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Seir is identified as a "Horite" at Genesis 36:20. Who, then, were the Horites?

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If you read both Hebrew and Akkadian, the Horites and Hurrians are obviously the same people. Akkadian is a cuneiform syllabic language that represents the vowel sounds as only three. It represents the long o and long u sound as the same symbols. Thus Hori (Horite) in Hebrew is written Huri (Hurrian) in Akkadian. I will only give this one quote because in information on the Hurrians is massive.

HORIM (Hōʹ rĭm) (KJV) or HORITES (Hō rits) Pre-Edomite inhabitants of Mount Seir in the southern Transjordan. Hebrew word for Horites corresponds to the extrabiblical Hurrians, a non-Semitic people who migrated into the Fertile Crescent about 2000 B.C. The Hurrians created the Mitannian Empire in Mesopotamia about 1500 B.C. and later became an important element in the Canaanite population of Palestine. In locations where there is extrabiblical evidence for Hurrians, the Hebrew term Hivites appears (Gen. 34:2; Josh. 9:7; 11:3, 19) as a designation for certain elements of the Canaanite population. The Septuagint (Gr. translation of the OT), however, substitutes Horites for Hivites in Gen. 34:2 and Josh. 9:7. Also, Zibeon, son of Seir the Horite (Gen. 36:20), is identified as a Hivite in Gen. 36:2. For these reasons, many scholars equate both Horites and Hivites (the names are quite similar in Hebrew) with the extrabiblical Hurrians.

Nevertheless, the Hebrew text only mentions Horites in Mount Seir where there is no record of Hurrians. Therefore, another suggestion holds that the biblical Horites were not Hurrians but simply the original cave-dwelling (Hb. hor means “cave”) population of Edom (Mount Seir). The Hivites, according to this theory, should be identified with the extrabiblical Hurrians. See Seir, Mount. -- Browning, D. C., Jr. (2003). Horim or Horites. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 782). Holman Bible Publishers.

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  • I've heard of this theory before. But is it based on anything other than the word/demonym? Based only that, I have sometimes wondered if the "Hurrians" were not related to the inhabitants of "Haran." It couldn't be both, could it? Or maybe it could. One thing I need to add to my answer is that several Horite names appear elsewhere including in Aramea... Feb 6, 2022 at 3:28
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Surprisingly little is said about the Horites in the Bible, with a mere seven verses using some variant on the demonym “Horite.”

The first mention was at Gen 14:6, where they were said to be among the nations defeated by the Mesopotamian armies led by Chedorlaomer.

Interestingly, the Septuagint has “Horites” in place of “Hivites” at Gen 34:2 (i.e., the inhabitants of Shechem), but apparently the evidence of this being correct was passed over by redactors of the texts from which our Bibles are translated, as no English translation of the Hebrew has “Horite” there. Perhaps the reason is that there are no mentions of Horites elsewhere except in connection to Seir/Edom.

The ISBE has it that Egyptian inscriptions spoke of Khar, extending throughout southern Canaan and Seir.

That they were natives of “mount Seir,” or the later land of Edom, is stated most explicitly at Deut 2:12, where Moses writes, “The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them”; similar remarks are repeated at Deut 2:22.

The name “Hori” (חֹרִי or Chori) is mentioned at Gen 36:22 as a child of Lotan, son of Seir. The presence of this name as a grandson of “Seir the Horite” his suggests that the Horites were named after an ancestor of the clan named "Hori."

In Hebrew, the same word, חרִי or chori, means “white” and “white bread”; so, as the ISBE says, perhaps it meant “white nation.” Another tradition has it that the name originated from חוֹר or chor, meaning “hole” or “cave,” presumably because the Horites were thought to be “cave-dwellers.”

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