The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, March 13, 2017

Building the Israeli jidâr

Biblical Nabuchadrezzar (sometimes misspelled Nabuchadnezzar) derives from the Babylonian name which we transcribe “Nabû-kudurrī-uṣur”. We're told it means “o Nabu, protect my son!”. Today I was sifting through some Elamite material and found something relevant.

I’ll get the (more) boring stuff out of the way. Nabu is a Babylonian god. Uṣur is the standard Akkadian term for a firstborn son. The aspirated “chadr” in the Bible reflects Aramaeoid begadkepat; this may or may not have struck the Babylonian language too as of 600 BC. So the "protect" part is the kudurrī, in Babylonian orthography.

Hosea and Amos knew a similar-sounding root: GDR, for instance gadarti at-gadarah (lit. I shall wall up a wall). Most scholars think kudurrī and gadar are related. GDR became good Biblical Hebrew when it was time to write Torah.

The Muslims have applied al-jadr to the Ka`ba wall, but I do not see the Arabic GDR root in – say – Nabati or Safaitic. As I look for walls, dams, and barriers in the Qur’an I find instead Q. 18:95 radm, leaving aside Iranian words like barzakh and firdaws. Al-gadr is, then, one more loanword into Islam, this time certainly Biblical (and not native Iraqi).

But that doesn’t mean the gadar(ah) was native to Hebrew (nor to Aramaic) before that. During the Bronze Age, kudur was exclusive to the Babylonian form of East Semitic, and even there was never heard before the Kassite hegemony. It comes from the kudurru, a boundary-marker. According to L. Sassmannshausen, “Adaptation of the Kassites to the Babylonian Civilization” ed. Languages and Cultures in Contact OLA 96 (Leuven: Peeters, 1999), 409-24; 413 n. 22, the word was originally Elamite.

To me this looks like the Israelite northern-kingdom (and Syrians?) understood the gadar(ah) as a wall in the Iraqi style: Assyrian, Babylonian, and Elamite.

posted by Zimri on 16:07 | link | 0 comments

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