[b-hebrew] xiram

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Wed Jul 18 23:30:23 EDT 2012

Nir Cohen:

1.  You wrote:  “the middle Y in many semitic names, when used to fuse together two separate words, such as AX-Y-RM etc, should be interpreted firstly as a phonetic process, and only secondly as a grammatical process.  the fact is that phonetically the lack of middle vowel may be inconvenient, viz. AX-RM, and Y is the obvious solution. this may create a dual interpretation of the name which, i assume, was not considered a problem at the time, when "grammar" was yet to be invented.  once the innovation was introduced, it became a trend and, subsequently, the dual interpretation became fashionable.”

I agree.  But I would add that the interior yod/Y in those cases has no semantic meaning whatsoever, and in particular does not mean “my” or “of”, but rather is simply a name divider and/or a way to make the name easier to pronounce in Hebrew.

2.  You wrote:  “grammatically, it is assumed that in combinations such as )LY)B, )BYXYL, )BY(ZR, MLKYZDK, the first part seems to refer to god, and it makes sense to interpret it as "my god/my father/my king" etc.”

I agree completely that these initial elements are divine references.  Yes.  But there’s no reason to add the concept of “my”.  )B at the beginning of a name in ancient times was usually a reference to the divine Father, and if a yod/Y followed, that was as a name divider or to make the pronunciation easier, not a claim that the divine was “mine”.

I also agree with your fine insight that )BRHM is unusual in that there, the )B is referring to Abraham as being a human father, a biological father, rather than )B, as was ordinarily the case [such as in the Hebrew meaning of )BRM], referring to the divine Father/YHWH.  Yes, that’s a fine start toward analyzing the profound difference in meaning between the names )BRM and )BRHM.

3.  You wrote:  “jim, the case of ABRM/ABRHM is indeed unique and probably debated to exhaustion in the literature.”

(a)  )BRM is not much discussed in the literature.  In particular, to the best of my knowledge no one has ever asked the specific question I have raised.  Why is Abraham’s birth name )BRM, instead of )BYRM?  Both names are in the Bible, but the birth name of Patriarch #1 is exclusively )BRM, with no interior yod/Y.  To me, that’s a bit of a tongue twister in Hebrew.

(b)  As to )BRHM, most scholars insist that they are certain that )BRHM does  n-o-t  mean what Genesis 17: 5 says it means.  Indeed, a majority of scholars claim that (i) whoever composed Genesis 17: 5 didn’t know what the name )BRHM means, (ii) the name )BRHM long pre-dates the composition of Genesis 17: 5, and that (iii) although the author of Genesis 17: 5 was a Biblical Hebrew native speaker, somehow he didn’t realize that the name )BRHM allegedly has the  i-d-e-n-t-i-c-a-l  meaning as the name )BRM, so that whoever came up with the idea of Patriarch #1 being divinely given a new name was allegedly incapable [though being a Biblical Hebrew native speaker, mind you] of coming up with a new name that had any difference in meaning whatsoever from the person’s birth name.  All three of those assertions, though being the majority view of today’s scholars, are 100% false.  In my opinion, the name )BRHM never existed on planet Earth prior to the composition of Genesis 17: 5.  Why do scholars take the strange view that )BRHM, though completely unattested non-biblically in the ancient world, is a truly ancient name, and that Genesis 17: 5 is a late composition by a Hebrew author who didn’t know what the name )BRHM really means?  There is not a grain of truth to any of that.  My guess is that few people on the b-hebrew list buy the foregoing scholarly explanation, which is predicated on the bizarre notion of Hebrew authors not understanding Hebrew names they are writing about.

In fact, in my opinion [i] )BRHM means exactly what Genesis 17: 5 says it means, [ii] such name did not exist prior to the composition of Genesis 17: 5, and [iii] )BRHM has a very different meaning than the birth name of Patriarch #1,)BRM.  The downside of my view, which is the reason why it has never been considered by the mainstream, is that one has to be willing to consider that some aspects of both names may reflect non-Hebrew languages that were prominent in the Late Bronze Age, and that Genesis 17: 5 may be truly ancient, having been composed by an early Hebrew author who knew what he was talking about.

4.  Speaking of the scholarly view which I have just attacked, you yourself apparently have, to a certain extent, bought into that scholarly view, as you write:  “but we may equally conjecture that ABRHM was the original and the rest is a story constructed around the original name, which was already enigmatic when genesis was written.”

I disagree completely.  In my view the name )BRHM did not exist until the composition of Genesis 17: 5.  The “story constructed around the original name” was composed at the same nano-second as the name )BRHM was created.  In my view it was not until centuries later, long after the composition of the Patriarchal narratives, when the Hebrews and Jews had either lost their former knowledge of Late Bronze Age non-Hebrew languages or preferred not to remember such languages in the context of a Patriarch’s names, that )BRM and )BRHM became “enigmatic”.

5.  You wrote:  “the fact that ABYRM was NOT contemplated in genesis may be another indicator for the book's antiquity (??).  ...covered by the dust of history.”

Yes.  The Hebrew meaning of “the divine Father Is Exalted” works for either )BRM or )BYRM, and the latter form, with an interior yod/Y, is much easier to pronounce in Hebrew.  But in my opinion that Hebrew meaning is only the secondary meaning of this Biblical name, which in order to work in a Late Bronze Age non-Hebrew language as the primary meaning cannot have that interior yod/Y.  That’s my controversial opinion of the matter, which as you may note is predicated on the Patriarchal narratives being a truly ancient text, which was composed by an early Hebrew author who knew exactly what he was talking about.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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