Copyright © 1956 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.
THE HA-BI-RU -KIN OR FOE
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
internationale held in
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
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 (
presents a collection of the known ha-BI-ru texts and a compendium of
notes contributed by various scholars in connection
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
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
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.
I. THE IDENTITY OF THE Ha-BI-ru
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
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
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
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
fugitives or hupsu) or composed of several ethnic units (as e. g., the general
category of nomadic tribes).
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
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,
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 (
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-
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
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
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
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,
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
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 toujours ‘Rauber' ".
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 (
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 (
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
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.
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,
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);
Smith, Isaiah, Chapters 40-55 (
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
41 JEN V 452:1; 456:24; 459:2; 463:2; Collection of Nuzu Tablets at the
Chiera, AJSL 47, 285 and 49, 115 ff.; A. Saarisalo, Studia Orientalia,
V 3, 1934, pp. 61 ff.
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 (
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 -
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
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) ;
Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 13, 1933, pp. 34 ff.;
"pass (from place to place)"; the large-scale migration 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
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
57 R9 11790:7. Cf. hlb 'prm in RS 10045:1; 11724+11848:12.
58 Thus S. Smith, The Statue of Idri-mi
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
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 as "from Ashur",
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
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
of tablets of the
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
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.
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
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
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
laminu and the Beni-Simal play essentially the same role as the ha-BI-ru
along the Middle Euphrates and in northern
other groups of similar character are active east of
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
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
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
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
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
In the latest strata of the extant ha-BI-ru register are
found Harbisipak, influential in the court of Mutakkil-Nusku
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
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
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
Cuneiform Inscriptions of
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
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
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
reveals that it was not in the peace of this land that they looked for their
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
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
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
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
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
possibly for a considerable while earlier) as revealed in 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;
JEN V, 456:9 ff.) and
as "from the
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 Bottero„ ibid.
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
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
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