What does Zorobabel mean and what language is it from?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by mojobadshah, Jun 5, 2013.

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  1. mojobadshah Senior Member

    Zorobabel is a very peculiar name in Biblical history. He lived around Cyrus-Darius's time. He was the architect of the Second Temple and I think he even took on the position of Messiah among the Jews after Cyrus. It sounds like it could have a connection to Zoroaster, but the origin of his name is a mystery to me. Does anyone know what language Zorobabel is from and what it means?
     
  2. bazq Senior Member

    Hebrew
    The Hebrew Wikipedia suggests it derives from "זרע בבל" which means "seed of Babylon" meaning "born in Babylon".
    Maybe the Z and the R are related to the root "זור" in Hebrew which means "foreign"/"alienate"?
     
  3. Triginta Septem Junior Member

    Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
    English - America
    Zoroaster is often thought to mean "with old/angry/golden camels" in Old Iranian. But I'm not sure why the adjective varies so much, and I don't see how they even get "camel". It's my understanding that "zoro" means "with" and the rest is unknown (but apparently involves camels, according to Wikipedia).

    Anyways, Zorobabel (who is more commonly called Zerubbabel, by the way) definitely means either "born in Babel" or "exiled to Babel". Which one would depend on the source language of the name (see Wikipedia's article, under the heading "The Name").
     
  4. Treaty Senior Member

    Australia
    Persian
    Both Zorobabel and Zoroaster are Greek/Latin [mis]pronunciations of their original terms in Hebrew and Avestan, respectively. I don't think connecting two mispronunciations will lead to something special.

    As far as I know, Zoroaster is the Greek version of zarath-ushtra which means "[owner of] gold[en] camel" in Avestan. Zarath is a cognate of Persian zard (yellow) and zar (gold) andEnglish gold; ushtra is a cognate (or precedent) to Persian oshtor (camel).

    However, as mentioned, "zoro" of Zorobabel was originally zeru_, unrelated to Avestan zarath.

    I think a question here should be whether Greek and Latin languages tend to ease the pronunciation of consequent vowels by making them similar (as is done in Persian); and if there are also other examples.
     
  5. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    The meaning of Avestan zaraθ- is unknown and inconclusive. Leading theories are that it means "golden/yellow," "old/aging," "moving/driving/managing," "desiring/longing for," or "angry/furious." All of these proposed meanings stem from an Old Iranian *zarat- or *zarant-. The θ in zaraθ- indicates that it is an irregular formation.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  6. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    Is there a cognate in Vedic Sanskrit?
     
  7. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    Yes, there are cognates in Vedic: jarat- "old/ancient," har- "to like," harit- "yellow/gold/green." So, as you can see, the Vedic evidence doesn't really help in this instance in determining the underlying meaning of the Avestan word.
     
  8. mojobadshah Senior Member

    The author of "Persian Mythology" connects Zarathushtra's name with Skr. Sharadwati suta.

    According to early works on Zoroastrianism Nask "chapter" is connected with the Semitic god Nebu "god of knowledge" and Zara- means "seed" in Semitic thus Zoromazdas means "seed of Mazda."
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  9. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    zeru- or zara- may have several Semitic meanings (e.g. seed, disperse, foreign, garland). Taking one of them arbitrarily seems unjustified.
     
  10. mojobadshah Senior Member

    * Zero--in Chaldee, "the seed"--though we have seen reason to conclude that in Greek it sometimes appeared as Zeira, quite naturally passed also into Zoro, as may be seen from the change of Zerubbabel in the Greek Septuagint to Zoro-babel; and hence Zuro-ashta, "the seed of the woman" became Zoroaster, the well known name of the head of the fire-worshippers. Zoroaster's name is also found as Zeroastes (JOHANNES CLERICUS, De Chaldoeis).

    Is the above plausible?
     
  11. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    No. It has already been mentioned in this thread that the "Zoro" of Zorobabel and Zoroaster are unrelated.
     
  12. sotos Senior Member

    Greek
    It seems that the original meaning of Zoroaster in Persian languages is uncertain. The ancient Greek version of the name (Ζωρο-άστρης) might be an indication or the etymology, if we assume that the Greeks were closer to the person, both in time and geography. To my understanding, the greek version indicates a relation to Life (ζω-ή) and Star (αστήρ), otherwise it would be transliterated to Ζορο-something. Probably there some degree of folk etymology there, but it is unlikely that the Greeks knew nothing about the meaning of the name.
     
  13. mojobadshah Senior Member

    I don't agree. The Old or Gathic Avestan meaning of Zarath-ushtra is "Old + Camel" and camels are golden which is a word that is a cognate of Zarath (cf. PIE *ger "Old, Gold(en)" Eng. gerontology and resembles the dawn, the light of the East, the awakening of Mithra the all flashing eye of Ahura Mazda. Zarathushtra was named after the Bactrian camel indigenous to Bactria, ancient Balkh, Afghanistan. All the camels in the world come from Bactria.
     
