Egyptian Loanwords as Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions

Article from “Did I Not Bring Israel Out of Egypt?” (Eisenbrauns, 2016).

By Benjamin J. Noonan
Columbia International University
June 2016

Click here for article.

Comments (3)

A nicely ingenious traditionalist thesis, but it still has an uphill fight against the historical and archaeological data. As has been pointed out by numerous scholars, the date commonly assigned to the Exodus places it in the later New Kingdom period, when Egypt enjoyed what was probably its greatest power and influence. During this period, virtually the whole of Canaan and the Levant was subject to Egyptian control, including garrisons of Egyptian soldiers across the region. As Israel Finkelstein, inter alia, has noted, the presence of these garrisons and fortresses would militate against a mass movement of escaped slaves from Egypt to Canaan through Gaza. It also means there is no need to hypothesize a massive Israelite presence in Egypt to explain the exchange of loanwords, particularly when there was regular migration (and presumably cultural exchange) by Canaanite groups into and out of Egypt for centuries before and after the putative period of the Exodus.

#1 - M. Buettner - 06/09/2016 - 21:07

I do not find M. Buettner's comments at all compelling. Nobody still believes that their were massive numbers of Israelites or Canaanites in Egypt who were able to return to Canaan. The number cited in Exodus was obviously a huge numerical exaggeration and exaggeration was always common in all Societies in Historical matters.

#2 - Fred Schroeder - 06/11/2016 - 20:45

Buettner dictates, "As Israel Finkelstein, inter alia, has noted, the presence of these garrisons and fortresses would militate against a mass movement of escaped slaves from Egypt to Canaan through Gaza." That reads like good evidence for the espoused transit route explained by Exodus--as far way from Gaza as possible!

#3 - John Casterns - 01/04/2018 - 22:41

Article Comments

Submitted by Peter M Siegel on Sat, 10/16/2021 - 15:53


Noonan's article strikes me as very important in the discussion of the history of the Exodus. I appreciate all the prior comments. There was indeed regular migration AND garrisons of Egyptians in Canaan (as noted above), but the point is not to (pretend to) settle the matter here, but to use this as a launch point for research on linguistic borrowing, as well as dating of texts. I've long appreciated Noonan's article and wish there were more follow-on research that either builds on it or demonstrates alternatives. Too many scholars -- notably many archaeologists -- seem to lack the basic knowledge of the process of linguistic borrowing (from either prestige cultures or those whose market impact requires it). This is a good resource for them (and us).

Submitted by Philip Clark on Wed, 03/15/2023 - 15:12


I like Noonan's brief paper. We, of course, must recognise that Egyptian loanword identification in the Hebrew Bible is not an exact science.
We must recognise their three possible manifestationforms:
1) terms with a definite or strong probability of Egyptian origin;
2) terms with a high probability of being of Egyptian origin;
3) words for which an Egyptian origin has been suggested but is highly improbable.
Noonan’s article tends, correctly, to avoids words in the third category. However, I would have preferred to see him address more in the second category - but then, there was probably a word limit he had to meet.

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