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Ancient Biblical Hebrew 101
1. A brief history of the evolution of
Hebrew
2. The Classical Hebrew Alphabet
Zephaniah 3:8 Hebrew Text
Evolution of the Hebrew Aleph Beth
O Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite (1800 BC)
O Paleo Hebrew/Phoenician Script (1000
BC)
O Aramaic Script (800 BC)
O
Masoretic Script (150 BC)
O
Modern Hebrew Block Script (late 1890s)
Biblical Manuscripts (1/3)
O King Solomon more than likely invented the Phoenician
script, as during the “golden age” of Israel, he
consolidated Israel, Phoenicia and Egypt as one
conglomerate empire.
O Ezra the Scribe is credited with developing the Aramaic
script and began copying the Tanakh (Ezra 7:10-11).
O Baruch the scribe and the prophet Jeremiah made
copies of the Tanakh before the Babylonian captivity (Jer.
36:27-28).
O Prior to this, generally only the kings wrote copies of the
Torah, as they were required to (Deut. 17:18-19, 2 Kings
22:8, 2 Chr. 34:14).
Biblical Manuscripts (2/3)
Excavated in the 1970s, the “Silver
Scrolls”, which contain the Aaronic
Blessing (Num. 6:24-26), are the oldest
existing fragments of Biblical
manuscripts. Written in the Paleo
Hebrew script, they are dated back to
700 BC.
O In the Qumran caves, scant fragments
from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and
Job were found in the Paleo Hebrew
script.
O
Biblical Manuscripts (3/3)
The “Great Isaiah Scroll” is estimated by conservative calculations to be from
150 BC. The manuscript type is a transition from the Aramaic to the Masoretic
script.
O Like the Isaiah scroll, all other existing Biblical manuscripts – whether they be
from the Dead Sea Scrolls or later manuscripts – are written in the Masoretic
script.
O
Evolution of Hebrew Dialects 1/2
Classical Hebrew/Tiberian Hebrew
The original, ancient pronunciation of Hebrew, spoken
throughout the 1st Century AD by Yahshua and the Apostles,
mainly in Galilee. “Tiberian” is named after the original
Masoretic community in Tiberias.
O
“After these things Yahshua went over the sea of Galilee,
which is the sea of Tiberias.” – John 6:1
Mishnaic / Tannaitic Hebrew / Early Rabbinic Hebrew
Later Herodian Temple dialect of Hebrew that began to
develop around 10 AD. Used in the rabbinical writings,
such as the Mishnah, Gemara, Talmud, etc. More
commonly spoken in Judea in the 1st Century AD than
Galilee.
O
“…This fellow was also with Yahshua of Nazareth. And
again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And
after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to
Peter, Surely you also are one of them; for your speech
betrays you. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I
know not the man.” – Matthew 26:71-74
Evolution of Hebrew Dialects 2/2
Yemenite / Temani Hebrew
Spoken by Mizrahi (“from the east”) or Middle Eastern
Jewish communities, from Moroccans to Yemenites.
Closest to the Tiberian dialect, more resembles Arabic.
O
Sephardic Hebrew
Dialect spoken by communities from the Iberian Peninsula
near Spain and Portugal. The dominant dialect for “Biblical
Hebrew” classes and synagogue liturgy today.
O
Ashkenazi Hebrew
Patterned after Yiddish or High Germanic, spoken by
communities from central Europe. Ashkenazi make up the
largest percentage (90%+) of Jewish demographics.
O
Israeli / Modern Hebrew
Conversational form of Hebrew that was developed for the
modern state of Israel. Dialect is patterned after Sephardic
but borrows some grammar rules from Ashkenazi.
