Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do You Want to Hear the Old Testament in Hebrew?

Many haven't thought about it or don't realize it, but did you know that the Hebrew text is the result of putting sounds on paper?  This makes it very important that the interpreter be able to hear the words in addition to seeing them when they are read.  In fact, the Hebrew text is literature that is designed to be read out loud.  This means that to fully grasp the writer's intention, his words need to be heard as well as seen.

As I have been working on my sermon for this Lord's Day morning on the latter half of Micah 1, I have noticed that there are a lot of word plays being used by Micah.   Micah uses poetry to communicate lament and in it uses the two poetic features of alliteration and assonance to bring out his point.  Both of these features have to do with sound.  Alliteration is the repetition of a consonantal sound at the beginning of a word, so for example, in Micah 1.10 where the ESV reads "tell it not in Gath," Micah's poetry is missed.  A better translation would be, "don't gab about it in Gath."  The meaning is tied to the two words that begin with the same guttural sound.

Micah also uses assonance.  Assonance is when a writer will use a similarity of sounds between syllables or words (for example, rhyming) to really draw your attention to what is being said.  "Sally sells sea shells by the seashore," grabs your attention and gets you to listen more intently than saying, "Sally peddles the empty husks of marine life down on the oceanfront."  So also in Micah 1.10, instead of the ESV's "weep not all," a better translation is "weeping, weep not," which is another way of saying by no means weep!

A lot of the power of the poetry can and is lost in the translation.  So, as I have been studying, I have been reading the section out loud in Hebrew; however, I am not able to hear and feel the poetry as much because, well, I don't read Hebrew out loud very proficiently.  So what's a guy to do?

You look online and find a site that has an audio Hebrew Bible.  Let me introduce you to the Academy of Ancient Languages website and their Hebrew Audio Bible.  In addition to Hebrew, they also have Aramaic, Akkadian, and Greek.  I have added this site to our "Study Tools" section in the right hand pane so that it will always be available.

Check it out and enjoy!

[HT: Reformed Reader]

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