Shorashim - Hebrew for "Roots"
Shorashim - Hebrew for "Roots"

Hebrew Word Studies

Diving deeper into the language and word of God

The Bible - the combination of Tanakh (Old Testament) and the B'rit Hadashah (New Covenant) - are the source of all life, blessing and well-being for humanity and all God's creation. Without it, chaos would reign supreme.


We believe that the primary language of both sections of the Holy Scriptures was Semitic, specifically Hebrew. That Yeshua (Jesus) spoke and taught in Hebrew, and that just as today other words from neighbouring languages were drawn into the living linguistic form (e.g. Aramaic, Koine Greek, etc).

 

The Hebrew language (Ivrit - Hebrew, עברית) is named after those who spoke it, the "Ivrim", "Hebrews." This name comes from Ever (עבר), the son of Shem (Gen 10:21), meaning "a region beyond" from Avar (עבר), "to cross over". The rabbis say that Ivrit is "Lashon HaKodesh" (לשון הקודש), "The Holy Tongue", and that it was ...the original and only language given to Adam, until the time of the Tower of Babel. Hebrew is normally called "Yehudit" (יהודית) in the Bible because Judah (Yehuda) was the only surviving kingdom at the time.


The Bible should have supreme authority over all other writings and holy texts, and yet, as the author Thomas Paine (1773-1809) once said,
"The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed."

 

This section of our site is designed to help you get a taste for the deeper meanings hidden within the Hebrew language that are so often lost in translation. We should never forget that in each and every translation there has to be an element of interpretation as we move from one language to another.

 

As Haim Nachman Bialik, a Jewish Poet (1873-1934) once said,

 

"Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your new bride through a veil."


So let's lift the veil on G-d's Word and delve deeper into the truths he has there for us. Simply select the English letter which sound closest to the Hebrew word you are looking for and jump to that section, or simply browse through our ever-expanding collection of Hebrew Word Studies.

A

Adamah - Ground (אדמה) This word comes from the parent root "dam" meaning blood (one of the ten plagues remembered at Pesach), and also gives us "adom" meaning "red" from the rich red-coloured soil of Israel. Another well-known related word is "adam" meaning "man" from the blood in his veins.


It's also because Adam was taken from the adamah (ground) and his dam (blood) will return to the adamah. Poetic, no?

 

Ahava - Love (אהבה) In our Western culture "love" can be no more than the 'emotion' we feel for each other. But the Hebrew meaning is much deeper. The verb (le'ehov) means "to provide for and protect" as well as to have "an intimacy of action and emotion". Yeshua said Torah is summed up by "LOVE God and your neighbour" (Mt 22: 36-40), not in a simple emotional sense, but in our very action.

 

Interestingly, Hebrew doesn't have a separate word for "to like," which can be rather inconvenient, as we can no longer say, "I love them, but I don't really like them" - perhaps God did that for a reason?

 

Ah-mehn - Amen (אָמֵן) The most famous Hebrew word! From the root aman (ah-mahn), meaning "secured in place". Isaiah 22:23 says "fasten him as a nail in a secure [ah-mahn] place." The noun, amen (ah-mehn) is used Biblically when saying "I am firmly agreeing with what has been said" and the verb "to believe" in today's Hebrew is le-ha'amin (להאמין) So. the next time you say amen, best to think about what you are agreeing to!

 

Anav - Meek (עָנָו) In Mt 5:5 Yeshua quotes Ps 37:11 "the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity." But meekness is not passive, as Wesley's "gentle Yeshua (Jesus), meek and mild" hymn suggests. Biblically, it's more like a stallion in reins: raw power, but harnessed and controlled. It's a Messiah-King who, about to be crucified said, "Do you think I can't call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than
twelve legions of angels?" – Mt 26:53.

 

Ani – Poor (עָנִי) In Greek, "poor" (ptochoi, πτωχοὶ) is "one who is destitute". But "Blessed are the destitute in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:3) doesn't make sense. When translated back into Hebrew, however we get the word עָנִי. It can also mean destitute, but more literally means "bent low", or humble. As such, Yeshua was actually saying (in Hebrew!) that the Kingdom belongs to the humble.

 

Av – father (אב). The first letter, aleph-א, used to be a picture of an ox, a sign of strength. The second letter, bet-ב, was a picture of the tent or house where the family lived. When put together they mean "the strength of the house" and hence the "father." Our G-d is a perfect parent, a strong Father who loves us all, and the whole Jewish people. One day, we shall be called Home to strength and security the Father's House.

 

Avraham - Abraham (אַבְרָהָם) The name Abraham is constructed of the words אב (av, "father") and המון (hamon, "many"), since Abraham was the father of many peoples. He is the first of the "three fathers" of the Jewish people whose name was altered from Abram to "Abraham" by God who said, "No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations." (Genesis 17, 5)

 

B

Baruch – Blessed (בָּרוּךְ) The word "blessed" is closely related to berech (ברך knee) and brachah" (ברכה blessing). Physiologically, the knee is one of the weakest parts of the body, and it's certainly true that in our weakness, His blessing and strength is found. So, in Hebrew, humbling (kneeling) ourselves before Him and receiving His blessing are  closely related in word and deed. Baruch Hashem (Bless the Name).

