John Nigel Courtenay James.

The language of Palestine and adjacent regions online

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his father Abd-Ashera. He writes : ' To Amanappa, my
father. . . . Canst thou not rescue me from the hand of
Abd-Ashera? All the Hahiri are on his side.' In yet
another letter, Itakama, prince of Kadesh, complained tliat
Namyauza, his rival, Iiad enlisted the Hahiri in his army, and
he wrote : ' Behold, now Namyauza hath delivered up to the
Hahiri all the King's cities in the land of Kadesh and in
Ube.' ' Thus Hebrew hordes already overran parts of
Canaan. Since a city Sliakmi is sometimes mentioned, it
appears they also possessed Slieclieni.



In all tlie Egyptian monuments there is no trace of the
Israelites in Egypt, or of Joseph, or of the great Exodus
This fact does not invalidate the Hebrew Scriptures, but
suggests a reconstruction of the history. Somewhere between
3000 find 2000 B.C. a great movement of tribes (perhaps
from Arabia) brought Phoenicians and Canaanites to
Palestine, where they subdued and supplanted the older
inhabitants, and founded a new civilization. A thousand
years later another great invasion (probably fiom Meso-
potamia) brought the Amorites, Moabites, Edomites, Israelites
and other tribes into contact with this Canaanite civilization.
The new invadeis wandered into diflerent regions. The
Moabites and Edomites settled beyond the Jordan ; the
Israelites and others spread over the south of Palestine,
stretching to the frontier of Egypt. That certain Israelite
tribes crossed the border and entered Egyptian pasture land

' Ube = ' Hobah,' nj\n, Gen. 14".

In a very interesting and important tablet from tlie region of tlie
Jordan, the following names (among others) occur : Ayab and Yashna.
These = the Heb. ivv, ' Job' [aV, in Gen. 46", is prob. an incorrect reading
for a*!!*;, Num. 20"], and yitj; (contracted form of yioin; or \lvSn% 'Joshua.'



near the Sinai peninsula is probable. Most likely these
nomads would be compelled to work for Egyptian taskmasters
after the custom of the age. That they should seek to
escape eventually for greater freedom across the peninsula is
natural enougli. All this is in general harmony with the
underlying pilgrimage wliich forms the background of the
IJook of Exodus. Having escaped to the desert of Sinai,
these tribes joined other Hebrew clans, including the
Midianites, and formed the important community known as
the ' Children of Israel.' Whether Yahveh was the mountain-
god of Sinai or Horeb is not a qnestion to be discussed here.^
Ihit led by their tribal God the united Hebrew clans
attacked Moab and Edom, and gained possession of a
considerable part of Canaan. TJiis was about one hundred
years after the clans escaped from Egypt, and about 1200
years before the Christian era.

Relatively the Canaauites were a cultured and active
people, as Egyptian and other literary remains prove.* From
them the Israelites probably gained some knowledge of letters.
The earliest forms of this Canaanite-Israelite language
known to us are found in tiie Phoenician and Moaliito
inscriptions. The Israelites were settlers in Canaan about
300 3'ears before they attempted anything like a written
account of their wanderings, laws and e.'*] doits.



A few Hebrew fragments may date from early times,
such as the Song of Deborah, and some ceremonial rites

" The most remarkable are tlie Tell el-Aiiiarna tablets, wliicli were found
(1S88) in the tomb of a .scribe of Amenlioteii III., abont 180 miles soutli of
Mempliis. The tablets are written in Itabylonian cuneiform, the language
of the Pharaoh's foreign tlisjiatclies. There is a mixture of Canaanite
W'jnls anil phrases ; the composition is often inaccurate, suggesting a
faulty Icnowleilge of the languages involved. These tablets contain
dispatches from princes of N. Syria, Assyria, Uabj'lonia, and from vassal
kings in Jerusalem, Megiddo, and other phices. The standard translation
is by Winckler, Die Thontafcln von Tcll-cl-Amarna, 1890.





