[b-hebrew] abrhm

J. Leake john.leake at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Mar 13 16:15:54 EDT 2013

I don't think my last mail was distributed, so I'll just reiterate one point from it: 

I freely admit that I am not aware of evidence for the existence of a 
Semitic root rhm other than in Arabic (in Lane's Lexicon) and the name 
Abraham itself. [...] We all know that the lexis 
of the Hebrew Bible isn't the entire lexis of Hebrew spoken between say 
1200 and 200 BC. Every inscription, it seems, comes up with roots we 
didn't know about. No reason for rhm not to be another in my opinion. 
And there's no reason for a term for a type of rainfall to appear in the historical inscriptions of kings or indeed in the archives of the great Akkadian-speaking kingdoms, but to appear in Bedouin poetry of the 
sixth century AD. Equally there is such an abundance of such terms in 
Arabic that it is quite plausible that it developed within Arabic itself - though from what I haven't considered. 

Non-attestation is not non-existence. The Arabic word šamsmight not be attested before the first Arabic inscriptions or 
pre-Islamic poetry but assuredly it was there from proto-Semitic 
onwards. I therefore don't see that simple non-attestation should exclude what would otherwise be the most satisfactory solution, though non-attestation does force us to regard such a solution as merely one hypothesis among several. I don't see any sign of ruhām in the sense 'a large number' in Lane being a primary sense; the Lexicon and, indeed, the Lisān al-‘arabboth concentrate on the idea of rain; the Lisānindeed doesn't give this 'multitude' definition at all that I can see. If only there were a Thesaurus Linguae Arabicae - then I could see the word in context.

On the author not knowing the word rhm,  another interpretation might be that the author may well have understand the straightforward (and inconvenient) meaning of the name and have been reinterpretingwhat he knew well to be the epithet of some deity (if that's what it was).

Ah, it's all just speculation.

John Leake, Open University
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