Hebrew Idioms Found in the Bible


Language is a curious thing. According to the principle of Linguistic Relativity, it is the very core of our thought patterns and determines our worldviews. Language can tear down and build up; it can persuade the masses and admit complete defeat; it can touch a person’s heart or cut them like a knife. However language might be used, it is nonetheless a dominating form of communication.

We know that God communicates to us through His Word—the Bible. He reaches out in words of a distant language; one that we don’t understand. And we, in efforts to reach back toward Him rely heavily upon translations composed by people we never knew. We rely on the work done by people who, we believe, have our interests in mind, and we believe they have taken the proper steps to successfully interpret the Word of God accurately and honestly for our understanding. This is a big step of faith we take. Everything we base our faith in, is based on an interpretation and translation of something we know so little about.

God did not speak in English to Israel, or the prophets, and especially not to Moses. Jesus did not converse with his apostles in Russian. The Son of God and His Father spoke to their people in Hebrew. They spoke in words unlike anything most of us have ever heard, and when they spoke, it was audible and expressed in ways that impacted men and women beyond our comprehension.

So here we are. We rely on the paradigms of unknown interpreters for the clarity of our faith. We pray the Spirit guides our understanding when we read the words of someone else’s understanding. We hope that nothing has been lost in these translations, or worse, that the paradigms and interpretations of others have not been added to it.

A challenge I’d like to impart on every follower of the Way is the same challenge first given by Apostle Paul to Timothy.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

It takes great study to rightly divide the word of truth. And more likely than not, it should take our entire life. Scholars, well versed in Hebrew and Greek, have made their efforts to deliver the text accurately for our study, but it is never perfect. It never will be perfect. Translation is the process through which things are lost and added to make something incomprehensible to something comprehensible for others. But because the structure of language is deeply rooted in culture and worldviews, much sacrifice happens to the implicated meanings from one language into another.

This small bit of work is to help mend some of those things lost through translations. My endeavor is to encourage a stronger connection to the original language of Hebrew by helping the reader understand lost idioms in the Hebrew language that may or may not appear in our translations. These Hebrew idioms must be understood in context of the culture and only afterwards can we pull from them further meaning.

It should be noted that I am no Hebrew scholar. My understanding and fluency are poor, if that. In addition, my analysis should never be taken for face value. While much of my writings are built upon the research of scholars, you should study for yourself. I only hope that these details may help guide you further in that effort to reach back toward our Creator. May all glory be given to Him.