 

Do the Rabbis say we should bless God one hundred times per day? Well, the Talmud, in Menachot 43b, takes Deuteronomy 10:12: "Now, Israel, WHAT does God, your God, ask of you? To walk in His ways... and to serve Him" and because the Hebrew word "mah" (what - מָה) sounds like the Hebrew word for 100 (me'ah - מֵאָה) it asserts that "Now, Israel, a HUNDRED does God, your God, ask of you" – namely, we should bless God at least 100 times per day.

 

Betach – trust (בטח) "In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust." The word  "trust" here is better translated "to cling", as with the closely related word avatiyach (watermelon, אבטיח – see the shared root letters?). Even though it's huge (just as our worries can seem), it still clings to the vine for its nourishment. We may not see God, but cling to Him, for He's our strength and our life-nourishment.

 

Beyt Knesset – Synagogue (בית-כנסת) The Greek "Sunagogen" (συναγωγὴν) means "a gathering together," which is similar to the Modern Hebrew Beyt Kneset, literally "house of assembly." "Kneset" isn't in the Bible, but its root כנס (kns) is, meaning "bunch together" or "assemble." The word כנסת (keneset) is also used in Modern Hebrew for the "Israeli Parliament" and "knesiyah" (כנסייה) is the Modern Hebrew for "church".

 

Interestingly, "archontos" in Mt 9: 23 is  often wrongly translated to "synagogue ruler", but the word synagogue is nowhere to be seen! Also, the "Synagogue of Satan" references in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 don't have to mean "synagogue," but are better translated as "Assembly of Satan [i.e. the Accuser]."

 

C

Chata - Sin (חטא) When an archer misses his target, we say he's "missed the mark", which is exactly the sense of the Hebrew "chata". God has provided man with the target (his Torah, from the word Yarah, "to throw/shoot"), and when man does not hit that target he "misses God's mark." Shaul refers directly to this Hebrew concept when he says "for all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory" (Rom 3:23).

 

Chavah - Eve / Life-giver (חָוָה) This word comes from the primitive root of the same spelling (different pronunciation) - chavah; which means "to live"; by implication to declare or to show "the way of life", or even "life-giver". As such, Chavah, as the first woman was given this as her name, Anglicised to "Eve" – "Adam named his wife Eve (Life) because she became the mother of every living person." (Gen 3:20)

 

Chayil - Noble Character ( חַיִל). Proverbs 31:10 says, "A woman of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies", but did you know the Hebrew for "noble character" is חַיִל 'chayil', which is better translated as "might, strength, power, valiant" - as would be used to describe a warrior in an army. So it's not a passive characteristic at all, but rather a dynamic, honourable one.

 

Women of God! Be released now to fulfil all the potential you have in Him! Men of God! Don't hold back any of His children in reaching their amazing Kingdom destiny.

 

Cheleq - Portion (חֵ֫לֶק) "Whom have I in the heavens but you? And earth has nothing I  desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength [Heb. צוּר - tsoor] of my heart and my portion [חֵ֫לֶק - cheleq] forever." (#Tehillim #Psalms 73:25-26)

 

In these verses, we see two words that have a strong connotation of "home" in the original Hebrew. We read that God is our "strength", where we see the translators taking the Hebrew word for "rock", but not just as a hard, strong object, but also as a place where we can take refuge and shelter, such as a cave or "When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock [Heb. ha tzoor] and cover you with my hand until I have
passed by." (Exodus 33:22)

 

We also see the Hebrew word "cheleq", which is often translated as "portion", but comes from the root meaning "segment of land". In other words, God is literally saying to us, "No matter how weak and frail you are feeling, I AM the place of strength where you can take refuge, the place from which to base your life – I AM your portion of land."

 

E

Echad – One (אֶחָד) From the root "to unite," is best translated as 'unit,' part of a whole in community. As a tree is composed of roots, trunk, branches and leaves, it also exists with other trees in a forest. So, we can conclude that the Shema is not speaking of YHVH as 'one and only' but as a unity of parts. The Rabbis assert that YHVH is yachid (יָחִיד), which is better translated as "solitary" (see Gen 22:2 and 6).

 

Interestingly, the Shema itself (a central prayer within Judaism) is a prayer of "complex unity" as it combines sections of three passages of scripture: Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21 and Nm 15:37-41. Rambam (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimonides, 1135 – 1204 CE) in his "Thirteen Articles" of faith focuses on the singularity of God, but one can strongly argue that this was purely in opposition to Christian thinking at the time.

