Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

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Jim Stinehart
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Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Jim Stinehart » Thu Jun 26, 2014 11:09 am

Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

The name of Esau’s second wife at Genesis 26: 34 is בשמת : B%MT.

Scholars analyze “Basemath” as being a west Semitic name, where (i) the 3-consonant west Semitic root is B%M, meaning “basalm, perfume, sweet-smelling”, and (ii) a tav/T has been added at the end of that root to turn it into a Semite woman’s name.

But is such an analysis possible linguistically?

Excluding Esau’s wives, is there a single name in the entire Bible the fits the following key criteria?

1. The west Semitic root of the name has 3 consonants.

2. Such west Semitic root does not end with he/H or yod/Y or tav/T.

3. A tav/T has simply been attached at the end of this west Semitic root in order to turn it into a Semitic woman’s name.

In the Bible, very few women’s names end with tav/T. And in the rare cases where they do, either (a) the west Semitic root ends with he/H or yod/Y, or else (b) the west Semitic root itself ends with tav/T [rather than such tav/T being an ending that has been added to a west Semitic root to turn it into a woman’s name]. Examples of the foregoing are as follows: (a) At II Samuel 3: 4, XGYT is a wife of David, based on the Hebrew common word XGY. (b) “Ruth” is RWT, where this is viewed as being a shortened version of the underlying west Semitic root R‘WT or R’WT, each of which itself ends with tav/T.

Am I right that it’s linguistically impossible to start with a 3-letter west Semitic root, B%M, which does not itself end with he/H or yod/Y or tav/T, and then simply slap on a tav/T ending to turn this into a west Semitic name for a west Semitic woman?

To me, the tav/T at the end of the name “Basemath” is a dead giveaway that this is a Hurrian name of a Hurrian woman, where T is the standard Hurrian feminine ending for a woman’s name [such as Heba, the name of the chief Hurrian goddess, routinely being written as Hebat].

As I see it, linguistically B%MT cannot be a west Semitic name with the Hebrew root B%M, meaning “basalm, perfume, sweet-smelling”, because in Hebrew one cannot add -T/tav at the end of B%M to produce a west Semitic woman’s name.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

Isaac Fried
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Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Isaac Fried » Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:41 pm

The Hebrew root בשם BSM has nothing to do with BOSEM, 'fragrance'. In Hebrew, we need to carefully distinguish between the root and the word. The root is possibly a variant of the post-biblical פטם PTM, 'fat, full, plump, ample, chubby, solid', of which we have פיטמה 'nipple', and פיטום PIYTUM, 'stuffing, fattening of animals'.
The ending -AT in the name BASMAT is, methinks, the attached personal pronoun את 'you'. The name is apparently a variant of the Arabic names BASSAM and FATIYMAH.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Jim Stinehart » Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:33 pm

Isaac Fried:

You wrote: “The ending -AT in the name BASMAT is, methinks, the attached personal pronoun את 'you'. The name is apparently a variant of the Arabic names BASSAM and FATIYMAH.”

That’s i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e in Hebrew, isn’t it? The two Arabic examples you give are irrelevant to the question I am raising, because neither Arabic name ends with T.

If one starts with a 3-consonant Hebrew root that does not end with he/H or yod/Y or tav/T, then isn’t it i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e in Hebrew to make that into a west Semitic woman’s name by simply slapping a tav/T onto the end of such root?

Excluding Esau’s wives, there’s not a single west Semitic woman’s name in the entire Hebrew Bible that has that pattern, is there?

You are starting with BASM or BSM as the three-letter Hebrew root, and then you’re changing that root into a west Semitic woman’s name by adding -AT, spelled tav/T, at the end. But that n-e-v-e-r happens in the entire Hebrew Bible in forming a west Semitic woman’s name, does it, where the Hebrew root ends in a consonant other than he/H or yod/Y or tav/T?

I myself see that final tav/T in “Basemath” as being a classic Hurrian feminine ending. But more importantly on this thread, I am asserting that it’s i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e that such -T could be a Hebrew ending on a Hebrew 3-consonant root that does not end in he/H or yod/Y or tav/T.

Isaac Fried, you have such a good feel for Hebrew that it seems to me that you should be able to spot at a glance that Esau’s second wife is not a native west Semitic speaker, in that her name simply will not work in west Semitic linguistically. To the best of my knowledge, there’s not a single Hebrew woman’s name in the entire Bible that has a pattern like “Basemath”.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

Isaac Fried
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Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Isaac Fried » Fri Jun 27, 2014 4:07 pm

The only other personal names I can find ending in -AT (or -IYT) are:
EPRAT אפרת of Ch.1 2:19
GIYNAT גינת of Ki.1 16:21
GNUBAT גנבת Ki.1 11:20
RIYPAR ריפת Gen. 10:3
XAGIYT חגית Sam.1 3:4
XAMAT חמת Ch.1 2:55
TAPAT טפת Ki.1 4:11
YHO$ABAT יהושבעת Ch.2 22:11
YAXAT יחת Ch.1 4:2
MAXLAT מחלת Ch.2 11:18
MAXAT מחת Ch.2 6:20
MANAXAT מנחת Gen. 36:23
NAXAT נחת Gen. 36:13
SABTAH סבתה Gen. 10:7

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Jim Stinehart
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Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Jim Stinehart » Fri Jun 27, 2014 11:11 pm

Isaac Fried:

Thank you so much for coming up with that list of 13 Biblical names that end with tav/T. But per my comments below to these 13 names, note that not a single one of those names is a west Semitic name of a woman that consists of three consonants, not ending in aleph or ayin or he or tav, to which a T ending has been added. That is to say, there is no west Semitic name formed like “Basemath” in the Bible.