attributed to Moses. The stories twined about the names of
Saul and David were probably compiled before 900 B.C. But
the literary period began after the separation of the tribes
into south and north. The outlines of the history of the
south — the Kingdom of Judah — were collected sometime
preceding 800 B.C. The outlines of the history of the
north — the Kingdom of Israel — were collected sometime
before 750 B.C. The significant fact here is that only
a mere fragment of Hebrew literature, as we know it in
the Old Testament, was written during the occupation of
Palestine by the Israelites. The ethical and priestly teaching,
the prophetical books in their edited form, and the develop-
ment of the historical writings, belong mainly to post-exilic
times. That is, Hebrew literary activity l.iegan when the
Israelites no longer possessed Palestine, and when Hebrew
was no longer the vehicle of common parlance. This
explains why there are no Hebrew inscriptions during this
period,! and why the later Old Testament writings are
characterized by Aramaic elements, and why some of them
look like translations from Aramaic originals. This is notably
the case with the Ecclesiastes, which is one of the latest
books in the Jewish canon. In many respects its language
resembles that of the Targums and the Syriac. It has, indeed,
some striking sinnlarities to the Mishna, whose compiler,
Jehudah ha-Nasi, died cirm 220 A.D. Its general , language
belongs to the same type as that of Chronicles, Ezra,
Nehemiah and ^ilsther, but on the whole it is farther
removed from the classical Hebrew.^ The writer of this book,
like the authors of other late Hebrew Scriptures, thought and

' A small number of Heb. inscriptions have beeu found, dating from
i D.c. to ill cent. A.n. Vide Clnvolson, Corp. Inscr. Heb. The inscriptions
on Jewish coins, dating from the Hasmonaean princes, 135 B.C., to the
second revolt against the Romans, 132-135 A.D., were furtive attempts to
revive the national language. They are found written in the archaic
character, which bad long ceased. Cf. Madden, Coins of the Jews.

» Already the vav cnnversive is very rare ; the pregnant constructions of
the older language have given place to less condensed forms ; the style has
become distende.1 and degenerate by the introduction of new particles,
and nominal and verbal forms. Chronicles, e.g., reveal many novelties,
which suggest much uncertainty in the literary language of the time.
{Vide KiJnig, Syntax der hcbr. Sprnchc.)



spoke in Aiaiuaic. His knowledge of Hebrew was a purely
literary acquirement. This may easily be proved by
comparing the diction of these later books with the easy and
almost perfect style of the writer of Euth. Probably the
writing of Euth and the compilation of Esther were separated
by at least 300 years.

From Mio foregoing statements it will have become evident
tiiat the problem of linguistic origins is by no means easy.
The conclusion here stated respecting the source of the
Hebrew language and writing is perhaps not the one generally
accepted. Several possiiiilities have been named and advocated
by differeijt scliolars. (a) That when the Israelites settled in
Canaan tiiey adopted the language of the old inhabitants.
(/)) That after the Israelites settled in Canaan they enUsted
the services of I'hoenician linguists and scribes to histruct in
these and other arts, (c) That the Israelites before they
migrated to Canaan sjxike a language which was akin to tiiat
of the earlier settlers. Tiie first theory is perhaps the most
popular; the last lias inobably most in its favour. Possilily
there is some element of truth in all three views. The
Israelites certainly did learn something from the civilization
which they found in Canaan ; it is probable that Phoenician
savants weve employed to instruct them in many arts and
crafts ; but most of all their migration from the same original
home as the Kinahhi aud the Amurrn, ensured a similar
language among these earlier Semitic tribes. "Writing was
employed in Canaan long before it was used hy the Israelites.
The older settlers were probably acquainted with some form
of hieroglyphic or cuneiform script. It cannot be shown
that the Israelites had this knowledge. The earliest Old
Testament document was perhaps written circa 1000 B.C.





The sources and effects of the sacred language of the Jews
constitute a wide and difficult ]U'oblem. That problem is
raised in many ways in tlie course of this study, but no
attempt is made to discuss it fully here. The object of this
section is to indicate the possible source of some ideas and
phrases in tlie Hebrew Scriptures by comparison with similar
ideas and phrases in early Phoenician and other Semitic
literature, and further to suggest the possible influence of
these ideas and phrases by comparison with some apparent
parallels in contemporary and later Semitic documents. Wc
take the north Semitic inscriptious as the basis of this com-
parative study. We select the inscriptions because they have
not suffered a change of text ; the writing is sometimes
incomplete and illegible, but there has been no corruption
through transcription. Differences of orthography and con-
struction mark inscriptions from various regions. Any
adequate comparative grannnar would necessarily take these
differences into consideration. A brief grammatical aud
syntactical outline is given in another section of this work.
Our purpose, however, is rather to state and illustrate leading
principles in the dissemination of linguistic influences aud

