[b-hebrew] ???????? KDARLAOMER

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Aug 19 15:33:51 EDT 2013

Isaac Fried: 
You wrote:  “I ignore everything you say about ‘Ugaritic’ as I have no way 
of  verifying its veracity.” 
Fair enough.  But then let’s discuss the topic I mentioned in passing in my 
previous  post:  what about Chedorlaomer’s  title?  Is (YLM the expected 
Hebrew  rendering of any non-biblical rendering of the country-name Elam?  
Before we go the scholarly route and  dismiss the “four kings against five” as 
being non-historical because no king of  Elam ever came to the Dead Sea to 
snuff out a 12-year-long rebellion, shouldn’t  we slow ourselves down to 
ask, in the first instance, if Chedorlaomer is in fact  said to be the “King of 
Elam” at Genesis 14: 1? 
A.  (YLM  Is  N-o-t  “Elam” 
Scholars follow the traditional, non-scholarly view that  (YLM at Genesis 
14: 1 is referring to the country of Elam, the forerunner of modern  Iran 
east of Mesopotamia.  Before getting to the linguistic analysis of (YLM, note 
that it makes no  historical sense to think of a ruler from far-off Elam east 
of Mesopotamia coming to the Dead Sea to put down a 12-year-old rebellion 
by vassals of  his.  With there being no historical  sense to that 
traditional analysis [which is nevertheless embraced by most  scholars], does (YLM 
even match linguistically to Elam? 
The fact of the matter is that there is no equivalent to  a yod/Y in any of 
the secular historical spellings of Elam outside of  the Bible, whether 
Elamite, Sumerian, Babylonian or otherwise.  (YLM is simply not a linguistic 
match to  any historical spelling of the country-name “Elam”.  No such 
historical spelling features  either a vowel dipthong at the beginning, or 
alternatively a consonantal  yod/Y.  The Babylonians called the  country to their 
east Elamtu or KUR elammatum, or they used the Sumerian  logogram NIM meaning 
“highlands”.  Assyrians called that country Elamtu.  The Elamites 
themselves called their own  country Hatamti.  The Akkadian  common word “elum” 
means “high”, and is a popular etymology for the Akkadian  name elamtu.  “
Elamtu” as an east  Semitic country name of southwestern Iran near the Zagros  
Mountains would be expected to be rendered in Biblical Hebrew as  (LMT.  But 
instead of (LMT, what’s  there in the received text of Genesis 14: 1 is 
(YLM.  It’s by no means a linguistic  match.  [It appears that the rest of  the 
Bible picked up this Genesis 14: 1 name and spelling.  Perhaps the rest of 
the Bible considered  (YLM to be, inexplicably, the Hebrew way of spelling 
(LMT?]  Please note that the modern English  rendering, “Elam”, comes from 
Biblical  nomenclature, not from any non-biblical source.  “Elamtu” or “
Hatamti” would likely be  the English version of this country’s name if Biblical 
nomenclature were  ignored.  [Recall in this connection  that the modern 
English rendering of “Hittite” likewise (i) comes from Biblical  
nomenclature, not from non-biblical sources, and (ii) reflects a complete  
misunderstanding of what XTY means in the Patriarchal narratives, where in fact  XTY 
refers to the Hurrians by the Hurrian-based Patriarchal nickname Xu-ti-ya,  
having nothing whatsoever to do with the Hittites.]  
It’s hard to believe that (YLM is a non-west Semitic  foreign loanword 
[allegedly being the non-west Semitic proper name of the  country east of 
southern Mesopotamia], when so many Hebrews and Jews have (YLM  as their own name. 
 BDB lists 8  examples of that.  But note that all  8 such examples are 
post-exilic, whereas chapter 14 of Genesis, by stark  contrast, is part of the 
oldest part of the Bible.  Note also that not too many Biblical  Hebrew 
common words start with (Y.  The one very frequently-attested Hebrew common word 
that starts with (Y  is (YN.  The Assyrian equivalent  there is ênu with a 
circumflex over the E, which may be why “spring [of water]”  is spelled 
with (Y with a yod/Y in Hebrew, whereas the Assyrian equivalent of  Elam by 
contrast is elamtu with no circumflex over the E, so that one would not  expect 
a yod/Y in the Hebrew rendering of elamtu. 
Finally, Genesis 14: 1-11 never says that this attacking  ruler, or any 
other attacking ruler, came from the “east”.  Thus despite that fact that 
scholars  almost unanimously assert the traditional non-scholarly view that (YLM 
is  “Elam” at Genesis 14: 1, it most  assuredly is not!  There’s no  
historical match, no linguistic match, and no textual match.  Indeed, there’s no 
match whatsoever of  any kind on any level.  Furthermore,  not a single one 
of the four attacking rulers comes from the east;  rather, all four come 
from north of  Canaan, not from east or northeast of Canaan.  University 
scholars can  s-a-y  that (YLM means “Elam”  and then try to dismiss the text as 
allegedly being manifestly non-historical,  but in fact the Biblical author 
was saying nothing about Elam, nor would any of  his contemporary audience 
have thought that he was saying anything about  far-off, totally irrelevant 
Elam east of Mesopotamia. 
