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Language Studies

Hebrew Thoughts Archives

September 5, 2020

The adjective/noun עָשִׁיר 'āśîr 'rich' (H6223) occurs only 23x in the Bible. It is not a particularly unique word in Hebrew, but it does help to demonstrate the differences in the worldview of the Bible against our own common conceptions.

July 26, 2020

The word māgēn מָגֵן occurs 63x in 60 verses in the Bible. It is derived from the verb גָּנַן gānan 'to defend; (H1598), from which a number of other words, such as גַּן gan 'garden' are derived. Overall, the word does not have many different translations or unique usages, but it was often used as a metaphor

July 19, 2020

The verb רדה (H2787) occurs 27x in the Bible. It is found in Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—the three major divisions of the Bible according to Jewish tradition—and is not clustered around any one particular section. The largest clustering is three occurrences in Lev 25.  According to Strong's concordance, all 27 occurrences are of the same lexical root with three distinct...

June 21, 2020

The verb זָמַר zāmar 'to sing' occurs 45 in the Bible, with 41 of those occurrences in the Psalter. The other 4 instances are in Judges 5:3, 2 Sam 22:50, 1 Chron 6:9, and Isa 5:6. The word is relegated entirely to poetic compositions (though it appears in Samuel and Chronicles, the sections are poetry embedded in narrative).

May 30, 2020

The word נֶפֶשׁ nephesh is used 754 times in the Bible. The most commonly known gloss of this term is ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ (e.g. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might, Deut 6:45 KJV).This, however, does not capture the full range of usages. A more complete idea of the word is ‘the life force of a living being.’Though, this complete idea is not present in every usage...

June 20, 2015
The word

לָקַח lâqach "to take" (Strong's #3947, x965) occurs frequently in the Hebrew Bible, some 965 times. Most of the time it simple means "to take", often with or by the hand, other forms of the verb can mean to "take away", "take in hand/receive", "take get/fetch/bring", even to "take a wife/marry". The expansion of its meaning is generally derived from context and parallels with other verbs…

June 13, 2015
The rarely used and thus difficult to translate verb הָדַר hâdhar (Strong's #1921, x7) occurs just 7 times. Its first use in Exodus 23:3 is translated variously by "favouritism, partiality, countenance, honour, adorn, embellish". It can be hard to see how the translators arrived at those translations except contextually, rather than literally.

The root idea of the verb seems to be "to enlarge, make large, swell" - and by application "to be proud, raised, honoured". How this applies to the verse above seems to be in the sense of "magnify", i.e., not bigging up someone's legal…
May 30, 2015
The root verb ישַׁר yâshar (Strong's #3474, x27) has the base idea of that which is "level, straight, even, upright". The verb can mean to direct as in the direction of something, be that a water course like a river (2 Chronicles 32:30), to order or send the thunder (Job 37:3), practically of being instricuted and directed (Isaiah 45:13) or morally, to direct one's paths and walk uprightly…
May 23, 2015
Whilst the seven-fold use of "good" טוֹב tôwbh (Strong's #2896, x559) in the Genesis 1:4-31 Creation narrative is fairly familiar, its parent verb - or perhaps the noun came first, is less well known. יטַב yâtabh (Strong's #3190, x107) is variously translated, principally by to be or do "well" x35, "good" x21, "please…
May 9, 2015
רָעַע râ‘a‘ (Strong's #7489, x83) is the root verb behind the more common and familiar "evil" רַע ra‘ (Strong's #7451, x663). Both "peace" שָׁלוֹם shâlôwm (Strong's #7965, x236) and "good" טוֹב tôwbh (Strong's #2896, x559) appear as opposites to רַע ra‘ as they do to some extent with the verb רָעַע râ‘a‘ (Jeremiah 40:4) and with יָטַב yâtabh (Strong's #3190, x107) "to be…
April 25, 2015
עַיִן ‘ayin is both the name of the 16th Hebrew letter and the word for "eye" (Strong's #5869, x887). The letter ע ‘ayin originally represented an "eye", as is quite obvious from the evolution of its character depiction through many ancient alphabets. It is pronounced almost like 'eye-in' but with a guttural throaty sound at the beginning.

The European words for eye retain more than the English and have the historical guttural sound: ojos (Spanish), yeux (French), augen (German). Middle English, though, had…
April 18, 2015
אִישׁוֹן ’îyshôwn "little man, manikin" (Strong's #380, x5) is the diminutive of the familiar Hebrew word אִישׁ ’îysh "man" (Strong's #376, x1638), although Delitzsch and others reject the suffix as indicating a diminutive at all and prefer the translation "man image". As in many languages the diminutive can mean small of size but also affection, as with several of its Hebrew uses. In this case it appears to be both in idiomatic…
April 11, 2015
מַלְאָך mal'’âkh (Strong's #4397, x214) is thought to be from an unused Hebrew root לָאַך lâ’akh which appears similar to הָאַך hâlakh (Strong's #1980, x500) "to go". "Messenger" feels too weak a translation and "angel" too strong an interpretation. Somewhere in between would seem to be the meaning, a deputised official with some authority which could cover everything from a messenger, to a prophet, priest or angelic…
April 4, 2015
עֶבֶד ‘ebhedh (Strong's #5650, x800) is a simple and yet broad word taking in all kinds of servitude from service to slavery, from high ranking military or ministerial duty to the lowest bonded servant. It includes the worshipper and the worker, the prophet (Amos 3:7, Zech 1:6) and the priest, right up to princes, kings and the messianic ambassador…
March 28, 2015
Song of Songs 1:5: "I am black, but comely...as the tents of Kedar" describes an appearance that is as black as the tents of Kedar קֵדַר qêdhar "dark, black" (Strong's #6938, x12). Kedar was a son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13) and father of a tribe that came to do service for many Arabians generally (cf. Ezekiel 27:21) and in the Rabbinic era of the Arabic language…