In English, the general order of words is the subject of the verb, the verb and then the object of the verb. As an example, using Revised Mechanical Translation, from Genesis we have the sentence, "and the land brought out grass. In Hebrew, this order is slightly different. The general order of Hebrew sentences is slightly different and is verb, subject of the verb and then the object of the verb.
All Hebrew pronouns will be translated as "he" or "she. This is an important issue as knowing the correct gender of a pronoun can influence interpretation. A classic example is found in where most translations read " For instance the word "beast" is a feminine word and any pronoun associated with this word will be a "she" with no regard to the actual gender of the beast. Hebrew grammar uses the masculine form of nouns and pronouns for a group of mixed genders.
For instance, in the "sons" masculine plural of Anah are identified as Dishon a male and Ahalivamah a female.
The most common noun form is the use of the two or three letter root. Just as the tent pole supports the tent, the father supports the family within the tent. Additional nouns are also formed out of the base root by adding specific letters as prefixes, infixes and suffixes, in specific places within the root. In Hebrew all nouns are either masculine or feminine. Generally, masculine nouns are concrete while feminine nouns are abstract. Additional noun derivatives are formed by combining different prefixes, infixes and suffixes. The four feminine suffixes can also be added to any of the other noun derivatives resulting in a wide variety of possible nouns.
In all modern languages the plural is always quantitative while in Ancient Hebrew a plural can be quantitative or qualitative. Hebrew uses nouns for other functions within the sentence. They can be used as adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, etc. Because the Ancient Hebrew language does not make distinctions between these types of words the Lexicon lists them all as nouns and noun derivatives.
Specific letters are used in Hebrew to represent the article, conjunction, and preposition and are prefixed to nouns and sometimes verbs. An adjective is a word that provides description to a noun. Notice that in Hebrew the adjective follows the noun which it describes. The adjective will also match the gender of the noun. The adjective will also match the number singular or plural of the noun.
Four of the Hebrew letters double as consonants and vowels. The al can be a glottal stop silent pause or the vowel sound "a". The hey is an "h" as a consonant or an "e" as a vowel. The waw is a "w" as a consonant or an "o" or "u" as a vowel. The waw and the yud are the two most commonly used as vowels in Hebrew words. When the waw appears at beginning of a syllable it will use the consonantal "w" sound.
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The same with the yud which will use the consonantal "y" when at beginning of a syllable. Another type of vowel is the implied vowel sounds. This means that the vowel is not written but is necessary in order to pronounce the word. In most cases the implied vowel will be an "a" or an "e". A spirant is a letter whose sound can be prolonged. Some examples of this from the English language are the v, z, f, and sh. A stop is a letter whose sound ends abruptly such as the b, p, d and t.
A few of the Hebrew letters will have a different pronunciation depending on their position within the word. When at the beginning of a word it will be pronounced as a stop k , otherwise it will be pronounced as a spirant kh — pronounced like the ch in the name Bach.
When at the beginning of a word it will be a stop p , otherwise it will be a spirant ph. There are two types of syllables, open and closed.
A closed syllable will include a consonant-vowel-consonant combination while an open syllable will have a vowel-consonant combination. In most cases the final syllable will be a closed syllable. Generally a word with three consonants will be divided as Cv-CvC. When it is in the middle of a closed syllable or the end of an open syllable it will take on the vowel sound. If you were to ask a Westerner, such as from the Americas or Europe, what they see in the picture above, they would probably say "a deer. In an extensive study on these different forms of philosophy, a wide range of people from America, Canada and Europe were asked if they thought the boy in the middle of the picture on the left was happy or sad, they all said "happy.
When asked if the boy on the left was happy or sad, they all said "happy. Eastern thinkers on the other hand focus on the picture as a whole and because the majority of the children in the picture on the right were sad, their answer was "sad," regardless of the smile on the boy in the middle. The Psychology of the Ancient Hebrews is very different from our own and when we read the Bible we must learn to read it from the Hebrew's perspective rather than our own.
When we use a word like "name," we focus in on how it is written and pronounced. What does it mean to "tell someone about another's name? From a Western perspective yes, but from a Hebraic perspective a name is much more than its pronunciation; it is the character of the individual, his ethics, workmanship, attitude, dependability, resourcefulness, compassion, honor, etc. When the Bible teaches us to "tell others the name of Yahweh," it isn't telling us to teach others how to write or pronounce it correctly; it is telling us to teach Yahweh's character.
Hebrew Culture A language is always closely connected to the culture of the people using that language. Take for example the word "rain. This is important to keep in mind when reading the Biblical text. If we attempt to interpret the text based on our own personal cultural perspective, we will undoubtedly make errors in our interpretations. Take for example the flood.