The Jewish tone and colour of some of the north Semitic
inscriptions must not be taken as proof that these inscriptions





are of Jewish origin. But the moral sentiment, pietistic and
religious character of some of these documents are probably
due to the ubiquitous Jew. The Hebrews often impressed
tlieir unique influence where they could not establish their
language. This they could do readily through two linguistic
channels — -Phoenician and Aramaic. Their native language
was closely allied to the former, and they had acquired a
knowledge of the latter after the Exile. This may be
regarded as the simple and direct explanation of the
IMioeiiician and Arauiaic eleuients in the sacred Books of the
Jews. Some of the idioms fouud in the inscriptions are not
only paralleled in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, but
occasionally protrude through the Greek of the New Testa-
ment. In tlie following notes the inscriptions are not
necessarily quoted in chronological order; soinetiuies a
se(iuence of subject is observed.

A counuon formula in Phoeu. inscriptions is the
pronoun followed by the proper name. Thus : JJK'D ^3N, ' I am
Mesba' (Moab. St. 1. >) ; li'Din' 13N, ' I am Yehu-Milk ' (CIS i.
1. ') ; iDNnav ijn, ' I am Abd-osir ' {ib. i. 46') ; nDDN ISN, ' I am
Asapt' (ib. i. 119'). So in the Zeujirli inscriptions: 1D3S HJN,
' I am Panamuiu ' {Hadad, 1. 1) ; 33ih]3 njN, ' I am Bar-rekub '
(Bar-rckitb, 1. 1). In later Aram, this formula is rare, and is
scarcely to be fouud iu Nali. aud Palm, inscriptions. Its use
ill the Canaanite group of dialects suggests the origin of the
Bililical niiT 'jn, or nin- ojn ; i^Nn »3jn, or hn '3N (cf. Gen. 31''
15^ Ex. 6=, Lev. 18«, Num. 3", Is. 42^ 4.5^^ Jer. 322', Mai.
3"). This formula is almost absent from Egypt.-Aram., but it
occurs twice iu one papyrus, n'jTi njN, ' I, Yedouiah ' (J 9, 12).
The connexion between the Jews in Assuan and iu Babylonia
was close, as they were branches of kindred Semitic migrations.
In the Egypt, papyri the ' Jews ' are frequently called
* Aramaeans,' partly because tliey spoke Aram., but chiefly
because the western part of the I'ersian Empire was officially
known as Aramaean (cf. Sayce, Assuan Fap., p. 10). The
Semitic formula appears in tlie Apoc. (22""') : iym ' lTjaov<; =




It is suggestive to find in some Phoen. inscriptions (circa
500-200 B.C.) that the names of certain gods and goddesses
were not pronounced. Thus: hii rhv2, • mistress of Gebal'
(CIS i. 1. "); this was probably ' Ashlart ' ( = n-jnE'y of OT),
worshipped, among all Semitic people, except the Arabs.
Possibly the 'house of tlie Ashtaroth' (I S. 'SV) is tlie same
as the temple at Ashkelon {ev 'AaKaXwvi nroKi, Herod, i. 105).
A similar expression is pv hv^, ' lord (baal) of Sid on ' (CIS i.
3"), and -IS by2, 'lord (baal) of Tyre' (CIS i. 12 2'), but iu
this last case the name mp^D is given. In instances where
the name of the deity was known, its pronunciation was
apparently often withheld, doubtless out of reverence to the
local deity. But different localities possessed different degrees
of sentiment, and in some places the nanie was pronounced, m
others omitted. The same statement applies to the name nin^
among the Jews. At one period the pronunciation of the
name was forbidden {vide Philo, Vit. Mosis, torn. iii. pp. 519,
529). Eathei' later it was perhaps uttered in an abbreviated
form The processional at the ' Water Feast ' connnenced with
the recitation of ... S3 nrnn mn> n:n (Ps. 118^^). Accord-
ing to Babbi Jehuda tlie processional cry was S3 nyx'in ini "3^
(M Sue. iv. 5). If we compare another saying of B. Jehuda,
n" 2pn hw W ini "n (b. Sab. 104"), which is almost uuiutelli-
aible, it will perhaps appear that he declared the Name was
pronounced. In the former of the quotations from B. Jehuda
the words ini '3K no doubt stand for in' S3N, and this suggests
Jahu as the pronunciation of the Name. This form is
attested for the Jewish colony in Egypt iu the Assuan
Papyri (B 4, 6, 11. J 6). In later aud more degenerate
times, a longer form of the word was apparently used.
Plutarch says that the Jews invoked EvoM in the temple
{Symp. iv. 6. 2), and this suggests that the full Name nin' was

