A Bag of Wisdom
By Jeff A. Benner, excerpted from his book The Living Words
Return to Index
One aspect of the Hebrew language that fascinates me is its system of letters, roots, and words. The parent root חם hham [H:2525], meaning "heat," and its derivatives demonstrate this unique system.
The word hham appears as in its original pictographic script. The letter (hhet, written as ח in the modern Hebrew alphabet) is a picture of a wall which "separates" one side from another. The letter (Mem, written as מ and ם in the modern Hebrew alphabet) is a picture of "water." Combined, these two letters literally mean "separate water." When "heat" (hham) is applied to water, we have evaporation, or a "separating of water."
The following Hebrew words are all derived from the parent root root חם hham [H:2525].
חמת hheymet [H:2573] - skin-bag
חמה hheymah [H:2529] - cheese
חמה hhammah [H:2535] - sun
חמס hhamas [H:2554] - to shake
חמד hhamad [H:2530] - to crave/desire
חמץ hhamats [H:2556] - to sour
While we can plainly see the root חם (hham - ם is the form used when it comes at the end of a word) at the beginning of each of these words, what may not be as plainly seen is how the meanings of each of these words are related.
Soured (חמץ) milk was placed in a skin-bag (חמת) that was set out in the heat (חם) of the sun (חמה) and shaken (חמס). The natural enzymes in the skin-bag cause the "water to separate" (חם) from the milk, forming the delicacy (חמד) cheese (חמה).
So, what does all of this have to do with wisdom? First, חם is the root of the Hebrew word חכם hhakham [H:2450] and is, secondly, related to the idea of "separating," as this word means "one who is able to separate between what is good and bad." This one word can be translated as either "skill," when applied to a craftsman, or as "wise," when applied to a leader or counselor.
|and now send for me a man of skill (hhakham) to work in gold... 2 Chronicles 2:7|
|Provide for yourselves wise (hhakham) men and understanding and knowing for your tribes and I will set them as rulers over you. Deuteronomy 1:13|
A verse found in the book of Isaiah has a very interesting connection between חמה hheymah [H:2529] (cheese) and חכם hhakham [H:2450], which we have defined as one who is able to separate from the good and the bad.
|And he will eat cheese (hheymah) and dates to know to reject the bad and choose the good. Isaiah 7:15|
There appears to be a physical connection between cheese and wisdom as this passage indicates that eating cheese can bring about wisdom.