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AHRC Home PageMechanical Translation of GenesisDictionaryLexiconConcordanceAHRC BookstoreMechanical Translation VideosAbout the Mechanical Translation

About the Hebrew Language

The language of the Ancient Hebrews is closely related to their agricultural and nomadic lifestyle. Each word must be understood through this culture rather than from our own modern western Greco-Roman culture. As an example, the Hebrew word hwum mitsvah is usually translated as a command or commandment in most other translations but Hebraicly means the directions given to guide one on the journey. Hence, this word will be translated in the MT as “direction.”

Hebraic thought differs from our own process of thinking in that the Hebrews were concrete thinkers in contrast to our own abstract way of thinking. Concrete thought relates all words, concepts and ideas to something that can be sensed by the five senses. For instance, the Hebrew word Pa aph is the nose, or nostrils, but is the same word for anger since one who is angry will flare the nostrils.

At times you are going to come across a word in this translation that seems to make absolutely no sense. This is mostly due to the differences between our modern Greco-Roman perspective of thought and the ancient Hebrew’s perspective of thought. Also keep in mind that each Hebrew word is translated exactly the same way every time, so there will be instances when the word seems out of context. What you will need to do is study that word and the context which it is used in, so you can better understand its Hebraic meaning. Once this has been done the word, and the verse itself, will come to life in ways never before perceived. A good example of this is found in the very first verse of Genesis where most translations will have “In the beginning God created.” The Revised Mechanical Translation reads “In the summit Elohiym fattened.” The Hebrew word tysar reshiyt literally means the head or top of a place or time, what is prominent. The Hebrew word arb bara literally means to fatten but with the extended idea of filling up. In context, the first chapter of Genesis is about importance of the filling up of the heavens and the earth, not its creation within a span of time (an abstract idea that is foreign to Hebraic thinking).

Hebrew words, verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc., are best defined through a visual action. The Hebrew root bqe is used for the noun eqev meaning the heel, the verb aqav meaning to restrain in the sense of grabbing the heel to hold one back and the adjective eyqev meaning because, or since, through the concept of one idea in a sentence on the heel of another idea within the sentence.

The Hebrew word את et (translated as “At” in the MT) is frequently found in the Hebrew text to identify the direct object of a verb by preceding it. Since there is no English equivalent for this grammatical tool this word will not be translated in the RMT. However, this word is used in the text on occasion to mean “with” or “at.”

Because the original Hebrew text does not include any punctuation such as periods and quotations, the MT will not include these either. The only exception to this is the use of the comma which will be used in the RMT to separate phrases where the grammar of the sentence requires a separation as well as at the end of a thought.

A combination of Hebrew words, prefixes and/or suffixes are occasionally used to convey one idea. The Hebrew phrase על כן al ken literally means “upon so” but is translated in the RMT as “therefore.”

Some Hebrew idioms are found in the Bible. An idiom is a word, or phrase used in a sense that is not meant to be taken literally. An example of a Hebrew idiom is the phrase “bone of the day” (7:13), an idiom meaning “noontime.”

Hebrew Names

In our western culture we are comfortable using names, such as Noah or Adam, as simple identifiers with no actual meaning attached to the name. But, this is not the case with Hebrew names where each name is a word, or a combination of words, with a meaning. For instance, the name עבר ever (see 10:21) is usually transliterated as Ever or Eber but, is a Hebrew word meaning “cross over.” The MT and the RMT will represent this name as “Ever [cross over]”.

An individual descended from Ever is identified as עברי eevriy (see 14:13) where the suffix y iy means “one of.” The MT will translate this name as ‘“Ever [cross over]”~of’ and the RMT as ‘one of “Ever [cross over]”.’ A people descended from Ever is identified as עברים eevriym (see 40:15) where the suffix ים iym identifies the name as a plural meaning “ones of.” The MT will translate this name as ‘“Ever [cross over]”~s’ and the RMT as ‘ones of “Ever [cross over]”.’

The common pronunciation of the word Pharoah comes from the Greek translation called the Septuagint. In the Hebrew text this is pronounced Paroh (pah-roh).

