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Origin of the Hebrew Language

By Donald P. Moss

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Series Introduction

Foreshadows Introduction

Volume 1 -THE GARDEN OF EDEN - Adam's Creation and His
Spiritual and
Physical Environments

Volume 2 - NEW BEGINNING AND NEW WORLD ENVIRONMENT

Volume 3 - JOSEPH, EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH - A Foreshadow of God's Agenda for Jew and Gentile

Volume 4  - CROSSING THE JORDAN RIVER - A Foreshadow of Salvation for Jew and Gentile

Volume 5 - THE BOOK OF REVELATION - God's Agenda for the End Time

Volume 6 - THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES

Volume 7  - CHRIST IN THE TABERNACLE - A Foreshadow of Redemption

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Bible Lessons

(An excerpt from Volume 4  - CROSSING THE JORDAN RIVER - A Foreshadow of Salvation for Jew and Gentile)

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One of the most important validations for the Bible as the true Word of God is understanding the origin of the Hebrew language, including literal, figurative and implied meanings of root words.

There was a language spoken between God and Adam. It was the same language spoken between Adam and Eve. Did the language change at a later date? After the flood when Noah and his family left the ark, there was only one language spoken at that time by Noah and each of his sons and their wives. This language was the language spoken between God and Adam and between Adam and his descendents, including Noah. It was the language of God!

The Language Has Survived the History of Man

Noah was a descendent of Adam's righteous son, Seth. Seth died 14 years before Noah's birth. Enosh, Seth's son, was 84 years old when Noah was born. Enosh lived 905 years and Noah lived 950 years. The flood occurred when Noah was 600 years old and he died 350 years later. So, Noah spent all of his pre-flood life with his father, his grandfather and five generations of Enosh. Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch (five great grandfathers), Methuselah (grandfather) and Lamech (his father) were alive at the same time as Noah was alive. I don't think the language of Noah changed very much from the language Adam and Eve spoke in the Garden of Eden, as they conversed with each other and with God.

It would have been difficult for the ancestors' children to change the original language because the elders lived for such a long time. Forming new words in the original language would be difficult because new words would expand the language beyond the vocabulary of the elders, making the teaching of living history difficult. In the pre-flood Adamic society, "living history" was passed along by the elder's recount of the history told to them by Adam. The elders' knowledge of history was the most influential teaching element in pre-flood society. So, expanding the language by forming new words would be met with some resistance because new words would affect the elders' accurate communication of living history. If any one of the elders varied the historical account, even slightly, the other elders would correct him. So, to preserve historical integrity, the original language spoken in the garden was preserved.

In post-flood times Noah was the oldest man on the earth. He was the one to whom his descendents went to gain wisdom and seek guidance. Noah had great favor with God and all post-flood descendents were aware of his status with God. Noah, the eldest of his people after the flood, was ruler of his generations in post-flood times for as long as he lived. Noah taught and instructed his descendents in righteousness until the day he died. Noah preserved the original language, as he was the reference and source of pre-flood living history.

Additionally, Genesis chapter 10 outlines the nations of the earth according to the bloodlines of Noah's sons, Ham, Japheth and Shem. All of Noah's sons and their descendents still spoke only one language. Genesis 11:1-9 describes God confusing the ability of all descendents communicating with each other by changing the language spoken at Babel. The descendents of Ham spoke a different language and the descendents of Japheth spoke a different language and scattered throughout the middle east and northern Africa according to their language. Through languages God grouped bloodlines together in post flood times. But, Shem and Noah still spoke the original language of pre-flood times. This language also kept the bloodline of Shem together. Shem's descendents later became known as the Semites (known as Israelites today).

Genesis 11:9-10 (KJV) - Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (10) These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old,.......

Verse 9 speaks of scattering the people according to their language. Verse 10 speaks of the beginning of recording the genealogy of Shem, which introduces Abram into the historical narrative in Genesis 11:26. Since Abram was a resident of Ur of the Chaldeens, which is located on the Euphrates River opposite of the city Babel; Noah, Shem and Abram remained in the general area and did not spread to other far away places. It appears God kept Noah, Shem and Abram's locality, language and bloodline intact for a special purpose - the covenant promise and the establishment of the nation of Israel.

