[b-hebrew] Amalek's attacks before the big battle of Ex 17:8?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jul 11 13:20:32 EDT 2013

David Kolinsky wrote:  “Is there any extra- biblical evidence  that a 
people named AMaLeQ ever existed?” 
The answer to that has everything to do with language,  and as such should 
be a fit topic for the b-hebrew list. 
No historical people bore the group name Amalekites  [Genesis 14: 7], or 
the following group names at Genesis 15: 19-21:  Kenites, Kenizzites, 
Perizzites,  Girgashites, or Jebusites.  Rather,  these are Hurrian personal names 
that the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal  narratives is using as 
nicknames for the historical Hurrians of his day.  [On the linguistic front, the 
main  non-obvious fact to figure out is that Hebrew yod/Y is used to render 
the  Hurrian true vowel A as its own separate syllable.  More Hurrian names 
begin with the  Hurrian true vowel A than in any other way, such as  
1.  “Amalekites” :  (MLQY  :  A-ma-li-qa-ya : the Teshup Sees people.  
[For all six names, the final Hebrew  yod/Y does double duty.  On the one  
hand, it’s the universal theophoric represented by the cuneiform sign I.A in the 
 Amarna Letters for west Semitic, Hurrian and Egyptian names, which 
historically  was particularly common for Hurrian names, and is here translated in 
context as  “Teshup”.  But on the other hand,  that final yod/Y is 
simultaneously the west Semitic standard suffix that means  “people”.  Hebrew 
ayin/( is the  old-style way in chapter 14 of Genesis to render the Hurrian true 
vowel A as its  own separate syllable.] 
2.  “Kenites”  :  QYNY  :  Qa-a-ni-ya  :  the Teshup Is Firm people.  
[Hebrew yod/Y as the second letter is  the normal way to render the Hurrian true 
vowel A as its own separate  syllable.] 
3.  “Kenizzites”  :  QNZY  :  Qa-ni-zi-ya  :  the Blessed Teshup Is Firm  
4.  “Perizzites”  :  PRZY  :  Pi-ri-zi-ya  :  the Blessed Teshup Is Lord 
5.  “Girgashites”  :  GRG$Y  :  Ge-ra-ge-$e-ya  :  the Being Freed by 
Teshup people.  [Although the sibilant is shown as a  shin/$ here, it’s also 
attested as a sin/%.] 
6.  “Jebusites:  :  YBWSY  :  A-bu-u-$e-ya  :  the Saved by Teshup People.  
[Hebrew yod/Y as the first letter is  used to render the Hurrian true vowel 
A as its own separate syllable.  In cuneiform, samekh/S equates to  shin/$, 
and samekh/S does not equate to sin/%.] 
None of these peoples are fictional.  Rather, instead of always using their 
 proper name, XRY, the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives 
most  often referred to them by using an apt Hurrian personal name as a 
nickname.  Note that each of the above six names  exemplifies an important 
historical characteristic of the Hurrians. 
As to a linguistic point made in another connection by  Dave Washburn, we 
might note that the cuneiform used to record Hurrian names and  to record 
these Biblical Hurrian names forces a CV basic format [with some  vowel-only 
syllables as well].  Whether the actual pronunciation, in  Hurrian or in the 
Hebrew pronunciation of these Biblical Hurrian names, was  often CVC or not, 
we cannot tell from the cuneiform.  Also, although I have shown the interior 
 -a- in #2 above as being a separate syllable, it’s perhaps more likely 
that it  was an orthographic convention that meant that the prior A vowel was 
long,  rather than being pronounced in its own right.  That’s the way it 
worked in Akkadian,  and #2 and #3 are attested Hurrian personal names that are 
based on an Akkadian  verb, but we cannot tell directly from the cuneiform 
Linguistic analysis reveals that the above six peoples  are not fictional, 
as often alleged.  Rather, they are the historical Hurrians, who are being 
referred to by  clever, fitting nicknames that utilize attested Hurrian 
personal names.  
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illlinois
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