Specific Hebrew Word Studies:
Here is a collection of specific Hebrew words and an explanation of their true meaning and understanding. All these words are used within the Bible and by understanding the true intent of these words the Bible can be understood more completely.
Adamah - Ground (אדה) This word comes from the parent root "dem" meaning blood (one of the ten plagues remembered at Pesach), and also gives us "adam" meaning "to be red" from the rich red-coloured soil of Israel. Adam translated as "man" in our Bibles. Adam was taken from the adamah (ground) and his dem (blood) will return to the adamah.
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". Jesus said Torah is summed up by "LOVE God and your neighbour" (Matthew 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".
Ah-mehn - Amen (אָמֵן) 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).
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, Jesus 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" is the "father." Our Heavenly Father is a perfect parent, a strong Father who loves us all.
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)
Ashrey - happy / blessed is (אַשְׁרֵי) This Hebrew word occurs 44 times in the Hebrew Bible and is the ancient equivalent of calling somebody "fortunate" or "lucky" in the modern world. This state of being is not, however, the result of simple fate or happenstance, but has a decided emphasis in being in a right relationship with God. According to the Psalmists, for example, the "fortunate" person is the one who knows God (e.g. Psalm 33:12; 144:15), longs to be in his presence (e.g. Psalm 65:5; 84:5), knows what God wants and makes choices based upon that knowledge (e.g. Psalm 112:1; 119:1-2), cares about justice for others (e.g. Psalm 106:3), and has compassion for the poor (e.g. Psalm 41:2). Importantly, your happiness is not dependent on perfection in these things: “Fortunate is the one whose wrong is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).
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).
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 – notice the shared root letters). Even though a watermelon is 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".
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." Paul refers directly to this Hebrew concept when he says "for all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory" (Romans 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." (Genesis 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.
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." (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 [in the Hebrew: ha-tzoor] and cover you with my hand until I have passed by." (Exodus 33:22)
Echad – One (אֶחָד) From the root "to unite," is best translated as 'unit,' part of a whole in community, such as "God is all in all".
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. Exodus 17:12 where Aaron and Hur emunah/support" Moses' arms to secure victory). 'Emunah' literally means "to take firm action", so to have faith is to act. It’s kinda like a staircase; you may intellectually know the stairs go up to the next level, but until you climb the stairs you won't experience the next level. What you do is more important than what you know. Don’t just believe in the stairs, climb the stairs. We see the functional action of Hebraic faith in Gen 15:6 where it reads, "And he stood firm in his position in the Lord...". The emphasis of the action of faith is placed on ourselves personally and not on God.
Eved – slave / servant (עבד) This word is often translated "servant" but a better translation 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."
Halleluyah – Praise the LORD (הַלְּלוּיָהּ) "Let everything that has breath praise Yahweh. Halleluyah" (Psalm 150:6). There are two parts here: "praise us" (הַלְּלוּ, hallel-oo) and "yah" (the short name of God, Yahweh). 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 - Violence - Also interestingly 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 (Jesus), יְשׁוּעָה) and your gates Praise."
Hesed - Love (There are many words in Hebrew which each define different aspects of love.) In the Book of Isaiah we read: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken". The Hebrew word translated as 'love' here is hesed which is a hard word to define. Theologian John Oswalt says hesed is "… a completely undeserved kindness and generosity …".Hesed is not just a feeling, it's an action. It “… intervenes on behalf of loved ones and comes to their rescue" according to Lois Tverberg. Hesed is not romantic love. It’s faithful. It’s reliable. It’s a wife praying for years for her husband to know God. It’s parents who lovingly care daily for their autistic child. Hesed is the Hebrew word for the love God has specifically for his people. Often translated as ‘love’, ‘steadfast love’, ‘mercy’, or ‘lovingkindness’, hesed requires up to 14 English words to properly encapsulate its potent meaning. It is found most often in the Psalms. Hesed is a permanent, covenant, faithful love; not changeable, temporary or based on feelings. Hesed is the security, acceptance and devotion within a committed relationship, which every human heart longs to experience.
Hosanna - Is made up of two Hebrew words "hosha" which is a request, meaning "save us" and "na" אנא meaning "please". This word is a crying out to God for salvation. It is not a cry of joy, but a begging for divine help. By the way the Hebrew word "na" is what God uses when He asks Abraham to offer up his son Isaac. God does not say "now"...take your son as it is translated in the English, instead God says, "please" take your son... God knew what He was asking of Abraham was not easy and God was asking Abraham to accept His will in love.
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.
Lechem - Bread (לחם) In ancient times, 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." Jesus 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 Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind" (Psalm 26:2). Obviously the Psalmist is not asking God 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.
Mem – Chaos. During Biblical times, the sea had a negative connotation for the Jewish people. In fact, the Hebrew word for water—mayim—comes from the root mem, meaning “chaos,” which makes sense when you consider the Israelites grew up hearing that a flood wiped out the earth. Even to this day, you don’t find many houses or hotels along the 33 mile shoreline of the Sea of Galilee despite its picturesque waters.
So why then does Jesus “insist” that his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee during a storm (Mark 6:45)? He sent them into the chaos! But then he came to help them by walking on top of the water—showing that he is in total control of ALL chaos.
Meyah – gut (מעה) The translation "heart" in Psalm 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. 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 Yahweh 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 (Daniel 12:1; Jude 1:9; Revelation 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 was praying and received the vision of the unkosher food in Acts 10.
Nahar - River (נהר). The Jordan River 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.
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.
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 Yahweh, eloheinu melech ha'olam" means "blessed are You Yahweh our God, king of all time and all that is unseen." 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 Numbers 11:1 which should read "the people were murmuring and it was bad in the ear of the Lord" rather than He was "displeased." Remember also that the Hebrew word for balance is 'mozen', so maybe our forebears knew the ear helps our sense of balance!
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).
Qavah - Hope (קוה) In the English language we casually use the word ‘hope’ with the downgraded meaning of a wishful thought or desire: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow”, or “I hope our cricket team wins”. This can easily cloud our understanding of biblical qavah which, in contrast, is a guaranteed assurance that if the Lord says it will come to pass, then it will do so. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope (qavah) will not be cut off” (Proverbs 23:18). Qavah is an expectant waiting for a desired outcome. It means to gather together, wait for, hope for or bind (by twisting) together. While the idea of hope in English is abstract, this Hebrew root word offers a more concrete expression of hope as an ever-strengthening rope as its strands are collected and then twisted together. A thin thread may be faster and simpler to make than a shipyard standard rope, but it certainly would not hold up under pressure. To make a durable, useful rope, the process of binding and twisting many threads together is essential. As we hope and wait upon the Lord for his direction, his timing and his action, then our faith and character can be built up: “But those who hope/wait expectantly [the verb form of Qavah] in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
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." (Genesis 3:24) and "I thought of the former days, the years of long ago (קדם)." (Psalm 77:5) With this basic understanding of the Hebrew word קדם (qedem), let’s consider the pictographs for this word, where we find an interesting correlation between the letters of this word and its meaning. The first letter, reading from right to left, is the letter quph, a picture of the “sun at the horizon.” The second letter is the dalet, a picture of a tent door, which allows “movement” in and out of the tent. The last letter is the mem, a picture of water and can represent a “sea” or more specifically, the Mediterranean Sea. When we put all of this together we get, “The sun at the horizon moving toward the sea,” a perfect Hebraic description of the “east.” Keep in mind that Hebrew definitions are often dynamic rather than static. What I mean by this is that we define a noun as a person, place or thing. But Hebrew nouns are more about the action of a person, place or thing. For instance, a Hebrew definition of a mountain is not just a “mountain,” but “the head rising up out of the ground.”
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.
Raphah - Be Still (רָפָה) 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 Genesis 29:32, because the Lord has seen my misery, surely my husband will love me."
Ruach - Wind (רוח) In Hebrew thought the wind can be many things. It is the wind that blows in the sky, it can be the breath of man or animals and it is also the breath of God. In Hebrew thought your breath is your character or essence; it is what makes you, you. The breath, or wind of God, is his character or essence. In the same way that our breath is like a wind, God is like a wind. God is not an individual person that exists as we do; he is everywhere just like the wind is everywhere. Many times the Hebrew word ru’ach is translated as “spirit,” but this abstract term takes us away from the real concrete meaning of the Hebrew word. Rather than looking at God as a spirit, we can read the text more Hebraicly if we replace the word “spirit” with “wind.”
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 Chronicles 21:1), it actually turns out that the adversary is Yahweh Himself (2 Samuel 24:1) "Again the anger of YHVH was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah.". Examples of where the word "satan" means "adversary" as in "one who stands against another" include 1 Kings 11:14, "And the Lord raised up an adversary (satan) against Shlomo, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal house in Edom."
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 Genesis 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, etc...
Shachah – Worship (שָׁחָה) Shachah means "bow down" (normally with face to the ground) (see Numbers 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 it can also be used in the context of a group of people. It 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 Jesus sends out the 72 disciples in pairs, and the exact words are used when the resurrected Jesus "came and stood among them and said, "Shalom aleichem!" (John 20:26). The word Jerusalem in Hebrew is Yerushalayim which is made up of two Hebrew words; yeru which means "you will see" and shalom which means "the peace of God". So Jerusalem is supposed to be the place where you will see the peace of God.
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. 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 Corinthians 12:2, and Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in the plural "heavens" (Matthew 6:10).
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, the Lord 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 The Lord", which itself is the third person singular of the verb "to be" (h-y-h in consonants) and means "HE IS" in Hebrew. So 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.
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 Genesis 29:33 Leah, Ya'acov's wife says, "Because Yahweh 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 Anglicized 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 the Lord.
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." Jeremiah 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 or 4-consonant root letters 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 the experience at Sinai (notice Jesus also spent 40 days in the wilderness, (Mt 4:1).
Sod - Secret (סוד) Are Amos 3:7's "secrets" only known to prophets? Not at all. Rather, this is "close counsel" (see Psalm 55:14), like John reclining at Jesus' side on nomad's cushions at Passover. 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.
Tefillah - Prayer (תפילה) How often do we use prayer as nothing more than an emergency call to God? Too often we only pray when we need or want something from God. This is understandable considering the English word "pray" means to "ask or beg". But in the Hebrew the word for Prayer "Tefillah" means to "self evaluate". So to the Jewish people of the Bible, prayer was not a time when they asked God for things, it was a time when they examined themselves. They would use prayer as a way to compare their actions, behavior and attitude against God's holiness. The verb for prayer is ‘hitpallel’ התפלל and this comes from the basic root of ‘palal’ פלל which means “to judge”. So I see in this that the ultimate purpose of prayer is to transform us into His likeness.
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 Genesis 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 (Genesis 24:40) and also in the Psalms, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you." Psalm 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." (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" (Psalm 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" (Jeremiah 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.
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.
Tselem - Image, statue, representation (צֶלֶם) This Hebrew word is used 32 times in the Hebrew Bible. The author of Genesis 1 uses the word to describe God’s relationship to humanity. We were made to be the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). The word is most often used to describe the earthly statues of gods and goddesses. People in the ancient world, however, did not view these statues as mere pictures of their gods/goddesses. Instead, they fed, bathed, clothed, and worshipped these statues, as if they were alive. They were divine manifestations on earth. This is the word that the author of Genesis 1 chose to describe humanity’s relationship to God. We were created to be the manifestation of God on earth.
Interestingly, in modern Hebrew, this same verb root and word is used for a picture or photograph.
Var – Pure (בַר) "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean [naki] hands and a pure [var] heart..." (Psalms 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.
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 Jesus in Matthew 1).
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.
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". The 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.
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.
Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement (יוֹם כִּפּוּר) The 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.
Zamir - Song / Prune (זָמִיר) The root of this noun זמר is commonly used in biblical Hebrew to express the action of "singing" or "playing a musical instrument" and it is still used this way in Modern Hebrew. However, there is a secondary meaning for this root in biblical Hebrew, "to prune" or "to trim". It is explicitly used only three times in the Hebrew Bible with this meaning (Leviticus 25:3-4; Isaiah 5:6). Yet, there is one text in the Hebrew Bible wherein this root is seemingly employed with both meanings: “Flowers appear on the earth / The time of singing has come / The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song of Songs 2:12, NRSV). The Hebrew word for "singing" is the word, זָמִיר. Despite the translation above, the poet appears to be intentionally exploiting both possible meanings for this root in order to parallel the second line with the first (flowers: pruning) and the third (singing: voice of the turtledove): “Flowers appear on the earth / The time of pruning/singing has come / The voice of the turtledove is heard in our land”.