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

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Sat Mar 16 00:16:52 EDT 2013

Hi Jim,

First of all, my apologies for this rather abbreviated response to
your response to what I wrote in response to what you wrote in part I
of your exposition of "Pharaoh".  Perhaps to-morrow I will respond to
your part II.  (Hmmm, this is getting rather comical.)

On Fri, 15 Mar 2013 09:49:55 -0400 (EDT), JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:
> Will  Parsons:

> 1.  You wrote: “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 [par‘o] or something similar).”

> Only if PR(H came into the Patriarchal narratives after 1200 BCE,
> which as we have been seeing is not the case, because all of these
> Biblical names fit the Late Bronze Age perfectly.  Lambdin’s classic
> article that I cited specifically states his surprise at the lack of
> a final aleph/) here: “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.”

My reading of Lambdin's article suggests more of a doubt about the
significance of the final [o] vs. [a] in פרעה rather than the lack of
aleph, though he does seem to imply that the expected rendering of an
Egyptian <3> in Hebrew would be aleph (implying that Egyptian <3> was
phonetically a glottal stop).  Although this has been commonly assumed
in the past (note that Lambdin's article was written in 1953), I think
this by no means certain, and would tend to agree with scholars (e.g.,
Carsten Peust) that would see in Egyptian <3> a liquid, which commonly
dropped out in Coptic, or sometimes resulted in [j].  At any rate,
regardless of the precise interpretation of <3>, the fact that it
tended to drop out in Egyptian makes the lack of the supposed expected
final aleph in פרעה not particularly significant.

> 2.  You wrote: “It might even have been borrowed twice, first in the
> form *per ‘a(’), and later reformed on the basis of contemporary
> Egyptian pronunciation.”

> But that would not happen if the Patriarchal narratives were written
> down in Akkadian cuneiform on clay tablets in the Amarna Age, a la
> the Amarna Letters, which is my view of the case.  We are slowly
> seeing letter-for-letter e-x-a-c-t matches to vintage Amarna Age
> nomenclature in these Biblical Egyptian names.  There’s nothing
> post-Amarna about any of these Biblical Egyptian names, in form or
> substance, because they were all written down during the Amarna Age.

> 3.  You wrote: “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.”

> Not true.  Alphabetical Hebrew heth/X matches Egyptian heth/x.  But
> what about Egyptian regular h and Egyptian emphatic H?  There’s only
> one alphabetical Hebrew letter to do double duty there: Hebrew he/H.

Not so.  An Egyptian ḥ matches Hebrew ח/heth, as shown by Hebrew
שחק/shaḥaq corresponding to Egyptian šḥq.  I'm in agreement with many
others that in ancient times Hebrew ח/heth represented two separate
phonemes, viz., /ḥ/ (corresponding to Egyptian ḥ) and /x/
(corresponding to Egyptian ḫ and ẖ).

> 4.  You wrote: “And why wouldn't an emphatic Egyptian ḥ be
> represented by heth rather than he?”

> Because Hebrew heth/X directly corresponds to Egyptian heth/x.  In
> addition to Egyptian heth, Egyptian also had both regular h and
> emphatic H.  For those two Egyptian letters, there’s only Hebrew
> he/H.  Hebrew cannot directly represent emphatic H.

As above, yes it can.

> By contrast, the name “Akhenaten” features Egyptian heth/X, as it
> starts out: ax [Egyptian ayin/a -- Egyptian heth/x], more informally
> transliterated as: a-khe.  But please save Hebrew heth/X for an
> updated Biblical version of the name “Akhenaten”, which features
> Egyptian heth/x.  [Will, you’re threatening to spoil the big
> surprise.  We haven’t gotten to Egyptian heth/x yet!]  Right now
> we’re talking about Egyptian regular h and Egyptian emphatic H, and
> there’s only one alphabetical Hebrew letter to represent both of
> those two distinct Egyptian letters: Hebrew he/H.

> 5.  You wrote: “Why only in initial position? If, as generally
> accepted, both Egyptian ‘ and Hebrew ‘ayin represented a consonant,
> why wouldn't ‘ be represented by ’ayin in non-initial position?”

> In initial position, Egyptian ayin/‘ must be represented by its own
> separate alphabetical Hebrew letter, namely Hebrew ayin/(.  So for
> ax or a-khe, we ’ll see (X in alphabetical Hebrew.

> But in interior or final position, Egyptian ayin/‘ is generally not
> represented by any Hebrew alphabetical letter at all.  Look at
> Amarna Letter EA 292: 36 written by the successor of evil Yapaxu
> [the “iniquitous Amorite” at Genesis 15: 16] at Gezer in the Ayalon
> Valley in late Year 14.  He writes “ri-a-na-ap”, where ri = Egyptian
> ra.  In Egyptian, ra is spelled R-ayin, but in the Amarna Letters,
> including this Amarna Letter from the part of Canaan where the first
> Hebrews sojourned, ra is spelled with the Akkadian cuneiform sign
> ri, which is R plus generic vowel.  There’s no ayin.

Cuneiform didn't *have* a ʿayin.  Cuneiform writing arose as the
writing system for Sumerian, a non-Semitic language that had no
equivalent to ʿayin in its phonemic inventory.  The writing system
spread to many other Ancient Near Eastern languages of course, most
notably Akkadian, which (unusually for a Semitic language) had dropped
/ʿ/ (amidst many other simplifications of what is generally taken to
be a much fuller phonemic system).

