[b-hebrew] Kalev and Kelev

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Wed Sep 14 19:52:35 EDT 2011

Hello Uri,

On Wed, 14 Sep 2011 09:43:58 -0700 (PDT), Uri Hurwitz <uhurwitz at yahoo.com> wrote:
> ,A   The form Kalev most proabaly preserves the original pronounciation of the
> name.  The Segholites prounounciation in the MT follows the dialectic
> changes in the original nouns.

If one substitutes "reflects" for "preserves", I think so too, but the
original pronunciation of the proper name is likely different from the
original pronunciation of "dog"...

> ,A  ,A  This is clearly evident in the declensions of the Segholites, in our
> case: "Kalbi" "kalbekha" etc, and in the pulural "Klavim" which preserves
> the ancient plural *KLAB plus the regular Hebrew ms. plural ending - ym.
> ,A   This is found in Arabic to this day: e.g. "kalb" in singular.

True, both the combining forms of Heb. "kélebh" and Arabic "kalb" point to an
earlier form *kalb for the word for "dog".  But "Kalebh" doesn't; I would
expect an earlier form something like *Kalib, certainly similar, but not the

> ,A   Therefore the biblical personal name Kalev is very close to the original
> pronounciation, except that the original short vowel 'a ' lengthened in the
> MT.

Close, but not the same.  Due to the high degree of regularity in Hebrew of
having the same root meaning when the consonants are the same, the obvious
comparison with "Kalebh" is "kélebh", but this may not be enough to state that
"Kalebh" means "dog".

In fact, I'm rather sympathetic to Jim's view that "dog" would be an unusual
name to give a man of Caleb's character, considering the generally negative
connotations of "dog" in the Bible.  (I'll not comment on any claims that it's
Hurrian, since I know next to nothing about Hurrian.)  Considering a
completely different culture, that of the Northen Germanic (esp. Scandinavian)
peoples, it seems that giving people the names of animals was quite common,
like "Bear", or "Wolf", or "Otter" (even "Weevil" in the case of slaves).  But
I don't recall anyone being named "Hound", even though I don't think there was
any particular negative connotations associated with dogs.

So, I think one can somewhat hesitant about accepting the meaning of "Caleb"
as being "dog", despite the obviousness of the comparison.

Will Parsons

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