[b-hebrew] [amarna] Old West Semitic Words

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Dec 17 10:50:10 EST 2012

Nir  Cohen: 
1.  You wrote:  “it is very difficult for me to accept a  conjecture that 
the law of moses was written in any language but  hebrew” 
It’s Hebrew, in the sense of  west Semitic words that for the most part fit 
classic Biblical Hebrew  perfectly.  But it’s such west  Semitic words 
written in cuneiform, not using an alphabet. 
If you’re saying that the Patriarchal  narratives were recorded in 
alphabetical Hebrew in the Bronze Age, that’s not  possible.  Just look at how  
rudimentary the Qeiyafa Ostracon is.  There’s no way that the Qeiyafa Osatracon 
alphabet could have been used  to record any significant portion of the 
sophisticated, complex Torah.  But if, on the other hand, you’re saying  that 
the Patriarchal narratives weren’t recorded in writing at all until the  Iron 
Age, that won’t work either, because of the pinpoint historically accurate  
details of the first Hebrews’ struggles in Years 12-14 of the Amarna Age 
that  are faithfully recorded in the received text.  The Amorite princeling 
ruler in Years  12-13 of the valley where the Patriarchs sojourned is given the 
apt Patriarchal  nickname of “Mamre the Amorite”, and his historical name 
is honored and set  forth in full at Genesis 46: 17:  MLK  -Y-  )L 
[Milk-i-Ilu].  There’s no way that anyone in the exilic  or post-exilic era could 
come up with details from Years 12-14 like that.   
No, all those details must have been  recorded in the mid-14th century BCE 
by a contemporary, in cuneiform,  using west Semitic words.  50  cuneiform 
tablets, weighing only about 15 pounds or so in total, would be  sufficient 
to record the Patriarchal narratives.  One of the very earliest Hebrew  
traditions, then, dating all the long way back to the Late Bronze Age, would be  
that the Hebrews carted along with them those 50 tablets of sacred Hebrew  
scripture in a sacred chest, wherever they went.  No, we don’t have those 50 
cuneiform  tablets today, but we do have in the received text of the 
Patriarchal narratives  how they were transformed into alphabetical Hebrew in the 
early 7th  century BCE [with the poetry of Jacob’s Blessings having been put 
into  alphabetical Hebrew earlier, as noted in #3 below].  The numbers, 
proper names, and  substantive content in the received text of the Patriarchal 
narratives are all  redolent of the first Hebrews’ struggles to survive and 
maintain their homeland  in the Amarna Age. 
2.  In a  later post you wrote:  “jim, the  queiyafa ostracon is NOT in 
That’s for sure!  And that, my good friend, is the point.  If you would 
look at Rollston’s fine  article that I cited, you would see how rudimentary 
the alphabetic system of the  Qeiyafa Ostracon was as of 1000 BCE.  Neither 
the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives, nor Moses, could  use such an 
inadequate writing system to record any substantial portion of the  Torah.  
Not.  Meanwhile, the most sophisticated and  best writing system known to 
the ancient world was readily available to the  early Hebrews:  cuneiform.  
And we know from the Amarna Letters that  cuneiform could easily be used to 
record west Semitic words. 
Forget the alphabet.  Think cuneiform!  That is, cuneiform used to record 
west  Semitic pre-Biblical Hebrew words.  Cuneiform worked equally well to 
record west Semitic words, or Hurrian  words, or Akkadian words. 
3.  You wrote:  “cuneiforms were used in the entire region between egypt, 
turkey  and the persian gulf as a means of diplomatic and logistic 
communication. most  probably, they were legible (in canaan) only by a handful of 
scribes. it is even  doubtful whether the local rulers who sent them could read 
them directly without  the scribe's help.  quite on the  contrary, religeous 
texts have always been written in the language of the  people, so as to be 
understood by a large number of people.” 
Hello, hello?  King David’s scribe was of Hurrian  ancestry, though his 
family had lived in Jerusalem for many generations.  His Hurrian ancestry meant 
that he knew  cuneiform [the writing method in which Hurrian was recorded], 
but since he lived  his whole life in Jerusalem he was bi-lingual in  
Canaanite/pre-Hebrew.  His name,  $RYH, tells us the whole story.  In  a 
Jerusalem dominated by Hurrians/“Jebusites”,  King David had inherited a scribe of 
Hurrian ancestry whose family had lived in  Canaan for many generations.  
His name, $RY-H at II Samuel 8: 17, is  based on the following 
frequently-attested Hurrian man’s name:  $ar-ri-ia.   That would be recorded in early  
alphabetical Biblical Hebrew as $RY.  To that Hurrian base name is added a 
Semiticized -H ending, as with the  names Araunah and Uriah.  In all  three 
cases, that Semiticization shows that the man’s family, though of Hurrian  
origin, had long lived in Canaan.   
King David’s scribe $ar-ri-iah may indeed  have been the scribe who 
advanced the alphabet enough, a mere 50 years or so  after the dreadful Qeiyafa 
Ostracon, to be able to record Jacob’s Blessings  [chapter 49 of Genesis] in 
alphabetical Hebrew.  By contrast, the non-poetical portions  of the 
Patriarchal narratives were not transformed from cuneiform writing of  west Semitic 
words into alphabetical Hebrew until the early 7th  century BCE, when (i) the 
alphabet had greatly improved, (ii) there was more  literacy, and (iii) 
most importantly, King Hezekiah desperately needed a  religious boost for his 
devastated kingdom.  That’s why scholars tell us that the  writing style, as 
to spelling and grammar, of Jacob’s Blessings is  11th-10th century BCE, 
whereas the writing style, as to  spelling and grammar, of the rest of the 
Patriarchal narratives is  7th century BCE. 
See how everything makes logical sense?  Just think cuneiform, with 
cuneiform  being used to write west Semitic words, and then everything falls right 
into  place, just as it should.  The first written version of the 
Patriarchal  narratives was really old, dating all the long way back to the mid-14th  
century.  It was written in cuneiform, using west Semitic/pre-Hebrew words  
that for the most part have a direct equivalent to Biblical Hebrew  words. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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