Why is Hebrew a Semitic language when, biblically, the Jews are a Hamitic people?
Hello there, I just wanted to ask, why is the Canaanite language, Ugaritic specifically so similar Hebrew? The words such as Yam (Sea) Mot (Death) and Yarikh (Moon)are found exactly the same in Ugaritic and Hebrew writings. If the Canaanites are a Hamitic people why is their language classified as Semitic? Is it possible that the Israelites borrowed or even worse, stole from the Ugaritic people’s language? Here is this article I found on the subject. Feel free the read it. Thanks http://www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm
Who we are descended from, genetically, and what language we speak are two very different issues. My genetic stock is largely from Germany, while my wife’s is from Spain and Native American stock, yet we both speak English. Semitic is a description applied today to a group of languages which have been centered around the Eastern Mediterranean, the Arab Peninsula and Mesopotamia. It is no longer used as a racial term by scholars. Whatever their genetic source, the children of Abraham came geographically from Mesopotamia, where the parent languages of the modern Semitic tongues was used, including Syriac and Aramaic, the native language of Jesus. It should not surprise anyone that the Jews speak a language which shows origins in Canaan and Mesopotamia. This is despite the fact that they lived for a few hundred years in Egypt. The Egyptian language, along with the Nubian and Berber are from a family of languages formerly known as Hamitic. Just so you know, the term Hamitic is no longer used to describe this family of languages, partly because they have a complicated relation between themselves, and also because the word Hamitic was used in an embarrassing racist way in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to distinguish these “superior” languages from the languages of the “inferior” people in Central, Western and Southern Africa. Hamitic is no longer used by scholars of language to describe modern or ancient languages. Neither is it used to describe a nationality or race. In any case, the reason the Jews do not speak a “Hamitic” language (one from Northern Africa) is that their geographic roots are not from regions where such languages were spoken.
I think your question arises at least in part because you might be confusing physical descent from linguistic descent. Many today speak English whose racial origin is far from England, including those in the United States of America, in India, Nigeria and in South Africa. Because the Hebrew language arose in a part of the world very close to modern-day Syria, where the city of Ugarit was, it should not surprise anyone that Hebrew bears quite a bit of similarity to Ugaritic, both in the letters used in the alphabet and in the spoken words. This tells us nothing about the genetic roots of Abraham, but it tells us the historical/geographic roots of the Jews, which is consistent with the biblical story.
It is possible to borrow words from another language, but it is not possible to steal words from another language. What would it mean to “steal” a word? Would that mean taking it away and not letting those with the mother tongue use the word any more? We can be assured that the Jews did not steal any words from the speakers of Ugaritic! There is absolutely no “shame” in borrowing words from another language. My native language, English, has words borrowed from German, Latin, French, Spanish and many more. This makes for a more beautiful language in my opinion.
Here is the bottom line: the fact that the ancient Hebrew language and script bears quite a bit of similarity to Ugaritic is good evidence that the Israelites’ origin was from somewhere in the general region of upper Mesopotamia/Syria, which is consistent with biblical accounts. This explains why Hebrew is a Semitic language.
I hope this helps.