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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Words

By Jeff A. Benner


There are two common Hebrew verbs that are used to convey the idea that someone is about to speak. These are אמר (A.M.R, Strong's #559), usually translated as “say” and דבר (D.B.R, Strong's #1696), usually translated as “speak.” There is one other verb that is used in a similar way, but is not as common a verb as the other two.

And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew: (ASV, Genesis 14:13)

The Hebrew verb behind the English “told,” is the verb נגד (N.G.D, Strong's #5046), but this verb does not mean to “tell,” but literally means “to be face to face.”

Hebrew verbs can be written in different forms. The three most common are the qal (simple form), niphil (passive form) and hiphil (causative form). As an example, the qal form of the verb ידע (Y.D.Ah, Strong’s #3045) means to “know.” The niphil form is the passive and means to “be known” or to “reveal.” The hiphil is the causative form and means to “cause to be known” or to “declare.” Notice that the meaning of each of these verbs is all related to the idea of “knowing,” but with slight nuances.

The verb נגד (N.G.D, Strong's #5046), is never written in the qal or niphil form, but only in the hiphil form, to “cause to be face to face.” The hiphil form of this verb is always in the context of “telling,” in the sense of causing another to be face to face in order to “tell” them something.

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