[b-hebrew] Bgdkpt: Canaan as the Original Homeland of the Hebrews

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jun 25 11:16:09 EDT 2008

Bgdkpt:  Canaan as the Original Homeland of the Hebrews
Yaakov (J) Stein wrote:  “The Bible tells us that Abraham and his family 
originated from an area where the Horrites [Hurrians] were an ethnic majority 
during the second millennium BCE.”
In my controversial view, that is a common mis-reading of the text.
Not once do the Patriarchal narratives say that Abraham’s “am”/ancestors 
were in Harran, Ur, or Mesopotamia, or that Abraham left his “am”/ancestors when 
he left his infirm father in Harran.  Terakh had wanted to return home to 
northern Canaan, but Terakh became too infirm to make it past Harran.
The Patriarchal narratives frequently use the word “am”, a word which 
includes one’s ancestors, but never in regard to Harran, Ur or Mesopotamia.  Rather, 
the word used in that connection is “molodet”, which means “one’s father’s 
descendants”.  The term “molodet” excludes one’s ancestors.  Abraham’s 
ancestors were never in Mesopotamia, except that Abraham’s father Terakh got stuck 
there when Terakh could not make it back to his homeland in Late Bronze Age 
northern Canaan due to infirmity.
Note that when Abraham is buried in central Canaan, the text specifically 
tells us that Abraham was gathered to his “am”, that is, to Abraham’s ancestors. 
 Genesis 25: 8  That sentence would not make sense if Abraham was the first 
one of his relatives to come to Canaan, with most of the rest of Abraham’s 
relatives, including all of Abraham’s ancestors, living and dying in Mesopotamia.
Moving now to a key language point, which was the main subject of your post, 
Abraham did not learn a new language when he got to Canaan.  The Hebrews are 
indigenous to Canaan.  The first Hebrew spoke “pre-Hebrew”, a west Semitic 
language that would have been very, very similar to Biblical Hebrew.  The Hebrew 
language was never a foreign language to the early Hebrews.
Biblical Hebrew is a virgin pure west Semitic language, that has fewer 
foreign (non-west Semitic) influences than most other languages.  The very nature of 
the language of Biblical Hebrew, which has very little influence from either 
Mesopotamia or Egypt, strongly supports my contention that the Hebrews were 
indigenous to Canaan, not foreigners who wandered into Canaan from northern 
Mesopotamia.  (It also supports the scholarly view that the Hebrews were not in 
bondage in Egypt for 400 or 430 years.)
Most scholars today agree that the Hebrews were indigenous to Canaan.  Where 
I differ with the scholars is in my insistence that the text of the 
Patriarchal narratives does not present the Hebrews as being foreigners to Canaan.  The 
Patriarchal narratives open with Abraham’s father Terakh taking a small band 
of pre-Hebrews from northern Canaan on a one-time caravan trip out to 
Mesopotamia.  These pre-Hebrews never did this before or after:  only this one time.  
The linguistic clue that the text is not presenting Abraham’s relatives as 
being indigenous to Mesopotamia is that the word “am” is never used once in the 
text regarding Abraham’s relatives in Mesopotamia.  Abraham left his father (“
leave your father’s house”), and Abraham left his brother Nahor and Nahor’s 
12 sons (“leave your molodet/your father’s descendants”), when Abraham left 
his infirm father in Harran.  (Note that the term “molodet” does not include one
’s father.)  A few weeks or months later, Abraham also leaves his father’s 
other male descendant, Lot (“leave your molodet/your father’s descendants”).
Note that Abraham is never told to leave his “am” in Mesopotamia.  That’s 
because Abraham’s “am”, that is, Abraham’s ancestors, never lived in 
Mesopotamia (except that Abraham’s father Terakh got stuck in Harran because of 
infirmity).  Abraham is gathered to his “am”/ancestors when Abraham is buried in 
central Canaan.
Abraham learned Hebrew (actually pre-Hebrew) on his mother’s knee.  Abraham 
did not speak broken Hebrew as a second language learned as an old man.  No 
way.  The text does not present Abraham that way, nor does such a theory have any 
support in secular history, nor is the nature of the language of Biblical 
Hebrew consistent with such a theory.
Abraham from day #1 spoke Hebrew like a native.  Abraham spoke perfect Hebrew 
his entire life, including as a child.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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