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On a frequent basis we attach a meaning of a word from the Bible based on our own language and culture to a word that is not the meaning of the Hebrew word behind the translation. This is often a result of using our modern western thinking process for interpreting the Biblical text. For proper interpretation of the Bible it is essential that we take our definitions for words from an Ancient Hebraic perspective. Our modern western minds often work with words that are purely abstract or mental while the Hebrew’s vocabulary was filled with words that painted pictures of concrete concepts. By reading the Biblical text with a proper Hebrew vocabulary the text comes to life revealing the authors intended meaning. Below each entry is a number corresponding to the “Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible” entry for the word.
Bless-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Bless ~ barak Every word in the Ancient Hebrew language was related to an image of action, something that could be sensed (as observed by the five senses – seen, heard, smelled, touched or felt) and in motion. The word bless, found numerous times in English translations of the Bible, is a purely abstract word that cannot be sensed, nor is it in motion. In order to interpret this word correctly we must find its original concrete meaning. In Genesis 24:11 we read, “And he made the camels “kneel down” outside the city.” The phrase “kneel down” is the Hebrew verb ברך (B.R.K), the very same word translated as “bless.” The concrete meaning of ברך is to kneel down. The extended meaning of this word is to do or give something of value to another. God “blesses” us by providing for our needs and we in turn “bless” God by giving him of ourselves as his servants.
Break-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Break ~ parar While the word keep, as in “keep the commands of God” does not mean obedience but guarding and protecting, the meaning of “break the commands of God” does not mean disobedience. The Hebrew word parar, translated as break, is the treading of grain on the threshing floor by oxen to open up the hulls to remove the seeds. To the Ancient Hebrews, breaking the commands of God was equated with throwing it on the ground and trampling on it. In both cases, keeping and breaking are related to ones attitude toward the commands. A child who disobeys his parents and is genuinely apologetic shows honor and respect to his parents. But a child who willfully disobeys with no sign of remorse has trampled on his parents teachings and deserves punishment.
Eternity-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Eternity ~ olam In the ancient Hebrew words that are used to described distance and direction are also used to describe time. The Hebrew word for east is qedem and literally means “the direction of the rising sun”. We use north as our major orientation such as in maps which are always oriented to the north. While we use the north as our major direction the Hebrews used the east and all directions are oriented to this direction. For example one of the words for south is teyman from the root yaman meaning “to the right”. The word qedem is also the word for the past. In the ancient Hebrew mind the past is in front of you while the future is behind you, the opposite way we think of the past and future. The Hebrew word olam means in the far distance. When looking off in the far distance it is difficult to make out any details and what is beyond that horizon cannot be seen. This concept is the olam. The word olam is also used for time for the distant past or the distant future as a time that is difficult to know or perceive. This word is frequently translated as eternity or forever but in the English language it is misunderstood to mean a continual span of time that never ends. In the Hebrew mind it is simply what is at or beyond the horizon, a very distant time. A common phrase in the Hebrew is “l’olam va’ed” and is usually translated as “forever and ever” but in the Hebrew it means “to the distant horizon and again” meaning “a very distant time and even further” and is used to express the idea of a very ancient or future time
Face-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Face ~ Paniym The Hebrew word פנים (paniym) is a plural noun meaning “face.” As the Hebrew language expresses the idea of motion in most words, this plural noun conveys the ideas of mood, emotions and thoughts, the different motions reflected in the face. This Hebrew word more precisely means the “presence” or the “wholeness of being” of an individual.
Faith-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Faith ~ Emunah The Hebrew root aman means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a “secure” place. Derived from this root is the word emun meaning a craftsman. A craftsman is one who is firm and secure in his talent. Also derived from aman is the word emunah meaning firmness, something or someone that is firm in their actions. When the Hebrew word emunah is translated as faith misconceptions of its meaning occur. Faith is usually perceived as a knowing while the Hebrew emunah is a firm action. To have faith in God is not knowing that God exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward God’s will.
Fear-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Fear ~ yara The root meaning of the word yara is “to flow” and is related to words meaning rain or stream as a flowing of water. In Hebrew thought fear can be what is felt when in danger or what is felt when in the presence of an awesome sight or person of great authority. These feelings flow out of the person in such as actions as shaking when in fear or bowing down in awe of one in authority.
Firmament -Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Firmament ~ raqiya The word raqiya comes from the root word raqa which can be found in several passages including Isaiah 40:19 – “The idol! a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains.” The word “overlay” is the verb root raqa. Raqa is the process of hammering out a piece of gold or other metal into thin plates which was then applied to a carved or molten image. Numbers 16:39 reads “So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned had offered; and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar.” Here, the phrase “were hammered out” is again the verb root raqa. The gold was hammered into thin sheets then laid over the surface of the alter. The word raqiya is the noun form of the verb raqa and is literally a “hammered out sheet”. There are some scientists who have speculated that before the flood there was a thick sheet of water surrounding the earth up in the atmosphere. It is then possible that the “floodgates of heaven were opened,” at the beginning of the flood, is the collapse of this “hammered out sheet” of water. It is estimated that the sheet of water would have filtered out harmful sun rays and contributed to the longevity of life on earth before the flood.
