Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

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Jim Stinehart
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Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Jim Stinehart » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:06 pm

Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Genesis 10: 22 has long baffled analysts, as it has been interpreted [erroneously] to assert that all of the following disparate peoples are descendants of Noah’s son Shem, few of whom are, oddly enough, Semitic peoples: Elam [the forerunner of modern Iran, whose people are not Semites], Assyria, Arpachshad [considered inexplicable, but not Semitic], the Lydians from Anatolia [who are not Semites], and the Arameans.

Let’s try a new approach to this age-old problem, and see if we can solve this 3,000-year-old Biblical mystery.

It would make sense if, contra received opinion, the Biblical author of the Table of Nations portrayed both (i) the descendants of the last of Noah’s four grandchildren by Ham, namely Canaan [but not the descendants of Ham’s other three sons], and (ii) Noah’s next-named descendants, namely all of Noah’s descendants by his son Shem, as being the peoples who dominated Canaan and Syria in days of old, that is, during the Bronze Age. To be more specific, the descendants of Canaan dominated Canaan [which is closer geographically to where the descendants of Ham’s other three sons lived]; by contrast, the descendants of Shem dominated Syria [north of Canaan and Lebanon]. By modern reckoning of ethnicity [as opposed to the Table of Nations approach], the two broad classes of peoples who dominated Canaan, and who dominated Syria, in the Bronze Age were in both cases Semites and Hurrians. On this theory of the case, all descendants of Canaan and Shem in the Table of Nations should be Semites or Hurrians, and should not include any other [modern] ethnicity [such as people from east of Babylon or from Anatolia].

For Canaan, per Genesis 10: 15, the Hurrian component is obvious: Heth [which means “Hurrian”], Jebusites, Girgashites and Hivites. All four of these Hurrian groups are portrayed in the Patriarchal narratives as being in Canaan. All [or at least most] of the rest of Canaan’s descendants can be viewed as being Semites. Those are the two groups of peoples who had dominated Canaan and Lebanon in the old days [the Bronze Age]. So far, so good.

But now we come to the key passage: Genesis 10: 22. Can all 5 peoples listed there be viewed as being Hurrians or Semites, and as being associated with Syria [rather than with Canaan]? Let’s examine each one, in reverse order.

5. “Aram”. That’s not a problem, as the Arameans are Semites who hailed from eastern Syria.

4. “Lud” : LWD. That’s not plene spelling, for heaven’s sake [so this cannot be the Lydians]. No, that’s a consonantal vav/W smack dab in the middle of that people’s name. The name of the oldest-known Hurrian god is Lu-ba-da-ga-a$. The last two syllables are honorific Hurrian suffixes, so the basic name of this ancient Hurrian god is Lu-ba-da. Intervocalic B was likely pronounced the same as consonantal vav/W, so this is a fine linguistic match. “Lud” : LWD : Lu-ba-da means the people who in days of old had worshipped the oldest known Hurrian god, Luvada/Lubada/Luwada. [“Lud” has nothing to do with Lydians in Anatolia, who were neither Semites nor Hurrians and never lived in Syria or Canaan, and who as such were essentially of no interest to the Biblical author of Genesis 10: 22.]

3. “Arpachshad” : ’RPK$D. Compare the Hurrian man’s name Arip-ku$ux. Only the ending differs, and Hurrian suffixes are a dime a dozen. So this is another reference to the Hurrians, who had dominated Syria throughout much of the Late Bronze Age.

Please note that neither of the two Hurrian peoples at Genesis 10: 22 is mentioned in the Patriarchal narratives. That means that these two Hurrian peoples [unlike the four Hurrian peoples listed as Canaan’s descendants at Genesis 10: 15-17 above] lived exclusively in the original Hurrian homeland of Syria, not in Canaan or Lebanon.

2. “Asshur”. The Assyrians are a Semitic people, who lived in easternmost Syria. (They also lived just east of Syria as well.) So that’s no problem.

And finally, at long last, for the biggie:

1. “Elam” : ‘YLM. The four Hebrew letters ‘YLM almost certainly reflect an updated plene spelling of an older ‘LM in defective spelling. Those four letters very likely were taken directly from Chedorlaomer’s title [in the truly ancient Patriarchal narratives] at Genesis 14: 1. As has been discussed in detail on a recent thread, Chedorlaomer was the king of Ugarit, where mlk ‘lm is a well-attested Ugaritic kingly title. So “Elam” is referencing the mlk ‘lm people, that is, the Semitic/Amorite people of Ugarit in western Syria.