In our experiences floods are equated with death and disaster. However, in the ancient world of the Hebrew people, the annual floods bring the much needed water from the mountainous regions to lower desert regions. The above passage from Isaiah is making an analogy between the heavens and a tent. In order to properly understand this analogy, one must understand the unique design of the tents of the Ancient Hebrews.
These tents were made from woven black goat hair. When sitting inside the tent, it is very dark, but pin holes of light can be seen coming through the panels and appear like the stars of the night sky. When it rains, the hair fibers swell and seal the tent and the pin holes of light disappear, just as they do when the clouds come, blocking the view of the stars. When an Ancient Hebrew looks up at the night sky he sees God's tent over him, in the same way that his own tent covers over and protects his family. In America, a biscuit is a soft raised bread, while in England it is a small hard flat cake, what we call in America a cracker or cookie.
When an American orders his first cup of coffee in Europe, he may be shocked at what he is given and surprised at the small size of the coffee cup and the extreme potency of the coffee. This is not only true for the many cultures of today, but even more so when we are translating ideas and concepts from an Ancient culture to a modern one. We know today that a star a giant ball of gas burning at millions of degrees, but ancient man did not have this understanding and we cannot use our modern definition of a star for an ancient peoples understanding of what a star is.
Benjamin Lee Whorf stated, in what has become known as the Whorf hypothesis, that; "language is not simply a way of voicing ideas, but is the very thing which shapes those ideas. In our modern western culture we view time in the sense of the past, present and future, a fixed and measurable progression time. Other cultures, such as the Hopi Indians of North America, do not share this same perspective of time.
To the Hopis, there is what "is" manifested and what "is not yet" unmanifested. Interestingly, the Ancient Hebrews had a similar view of time. Like the Hopi language, the Ancient Hebrew language does not use past, present and future tenses for verbs. Instead they use two tenses, one for a complete action manifested and one for an incomplete action unmanifested. An individual, whose native language is Hopi, views time from the Hopi perspective, but if he is required to adopt English he learns the English perspective of time.
During the late s, the United States forced the Native Americans to adopt the English language and when a Hopi no longer functions within his native language, the original cultural perspectives, such as time, is lost and replaced with the modern western perspective of time. This same shift in perspectives can be seen throughout the Ancient Hebrew vocabulary. In Numbers we read; "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, make tsiytsiyt on the corners of your garment. The tsiytsiyt then is a blossom, not in appearance, but in function.
The function of the tsiytsiyt is to be a reminder to the wearer to produce fruit, fruit being the observance of the commands, as stated in verse 39, " remember the commandments ," the teachings of God, which according to Psalm ,3, is like producing fruit. Therefore, the word tsiytsiyt carries with it a cultural perspective which connects the blossoms of a tree with the performance of a commandment.
This "concrete" Hebrew language continued to function as the Jewish people's native language until their removal from the land after the Bar Kockba revolt in AD, at which time they were dispersed into many different nations. While the Jewish people continued to use the Hebrew language from then until now, it was relegated to their religious lives alone. The language of the people around them, quite often this was Greek, was adopted as the language for everyday use. At this point, Greek becomes the influential language in their life and their perspectives of words and ideas are now determined by this dominant language.
In Israel became a Jewish state and with that, Hebrew once again became the everyday language of the Jewish people. While the language had been resurrected, the original cultural perspective of that language had disappeared long ago and the Western influence on that language survived. Therefore, a tsiytsiyt , in the mind of modern Orthodox Jews, is still a decorative fringe and no longer functionally related to a blossom.
This same change can be seen throughout the Hebrew language. The Ancient Hebrews were nomadic agriculturalists who migrated from pasture to pasture, watering hole to watering hole. Their entire lives were spent in the wilderness and this lifestyle had a significant effect on their language. Some Hebrew words are obviously related to this agricultural lifestyle. Besides these obvious agricultural words, many other words, which we would not relate to agriculture, are in fact rooted in some aspect of the Nomadic culture.
Throughout the world there are two major branches of Philosophy, Western and Eastern. Western Philosophy has its beginnings in the sixth century B. While there are many differences between the Western and Eastern schools of thought, one of the major differences is the use of abstracts and concretes. Just as artwork may be created in the concrete or the abstract, words can also be created in the concrete or the abstract. A concrete word, idea or concept is something that can be perceived by the five senses.
It can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched. An abstract is something that cannot be perceived by the five senses. As the Bible was written from an Eastern philosophical perspective, it is important that we recognize that we cannot interpret it through our own Western philosophy. To do so, would place a meaning and interpretation that may not be that of the original authors.