 

Christian thinking itself had been heavily influenced by Platonistic thinking, which stated that nothing could be "perfect" unless it was "singular". In addition, Rambam was developing his theology in the context of opposition to a Christianity that had a recent and terrible history of  forced conversions as well as many and varied atrocities committed during the Crusades.

 

Ein Sof - "without end" (אין סוף). For God is not just big - He is infinite. If He were only "big", then the things that are small would be further from Him and those that are big would be closer. But to the Infinite, big and small are irrelevant terms. He is everywhere and He is found wherever He wishes to be found. May Ha Shem be found in the global events, and in the details of your life today.

 

El Al (Yes, the name of Israel's National Airline). Did you know that El Al (אל על ) literally means "to the skies"? The term "El Al" is taken from Hosea 11:7: "And My people are in suspense about returning to Me; and though they call to the skies, none at all will lift himself up."

 

וְעַמִּ֥י תְלוּאִ֖ים לִמְשֽׁוּבָתִ֑י וְאֶל־עַל֙ יִקְרָאֻ֔הוּ יַ֖חַד לֹ֥א יְרֹומֵם

 

El Al, the world's safest airline:

  • El Al interviews everyone individually prior to boarding. By monitoring "microexpression" potential terrorists are highly unlikely to remaining calm and undetected under such questioning.
  • At the check-in your passport and name is checked against information from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Scotland Yard, Shin Bet, and Interpol databases.
    Luggage put through a decompression chamber simulating pressures during flight that could trigger explosives (the only airline in the world to do this).
  • Sky Marshalls carrying concealed firearms sit among the passengers on every flight and have done since well before 9/11.
  • Most El Al pilots are former Israeli Air Force pilots.
  • The cockpits in all El Al aircraft have double doors to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. A code is required to access the doors, and the second door will only be opened after the first has closed and the person has been identified by the captain or first officer.
  • There are reinforced steel floors separating the passenger cabin from the baggage hold.
  • Since 2002, all aircraft in the fleet have been equipped with an infrared countermeasures system called Flight Guard to defend against anti-aircraft missiles. No other airline has such technology on board.

 

Emunah – faith (אמונה) Our Western view of faith puts emphasis not on us, but on the other person, i.e. "I have faith in you". But the Hebrew speaks of "active belief/support" which puts the emphasis on what YOU do (e.g. Ex. 17:12 where Aaron and Hur  emunah/support" Moshe's arms to secure victory). So, if you even have a mustard seed of "support" faith (Mt 17:20) in YHVH, be active with it, and miracles will happen!

 

Eved – slave / servant (עבד) This word is often translated "servant" but a better  ranslation is actually "slave" – and the clues are all in the Hebrew spelling itself. The noun comes from the verb root "avad", which means "to be enslaved" (see Exodus 1:13 – "So  Mitsrayim [Egypt] ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves.")

 

The original "pictographs" that give rise to our modern Hebrew characters give enormous depth to our understanding of this word. The letter "ayin" was an eye (meaning "experience"); the "beyt" was a house; and "delet" was a door. Put them all together and you have "experience the door of the house" – and now look at the experience of becoming a slave in Exodus 21:6, "then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever."

 

H

Halleluyah – Praise the LORD (הַלְּלוּיָהּ) "Let everything that has breath praise YHVH.  Halleluyah" (Ps 150:6). There are two parts here: "praise us" (הַלְּלוּ, hallel-oo) and "yah" (the short name of God, YHVH). Interestingly, hallel's root (הָלַל) means "to shine" or "make a clear sound." Thus, our praise should be like a "clear and obvious boasting", "make a show", and even (for the youth) "to rave" about Him!

 

Hamas - the future of Hamas. God's Word is fantastic! Isaiah 60: 18 says "No longer will violence (Hamas, חָמָס ) be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation (Yeshua, יְשׁוּעָה) and your gates Praise." G-d knows all things, and Israel will win out in the end, for His name's sake.

 

I

Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל) itself is a combined word form from sarah (שָׂרָה - "to persist, exert oneself, persevere") and El (אֵל – shortened from ayil, which means "mighty strength"). So when you put the two together, that's how we get to an English understanding of the word "Israel" as "God the Almighty persists and strives with."

 

Ivrit - Hebrew (עברית) The Hebrew language is named after those who spoke it, the "Ivrim", "Hebrews." This name comes from Ever (עבר), the son of Shem (Gen 10:21), meaning "a region beyond" from Avar (עבר), "to cross over". The rabbis say that Ivrit is "Leshon  HaKodesh" (לשון הקודש), "The Holy Tongue", and that it was ...the original and only language given to Adam, until the time of the Tower of Babel.

 

Note that Hebrew is normally called "Yehudit" (יהודית) in the Bible because Judah (Yehuda) was the only surviving kingdom at the time.

