[b-hebrew] Hebrew Meanings of Biblical Names

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Jun 17 21:36:47 EDT 2012

Prof. George Athas:

You wrote:  “In responding to David's post, it is clear that you are excluding anything contrary to your viewpoint as being admissible. This is methodologically flawed (you are assuming your conclusion) and in no way conducive to conversation about Hebrew.”

So far on this thread, (i) I have agreed with Isaac Fried’s view that the name TRX is not related to YRX/moon, and (ii) I have respectfully disagreed with David Kolinsky’s view that since both Terah and the moon can be said to “wander”, the name TRX should be viewed as being related to YRX/moon.  We can in fact get further insight into that particular issue by looking at the Biblical name of another native west Semitic speaker -- Terah’s oldest son:  HRN [“Haran”].

The linguistic analysis of HRN is very straightforward.  HR is the Hebrew word for “mountain”, and -N is a nominative ending.  HR-N means “Mountain Place”.  But does the Hebrew meaning of that name make sense in the context of what Haran does in the Patriarchal narratives?

Haran’s key characteristic in the Patriarchal narratives is that he predeceases his own father, dying in a place whose name, in my opinion, was that of “mountain” people who came from the Zagros “Mountains”, with such country’s name reflecting a language [Sanskrit-based Kassite] from beyond the “mountains”.  Thus the name HRN foretells that Terah’s firstborn son is fated to die in Kassite southern Mesopotamia [that is, Late Bronze Age southern Mesopotamia], predeceasing his own father, whose middle son’s name NXWR implies in Hebrew that NXWR and TRX will outlive HRN for decades living in Naharim in northern Mesopotamia.

I interpret the Hebrew wording of Genesis 11: 28 as saying that Haran died in the presence of his father Terah and in the presence of his father’s descendants [molodet], in Ur of the Kassite-country-people [K$-D-YM/ku-$u - du - ym].  The first two letters, K$, in K$-D-YM mean the Kassites, a name which in most non-Akkadian languages [including Hebrew] is Ku-$u.  D is tu and/or short for duniash, being either the Akkadian or the Kassite word for “country”.  -YM is the standard west Semitic suffix meaning “people”.

The scholarly view that K$DYM means “Chaldeans” is untenable on all counts.  That view does not work linguistically, because the second letter in the received text is shin/$, not lamed/L.  The very first non-biblical attestation of the name “Chaldeans” has a lamed/L;  the claim that $ changed to L over time has nothing whatsoever to substantiate it.  Historically, a reference to the Chaldeans makes no sense, as the Chaldeans are 1st millennium BCE people who, every Hebrew knew, long post-date the Patriarchal Age.  Finally, that scholarly interpretation of K$DYM makes no textual sense either, because then the name HRN, meaning “Mountain Place”, would be senseless.  [There are no mountains in Haran’s death place of southern Mesopotamia, which is a flat plain.]  With there being nothing out there to support the scholarly view that K$DYM somehow allegedly means “Chaldeans”, we should properly view the first two letters of K$-D-YM, namely K$, as referencing the Late Bronze Age Kassites, who came from the Zagros “Mountains” and whose name for their country was based on a language [Sanskrit-based Kassite] that is from beyond the “mountains”.

HRN means “Mountain Place” in Hebrew, meaning that Terah’s oldest son is fated to predecease his own father and die in Kassite southern Mesopotamia, a country whose name reflects the “mountain” people, the Kassites.  K$-D-YM/ ku-$u - du - ym means “Kassite-country-people”.  On the foregoing analysis, both HRN and K$-D-YM make perfect sense on all levels:  linguistically, historically and textually.  By contrast, the scholarly view that HRN is a senseless name [in that Terah’s oldest son is not associated with “mountains”], and that the second letter in K$DYM should be changed to make it mean “Chaldeans”, is indefensible on all levels and should be jettisoned. 

NXWR means the “neighing of horses” in Hebrew, and Nahor’s adopted homeland of Naharim in eastern Syria was famous for horses only in the Late Bronze Age.  In that era, Kassites ruled southern Mesopotamia and as “mountain” people gave their name to that place for 500 years, so the Hebrew meaning of the name HRN well befits a man who dies in Ur in the Late Bronze Age.  

Regarding the issue being discussed by David Kolinsky and Isaac Fried and me as to whether the name TRX is or is not a play on the Hebrew word YRX meaning “moon”, it is important to note that, historically, neither Harran nor Ur were centers of moon worship in the Late Bronze Age.  So if the Hebrew meanings of the names HRN and NXWR are, per the foregoing analysis, pointing to a Late Bronze Age composition date and time period for the Patriarchal narratives, then the ancient name TRX in that event cannot be referencing the moon/YRX.  Rather, TRX must in Hebrew be referencing Terah’s “long caravan trip”/)RX [per Isaac Fried’s astute observations, with which I agree] out to Ur and then to XRN, with Terah outliving his son Haran for decades.  

The point I am trying to make on this thread [and I certainly welcome hearing opposing points of view and alternative theories of the case] is that If we can get the historical time period right [the Late Bronze Age, having nothing to do with JEP], we will find that  a-l-l  names of native west Semitic-speaking people in the Patriarchal narratives make good sense in Hebrew.  That stands opposed to the conventional views that (i) NXWR nonsensically means “Snorer”, and that (ii) the name HRN does not make good sense in context because Haran’s death in allegedly Chaldean southern Mesopotamia has nothing whatsoever to do with “mountains”.  In fact, the Hebrew meaning of  a-l-l  of these names makes perfect sense in the context of the Late Bronze Age backdrop of the Patriarchal narratives.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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