[b-hebrew] YERU

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Sep 28 12:27:28 EDT 2012

Prof. Yigal Levin:
You wrote:  “Jim, I'm not at all sure how you (and others – this is not 
your own personal theory) get the idea that the Jebusites were "Hurrian". 
Nothing in the Bible indicates that they were anything but "Canaanite", and as 
there is no extra-biblical evidence at all about the Jebusites, the Bible is 
all we have to go on. We also have no indication that the Jebusites were the 
inhabitants of Jerusalem before Josh. 15.”
In this post, as one critical part of the answer to your question, let me 
focus on linguistics, precisely because the scholarly community has failed to 
do that.  For reasons noted later in this post, I see YBWS-Y, which has the 
awful KJV transliteration of “Jebusites”, as being:  A-bu-u-se-ya.
The Biblical name YBWS-Y/Jebusites, and its root YBWS/Jebus, have seemed 
inscrutable to etymological analysis.  HALOT gives no etymology of its own, 
but rather states at p. 382:  “gentilic of YBWS…the pre-Israelite inhabitants 
of Jerusalem”.  [YBWS:] “trad. original name of the Hyksos (root BWS 
Gesenius Thes 189)”. 
No satisfactory etymology of “Jebusites” has been proposed to date, nor is 
there a consensus as to the Jebusites’ ethnicity.  “The identity of the 
Jebusites is also subject to debate.  Some propose that they were Hurrian or 
Horite in background, while others suggest a Hittite background.”  David 
Freedman et al, “Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible” (2000), p. 676.  “[T]he 
Jebusites are not recorded in any written document independent of the Bible.”  
William Lipinski, “Itineraria Phoenicia” (2004), p. 502.  “According to 
Biblical tradition, Jerusalem, in the heart of the central hills, remained in 
the hands of the ‘Jebusites’ until David seized it by a ruse in the early 
10th century B.C. (2 Sam. 5: 6-10;  cf. Josh. 15: 63).  We do not know who the 
Jebusites were and can only suppose that Jebus was the name of a local 
Canaanite clan (as in Gen. 10: 16).”  William G. Dever, “Who Were the Early 
Israelites and Where Did They Come From?” (2006), p. 216.
The Bible often associates the Jebusites with Jerusalem, and Jerusalem 
itself is sometimes referred to as ‘Jebus’.  Judges 19: 10-11;  I Chronicles 
11: 4-5.  Although Dever sees the Jebusites as being Canaanites, many other 
analysts see the Jebusites as Hurrians.  One basis for that view is the phrase 
“Araunah the Jebusite” at II Samuel 24: 16.  Prof. Levin, I am going to 
assume here that you agree with the majority of scholars who see ‘Araunah’ at 
II Samuel 24: 20-24 as being a bona fide Hurrian name [which it is].  
Accordingly, we might rightly expect YBWS-Y/Jebusite to be a colorful reference 
to the Hurrians [just as XT-Y is in the phrase “Uriah the XT-Y/‘Hittite’”, 
with “Uriah” being recognized by virtually all analysts as a Hurrian name, 
and with XT-Y being Xuti-ya, the most frequently-attested Hurrian personal 
name at Nuzi].  Historically, the process that II Samuel describes at length, 
regarding how the Hebrews finally came to dominate Jerusalem, would make 
sense if (i) the people who previously had dominated Jerusalem were a remnant 
of the Hurrians, and (ii) all of the following proper names are Hurrian:  
)WRY[-H]/Evriya [“Uriah”];  XTY/Xutiya [“Hittite”];  )RWN-[H]/Erwin [“Araunah
”];  and YBWSY or YBSY/Abuseya [“Jebusite”].  That is indeed the case. 
