[b-hebrew] Hebrew - dialect of canaanite

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Wed Jun 28 07:29:30 EDT 2006

On 28/06/2006 12:10, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> ...
> While the linguistic evidence may strongly hint that the
> Israelites were native Canaanites originally (because the
> Hebew language of Judea, and the Israelite language of
> Israel were offshoots of the earlier attested Canaanite),
> the linguistic evidence is probably not sufficient and may
> even provide false leads.  It is possible to think of
> conquerors who adopted the local language, such as
> perhaps the Norman conquest of England.
An alternative scenario, which may appeal more to conservatives like 
Karl, is as follows: When Abraham and his family came to Canaan, they 
initially spoke a form of Aramaic, similar to what their relatives who 
remained in the north, like Laban, continued to speak. But when they 
moved to Canaan, they picked up the local Canaanite language. Hence the 
difference between Jacob's and Laban's language, Genesis 31:47. (But we 
must assume that Jacob also picked up some Aramaic during his many years 
with Laban.) When the Israelites went into Egypt, they took with them 
this same Canaanite, which is quite well attested as being widely spoken 
by immigrants to Egypt during the second millennium BCE (see for example 
the Wadi-el-Hol inscriptions). As there was constant interchange between 
Egypt and Canaan, Egyptian Canaanite did not diverge far from the 
version spoken in Canaan itself - but perhaps remained closer to the 
southern dialects which became Moabite than to the northern ones which 
became Phoenician. When the Israelites returned to Canaan, they brought 
back with them this same Canaanite, which was not too different from 
that of their neighbours. (I note for example that the spies could 
communicate with Rahab in a situation where an interpreter was 
unlikely!) They may have picked up some Transjordanian influences during 
their time in the wilderness and in close contact with Moabites. This 
was of course an early form of what we now call biblical Hebrew, which 
continued to develop for centuries.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list