Learning Biblical Hebrew can be frustrating sometimes, especially to those who have previously only learned living languages. Having native speakers to whom you can ask questions might be the most advantageous resource when learning a language. Unfortunately, we do not have native speakers with Biblical Hebrew. We can still, however, use modern language learning to help guide our Biblical Hebrew learning. 

There are four main language skills that contribute to language learning: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The more we practice these four skills in Hebrew the greater our facility with Hebrew will grow. Learning a language well involves learning and honing all four of these skills. Yes, you could learn to read the Hebrew Bible without using all of these skills, but you will get the most out of the text when you approach it from multiple avenues. The more tools in the toolkit, the easier the work. It is also worth noting that none of these skills can be neatly divided into their own category. They all feed into and flow out of each other.

Continue reading “4 Skills for Learning Biblical Hebrew “

For those who are curious, I want to update you regarding what we’re doing around here. We’ve started vamping up our YouTube channel ( /@TheHebrewCafe) with the hopes of becoming monetized.

With that in mind, we are now doing several live streaming sessions per week that include reading through the Book of Joshua in Hebrew and presenting work on the exercises in Weingreen’s popular Hebrew grammar (A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew). In the meantime, we’ve set up a Patreon site for those who would like access to the videos in which we put together the English-to-Hebrew (E→H) exercises. Once we’re monetized on YouTube, we will be able to accept Superchats, too. Please help us grow the platform as we move forward.

Jonathan has been here with me at The Hebrew Café for some time. We’ve now brought on Luke Neubert as a regular guest host of our live streams. You’ll notice his blog posts below reviewing what we went over in the sessions.

Stay up with our schedule at the link above.

The second session of the Hebrew Café’s reading group on the 25th of November was a success. We hope the pace and the information was suitable for those joining us.

 

Some issues that were discussed:

V.7. חֲזַ֖ק וֶאֱמַץ. Both forms are imperatives. The root אמ׳׳ץ has two meanings and two different paradigms in modern Hebrew. The biblical meaning, “to take courage” follows the pattern here, אמ׳׳ץ with the meaning to complete or shut has the imperative 2ps form אֱמֹץ though this meaning is usually expressed with Binyan Piꜥel. עצמתי את העינים can also be said אימצתי את העינים but this is rare and very literary. The origin of this meaning seems to be Aramaic.

 

לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ This use of שמר is noted in Gesenius, HW, 1387 as „achtsam u. genau ausführen“ (implement something with exactness and attentively) especially in conjunction with עשה.

Continue reading “Recapitulation of the Reading session: Joshua 1:7-11”

The Hebrew Café began this week a new interactive live stream reading event with the goal of helping Hebrew learners of all levels engage with the Masoretic Text of Joshua.

These notes will assist you in reviewing what we covered in the one-hour session in case you missed the livestream, are short on time, or need further clarification on anything mentioned during the session. The reading group is focused upon grammatical and syntactical issues in the Masoretic Text, thus this blog will also serve to provide suggestions for further reading.

Continue reading “Recapitulation of the reading group: Joshua 1:1-6”

Here are some tips for remembering vocabulary in Biblical Hebrew:

  1. Use flashcards: Write down new vocabulary on flashcards, including the Hebrew word, transliteration, and English translation. Review them regularly to help commit them to memory.
  2. Practice reading in context: Reading Biblical Hebrew in context can help you remember new vocabulary. Try reading passages from the Hebrew Bible and use a dictionary or online resource to look up unfamiliar words. (Daily Dose of Hebrew is an excellent resource for daily short readings of biblical Hebrew.)
  3. Study word roots: Many Hebrew words are based on three-letter roots. Studying the roots can help you recognize and remember related words. For example, the root כת״ב (k-t-v) means “to write,” and words like כְּתָבָה (kəṯāḇâ, “writing”) and כָּתוּב (ka̱ṯûḇ, “written”) are derived from it.
  4. Use mnemonic devices: Create mnemonic devices, such as rhymes or acronyms, to help you remember new words. For example, to remember the Hebrew word for “light” (אוֹר, or “or”), you could make up a sentence like “An or is what you need to see more.”
  5. Listen to native speakers: Listening to native speakers can help you learn the correct pronunciation and intonation of Hebrew words. You can find audio resources online or use language learning apps like Duolingo.
  6. Practice with a partner: Practicing with a partner can help you remember vocabulary in context. Try having conversations in Hebrew and using new words in context.
  7. Review regularly: Consistent review is key when it comes to remembering Hebrew vocabulary. Set aside time each day to review new words and practice using them in context.
  8. Use a lexicon: A lexicon or dictionary can help you learn new vocabulary and understand how words are used in context. Try using a lexicon to look up new words as you encounter them in your reading and study.

