SBL 2007 (p. 11)

I arrived at the Grand Hyatt around 12:50 hoping to catch Prof. Anson Rainey before the beginning of his 1:00 session, “Ugaritic Studies and Northwest Semitic Epigraphy”.

I had forgotten to mention that at the end of the ASOR day (probably because I was focusing so intensely on the Zayit inscriptions), I met him briefly as I was leaving. He signed his landmark BASOR 245 article for me, “Wine from the Royal Vineyards” (Winter 1982). When I first read this article, it made a big impression (pun intended) on me as to the scope of the problem scholars have in interpreting the LMLK phenomenon, particularly pertaining to the association of the 4 words with cities/towns vs. districts/regions:

Therefore we would suggest that the Socoh in the southern Hill Country is meant. … Thus we are departing from Aharoni’s view that the four place names represent a reorganization of the Judean administrative districts by Hezekiah during his preparations for Sennacherib’s attack.” (p. 59; Lv1 p. 246)

I also like people who are not shy about disagreeing with Nadav Na’aman. Regarding his hypothesis that Sargon conquered the Negeb:

This suggestion is indefensible and must be flatly rejected on several counts. … it does not make sense…” (p. 60; Lv1 p. 247)

I regard Prof. Rainey as one of the most important LMLK researchers for both this landmark article, & also the fact that he discovered the first publicized LMLK pithos handle (though several others were found decades earlier at Mizpah, Lachish, & Gibeon they were not recognized as distinct forms of pottery):

[O]ne such impression came to light at Beersheba, found by the present writer during the first season while excavating a chalk floor that subsequently turned out to be a chamber in the city gate of Str. II. It was not on a standard type wine jar, the Lachish Type 484, but rather on a giant pithos.” (p. 60; Lv1 p. 247)

So you can imagine how cool it was for me to be able to hang out with him for 10 minutes or so as he was finishing his lunch (2 hotdogs)! I regret not bringing along some sort of snack–a granola bar or anything–so that I’d be able to say I actually had lunch with him! Nonetheless, I brought along another rare book for him to sign–“Beer-Sheba I”, mostly written by Yohanan Aharoni, but also containing chapters by fellow excavators including Prof. Rainey (“The Cuneiform Inscription on a Votive Cylinder from Beer-sheba”). This particular copy was originally autographed by Prof. Aharoni for Mrs. Joy Ungerleider, the longtime curator & director of The Jewish Museum in New York, who established The Dorot Foundation in 1972. I had mentioned this to Prof. Rainey at ASOR, & told him I’d bring it to SBL; he knew who she was.

He began his lecture, “Redefining Ancient Hebrew” (per SBL; “Redefining Hebrew–A Transjordanian Language” per his handout), with the humorous observation, “In the 21st century, we don’t solve problems, we deal with issues.” He distributed an excellent 9-page handout, & followed it rather closely throughout his presentation (but didn’t read it; a sure sign of a genuinely knowledgeable scholar), beginning with a reference to Dr. William Dever. I’m not going to reproduce it here in its entirety because it’s full of technical details & complicated diacritical marks (the chances of me making typos are high), but I will copy portions of it, beginning with the first paragraph since it’s classic Rainey (a scholar with a confident attitude):

I. Background. In his popular essay Dever (2003, also 1995) discussed a series of cultural traits in the Early Iron Age hill country settlements that definitely showed a discontinuity with the situation in the preceding Late Bronze Age. However, he was convinced because of his erroneous view of the ceramic evidence (cf. Rainey 2007:49-52) that the occupants of the many newly established small sites had originated in the previous Canaanite society on the coastal plains and valleys. One of his final arguments pertained to the Hebrew language:

And here in his handout, he quotes Dever:

…since the birth of modern linguistics it has been clear that Hebrew is a Canaanite dialect (Dever 2003:168).

Returning to his spoken lecture, Prof. Rainey stated unambiguously, “Bill wouldn’t know a Canaanite dialect if it bit him!

Here’s the abstract, followed by the other headings given in the paper:

Conventional wisdom has classified Hebrew as a ‘Canaanite dialect.’ This concept must be challenged in the light of several differences between Hebrew and Phoenician (the Canaanite language par excellance [sic]) and similarities to Transjordanian languages such as Moabite and Old South Aramaic (Deir Alla, Tel Dan, Zakkur). The basic features that define ancient Hebrew as a Transjordanian language are: consonantal structure, narrative prefix preterite, the verb ‘to be,’ the verb ‘to do, make,’ the relatie [sic] pronoun and other features. The redefinition of Hebrew as a Transjordanian language has a direct bearing on the ethnic and cultural definition of the newly arrived settlers in the hilly areas of the southern Levant in the twelfth-eleventh centuries BCE.