  14. mojobadshah Senior Member

    Zerrubavel, <...> must derive from Zarbol, <...> in Persian right?
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  15. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    There is no reason to think so. זרבבל was Jew raised in Babylon. Even though he served in the Persian empire there is no reason the assume the name is anything but Semitic. You could argue if it is Assyrian, Aramaic (which remained the official language in the formerly Babylonian provinces under Persian rule) or Hebrew but that doesn't matter much. The meaning would inevitably be that given to you at the start of this thread (#2): seed of Babylon, raised in Babylon.
     
  16. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Everything that there is to say on this matter has actually been said, but it is mixed up with so much silliness that it might be useful to recapitulate.

    The Biblical name Zerubbabel and the Iranian Zaraϑuštra have, of course, nothing to do with each other. The former, זרבבל , is probably “seed of Babylon”, but in this case it is definitely Akkadian (Babylonian); if it were Hebrew or Aramaic it would have to have ע after the second letter. The loss of the laryngeals is something that sets Akkadian apart from the other ancient Semitic languages.

    The etymology of Zaraϑuštra has been the subject of many articles and at least one entire book; honestly speaking it is one of those things that have been discussed to death, to the extent that no one real cares any more. In brief: it is generally accepted that the second element is uštra-, or possibly huštra-, “camel”. The first element is either the word for “yellow” or that for “old”, so the name means either “whose camels are yellow” or “whose camels are old”. The name is Iranian, but it is not linguistically Avestan, but some different, otherwise unattested, Old Iranian language. This means that although Zaraϑuštra composed his Gāϑas in the language that we call Avestan his own language was something different. In Greek, his name occurs in various forms, among them “Zoroaster”, which obviously implies an association with the Greek word for “star”, but this is a popular etymology.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  17. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Your argument makes sense but I cannot fully agree with it. Tendencies to weaken laryngeals existed in different Hebrew dialects at all times. Elision of ע in a proper name cannot be summarily excluded.
     
  18. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    Do you have examples of names that change this way? I can think of ישו <- ישוע (Jesus) which is under Aramaic influence, רות <- רעות (Ruth) which is doubtful.
     
  19. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Yes, ישו was my first thought and Aramaic origin or at least influence is highly plausible in case of the name זרבבל. A sign of earlier weakening tendencies is the loss of germination of laryngeals. I didn’t say fdb’s claim of Akkadian origin isn’t plausible, I just said that Hebrew, Aramaic or Aramaic influenced Hebrew origin shouldn’t be categorically excluded.
     
  20. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    ישו in the Babylonian Talmud is not Hebrew but Babylonian Aramaic, a language where all the laryngeals are lost due to the Akkadian substratum. (The orthography of the Talmud is largely historicising, but the Bab. Aram. forms are faithfully represented in Mandaic.) But we are talking about the Hebrew Bible. Where does this drop its ʻayins?


    The loss of germination in the case of laryngeals (and r) is not attestable before the time when the vocalisation was introduced, i. e. not before the 10th century CE.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  21. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Ok, even if I consede all that, it still doesn't mean that זרבבל is necessarily of Akkadian origin. It only means, by your own argument, that the elision of ע is the consequence of Akkadian influence on Imperial Aramaic which still leaves the possiblity of Aramic or Hebrew origin under direct (in the former case) or indirect (in the latter case) Akkadian influence.

    <...>
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  22. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    <...> Just one clarification: I was talking about Babylonian Aramaic (Mandaic, JBA); Imperial Aramaic is different.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  23. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Oh I see, You meant "Babylonian" in the sense of "Bavli" as used in Talmudic times which effectively meant "Persian". My confusion.
     
  24. origumi Senior Member

    Hebrew
    But then the book of Ezra (2:2) says: אֲשֶׁר בָּאוּ עִם זְרֻבָּבֶל יֵשׁוּעַ נְחֶמְיָה שְׂרָיָה רְעֵלָיָה, (there are more similar lists there). So the name Zerubabel (no ayin) appears near the name Yeshua` (with ayin) and some other names with ayin. It seems that during the time of biblical Zerubabel (end of 6th century BC?) ayin was stable, excluding the name Zerubabel. This supports fdb's opinion regarding Zerubabl/Zorobabel, either if originally Hebrew and changed in a unique way by Aramaic in Akkadian accent, or originally Aramaic/Akkadian.
     
  25. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Moderator note: We are running in circles. All what can be said about the two names has been said. Indulging in wild speculation about possible hidden relations between the respective etymons across language group boundaries are far beyond the scope of this forum.

    This thread is closed.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
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