Middle Persian "Harbonah" = ass driver

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  • Treaty

    Senior Member
    The Old Persian word would have been (h/x/Ø)ara-pāvana (protector of donkey) which could have changed to something like that in Hebrew (though in the same Book, the cluster āva in xšaθra-pāvana (protector of province) is rendered with kamatz not vav). But I don't know why we should consider this as Persian to begin with. If the author(s) had randomly chosen Persian-sounding names, some of them inevitably would mean something in Persian but the rest wouldn't. This is the case of many other names in the book. So, "Harbonah" could have been just a random but etymologically lucky name.


    Senior Member
    According to scholars, the book of Esther was most likely written by someone whose mother language was Persian, as many Jews used to be in the Achaemenid empire (assuming that the book was originally authored during or soon after the Achaemenids). It contains a large vocabulary of Persian words beyond proper names. Therefore I don't think that the names were crafted to be Persian-like. Many Persian words in this book changed significantly when pronounced over the centuries by Aramaic/Hebrew speakers who lived outside Persia, for example in Babylon or Judea, so may look like an invention although they are authentic (in their original form). It makes sense that some names are fictive from factual point of view (that is, were picked to represent ideas), yet I tend to assume that all were good Persian names/terms at the time.

    Another theory is that Harbonah is derived from Xwarnah, something related to the sun (where xwar = sun in Persian, which leads also to modern فرّ farr).

    In regard to xšaθra-pāvana (satrap): pronounced akhashdarpan in Hebrew, indeed the "-āva-" part was reduced to "a" and not to "o" as in xara-pāvana -> Harbonah, and its "p" didn't become "b" as in Harbonah, which also makes the donkey-driver etymology doubtful.
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