Do you have any ideas that you would add to these ones? What do you do to memorize and retain new vocabulary words and to expand what you know?

Image: Ruth 1:1 (Masoretic Text)

Above is the text of Ruth 1:1, as we look at the introduction to this fantastic book of the Hebrew Bible. In Jewish circles, people tend to call it Megillat Rut (מְגִלַּת רוּת), the “scroll of Ruth,” rather than the “book” of Ruth. This is because Ruth is written on a separate scroll that is publicly read during the holiday of Shavuot (חַג שָׁבוּעוֹת), just as Lamentations (אֵיכָה) is read during the night of Tisha Be’Av (ט׳ בְּאָב) to commemorate the two-time destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

For those who are interested in a linguistic treatment of the text, you will certainly be challenged by Robert D. Holmstedt’s Ruth: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (Waco, TX: Baylor UP, 2010). I recently purchased a copy, and it has renewed my passion for this book of the Bible.

The workbook to Karl Kutz and Rebecca Josberger’s Learning Biblical Hebrew: Reading for Comprehension (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019) contains the entire text of the book with vocabulary helps for beginning readers.

Let’s look at what’s contained in this first verse and break it down. I’d like to start this as a series.

Continue reading “Reading Ruth 1:1”

While it may appear that the Hebrew Café is silent, there is actually quite a few things going on around here.

Jonathan has been meeting with his students twice a week as they worked through beginning, intermediate, and advanced biblical Hebrew. The advanced course met most recently on Tuesdays and Thursdays as they worked through the first few sections of Jacob Weingreen’s Classical Hebrew Composition (Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 1957) and tackled some concepts related to the historical development of various forms in biblical Hebrew. Each of these classes was recorded and uploaded to YouTube for the students who participated in the class.

Jason recently finished up his course in intermediate biblical Hebrew with a focus on retelling stories in Hebrew, using the texts of the Elijah story as presented in Cook and Holmstedt’s Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapics, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2020). Students would read the stories and come up with ways to retell them in their own way, and they would do so for their fellow learners. All of this was recorded and uploaded to YouTube for the students who participated in the class.

Jonathan is about to open a new beginners class for biblical Hebrew. Jason is hoping to open a class for Hebrew reading. Stay tuned for updates here about new course openings.

 

Emerging from the Canaanite milieu of Semitic languages, Hebrew has been around for a very long time. It isn’t clear how old the language is, but most place its emergence in the early second millennium before the Common Era (just before 1,000 bce). The language was actually called at one point in the Bible “the language of Canaan” (שְׂפַת כְּנַ֫עַן; cf. Isaiah 19:18), and we see from inscriptions from the early period of the language that several other Canaanite languages (such as Moabite, Ammonite, and Edomite) were very close to Hebrew in orthography (the alphabet that they used), in lexical stock (the words themselves), and in accidence (grammar, morphology, and syntax). Anyone who is trained to read the Siloam Inscription in Hebrew will be equally equipped to read the Mesha Stele in Moabite, even though these are technically different dialects of Canaanite language. These languages were certainly mutually intelligible by native speakers of each from that period.

If we draw a line between Moabite and Hebrew as distinct languages, though they were so very similar, what do we make of modern and biblical Hebrew? Are they essentially the same language? Should they be classified as distinct languages? Can learning modern Hebrew be at all advantageous to a student of the biblical language? Or, should those who aspire to master the language of the Bible avoid contaminating their thinking by adopting modern Hebrew?

These are the concepts that I would like to explore a bit in this blog post.

 

Continue reading “Are Modern and Biblical Hebrew Distinct Languages?”

Paleo Hebrew decorate image

I take the first step into this blog post with a bit of trepidation. I intend to broach a subject that Hebrew teachers generally avoid, given its controversial nature. In fact, one of Krashen’s hypotheses about the Natural Approach to second-language acquisition is that language teachers must do what they can to lower the “affective filter” (pp. 37–39), which would block students from connecting emotionally with the language and would discourage them from taking independent strides toward putting themselves into positions for receiving comprehensible input and discovering optimal input materials for themselves. It is my hope that I won’t be putting up any blocks for those who sincerely wish to find their way into acquiring and learning Hebrew in whatever form.

I do, however, feel compelled to offer a voice against some of the wild things that are becoming so popular on the internet and are contrary to everything scientific and evidentiary. There are two odd theories in particular: Edenics, the theory that all world languages have descended from Hebrew in some way; and, some popular idea that words in Hebrew derive their “real meaning” from meanings given to their composite letters. I will not confront Edenics at this time, but those interested may read these two answers on the Linguistics subsection of Stack Exchange (here and here) to receive great responses on Edenics. I want to offer some direction to those who are convinced by the second theory.

Continue reading “Hebrew Pictographic Meanings?”