THE INFLUENCE OF ARAMAIC ON BIBLICAL HEBREW

This influence is mainly prevalent in the vocabulary, morphology, and possibly in the syntax of biblical Hebrew. However, both the dating and the extent of this influence have not yet been sufficiently determined. In the early biblical books, certain roots and grammatical forms which deviate from the standard are not to be regarded as Aramaisms, but rather as representing a common heritage which in Hebrew had survived mainly in poetry and in Aramaic in the everyday (spoken) language. Among these words are אֲתָה “came” (Deut. 33:2), (אָזְלַת (יד (Deut. 32:36; instead of the standard Hebrew אָזְלָה). However, וְשָׁבַת (instead of וְשָׁבַה in Ezekiel 46:17, a book replete with Aramaisms) goes back to Aramaic. It is therefore possible that a certain word or form appearing in an early biblical book, where it is archaic Hebrew, may disappear for a time and reappear in a later biblical book as a result of Aramaic influence. Other Aramaic roots and forms, not to be considered Aramaisms, are to be found in those biblical passages where the author deliberately gives an Aramaic texture to his words – when, for example, he wants to emphasize the “foreignness” of a gentile speaker; e.g., different archaic forms of the verb אתה, which is mainly Aramaic, given as התיו, אתיו as well as the forms בְּעָיוּ, תִּבְעָיוּן (“demand”) which look like pure Aramaic (Isa. 21:11–14; the reference is to the Edomites).

It seems that Aramaic in the Bible was used as a poetic form, e.g., in Deborah’s song (Judg. 5:26) there are the words מחק and תנה (ibid. 11) – both Aramaic forms: מחק being the presumed Ancient Aramaic parallel of the Hebrew מחץ (“deal a severe blow”; compare Ancient Aramaic), while תנה (“to repeat”) is the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew שנה. The same is true of the Book of Proverbs where the Aramaic בר (“son”) appears three times (31:2).

The ordinary Jerusalemite of Isaiah’s time did not know Aramaic and only the kings’ counselors and ministers understood it (see above). Nevertheless, we find in the Book of Isaiah the Aramaic noun pattern haqṭālā: (הַכָּרַת (פניהם “the show” (of their countenance; 3:9), and הֲנָפָה “to sift” (30:28); it is possible that the same is true concerning the noun pattern qәtāl. The existence of an Aramaic element per se in the Bible cannot (as has been shown here) always serve as proof of the late origin of a book. The books in which the Aramaic influence is most obvious are Ezekiel and certain chapters in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Books of Chronicles. The influence is recognizable (1) in the usage of certain Aramaic roots, e.g., מחא (Ezek. 25:6), the cognate Hebrew is מחץ (“dealt a severe blow”); טלל (Neh. 3:15), the cognate Hebrew is צלל (“to roof “); שהד (Job 16:19), in Hebrew עד (“witness”); (2) in idioms translated into Hebrew (a loan translation): אֲשֶׁר לָמָּה (Dan 1:10) meaning “why,” in Aramaic זָכָר; דִּי לְמָא (“male sheep”) instead of the standard Hebrew אַיִל, because of the Aramaic דִּכְרָא which means both “male” and the “male of the sheep”; (3) in an Aramaic noun pattern: e.g., הַשְׁמָעוּת (Ezek. 14:26); and (4) in syntax: perhaps in the regression of the conversive ו in the Books of Chronicles and in Ezra, etc.; and in its final disappearance from mishnaic Hebrew. Other syntactical forms in these books which deviate from standard biblical Hebrew may also be due to the influence of Aramaic.

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