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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Canaan, Language of

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(שְׂפִת כְּנ עִן, lip of Canaan), occurs Isaiah 19:18, where it undoubtedly designates the language spoken by the Jews dwelling in Palestine. That the language spoken by the Canaanites was substantially identical with Hebrew appears, 1. From the fact that the proper names of Canaanitish persons and places are Hebrew, and can be accounted for etymologically from the Hebrew as readily as He. brew proper names themselves (thus we have Abimelech, Kirjath-Sapher, etc.); 2. Close as was the intercourse of the Hebrews with the Canaanites, there is no hint of their needing any interpreter to mediate between them, which renders it probable that their respective languages were so nearly allied to each other as to be substantially the same; 3. The remains of the Phoenician language, which was undoubtedly Canaanitish, bear the closest analogy to the Hebrew, and are best explained from it, which proves them to be substantially the same language (Bochart, Geogr. Sacr. 2, col. 699 sq., ed. 1682).

To account for this, some have supposed that the Canaanites and the Hebrews were of the same original stock, and that the account in Genesis of their being descended from different branches of the Noachic family is afiction to be put to the account of national bigotry on the part of the writer. But this is a hypothesis utterly without foundation, and which carries its own confutation in itself; for, had national bigotry directed the writer, he would have excluded the Edomites, the Ammorites, the Moabites, from the Shemitic family, as well as the Canaanites; nay, he would hardly have allowed the Canaanites to claim descent from the righteous Noah. The list of the nations in Genesis 11 is accepted by some of the most learned and unfettered scholars of Germany as a valuable and trustworthy document (Knobel, Volkertafel der Genesis, 1850; Bertheau, eitrage, p. 174, 179). (See ETHNOGRAPHY). But if these were different races, how came they to have the same language? Knobel thinks that the. country was first occupied by a Shemitic race, the descendants of Lud, and that the Hamites were immigrants who adopted the language of the country into which they came (p. 204 sq.). On the other hand, Grotius, Le Clerc, and others, are of opinion that Abraham acquired the language of the country into which he came, and that Hebrew is consequently a Hamitic and not a Shemitic language (Grotius, Dissert. de Ling. Heb., prefixed to his Commentary; Le Clerc, De Ling. Heb.; Beke, Oriqines Biblicce, p. 210; Winning, Manual of Compar. Philolegy, p. 275): by some later writers Abraham's native tongue is supposed to have been Indo-Germanic or Arian. On the contrary, most maintain that Abraham retained the use of the primeval language, and brought it with him to Canaan; contending that,-had he borrowed the language of the country into which he came, the result would have been a less pure language than the Hebrew, and we should have found in it traces of idolatrous notions and usages (Havernick, Einleit. 151, E. T. p. 133; Pareau, Inst. Interp. p. 25, E. T. 1:27). This last is the oldest opinion, and there is much to be urged in its favor. It leaves, however, the close affinity of the language of Abraham and that of the Canaanites unaccounted for. The hypothesis that Abraham acquired the language of the Canaanites, and that this remained in his family, if admissible, would account not only for the affinity of the Hebrew find Phoenician tongues, but for the ease with which Abraham and his son made themselves understood in Egypt, and for the affinity of the ancient Egyptian and several modern African languages with the Hebrew. (See Bleek, Einleit. ins A. T. p. 61 sq.; J. G. Muler, in Herzog's Real-Encykop. 7:240.) Kitto, s.v.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Canaan, Language of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/canaan-language-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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