Thorleif Boman's monumental work, Hebrew thought compared with Greek , states; "The thinking of the Old Testament is primitive and hence can be compared only with the thinking of other primitive peoples and not with thinking as advanced as Plato's or Bergson's. Matthews explains how the culture of the Hebrews can be studied in his book, Manners and Customs of the Bible.
The gulf of thousands of years can be bridged, at least in part, by insights into their everyday life. These can be garnered through the close examination of the biblical narratives and through the use of comparative written and physical remains from other ancient civilizations. Thus their language has few abstract terms.
Rather, "Hebrew may be called primarily a language of the senses. The words originally expressed concrete or material things and movements or actions which struck the senses or started the emotions.
Only secondarily and in metaphor could they be used to denote abstract or metaphysical ideas. The Eastern mind communicates with concrete words and concepts. All five of the senses are used when speaking, hearing, writing and reading the Hebrew language. An example of this can be found in Psalms ;. In this passage the author expresses his thoughts in concrete terms such as; tree, streams of water, fruit and leaf. Western thinkers are comfortable with abstract words and concepts.
Abrstracts are the expressions that cannot be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard. Examples of Abstract thought can be found in Psalms ; "The LORD is compassionate and gracious , slow to anger , abounding in love ". The words compassion, grace, anger and love are all abstract words, ideas that cannot be experienced by the senses.
Why do we find these abstract words in a passage of Hebrews who wrote in concretes? Actually, these are abstract English words used by the translator to translate the original Hebrew concrete words. These same Concrete concepts of Eastern thought can also be found in Primitive cultures that exist today who have not been influenced by our Modern Western culture. A literal translation of Proverbs reads, "One who makes his walk straight will revere Yahweh, but the one who makes his path crooked is worthless.
Exodus describes the direction of the court in relationship to the four sides of the Tabernacle. The Hebrew words used for these four directions are;. In our minds we would never relate an oak tree to a ram or view them as the same. The reason being is that we relate to features and appearances. However, the Hebrews relate to the function and in the case of the oak and the ram, they function in the same way. An oak tree is a very hard wood and the horns and skull of a ram are equally as hard. From our Modern Western mindset, we assume that this passage is describing the "appearance" of the ark.
But this is not so, the dimensions are not given to tell us what it "looked like," but instead to tell us that it is very large as it is going to hold a large number of animals. Another major difference between the modern Western view and the ancient Eastern one is how something is described. A westerner would describe a pencil in relationship to its appearance, such as long and yellow. An ancient easterner on the other hand, would describe it by its function, such as "you write with it.
Biblical Hebrew rarely uses adjectives; instead it much more prefers to use verbs. In our Modern western language verbs express action dynamic while nouns express inanimate static objects. In Hebrew all things are in motion dynamic including verbs and nouns. In Hebrew sentences the verbs identify the action of an object while nouns identify an object of action. A mountain top is not a static object but the "head lifting up out of the hill". A good example of action in what appears to be a static passage is the command to "have no other gods before me" Exodus In Hebrew thought this passage is saying "not to bring another one of power in front of my face".
Very few sermons in our Western synagogues and churches would include the passage "I [God] form the light and create darkness, I make peace and I create evil, I am the LORD who does all of these" Isaiah as our Western mind sees these two forces as opposing opposites while the Eastern mind sees them both as equals and necessary for perfect balance.
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In the Western mind, God is only good and therefore unable to create evil. The Eastern mind sees God as a perfect balance of all things including good and evil. Our western mind classifies all things in two categories, either it is "good" or it is "bad" evil and bad are translations for the same Hebrew word. One is to be sought, cherished and protected, the other is to be rejected, spurned and discarded. Let us take light and darkness as an example. We see light as good and darkness as bad. The idea of light brings to mind such things as God, truth and love.
Darkness on the other hand invokes Satan, lies and hate. To the Orientals, including the Hebrews, both are equally necessary as one cannot exist without the other. In the Bible God is seen as a God of light as well as darkness "And the people stood at a distance and Moses approached the heavy darkness where God was. If you stare at the sun, which is pure light, what happens?
Studia Semitica Neerlandica. Editor: Klaas A. Studia Semitica Neerlandica comprises of studies on the linguistics and literature of one the Semitic languages or the Semitic languages as a whole. Studies on texts written in one of the Semitic languages or texts that deal with the history and culture of groups speaking a Semitic language also fall within the scope of this series. The series published an average of two volumes per year over the last 5 years.
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The Lexical Field Of The Substantives Of Ldquo Gift Rdquo In Ancient Hebrew
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