History of the Hebrew Language

1. The name Hebrew Language usually denotes the language of the sacred writings of the Israelites which form the canon of the Old Testament. It is also called Ancient Hebrew in contradistinction to the New Hebrew of Jewish writings of the post-biblical period. The name Hebrew language (לָשׁוֹן עִבְרִיתγλῶσσα τῶν Ἑβραίων, ἑβραϊστί) does not occur in the Old Testament itself. Instead of it we find in Is 19:18 the term language of Canaan, and יְהוּדִית‎ in the Jews’ language 2 K 18:26, 18:28 (cf. Is 36:11,36:13) Neh 13:24. In the last-cited passage it already agrees with the later (post-exilic) usage, which gradually extended the name Jews, Jewish to the whole nation, as in Haggai, Nehemiah, and the book of Esther.

The distinction between the names Hebrew (עִבְרִים‎ Ἑβραῖοι) and Israelites (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל‎) is that the latter was rather a national name of honour, with also a religious significance, employed by the people themselves, while the former appears as the less significant name by which the nation was known amongst foreigners. Hence in the Old Testament Hebrews are only spoken of either when the name is employed by themselves as contrasted with foreigners (Gn 40:15, Ex 2:6 f. 3:18 &c., Jon 1:9) or when it is put in the mouth of those who are not Israelites (Gn 39:14,39:17 41:12 &c.) or, finally, when it is used in opposition to other nations (Gn 14:13 43:32, Ex 2:11.2:13 21:1). In 1 S 13:3.13:7 and 14:21 the text is clearly corrupt. In the Greek and Latin authors, as well as in Josephus, the name Ἑβραῖοι, Hebraei, &c., alone occurs. Of the many explanations of the gentilic עִבְרִי‎, the derivation from עֵבֶר‎ a country on the other side with the derivative suffix ־ִי‎ appears to be the only one philologically possible. The name accordingly denoted the Israelites as being those who inhabited the ˓eber, i.e. the district on the other side of the Jordan (or according to others the Euphrates), and would therefore originally be only appropriate when used by the nations on this side of the Jordan or Euphrates. We must, then, suppose that after the crossing of the river in question it had been retained by the Abrahamidae as an old-established name, and within certain limits (see above) had become naturalized among them. In referring this name to the patronymic Eber, the Hebrew genealogists have assigned to it a much more comprehensive signification. For since in Gn 10:21 (Nu 24:24 does not apply) Shem is called the father of all the children of Eber, and to the latter there also belonged according to Gn 11:14 ff. and 10:25 ff. Aramean and Arab races, the name, afterwards restricted in the form of the gentilic ˓ibrî exclusively to the Israelites, must have originally included a considerably larger group of countries and nations. The etymological significance of the name must in that case not be insisted upon.

The term ἑβραϊστί is first used, to denote the old Hebrew, in the prologue to Jesus the son of Sirach (about 130 b.c.), and in the New Testament, Rv 9:11. On the other hand it serves in Jn 5:2, Jn 19:13.19:17 perhaps also in 19:20 and Rv 16:16 to denote what was then the (Aramaic) vernacular of Palestine as opposed to the Greek. The meaning of the expression ἑβραῒς διάλεκτος in Acts 21:40, 22:2, and 26:14 is doubtful (cf. Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl.-Aram., p. 19 f.). Josephus also uses the term Hebrew both of the old Hebrew and of the Aramaic vernacular of his time.

The Hebrew language is first called the sacred language in the Jewish-Aramaic versions of the Old Testament, as being the language of the sacred books in opposition to the lingua profana, i.e. the Aramaic vulgar tongue.

