[b-hebrew] sfat Kena`an

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Tue Oct 27 07:19:55 EDT 2009

>> I disagree with Karl for two reasons. First, the context of Isaiah
>> 19:18
>> makes it clear that he envisioned a victory of Yahweh over Egypt.
>> Clearly,
>> this makes "Sefat Kena'an" the same as "Yehudit" - what we call
>> Hebrew.
>But if so, why say "Sephat Kena`an" rather than "Sephat Yehuda"?  Judah is mentioned in
>the previous verse, so it would be natural if he's saying Egypt will be speaking the language
>spoken in Judah, to say "the language of Judah."  How do you explain this?
>Note that I'm not necessarily agreeing with Karl that it meant Aramaic, but I'm not convinced
>that it meant Hebrew, either.

The answer is simple, the language of "Judea-only" was more
restrictive than Isaiah wanted to talk
about. The language in Moav was mutually intelligible, the language in
the northern kingdom
was mutually intelligible. The language on the mishor, as Yigal
pointed out with the 'reaper's
letter, et al., was mutually intelligible.
For that matter, the language of Tyre and Sidon was probably mutually
intelligible from
what we can see.
How does one refer to the 'whole' in such a way that the
prophetic big picture is preserved?
How does one refer to this, perhaps in a way that includes
a prophetic fulfilment of the promise of the Land?
Sfat Kena`an would work nicely and
certainly better than Yehudit.

On the other hand, we have no evidence that Aramaic had
penterated this area in Isaiah's day. 8th century Samarian letters are
Hebrew, with proto-
Hebrew features still retained like final -t- in feminine nouns. Later
(2Temple) Samaritan
communities produced their Hebrew Bible and they also showed spoken features of
mishnaic Hebrew in the Second Temple period, apparently sharing
something of that
register and being aquainted with it, as well.
A popular, Aramaic theory for the 8th century Promised Land appears untenable
and I am not aware of a published study arguing such. Such studies, of
course, are
undertaken by persons who are willing to look at all the texts, the
inscriptions around
the area and the various dialects involved.

And an 'untenable' position is not a good way for trying to read
Isaiah. Better to
say that the language of the Promised Land will penetrate into Egypt. and for
Isaiah that was clearly what we call Hebrew.

Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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