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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names

Ishmael

By Jeff A. Benner

This name is composed of three parts - י (yi), שמע (sh'ma) and אל (el). The word שמע (sh'ma) is a verb literally meaning to listen but can also mean to obey or more correctly to respond. This word is the title of the sh'ma, the Jewish affirmation of faith as found in Deuteronomy 6:4 states sh'ma yisrael YHWH eloheynu YHWH echad or as it is normally translated "Hear, O, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." The use of the word sh'ma in this verse is stating "hear and respond" to Yahweh. When the letter י (yi) is prefixed to a verb, it identifies the subject of the verb as the third person, masculine and singular or "he." Therefore, the phrase ישמע (yishma) would mean "he listens." The final word is אל (el) meaning "mighty one" or as it is usually translated "God." In Hebrew sentence structure the noun following the verb is the subject of the verb or in this case the "he" of "he listens." When these three components are combined into the sentence אל ישמע (yishma el) the sentence means "God listens."




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