2. With the exception of the Old Testament (and apart from the Phoenician inscriptions), only very few remains of old Hebrew or old Canaanitish literature have been preserved. Of the latter—
(1) an inscription, unfortunately much injured, of thirty-four lines, which was found in the ancient territory of the tribe of Reuben, about twelve miles to the east of the Dead Sea, among the ruins of the city of Dîbôn (now Dîbân), inhabited in earlier times by the Gadites, afterwards by the Moabites. In it the Moabite king Mêša˓ (about 850 b.c.) recounts his battles with Israel (cf. 2 K 3:4 ff.), his buildings, and other matters. Of old Hebrew:
(2) an inscription of six lines (probably of the eighth century b.c.) discovered in June, 1880, in the tunnel between the Virgin’s Spring and the Pool of Siloam at Jerusalem;
(3) about forty engraved seal-stones, some of them pre-exilic but bearing little except proper names;
(4) coins of the Maccabaean prince Simon (from ‘the 2nd year of deliverance’, 140 and 139 b.c.) and his successors, and the coinage of the revolts in the times of Vespasian and Hadrian.

3. In the whole series of the ancient Hebrew writings, as found in the Old Testament and also in non-biblical monuments, the language (to judge from its consonantal formation) remains, as regards its general character, and apart from slight changes in form and differences of style, at about the same stage of development. In this form, it may at an early time have been fixed as a literary language, and the fact that the books contained in the Old Testament were handed down as sacred writings, must have contributed to this constant uniformity.

To this old Hebrew, the language of the Canaanitish or Phoenician stocks came the nearest of all the Semitic languages, as is evident partly from the many Canaanitish names of persons and places with a Hebrew form and meaning which occur in the Old Testament (e.g. מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק‎, קִרְיַת סֵפֶר‎, &c.; on ‘Canaanite glosses’ to Assyrian words in the cuneiform tablets of Tell-el-Amarna [about 1400 b.c.] cf. H. Winckler, ‘Die Thontafeln von Tell-el-Amarna,’ in Keilinschr. Bibliothek, vol. v, Berlin, 1896 f. [transcription and translation]; J. A. Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln, Lpz. 1907 f.; H. Zimmern, ZA. 1891, p. 154 ff. and KAT.3, p. 651 ff.), and partly from the numerous remains of the Phoenician and Punic languages.

The latter we find in their peculiar writing in a great number of inscriptions and on coins, copies of which have been collected by Gesenius, Judas, Bourgade, Davis, de Vogüé, Levy, P. Schröder, v. Maltzan, Euting, but especially in Part I of the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, Paris, 1881 ff. Among the inscriptions but few public documents are found, e.g. two lists of fees for sacrifices; by far the most are epitaphs or votive tablets. Of special importance is the inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ešmûnazar of Sidon, found in 1855, now in the Louvre; see the bibliography in Lidzbarski, Nordsem. Epigr., i. 23 ff.; on the inscription, i. 97 ff., 141 f., 417, ii. plate iv, 2; [Cooke, p. 30 ff.]. To these may be added isolated words in Greek and Latin authors, and the Punic texts in Plautus, Poenulus 5, 1–3 (best treated by Gildemeister in Ritschl’s edition of Plautus, Lips. 1884, tom. ii, fasc. 5). From the monuments we learn the native orthography, from the Greek and Latin transcriptions the pronunciation and vocalization; the two together give a tolerably distinct idea of the language and its relation to Hebrew.

Phoenician (Punic) words occurring in inscriptions are, e.g. אל‎ God, אדם‎ man, בן‎ son, בת‎ daughter, מלך‎ king, עבד‎ servant, בהן‎ priest, זבח‎ sacrifice, בעל‎ lord, שמש‎ sun, ארץ‎ land, ים‎ sea, אבן‎ stone, כסף‎ silver, ברזל‎ iron, שמן‎ oil, עת‎ time, קבר‎ grave, מצבת‎ monument, מקם‎ place, משכב‎ bed, כל‎ all, אחד‎ one, שנים‎ two, שלש‎ three, ארבע‎ four, חמש‎ five, שש‎ six, שבע‎ seven, עשר‎ ten, כן‎ (=Hebr. היה‎) to be, שמע‎ to hear, פתח‎ to open, נדר‎ to vow, ברך‎ to bless, בקש‎ to seek, &c. Proper names: צדן‎ Sidon, צר‎ Tyre, חנא‎ Hanno, חנבעל‎ Hannibal, &c. See the complete vocabulary in Lidzbarski, Nordsem. Epigr., i. 204 ff.

