Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav
By Jeff A. Benner
Were the Hebrews, according to Jeremiah 14:2, black in color? Answer
What is the mark placed on the foreheads in Ezekiel 9:4? Answer
Why are the years of Israel’s sojourning different in Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40? Answer
What sources can be used to learn the original ancient meaning of Hebrew words? Answer
In the original King James Version of Exodus 25:31, the pronoun "his" is used five different times to describe the Menorah. Why was "his" changed to "its" in every other Bible version I could find? Answer
If Eve was taken from the bones of Adam why does it say "this is now bone of my bones? Answer
According to Exodus 23:13 we are not to speak the names of other gods. How do we observe this when the names of the days of the week are names of other gods? Answer
Where can I go to find and use resources that will help me with Hebrew prefixes and suffixes? Answer
Does the Hebrew word translated as “circle” in Isaiah 40:22 imply a flat or globe earth? Answer
Are the laws given to Moses by God at Mt. Sinai just a copy of the laws of Hammurabi (c. 1810 BC to c. 1750 BC)? Answer
What does Strong's Dictionary mean when it says, "from an unused root?" Answer
Is there a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 2? Answer
Is Strong's dictionary and concordance a good resource for studying Hebrew words? Answer
Should women wear tsiytsiyt (fringes)?" Answer
Were the Hebrews, according to Jeremiah 14:2, black in color?
There is a lot going on this verse. The word "gate" is a euphemism for "judges," the rulers of Judah and this is a parallelism. A parallelism is when one states one thing in two different ways, so "Judah" and "gates" are referring to the the same thing, the leaders of Judah. With that said, "black" is referring to "the leaders of Judah," but when Hebrew "describes" something, it is not meant to be a physical description, but a personal attribute (in most cases, unless a physical description is necessary for the narrative). I would interpret the use of this verb in this verse as "black with grief."
What is the mark placed on the foreheads in Ezekiel 9:4?
The Hebrew for the phrase in question reads vehitvita tav al mitshhot ha'anashim. The word vehitvita means "and make a mark". The base word is the verb tavah meaning "to make a mark". The second word "tav" is a noun meaning a mark and comes from the same root as the previous verb tavah. The rest of the phrase al mitshhot ha'anashim means "upon the foreheads of the men".
Why are the years of Israel’s sojourning different in Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40?
The Hebrew text of Genesis 15:13 says "arba (4) me'ot (hundred) shanah (year)" - 400 years and Exodus 12:40 says "sheloshiym (30) shanah (year) v’arba (and 4) meot (hundred) shanah (year)" - 430 years. It is likely that at some point a scribe was copying the text of Genesis 15:13 and accidentally skipped over the words sheloshiym shanah v (30 years and). This is not uncommon. There are many mistakes in the Hebrew Bible where words, phrases even sentences are accidentally deleted or even duplicated. The 430 years is also confirmed in Galatians 3:17.
What sources can be used to learn the original ancient meaning of Hebrew words?
A Modern Hebrew dictionary has its obvious limitations when studying Ancient / Biblical Hebrew as it is composed for a Modern Hebrew language. However, I have found that Biblical Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons often duplicate what is found in Modern Hebrew dictionaries unless there is a contextual reason in the Biblical text to change that meaning or, there is a theological (bias) reason for changing that definition. I believe this is due to two factors. First, no ancient dictionary was written to provide us the meaning of Hebrew words therefore; we are left with the modern Hebrew dictionaries to define the words in the Bible. Secondly, modern Biblical Hebrew scholars are western thinkers and view the Hebrew language from that perspective matching the perspective of the modern Hebrew language and its dictionaries.
In the original King James Version of Exodus 25:31, the pronoun "his" is used five different times to describe the Menorah. Why was "his" changed to "its" in every other Bible version I could find?
It is interesting that the KJV would use "his." Let me begin by explaining how pronouns work in Hebrew. All nouns in Hebrew are either masculine or feminine. For instance, father (av), light (or) and tree (ets) are masculine and mother (eym), faith (emunah) and soul (nephesh) are feminine. Pronouns used for these words would also be masculine or feminine. Below are some examples
If Eve was taken from the bones of Adam why does it say "this is now bone of my bones?
In Genesis 2:23 the phrase "this is now" is an attempt at a translation of the Hebrew phrase "zot hapa'am." The word "zot" does mean "this" but the word hapa'am is a little more difficult. This is the word pa'am prefixed by the "ha" meaning "the." The word pa'am is literally a repetitive beat such as from a drum. It can also mean a stroke of time or to repeat something such as seen in Genesis 33:3; "He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times (pa'am)." Using this understanding of the word, Genesis 2:23 could be translated as, "This time is bone from my bones" and is implying that the previous times were not "bone from my bones." Three verses prior to this it states "The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him." In this context we see that the "first times" were unsuccessful in finding a helper for Adam, but with Eve, this time it worked.
According to Exodus 23:13 we are not to speak the names of other gods. How do we observe this when the names of the days of the week are names of other gods?
While many are not aware of this, each day of the week is named for a god: Sun’s day, Moon’s day, Teu’s day, Woden’s day, Thor’s day, Frea’s day, Saturn’s day. It would appear from Exodus 23:13, that we should not use these names of the week, as we would be “speaking” the names of other gods. The problem with taking Exodus 23:13 very literally, is that this would mean that YHWH is in violation of his own command as he often speaks the names of foreign gods. However, when we look at this verse from a Hebraic perspective it does not say “do not speak” or “ do not mention” their names, it actually says “do not remember” their names. In Hebrew thought “remembering” is not just a mental exercise, but an action of response. In addition, the word for “name” is “shem” which more literally means “character.” Therefore, this verse is not saying “do not speak the names of other gods,” but instead,” do not respond to the character of the other gods.”
