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Bible Dictionaries
Say, Speak, Answer

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

A. Verb.

'Âmar (אָמַר, Strong's #559), “to say, speak, tell, command, answer.” This verb occurs in all Semitic languages and in all periods of those languages although it has the meaning “to say, speak” only in the so-called Northwest Semitic dialects (except in Ugaritic) and in Aramaic. Elsewhere the word means “to say” or “to see.” This verb is med about 5,280 times in Old Testament Hebrew.
Âmar refers to the simple act of communicating with the spoken word. Usually the word is used of direct speech (“say”), although it may be used of indirect speech as well (“speak”).

The usual subject of this verb is some selfconscious personality—man (Gen. 2:23) or God (Gen. 1:3—the first occurrence of the word). Infrequently animals (Gen. 3:1) or, in figures of speech such as personification, inanimate objects “say” something (Judg. 9:8ff.). This verb bears many connotations and in some passages is better translated accordingly. The KJV renders this verb “answer” 98 times (“say as a response”), while the NASB translates such passages “said.” In Gen. 9:8 we read: “God spoke to Noah” (NASB); the specific content of the communication is not immediately detailed. In Gen. 22:2 Abraham is to offer Isaac on the “mountain of which” God “tells [says to] him” (NASB). Moses requests Pharaoh to let Israel go and sacrifice to God as He “commands” them (Exod. 8:27); the force of God’s speaking is more than merely making a statement: It is authoritative.

In addition to these frequently occurring connotations, 'âmar is rendered with many words representing variom aspects of spoken communication, such as “appoint” or “assign” (1 Kings 11:18), “mention” or “name” (Gen. 43:27), “call” (Isa. 5:20), and “promise” (2 Kings 8:19). Although not always so translated, this word can imply the act of thinking within oneself (Gen. 44:28) and the intention to do something (Exod. 2:14).

When used of divine speaking, this verb may refer to simple communication (Gen. 1:26). Often, however, there is a much fuller sense where God’s saying effects the thing spoken (cf. Gen. 1). The phrase “thus says the Lord,” so frequent in the prophets, has been analyzed as a message-formula. Ancient Near Eastern letters from, for example, Mari (1750-1697 B.C.) and Amarna (1400-1360 B.C.) contain a similar formula. One might compare our letters which open with “Dear sir.” Divine messages are often concluded with the words “says the Lord.” The Bible recognizes that behind the divine speaking is divine authority and power.

The Septuagint renders this verb by over 40 different Greek words and most often by lego (“to say”) and eipen (“he said”).

B. Nouns.

'Êmer (אֵמֶר, Strong's #561), “word; speech.” This noun appears 48 times. 'Êmer refers to “words” in Prov. 2:1: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee.”

Several other nouns are related to the verb ’amar’Imrah also means “word, speech,” and it occurs 37 times. One occurrence of ‘imrah is in 2 Sam. 22:31 (cf. Ps. 18:30). The noun ‘omer is found 6 times and means “word, speech, promise” (Ps. 68:11; Hab. 3:9). Ma’amar and me’mar mean “word, command.” Ma’amar occurs 3 times (Esth. 1:15; 2:22; 9:32), and me’mar occurs twice (Ezra 6:9; Dan. 4:17).

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Say, Speak, Answer'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​s/say-speak-answer.html. 1940.
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