Saturday, December 11, 2010

Are the Names Enoch and Enosh Equivalent?

Alice C. Linsley

I've been having an interesting conversation with a reader about the linguistic connection between the words Enoch and Enosh (Anoosha in Arabic, suggesting a relationship to the Annu/Ainu). He maintains, on the basis of the Hebrew text, that these names are not linguistically equivalent. I maintain, on the basis of the Old English and my analysis of the kinship pattern of Abraham's ancestors, that the names are linguistically equivalent (as are the names Irad and Jared, following the pattern evident with Lamech and Lamech and Esau and Esau) and that these first-born sons are named after their maternal grandfathers.

Dan: I believe you are in error about Psalm 8:6. The Hebrew does not say "What is henoch (heth-nun-vav-kaph)." It says, "What is enosh (aleph-nun-vav-shin)." "Enosh," of course, means "man, male." "Enoch" does not. (And for Hebrewless readers, note that the two names are much more dissimilarly spelled in Hebrew than in English. They're unlikely to be confused; nor would one serve very well as a pun for the other.)

(Learned about this blog through your interview in Road to Emmaus.)

Alice: Kain's first-born son was named Enoch and Seth's first-born son was named Enosh. These are linguistically equivalent names. The name appears later in Numbers as Ha'noch, the first-born son of Reuben. Here it appears to be a title, perhaps protecting the real name of Jacob's firstborn's firstborn.

The point is that the names Enoch/Enosh/Hanoch stand for the first-born son in the ruling lines. He is the ruler-designate, and an historical figure. He is paralleled in Psalm 8 with Adam, the First Created Man, to whom the mandate was given to "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth." (Gen. 1:28)

Dan: "Hanoch" and "Enoch" are spelled exactly the same in Hebrew, the only difference being vocalization of the vowels. Therefore, observing that "Enoch" appears in Numbers as "Hanoch" is exactly like saying that "Laurie" (pronounced "low-ri") appears later as "Laurie" (pronounced "law-ri").

"Enosh" is an altogether different matter. I would like to know the basis of your claim that it is "linguistically equivalent" to "Enoch." I don't think any semiticist would agree with you. "Enosh" is a straightforward use of the unambiguous root aleph-nun-shin, which means "man" in several semitic languages. "Enoch" is from the root heth-nun-kaph and probably means either "dedicated one, initiate" or "follower." That root shares only a single letter with "enosh," and while it's possible that the two gutterals aleph and heth could conceivably swap (although unlikely), it's far-fetched to claim that a shin and a kaph would ever do so. That's like saying an "s" became a "k" as a word moved from one European language to another.

In short, I think you need some very strong, hard evidence in order to claim that Enoch = Enosh, however similar they look once Anglicized.

Alice: Hebrew is a relatively recent language, do you agree? It is preceded by Old Arabic and the roots of the Dedanites are Ham and Kush. So we much look to the Nile region for the meaning of the words that apply to these ruler-priests. "Nakht" means powerful in Egyptian and applied to rulers, as in Pepi-Nakht-Heqaib. In Hebrew it takes the form ha-nok, which means the chief. The name probably is connected to the Nok civilization in west central Africa which predates the Chaldeans by at least 4000 years. The closest living language to the words in Genesis 1-12 is possibly Luo, a Nilotic language. Luo consultant John Ogutu explains that Enoch and Enosh are very likely the same name, but "Luos avoid the Sh as they find it difficult to say." He explains that Luos are likley to pronounce the name with the CH, or else they mispronounce it as S." This may explain the spelling of the name in the Septuagint as Enos.

Dan: True, Hebrew is relatively recent and localized compared with other semitic languages, but there is no mystery about its predecessors: Aramaic and Phoenician, which are ancient indeed. The root for the name "Enoch" (heth-nun-kaph) appears in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic, so it's not as if there isn't any evidence available as to its basic meaning, which is something like "to use for the first time," a meaning which accounts for all of its forms and derivations in all of those languages. It's not certain if that circle expands all the way to Egypt, but if it does, shouldn't you give first consideration to Egyptian roots that retain the heth, like all the other languages do? Some people think Egyptian hnk.t "tribute, offering" is related, and some don't. To lop off the heth and pull out "nakht" as the ultimate source is going to require some hard evidence before any reputable linguist will buy it.

Alice:  As you point out earlier, Enoch and Enosh are Anglicized. In fact, they made their way into modern versions of the English Bible from the Old English Bibles.

It is understood in comparative linguistics that the phonemes ch and sh are often interchangeable (as with the Old French use of ch for the English sh), and that they are sometimes reduced to the phoneme K (as the Old English C almost universally is spelled with a K in the Germanic). As the names Enoch and Enosh are translations from Old English, it can be argued that Enoch (Kain's first-born son, listed in Gen. 4) and Enosh (Seth's first-born son, listed in Gen. 5) are equivalent and can be rendered Nok.

