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

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Sep 18 09:36:59 EDT 2011

William Parsons:

1.  I had written:  “We know that Ra or Re or r‘ or ri‘a is spelled R( in full form in the Patriarchal narratives, because the name of Joseph’s Egyptian priestly father-in-law ends in P-R(, representing pa-Ra, and meaning “T-h-e Ra”.  Genesis 41: 45.  But what would be the shortened form of R(?  Certainly it would be expected to be R, which we see in both the names “Abraham” and “Sarah”: )B-R-HM and %-R-H.”  To that you responded:  “You assume there *was* a shortened form without the final consonant, but I don't see evidence of that.”

Then how do you explain the names )B-R-HM and %-R-H?  I don’t see any way that those two names can mean what chapter 17 of Genesis explicitly tells us those two names mean unless the interior R in those names is referring to Deity.  And the only candidate I know of for that is R as a short form of R(, where r‘ in Egyptian can refer to a generalized concept of Deity, as in the world-famous pharaonic title s3-r‘.

As to the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives being willing to drop a Hebrew ayin/( in explaining a Biblical name, please note my response to George Athas on this thread.  The author of Genesis 29: 32 is seeing BN as being short for B(NYY, where the ayin/( has been dropped in the name Reuben/R)WBN.  I view that as being exactly parallel to the author of Genesis 17: 5 seeing R as being short for R(, where the ayin/( has been dropped in the name )B-R-HM.

2.  You wrote:  “[T]he Pharaonic title is better represented s3-r‘, which I find only vaguely similar to Hebrew   /%R.”

(a)  If an early Hebrew author wanted to represent the Egyptian phrase s3-r‘ using only two Hebrew letters, wouldn’t those expected two Hebrew letters be %-R?

(b)  If you’re going to talk about s3-r‘, then you should also address p3-r‘, and the last 3 letters in the name of Joseph’s Egyptian priestly father-in-law:  P-R(.  Isn’t P-R( a dead ringer for p3-r‘?  And isn’t the Amarna Age the  o-n-l-y  time in the entire Bronze Age that the phrase P-R(/p3-r‘ could be uttered, without being blatantly and blasphemously monotheistic?  It’s great for you to cite s3-r‘, don’t get me wrong, but then you really should deal with p3-r‘ and P-R( as well.

The “problem”, you see, is that the closer one looks at the Patriarchal narratives, the more one sees Years 12-14 writ large.

3.  You wrote: “Eventually the god Re was identified with the god Ammon (or Amen if you prefer).  But saying "Oh Re, that's just a different name for Ammon" is quite different from Re becoming a generic word for deity.”

It is?

[You have an uncanny ability of making my points better than I do.]

4.  You wrote:  “And I see no evidence that s3-r‘ ever became a generic term.”

We’ve got (i) %-R-H as the divinely-given name of Abraham’s wife, (ii) $arru that was ubiquitous in Late Bronze Age Canaan during the Amarna Age as the title of the princelings who thought of themselves as kings, (iii) the Akkadian name of Sargon the Great, $arru-kinu, where $arru means “king”, (iv) %-R as the Hebrew common word for “ruler” or “prince”, etc., (v) %-R-H as the Hebrew common word for “princess”, (vi) Edward Lipinski at p.334 of “On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age” notes in passing “the Assyro-Babylonian malku = $arru list of synonyms”, (vii) the Akkadian word for “king” is $arru, (viii) the Assyrian word for “king” is $arru, (ix) $arru or $r is probably an appellation for royalty in Ugaritic and Phoenician, (x) $arri means “king” in Hurrian, (xi) although Hittite does not have this word or phrase per se, nevertheless several Hittite kings have -sar at the end of their names, probably as an Assyrian loanword which in turn was borrowed from Akkadian, and (xii) s3-r‘ is the classic pharaonic title of an Egyptian king.

How could s3-r‘ be more generic than that?

Wherever one looks in the ancient world, one sees sibilant-R as meaning “ruler” or “king” or “prince”.  As far as  p-h-r-a-s-e-s  go, it’s hard to think of any phrase in 5,000 years of human history that’s more generic than s3-r‘, or some slight variant of $-R, as having the grand meaning of “ruler”.  A-l-l  the Semitic languages have it, Hurrian has it, the Hittites used it, and Egyptian has it.  It’s ubiquitous in the ancient Near East! 

Do you think that the Hebrew author of Genesis 17: 15 did not realize that the name presented in the Biblical text as being the divinely-given name of Abraham’s wife, %-R-H, sounded like the Egyptian phrase s3-r‘?  Isn’t it more likely that not only the Hebrew author who came up with that name, but also 100% of the people [whether Hebrews or otherwise] who heard that Biblical name in ancient times, realized that the name presented in the Biblical text as being the divinely-given name of Abraham’s wife, %-R-H, sounded like the Egyptian phrase s3-r‘?

I don’t use the word “universal” lightly, but virtually the only phrase universally recognized throughout the entire Middle East in ancient times was s3-r‘ or some variant on $-R.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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