I have an article in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies. In this article I contend that the certain Aramaic verbs in Targum Onqelos shed light on how the biblical Hebrew Imperfect is used in the narrative portions of the Hebrew Old Testament. Thank you to Dr. Adam Howell for the opportunity! And thanks to Dr. Russell Fuller for his feedback!
I hope you have enjoyed the videos I have posted on yourhebrewtutor.com. Credit for my knowledge of Hebrew morphology and grammar is due in large part to Dr. Russell Fuller (Ph. D. Hebrew Union in Cincinnati). After visiting my site, if you desire to strengthen your biblical Hebrew, then I wanted to share an opportunity with you.
Starting this fall Dr. Fuller is offering seminary-quality online classes in Elementary Hebrew and advanced Hebrew. In these classes, Dr. Fuller will walk you through his beginning Hebrew and intermediate Hebrew grammars (both are listed on my resource page).
In Dr. Fuller’s Elementary Hebrew class you will learn the morphology of nouns, adjectives, verbs, and particles. Instead of learning endless paradigms, you will learn morphological rules that will make parsing Hebrew easier. In his advanced Hebrew class you will learn Hebrew grammar (using the same grammatical categories you see in my videos) and you will learn how the Masoretic accents function. A major feature of his advanced Hebrew class is the composition portion. In composition you will learn Hebrew grammar by composing English passages into Hebrew. This method of learning biblical Hebrew is similar to learning a foreign language today: you learn by practicing the language in the markets and in everyday life. If you currently own Dr Fuller’s intermediate Hebrew grammar you will find the compositions in the back of the book.
Dates, times, and cost are found on his website at his website. I highly recommend Dr. Fuller’s course.
Reminder: Check out my video on segholate nouns located under the Hebrew 101 link. A helpful reminder of how מֶ֫לֶךְ goes to מַלְכָּא in Daniel 2:4.
References: Gesenius-Kautzsch sec. 126e (vocatives); sec. 124b (uses of plural ending).
Thanks to a recommendation from my colleague, I’ve recently started to use a new Greek/Hebrew vocabulary app. I have been using Quizlet for quite some time and I greatly enjoy it. However, the Bible Vocab app brings certain functions that enhance Greek/Hebrew vocab study.
- The ability to choose vocab words for a particular biblical passage. Instead of learning vocab words according to occurence (words 25+, 50+, etc.), with Bible Vocab you can learn all the vocab words in a specific passage. For example, you can set your range for Genesis 1:1-3, or Judges 1-2, or even an entire book. This feature is ideal if you are wanting to focus on reading through a certain Old Testament book. It also takes the pressure off of developing a large database of words in order to venture off into an Old Testament book.
- The ability to determine the word list according to occurrence. After you have set the passage you can also determine the frequency of the words you want to study. For example, if you chose to study words from Genesis 1:1-9, you can study all of the words in the passage or the words that occur in the Hebrew Bible 10+ times, 50+ times, etc. The default setting is to include every word in the passage.
- The ability to flag words. Just as in Quizlet you can flag words that you need to review. When you exit the Vocab Slideshow (these are your vocab flashcards) you can choose to save your flagged words for further review.
- The ability to sharpen your parsing skills. In addition to the Vocab Slideshow you can choose the Parsing Slideshow. This slideshow includes all the words in your set range, but in addition to a word’s definition you will be given the various parts of the word (noun/verb, person, number, etc.). This feature is ideal to sharpen your parsing skills!
- Admittedly, there is room for improvement for this feature in regards to Hebrew vocabulary. Most parsing information is limited to identifying the word as a noun, verb, particle, etc. Information about person, noun, gender, derived stem, etc. is not given. For Greek vocabulary, however, the parsing information is much more extensive.
- The Spaced Repetition Mode. This feature sets the Bible Vocab app apart from Quizlet. You can learn more details about this feature in their tutorial. The gist of this feature is that it periodically reintroduces a word in your list, testing your memory. You can also view a word in its biblical context with this feature. In my opinion, this feature sets Bible Vocab apart and is well-worth the $7.99. I highly recommend taking a moment to view the tutorial.
- This feature offsets one of my main critiques about the app. If you are studying a large group of words and exit the app, Quizlet will start where you left off. If you are in the Vocab Slideshow in Bible Vocab, however, and you exit the app, the app will place you at the beginning when you reopen. It is possible that I am missing a setting or something, but after playing around with it I have not been able to fix it. In my opinion, however, the Spaced Repetition Mode more than addresses this minor issue.
Dr. Rob Plummer, of Daily Dose of Greek fame, endorses this app and that alone should carry some weight. My opinion does not carry the weight of Dr. Plummer’s, but for Hebrew studies I highly recommend this app!
