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THE LANGUAGE OF GOD?

Proto-Hebrew alphabet

 

The arguments against the historicity of the Exodus revolve around the lack of archaeological evidence of a mass migration from Egypt and a mass influx into the Holy Land at the end of the Bronze Age (the time at which conventional and believing Biblical scholars place this event). This lack of evidence is bolstered by any evidence within Egypt itself of the sojourn.

This is one of the reasons we spent so much time on a revised chronology which might resolve the conflicts between the Biblical account and science. In so doing we did find evidence of mass movements of populations at the end of the Early Bronze age which could have accounted for the Exodus story in the Torah.

One problem that was not addressed and which Biblical scholars tend to ignore is that of language.

The Jewish sages contend that Hebrew was the language of God and that the Torah was handed over in its entirety to Moses at Mt. Sinai in that language.

This poses some problems which Americans in particular would very much appreciate.

Whichever theory one accepts on the length of the sojourn in Egypt (and this is not the time nor the place to discuss that), whether 400, 430 or 215 years, everyone who believes in the Exodus story agrees that it was of many generations.

The question is obvious. The Children of Israel MUST have become Egyptianized and there is ample evidence in the Biblical account that they were. Hence they MUST have spoken "Egyptian". Hebrew if it existed or continued to exist  at the time would have been a second language.  The problem is that the Hebrew of the Torah contains very few words that could possibly have come from Egypt. Should that not give us some pause as to concluding that they had in fact been in Egypt and not a place called Mizraim.

Linguistics is not our specialty, so we consulted the experts.

I quote from some of the leading experts on the subject today.

"Hebrew has all the characteristics of a language that developed in precisely the area where it was spoken in antiquity, that is, the southern Levant.  It is closely kin to Phoenician, but it is not Phoenician.  It is more remotely kin to Arabic, but there is nothing to suggest a substantial Arabic influence on the ancient Hebrew language (maybe a couple of loan words that could be explained by trade connections).  It is still more remotely related to Egyptian, but there is no Egyptian influence on Hebrew apart from, again, several loan words, which would be expected given the frequently strong presence of Egypt in Western Asia." (P.K.M.)

"However in Biblical Hebrew there are a number of ancient Egyptian words that was borrowed In time unknown.In the very reliable and authoritative Encyclopaedia Biblica, Jerusalem, 1962, vol. 4 (in Hebrew) there is an article “Millim zarot” (Foreign words) by the late Prof. Chaim Rabin, the eminent linguist of Israel. In this article there is a list of words borrowed in Bible from other languages. The largest portion of these words come from Semitic languages, such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, and both North and South Arabian. Much less was borrowed from all other languages.Not withstanding a short list of Egyptian words included consisting of 48 words." (H.S)*

"Hebrew  is, however, clearly a Northwest Semitic language (as are Phoenician, Moabite, Edomite and Ammonite, Ugaritic, Aramaic)  very closely related to Phoenician, to which it is better related as a sister language, rather than a child, and assuming that they both stem from a common ancestral language (Moabite, Edomite and Ammonite as well).  Diversification is due to geolinguistic (Phoenician territory situated further north along the Mediterranean) political, religious, cultural, and temporal factors, not least are those of Phoenician history marked by the migration of the culture to North Africa, far separated from the Cananaic region, after the return of Judeans from the Babylonian captivity, who for the most part remained in and around the Judean area (and absorb other sister varieties of Northwestern semitic such as neighboring Moabite, Edomite and Ammonite.  In other words, Hebrew is not pure Phoenician no more than Phoenician is Hebrew." (S.J)

What are we to make of all that.

One thing for sure is that Hebrew could not and did not develop from Egyptian. There seems to be a number of sister languages and here are two family trees showing  theories regarding parentage.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately there are gaps in those area in which we are most interested.

Most importantly is the area SOUTH of Canaan for which there is very little information.

This inscription was discovered by a missionary F A Klein in 1868.  It is of course the famous Stela of Mesha of Moab celebrating his victory over the Israelites in around 800 BC and now in the Louvre Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of it we know the language of the Moabites was similar to Hebrew.

However as we proceed south from Moab into the territory of Midian and then even further South into the territory of the Amalekites, we have found no evidence of their languages.

Yet we know that these tribes were closely involved with each other and perhaps shared if not a common language then one that was intimately related.

What do we know of Midian. We quote from Encyclopaedia Judaica.

"MIDIAN (Heb.  Nydm,   Mynydm Gen. 37:28, Mynydm), name of a people or a group of (semi-) nomadic peoples in the Bible (LXX, Madian, or Madiam; 1QIsa 60:6, Mydm). The Midianites are among the sons of Abraham and Keturah who were sent to "the land of the East" (Gen. 25:1–6). "Midianite traders" are mentioned in the episode about the sale of Joseph (Gen. 37:28). Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, was a Midianite priest living in the land of Midian (Ex. 2:15–3:1); he met Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Ex. 18: 1–5), and the members of his family accompanied the Israelites in their wanderings in the desert (Num. 10:29–32). The elders of Midian displayed hostility toward the Israelites on the plains of Moab (22:7) and the Israelites fought the Midianites, killing many of them (31: 1–20).