The Names of God

The name Jehovah/Yahweh is written in Hebrew with four letters - יהוה yhwh. These four letters, as a Hebrew word, is the third person, masculine, singular, imperfect tense of the verb הוה hawah and literally means “he exists” and would be transliterated as “yihweh” or “yehuwh.” However, because of the strong controversy over the actual pronunciation of the name this translation will represent this name as “YHWH [he exists]”.’

The Hebrew word אלהים elohiym, commonly translated as “God” in most modern translations, is a masculine plural word meaning “powers.” This word is used in 1:1 as the subject of the verb ברא bara meaning “he fattened” where the “he” identifies the subject of the verb as a masculine singular. Because of this conflict of number where the verb identifies the subject as a singular but the subject being a plural word, it is apparent that the word אלהים elohiym is a proper name and not a noun and is therefore translated as “Elohiym [Powers]”. However, when this word is written in the Hebrew as אלהי elohey (identified as a construct due to the missing ם), such as in 9:26, it is apparently being used as a noun rather than a proper name and will be translated as “powers of...”

The Hebrew words אדני adonai (meaning “my lords”, see 15:2) and שדי shaddai (meaning “my breasts”, see 17:1) are frequently used for God and will also be treated as proper names.

Hebrew words

Some Hebrew words are always written in the plural (e.g. faces and waters). This idiomatic form does not always imply that the word is plural and will usually be translated in the singular in the RMT.

Some words have various nuances of meaning. In most cases the context will help define the nuance, but in some cases the nuance cannot be determined. For instance, in 4:26 the word “pierced” can be interpreted as “begin” or “profane;” but, the context does not make clear which nuance is intended.

In the MT, words written with a period between them represent one Hebrew word. For instance, the Hebrew word תהום tehom (1:2) means a deep sea and will be represented by “Deep.sea” in the MT but will be written as “deep sea” in the RMT.

The English translation chosen for each Hebrew word was chosen based on two criteria. First the translation had to be close in meaning to the Hebrew (although keep in mind the dictionary will more precisely define this word) and secondly it was to be a unique word that was not used for any other word. As an example, the Hebrew words קום qum and רום rum both mean to “raise” so the meaning of “rise” has been assigned to קום qum and “raise” to רום rum.

Most Hebrew words can be used in a literal or figurative application which will usually be defined by the context it is used. For instance, the word hand can literally refer to the hand as in 22:6. But, this same word is used in 9:2 figuratively to mean “at hand” or “in possession.”

While the RMT strives to translate each Hebrew word exactly the same way each time it appears, there will be times where the context of the passage or English sentence structure will require the word to be translated differently. For instance, in 4:25 the MT has the phrase “Seed Other Under.” The word “Other” can also be translated as “another” and the word “Under” can also be translated as “in place of.” Therefore this phrase is translated in the RMT as “another seed in place of.”

Intensity of a word can be expressed by repeating a word in the Hebrew text. For instance, in 7:19 the word “many” is repeated to express a “great many.” In these cases the RMT will translate the two words only once and add the word “great” or other adjective to express this intensity.

Questions are usually formed in the text by using such words as “what,” “where,” “if,” etc but, the Hebrew language can also form the text into a question by using the “interrogative hey” (in the Hebrew this is represented by the letter ה h as a prefix and will be translated in the MT as “?~”). For instance, the phrase “Not He he~did~say” would be translated in the RMT as “he did not say” but in 20:5 this phrase is written as “?~Not He he~did~say” and is translated as “did he not say” in the RMT.

A noun followed by a pronoun such as the “Hand~him” in 3:22 would literally be translated as “hand of him” but the RMT will translate this as “his hand.”

Hebrew Verbs

Hebrew verbs can be easily identified by their prefixes or suffixes attached to the verb. Each verb will be preceded by did~, will~, had~, !~ or >~ or followed by ~ing or ~ed.

