[b-hebrew] The Names "Abram" and "Abraham"

Andronic Khandjani andronicusmy at gmail.com
Sat Sep 17 10:23:32 EDT 2011


I would suggest that AB-R-HM is some dialectal form of AV-L-HM.It is very
probable they replaced the lam by resh. Abraham would be AV-L-HM in the
later Hebrew. This explanation would fit with biblical etymology.

Firouz Khandjani



2011/9/17 <JimStinehart at aol.com>

>
> David Kolinsky wrote:  “Avram = exalted father AND  one whose willingness
> (to engage life ) is elevated
>
>
> Avraham = one who spread his wings [?BR] in pursuit of stirring experiences
> [HMH]”
>
> Compare my own more controversial explanation of those two names.
>
> Abraham’s birth name was )BRM, which is )B-RM.   RM is probably from the
> verb RWM, meaning “to exalt”.
>
> The )B in Abram, though literally meaning “father”, may well be a
> theophoric, meaning “my Father above”.
>
> In fact, unlike the unusual and unattested (in secular history) name “
> Abraham”, the name “Abram” is well-known in the secular history of the
> ancient
> world, being attested at Ugarit among other places.  The normal meaning of
> this vintage, normal west Semitic name would be “[My] Father [above] is
> exalted
> ”.  That’s a standard issue west Semitic name.  But that was Abraham’s
> run-of-the-mill name before he met YHWH.
>
> When the he/H is added into the middle of )BRM, resulting in )BRHM,
> scholars are baffled.  True, adding a yod/Y into the middle of the name,
> resulting
> in )BYRM, would be fine, as scholars have noted.  That’s well attested in
> secular history, and would not change the meaning of the name at all.  But
> that
> ’s a yod/Y, not a he/H.  The scholarly “explanation” of the name “Abraham”
>  is that either it is a mere lengthening of the name, or it is a dialectal
> variation of Abram.  Scholars take pains to add that though they themselves
> cannot really explain the meaning of the name “Abraham”, they are,
> surprisingly enough, certain that the Biblical explanation of the name
> “Abraham” at
> Genesis 17: 5 is completely wrong.  We’ll see about that.
>
> Consider now the following possible etymological explanation of the
> seemingly inexplicable name )BRHM.
>
> The )B looks the same as in )BRM, but now that )B, in )BRHM, has its more
> normal, prosaic meaning, meaning “father” in the normal sense of a human
> male who procreates [no longer referencing a deity, as in )BRM].
>
> Consider also that the 3rd syllable in the name )BRHM may well be HM.  That
> is the root of, and hence could well be a shortened form of, the word HMWN,
> which means “multitude”.  (As will be discussed in a moment, that very
> word HMWN is used at Genesis 17: 5 in setting forth the Biblical
> explanation of
> the name “Abraham”.]
>
> The -WN at the end of HMWN seems to be a mere suffix, with HMWN having a
> 2-letter root:  HM.  Consider also that the Hebrew common word HM, as an
> alternative form of HMH, means “they” or “them”, as in HM at Genesis 14:
> 24,
> meaning “them” and referring to all of Abram’s allies [who would be a “
> multitude” as it were].  HM means “more than one”, and hence could imply “a
> multitude”.  So the HM in )B-R-HM may mean “multitude”.
>
> So far, so good, but now we get to the super-controversial part, that no
> one will like.
>
> On the foregoing analysis, )BRHM implies:  )B + R + HM.  That may further
> imply the following:  )B + Ra + HM, where )B is a human father, and HM
> means “
> multitude”.  The analysis works nicely for the first and third syllables,
> but how about that super-controversial 2nd syllable?  Though it may well
> seem
> blasphemous today, in ancient times, prior to the Hebrews and a developed
> form of monotheism, perhaps Ra could on occasion have been used as a
> generic
> reference to the Deity, rather than being a reference to a particular
> Egyptian sun-god in the pantheon of pagan gods.  For example, most Egyptian
> pharaohs did not have a sun-god as their favorite or primary god, but every
> Egyptian pharaoh nevertheless cherished sa-ra/“son of God” as being his
> most
> important kingly title.  Thus the Egyptians themselves sometimes used Ra as
> a
> generic, all-purpose reference to God.  Moreover, although %R/“ruler” [or “
> leader”, “commander”, “prince”, “high government official”] is usually
> viewed as deriving from the Hebrew verb %RR/“to rule” or “to act like a
> prince”
>  or “to have power”, it is possible that, alternatively, %R was originally
> a 2-syllable word, %a-Ra, which derives from the world-famous Egyptian
> kingly title sa-ra.  [Though the etymologies are disputed, it is possible
> that
> such ancient Egyptian kingly title may be one basis for similar-sounding
> words meaning “king” in other ancient languages, such as the west Semitic
> sharru that was ubiquitous in Late Bronze Age Canaan during the Amarna Age,
> and
> the Akkadian name of Sargon the Great, Sharru-kinu, where Sharru means
> “king”
> .  If there is a connection here, then obviously the reference in other
> ancient languages is not to a particular Egyptian sun-god.]  Thus it is
> possible that in the Bronze Age, resh/R, implying Ra [or Re in Egyptian,
> possibly
> Ru in other languages], could be a generic reference to Deity, not
> necessarily meaning a particular polytheistic pagan Egyptian sun-god.
>
> If resh/R/Ra could at the time of the pre-Hebrews have sometimes had the
> neutral meaning of God/god/deity [rather than necessarily referencing a
> particular Egyptian sun-god], then “Abraham” means:  “father [)B], [by
> grace of]
> God [R = Ra], [of a] multitude [HM = HMWN]”:  “father, by grace of God, of
> a multitude”.  Before insisting that such analysis is both wrong and
> blasphemous, consider what Genesis 17: 5 explicitly sets forth as the
> Biblical
> explanation of the name “Abraham” [per JPS1917]:
>
> “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be
> Abraham; for the father [)B] of a multitude [HMWN] of nations have I made
> thee.”
>
> If for the pre-Hebrews resh/R could at times be a generic reference to
> Deity, then the name “Abraham” makes perfect sense, and its explanation at
> Genesis 17: 5 is completely correct.
>
> [On my view, there is only one author of the Patriarchal narratives.  So I
> reject the scholarly view that the author of Genesis 17: 5 had no idea
> whatsoever what the name “Abraham” meant.  On my controversial view, the
> author
> of the Patriarchal narratives knows of what he speaks.  I totally reject
> the
> following two scholarly views:  (1) that “Abram” and “Abraham” have
> identical meanings, and that (2) Genesis 17: 5 is out to lunch as to
> setting
> forth the meaning of the name “Abraham”.]
>
> Moreover, in the Patriarchal Age, when the Egyptians were not yet generally
> viewed negatively by the first Hebrews, the presence of the
> Egyptian-sounding R/Ra in the middle of Patriarch Abraham’s name could be a
> deliberate
> attempt to portray Abraham as being the Hebrew equivalent, as to power and
> majesty, of an Egyptian pharaoh.  Though anathema to the later Hebrews,
> whose
> experiences with Egypt were often very negative, by contrast in the context
> of
> the Patriarchal Age, when Egypt was a potential ally with the early Hebrews
> against the dreaded Hittites, such an Egyptian-sounding reference in a
> Patriarch’s name makes sense.
>
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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