Abram was there listening to Noah. Abram was fifty years old when Noah died. So, Abram heard the account of Genesis directly from Noah and Abram believed in God. Twenty five years after Noah's death God called Abram. At that time Abram was seventy five years old. As a descendent of Noah and the Seth blood line, Abram, like all others before him, spoke the language of God. If he spoke the language of God, then Ishmael and Isaac spoke the language. So did Isaac's children, Esau and Jacob. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, therefore the language was preserved and spoken by the twelve sons of Jacob (the nation of Israel). Thus, the Mosaic Law was written in God's language. Therefore, if the the Law and the Prophets is the language of God, then the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) is the voice of God spoken through Israel's ancestors, Moses and the prophets. The language and voice cannot be separate! Additionally, Christ did not speak of His own, He only spoke what the Father told him to speak. Therefore, the New Testament is also the voice of God spoken through Christ Jesus. The Word of God (Bible) is the language and voice of God! It is alive because everywhere it is read or spoken and by believing what God spoke, eternal life prevails. Genesis 1:3 (KJV) - And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. The Word of God has creative power when spoken in faith by a heart fully committed to Him. It is most important to see the Word of God as the voice of God. So when one with a heart fully committed and devoted to Him speaks the Word of God, God speaks through him.

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Biblical Word Pictures

Modern English vernacular speaks in words, not pictures. But, Hebrew words speak in pictures because of its cuneiform base. Therefore, when English speaking people read the Bible, by default, they will attempt to read it literally (word for word), as they would any other book. Thus, apart from studying the figurative and implied meanings (pictures) of the Hebrew language, understanding the Bible will be limited and the richness of hidden manna will never be known.

Primitive root words in today's Hebrew language is the language of God! This becomes apparent as one studies the Hebrew language and see letters that are pictures (cuneiform type characteristics) which formed picture images for expression of ideas. By combining letters the imagery expands, resulting in word pictures with more specific meanings. Thus, the original language was beyond literal meanings and ideas. As time passed, the language continued to expand to form multiple child root words, each branching from the same parent root word.

For example - The word "stone" in the Hebrew is 'eben" (eh'-ben) which literally means to build with "stone". Eben is formed from the primitive root word "banah" (baw-naw') which means "to build" (literally and figuratively). Banah's use in the Bible can be both literal and figurative. Figuratively, banah as used in the KJV means - (begin to) build (-er), obtain children, make, repair, set (up). So, when Jesus stated in Matthew 24:1-2 (KJV) - And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. (2) And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Was Jesus thinking literally or figuratively?

When the Jews were questioning Jesus' authority they asked Him in John 2:18-22 (NIV) - Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" (19) Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." (20) The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" (21) But the temple he had spoken of was his body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

"Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days" - This statement by Jesus can not be understood in the literal sense.

"It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" - The Jews were thinking literally and completely missed the picture message (metaphor) spoken by Jesus.

"The temple he had spoken of was his body" - Jesus was thinking figuratively. Was Jesus' statement the proper use of the language?

Yes! The figurative meaning of the root word for "stone" is banah, which is used to mean "obtain children" and "to build" a family. So, Jesus' figurative picture was the building of the temple of God (His body) using "living stones'. Living stones are children of God who form the body of Christ, His temple in the earth.

When Jesus gave Simon a new name, He named him Cephas which by interpretation is "stone" - John 1:40-42 (KJV) - One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. (41) He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. (42) And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas", which is by interpretation, A stone. Jesus changed Simon's name to Cephas the moment He first met Peter, after Simon's brother Andrew had heard John the Baptist speak the day before.

Was Jesus thinking literally or figuratively?

Scholars correctly interpret Peter's name to mean "rock", as defined in the Greek. However, to counsel many who believe Peter is the rock of the church because of Jesus' question to the disciples (many days after He first met Simon and changed his name) in Matthew 16:15-18 - He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? (16) And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (17) And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (18) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Christ replied to Peter's answer centered on Peter's faith in Him as the Christ. Faith is the rock upon which Jesus builds His church. Although Peter's name in Greek means rock, he is not the rock upon which the church is built.

However, Peter's Greek name Petrus is tied to the Greek root word lithos which means "stone". Thus, in John 1:42 when Jesus changed Simon's name to Cephas, Greek scholars noted the proper interpretation of Cephas - "which is by interpretation, A stone."

"Peter" (Strong's Concordance / Greek Lexicon) #4074 - Petros (pet'-ros); apparently a primary word; a (piece of) rock (larger than #3037); as a name, Petrus, an apostle.

#3037 - lithos (lee'-thos); apparently a primary word; a stone (literally or figuratively).

What did Peter think when hearing Jesus' words? Peter also heard his new name Cephas as having a figurative meaning. We know this to be true as He stated such in 1 Peter 2:4-5 (KJV) - To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, (5) Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

So, Jesus was speaking figuratively when He told the Jews He would raise the temple in three days and when He changed Simon's name to Cephas because He had a picture of building the church through faith in Him (obtaining children and setting up the family of God) on His mind. His use of the language was proper, because when He died on the cross and three days was raised from the dead, God obtained children and the body of Christ was born! By faith in the sacrificial blood of Jesus for our sins, we become "living stones" and united with the body of Christ to form the true temple of God in the earth! So, Jesus' figurative use of the language was correct.

From this word study of the Hebrew and Greek clarity of scripture increases and faith in the Bible increases. Emphasis is placed on the original languages because they form meaningful mental pictures of understanding. Remember the adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words."

Figurative and implied meanings of Hebrew words form metaphorical pictures which foreshadow the work of God through Christ Jesus.

Truly, Hebrew is the language of God and the Bible is the true voice and Word of God. Through out the Bible the Hebrew language forms figurative pictures of the Messiah in the form of foreshadows, symbols and people types. These are all prophetic pictures of Jesus and what God does through Him.

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The Origin of the Hebrew Language

By: Jeff A. Benner

Hebrew is classified as a Semitic language (or Shemitic, from Shem, the son of Noah). Was Hebrew just one of the many Semitic languages (descendants of Shem); such as Canaanite, Aramaic, Phoenician, Akkadian, etc., that evolved out of a more ancient unknown language? Or, was Hebrew, and the Semitic family of languages, the original language of man?

According to the Bible all people spoke one language (Genesis 11:1) until the construction of the Tower of Babel, in southern Mesopotamia which occurred sometime around 4000 BCE1. During the construction of the Tower, God confused the language of man and scattered the nations (Genesis 11:7,8).

It is at this time that the Sumerians (from the land of Sumer, known as Shinar in the Bible - Genesis 10:10), speaking a non-Semitic language, appear in southern Mesopotamia. It is believed that the Sumerians are related to the people living between the Black and Caspian Seas, known as the Scythians, descendants of Noah's son Japheth.

At approximately the same time the Sumerians appeared in Mesopotamia, another civilization emerges in the South, the Egyptians. The original language of the Egyptians is Hamitic (From Ham, the second son of Noah) and is also unrelated to the Semitic languages.

During the time of the Sumerians and the Egyptians, the Semitic peoples lived in Sumeria and traveled west into the land of Canaan.

Sons of Noah after Babel The descendants of Noah after the Tower of Babel - The descendants of Japheth traveled north with their language, the descendants of Ham traveled southwest with their language and the Semites traveled west with their language (see figure 1).

"That is why it was called Babel - because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11.9).

What was the one language spoken prior to the Tower of Babel? When God created Adam he spoke to him (Genesis 2:16) indicating that God gave Adam a language and this language came from God himself, not through the evolution of grunts and groans of cave men. When we look at all the names of Adam's descendents we find that all the names from Adam to Noah and his children are Hebrew names, meaning that their name has a meaning in Hebrew. For instance, Methuselah (Genesis 5:21) is Hebrew for "his death brings" (The flood occurred the year that he died). It is not until we come to Noah's grandchildren that we find names that are of a language other then Hebrew. For instance, the name Nimrod (Genesis 11:18), who was from Babylon/Sumer/Shinar and possibly the Tower of Babel, is a non-Hebrew name. According to the Biblical record of names, Adam and his descendants spoke Hebrew.

In addition: Jewish tradition, as well as some Christian Scholars, believed that Hebrew was the original language of man.

References:

1. Merrill F. Unger, "Tower of Babel," Unger's Bible Dictionary, 1977 ed.: 115. (BCE - Before the Common Era, equivalent to BC)

2. J.I. Packer, Merril C. Tenney, William White, Jr., Nelson's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995) 337.

3. Madelene S. Miller and J. Lane Miller, "Sumer," Harper's Bible Dictionary, 1973 ed.: 710.

4. Unger, "Scythian," 987.

5. Unger, "Egypt," 288.

6. William Smith, "Hebrew Language," Smith's Bible Dictionary, 1948 ed.: 238.

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Hebrew word study on the word "spirit" -

Spirit in Hebrew Root 1The graphic at the right is an example of Hebrew word formation. Cuneiform symbols are letters that form pictures allowing the symbol to be used in a variety of applications. Symbol pictures provide not only literal meanings, but implied and figurative meanings as well. This means studying figurative and implied meanings of Hebrew key words of an Old Testament scripture will form a metaphorical picture of a New Testament event or a future event. This is referred to as foreshadowing. Foreshadowing reveals hidden manna in the language of God's Word. Foreshadowing goes beyond the scope of literal perceptions.

"Hh" is a letter picture which means a wall of a tent or corral which separates and protects what is inside the wall or corral from what if outside. The key precept is separation and protection.

"R" is a letter picture which represents the head of man, or the top or head of anything, mountaintop, rank, etc. In the above graphic's study it's meaning is man.

Combining the letters "Hh" and "R" forms a parent root "RaHh" which means a man outside his tent whose responsibilities include routine caring for the livestock. His routine is "a prescribed path" he follows each day. Emphasis is place on the phrase "prescribed path" and sheparding the flock or herd.

A child root of the parent root is "RuW-aHh" which means the wind following a prescribed path for the coming of each season. It also means breath or the wind of man which follows a prescribed path by inhaling and exhaling. This word is also translated as "spirit" as it is an essential part of man, just as much as the breath and the mind of man are essential. Again, emphasis is place on the "prescribed path" of the spirit, the breath and mind of man as essential parts of man. Figuratively, "RuW-aHh" is a picture of the mind of man with a spirit inspired influence which governs his routine thinking and reasoning process. This routine is a prescribed path he follows concerning his life, as prescribed by what he believes to be true.

Other child roots are "Ye-Re-aHh" and "A-RaHh" both indicating prescribed paths (routines) by the moon daily and also taken by travelers to a specific location.

The common element of the parent root and the child roots is the phrase "a prescribed path". The common symbol of the parent and child roots is the head or spirit inspired mind of man. Remember the bible scripture concerning why God brought the flood?

Genesis 6:5-6 (KJV) - And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (6) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Man's carnal spirit inspired the imaginations and thoughts of his mind that led him to follow a prescribed path of continual evil. God was grieved in His heart! Up to this point in time the Holy Spirit strived to change his prescribed path.

Genesis 6:3 (KJV) - And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

Hidden in the letters, parent root and child roots are legitiment ways to use figurative meanings (pictures) to tell the story of God's work through His Messian, Christ Jesus.

For example;

The letter symbol "Hn" which leterally represents the wall of a tent, could also be used to figuratively represent the tent of the body. The apostle Paul referred the tent of the body in 2 Corinthians 5:4 (NIV) - For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. The apostle Peter also referred to the tent of the body in 2 Peter 1:13-14 (NIV) - I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, (14) because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.

God's desire is to show us the way to live outside our earthly tent by moving inside His tent (symbolically represented by the tent of the tabernacle) under the "rams' skins dyed red" covering (the blood of Christ).

See For the Eyes of Your Understanding - Volume 7 for a study of the tabernacle's pattern, a foreshadow of redemption and transformation.

When we reside in God's tent we are saved and protected from the earthly spiritual matters and spiritual predators that reside outside the tent of His tabernacle. God has established "a prescribed path" for us to follow. His prescribed path is the path of the Spirit set in place by the death and resurrection of Jesus - The Way or it could be said, "The Path". Remember when Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow Me"? When one walks in The Way (following Christ) he walks by the Spirit on the prescribed path of God. God prescribed the path through the atoning death of His Son for the sins of mankind and the Spirit enables man to follow Him, as he renews his mind (spirit) through faith in the Word of God. God has a "prescribed path" for us to follow that leads to Him in the Kingdom of God! God created all things and He created them to work in a certain way through the power of the Holy Spirit. His Way is a prescription of enternal life for all of mankind. So, "RuW-aHh" which means the wind following a prescribed path for the coming of each season, figuratively represents the prescribed path of the wind (breath) of God (Holy Spirit) leading us through life to the next season, the millennium reign of Christ. Figuratively, it could also represent the Holy Spirit leading each of use through each season (circumstance) of our lives - Galatians 6:9 (KJV) - And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. The key understanding of the metaphor use of the word spirit is the prescribed path or Way of God leading us to enternal life by following Christ Jesus.

Truly, the Hebrew language is the language of God. Therefore, we should see the Word of God as the voice of God! The Bible is one of the great miracles God has given to man. The Word is the seed of God and our faith in His Word creates in each of us a new man, born of God. God has spoken to each of us and His spoken Word is still creative! Today, God still says, "Let there be......"! And it is so! The promises of God are not "yes" and "no", but always "yes" in Christ Jesus! "Yes" in Christ Jesus is the prescribed path of God!

2 Corinthians 1:19-22 (NIV) - For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." (20) For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. (21) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, (22) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The prescribed path (the Way) of God is a guarantee of what is to come!

Amen! Praise God for the Bible!!