 

L

Lechem - Bread (לחם) In ancient times (and maybe even today), bread was made in a  similar manner to a fist fight - namely by placing dough on a table and then repeatedly kneading, hitting, rolling back and forth, picking up and turning over, and so on... Interestingly, the Hebrew noun for "bread" (lechem, with a guttural "ch") comes from the root lacham, which means "to fight."

 

Yeshua is our "bread of life," (John 6:35) the "true bread from the heavens," (John 6:32) and he even came from Bethlehem, which is a contraction of two Hebrew words beyt (house) and lechem (bread) – literally the "house of bread."

 

Genesis 3:19 says, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your lechem until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Maybe the sweat comes because we have to fight the ground for the crops, fight the grain to remove the husk from the seeds, fight the seeds to turn them into flour and fight the dough to make the bread?

 

Lev - heart (לֵב) "Test me, O YHVH, and try me, examine my heart and my mind" (Ps 26:2). Obviously the Psalmist is not asking YHVH for a medical examination of his myogenic muscular organ! It's from lebab (לֵבָב), meaning "the inner man," thus "lev" is figuratively used for our feelings, will, thoughts and even intellect. So here the Psalmist is actually asking God to examine every detail of his being, nothing hidden. See our word study on the "gut" as well.

 

M

Meyah – gut (מעה) The translation "heart" in Ps 40:8 "your Torah is within my heart" is not actually lev (לב), the correct Hebrew word. David actually said, "your torah is within my meyah - guts. He was so excited about God's word that it moved his guts, his very  being. I pray that our guts would churn at hearing the word like David's did!


Interestingly, in Hebraic thought, the mind is in the heart, not the brain.

 

Mi-kha'el – Michael (מיכאל) This Hebrew name has 3 parts: "mi" (who); "khah" (like); and "eyl" (one of power, hence "God"), literally "Who is like God?" This is asked in Ps 113:5 – "Who is like YHVH our God, the One who dwells on high?" where we also see the name in its long form "MI KHAmokha Yhvh ELoheinu". It's no surprise then that the Archangel who defends Israel (Dan 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7) carries this name!

 

Minchah – offering (מנחה) This noun is from the verb yanach (ינח), meaning to "deposit" a pledge for safekeeping. It's also one of the three main prayer times (shacharit – morning); michah (afternoon) and ma'ariv (evening) observed today, which match the 3
daily sacrifices in the Temple. It's also the time (3 o'clock) when Peter (still Jewish!) was praying and received the vision of the unkosher food in Acts 10.

 

N

Nahar - River (נהר). As we were on the Jordan River today, let's look at "river" in Hebrew. It is literally a giver of life, both now and in the Ancient Near East. Not only does it provide water to the people, but its annual flooding in days gone left behind water in the surrounding land for the crops, and thus food too. That's why the Hebrew word "nahar" can be translated as "river" or "flood". and thus food too. That's why the Hebrew word 'nahar' can be translated as "river" or "flood".

 

Nefesh - Soul (נפש). A person is a unity of different parts: the mind, thought, emotion, personality, body, blood, organs, etc. Nefesh is often translated as "soul," but a more complete Hebraic meaning is "the whole of the person" as in a "being," "person" or "entity." The root, naphash, means "to refresh" as in "restoring the whole of the person to its wholeness through rest and nutrition."

 

No'ach - Resting (נוֹחַ) The noun – no'ach – means a "resting", and is also the Hebrew name Noah, who's Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat. Adding the feminine "ah" suffix and the "m" prefix, the word menuchah is formed, meaning "place of rest." May Shabbat be a resting place for you (Hebrews 4:9), and that yeNaChamanu (ויְנַחֲמֵנ - "this one
will comfort") will be Messiah Yeshua, for you and for the Jewish people.

 

O

Olam – Eternal (עולם) Often translated as "everlasting" or "eternal," (both alien concepts in Hebrew thought), its root means "concealed," thus the sense of being "unseen in place, time or space."

 

So, ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם, "baruch atah YHVH, eloheinu melech ha'olam" means "blessed are You YHVH our God, king of all time and all that is unseen."

 

Amazing! For there is nothing in time or space that escapes Him.

 

Ozen - Ear (אוזן) Our Hebrew translators often try to 'fix' the text for us to understand it better in English. However, the original Hebrew is often more interesting, such as in Num 11:1 which should read "the people were murmuring and it was bad in the ear of YHVH" rather than He was "displeased." Also, the Hebrew for a balance is 'mozen', so maybe our forebears knew the inner ear helps our sense of balance!?

 

P

Pardes – Paradise (פרדס) This word is usually translated "paradise / forest / park / garden", which hints at the Hebraic definition of "an ideal place of rest and sustenance." PaRDeS is also an acronym for an ancient form of interpretation - P'shat (plain), Remez (hint), D'rash (searching) and Sod (hidden). These methods can also be seen in the NT and can help make the Word a real "paradise" of rest and sustenance.

