Westminster Theological Journal 19 (1956) 1-24.

        Copyright © 1956 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.   





                                         MEREDITH G. KLINE


FIGURING in near eastern history for something over

a millennium of Old Testament times was an enigmatic

entity called the ha-BI-ru.1 Successful of old in capturing the

spoil in biblical lands, they have in modern times been even

more successful in capturing the attention of biblical scholars.

More than half a century of general scholarly interest cul-

minated in a united effort to identify the ha-BI-ru at the fourth

Rencontre assyriologique internationale held in Paris in the

summer of 1953. But that gathering did not succeed in alter-

ing the previous state of the question which has been described

in the terms: quot capita tot sententiae.2 The ha-BI-ru, there-

fore, continue an enigma, and the curiosity which has

prompted the present study may be forgiven though its con-

sequence be to confound yet worse the confusion with yet

another conclusion.3

Of particular attraction to those concerned with biblical

history and faith has been the apparent identity in name

between the ha-BI-ru and the Hebrews.4 This has spawned

a variety of theories sharing as a common nucleus the idea


    1 The syllabification of ha-BI-ru represents the cuneiform orthography

and the capitalization of the second syllable designates a particular

cuneiform sign without prejudice to the question of which of the two most

common values of it, namely bi and pi, is to be adopted.

    2 J. Bottero, Le Probleme des Habiru (Paris, 1954) p. xxviii. This work

presents a collection of the known ha-BI-ru texts and a compendium of

notes contributed by various scholars in connection with the Paris meeting,

along with Bottero's own interpretation of the problem.

     3 This study was undertaken in the preparation of a doctoral disserta-

tion under Cyrus H. Gordon at the Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate

Learning. In its present revised form it gives greater prominence to the

biblical aspects of the problem in view of the particular interests of the

majority of the readers of the Westminster Theological Journal.

     4 The questions of the proper normalization of ha-BI-ru and of its sup-

posed phonetic equivalence with yrib;fi, "Hebrew", will be reserved in this

study until Ha-BI-ru-Hebrew relations are under consideration.





that the biblical Hebrews originated as an offshoot of the

ha-BI-ru of the extra-biblical texts. It is recognized by all

that a complete identification of ha-BI-ru and Hebrews is

impossible since their historical paths do not for the most

part coincide.5  In the Amarna Age,6 however, their paths

do converge in Canaan in a way that demands systematization

and has further encouraged the theory that the Hebrews

stemmed from the ha-BI-ru. This theory has moreover proved

a dominant factor in shaping reconstructions in the vital

area of the origins of Hebrew religion, when it has been

adopted by scholars who, discarding the prima facie biblical

account, would locate those religious origins as late as the

Amarna Age.7

There are then two problems to be investigated. First,

the identity of those denominated ha-BI-ru. Second, the

relation of the ha-BI-ru to the Hebrews.




What is the identifying mark of the ha-BI-ru--the specific

quality which distinguishes them among the manifold elements

of ancient near eastern life? Is it racial or ethnic or national?

Or does ha-BI-ru denote membership in a particular socio-

economic class or professional guild, either inter-ethnic or

super-ethnic' in composition?


    5 The ha-BI-ru are mentioned in texts originating everywhere from

Asia Minor to Babylon and from Assyria to Egypt throughout the course

of roughly the 2nd millennium B. C.

    6 This term denotes the period of the 15th and 14th centuries B. C.

when Amenophis III and IV ruled in Egypt. It is derived from Tell el

Amarna in Egypt where hundreds of tablets were discovered containing

the official diplomatic correspondence of these pharaohs with Asiatic

rulers. They are of great importance for the present study because of

their frequent references to the disturbing activities of the ha-BI-ru in

Canaan. It was, indeed, the discovery of these tablets beginning in 1887

that first introduced the ha-BI-ru to modern historians.

    7 Cf., e. g., the elaborate hypothesis of H. H. Rowley in From Joseph to

Joshua (London, 1950).

    8 I. e., within several ethnic groups (as e. g., mercenaries, dependents,

fugitives or hupsu) or composed of several ethnic units (as e. g., the general

category of nomadic tribes).

HA-BI-RU                                          3


A. The Word Ha-BI-ru.


A clue to the identification of the individuals designated as

ha-BI-ru has naturally been sought in the word itself. There

are three avenues by which the signification of the term

ha-BI-ru can be approached: its etymology, its ideographic

equivalent (SA-GAZ), and its morphology.

1. The Etymology of Ha-BI-ru. On the assumption that

the word is Semitic the following etymological explanations

have been ventured:9 The root is the verb 'br in the sense of

"pass (from place to place)", i. e., a nomad10 or in the sense of

"cross (the frontier) ", i. e., a foreigner.11 The meaning "one

from the other side (of the river)" is obtained if ha-BI-ru is

derived from the preposition 'br.12 The root 'apar, "dust",

has been cited with the supposed secondary meanings "man

of the steppe lard"13 or "dusty traveller”.14 Also suggested is

a hypothetical Semitic *'pr, "provide", with verbal-adjective,

epirum, "one provided with food".15


  9 Since it is now certain that the first radical is 'Ayin (see below) early

explanations based on a root hbr may be ignored.

   10 So e. g., E. A. Speiser, Ethnic Movements in the Near East in Second

Millennium B. C. (1933), p. 41. W. F. Albright, Journal of the American

Oriental Society (hereafter, JAOS) 48, 1928, pp. 183 ff., held it was an

intransitive participle meaning "nomad" originally, though it was later

used in the sense, "mercenary."

    11 So J. Lewy, Hebrew Union College Annual (hereafter, HUCA) XIV,

1939, p. 604; cf. his note in Bottero, op. cit., p. 163.

   12 So Kraeling, American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures

(hereafter, AJSL) 58, 1941, pp. 248 ff.

    13 R. DeVaux, Revue biblique (hereafter, RB) 55, 1948, p. 341, n. 2:

"Cependant R. DeLanghe juge certain son rattachement a rpf 'poussibre'

(Les Texts de Ras Shamra-Ugarit II, p. 465). On pout en etre moms assure

mais s'il avait raison, les Habiri-Apiri seraient les 'hommes de la steppe'

comme Enkidu, le saggasu, le SA-GAZ".

   14 E. Dhorrne, Revue historique CCXI, avril-juin, 1954, pp. 256-264.

The ha-BI-ru were "des 'poussiereux', autrement dit: ceux qu'on appelait

jadis les 'peregrins' et qu'on appelle aujourd'hui ... les personnes 'depla-

cees'. Ce sont des emigrants que se refugient a l'etranger". For criticism

of this approach see Greenberg, The Hab/piru (New Haven, 1955), p. 91,

n. 25.

    15 So Goetze in Bottero op. cit., pp. 161-163. It appears from Akk.

eperu, "provide" and Eg. 'pr, "equip", that 'pr is Hamito-Semitic. The



There is the further possibility that the root of ha-BI-ru

is non-Semitic.16  Landsberger now holds that the word is

Hurrian or belongs to some other substratum of the languages

of our documents17 and in meaning is a synonym of munnabtu,

"fugitive".18  The Egyptian 'pr, "equip"19 and the Sumerian

IBIRA, "merchant",20 have also been noted.

            2. SA-GAZ, The Ideographic Equivalent of Ha-BI-ru.21 In

some passages SA-GAZ is to be read habbatum,22 but that this


lack of a West Semitic equivalent need not surprise for it is not uncommon

for Akkadian to stand alone among the Semitic languages in matching


    16 That ha-BI-ru is not Akkadian has been maintained on these grounds:

It begins with an 'Ayin; there are no Akkadian roots hpr or hbr that yield

a suitable sense; and the word is preceded in one Amarna letter, J. Knudt-

zon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln (hereafter, EA) 290:24, by the diagonal mark

used to designate glosses and non-Akkadian words. That ha-BI-ru is not

West Semitic has been argued on the grounds that no West Semitic root

'pr (assuming the certainty of the p) provides a plausible meaning and that

the verb hab/paru (regarded as a denominative from ha-BI-ru) is found

at Kultepe where a loan from West Semitic was not possible. On this

last text see Bottero, op. cit., pp. 10, 11.