It will be appropriate to notice here the absence of the
term nin> from the inscriptions, aud the presence of nid. Now




in the Aram, poitions of the Bible nin< does not occur, but
Nno appears (in Dan.) where at first we might expect the
former term. This fact is perhaps due to the strong Baby-
lonian influence iu these Biblical sections. These selections
from Babylonian sources naturally did not originally contain
the name of the Israelitish Yahveh, but the distinctively Aram.
Nio. There were, no doubt, good reasons why the writer of
Dfiniel did not introduce the name of the God of Israel into
tiie incorporated Aramaic sections.

Another phrase in the inscription referred to above is
iuteresting, as showing the Semitic background of another
Jewish expression. It is this : '?v^ DV mncy, ' Ashtart the
name of Baal' (CIS i. 3'^). Here DC has the meaning of
■ leprescntation ' or ' epiphany.' So js in a Carthaginian
in.scriptiou : ^V3 |a n:n, ' Tanith face of Baal' (CIS i. 181>).
Tliis proljably means ' the display of divine attributes,' i.e.,
'the sel f- revelation ' of the deity's nature. It is probably to
1)0 iuFerred that ' Tanith ' was in sojne localities a synonym for
' Ashlart ' ; cf. pafja n3ni>i mnc'vS nm^, ' To the mistress (or
mistresses) A.slitart or Tanith at Lebanon ' (Ref. Cooke, North
Scmit. Lisa:, p. 127 ; Clermont-Ganneau, Rccucil d'archiologic
orirntale, in. pp. 186 ft'.) In the Hebrew Scriptures the
Name of Yahveii is often employed for His person, presence
or attributes (cf. Ex. 3« 232' 33'*, 1 K. S'*, Is. 18^ 63»).

The expi'ession ' make mention of the name ' in a Zenjirli
inscription sounds quite Jewish. The phrase is : inn Dt^N naP,
' make mention of the name of Hadad ' {Hadad, 1. 16). Hadad
was the supreme deity of the Aramaeans, and is found in a
few compounds iu the OT. (2 S. 8', 1 K. 20', Zech. 12").
Cf. the Heb. mn> Dt5' T3tn (Is. 26»»). The Targ. has same
idea : "t !<dl"3 nNiis^o, ' to invoke in the Name of the Lord '
(Onk. G 420).

Among many ancient people the ' name ' was a part of
the person, in some instances corresponding to the function
which is termed tlie 'soul.' In Egypt many persons,
especially tlie elect ones in the divine pantheon, had two
names — the "great' name .and the 'little' name. These
corresponded with the ' true ' name and the ' good ' name ; the
latter was made public, but the former was strictly con-


cealed.i It is not without significance that the 'name' of the God
of the Hebrew tribes wras among the first questions raised after
the Exodus from Egypt. The sacred and public names of the
God of Israel may be tracealjle to Egyptian influence.* The
distinction was preserved by the Jews, who pronounced nin',
the incommunicable ' Name,' by the secular term "YM^?

The name ' Yahveh ' was probably familiar to the tribes on
the Egyptian side of the Sinai peninsula. Here Keuites,
Midianites and other tribes commingled. Originally the
name ' Yahveh ' may have been no more divinely communi-
cated than 'Chemosh' among the Moabites, or 'Milcom'
among the Anmionites, or ' Hadad ' among the Edomites, or
' Jupiter ' among the Greeks and Latins. The name * Yahveh '
was certainly known iu pre-Exodus times.* The story in the
Book of Exodus is the poetic institution of the Name as the
signal of a tribal rally and the centre of national worship.
The influence. of this Name, with all it came to imply for
Israel, cannot be estimated. Moab, Amnion and E<lom
disappeared hopelessly into the sand, but Israel remained and
continues the living evidence of Yahveh's greatness. The
prophets of Yahveh rdised the faith of Israel from the present
temporal dispensation to the Messianic and eternal age.

