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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Mar 15 14:48:50 EDT 2013

To understand the three levels of meaning of the Biblical  Hebrew word PR(H 
[“Pharaoh”], whose first Biblical usage is in the Patriarchal  narratives, 
we must first consider how that word PR(H was written down in the  first 
place.  In order to be old and  accurate, the Patriarchal narratives must have 
been recorded in writing in  south-central Canaan in the Bronze Age.  The 
only writing system known in  south-central Canaan that was sophisticated 
enough to write down the Patriarchal  narratives in the Bronze Age was Akkadian 
cuneiform;  such writing system indeed is heavily  attested in Canaan, 
including south-central Canaan, but only in the  14th century BCE.  Thus  in 
order to be old and accurate, the Patriarchal narratives must have been  
written down in that particular time period, on clay tablets, using Akkadian  
cuneiform like the Amarna Letters, but instead of writing down Akkadian words,  
writing down Canaanite/pre-Hebrew words.  Knowing both the Amarna Letters 
and Akkadian cuneiform inside and out as  we do [thanks to the marvelous work 
of countless university scholars on those  two fronts], what does that tell 
us as to how the Biblical Hebrew word PR(H  would have been initially 
recorded in writing? 
The Achilles heel of using Akkadian cuneiform to record  west Semitic words 
and names is that Akkadian cuneiform heth/X had to be pressed into service 
to represent many different  Hebrew letters:  “[I]n the El Amarna  tablets 
the h,  ḥ, ǵ, and sometimes even ’ and ‘ are represented by ḫ....”  
Yohanan Aharoni, “The Land of the Bible”  (1979), p. 113.  Let me paraphrase  
that by saying that in final position, Akkadian cuneiform heth could represent  
any one or more of the following alphabetical Hebrew letters:  regular h, 
emphatic H, aleph, ayin, or  heth.  In looking at PR(H in the  received text, 
what we are seeing as the last letter there is either regular h  or 
emphatic H.  As discussed in my  prior post, emphatic H works very nicely:  P R (H 
= pA ra aH = “Palace of The  Ra”, being a fine generic reference to the 
king of  Egypt/Pharaoh. 
But in my opinion the early Hebrew author of  the Patriarchal narratives 
also wanted us to consider the other possible endings  to this same Biblical 
Hebrew word, per the Akkadian cuneiform rendering, as a  series of deliberate 
and sophisticated puns as it were.  Akkadian cuneiform heth in final  
position could represent Hebrew aleph/):  now suddenly the scholarly 
interpretation of PR(H as being Egyptian praA  makes sense, for the first time.  That 
final Hebrew he/H in the received alphabetical text could just as  easily be 
Hebrew aleph/), because both such Hebrew alphabetical letters were  
represented by the same Akkadian cuneiform sign in final position:  Akkadian 
cuneiform heth.  We know from the Boundary Stelae at  Akhenaten’s new capital city 
that praA was sometimes used to refer to Pharaoh in  the mid-14th century 
BCE, so that meaning works very nicely.  Note also that “Great House”/praA has 
a  quite similar meaning to “Palace of The Ra”/pA ra aH, even though the 
Egyptian  spellings are totally different;  the sounds in Egyptian may even 
have been roughly similar, perhaps close  enough for a natural pun. 
But now, at long last, we get to the good  part.  Given that the last 
letter in  PR(H is Akkadian cuneiform heth, the last alphabetical Hebrew letter 
in that  Biblical Hebrew word could also have been intended to be:  Hebrew 
heth/X.  On that third level of meaning, that  word could now be viewed as 
being P R (X, which is pA ra ax.  The final element in that name could be  
alternatively [and less formally] transliterated as a-khe:  it’s the a-khe in 
the name  “A-khe-n-aten”!  Whereas “Akhenaten”  means “Devoted to Aten”, pA 
ra ax : pA ra a-khe : P R (X means:  “Devoted to The [One and Only] Ra”.  
And remember that although Akhenaten  named his first four daughters after 
Aten, he then switched gears and named his  last two daughters after Ra, 
indicating that by Year 14, fairly late in his  reign, his preferred 
nomenclature no longer was Aten, but now was Ra.  That is to say, “Devoted to The [One 
and  Only] Ra”/P R (X is but a Biblically “updated” version of his older 
historical  name, “Devoted to Aten”/Akhe-n-Aten. 
One big impediment to seeing the Patriarchal  Age as being the Amarna Age 
has heretofore been the claim that the name  “Akhenaten” does not appear in 
the Biblical text.  But it does!  Repeatedly.  The name “Akhe-n-Aten” has 
simply been  updated to “Akhe-pA-Ra”, per Akhenaten’s switch after about 
Year 12 or so to  preferring Ra or pA ra to Aten [itn].  A Biblically updated 
version of Akhenaten’s historical name is there, big  as life, all over the 
received text of the Patriarchal narratives, under the  somewhat misleading 
alphabetical spelling PR(H : “Pharaoh” : pA ra ax : pA ra  a-khe : P R (X : “
Devoted to The [One and Only] Ra” : Akhe-n-Aten :  Akhe-pA-Ra. 
The Patriarchal narratives are much older,  and much more historically 
accurate, than university scholars realize.  We have just solved the 
3,000-year-old  mystery of why the Biblical Hebrew word “Pharaoh” ends in Hebrew he/H, 
not in  Hebrew aleph/).  Just think Akkadian  cuneiform, and the solution 
to this 3,000-year-old problem is virtually  self-evident. 
When you see “P R (H, king of Egypt” at  Genesis 41: 46, that’s “
Akhenaten [Akhe-pA-Ra : P R (X], king of Egypt”, where  the alphabetical Hebrew he/H 
in the received text reflects an original Akkadian  cuneiform heth, which 
could just as easily be [and be intended to be]  alphabetical Hebrew heth/X.  
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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