    17 Agreeable to a Hurrian derivation would be the Nuzu personal names

ha-BI-ra and ha-BI-ir-til-la, if these represent the same word as our

ha-BI-ru and if Purves, in Nuzu Personal Names (1943), p. 214, is correct

in his assumption of a Hurrian base (hapir) for them.

    18 Thus, in Bottero, op. cit., pp. 160, 161.

    19 So Albright, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research

(hereafter, BASOR) 125, 1952, p. 32, n. 39.

    20 Bottero mentions this view of E. Forrer in the article "Assyrien",

Reallexikon der Assyriologie (Berlin, 1930), I, p. 235.

    21 The cuneiform orthography of many Sumerian words was carried

over with the cuneiform system of writing into Akkadian texts to represent

(ideographically) the corresponding Akkadian words.

     22 For the texts see Deimel, Sumerisches Lexikon 11:1, 260; Greenberg,

op. cit., pp. 54, 55, nos. 145-154; Bottero, op. cit., nos. 157, 168-180. In

the lexical texts the consistent equation with habbatu is obvious, while in

the omen texts the reading habbatu is required by phonetic gloss (as in

Bottero, ibid., nos. 173, 175) or by play on words (as in i., no. 168,

cf. 170). Landsberger (in ibid., p. 159) states that though habbatu is the

proper reading in these Akkadian texts and is normally so in Sumerian

legal and literary texts, everywhere SA-GAZ appears in Old Babylonian,

Hittite or Syro-Palestinian texts it is to be read "hapiru". This conclusion

is rendered dubious by certain Amarna data: EA 318:11-13 reads

LU.MESSA-GA-A[ZM]ES LU.MESha-ba-ti u LU.MESSu-ti-i and the gram-

HA-BI-RU                                          5


ideogram is frequently to be read as ha-BI-ru is no longer

seriously questioned.23 If then ha-BI-ru is a proper name, its


matical relation of the first two is apparently epexegetical apposition;

cf. the parallel in EA 195:27. EA 299:26 reads LUSA-GAZMES.tum (c f.

EA 207:21, [i-na L]UGAZMES\ha ...). The phonetic determinative, tum,

almost certainly requires the reading habbatu (or plural, habbatutum).

Bottero, op. cit., p. 110, n. 2, suggests the possibility of reading a plural

"habirutum" but it is most unlikely.

    23 This is so even though Akkadian lexicographers, so far as known, never

use ha-BI-ru as an equivalent of SA-GAZ. The equation first became

apparent in the alternating use of the terms in the god lists of the Hittite

treaties and in the Amarna letters. In line with it was the appearance in

the administrative texts of SA-GAZ and ha-BI-ru in the same role at

Larsa during the reigns of Warad-Sin and his successor Rim-Sin. More

recently confirmation has been found at Ugarit in the equation of alHal-bi

LU.MESSAG-GAZ with Hlb 'prm and in the use of the phonetic deter-

minative ru (?) after LU.MESSA-GAZ twice in the unpublished no. 1603

of the Collection of tablets found at Ras Shamra (hereafter, RS) (cf.

Bottero, ibid., no. 158). The interchange of the terms in the Alalah tablets

is further proof. Even where habbatu is to be read, the ha-BI-ru may be

in view. This is illustrated by the appearance of "ha-bi-ri-is-as" in the

Hittite text, Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazkoi (hereafter, KUB) VIII,

83:9. For this text is the Hittite version of an Akkadian summa izbu text

where it is clear, as observed in the preceding note, that habbatu is the

proper rendering of SA-GAZ, and ha-bi-ri-ia-as occurs in precisely the

place where SA-GAZ is usually found in the formula. The Hittite text,

moreover, is earlier than the Akkadian omen texts. That the ha-BI-ru

are in view everywhere that SA-GAZ might be used does not follow neces-

sarily, though it may be the case in all the texts at our disposal, even the

earliest Sumerian texts, leaving out of view the lexical texts. Greenberg

(op. cit., p. 86, n. 1) argues that the ha-BI-ru are in view wherever SA-GAZ

is used (even if habbatu be read) but he falsely shifts the burden of proof

to those who would dissociate the two. The very existence of a general

term like habbadtu (whichever meaning be in view) as an alternate reading

to the specific ha-BI-ru, and especially its exclusive employment as a

lexical equivalent of SA-GAZ would put the burden of proof on Greenberg's

position. Beyond this the existence of homonyms of habatum, the equiv-

alence of SA-GAZ with more than one of these (which some dispute but

Greenberg accepts), and the extreme improbability that any other reading

of SA-GAZ like ha-BI-ru (either as appellative or proper name) covered

exactly the same semantic range makes it almost certain that SA-GAZ

was used at times without the ha-BI-ru being in view. It is, therefore, a

question whether the SA-GAZ of a given text, like one of the Ur III

texts or the Sumerian literary and legal texts of the Isin-Larsa age, are the

ha-BI-ru. That the ha-BI-ru may be in view in some or all of these is

suggested by the reference to the ha-BI-ru in the 19th century Cappadocian



ideographic equivalent, SA-GAZ, will provide a significant

characterization of the ha-BI-ru people or possibly (if the

ideogram was originally applied to them by enemies) a

calumnious caricature. If ha-BI-ru is an appellative, it might,

but not necessarily, be equivalent in meaning to SA-GAZ.

The Sumerian SA means "cord, tendon" and GAZ means

"strike, kill". The meaning "strangler" or "murderer", there-

fore, is suggested for the combination SA-GAZ.24 Or if SA

is a variant here for SAG the meaning will be "strike the head"

or simply "smite".25

Possibly, SA-GAZ is a pseudo-ideogram. Such was formerly

the position of Landsberger who said it was formed from

saggasum as RA-GAB from rakkabum.26 It has been argued


texts. Some support could be found for reading SA-GAZ as ha-BI-ru if

SA-GAZ should turn up even in Dynasty of Akkad texts since the Old

Hittite translation of the Naram Sin epic may accurately reflect the original

situation in its mention of ha-BI-ru either as prisoners or guards, and the

proper name ha-bi-ra-am is found on a text from Tell Brak (F 1159, cf.

Bottero, ibid., p. 1) contemporary with the dynasty of Akkad.

   24 So Albright in Journal of Biblical Literature (hereafter, JBL) 43, 1924,

pp. 389 ff. Commenting on the Hittite translation of the Naram-Sin

inscription, he then held that SA-GAZ is the ordinary Hittite equivalent

for "Semitic nomad". Ungnad, Kulturfragen, I, 1923, pp. 15 ff., inter-

preted SA-GAZ as "slinger".

   25 Landsberger (in Bottero, ibid., p. 160) has now adopted this view

suggested long ago by Langdon (see note 30). He would render it as a

substantive, "frappeur de tete" and regard this as equivalent to simply

"brigand". SAG-GAZ is indeed found twice at Ugarit (see Bottero, ibid.,

nos. 154 and 157), once certainly as the designation of the ha-BI-ru.

