[b-hebrew] SLM: Jacob's "ladder"
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Nov 26 14:21:12 EST 2012
Prof. Yigal Levin:
You wrote: “While I even agree with most of what you wrote, from past
experience I know that the question at the end of your post is rhetorical. You
obviously know something that nobody else knows. So spare us the sleepless
night and please bestow a bit of wisdom upon us.”
I am glad to oblige. But I am really hoping to learn from other people on
the b-hebrew list as to their ideas. You and I both know that as soon as I
set forth my own explanation of SLM in Jacob’s “ladder”, this thread will
be promptly closed by the moderators. I don’t even get the benefit of
receiving refutations of my views [which could be very valuable to me],
because my threads are closed so quickly.
But Yes, I think I may “know something that nobody else knows” about SLM
and Jacob’s “ladder”, and I am more than glad to “bestow a bit of wisdom”
as to this fascinating matter. But please consider allowing this thread to
stay open long enough so I can get some refutations of, or other comments
on, my controversial analysis of SLM.
If the Patriarchal narratives are not an exilic or post-exilic product,
but rather [per my own view] were largely composed in Years 13-14 [expressly
referenced at Genesis 14: 4-5] way back in the Late Bronze Age, then
otherwise inexplicable hapax legomenon in this truly ancient text may be common
words that slipped over into Hebrew from Hurrian. That follows from the
fact that the Amarna Age was the only time period in Canaan’s long history
when the ruling class of Canaan was dominated by Hurrian princelings. One
non-obvious corollary of that here is that in my opinion, the Hebrew author
of the Patriarchal narratives had never seen a Babylonian ziggurat; he knew
nothing and cared less about such untoward pagan practices, which in my
view [as opposed to the view of many scholars] do not underlie the beautiful,
priceless Hebrew imagery of the Jacob’s “ladder” story.
As to SLM, in the phrase traditionally translated as Jacob’s “ladder” at
Genesis 28: 12, consider that $i-lum-i-ki is a Hurrian noun at Mitanni
Letter III 46 [Amarna Letter EA 24], whose meaning may be “having a view”.
$il- means “to be pleasant”, and $ilax means “to trade”, perhaps more
literally meaning: “coming from having pleasant relations with”. -i-ki are
standard Hurrian suffixes. Dropping those standard Hurrian suffixes from
this Hurrian common word in Amarna Letter EA 24, $i-lum, which could be spelled
SLM in Hebrew [since virtually all sibilants in Hurrian got written as
shin/$, regardless of the actual pronunciation of various sibilants by
Hurrians], may likely mean: “that which affords a pleasant view [and allows
relations to occur]”.
The Hurrian meaning here would not focus on something being “high” or
being a “ladder” or “staircase” or “stone steps on a ziggurat” or “a
Babylonian siege-ladder”, but rather would focus on “something that allows
(pleasant) relations to occur”. A loose one-word paraphrase of the meaning of
this Hurrian word $i-lum might be “bridge” (used in a metaphorical,
non-literal sense), or perhaps better: “gateway”.
Now we see why I oppose any attempt to translate $(R as “gateway”, when
it actually has the more literal meaning in the Patriarchal narratives of “
gate”. SLM means “gateway” [per $ilum in Hurrian], and $(R means “gate”.
Jacob’s “ladder” is a “gateway”/SLM up to the “gate”/$(R of heaven.
Let me hurry to add that this beautiful, priceless imagery at Genesis 28:
12 is all Hebrew, not Hurrian at all. The Hurrians are mainly known to
Biblical scholars as the people who thought of a-a-pi as being a tunnel to the
underground where the gods lived. )WB [or the form )BT] is used in 16
different verses in the Bible. One mainstream scholarly view of this
mysterious Hebrew common word is that it is a loanword that reflects the Hurrian and
Hittite word a-a-pi, which is a “sacrificial pit for summoning the
underworld gods”. Sara E. Kimball, “Hittite Historical Phonology” (1999), p. 65.
See also George C. Heider, “The Cult of Molek: A Reassessment” (1985),
p. 249, which deals with Leviticus 20: 6 in particular: “Hittite/Hurrian
a-a-pi (a pit connecting one with the underworld)”. [That Hurrian word
a-a-pi is also the likely basis for a Hurrian interpretation of the name “
Yapa-xu”, being the historical name from Amarna Letter EA 298: 1 of the awful
firstborn son whom I see as being the “iniquitous Amorite” at Genesis 15:
Thus the beautiful imagery of Jacob’s “ladder” at Genesis 28: 12 is 100%
Hebrew, and is virtually the opposite of the Hurrian concept of “a pit
connecting one with the underworld”. The Hurrian word a-a-pi never appears in
the Patriarchal narratives! Nor is this Hebrew imagery dependent in any
way on a Babylonian ziggurat. People are always mad at me for pointing out
Hurrian names and words in the Patriarchal narratives, but the reason I do
that is to assert that the Patriarchal narratives are much older, and much
more historically accurate, than university scholars realize. The Hebrews
certainly did not borrow their ideas from the Hurrian princelings who briefly
dominated the ruling class of Canaan during the Amarna Age. No way. But
if the mid-14th century BCE is indeed the historical time period of the
composition of the Patriarchal narratives and of the historical Patriarchal
Age, as I assert is the case, then it behooves me to show several instances
in which Hurrian words seem to have slipped over into several otherwise
inexplicable hapax legomenon Hebrew common words in the Patriarchal narratives.
In the Jacob’s “ladder” story, the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal
narratives [who in my opinion was a true genius] has taken a well-known
Hurrian motif and literally turned it on its head. Today we don’t think of
communicating with the divine the Hurrian way, by enticing gods to come up
out of the a-a-pi from the netherworld. No, we think like Jacob and look
up, conceptualizing a “gateway”/SLM going up high to the “gate”/$(R of
heaven, the Hebrew way, per Genesis 28: 12.
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