[b-hebrew] SLM: Jacob's "ladder"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 28 14:22:09 EST 2012

1.  The  problem with the “basket-elevator” idea is not linguistic, but 
rather is  historical and geographical.  Jacob  had never seen an Egyptian 
pulley-system or a Babylonian pulley-system in  southern Mesopotamia, so he 
wouldn’t dream of such things, which did not exist  in Canaan. 
2.  University scholars who argue for an exilic dating of the Patriarchal  
narratives make a linguistic argument similar to what you make, when you  
say:  “[SLM is] from a Hebrew root  indicating raising above, other 
derivatives include ramp, trellis for holding up  plants, raised highway….”  That  
works well for a Babylonian ziggurat, which Jews would see during the  Exile.  
But it doesn’t work for  Jacob, who had never seen a ziggurat, and whose 
religious imagery is not coming  from the Babylonians in southern Mesopotamia. 
Those two ideas are not a major linguistic problem, but  they don’t work 
historically or geographically. 
3.  The  purely linguistic argument only really bites as to the traditional 
view of a  “ladder”.  Contra most modern  scholarly analysts, you assert:  
“…this derivative indicating a ladder….”  Based on Hebrew linguistics 
[but not  historically or geographically], SLM fits a ziggurat and ramps, not a 
 ladder.  Thus on a linguistic basis,  scholar Robert Alter says:  “
Mesopotamian ziggurat…the structure envisioned is probably a vast ramp  with 
terraced landings.” 
4.  You then  say:  “…or, as I have always  pictured this, a stairway 
leading upwards.”  But linguistically, “stairway” is like  “ladder”, being 
hard to fit to the alleged Hebrew roots of SLM.  “Ramp” fits much better 
regarding Hebrew  linguistics, but that once again would be a Mesopotamian 
5.  By  contrast, my proposal of a Hurrian loanword eliminates all of these 
 problems.  The Hurrian common word  $ilum, which might well come into  
Hebrew as SLM as a Hurrian loanword during the Amarna Age [being the only time  
when Hurrian princelings dominated the ruling class of Canaan], literally 
likely means:  “something  that allows (pleasant) relations to occur”.  It 
might be viewed as effectively  meaning:  “gateway”.  Whereas the Hurrian 
word a-a-pi refers to a tunnel to the  netherworld, being a Hurrian concept 
that definitely is not in evidence in  chapter 28 of Genesis, the Hurrian word 
$ilum would by contrast be a fitting  word for the uniquely Hebrew 
conception of Jacob envisioning a “gateway”/SLM up  to the gate of heaven. 
Unlike all other proposals I have seen, my  proposed Hurrian loanword 
gambit for the mysterious Hebrew common word SLM fits  linguistically, 
historically and geographically, while in no way impinging on  the 100% Hebrew-ness 
and true antiquity of this memorable Hebrew religious  concept. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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