[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. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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