Words borrowed from other languages in Biblical Hebrew

I heard some people saying that Biblical Hebrew has a lot of words derived and borrowed from other languages, even Indian languages like Tamil, is there anyone here who knows better about the subject to be able to speak?

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Classical Hebrew was a Canaanite dialect (Isa 19:18). So, by the very nature of language it will be related (directly and indirectly) to other languages. Languages relate to each other similarly to a phylogenetic tree in biology-e.g., common descent and branching. (Dennis Venema has made this connection for BioLogos, e.g., here).

Unlike Koine Greek (NT), we don’t have a lot of near-contemporaneous extrabiblical texts written in Classical Hebrew. Therefore, drawing on cognate (i.e., similar) languages is crucial (albeit tentative) in understanding Hebrew words, especially those occurring more rarely. Also, we rely more on early translations to determine (sometimes guess) the nuance of the underlying Hebrew.


And “Biblical Hebrew” itself changed over the centuries.

As a rough, and perhaps more familiar analogy of that principle, consider the changes from Shakespearean English to 20th century English.


They sent me this page and it also says that Song of Songs was influenced by a kind of poems and songs from India, is that true? Tamil loanwords in Biblical Hebrew - Wikipedia

The erotic love poetry in the Song has closest associations with Egypt, though there are broader ANE similarities, like the Arabic wasf.

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So this page is wrong saying that this Indian culture influenced some traditions and etc of the Hebrews and the bible? Is Cantico dos Canticos more associated with Egypt and proximity? and why Erotic Tale? Sorry for the question, it’s because I didn’t understand, I’m still improving my English

With Wikipedia pages, it is usually an idea to check the Talk page to see if there is some controversy and also the history to see if a reasonable amount of editors. Judging from the talk page and the history or the article on Tamil loanwords in Hebrew, this may be someone publishing their original research.
I note that it talks about the ‘Tamil’ language but Tamil as a separate language dates to circa 300BCE. I would expect a scholarly article to talk more about Dravidian loanwords or Tamil cognates. ‘aloes’ does seem one word that the English, the Hebrew, Greek, etc all seem related to and probably derived from a Dravidian word (the Oxford English Dictionary uses Malayalam akil as a cognate example from a modern Dravidian language). There may be others.
Note it is almost certain that words were borrowed because people speaking languages do that. The names of imported goods, words for new concepts learned about from other people, words adopted because some people liked them. Trade was certainly going on though not likely direct trade between people speaking Dravidian languages and Hebrew speakers instead trade would be through several intermediaries.
There is
Non-Semitic Loanwords in the Hebrew Bible, by Benjamin J. Noonan, Penn State University Press, 2019
which seems to cover the subject matter quite extensively. There isn’t much about loanwords from Dravidian languages (at least from a google books preview).


The few that come to mind (not being anything like a Hebrew scholar) are names of things, like instrument names (a few borrowed from Greek in Daniel), and names of some plants and animals.


@Erp gave a more thorough response than I could have. I can’t speak to specifics about each of the words mentioned, but in my study generally, I don’t come across Tamil very much in terms of direct influence. But loanwords are expected due to commercial interactions…and loanwords can also be passed on second-hand.

The genre of erotic love poetry was popular in Egypt (ca. 10th c BCE if I recall) and other local environs.

Looking good to me!

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I’m not very well versed on this, but the Hebrew language is a Canaanite tongue with a Phoenician derived alphabet. As for words from other languages, the one that comes to mind for me is “paradise”, which I’m pretty sure is Persian.

Very interesting article. Thank you.

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