[b-hebrew] abrhm -THREAD CLOSED

Yigal Levin Yigal.Levin at biu.ac.il
Wed Mar 13 15:38:12 EDT 2013

Jim, since there is nothing in your post below that you have not written before, and no one else seems to have anything to add on the subject, this thread is CLOSED. 


Yigal Levin

Co-moderator, B-Hebrew


From: JimStinehart at aol.com [mailto:JimStinehart at aol.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 8:46 PM
To: Yigal.Levin at biu.ac.il; b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] abrhm - Keep to the Subject!


Prof. Yigal Levin:


You wrote:  “Please stick to the linguistic issues.”


O.K.  The purely linguistic issues in analyzing the name “Abraham” are as follows:


1.  In which one of the following three ways is the name )BRHM meant to be understood?


(i)  Is the name meant to be understood as being )B RHM, where RHM is a key word and concept?


(ii)  Or, rather, is the name meant to be understood as being )B RM, having the identical meaning as Abraham’s birth name Abram, with the inserted H either (a) merely being a lengthening of the name for gravitas, while not changing the meaning of )BRM at all, and/or (b) being an Aramaic version of this name, once again without changing the meaning of )BRM at all?


(iii)  Or, by contrast, is the name meant to be understood as )B R HM, where the explanation of this name’s meaning given at Genesis 17: 5 works perfectly, and even is quite obvious, if and only if -R- is a divine reference?


2.  You yourself brought up the issue of RHM, possibly being the west Semitic word raham.  To the best of my knowledge, no such west Semitic word is attested prior to the common era.  Is there any objective evidence you know of that suggests or shows that raham was a west Semitic word in the mid-1st millennium BCE or earlier?  If not, how is raham a viable option for interpreting the name “Abraham”?


3.  #ii explicitly, and #i implicitly, assume that the Hebrew author of Genesis 17: 5 didn’t know what the name “Abraham” meant, even though all university scholars insist that the name “Abraham” has no non-west Semitic component whatsoever, and we all would agree that the author of Genesis 17: 5 certainly was a native Biblical Hebrew speaker.  Although Thomas L. Thompson is a Biblical Minimalist, he nevertheless is well within the scholarly mainstream in making the following remarks about the name “Abraham”:


“De Vaux, in commenting on this popular etymology [i.e., what’s stated at Genesis 17: 5], points out that, since the tradition clearly no longer understands the original meaning of the name, the name itself must be considered as very ancient.  …L. Hicks (Abraham 15) is in all probability correct in seeing )BRHM as an Aramaic expansion or variant of )BRM.”  “The Historicity of the Patriarchs” (2002), p. 24.


In my opinion, the  o-n-l-y  word of truth there is the statement that “the name itself must be considered as very ancient.” 


Prof. Levin, can we really be asked to believe that the author(s) of the Patriarchal narratives were so confused that they were unable to come up with a divinely-given name for Abram that differs in meaning from his birth name?  Though that is the majority mainstream scholarly view, surely you can see that such view makes no sense whatsoever, can’t you?  Certainly the name )BRHM is a grander name, and a different name, than )BRM!  That’s just common sense.


4.  My “radical” proposal, which is well outside of the mainstream, is that the author of Genesis 17: 5 gives us a completely accurate assessment of the meaning of the name “Abraham”.  Moreover, in my view there was only one author of the vast bulk of the Patriarchal narratives, who lived during the Amarna Age, and who created  a-l-l  of the names that we see in the text:  Abraham, Sarah, Potiphar, Joseph’s Egyptian name, etc.


I presume you agree that the Hebrew resh/R, standing alone, at the end of the name “Potiphar” at Genesis 39: 1 is a divine reference, based on the Egyptian god ra.  What I am asserting is that the Hebrew resh/R, standing alone, in the middle of the name )B R HM is likewise a divine reference, which though based on the name of that Egyptian creator god is nevertheless here intended to function as a generic theophoric reference.  I believe you will agree that  I-F  the resh/R in the middle of the name “Abraham” is a generic divine reference, then the name explains itself, and means exactly what Genesis 17: 5 says it means.  )B and a version of HM even appear in Genesis 17: 5, which is hard to miss.  The whole question, as I see it, is whether the interior resh/R in the name “Abraham” is functioning there as a generic divine reference.


Doesn’t my proposed understanding of the name “Abraham” make a lot more sense than any of the other proposals?  But if you want to champion raham as being a word in Biblical times, with the author of Genesis 17: 5 allegedly not understanding what the name “Abraham” really means [or at least not accurately stating what )BRHM really means], then please let us know on what basis you see the word raham as existing prior to the common era.  Here’s what I find when I go looking for raham:


“There is, however, no such root raham attested in the Hebrew Bible, though Arabic has ruham, meaning ‘multitude’.”  K.A. Mathews, “Genesis 1-11:26” (1996), p. 500.


But if you’ve got an attestation of raham in Biblical times, then set it forth, and we’ll examine it.  Otherwise, why try to explain the name “Abraham” on the basis of a word that never existed prior to the common era?  Is that a sensible approach to understanding the divinely-given name of Hebrew Patriarch #1?


Jim Stinehart

Evanston, Illinois 

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