> It’s true that invariably in the Amarna Letters, either -a [as here]
> or -ia [which is the more ordinary situation] follows ri.  But as I
> noted before, when that happens with the prenomen of either
> Akhenaten or his father Amenhotep III regarding ra, Richard Hess at
> pp. 116 and 118 of “Amarna Personal Names” (1993) says that such
> following -a or -ia is “a hypocoristic suffix”.

OK - I don't have access to Hess's article, but I would like to know
on what basis he's considering -a or -ia hypocoristic.

> The Akkadian cuneiform of the Amarna Letters does n-o-t use ayin
> [which would be rendered by Akkadian cuneiform heth] after R in
> writing down the name Ra, even in Amarna Letter EA 1: 2 from
> Amenhotep III himself!

Of course not!  Cuneiform has no equivalent of ʿayin!  (Yes, in
hearing an Egyptian /ʿ/ (i.e., [ʕ]), a scribe trained in the
Akkadian-cuneifrom tradition might reasonably transliterate this in
one of two ways: (a) by omitting it altogether in the transliteration,
or by transliterating it by /ḫ/, i.e., [x], the nearest equivalent in
Akkadian to an unvoiced [ʕ].)

> 6.  You wrote: “You're ignoring the fact that the Egyptian spelling
> is pr- ‘3, and that's represented in Hieroglyphs [pr][‘3], where the
> bracketed letters represent single, bi-consonantal hieroglyphs.”

> I’m not ignoring that.  University scholars are baffled at why
> there’s no Hebrew aleph/) at the end of PR(H, where instead we see
> Hebrew he/H.  University scholars are expecting to see Hebrew
> peh/P-Hebrew resh/R for Egyptian [pr], and Hebrew ayin/(-Hebrew
> aleph/) for Egyptian [‘3].  I’m not ignoring anything.  Rather, I am
> simply pointing out that on one level of meaning, the last letter in
> PR(H represents Egyptian emphatic H, with the last two Hebrew
> letters, (H, then representing aH in Egyptian, which is the Egyptian
> common word for “palace”.  Nifty!  [But we’ve got two more levels of
> intended meanings to go.  So please hold off on praA for now.]

OK - but be aware that I don't think there's any reason to think that
the final he in פרעה represents an Egyptian ḥ.

> I hope you don’t think that the Patriarchal narratives are copying
> Egyptian hieroglyphs.  Not.  Rather, the early Hebrew author is
> accurately reflecting the sounds of these Egyptian words, but in the
> world of Late Bronze Age Canaan, the o-n-l-y way to write such
> things down in a sophisticated composition such as the Patriarchal
> narratives was through the rather clumsy device of Akkadian
> cuneiform.

> 7.  You wrote: “The [pr] hieroglyph, in particular, functions as an
> ideograph for "house", in addition to its phonetic value.  Egyptian
> p3-r’ would *not* be represented by [pr].”

> You’re right on both counts, but that’s totally irrelevant.  When we
> get to praA in my next post [and we haven’t gotten there yet!], we
> will in due course see PR in Hebrew render pr in Egyptian, meaning
> “house”.  But in H-e-b-r-e-w [unlike in Egyptian], the Hebrew
> letters P R could just as easily represent pA ra in Egyptian.  It’s
> a natural pun in H-e-b-r-e-w [using Egyptian words] that the early
> Hebrew author was able to exploit, as we’ll see in my next post.
> You’re getting ahead of me here.

> I agree that in E-g-y-p-t-i-a-n hieroglyphs, pA ra would never, for
> heaven’s sake, be represented by [pr].  That’s for sure!  But just
> as surely, the two H-e-b-r-e-w letters peh/P – resh/R can represent
> either or both of the following two Egyptian words or phrases: pA ra
> or pr.  It’s a punster’ s paradise!  But you’re way ahead of me,
> because I have not even presented PR(H as praA yet; that’s for my
> next post.

> 8.  You wrote: “It's sensible for Hebrews to refer to the king of
> Egypt by an Egyptian title *p3-r ‘-‘h that as far I know doesn't
> exist in Egyptian?”

> The last element is aH [with an emphatic Egyptian H].  There is no
> ah [with a regular Egyptian h] in Egyptian.  You know pA ra in
> Egyptian.  pA ra aH works beautifully in Egyptian to describe
> Pharaoh during the Amarna era: “ Palace of The Ra”.  The component
> words pA ra and aH are well-attested, though the particular phrase
> pA ra aH was likely coined by the Hebrew author.

> Likewise, the component words )B and R and HM are all
> well-attested, as well as the names )BRM and )B -Y- RM and Ra,
> though the name )B R HM was coined by the Hebrew author.  If you’re
> subtly suggesting that the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal
> narratives was the greatest wordsmith of all time, I’ll second that
> emotion.  9.  In response to my statement that “But we’ve still got
> two more intended levels of meaning to go in analyzing P R (H”, you
> wrote: “I can't wait.  ”

> Me neither.  Fire up for some real  excitement! 

Sorry, but it'a after midnight here, so I cant't respond more fully
now - perhaps to-morrow.

Will Parsons
μη φαινεσθαι, αλλ' ειναι.

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