[b-hebrew] Root of words is the original meaning?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Mon Dec 15 08:46:37 EST 2008


On Sun, Dec 14, 2008 at 10:21 AM, Nick Ashton <hisnibbs at ntlworld.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> am I right in thinking that when I read that the root of a hebrew word
> is such and such,
> that was it's original; meaning, before the klanguage developed and was
> applied to other things?
> That is a common theory, very similar to what I was taught in school, that
all words can be traced to a three letter verbal root, however I no longer
believe it.

For one, there are many verbs that are really two letter roots, the third
letter, usually a waw, inserted in order to make the verb follow the three
letter root theory.

Secondly this does not allow for loan words from other languages.

Thirdly (by the way, these are not necessarily in order) this is treating
Biblical Hebrew in a way unique from all other languages, but the way we
find the language as actually used in the Bible doesn't back up the theory.
Fourthly the theory invites speculation that may actually detract from an
accurate understanding of the language as used. Speculation can also include
proposed etymologies for which there are no recorded samples to back up the

>  From an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours),
> whether literally
> (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or
> figuratively (a space of time
> defined by an associated term), (often used adverbially): - age,  . . .
> *So, originally it signified 12 hours, but was later used to mean a
> longer period of time.*
> e.g. 1:- Gen.2:4* *"in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the
> heavens,"
> it has the preposition /be/ before /yom/, _unlike_ in Gen.1
> As such it is an idiom for "when"
> e.g. 2:- "in the day /(b-yom)/ that the Lord spake with Moses in mount
> Sinai. " (Num.3:1)
>  . .though it seems from the amount of detail Moses brought down that
> God was speaking to him for more than one day, he was gone for 40 days.

The use of "day" in Biblical Hebrew is very close to English (it is possible
that the English use was influenced by Bible translations). The prince can
be told, "In the day you are king …" is the same use as in Genesis 2:4 and
other verses, while with a number it refers either to the numbered times the
sun it up, or the numbered 24 hour periods. It is also used to contrast
light from dark. Context tells how it is to be understood.

The speculation mentioned above, is often used to try to invest the language
with a theological meaning that cannot be backed up by actual use.

Don't worry about a "deeper meaning" before you really know the language.
Most of the time, if not all the time, it is not there.

Karl W. Randolph.

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