Variations from Hebrew in Phoenician orthography and inflection are, e.g. the almost invariable omission of the vowel letters, as בת‎ for בית‎ house, קל‎ for קוֹל‎ voice, צדן‎ for צִידוֹן‎, כהנם‎ for כֹּֽהֲנִים‎ priests, אלנם‎ (in Plaut. alonim) gods ; the fem., even in the absolute state, ending in ת‎ (ath) as well as א‎ (ô), the relative אש‎ (Hebr. אֲשֶׁר‎), &c. The differences in pronunciation are more remarkable, especially in Punic, where the וֹ‎ was regularly pronounced as û, e.g. שֹׁפֵט‎ sûfēṭ (judge), שָׁלשׁ‎ sālûs (three), רש‎ rûs = רֹאשׁ‎ head; i and e often as the obscure dull sound of y, e.g. הִנֶּנּוּ‎ ynnynnu (‘ecce eum’), אֵת‎ (אית‎) yth; the ע‎ as o, e.g. מעקר‎ Mocar (cf. מַֽעֲכָה‎ LXX, Gn 22:24 Μωχά). See the collection of the grammatical peculiarities in Gesenius, Monuments Phoenicia, p. 430 ff.; Paul Schröder, Die phöniz. Sprache, Halle, 1869; B. Stade, ‘Erneute Pröfung des zwischen dem Phönic. und Hebr. bestehenden Verwandtschaftsgrades,’ in the Morgenländ. Forschungen, Lpz. 1875, p. 169 ff.

4. As the Hebrew writing on monuments and coins mentioned in d consists only of consonants, so also the writers of the Old Testament books used merely the consonant-signs, and even now the written scrolls of the Law used in the synagogues must not, according to ancient custom, contain anything more. The present pronunciation of this consonantal text, its vocalization and accentuation, rest on the tradition of the Jewish schools, as it was finally fixed by the system of punctuation introduced by Jewish scholars about the seventh century a.d..

An earlier stage in the development of the Canaanitish-Hebrew language, i.e. a form of it anterior to the written documents now extant, when it must have stood nearer to the common language of the united Semitic family, can still be discerned in its principal features:—
(1) from many archaisms preserved in the traditional texts, especially in the names of persons and places dating from earlier times, as well as in isolated forms chiefly occurring in poetic style;
(2) in general by an a posteriori conclusion from traditional forms, so far as according to the laws and analogies of phonetic change they clearly point to an older phase of the language; and
(3) by comparison with the kindred languages, especially Arabic, in which this earlier stage of the language has been frequently preserved even down to later times. In numerous instances in examining linguistic phenomena, the same—and consequently so much the more certain—result is attained by each of these three methods.

Although the systematic investigation of the linguistic development indicated above belongs to comparative Semitic philology, it is nevertheless indispensable for the scientific treatment of Hebrew to refer to the ground-forms[10] so far as they can be ascertained and to compare the corresponding forms in Arabic. Even elementary grammar which treats of the forms of the language occurring in the Old Testament frequently requires, for their explanation, a reference to these ground-forms.

5. Even in the language of the Old Testament, notwithstanding its general uniformity, there is noticeable a certain progress from an earlier to a later stage. Two periods, though with some reservations, may be distinguished: the first, down to the end of the Babylonian exile; and the second, after the exile.

To the former belongs, apart from isolated traces of a later revision, the larger half of the Old Testament books, viz.
(a) of the prose and historical writings, a large part of the Pentateuch and of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings;
(b) of the poetical, perhaps a part of the Psalms and Proverbs;
(c) the writings of the earlier prophets (apart from various later additions) in the following chronological order: Amos, Hosea, Isaiah I, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah (?), Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah II (ch. 40–55).

