[b-hebrew] Exodus and Hebrew Language

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Sat May 29 05:55:42 EDT 2004

Michael Abernathy wrote :

"Just for the sake of discussion, I have a question for the group.
Assuming that the Exodus actually occurred as it is described in the Bible
and that it was recorded by someone about the time of Joshua, what
linguistic evidence would we expect to find in the Scriptures?
I should think that the strongest evidence would be in those passages which
have been miscopied by a later scribe due to some change in the language
that obscurred the meaning.
Has anyone detailed the differences in the Hebrew language from a historical
perspective ?"

Dear Michael,

Your question has been raised before by others. The problem ? The earliest
Hebrew script from an archaeological context is the 10th century BCE Gezer
agricultural calendar (cf. p. 96. Vol. 3. Mark D. McLean. "Hebrew Scripts."
David Noel Freedman, editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Doubleday. N.Y.

If Moses wrote the Exodus ca. the 15th century BCE as suggested by 1 Kings
6:1, there does not exist yet a Hebrew inscription from that period of time,
nor does there exist a Hebrew script from the 13th-12th century Ramesside
era. We have the 8th century BCE Siloam inscription, believed to have been
made under king Hezekiah. Thus, "dating" the writing of the Exodus account
via word studies of Hebrew has proved _useless_ and mostly speculative.

It is with the 8th-7th centuries BCE that we begin to encounter Hebrew
script in any sizable number from archaeological contexts (inscriptions on
stone, ink inscriptions on pottery shards or ostraca, etc.). We know the
Jews used papyrus and parchment which are perishable materials, so the
absence of an earlier script is explained away as having been on perishable

Regards, Walter
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

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