Where can I go to find and use resources that will help me with Hebrew prefixes and suffixes?
One of the best resources for breaking down the morphology of Hebrew words is Benjamin Davidson's Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, which is available as a free download in our bookstore. In this lexicon each Hebrew word in the Hebrew Bible is listed alphabetically. Below is the entry for the word in question above.
At the far right is the root word שׁבר (Sh.B.R), which can be looked up in the lexicon for the definition "to break, break in pieces."
Does the Hebrew word translated as “circle” in Isaiah 40:22 imply a flat or globe earth?
Neither. The Hebrew word is הוג (hug, Strong’s #2329) does mean a “circle,” but it can also mean a “compass,” which is a tool for making a circle. While our Greco-Roman Western minds are comfortable with speculating about things that are unknown, the Hebraic Eastern mind is not and will only relate to things that can be seen or experienced. The author of Isaiah is not speaking about the planet “earth,” but the “land.” The Hebrew word ארץ (erets, Strong’s #776), while frequently translated as “earth” does not mean the “planet.” A better translation is “land” or “region.” If you were to stand on a large flat plain and look at the horizon all around you, you would notice that the horizon forms a “circle,” like a compass would make if the stationary point of the compass was at your position. The passage in question is speaking about the “land” contained within that “circle.”
Are the laws given to Moses by God at Mt. Sinai just a copy of the laws of Hammurabi (c. 1810 BC to c. 1750 BC)?
There are many similarities to the commands given by God at Mt. Sinai and the Hammurabi codes and many have suspected that Moses was copying from the Hammurabi codes, but there is an alternative explanation. It is assumed by many that God first gave the Torah (a word meaning "teachings," but often translated as "law") to Moses on Mt. Sinai, but this is not the case. We know from Genesis 26:5 that Abraham obeyed God's Torah (translated as laws in that verse). It is apparent that God gave the Torah to Adam who passed it down to his children, who knew about such commands as murder and sacrifices, who passed it down to their children, and etc. Hammurabi would have been one of those descendants.
Is there a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 2?
The idea of the "Gap theory" is derived from the Hebrew wording of the beginning of verse 2 which could be translated as "and the earth became empty." With this wording some have proposed that something happened between verse 1 and verse 2 - the gap. In other words, God created the heavens and the earth (verse 1) and then there was a long span of time and the heavens and earth slipped into chaos (verse 2). I however, do not agree with this interpretation as I translate verse 1 and 2 as "in the summit Elohiym fattened (filled) the sky and the land because the land was empty and unfilled." From this interpretation of the Hebrew Genesis 1:1 is not about the "creation" (A Greek abstract concept) but about God filling up the sky and the land (verse 1) because it was empty and in confusion (verse 2). Also recognize that this "filling" is what much of chapter one is about, filling the sky, water and land with the sun, moon, stars, fish, birds, plants, animals and man.
What does Strong's Dictionary mean when it says, "from an unused root?"
All Hebrew words are derived from a root. For instance, the Hebrew word amen (so be it, meaning you "support" what is being said) comes from the root aman meaning "support." There are some words in the Bible where the root word is not used or found in the Bible. For instance, we have the word erets (land), but the root, which would be arats, is not found in the Hebrew Bible, so the dictionary or lexicon will say "from an unused root." It might also add, such as Strong's does for erets, "probably meaning to be firm." There are two possible ways this "probable" meaning is determined. It may be an educated guess based on the meaning of the words derived from that root or it may be determined by the use of that root in another Semitic language such as Aramaic, Akkadian, etc.
Is Strong's dictionary and concordance a good resource for studying Hebrew words?
One of the best tools written to begin learning about Hebrew is Strong's dictionary. Many concordances and some Bibles are keyed to this resource. Using Psalm 51:1 as an example - Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me, the word "right" is listed in Strong's dictionary as number 3559 and we find that the Hebrew word is "kun" which means to be firm or stable. This provides a deeper understanding of the verse than from the English alone. However, it must be understood that Strong's dictionary has many limitations which, if not known, can cause some problems. In Deuteronomy 15:6 we find the words "lend" and "borrow" and when we look both of these words up in Strong's we find that they are both the same Hebrew word - avat. How can the same Hebrew word be translated as lend and as borrow? What cannot be determined through Strong's is some of the nuances of Hebrew words. The Hebrew word avat literally means "to give a pledge" and is translated as borrow but when written in the causative form it would literally be translated as "cause to give a pledge" or "to lend."
Should women wear tsiytsiyt (fringes)?"
The Hebrew text of Numbers 15:38 literally says the "sons of Israel" are to wear the tziytsiyt. However, in Hebrew, when you are speaking to a group of people of mixed gender, you always use the masculine form. So "sons of Israel" could mean "all male children of Israel" or it could mean "all male and female children of Israel." Usually the context will help to determine if the author meant one or the other, but in the case of the tziytziyt, there is nothing in the context to determine which is meant. So I advise people to follow the teachings of their leader and group, in order to maintain harmony, or if the person is not part of a congregation, or is part of a congregation that does not observes the wearing of tziytziyt, then this would be between them and God.