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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Sep 8 09:55:47 EDT 2011

Per my first post on this thread, “Jebusites” at II Samuel 24: 16, 18 [and 
at Genesis 15: 21 as well] should be a Hurrian name, yet a pure Hurrian 
analysis won’t work.  Since 28% of the “Hurrian” names at Nuzi in fact are 
Akkadian-based names, we should therefore ask if YBWS-Y/“Jebusites” may be an 
Akkadian name with Hurrian characteristics, like Yi-id-ia in the Amarna 
Letters.  We have already seen that the final yod/-Y in YBWS-Y may be the 
standard Hurrian theophoric suffix -ya, referencing the Hurrian storm-god Teshup.  
The linguistic question that remains, then, is whether YBWS is a funky 
Hurrian spelling of a well-known Akkadian verb.
YBWS-Y/“Jebusites” can be viewed as setting forth the following 
Akkadian-Hurrian name:  I-bu-uS-ya.  The root YBWS of the Biblical name YBWS-Y is a 
Hurrian version of the Akkadian verb epē$u.  This Akkadian verb means “he 
makes” (third person singular), and has many alternative Hurrian spellings at 
Nuzi.  As a common word [courtesy of Moshe Berkooz’s fine 1937 dissertation]: 
  e-pu-u$, e-pu-$u-u$, e-ip-pu-us [where the s may be samekh/S, as Akkadian 
cuneiform did not distinguish S/samekh from %/sin], i-pu-u$, and 
i-ip-pu-u$.  As the root of two different personal names attested at Nuzi:  e-pu-u$, 
in Mi-na-e-pu-u$-ila (a woman’s name, at Gelb and Purves, “Nuzi Personal 
Names” (1943), p. 98a);  and i-pu-u$, in Ila-mi-ni-pu-u$, and i-bi-i$, in 
I-la-mu-ni-bi-i$ (GP, p. 68a).  We note the following four letters in these 
various Hurrian renderings:  (i) the first letter is always a vowel, being either 
E or I, which is almost always its own separate syllable;  (ii) the second 
letter is usually P, but in one case is B;  (iii) in most cases after the P 
comes U-U;  and (iv) the final letter is a sibilant, usually shin/$, but in 
one case samekh/S (or possibly sin/%, as Akkadian cuneiform does not 
distinguish samekh/S from sin/%).
The Biblical spelling of the root YBWS, representing I-bu-uS, makes the 
following spelling choices as to those four letters.  (i) Hebrew yod/Y is used 
to represent the initial vowel, I or E, that is its own separate syllable.  
Hebrew itself does not have the phenomenon of a word starting with a true 
vowel which is its own separate syllable, so where that occurs here, it is not 
surprising that the Hebrew author felt it necessary to represent this vowel 
by a Hebrew letter, and the logical choice for that is Hebrew yod/Y.  
[Aleph would not work, because a prosthetic aleph is never its own separate 
syllable.]  (ii) The first consonant is Hebrew bet/B [instead of the more 
expected peh/P].  B and P are often interchangeable in Hurrian, such as Teshup 
interchanging with Teshub.  B and P are not consistently distinguished in 
writing at Nuzi, and one version of this name at Nuzi has B instead of P.  (iii)  
The prominent vowel sound U-U is represented by Hebrew vav/W, being a type 
of plene spelling.  Though defective spelling, which recorded no vowels, 
worked fine for Hebrew common words that were not loanwords, a foreign proper 
name was completely different, and might well need to have an appropriate 
vowel written down in order for such foreign proper name to be identifiable to a 
Hebrew audience.  Thus regardless of how old a Biblical text may be, the 
foreign proper names contained therein may have from the very beginning 
employed some early version of plene spelling, even if at that time defective 
spelling was consistently used for all Hebrew common words.  (iv)  Though shin/$ 
would have been more expected, since that is the letter in the Akkadian 
verb and is the letter in most of the Nuzi renderings of this Akkadian verb, 
here the sibilant is rendered by Hebrew samekh/S.  One of the Nuzi renderings 
of this Akkadian verb is with an s, which could be a samekh/S.  Moreover, at 
Nuzi shin/$ and s often are interchangeable (GP, p. 7), as the peculiar 
Nuzi syllabary did not consistently distinguish these two phonemes.  The 
spelling pattern in matching the Biblical spelling YBWS-Y/I-bu-uS-ya to the 
Hurrian spelling of Hurrian personal names based on the Akkadian verb epē$u could 
be summarized as follows:  “somewhat unexpected, yet attested at Nuzi”.
The well-known Akkadian verb epē$u means “made (by)”, and the Hurrian 
theophoric suffix -ya references Teshup, so the meaning of YBWS-Y/I-bu-uS-ya, as 
an Akkadian-based name with Hurrian characteristics, is:  “Made by Teshup”
If we focus on the Nuzi name Mi-na-e-pu-u$-ila, we can see that to change 
the meaning from “What Is Made by God” to “Made by Teshup”, we simply take 
the following three steps:  (i) drop the mina, which is the Hurrian version 
of the Akkadian word mīnu meaning “what”;  (ii) for the suffix, instead of 
the Akkadian word ila meaning “God”, substitute the Hurrian theophoric that 
references “Teshup”, namely -ya;  and (iii) per attested spelling 
variations at Nuzi regarding this name, spell e-pu-u$ with a B for the P, and a 
samekh/S for the shin/$.  That results in I-bu-uS-ya, whose expected Hebrew 
spelling is YBWS-Y, which is exactly what we see at II Samuel 24: 16, 18 [and at 
Genesis 15: 21].
The key to figuring out the linguistic origin of this seemingly obscure 
name YBWSY/“Jebusites” is to realize that it is an Akkadian-based name with 
Hurrian characteristics.  The root, YBWS, is the Nuzi version of the 
well-known Akkadian verb epē$u, and to that is added the classic Hurrian theophoric 
ending, -ya.  Two attested names at Nuzi are based on that Akkadian verbal 
root, and the pattern [and even the meaning] is virtually the same as for the 
name Yi-id-ia in the Amarna Letters:  “Established by Teshup” vs. “Made by 
Teshup”.  On that analysis, the Biblical name YBWS-Y at Genesis 15: 21 is 
I-bu-uS-ya, meaning “Made by Teshup”.  Such an Akkadian-based name with 
Hurrian characteristics is beautifully reflective of the historical Hurrians, so 
that “Jebusites” is simply a colorful Biblical way of saying “Hurrians”.
Think Akkadian!  [With Hurrian characteristics.]
Jim Stinehart                                                               
                                     Evanston, Illinois

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