Learning the biblical Hebrew alphabet can be a challenge, especially if you try to learn it all at once. I had studied Russian, Greek, and Japanese (all of which use a different alphabet than English) before I learned biblical Hebrew. Even with my experience with other alphabets, I found the Hebrew alphabet overwhelming. Many letters look and sound alike. It’s like drinking from a fire hose to learn them all at once. That’s why I recommend learning just a few letters at a time. You would be surprised how many words from the Hebrew Bible you can learn along the way, with just a few letters.
The First Four Letters of the Biblical Hebrew Alphabet
Let’s look at the first four letters of the biblical Hebrew alphabet, for example:
The name of this letter is Aleph. This letter is silent and takes the sound of whatever vowel goes along with it.
The name of this letter is Beit (like the English word “bait”). This letter (when it has a dot in the middle) sounds like the English “B.” Without the dot, it has a “V” sound.
The name of this letter is Gimel. This letter sounds like the hard “G” in English (like the “g” at the beginning of the word “gazelle”).
The name of this letter is Dalet (“Dah-let”). This letter sounds like the “D” in English.
Five Biblical Hebrew Words from Four Letters
From these four letters alone, we can learn five biblical Hebrew words. Note: Hebrew is read from right to left. Also, those little marks around the letters indicate the vowel sounds. Don’t worry about that now. I’ll just tell you how the words are pronounced.
father (pronounced “ahv”)
fish (pronounced like the English word “dog”) — that’s right, a fish is a dog!
garment (pronounced “beh-ged”)
in, at, with, by (pronounced “buh”)
solitude (pronounced “bahd”)
By learning just a few letters at a time, you can grasp the shape and sound of each letter. When you have a solid understanding of those letters, you can move on to the next group of letters.
Why do I recommend learning just a few letters at a time? For one thing, it can be overwhelming to try to learn the whole Hebrew alphabet at the same time. But also, several Hebrew letters look and/or sound similar to other Hebrew letters. If you learn just a few at a time, then as you come across new letters that look or sound similar to those you have already learned, the new ones won’t be as confusing. You will have a good grasp of the letters you have already learned. You will have practiced using them and recognizing them in words from the Bible. Then you can learn the new ones much more easily. In learning the biblical Hebrew alphabet, slow and steady (with frequent repetition) is the most effective way.
If you feel led to learn biblical Hebrew, I encourage you to keep with it. Don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed. Learn a few letters or words at a time. Even learning one or two words from the Hebrew Bible will be a blessing. God will help you learn. Keep pressing in. Shalom.
Want to look at a couple more letters of the Hebrew alphabet? You might enjoy reading Biblical Hebrew Alphabet: The Letters “Sin” and “Shin.”
Interested in learning the whole Hebrew alphabet and some basic Hebrew words from the Old Testament? I designed this self-paced online video course especially for you: Beginning Words in Biblical Hebrew. (This link opens in a new window in the Adventures with God online school.)
Copyright © 2019 by Janet Eriksson
Janet Eriksson is an intercessor, writer, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of nine books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches at Adventures with God. She enjoys volunteering with Kerri Johnson Ministries. Janet received her M. Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary.