[b-hebrew] Amalek's attacks before the big battle of Ex 17:8?
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Jul 11 15:57:06 EDT 2013
Prof. Yigal Levin:
You wrote: “Karl, I would love to see where you're getting this from. As
far as I know, the answer to David's question is no: there is now known
evidence, outside of the Bible itself, that a people/tribe called Amalek ever
existed. The fact that later writers, already with the biblical text,
identified Arabian tribes that they were familiar with with the biblical Amalek
is not proof of anything. By the way, the same is true for the Midianites,
the Gorgashites, the Jebusites and several other groups.”
1. Amalekites, Girgashites and Jebusites are all attested Hurrian personal
names, which the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives
cleverly used as apt nicknames for the Hurrians of his day. See my prior post for
a thumbnail linguistic analysis of those three names.
2. The “Midianites” are people from historical Mitanni in eastern Syria.
Books in the Bible after the Patriarchal narratives stretch that a bit to
include in such term people from that area long after the Hurrian state of
Mitanni itself had gone extinct.
The Ishmaelites who buy Joseph as a slave are from Mitanni [with some
Ishmaelites having settled even further east, in Assyria, per Genesis 25: 18],
so they are “Midianites”. That word is spelled in two slightly different
ways in chapter 37 of Genesis: MDYN-YM at Genesis 37: 28; as opposed to a
slightly simplified spelling of MDN-YM at Genesis 37: 36. Taking off the
-YM west Semitic standard suffix meaning “people”, the country name that
remains is MDYN or MDN.
It is likely that the mid-14th century BCE scribe who recorded Hurrian
names in cuneiform in the Patriarchal narratives was aware of the various ways
to write “Mitanni” in cuneiform: (i) the ultra-formal 7-syllable version
that is found exclusively in the royal Mitanni letter: Mi-i-id-ta-a –
an-ni; (ii) the 5-syllable version used once in the Amarna Letters (EA 56: 39)
and also sometimes used in Hittite cuneiform: Mi-id-ta – an-ni; (iii)
the 4-syllable version used on one other occasion in the Amarna Letters (EA
58: 5) as well as at times in Hittite cuneiform [where the cuneiform sign
-ta-, which can be either -da- or -ta-, is shown here as -d/ta-]: Mi-d/ta –
an-ni; and (iv) the greatly shortened 3-syllable version of this name that
is the most common version in the Amarna Letters (EA 85: 51; 86: 12; 90:
20, etc.): Mi-d/ta-ni. In creating names for two of Keturah’s sons who
will be sent east, to the east country of Mitanni, being Keturah’s ancestral
homeland [which is the first occasion in the Bible when one sees MDYN, and
also MDN, at Genesis 25: 2], and knowing that a majority of proper names in
the Patriarchal narratives have either four or three Hebrew letters, it is
not surprising that the Hebrew author chose the 4-syllable and 3-syllable
attested versions of this name.
The scribe in late 7th century BCE Jerusalem who transformed the original
cuneiform version of these names into alphabetical Hebrew decided to render
the cuneiform sign -d/ta- as dalet/D (in both versions of this name).
Note also: (i) the first of the doubled Hurrian consonants N was omitted as a
matter of course, and (ii) also as a matter of course, the resulting
Hurrian true vowel A as its own separate syllable was rendered by Hebrew yod/Y.
On that basis, these two versions of “Mitanni” from the Amarna Letters
match up directly to MDYN and MDN as the names of two of Keturah’s sons in
the Patriarchal narratives, as follows:
(1) Mi-d/ta – an-ni = Mi-da-a-ni = MDYN
(2) Mi-d/ta-ni = Mi-da-ni = MDN
These same two spellings were then carried over into chapter 37 of Genesis
in characterizing certain Ishmaelite traders as being from Mitanni: MDYN
and MDN. When Exodus was composed later, the longer, more accurate
version, MDYN, was exclusively used to refer to the Late Bronze Age Hurrian state
in eastern Syria: Mitanni [or, in context, to the former state of Mitanni].
* * *
Prof. Levin, the Patriarchal narratives are not talking about fictional
people who never existed historically. What would be the point of that?
Rather, the last 40 chapters of Genesis refer to (i) XRY as the historical name
of the Hurrians [Genesis 14: 6]; (ii) in most cases, however, Hurrian
personal names are used as clever, apt nicknames for the Hurrians, including
the three names you mention above, Amalekites, Girgashites, Jebusites; and
(iii) the Late Bronze Age Hurrian state of Mitanni is referred to by its
historical name: Mi-d/ta – an-ni = Mi-da-a-ni = MDYN.
If you would be willing to consider that, out of dire necessity, a Jewish
scribe in late 7th century BCE made the wise choice of using alphabetical
Hebrew yod/Y to render the Hurrian true vowel A as its own separate syllable
[in transforming these 14th century BCE Hurrian names in cuneiform into
alphabetical Hebrew], then all of these names suddenly make complete
historical sense. More Hurrian names begin with the Hurrian true vowel A as its
own separate syllable than in any other way, like A-bu-u-$e-ya/YBWSY/“
Jebusites”. So a Hebrew letter had to be used to record that commonplace Hurrian
phenomenon, and Hebrew yod/Y worked nicely.
Once you recognize that Hebrew yod/Y was used to render the Hurrian true
vowel A as its own separate syllable, surely you can then see that: Mitanni
= Mi-d/ta – an-ni = Mi-da-a-ni = MDYN.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the b-hebrew