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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Mar 18 09:54:46 EDT 2013

Let’s see if we can  definitively resolve the “different consonants” issue 
regarding PR(H/“Pharaoh”,  while also taking note of the various other 
points you have made.  What we need to do is to start with the  PR(H that we 
see in the received alphabetical Hebrew text, and then reverse  engineer it to 
see how that would have been recorded in Akkadian cuneiform.  [Nothing 
about the Patriarchal Age could  be very accurate unless it was recorded in 
Akkadian cuneiform, because  alphabetical Hebrew was either very rudimentary, or 
not in existence at all,  during the Patriarchal Age and for centuries 
The Akkadian cuneiform signs  that would produce PR(H in the received text 
must have been approximately the  following [where I am using I as a generic 
vowel, since a consonant could only  be recorded by being paired with some 
vowel in Akkadian cuneiform]: 
1.  PI 
2.  RI 
3.  U 
4.  XI 
Those four Akkadian cuneiform  signs could come out in alphabetical Hebrew 
as PR(H.  As we will see in a minute, the ayin/(  could just as easily be 
aleph/), and the he/H could just as easily be emphatic H  or heth/X or even 
aleph/’.  Of  critical importance, there is virtually no way in Akkadian 
cuneiform to remove  those inherent ambiguities. 
The first two cuneiform signs  obviously represent (i) peh/P resh/R as 
Hebrew letters, and (ii) the Egyptian  consonants pr.  But as I noted  before, 
that’s a natural pun for a Hebrew author.  Per the end of the name of Joseph’
s  first Egyptian master, P R in Hebrew could render pA ra in Egyptian.  
But per the traditional analysis of the  word that is translated as “Pharaoh”
, PR could alternatively be the first two  Egyptian letters in the 4-letter 
Egyptian word praA.  [For example, the Egyptian word wr is  almost certainly 
a single syllable.  But the Akkadian cuneiform rendering of wr in Amarna 
Letter EA 129: 97 is  wu ri, using two cuneiform signs.  So the presence of 
two cuneiform signs just means that there are two  consonants in the Egyptian 
word, not that there are two syllables.]  In the first instance, I am saying 
that  we should be alert to a possible pun here, or double meaning, where 
on one or  two levels, P R in the received text for this word may be 
representing pA ra,  whereas on one other level PR in the received text is “pr…” in 
Egyptian.  [Yes, the two Egyptian hieroglyphs for  pA ra are totally 
different than the one Egyptian hieroglyph for pr, as you  pointed out.  But that’
s irrelevant  for our purposes here, because we are talking about a Hebrew 
author using Hebrew  letters, via Akkadian cuneiform, to render Egyptian 
words.  The Hebrew letters peh resh are a  natural pun to render either or both 
of pA ra and pr.]  O.K. so far? 
The Akkadian true vowel U  could represent either aleph or ayin in 
Egyptian.  We know that because for the Egyptian  word mAat, the two middle letters 
[aleph, then ayin] are rendered as UU in  Amarna Letter EA 29: 12 [in the 
middle of the prenomen of Akhenaten’s  father].  [Your point that Egyptian  
aleph may not be directly comparable to Hebrew aleph is interesting, but will  
not affect matters much, because what we’re starting with is the Akkadian  
cuneiform sign U, which we know from mAat could be either Egyptian aleph or  
Egyptian ayin.]  Since aleph and  ayin were not usually distinguished in 
Akkadian cuneiform writing [being letters  that Akkadian itself did not have], 
we must be alert to the possibility of the  third letter in this Biblical 
Egyptian word being either aleph or ayin.  Still O.K.? 
Akkadian cuneiform heth could  render any one or more of the “gutturals”:  
heth or he or emphatic H or aleph or ayin.  It’s what I call the “Achilles 
heel” of  using Akkadian cuneiform to write down foreign names, because 
Akkadian cuneiform  heth is attested as rendering a whole battery of Hebrew 
letters and Egyptian  letters:  essentially every letter  that we don’t have in 
English.  So  here we should consider the possibility that the last Hebrew 
letter may be  emphatic H or he/H or heth/X, or possibly even aleph/’.  Yes, 
alphabetical Hebrew he/H was  written down, but that is just one 
possibility, based on the Akkadian cuneiform  original, which is Akkadian cuneiform 
heth/X.  I hope you see where I’m going with  this.  [Note for example that 
way  back in 1897, A.H. Sayce aptly observed the converse of this phenomenon, 
when he  noted at p. 301 of “The Early History of the Hebrews”, Kessinger 
Publishing,  2004 that as to the Song of Deborah:  “Had it been written in 
cuneiform there would have been a confusion  between aleph, het and ayin, 
which cannot be detected in it.”  Such “confusion” among those three  Hebrew 
and Egyptian letters and others is  d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e-l-y  here  in PR(H, in 
my opinion.] 
