[b-hebrew] abrhm

J. Leake john.leake at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Mar 12 19:39:39 EDT 2013

What seems fairly sure to me (ignoring any theological point of view) about the redactor of Genesis  is: (1) he regarded Abram as an Aramaean. (2) he 
passes without comment on Abram and Sarai; (3) he can't  explain 
Abraham, hence the problematic etymologizing of name. The idea that 
Abram and Sarai are Aramaic forms makes sense; that they won't appear in our Aramaic sources is fixed by Genesis drawing the distinction, 
forcing Targums etc. to treat them as distinct names.

RHM. Given the rather pastoral context of the Arabic rhm - rihma, drizzle or continuous rain, mirham, place where rihma has fallen, rahām or ruhām, emaciated (of a sheep or goat), 'arham 'more plentiful (of land watered by rihma)' - why not assume a theophoric name abi-raham, perhaps with raham as an epithet of the rain god (Ba'al as rkb ‘rpt?). Such a word might simply not appear in the Biblical lexis.

I wondered also whether (as you've mentioned the possibility of a differentiating development) whether raham as a differentiated form of raḥam might be possible - there is evidence of rḥmn (Aram. rāḥmān?) being worshipped in a Syrian pagan context in the first few centuries AD, and rhmnn appears in a late South Arabian (monotheistic) context, according to John Healey's Religion of the Nabateans(p.90) where he cites his own paper, "The Kindly and Merciful God: On some Semitic Divine Epithets" in Dietrich and Kottsieper (eds) "Und Mose schrieb dieses Lied auf": Studien zum Alten Testiment und zum Alten Orielt(Münster: Ugatit-Verlag, 1998). Might it be worth a look? Indeed rēmēnū appears in Akkadian as an epithet of the gods according to Solokoff's revision of Brockelmann - CAD R 258 for anyone with access to the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary. I wonder what period this epithet was used? Of course, most renaming of 
pagan deities tends to be negative (zəbūl --> zəvūv, ba‘al --> 
bōšeṯ) but I suppose in the context of Abraham's name that's not going 
to have been an option. Still, that also makes it less likely to me.

John Leake, Open University
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