Jeremiah 10:11 is the only verse in the book of Jeremiah written in Aramaic and not in Hebrew. What necessitated Jeremiah to switch languages in the middle of his prophecy? Did Jeremiah have a specific purpose in using Aramaic? Or, did a later scribe insert the verse in Aramaic?
Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” Jeremiah 10:11
Generally two reasons are found among commentators regarding why Jeremiah contains an Aramaic verse. First, as the translators of the New English Translation observe, many scholars believe that verse 11 is a gloss inserted by a post-exilic scribe. J. P. Lange argues, “Jeremiah would certainly not have interrupted a Hebrew discourse by a Chaldee [Aramaic] interpolation, when he elsewhere never uses this language, not even in the letter to the exiles” in chapter 23.
Second, other commentators contend that Jeremiah is instructing the exiled Jews on how to respond in exile in the face of idolatrous temptations (Aramaic was the lingua franca of Babylon and the exiles). The Targum of Jeremiah (the Aramaic translation of the book of Jeremiah) takes this approach as well. In fact, the Targum of Jeremiah states that 10:11 is part of a letter sent to the elders in exile. The Targum of Jeremiah 10:11 begins,
This is a copy of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent to the rest of the elders of the exile who were in Babylon, that if the nations among whom you are (living) say to you, “Worship the idols, O house of Israel,” so you shall reply and so you shall say to them . . .
Despite the change from Hebrew to Aramaic, verse 11 fits naturally within chapter 10 (for those interested see Garnett Reid’s insightful article listed below). Jeremiah begins with describing the vanity of idols (10:3-5, 8-9). He then shifts towards a description of the true God (10:12-13). Verse 11 smoothly transitions the discussion from the worthlessness of idols to the worthiness of the true God.
But why Aramaic? As the Targums and other commentators argue, Jeremiah has in mind the Jews in exile. The Targum to Jeremiah may be correct: verse 11 may be part of a letter sent to the elders already in exile. Whether or not the verse is part of a letter, Jeremiah is instructing those in Judah on what to say when they are in exile. Jeremiah’s instruction is evident by the wording of verse 11. “Thus you shall say”: the “you” of this clause refers to the Jews to whom Jeremiah is speaking (10:1). “To them”: this refers to the Babylonians, the very people the Jews live among in exile (8:19; 10:17-18). Jeremiah, then, is saying, “Thus you, O Jews, shall say to the Babylonians—the people you live among—when they tempt you to worship idols (10:2) . . .” The question remains, could Jeremiah have accomplished the same purpose in Hebrew?
Reid makes a compelling argument that Jeremiah 10:11 is a summary of the Jews’ theology “designed as a kerygmatic challenge they are to deliver to their Babylonian captors” (p. 238). Certainly Jeremiah places the Babylonians on notice with this lone Aramaic statement in the prophecy. It is also possible to consider that the Aramaic of Jeremiah 10:11 adds weight to Jeremiah’s prophecies as a whole.
In the surrounding context of Jeremiah 10:11 (ch. 4-6, 10:17-18), Jeremiah tells of the coming destruction of Jerusalem by “a people from the north land” (6:22). Coming out of the reforms of Josiah (2 Kings 23), Judah must have felt secure; the foretelling of destruction and exile by Jeremiah would have sounded strange on the ears of Judah’s inhabitants. In fact, Jeremiah 7:1-11 demonstrates that the Jews had a false sense of security; they thought that the presence of the temple and that the offering of sacrifices secured their safety. Jeremiah regularly pleads with the people to submit themselves to Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27; 28; 40:9) in the face of the coming exile.
The Jews demonstrated a persistent state of unbelief. Jeremiah’s switch to Aramaic in 10:11 would certainly add weight to his prophecy that the nation will be carried into exile. Why would Jeremiah instruct his audience to respond in Aramaic unless they were to dwell in an Aramaic-speaking land? Certainly Jeremiah did not need to seek for proofs of the truthfulness his prophecies; the fact that he spoke the words of God (Jer. 1:2; 10:1) was evidence of its truthfulness. On the other hand, it was the hard hearts and deaf ears of God’s people that needed confirmation of the truthfulness of Jeremiah’s words.
Far from being a mere addition by a later scribe, the Aramaic of Jeremiah 10:11 plays a vital function in the prophecies of Jeremiah.
See a summary of opinions on Jeremiah’s use of Aramaic at BibleHub.
“‘Thus you will say to them’: A Cross-Cultural Confessional Polemic in Jeremiah 10.11” by Garnett Reid. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament vol. 31.2 (2006): 221-238.
Because COVID-19 has forced me to work from home—the high school where I teach has moved to online learning—I’ve had some time to catch up on some reading. Once I finished volume 1 of E. W. Hengstenberg’s Christology of the Old Testament I planned to start Hengstenberg’s commentary on Ecclesiastes. I did not plan, however, to start his commentary on Ecclesiastes during the quarantine. That was the Lord’s sovereignty.