Moreover, in an astrological omen text (ibid., no. 170) one of the woes

predicted is: LUSA-GAZ qaqqada inakkisis, "the SA-GAZ will cut off the

head". This is surely a pun, but whether on the sound or on the sense

(whether partially or wholly) is the question. Landsberger's approach is

uncertain for as Bottero observes (ibid., p. 148), "le SAG-GAZ qu'en-

registrent les vocabulaires connus paraissant marquer d'abord un verbe

mahasu, 'frapper', dont la specification nous echappe". The common

spelling GAZ is understandable then for GAZ=daku which is broadly

synonymous with mahasu=SAG-GAZ. The reading SA-GA-AZ (found,

however, only once) would be problematic since it divides the essential


    26 Keilschrifttexte aus Assur verschiedenen Inhalts (hereafter, KAV) 1,

1930, pp. 321 ff. So also Goetze, BASOR 79, p. 34, n. 14 (cf. less certainly

in Bottero, ibid., p. 163) ; and DeVaux, RB 55, 1948, p. 340. In rejecting

this view now, Landsberger cogently observes (in Bottero, ibid., p. 199,

HA-BI-RU                                          7


that the variant spellings like SA-GA-AZ and, especially,

SAG-GAZ confirm this view,27 while the objection has been

leveled against it that the Amarna spelling of GAZ alone would

then be inexplicable.28 If SA-GAZ is a pseudo-ideogram

formed from saggasu it would probably mean "murderer".29

Further light may be sought from the other equivalent of

SA-GAZ, habbatum. The qattal form from the root habatu,

"plunder", would mean "robber".30 There are, however,

homonyms of habatu which require attention.31 From habatu,

"borrow, obtain, receive", Goetze suggests a nomen professio-


cf. 147, 159 ff.), "Ware SA-GAZ=saggasu/u musste dieses auch in der

akkad. Kolumne der Vokabularien erscheinen".

    27 So Goetze, op. cit., and De Vaux, op. cit. Cf. Deimel, op. cit., p. 115,

no. 42. In the spelling SA-GAZ-ZA (found once at Ugarit and once at

Amarna) the ZA would be a sort of phonetic complement.

    28 So Dhorme, Revue de l'histoire des religions 118, 1938, p. 173, n. 3,

while Bottero, ibid., p. 149, says, "il faut tenir GAZ pour une licence


    29 Another possibility lies in the fact that in the Gilgamesh Epic (1:4:7)

saggasum is used for Enkidu, describing him as an uncivilized native of the

wild steppe-lands. It has also been suggested that saggasu may have been

colored with the connotation of West Semitic *sgs and so meant "disturber"

or "one who is restive". (So Greenberg, op. cit., pp. 89, 90).

    30 Such a pejorative meaning clearly attaches to SA-GAZ in the early

Sumerian literary and legal texts and this is preserved in the later Akkadian

omen texts, as we might expect in this conservative genre of literature.

The meaning "brigand" is required in a Ras Shamra word list (Bottero,

ibid., no. 157) where it appears between IM-ZU "thief" and LUGAN.ES,

"malefactor", and in the unpublished RS 17341 (cf. Bottero, ibid., no. 162),

and elsewhere. Indeed, Landsberger, in ibid., p. 199 insists that "LU(SA-

GAZ) signifie partout et toujoursRauber' ".

S. H. Langdon, Expository Times 31, 1919-20, pp. 326-7, reasoned that

habatu meant originally "smite with violence" (cf. Code of Hammurapi,

Law 196) and was used exclusively with a military signification and,

therefore, the idea of plundering was a natural nuance (since Asiatic

armies customarily plundered defeated foes).  Habbatu then meant "fight-

ing man" and this was translated into Sumerian correctly as SA-GAZ =

SAG-GAZ, "smite the head, slay".

It is perhaps significant that habdtu in this sense is conjoined with the

ha-BI-ru in EA 286:56: LU.MESha-BI-ru ha-bat gab-bi matatHA sarri.

    31 Stamm, "Die akkadische Namengebung", in Mitteilungen der Vorder-

asiatisch-aegyptischen Gesellschaft 44, 1939, pp. 318 ff. ; cf. Goetze, Journal

of Cuneiform Studies I, 1947. p. 256, n. 21; von Soden, Zeitschrift fur

Assyriologie 49, 1949, p. 174 and in Bottero, op. cit., p. 143, n. 1; The

Assyrian Dictionary (Chicago, 1956) under habatu.



nis meaning "one who obtains his livelihood from somebody

else, works for his livelihood, i. e., without wages, merely for

board and keep";32 and Albright, "mercenaries”.33  Habatu,

"move across, make a razzia into enemy territory", would

yield a gattal meaning "raider" or "migrant".34

How did SA-GAZ become an ideographic equivalent for

ha-BI-ru? The simplest explanation, if both terms are not

proper names, would lie in a semantic equation of the two.

Such would be the case, for example, if SA-GAZ signified

habbatu in the sense of "one who receives support" and

ha-BI-ru meant "one provided for". A less direct semantic

relation might also account for the interchange, as, for example,

if SA-GAZ be understood as "thug" and ha-BI-ru as

"nomad”.35 Or, the usage might be explained on historical

grounds quite apart from semantic considerations. If, for


    32 So in Bottero, ibid., p. 162; cf. Greenberg, op. cit., p. 89. For the root

cf. The Assyrian Dictionary, habatu B. From this root apparently derives

the habbatum found in association with ag-ru, "hired laborer", and e-si-du,

"harvester", in the lexical occupation lists (Univ. of Pa., Publications of

the Babylonian Section V, no. 132; Tablets found at Kouyoundjik, British

Museum (hereafter, K) 4395; cf. Bottero, ibid., nos. 177 and 180; Greenberg,

ibid., nos. 150-152). The Akkadian legal text, Babylonian Inscriptions in

the Collection of J. B. Nies VII, no. 93, also mentions two ha-ab-ba-ti-i

who appear to be engaged in peaceful employment.

    33 Cf. Deimel, Sumerisches Lexikon, III, 2, for habatum, "interest-free

loan, loot"; and hubtu, "tax exempt". Albright (JAOS 48, 1928, pp.

183-185) deduced from hubutati and hubuttu, which he translated "tax-

free property" and "the condition of being tax-free", respectively, that

the habbatu received hubutati in return for their services and were thus

mercenaries who were rewarded with a grant of rent-free land, i. e.,

condottieri. He also suggested that when the Aramean nomads, the

"Habiru", became known throughout Mesopotamia as such mercenaries,

their name replaced the original habbatu as the term for "mercenary".

     34 See habatu D, in The Assyrian Dictionary. Note the lexical datum

(ha-ba-tu) sa a-la-ki (K 2055) and cf. Greenberg's remarks, op. cit. p. 89.

Lewy (in Bottero, op. cit. p. 163) identifies habatu with Arabic habata,

"to wander about".

    35 Albright (JBL 43, 1924, pp. 389-393) supports this combination on

the grounds that there was no clear distinction between bands of robbers

and bands of Bedouin, the same word meaning "Bedawi" in Egyptian

(sose) and "robber" in Hebrew (soseh). Cf. Bohl, Kanaander and Hebraer,

1911, p. 89, n. 2. Albright adds that the similarity in sound between

habbatum and ha-BI-ru as pronounced by the Akkadians likely suggested

the use of SA-GAZ for ha-BI-ru.

HA-BI-RU                                          9


example, the SA-GAZ were of mixed character but were

predominantly ha-BI-ru, a secondary equivalence of the

terms might arise.36 Or, if the ha-BI-ru were generally dis-

liked, they might have received as a name of opprobrium,

SA-GAZ, "thugs".37

3. Morphology of Ha-BI-ru. Is ha-BI-ru an appellative or

a proper name?38 The spelling ha-BI-ru could be the gentilic

shortened from ii-um to u.39 But the fact that the feminine

is found at Nuzu as ha-BI-ra-tu40 rather than the feminine

gentilic ha-BI-ri-i-tu would suggest that the ambiguous ha-

BI-ru is also non-gentilic. The situation is, however, compli-

cated by several instances of both earlier and later varieties

of the gentilic forms, i. e., ha-BI-ru-u41 and ha-BIR-a-a42


    36 So Albright. See note 33.

    37 So J. Lewy, HUCA 14, p. 605, n. 90, who argues that in the early 2nd

millennium the ha-BI-ru "constituted troops of soldiers--comparable

to the French legion etrangere--in the service of governments". Similarly,

Bottero, ibid., p. 196, maintains that some of the ha-BI-ru fugitives, organ-

ized outlaw, marauding bands and so ha-BI-ru fugitives came to be called

SA-GAZ, "brigands". Goetze (in Bottero, ibid., p. 163) cites the possibil-

ity that SA-GAZ (taken as a pseudo-ideogram for habbatum, "robber)

was extended to cover "one who works for board and keep", adding, "It

might have been difficult to distinguish between the two".

