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Hebrew 29
Jonah 1:9

The fairly straightforward Hebrew text continues in these verse.  In 1:9 we have, “And he (Jonah) said to them, ‘A Hebrew am I and I fear the God of the Heavens, who made the sea and the dry land.’"


The verb and noun for “fear” (both are yare, two syllables) will feature prominently in the next verse; here only the verb appears. We have already seen ibri for a “Hebrew” and the designation of “God of the Heavens” includes two familiar words:  elohim and shemayim. The only new word here is “dry land” (יַבָּשָׂה, yabbashah).  Let’s look, however, at “sea” (yam) and “dry land.”


The word for “sea” (yam) is also a directional word in Hebrew, meaning “west.”  We have seen words for the other directions:  south is negev or teman; east is qedem; north is tsaphon.  These are the chief terms, and once you learn them you really are in a better situation, because you are “situated” in the land more securely.  But here yam means “sea,” and God made this.

The word yam is one of the most frequently-occurring words in the Bible.  But it is always combined with a bevy of other beauties.  For example, in Gen. 32:12, we have a promise by God to the people of Israel, in which God pledges to “treat well” (יָטַב, yatab) the people (am) and place/make (sum) their descendants (zera) like sand (חוֹל, chul) of the sea (yam) which cannot be numbered (סָפַר, saphar) for its multitude (רֹב, rob). We best pause and look at one or two of these words in context. 


The verb saphar is interesting because its meaning is broader than “be numbered.” Or, alternatively, we can look at “being numbered” as its basic meaning, and if you number things in a row you “recount” them. Thus, it becomes one of the chief verbs in Biblical Hebrew for recounting or telling a story. For example, in Ex. 18:8 we have Moses (משֶׁה) recounting (saphar) to his father-in-law (חָתַן, chathan) all that God had done for the sake of (אוֹדוֹת, odoth) Israel and all the hardships (תְּלָאָה, telaah) which had come upon them. The word chathan is a verb and it means either “to intermarry” or “become a son-in-law,” but in this case when referring obviously to Moses’ father-in-law, it functions as a noun.  


Other words in Ex. 18:8 could take us lessons to study!  The last word telaah is derived from the verb לָאָה, laah, which means “to weary oneself/become impatient.”  That is, a hardship is really something that tires people out or exhausts people. In the Pentateuch the word telaah is always followed by the verb matsa (“find”) or “all the hardships that have found you/befallen you. . .”  In Lam. 3:5 telaah is combined with רֹאשׁ (rosh) which in this case means “poison/venom” but usually is “head” (a different entry in Strong’s dictionary). More specifically, the entire verse has God “surrounding/encircling” (נָקַף, naqaph) me with telaah and rosh.  Twelve new words so far.


When I mentioned odoth as “for the sake of,” the phrase is really al-odoth.  We can have al-odoth ben (for the sake of (my) son) or al-adoth beer mayim (for the sake of a well of water). The phrase occurs both in Gen. 21 and Gen. 26 and both passages have to do with “concerning/for the sake of a well of water.  One more.  In Numbers 13:24, when spying out the land, the spies talk about something done “because of/for the sake of a cluster of grapes (אֶשְׁכּוֹל, eshkol). 


The verb yatab, “to treat well/to be good or pleasing/to do well/seem good” is difficult but important. In one passage it implicates another word translated “for the sake of” in Hebrew (abur, which we have seen):  “so that (maan, which we have seen) it might go well (yatab) to/with me (liy) for your sake (abur) and that my soul (nephesh) may live (חָיָה, chayah; Gen. 12:13).” The sentence that says “the thing was pleasing in my eyes” (Deut. 1:23) is expressed with yatab + ayin + dabar, with the appropriate possessive for “eyes.” 


Let’s focus the second half of this lesson on the new word in Jonah 1:9, yabbashah, “dry land.”  We know that God called the yabbashah erets in Gen. 1:10 or “dry land (he called) earth/land.”  Israel halak on yabbashah in the middle of (tavek) the sea (yam; Ex. 15:19). yabbashah comes from the verb יָבֵשׁ (yabesh, “to be dried up/withered”). Often we have God drying up the sea, but in Josh. 9:5, we have the Gibeonites approaching the Israelites in a deceptive manner.  Their נַעַל (naal, “shoes/sandals”) were בָּלֶה (baleh, “worn out”; the verb בָּלָה, balah means “to wear out”). Sometimes when clothes wear out, those clothes can be simlah, which we have seen or, as if a dyslexic writer got to the text, שַׂלְמָה, silmah


We are still on Josh. 9:5. In fact, as the passage continues, it uses silmah for their clothes.  These, too, were “old” (balah) and all (kol) the bread (lechem) of their provision (צֵידָה, tsidah)  was “dry” (yabesh) and had become (hayah) moldy (נִקֻּד, niqqud—though niqqud, derived from נָקֹד, naqod, is a notoriously hard word—because the underlying concept seems to be something that is of a “speckled” color.  But perhaps if bread looks like that it is “moldy”).   Again, uncertain. The word tsidah comes from the world of “hunting” as we can see from the word.  

Continuing on yabesh. The Elijah narrative has a lot to say about lack of rain and things drying up. In I Kings 17:7, we have that “at the end of days/after a while” (קֵץ, qets) the stream (nachal, which we have seen) dried up (yabesh) because there was no rainwater (geshem, which I indicated earlier) in it. When God sent rain, it was the “sound” (qol) of the “abundance” (הָמוֹן, hamon) of geshem. This notion of “abundance” is really a “murmur” or “roar,” and the noun is derived from הָמָה, hamah, which means “to roar” or “create an uproar” (see I Kings 1:41). 


Well, this is 25 new words, and seems enough for one more day. We are now beginning to read passages not just from the Pentateuch or Historical Books, but also from the Psalms and the Prophets.  We are starting to extend our reach into the full Bible.

Hebrew 30
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