On the Biblical Hebrew Alphabet and the Hebrew Language

March 13th, 2016

Ancient Biblical Hebrew Alphabet

The depth of the Hebrew language is stunning. The ancient biblical Hebrew alphabet, sometimes referred to as Paleo Hebrew, was more of a pictographic script. Archeology has shown that each letter was a picture and had its own meaning.

In English, we have letters like A, B, C, D. These letters don’t have an individual meaning, but when we combine them into a word like BEAD, we understand the word.

While there is still much that is unknown, it appears that in ancient Hebrew the meaning of each “letter” carries its meaning into the meaning of the root word that it forms. Then the root word then carries its meaning into any word that it forms.

hebrew letter on a sign near the western wall

What’s special about the Hebrew language?

No other language on earth communicates the way Hebrew communicates. In English, we know what a pineapple is. But it has nothing to do with a pine or an apple.

In Numbers 15, God commanded Israel to make “tassels” (“tsiysith”-pronounced “tzi-tzit”) on the edges of the garments. It was to remind them to follow God’s ways. The root word for tassels is “Tsiyt” (pronounced “tzit”) and means “blossom.”

Just as a blossom (tsiyt) is a sign that fruit is being produced, the tassels (tsiysith) were to remind the wearer to blossom God’s goodness and follow His ways.

To a Hebrew reader, the Bible is full of word plays, puns, and rhymes. They intend to help the hearer remember and learn. However, many of these are lost in translation.

The Tangibility of the Biblical Hebrew Alphabet

Because the ancient Hebrew letters were pictures, everything in ancient Hebrew can be explained by something that is tangible. In the time of Abraham or Moses, if what God was communicating did not relate to something that interacted with the five senses, it didn’t exist.

This communicates that God is One who is extremely practical and wants us to understand. He does not give us spiritual knowledge that does not relate to our “real world”. But He uses our world to communicate what He is like.

Jesus taught the same way in Matthew 5-7: “You are the salt of the earth. Look at the birds. Consider the lilies.” Everything from God is practical, useful and to help us in our everyday lives.

old hebrew written on old paper

Reviving the Ancient Hebrew Language

While these things are unique and amazing when compared to other languages, here is the miracle. No other dead language in history has been revived for common usage except for Hebrew.

It just so happens that it’s the same language that 2/3 of the Bible is written in. It is the very language that God choose to use to communicate His character to the world. The Bible even promised that He would revive it.

For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord. Zephaniah 3:9 (NKJV)

What is startling about this promise is that the preceding verse contains every letter of the Hebrew aleph bet, including the five final forms (sofits). This is not true of any other verse found in Scripture.

Since the Hebrew is the only language in history to ever be “restored,” this verse has been fulfilled in the last 100 years. In early 1900s, Hebrew was considered a dead language. Today, millions are learning and studying it (you can, too!).

As a result, the Church’s understanding of God from Genesis to Malachi as well as the teachings and traditions of Yeshua, has grown exponentially. After all, He was a Hebrew speaking Rabbi from Nazareth.

This is yet another gift that we have received today from the revival of the nation of Israel.

Check out also our free resource: 7 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know!

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Doug Hershey
Doug Hershey shares from a perspective of historian and storyteller. He is the author of the best-selling book ISRAEL RISING. His new online video course, "10 Prophecies Fulfilled in Our Lifetime" connects bible prophecy with its fulfillments in Israel today. Doug is the founder of Ezra Adventures, a travel and education company, specializing in exclusive customized small group travel throughout Israel and the Middle East. For more info, go to DougHershey.co or keep up with Doug Hershey, Author on FB, IG and Youtube.
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