In a detailed linguistic analysis, Benjamin J. Noonan points to a preponderance of Hebrew words of Egyptian origin in the sections of the Pentateuch that describe the Exodus from Egypt and the Jews’ wanderings in the wilderness. He also argues that many of these words were most likely to have entered Hebrew in the late Bronze Age (the late 2nd millennium BCE)—the period during which the Exodus would most likely have taken place. While such an analysis cannot prove the historicity of the Exodus, it undoubtedly supports it:
[T]he Exodus and wilderness traditions contain significantly higher proportions of Egyptian terminology than the rest of the Hebrew Bible, proportions comparable to the high proportions of Old Iranian terminology in the books of Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah, [which were written when the authors lived under Persian rule and thus reflect foreign influence]. Furthermore, the Exodus and wilderness traditions contain significantly higher proportions of Egyptian terminology than other texts [from the sub-family of Semitic to which Hebrew belongs], with the exception of Imperial Aramaic texts that exhibit intense Egyptian contact. Finally, at least some of the Egyptian loanwords found in the Exodus and wilderness narratives were borrowed during the late Bronze Age [i.e., the putative period of the Exodus], and it is likely that many of the other loanwords also were borrowed then. What are we to make of these observations? . . .
Just as one concludes that the sudden increase of French loanwords in the English language around the period from 1050 to 1400 CE reflects some particular circumstance in history [i.e., the Norman Conquest], so one should conclude that a high concentration of Egyptian loanwords in the Exodus and wilderness traditions reflects some particular historical circumstance. Given the observation that at least some of the Egyptian loanwords in the Exodus and wilderness narratives were borrowed during the late Bronze Age, it is likely that the events of these narratives took place during the late Bronze Age, just as one would expect if they represent authentic history. This is the simple and logical conclusion we should come to [based on accepted standards of linguistic analysis]. The burden of proof remains on those who would offer any alternative explanation to demonstrate exactly why their hypothesis is superior to this conclusion.
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