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

Will Parsons wbparsons at alum.mit.edu
Tue Mar 19 09:19:07 EDT 2013

On Mon, 18 Mar 2013 09:54:46 -0400 (EDT), JimStinehart at aol.com wrote:
> Will:

> 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
> thereafter.]

> 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

(3) is wrong and (4) is iffy (see below).

> 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.]

I think you're making the wrong conclusion here.  You're taking the
cuneiform transcription <mua> for Egyptian m3ʿt to assume that the U
represents the Egyptian ʿ, but I think it's more likely that the U
simply represents the first vowel and the ʿ is not represented at all,
i.e., <mua> represents something like /muʿa/.

> 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.?

Well, I'm not sure I accept your theory of transmission via Akkadian,
but I won't go into that aspect.

> Akkadian cuneiform heth could render any one or more of the
> “gutturals”: heth or he or emphatic H or aleph or ayin.

I agree with you that it could do multiple service, though I *doubt*
that it could represent an aleph.  (I'd like to see evidence that it
did, at any rate.  But since I don't think that the "expected"
spelling of פרעה should necessarily end in an aleph anyway, I don't
think it matters for the present discussion.  Or are we talking about
another aleph?)  And although I think a /ʿ/ *might* be represented by
an Akkadian ḫ, it also could be completely left out of the
transcription, as evidenced by the example of /muʿa/ cited above.
(Interesting that we can take the same bit of evidence and come to
quite different interpretations.)

> 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 counterparts.

> 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_
> (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.

You are right in one respect - Egyptian had the contstruct of
indicating a genitive relationship between two nouns by juxtiposing
them without a connecting word, completely parallel to the construct
common in Biblical Hebrew.  But the order of words is significant.  I
can't readily find how <mr-ʿḥ> was spelled in hieroglyphs, so I can't be
sure, but since one meaning of <mr> in Eguptian is "friend", I imagine
this title means something like "Friend of the Palace".  So what would
rʿ-ʿḥ mean?  "Re of the Palace"?  In Egyptian (like Hebrew), the
governing noun must precede the noun governed.  There is no equivalent
in Egyptian to "The George Washington Monument".

> 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.

This is purely written phenomenon.  The fact the hierogplyph for "Re"
comes first in the written form of the name of Pharaoh nb-m3ʿt-rʿ
"Neb-Maat-Re" doesn't mean that the pronunciation was affected, as
indicated by the Akkadian transcription "Nibmuaria" (from which we
have gotten the 18th dyn. vocalizations of /muʿa/ for m3ʿt and /riʿa/
for rʿ).

> 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 won't address questions of Akhenaten's theology, since I feel far
less capable of doing that than in addressing the liguistic issues.

> 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.

Will Parsons
μη φαινεσθαι, αλλ' ειναι.

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