Note on nin''

For the Rabbinic teaching on the use of the sacred Name we
must cons ult the Talmud' and the Midra.shim.« Of the Targums

' LeKbure, La Vertuat la Vie du Norn en Egypte.

' Vide the interesting passage Ex. 6'.

3 Accord, to the Tal. ' those who utter the name of God accora. to its
sound have no position in the world to come,' Sanhedrin x 1 P ''lo says, He
who utters the name of the Lord at an unfit time shall die, u. 10(. lM«
use of the • Name' by the priests, vide Ruxtorf, Heh. and Ch. Lex 2432.

^The passage, Gen. 4«, is suggestive: nvT qb-? Ay^) Sc^n ,« (cf. One.
... «?^5 .4Vv^? KV»,i.-,rV-n^DV? p?. lit. ■thereto.^ .« h.s days began the
•sons of man io pv.ay i« the name of Yahveh'). The phrase, to call on the
name,' or ' to pray in the,' is a synonym for divine worship. This
act distinguished the descendants of Seth fron. the 7«"fC-n- hence
probably the for.ner are meant by the ^fj^ ;^^ "'« n % J.nfnl
Sn«r, M3? (Gen. 6'). The use of the ' Nan,e ' in the NT. is worthy of ca.eful

study (vide Mt. 6» 28", Acts 9", Kom. 10"),

. r. , 7 ■ una ' Pesikta, 50'.

' Sunhednn, 90". - '



tliat of (Jnkelos is our best guide. When the Tetragraininatoii refers
to Goil, Onkelos writes ", auJ when it refers to man, ''3U^. In the
Jewish Samaritan Targuni, when the name is sacred it is written
no, Nnso, and wlien secular ''31. The Samaritan pronunciation of
the Tetragraiumaton is uncertain, but some have represented it by
VX, Aijoo (perhaps more accurately N*N, Atja).^ The Jewish Rabbis
say that the sacred Name has not changed in form, niri\ or in pro-
nunciation, ''ns, since the time of Ezra. The form ''nN is not
general in the Semitic languages. It is found in Phoenician in
'ASwr, 'ASoii'is, as the name of an idol.* There is probably a trace
of the word in the Assyrian ailunnn, ' strong.'

In the Phoenician inscriptions the compound is sometimes found
^yans,' but more frequently the simple ''ilH* With these forma
should be compared the name Marduk-bal-iddina,'' perhaps equal to
' Merodach-Baal is mighty.' The latter part of the term is not
unlike n*'^J''3, lit. ' Baal is Lord.' Compare the Neo-Punic i'J)33"lNi
which according to the Latin transcription is pronounced Idnibal.

Tiie pointing of nin' is uncertain. The common pointing nin'
is grammatically incorrect, inasmuch as consonantal 1 cannot have
two vowel-signs — its own proper vowel and the cholem of a pre-
ceding open syllable." No doubt the pointing nin* is intended to
represent the pronunciation '31N, and hence should be written ni'n\^
A more correct pointing is found in many ancient IISS, 7\V\\^ which
more nearly conveys the generally accepted pronunciation Yahveh,
and is accurately preserved in the Rabbinic abbreviation ".



The wind pns usually has the meaning of ' equity,'
'jiwtice,' ■ i-igliteousiiess.' Compare the quite Jewish expres-

' Vol- autliorities, vide iS [I's n-\ciD ('Ziun's Glad-tiiliiigs'), |i. 3C''. This
«<>rk was written in lieriiian by Eleazar Levi in 183.5, and was traii.slatuil
into Hebrew I13' A. M. M. RIolir. Both Levi and Molir are held in Jewish
circles .as very reliable scribes.

^ Rendered by Aescli3'lu.<i, e.g., by Kvpios.

» CIS i. 14!)' cl ril. ' CIS i. 5^ et ol.

