The Biblical Hebrew “Store Cities” and an Amarna Gloss

In: Vetus Testamentum
Krzysztof J. Baranowski Uppsala University Sweden

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The word מסכנות used in the phrase ערי מסכנות “store cities” is commonly considered a loanword from the Neo-Assyrian word maškattu, “account, deposit, storehouse.” The current loan hypothesis does not account for the difficulties of the Akkadian evidence and does not take into consideration a gloss in Amarna letter no. 306. This gloss shows that the Canaanite scribes of the Late Bronze Age were familiar with the Akkadian plural form maškanātu and used it with the meaning “granaries, storage areas.” This technical term was borrowed into a Canaanite dialect and was subsequently transmitted to Biblical Hebrew as מסכנות.

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