insights the scholarly community has come up with 
for this name:
 
“Jebusites.  …[W]e know little about them except their association with 
the central hill country.  The etymology of the name is unknown.”  William G. 
Dever, “Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?” 
(2006), p. 220.
 
Can’t we on the b-hebrew list do better than that?
 
“Jebusites” in II Samuel is a bona fide ancient name, because it’s right 
there as well in the Patriarchal narratives at Genesis 15: 21 [which might 
logically lead us to ask if the name “Jebusites” fits any of the peoples who 
in the Patriarchal Age constituted the ruling class in Canaan, whom the 
Hebrews are divinely predicted to displace at Genesis 15: 18-21].
 
Not to worry, “Jebusites” is not a pure Hurrian name.  Scholars have 
already checked out that possibility and found it wanting, as we see in the 
following recent comment by some of the top scholars in the field [who oddly 
persist in trying, unsuccessfully, to find a Hittite connection]:
 
“In support of the notion that the Jebusites may have had Hittite roots, 
[Benjamin] Mazar draws attention to two prominent individuals who figure in 
the story of David:  Uriah and Araunah.  With respect to the latter, he 
observes that ‘Araunah (or the Araunah, as the Hebrew has it in [II Samuel] 24: 
16) seems not to have been a personal name but rather the Hurrian word ewrine 
(lord), found in Hittite (and as a personal name in Ugaritic).’ …Whatever 
the case, most authorities at least believe the Jebusites to have been of 
non-Semitic origin….” John H. Walton, Daniel I. Block, “Joshua Judges, Ruth, 1 
& 2 Samuel” (2009), p. 429.
 
)RWN-H is not ewrine, for heaven’s sake, but rather is er-wi-na, but it is 
the Hurrian common word for “lord”, as in the Hurrian name Er-wi-na-tal 
attested at Nuzi.  But that’s Hurrian, not Hittite.  And more to the point, 
there’s nothing like “Jebusites” in Hittite.  Nor is “Araunah” a Hittite 
name, nor were the Hittites ever displaced by the Hebrews per Genesis 15: 18-21, 
nor were the Hittites ever in Jerusalem per II Samuel.  We see that a 
Hittite analysis of the name “Jebusites” fails on every imaginable count.
 
But something else seems askew here.  At the Hurrian province of Nuzi, 67% 
of the names are pure Hurrian, but 28% of the names are Akkadian, with 
Akkadian being an east Semitic language.  So the fact that Erwi-na [KJV “Araunah”
] is a Hurrian name that is paired with “Jebusite” does not mean that “
Jebusites” could not be an Akkadian-based name, albeit possibly with Hurrian 
characteristics.
 
Despite the peculiar scholarly continued fascination with a Hittite 
analysis, one might have hoped that scholars would at least have abandoned the old “
troglodyte cave-dweller” analysis, and lacking a pure Hurrian etymology 
might then have attempted an east Semitic analysis of the name “Jebusites”.  
But alas, such is not the case:
 
“The identity of the Jebusites is also subject to debate.  Some propose 
that they were Hurrian or Horite in background, while others suggest a Hittite 
background.”  David Freedman et al, “Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible” 
(2000), p. 676.
 
So scholars have seriously considered, and have come up with nothing using, 
the following three possible etymological analyses of “Jebusites”:  (1) 
Hittite [there’s no there there];  (2) Hurrian [a promising lead, but a pure 
Hurrian analysis of “Jebusites” won’t work];  and (3) troglodyte 
cave-dweller/“Horite” [a west Semitic analysis of “Jebusites” won’t work either].
 
Abandoning the foregoing scholarly dead-ends, and knowing that 28% of the 
names at Nuzi are Akkadian-based [instead of being pure Hurrian], a more 
promising line of analysis of “Jebusites”, whose Hebrew letters are YBWSY, 
might logically start with Akkadian-based names attested in the Amarna Letters 
for princelings in greater Canaan.  P. 213 of Richard Hess’s “Amarna 
Personal Names” (1993) sets forth four such Akkadian-based names:  haddu-ni-ra-ru;  
nukurtu-ya;  yi-id-ia [or, per Wm. Moran, Yid-ya];  and belet-UR.MAX.ME$.  
We immediately note the ending -ya or -ia in the second and third of those 
Akkadian names from the Amarna Letters.  Is that what the final Hebrew yod/Y 
is representing in YBWS-Y?  Per Hess’s analysis at p. 168, the final -ia 
[alternatively spelled -ya, and as such perhaps represented in Hebrew writing 
by -Y] in Yi-id-ia is a hypocoristic theophoric, and we know from Gelb and 
Purves, “Nuzi Personal Names” (1943) at p. 219, that such Hurrian suffix is 
ubiquitous at Nuzi, being applied both to pure Hurrian names and 
Akkadian-based names as well.  Since scholars repeatedly [and properly] point to the “
Araunah” element of the phrase “Araunah the Jebusite” in II Samuel as 
indicating a Hurrian connection for the name “Jebusites”, then even if “Jebusite” 
turns out to be an Akkadian-based name, it’s likely to have Hurrian 
characteristics, such as the ubiquitous Hurrian theophoric suffix -ya, meaning “
Teshup” [rather than the final yod/Y in YBWS-Y being, as has always heretofore 
been assumed, a standard west Semitic suffix meaning “people”].
 
The princeling name Yi-id-ia in the Amarna Letters features an Akkadian 
verb followed by the Hurrian theophoric suffix -ya.  Does YBWS-Y have that same 
format?  Is YBWS a funky Hurrian spelling of one of the most famous 
Akkadian verbs of all time, with that funky Hurrian spelling being well-attested, 
letter for letter, at Nuzi?  Are YBWS-Y and Yi-id-ia basically the same, 
except that two different Akkadian verbs are involved, yet with the two verbs 
and names having almost the same meaning?
 
Why not take a look?  To the best of my knowledge, no university scholar 
has ever  a-s-k-e-d  whether “Jebusites” may be an Akkadian-based name with 
Hurrian characteristics, having a similar format and meaning as one of the 
Akkadian-based names [Yi-id-ia] of the many non-west Semitic princelings who 
constituted the ruling class in Canaan during the Amarna Age, per the Amarna 
Letters.  [If scholars have asked such question, I have not been able to 
find it in any published work.]
 
The deck seems cleared for an Akkadian analysis of the root YBWS of the 
name “Jebusites” that appears both at II Samuel 24: 16, 18 and at Genesis 15: 
21.  Maybe we on the b-hebrew list can be the first ones to come up with an 
historical Akkadian-based linguistic analysis of YBWS-Y/“Jebusites”, and 
thereby identify who the historical Jebusites were, whose descendants are 
portrayed at II Samuel as being noblemen in Jerusalem, and who originally were 
an important part of the ruling class in Canaan in the Patriarchal Age.  II 
Samuel and the Patriarchal narratives can’t both be wrong about everything 
they set forth as to names, can they?  Not.  (There were never any Hittites in 
Jerusalem!)  
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois


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