Now consider the following  three possibilities for this Biblical Egyptian 
word, which do  n-o-t  involve “different consonants” from  their Egyptian 
I.  pA ra aH.  Akkadian U = ayin.  Akkadian cuneiform heth = emphatic  H.  
aH in Egyptian means  “palace”.  There are no “different  consonants”.  pA 
ra aH = “The Ra  Palace”, which is a fitting, if colorful, way to 
reference the king of  Egypt.  [Interestingly, regular Egyptian h won’t  work here, 
as neither ah nor Ah is an Egyptian word.  aH and Ax are Egyptian words, but 
not ah  or Ah.]  It makes perfect sense to  use aH/“palace” to refer to 
the king of Egypt, because aH is the main Egyptian  word for “palace”, which 
was closely associated with the pharaohs and with the  divine:  “Since the 
pharaoh was  considered both human and divine, there was a sacred aspect to 
much that went on  in the royal palaces;  and this is  well expressed in the 
most important ancient Egyptian word for “palace” ‘Ah’  which can also 
designate the shrine of a deity….” 
(http://monumentsinegypt.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-palaces-of-ancient-egypt.html)   Since aH “can also designate 
the shrine  of a deity”, it makes complete sense to pair aH with the name of a 
deity, such  as pA ra.   
As far as I can see, your only  real objection here is your unexplained 
assertion that pA ra aH allegedly is  “not good Egyptian”.  But I  disagree, 
because the following name/title of a personal servant of the king of  Egypt, 
a lord-chamberlain, is  historically attested:  mer aH.  Adolf Erman, “Life 
in Ancient  Egypt” (1894), at p. 69.  To me, the form looks identical to pA 
ra  aH:  (i) first there’s a name, mer  or pA ra;  (ii) there is no  
connecting word;  and then (iii)  there’s aH.  If you’re focusing on  word order 
here, it’s hard to object to putting the deity’s name first, as is  
customarily done in the cartouche names of pharaohs. 
II.  praA.  This is the traditional  interpretation.  Akkadian U =  ayin.  
Akkadian cuneiform heth may  here =  H-e-b-r-e-w  he/H, as a Hebrew ending 
of this  otherwise Egyptian word, where -H often is used in Hebrew for any 
name that ends  with a vowel sound:  a mater  lectionis, as you put it.  If  
perchance the Jewish scribe in 7th century BCE Jerusalem who transformed the 
Akkadian  cuneiform signs into alphabetical Hebrew was aware of how native 
Egyptians  pronounced the Egyptian word “great house” [although to me that 
is unlikely,  since Egyptians rarely referred to their king as praA/pra-O], 
he may have wanted  to have Hebrew he/H represent the long vowel O ending of 
the post-1200 BCE  Egyptian pronunciation of “great house”.  I believe that 
may be your theory of the case, which is a mainstream  view.  Or Hebrew 
he/H could  represent the Egyptian aleph sound, which perhaps, as you assert, 
was not  directly comparable to Hebrew aleph.  Alternatively, Akkadian 
cuneiform heth could represent aleph  directly.  I am not saying that this  
traditional view is totally wrong;  rather, what I’m saying is that it is only one 
level of three levels of  intended meaning of PR(H. 
III.  pA ra Ax.  Akkadian U = aleph.  Akkadian cuneiform heth = heth/X.  
The unique element of Akhenaten’s name  is Ax.  Although the name  “Akh-n-Aten
” features the divine name itn, the names of his four daughters also  
feature itn;  what is truly unique  about Akhenaten’s name is Ax.  [Akhenaten’s 
name is Ax n itn, where the aleph/A as the first letter is  different from 
the I as the first letter of itn.]  Please note that these are not  “
different consonants”.  (H is from  the Akkadian cuneiform signs U - XI, which 
original Akkadian cuneiform signs  could be intended to render Ax in Egyptian, 
with the consonants matching  exactly.  Of course, pA ra has  completely 
different consonants than itn, but each is the name of a deity, and  pA ra fits 
Akhenaten’s mature theology better than the earlier itn, per the  changing 
pattern of the names of Akhenaten’s daughters.  What’s unique about Akhenaten’
s name are  the first two letters:  Ax.  The word order here is reversed, 
but for  a pharaoh’s name I do not see that as a problem, as the word order 
was often  rearranged for artistic effect inside the cartouche, and in the 
cartouche the  deity’s name customarily comes first.  Ax means “devoted to” 
or “spirit”, so pA ra Ax means “Devoted to The [One  and Only] Ra”.  At 
late Amarna, that  fits pharaoh Akhenaten perfectly, though it would not work 
in any other era  [including early Amarna, for that matter]. 
I myself see all three of the  above possible readings of the Akkadian 
cuneiform original of PR(H/“Pharaoh” as  having been deliberately intended by 
the early Hebrew author, who lived during  the Amarna Age and was the world’s 
greatest punster.  In this post, I have tried to show in  particular that I 
am not positing “different consonants” than the Egyptian  counterparts I 
am citing.  There are  “different consonants” only in the sense that 
Akkadian cuneiform U and Akkadian  cuneiform heth can represent different Hebrew 
letters, and hence different  Egyptian letters. 
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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