[b-hebrew] P R (H/"Pharaoh"" Three Meanings

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Thu Mar 14 17:08:45 EDT 2013

Hi Jim,

On Thu, 14 Mar 2013 10:58:31 -0400 (EDT), JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:
> The scholarly view of PR(H/“Pharaoh” is that (i) it’s only meaning
> is praA in Egyptian [where the last two Egyptian letters are
> a/ayin/‘/(, and A/aleph/’/)/3], meaning “great house”, and (ii) the
> he/H at the end of the Hebrew rendering of this word in the Bible is
> inexplicable, since on the scholarly view such letter allegedly
> should be aleph/):

Not necessarily.  The he at the end of the Hebrew word may simply be
graphic, a mater lectionis for the preceding /o/, (which would imply
that the Egyptian word was heard as [parʿo] or something similar).
> “Par‘oh, ‘the Pharaoh, king of Egypt’. The original form of this
> Pr-‘3 [where “3” is an alternative to capital A in transliterating
> Egyptian aleph], ‘great house’, Copt. (p)erro, used as early as the
> Old Kingdom as a designation of the Egyptian ruler.  As Steindorff
> and Ranke have already pointed out, the word occurs in cuneiform
> transcription as pir’u, reflecting a contemporary Eg. *per‘o3. The
> date of the borrowing is somewhat difficult to determine since the
> Egyptian form was doubtlessly approx. *per‘a3 for a considerable
> period of time before c. 1200 B. C. and per‘o after that date. If
> the form were borrowed as *per‘a3, one would expect *per‘a(’) or the
> like ….”  Thomas O. Lambdin, “Egyptian Loan Words in the Old
> Testament”, in “ Journal of the American Oriental Society”, Vol. 73,
> No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1953), at p. 153.
> austinbiblechurch.com/download/file/fid/9520

It might even have been borrowed twice, first in the form *perʿa(ʾ),
and later reformed on the basis of contemporary Egyptian

> But on the b-hebrew list, we can figure out why this Biblical word
> ends with Hebrew he/H, not Hebrew aleph/), and we will also discover
> that PR(H has three intended meanings, not just one intended
> meaning.

> Egyptian has both regular H, transliterated as h, and emphatic H,
> transliterated as H.  Biblical Hebrew makes no such distinction, and
> can only represent these two kinds of H in Egyptian by he/H.

I don't follow your thinking here - it seems to me that Hebrew he and
heth would be good matches to Egyptian h and ḥ. respectively.

> The first intended meaning of Biblical PR(H is that the Hebrew he/H
> was intended to render emphatic Egyptian H [not regular Egyptian h].

And why wouldn't an emphatic Egyptian ḥ be represented by heth rather than
he?  It seems like you're positing an unattested Egyptian title on the basis of
the Hebrew spelling and a questionable correspondence.

> The second half of this word can now be seen to be aH, that is,
> Egyptian ayin-Egyptian emphatic H.  aH means “palace” in Egyptian.
> [Only in initial position, as here, does Egyptian ayin/a need to be
> rendered by its own separate Hebrew letter: Hebrew ayin/(.]

Why only in initial position?  If, as generally accepted, both Egyptian ʿ
and Hebrew ʿayin represented a consonant, why wouldn't ʿ be represented by
ʿayin in non-initial position?

> (H in Hebrew = aH in Egyptian = “palace” in Egyptian.  As to the P R
> beginning of this word P R (H, we’re all familiar with P R from the
> end of the name of Joseph’s initial Egyptian master, “Potiphar”/P W+
> -Y- P R/pA wAt -Y- pA ra, where everyone agrees that P R in Hebrew
> at the end of that name renders pA ra in Egyptian, meaning “The Ra”.

You're ignoring the fact that the Egyptian spelling is pr-ʿ3, and
that's represented in Hieroglyphs [pr][ʿ3], where the bracketed
letters represent single, bi-consonantal hieroglyphs.  The [pr]
hieroglyph, in particular, functions as an ideograph for "house", in
addition to its phonetic value.  Egyptian p3-rʿ would *not* be
represented by [pr].

> So the first intended level of meaning of the Biblical word P R (H
> is “ Palace of The Ra”: pA ra aH.  That’s a sensible, if colorful,
> generic reference to the king of Egypt.  Rather than the final
> Hebrew he/H being inexplicable, as on the scholarly view [which
> thinks the last Hebrew letter should be aleph/)], we see that
> viewing Hebrew he/H as rendering emphatic Egyptian H makes perfect
> sense.  Every pharaoh proudly bore the title sA ra, so it makes
> sense to refer to the king of Egypt as pA ra aH : P R (H : “Palace
> of The Ra”.

It's sensible for Hebrews to refer to the king of Egypt by an Egyptian
title *p3-rʿ-ʿh that as far I know doesn't exist in Egyptian?

> But we’ve still got two more intended levels of meaning to go in
> analyzing P R (H.

I can't wait.

Will Parsons

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