And while my comparison of Igbo and Ivrit is still in infancy I must
reveal that I have observed that both languages share quite an uncommon
resemblance; from idiomatic expressions, to similar words having similar
meanings in both, etc. An Igbo who compared Igbo and Hebrew as part of her
graduate work reached the conclusion that both languages are genetically
related. Below is part of the work that I have started to do in the studying of
It is interesting that the Igbo word for house or home is be, and the Hebrew word for house is bes or beth. That an Igbo type of light is urimmu, and six of the lights on the breast-plate of the Israelite
chief priest is urim. That the
meaning of Israel’s
Name for God in Hebrew Yawe, is ‘I am’, and in Igbo Yawu means ‘He is’.That wine in Hebrew is yayin and mmanya in Igbo.
Abraham to the Igbo is Abiama. We must admit that Abraham and Abiama are close
in spelling and pronunciation. The Creator of the universe to the Igbos is
Chukwu Abiama (Great God of Abraham). Omenana is the phrase for the Igbos
religion and culture, and Emuna is the Hebrew word for faith. And adam (Hebrew)
and madu (Igbo) both mean man (humans).
G.T. Basden devoted a large portion of his work to a comparison of
Igbo and Israelite traditions, and he started the comparison thus:
‘There are one or two peculiarities of idiom in
Ibo similar to some found in Hebrew. The chief parallel is found in the
repetition of words to express a single idea and, perhaps to add emphasis. The
practice of reduplicating verbs or adding their cognate nouns is characteristic
of Ibo- e.g. ‘O galu aga’ = he
passed; ‘o jelu ije’ = he went. As a
rule, the addition makes little or no appreciable difference to the meaning.
There are many verbs which are rarely used without reduplication or with their
derived noun either attached or in close proximity, e.g., we have such terms as
“murmur a murmur” = “o natamu atamu”, or, as we have in the
litany, “those who have erred”= “ndi
jefielu ejefie”, and “those who are deceived” = “ndi alaputalu alaputa.”5
My exploratory work on the idioms, expressions, usages, etc, is set
Moses’ call on ‘heaven and earth’ to be his witness that he gave
Israel sufficient warning to stay away from idolatry and evil made profound
impact on me the first time I read it scholastically (in Deuteronomy 4:26),
because it is our (Igbo) fashion when we want to really lay emphasis on a
matter in discussion. When the Igbo man says ‘enu igwe na ana nukwa onu m’ (‘may
heaven and earth hear my voice’) he is really serious, and does not want to
play with the matter that made him to utter those words. An Igbo writer; S.C.
Onwuka mentioned that Igbos call upon ‘heaven and earth to witness’ while they
are praying.6 I submit that it is not
just coincidental that both languages have such an identical expression, and
use it in similar circumstances.
Also Dr. J. H. Hertz, a Jewish scholar; had while explaining the
nuance in Numbers 14:22, “these ten times” stated that it could stand for a
‘large number of times’. He further explained it to mean: “They had now filled
up the measure of their iniquities, and punishment must inevitably come upon
them.”7 Dr. Hertz used expressions very
close to the Igbo idiom—‘iko ya ejuna’,
which means that he has exhausted all his chances, but which can be translated
literally to mean ‘his cup or measure is filled up.’ Igbos use this phrase or
idiom when an evil doer gets caught and is awaiting punishment. From Hertz’s
explanation it is easy to see that the same idea lies behind both the Igbo
usage of the expression, and the Israelite usage, as explained by Hertz.
Hertz also explains, ‘for they are bread for us’ which is in Numbers
14:9 as meaning that:
‘We shall easily destroy them.’8
His explanation is very similar to an Igbo expression nni nracha ka ha wu which literally
means (‘they are easy food’), which if employed during a quarrel or fight
signifies that the opponent can be defeated easily.
Also very interesting is the nearness of words that Jacob and his sons
deployed when they were talking about Joseph’s supposed loss, to a wild beast,
to the words that Igbos would have used in similar circumstances.
The sons reported that an ‘evil beast’ might have devoured their
brother. Jacob also referred to the beast as an ‘evil beast.’ Genesis 37:35.9 Ordinarily a beast is either a wild one or
a domestic one. But I understand what Jacob and his sons said and why because
as an Igbo I know that Igbos will refer to a ferocious or wild beast as ajo anu (evil beast), even though the
beast could have equally been tagged anu ofia
(wild beast) by the Igbos.
