Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav


Why does God in the Bible at first harden the heart of the pharaoh and then punishes him for not letting Jews go?  

[A2A] Because He was putting on a show, to demonstrate to the Hebrews* and other nations that He is the greatest—nay, the only—God.

This was, if you like, God’s comeback performance (His first since the Flood), so he was intent on making a big impression. And what greater impression could there be than to beat up and humiliate the most powerful kingdom in the known world at that time?

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Was the golden calf of the Bible not Israelite at all, but actually the Egyptian Apis or Hathor?

It was definitely not Hat’ḥor , for the simple reason that a number of statues of Hat’ḥor at the turquoise mining site now known as Serabit el-Khadim were defaced with Hebrew graffiti—not something that worshippers would do:


The Egyptian goddess Hatḥor (a.k.a. Astarte) at Serabit-el-Khadim in the western Sinai Desert

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Why was almost all the knowledge of Ancient Egypt lost until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone? Did the Romans or Greeks write nothing about it?


Ancient Egyptian paid the price of being over-exclusive. Since the skill of writing (and reading) hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic writing was jealously guarded by a small, exclusive caste of scribes, once the Alexandrian and Roman conquests undermined the old Pharaonic regime and made Greek the new language and culture of the elite, that skill became largely redundant, and died out with the scribes.

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Why do Greek, Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic, etc. have names for their letters like alpha, beta, lamda?

The names of the Hebrew/Phoenician alphabet were given by the ingenious Canaanite slave(s) who first invented them some time in the 1900s BCE, possibly in Wadi El-Hol in Egypt:

Detail of an inscription on a rock face in Wadi El-Hol, Egypt (near the Valley of the Kings)

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Is there sound evidence that the Hebrew exodus from Egypt occurred in Biblical times?


(My answer to this question at

As Ricardo Almeida points out, the story of the Exodus bears much resemblance to the historical explusion, around 1550 BCE, of the “Asiatics” (Canaanites) who had settled and eventually took over and ruled northern Egypt for well over four hundred years.

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How did ancient people describe the physical appearance of Hebrews?

The Ibscha Relief from the tomb of Khnumhotep II shows Semitic traders as light-brown-skinned people with tailored beards and curly black hair—in contrast with Egyptians, with longer straight hair, and a darker complexion.


(See this and other answers to this question at