1. EPRAT אפרת of Ch.1 2:19. Hurrian woman’s name. Husband is Hurrian, and their son is called “Hurrian”: XWR. The man’s version of this Hurrian name, spelled differently in that ayin/‘ is there used for the initial Hurrian true vowel E instead of aleph/’, is ‘PR-WN at Genesis 23: 8. [In fact, “Ephrath” is just like “Basemath”: start with a 3-letter Hurrian root, and then add T as the classic Hurrian feminine ending. Same.]

2. GIYNAT גינת of Ki.1 16:21. Man’s name. Unknown root. There is no Hebrew root GYN to which T could be added.

3. GNUBAT גנבת Ki.1 11:20. Man’s name. Moreover, this is not a west Semitic name, as neither his father nor his mother has a west Semitic name. His mother is Egyptian, and his father is probably Hurrian, coming from the former Hurrian state of MDYN/Mitanni. Father’s name is XDD, where XD or XT means “to praise [Teshup]” in Hurrian.

4. RIYPAT ריפת Gen. 10:3. Man’s name. Not thought to be west Semitic.

5. XAGIYT חגית Sam.1 3:4. As noted in my post, root ends with yod/Y.

6. XAMAT חמת Ch.1 2:55. Man’s name, and only has 3 letters.

7. TAPAT טפת Ki.1 4:11. This woman’s name has only 3 letters, and the root ends with H.

8. YHO$ABAT יהושבעת Ch.2 22:11. II Kings 11: 2 has this woman’s name without the final T, ending in ayin/‘. This name has 7 letters, not 4 letters like “Basemath”.

9. YAXAT יחת Ch.1 4:2. Man’s name, and only has 3 letters. Unclear if root ends with T.

10. MAXLAT מחלת Ch.2 11:18. Root of this woman’s name is MXLT, ending with T, which in turn derives from MLH, ending in H.

11. MAXAT מחת Ch.1 6:20. Man’s name; only has 3 letters; and root ends with H.

12. MANAXAT מנחת Gen. 36:23. It’s a man’s name, and if west Semitic, the MNT root ends with T.

13. NAXAT נחת Gen. 36:13. Man’s name, and only has 3 letters; if west Semitic, the NXT root ends with T.

14. SABTAH סבתה Gen. 10:7. Man’s name, and does not end with T.

Thanks again for coming up with this nifty list. Much appreciated.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

Isaac Fried
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Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Isaac Fried » Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:47 am

The interest in the name יהושבעת = יהו-שבע-את YHO-$AB-AT, is that it consists of an obvious theophoric combination with an attached personal pronoun את AT, 'you', at the end.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Isaac Fried
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Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Isaac Fried » Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:02 pm

EPRAT אפרת was possibly dark skinned, the color of אפר EPER, 'ash, soot'. See Nu. 19:9. So were, possibly, אפרים Ephraim (who was possibly even doubly so) the son of Joseph (Gen. 41:52), and עפרון Ephron of Gen. 23:10, who was possibly the color of עפר APAR, 'earth'.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

Jim Stinehart
Posts: 325
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:33 am

Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Jim Stinehart » Tue Jul 01, 2014 12:04 pm

Isaac Fried:
You wrote: “EPRAT אפרת was possibly dark skinned, the color of אפר EPER, 'ash, soot'. See Nu. 19:9. So were, possibly, אפרים Ephraim (who was possibly even doubly so) the son of Joseph (Gen. 41:52), and עפרון Ephron of Gen. 23:10, who was possibly the color of עפר APAR, 'earth'.”

At Genesis 23: 10, Ephron is said both to be a XTY, and to be one of the sons of XT. XT is xu-ti in Hurrian, meaning “praise”, and implies “Praise [Teshup]” So Ephron is one of the “Praise Teshup” people, that is, a Hurrian.

Accordingly, Ephron’s name will be a Hurran name, not a west Semitic name. The Hurrian name that means “the [Hurrian] lord” [or, less literally, “Hurrian nobleman”] is spelled as follows in Hurrian: E-pr-ri-in-ne. In Hebrew orthography, the same consonant cannot appear twice in a row when not separated by a vowel, so the first N drops out. Unique to Hurrian, since the I in the preceding -ri- syllable is the same as the I in the next syllable, Hurrian uses an anaptyxe vowel to show that, which in Hebrew orthography for Hurrian names is vav/W. Using AV as “anaptyxe vowel”, this Hurrian name is treated as follows for Hebrew writing: E-pr-ri-AV-ne. That’s letter-for-letter for how “Ephron” is spelled, using defective spelling of course, in which a vowel is rendered by a Hebrew letter only if it’s a separate syllable: ‘-P-R-W-N.

I noted above that “Ephrat” is simply the woman’s version of the name “Ephron”. The Hurrian true vowel E as its own separate syllable in initial position can be rendered by either Hebrew ayin/‘ or Hebrew aleph/’. Instead of the suffix being “the”/AV-ne in “Ephron”, here we have the classic Hurrian feminine ending, which is T, rendered in Hebrew by tav: ’-P-R-T. Ephrat’s parents are Hurrians with Hurrian names. “Caleb” doesn’t mean [in west Semitic] “Dog”! No way! No, it’s Kelip, which is the beginning of many attested Hurrian names.

Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

Isaac Fried
Posts: 1099
Joined: Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:32 pm

Re: Esau’s Wife “Basemath”

Postby Isaac Fried » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:15 pm

Appears to me that the ending -ON in the name עפר-ון EPR-ON is a contracted הינו HINO, 'he is', as in Job 2:6.

Isaac Fried, Boston University


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