    38 They miss the point who dismiss the question of whether ha-BI-ru

is a proper name or an appellative with the observation that all proper

names were once appellative. So Jirku, Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche

Wissenschaft (hereafter, ZAW) N. F. 5, 1928, p. 211; and Gustavs, Theo-

logische Literaturzeitung 1, 1925, col. 603. For the issue here is not that

of ultimate etymological origin, but of usage in the literature at our dis-

posal. On the other hand, whether ha-BI-ru is gentilic or not is not decisive

for that usage, for a gentilic need not be a proper name and a non-gentilic

might be a proper name.

    39 Cf. A. Ungnad, Grammatik des Akkadischen (1949), p. 42, (27b, 38);

S. Smith, Isaiah, Chapters 40-55 (London, 1944), p. 137.

    40 This form is used for the masculine plural (Harvard Semitic Series

(hereafter, HSS) XIV 53:18 and 93:6) and the feminine plural (Joint

Expedition with the Iraq Museum at Nuzi (hereafter, JEN) V 453:11).

    41 JEN V 452:1; 456:24; 459:2; 463:2; Collection of Nuzu Tablets at the

Semitic Museum of Harvard University (hereafter, SMN) 2145:2. Cf.

Chiera, AJSL 47, 285 and 49, 115 ff.; A. Saarisalo, Studia Orientalia,

V 3, 1934, pp. 61 ff.

    42 Rawlinson, Cuneiform Inscriptions of W. Asia IV, pl. 34, 2, 5; Hil-

precht, Old Babylonian Inscriptions I, II, no. 149, obv. 22. Cf. Ungnad,



respectively. The form ha-BI-ru-u seems to be a stereotyped

gentilic, for it is used as masculine and feminine and in the

singular and plural of each gender.43  Moreover, the awil

babili type of gentilic formation is found in awilat ha-BI-ri44

and awil ha-BI-ri.45

This variety of forms is paralleled in the forms used, for

example, in the Old Testament for "Israelite". In addition

to the rare gentilic ylixer;W;yi common and  lxerAW;yi yneB;

lxerAW;yi wyxi, the simple lxerAW;yi may be used with the meaning

"Israelite(s)".46 It would seem possible then that the simple

form ha-BI-ru (or for the feminine, ha-BI-ra-tu) is used inter-

changeably with the gentilic ha-BI-ru-u in an ethnic sense.47

There is thus an adequate explanation of the variety of

forms, i. e., if they are all understood as variations of a proper

name denoting an ethnic group. But it is difficult to account

for all the facts on the assumption that we are dealing with

an appellative. While it is true that the gentilic is simply the

adjectivalized form of the noun and is not necessarily ethnic,


op. cit., 27b, 39; Langdon, The Expository Times 31, pp. 324-326; Kraeling,

AJSL 58, 237 ff.

    43 Cf. Chiera, op. cit. Due to the Nuzu scribes' lack of regard for case

endings ha-BI-ru-u is used once for the genitive (SMN 2145).

    44 JEN V, 465:2.

    45 D. Wiseman, Alalakh Tablets (London, 1953) (hereafter, AT) 164.

It occurs here twice between awil biti and mar sarri (given as mar sar-ru

in Bottero, ibid., no. 39). Cf. Wiseman, AT, p. 69. Possibly EA 289:24

should be read: a-na awiluti ha-BI-riKI.

    46 E. g., Ex. 9:7; I Sam. 2:14; 13:20; 14:21; etc.

    47 Landsberger (KAF I, 331) cites certain difficulties in the gentilic

view: (1) When ideograms render gentilics they are regularly followed by

the place-determinative KI. (But ethnic-gentilics usually refer to a people

which may be identified with a particular place and that was not the case

with the ha-BI-ru. Moreover, for Amarna Age Syria, the most settled

situation enjoyed by the ha-BI-ru, there are one or two instances of

SA-GAZKI: (a) a-na LUSA-GAZKI, or perhaps, a-na awil SA-GAZKI

(EA 298:27) ; (b) EA 215:15. Cf. ha-BI-riKI, Memoires de la delegation

en Perse (hereafter, MDP) XXVIII, 511:2; EA 289:24. KI is used also,

however, with the nomadic Sutu, Idri-mi Inscription, line 15.) (2) There

is lack of analogy for an ideogram being equated with both an appellative

and a gentilic, as would be the case if SA-GAZ=habbatu, an appellative,

and SA-GAZ=ha-BI-ru, regarded as a gentilic. (But the fact is that the

gentilic forms of ha-BI-ru occur at times, and one type is clearly ethnic -

see below.)

HA-BI-RU                                          11


the gentilic forms of ha-BI-ru can hardly be disposed of with

that observation. For the question would remain as to why,

if ha-BI-ru were already an aptly descriptive appellative, it

would ever have been adjectivalized.48 Moreover, the ha-BIR-

a-a type formation is used to adjectivalize the names of

nations onlv.49

The hope of discovering in their name some incontrovertible

clue to the identity of the ha-BI-ru seems to be disappointed

by the complexity of the possibilities. Of the data just

examined the morphological affords the most direction. But

the whole matter of the ha-BI-ru name appears more illumi-

nated by, than illuminative of, the other evidence in the case.

To the investigation of this broader contextual evidence our

study, therefore, proceeds, in connection with a critical survey

of past and current theories of the ha-BI-ru and the attempt

to formulate a satisfactory interpretation. The relevance of

the ha-BI-ru and SA-GAZ designations to the various

theories will be noted en route.


B. Critical Survey of Theories.

1. Nomadism.50  Early proposed and still advocated is the

theory which defines the ha-BI-ru in terms of nomadism.51

This interpretation was suggested by the assumed root 'br,

    48 Lewy (HUCA 14, 1939, p. 587, n. 1) suggests that at Nuzu the

preference for the nisbe form may reflect the influence of the Hurrian

language there, since "there was in the Hurrian languages a strong tendency

to replace nouns (particularly proper names) by enlarged (adjectival)

forms" of the same stem. If anything, this favors the view that ha-BI-ru

is a proper name, not appellative. Moreover, it does not explain all the


    49 Bottero, op. cit., p. 133, says that in this case, in order to designate the

persons as descendants of ha-BI-ru, an adjectival form was coined after the

type which was ordinarily ethnic. But Greenberg, op. cit., p. 78, finds this

point quite awkward and can only hope that eventually the ha-BIR-a-a

forms may prove unconnected with our ha-BI-ru.

