Horite Origins in the Bible

Horite Origins in the Bible

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

The biblical Horites have long been an enigma for scholars. The Book of Genesis has them as the original inhabitants of Edom, an ancient biblical kingdom located to the south of the Kingdom of Judah. Edom is an alternative name for Esau, who the Genesis claims was the brother of Jacob that Jacob cheated out of his birthright. This biblical tale has been discarded by archaeologists who have found only the artifacts in the area of such ancient residents as the Egyptians and the local Bedouin, who were most likely Midianites as well as other tribes and clans who filtered into the area from the Arabian Peninsula. These desert people were referred to a Shasu, meaning Bedouin, by the Egyptians who controlled the copper mines in the area from 1300 to 1100 BCE. The Egyptians referred to this area as Atika, which is very close to the Quranic word ‘Aykah’. Aykah was the area in which the Arab prophet Shuaib preached. Shuaib, the preached to the Horites or Bedouin of ancient Edom as is indicated by the etymology of the word Horite.

The Hebrew phrase for Horite, pronounced as ‘choriy’, is hchoriy bhara’am sayir and means ‘the Horites in their Mount Seir’. The Hebrew phrase appears to be transliterated from the Egyptian phrase Hryw_S’y D2-D21-G43-N37-D36-Z4-N33-A49- Z3 which literally means Residents of the Sand (desert) or Bedouin. Many scholars have traced the Biblical word Horite to the Akkadian word ?urru which means, cave, hole, cavity. This interpretation causes modern Biblical interpreters to assign the designation ‘Cave Dwellers’ to the word ‘Horite’. Since, the name Horite appears only in Genesis, the designation ‘Horite’ is very late as Genesis is thought to have been composed not earlier than the Persian Period. However, it appears that the word Horite may actually have originated in Egypt with the Septuagint authors who used a loose transliteration of an Egyptian phrase meaning Bedouin into the Hebrew word Chorites. This supposition is borne out by the Septuagint word for Chorite which is Chorriaou – almost a literal, letter for letter, transliteration of the Egyptian word ‘Hryw’ meaning residents in the phrase Hryw_S’y or Residents of the Sand. The phrase Hryw S’y is identical in use to the Egyptian word Shasu which also means Bedouin. These early Edomites were then, most likely, local Bedouin and not some mysterious invaders from foreign areas. So, the word Horite is a very late interpolation into the Book of Genesis, most likely by the Septuagint authors. This is more evidence of the extensive use of the Septuagint by the Masoretes whose version of the Old Testament or Tanakh is widely translated into local languages as sacred scripture.


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