Hebrew Toponyms -- By: M. E. J. Richardson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 20:1 (NA 1969)
Article: Hebrew Toponyms
Author: M. E. J. Richardson


Hebrew Toponyms

M. E. J. Richardson

A. Place Names And Personal Names

The study of Hebrew toponomy has recently been set on its feet by Professor Yohanan Aharoni in the English edition of his survey of Biblical geography.1 The subject, to which he devotes a whole chapter, has usually been examined in comprehensive studies of Hebrew proper names and invariably personal names have then stolen the limelight. But with the increasing pace of Palestinian excavations more and more interest is being taken in the history of place names. Aharoni’s chapter on toponomy is one of those additions to the English version of his book that make it much more than a translation of his earlier Hebrew work.2

The linguistic importance of onomastica lies in their tendency to conserve older morphemes lost in the common vocabulary. Masterly studies are to hand for the literatures of Egypt,3 Assyria4 and Israel5 and new research proceeds apace with new discoveries; in the last few years three theses have been written at Brandeis University concerned with Ras Shamra personal names. The first was concerned with the alphabetic personal names (Uejechi, 1961), the second a grammar of Hurrian from the Anatolian names (Bush, 1964) and most recently there has been a study of the Akkadian names Kinlaw, 1966).6 At the same time a comprehensive independent investigation into all the personal names has been made in

Berlin and is now published.7 Although onomastic linguistic, features may be seen as clearly in place names as in personal names, it is these latter that dominate the research scene. The main differences between the two are differences of detail (such as in compound names, which if personal are generally verbal sentences and if local contain two nouns) so that an independent study of place names is considered worth while.

The fundamental work in English was expanded from an essay written for the Kennicott Senior Hebrew Fellowship at Oxford in 1893 by George Buchanan Gray.8 He freely acknowledged his dependence on the earlier German work of Eberhardt Nestle9 though he added a great deal that was new. Both books concentrate on those names containing divine el...

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