With it making historical, logical and textual sense for the Jebusites to 
be Hurrians, what’s sorely needed here, in order to confirm the matter, is a 
Hurrian etymology of YBWSY.  I view the Biblical name YBWS-Y as being 
A-bu-u-se-ya, and as such as being but a slight orthographic variant of the 
following Hurrian personal name attested at Nuzi:  A-bu-u$-$e-ia (Gelb, Purves, “
Nuzi Names”, p. 23b).  On a more general level, I see the following six names 
at Genesis 15: 19-21 as being Hurrian personal names that are used as 
Patriarchal nicknames for the Hurrians:  Kenites, Kenizzites, Hittites, 
Perizzites, Girgashites, Jebusites.  That reflects the historical reality of the 
Amarna Age when, as we know from princeling names in the Amarna Letters, 
Hurrians dominated the ruling class of Canaan.  
Moving now to specifics regarding which Hebrew letters are used, as is 
routinely the case in the Hebrew rendering of Hurrian names, Hebrew yod/Y [here 
in initial position] represents the Hurrian vowel A as its own separate 
syllable.  [Lipinski sees the final Hebrew yod/Y in XTY as representing -a or 
-ia or -ya in Hurrian:  Xuti-ya.]  As always, the first of the doubled Hurrian 
consonants is dropped.  With shin/$ at Nuzi often interchanging with sin/%, 
and with Hurrian not distinguishing between a samekh/S or a sin/% for s, it 
is not surprising to see samekh/S in the Biblical spelling, instead of 
shin/$.  All other aspects of the Biblical name match exactly to the way Hurrian 
names are consistently rendered in Biblical Hebrew;  in particular, note 
that each Hurrian syllable is represented by one Hebrew letter.  The Hebrew 
author of Genesis 15: 21 treated the Hurrian name A-bu-u$-$e-ia as being 
A-bu-u-se-ya.  Y = a.  B = bu.  W = u.  S = se.  Y = [y]a.  YBWS-Y.  Thus 
everything is as expected for the Hebrew rendering of a Hurrian name that the early 
Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives conceptualized as being 
A-bu-u-se-ya.  That Late Bronze Age Hurrian personal name is used in Genesis as a 
Patriarchal nickname for Hurrians generally.
The applicable Hurrian common word here is abu$k- or a-bu-u$-ki-i-ti, which 
means “to save”.  Nozadze, “Vocabulary of the Hurrian Language”, p. 78.  
As with the Hurrian proper name A-bu-u$-$e-ia, the root of this Hurrian 
common word is a-bu-u$ [with the -ki-i-ti ending consisting of optional 
suffixes].  With P and B often being interchangeable in Hurrian, both of the 
following names at Nuzi [Gelb Purves, p. 23b] are based on that Hurrian common 
word:  A-bu-u$-$e-ia, and A-pu-u$-qa.  The latter such name was very popular at 
Nuzi, being attested on numerous occasions using three slightly different 
spellings:  A-pu-u$-ka, A-pu-u$-qa, and A-pu-u$-ki.  Nozadze, p. 77.  A name 
that begins with either A-bu-u$ or A-pu-u$ is Hurrian, and would be expected 
to be rendered in Hebrew [if B instead of P is used] as YBWS [as we see as 
the root of YBWS-Y at Genesis 15: 21], or YBS [as we see as the root of YBSY 
at II Samuel 5: 6, 8 and 24: 16, 18], or YBW$ or YB$ [with sibilants having 
inconsistent spellings in Hurrian].  Indeed, once it is recognized that the 
Hurrian sibilant here may be represented by Hebrew samekh/S, the expected 
Hebrew rendering of the attested Hurrian name 
A-bu-u$-$e-ia is precisely what we see in the Biblical text:  YBWS-Y.
As always in the Biblical rendering of Hurrian names, the final Hebrew 
yod/Y represents the Hurrian hypocoristic theophoric suffix:  -ya [or -ia or -a, 
The meaning of this Hurrian name is:  “Saved by Teshup”.  YBWS-Y [“
Jebusites”] is the expected Hebrew rendering of A-bu-u-se-ya.  That is an attested 
Late Bronze Age Hurrian personal name which [like the names Kenites, 
Kenizzites, Hittites, Perizzites, Girgashites and Hivites] is used as a colorful 
Patriarchal nickname for the Hurrians generally, who briefly dominated the 
ruling class of Canaan in the Amarna Age.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois
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