' The MX. is wrong ij.s^3 ^-fin:^ ; the LXX MapuJox BaXaJdi- is right,
and aiPiiears based on anotlier soince.

' Vide Koiiig, Lchrgebdnde, i. 44-49.

' As on litle-i)age of AV. 1611. " E.g. Cod. Edinbargensis.





siou conceraitig ' Yehaw-Milk, king of Oebal,' xn pnv i?Q D,
'for lie is a righteous king' (CIS i. 1. '•») ; of. p■^^->J?D, ' kwg
of righteousuess' (Geu. U'\ Vs. 110^). Uutil further light
is thrown ou this uame, we may suppose that pns was the
name of an old Accadiau (Plioeu. or Canaauite) deity. Cf.
Kpnv on an old Heb. seal of the vii-vi cent. B.C. (Levy, Sicjel
und Gemmen, No. 7, p. 39).

It is more interesting to find that the noun Nnpns was

used in the sense of 'gift,' 'grant,' 'religious due' in the v

cent B.C. (CIS ii. 113'^). The word had the same meaning

in Arabic, ' charity,' ' endowment.' In the ii cent. B.C. Pales.

Aram, employed the term with a similar meaning, as is

shown by the LXX rendering of npis by iXevfioavvv (Dan.

42*). If KnpitS was the Aram., behind Mt. 6S then the

rendering hiKaioavvv is too literal. It means 'practical

righteousness,' therefore = charity, almsgiving ; cf. Syr. IAdjI

^iXiVf^oa6vn, 'beneficeuce' (Pesh. Acts 10^). In the Tal.

jjnpnv = Almosen, ' almsgiving.' In the Targg. unpns is often

best rendered by ' righteousness ' {c.;/. Ps. 97''-«). Frequently

the Heb. npnii is rendered in the Targg. by t^niDt, ' innocence,

'justice' (Ouk. Dt. 6^^ cf. Targ. P.s. 110*). „ , ^ , ^

The word ^S33-i, -chariot of El' (Zenj. Harlad, \. 2;
Panammu,\. 22; Bar-rekub, 1. 5), is interesting in view of some
OT phrases. The picture of D'n^« 33i (Ps. 68'«) is thoroughly
Jewish (cf. I K. 8'«. Ps. 18" 19-', Hab. ?,^). The figure m
Heb. was probably due to Hittite. The Palestinians usna ly
associated chariots with the Egyptians and the Hittites
(2 K 7«) It is true, battle scenes in Hittite sculptures are
rare 'yet war-chariots are found, and charioteers are seen
ridinc/ in the lion hunt (cf. Messerscbmidt, The HUMcs V-
55 ; °Encycl. Bibl., s.v. ' chariot '). Perhaps, too, the Hitt^es
supplied the symbol of the ' eagle.' It is interesting to find
the -double-eagle' in Hittite art. From this source came
the symbol of the two-headed engle found among the Seljuk
Sultans, circa 1217, and later, 1345, it adorned the es-
cutcheon of the German Emperors. The LXX renders n..
by deT6.; we may suppose the Aram^ 'T, Jf '"1 T"
(Mt 24^8) lu view of the word '^/ceXSa^a (Acts 1"), it is
suggestive to find the vernacular for 'field' supported by



a V cent, inscription, s^ipn (CIS ii. 113'^). The NT. word is
distinctly said to have been according to the local brogue —
rp I8ia BiaXeKTtp avrSiv — it was therefore : NOT'jpn.

The following are phrases which have an echo in Old
Testament Heb. : Nn ^3^^ mne'V najjna, ' for an abomination
to Ashtart is that thing' (Phoen. TabnUhX^); cf. m,T najJin ''3
Kin -ynW (Dt. V^ W 18" 24* al). Ouk. employs another
word, N'pmt3, but t?3j)in is the general Aram.

The wide world was expressed by the ' four parts ' of the
earth, e.g. ^?p^^< *j;3i Nin, ' from the four parts of the earth '
(Zeuj. Bar-reJmb, 11. 3, 4) ; piNnyan, ' earth's quarters ' (ib.

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Online LibraryJohn Nigel Courtenay JamesThe language of Palestine and adjacent regions → online text (page 17 of 26)