     50 Among the earlier suggestions were the views that the ha-BI-ru were

prisoners of war or foreign enemies or bound exiles. The failure of these

concepts to do justice to the rapidly accumulating texts was soon recog-


     51 So Winckler in 1897; Bohl, Kanaander and Hebraer (1911) ; E. Speiser,

Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 13, 1933, pp. 34 ff.;



"pass (from place to place)"; the large-scale migration of

ha-BI-ru into Canaan (according to some interpretations of

the Amarna letters); their wide dispersal; and occasional

references to them in association with the nomadic Sutu.52

More recently support has been seen in the migration of

individual ha-BI-ru to Nuzu53 and the impression in the

Mari texts of their being roving raiders.54

Conflicting evidence, however, emerges which identifies

ha-BI-ru either as to origin or present residence with particular

localities and depicts them as an integrated element in settled

communities. The presence of a specific SA-GAZ territory

in the realm of the Hittite king is revealed by a 13th century

Hittite-Ugaritic treaty;55 agreeably, a particular ha-BI-ri

settlement is mentioned in a Hittite text dealing with a

temple and its property.56 Evidence of ha-BI-ru settlements

in Palestine-Syria is found in the reference to the town (or

quarter of) Halab of the SAG-GAZ in the tax-lists of

Niqmad II, king of Ugarit in the 14th century;57 in the 15th

century Idri-mi inscription's account of the ha-BI-ru holding

open country as a tribal unit near Ammia;58 and in the

identification of the SA-GAZ with permanent settlements all

about Alalah in the SA-GAZ texts from Alalah's 15th century


Similar evidence comes from the eastern end of the Fertile

Crescent. The 15th century Nuzu documents identify various


M. Noth, "Erwagungen zur Hebraerfrage" in Festschrift Otto Procksch,

1934, pp. 99-112; A. Guillaume, Palestine Exploration Quarterly (hereafter,

PEQ) 1946, pp. 64-85; R. DeVaux, RB 1948, pp. 338 ff.

    52 E. g., EA 195:27-29; 318:10-13.

   53 E. g., JEN 455:2, 8; 1023:3; SMN 3191:19.

   54 E. g., Archives royales de Mari (hereafter, ARM) II, 131; 13, 14.

   55 R.S 17238:7 (no. 161 in Bottero, op. cit.).

   56 Collection of Tablets found at Boghazkoi 4889:48 (no. 137 in Greenberg,

op. cit.). The Alishar letter pictures ha-BI-ru in non-nomadic state in

Asia Minor in the 19th century.

    57 R9 11790:7. Cf. hlb 'prm in RS 10045:1; 11724+11848:12.

    58 Thus S. Smith, The Statue of Idri-mi (London, 1949), p. 73; cf., how-

ever, Greenberg, op. cit., p. 64, n. 16.

    59 AT 161, 180-182, 184, and 198. Possibly it is in terms of these

ha-BI-ru settlements in Syria on the eve of the Amarna letter period that

the forms LU.MES.SA-GAZKI. (EA 215:15; 298:27) and LU.MESha-BI-riKI.

(EA 289:24) are to be understood.

HA-BI-RU                                          13


ha-BI-ru as "from Ashur", "from Akkad", and "from Zari-

mena".6o Three centuries earlier the Mari texts possibly

reflect a more permanent association of ha-BI-ru with certain

towns than that of temporary military quarters.', Addi-

tionally, it is probable that when the ha-BI-ru were engaged

as auxiliary troops by Hammurapi62 and earlier, in the Larsa

dynasty,63 they had their own settlements. Relevant here is

an economic text from Susa during the first dynasty of

Babylon which mentions a ha-BI-riKI as one of the localities

where Amorite troops were quartered.64

The accumulation of such evidence has led to the judgment

that we see the ha-BI-ru in our texts evolving from a semi-

nomadic life into a settled state.65 But no such simple evolu-

tion can be traced through the course of the texts; the di-

vergent data are to be otherwise explained. For the term

ha-BI-ru, the significance of ha-BI-ru being found in both

semi-nomadic and settled states is that it renders unconvincing

an appellative meaning founded on either of these opposite

aspects of their chequered career. Moreover, such appellative


   6o JEN V 455, 458, 459; JEN 1023; HSS XIV 176; SMN 152. Their

servant status in the Nuzu area was also far from nomadic.

    61 For example, the thirty Yamutbalite ha-BI-ru (Unpublished letters

from Mari (hereafter A) 2939) and the ha-BI-ru from Eshnunna (A 2886).

Cf. also the messenger named Hapirum from Eshnunna (A 2734) and the

Hapirum identified as an awil su-h-i-ini (A 2523). Of course, the mode

of life of many other ha-BI-ru in these texts seems similar to their status

in Amarna Age Palestine.

    62 Collection of tablets of the British Museum 23136.

    63 Cf. the administrative texts of  Warad-Sin and Rim-Sin. Nos. 9-16

in Bottero, op. cit.

    64 MDP XXVIII, 511:2. It is apparently on the Elamite-Babylonian

boundaries. Perhaps ha-BI-ru had founded the village or were currently

quartered there.

    65 R. DeLanghe, Les textes de Ras Shamra- Ugarit, etc. 1945, II, pp. 458 ff.

and R. Vaux, op. cit. Noth's view (op. cit. pp. 110 ff.) was that ha-BI-ru

was the self-designation of nomads who had entered a settled area and

tented there without property rights. Still further removed from the idea

of pure desert nomadism was Speiser's view that the ha-BI-ru "were

nomads not in the same sense as the Bedouin, but in so far as they were

not settled permanently in any definite locality; as such they were naturally

foreigners to all with whom they came in contact so that the name would

come to denote both nomads and foreigners of a certain type" (op. cit.

p. 41).



ideas would be too general to be distinctive of only those

known as ha-BI-ru. Not all the desert roamers along the

fringe of the Fertile Crescent were ha-BI-ru but they all had

the same type of relationship with the inhabitants of the

Sown as did the ha-BI-ru in their semi-nomadic moments.66

And certainly the settled ha-BI-ru held no monopoly on that


2. Dependency. In diametrical opposition to the nomadic

theory is the view adopted by Moshe Greenberg in his excel-

lent recent treatment of the question.67 He concludes that

the majority of the ha-BI-ru were of urban origin and were

dependents of states, cities, or individuals. They had in

common only their generally inferior social status which was

due to their being as a rule foreigners where they are found

and to the presence among them of vagrant elements. As

for the word ha-BI-ru, "just as the socio-legal classifications

hupsu and muskenu became international currency for similar

classes in distinct cultures, so, apparently, was the case of


Social inferiority was, indeed, the ha-BI-ru lot in some situa-

tions as witness their servitude contracts at Nuzu, their

slave labor in Egypt, and their position in the Hittite social

scale as that is delineated in a Hittite ritual.69 And undeni-

ably the ha-BI-ru were at times dependents, as witness, for

example, the Old Babylonian administrative texts and some

more recently noticed Nuzu ration lists.70 Nevertheless, the


    66 As a concrete example, it is found in the Mari texts that the Beni-

laminu and the Beni-Simal play essentially the same role as the ha-BI-ru

along the Middle Euphrates and in northern Mesopotamia, while still

other groups of similar character are active east of the Tigris and elsewhere

on the Euphrates. Cf. Dossin, Syria 19, 1938, p. 116. Any appellative

meaning suggested for the ha-BI-ru such as nomads or mercenaries would

be equally applicable to these other groups and, therefore, cannot serve

as the distinctive appellation of the ha-BI-ru.

    67 Moshe Greenberg, The Hab/piru (New Haven, 1955). He reproduces

almost all the known ha-BI-ru texts and provides much valuable informa-

tion in his analyses of the sources.

   68 Ibid. p. 91. He favors Goetze's derivation of ha-BI-ru from Semitic

*`pr with verbal adjective 'apir meaning "one provided for".

    69 KUB IX, 34 with its duplicates (no. 91 in Bottero, op. cit.).

    70 HSS XIV, 46, 53, 93, and 176. Greenberg regards as comparable the

HA-BI-RU                                          15


common denominator Greenberg suggests as an appellative

value for ha-BI-ru is inadequate for there is evidence of

ha-BI-ru, both individually and collectively, who were not

in a dependent status or even a socially inferior status.

