letters to surfers

Q.  Scholars do not view the Table of Nations as historical. Why do you rely on it?

Answer by Robert Brow    (www.brow.on.ca)

In the model I use, I take the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 very seriously. Unfortunately German scholars got everybody off track by calling Hebrew and Arabic Semitic languages. In the Table of Nations Abraham was a Shemite (Genesis 10:21, 11:10-26).   In view of the immense importance of Sumerian as the classical language for over a thousand years, it is unthinkable that the Table of Nations would ignore that language. I assume that Abraham’s original language was Sumerian, which belonged to an agglutinative group of languages that included Elamite, Proto-Assyrian (before the Akkadian invasion), Arpachshad ( probably Sumerian), Lydian, and Proto-Aramean (before West Semitic took over the Arameans and Syrians).

According to the Table of Nations the Hamitic (wrongly called Semitic by scholars) group of languages included Cushite, Egyptian, North African, and Canaanite (Genesis 10:6). It was Nimrod who came across from the Horn of Africa to establish Cushite (later known as Akadian) in what had been the Sumerian cities. By the time of Abraham I believe Akkadian (Babylonian) had become the language of government in Ur. When Abraham’s family moved away to Haran (Genesis 11:31) they retained their Sumerian type language in Haran. But with the Akkadian he had learned in Ur Abraham would have been able to manage Canaanite and Egyptian (Mizraim) as suggested in Genesis 10:6. That group of languages might have been as close as Italian, Spanish, and French.

I view the language that is spoken as defining a nation, not its genetic origins. When people start speaking a new language they are counted as belonging to that nation (as in present-day England, France, or Germany)

Obviously the above is a wild guess of a model, but it makes easy sense to me of the Biblical evidence. I know no serious scholarly examination of such a model for Genesis 10 - Cyrus Gordon came close when he guessed that the Linear A of Crete was similar to Canaanite (as suggested in Genesis 10:6-14).


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