O
Word Example: “Sabbath”
tbf@#$a
O Classical / Tiberian: “Shab-bāth” (accent on last syllable)
O Mishnaic:
O Yemenite:
O Sephardic:
O Ashkenazi:
O Israeli:
“Shab-bāth” (accent on last syllable)
“Shab-bāth” (accent on last syllable)
“Shab-bāt” (accent on last syllable)
“Shab-bös” (accent on first syllable)
“Shab-bat” (accent on last syllable)
Hebrew – The Source of All Languages
O Paleo Hebrew/Phoenician (990 BC)
O
Koine Greek (400 BC)
O
Old Latin (75 BC)
O
Modern Latin/New Latin Alphabet (1375)
W (Waw) vs. V (Vav) Controversy
Prologue from Beowulf (Epic poem from 530 AD)
O HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
(Old English, 530 AD)
O LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped.
(Modern English, 1550 AD)
O Long ago, the Spear-Danes and their kings were a
mighty people. We have all heard about their
power and glory.
(Late Modern English, 1775 AD)
Tiberian vs. Modern Hebrew (1/5)
“And I will make your windows of agates, and your gates of
carbuncles, and all your borders of pleasant stones.” – Isaiah 54:12
CHETH
DALETH
QOPH
ALEPH
O The Hebrew word here is “eq-daħ”
[email protected];)e
O Modern Hebrew: “ek-dach” means “handgun”.
CHET
DALET
KUF
ALEF
‫אקדח‬
Tiberian vs. Modern Hebrew (2/5)
“And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the
ear, and the flax was bolled.” – Exodus 9:31
VETH
YOD
VETH
ALEPH
O The Hebrew word
bybi)f
here is “ā-vīv”
O “Aviv” is from the root word meaning to be tender, as in tender or brittle
grain. It refers to stage of barley growth when the barley crop is golden
to light brown, is tender enough to be roasted in fire (Leviticus 2:14)
and would be crushed by hail. Immature barley that is green is rubbery
and flexible, and would be resistant to the hail.
Tiberian vs. Modern Hebrew (3/5)
“And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the
ear, and the flax was bolled.” – Exodus 9:31
TAW
O The Hebrew word
LAMED YOD
PHE
ALEPH
tloypi)j
here is “ă-phī-lōth”
O “Aphiloth” means “dark green”. The flax was “bolled” or had
flowers budding, so it was harvest ready like the barley. Hence, the
flax crop was destroyed, as well.
Tiberian vs. Modern Hebrew (4/5)
In Modern Hebrew, “aviv” means green, “Tel Aviv” (‫ )תל אביב‬means
“mound of green” or “spring hill”.
VET
YOD
VET
ALEF
‫אביב‬
Conversely, in Modern Hebrew, “aphilot” means dark black or
dusk, as in the black of night.
TAV
LAMED YOD
PHE
ALEF
‫אפילת‬
No, I AM
Aphiloth, as my
cape is black like
the night! MWA
HA HA HA!
Hey, I’m NOT Aviv, I’m Aphiloth!
Tiberian vs. Modern Hebrew (5/5)
The proper pronunciation for “Zion” is “Tsiyon” (s̴ īy-yôn).
NUN WAW YOD
TSADI
NwOy%ci
O In Modern Hebrew, spelling “Tsiyon” with a “Z” letter (z
Zayin) instead of a “TS” letter (c Tsadi) produces
“ziyyon” – which is the f-word (“f**k”).
NUN
VAV
YOD ZAYIN
‫זיון‬
Tiberian vs. Mishnaic Hebrew (1/3)
In Leviticus 16, which describes the Yom Kippur rituals, the word “scapegoat”
is translated from the Hebrew word “ă-zā-zēl”. The High Priest would cast lots
– one for the scapegoat and one for the sin offering goat or lamb.
LAMED ZAYIN ALEPH ZAYIN AYIN
lziI)zF(j
The High Priest would then lay hands on the scapegoat and transfer the sins
of Israel onto the scapegoat, who would then be sent to wander to and fro the
wilderness. “Ez” (z() refers to a goat and “azal” (lz)) means “to wander to and
fro” or to depart or leave. Therefore, “azael” means “goat of departure”.
As for the sin offering goat or lamb, his blood would be sprinkled on the mercy
seat of the ark of the covenant and on the vail of the Holy of Holies.
Evidently, the sin offering goat is a shadow picture of Yahshua, as when His
blood atoned for our sins and mercy was shown, the Temple vail was rent.
The scapegoat, to whom all sin is ascribed or blamed, is sent “to wander to
and fro”, like HaSatan (Job 1:7, 2:2). Since the scapegoat is not killed, he is
given the opportunity to return again to tempt the camp or congregation.
Tiberian vs. Mishnaic Hebrew (2/3)
In Mishnaic or Talmudic Hebrew, “azazel” (lz)z() is interpreted as
follows – “el” (l)) means “power” or “strength” and “azaz” (zz() refers
to a rugged cliff. This gave rise to the rabbinical tradition that the
“azazel” scapegoat was pushed off a cliff on Yom Kippur.
Help! The devil
made me do it!
Shut up, you
know everything
is your fault.
“Not giving heed to Jewish fables,
and commandments of men, that turn
from the truth.” – Titus 1:14
Tiberian vs. Mishnaic Hebrew (3/3)
“And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt
offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto YHWH.” – Exodus 24:5
In the Masoretic Text, the Hebrew word for “young men” is “na-ă-rīy”.
In a copy of the Mishnah for Exodus (a rabbinical commentary) dated back to
60 AD, the Mishnaic Hebrew word for “young men” is “za-ă-tô-tëy”.
YOD
RESH
AYIN
NUN
YOD
TET
WAW
TET
AYIN
ZAYIN
yrI(jna
y+iIwO+(jza
“na-ă-rīy”
VS.
“za-ă-tô-tëy”
Resources on Hebrew Language History
O A History of the Hebrew Language
by Eduard Kutscher
O The Schizoid Nature of Modern Hebrew: A
Slavic Language in Search of a Semitic Past
by Paul Wexler
O History of the Modern and Ancient Hebrew
Language
by David Steinberg (free e-book)
Resources on Biblical Hebrew
O Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar
by Wilhelm Gesenius
O Tiberian Hebrew Phonology
by Andries W. Coetzee
O An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew
Syntax
by Bruce K. Waltke & M. O’Conor
O Hebraic Tongue Restored
by Fabre d'Olivet
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
) 1. ALEPH
O Pronunciation: Guttural vowel sound, a
glottal stop like the hyphen in "uh-oh."
O IPA Symbol: ʔ Glottal stop
O Transliteration: Varies, depends on niqqud
(vowel pointing) used with the Aleph.
O Modern Pronunciation: Silent
I will NOT be silenced.
b@ 2. BETH
(with dagesh)
O Pronunciation: “B” as in “boy”.
O IPA Symbol: b Voiced bilabial stop (plosive)
O Transliteration: B
O Modern Pronunciation: Same but spelled “Bet”
b 2. VETH
(no dagesh)
O Pronunciation: Humming "V" sound, made
by vibrating both lips without the lips
touching the front teeth.
O IPA Symbol: β Voiced bilabial fricative
O Transliteration: V
O Modern Pronunciation: "V” as in "valley," like an
English "V" with the bottom lip touching the front
teeth, spelled “Vet”.
g% 3. GIMEL
(with dagesh)
O Pronunciation: “G” as in “get”.
O IPA Symbol: g Voiced velar stop (plosive)
O Transliteration: G
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
g 3. GHIMEL
(no dagesh)
O Pronunciation: Put your tongue on the same
part of the roof of your mouth where a “G” is
pronounced, but hover your tongue instead of
touching the palate. Make a cross between a
“G” and an “H” sound, like having cotton
candy stuck in your mouth.
O IPA Symbol: ɣ Voiced velar fricative
O Transliteration: Gh
O Modern Pronunciation: Same as Gimel g%, dagesh is
ignored.
d@ 4. DALETH
(with
dagesh)
O Pronunciation: “D” as in “door”.
O IPA Symbol: d Voiced dental stop (plosive)
O Transliteration: D
O Modern Pronunciation: Same but spelled “Dalet”
d 4. DHALETH
(no dagesh)
O Pronunciation: Buzzing "TH" sound as in
"this” or “that”. Made by touching the tip of
the tongue to the front upper teeth while
exhaling.
O IPA Symbol:
ð
Voiced dental fricative
O Transliteration: Dh
O Modern Pronunciation: Same as Daleth d@,
dagesh is ignored.
h 5. HE
O Pronunciation: “H” as in “help”.
O IPA Symbol: ɦ Voiced glottal fricative
(breathy)
O Transliteration: H
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
w 6. Waw
O Pronunciation: “W” as in “wheel”.
O IPA Symbol: w Voiced labio-velar approximant
O Transliteration: W
O Modern Pronunciation: V sound, spelled “Vav”,
same as Vet b@.
z 7. Zayin
O Pronunciation: "Z" sound as in "zebra," but
with a slight buzz before it to create a "DZ"
sound. Accentuate the "Z" sound so that it
is emphasized more then the "D" sound.
O IPA Symbol: d͡ z Voiced alveolar sibilant affricate
O Transliteration: Z
O Modern Pronunciation: Plain “Z” as in “zipper”
x 8. Cheth
O Pronunciation: A deeper, more forceful or
exasperated "H" sound. Sharply exhale an "H" sound
while constricting the muscles in the back of the
throat. Similar to the sound that is made when
exhaling on a pair of glasses while cleaning them.
O IPA Symbol: ħ Voiceless pharyngeal fricative
O Transliteration: Ch
O Modern Pronunciation: A throat clearing "CH" sound,
like a German “Bach”, spelled “Chet”.
+ 9. Teth
O Pronunciation: A cross between a "T" and a "D"
sound. Made by touching the tip of the tongue to the
roof of the mouth. Extend the tongue slightly further
back while elevating the tongue. Lower the tip of the
tongue, then curve it while making a sharp "T" sound.
O IPA Symbol: t̪ ˤ Voiceless pharyngeal alveolar stop
(Pharyngeal “T”)
O Transliteration: T
O Modern Pronunciation: Plain “T” as in “tango”, spelled “Tet”
y 10. Yod
O Pronunciation: “Y” as in “your”
O IPA Symbol: j Palatal approximate
O Transliteration: Y
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
k@ 11. Kaph
K@
(sofit)
Pronunciation:
(with dagesh)
O
“K” as in “kour”
O IPA Symbol: k voiceless velar stop (plosive)
O Transliteration: K
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
k 11. Khaph
(no dagesh)
K(sofit)
O Pronunciation: A throat clearing "CH" sound, like
a German "Bach."
O IPA Symbol: χ voiceless velar fricative
O Transliteration: Kh
O Modern Pronunciation: Same, in Modern Hebrew,
the Khaph k is pronounced the same as Chet x.
l 12. Lamed
O Pronunciation: “L” as in “love”
O IPA Symbol: l alveolar lateral approximate
O Transliteration: L
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
m 13. Mem M
O Pronunciation: “M” as in “mother”
O IPA Symbol: m bilabial nasal
O Transliteration: M
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
(sofit)
n 14. Nun N
O Pronunciation: “N” as in “never”
O IPA Symbol: n alveolar nasal
O Transliteration: N
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
(sofit)
s 15. Samekh
O Pronunciation: “S” as in “salvation”
O IPA Symbol: s voiceless alveolar sibilant
O Transliteration: S
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
( 16. AYIN
O Pronunciation: Guttural vowel sound, made while
exhaling sharply and constricting the throat
muscles. Similar to the sound a patient is asked
to make when a doctor puts a wooden stick on
their tongue (i.e., open wide and say "AAH").
O IPA Symbol: ʕ Voiced pharyngeal fricative
O Transliteration: Varies, depends on niqqud
(vowel pointing) used with the Aleph.
O Modern Pronunciation: Silent
They tried to silence
me, too, bro.
p%@ 17. Pe
P% (sofit)
Pronunciation:
(with dagesh)
O
“P” as in “pepper”
O IPA Symbol: p voiceless bilabial stop (plosive)
O Transliteration: P
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
p 17. Phe
(no dagesh)
P(sofit)
O Pronunciation: A soft "F" sound, as in "fine." Made by
only using the lips and not touching the front teeth. Similar
to blowing out candles with mild pressure.
O IPA Symbol: ɸ voiceless bilabial fricative
O Transliteration: Ph
O Modern Pronunciation: "F” as in "for." Like an English
"F," with the bottom lip touching the front teeth.
c 18. Tsadi C(sofit)
O Pronunciation: A "TS" sound, as in "pants," but with a
slight hiss. Elevate the tongue while lowering the tip of
the tongue. Place the tongue a little further back than
the spot where an "S" sound is made. Curve the
tongue like in the shape of a scoop and then make a
"TS" sound.
O IPA Symbol: s̴ nasal voiceless alveolar sibilant
O Transliteration: Ts
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
q 19. Qoph
O Pronunciation: A dry sound that is a cross between a
hard "G" sound, as in "good," and a "K" sound, as in
"kitchen." It is a deep sound made in the back of the
throat. Similar to a clicking "Q" sound with a slight
"ooh" at the end, like "qooh," as in "Kumar."
O IPA Symbol: q voiceless uvular stop
O Transliteration: Q
O Modern Pronunciation: “K” as in “kite”, same as k@ in
Modern Hebrew, spelled “Kuf” or “Kof”.
r 20. Resh
O Pronunciation: slightly rolled “r”, as in
Portuguese “carro”. Made by gently rolling the tip
of the tongue on the upper front teeth.
O IPA Symbol: r alveolar trill
O Transliteration: R
O Modern Pronunciation:
ʀ Uvular trill, an
excessively rolled “r” like a French “rrr.”
#$ 21. Shin
O Pronunciation: “SH” as in “shore”.
O IPA Symbol: ʃ voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant
O Transliteration: Sh
O Modern Pronunciation: Same
#o 21. Sin
(dagesh in upper left corner)
O Pronunciation: sharper, “hissing”, more sibilant “s” sound.
Examples: Polish or Russian “śruba”. Portuguese “mexendo”.
Mandarin Chinese: “Xi’an dynasty”. Put your tongue between
your teeth and hiss, it is like someone trying to whistle and
failing miserably.
O IPA Symbol: ɕ voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant
ś
s with acute accent
O Transliteration: S
O Modern Pronunciation: Plain “s” sound, in Modern
Hebrew, same as s Samekh.
t@ 22. TAW
(with dagesh)
O Pronunciation: Sharp "T" sound, as in "teach." Made
while the tongue is touching the back of the front upper
teeth while exerting slight pressure. Make a sharp "T"
sound while exhaling slightly. Avoid an excessively
breathy pronunciation.
O IPA Symbol: t̪ voiceless dental stop (plosive)
O Transliteration: T
O Modern Pronunciation: Plain “t” as in “tango”, in
Modern Hebrew, same as + Tet.
t 22. THAW
(no dagesh)
O Pronunciation: “TH” as in “throw” or “moth”
O IPA Symbol: θ voiceless dental fricative
O Transliteration: Th
O Modern Pronunciation: Same as Tav t@, dagesh is
ignored.
TIBERIAN ALEPH BETH
h d d@ g g% b b@
)
HE
DHALETH
DALETH
GHIMEL
GIMEL
VETH
BETH
ALEPH
l k k@ y + x z w
LAMED
KHAPH
KAPH
YOD
TETH
CHETH
ZAYIN
WAW
q c p p% ( s n m
QOPH
TSADI
PHE
PE
AYIN
SAMEKH
NUN
MEM
t t@ #o #$ r
THAW
TAW
SIN
SHIN
RESH

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