There are several instances in the Syrian area. A 14th

century record71 of Mursilis II's arbitration of a dispute

between his vassal cities of Barga and Carchemish discloses

that a SA-GAZ named Tette is the head of Barga (as well as

of Nuhassi)72 and that the city of lyaruwatas had been given

to his grandfather by the Hurrian king. At Ugarit SA-GAZ

men apparently function as government officials; for among

other privileges a certain grantee receives immunity from

serving as royal messenger and from having either an ubru

or LU.MESSA-GAZ-ZA enter his house.73 The meaning

"stranger" is attested for ubru elsewhere,74 but the ubru seems

to function as a government collector in another text from

Ugarit in which immunity from the entry of the ubru into

the house is accompanied by the declaration that the grantee's

possessions will not enter the palace.75 The SA-GAZ associ-


Alalah situation as indicated in AT 350:6, 7, a sheep census. (Cf. AT

292:9, a list in which the name ha-BI-ru is found for one of sixteen persons

receiving barley rations.) As for the sheep census, it is doubtful if the 240

sheep of the SA-GAZ are state rations since the same list mentions besides

these and 268 of the sanannu soldiers, 115 of Alalah and 402 of Mukish (?).

Greenberg argues (op. cit., p. 65, n. 19) that military groups would not be

"required to shepherd their rations while they were still on the hoof".

This objection, however, seems to overlook the whole situation at Alalah

and vicinity where the SA-GAZ were an element in the normal peace time

societal structure with their own settled dwellings (whether scattered

among the rest of the population or separate and tribal) and their own

shepherds (AT 198:39, 48; cf. Wiseman in Bottero, ibid., pp. 38, 39), and

where they were regarded as a population unit in all government adminis-


    71 Keilschrifttexte aus Boghackoi III, 3, I, 6 and 7 and duplicates.

    72 If this Tette is the same Tette as Suppiluliuma, father of Marsilis II,

had made king of Nuhassi (cf. E. Weidner, Boghazkoi-Studien 8, pp. 58 ff.).

    73 J. Nougayrol, Le Palais royal d' Ugarit III, 1955, 15:109; 16:296:53.

    74 Cf. J. Lewy's note in Bottero, op. cit., p. 202; H. Gazelles' review of

Bottero, in Vetus Testamentum V, 1955, p. 442. Gazelles suggests that

wabrum, wabirum, ubru(m), ubaru, habiru, hapiru, and ‘apiru represent

varying pronunciations of the same term.

    75 J. Nougayrol, op. cit., 16:132:20-24.



ated with the ubru would likely also be agents of the govern-

ment, possibly occupied in conscripting men or materiel for

military enterprises. This interpretation is supported by the

usage of LUha-BI-ri in an Alalah name list which cites the

professions of those listed.76 That LUha-BI-ri indicates there

a high government position is most probable since two persons

thus designated appear between an awil biti, "officer of the

palace", and a mar sar-ru, "prince".77 Other superior posi-

tions held by SA-GAZ in the Alalah sphere were hazannu-

official,78 baru-priest,79 and chariot-owning maryannu.80


   76 AT 164:3-7.

   77 Or "official representative of the king". Cf. Speiser in JBL LXXIV,

1955, p. 253, n. 5.

    78 AT 182:13. According to Wiseman the heading of such a list:

sabuMES LUSA-GAZ, is to be translated, "The troops of the SA-GAZ-

man", so that the names which follow would not necessarily be all SA-GAZ,

as is the case if the rendering "SA-GAZ troops" is accepted. The evidence

of a SA-GAZ/H. official could be used to support Wiseman's view. The

specific designation of one man in a similar list (AT 181) as LUGAZ (1.19)

might imply the others were not (SA)-GAZ. But on Wiseman's view this

man would also be a GAZ-officer and why then would he be listed among

the ordinary troops? The translation "SA-GAZ troops" is favored by the

parallel appearance of the sabuMES sa-na-nu in some texts (e. g., AT

183, 226, and 350), the usage in the contemporary Idri-mi inscription,

Amarna letters and elsewhere, the quantities of pasture-sheep assigned to

the SA-GAZ, comparable to those for a town (AT 350), and the large

number of those who have LUSA-GAZ holdings (AT 183:4-5, 1 li-im

4 ME 36 bit LUSA-GAZ, "1436 having SA-GAZ holdings"). The singular

bit is a collective and corresponds to the singular found elsewhere with

large groups (e. g., AT 226:7, 8; 213 bit ha-ni-a-hu 33 bit e-lai-el-e) though

the plural, bitatu, is also used (e. g., AT 185). This bit apparently means

"property" rather than "family" (though the presence of families would be

implied) for parallel with bitatuMES ehelena and bitatuMES haniahena is

found bitatuMES sa narkabatiMES, "chariot sheds" (AT 189). Finally, the

singular LUSA-GAZ may signify a plurality as in AT 184:5, [an]-nu-tumn

LUSA-GAZ, "these are SA-GAZ".

    79 AT 180:20; 182:16.

    80 AT 198: rev. 42. (See comments of Wiseman in Bottero, op. cit.,

pp. 38, 39.) This list mentions also an awil gassi and a herdsman (rev.

38, 39) among the SA-GAZ. It is relevant to note here the close association

of the ha-BI-ru with the maryannu class, an aristocratic status which was

hereditary but also obtainable by royal release. Numerous charioteers

(who were probably maryannu) are listed among the SA-GAZ troops of

Alalah. Observe also that some ha-BI-ru at Nuzu are owners of horses

(HSS XIV 46:18, 19: 53:17, 18: cf. 93:4-6; 176:8, 9. Cf. C. H. Gordon in

HA-BI-RU                                          17


In the latest strata of the extant ha-BI-ru register are

found Harbisipak, influential in the court of Mutakkil-Nusku

of Assyria (and even the power behind the throne according

to the remarks of Ninurta-nadin-sumati of the second dynasty

of Isin);81 and Kudurra, friend of the Babylonian king

Marduk-ahhe-eriba from whom he receives a royal grant of


There are also those general historical situations where the

ha-BI-ru collectively are found operating as independently

organized bodies. According to the Mari texts the ha-BI-ru

at times conducted independent razzias in the region of

Upper Mesopotamia in the manner of nomads and semi-

nomads.83 That their autonomous activities in the 18th

century were not confined to this area appears from the date

formula on an Alalah document reading, "the year king

Irkabtum made peace with Shemuba and the ha-BI-ru

warriors".84 Peace treaties are not formulated between kings

and dependent social classes. A similar role is played by the

ha-BI-ru in Palestine in the Amarna age, for their service,

whether in the employ of native chieftains or of the Egyptians,

was also on a free-booting basis. Moreover, if the SA-GAZ

of the Akkadian omen texts may be equated with ha-BI-ru

groups, the ha-BI-ru were notorious for their incursions into


Orientalia, 21, 1952, p. 380). In certain Egyptian texts the ha-BI-ru and

maryannu are in close association also (cf. Papyrus Harris and Papyrus

Harris 500).

    81 Rawlinson, Cuneiform Inscriptions of W. Asia, IV, 34, 2, 5 and

duplicate (Bottero, ibid., nos. 165 and 165').

    82 As described on a kudurru stele (H. Hilprecht, Old Babylonian Inscrip-

tions 149:20-22). Another possible example are the ha-BI-ru found in

Asia Minor in the 19th century B. C. (Gelb, Inscriptions from Alishar,

no. 5) who were, according to a plausible interpretation, men of wealth

capable of paying a high ransom and operating in the service of a prince.

So J. Lewy in Archives de l'Histoire du Droit oriental II, 1938, pp. 128 ff.

and in Bottero, ibid., pp. 9, 10. For other interpretations see Bottero,

ibid., p. 193.

