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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Modern Hebrew Words


By Jeff A. Benner

The Biblical Hebrew word for a machine is חשבון (hhishbon, Strong's #2810).

In Jerusalem he set up machines, invented by skilled workers, on the towers and the corners for shooting arrows and large stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped until he became strong. (NRS, 2 Chronicles 26:15)

This Hebrew word is derived from the verbal root חשב (Hh.Sh.B, Strong's #2803) meaning to “think,” but is used in the Biblical text for devising, planning, inventing or counting, all being forms of “thinking.” The noun form, חשב (Hheyshev, Strong's #2805), is a skillfully woven band.

And the skilfully woven band upon it, to gird it on, shall be of the same workmanship and materials, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet stuff, and fine twined linen. (RSV, Exodus 28:8)

Each of these Biblical Hebrew words has been brought into Modern Hebrew, but with slightly different meanings. The verb חשב (Hh.Sh.B) has the same meaning of “thinking.” However, the noun form חשב (Hheyshev) is an “accountant,” one who counts, and the noun חשבון (hhishbon) is an “account.”

The modern Hebrew word for a machine is now מכונה (makonah), a transliteration of the word “machine.” A common “machine” is an automobile, which in Modern Hebrew is מכונית (makoniyt), a derivative of מכונה (makonah).

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