One comes across the phrase ‘the anger of the Lord was
kindled’,—Numbers 12:9, ‘My wrath shall wax hot’,-Exodus 22:23. If the phrases
are translated into Igbo language we will have iwe oku which means hot anger.
The Igbos call their anger iwe
oku (hot anger) when they are very angry. As I was pointing out in the
section that dealt with “evil beast,” is anger supposed to be “hot” or cold?
Applying such adjectives in certain cases makes sense to me only when I
consider that every language has its own idioms and characteristics.
I will make a preliminary conclusion of this section with the words of
Basden: “The language (Igbo) also bears several interesting parallels with the
But before making my final comment on this subject which I am just
beginning to look at I want to bring up more strikingly similar Igbo and Hebrew
words which have identical or near meanings.
It is not mere coincidence that makes may- im- hayy-iym “waters of life, living waters,” in Hebrew similar
to iyi which is “stream, river” in
Also the belt that was part of the Israelite priest’s garment—the ephod or ‘efowd, which is comparable with the Igbo word mfiedo = girdle or belt.
In addition the Hebrew nasas
/nasah which are “be clear, be pure /shinning”, can be related to the Igbo nso and which can be used for holiness. Aso can also be used for holiness, and
in Igbo thought what is nso or aso (holy) is pure.
And I also observed that many Igbo words like unyahu, ebe ahu, and nke ahu
(yesterday, that place, and that thing) definitely excites one to think of
Hebrew names like Eliyahu, Netanyahu, Yeshayahu, etc., because of the ahu
endings. It also occurred to me that Igbos would include an u when pronouncing a name like John
giving out something like Johnu. I
was moved by the following prayer: Barukh
atah Adonai….shehekhyanu vekiymanu vehigianu lazman hazeh, because of the nu endings. I find it my favorite prayer
in Hebrew. Researchers would find this area very interesting to explore I predict.
As I am only beginning an exploration of this section I will not go
too far. I will not make definitive assertions on the relationship between the
Igbo and Hebrew languages at this stage. However I must say that my observation
is that the Igbo spoken fifty years ago was not very dissimilar in aspects like
sound, pronunciation, etc, with ancient Ivrit. Shortly I will resume a
comparison of both languages with Avraham Phil van Riper; an American Jewish
Van Riper can actually talk about the Igbos,
because he has been studying the Igbos from many important angles for years. Alongside
Professor Isaac Mozeson, the author of The
Origin of Speeches-Intelligent Design In Language, Igbo-American Sampson
Hannuka, and myself, Van Riper has been working to find Igbo words that are as
he said, ‘clearly related to ancient Hebrew’. I can say that some important
progress has been made in this project, but that more astonishing finds and
revelations will come up when more Igbos that know Hebrew and similar languages
like Aramaic, and Arabic join the effort. And while we are at it, it will be
good to conduct a little demonstration about how close the Igbo and the Hebrew
languages are to each other. Among the Igbos, when a man pre-deceases the
father, by Igbo customs and traditions something that is note-worthy, and very
important has happened. The position of the first son is very important in the Igbo
family. Among other things the first son (di
okpara) takes over from the father as the priest of the family, and gets a
larger share of the inheritance. If the individual who died while the father
was still alive was the first son, and had married and gotten a son or sons,
his own son would not get the rights of the first son of the family, even
though his father was the first son. The rights would go to the younger brother
of the deceased (the uncle of the son of the deceased), because the deceased ‘nwuru
na ihu nna ya’, (he died in the presence of the father). Curiously, what do we
find in Genesis 11: 28?- “And Haran died in the presence of his father
Terah…….” The writer of Genesis could have written that Haran died when/while
the father was still alive. The writer could also have written that Haran died
before….or pre-deceased the father. Both statements are standard constructions
in English language. But he could not have, because he was translating from
Hebrew to English, and had to try as much as possible to present what he saw.
