[b-hebrew] Pronunciation of Hebrew names

joel at exc.com joel at exc.com
Sun Oct 28 10:17:22 EDT 2007

>I like to know the pronunciation (or at least likely pronunciation)
>of the names of biblical characters.

You're asking a complicated question.

If you're talking about the beginning of the first millennium BCE, no
one knows, and guesses vary wildly.

Towards the end of the first millennium BCE, a lot of people look at
the Septuagint for help.  The second excerpt on:


is a good place to start.  You'll see that the Greek frequently
doesn't reflect the Masoretic pointing (which comes from the end of
the first millennium CE.)

>And what was the Hebrew name for Galilee? I've found Galil (Jos 20:7;
>1 King 9:11), Gelil (Isa 9:1) and Galilah (2 Kings 15:29). Why this
>difference? Which would be the pronunciation in the first century?

The first century CE?  One source of information is Origen's Hexapla,
which contained a transliteration of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.  But
most of the Hexapla has been destroyed, and what is left is riddled
with scribal errors.  As a general guide, though, the Hebrew of the
1st century was a little more like Masoretic Hebrew (from the end of
the 1st millennium CE) than the Hebrew from the time of the
Septuagint.  In other words, we see Hebrew changing (not surprisingly)
over the years, and various sources give us hints as to the
pronunciation at specific points in time.

If you really want an answer, you'll have to look into the evidence
yourself.  "Official" answers vary too widely to be helpful....


Joel M. Hoffman, PhD

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