Biblical Hebrew Roots to Anchor your Bible Comprehension
Hebrew Word Roots are the base of the written words of the Bible. They’re impossible to translate fully. How can they be fully understood?
Biblical Hebrew roots are impossible to translate thoroughly. Therefore it is impossible to understand the meaning in your native language thoroughly.
Biblical Hebrew roots and Hebrew word stories are the final two keys of our series to master Biblical Hebrew. Both of these principles are basic, especially the latter. Most Bible readers are not aware of them. Even religious (as differentiated from intellectual) Bible scholars are unaware of the crucial seventh key.
(Origin of the Universe, chapter 3.4)
6. Roots are the base for the construction of Biblical Hebrew Words
Each biblical Hebrew word has a base, a common denominator on which it’s built. Here’s an English example of a family of words with a common thread: ocular, utrocular, monocle, monocular, binoculars, oculus, oculist. You might not know the meaning of all these words, but you can spot the common denominator: oculus — about the eye.
In English we practically never refer to the ‘common root’ of words but, in Biblical Hebrew (and in modern Hebrew) we do. Roots are a fundamental key to understanding meanings and relationships.
The Hebrew Bible actually only contains about 8600 different words repeated over and over to compose the text. These 8600 words are built on approximately 2000 roots, or fundamental building blocks like oculus, from which other words are constructed. Understanding this, helps us grasp the relationships between words, some, even most, of which are not evident at first sight.
We’ve already seen examples of this with rosh — head — beginning and noah — quiet — rest as well as with lechem — eat — war. Every word in Biblical Hebrew is either a root or the derivative of a root. It is impossible to see this in your native language where different unrelated translated words, like head/beginning, quiet/rest and eat/war, cannot render full meaning.
Another factor to do with the 2000 roots is that some of the roots are inter-related, further enhancing the relationships and meanings. I can’t get into it here but, for those who know a little Hebrew, here’s the transliteration of three words: yashav, shevet, shoov. Their underlying meanings include: sit, Sabbath, and return. I say underlying meanings because, as we saw with noah, there are multiple native language translations for each of these three roots.
When you read any of these three words in your native language, there’s absolutely no way of even knowing they have a common root. Let alone realizing there’s an inherent relationship between those three concepts. I’ll also go so far as to say that for most scholars who read and study Biblical Hebrew, this relationship is unknown.
For those not aware of this, the common denominator of yashav, shevet, and shoov consists of the two letters shin and beth (pronounced here as a vav). It is impossible to see these roots and hence, these intricate and revealing relationships in any translation. I repeat, the native language translations of these words are correct. But they reveal a very, very limited amount of information. It is impossible to have a complete understanding.
If you reread the above points, you’ll now realize that each Biblical Hebrew word: elohim, rosh and noah is either a root (rosh is the only one here) or a derivative of a root. The point is you’re beginning to see fundamental concepts in Biblical Hebrew that open up a fuller understanding of this best-seller, the Bible. Whether you believe the Bible or not, it’s full of words that will open up this literary marvel as never before.
I’ll show you how to easily and quickly identify Biblical Hebrew word roots and find all the derivatives and their meanings. We’ll be discussing this in the Hebrew course. Soon, you’ll be able to unlock a more profound understanding of full Biblical Hebrew word meanings.
7. Biblical Hebrew Words tell Stories
These stories take us full circle back to point 1. The King James translators (and other translators for all different translated versions in all languages) ended up using MULTIPLE words in English to translate ONE Biblical Hebrew word. The result is that sometimes we end up with a jumble of ‘foreign language’ words that don’t seem to make sense.
Somewhere, somehow, there’s a relationship between them. I call that association of words a story. Yes, practically every word, and especially the roots, has a tale to tell. It is these accounts that unlock Bible meaning. There’s an exciting story behind shevet, noah, rosh, lechem and hundreds of other words and roots.
Understand that we’re not talking about counting letters or hidden code or deciphering symbols or anything of that nature. I’m in no way referring to the Hebrew Roots movement which proposes a return to first-century Hebrew Roots Christianity. It has nothing to do with these organizations and concepts with which I am not associated in any way, shape, or form.
