[b-hebrew] Hebrew Meanings of Biblical Names
jimstinehart at aol.com
jimstinehart at aol.com
Sat Jun 16 15:15:45 EDT 2012
Hebrew Meanings of Biblical Names
The name of Abraham’s father is spelled TRX, traditionally transliterated as “Terah”. In my view Terah is portrayed as being a native west Semitic speaker, in which case his name TRX should make sense in Hebrew.
One of Terah’s signature characteristics is that he “wanders” and “journeys”. We first meet Terah in Ur in southern Mesopotamia, but then he soon ends up in XRN in northern Mesopotamia, where he has “wandered” or “journeyed”. Although my own view of why Terah makes this journey differs from the traditional view, perhaps we could all agree that one key role of Terah in the Patriarchal narratives is “to journey”.
Does Terah’s name, TRX, mean “you journey”? Is it a shortened version of T)RX?
There is a Hebrew verb )RX [see for example Job 34: 8] that means “to go, to journey, to wander, to take a long caravan trip”. “You journey” or “you wander” would be T)RX. For a name, the full-form T)RX could perhaps be shortened to just TRX, meaning “You wander, journey, take a long caravan trip”. [As to why TRX might have been preferred to T)RX for this name, Prof. Gordon J. Wenham at “Genesis 1-15” (1987), p. 252 points out that some form of TRX is attested as a place name in northern Mesopotamia, in the general vicinity of Harran. Thus by using TRX as an abbreviated spelling of T)RX, the name TRX could also recall the geographical locale of northern Mesopotamia, where Terah lives out his long life. But TRX as such geographical place name probably is not a west Semitic name, so it cannot function as the Hebrew meaning of the name of the father of west Semitic native speaker Abraham.] Since one of Terah’s key characteristics is that he makes a long “journey” from Ur to XRN, and since I see Terah as being a native west Semitic speaker, it would make sense for Terah’s name in Hebrew/west Semitic to mean “you journey”, with TRX being a play on [that is, an abbreviated version of] T)RX.
By contrast, the traditional analysis of the name “Terah”/TRX tries to tie it to the moon or a moon god. The Hebrew word for “moon” is YRX, and there was a Canaanite moon god with the same name, YRX. But the first letter of the name “Terah”/TRX is tav/T, not yod/Y. At one time it was thought that Ugarit attested a moon god named TRX, but that view has now been largely abandoned: “Although some scholars argued that Terah occurred as a divine name in the Canaanite texts from Ras Shamra [Ugarit], most now agree that there is no evidence of a god trx at Ugarit.” Victor P. Hamilton, “The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17” (1990), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, p. 363. Although it is true that both Ur and Harran were centers of worship of moon gods, nevertheless the Patriarchal narratives never mention the moon or any moon god regarding Abraham’s father Terah [or regarding any of Terah’s descendants who remain at XRN]. Moreover, the traditional linguistic analysis regarding “moon” seems untenable. Concerning 3-letter consonantal west Semitic roots, where the differing consonants are not related to each other (TRX vs. YRX), it seems to me that the fact that 2 out of 3 letters match means nothing.
I see the Hebrew meaning of the name TRX as being T)RX: “You Wander”. I do not see the Hebrew meaning of the name TRX as having anything to do with YRX/“moon”.
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