In Greek-Roman and Arabic sources Midian is mentioned in Arabia, as well as on the shore of the Red Sea, and, according to Josephus (Ant. 2:257), this is the biblical Midian (cf. Eusebius, Onom. 124:6). This Midian is identified, according to the tradition of the Arabic geographers, with modern Maghayir Shuayb (=the caves near Akaba). It appears that the Midianites' settlement in Arabia occurred in a later time, when their living area was reduced, but it is possible that the settlement in North Arabia during the Hellenistic-Roman period was a continuation of the biblical settlement. Among the sons of Keturah are mentioned tribes which inhabited North Arabia—Ephah and Dedan (Gen. 25:3–4)—and it is also possible that from there the Midianites spread to the north, the east, and the west. In the Bible the Midianites are also designated by the inclusive typological title "Ishmaelites" (Judg. 8:24). Some scholars discern a connection between the Midianites and the Kushu tribes mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts from the 18th century B.C.E., who wandered in the southern deserts of Erez Israel (cf. Cushan, Hab. 3:7). This may be hinted at in the story of the "Cushite woman" whom Moses married (Num. 12:1).

The Midianites were known as shepherds (Ex. 2:17) and traders (Gen. 37:28, 36). From time to time, they, together with neighboring tribes, broke into the permanent settlements around them. The Bible describes them as robbers (Judg. 6:5). During the Monarchy the Midianites lived within the confines of their place of origin, North Arabia, and they were known as middlemen in the frankincense (levonah) and gold export from Sheba in South Arabia (cf. Isa. 60:6). During the Hellenistic period the Nabateans mined much gold in the land of Midian and exported it via the port of Macna (Strabo, Geographica, 17:784). There has been no systematic scientific research of Midian in North Arabia. "

Below a map showing the distribution of "Midianite Pottery" also called "Al-Qurayya ware," after a site by that name in NW Saudi Arabia, petrographic analysis confirming this site is the source of the clays used in the making of this ware. Professor Beno Rothenberg found this ware in association with Egyptian votive items at the Hathor shine located at Har Timna (Arabic: Gebel Mene'iyeh), in the southern Arabah, dating it to the reigns of pharaohs Ramesses II through Ramesses V, Dynasties 19 and 20 based on cartouches; For the below map cf. p. 70, Beno Rothenberg & Jonathan Glass. "The Midianite Pottery." pp. 65-128, in John F. A. Sawyer & David J. A. Clines, editors. Midian, Moab and Edom, The History and Archaeology of Late Bronze and Iron Age Jordan and North-West Arabia. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series No. 24. Sheffield, England. Sheffield University Press. 1983 ISBN 0-905774-48-5)

The latter publication also has a site at Tayma which is 300 km southeast of Al Qurayya which also contains "Midian Ware". We can thus see what could have been the extent of the territory of Midian.

They also formed an alliance with the Amalekites:

Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east assembled themselves together; and they passed over, and encamped in the valley of Jezreel. ASV Judges 6:33

The Islamic historians consider the Amalekites, to be one of the most ancient of the Arab tribes. Abulfeda, a Arab scholar of the 13 century, wrote:

"Shem, (son of Noah), has several sons, among them, Laund, to whom was born, Pharis, Djordjan, Tasm, and Amalek."

 "
The tribe of Ad having been for their incredulity previously chastised with a three years’ drought, sent Kail Ebn Ithar and Morthed Ebn Saad, with seventy other principal men, to the temple of Mecca to obtain rain. Mecca was then in the hands of the tribe of Amalek whose prince was Moâwiyah Ebn Becr; and he, being without the city when the ambassadors arrived, entertained them there for a month in so hospitable a manner that they had forgotten the business they came about had not the king reminded them of it, not as from himself, lest they should think he wanted to be rid of them, but by some verses which he put into the mouth of a singing woman. "

We repeat, we have absolutely no idea what languages were spoken in Biblical times between Canaan and South Arabia. We do know that Biblical Hebrew could NOT have emerged in Egypt but can we be as certain that it did not emerge from the tribal structure of Arabia some 3,500 years ago.

We hope that further research in Saudi Arabia will reveal some of the answers as hopefully will be our new expedition slated for next year.

 

Michael S. Sanders

Irvine California

04/23/2009

 

* As many of our readers know, we have always consulted the leading experts in the world regarding our theories. Before proceeding with our theory regarding Sodom & Gomorrah for example and the satellite images of the Dead Sea, we contacted "The Dead Sea Research Center" at the University of Tel Aviv. We have continued with that practice as we have seen many brilliant people waste years of their lives on false trails because they failed to listen to important warnings. (Velikovsky was a very good example).

Sometimes we would like to quote our experts directly but as many are Professors at leading Universities we prefer to get their uncensored views rather than the conventional line. Accordingly we prefer to cite them by initials only to enable them to give us their unfettered ideas.

Before posting any new ideas, the reader can be sure that they have been run by as many experts in the field that I can find. That is not to say they all agree. What is certain is that any objections or ideas that they contribute never directly contradicts the theses proposed. If an objection is proposed to any of my ideas, that objection is explored thoroughly to its logical conclusion. If it still passes muster, then it is published. Many end up on the "waste basket"!

Without the internet, none of this research would be possible. In the course of one week, I contacted the worlds  leading linguistics experts on Semitic languages. Many kindly gave of their time and expertise to correct my naive errors and just sheer ignorance of the field. But out of the literally dozens of exchanges came the paradigm of a new idea.

Similarly literally millions of people have read or seen my work on the internet and television around the world. Many contribute their ideas and suggestions and criticisms. When valid, the material on the site is immediately changed with a note to that effect. So far not one of my major theses have been shown to be invalid and that after years of airing.

 




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