[Neither at Genesis 14: 1 nor at Genesis 10: 22 is there any reference whatsoever to the country of Elam east of Babylon. Such a reference makes no sense in either such Biblical verse, whereas Ugarit makes perfect sense in both places. Here, the Elamites were neither Semites nor Hurrians, nor did they live in Syria (or Canaan) in the Bronze Age. Note also that on at least two occasions in the Bible, ‘YLM is the Hebrew name of a YHWH-fearing Hebrew man, having nothing whatsoever to do with the exotic, far-off non-Semitic people east of southern Mesopotamia.]

* * *

Although Genesis 10: 22 is usually considered senseless, in fact it makes perfect sense. Genesis 10: 22 is referencing the peoples who, in the Bronze Age, had dominated Syria. Historically, that was the Hurrians [mentioned twice, because they had been so important throughout all of Syria], and three groups of Semites in Bronze Age Syria: the Assyrians, the Arameans, and the people of Ugarit [who included many Amorites north of Lebanon]. It all makes logical and historical sense, if we could just jettison, once and for all, the totally erroneous view that ‘YLM always means the country east of Babylon. In fact, as an updated plene spelling of the older ‘LM, at Genesis 10: 22 [and at Genesis 14: 1] that is a reference to the mlk ‘lm Semitic/Amorite people of Ugarit in western Syria.

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby George Athas » Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:50 am

My, oh my, there seem to be a lot of baffled scholars and conundrums about the place! And the answer to these conundrums always seems to involve some secret little twist. It never seems to be plain logic that can do it. N-e-v-e-r!

My, oh my!
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Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Jim Stinehart » Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:51 pm

George Athas:

You wrote: “My, oh my, there seem to be a lot of baffled scholars and conundrums about the place! And the answer to these conundrums always seems to involve some secret little twist. It never seems to be plain logic that can do it. N-e-v-e-r! My, oh my!”

1. Your comment implies that you yourself can readily account for the inclusion of “Elam” in the Table of Nations at Genesis 10: 22 by use of “plain logic”.

If so, then please enlighten us as to that. We will all learn from you as to how “plain logic” explains Genesis 10: 22 in the Table of Nations.

2. Meanwhile, back in the scholarly mainstream, published scholars routinely note their bafflement at the inclusion of “Elam” in the Table of Nations at Genesis 10: 22:

(a) “Chapter 10 [of Genesis] is a table of nations that contains the names of seventy people. There are many difficulties with this list. For example,...[t]he Elamites...are included among the Semites (10: 22), though their language was not a Semitic one.” Wayne Sibley Towner, “Genesis” (2001), pp. 101-102.

(b) “[T]he genealogical classification of the TABLE OF NATIONS is built on a geographical and cultural basis and not on a linguistic one.... The Elamites and Lydians (cf. Gen. 10: 22) are not Semites in the modern classification, whereas the Amorites and Canaanites [who are not listed as sons of Shem]...are Semites.” Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4” (1998), p. 388.

Although Bromiley is certainly right that the Elamites and Lydians are not Semites, one wonders what possible “geographical and cultural basis” he thinks might cause the Elamites and Lydians to be linked as descendants of Shem in the Table of Nations. Elam, as the forerunner of modern Iran, in fact has no cultural or geographical links to the Lydians, who lived in the place now called Turkey. [Contra the scholarly and traditional views of the Table of Nations, I myself see “Elam” as referring to Ugarit, and “Lud” as referring to the ancient Hurrians, who are logically linked in that all of Shem’s sons are the peoples (Semites and Hurrians) who dominated Syria in the Bronze Age.]

* * *

But enough of my ruminations on the Table of Nations. You assert that scholars are not in fact “baffled” by the treatment of “Elam” and “Lud” in the Table of Nations. Accordingly, we will all learn from you as to the “plain logic” of interpreting “Elam” and “Lud” at Genesis 10: 22 as referring to the forerunners of Iran and Turkey, and then on such basis somehow linking them together and setting them forth as being descendants of Shem.

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Isaac Fried » Sun Feb 16, 2014 6:36 pm

The Hebrew root עלם means 'tall and massive', and so עילם EYLAM may be the proper name "bigboy", or otherwise a generic name for a tall and massive (namely, a kind of a "massif central") geographical area. Also, possibly, EYLAM = AYL+AM.

