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Document number: 924
Date: 1857
Dating: undated in journal
Recipient: BURGESS Henry
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: PUBLISHED
Last updated: 3rd June 2007

[The original has not been located. This is from the published version, 'On the Origin of the Word Sabbath.' Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record, v. 5 no. 9, April 1857. p. 175.]

The usual statement on this subject is, that the word sabbath is derived from the Hebrew sabat תנש, to rest, keep holiday, or keep the sabbath: itself a verb of uncertain origin.

I have long been of opinion that the reverse of this is really the case, and that far from being derived from the verb תנש, that verb was itself derived from the sabbath, in the sense of "holy rest," Some other etymology has therefore to be sought for, and such a one may easily be pointed out.

The real meaning of the sabbath I believe to be the seventh day, and that it is derived from the Hebrew term for seven, namely, sabah ענש and הענש (or תענש sabath). Nothing can be more simple and direct than this origin of the word, but it is of course open to the question which attends most Hebrew etymologies; namely, what was the true pronunciation of the Hebrew word תענש? Numerous Hebrew words are found in the Assyrian inscriptions; and the Assyrian always, as far as I have observed, renders the Hebrew letter ע ain by a vowel. Thus, for instance, נש arabia is rendered aribi; ענרא four, is rendered arba; לענ dominus, is rendered bel or bil (as the Greeks rendered it βηλος). Consequently I should naturally read תענש as sabat. But I have recently fortunately discovered what was the Assyrian term for seven (which has been hitherto a desideratum). It was sabata. This establishes the ancient pronunciation of the word so clearly, that I feel more confirmed in my opinion that we have here the true origin of the sabbath-day. This word sabata occurs in the British Museum series, plate 255, line 28, and is followed in the same page, line 34 by the term for eight, asumun or ashmun, which also agrees closely with the Hebrew הנמש shmunah. So also do the other numerals as far as yet ascertained.

H. F. Talbot.

Lacock abbey.

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