 

Q

Qedem – East or "Distant in Time" (קדם) In Hebrew thought, space and time are the same. So, the present time relates to where you are now; and a distant place assumes a distant time (past or future). That's why qedem is used for both space and time, e.g. "he drove the man out, he placed on the east (קדם) of Eden cherubim." (Gen 3:24) and "I thought of the former days, the years of long ago (קדם)." (Ps 77:5)

 

R

Ra'ah - See (רעה) The verb ra'ah means "see" and is used frequently in the Bible. The participle form of ra'ah is ro'eh and can mean "seeing" (as an action) or "seeing one" (as the one who makes the action). This is where we see the direct connection with God as our shepherd - one who sees (or watches over) all things regarding the flock (YHVH Ro'eh). Isn't God, and His Hebrew language, awesome!?

 

Raphah - Be Still (רָפָה) Tehillim (Psalms) 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Here, the Hebrew verb, raphah (רָפָה), is often translated "be still", or "stop striving." But, as ever with English  translations (as good and valuable as they are), they can never quite communicate the depth and subtlety of the original language. This Hebrew word means to slacken off, to  leave alone, to become weak and even to fail. Interestingly, it comes from the same root as the Hebrew for "doctor" (rophe), which is rapha (רָפָא) - to cure, cause to heal, repair or to make whole.

 

So by understanding Hebrew better, we can see that God is saying "relax, be weak, stop" so that you can have some time out to recover, rest and repair. But to what end..? So that we can "know that He is God", and this is not knowing in our intellect, but rather יָדַע – knowing by intimate experience and informed acquaintance. When we become less, we can get really personal with the Creator of the Universe and witness Him at work.

 

Reh-oo-vane - Reuben (רְאוּבֵן‎) From ra'ah (see) and ben (a son), thus "see a son." The first born of Jacob through Leah, hence also the first of Israel's 12 tribes. The etymology also allows two other possibilities: either raa beonyi, meaning "he has seen my misery"; or also yeehabani (he will love me), both of which fit Leah's words in Gen 29:32, because YHVH has seen my misery, surely my husband will love me."

 

Ruach - Wind (רוח) In Hebrew, "wind" can be many things – it blows clouds in the sky; the breath of man; and also the breath of God. In Hebrew thought your breath is your character or essence – it's what makes you, YOU. It's often translated as "spirit", but this is an abstract term that diverts us from the deeper meaning of the Hebrew word – that  the ruach of God is his very essence, it's what makes Him, HIM. So, for example, now try reading these passages in a new light:

 

  • Genesis 41: 38, "So Pharaoh asked them, "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the essence [ruach] of God?"
  • Numbers 24: 2, "When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the essence [ruach] of God came upon him".
  • Psalm 77: 3, "I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my essence [ruach] grew faint. Selah".
  • Ezekiel 37: 14, "I will put my essence [ruach] in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I YHVH have spoken, and I have done it, declares YHVH."
  • Matthew 3:16, "As soon as Yeshua was immersed, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the essence [ruach] of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."
  • Acts 8: 17, "Then Kefa and Yochanan placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy essence [ruach]." 

 



S

Satan – adversary (שָׂטָן) The Hebrew is usually prefixed ה (ha) identifying a noun, not a name – so it's best translated as "the adversary." Even where satan could be a proper name (1 Chron 21:1), it actually turns out that the adversary is YHVH Himself (2 Sam 24:1). He's certainly a fallen angel, named "Morning Star" (hence Lucifer, but the Latin isn't found anywhere in the Bible), the correct Hebrew is Heilel ben Shachar (Isa 14:12).

 

Examples of where the word "satan" means "adversary" as in "one who stands against  another" include:

 

1 Kings 11:14, "And YHVH raised up an adversary (satan) against Shlomo, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal house in Edom."

 

At other times this name is translated as a proper name such as in the book of Job.

 

Job 1:6 "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before YHVH, and the adversary (satan) also came among them.

 

And here, the adversary actually turns out to be YHVH, as recorded in the repeated verse in 2 Samuel 24: 1 Chronicles 21:1 "Adversary (Satan) stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel."

 

2 Samuel 24 "Again the anger of YHVH was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah.""

 

Shabbat - Sabbath (שבת). The verb form is shavat, meaning cease or stop. Interestingly, "to sit" is lashevet (לשבת) with the same shin-bet-tav root. It's first used in Gen 2:2 where God "ceased" from his work. The noun form is Shabbat, often translated "Sabbath". It's also the name of the 7th day in the Jewish week – the other days are simply 1st Day, 2nd Day - and have no pagan influence, unlike our Moonday, Tyrsday, Wodensday, etc...

 

Shachah – Worship (שָׁחָה) Shachah means "bow down" (normally with face to the ground) (see Num 22:31). But, when it's an action toward God, the translators only say "worship", which stops us seeing the proper Hebraic context. We'd be better off removing the word "worship" from our Biblical vocabulary and replace it with "bow down". The act of bowing is, of course, an eastern custom to challenge our western ways.