The beginning of this period, and consequently of Hebrew literature generally, is undoubtedly to be placed as early as the time of Moses, although the Pentateuch in its present form, in which very different strata may be still clearly recognized, is to be regarded as a gradual production of the centuries after Moses. Certain linguistic peculiarities of the Pentateuch, which it was once customary to regard as archaisms, such as the epicene use of נַעַר‎ boy, youth, for נַֽעֲרָה‎ girl, and הוא‎ for היא‎, are merely to be attributed to a later redactor.

The linguistic character of the various strata of the Pentateuch has been examined by Ryssel, De Elohistae Pentateuchici sermone, Lpz. 1878; König, De criticae sacrae argumento e linguae legibus repetito, Lpz. 1879 (analysis of Gn 1–11); F. Giesebrecht, ‘Der Sprachgebr. des hexateuchischen Elohisten,’ in ZAW. 1881, p. 177 ff., partly modified by Driver in the Journal of Philology, vol. xi. p. 201 ff.; Kräutlein, Die sprachl. Verschiedenheiten in den Hexateuchquellen, Lpz. 1908.—Abundant matter is afforded also by Holzinger, Einleitung in den Hexateuct, Freib. 1893; Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament8, Edinburgh, 1908; Strack, Einleitung ins A.T.6, Munich, 1906; König, Einleitung in das A.T., Bonn, 1893.

6. Even in the writings of this first period, which embraces about 600 years, we meet, as might be expected, with considerable differences in linguistic form and style, which are due partly to differences in the time and place of composition, and partly to the individuality and talent of the authors. Thus Isaiah, for example, writes quite differently from the later Jeremiah, but also differently from his contemporary Micah. Amongst the historical books of this period, the texts borrowed from earlier sources have a linguistic colouring perceptibly different from those derived from later sources, or passages which belong to the latest redactor himself. Yet the structure of the language, and, apart from isolated cases, even the vocabulary and phraseology, are on the whole the same, especially in the prose books.

But the poetic language is in many ways distinguished from prose, not only by a rhythm due to more strictly balanced (parallel) members and definite metres, but also by peculiar words and meanings, inflexions and syntactical constructions which it uses in addition to those usual in prose. This distinction, however, does not go far as, for example, in Greek. Many of these poetic peculiarities occur in the kindred languages, especially in Aramaic, as the ordinary modes of expression, and probably are to be regarded largely as archaisms which poetry retained. Some perhaps, also, are embellishments which the Hebrew poets who knew Aramaic adopted into their language.

The prophets, at least the earlier, in language and rhythm are to be regarded almost entirely as poets, except that with them the sentences are often more extended, and the parallelism is less regular and balanced than is the case with the poets properly so called. The language of the later prophets, on the contrary, approaches nearer to prose.

