Q&A: Could a contemporary Hebrew speaker talk to a biblical Hebrew speaker?

Short answer: Yes.

Pronunciation is undoubtedly very different today—but then the same is true for English of Chaucer’s or even Shakespeare’s time and today. (Heck, these days I’m reading Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit, and I’m having a hard time understanding the characters’ 1920s slang…). 

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Q&A: Is it true that today’s Hebrew Torah is actually the Hebrew translation of the Greek Torah?

Page from the Leningrad Codex
Page from the Leningrad Codex of the Hebrew Bible

I was about to dismiss this seemingly silly question with a flippant answer along the lines of “Yes, and Shakespeare’s writings were much better in the original German,” when it struck me that OP might be confusing “the Hebrew Torah” with the New Testament.

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Q&A: In Hebrew, if shamartem is “you guarded” (2nd person masc. plural) and shamroom is “they guarded them,” then what is “you guarded them” (2nd.masc.pl)?

This is a good question, as it highlights how Hebrew, in its love of concision by cramming prepositions and possessive indicators into the prefixes and suffixes of verbs and nouns, can sometimes overload itself.

As you partly point out in your question:

  • “you guarded” (m.sing.): shamárta
  • “you guarded” (m.plural): shamártem
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Q&A: In Genesis 15:6, what nuance, if any, does the Hiphil/causative form of “believed” (וְהֶאֱמִין) indicate about the nature of Abram’s response to the divine promise of innumerable descendants?

It indicates the overcoming of natural scepticism. 

There is no plain-vanilla—i.e., pa’al—version of the root a-m-n. In other words, there is no verb le-émon לֶאֱמוֹן. Belief is something that needs to be applied to oneself—the default mode is disbelief. (As they say in Missouri—’Show me.’)

Similarly, there is no verb for ‘going far’: when one simply goes, one holekh—but when one goes far, one marḥiq lekhet—lit. ‘make distance going’.

So when Abraham is persuaded that God will do all that He is promising, he is actively overruling his natural scepticism, to make himself believe.

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Q&A: What is the Moabite word for “Israel” in the Mesha Stele?

Exactly as in Hebrew—Yisrael ישראל (blue rectangle below)—as evident at the start of the third sentence (line 5), in which he describes how Omri king of Israel had oppressed Moab:

Top of Mesha Stele (b&w rendering) Source: en.wikipedia.com https://images.app.goo.gl/jzFsMqXUisxZAVFo8
Source: en.wikipedia.com https://images.app.goo.gl/jzFsMqXUisxZAVFo8
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Q&A: What is the difference between the Hebrew words dabar and amar?

The verb d-b-r (דבר) is to speak—i.e. it is more formal and intentional. Hence words put in writing are also dbrim* (‘dvarim’); the Ten Commandments in Hebrew are Aseret Hadibrot (The Ten Proclamations); and religious prophets always warned civic leaders to honour at hdbrim awr H’ xivh* etc. (the things that the Lord commanded).

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Q&A: Does God’s promise to Joshua and Israel in Joshua 1:9 apply to us?

By ‘us’ I’m assuming you mean the Jewish people, and specifically those living in Israel today.

You can’t cherry-pick God’s promises. Even if you accept those verses at face value, the promise is contingent upon the nation remaining faithful to God’s commandments. In the Book of Deuteronomy (chap. 28), God warns Moses:

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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).

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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:

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