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

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Tue Sep 13 21:39:06 EDT 2011


1.  (a)  You wrote:  “I recently had a new baby boy….”


(b)  “…and we named him Kaleb after the Biblical character.  I had always heard that Kaleb meant "dog"...but it didn't make sense.”

I agree with that 100%.

(c)   “Philo interprets [Caleb’s] name to mean "whole heart" describing the way that he was fully devoted to serving Elohim.”

I agree 100% that Caleb “was fully devoted to serving Elohim”.

(d)  “Two words in Hebrew can be combined to make the form "Kaleb":  Kol - meaning "all, every, each";  Lev (also Levav) - meaning "heart".”

Errr, that sounds like a west Semitic interpretation of a non-west Semitic, Hurrian name.  Do you know of any other names in the books of the Bible that mention Caleb that form a Hebrew name like that?  If that type of west Semitic name formation were attested Biblically, I would think that university scholars would have thought of Philo’s imaginative analysis long ago, since they certainly know Biblical Hebrew extremely well, and it’s hard to be happy with Caleb allegedly meaning “Dog”.

Philo is so late, being in the common era, that his views of ancient Biblical names seem suspect.  Plus, he knew no Hurrian at all, so he did not know that KL-B is a dead ringer for Kelip in Hurrian, meaning “It Pleases [Deity]”.  If both Prof. Yigal Levin and Prof. George Athas feel compelled to defend “Dog” as the meaning of the name “Caleb”, then I would trust Prof. Levin and Prof. Athas over Philo as to a west Semitic analysis of KLB.

2.  Using linguistics and the Bible, we can prove that “Kenizzite” is a Hurrian name, used in the Patriarchal narratives as a Hurrian-based Patriarchal nickname to describe the Hurrians who dominated the ruling class in Canaan during the Patriarchal Age.  QN-Z-Y/“Kenizzite” is paired with four personal names in later books of the Bible.  All 5 names make better sense in Hurrian than in west Semitic!  I have previously noted QN-Z-Y is Qa-ni-iz-za as a Hurrian name at Nuzi.  KL-B is Kelip in Hurrian.  “Jephunneh”/YPN-H is Abin in Hurrian, meaning “Before [Teshup]”.  “Othniel”/(TNY-)L is A-ta-ni-ya in Hurrian, meaning “[Deity] (is) The Father”, with the west Semitic suffix -)L having been added to reference YHWH.  Now consider the name of Caleb’s daughter, Achsah:  (KS-H, at Joshua 15: 16.  Certainly that’s not the Hebrew word (KS, meaning “fetters for a criminal” at Proverbs 7: 22!  [There’s also “anklet (with a negative meaning)”, at Isaiah 3: 18.]  But a Hurrian analysis works perfectly.  (KS is A-ki-si in Hurrian [which has only s, which can be either samekh/S or sin/%], being a variant of A-ki-iz-zi, meaning “Led by [Deity]”.  We see that in examining two variants of a shortened form of the Hurrian name “Girgashites”/GRG% at Nuzi:  Ki-ir-si-ia or Ki-ir-zi-Ia [per Gelb and Purves at p. 88b], where -si and -zi are interchangeable.  Likewise, the Hurrian messenger name in the Amarna Letters is either Pirissi or Pirizzi.

“Kenizzites”, and all four personal names associated with that name in later books of the Bible, all make more sense in Hurrian than in west Semitic.

3.  It’s the same story with “Kenites”/QYN-Y.  QYN-Y is Qa-a-ni-ya at Nuzi.  The four names in later books of the Bible associated with QYN-Y are as follows.  Judges 4: 11:  XBR, a son of XBB, the father-in-law of Moses, a Kenite, whose own father, per Numbers 10: 29, was R(W-)L, H-MDYN-Y.  We have already seen that MDYN is Mitannian, referring to the Hurrian state in Late Bronze Age eastern Syria, where D and T are interchangeable in Hurrian, and interior yod/Y can represent the Hurrian vowel A.  XBR means “sky” or “heaven” in Hurrian [and is the basis for the Hurrian-based Patriarchal nickname XBR-W-N for the Patriarchs’ Hebron].  Unless a sarcastic or ironic meaning (or no meaning) is intended, it is odd that XBR in the phrase XBR H-QYN-Y would be a west Semitic name meaning “united” or “comrade”, since the very sentence that sets forth that name goes on to say immediately that Heber “had severed himself from the Kenites”.   XBB in west Semitic would mean “burning with fiery love” in west Semitic, which does not seem quite appropriate for the name of Moses’ father-in-law.  Deuteronomy 33: 3.  In Hurrian XBB is XB-B, where XB is the Hurrian goddess Xeba, and the suffix -B is like the -B in KL-B, a Hurrian formative that has no substantive meaning, but that simply allows the word or name to be a freestanding name [and clarifies that Xeba is being honored, instead of a man having as his own name the name of a goddess].  Finally, as to the R(W root of the name R(W-)L, Hebrew has no word R(W.  [Yes, R( means “friend”, but R(W doesn’t.]  R(W in fact is the vintage Hurrian name Ar-a-wa, where the prosthetic aleph is not used [because it’s merely prosthetic], and the interior ayin/( is used to show that this is a 3-syllable name [rather than being Er-wi].  R(W/Ar-a-wa is in fact a mere variant of Arioch/)RYWK/Ar-a-wa-ka at Genesis 14: 1, and is virtually the same as the name Arawana in the Amarna Letters [though the Biblical name has a different, Semiticized suffix].  The main difference between the two Biblical names is that at Numbers 10: 19, a Hebrew ayin/( is used to represent the Hurrian interior vowel A, whereas at Genesis 14: 1 a Hebrew yod/Y is used for that purpose.  The absence or presence of the prosthetic aleph at the beginning and of the standard Hurrian suffix -ka at the end is immaterial.  R(W-)L is Semiticized by adding the west Semitic suffix -)L, so the Biblical name means “YHWH (is) Lord”. 

4.  Note that both “Kenizzites” and “Kenites”, and  a-l-l  the personal names in later books of the Bible associated with those two ancient names from the Patriarchal narratives, make better sense in Hurrian than in west Semitic.  Yes!  Later Biblical authors, unlike modern analysts, knew that those ancient non-west Semitic names in the Patriarchal narratives were Hurrian names, referencing the old days when, for a brief time, the ruling class in Canaan was dominated by Hurrian princelings in the Amarna Age.  The one thing that pre-exilic Biblical authors did know for sure was whether a name was west Semitic or not, since they were all native Biblical Hebrew speakers, even if they were a little hazy on the details about the long-ago historical Hurrians.  The Bible is much older and more historically accurate than university scholars realize.

But you’re definitely right that the Biblical name “Caleb” does  n-o-t  mean “Dog”!

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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