On the rhythm of Hebrew poetry, see besides the Commentaries on the poetical books and Introductions to the O.T., J. Ley, Grundzüge des Rhythmus, &c., Halle, 1875; Leitfaden der Metrik der hebr. Poesie, Halle, 1887; ‘Die metr. Beschaffenheit des B. Hiob,’ in Theol. Stud. u. Krit., 1895, iv, 1897, i; Grimme, ‘Abriss der bibl.-hebr. Metrik,’ ZDMG. 1896, p. 529 ff., 1897, p. 683 ff.; Psalmenprobleme &c., Freiburg (Switzerland), 1902 (on which see Beer in ThLZ. 1903, no. 11); ‘Gedanken über hebr. Metrik,’ in Altschüler’s Vierteljahrschrift, i (1903), 1 ff.; Döller, Rhythmus, Metrik u. Strophik in d. bibl.-hebr. Poesie, Paderborn, 1899; Schloegl, De re metrics veterum Hebraeorum disputatio, Vindobonae, 1899 (on the same lines as Grimme); but especially Ed. Sievers, Metrische Studien : i Studien zur hebr. Metrik, pt. 1 Untersuchungen, pt. 2 Textproben, Lpz. 1901: ii Die hebr. Genesis, 1 Texte, 2 Zur Quellenscheidung u. Textkritik, Lpz. 1904 f.: iii Samuel, Lpz. 1907; Amos metrisch bearbeitet (with H. Guthe), Lpz. 1907; and his Alttest. Miszellen (1 Is 24–27, 2 Jena, 3 Deutero-Zechariah, 4 Malachi, 5 Hosea, 6 Joel, 7 Obadiah, 8 Zephaniah, 9 Haggai, 10 Micah), Lpz. 1904–7.—As a guide to Sievers’ system (with some criticism of his principles) see Baumann, ‘Die Metrik u. das A.T.;,’ in the Theol. Rundschau, viii (1905), 41 ff.; W. H. Cobb, A criticism of systems of Hebrew Metre, Oxford, 1905; Cornill, Einleitung ins A.T.5, Tübingen, 1905, p. 11 ff.; Rothstein, Zeitschr. für d. ev. Rel.-Unterricht, 1907, p. 188 ff. and his Grundzüge des hebr. Rhythmus, Lpz. 1909 (also separately Psalmentexte u. der Text des Hohen Liedes, Lpz. 1909); W. R. Arnold, ‘The rhythms of the ancient Heb.,’ in O.T. and Semitic Studies in memory of W. R. Harper, i. 165 ff., Chicago, 1907, according to whom the number of syllables between the beats is only limited by the physiological possibilities of phonetics; C.v. Orelli, ‘Zur Metrik der alttest. Prophetenschriften,’ in his Kommentar zu den kl. Propheten3, p. 236 ff., Munich, 1908.—In full agreement with Sievers is Baethgen, Psalmen3, p. xxvi ff., Göttingen, 1904. [Cf. Budde in DB. iv. 3 ff.; Duhm in EB. iii. 3793 ff.]

Of all views of this matter, the only one generally accepted as sound was at first Ley’s and Budde’s discovery of the Qina- or Lamentation-Verse (ZAW. 1882, 5 ff.; 1891, 234 ff.; 1892, 31 ff.). On their predecessors, Lowth, de Wette, Ewald, see Löhr, Klagelied2, p. 9. This verse, called by Duhm ‘long verse’, by Sievers simply ‘five-syllabled’ (Fünfer), consists of two members, the second at least one beat shorter than the other. That a regular repetition of an equal number of syllables in arsis and thesis was observed by other poets, had been established by Ley, Duhm, Gunkel, Grimme, and others, especially Zimmern, who cites a Babylonian hymn in which the members are actually marked (ZA. x. 1 ff., xii. 382 ff.; cf. also Delitzsch, Das babyl. Weltschöpfungsepos, Lpz. 1896, pp. 60 ff.). Recently, however, E. Sievers, the recognized authority on metre in other branches of literature, has indicated, in the works mentioned above, a number of fresh facts and views, which have frequently been confirmed by the conclusions of Ley and others. The most important are as follows:—

Hebrew poetry, as distinguished from the quantitative Classical and Arabic and the syllabic Syriac verse, is accentual. The number of unstressed syllables between the beats (ictus) is, however, not arbitrary, but the scheme of the verse is based on an irregular anapaest which may undergo rhythmical modifications (e.g. resolving the ictus into two syllables, or lengthening the arsis so as to give a double accent) and contraction, e.g. of the first two syllables. The foot always concludes with the ictus, so that toneless endings, due to change of pronunciation or corruption of the text, are to be disregarded, although as a rule the ictus coincides with the Hebrew word-accent. The metrical scheme consists of combinations of feet in series (of 2, 3 or 4), and of these again in periods—double threes, very frequently, double fours in narrative, fives in Lamentations (see above) and very often elsewhere, and sevens. Sievers regards the last two metres as catalectic double threes and fours. Connected sections do not always maintain the same metre throughout, but often exhibit a mixture of metres.