 

Shalom aleichem – Peace be upon you (שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם) The correct response to this greeting is "Aleichem shalom" (Upon you be peace). Interestingly, it's in the plural, so can be used for a group of people, but also includes every part of one's humanity: body, spirit and soul. Shalom itself means "completeness" or "wholeness", so what we're actually saying is "may you have completeness in every aspect of your humanity."

 

Note, this same "Shalom aleichem" dynamic can be seen in Luke 10:5 when Yeshua sends out the 72 talmidim in pairs, and the exact words are used when the resurrected Yeshua "came and stood among them and said, "Shalom aleichem!" (John 20:26).

 

Shemen – oil (שמן) Today, oil symbolizes wealth, and it seems that nothing has changed over the millennia. In the ancient Middle East, olive oil was used for various purposes from light to health to food (see our post here on Tzayit, olive). The verb form is "shaman" meaning "to be fat" and interestingly the parent word is שם (shem, "name" or "character"), which reminds us that our wealth is in our character, not what we own.

 

Shamayim – Heavens (שָּׁמיִם) The plural of an unused root - "to be lofty". In Hebrew thought, there are THREE heavens: the visible sky; the higher ether of the stars and planets; and the spiritual realm above (the "heaven of heavens"). This 3rd heaven is also  found in 2 Cor 12:2, and Yeshua taught us to pray to our Father in the plural "heavens" (Hebrew Matthew 6:10). One day we will go home to be with Him there...

 

Shem - Name (שם) In English, a "name" is simply an abstract title for a person. In Hebrew, however, it is soaked with deeper meaning: e.g. Adam (from the earth); Amos (troubled); Dani'el (God is my judge); Eliyahu (Elijah, YHVH is my God); Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah, sent by God); Ruti (Ruth, my companion) and Yeshua (God's salvation). Interestingly, anti-Semitism in modern Hebrew is "anti-Shemi", literally "anti-My name".

 

So, when we link "berech / baruch" (see above) with "shem", we can see that "Baruch ha  Shem" (Bless the Name), literally means "Bless YHVH", which itself is the third person singular of the verb "to be" (h-y-h in consonants) and means "HE IS" in Hebrew.

 

So, beloved, we do not worship any old god, but we worship the God of Israel; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - "HE - WHO - IS" - the eternal, everlasting, mysterious, creator of the universe, the divine power that is, was, and will be to come. Amen and  amen.

 

Check out more modern and Biblical Hebrew name meanings - it's amazing what you may find out...

 

Shim'on – Simeon (שמעון) This name, for Leah's second son and Israel's second tribe, is derived from the Hebrew verb שמע shama, "to hear attentively and intelligently." In Gen 29:33 Leah, Ya'acov's wife says, "Because YHVH has heard (shama) that I was hated, he gave me this one [son] also" – hence the name שמעון Shim'on, "heard." From here we get
the Anglicised names Simon and Simeon.

 

Shofar (שופר). A 'trumpet' made of a ram's horn. The word is closely related to  'shafar' (beautiful or comely) from the Akkadian 'sapparu' (a fallow deer). When blown properly you will know why this description is so apt, and why it was variously used in battle; as a call to repentance; and to herald important news and events. It's now sounded in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur.

 

Sholeach – Apostle (שולח) The participle of the verb shalach (שלח, to send) meaning "sent one" (pl. shlichim, שליחים, "sent ones"). In Halacha, this person is an agent who performs an act of legal significance – but always for the benefit of the sender, not for himself. Thus, the Apostles in the New Covenant were shlichim "sent ones" acting as significant Torah-legal agents - not of themselves but of YHVH. Cool, huh?

 

Shorashim – Roots (שורשים) "He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green... it never fails to bear fruit." Yirmeyahu 17:8. From sharash (the bottom, or heel) it can  literally mean "root" (of a plant), and more figuratively "the start point" from where you gain security and sustenance. Interestingly, Hebrew is almost entirely based on a system of 3-consonant roots upon which each word and verb is built.

 

Shuv - Turn back (שוב) Means "to return to a previous state or place". See Genesis 3:19 where adam (man), who comes from the adamah (ground) will shuv (return) to the adamah (ground). This verb is often used for "repentance" - turning from a wrong direction to head back in the right direction. Teshuvah is a 40 day "repentance" season before Yom Kippur - to focus on making our relationships right between God and men.

 

God certainly makes the deal easy for us to understand...

 

"...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn [yaSHUVu] from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7: 14)

 

The tradition is that the forty days of Teshuvah came from our experience at Sinai (notice that Yeshua also spent 40 days in the wilderness, (Mt 4:1ff). Rashi said Moshe Rabeinu ascended Mount Sinai three times – each for forty days and nights... The first began 50 days after the Exodus on the 6th Sivan, when Moshe first received the Ten Commandments (at the time of Shavuot). When he came down from the mountain and saw everyone worshipping the Golden Calf, he smashed the tablets (Ex 32:19) – on 17th Tammuz. A 40 day period.

 

The second starts on the 19th Tammuz when Moshe prayed to God on behalf of Israel (until the 29th of Av). A 40-day period.

 

Then, finally, God called Moshe (the following day) on 1st Elul to go up to receive the new set of tablets. He came back down on 10th Tishri (Yom Kippurim), with both the second set of tablets and also the certainty of God's forgiveness for the people. The third and final 40-day period.

 

Sod - Secret (סוד) Are Amos 3:7's "secrets" only known to prophets? Not at all. Rather, this is "close counsel" (see Ps. 55:14), like Yochanan reclining at Yeshua's side on nomad's cushions at Pesach. It's a discussion not needing to shout, borne in intimate relationship. It's the side-by-side, still, quiet intimate prophetic voice of God that's heard here, not the voice of the earthquake, thunder or fire.

 

Sod is the last of four Hebrew words used in the mnemonic פרד"ס PaRDeS: פשט peshat, רמז remez, דרש derash, and סוד sod. The word pardes פרדס itself is connected to the English word "paradise / orchard" (in post-Biblical Hebrew it means "esoteric philosophy"). It's used as a descriptive word for the Word of God, and how it can be interpreted with different methods to experience its full beauty – just like a walk through an orchard paradise.

 

Here's a little more on the other PaRDeS words:

  • P'shat – פשט:  "the plain, simple meaning";
  • Remez – רמז: "the hinted meaning";
  • Derash - דרש: 'the interpretation" or "exegesis" and
  • Sod - סוד: commonly "the hidden or secret meaning" but see our definition, above, suggested "intimate counsel".

 

Soleach - Forgive (סולח) This verb is the base for the Israeli phrase "slichah" (סליחה), meaning "forgive / excuse me." It's often used in the Tanach, closely linked to sholeach -send (שולח) and shocheach – forget (שוכח).



T

Torah (תורה torah) One of the most misunderstood words in the Hebrew Bible! It's usually translated as "law", which by definition is "a set of regulations established by a government enforced with the threat of fines or imprisonment". But it actually means "teachings" - a set of instructions given by a teacher or parent in order to foster maturity and is enforced with discipline and encouragement.



 

Tov - Good (טוב) From an Hebraic perspective, 'tov' is "practical and functional", not just a simple statement of pleasure. A wrist-watch is "tov", not because it is aesthetically pleasing but because it works. If it breaks it is "ra", bad or dysfunctional. In Gen 1: 31 "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good (tov)" - not "tov" as in simply "pleasing" but rather, that he saw it functioned perfectly.

 

Tsalach – Prosper (צלח). This verb means "succeed by advancing forward in position, possessions or action". It's often used in the context of a successful mission such as Abraham's servant when going to his family's homeland for a wife for his son (Gen 24:40) and also in one of my favourite Psalms, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you." Ps 122:6

 

Tsoor - Strength (צוּר) "Whom have I in the heavens but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength [Heb. צוּר -tsoor] of my heart and my portion [חֵ֫לֶק - cheleq] forever." (#Tehillim #Psalms 73:25-26)

 

In these verses, we see two words that have a strong connotation of "home" in the original Hebrew. We read that God is our "strength", where we see the translators taking the Hebrew word for "rock", but not just as a hard, strong object, but also as a place where we can take refuge and shelter, such as a cave or "When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock [Heb. ha tzoor] and cover you with my hand until I have passed by." (Exodus 33:22)

 

We also see the Hebrew word "cheleq", which is often translated as "portion", but comes from the root meaning "segment of land". In other words, God is literally saying to us, "No matter how weak and frail you are feeling, I AM the place of strength where you can take refuge, the place from which to base your life – I AM your portion of land."

 

Tzalmavet - Shadow of Death (צלמות) Hebrew rarely has two words put together to form one new word. This, however, is one of them. It combines the word tzal (צֵל), "shadow" and mavet (מָוֶת), "death." Interestingly, the modern Hebrew for "to photograph" is letzalem (לצלם) - literally "to make a shadow."

 

So the "shadow of death" (Ps 23:4) may be "the very image of despair, danger or tragedy" but it is not death itself.

 

Tzayit – olive (זית) God calls Israel a "green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form" (Jer 11:16). The olive: tasty, healthy, nutritional, was used to anoint kings and high-priests, and has symbolised peace and restoration since the dove brought Noah an olive-branch after the flood. Olives also provided fuel for the Menorah in the Temple, and today olive leaves surrounding a Menorah is Israel's national emblem.

 

Tzedakah – Acts of Righteousness (צדקה‎) Often translated "charity", it's actually based on the word tzedek (צדק) - correctness, fairness or justice (see below). Rambam said the second highest form of tzedakah is to give anonymous donations, but the highest is to give a gift or loan so the recipient can support himself instead of living off others.

 

But, remember Yeshua's words, and don't make show of it! (Matthew 6:1-3).

 

Tsedeq – Righteous Correctness (צדק). While the word 'tsedeq' is usually translated in the Bible as  "righteousness," the more concrete Hebraic meaning is "correctness," in the sense of walking in the "correct" path. Today, our leaders are more focused on political correctness (correctness that appeases to the populous) than God's Correctness.



 

V

Var – Pure (בַר) "Who may ascend the hill of the YHVH? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean [naki] hands and a pure [var] heart..." (Ps 24:3-4) "Var" comes from barar (בָּרַר), meaning to purify, make bright, cleanse, polish, purge out our "heart" or inner being. It's different from "clean" (naki, נְקִ֥י), which is more than just soap and water – it's a deep-clean of our "hands" - our very life-actions.



Y

Yalad (יָלַד), - "to bear young, bring forth, beget". This is where the Hebrew words for boy (yeled, יָ֫לֶד) and girl (yeldah, יַלְדָּה) come from – it's also the modern Hebrew for birthday – yom holedet (יום הולדת). By extension, it means to act as a midwife and is also used to show lineage (you can see it used in the Hebrew genealogy of Yeshua in Matthew 1).

 



The Koine Greek word used in Acts 13:33 is γεννάω (gennaó) from a variation of γένος (genos), which is defined as "family, offspring". It literally means "to cause to exist; to father or to sire", is the same Greek word as used to translate the Hebrew  "holid" (mentioned above) as used in Shem Tob Ibn Shaprut's Hebrew Matthew.

 

Yarey - Fear (ירא) The Hebraic meaning of this verb is "to flow", which is closely related to the word yorehh ("first rain") and ye'or ("stream"). When you are really afraid of something, you can feel your insides "flowing". This makes the usual translation "fear" rather understated. Remember, NEVER fear for you are NEVER alone, for Adonai Tzeva'ot, the God of Heaven's Armies is with you. Amen.

 

Yehudi - Jew (יהודי), from Judah (Yehudah, יהודה), the 4th son of Jacob and also the region given to the tribe of Judah. Yehudah contains the letters of God's name Y-H-V-H, making it an alternate name for "Israelites". Your English NT will often read "Jews" (too general), so try "Judeans", which more accurately refers to the Pharisaic sect known as the "Judeans", who are closely related to modern Rabbinic Judaism.

 

A good example of where a distortion in our understanding of "Jews" in its original cultural and religious milieu can be found is, "His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews (Ἰουδαίους – ioudaious), for already the Jews (Ἰουδαίους – ioudaious) had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Yeshua was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue". (Yochanan 9:22)

 

Yerushalayim – Jerusalem (יְרוּשָׁלַיִם) This combination of two words: "yeru" meaning "flow", as in a river, or the pointing of a finger to offer direction; and shalayim, from shalam meaning "complete / whole" (as in Shalom). When put together they mean something like "pointing the way to completeness". Slightly ironic today, perhaps, but one day this city will be the home of the Sar Shalom - Prince of Peace, Amen.

 

Yeshua – Jesus (ישוע). The original meaning of Yeshua is linked to the verb 'to rescue.' This takes salvation to another level, as He seeks to rescue us from our sin. So, when we 'feed the hungry' or 'visit the sick' we should help 'rescue' them - we should search for those that need help and not just "give them a fish to feed them for a day, but teach them to fish so they can be fed for a lifetime."

 

Let's be bold with the Word...

 

Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement (יוֹם כִּפּוּר‎) The shoresh-root for "kippur" is "kafar" (רפכ), from "kofer", meaning "to ransom / wipe clean" – to atone by offering a substitute. The Tanakh's use relates to the priestly practice of "wiping clean" by the sprinkling of blood, with blood itself seen as an ancient detergent-like cleanser.

 

The Talmud makes some amazing observations from the days of Yeshua, where it records events that occurred around forty years before the 2nd Temple was destroyed (circa 30CE when Yeshua was crucified).

 

Tractate Yoma 39B states that, "The lot for the Yom Kippur goat ceased to be supernatural; the red cord that used to turn white [as a symbol of God's forgiveness] now remained red and did not change, and the western candle in the sanctuary refused to burn continually, while the doors of the Holy Temple would open of themselves".

 

And again, in the same tractate of the Talmud, the rabbis ask,

 

"Why was the First Holy Temple destroyed? Because of three wicked things: idol worship, adultery and murder. But in the second Holy Temple in which the Jewish people were occupied in studying the Torah, and doing good deeds and acts of charity, why then was it destroyed? The answer is because of hatred without a cause, to teach you that hate without a cause is equal to these sins, and that it is as serious a crime as the three great transgressions; idol worship, adultery and murder."

 

The Talmud itself doesn't answer the question "Whom did we hate?" But the answer is certainly found in the words of Yeshua, "But this happened that the Word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, they hated me without a cause". (Yochanan 15:24-25)



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