II. Consonantal Phonemes

III. Some Lexemes

1. The verb “to be.”

2. The verbs “to do, make.”

3. The terms for “gold.”

4. The relative pronoun ASR–Hebrew and Moabite
(note–in his paper, ASR was written in modern Hebrew right to left as “RSA”)

5. Governor, Chief Administrator.

IV. The Narrative Preterit

In section II, he showed the 22 consonantal signs of the Phoenician alphabet, & mentioned the Izbet Sarta & Tel Zayit inscriptions as examples of “students trying to practice the alphabet“. He said, “Phoenicians called themselves Canaanites“, & the Hebrew “hillbillies from the desert … borrowed” this Phoenician/Canaanite alphabet “because of its prestige” even though there were “not enough letters” in it; they “borrowed an alphabet that did not fit their language“. It also did not have enough letters for Aramaic, whose speakers had “apparently” 29 consonantal phonemes.

Section III began with the lament that Garr (1985) did not consider lexical innovations in his classification of the dialect geography of the Levant.

III.1 quoted Genesis 1:3 (Amazing coincidence!) in Hebrew, Daniel 6:11 in Aramaic, & line 12a from the Moabite Mesha inscription, noting that “Andre Lemaire has also found a third person feminine singular form” therein. His major point in this section was, “The personal name of Israel’s Deity, *Yahweh, was a derived imperfect verb form, specifically a causative (Albright 1924:374) from that very non-Canaanite verb!” He pronounced the Tetragrammaton verb as “Yeev-yay“.

III.2 quoted Lachish Letter 4:2-3 in Hebrew, & line 26 from the Mesha. At some point in this section, he mentioned that in the days of Hezekiah there were “lots of diplomats coming & going“. Then he did a lengthy look at the POL root throughout the Bible, noting that only one of the verbal forms appears in the narrative preterit (Isaiah 44:12); it never occurs in historical prose books or in epigraphic Hebrew. “POL is the standard verbal root for Phoenician & Punic (Hoftijzer & Jongeling 1995: II, 924-927). A classic example is the opening passage of the Kilamuwa inscription.” Then he showed its forms in lines 2 & 5 of the Deir ‘Alla inscription.

III.3 compared “gold” in Hebrew (ZEB) with its Aramaic cognate (DEB), as well as the Arabic “dahab”, noting the Silwan funerary inscription. The Phoenician version, “hrs” (vocalized as “harus”), is attested 6 times in the Hebrew Bible (Zechariah 9:3, Psalms 68:14, & Proverbs 3:4, 8:10,19, 16:16; “HRU$” according to my system I use with the LMLK Personals). The Ugaritic cognate is similar to the Phoenician, “though there is evidence that the Ugaritians may have adopted the Akkadian form hurasu (del Olmo Lete, G. and Sanmartin, J. 2005:I, 406).” He also looked at its form in Linear B (ku-ru-so), noting that the later Greek form “demonstrates that the form was borrowed from a West Semitic language, most likely Ugaritic“. He terminated this section with quotes from ancient Ugaritic & Phoenician texts.

III.4 is a relatively short section (1 paragraph) stating that another significant link between Hebrew & Moabite is the use of ASR, which is in no way related to Phoenician AS. The latter is simply the S with prothetic Alef. The relative ASR is the construct of an archaic noun meaning either “place” or “pace”. It did not develop from the use of the construct for “wherever” in the Amarna letters (Rainey 1996; contra Garbini 1960:105). Note that Prof. Rainey is the only living scholar who has personally read all the Amarna texts in London, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, New York, Chicago, & Cairo!

I think this is the first time in my life I’ve been exposed to the word, “prothetic” (the adjective form of “prothesis”; a noun I’ve never heard of either)! I looked it up in the dictionary, but I’m still not sure of the difference between this & a “prefix”; there seems to be some overlap in meaning. More importantly, how do these grammarians know that AS is an S with an A added to the front of it rather than an A with an S added to the end of it?

III.5 examines the Phoenician term, “SKN”, a root that means “to care for, to attend to”, which “has no connection with Semitic SKN.” Then he gives examples of it in Ugaritic & Hebrew (Job 22:21), then 2 glosses in the Amarna letters, & also Old Aramaic & Phoenician. This latter term appears once in Hebrew being used sarcastically in Isaiah 22:15.

