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Home Forums Existence of the Israelites in Egypt Origins of the Hebrews: New Evidence for Israelites in Egypt from Jos to the Exo Reply To: Origins of the Hebrews: New Evidence for Israelites in Egypt from Jos to the Exo

  • Thomas Donlon

    April 23, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Douglas,

    The conversation shifted around a bit. Deborah Hurn first made a statement (but you are choosing apparently to not address her) that earlier civilizations shared more in terms of language. I was addressing her, pointing out my belief that the earliest Hebrew started in an incremental way diverging from the language of Canaanites. (And you appear to agree that the vocabulary of ancient Canaanite and Hebrew words largely overlap but show some small but real differences. I wasn’t ready to say that some different words characterize it as a different language, but I borrowed Orly Goldwasser’s veiwpoint that Hebrew comprised a dialect of Canaanite. This is shared by her in the Patterns of Exodus: Moses part 2 movie/documentary.

    She has some academic credentials as I suppose you might concur, though her views are radically different than yours. The phrase above “the language of Canaan” comes from Isaiah. If you are arguing that Isaiah isn’t a linguist… I don’t know what to say. Maybe he wasn’t, but he was good with words and he probably understood Hebrew pretty well.

    This doesn’t impinge on your recognizing some distinctive Hebrew words, but I’m much poorer than you are and I’m overwhelmed with reading already, not sure when I can or ought to pick up your book. (I’m assuming, I know it might be wiser to ask people who know you… but I don’t want to bother them.) I hope you can trust me on how poor I am… if not it doesn’t matter.

    But I have food and clothing, so I am content.

    The only use of the word Hebrew (as a language) in the Bible that i found was used when Hezekiah’s servants said to the threat speaking Assyrians “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, since we understand it. Don’t speak to us in Hebrew in the hearing of the people on the wall.” (2 Ki. 18:26 NIV) And then the scripture says the Assyrians then called out in Hebrew to threaten the city and its inhabitants.

    So the Bible in describing one situation uses the term “Hebrew” and in another place “Language of Canaan.”

    I wonder though if the conversation moved a bit afield from where it started. You also postulated that a Biblical viewpoint would require that we believe that at the time of the dispersion after the tower building ended …”If we are going to take the patriarchal genealogies seriously, this
    means that the Hebrews/Habiru/Apiru received a separate language than
    the other Semites at the time of the division of languages.”

    I got the impression that you felt that “received” language was markedly different than Canaanite might have been.

    I guess we can agree that there are sliding scales with what constitutes a language or a dialect. It is just convention I suppose. Some people in the United States (where I live) have accents I can’t understand. Some have regional words that are unique.

    For purposes of identifying distinctive linguistic traits to the Israelites, I see the merit of your desire to protect the phrase “Hebrew.” I suppose if I used the term “The Canaanite dialect spoken by the Israelites”, we could again be on the same page. It wouldn’t cut against your scholarship. Maybe to fully understand why Isaiah seemed use two different language words “Hebrew” and “language of Canaan” we’d need more research. Perhaps speech patterns still had some variations in the time of the divided Monarchy when Isaiah preached. Jerusalem the center of the Kingdom could have better retained or developed a higher language, being the center of government and a lot of the priests may have lived there and other rural or rustic areas could have been less refined in speech, or may have picked up more language from the original inhabitants. Their may have been some prejudice between developed and non-developed areas of the Kingdom of Judah. The more refined speech of the center of culture, religion, government being “Hebrew” proper and those in the countryside maintaining more of the quirks and linguistical language residue that resulted from the Israelites not driving out the Canaanites but rather mixing with them.

    Regarding the percentage of words, I wanted to give you, Douglas, that opportunity to flesh out your theory that the Hebrew language had a degree of retention of a God given language from the time of Uber and Peleg. If you had linguistic documentation (percentages) that would be cool.

    If Hebrew coming from Uber and Peleg is a theory you wanted to work on, that would be the kind of research that might be persuasive.

    I though am looking forward to the research you are currently doing and believe it would be a distraction for you to get off on that tangent. So, no I don’t want you to do it. I don’t want to do it either.

    For now, let us just assume that we don’t have enough data to prove one way or another the Hebrew/Uber connection (from a linguistical propagation perspective) and that this would not be worth the time of either of us to argue about. You gave your scriptural reasons, for your viewpoint and I gave you my scriptural reasons for believing the language of Canaan and the Hebrew language appear to me to be at close or partially overlapping and I lack the evidence to say the terms as used by Isaiah weren’t somewhat synonymous, but likely Isaiah thought “Canaanite” language implied a more imprecise type of Hebrew.

    We use “English” to refer to what Americans speak, what British speak, the official language of India, (which is challenging for me to adequately understand by-the-way).

    I’m not attacking you. You probably just saw a “teachable moment” and wanted to stress that you found some different words that are distinctively Hebrew. All I can do is take your word for it. As David Rohl says “If you have the history to back it up” then it becomes plausible. Scholars that think you don’t have the history, can’t help but be bewildered.

    There was early indications that once South and North America and Europe and Africa were once joined together as a supercontinent. The scientists at the time didn’t understand what could power the movement of continents so they just kept rejecting and ridiculing “continental drift.” Missing one key piece of information can make smart and sincere people take what turns out in retrospect to be a no-brainer argument and not even want to give it a hearing. “Opportunism,” “sad,” “fake science,” and they can set the bar higher for evidence, “the evidence just isn’t there.”

    I didn’t quote the Isaiah passage so I’ll just stick it here at the end of this long comment.

    In that day five cities in Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD Almighty. (Isaiah 19:18 NIV)