It can no longer be doubted that in the analysis of purely poetical passages, this system often finds ready confirmation and leads to textual and literary results, such as the elimination of glosses. There are, however, various difficulties in carrying out the scheme consistently and extending it to the prophetical writings and still more to narrative:
(1) not infrequently the required number of feet is only obtained by sacrificing the clearly marked parallelism, or the grammatical connexion (e.g. of the construct state with its genitive), and sometimes even by means of doubtful emendations;
(2) the whole system assumes a correct transmission of the text and its pronunciation, for neither of which is there the least guarantee. To sum up, our conclusion at present is that for poetry proper some assured and final results have been already obtained, and others may be expected, from the principles laid down by Sievers, although, considering the way in which the text has been transmitted, a faultless arrangement of metres cannot be expected. Convincing proof of the consistent use of the same metrical schemes in the prophets, and a fortiori in narrative, can hardly be brought forward.

The great work of D. H. Müller, Die Propheten in ihrer ursprüngl. Form (2 vols., Vienna, 1896; cf. his Strophenbau u. Respension, ibid. 1898, and Komposition u. Strophenbau, ibid. 1907), is a study of the most important monuments of early Semitic poetry from the point of view of strophic structure and the use of the refrain, i.e. the repetition of the same or similar phrases or words in corresponding positions in different strophes.

The arrangement of certain poetical passages in verse-form required by early scribal rules (Ex 15:1–19; Dt 32:1–43; Ju 5; 1 S 21–10; 2 S 22, 23:1–7; ψ 18, 136; Pr 31:10–31; 1 Ch 16:8–36: cf. also Jo 12:9–24; Ec 3:2–8; Est 9:7–10) has nothing to do with the question of metre in the above sense.

Words are used in poetry, for which others are customary in prose, e.g. אֱנוֹשׁ‎ man = אָדָם‎; אֹרַח‎ path = דֶּרֶךְ‎; מִלָּה‎ word = דָּבָר‎; חָזָה‎ to see = רָאָה‎; אָתָה‎ to come = בּוֹא‎.

To the poetic meanings of words belongs the use of certain poetic epithets as substantives; thus, for example, אביר‎ (only in constr, st. אֲבִיר‎) the strong one for God; אַבִּיר‎ the strong one for bull, horse; לְבָנָה‎ alba for luna; צַר‎ enemy for אֹיֵב‎.

Of word-forms, we may note, e.g. the longer forms of prepositions of place עֲלֵי = עַל‎, אֱלֵי‎ = אֶל‎, עֲדֵי‎ = עַד‎; the endings ־ִי‎, וֹ‎ in the noun; the pronominal suffixes מוֹ‎, ־ָ֫מוֹ‎, ־ֵ֫מוֹ‎ for ם‎, ־ָם‎, ־ֵם‎ ; the plural ending ־ִין‎ for ־ִים‎ . To the syntax belongs the far more sparing use of the article, of the relative pronoun, of the accusative particle אֵת‎; the construct state even before prepositions; the shortened imperfect with the same meaning as the ordinary form ; the wider governing power of prepositions; and in general a forcible brevity of expression.

7. The second period of the Hebrew language and literature, after the return from the exile until the Maccabees (about 160 b.c.), is chiefly distinguished by a constantly closer approximation of the language to the kindred western Aramaic dialect. This is due to the influence of the Aramaeans, who lived in close contact with the recent and thinly-populated colony in Jerusalem, and whose dialect was already of importance as being the official language of the western half of the Persian empire. Nevertheless the supplanting of Hebrew by Aramaic proceeded only very gradually. Writings intended for popular use, such as the Hebrew original of Jesus the son of Sirach and the book of Daniel, not only show that Hebrew about 170 b.c. was still in use as a literary language, but also that it was still at least understood by the people. When it had finally ceased to exist as a living language, it was still preserved as the language of the Schools—not to mention the numerous Hebraisms introduced into the Aramaic spoken by the Jews.

