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Key 1 – Biblical Hebrew words can have various meanings and nuances. Each shade of color adds to the full picture.
The variety of translations for a single Hebrew word can be enormous. The question is, why do such a range of diversity and mixture exist?
From a human linguistic point of view, it appears to be contradictory not to say counterproductive. In fact, it’s this diversity of meanings that opens the door to so many interpretations. But we must look at this vocabulary phenomenon through God’s eyes, not our own. So the real question is, if God inspired the authors of the Bible, which He did, although many would deny this, why did He inspire such variety leading to confusion?
Let’s inspect Key 1, this medley of meanings for a single Biblical Hebrew word.
Davar = 50 translations in English, including commandments
The first example of multiple translations and various meanings for one Biblical Hebrew word is davar. You’ll find it in Exodus 34:28. On internet, go over to www.UnlockBibleMeaning.com and Search for ten commandments. Get into the habit of doing the exercises to incorporate this study method in your mind.
- Switch to Strong’s Concordance
- Click on the Strong’s number (H1697) to the right of commandments to see Strong’s information in the right column.
Frequently, throughout this course, we will look at this presentation of Biblical Hebrew words with their various meanings. On the right side of the screen the first paragraph, after the H1697 you’ll always find an annotation by James Strong. We will refer to this often. This is generally a resume of the Biblical Hebrew word and its usage in scripture. I shall explain its value and relevance in more detail later.
Here you can see dabar summarized by word, a matter or a thing and cause. These are among many other various meanings.
Following the KJV (King James Version of the Bible), after Strong’s annotation, we see all the translations of this one word, used by the translators. For dabar you can count about 50 translations. Notice the various meanings of the translated words. We shall discuss this a lot.
There are words preceded by an x and a +. These words are additional translations that are in the Revised Standard Version, and the American Revised Standard Version. We will not be referring to these translations, although they can add a note of modernity to the 1611 A.D. original work.
Below each Strong’s entry notice << Prev(ious) 5 | Next 5 >>.
By clicking on Next 5, you’ll display the next five Strong’s entries. For the time-being, just notice that basically every single Biblical Hebrew word has at least a couple and often many more translations into English. Verify this first key by clicking on these previous, next links. Check words before and after H1697. Most words have multiple translations. Understanding this is the first key to mastering Biblical Hebrew.
You don’t need to learn any Hebrew at all with these tools. The translations are basically sufficient to understand the meaning of each word.
- First, you’re getting used to the idea that each Biblical Hebrew word has multiple translations and hence, various meanings; this, in itself, is a new concept.
- Second, as we progress, you’ll be able to understand why this is so.
- Third, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to reconcile all these translations with various meaning, for just one word.
There are excellent reasons for this multiplicity of translated words. The translators were absolutely right in the choice of multiple foreign-language words for one single Biblical Hebrew word. Consider each translated word as a piece of the word-puzzle that we need to assemble. When all the pieces, the various meanings, come together, you’ll grasp the bigger picture of each word. That’s when deeper and fuller meaning of the Bible comes into focus. That’s our goal in this course. The Biblical Hebrew vocabulary and grammar are not our focus (although we’ll get a little of that). We’re on a thrilling journey to harvest a profounder comprehension of the Bible.
Back to our example of dabar, which, I think, everyone is aware of because of The Ten Commandments. The Hebrew word used in this context for commandment (Ex. 24:38) is davar. (the b and v are interchangeable depending on how it’s written. That’s the grammar and rules of pronunciation that you can learn elsewhere if you wish). Dabar is used about 1400 times in the Hebrew Bible.
Here is a list of over 50 words and phrases, the various meanings attributed as translations in the King James Bible:
act, advice, affair, answer, because of, book, business, care, case, cause, certain rate, commandment, counsel, decree, deed, due, duty, effect, errand, evil favored, hurt, language, manner, matter, message, thing, oracle, portion, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request, sake, saying, sentence, some (uncleanness), somewhat to say, speech, talk, task, thing (concerning), thought, tidings, what(-soever), which, word, work.
Why can one simple word have such a variety of translations? What is the implication of this?
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