Isaac Fried, Boston Ubiversity

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Jim Stinehart » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:56 pm

Isaac Fried:

You wrote: “The Hebrew root עלם means 'tall and massive', and so עילם EYLAM may be the proper name "bigboy", or otherwise a generic name for a tall and massive (namely, a kind of a "massif central") geographical area. Also, possibly, EYLAM = AYL+AM.”

On 28 occasions in the Bible, ‘LM means “to be hidden” or some closely related meaning. For example, Leviticus 4: 13; 5: 2-4; 20: 4.
‘LM also appears numerous times in Ezra and Daniel as the Aramaic version of the Hebrew word ‘WLM [a word that is sometimes also spelled in Hebrew ‘LM], meaning “forever, eternal”.

Although ‘WLM is the most common spelling in Hebrew, here are some examples of the shortened spelling [defective spelling?] ‘LM: Genesis 3: 22; 6: 3. However, in the received text of the Patriarchal narratives [which has a lot of plene spelling, though such plene spelling was added late], this word is consistently spelled ‘WLM.

Thus in the Bible, ‘LM usually means “to be hidden”, and occasionally means “forever, eternal”.

It is highly likely that Chedorlaomer’s kingly title at Genesis 14: 1 was originally spelled, in defective spelling: MLK ‘LM. That does not mean “king tall and massive” or “king bigboy”. Rather, it means “king eternal” or “king forever”. That particular phrase, mlk ‘lm, is well-attested at Ugarit, where it was an honorific kingly title; while meaning “everlasting king”, it may also have had the following idiomatic meaning: “all the kings of Ugarit: past, present and future”. Regardless of the precise meaning of that phrase that is well-attested at Ugarit, ‘LM at Genesis 10: 22 could mean the ‘LM people, that is, the MLK ‘LM people, that is, the mlk ‘lm people, namely: Ugarit.

If Genesis 10: 22 is telling us the Semitic and Hurrian peoples who dominated Syria in the Bronze Age, then Ugarit fits right in with that group. By contrast, it is hard to imagine any reasonable scenario under which the country east of far-off Babylonia would be referenced at Genesis 10: 22.

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Isaac Fried » Sun Feb 16, 2014 11:41 pm

1. It is true that the Hebrew להעלים is 'to cover up, to bury, to conceal, to hide.'

2. The Hebrew word עולם means indeed the endless stretch of time or space, but it has nothing to do with "hide". And the same is true of עלם ELEM, 'bigboy', and עלמה ALMAH, 'big-girl'.

3. Gen. 14:1 Says כדרלעמר מלך עילם which to my understanding (King James is of the same opinion) is "Kdarlaomer king of Elam", namely, king of one of the possibly several areas that the HB used to generically call EYLAM. You have certainly the right to think that מלך עילם is 'king eternal', or 'king superior', or 'king universal', or 'king hidden', or 'king youthful', or what not.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Jim Stinehart » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:07 pm

Isaac Fried:

As to ‘LM meaning “bigboy”, on two occasions ‘LM is used in the Bible to refer to a “young adult man”. ‘LM with such meaning never has an interior yod/Y or an interior vav/W following the initial ayin/‘.

It is hard to see how that meaning of ‘LM would be relevant at either Genesis 10: 22 or Genesis 14: 1. At Genesis 14: 1, Chedorlaomer’s kingly title MLK ‘LM does not mean “king who was a young adult man”. At Genesis 10: 22, the people or country viewed as being a descendant of Shem is not “the young adult man country”.

So although I agree that ‘LM can mean “young adult man”, I don’t see how that helps interpret either Genesis 14: 1 or Genesis 10: 22.

Certainly you don’t view the country east of far-off Babylonia in the Bronze Age as being a “young adult country”, do you? [Maybe Persia would fit that description in exilic times, but not its ancient predecessor, Elam.]

If we distinguish Elam from Persia, there never was a Hebrew or Jew who cared a fig about Elam, one way or the other, was there? If Elam [as opposed to its successor, Persia] was utterly irrelevant to all Hebrews and Jews at all times, then why would Genesis 10: 22 be thought to be talking about irrelevant, far-off, unknown Elam?