     83 See A 49, 109, 566 (nos. 20, 25, and 28 in Bottero, op. cit.). Even in

cases where the ha-BI-ru are seen supporting the cause of local princes

(e. g., ARM II, 131 and A 3004, 3056; nos. 18, 19, and 21 in Bottero,

ibid.) they appear to be independent tribes voluntarily serving as merce-


    84 AT 58:28 ff.



settled communities. For the standard prognostication at-

tending unfavorable omens is "the SA-GAZ will appear in

the land".85

In addition to these cases where the idea of inferior depend-

ent status is inappropriate, there are others where, though

not awkward, such is not the compelling significance of the

ha-BI-ru or SA-GAZ designation. It is difficult to regard

these with Greenberg as "few exceptions" or not character-

istic of "the core of the SA-GAZ/H.".86 What forbids one's

regarding the free-booting episodes as typical and the in-

stances of dependency as atypical?87 And whichever way the

scale might tilt on that, the discovery of ha-BI-ru in both

states makes precarious if not impossible the view that the

term ha-BI-ru is an appellation for either one. Moreover,

even if it could more successfully be shown that the ha-BI-ru

were characteristically dependent it could not be shown that

all dependents were ha-BI-ru or, in other words, that ha-BI-ru

was a class designation, like hupsu or muskenu, applicable to

all of inferior dependent status.88 The precise identifying

trait of an ha-BI-ru would still be elusive.


3. Foreignness. A characteristic which would be com-

patible with any of the contrasting theories already surveyed

and was, indeed, explicitly mentioned as a subordinate ele-

ment by some of their advocates, is that of foreignness.89


    85 See in Bottero, op. cit., nos. 168-174 for this formula, LUSA-GAZ

ina mati ibassi, and for variants like LUSA-GAZ ibassuMES and LUSA-GAZ

innadaru, "the SA-GAZ will wreak havoc".

    86 Op. cit., p. 86.

    87 Greenberg (ibid., p. 88), for example, makes a quite unfounded

assumption in suggesting that the Mari and Amarna freebooters had

been under masters but had seized an opportunity to break away.

    88 For example, if the Akkadian and Alalah ration texts prove the

ha-BI-ru were dependents, they equally prove to be dependents other

groups mentioned in them, yet distinguished from the ha-BI-ru.

    89 Undeniably it is often plain that the ha-BI-ru are not part of the

indigenous population. Thus in Egyptian texts the use of the throw-stick

determinative with 'pr-w (and according to Albright's reading, the use of

the foreign warrior determinative on the Beisan stele) shows that the

ha-BI-ru are foreigners in Egypt. The practice of the ha-BI-ru in Amarna

Age Palestine of serving with equal enthusiasm the loyalists and the rebels

reveals that it was not in the peace of this land that they looked for their

HA-BI-RU                                          19


By itself, however, foreignness is too broad a characteristic to

provide the solution to our common denominator riddle. No

matter how successfully it might be shown that all the

ha-BI-ru were foreigners where they are found, it could

always be shown that there were in those same places other

foreigners, not identified with the ha-BI-ru. But what if the

concept of foreignness be more specifically circumscribed?

Might it not then have the qualities of comprehensiveness and

specificity both of which are necessary for an appellative?

There are enough scholars who believe it might, to make this

approach in one variety or another the most popular answer

abroad today for the ha-BI-ru question.

The position of J. Lewy has consistently been that the

ha-BI-ru were immigrant foreigners or resident aliens, who,

having left their native lands, found their living elsewhere

in the service of governments or, less frequently, in the

service of private citizens.90 E. Dhorme now believes that the

ha-BI-ru were emigrants who fled to a strange country for

one reason or another; in short, displaced persons. 91  A. Alt has

long held that the ha-BI-ru were a congeries of rootless

characters whose former fortunes and social position had

suffered shipwreck in the turmoil of changing orders and who,

thus torn loose from former tribal connections, found them-

selves without standing, means, or rights in a new order. 92


peace. In Hittite texts (as Goetz points out, in Bottero, op. cit., p. 82)

the close connection of the ha-BI-ru with the Lulahhu, who are clearly

foreigners, argues a foreign (and Goetz feels eastern) origin for the ha-BI-ru.

Similar evidence is available that the ha-BI-ru did not belong to the

indigenous population in other regions. But, as will be maintained more

fully below, the ha-BI-ru seem, in the Syrian area at least, to be so well

and long integrated on a respectable level that it would be altogether

unreasonable to suggest that their essential appellative quality in that

situation was foreignness.

     90 Especially HUCA 14, 1939, pp. 587-623 and in Bottero, ibid., pp.

163-164. He normalizes habiru which he identifies as "the Akkadianized

form of the active participle of the West Semitic root 'BR to the singular

of which we may ascribe the meaning 'he who came over' ".

    91 Revue historique CCXI, avril-juin 1954, pp. 256-264.

    92 See his article "Erwagungen uber die Landnahme der Israeliten" as

brought up to date in his Kleine Schriften zur Geschichte des Volkes Israels,

1953, I, esp. pp. 168 ff. Alt's view is adopted as a subordinate element by

Greenberg who describes the core of the SA-GAZ/H. as "composed of



B. Landsberger even earlier presented and still maintains a

similar view: the ha-BI-ru are ethnically mixed bands of

family-less, tribe-less, isolated fugitives in foreign lands.93

J. Bottero, finally, aligns himself with the Lewy-Landsberger-

Alt approaches which he deems complementary and, taken

together, a comprehensive enough framework for all the

ha-BI-ru texts. In developing this, Bottero's chief emphasis

falls on flight from original environment as the ha-BI-ru

common denominator.94

In these variations of the view that the ha-BI-ru are those

who have crossed the boundaries into foreign territory there

are two elements: the present condition of the one who has

crossed the frontier and the cause or manner of his doing so.

It will be our first concern to indicate that those varieties

of this approach which emphasize the fugitive's present con-

diton are unsuccessful in their effort to discover the definitive

feature of the ha-BI-ru.

Lewy emphasizes the resident, servile character of the

ha-BI-ru immigrant. In that respect his position is about

identical with Greenberg's definition in terms of settled,

dependent status and it is open to the same criticisms. Even

if Lewy's definition were more adequately comprehensive it

would not be sufficiently specific. For example, the ha-BI-ru

do appear to be alien servants as they are seen in the realm

of the Hittites but what then is the distinction between the

ha-BI-ru and the Lulahhu, who were also foreign servants

there? Or did not the Sutu play the same role of foreign

mercenaries in Amarna Age Palestine as did the ha-BI-ru

from whom they are nevertheless distinguished?95 And while

the ha-BI-ru at Nuzu had only recently entered the Mitannian

area and were servants to the state and to private individuals,


uprooted, propertyless persons" or as a group which "served as a magnet

to attract all sorts of fugitive and footloose persons who were impelled by

misdeed or misfortune to leave their homes" (op. cit., pp. 87, 88).

   93 "Habiru and Lulahhu" in KAF I, 1929, pp. 321-334. Cf. Archiv fur

Orientforschung 10, 1935, pp. 140 ff. See now in Bottero, op. cit., pp.


   94 Ibid., esp. pp. 187 ff.

   95 EA 195:24 ff.; 318:10 ff. Cf. also S. Smith, The Statue of Idri-mi

(London, 1949), pp. 14 ff.; esp. lines 15 and 27.

HA-BI-RU                                          21


other foreign servants not identifiable as ha-BI-ru worked

side by side with them there.96

Landsberger, Alt, and Dhorme accent the negative in

describing the condition of the ha-BI-ru subsequent to his

crossing the frontier of his native land. He is family-less,

tribe-less, property-less, right-less, rootless.97 This evaluation

of the ha-BI-ru does not, however, satisfy all the evidence.

J. Lewy correctly insists that the Nuzu evidence refutes

Landsberger's assertion that the ha-BI-ru were "heimatlos"

and without "Familienzugehorigkeit".98 And it is quite im-

possible to take account of the status of the ha-BI-ru in

Syria from about the 13th to 15th centuries B. C. (and

possibly for a considerable while earlier) as revealed in the

Ugarit and Alalah material and to conclude that it was of the

essence of the ha-BI-ru status to be property-less, right-less

and rootless. For in that situation is found a large ha-BI-ru

population with its own property holdings and cattle, with

its share of government officials, aristocracy, military officers,

and cultic functionaries along with its contributions to the

lower ranks of wardum, sarraqu and shepherd.99

Bottero shifts the emphasis to the nature of the act of

emigration in order to discover the identifying trait of an

ha-BI-ru. He suggests that all the antinomies can be resolved

by the supposition that the ha-BI-ru were refugees, men who

had fled their native lands. This would explain why they

appear as strangers, why they are found well-nigh everywhere,


   96 Figuring in servant contracts similar to those of the ha-BI-ru but not

labeled ha-BI-ru are individuals identified as "Assyrian" (JEN VI, 613:2;

cf. JEN V, 456:9 ff.) and as "from the land of Izalla" (JEN V, 462:3).