Glory-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Glory ~ Kavod In Exodus 16:7 we read “and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD” (RSV). What is the “glory” of YHWH? First we must recognize that the “glory” is something that will be seen. Secondly, the word “glory” is an abstract word. If we look at how this word is paralleled with other words in poetical passages of the Bible, we can discover the original concrete meaning of this word. In Psalm 3:3 the kavod of God is paralleled with his shield and in Job 29:20 Job’s kavod is paralleled with his bow. In Psalm 24:8 we read “who is this king of the kavod, YHWH is strong and mighty, YHWH is mighty in battle.” The original concrete meaning of kavod is battle armaments. This meaning of “armament” fits with the literal meaning of the root of kavod which is “heavy” as armaments are the heavy weapons and defenses of battle. In the Exodus 16:7, Israel will “see” the “armament” of YHWH, who is the one who has done battle for them with the Egyptians.
God-Ancient Hebrew Word Meaning God ~ el/elo’ah There are two Hebrew words commonly translated as God, el and elo’ah. When reading the Bible it is better to have an Ancient Hebrew perception of God rather than our modern western view. The word el was originally written with two pictographic letters, one being an ox head and the other a shepherd staff. The ox represented strength and the staff of the shepherd represented authority. First, the Ancient Hebrews saw God as the strong one of authority. The shepherd staff was also understood as a staff on the shoulders, a yoke. Secondly, the Ancient Hebrews saw God as the ox in the yoke. When plowing a field two oxen were placed in a yoke, one was the older and more experienced and the other the younger and less experienced and the younger would learn from the older. The Hebrews saw God as the older experienced ox and they as the younger who learns from him. The plural form of elo’ah is elohiym and is often translated as God. While English plurals only identify quantity, as in more than one, the Hebrew plural can identify quantity as well as quality. Elohiym is actually God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy. Something that is of great size or stature can be written in the plural form and in this case, God, as the great strength and authority is frequently written in the plural form elohiym. The two letters in these Hebrew words are the ox head representing strength and the shepherd staff representing authority. Combined they mean “the strong authority” as well as “the ox with a staff” (a yoke is understood as a staff on the shoulders).
Good-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Good ~ tov What does “good” mean? The first use of this word is in Genesis chapter one where God calls his handiwork “good”. It should always be remembered that the Hebrews often relate descriptions to functionality. The word tov would best be translated with the word “functional”. When looked at his handiwork he did not see that it was “good”, he saw that it was functional, kind of like a well oiled and tuned machine. In contrast to this word is the Hebrew word “ra”. These two words, tov and ra are used for the tree of the knowledge of “good” and “evil”. While “ra” is often translated as evil it is best translated as “dysfunctional”.
Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Gracious ~ Hhanan The verb חנן (Hh.N.N) is often translated as “to be gracious” or “have mercy,” however these are abstract terms and do not help us understand the meaning of this verb from an Hebraic perspective, which always relates words to something concrete. One of the best tools to use to find the more concrete meaning of a word is to look at how that word is paralleled with other words in poetical passages. In the book of Psalms the word חנן is paralleled with |heal,” “help,” “raise up,” “refuge” and “give strength.” From a concrete Hebraic perspective, חנן means all of this, and no English word can convey the meaning of the Hebrew, but we could sum up its meaning with “providing protection.” Where would a nomadic Hebrew run for protection? The camp, which in the Hebrew language is the word מחנה (mahhaneh, Strong’s # 4264), a noun related to חנן.
Heart-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Heart ~ lev Here is an example of our modern western culture still using a concrete object to express an abstract idea. We often associate the heart with emotions such as love and kindness as in “He has a good heart”. This is also true with the Hebrews who saw the heart as the seat of emotion. But unlike us they also saw the heart as the seat of thought whereas we see the brain as the seat of thought. To the ancient Hebrews the heart was the mind including all thoughts including emotions. When we are told to love God with all our heart (Deut 6:5) it is not speaking of an emotional love but to keep our emotions and all our thoughts working for him. The first picture in this Hebrew word is a shepherd staff and represents authority as the shepherd has authority over his flock. The second letter is the picture of the floor plan of the nomadic tent and represents the idea of being inside as the family resides within the tent. When combined they mean “the authority within”.
Holy Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Holy ~ qadosh When we use the word holy, as in a holy person, we usually associate this with a righteous or pious person. If we use this concept when interpreting the word holy in the Hebrew Bible then we are misreading the text as this is not the meaning of the Hebrew word qadosh. Qadosh literally means “to be set apart for a special purpose”. A related word, qedesh, is one who is also set apart for a special purpose but not in the same way we think of “holy” but is a male prostitute (Deut 23:17). Israel was qadosh because they were separated by the other nations as servants of God. The furnishings in the tabernacle were qadosh as they were not to be used for anything except for the work in the tabernacle. While we may not think of ourselves as “holy” we are in fact set apart from the world to be God’s servants and representatives.
Keep-Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Keep ~ shamar Many times I have heard it said that no one can keep all of the commands but, this is not true. From an Hebraic perspective of the word shamar behind the English word keep, it is possible to keep all of the commands. The problem lies in our understanding of keep as meaning obedience, but this is not the meaning of shamar. It should first be recognized that not all of the commands of the torah are for all people. Some are only for the priests, some are only for men and some are only for women. Some are only for children and some are for leaders. But, it should also be understood that even if a command is not for you, you can still keep it. The original picture painted by the Hebrew word shamar is a sheepfold. When a shepherd was out in the wilderness with his flock, he would gather thorn bushes to erect a corral to place his flock in at night. The thorns would deter predators and thereby protect and guard the sheep from harm. The word shamiyr derived from this root means a thorn. The word shamar means to guard and protect and can be seen in the Aaronic blessing, May Yahweh bless you and keep (guard and protect) you. One keeps the commands of God by guarding and protecting them.