We’re talking about Biblical Hebrew vocabulary and the dictionary meaning of words. Just like in your native language, if you don’t understand a word, you take a dictionary and look it up. That’s what we’ll be doing; looking at the meaning, the FULL meaning of Biblical Hebrew roots and words. It’s this full meaning that is the word story.
I will say bluntly, you’ve never heard these stories before. Without these word stories, it is impossible to grasp a full understanding of what the A(a)uthor of what we call the Old Testament has in mind.
I’ll conclude this section by bringing us back to another fundamental principle. As mentioned in point six, there’s a relationship between the three roots yashav, shevet, shoov. They are interconnected, each telling its own story and each being a part of a larger story; this is what I call coherent completeness.
Coherent completeness goes much further than that. The 2000 roots are interconnected, not only grammatically but also figuratively. The 8600 Biblical Hebrew words are interconnected. In the end, I believe, they all tell ONE story. Each ‘Biblical Hebrew word’ is a puzzle piece.
In Inventory and Audit of the Universe, I turned over all the pieces that constitute our physical and non-physical Universe. Turning them right-side-up, giving you an overview of what this Universe is all about and what state it’s in right now. In Origin of the Universe, we’re going to turn the Biblical Hebrew words of Genesis over, one by one. We’re going to see their relationship with each other as well as their relationship with the Universe.
We’re going to turn Biblical Hebrew words right-side-up and make ‘coherent completeness’ out of all this information. The combined and interrelated stories of the Biblical Hebrew roots will tell us the story of our Universe. They will relate to us the Origin of the Universe.
- Active — Passive Verbs
Here’s a short example to illustrate this point: In English, we could say, the teacher taught a course to the students or learners.
Think about what’s happening here: teachers taught a subject, let’s say math.
One person is giving the math, and the others are receiving the math. The first, the teacher, is the active element. The others, the learners, are the passive elements. In English, we use two separate words teach/learn. In Hebrew we can use the same root with interspersed modifications, like vowels, to express this: melamad and talmid. The root being the lamed, mem, and daled (lmd).
One Biblical Hebrew root expresses both the active and the passive.
Once again, translations are a great introduction to begin to understand the Bible. But, it is impossible to see the word roots and hence the various concrete and abstract, literal and figurative meanings — likewise, the word relationships and thus their stories. Translations are limited in their scope; this is something that Bible readers are not aware of and is one point that leads to incomplete comprehension.
In the course 7 keys to master Biblical Hebrew, a study method to Unlock Bible Meaning I’ll expand each one of these keys by using real Biblical Hebrew word examples.
There’ll be Biblical Hebrew word mysteries that you’ll solve; I’ll help you, using the freely accessible online Bible tools. But, the goal of this course is for YOU to ACQUIRE a STUDY METHOD so you can unlock the Bible meaning yourself. All I want to do is help you study your Bible better.
Here’s the challenge
Here’s the first mystery you’ll crack. It’s the first puzzle that I ran across in Biblical Hebrew some 30 years ago that helped me develop this master-course to Unlock Bible Meaning. Remember that we’re not focusing on Biblical Hebrew per se, Biblical Hebrew is only a means to understand what the Bible is telling us.
In the book of Genesis, the Bible states that Adam and Eve were naked. In the following verse, it indicates that the serpent was subtil (old King James English spelling where we’d put subtle Gen 2.29, 3.1). Well, the mystery is that, in Biblical Hebrew, both these words are practically identical and come from the same root (aram). You can use the Interlinear Bible at www.UnlockBibleMeaning.com to verify this.
The question is, what’s the full story being told by this word, immediately after the creation story? Again, I repeat, whether you believe the creation story or not, it doesn’t change the way this story was recorded.
When you solve this mystery, during the first lessons of the course, you’ll have an answer to one of the most asked questions about today’s society worldwide. I guarantee you’ll be amazed. But even more critical than that answer is the Bible study method you’ll begin to incorporate for your ongoing studies.
This article is an excerpt from chapter 3.4 of the book Origin of the Universe.