Hebrew verbs have two tenses, perfect (a completed action, identified in the MT with the prefix “did~”) and imperfect (an incomplete action, identified in the MT with the prefix “will~”). In addition, most Hebrew verbs will identify the number and gender of the subject of the verb. As an example, the Hebrew verb אמר amar is a verb meaning “to say” and is in the perfect tense and identifies the subject of the verb as first person, masculine singular. The MT will translate this verb as “he~did~say” and the RMT will translate it as “he said.” The Hebrew verb תאמר tomer is again the verb meaning “to say” but is in the imperfect tense and identifies the subject of the verb as second person, masculine singular. The MT will translate this verb as “you~will~say” and the RMT will translate it as “you will say.”

Hebrew verbs, whose tenses are related to action (completed and incomplete), must be converted to English verbs related to time (past, present and future) when being translated. In most cases the perfect tense (completed action) is translated into the past tense English verbs and imperfect tense (incomplete action) is translated into present or future tense English verbs. However, in some cases this style of translating will not accurately convey the meaning of the Hebrew. For instance, in 22:2 the word “you(ms)~did~Love” is written in the perfect tense meaning a completed action but, if translated into English as “you loved” (past tense), it would imply that he was no longer loved. Therefore, in this instance, the verb will be translated as “you love” (present tense). Also see 29:5, 37:3 and 48:19 for other examples of this.

When the prefix “and~” is added to a verb the tense is usually reversed. For instance, the verb “he~will~Say” would be translated in the RMT as “he will say” but the verb “and~he~will~Say” will be translated in the RMT as “and he said.”

The subject of the verb will usually follow the verb. For instance, אמר אב amar av will be written in the MT as “he~did~say Father” and translated as “father said” in the RMT. In some cases the subject of the verb will precede the verb instead. This is the past perfect tense of the verb (see 3:13). When this occurs, the MT will use the prefix “had~” instead of “did~.”

Emphasis is often placed on a Hebrew verb by writing it twice. The RMT will translate this verb once and add an adverb such as quickly, greatly, completely or surely before it.

The Piel form of verbs, identified in the MT with the prefix “much~,” is an intensive form of the verb and is usually translated in the RMT with an adverb.

Verb participles, identified by “~ing” in the MT, identifies an action or one of action. As an example, the participle “Feed-ing” may be translated in the RMT as “feeding” (see 37:2) or “feeder” (one who feeds, a shepherd or herdsman, see 13:7).

Each Hebrew verb can be written with different moods and voices. For example, The active voice of the verb ראה ra’ah means to “see” but, the passive voice, identified by the prefix “be~”, means “be seen” but is translated as “appeared” in the RMT. As another example, the simple mood of the verb בוא bo means to “come” but, the causative mood, identified by the prefix “make~”, means “make come” but, is translated as “bring” in the RMT.

Hebrew gender

All Hebrew nouns are either masculine or feminine. The dictionary will identify masculine nouns with [masc] and feminine nouns as [fem]. Some nouns can be either masculine or feminine, called common nouns and will be identified with [com].

All Hebrew pronouns will be translated as “he” or “she.” This may appear strange at first as a word like “ground,” a feminine word, will be identified as a “she” (see 4:12). This is an important issue as knowing the correct gender of a pronoun can influence interpretation. A classic example is found in 4:7 where most translations read “...sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you.” It is usually assumed the word “its” is referring to the word “sin” but, knowing that the word “sin” is a feminine word and “its” is a masculine pronoun we discover that the word “its” cannot be referring to the “sin.”

Hebrew genders should not be viewed in the same manner we view gender. For instance the word “beast” is a feminine word and any pronoun associated with this word will be a “she” with no regard to the actual gender of the beast.

Hebrew grammar uses the masculine form of nouns and pronouns for a group of mixed genders. For instance, in 36:25 the “sons” (masculine plural) of Anah are identified as Dishon (a male) and Ahalivamah (a female).

Hebrew numbers

There are two different types of plurals in Hebrew, simple plural and double plural. The word “Hundred” is a singular word and refers to “one hundred.” The simple plural “Hundred~s” refers to a number of hundreds such as in the phrase “Three Hundred~s” (this would be translated as “three hundred” in the RMT). When the same word is written in the double plural “Hundred~s2,” its translation would be “two hundred.”

When a Hebrew number is written in the simple plural form it is multiplied by ten. For instance, the word “Three~s” would mean thirty. The only exception is the plural form of ten (“Ten~s”) which means twenty.