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HURRIANS hōōr’ ĭ ənz (חֹרִ֔י, Horites; LXX Χορραι̂οι).

Origin and geographic distribution.

Groups either designating themselves as Hurrians (cuneiform Hurri) or writing a language identified elsewhere with the Hurri, have been identified all over the ancient Near E, from ancient Nuzi, E of the Tigris River, to Hattusha, in central Asia Minor, to Pal. and even Lower (i.e., northern) Egypt. In the Hitt. texts from ancient Hattusha, the term for the people of Huri was hurlas. The term for the language that they spoke and wrote, of which many samples were found at Hattusha, was hurlili. In Akkad. sources, whether from Nuzi, Mari, Hattusha, Alalakh, Ugarit, or Egypt (El Amarna), the people and their language were termed hurri. At Ugarit, the native (W Sem.) term must also have been pronounced hurrī, although we have only the consonantal writing hry. The Egyptians called the land of Pal. hurri/u, but spelled it in consonants, hr. In the Mitanni Letter found at El Amarna, the native Hurrian term was hurw-ohe or hurr-ohe. In the OT, the corresponding term is חֹרִ֔י (LXX Χορραι̂οι) from earlier Hurrī. The language of the Hurrians, which is still only partially understood, seems related to only one other known language—Urartian, in which the kings of Urartu around Lake Van composed inscrs. during the first half of the 1st millennium b.c. (c. 900-600 b.c.). It is believed by some that both Hurrian and Urartian belong to languages of the Caucasus (ancient Armenia). Although Hurrian shares some structural features with members of the Caucasic family’s modern representatives, no convincing case for relationship between the two has been made.


Hurrians and Hurrian culture in the OT.

The degree of Hurrian cultural influence on the peoples of southern and central Pal. was far less than that in Syria and northern Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Since Abraham emigrated into Pal. from the E via the Haran region in Upper Mesopotamia, he brought with him many customs acquired while he lived in Haran. Many hitherto obscure aspects of the patriarchal narratives, chiefly having to do with legal customs, have been remarkably clarified by the tablets from Nuzi, a Hurrian settlement in northern Iraq, E of the Tigris. The presence in Pal. proper of Hurrians can be shown by Hurrian names. The El Amarna tablets indicate that the Jebusite ruler of Jerusalem bore a name that means “servant of (the goddess) Hepa.” Hepa is a shortened form of the name Hepat, or Hebat, the name of the leading goddess in the Hurrian pantheon, the consort of the god Teshub. A Jebusite successor to “Servant of Hepa” is the king from whom David purchased the site for the future temple of Yahweh (2 Sam 24:18ff.; cf., 1 Chron 21:18ff.). English VSS call this king either Araunah or Ornan. The Heb. consonantal text renders it either ’rwnh, ’wrnh (2 Sam 24:16), or ’rnn (1 Chron 21:18). The name (or perhaps, title) is Hurrian. The correct consonantal pattern is the second (’wrnh) and the meaning is supplied by a recently recovered Hurrian-Akkadian dictionary tablet from Ugarit, which contains the following two entries:

(1) (Hurrian) ewri = (Akkadian) bēlu (“lord”),

(2) (Hurrian) ewir-ne = (Akkadian) sharru (“king”).

Hurrian ewir-ne is clearly the origin of the Jebusite king of Jerusalem’s name ’wrnh. Clay tablets found in Taanach and Shechem in central Pal. contain Hurrian personal names. In the OT, several groups that appear to be Hurrian bear the names “Jebusite,” “Horite,” and even “Hivite.” It is possible that Hamor the Hivite, who is connected with the town of Shechem, was a Hurrian. Other Hivite centers were at Gibeon, of Jerusalem (Josh 3-7; 11:19), and in the Lebanon (Judg 3:3) and Hermon (Josh 11:3) mountains. It has been suggested that the Heb. form hwy arose from hry by accidental replacement of the r with w, since both letters resemble each other. In Genesis 36:2 and Joshua 9:7, the LXX preserves Χορραι̂οι, “Horites,” whereas the Heb. text has the altered form hwy. See Hivites.


E. A. Speiser, “Ethnic Movements in the Near East in the Second Millennium b.c.,” AASOR, XIII (1933), 13-54; A. Götze, Hethiter, Churriter und Assyrer (1936); I. J. Gelb, Hurrians and Subarians (1944); R. T. O’Callaghan, Aram Naharaim (1948); H. G. Güterbock, “The Hurrian Element in the Hittite Empire,” Journal of World History, II (1954), 383-394.

See also

  • Horite