Amarna, the Hebrew language, and Abraham

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
From page 87 of The Bible and the Ancient Near East, Gordon and Rendsburg had the following to say about what the Amarna Letters say about the state of the 'Hebrew' language in Canaan at that time. Odd considering that there could be no Hebrew people, much less a Hebrew state, living in Canaan at the time. This will lead to some additional thoughts.

While the Amarna Letters do not give us any evidence about the Hebrews as a people, they do provide important data on the language of Canaan, which the Hebrews adopted as their own. In the letters, Babylonian words are sometimes translated into Canaanite, showing that what was later known as Hebrew was already spoken in the country. Inasmuch as these Canaanite words are written in the Babylonian syllabary, the vowels are indicated. This is of considerable linguistic interest because the inscriptions of the Hebrews, Phoenicians, Moabites, and other Canaanites are written in a consonantal alphabet so that scholars have to infer what the vowels might have been by working back from later tradition and by theoretical deductions from comparative linguistics.8

The highlighted text above is an important bolster to the argument that until the later times of the textual redactions and the related ethnic cleansings and conversions, that the Israelites and Judeans had merely been typical polytheistic Canaanites. Indeed today it is typical for Hebrew to be considered just another dialect of the Canaanite branch of the Semitic languages. And of course, it is also considered more typical for an invading and/or substitutive group, especially when much smaller in numbers, to sooner or later adopt the language and much of the culture of the conquered majority, e.g. the Normans in both Normandy and England.

In separate re-readings of this book I have just noticed that G&R have placed Abraham smack in the middle of the Amarna period, rather than the more typical chronology of placing him somewhere around 1800 BCE. G&R arrive at this later date due to a strict accounting of the Patriarchal generations using an average generation span of 30 years. Whereas the earlier dates are arrived at using either the (Genesis 15:13) 400 year sojourn in Egypt or the (Exodus 12:40-41) 430 year sojourn that only had 4 generations involved.

G&R state that the longer periods should not be taken seriously as they are idealized figures typical of epic tradition. This very well could be true, but they may also be paeans to the Hyksos period, and also a means to explain how there could possibly have been so many (600K?) biblical Hebrews alive after so few (6?) generations after Abraham's time. That's a lot of multiplying.

Here with Moses, many accounts, conventional and alternative, place him rather near to Amarna's time if not directly connected in some manner. But if it is really Abraham that is being placed into the monotheistic Amarna time, then this places the whole monotheistic project into a rather new light.

The Amarna Letters have Akhenaton's Canaanite vassals complaining about his apparent neglect of them in regards to their ability to stave off such as the Hittites and others. Here, Akhenaton can be seen as an effete and distracted dilettante much like suggested for Nero "playing fiddle while Rome burns". Of course, it was the latter who precedes the Flavians and their respective transformative impact upon 'Canaan'.

The researcher, Robert Feather, in his The Copper Scroll, demonstrates an impressive connection between Amarna and the Qumran Essenes, at least, by how the accounting record of the copper scroll found as part of the DSS corpus appears to be very accurate once one understands the correct values for the units involved. In fact, one relatively late cache of the treasure list was found at an Amarna location fitting the scroll's description and in the exact amount detailed. When originally found, it was not associated with the Copper Scroll, until Feather made the distinction.


I'm not sure this is the best place to address this, so please feel free to move it to another forum. I think the current series of articles may be a good place to consider the issue.

The issue concerns the Roman desire to create the NT to prevent Jewish rebellion. Joe noted 10% of their empire was Jewish and was scatter all about the empire. In a podcast, Jerry raised the possibility that the Persians were possibly behind the rise of the Jewish state and power. I think it was expressed or implied that such a small state should never have been a real threat to Rome.

It occurred to me that the fall of Carthage was probably behind the rise of the Jewish State and that the vast population of Jews were rather the remains of Carthage's empire. That idea appears to have been developed before and it's consideration would add depth to your analysis. Not just of the NT, but of whole process of civilization replacement, including the usurpation of the Semitic elite.

Here is one link that addresses it:

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the link Wolfsire, I'll start reading it shortly.

I've lately been getting the thought pop into my mind to try looking up Myer's site, as I had read a bit there quite some time ago, but had lost the links and couldn't remember his name.

Among other things, I've been toying with how to weave the Cartharge (and Phoenician) business into the next posts, as I've already mentioned the Aeneid, which is more than a hint that they played a central role in the formation of Rome.