[b-hebrew] Does the Name Caleb Mean "Dog"? Not.

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Sep 12 09:58:37 EDT 2011

We have discovered a new way of analyzing certain exotic foreign names in 
the Bible.  YBWS-Y/“Jebusites”, formerly thought to be inexplicable 
linguistically, turns out to be just like the princeling name Yi-id-ia in the Amarna 
Letters:  an Akkadian name with Hurrian characteristics, where the root is 
the Hurrian spelling of an Akkadian verb, followed by one or more standard 
Hurrian suffixes.  That insight may enable us to solve another longstanding 
Biblical mystery:  the question of whether the name of Joshua’s trusted 
confidante, KLB/“Caleb”, is, as scholars assert, a west Semitic name that means “
Dog”.  Such a meaning makes no sense for an invaluable ally of Joshua.  
Moreover, should we in any event expect Caleb to have a west Semitic name?
The Bible tells us over and over and  o-v-e-r  again that Caleb was a 
Kenizzite.  For example, we see the phrase “Caleb the son of Jephunneh the 
Kenizzite” at Numbers 13: 6, Deuteronomy 1: 36, and Joshua 14: 6.
Who were the Kenizzites, and how should that name, QN-Z-Y, be analyzed?  
Although many scholars properly see Kenizzites as being a Hurrian name, 
nevertheless the scholarly view of this name is extremely peculiar, focusing on a 
single letter, the Hebrew letter zayin/Z, and saying essentially nothing 
about any of the other three letters in this exotic name:
“[O]f all the ethnic terms found in these early [Biblical] traditions 
Kenizzi comes closest to a Hurrian form….  With Kenizzi, Perizzi cf. a-ki-iz-zi 
king of Qatna during Hurrian preponderance…and Perizzi, name of a Hurrian 
envoy in an Amarna letter….”  Blenkinsopp, “Gibeon and Israel” (1972), pp. 18 
and 113.
W-h-y  have scholars been unable to identify the linguistic root of QN-Z-Y? 
 Closer examination reveals that, contra Blenkinsopp, QN-Z-Y is  n-o-t  
like Peri-izzi or Aki-izzi, because piri is the Hurrian common word for “lord”
, and ag or aki is the Hurrian common word for “to lead, guide”, whereas by 
contrast, QN is not a Hurrian common word at all.  But we on the b-hebrew 
list now know how to approach this linguistic problem.  “Kenizzite” should 
be expected to be an Akkadian-based name with Hurrian characteristics, just 
like “Jebusites” and Yi-id-ia.
Remembering that Hurrian spellings of Akkadian verbs are often a bit funky, 
QN is the Hebrew rendering of the Hurrian spelling of the Akkadian verb kā
nu.  Although modern practice is, unfortunately, not to use the letter Q in 
transcribing Hurrian, in fact Hurrian has the word NQD, which may be a loan
word from Akkadian that in Akkadian can be spelled with either a Q or a K:  
the Akkadian verb naqādu or nakādu, each of which can mean “to be anxious” 
or “to be disturbed”.  Given how close the meanings are of those two 
Akkadian verbs, it appears that an Akkadian K could on occasion interchange with 
and/or be pronounced Q, that is, as an emphatic K.  Note also that the 
Akkadian verb kananu [meaning “to contract”, and being somewhat similar to the 
Akkadian verb kānu being discussed here] could alternatively be written as 
qananu, with K interchanging with Q in Akkadian [even though those two letters 
do not interchange in Biblical Hebrew].  We see that kānu in Akkadian could 
be written qan in Hurrian, and transcribed using Hebrew letters as QN.
On that analysis, QN-Z-Y means “Firm Is Blessed Teshup”, where QN/kānu is 
an Akkadian verb meaning “to be firm”, -zi is a standard Hurrian suffix 
meaning “blessed”, and -ya is another standard Hurrian suffix that is a 
theophoric which often references Teshup.  Names like QN-Z-Y, starting 
interchangeably with Q or K, are commonplace at Nuzi [per the 1943 renderings in Gelb 
and Purves, “Nuzi Personal Names”]:  Qa-ni-iz-za and Ka-an-za-a-a and 
Qa-an-zu, etc.  How can one look at Nuzi name Qa-ni-iz-za and not see the Biblical 
name QN-Z-Y?  They’re the same name!
The format of all these names, both at Nuzi and in the Biblical names “
Kenizzite” and “Jebusite”, is just like Yi-id-ia in the Amarna Letters:  the 
Hurrian version of an Akkadian verb, plus one or more standard, 
run-of-the-mill, classic Hurrian suffixes.  Same. 
Since “Caleb”/KLB is repeatedly stated in the Bible to be a Kenizzite, and 
the name QN-Z-Y/“Kenizzite” is a Hurrian name (being an Akkadian-based 
name with Hurrian characteristics, to be specific), we should then logically 
expect KL-B to be a Hurrian name.  And it is!  And it should have a grand 
meaning in Hurrian, well befitting a fine comrade of Joshua.  It does!
The root of KL-B is KL, being the Hurrian common word kel-, meaning “it 
pleases” or “it satisfies”.  Many Hurrian names start with this Hurrian word:  
Kel-teya, Kel-te$up, Keleya and from the Amarna Letters, Keliya, with all 
four such names meaning “It Pleases Teshup” [remembering that -ya references 
Teshup as a Hurrian suffix].  An alternative suffix for kel- is -b, 
alternatively spelled -p [as Teshub with a -b and Teshup with a -p are 
interchangeable in Hurrian].  This Hurrian formative has no substantive meaning, but 
makes a common word suitable to be a freestanding name.  We see this in the 
form Kelip at the beginning of many Hurrian names:  Kelip-erwi;   Kelip-$arri;  
Kelip-tilla;  Kelip-ukur.  The first such name, where erwi is one spelling 
of the Hurrian common word for “lord”, means “It Pleases the Lord”.
The Biblical rendering KLB has no express theophoric, but the implication 
is there.  Thus for a Hebrew like Joshua’s trusted assistant, the name KLB/“
Caleb” is the Hurrian name KL-B, meaning “It Pleases [Deity]”, with the 
fine implication then being in this context:  “It Pleases YHWH”.
Does the name “Caleb” really mean “Dog”?  Not.  Rather, the meaning of 
the name of Joshua’s fine confidante is “It Pleases YHWH”.  The key is the 
Bible’s repeated insistence that KLB/“Caleb” is a QN-Z-Y/“Kenizzite”.  We 
now know how to analyze Biblical names like “Kenizzite” and “Jebusite” as 
being Akkadian names with Hurrian characteristics.  Think Akkadian!  [With 
Hurrian characteristics.]  
These exotic foreign names in the Bible are much older and more 
historically accurate than scholars realize.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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