Translating the Name of the Lord (Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields)
One of the many benefits of knowing a little Hebrew (and Greek!) is that it can help readers understand their English Bibles better. Understanding the name of the Lord is a good example.
There are many expressions used to refer to the God of Israel, but the one that may confuse English-only readers is the name of the Lord. There are several terms related to this. First we will look at pronunciation. Then we will explain Hebrew terms and translations.
The name of the Lord in Hebrew is יהוה, YHWH, known as the tetragrammaton (a Greek term meaning the “four-letter word”). The Jews often substitute the expression “the Name” for the actual name of the Lord, so that they do not even accidentally give offense to the Lord. It is a useful shorthand that we will use here. Many Jews…
Something to Brag About: Jeremiah 9:22–23 (Part 3: Articles, Particles, and Verbals, Oh My!) – Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields
This month’s post concludes a post begun June 2017; please see that post for an explanation of versification. As mentioned there, this post will follow Hebrew numbering with Hebrew texts and English numbering with English texts.
Articles “A” and “The” in v. 23b–d
Hebrew and English differ in that English has both definite and indefinite articles: the and a(n), respectively. Hebrew has no indefinite article, and so it is more precise simply to say it only has the article. English translators must make choices with more options than Hebrew. The Hebrew article overlaps with English the.
The Hebrew article makes expressions definite, just as…
Something to Brag About: Jeremiah 9:22-23 (Part 2: Adjectives, Gender, and Number) – Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields
This month’s post continues from last month. Please see the June 2017 post for an explanation of versification. As mentioned there, this post will follow Hebrew numbering with Hebrew texts and English numbering with English texts.
The Hebrew of 22b–d contains three adjectives, “wise … strong … rich” and three corresponding nouns, “wisdom … strength … riches.” The adjectives are functioning as nouns and refer to people identified by each quality. The nouns are impersonal and are things possessed by the people.
The careful reader of English versions notices some differences between the NIV and NASB in v. 23b–d: the NIV has “the wise … the strong … the rich” while the NASB reads “a wise man … the mighty man … a rich man.” The reader who is…
Something to Brag About: Jeremiah 9:22–23 (Part 1: Conjunctions) – Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields
My daughter shared with me a verse she decided to memorize as she was reading through Jeremiah. It is a great verse for God’s people to know and there are several interesting and instructional features as well.
Hebrew vs. English Versification
The first thing this verse illustrates is that versification sometimes differs between the Hebrew and the English. In this section of Jeremiah, the Hebrew numbering includes the English 9:1 as 8:23, throwing off the numbering one verse. They reunite at 10:1. This post will follow Hebrew numbering with Hebrew texts and English numbering with English texts.
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Gen 1:2: A Disjunctive/Offline Clause
Of Conjunctions and Clauses
The key to identifying clauses is noting how they are joined together. There are three categories of clause connections: (1) those connected by Waw, (2) those connected by another conjunction or subordinating word, and (3) those without any conjunction whatsoever. For the conjunctions, you may like to read Hebrew for the Rest of Us, 81–85, and especially on Waw, pp. 81–82.
Waw is the king of conjunctions. It is always prefixed to a word; it…
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Is Gen 1:1 a Subordinate Idea or a Main Clause?
The creation stories in Genesis are fodder for the arguments of Bible believers and skeptics alike. Even Gen 1:1, one of the Bible’s most familiar verses, is not free from dispute on linguistic grounds. The traditional translation is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
But alternatives have been offered. Here is a sampling:
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Understanding English Ps 37: Part 2
This post concludes a post begun last month on the verbs from the root חרה. Of interest is Ps 37 where it is translated three times with fret. Since the English word is not used much, it forms an interesting object of study.
Most major versions use the word fret in Ps 37 (NIV, NASB, ESV, NRSV, KJV). Fret means “devour, eat, rub, chafe,” and then metaphorically “to cause to suffer emotional strain,” or “to become vexed or worried” (Miriam-Webster’s…
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Understanding English Ps 37: Part 1
Fret is not a word people use very often, but in Ps 37 it appears three times: vv. 1, 7, 8. Most major versions use the word fret in Ps 37 (NIV, NASB, ESV, NRSV, KJV). Miriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, lists six different entries for fret. The one we are interested in is defined as “devour, eat, rub, chafe,” and then metaphorically “to cause to suffer emotional strain,” or “to become vexed or worried.”
These notions of the meaning of fret all fit the context of Ps 37:1 and 7, but v. 8 seems a little less appropriate. Verse 8 reads (NIV):
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
There are two difficulties with fret meaning “worried.” (1) The two nouns in the…
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Can a Person Change or Not? Jer 13:23
A friend of mine read Jer 13:23 in the NIV and in the Amplified Bible and wondered about the apparent contradiction. This gives an opportunity to dig into a conjunction. The chart below gives the Hebrew, letters for each line in the verse, and three versions for comparison.
The Question in the First Half
The first half of the verse (Read more
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – The Timing of the Lord’s Return to Jerusalem in Zech 1:16
Zechariah and Haggai were prophesying when the Jews had returned from Babylonian exile and were supposed to be rebuilding the temple. However, they had encountered opposition and had become so discouraged that work had stopped. The Lord sends these prophets to encourage the people to resume and complete the work. This opening vision begins a series that continues through ch. 6. It serves in part to affirm to the Jews that the Lord is with them in spite of the difficulties they are encountering.
Time in the Translations
English translations show an interesting different translation of Zechariah 1:16. Please note the chart…
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Swirling Tenses in Ps 2:1–3
The Forms and Translation
The NIV, as do all the most common versions, render all the verbs of Ps 2:1–3 with the English simple present. This English tense refers to action that is portrayed generally or is repeatedly true. It does not usually portray action as currently in progress, for which English uses the progressive present tense: “are conspiring,” etc.
The Hebrew, however, shows variation. The four verbs and their tense-aspects are:
If this were a narrative text instead of poetry, one translation reflecting the tense-aspects would be
1a Why did the nations rage, 1b and…
Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields — The Tree of the Knowing Good and Evil (Gen 2:9)
This well-known verse describes the situation in the Garden of Eden before the fall. There is great theological import in all of these chapters on creation, but what concerns us here is an interesting point of grammar, the last clause, וְעֵץ הַדַּעַת טֹוב וָרָע (weʿēṣ haddaʿaṯ ṭôḇ wārāʿ)
What is the Problem?
The usual analysis of the grammar is that הַדַּעַת is a noun with the article in the construct with the next noun meaning “the knowledge of.” The difficulty with this is that if the article is used to mark the determination (or “definiteness”) in a construct chain, only the last word may have the article. For example, וְעֵץ הַחַיִּים (weʿēṣ haḥayyîm), “and the tree…