Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Wilderness of Sin

I have always thought that the wilderness of Sin was so called because of Israel's rebellion. However, I was prompted to check the Hebrew when reading Exodus 16 this afternoon and I was gob smacked. The word 'Sin' in Exodus 16.2 doesn't seem to be any of the Hebrew words for sin, but the English seems to have transliterated a place name - ‏סִין. Have I missed something today, or have I been missing something for a long time?


LoJo said...

not sure where you're going with this. explain more.

Anthony said...

I suspect it's more of the latter than the former.

My guess is it works the other way around...that the origin of the English word 'sin' is somebody thinking 'now what's the word for what those guys were doing in that wilderness? What, we don't have one yet? Well, let's just borrow the place name...'

Of course, I could check an OED or something to be sure, but speculation is much more fun.

Ok, the dictionaries guess at a Latin root meaning 'guilty'. Even if that's the case, I think we moved to our spelling under the influence of the place name.

vassilip said...

in Septuagint (let me 'remind' you, the first ever translation, which Apostles follow) it is just a name: Σιν [:shin], without any qualitative meaning

lojo said...

Also, could possibly be referring to the widely worshipped Mesopotamian god, SIN, in this wilderness of Sin area. And the point????????

antman said...

There isn't any point as such lojo, just my astonishment that the 'Wilderness of Sin' is in fact a place name with no reference to the concept of "sin". In the hebrew the word bears no relationship to the other Hebrew words for the concept "sin", and as vassilip helpfully points out the Ancient Translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek recognises this by transliterating the Hebrew equivalents of sin ‏סִין, into the greek equivalents Σιν. And when transliterated into English it is - sin. So just buy coincidence, it seems, the Hebrew place name is the same as our word for wrong before God - sin.

ps thanks vassilip for the LXX cross-check I should have thought of this myself.

Anthony - it would be good to track down the etymological roots of our word sin in a bit more depth if you have time for it?

antman said...

I'd be interested in any evidence that the so called wilderness had a link to a mesopotamian god, could you do a bit of research on this?

lojo said...

okie dokie. Got some interesting stuff. (By the way, this is my first blog and I'm really enjoying this). I'll try pasting:

. . . everywhere in the ancient world the symbol of the crescent moon can be found on seal impressions, steles, pottery, amulets, clay tablets, cylinders, weights, earrings, necklasses, wall murals, and so on. In Tell-el-Obeid, a copper calf was found with crescent moon on its forehead, the same idol the children of Israel worshipped in the Desert of Sîn (Sînai) during the apostacy whilst Moses was on top of the mountain getting the Ten Commandments from Yahweh. While God's prophet (Moses) was conversing with the true God, Yahweh, the Israelites were descending into idolatry worshipping the moon-god, Sîn! An idol with the body of a bull and the head of a man has a crescent inlaid on its forehead with shells. In Ur, the Stela of Ur-Nammu has the crescent symbol placed at the top of the register of gods because the moon god was the head of the gods.

The cult of the moon-god was the most popular religion throughout ancient Mesopotamia. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Arkkadians took the word Suen and transformed it into the word Sîn as their favourite name for this deity (Austin Potts, The Hymns and Prayers to the Moon-god, Sin, PhD., 1971, Dropsie College, p.2). As Professor Potts pointed out, "Sîn is a name essentially Sumerian in origin which had been borrowed by the Semites"

Evidently, because of the place name and what went on there, the language of the noun turned to a verb form and back to the noun form in Christianity. This was very interesting.

Now,what are your thoughts?

antman said...

hi lojo,
thanks for your post, I'm not too sure what to make of the info you have gathered and I'm really flat chat at the moment. It is interesting, and I'll try and come back to it in a week or so.

Grandma Susan Quilts said...

I clicked on blogger link to follow you and couldn't get to the bottom of the page to hit submit. Thought your comments were interesting. Am the devotionals editor for an online magazine for women and was looking up info on the wilderness journeys.

I want to do something short but relevant on "wondering in the desert". When I found you. Would be interested to see what you would have to say about the subject.
THANKS for your time.
Ruby Devotions Editor

anton said...


I'm glad you found my little blog thought provoking. I haven't posted here for about 18 months as I have been way to busy in ministry, but I might start again soon. Are you thinking about wondering or wandering?

TruthSeeker said...

I'm late commenting on this thread, but I was doing some research on the word Sin recently. Could the Wilderness of Sin/Zin and Mt. Sinai be named for Sin a descendant of Noah (on Ham's side)? This Sin was a son of Canaan. Possibly an ancestor of the Chinese.

Anonymous said...

SIN,the Sumerian Moon Goddess is transliterated from the Akkadian cuneform. The etymology reveals that The Moon, the Goddess and Cinnabar ore share a common name root. Thus the Wilderness of Shinn, (That's how it sounds in Hebrew) would be more accurately represented by "The Wilderness of Cin" when converted to our format. The Cin represents Cinnabar, or Mecuric Oxide. This ore is still mined in the general area.

Anonymous said...

Not "shinn," but just "sin" (as in "seen). Yes, comments about the moon god seem correct, but it's not a shin/sin consonant, but a different "s" letter.

Anonymous said...

Sin in the Hebrew also refers to a thorn bush, or bush. That being the case one could translate this as the wilderness of the bush. On the same note, Sinai is the same root word as sin, the י makes it possessive, i.e., my bush.
Just a thought