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Learn to Read Biblical Hebrew - Lesson 15
Adjectives, Prepositions, etc.

By: Jeff A. Benner



Adjectives


An adjective is a word that provides description to a noun. For instance, the Hebrew word טוֹב is a common adjective such as in the phrase יוֹם טוֹב (a good day, 1 Samuel 25:8). Notice that in Hebrew the adjective follows the noun it is describing. If the noun is preceded by the article ה (as a prefix) then, the adjective will as well, such as in הָהָר הַטוֹב (the good mountain, Deuteronomy 3:25).

The adjective will also match the gender of the noun. In the last two examples, the word יוֹם and הַר are masculine nouns therefore, the masculine form טוֹב is used. The word אֶרֶץ (land) is a feminine word so the feminine טוֹבָה is used in the phrase אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה (a good land, Exodus 3:8). The adjective will also match the number (masculine or singular) of the noun. In each of our previous examples the singular form of the word טוֹב is being used because the noun it is describing is also singular. In the phrase בָּתִּים טוֹבִים (good houses, Deuteronomy 8:12) the word בֵית (house) is used in the plural form therefore, the adjective is as well.

In the phrase הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב the word מֶלֶךְ (king) is prefixed by the article ה (the) but, the word טוֹב is not. In this case the word טוֹב is not being used as an adjective but as a noun and should therefore be translated as "the king is good" or "the king is pleased" (Nehemiah 2:5).

It should be kept in mind that Biblical Hebrew does not really like adjectives but instead prefers to provide description by using verbs since the Ancient Hebrew mind describes things by their function and purpose rather than their appearance.

Some common Biblical adjectives are as follows.

Fem. Masc. Meaning
טוֹבה טוֹב good
רָעָה רָע bad, evil
גְּדוֹלָה גָּדוֹל great, large
קְטַנָּה קָטַן small, little
זֹאת זֶה This
הַהִיא הַהוּא That
אֶל / אֵלֶּא אֶל / אֵלֶּא These, Those



Interogratives


Questions in Hebrew can easily be identified by one of the following words which will begin a sentence.

מִי Who
מָה What
מָתַי When
אֵיפֹה / אֵי Where
לָמָּה Why
אֵיךְ How
A sentence can also begin with what is called the "interogative Hey". This is the letter ה being prefixed to a word. As an example, the Hebrew word יְדַעְתֶּם (Genesis 44:15) would be translated as "you know" but, if it is prefixed by the interogative hey it would appear as הַיְדַעְתֶּם (Genesis 29:5) and be translated as "do you know?"




Prepositions, Conjunctions and Adverbs


Prepositions

אֵל To,For, Belonging to
אִם If
בֵּין Between
כִּי That, Because, So
מִין From
עַד Until
עוֹד Again
עַל Upon, Over
שָׁם There



Conjunctions

אֲשֵׁר Which, Who, That
אוֹ Or
גַּם Also
פֶּן Otherwise



Adverbs

כֵּן So
עָתַה Now
אַךְ Indeed, Surely
רַק Only
אוּלַי Perhaps
אוּלָם But



It is also common for these prepositions, conjuctions and adverbs to used together to form a different concept. Here are a few examples.

Combinations

גַּם עָתַה Let it be
כִּי אִם Unless, Except
כִּי עַל Because
כִּי עַל כֵּן Since



Biblical Application


1 Samuel 20:10
וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל־יְהוֹנָתָן מִי יַגִּיד לִי אוֹ מַה־יַּעַנְךָ אָבִיךָ קָשָׁה׃
וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד And David said
אֶל־יְהוֹנָתָן to Jonathon
מִי יַגִּיד לִי Who will tell me
אוֹ מַה־ Or what
יַּעַנְךָ אָבִיךָ will your father answer you
קָשָׁה roughly



2 Kings 18:20
אָמַרְתָּ אַךְ־דְּבַר־שְׂפָתַיִם עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה לַמִּלְחָמָה עַתָּה עַל־מִי בָטַחְתָּ כִּי מָרַדְתָּ בִּי׃
אָמַרְתָּ You said
אַךְ־דְּבַר־שְׂפָתַיִם Surely the word of the lips
עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה לַמִּלְחָמָה counsel and strenght are for the battle
עַתָּה עַל־מִי בָטַחְתָּ Now, upon who will you trust
כִּי מָרַדְתָּ בִּי׃ because of your rebellion with me



Ecc 6:12
כִּי מִי־יוֹדֵעַ מַה־טּוֹב לָאָדָם בַּחַיִּים מִסְפַּר יְמֵי־חַיֵּי הֶבְלוֹ וְיַעֲשֵׂם כַּצֵּל אֲשֶׁר מִי־יַגִּיד לָאָדָם מַה־יִּהְיֶה אַחֲרָיו תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ ׃
כִּי מִי־יוֹדֵעַ מַה־טּוֹב לָאָדָם בַּחַיִּים For who knows what is good for man in life,
מִסְפַּר יְמֵי־חַיֵּי הֶבְלוֹ numbered are the days of the life of his vanity
וְיַעֲשֵׂם כַּצֵּל and they will be made like a shadow
אֲשֶׁר מִי־יַגִּיד לָאָדָם for who can tell man
מַה־יִּהְיֶה אַחֲרָיו תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ what will be after him under the sun.
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