The remaining 3+ pages contain section IV, which begins with the statement, “The Amarna letters from Canaan still employed the prefix preterit (Rainey 1971; 1996:2, 222-226; acknowledged by Moran 1975), they seldom use it in a string of clauses connected by the conjunction in order to express a sequence of actions.” Then he gives some EA examples, & shows it as commonplace in ancient Hebrew such as Genesis 8:6-9 & Lachish Letter #4. According to Rainey, “Moabite had this syntagma in common with Hebrew“, & he quotes Mesha lines 10-14.

(Again, I had never heard “syntagma” before.) Interestingly, this is the section of Mesha used by Chang-Ho Ji back at the ASOR conference, so I’ll quote his version here with his emphases (Rainey 2001:294, 296, 300-5):

The man of Gad had dwelt in ‘Atarot (Ataroth) from of old and the king of Israel built ‘Atarot (Ataroth) for him. But I fought against the city and I took it and I slew all the people, [but] the city became(!) the property of Chemosh and of Moab and I captured from there its Davidic altar hearth and I dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth, and I settled in it men of Sharon and m[en] of Maharoth.

Then he quotes the Zakkur Inscription 11-15 (Rainey 2003b:404; Rainey & Notley 2006:220-1). He provides a line-by-line transliteration with this English translation (I’m omitting his additional bracketed transliterations):

So I raised my hands to Ba’l-samayin & Ba’l-samayin answered me & Ba’l-samayin [spoke] to me by means of seers & by means of prophets [&] Ba’l-samayin [said to me] “Do not fear because it is I who made [you king & I (myself) will st]and with you & I (myself) will deliver you from all [these kings who] have thrown up against you a seige [sic] & [Ba’l-samayin] said to [me…].

Then Deir ‘Alla lines 1-2 (again, with his emphases):

And the gods came to him by night, & he saw a visio]n as an oracle of ‘El. Then they said to [Bil’a]m son of Be’or…

I don’t know where the preceding bracket is for the closing one in “visio]n”, so maybe that’s a typo; it does not appear in his Hebrew version.

His paper concluded with, “The prefix preterit with & without the sequential conjunction (Rainey 2003:405) in the Tel Dan inscription” (lines 3-10; again, omitting his line-by-line & bracketed transliterations):

and my father passed away; he went to [his ancestors.] And the king of I[s]rael entered formerly into the land of my father; [but] Hadad made me myself king, & Hadad went before me; [and] I departed from [the] seven […] of my kingdom; & I slew seve[nty ki]ngs, who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]riots & thousands of horsemen. [And then they killed Jo]ram, son of [Ahab,] king of Israel, & [they] killed [Ahazi]yahu, son of [Joram, kin-]g of the house of David; & I set [their land to ruins?? the ci-]ties of their land into de[solation ?…]

The Q&A began with Baruch Levine complimenting him, “I think you’re really onto something“. Of Levine, Prof. Rainey told us, “We did our homework together!

But then the next person, whose name I didn’t get, said Prof. Rainey’s presentation had a “very severe problem“. Another classic example of scholars disagreeing.

For a more knowledgeable review of Rainey’s paper, see Duane Smith’s “Abnormal Interests” blog; for an alternate reaction to the subject & actual lecture, see Andrew Compton’s “Confessional Reformed Contemplations” blog.

All in all it was a thrill to attend this one by the greatest contributor to the study of the historical geography of the holyland. Even though I can’t say I had lunch with Anson Rainey, I can at least say I’ve heard him lecture on grammar, ancient alphabets, the Amarna letters, the Lachish letters, the Mesha stone, the Deir ‘Alla texts, the Dan stela, the Hebrew Bible, the days of Hezekiah, the pronunciation of God’s Name, & William Dever.

G.M. Grena

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3 Responses to “SBL 2007 (p. 11)”

  1. ndrwcmpt Says:

    Thanks for the post . . . I was sitting about 2 feet away from Anson while he was finishing his hot dogs so you must have been the guy sitting directly in front of me during that time. I’m learning about how *little* I know on many of these matters and how MUCH I still have to learn!

    Andrew Compton

  2. G.M. Grena Says:

    No–you could not possibly have been sitting 2 feet away from him because that’s where I was! How funny! I do remember saying something briefly to somebody sitting there with me–maybe it was you. Small world!

  3. G.M. Grena Says:

    (Courtesy cross-reference link to comments on LMLK Blogspot.)

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