Exploring the Hebrew Sources of Faith

The Importance of Hebrew in the Tanakh (Old Testament)

The Tanakh or "Old Testament" was revealed by God to the prophets of ancient Israel in Hebrew. Hebrew was not just the language of the ancient Israelites but the original language of all mankind and the language used by God himself during creation.

The eleventh chapter of the Book of Genesis says that before the sin of the Tower of Babel, "the entire earth was of one language" (Gen 11:1). As a result of the sin of Babel, "Yehovah confused the language of all the earth" (Gen 11:9). Ever since then, mankind has been divided into innumerable nations, each with its own unique language incomprehensible to all others (Gen 11:7). The original pre-Babel language spoken by all mankind was the Hebrew language. This is evident from the origin of words and names described in the first ten chapters of Genesis, before the confusion of the languages. For example, Gen 2:23, says:

And Adam said, This time a bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh; this one shall be called woman because she was taken from man.

According to this, the Hebrew word for "woman" ISHAH comes from the Hebrew word for "man" ISH. In this particular example the derivation of the word seems to also work in English. The English word "woman" seems to derive from the English word for "man". However, there are many word and name derivations in the pre-Babel world which only work in Hebrew. For example, the first woman was called Eve, in Hebrew Chavah, because "she is the mother of every one who lives" (Gen 3:20). This explanation is based on the Hebrew word Chai, meaning "one who lives". Chavah (Eve) was given her name because she was the mother of every Chai (one who lives). Eve's name proves that Adam spoke Hebrew. If he had spoken English he might have called his wife "Livy" and said "she is the mother of every one who lives" but he called her Chavah because he spoke Hebrew.

There are many name explanations of this sort in the pre-Babel era. The name Cain was given because Eve said, "I created a man with Yehovah" (Gen 4:1) based on the Hebrew word for "I created" (caniti). Lamech called his son Noah saying: "this one will comfort us" (Gen 5:29) based on the Hebrew word for "comfort" (nahem). Other examples are Abel, Seth, Shem, Ham, Japheth, and numerous others. Taken all together these names and the explanations given for them prove that Hebrew was the language before the flood.

Yehovah himself used Hebrew when he created the world. On the first day he said in Hebrew yehi or "let there be light"; then he called the light by the Hebrew name yom ("day") and the darkness by the Hebrew name laila ("night"). When he created the first man out of the dust of the ground he called him Adam based on the Hebrew word for ground, adamah (Gen 2:7). Hebrew is not only the first language of mankind, it is a divine language used to create the universe.

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