Hebrew Words Defined
by Brad Scott
I took a few minutes out last lesson to talk about the word Yeshua‘ and adamah, but, I want to stop and talk some plain sense before we get into any more words or phrases. Many times people explain to me that they don't need to know all this Hebrew "stuff". They say that they are content to just read the English. And, they wonder if I doubt the ability of YHVH to preserve His word in English. Well, first of all I do not doubt for a minute YHVH's ability to preserve His word. Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) states:
Yesha’yahu 40:8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.
His word has been tried in the furnace and purified seven times. So let me be perfectly clear about that. It is not the inspiration of the Scriptures that is at question here. It is MAN that I am concerned about. We have discussed in past lessons about the fact that YHVH is the Word, and that the words of YHVH took upon flesh and dwelt among us. We have shown that YHVH's word is light, life, way, truth, law, righteousness, the way to walk, and that all things are YHVH Himself. You cannot separate YHVH from His words, and that these words were firmly defined in the Tanakh. Now, YHVH of course, is much more than mere words on paper. But this is the method that He chose to communicate with man. It is His word that is the measuring stick for life, and you know that haSatan knows that, too. Hasatan knows that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It is easy to see what he would do knowing that man's trust in YHVH comes from His words. So he manipulates the words. He redefines them. He waters them down until they lose their meaning. Any scriptural translator or linguist will attest to the fact that any time you translate a word to another language system you lose some of the original meaning. And then when you translate again, you lose more of the meaning. When the King James translators were staring at a Hebrew word, they had the difficult task of choosing an English word or words that would best describe the culture, passion, and thought patterns behind that Hebrew word. There are no exact equivilants in language, especially when a particular word or short phrase has a paragraph of meaning behind it. Now what makes things even worse is the multitude of changes in the meanings of many scriptural words since the 1600's. Some words we are made aware of by modern translations, such as the Revised Standard Version, The New American Standard, or the NIV. So, as you can see, these translators understood that language had changed enough in the last 300 years to justify new translations.
Well, I have talked enough about this in past lessons. The point is this: we use the language of the Hebrews because Hebrew expresses the culture, passion, and thought behind the words in Scripture. Multiple translations have lost the full meaning of words. Let's go back to our word Yeshua‘. As I have said before, the concept of first mention is very valuable in understanding the literal as well as the symbolic meaning of words. The first mention of Yeshua‘ is in Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 49:18. In the Hebrew it says, "Liyshu'atkah quytiy YHVH" or "I wait for thy salvation O YHVH." The meaning behind Yeshua‘ is salvation. Right in the middle of Ya‘aqov's (Jacob) blessings for his sons comes this phrase. There is not time now to elaborate on this, but this begins the establishment of the meaning of this word throughout Scripture. The name that most Christians know as Jesus appears in the Tanakh over two hundred times. Yesha’yahu 12:2, for example, states, "Hinney 'El yeshu'atiy", "Behold God is my yeshua‘ [salvation]". Mizemor (Psalm) 106:4 says, "Remember me, O YHVH, with the favor that thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy yeshua‘ [salvation]." In Luke 19:44 Yeshua‘ says to His own people who made this cry in the Psalms, "And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." Make no mistake about it. Yeshua‘ did everything He was expected to do and more. In Luke again we see that Simeon had great insight into who this little baby was when he said, "Master, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Pardon me a moment while I tend to some leaky eyes.
So, what's in a name? Well, plenty. Yeshua‘ is salvation. He not only brings salvation, but He is salvation. It is His very nature, established in the beginning, and carried throughout the lives of every one who trusts in Him and follows Him. Another controversial word in the Scriptures is the word JEW. I am not going to take the time to trace this word throughout it's use in the Scriptures, but let's go back to it's first use to establish a fundamental meaning behind it's literal and figurative use. As I stated in the first lesson on Hebrew words, most of the time you will see names and places defined somewhere in the verse or verses surrounding it's location in the text. The transliterated word Jew comes from the Hebrew Yehudiy. A Yehudiy comes from the tribe of Yehudah (Judah). Yehudah was one of Ya‘aqov's sons. Bere’shiyt is the account of the birth of Yehudah, and in this account we get the meaning behind the word Jew. It says,
Bere’shiyt 29:35And she [Leah] conceived again, and bore a son: and she said, Now will I praise YHVH: therefore she called his name Judah; and ceased bearing.
She called him Judah because of some action that was being performed in connection with the child. This is the way most people are named in Scripture. The meaning of the name is given in connection to some behavior or significant action going on at the time. We will discuss more of these as we go. So, the concept of Judah or Jew originates with the action of praise. Without going into detail now, a Jew is one who shows forth the praises of YHVH. It is not just the name of a certain nation of people. The New Testament also testifies to the real meaning behind this word. I will give you two examples. In the book of Romans chapter 2 Paul states,
A true Jew is one whose praise is of God and not of man. This also lends some insight into the difference between the spirit, and the letter. These two words are constantly misunderstood by most modern Christian commentators. We will discuss these terms later. Now, turn to 1 Kefa (Peter) and read,
Romans 2:29But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not of the letter; whose praise is not of men but of ’Elohiym.
1 Kefa 2:9But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
The words darkness and light are also familiar Hebrew idioms that we can discuss later. It also must be noted that the verbal root of the word Yehudah is yadah (ידע). The word yadah is from the word yad which is translated hand in the Tanakh. This word yadah means to lift up the hand, to revere, or worship. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Next time we will tackle the word Church.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