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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Sep 13 10:00:21 EDT 2011

Prof. George Athas:
1.  You wrote:  “Jim, you need to be more circumspect and humble about your 
Pardon my over-exuberance at apparently solving the longstanding Biblical 
mystery as to why Joshua’s trusted confidante would have a name that, if a 
west Semitic name, would mean “Dog”.
2.  You wrote:  “No, we have not discovered a new way of analyzing certain 
exotic foreign names in the Bible. You claim to have found such a way 
yourself, but has anyone agreed with this 'new way'?”
I take it that you’re asking for scholarly commentary on Biblical names 
that I view as being Hurrian or Hurrian-Akkadian.
(a)  I see QYN-Y/“Kenites” at Genesis 15: 19 as being a Hurrian-based 
Patriarchal nickname for Hurrians in Late Bronze Age Canaan that has the same 
Akkadian verbal root as the name that immediately follows, QN-Z-Y/ “Kenizzite”
.  The interior yod/Y in QYN-Y is an optional Hebrew rendering of the 
Hurrian-Akkadian vowel A.  There’s a similar phenomenon at Nuzi, where Qa-a-ni, 
with the second A indicating a long Akkadian vowel, is alternatively written 
as Qa-ni, with no second A.  You are probably aware of the awkward scholarly 
commentary on the name QYN-Y/“Kenites”:  “Most commentators consider the 
Kenites a tribe of metalworkers whose origin was in Anatolia, but this is 
incompatible with their description in the Bible.” Othniel Margalith, at p. 143 
of “The Sea Peoples in the Bible” (1994).  In particular, contra Genesis 
15: 18-21, the Hebrews never displaced “a tribe of metalworkers whose origin 
was in Anatolia” [whereas by contrast, the Hurrian ruling class of Canaan 
historically was displaced shortly after the mid-14th century BCE].  Othniel 
Margalith goes on to mention five completely different types of etymologies 
for “Kenites”, by Abramsky, Neeman, Wellhausen, Noth and B. Mazar, none of 
which have garnered significant support.
To the best of my knowledge, no scholar has ever analyzed either YWBS-Y/“
Jebusites” or QN-Z-Y/“Kenizzites” or QYN-Y/“Kenites” as being Hurrian names 
based on Akkadian verbal roots.  That is why there is no linguistic analysis 
out there for any of these three names that has ever gotten much traction.
(b)  Consider now the root MDYN of the group name MDYN-YM at Genesis 37: 
28, 36, which may be the Hebrew spelling of the Hurrian name of the Hurrian 
Late Bronze Age great power state in eastern Syria:  Mitanni.  In analyzing 
MDYN vs. “Mitanni”/mi-it-ta-an-ni, T and D are not distinguished in Hurrian 
writing, and as just noted above, an interior Hebrew yod/Y may be used here 
(on an optional basis) as plene spelling to indicate the Hurrian vowel A.  On 
that analysis, some “Ishmaelites” (descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael) 
have settled in Mitanni in eastern Syria and as such can also be called “
Mitannians”/MDYN-YM;  they escort caravans between Mitanni/MDYN and Egypt, 
passing through central Canaan.  (Per Genesis 25: 18, Ishmael’s descendants 
settled as far east as Ashur/Assyria, which is east of Mitanni.)
As you know (and possibly you teach this), the standard scholarly 
explanation of the last third of chapter 37 of Genesis is that two different authors 
wrote the same story in the same place, with one author calling the 
caravaners “Ishmaelites” while the other author called them “Midianites”, being a 
blatant contradiction that shows two different authors who don’t know what 
the other is saying.  But that scholarly theory of the case is a non-starter. 
 Instead, the caravaners are logically described by a single author in two 
different ways:  (i) on the basis of ethnicity, where they are “Ishmaelites”
, that is, descendants of Abraham’s disfavored son Ishmael, and (ii) 
geographically, based on where these particular Ishmaelites have made their new 
homeland, as “Mitannians”/MDYN-YM.  Note how a Hurrian-based explanation 
makes ever so much better sense, in a mid-14th century BCE historical context.  
The Patriarchal narratives are much older, and more historically accurate, 
than university scholars realize.
(c)  Similarly, compare also the names of Abraham’s sons MDN and MDYN at 
Genesis 25: 2, which may also recall “Mitanni”.  [Once again, the interior 
Hebrew yod/A, representing the Hurrian vowel A, is optional.]  Per Genesis 25: 
6, those sons are sent “eastward”/QDM-H, “unto the east country”/’L-’RC 
QDM.  Note the immediate pairing of MDN and MDYN with QDM-H and QDM.  The 
Hurrian state of Mitanni [MDYN] in the Late Bronze Age historically was the 
land of the east/QDM.  [Cf. the QDMNY/“Kadmonites”/“Easterners”, a west 
Semitic name for Hurrians at Genesis 15: 19.]
If the Patriarchal narratives are old and historically accurate and reflect 
the world of the mid-14th century BCE [my view], then it’s inevitable that 
there will be dozens of Hurrian-based names in that Biblical text, since 
about 75% of the princeling ruling class of Canaan at that time were Hurrians.  
But your main point is absolutely correct:  no university scholar has ever 
made that analysis.  So if you’re looking for a plausible explanation of the 
name KLB/“Caleb” as the name of Joshua’s invaluable ally, who is 
repeatedly stated in the Bible to be a Kenizzite, with “Kenizzite” being a name from 
the Patriarchal narratives that is viewed by several scholars as being a 
Hurrian name, then if you’re not reading my Hurrian analysis of the name KLB 
on this thread, you won’t find a plausible explanation of the name KLB 
anywhere in the scholarly literature.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois      

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