Friday, June 24, 2011

What Language Did Abraham Speak?

The Afro-Asiatic Dominion

The best evidence to date suggests that Abraham and his Horite people spoke the languages of the peoples among whom they lived. As rulers of the Afro-Asiatic dominion, Abraham's Kushite ancestors spoke Nilo-Saharan languages, some of which are now extinct. Two are of special interest: Sara and Horo, both connected to Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors who worshiped Ra and Horus.

Abraham probably spoke more than one language. He would have known the Kushitic Akkadian of the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley where he grew up, and he would have know the Proto-Arabic spoken in Canaan. He likely read the script of the Thamudic group of Arabia and he certainly knew the Canaanite script by which his sons were designated by the Canaanite Y as rulers.

Alice C. Linsley

The evidence of linguistics, history, archaeology, anthropology and the Bible points to a vast Afro-Asiatic Dominion as the context for Abraham’s Horite people. Genesis 11:1 says that the peoples of the Afro-Asiatic Dominion spoke “one language” and linguistic studies suggest that the language was Proto-Saharan. This explains the linguistic similarity between names and titles found in Genesis and in the Turkish, Pashtun and Mongolian languages. Examples include Jochi (Biblical Joktan), Malik (Biblical melek) and Khan (Biblical Kain or Kayan). Khan means king or ruler and Kain is the first earthly ruler in the Bible. Today Khan is a common surname in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Mongolia. Some Pashtun tribes adopted Malik as the title for ruler instead of Khan. Malik is equivalent to the Hebrew Melek, meaning king.

The Akkadian of Sargon's empire has close connections to the languages of the Horn of Africa, especially the Kushite group. This supports the view that Sargon the Great was biblical Nimrod, the son of Kush, according to Genesis 10:8.

There are name correspondences between the Proto-Saharan and languages of Saharan Africa today. Consider the example of the Hausa origin story involving Bayajida. He is said to have come to Nigeria from the east and after slaying a serpent with an iron sword married a local princess and established 7 city states. He was a stranger to the area because his name “Ba ya ji da” means “he who didn't understand the language before, he was a stranger here.” The Arabic form of his name is 'Ub ay diyya. Al-'Ubaydiyya was an Arab village before it was depopulated on March 3, 1948. It was located in Galilee about 6 miles south of Tiberias, close to the Jordan River. The Canaanites referred to al-'Ubaydiyya as Bayt Shamash which means "House of God." Shamash was another name for the Creator Re, whose emblem was the Sun. He was worshiped by different names across the vast Afro-Asiatic Dominion.

The Afro-Asiatic Dominion is the context of Abraham's Horite people and supplies clues as to the language spoken by his people. It was a Kushitic language that resembled Old Arabic (Dedanite) and it is older than Hebrew, Aramean and Accadian. It used 2-consonant roots. Hebrew, on the other hand, uses 3-consonant roots. Arabic is closer to the Kushitic or Proto-Saharan languages of Abraham’s people, as evidenced by the higher numerical frequency of 2-consonant roots.

Hebrew is largely triconsonantal and, as with the older Arabic, has no vowels. This is why a word may appear with various spellings: hur, hor, har. The root is HR and because it is biconsonantal we know that this root is older than the Hebrew language.

The Danish linguist Holger Pedersen (1867-1953) explained in The Discovery of Language that “Hebrew, Aramaic and Accadian languages had all undergone significant linguistic degeneration. Only Old Arabic, due to its relative isolation in the Arabian peninsula, remained closer to the old stratum of the ‘Semitic’ form of the language.”

The Hebrew triconsonantal root system consists of only about two hundred roots. When a certain vowel pattern is placed over these roots, a wide range of meanings can be assumed. Over the centuries translators have guessed at some of these vowels, but rarely has this affected the accuracy of the Biblical account.

Where accuracy has been compromised it is because the translators have not cross-checked the Hebrew against the older cognates in Arabic and Aramaic. The story of Noah’s Ark is an example.

Ararat and Armenia are not the correct renderings of the old Arabic words found in the Noah story. The Arabic word ararat means vehemence and speaks of God’s judgment, but in Genesis 8:4 it is said that the ark came to rest on “the mountains of Ararat.” Translators assumed that Ararat was a place name and they identified it with the mountains in Armenia because Armenia resembles the old Arabic har-meni. Har-Meni refers to the mountain of Meni or Menes, another name for Mount Meru, a mountain sacred to the peoples of Kenya and Tanzania. This is where Noah’s ark landed, not in the Ararat mountains of Armenia.

There are various textual clues that enable us to determine the general nature of the language spoken by Abraham. These involve words that reference shrines, temples, and place names associated with numbers and water systems.

Houses of God

In Hebrew, Bethlehem (Beyt Lechem) means “house of bread,” though it originally meant “house of meat,” which is the meaning in Arabic. The South Semitic root LḤM refers to cattle. Bethlehem was a very ancient site of animal sacrifice.

Jerusalem was neither built nor named by Hebrews. In Abraham’s time it was a Jebusite city. Remnants of a town called Salem date back to the early Bronze Age, and the first mention of this place is in Genesis 14:18, where Abraham meets with Melchizedek, the ruler-priest of Salem. Jerusalem is related to the word Hebrew shalom, meaning peace. The Arabic counterpart is Ūršalīm, which means “City of Peace.” Ur was the ancient Kushite word for city. Dr. Clyde Winters reports that Kushites used the affixes bura,-dan, -kara, -tal and -ur to designate places. Winters refers to the Afro-Asiatic Dominion as "the Nubian Kametian Sumerian and Dravidian (NKSD) civilization."

