Egyptian Loanwords in the Torah May Provide Evidence of the Exodus

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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Read more at Bible and Interpretation

More about: Ancient Israel, Exodus, Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Language

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy