Specifically, I am looking for sources that address this issue/topic. Namely, if he spoke fluent Hebrew, as the Torah records his words, how did he know the language? If, on the other hand, he spoke only Egyptian, why/how was the Torah able to change his words and what would this mean for the approach that the Torah recorded (at least certain) events precisely as they occurred?

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    Which approach says that the Torah recorded things precisely as they occurred (historically)? The Torah is a book of moral teachings, and it tells us some of the historic happenings as part of these teachings. Therefore, Pharao's quotations are written down to let us know what he believed, his morality, his faith, etc., not his exact words (in a conversation a person doesn't really speak the way things are quoted in the Torah). This is my understanding of the Torah, but I would love to see a different (sourced) point of view.
    – Cauthon
    Mar 27, 2016 at 19:30
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    @Cauthon I agree with you. I also do not want this question to descend into a discussion of this topic. I am just curious if any sources discuss Pharaoh's language vis a vis a historical approach in terms of how the Torah conveys information.
    – WhoKnows
    Mar 27, 2016 at 19:32
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    Ah, I see. I found an interesting post, take a look.
    – Cauthon
    Mar 27, 2016 at 19:52
  • Your tags refer not only to the entire Pentateuch but to the entire Tanach. Yet you refer to the pharaohs as if there were but one. This question is rather unclear.
    – msh210
    Mar 27, 2016 at 20:55
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    @msh210 Thanks for the interesting pointer, but it seems to me that this can also be understood just like Pharaos speaking Hebrew. The angels might have said other words, and maybe in another language, and the Torah let's us know the important parts of what they said, and how they said it (according to Ha'amek Davar - with certain emphases).
    – Cauthon
    Mar 28, 2016 at 9:00

2 Answers 2


See here, especially in the post by שמשון, who mentions several interesting sources about this subject (usage of Hebrew in Egypt in those times).

For example, one might conclude from the talmud in Sottah (36b) that (the old?) Pharaoh admitted to Joseph that he did not know Hebrew. The Ibn Ezra explains Moses's name in two ways (either in Arabic or in Hebrew), etc.

See more about this there.

  • Interesting, but not exactly what I am looking for.
    – WhoKnows
    Mar 27, 2016 at 20:07

Most likely he spoke some version of Coptic, which was the Egyptian language before the Arab conquest.

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    Coptic post-dates the period of the Exodus, as it has hellenistic influences which weren't present in Egypt at that time. Jul 13, 2017 at 22:56
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    Michal, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks for the interesting suggestion. You might consider improving this answer by including sources for what you've suggested. I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Chaim
    Jul 14, 2017 at 2:14
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt is right. Coptic is a late form of the language that was influenced by Greek. Claiming that Pharaoh spoke Coptic is similar to claiming that Julius Caesar spoke Italian (or French). Feb 20, 2018 at 14:45

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