[b-hebrew] The Names ??? ESAW and ??? LEWIY

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Aug 30 10:03:58 EDT 2013

Isaac Fried: 
You wrote:  “I suspect that the editor of Genesis  likewise doctored also 
the name לוי LEWIY by the same tricky W for B interchange  he employed in 
muddling the name עשו ESAW.  Originally it was, methinks, the  obviously 
theophoric אלאבי ELABIY, combining אל EL and אב AB.  Then, he told us a 
שובה לב a captivating  story, about a husband ready to "accompany" his 
ולדנית fertile  wife.” 
Isaac Fried, you start with  LWY, you add two alephs, you also change the 
vav/W to bet/B, and then you claim  that you’re seeing a match?  [Not to  
worry, we’ll see that the scholarly view of LWY is even worse than  that.] 
1.  LWY is a west Semitic/Hebrew name from  the Hebrew verb LWH, which 
means “to join, be joined”.  We see YLWH in the naming sentence at  Genesis 29: 
34.  The archaic  2-letter root here is probably LW, with -Y and -H being 
varying  endings. 
This name foreshadows that  Levi will “join”/LWH with Simeon throughout 
the rest of the Patriarchal  narratives, both in killing the men of Shechem 
and in almost killing  Joseph.  So at Genesis 49: 5 Simeon  and Levi are 
properly given a “joint” final curse from their father  Jacob/“Israel”.  Note 
also that at Numbers 18: 2, 4, the  tribe of Levi/LWY is told to “join”/LWH 
2.  If you’re looking for a theophoric,  there’s no reason to change any 
letters here.  It’s right there in front of you:  LW -Y, where -Y is a 
universal  theophoric suffix in the Amarna Letters.  Though ubiquitous in Hurrian, 
one occasionally finds -Y used as a  theophoric suffix in west Semitic 
names as well.  Thus in west Semitic, the divine name  Haddu can be followed by 
-ia (or -ya), per Amarna Letter EA 287: 49, as  can the divine name Baal, 
per Amarna Letter EA 165: 9. 
So the more obvious meaning of  LW-Y/“Levi” is:  “Joined with  God”.  
Leah, as is her custom, gets  very creative in dreaming that LWY might be 
stretched to mean that she will  hopefully be “joined”/LWH to her husband by 
virtue of bearing him this third  son.  We the audience are supposed  to figure 
out on our own that Levi/LWY will surely “join”/LWH his older brother  
Simeon in various actions throughout the Patriarchal narratives.  We’ve got 
multiple good meanings for  LWY, without changing any letters in the received 
text, and we haven’t even left  Hebrew yet.  There’s no reason to be  
changing any letters in this wondrous text. 
3.  I wonder if people know how university  scholars treat this name?  Many 
 scholars follow Wellhausen and claim that “Levi”/LWY is a gentilic of his 
 mother’s name, “Leah”/L)H, which allegedly means “wild cow” [I guess in 
Arabic,  believe it or not].  No, I’m not  making that up.  Does Leah act 
like  a “wild cow”?  No.  Would Leah’s mother in Bronze Age  eastern Syria 
give her daughter an Arabic  name that means “wild cow”?  No.  And heaven’s 
to  murgatroid, L)H and LWY have only their first letter in common anyway.   
I don’t think “wild cow” is a  Hebrew word.  And I think the Arabic  word 
being referenced by these scholars actually means “bull”, not wild  cow.  
The analysis is something  along the lines that “Leah”/L)H allegedly means “
cow” based on the  Assyrian word letu, which is the feminine of lu, which in 
fact means “bull”.  Lu in turn is a contraction of  le'u, and corresponds 
to the Arabic la'a (for la'aiu), meaning “wild bull” [not  actually meaning 
“wild cow”].  Le'u  (for leiu, la'iu, la'iiu) means originally, like 
Hebrew abbir, “strong”.  See the first paragraph of the scholarly  article by 
Paul Haupt here:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3087584  But in my humble 
opinion, L)H doesn’t look like either letu or lu in  Assyrian, and why would we 
care what the Arabic word is for “wild bull”, since  how could an Arabic word 
relate to Late Bronze Age  eastern Syria?  And none of that has  anything 
to do with the name “Levi”/LWY in any event. 
A closer match to the name “Leah”/L)H, by  the way, and a match that makes 
more historical sense, is the Hurrian name [of  unknown meaning] that is 
attested six times at Late Bronze Age Nuzi in eastern  Syria:  Ili-a-xi.  The 
Hurrian rendering has 3 elements,  corresponding to the 3 Hebrew letters in 
L)H [where he/H and heth/X were not  distinguished in cuneiform writing].   
4.  The majority view of scholars as to the  name “Levi”, however, is 
probably what is succinctly stated at John L. Mckenzie,  “Dictionary of the Bible
” (1995), p. 504:  “meaning and etymology uncertain”.  But is that 
5.  We see that there’s no name “Levi”  attested outside of the Bible in 
the ancient world.  That’s because the early Hebrew author  of the 
Patriarchal narratives created this name, on an all west Semitic/Hebrew  basis.  We 
the audience are supposed  to realize that it’s a made-up name that was 
created precisely so that it would  have the “obvious” meaning of “joined with God
”, but which could nevertheless be  stretched to possibly refer to Leah 
being “joined” with her husband Jacob on  account of this third son’s birth, 
and also so that it will be foreshadowed that  Levi is fated to “join” with 
his older brother Simeon in their  misadventures.  As a made-up name  that 
has multiple applicable meanings [with just a little stretching] in Hebrew,  
the name “Levi” is just like the name “Reuben” that I mentioned in a 
previous  post.  There’s no need whatsoever to  go changing any letters here. 
The lack of Hurrian influence  on the names of Jacob’s children, even 
though all of them except Benjamin were  born in Late Bronze Age eastern Syria, 
is telling us that the formerly  all-powerful Hurrians are on the verge of 
suddenly becoming yesterday’s people,  to become virtually extinct within a 
generation or two.  Through Jacob, Hurrian-influenced names  dominate;  but 
thereafter, beginning  with Jacob’s children, most names of Hebrews are all 
west Semitic/Hebrew all the  way. 
*       *       * 
But I thought we were talking  about the name “Esau”.  Unlike the  names 
of Jacob’s children, there’s no west Semitic analysis possible for the  name 
“Esau”.  The name “Esau” is  utterly redolent of Late Bronze Age Syria, 
thus showing the great  antiquity and historical accuracy of the Patriarchal 
narratives as an extremely  early written text [in cuneiform]. 
There is no “editor of  Genesis” regarding the Patriarchal narratives.  No 
editor could have come up with the  vintage Late Bronze Age Syrian name of “
Esau” on a letter-for-letter perfect  match basis. 
Jim Stinehart                                                               
Evanston,  Illinois
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