By sharp contrast, Ugarit had invited the dreaded Hittites into west-central Syria in Year 13 in the Late Bronze Age, and the Hittite Empire thereafter included Syria as far south as Qadesh-on-the-Orontes just north of Lebanon, and Amurru in northern Lebanon. The mighty Hittites seemed to be knocking on the door of Canaan! So naturally the Hebrews would remember Ugarit as having been an integral part of Syria in the Late Bronze Age, and as having potentially endangered beloved Canaan by inviting the dreaded Hittites into Syria in the Great Syrian War.

But why would any Hebrew or Jew, at any time, have the slightest concern about far-off, totally irrelevant Elam [as opposed to its successor in exilic times, Persia]? I just don’t see how Ugarit could have been forgotten, or Elam remembered, in the Table of Nations.

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Jim Stinehart » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:53 am

George Athas’s post on this thread seemed to imply [though it did not explicitly state] that (i) Genesis 10: 22 in the Table of Nations can be understood by “plain logic”, and that (ii) there’s no reason to question the traditional view of mainstream scholars that “Lud” means the Lydians of Anatolia, and “Elam” means the Elamites east of Babylonia. George Athas also appeared to reject my contention that scholars are “baffled” by Genesis 10: 22.

To evaluate this situation, let’s take a quick look at the views of the leading scholar on Genesis, Gordon J. Wenham, at pp. 228, 230 of “Genesis 1-15” (1987). As to “Lud”, Wenham repeats the traditional view: “Possibly Lud is the Lydians of Asia Minor (so Josephus…), known in Assyria as ‘Luddu’. Admittedly, they were not a Semitic people, but since Elam was not either, this does not prove much.” Wenham also takes the traditional view of “Elam” as well: “ ‘Elam’. The powerful eastern neighbour and rival of Mesopotamia from earliest times. Elamite is not a Semitic language, and the classification of Elam as a son of Shem probably reflects cultural and geographical considerations.”

But what, pray tell, would be those “cultural and geographical considerations” that could cause the Lydians of Anatolia to be lumped together at Genesis 10: 22 with the Elamites east of Babylonia? There is no geographical connection, and no cultural connection either.

Speaking of geography, the Elamites east of Babylonia were the immediate geographical neighbour of “Babylon, Erech, Akkad”. But wait, those three names appear at Genesis 10: 10, as descendants of Ham, rather than at Genesis 10: 22 as descendants of Shem.

On the traditional view, which has been adopted by most mainstream scholars, there is in fact no rhyme or reason to Genesis 10: 22, where “Lud” represents the Lydians of Asian Minor, and “Elam” represents the Elamites east of Babylonia. The leading scholars of Genesis can s-a-y that “cultural and geographical considerations” apply to linking Lud and Elam together at Genesis 10: 22, and correspondingly not linking Elam to “Babylon, Erech, Akkad”, but it just ain’t true. There is in fact no geographical or cultural connection whatsoever between the Lydians of Anatolia and the Elamites east of Babylonia, whereas there is a very close geographical connection between the Elamites east of Babylonia and “Babylon, Erech, Akkad”, immediately to their west.

Where is the “plain logic” here?

By contrast, I myself see the interior vav/W in “Lud” as being a consonantal vav/W, and on that basis as referencing the oldest Hurrian deity that is attested, so that “Lud” represents the old Hurrians who in the Bronze Age had dominated Syria. I see “Elam” as having originally been ‘LM, being shorthand for mlk ‘lm, which is a well-attested honorific kingly title at Ugarit, so that “Elam” represents the Amorite Semites of Ugarit in western Syria, who were some of the richest people in Syria in the Late Bronze Age.

On my own view, the “plain logic” of Genesis 10: 22 in the Table of Nations is that the author is accurately telling us the Semite and Hurrian peoples who had dominated Syria in the Bronze Age. It is my humble opinion that by contrast, the scholarly view of Genesis 10: 22 defies “plain logic”, and university scholars are “baffled” by the Genesis 10: 22 element of the Table of Nations.

Jim Stinehart
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Isaac Fried
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Re: Table of Nations: Genesis 10: 22

Postby Isaac Fried » Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:00 am

1. The question is if there was only one EYLAM, or possibly several.

2. I find it interesting that while עילם EILAM recalls עלם ELEM 'young man', לוד LUD recalls ילד YELED, 'boy, child'. Methinks that in both instances it refers to stature; possibly of the human body, possibly of a terrain.

3. עולם OLAM is the tall and massive column of universal events.

Isaac Fried, Boston University


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