[b-hebrew] Ezer vs. Ezer
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Aug 21 10:27:36 EDT 2013
Ezer vs. Ezer
In the English of KJV, “Ezer” at Genesis 36: 21 cannot be distinguished
from “Ezer” at I Chronicles 4: 4. Their English spellings are identical,
even though their Biblical Hebrew spellings are night and day different: )CR
vs. (ZR. Although we on the b-hebrew list do not care too much about the
English renderings of Biblical names, we nevertheless should care about the
somewhat comparable phenomenon of how Biblical names would have been
rendered in cuneiform writing, for the reasons discussed in this post.
The oldest part of the Bible, if it is a really old written text from the
Bronze Age [before alphabetical writing was well-developed], must have been
written in Akkadian cuneiform [which is well-attested in south-central
Canaan in the Amarna Age]. Was cuneiform writing oddly like English in being
unable to distinguish Ezer vs. Ezer above, even though the Hebrew
spellings of those two names are completely different? We know that the “Ezer” at
Chronicles 4: 4 would have been recorded in Akkadian cuneiform as a-zi-ri,
per Amarna Letter EA 160: 2. [The root of this name is the Hebrew verb
(ZR, meaning “to help”, which appears at Genesis 49: 25.] Note that the
first letter there in the cuneiform rendering is the Akkadian true vowel A, as
Akkadian cuneiform had no direct way of recording west Semitic ayin.
We can’t be totally sure of how the “Ezer” at Genesis 36: 21 would have
been recorded in cuneiform, because that name is not in the Amarna Letters.
But we can be quite sure how the first letter would have been recorded.
The aleph/) as the first letter in that name Ezer is the same letter as the
aleph/) which is the first letter of the name “Abimelek”. [The Abimelek
in the Amarna Letters has the same name, and is the same person as, the
Abimelek in chapters 20, 21 and 26 of Genesis.] The name “Abimelek” is
recorded in cuneiform as a-bi-mil-ki. Amarna Letter EA 154: 2. [The root of
the first half of that name is )B, meaning “father”, as in the names “Abram”
and “Abraham”.] Akkadian had no aleph, just as it had no ayin, so the
Akkadian cuneiform of the Amarna Letters usually recorded both such west
Semitic letters as the Akkadian true vowel A.
Thus as to the first letter, the “Ezer” at Genesis 36: 21 cannot be
distinguished from the “Ezer” at I Chronicles 4: 4 in cuneiform writing: in
both cases, that first letter was recorded as the Akkadian true vowel A in
the cuneiform of the Amarna Letters.
The moral of this story is that if you see an aleph/) as the first letter
of a non-Hebrew foreign name in the oldest part of the Bible, if it was
originally recorded in cuneiform, you cannot tell if that first letter was
originally intended to be an aleph/) or an ayin/(. Why? Because the Akkadian
cuneiform of the Amarna Letters made no distinction whatsoever between
those two very different west Semitic letters, and for a non-Hebrew name, the
underlying meaning of such name may well be obtuse.
Why is that of critical importance to the b-hebrew list? Because then one
comes to realize that when one sees that the first letter in the name of
Joseph’s Egyptian wife is aleph/), there is no guarantee against the very
real possibility that the first letter of her name may in fact have
originally been intended to be an ayin/(, if that name was first recorded in
cuneiform [and only centuries later was transformed into alphabetical Hebrew].
Many people have wondered why scholars have never been able to make sense of
the name of Joseph’s Egyptian wife. The reason for that is that scholars
have accepted at face value the assumption that the first letter of her
name was originally intended to be an aleph/), since that is what appears in
the received alphabetical Hebrew text. But in fact, what was there,
originally, was simply the Akkadian true vowel A, in cuneiform, which could just as
easily be Hebrew ayin/( as Hebrew aleph/).
The o-n-l-y way to make sense of the name of Joseph’s Egyptian wife, “
Asenath”, is to recognize that the first letter was originally intended to
be ayin/(, not aleph/). That mix-up occurred because of the confusion of
gutturals that is inherent in cuneiform writing.
And now here’s the really exciting part. Each Biblical Egyptian name in
Genesis that contains a guttural makes perfect sense if the foregoing
confusion of gutturals in cuneiform writing is recognized, while not making good
sense otherwise. What does that mean? That means that the Patriarchal
narratives were recorded as a written document way back in the Bronze Age!
Few things in life could be more exciting than that. The proof that the
Patriarchal narratives as a written text are centuries older than scholars
think is precisely the foregoing: each Biblical Egyptian name in Genesis
that contains a guttural makes perfect sense if the confusion of gutturals that
is inherent in cuneiform writing is recognized, while not making good
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the b-hebrew