At one time I thought that the book of Ecclesiastes can come across as a depressing, throw-your-hands-up-and-give-up book. Hengstenberg, however, has shown me how wrong I’ve been. Reading through Ecclesiastes and Hengstenberg’s comments have been very encouraging during this frightful time in our world and nation. One verse in particular from Ecclesiastes has really stuck out.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 reads:
So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun. (NAS95)
The phrase “eat, drink, and be merry” usually has a connotation in our culture of hedonistic pleasure. In my mind, it seems our culture uses this phrase out of a disregard of norms (social or religious) or out of a despondent heart. It’s easy to read Ecclesiastes 8:15 out of the mindset of our culture. However, Solomon, the divinely inspired author, is far from advocating hedonistic living.
It is likely that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes late in life. In fact, some commentators hold that the Song of Solomon was written early in Solomon’s life, and Ecclesiastes was written late in Solomon’s life. If this is accurate, then Solomon is writing Ecclesiastes after reflecting on his earlier life.
In his reflections on the ways of the world (Eccl. 4:1; 7:23; 8:9), Solomon is not saying that there is no point to life. Solomon, argues Hengstenberg, is directing his readers to trust in God. We cannot know the future, and often our best plans fail; all is vanity. Vanity, insists Hengstenberg, should drive us to depend more on God. He writes:
“It is impossible for him to order his doings with judgment [to plan accurately for the future], and he is consequently directed in all cases to trust not in himself but in God.” Hengstenberg on Eccl. 3:10
Many of us had well-devised plans going into the month of March: vacation during spring break; business ventures; school functions. Many of us now have had to alter our plans because of something completely out of our control: COVID-19. What do we do when our plans fall away? What do we do when faced with something out of our control? Solomon tells us to “eat, drink, and be merry.”
The whole point of Ecclesiastes is that we should put our trust in God (3:14; 12:13). When we “eat, drink, and be merry,” therefore, we are eating and drinking and being merry with a heart thankful for what God has given us in the present. We are enjoying what God has given us; we are not drowning our sorrow over what we lost or what we don’t have. We are eating, drinking, and being merry from a posture of trust, trusting that God will care for His people even in the face of a pandemic. We can see from similar verses in Ecclesiastes that Solomon never intended 8:15 to lead us to despair or hedonism:
Eccl. 2:24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.
Eccl. 3:13 Moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is the gift of God
We eat, drink, and be merry for all we have is from God (James 1:17).
In a time, then, when we can’t go to a ball game, when we have to schedule our store trips, when we can’t visit loved ones, when we can’t physically meet with God’s people, let us eat, drink, and be merry. Let us be thankful for the things God has given us: online platforms to meet with the Church; spending time with loved ones; parks; long over due home projects; Netflix. We cannot control what COVID-19 will do to our lives (directly or indirectly), but we can be content in and trust our God.
Sometimes being content is easier said than done. This is a scary time and many of us find ourselves angry at God, scared about the future, or anxious about lost opportunities. But let us remember some other things. First, we have a God who knows what we need before we even ask (Matt. 6:8). Second, He bore our sorrows and sicknesses on the cross (Isaiah 53:4, 5). Third, our Lord encourages us to come to Him with any request (Heb. 4:16), even when our prayers seem dark and angry (just read the Psalms). Fourth, even when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit is interceding for us (Rom. 8:26).
Since the enjoyment of what we have is itself a gift from God, let us pray for that contentment while we are quarantined.
Note: I recognize that there are many who may have experienced the loss of a loved one due to the virus, or that a loved one may be suffering with the virus. My intention is not to downplay the seriousness of that experience, or to simply throw the band-aid of “be content” on the pain of serious loss and suffering. In the face of deep loss, the road to contentment in the Lord can be long. Thankfully, we have a patient and merciful Lord who hears ALL of our prayers.
A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out. Matthew 12:20
E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on Ecclesiastes with Other Treatises, translated by D. W. Simon (Philadelphia: Smith, English, and Co., 1880). Reprint.
E. W. Hengstenberg (1802-1869) was a German biblical scholar in the Lutheran tradition. He was a staunch defender of the Bible against the rising tide of the historical-critical method. His works are still of great benefit to the Church, especially his massive work, Christology of the Old Testament.
In the video on Jeremiah 10:11b we came across a relative clause (underlined in red) indicated by the relative particle (A).
The relative clause in Biblical Aramaic is similar to the relative clause in Biblical Hebrew. In Biblical Hebrew, the relative clause can follow a definite or indefinite antecedent. The Continue reading “The Relative Clause in Jer. 10:11”
Thanks to the extra time afforded by the quarantine, I’ve updated the look of Your Hebrew Tutor. A new look has been way overdue. I’m sure there are a few kinks left to work out, but everything should be functional.
I welcome any helpful tips or comments!