About יונתן אור-סתיו | Jonathan Orr-Stav

Hebrew-English translator, editor, author. מתרגם עברית–אנגלית, עורך באנגלית, וסופר.

Q&A: Is it true that, in the Book of Revelation, Hebrew letters were used instead of Greek for the mark of the beast (666)?

Not so Beastly

This urban legend has been making the rounds for years in relation to the logo of a certain energy drink whose logo is three claw marks that supposedly look like the Hebrew letter vav, which also has the numerical value of 6—i.e., ‘666’

The problem is, vav is very length-specific: it goes down to the baseline, but no more. Since the middle claw mark is longer than the other two, it suggests that it is the end-of-word form of a different Hebrew letter (nun = n), whose numerical value is 50—so technically, the numbers are 6–50–6. Not so Beastly.

Last but not least, numerical values above 100 using Hebrew letters don’t work like decimal numbers. To write the number 666 with Hebrew letters, one would write תרס”ו (tav-resh-samekh-vav), which numerically is 400+200+60+6, and would be read phonetically Tarsu™—which doesn’t mean anything, but I’ve trademarked it, anyway, to sell to a company with a devilishly good drink.

Advertisements

SimHebrew Torah complete

Part I of the SimHebrew Bible project is complete.

What began last September with the conversion of one chapter a day, starting with Genesis 1 (based on the Masoretic version in ktiv malé), the SimHebrew Torah (Pentateuch) is now, with the conversion of Deut. 34, has been concluded:

Continue reading

Q&A: Does the Bible state that the original land of Israel extended into Iraq and Egypt?

Actually, no. The Book of Deuteronomy is very explicit on the issue, with the expression avor et-hayarden el-ha’aretz asher Adonai eloheinu noten (‘pass the [River] Jordan to the land which the Lord our God has given’) repeated (in various permutations) a dozen times (2:29 / 3:27 / 4:21, 23, 26 / 9:1 / 11:31 / 12:10 / 27:2,4, 12 / 30:18).

Continue reading

Q&A: What is a biblical Hebrew expression that hardly anyone is familiar with – or even knows what it means?

My favourite so far is לֹא אָבָה יַבְּמִי – lo avah yabmi (Deut. 25:9)—meaning ‘He will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother’—which is the official complaint of a childless widow whose brother-in-law refuses to do his fraternal duty of giving her a child after the husband has died.

300px-the_daughters_of_zelophehad
Source: https://images.app.goo.gl/7rj642DevKTEgnS48

The expression is unfamiliar because the word yabmi is a conjugation of a curious verb— לִבְּמוֹת libmot — which is awkward to pronounce, not used in other contexts, and even the word for husband’s brother (יבם yavam), is unfamiliar today (in modern Hebrew, it is גיס gis, and can refer to the wife’s brother, as well).

I also love the description of the consequences of such a refusal:

Continue reading

Q&A: Which English words or phrases have been adopted in Hebrew but do not mean the same thing?

76fa1d9a54288511ee1c60ff90638f2e

A beq-eqs.

This is a frequent theme of mine in my Hebrew blog, in which I warn my clients (and other native Hebrew speakers) about the pitfalls of English expression.

One of the oldest—and certainly one of my favourite—examples, which go back decades, if not a century, is the word beq-eqs, which is a corruption of ‘back axle’—i.e. ‘rear axle’. You might think that doesn’t qualify as a loan word with a different meaning—until you discover that the word for ‘front axle’ is—wait for it—front-beq-eqs

Read More…

Q&A: Is it best to start with the “alef-bet” when learning Hebrew?

That’s how it’s normally taught at ulpanim (HSL—Hebrew-as a Second Language—schools)—but to my mind, that’s a bit like teaching car mechanics to someone who wants to learn to drive. There’s little point in learning the tools when you don’t know what function each of them serves.

SimHebrewCourse-Logo.pngIn general, when teaching a new subject to someone, one should always teach the problem—then the solution. Not the other way round.

Which is why in my Hebrew teaching classes, we dive straight into whatever material the student really want to engage in in the end:

Read More…

Q&A: How are line breaks handled in bidirectional messages containing both English and Hebrew?

This is a very good question, as it relates to one of several unresolved problems in using traditional (‘Square’) Hebrew text in computer environments:

Mixing RTL (right-to-left) text such as Hebrew or Arabic with LTR text such as English usually wreaks havoc on the display order of the text. One reason is the conflict between two competing standards of encoding in Hebrew—Logical, and Visual:

The bi-directional way (logical method) and the visual method. In the logical method characters are stored in the electronic document in the order that a normal person would type, and in the visual method the characters are ordered assuming that the display device will order them left-to-right. In HTML, only the logical method is a real standard.[1]

Read More…