Differences in Biblical and Modern Hebrew

What are the differences and similarities between Biblical and Modern Hebrew?

The best comparison is Shakespeare or King James English to modern English.

They are very similar, but yet different!

If someone called you on your cell phone and said “Wherefore art thou? Did thou changest the oil in thine car?” you would know what they mean, but you would know they are not speaking modern English!

Subject/verb agreement is the same, noun/adjective agreement is the same, direct-object pointer is the same. Word order is more flexible in modern Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew has a few extra things to learn, that have basically been dropped in modern Hebrew; such as the “noun-construct”, the use of possessive suffixes, and verbal suffixes (such as he gave it to me)

Probably the biggest difference is the vocabulary.

The Bible is a book about how God relates to mankind. Also, people 2000-4000 years ago had different things to talk about then people living in the high-tech information world of today.

Here’s a brief Hebrew vocabulary comparison:

Nouns Comparison

Biblical Nouns: king, temple, breast-plate, tabernacle, high-priest, angel

Modern Nouns: car, taxi, airplane, restaurant, waiter, check, steak, fried-chicken, computer, typewiter, television, radio

Nouns common to both: street/road, boat, meat, fish, fruit, tree, honor, love, man/woman, husband/wife

You won’t learn how to order fried-chicken and a soft drink by studying Biblical Hebrew!

Verb Comparison

Biblical Verbs: prophecy, sanctify, punish

Modern Verbs: drive, fly, program

Common Verbs: go, take, love, sit, say, speak, stand, build, honor, judge, buy, sell, learn, teach, borrow, lend, depart

Adjective Comparison

Biblical Adjectives: righteous, sinful, without-blemish, pure, holy, unclean

Modern Adjectives: colorful, technical, rapid

Common Adjectives: fast, slow, dark, bright, good, bad, high, low, beautiful

Letter Styles

Modern Hebrew often requires the student to be able to read and write cursive letters. But this is normally for hand-written notes and letters. Printed books are use the standard style of block letters.

If you read from the Torah scroll, you will recognize the letters, but the are in the Ashurite script or font. In a printed Chumash or Tanak, they are often printed in the same style as modern Hebrew.

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