Personal Names In The Hebrew Bible With Second-Millennium B.C. Antecedents -- By: Richard S. Hess

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 25:1 (NA 2015)
Article: Personal Names In The Hebrew Bible With Second-Millennium B.C. Antecedents
Author: Richard S. Hess

Personal Names In The Hebrew Bible With Second-Millennium B.C. Antecedents

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary

Recent studies in the phonemic representations of ancient Near Eastern languages in cuneiform and Hebrew, as well as the growing inventory of these names, have resulted in the need to revisit claims for and against the presence of personal names and name elements of the second millennium B.C. as thought to occur in Biblical Hebrew sources. Using the non-Israelite personal names in the biblical book of Joshua as a test case, I will argue that some names previously thought to be attested no later than the second millennium now can be found in first-millennium sources as well. On the other hand, new evidence will also confirm that several personal names remain unattested in later sources but demonstrate more widespread appearance in the second-millennium B.C. sources than earlier evidence had formerly suggested. This study will make use of recent publications of Hurrian and Anatolian texts and names, as well as research on the phonemic representation of these languages in a West Semitic script such as Hebrew, which is not commonly used for the language. Conclusions regarding names and their sources provide important evidence (1) for dating onomastic sources in the earliest traditions that may lie behind the biblical text, and (2) for evidence of the presence of north Syrian cultural influence in the southern Levant during the Early Iron Age.

Key Words: Hoham, Piram, Sheshai, Talmai, Hurrian

This article will examine the personal names ascribed to non-Israelites in the book of Joshua in the light of new evidence. Special attention will be given to materials related to names that may have northern origins, personal names that use forms related to Anatolian or Hurrian languages, and name elements. Previous investigation of the cumulative data challenged facile assumptions that there were no traditions behind Joshua and that the work was entirely the product of ideological constructs from the late Preexilic or Postexilic Periods.1 While this evidence can only examine one small piece of the overall picture of a complex, multilayered set of traditions or texts that comprise the book of Joshua as we presently read it, the data suggest that the non-Israelite personal names best fit into the second millennium B.C.

This was true of West Semitic names that were well attested in the Late Bronze Age sources, such as Rahab, Japhia, Jabin, Horam, Adoni-zedek, Debir, Jobab, and Ahiman. All of these names have exact parallels or elements appearing in West Semitic names from the late second millennium, except Jobab. Jobab, however, may b...

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