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

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Sun Jul 14 10:52:08 EDT 2013


Youwrote:  “Dear Jim, am Imisunderstanding you when you use the term non-semitic? because...Amalek wasthe son of a princess Timna who was Lotan's sister also a semite who wasconcubine to Eliphaz who was the son of Esau who was jacob's brother who was asemite....if I have then sorry.”

I am sodelighted that you asked that question, because it suddenly dawned on me thatthat’s probably the main reason why people on the b-hebrew list have neverthought of Amalek as being Hurrian.

1.  Here’s the short answer [for people who wantto skip the lengthy linguistic analysis at #2 below].  Genesis 36: 20- 22outright tells us that Amalek’s mother was a Hurrian/XRY:  (i) per Genesis 36: 20, Lotan is the son of Seir[a Hurrian name] the Hurrian/XRY/“Horite”, and at Genesis 36: 21 Lotan is saidto be a Hurrian/XRY leader [see also Genesis 36: 29-30];  and (ii) per Genesis 36: 22, one of Lotan’s children was XRY/Hurrian/“Hori”,and Lotan’s sister was Timna.  In a priorpost, I showed that “Amalek” itself is a Hurrian name.  Amalek’s maternal grandfather is explicitlystated to be a Hurrian/XRY at Genesis 36: 20, Amalek’s maternal first cousin isexplicitly stated to be a Hurrian/XRY at Genesis 36: 22, and the name “Amalek”is a Hurrian name.  Yes, Amalek’s father isEsau’s son Eliphaz, per Genesis 36: 12, who was a Hebrew [or pre-Hebrew] nativespeaker.  But note that chapter 36 ofGenesis makes explicit that Amalek’s maternal ancestors are Hurrians/XRY.  As you rightly point out, Amalek’s paternalgrandfather Esau was a Semite whose native language was Hebrew [or pre-Hebrew,etc.].  But Amalek’s mother was aHurrian.  As discussed in detail in #2below, if a man has a Hurrian mother, then both Biblically and historically, itis predictable that the man will either have a Hurrian name, or a name thatmakes sense both in Hurrian and in the language of the man’s father.

Thus the short answer is that despitethe fact that Amalek’s paternal grandfather [Esau] was a native Hebrew-speakingSemite, nevertheless “Amalek” is a Hurrian name.  That is no real surprise, since chapter 36 ofGenesis bends over backwards to tell us specifically and explicitly that Amalek’smaternal ancestors were Hurrians, including Amalek’s mother, Timna.

2. Your question, however, raises one of the most super-exciting and most controversialquestions in the entire Hebrew Bible. Though unnoticed by scholars, the fact of the matter is that most of themarried couples throughout the Patriarchal narratives are portrayed as beinglike Amalek’s parents:  a native westSemitic-speaking man marries a woman whose mother is a Hurrian.  In particular, that pattern applies toAbraham and Sarah, to Isaac and Rebekah, and to Jacob and both Leah and Rachel.  Sarah’s birth name, Sarai, is never attestedas a west Semitic name, but is well-attested as a classic Hurrian woman’sname.  Note that all of Rebekah, Leah andRachel come from the Hurrian heartland in eastern Syria.  Yes, the paternal ancestors of Rebekah, Leahand Rachel are [like Amalek’s paternal ancestors] native west Semitic speakers,but their mother’s mother is in every case a Hurrian.

The premise of your question, whicharticulates what most people on the b-hebrew list doubtless think but which is historicallyinaccurate, is that if a Hebrew-speaking man [like Esau’s son Eliphaz] marrieda Hurrian woman [like Timna], their children would have names that make sensesolely in Hebrew, not in Hurrian.  Butthat is false.  As you know, I have shownin a prior post that “Amalek” is a Hurrian name.  And historically, if a Hurrian woman marrieda non-Hurrian man, the Hurrian woman would insist that their sons either haveHurrian names, or names that make sense in both the language of the father andthe Hurrian language of the mother.  

As a key historical example of thatlatter phenomenon [which is well-documented historically but will come as ashock to most people on the b-hebrew list, but which is of critical importancein trying to understand the Patriarchal narratives historically and is notblasphemous, and which is fundamentally a question of historical linguistics,which is this list’s long suit], in the Amarna Letters Yapaxu has a native westSemitic-speaking father, the Amorite princeling Milk-i-Ilu, but his maternalgrandfather is the Hurrian princeling Tagi, meaning that Yapaxu’s mother was aHurrian.  The name Yapaxu is routinelyanalyzed as being a west Semitic name, and on one level it is.  But it also works perfectly as a Hurrian nameas well, and that’s no accident:  thename “Yapaxu” works beautifully both as a west Semitic name, honoring Yapaxu’sAmorite father, and as a Hurrian name, honoring Yapaxu’s Hurrian mother.

Theb-hebrew list is primarily concerned with language issues that directly affectthe Hebrew Bible, which I myself interpret as including distinguishing frompurely Hebrew names both names that are not Semitic at all, and names that workwell both in Hebrew and in the non-Semitic language of Hurrian.  So please bear with me as I set forth a fairlydetailed linguistic analysis showing that when a Hurrian woman [like Timna]marries a man [like Esau’s son Eliphaz] whose native language is a west Semiticlanguage like Hebrew, it is predictable that their sons [like Amalek] will haveBiblical names that will either be Hurrian names, or will make perfect sense inboth Hebrew and Hurrian.  

