publisher colophon

11. Seal of Tobiah Son of Master Chiyya

Tobiah bar Harab Ḥiya(?)

Dimensions: unknown.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Roman, 1870; Blumenkranz, 1965–66, No. 2, 23 (3); Bedos, 1980b, No. 2, 23 (3).

The second of the two seals presented for discussion by M. Caron in 1870 is even more of a mystery because the Hebrew lettering was transliterated in the exhibition catalogue and was probably garbled. We are given the translation, with the “suppressed” vowels shown in lower-case: ToBIaH BeHaDaH JeHou. We are further told that one Hebraist translated this as Jehu: ejus bonitas per hoc or “Jehu: his goodness is shown by this,” while another read it as “Tobie widow of Elijah.” These explanations are not satisfactory.

The uppercase letters, or Hebrew consonants, are thus TBϒH BHDH JH. The name of the seal owner is Tobiah; this is the one safe assumption here. The rest is speculation because some of the Hebrew letters may have been read badly. Bernhard Blumenkranz, sticking to the facts given, states that “perhaps” the legend is or contraction standing for Ben Harav. Assuming this approach to be correct, the last name is a mystery; with such a contraction, it must be followed by the name of the father. The most likely possibility is Chiyya, a not uncommon Hebrew name. A related difficulty, however, is that the name has a spelling in Hebrew whose last letter is as a rule spelled with an aleph rather than a hay.

The only alternate explanation is the BHDH is Ben HDH, the HDH being the letters standing for the name of the father, and that the last two isolated letters, JH, were misread and stand for some pious phrase like yod followed by aleph, or “May he live long days,” referring to the father of Tobiah.

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