B.  (YLM =  (LM 
In the original version of the text, (YLM was almost  certainly just (LM, 
without the yod/Y.  As such, in the original text, the defective spelling (LM 
in this proper  name would not have been distinguishable, out of context, 
from the word (WLM  that is used eight times as a Hebrew common word in the 
Patriarchal narratives,  including in the immediately preceding chapter at 
Genesis 13: 5.  In defective spelling, (WLM, meaning  “eternity”, was likely 
(LM, with the vav/W being a plene spelling element that  would not be there 
in the original defective spelling.  Indeed, the Ugaritic spelling of the  
west Semitic word for “eternity” is simply ‘lm [with no yod]. 
Subject to only a handful of exceptions, the spelling of  Hebrew  
c-o-m-m-o-n  words in the Patriarchal narratives is  indistinguishable from the 
spelling of Hebrew common words in II Samuel.  That’s because the same person, or 
the  same group of scribes, in the late 7th century BCE Jerusalem of King  
Josiah both (i) composed and wrote down II Samuel, and (ii) transformed the 
vast  bulk of the truly ancient Patriarchal narratives from the original 
cuneiform  Late Bronze Age clay tablets into alphabetical Hebrew.  Thus there’s 
no surprise whatsoever to  see the plene spelling of (LM as (WLM at Genesis 
13: 5, which represents  standard Biblical Hebrew spelling circa late 7th 
century BCE  Jerusalem.  But night and day  different from that phenomenon 
regarding Hebrew  c-o-m-m-o-n  words is the fact that the truly ancient  
spellings of non-Hebrew  p-r-o-p-e-r  names in the  cuneiform original of the 
Patriarchal narratives were not updated to  7th century BCE form.  Rather, they 
were generally recorded verbatim, letter-for-letter in  alphabetical 
Hebrew, except that defective spelling was used [so that most  vowels were not 
reflected by a Hebrew letter].  Non-Hebrew proper names in the  Patriarchal 
narratives do not have plene spelling, but rather have the original  defective 
spelling, whereas by sharp contrast Biblical Hebrew common words in  the 
Patriarchal narratives often feature plene spelling.  [Since cuneiform could 
not distinguish  one guttural from another, naturally there were some mistakes 
in handling the  gutturals in ancient non-Hebrew proper names in the 
cuneiform original version  of the Patriarchal narratives, but that’s not the 
problem here.] 
In my view, several centuries later a post-exilic  do-gooder editor decided 
that the title MLK (LM, which was the original version  of Chedorlaomer’s 
title, was too magnificent and god-like to be a suitable title  for 
Chedorlaomer, who clearly is viewed negatively in the Bible.  (LM in a proper name 
implied (WLM, and  MLK (WLM seemed far too grand a title for disliked 
Chedorlaomer.  So under the guise of “clarifying” the  text by merely adding plene 
spelling [but with other non-Hebrew proper names in  the Patriarchal 
narratives in fact not having plene spelling], a later editor  took it upon himself 
to add in a yod/Y after the first letter in (LM, thereby  producing the 
(YLM that we see today in the received text.  It’s hard to know what (YLM 
meant, but  it’s easy to see that (YLM deftly acted to prevent Chedorlaomer’s 
title from  being viewed as being (LM, implying (WLM.  
Virtually all scholars see (WLM as being a noun that is  derived from the 
verb stem (LM.  If  (YLM were viewed as being a common noun with a west 
Semitic etymology [as  opposed to being a foreign loanword], then (YLM as well 
could be viewed as being  a noun that is derived from the verb stem (LM.  All 
three of these words would then have  had the identical defective spelling:  
(LM.  It might be noted that  Strong’s goes this route and specifically 
sees (YLM as deriving from (LM.  The reason why Strong’s etymology is a  
minority view is not because it wouldn’t be easy to derive (YLM as a noun from  
the verb (LM linguistically if (YLM were a west Semitic word or name, but 
rather  is because most scholars have preferred to see (YLM as a non-west 
Semitic  loanword, being the foreign name of a foreign country, Elam.  But as 
noted above, historically  “Elam” was never spelled (YLM, as no  historical 
spelling of that country-name features either a vowel dipthong or  
alternatively a consonantal yod/Y. 
The original text of Genesis 14: 1 had MLK (LM.  If I may be permitted to 
mention  Ugaritic again, that original title is the well-known kingly 
reference, mlk ‘lm,  that was used exclusively at Ugarit.  The literal meaning is “
king eternal”, but at Ugarit mlk ‘lm was used with the following specific  
meaning:  “all the kings of  Ugarit, past,  present and future”.  “
Chedorlaomer”  is the king of Ugarit in Year 13 [per Genesis 14:  4], on the west 
coast of Syria north of Lebanon [not  e-a-s-t  of Canaan!].  Chedorlaomer has 
nothing whatsoever to do with far-off, irrelevant  Elam. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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