Sunday, May 28, 2006

Parshat Bemidbar: The Duel Between Reuel and Deuel

Moshe Abalesz over at Sedra Sorts (another parsha blog) has a post on Reuel vs. Deuel that caught my interest.

He notes the famous issue of Reuel vs. Deuel. In Bemidbar 1:14, we have:
יד לְגָד, אֶלְיָסָף בֶּן-דְּעוּאֵל. 14 Of Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
while in Bemidbar 2:14 we have:
יד וּמַטֵּה, גָּד; וְנָשִׂיא לִבְנֵי גָד, אֶלְיָסָף בֶּן-רְעוּאֵל. 14 and the tribe of Gad; the prince of the children of Gad being Eliasaph the son of Reuel,
So which is it, Reuel or Deuel?

I would add that in perek 7 and 10 of Bemidbar it is also Deuel, so this seems to weigh in favor of Deuel. But still, what accounts for this discrepency?

He writes:
Modern commentators do not have a problem with this, after all the only difference between a daled and a resh ("ד" and "ר") is that the daled’s head runs slightly over the vertical line. Therefore, at some point a scribal error occurred and the name was recorded incorrectly. Alternative manuscripts of the Bible seem to confirm this.
In terms of alternate manuscripts, there is, e.g. Reuel in Bemidbar 1:14 in LXX. (See here.) However, one must take caution, for there is always the urge to harmonize. That is, the LXX reading might be an attempt to make all the names the same. After all, we are not the only ones who can spot this obvious divergence, and we see quite often (e.g. in the Samaritan Targum) efforts to harmonize. Thus, the different reading might not reflect the original reading.

Moshe Abalesz wrote about ktav ashurit, but the same is true for ktav ivrit - Paleo-Hebrew. Look at the resh and daled, and see that the resh just has an extra line.
Or perhaps better, based on this one:

where daled and resh are even closer.

He gives some suggestions. First, based on Ramban that someone might have two different names with identical meanings (Tzochar vs. Zarach -- though one would note the similarity in the sounds of these names), these might be two names which mean the same (he says "one who is close to God," since re'u means friend and de'u means knows, thus acquaintance).

He then cites Cassuto who explains by Deuel vs. Reuel and similarly by Dodanim vs. Rodanim that perhaps the full name was Deruel, which was shortened sometimes to Deuel and sometimes to Reuel.

I don't find this particularly convincing, though it brought a smile to my face.

As a creative exercise, could we explain this divergence in names in other ways? I came up with two.

Firstly, it is well accepted that there were more Hebrew letters than we currently have in the Hebrew alphabet. The spoken alphabet had more letters, but when choosing a written alphabet, the alphabet had fewer letters. Therefore, there was a folding of letters onto the orthographic signs. Different languages made different decisions about this. Thus, there was /d/, /z/, and /dh/ (pronounced as "th" in "either") and Hebrew chose the zayin for dh while Aramaic chose the daled for dh. The same for th, which was mapped onto the tav in Aramaic and the shin in Hebrew. And so on. Perhaps we could say Reuel/Deuel and Dodanim/Rodanim reflects such a distinction, at a time/locale where the daled was rolled more resh-like than usual. (We know Egyptian has both a d and a dh/dj -- see here.) Thus, perhaps the divergence reflects two efforts to record the specific sound.

Another suggestion. Perhaps this fellow changed his name from Reuel to Deuel. Why would he do such a thing? Well, my brother-in-law (in an unrelated context) likes to point out something about Achira ben Ainan, who is mentioned in the next pasuk.

יד לְגָד, אֶלְיָסָף בֶּן-דְּעוּאֵל. 14 Of Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
טו לְנַפְתָּלִי, אֲחִירַע בֶּן-עֵינָן. 15 Of Naphtali, Ahira the son of Enan.'
What is the meaning of Achira. It certainly seems to be Achi + Ra, where Ra is the name of the Egyptian deity. This is similar to Ra-Mses. Compare the other names in the list.

Perhaps Reuel, spelled resh ayin vav aleph lamed (and perhaps even without the em kriya there) had connotations of Ra + El = Ra is mighty/god. (To be confused with the alien cult.)
Perhaps then, after witnessing the Exodus, he wished to remove the idolatry from his name and changed it to Deuel.

Note these are just creative speculations.

1 comment:

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

the title on your first chart is incorrect... Ugaritic was written in a cuneiform-style alphabet, not a Cana‘anite one (even though it's also a Cana‘anite language).

Omniglot (very useful resource) has a page on Ugaritic at that link.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin