Have secular genetic studies confirmed Israelites' Aramean origins?

rakovsky

Active member
In the Biblical story, Abraham's father Terah came from the Ur of Chaldea. It's not clear whether this refers to an "Ur" in northern Mesopotamia like the region associated with Assyria or the more famous one near Babylon in southern Mesopotamia in present-day southern Iraq. The more common idea seems to be that it refers to the southern "Ur," but I am open-minded on that topic.

In Genesis, Abraham's father moved to Haran in Aramea (present-day southern Turkey). There is a place later in the Torah (I think in Exodus) where the Israelites are told to say in their prayer that their father was a "wandering Aramaean." Sometimes this has been interpreted differently (eg. "an Aramean ready to perish"). Next, Abraham moved to Canaan, and then Abraham demanded that his servant look for wives for Abraham's son in Abraham's homeland, and not among the Canaanites. So Abraham's servant went to "Aram" (Aramea). Abraham's descendants like Jacob did the same thing according to Genesis, choosing Aramean wives instead of Canaanite ones.

The term "Hebrew" apparently is related to "Eber," which is also the name of one of Abraham's forefathers. "Eber" is taken to mean "across" or "beyond," referring to the idea that Eber and the "Hebrews" came from a land beyond or across a major river, particularly like the Euphrates River. The land east of the Euphrates is Mesopotamia, including Aramea and Assyria. Aramea (eg. the city of Haran) is actually a different place from the original center of Assyria (eg. the cities of Asshur and Nineveh). The Arameans spoke Aramaic and the Assyrians spoke Akkadian, the language of Babylon. However, the Assyrian Empire switched to Aramaic in about the 8th century after Assyria conquered Aramea.

Next in the books of Genesis-Joshua, Abraham's grandson Jacob/"Israel" went down to Egypt and then generations later his descendants, the Israelites returned as conquerors of Canaan. However, the Israelites did intermarry with Canaanites, including Canaanites who were noteworthy as helpers and allies to the Israelites like Ruth. The main scholarly view is that the Israelites' "Hebrew alphabet" and language before David's time (eg. before 1050 BC) was practically the same as the Phoenicians' and Canaanites' language and alphabet.

So one hypothesis could be that if the Israelites under Joshua were Arameans and not Canaanites, they could have had a relationship to the conquered Canaanites similar to the Normans to the English and the Vikings to the Russians Slavs. In those situations, the Normans and Vikings formed a kind of hierarchy or ruling group on top of the English and Russian Slavic peoples. So in this hypothesis, the Israelites' ruling dynasties could have been Aramean, whereas the bulk of their population could have been Canaanite.

A quick review of genetic studies online did not directly address this issue.

  1. One study said that modern Israeli Jews had closer genetic relations to the Kurds, Armenians, and Georgians - peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Turkey, than to what the study classed as "Arabs." This could serve as evidence favoring an Aramean connection. But the study theorized that this could be because the "Arabs" could have been composed of a mix of people who came from outside of Arabia. However, this study might not tell us much, because the study might have been comparing Israeli Jews to classical Arabian Arabs, like those from Saudi Arabia, and not dealing with Arab-speaking groups closer to the Israelis, such as northern Mesopotamian, Syrian, or Levantine Arabs.
  2. A second study noted that Mizrahi Jews (ie those from the Middle East) shared a special closeness with non-Jewish Assyrians. This also goes along with an Aramean connection. However, that study did not run a comparison with the Canaanites, nor do I remember the study mentioning Levantine Arabs.
  3. A third study said that Israeli Jews had an especially close connection to the ancient Canaanites.
  4. It's common for studies to show closeness between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. This makes sense because over the centuries, there have been many Jews in Palestine who converted to Christianity or Islam. However, this does not really show us how much of those groups around today are related to the Arameans compared to the Canaanites.
 

Komodo

Active member
In the Biblical story, Abraham's father Terah came from the Ur of Chaldea. It's not clear whether this refers to an "Ur" in northern Mesopotamia like the region associated with Assyria or the more famous one near Babylon in southern Mesopotamia in present-day southern Iraq. The more common idea seems to be that it refers to the southern "Ur," but I am open-minded on that topic.

In Genesis, Abraham's father moved to Haran in Aramea (present-day southern Turkey). There is a place later in the Torah (I think in Exodus) where the Israelites are told to say in their prayer that their father was a "wandering Aramaean." Sometimes this has been interpreted differently (eg. "an Aramean ready to perish"). Next, Abraham moved to Canaan, and then Abraham demanded that his servant look for wives for Abraham's son in Abraham's homeland, and not among the Canaanites. So Abraham's servant went to "Aram" (Aramea). Abraham's descendants like Jacob did the same thing according to Genesis, choosing Aramean wives instead of Canaanite ones.

