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The modern, block-style Hebrew script evolved (via the Aramaic language) from letters named Paleo-Hebrew, which were either derived from or possibly shared with the early Phoenician & Greek alphabetic scripts around 1500 B.C. (the approximate timeframe when Moses led the Israelites from Egypt through the Sinai wilderness to Canaan & wrote the Law--presumably the first significant body of Paleo-Hebrew text; indeed, the earliest known examples of this script are referred to as Proto-Sinaitic & Proto-Canaanite).  The modern Hebrew letters replaced Paleo-Hebrew during the timeframe of the Dead Sea Scrolls (from approximately the 3rd century until Christ's birth).  By categorizing stratified archaeological finds, scholars can date unstratified inscriptions based on subtle changes in Paleo-Hebrew letters during those 1,000 years to within a century in many cases.  (The letters in this chart are courtesy of "Inscriptions Reveal" by The Israel Museum; it & many other books provide examples of Palestinian scripts from the intermediary centuries--the chart below is only intended to give a broad overview as an introduction to this complex field of study.)

  15th-century
Proto-Sinaitic
8th-century
Paleo-Hebrew
(Samaria Ostraca)
3rd-century
Hebrew
(Isaiah Scroll)
Modern
Hebrew
hBrn
sukE
sUke
Zyf
Hbrn
zYf
lmlK
suKe
LmLk
lMlk
MMst
hbrN
zyF
hbRn
mmSt
Suke
mmsT

And the LORD said to Moses, "Cut 2 tablets of stone like the first ones, & I will write on these tablets..."--Exodus 34:1
This chart shows all the Paleo-Hebrew letters inscribed on the LMLK seals.
Each letter is shown individually, but on some seals they form ligatures.
These drawings were derived from photos & are scaled accurately relative to each other.
Click on any of the letters to see an impression photo.

  G2T H2T M2T Z2T H2D M2D S2DR S2DW Z2D H2U M2U S2U Z2U H4C M4C Z4CI Z4CY H4L M4L S4L Z4L
() hBrn                                
() sukE                                  
() sUke                                  
(Zyf                              
(Hbrn                                
() zYf                                    
() suKe                                  
() lmlK      
(Lmlk      
() lmLk      
() lMlk      
(Mmst                                
() mMst                                
() hbrN                                
() zyF                              
() hbRn                                
(Suke                                  
() mmSt                                
() mmsT                                
  G2T H2T M2T Z2T H2D M2D S2DR S2DW Z2D H2U M2U S2U Z2U H4C M4C Z4CI Z4CY H4L M4L S4L Z4L

And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters...--2Chronicles 30:1
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This page was created on March 1, 2002, & last updated on September 20, 2004