Nok is probably a throne name as it appears in the royal names such as Tef-Nakht and Pepi-Nakht-Heqaib. Nakht applied only to rulers and in Hebrew takes the form ha-nok, which means the chief. Hanock is the name given to the first-born son of Jacob's first-born son, so the name pertains to the ruler-designate. These are the first-born sons by two wives. The first-born son of the sister bride ruled in place of his father and the first-born son of the patrilineal cousin or niece ruled in place of his maternal grandfather (See "The Father of Kain and Seth.")

Analysis of the genealogies of Genesis 4 and 5 reveals that Kain and Seth married the daughters of a ruler named Enoch/ Enosh or Nok. These cousin brides named their first-born sons after their father. Since the sisters had the same father, there is good reason to believe that the names Enoch and Enosh are linguistically equivalent.

Dan:  I would point out that the Hebrew kaph does not represent the phoneme ch. It's not a gutteral; it's a good, dry, hard k. It's the heth that = ch. (I wish I could put a dot under the "h", but I can use a "ch" instead, as the heth is pronounced much like the German ch.) Also, "ha-" meaning "the" uses the he, not the heth.

If I'm following you correctly, you're arguing that at the front of the original word ("nok"), a he was added ("ha-nok," i.e., "the nok"), so presumably we've already taken "nok" into Hebrew at that point, since we're putting a Hebrew "the" on it. The he then turned into a heth (for the name Enoch) and it also turned into an aleph (for Enosh). Meanwhile, at the back end of the word "nok", the Hebrew quite predictably used a kaph (first on "ha-nok", and then "cha-nok" or Enoch), but at some point this kaph turned into a shin, presumably at the same time that the letter in front (either a he or a heth) was turning into an aleph, and that's how we got enosh. But for your "k" to morph into a "sh" I would think you would need an intermediate step, like the "k" becoming a "ch" and then a "sh," unless you have something in comparative linguistics suggesting that a k can turn directly into a sh.

Any one of these phonemic shifts by itself is possible, and some of them are unremarkable, but taken as a whole, doesn't the bumpy pathway you've traced out whereby the names Enoch and Enosh may equal each other, and both of them may equal Egyptian Nok, require an awful lot of special pleading in the absence of hard evidence? Especially since "chanok" and "enosh" are easily derived just as they are from the pool of common semitic roots right there in the Hebrews' back yard?

Alice: Nok was not Egyptian, but his line intermarried with the Nubian rulers who conquered Egypt.  We need to look at both Egyptian and Chadic languages for clues that relate the names.  Since the ruler-priests among Abraham's people were devotees of Horus whose totem was the falcon or hawk owl, we might consider the ancient Egyptian word for owl m-l-k (See Gabor Takacs, Etymological Dictionary of Egyptian, p. 1). The association of the falcon or hawk owl with Horus is the likely source of the Semitic malk or melek, meaning king. In Hausa (a Chadic language) the words horni and hanu are related. Here we have a suggestion as to a possible connection between Horus and Hanoch. (See Dictionary of Hausa, p. 19)

I agree that the etymology of the names has been solidified by the Hebrew text, but Abraham's ancestors lived long before Hebrew developed as a distinct language. Of course, this raises the question: What language did Abraham's ancestors speak?

Thanks for engaging me on this, Dan. You've given me more to think about and research.

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The names Enoch and Enosh are linguistically equivalent. Both names can be traced to the word anochi, the title for a ruler-to-be or heir to the throne. Consider these first three words of the Ten Commandments: Anochi, Havayah E-lohecha, meaning I am God, your Ruler.


Unknown said...

Alice C. Linsley said...

The Ar/Ari/Aro clans were widely dispersed in the ancient world. This article fails to trace the pre-Abrahamic clans. It mentions that the term "Arab" pertains to "mixed peoples" but the Ar rulers generally married within their familial lines, so they are not very mixed genetically speaking.

Corj said...

Hey Alice, very interesting discussion to day the least. One of my favorite hobbies, and may I ask are you in currently working in the field of anthropology professionally? I take from your bio ypu are I'm wondering if this is through a university? As i said this was a hobby for me and ovet the years I've managed to put together quite a portfolio, considering taking it to university though not clear on the avenue. I've been riffing off your work for the past few days.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Hello, Corj,

My work is the field of Biblical Anthropology, an empirical approach to the 66 books of the Bible (canonical books). I am now retired from teaching. I taught for 14 years at Midway University in Kentucky.

You can read about the research here:

You also might consider joining The Bible and Anthropology group on Facebook.

Best wishes,

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Alice C. Linsley said...

This is an old post and needs revision to clarify the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the early Horite and Sethite Hebrew ruler-priest caste whereby the cousin bride's firstborn son is named after his maternal grandfather.

See these articles for further explanation: