[b-hebrew] yrw$lm

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Sep 28 18:00:13 EDT 2012

Nir Cohen:
You wrote:  “[T]he only possible reason to have sumerian URU before the 
name would be by official babylonian nomination.”
Or, more likely, by mistake.
Consider for example the city name Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia.  I have 
been unable to find any scholarly etymology of the name Uruk.  But one 
naturally wonders if it might be URU, meaning “city”, plus the ending -K or -ka, 
which is prominent in many non-west Semitic languages [and often functions as 
a generic term of endearment].
Consider also the city name “Ura”, an ancient city located in southeast 
Anatolia, just west of northwest Syria.  I don’t know a scholarly etymology, 
but once again, one wonders if that place was referred to as URU, meaning “
city” as a Sumerian logogram, and then the name stuck, in the form of Ura.
In fact, there are a fair number of names, both of places and of rulers, in 
the ancient world that start with Uru or a slight variant of Uru.  Perhaps 
some of them are corruptions of an original reference to URU as a Sumerian 
logogram meaning “city”.
IR-Heba was a Hurrian princeling ruler of Jerusalem in the Late Bronze Age 
who doesn’t seem to know any name for the city he ruled other than úru$lm.  
He wasn’t a native west Semitic speaker, nor did he know much Akkadian or 
Sumerian.  Those were all esoteric foreign languages to him.  IR-Heba may well 
have been preceded by a succession of Hurrian rulers of Jerusalem, none of 
whom paid the slightest bit of attention to the underlying Semitic meaning 
of the name of the city they had come to rule.  To me, it’s easy to see how, 
through human error and/or sloppiness and/or not caring, URU $lm could 
become corrupted to úru$lm.  Indeed, I for one am surprised that mistakes like 
that weren’t made more often in the ancient world regarding place names.
But from the standpoint of Biblical studies, the only thing that is 
important regarding the name Jerusalem, in my opinion, is that by the time the 
Hebrews first come into existence, that city had the pre-existing non-Hebrew 
name of úru$lm.  We can speculate how such name may have come about originally, 
but the key is that the Hebrews only knew Jerusalem by that name.   The 
Hebrews never knew $LM as the original city name, and at least in the 
Patriarchal narratives I do not see $LM as being used as a shortened name for 
Jerusalem.  Úru$lm was “just a name” to the early Hebrews, who didn’t care at that 
point what the underlying meaning of that corrupted name might be or might 
have originally been.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois
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