[b-hebrew] Phoenician alphabet

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Sun Jul 20 06:55:07 EDT 2003

Most Conservative scholars understand, based on 1 Kings 6:1 statement of 480
years elapsing between the Exodus and Solomon's 4th year when he began
building the Temple ca. 966 BCE, that the Exodus event was ca. 1446 BCE.

The following questions must be addressed. If this "is" the date for the
Exodus, and "IF" Conservatives are correct in assuming the Exodus was headed
for SOUTHERN SINAI and presentday Gebel Musa, what evidence is there of
"writing" in this area ca. 1446 BCE ?

Archaeologists have identified TWO SCRIPTS in the Southern Sinai ca.1446
BCE, Egyptian Hieroglyphic and Canaanite (so-called "Asiatic") popularly
known as Proto-Sinaitic.

Now Moses, allegedly being a "Prince" of Egypt, raised up in Pharaoh's
household, might be expected to be able to read and write in Egyptian
Hieroglyphics. Being a Hebrew, he may also have learned later the
Proto-Sinaitic script. So, we have in the SOUTHERN Sinai TWO SCRIPTS, either
of which Moses would have been conversant with according to the biblical

Archaeologists have determined that the Proto-Sinaitic is attested for an
earlier period of time, in Canaan about 19th-17th centuries BCE, it being
found at several locations. So, they conclude that Proto-Sinaitic was not
"invented" in the Sinai, it was invented in Canaan.

Now, as to the original Query, "IS Phoenician script being _borrowed_ by
Hebrew ?"

Karl has rightly noted that the earliest inscriptions from Late Bronze Age
times in the area we call Phoenicia, are NOT in an "Alphabetic script," they
are in AKKADIAN CUNEIFORM, or Babylonian script, and date for the most part
from the Amarna era and the world of the Pharaoh who honored the ONE GOD,
the Aten, Pharaoh Akhenaten. The Akkadian script is also in use in Canaan,
letters from the mayors of Canaan are using Akkadian as an international
linga franca (whilst the script is Akkadian the words, however, reveal
Canaanite dialects).

With the end of the Late Bronze Age ca. 1200 BCE, Cuneiform Akkadian passes
away to be replaced by the Alphabetic script we are so familiar with, first
appearing in Phoenician inscriptions, then borrowed from the Phoenicians in
the 12th/11th century BCE by the Aramaeans.

Now, we are told Israel is a "wandering Aramean" and most archaeologists
have identified Iron IA, 1200-1000 BCE as the settling of the Canaanite Hill
Country by Israel.

The "mystery" for these scholars has been "where" did the people come from
who built 100's of villages of stone in a nearly empty land ?

It is _my_ theory that the Bible has correctly identified Israel as Aramean.
THE GOLDEN KEY to "unlocking" the mystery of the origins of the Iron IA
Israelites are the villages they are building in the Hill Country of Canaan.

Niels Peter Lemche, in his overview of the history of Syria and Palestine,
noted that in the Late Bronze Age, Palestine/Canaan, was primarily an Urban
culture of cities, with VERY FEW VILLAGES, whilst Syria in this era is
PRIMARILY A LAND OF VILLAGES. Dion noted that PIG REMAINS are "non-existant"
for the Arameans of Syria, and others have noted the absence of Pig remains
in the Iron IA villages of the Canaanite Hill country, whilsts pig remains
are frequent in Philista. Millard noted a red-burnished ware appears
suddenly not only in the Iron IA villages but ALSO throughout Aramean Syria
! Add it all up and Israel IS ARAMEAN, and the Village-building tradions of
Aram have been brought with her in her invasion and settlement of Canaan,
ca. 1200-1000 BCE.

Now, the Arameans are understood to have "adopted" about the 12/11th century
the  22 SIGNS OF PHOENICAN ALPHABET , that suggests for me, that the
invading Arameans are literate.

It is _my_ proposal that the Primary History, Geneis-Kings, is describing
what in "anthropological" terms is called ACCULTURATION, that is, over a
period of 500+ years, the Aramean invaders came to marry Canaanites and
adopt their language, rather like the Mongols who conquered China only to
acculturate to the superior civilization's ways, "the Conqueror becomes the
Conquered."  Sooo- The "Hebrew" everyone is studying on this list, is an
AMALGUM, of Aramaic letter forms borrowed from the Phoneicans, fused to
Canaanite. Over 500+ years, 1200-586 BCE, the Arameans via INTERMARRIAGE,
came to "forget" their native Aramaic, and spoke a form of Canaanite, so
that by the time of Hezekiah, the common people no longer knew their
"native" Aramaic, but only the language of the people, Hebrew (cf. 2 Kings
18: 26-27).

Schramm on Hebrew being "Canaanite" (Emphasis mine) :
"The subject of this article has been commonly called Hebrew by its own
community ONLY during the last thousand years or so. The earliest biblical
reference to the Hebrew language names it "THE LANGUAGE OF CANAAN" (Isa
19:18), and aptly so, since Hebrew is the best attested and best known form
of Canaanite. Elsewher in the Bible (2Kings 18:26, 28; Isa 26:13; 2 Chr
32:18; Isa 36:11; Neh 13:24), the language is referred to as yehudit,
"Judahite," or "Jewish," in contrast to Aramaic..." (p. 203, Vol. 4. Gene M.
Schramm. " Languages, Hebrew." David Noel Freedman, editor. The Anchor Bible
Dictionary. New York. Doubleday-Anchor. 1992. 6 vols)

Not only did simple, village-dwelling Israel's INTERMARRIAGE with the
superior URBANE Canaanites transform her Aramaic into Canaanite "Hebrew,"
another Conqueror was "loosing his language" at the same time, the
Philistines from the Aegean world ! They arrived in Canaan ca. 1175 BCE and
by the fall of Philista to Nebuchadrezzar, inscriptions in the burned out
tells revealed that they TOO HAD ACCULTURATED, speaking a Semitic language
AKIN to Hebrew, the Hebrews DOMINATING THEM since the days of David ! The
Bible knows NOTHING of Hebrews needing translators to talk to Philstines !
Both invaders had by the time the Bible was written ca. 562 BCE ACCULTURATED
to Canaan.

The ACCULTURATION of Israel to Canaanite ways is nicely summed up in the

Judges 3:5-7 (RSV)
"So the people of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the
Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and they took
their daughters to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave
to their sons; and they served their gods. And the people of Israel did what
was evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting the Lord their God, and
serving the Baals and the Asheroth."

What about the "Exodus" of 1446 BCE ? How to reconcile it with the Iron IA
ARAMEAN invasion and settlement of the Canaanite Hill Country ??? The answer
is hinted at in the above verse from Judges 3:5-7, the
great-great-great-grandchildren of the INTERMARRIAGES of Canaanites and
Arameans in Iron II wanted to preserve the traditions of BOTH sides of the
family tree, Canaanite and Aramaen, so they fused them together. The Hysos
expulsion of 1540 BCE sending the Canaanites back to Canaan was fused to the
Iron IA Aramean invasion !

Soo, "The Conquered [Canaan], had become the Conqueror," transforming
Aramaic via suffusion into the Hebrew we know today in the Bible. Well,
that's _my_ take on things, from an "archaeological" perspective !

Regards, Walter
Walter Reinhold Warttg Mattfeld, M.A. Ed.
matfeld12 at charter.net

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