Places Associated with Numbers and Waterways

The association of numbers with places suggests a very old pattern of identifying settlements near water. Abraham spent considerable time at Hebron which in his day has four water sources. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Hebron was already 2300 years old in Abraham’s time (Bel. Jud., IV, ix, 7). It was originally called Kiriat Arba (Genesis 23:2; 35:27; Joshua 14:15; Judges 1:10; Nehemiah 11:25), which means the place of four. Kiriat is the Arabic qiryat, meaning village, settlement or city. Arba is the Arabic word for four. Qiryat arba is Arabic and likely the name by which Abraham used when referring to Hebron.

According to traditions that appear well after Abraham’s time, Hebron means “Village of the Four” and refers to a legend involving the four giants (anakim) who fell from Paradise. Another tradition says that “Village of Four” refers to four biblical couples said to be buried here: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.

The most likely explanation is that Qiryat arba describes the geological and/or hydrological features of the settlement. Qirya arba may be a reference to the four hills of Hebron or to four streams of water flowing from these hills. If the latter is the case, qiryat arba is the Arabic equivalent of the word Punj-ab, a region of Pakistan named for its five rivers. (Punj means five and –ab means water.) The Hebrew for a channel of water is ‘ap-hik. Here we see that hik is affixed to the older word for water ap or ab. (The word is hapi in Egyptian, referring to the Nile.) In the Proto-Saharan languages the P and the B were often interchanged, as in Hapiru/Habiru. So we are able to determine that the older root for water is biconsonantal.

The Hebrew word for river is nahar. It is derived from the older Aramaic nehar and the Arabic nahr, the common Arabic word for "river." The word has the very ancient root HR which refers to Horus. This is the likely origin of the name Na-Hor, Abraham’s older brother. Na-Hor controlled the river route on the Euphrates between Ur (south) and Haran (north).

In the ancient Afro-Asiatic world major water systems were controlled by peoples who recognized Horus as a deity. They spoke languages that emerged from the Proto-Saharan languages. Knowing the characteristics of the Proto-Saharan enables us to reconstruct the older biconsonantal roots. One characteristic of the Proto-Saharan that helps us to see the connection between water systems and Horus is the interchangeability of the letters L and R. With this in mind, we are able to see that the Hebrew words for river Yub-hal (Jer. 17:8), and `Ub-hal (Dan. 8:2) are derived from the Proto-Saharan ub-har. Ub is the Arabic word for father, so Ub-hal or Ub-hor means “Horus is father.”

Abraham's Horite people would have professed exactly that! They were devotees of Horus and they spread their religious practices from west central Africa to India and as far as Cambodia where they established a Horite shrine at Anghor Wat (ankh-Hor means "May Horus Live!"). The Horites were also called Habiru and Hapiru in Akkadian. The Egyptians called these temple attendants ˁpr.w, the w being the plural suffix. This has been rendered '*wap'er' by the Afro-Asiatic expert Christopher Ehret. The *wap'er had significant political authority alongside the ruler. They presided over the rituals directed toward the High God and acted as intercessors and prophets. The Hapiru were devotees of Horus, whose worship originated in what is today Sudan.

The oldest known center of Horite worship is Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) in Sudan. At the temple of Nekhen, votive instruments were ten times larger than the mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose. This is the likely origin of the sun blessings in Hinduism (the Agnihotra morning ritual) and in Judaism (the Birka Hachama, or “Sun Blessing” ritual performed every 28 years).


  1. Very Interesting- I am from Somalia and the word for Sun in Somali is Ko-rah related to Ra in ancient Egyptian. River Wabi in Somali-Habi egyptian. Many words like Cat-Bisat = bastat. And the Y- shaped headrest used by Somali nomads today is Barki in both langueges. thanks

  2. Dirsame,

    Thank you for this valuable information. I'm writing on this topic for my other blog Just Genesis. The post "A Tent for the Sun" will probably appear tomorrow.

    Best wishes to you.

  3. Proto-Sumer civilization, w/ public temples 8.5ka

    Ijebu (also known as Jebu or Geebu[1]) was a Yoruba kingdom in pre-colonial Nigeria.

    Obanta (originally Ogborogan) was the first king of the Ijebu kingdom in what is now Ogun State, Nigeria.

    Obanta led a migration of people from Wadai, an area near the modern-day Sudan. On arriving at Ijebu, the inhabitants welcomed him warmly, shouting "oba wa nita" meaning "the king is outside" in the Yoruba language. This is how Ogborogan became known as Obanta.[

  4. algerian from south algeria

    very valuable, nice analysis.

    since i was a child i was analysing every word and every expresssion i hear and corelate language intuitively.

    i think that a treasur of analysis is there in the yet still unanalized language of ancient yemen .
    sebean language and thamudic and dhafari languages all ancient languags of arabia .

    i am an arab and i am very fluent and native arabic speaker, loving arabic very much didn t make me understand a lot of ancient peotry. made by our ancestors.

    somtime i feel like i am listening to completly strange langauge .

  5. You are right! There is much research still to do. The languages of the ancient ones is prior to the langues of Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew. It is likely closer to the languages Nilo-Arabian peoples - Old Dedanite (Yemen), Sabean, Luo, Oromo, etc.


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