After learning about Semitic languages in November, our journey through the Joüon and Muraoka book continues. This time we’re going specifically through the history of ancient Hebrew.
Biblical Hebrew is fairly consistent throughout the centuries. The Bible’s writers, from earliest to latest, differ most in vocabulary. Some of the syntax also evolves, though it’s not that significant. Morphology, or word formation, changed the least due to stable consonants.
However, Joüon and Muraoka point out that the following Mishnaic Hebrew era strays farther from the biblical style conventions. However, they speculate that some Mishnaic-era writers still wanted to write in the Bible’s older style and format.
And they say Mishnaic Hebrew started to form after most of the Tanakh (Old Testament) was finished. The Mishnaic era also covers the period of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Jesus.
Joüon and Muraoka divide the biblical language into two eras: a “golden age” before the Babylonian exile and an era afterward. The authors acknowledge that some scholars think the entire Bible was basically written after the exile. But Joüon and Muraoka point out linguistic differences, such as the Bible’s later books spelling “Jerusalem” and “David” in a way earlier biblical books didn’t.
Hebrew’s relationship to ‘Milhamah’
The “Milhamah” webcomic doesn’t glean too much from this history. However, the character of ‘Aravah ‘Ivrit, whom I unveiled last week for Hebrew Language Day, embodies the language. Some of the details are in that post.
My art drew quite a few people from Facebook to this website. I even earned a Facebook like from the Academy of the Hebrew Language, which chiefly promotes the holiday in honor of Hebrew revivalist Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Their resources are a great help to my comic research, and I let them know that.
Just in time for Hebrew Language Day, “Milhamah” is previewing a new character for 2019. Meet ‘Aravah ‘Ivrit!
‘Aravah’s character is based on the shoresh root ‘ayin-bet-resh (עבר) and its permutations. While it may be awhile till she appears in the webcomic, here are six things to know about her character in “Milhamah: Fighting Words”:
1. ‘Aravah is the embodiment of the Hebrew language who is leading an independence movement against the Bavel Empire. Her goal is to break Bavel’s global dominance by “mixing up the tongues,” or scrambling its communications.
2. She works with the paramilitary Holy Tongue Society but isn’t part of it. She has ties to numerous other anti-Bavel associations, including an alliance with the guardians of the Arabic language. Hebrew and Arabic share similar shoresh roots: עבר and ערב.
3. She set up a headquarters in a western territory called ‘Ever that’s home to expanses of old Wild West desert-like wilderness. This explains why she is dressed as a cowgirl.
4. ‘Aravah is pregnant and way overdue for unknown reasons. As a result, she is often famished and rarely engages in combat. Her baby, however, is known to teleport out of the womb to fight the enemy.
5. Her personality switches between pleasant and hot-tempered. Her opponents underestimate her as a boorish fool — and learn to regret that.
6. ‘Aravah likes it hot. Her main weapon of choice is a flamethrower, and legend has it that she can summon holy fire from heaven.
As we await 2019, look forward to seeing ‘Aravah ‘Ivrit in upcoming episodes of “Milhamah”!
Milhamah: Fighting Words
Feeling silenced by the world? Join the Holy Tongue Society’s linguistic warriors as they use ancient alphabet powers to fight speech stranglers, truth manglers and a rebuilt Tower of Babel. And get immersed in a story that prizes freedom, candor and fighting back against overwhelming odds.
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