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

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Sep 18 19:53:14 EDT 2011

Prof. George Athas:
1.  You wrote:  “The linguistic impossibilities of your suggestion do not bother me so much as the breathtaking fantasy of a Mesopotamian-born man in the Bronze Age (whichever subsection of it you wish to assign makes no difference at this point) being named after an Egyptian deity, although only half the deity's name made it into the Mesopotamian man's name.”
I agree with the majority of scholars that the Hebrews historically are indigenous to Canaan.  The Hebrews did not migrate into Canaan from Mesopotamia.  There is no historical support for that proposition.  I also note that Hebrew is a virgin pure west Semitic language, which supports a Canaanite origin of the Hebrews.
It is also my view that, as I have frequently voiced on the b-hebrew list, the author of the Patriarchal narratives presents the Hebrews [historically accurately] as being indigenous to Canaan.  Terakh is trying to get back to his homeland of Canaan after a one-time semi-disastrous caravan trip from Canaan out to Ur in southern Babylonia to buy lapis lazuli at wholesale.  Otherwise, why would old Terakh be trying to go to Canaan from Harran after his son Haran had died at Ur?  All of Abraham’s ancestors lived in Canaan, and all except Terakh were buried in Canaan, and that is why Abraham is said to be “gathered to his people” at Genesis 25: 8 when he is buried at the Patriarchs’ Hebron in Canaan.  If all of Abraham’s ancestors had been buried in Mesopotamia, as you would have it, how could Abraham be said to be “gathered to his people” when he died in Canaan?
The notion of Abraham being “a Mesopotamian-born man” is false historically [per the majority view of today’s scholars], and in my view is also inconsistent with what the Hebrew text of the Patriarchal narratives says.
Moreover, the text has presented Abram as having gone to Egypt before he receives a divinely-changed name.  The author of the Patriarchal narratives later uses p3-r‘, in the form P-R(, as the last 3 Hebrew letters in the name of Joseph’s Egyptian priestly father-in-law, showing a great familiarity with Egyptian religious thinking and wording as of Years 12-14 of the Amarna Age.  And the Hebrew author also portrays Joseph himself as receiving an Egyptian name.  So the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives was well aware of Egyptian religious thought and Egyptian words.
Finally, as to the claim that “only half the deity's name made it into the Mesopotamian man's name”, the same is true that only half [or less than half, actually] of B(NYY made it into the BN portion of the name “Reuben”, per the explicit Biblical analysis of this name at Genesis 29: 32.  If a Biblical author can see BN as short for B(NYY, then why on earth couldn’t that same Biblical author see R as short for R(?  In both cases the ayin/( is dropped in the explicit Biblical analysis of these names.  Same.  What I am doing on this thread is setting forth the reasonable suggestion that R is used as a shortened form of R( in the name “Abraham”, a suggestion that is to a large extent corroborated by the analysis at Genesis 29: 32.

You seem eager to throw both Genesis 17: 5 and Genesis 29: 32 under the bus.  Why?  The rest of us are interested in trying to make sense of those two verses of Biblical text in the Patriarchal narratives.  If people on the b-hebrew list have a better idea than mine as to how we should understand those two Biblical verses, then I’m all ears.  Isn’t this the kind of question the b-hebrew list was designed to discuss?
2.  You wrote:  “This thread is still closing on Sunday night.”
We were all waiting with baited breath for William Parsons’ heavy-hitting Egyptian analysis of p3-r‘ and P-R( and s3-r‘, and the critical issue of whether there’s an Egyptian connection s3-r‘ to %-R and %-R-H in Hebrew.  [At least I sure was.]  Now it seems that, most unfortunately, William Parsons will not have time to provide us with that Egyptian analysis.  Although he does not accept my Egyptian analysis of the R in Abraham, I for one would love to learn from his expertise on Egyptian matters as to this.

3.  Still no one on this thread, including the two moderators, has overtly defended the scholarly view that “Abraham” is merely a “lengthening” of “Abram”.  Many of us are extremely reluctant to abandon what Genesis 17: 5 says, and are searching for an etymology of )B-R-HM that fits what Genesis 17: 5 says.  )B is a natural for meaning a human “father”, and the explicit reference to HMWN/“multitude” at Genesis 17: 5 sure makes -HM in “Abraham” look like a shortened form of HM-WN.  The $64,000 question then is how to understand the -R- in )B-R-HM.  If my controversial suggestion is found wanting, then what are other people’s suggestions?  For example, might I be so bold as to ask for the second time what your own view is as to the meaning of the name “Abraham”, as well as your view of Genesis 17: 5?  If I’m wrong that R is a shortened form of R( in the name “Abraham”, being a reference to the Egyptian word r‘ for Deity, then how do you deal with Genesis 17: 5?
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list