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Esau עשׂו

(555 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Esau, twin brother of Jacob is known as the eponym of the bĕnê ʿēsāw ( Gen. 25.19–34; Gen. 36.1–43) and the father of Edom ( Gen. 36.9, Gen. 43; Akk. Udumu; Ug. udm (?); Eg. idm;Gk. Idoumaia). His name, sometimes connected to Ar. âṯa, ‘to be hairy’ ( Gen. 25.25), is more likely explained as a hypocoristicon of ʿJsw or ʿJsy J. ( HALAT 845; cf. epigraphic Hebr ʿśw; Nabataean ʿsw). Early critical scholarship surmised behind the saga of Jacob and Esau a mythological tale of twin rivalry (Goldziher 1876; Meyer 1906). Frequent reference has also been made to the culture myth of Samēmroumo…

Adat אדת

(431 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name The Ugaritic male title adn (Lord) for god and men has a female counterpart: adt (< * adattu < * adāntu). Eissfeldt (1939) proposed to read in the lament Jer. 22.18 wĕhôy ʾādāt, ‘oh, Mistress’, implying that a female deity is invoked. II. Identity At Ugarit, adt occurs as the female counterpart to adn. adt is not only used to indicate the Ugaritic queen-mother, but also the mother-goddess as can be inferred from names like bn adty = dumu a-da-ta-ya ( PRU VI, 83 iv:11); f A-da-ti-ya ( PRU III, p.114:29); ʿbdadt = I ìr- a-da-te (F. Gröndahl, Die Personennamen der Texte aus Ugarit [StP 1;…

Ishmael ישׁמעאל

(997 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Ishmael is the eponym of the Ishmaelite tribes who traced their ancestry back to Abraham/Abram and visited his tomb at Hebron (Machpelah, Gen. 25.9). The name as such is common Semitic and is attested from the earliest times onward (Knauf 1985:38 n.170; Archi 1988:51). His name is explained in Gen. 16.11 (J.) and Gen. 21.17 (E.) as a wish for answer, an explanation which tallies with the traditional understanding of this name (Noth, IP…

Jacob יעק(ו)ב

(964 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Jacob son of Isaac is the eponym of the bĕnê yaʿăqôb ( Gen. 34.7, Gen. 13; Gen. 35.5; Ps. 77.16), more frequently called bêt yaʿăqôb. He became the most colourful and revered ancestor of the early Israelite confederation. The name Jacob is most probably a hypocoristicon of Jacob-El frequently found in Mesopotamia from the early second millennium bce onwards (Freedman 1963:125–126; de Vaux 1971:192–193) and also carried by a 16th dynasty Hyksos-ruler (de Vaux 1971:193 and n. 85, see however on the theophoric element - hr, not to be equated with il, Ward 1976). In the New Ki…


(1,713 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name The negation lōʾ revocalized as lēʾ has been interpreted as a divine epithet ‘Victor’ (e.g. M. Dahood, Psalms I 1–50 [AB 16; New York 1966] 46; Viganò 1976; Cooper 1981) derived from the root lʾy. The same root is at the basis of the Baal epithets aliyn and aliy qrdm and the element lʾy/lʾt in a number of West Semitic names, ancient titles of Baal and his consort (Sznycer 1963). The name of Jacob’s wife Leah (לאה, Gen. 29.16; Ruth 4.11) has been connected with the same root ( HALAT 487). II. Identity Aliyan, usually translated as ‘almighty, victorious, puissant’, is a frequently…

Mother אם

(847 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name The mother-goddess is the most common and pluriform deity of the religions of the ancient Near East. Because the Canaanite Asherah, worshipped also as the Queen of Heaven, is not unknown to OT tradition, scholars have found references to her mythical role and imagery, particularly in the person of Eve, the mother of all the living ( Gen. 3.20). Many scholars suppose that the title ʾēm kol ḥay originally referred either to Mother Earth (see also Sir. 40.1) or the primeval mother-goddess (Vriezen 1937:192–193; Westermann 1974:365; Kapelrud 1977:795). II. Identity The Sumerian m…

