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.

Read more at Bible and Interpretation

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

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas