Hidden Treasures in the Hebrew Bible

Word studies in the Old Testment based on the original Hebrew text. The book includes an overview of the Hebrew language, along with 53 chapters which investigate over 100 important words and terms. These studies are both practical and devotional and require no prior knowledge of the Hebrew language.

by Walter Jerry Clark
soft cover, 171 pages, 6" x 9"


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Hebrew is a fascinating language and perfectly suited for God's revelation of Himself in the Old Testament. Hebrew is essentially an action language; that is, it is based on verbs or action words. Most nouns that occur in Hebrew are derived from words of action. (For example, the word for serpent in Hebrew is derived from a verb root literally meaning "to hiss.") We find that it is primarily through God's actions that His attributes are revealed in the Old Testament.

Some of the peculiarities of the Hebrew language include the fact that it is written from right to left rather than from left to right, as with English. Similarly, Hebrew books begin at the "back" and read to the "front." Hebrew was originally written without any vowels at all. Thus, there are twenty-two characters in the Hebrew alphabet, each representing a consonant. (Vowel points were later added by Jewish scholars, however. The text of the Old Testament containing such vowel points is known as the Masoretic Text.)

Among other distinctive features of Hebrew is its use of voices. Hebrew is weak in tenses compared to English or Greek, but a system of seven voices produces an extremely rich and varied language. To illustrate these voices, take the regular verb "to kill." In the plain voice, the verb simply means "to kill." If the verb appears in the intensive voice, however, the meaning is "to slaughter." The passive of the plain voice is rendered "to be killed," while the passive of the intensive voice should be translated "to be slaughtered." In addition, there is a causative voice ("to cause to kill"), a passive of this voice ("to be caused to kill"), and a reflexive ("to kill oneself").

One characteristic of Hebrew missed by the English reader is that the same word can have different and even contradictory meanings when it appears in different voices. For example, the most commonly used word for sin in the Old Testament is chatta'ah, which (like its New Testament equivalent hamartano) means "to miss the mark." Yet, in the intensive voice, this word means "to make reconciliation" (as in II Chron. 29:24) or "to cleanse from sin" (as in Exod. 29:36; Lev. 14:49). Thus, the same word means both sin and its removal. What a wealth of insight that provides when we remember the One who was made "to be sin for us," though He Himself knew no sin, in order to remove our sins and cleanse us from guilt [II Cor. 5:21).

Other words which have almost opposite meanings in different voices are words signifying to redeem/to pollute; to join/to separate; to lend/to borrow; to afflict/to honor; and to know/to be strange.

Probably the most common area in which Bible students experience help from being able to discover the original meaning of a Hebrew word is in regard to names. For example, what a difference it makes when we are reading the Bible to realize that the almost unpronounceable Beerlahairoi in Genesis 16:14 means "the well of the One who liveth and seeth me"!

That names are important in the Bible is apparent from the number of times that God Himself instituted a change in names: Abram to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Jacob to Israel. Yet we miss a good deal of their import if we fail to distinguish the different meanings of such names. To take one example, Abram means "exalted father," while Abraham means "father of a multitude." The reason for this name change is given in Genesis 17:5: "For a father of many nations have I made thee."



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