Rachel רחל

(755 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Rachel is in biblical tradition Jacob’s favourite wife and mother of Joseph and Benjamin ( Gen. 30.23–24; Gen. 35.16–20). Outside the Pentateuch she is mentioned in 1 Sam. 10.2; Ruth 4.11 and Jer. 31.15. Rachel was originally an animal name. The noun rāḥēl, ‘ewe’, is attested in Hebrew ( Gen. 31.38; Isa. 53.7), Aramaic (also the Deir Alla inscription I,11) and classical Arabic. Stade (1881), Haupt (1909), O. Procksch ( Die Genesis [KAT 1; Leipzig 1913] 334–335), and M. Noth ( Das System der Zwölf Stämme Israels [Stuttgart 1930] 83) believed her name, as well as Leah’s, w…

Joseph יוסף

(1,011 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name In biblical genealogical tradition Joseph is the son of Jacob and Rachel ( Gen. 30.22–24). His name is a hypocoristicon, presumably of * yôsîp-ʾēl/DN like yôsîpyāh ( Ezra 8.10). Tradition preserves two explanations of his name, the one linking it to the root ’sp ( Gen. 30.23 E.?), the other to ysp ( Gen. 30.24 J.?); the latter interpretation is probably correct. The name expresses the classical wish for a quiver full of children ( Ps. 115.14; Noth, IPN, 212; de Vaux 1971; André, TWAT 3 [1977–82] 685). The form yĕhôsēp ( Ps. 81.6), frequently found in later Hebrew, is per…

Abraham אברהם

(1,444 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name The ‘original’ name of the patriarch ʾabrām belongs to the common stock of West Semitic names known since the beginning of the second millennium bce. It is a contracted form of ʾăbîrām ( HALAT 9; de Vaux 1968:11; 1 Kgs. 16.32; Num. 16.1; Num. 26.9; Ps. 106.17), written abrm in Ugarit ( KTU 4.352:2, 4 = I A-bi-ra-mu/i; PRU 3, 20; 5, 85:10; 107:8, cf. also Mari, H. B. Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts [Baltimore 1965] 5), ʾbrm in Elephantine (E. Sachau, Aramäische Papyrus und Ostraka aus einer Militär-Kolonie zu Elephantine [Leipzig 1911] no. 75/1 II.8). It occur…

Clay טיט

(742 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name In the Ugaritic texts a binomial deity: ẓẓ wkmṯ ( KTU 1.100:36; 1.107:16) is attested. Virolleaud read the first name as ṭṭ. He and other scholars connected the word with Heb. ṭîṭ; Akk. ṭidu(m), ṭiṭu, ṭiṭṭ/ddu; Aram. ṭyn/ṭînā ( DISO 110); Ar. ṭîn ‘clay’, ‘mud’. It is the substance from which man was made ( Atra-Ḫasis I.210–260). As such it is not mentioned in the OT, but here the word appears parallel to ḥomer ( Isa. 41.25; Nah. 3.14, cf. Isa. 45.9; Isa. 64.9; Job 10.9; Job 33.6). Otherwise it is a usual word for dirt, silt or any slimy deposit ( Jer. 38.6; Ps. 18.43; Mi…

Leah לאה

(513 words)

Author(s): M. Dijkstra
I. Name Leah, the name of Jacob’s first wife is traditionally explained as ‘ defatigata, weak’ (Wetzstein 1876). Stade (1881) connected her name to Ar. lāʾā ‘Wildkuh’ (a kind of antilope) and Nöldeke (1886), Haupt (1909) and others to Akk. littu ‘cow’ ( AHW 557–558). Along these lines, the name lēʾâ came to be understood as a reminiscence of a goddess, or a tribal totem (Gray 1896; Smith 1894). Recently, her name has been quoted as the female counterpart of an epithet given to YHWH: lēʾ ‘victor’ (Aliyan). II. Identity In ancient Near Eastern religions goddesses often received th…