AlthoughRichard Hess, Wm. Moran and other leading scholars always transliteratethe name “Yapaxu” with a heth/X, which they do per the Akkadian cuneiformheth/X that was used to record this name in the Amarna Letters, nevertheless(for reasons discussed immediately below) they both analyze such name bytreating such Akkadian cuneiform heth/X as representing a west Semitic ayin/‘,in their west Semitic/Amorite analysis of the name ia-pa-xi/“Yapaxu”.  But bearin mind that Akkadian cuneiform heth/X could also render a heth/X (instead ofan ayin/‘on the Amorite analysis), in which case, as we shall now see, ia-pa-xi makes perfect sense in Hurrianas well.  [The name “Timna” has that sameending.]  

Here let’s start first with the Hurrian analysis of the name“Yapaxu”/ia-pa-xi.  As to the ia-paat the beginning of this name, compare the Hurrian word a-a-pi, which is a “sacrificial pit for summoning the underworldgods”.  Sara E. Kimball, “HittiteHistorical Phonology” (1999), p. 65.  Seealso George C. Heider, “The Cult of Molek: A Reassessment” (1985), p. 249,which deals with Leviticus 20: 6 in particular:  “Hittite/Hurrian a-a-pi (a pit connecting one with the underworld)”.  [’WB (or the form ’BT) is used in 16 differentverses in the Bible.  With B and P oftenbeing interchangeable within Hurrian, many Biblical scholars, such as thosenoted above, view ’WB as being the Biblical Hebrew rendering of the Hurrianword a-a-pi.]  Just as the classic Hurrian theophoric can bespelled either -ia or -a-a, the a-a- at the beginning of the Hurrian common word a-a-pi could alternatively be spelled asia-, which gives us ia-pi as an alternative spelling of thisHurrian common word.  As to the finalelement in the name ia-pa-xi, that -xi is a ubiquitous Hurrian suffix thathas the literal meaning of “coming from”.  So in Hurrian, where Akkadian cuneiform heth/Xis treated as representing heth/X (not ayin/‘), ia-pi-xi would mean:  “comingfrom a pit connecting one with the [gods of the] underworld”.  Nozadze’s Hurrian dictionary reports the following divine name, which likely isreferring to this well-known phenomenon:  A-a-pi-. The point is that to the Hurrian motherof Yapaxu, where Hess spells this name ia-pa-xi,such name would certainly recall a Hurrian meaning of “coming from a pitconnecting one with the [gods of the] underworld”:  a-a-pi-xior ia-pa-xi.  

Now we’ll move on to the west Semitic analysis of the name “Yapaxu”.  To Yapaxu’s Amorite father, Hess’s standardall-west Semitic explanation makes sense:  “[God] has appeared”, where Akkadian cuneiformheth/X is viewed as representing west Semitic ayin/‘.  See Hess’s analysis of the name“Yapaxu”/ia-pa-xi at p. 84 of “AmarnaPersonal Names”, where the west Semitic root of this name is viewed as being yp‘ [YP(], with an ayin, and with therebeing no west Semitic heth/X involved.  

Recognizing that Akkadian cuneiform heth/X in final position could represent eitherayin or heth [as Shlomo Izre’el in particular has demonstrated is the case inthe cuneiform of the Amarna Letters], we see that the name “Yapaxu” worksequally well in both languages:  on anall-west Semitic analysis (using ayin), and on an all-Hurrian analysis (usingheth).  That reflects the historical factthat Yapaxu, like Isaac, Jacob and Esau and Amalek, had a native west Semitic-speakingfather and a mother whose mother was Hurrian. Accordingly, in all such cases, instead of stopping with an all-westSemitic analysis of such a person’s name (as has heretofore routinely been done,both Biblically and non-Biblically), we should rather go on to ask whether, inaddition, the name “Yapaxu” also works well on an all-Hurrian basis as well.  And indeed it does, per the above analysis,just as do the names “Isaac”, “Jacob” and “Esau”.  In my view, the names “Isaac”, “Jacob”, “Esau”and “Yapaxu” are ingeniously devised to make perfect sense in both westSemitic and Hurrian, reflecting the fact that the man had a native westSemitic-speaking father and a mother whose mother was Hurrian.  Accordingly, it is neither an accident norblasphemous that the names “Isaac”, “Jacob” and “Esau” (like the historicalname “Yapaxu”) make just as good sense in Hurrian as they do in Hebrew.  Please note that the  o-n-l-y  historical time period when such a maritalpattern was commonplace in Canaan was the Amarna Age in the mid-14thcentury BCE. 

I am  n-o-t  alleging that the Hebrew Patriarchs wereHurrians.  They weren’t.  But each Hebrew Patriarch is portrayed as marrying a womanwhose mother was a Hurrian.  What’s super-importantabout that is that historically, that marital pattern makes sense in Canaansolely in the mid-14th century BCE, when for a brief moment in timewe know that, per the Amarna Letters, Hurrian charioteers temporarily dominatedthe ruling class of Canaan.  ThePatriarchal narratives as a written cuneiform text are much older, and muchmore accurate historically, than university scholars realize.  When chapter 36 of Genesis explicitly assertsand reiterates that Amalek’s maternal ancestors were Hurrians, though his paternalancestors [including Esau] were native west Semitic speaking Semites, that ishearkening back to a marital pattern that is well attested in Canaan only in thePatriarchal Age of the mid-14th century BCE.


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