(IMPORTANT: if you are not yet familiar with how we transcribe Hebrew sounds and words, you can download (or read online) the reference guide.)
If you haven’t read and studied this page, do so now before continuing.
=In this first lesson you will learn three nouns that are theologically very important. In Hebrew, as in English, nouns can be singular or plural. However, Hebrew nouns can also occur in what is called a “construct form”.
Construct nouns are simply nouns that are translated with a following ‘of’. For example, in Hebrew the word meaning land and the word meaning “land of” are slightly different. This is because Hebrew does not have a word corresponding to the English word ‘of’. In this lesson, for these three nouns, you will learn each noun’s absolute (or normal) form and the corresponding construct form.
(NOTE: Just to complicate matters, for some Hebrew nouns, the absolute and construct forms are identical. Often you can tell the difference from the context in which they are used.)
Listen and Recognize
Note that the first and the third nouns are accented (stressed) on the first syllable. Accented syllables are recognized because they are held a bit longer.
Listen to each verse below for each of the assigned nouns. They all occur at least once, some occur multiple times. Count them.
The nouns presented in this lesson introduce us to two new consonants:
- Resh ר (makes the /R/ sound)
- Tsade צ (makes the /Tz/ sound as in Hertz or tetse. It turns out that Tsade is another one of the Hebrew consonants with a final form, ץ.
- Yod י (makes the /Y/ sound as in yellow.
Pronounce these English words written using Hebrew letters:
יָץ הֶרְץ תִיצִי רָבִּת יֶלוֹ לָץ יָץ רָבֶּרתְ שׁוּרְלִי כֵּן כֶּן
answersYachts, hurts, tetse, rabbit, yellow, lots, robert, shirly, cane, Ken
Exercise 1: Read these random Hebrew words (from right to left) as fast as you can. The objective of this exercise is to improve your ability to recognize Hebrew words that occur in the biblical text. You should do this at least 5 times even if you can recognize and recite these words comfortably.
אָרֶץ יוֹם אֶלוֹהִים יְהוָה לָיְלָה וְהָאָרֶץ יוֹם אָרֶץ בְּיוֹם אֶלוֹהִים לָיְלָה אָרֶץ לָיְלָה יוֹם עַל־הָאָרֶץ
Exercise 2: The following are groups of Hebrew letters that, when spoken, form English words. Read them aloud until you can recite them with ease. As before, reading English words written using Hebrew letters is the one of the best reading practices you can do. However, it can be exhausting because to become proficient you need to repeat these types of drills over and over again.
רֶנת כַּר בֶּר רוֹבָּץ יָץ נָיתץ רַימ עֶבֶר אֶוֶר אֶבֶרמוֹר
Answerrent, car, bear, robots, yachts, nights, rhyme, ever, ever, evermore:
In the following text, each of the nouns introduced in this lesson occur at least once. Find them all
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ ♦ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם ♦ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר ♦ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ ♦ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד
אָרֶץ – land, earth;
This word appears approximately 2400 times in the OT. More specifically, aretz is the fourth most frequently used noun in the Hebrew Bible, appearing 2504 times in the Hebrew sections and 22 times in the Aramaic sections. Aretz designates either (a) “the earth” in a cosmological sensethe planet earth, or (b) “the land” in the sense of a specific territorial designation, primarily the land of Israel.
יוֹם – Yom is most frequently translated as ‘day‘.
Other common translations are ‘time’, ‘epoch’, and ‘period’. This word is theologically profound. In the first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) the author conceives of time as a horizontal, linear ordering of events reaching from a historical beginning to a final consummation of all things. The pagans of those days, by contrast, regarded time as cyclical, the annual reordering and revitalizing of the universe. Their creation myths were recited at annual New Year’s festivals as magical words to accompany a magical ritual in order to reactualize the original cosmology, the passage from chaos to cosmos. In mythopoeic thought time has no significance and history no meaning.
לָיְלָה – night;
Of all the 242 occurrences of this word, the most memorable night was the one in which God delivered his people from slavery (Exodus 11:4; Exodus 12:12, 29). Elsewhere the night appears as a time of trial, weeping, suffering, and communion with God (e.g., Isaiah 30:29; Job 7:3; Psalm 6:6)