And what he saw in the Hebrew language is what is found in the Igbo language-that
the way to present the death of a son when the father is still alive, is ‘that
he died in the presence of the father.’ This somewhat confirms what G. T. Basden,
the Welsh-Anglican missionary and anthropologist who livedamong the Igbos for many years, observed so many
years ago in his bookNiger Ibos:1966-that “Igbo language runs an interesting parallel with Hebrew
idiom.” More detailed studies of the similarities between the Igbo and the
Hebrew languages can be conducted by reading the relevant sections of The Igbos And Israel: An Inter-cultural
Study of the Largest Jewish Diaspora, and www.edenic/nigeria.com.
A.Talking About Possible Jewish presence in
American Jewish student of world Jewish
history Avraham Van Riper transmitted the following in a letter to Chika Oduah,
an American-Nigerian journalist who was writing a story for the CNN about the
Igbo people of Nigeria who believe that they are Jews, and whom an increasing
number of non Igbos have began to believe that they are Jews.
In response Van Riper gave Oduah a brief
history of the Jews, highlighting that indeed Jews went to, and many times
settled in most parts of the world.
Van Riper noted: “Yes! Everybody knows about
the major dislocation at the hands of the Assyrian Empire around 2600 years
ago. Everybody knows that King Solomon was married to a rather famous East
African ruler. And that at some point she and her son...the king's
son...traveled back to East Africa. Everybody knows there were other occasional
dislocations. And business travel. All thousands of years ago. Everybody knows
that King Solomon dispatched a fleet of ships southward and eastward into the
Indian Ocean, and that three years later the fleet, or part of it, returned to
Israel...on the Mediterranean coast. Since there was no Suez Canal back then we
know the fleet either circumnavigated Africa, the entire continent - or - they
circumnavigated the planet! Either way, a big deal. Everybody knows that Jews
and Phoenicians settled all across northern Africa. And when we read about
'Phoenicians’, 'we're often reading both about Jews and Phoenician people (as
sailors, merchants, whatever). Everybody knows that Jews got kicked out of just
about every country in Europe, leading to the big expulsion from Spain and then
Portugal. And everyone knows that some of them sought refuge in West Africa.
Perhaps in lots of places up and down West Africa”.
Van Riper also informed Oduah about his own
“The 'problem' is determining and documenting
who showed up where and when. The Beta Yisrael (Ethiopian Jews) could point to
a few documents written by Jewish scholars hundreds of years ago. The Lemba
people in Zimbabwe and RSA can provide DNA sequencing that shows they are
descended from Jews (Edith Bruder, the University of London scholar that wrote
the Black Jews of Africa is impressed
enough with what she found in her study of the Igbo that she tried to mobilize
resources for a study of the DNA of the Igbo)….Van Riper continued…..Although
my Igbo brothers and sisters have a problem with actual documentation, actual
paperwork - I've learned that they have a rather extensive mass of
circumstantial data to present...if they were to pursue 'official' recognition
as Jews. Chika, you're an anthro, not just a reporter. Check out just half of
the 'data!' ……………….. Oh, I almost forgot language! There are lots of Asusu Igbo
words that can, even now in 2013, be shown to be clearly related to ancient
or OO-ree Meaning of Uri: "my flame, my light" Origin of Uri: Hebrew.
As a young man when I visited my grandmother the saintly Janette
Nwazuonu Nwosu, may her memory be for a blessing, we used a kind of Igbo
*light* called '*uri* mmu'
thanks for commenting and congratulating us. A very important update
follows. I just stepped in, after spending the evening at the Jewish
Museum in Miami Beach, Florida, where the Distinguished Professor Tudor Parfitt, who is one of the fathers
of Jewish Diasporic Studies gave a great lecture about the phenomenon
of the emerging and re-emerging Jewish communities. It was a lecture
that you wouldn't like to end. The professor meticulously took us around
the world, and with great skill told us what is happening in each
place, steps that the relevant authorities in Israel are contemplating
to take, what the 'communities themselves are doing, what researchers
have done, and are doing, etc. And my people, the Igbo story was among
the stories recounted. And were those in attendance which included
scholars from institutions like the MIT, Florida International University faculty and students wowed? They were. There were many questions, and Professor Parfitt
took them all. And at the end of the day, the Jewish people, and some
members of the Parfitt Clan that were also in attendance left with much
satisfaction. Yours humbly enjoyed the evening thoroughly. He engaged
many of the invitees in lively discussions.....