And there were, of course, the highly prized Lullian slaves.

    97 According to Landsberger, the individuals gave their name to the

bands in which they organized themselves. The relation of these to the

more settled population blocks depended on the condition of the latter.

If the local authority was strong, the ha-BI-ru were content to be depend-

ents in the state employ; if things were anarchic, the ha-BI-ru played the

independent opportunists.

    98 HUCA 14, 1939, p. 606. The text JEN V, 464 concerns a "ha-BI-ru

along with the people of his household". For family ties among the ha-BI-ru

see also JEN 1023 and JEN V, 455.

    99 See above for the evidence and cf. AT 182:14; 180:16; 198:39. It

may be added that no solid basis appears for the view of Alt (op. cit.)

that the ha-BI-ru of the Amarna letters are a social class in revolt.



and why they have such a variety of names. It would account

for the fact that some settled down in assigned places subject

to the local authorities, while others organized into inde-

pendent, outlaw bands. It would account, too, for the fact

that while some may have been absorbed into the new culture,

others preserved some of their native traditions and thus are

found, for example, to have their own gods. It would also

explain why the term ha-BI-ru sometimes denotes a social

class (i. e., fugitives) and yet is used as the equivalent of an

ethnic term (i. e., they were all men of foreign origin who had

renounced their place of origin). What fortune, from king-

ship to slavery, might not befall the fugitive ha-BI-ru?100

In support of this ha-BI-ru-- fugitive equation, Bottero

appeals to the general fact that flight into strange countries

was a common phenomenon in the Near East, especially in

the 2nd millennium B. C.101  He appeals also to certain specific

items in ha-BI-ru texts: In a treaty of Hattusilis III with the

king of Ugarit, the Hittite monarch pledges himself to the

extradition of all subjects of the Ugaritic king, whether of

high or low social status, who revolt against their king and

flee into the territory of the SA-GAZ of the Hittite king.102

That SA-GAZ is here to be read ha-BI-ru and not habbatu

is clear from the fact that ordinary robbers would not be so

available to the control of the Hittite king that he could

engage himself to return refugees hiding among them. From

the fact observable here that the territory of the ha-BI-ru

among the Hittites was the natural haven for political refugees

or runaway slaves heading in that direction from Ugarit,

Bottero would draw the conclusion that the ha-BI-ru were

those who had escaped from some former social environment

into a new country.

While the just-mentioned treaty appears to Bottero the

only text that offers the elements for a definition, he finds

that other texts confirm that definition. A Cappadocian text

dealing with one Shupiahshu who leaves Kanish for the


   100 Op. cit., pp. 187-198.

   101 Cf. ibid., p. 127, n. 5, for the frequent references to the munnabtu,

"fugitive", in the legal, administrative, and historical documents of this

period. A similar observation is made by Landsberger (in ibid., p. 160).

   102 RS 17238. In Bottero, ibid., no. 161.

HA-BI-RU                                          23


country of Ziluna in order to escape from his creditors, de-

scribes this action by means of the verbal form ih-BI-ar-ma.103

According to Landsberger, this verb, "haparum", is a denom-

inative from "hapiru";104 according to J. Lewy, it is an

Akkadianized form corresponding to West Semitic 'br, "pass

over", and ha-BI-ru is derived from it.105  In either case, if

there is any etymological connection one way or another

between this verb and ha-BI-ru, the meaning of the latter

would be "fugitive" or "one who crosses over the frontier".

But it is uncertain whether or not that is a condition which is

contrary to fact.

In a letter written by Iasim-El to the court at Mari, the

author mentions an ha-BI-ru who had fled from Eshunna and

in search of whom he is engaged, perhaps for purposes of

extradition.106  Idri-mi, when he had to flee from Aleppo and

failed to find satisfactory asylum elsewhere, came and abode

among the ha-BI-ru warriors during the seven years of his

political exile before his restoration to his throne.107  Similar

is the experience in Canaan of the king of Hazor who left his

city and went over to the SA-GAZ.108  So also did Amanhatbi,

a lord of Hazi, when loyalist forces brought pressure to bear

on him.109  And Iapahi of Gezer laments that his younger

brother having revolted against him had departed and given

over his two hands to the SA-GAZ.110

In this connection may be recalled the observation of

Landsberger that peoples who used Akkadian or "Accado-

grammes" and in whose language munnabtu is frequent do

not employ the word "hapiru" and vice versa.111

This formulation of Bottero then is not committed to any

specific traits as essential to the condition of an ha-BI-ru-


   103 Babylonian Inscriptions in the Collection of J. B. Nies VI, pl. 71, no. 226.

   104 In Bottero, ibid., p. 160.         105 Ibid., p. 11.

   106 A 2886; no. 30 in Botteroibid.

   107 Idri-mi Inscription, esp. lines 26-30.      108  EA 148:41-43.

   109 EA 185: esp. 63 (in-na.-bi-[i]t-mi a-na LUSA-GAZMES). Cf. EA


    110 EA 298:22-27. Bottero also suggests but with less force that the

Nuzu contracts give the impression of dealing with fugitives in the case

of the ha-BI-ru who are from Assyria or Akkad and who in some cases

have arrived within the year. Still less cogent is his mention of the ha-BI-ru

of the Alishar text who are held for ransom.

    111 In Bottero, op. cit., pp. 160-161.



immigrant in his new environment (other than the foreignness

involved in his being an immigrant) but would rather dis-

cover the mark of the ha-BI-ru in the circumstances of his

emigration. His view is, therefore, not as vulnerable as the

others to direct contradiction by specific documentary evi-

dence; for though there is considerable information concerning

the area where Bottero is non-committal, the reconstruction of

the phase of the ha-BI-ru career which he singles out as their

hallmark is much more a matter of deduction from scattered

hints. At the same time such an approach places the burden

of proof heavily on Bottero's position and it is exceedingly

doubtful that the supporting data are adequate to sustain the

load. The argument for the meaning of "fugitive" from the

term ha-BI-ru itself hangs from a thread. The one ha-BI-ru

fugitive hounded by Iasim-El is after all the lone ha-BI-ru

of all our documents caught in the act of flight. And while

there is a strong case for the fact that an ha-BI-ru camp or

settlement was, in some areas at least, about as good a place

as any for a fugitive to find concealment or refuge beyond the

reach of authorities, whether nearby or remote, that is cer-

tainly not proof that all or even a large percentage of the

ha-BI-ru were themselves fugitives. Other explanations of

the phenomenon are ready at hand. In the instances from

the Amarna letters, for example, it is clearly a case of native

leaders seeking refuge among independent bands of mer-

cenary troops. Among the Hittites, the SA-GAZ were a

foreign settlement and as such a more logical goal for a

fugitive than a native Hittite center where extradition laws

could be more readily enforced. Moreover it is most unlikely

that an appellative that designated a man as having been a

fugitive or even as the descendant of one who had been a

fugitive would persist as the identifying epithet of men long

after they or even their fathers had become an integrated and

respected element in a given social structure. Such appears

to have been the case with the ha-BI-ru at least in the Syrian

area.112                               (to be continued)


112  Compare also the prominent Harbisipak and Kudurra, the 12th-11th

century ha-BIR-a-a.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Westminster Theological Seminary

            2960 W. Church Rd.

            Glenside, PA  19038


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu