[b-hebrew] Hebrew Meanings of Biblical Names

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sat Jun 16 23:45:12 EDT 2012

David Kolinsky:

1.  You wrote:  “Did it ever occur to you that YaRae'aCh = Moon also means ‘wanderer’?"

I don’t see the relevance of that.  TRX has nothing to do with the moon/YRX.  The only time that the word “moon” appears in the entirety of the Patriarchal narratives is at Genesis 37: 9 regarding young Joseph’s dream.  Nothing in the text supports the traditional view that Terah or his descendants in Naharim worshiped the moon.  However, the text is clear that TRX makes a long “journey” or “caravan trip”, which is very important in the plotline of the Patriarchal narratives.  So it makes sense, adding in the fact that Terah was a native west Semitic speaker, that TRX is a shortened from of T)RX, and in Hebrew means “you journey”.  The name of each native west Semitic speaker in the Patriarchal narratives makes good sense in Hebrew.

2.  You wrote:  “Have you ever noticed that his father's name NaChoR means "to be rebuked?"

You mean that you don’t accept the scholarly view that NXWR means “Snorer”?  But when the subject turns to the name of Abraham’s middle brother, NXWR, the middle son of Terah, a meaning of “to be rebuked” would make no sense at all.  Rather, the Hebrew meaning of NXWR refers to the “neighing of horses”, and foretells that NXWR/Nahor is fated to live most of his life in Naharim, a region that was world famous for its horsemanship skills, especially regarding chariots.

The Hebrew meaning of NXWR is as a variant of the Hebrew common word NXR.  At Jeremiah 8: 16, NXR means:  “the neighing of horses”.  Though the ultra-literal meaning of NXR focuses on the sound that horses make, the general reference here is to “horses” [not to “snoring”, or to a human being “snorting”].   During the Late Bronze Age, Naharim in northern Mesopotamia (eastern Syria) was world famous for having introduced “horses” and “horse-drawn war chariots” to the ancient near east.  Although Nahor himself is a native west Semitic speaker, he ends up living most of his life surrounded by charioteers in eastern Syria .  Here’s the most famous sentence ever written about Nahor’s non-Semitic neighbors:

“Indeed, it was probably the Hurrians who introduced ‘the light horse-drawn chariot with spoked wheels, the training of horses to draw it, its use as a platform for firing the composite bow, and the development of scale-armour for men and horses to counter it’ (cf. Sherratt 1980:125).” 

Accordingly, instead of NXWR having a senseless Hebrew meaning of “Snorer”, as traditionally thought, the Hebrew meaning of the name NXWR in fact deftly recalls the time and place where Nahor lived:  northern Mesopotamia, at XRN in Naharim, which in the Late Bronze Age was world famous for its association with “horses” and “horse-drawn chariots”.

The point is that each native west Semitic speaking person in the Patriarchal narratives has a name that makes sense in Hebrew, highlighting one fairly important aspect of that person’s role in the Patriarchal narratives.  Thus the Hebrew meaning of TRX recalls Terah’s “journey” or “long caravan trip”, and the Hebrew meaning of NXWR recalls Nahor living most of his life in a locale in eastern Syria famous for the “neighing of horses”.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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