Abram/Abrhm – 2 Different Biblical Characters
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
Abram’s alleged Biblical hometown was Harran, a town in northern Syria while his alter-ego, Abrhm (Abraham), was linked to the Negev in southern Palestine. The two different spellings of this Biblical character’s name leaves one wondering whether there were actually at least two characters named Abram, which were fused in the Genesis narrative. The name Abarama (Abram) was found in the tablets at Ebla. The Eblaites spoke an East Semitic language that was akin to Akkadian. The name abarama is a derivative of the East Semitic root baramu in Akkadian which means ‘to seal’, ’emboss an image on metal’. The Hebrew root ‘to seal’ is or chatham, a word which is not related to the name Abram or Abarama.
The Arabic word brm or barama means, among other things ‘to conclude a pact’ or to seal a covenant. The derivative of this word in Arabic is or Abram ( modern pronunciation Ibram) which means ‘conclusion of a pact’ or seal of a covenant. The name Abram would be spelled in Old South Arabic as Abrhm where the ‘h’ is pronounced as a glottal akin to the Arabic and Hebrew aleph. So, here we have 2 different spellings of the same name which shows up in Genesis as both Abram and Abraham. The 2 different spellings of this name are explained in Gen. 17 with the following explanation and gloss:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations
Ab Hammon Gowy means ‘father of many nations’, not Abraham. Clearly, the authors of Genesis were dealing with 2 different characters who shared a similar name which meant ‘seal of a covenant’, but had to different spellings, i.e. Abram and Abrhm. Such a name would not be uncommon in Ancient Near Eastern Semitic cultures as one of the jobs of these religious leaders was to seal deals between their deities and themselves on behalf of their followers.
There are clearly 2 different religious leaders here who were ‘living seals’ of the covenants between their followers and their deity. One was from Harran named Abram (Abarama) who was probably an Amorite/Ahlamu/Aramean who fled the Assyrians and settled in or around Shiloh, a town in ancient Samaria. The other, Abrhm (pronounced with an aspirated ‘h’ in Hebrew), was denizen of the Arabian Peninsula (Ishmaelite/Qedarite/Midianite/Minean) who migrated from the Arabian Peninsula north into the Negev (Edom then Judea) and settled in or around Hebron. Abram (Abarama) worshipped El while Abrhm (pronounced Abram in OSA but Abraham in Hebrew) worshipped Yhwh.
This thesis explains the dichotomous roles of the character Abram/Abraham in the Genesis story. Abram (Abarama) was from Harran and married his sister Sara, who became the mother of Isaac and the matriarch of the northern Hebrew tribes. Abram traded with Egypt; a nation from whom he may have adopted the incestuous habits of the Egyptian royals. Abrhm, on the other hand, was married to Hagar (actually the name of the ancient eastern province of the Arabian Peninsula, which included the port of Bahrain) who became the mother of Ishmael and the matriarch of the caravan tribes/incense traders from the Arabian Peninsula. The Arab Abrhm explains the incense trade while Aramaic Abram became a bedouin, which explains his role as a shepherd who sacrificed sheep and children to his god, El. These are clearly 2 different characters fused as one by the authors of Genesis. Abrhm was a product from Arab (Qynite/Midianite/Qedarite etc) mythology while Abram was a mythical Amorite character who evolved with the changing status of the Amorites who became Ahlamu, then Arameans who evolved into Hebrews.