The term "Hebrew" apparently is related to "Eber," which is also the name of one of Abraham's forefathers. "Eber" is taken to mean "across" or "beyond," referring to the idea that Eber and the "Hebrews" came from a land beyond or across a major river, particularly like the Euphrates River. The land east of the Euphrates is Mesopotamia, including Aramea and Assyria. Aramea (eg. the city of Haran) is actually a different place from the original center of Assyria (eg. the cities of Asshur and Nineveh). The Arameans spoke Aramaic and the Assyrians spoke Akkadian, the language of Babylon. However, the Assyrian Empire switched to Aramaic in about the 8th century after Assyria conquered Aramea.

Next in the books of Genesis-Joshua, Abraham's grandson Jacob/"Israel" went down to Egypt and then generations later his descendants, the Israelites returned as conquerors of Canaan. However, the Israelites did intermarry with Canaanites, including Canaanites who were noteworthy as helpers and allies to the Israelites like Ruth. The main scholarly view is that the Israelites' "Hebrew alphabet" and language before David's time (eg. before 1050 BC) was practically the same as the Phoenicians' and Canaanites' language and alphabet.

So one hypothesis could be that if the Israelites under Joshua were Arameans and not Canaanites, they could have had a relationship to the conquered Canaanites similar to the Normans to the English and the Vikings to the Russians Slavs. In those situations, the Normans and Vikings formed a kind of hierarchy or ruling group on top of the English and Russian Slavic peoples. So in this hypothesis, the Israelites' ruling dynasties could have been Aramean, whereas the bulk of their population could have been Canaanite.

A quick review of genetic studies online did not directly address this issue.

  1. One study said that modern Israeli Jews had closer genetic relations to the Kurds, Armenians, and Georgians - peoples of the Caucasus and eastern Turkey, than to what the study classed as "Arabs." This could serve as evidence favoring an Aramean connection. But the study theorized that this could be because the "Arabs" could have been composed of a mix of people who came from outside of Arabia. However, this study might not tell us much, because the study might have been comparing Israeli Jews to classical Arabian Arabs, like those from Saudi Arabia, and not dealing with Arab-speaking groups closer to the Israelis, such as northern Mesopotamian, Syrian, or Levantine Arabs.
  2. A second study noted that Mizrahi Jews (ie those from the Middle East) shared a special closeness with non-Jewish Assyrians. This also goes along with an Aramean connection. However, that study did not run a comparison with the Canaanites, nor do I remember the study mentioning Levantine Arabs.
  3. A third study said that Israeli Jews had an especially close connection to the ancient Canaanites.
  4. It's common for studies to show closeness between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. This makes sense because over the centuries, there have been many Jews in Palestine who converted to Christianity or Islam. However, this does not really show us how much of those groups around today are related to the Arameans compared to the Canaanites.
If there were an Aramean conquest of Canaan roughly comparable to the Norman conquest of England, we might expect evidence from linguistics as well as genetics. English, after the Norman conquest, contains many words of French origin, although many of the most common words (mother, father, house, etc.) remain Germanic. Does Biblical Hebrew have anything like this pattern?
 

rakovsky

Active member
If there were an Aramean conquest of Canaan roughly comparable to the Norman conquest of England, we might expect evidence from linguistics as well as genetics. English, after the Norman conquest, contains many words of French origin, although many of the most common words (mother, father, house, etc.) remain Germanic. Does Biblical Hebrew have anything like this pattern?
Komodo,
You are on the right track for a way to help answer the question. But I doubt that it's a perfect test. The Russian aristocracy was viking, but the vikings did not vikingize Russian, that I'm aware of. The Turkish rulers of Palestine did not Turkify Palestinian Arabic either. On the other hand, the Norman's did leave a strong mark. English today is very much a mix of Germanic and French. Old English reminds me a lot of Scandinavian. And yet again, there are cases where conquerors adopt the language of the conquered, like how the Assyrians adopted Aramaic from the Arameans.

The Israelite conquest happened in the 14th century BC. There is archaeological evidence for the destruction of the Canaanite city of Hazor. Based on what I read, Hebrew, Canaanite, and Phoenician languages and alphabets were practically the same before about 1050 BC. There is not a ton of Israelite art found from that period AFAIK, but it resembles Canaanite art, I think. King David ruled a united Israel in c. 1000 BC.

The Assyrians did leave a major mark later when they conquered Israel in the 8th century BC and brought the Aramaic language.
 
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