For particulars, see Kautzsch, Gramm. des Bibl.-Aram., pp. 1–6. We may conveniently regard the relation of the languages which co-existed in this later period as similar to that of the High and Low German in North Germany, or to that of the High German and the common dialects in the south and in Switzerland. Even amongst the more educated, the common dialect prevails orally, whilst the High German serves essentially as the literary and cultured language, and is at least understood by all classes of the people. Wholly untenable is the notion, based on an erroneous interpretation of Neh 8:8, that the Jews immediately after the exile had completely forgotten the Hebrew language, and therefore needed a translation of the Holy Scriptures.

The Old Testament writings belonging to this second period, in all of which the Aramaic colouring appears in various degrees, are: certain parts of the Pentateuch and of Joshua, Ruth, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, Esther; the prophetical books of Haggai, Zechariah, Isaiah III (56–66), Malachi, Joel, Jonah, Daniel; of the poetical books, a large part of Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and most of the Psalms. As literary compositions, these books are sometimes far inferior to those of the first period, although work was still produced which in purity of language and aesthetic value falls little short of the writings of the golden age.

Later words (Aramaisms) are, e.g. אַחְוָה‎ declaration, אָנַס‎ compel, בַּר‎ son, גִּיר‎ chalk, זְמָן‎ = עֵת‎ time, זָקַף‎ raise up, חסד‎ Pi. reproach, טלל‎ Pi. roof over, טָעָה‎ stray, כֵּף‎ rock, מלך‎ advise, סוֹף‎ = קֵץ‎ end, קִבֵּל‎ = לָקַח‎ take, רָעַע‎ = רָצַץ‎ break, שָׂגָא‎ be many, שָׁלַט‎ = מָלַךְ‎ rule, תָּקֵף‎ = אָמֵץ‎ be strong.—Later meanings are, e.g. אָמַר‎ (to say) to command; עָנָה‎ (to answer) to begin speaking.—Orthographical and grammatical peculiarities are, the frequent scriptio plena of וֹ‎ and ־ִי‎, e.g. דָּוִיד‎ (elsewhere דָּוִד‎), even קוֹדֶש‎ for קֹדֶש‎, רוֹב‎ for רֹב‎; the interchange of ־ָה‎ and ־ָא‎ final; the more frequent use of substantives in וֹן‎, ־ָן‎, וּת‎ &c. Cf. Dav. Strauss, Sprachl. Studien zu d. hebr. Sirachfragmenten, Zürich, 1900, p. 19 ff.; for the Psalms Cheyne, Origin of the Psalter, p. 461 ff., and especially Giesebrecht in ZAW. 1881, p. 276 ff.; in general, Kautzsch, Die Aramaismen im A.T. (i, Lexikal. Teil), Halle, 1902.

But all the peculiarities of these later writers are not Aramaisms. Several do not occur in Aramaic and must have belonged at an earlier period to the Hebrew vernacular, especially it would seem in northern Palestine. There certain parts of Judges, amongst others, may have originated, as is indicated, e.g. by שׁ ּ‎, a common form in Phoenician (as well as אשׁ‎), for אֲשֶׁר‎ , which afterwards recurs in Jonah, Lamentations, the Song of Songs, the later Psalms, and Ecclesiastes.

Rem. I. Of dialectical varieties in the old Hebrew language, only one express mention occurs in the O.T. (Ju 12:6), according to which the Ephraimites in certain cases pronounced the שׁ‎ as ס‎. (Cf. Marquart in ZAW. 1888, p. 151 ff.) Whether in Neh 13:24 by the speech of Ashdod a Hebrew, or a (wholly different) Philistine dialect is intended, cannot be determined. On the other hand, many peculiarities in the North Palestinian books (Judges and Hosea) are probably to be regarded as differences in dialect, and so also some anomalies in the Moabite inscription of Mêšaʿ. On later developments see L. Metman, Die hebr. Sprache, ihre Geschichte u. lexikal. Enticickelung seit Abschluss des Kanons u. ihr Bau in d. Gegenwart, Jerusalem, 1906.

2. It is evident that, in the extant remains of old Hebrew literature, the entire store of the ancient language is not preserved. The canonical books of the Old Testament formed certainly only a fraction of the whole Hebrew national literature.

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