This weekend, I began reading Hebrew. I don’t mean the book of Hebrews; I mean the language Hebrew. Although to be honest, I didn’t actually read Hebrew so much as I just looked at it. “Reading” implies comprehension.
I am signed up to take a Biblical Hebrew class this fall. I am really looking forward to it. So much so that even though the class does not begin for another month, I recently ordered the text books and eagerly tore the packaging open when they arrived.
And then I just stared.
Let me share with you what I think I have learned in my first few hours of Hebrew:
- Sometimes, more than one letter makes the exact same sound.
- Sometimes, the same letter makes different sounds.
- Sometimes, a letter looks one way at the beginning of a word, and another way at the end of the word.
- Some letters used to sound one way, and now sound another
- Some letters don’t make any sound at all. (Why on earth would anyone create a letter that has no sound?)
Oh, and did I mention you read Hebrew this way: .tfel ot thgiR
I spent the better part of several hours randomly picking a letter from my new Hebrew Bible and seeing if I could match it with a letter in my text book. This is not as easy as it sounds. For one thing, Hebrew letters don’t look anything like ours. Take, for example, these three (different) letters from the Hebrew alphabet:
ר ד ך
Add in slight variations of typeface and the congestion of seemingly random dots that make up Hebrew vowel sounds, and I felt like a three year old faced with a daunting game of match-the-pictures. (Let’s see… is that resh, hof, or dalet?) Even when I did manage to successfully match a handful of letters, I was left with nothing more than an approximation of sounds. I was no closer to the actual meaning. Let me tell you, when God went to work at the Tower of Babel, He didn’t play around.
Despite the obvious challenges that lie in my path to Hebrew enlightenment, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be jumping into this class. I love the mystery of it. I love holding a book whose contents currently look like nothing more than chopped-up stick figures and knowing that months from now its message will be surfacing. I will be reading God’s word in one of the languages in which it was first recorded. That, my friends, is cool.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5).