Praying the Psalms in Biblical Hebrew: Psalm 90:1

A student of my Beginning Biblical Hebrew class expressed interest in praying Bible verses in Hebrew, especially from the Psalms. I asked her to choose a few verses that she would like to pray in Hebrew. Psalm 90:1 is one of these. It is noted as the beginning verse of a prayer of Moses.

I will share the Hebrew words below (in the Hebrew alphabet along with pronunciation), as well as a little explanation from the Hebrew lexicon from Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB).

I’m starting with the actual prayer text that follows the designation of this Psalm as a prayer of Moses, so about halfway through the first verse.

אדני

Adonai

Lord

מעון

Ma’own

“Figurative of God as abode of His people” (BDB).

Same usage as in Psalm 91:9, which is in a similar part of the Psalter, so likely to indicate similar usage of the word or phrase.

Often what comes earlier in the sentence is brought to the front on purpose for emphasis. So this verse emphasizes God as dwelling place.

אתה

Attah

You

2nd person masculine singular, referring to God.

היית

Hayita

Have been

Qal verb Perfect aspect, from the root “hayah.” 2nd person masculine singular, referring to God. A Perfect aspect verb indicates a sense of completeness – not in the sense of “it’s over” but in the sense of fullness, no part of it left out. So God is not a halfway sort of dwelling. He’s the full deal.

A Perfect verb can also have a sense of bringing something into being and can imply duration, something that lasts. The psalmist can look back and know God has always been there for the people and really been present and come through for them – with no indication that it will stop, thus the translation “have been” which implies the action started in the past and is continuing in the present and into the future.

לנו

Lanu 

Our

Possessive that indicates “ours” – modifies “dwelling place.”

בדר ודר

Bedor Wador

In all generations.

Both words come from same root – dor – which means “of duration in the past” (emphasis on “duration” again). BDB notes, “period, age, generation – mostly poetic” – remembering the Psalms are written as poetry.

Bedor has the bet preposition prefix often translated “in.”

Wador has the waw conjunction prefix often translated “and.”

Roughly, “In generation and generation.”

Connotation: “In all generations.”

Let’s pray

Putting this Bible verse all together to pray:

Adonai

Ma’own

Attah

Hayita

Lanu 

Bedor Wador

Lord, You have been and continue to be the abode of Your people, our dwelling place in all generations. Amen

God bless you. Shalom. שׁלום

 

10 Things Moses Has Taught Me about Intercession

I did an inductive Bible study of Exodus 32-34, looking especially at the role of Moses as intercessor between God and His people. Being an intercessor myself, I was curious what Moses could teach us today about intercession. Following are just a few of the takeaways I learned from studying this passage:

Students of Inductive Bible Study will note that for each number below, the first paragraph is my “inference” and the second paragraph is my “observation.” While I made each observation first, I listed the inference first in this article because I want to emphasize the takeaways (inferences).

1. Exodus 32:7

Moses’s intercession is based on two truths: These are God’s people, and Moses is identified with them.

God associates the people with Moses and says Moses brought them out of Egypt. By contrast, in 32:11-12 Moses counters that the people are God’s (and repeats this in 33:13) and that God brought them out of Egypt. Meanwhile the people attribute this feat to “gods” represented by a molten calf (32:4, 8).

2. Exodus 32:12-13

God’s plan for the people is greater than the people’s sinful actions. God’s mission in the world is not thwarted by their actions.

This passage shows a contrast between God’s wrath and His promises. Moses is the mediator who voices this contrast. In response to the contrast that Moses presents, God turns from His desire to destroy the people (32:14). In this passage, we see that God “thought” to do this “evil” rather than “planned” it (32:14).

Note that God doesn’t really do “evil,” but it was perceived as such by humans. God’s wrath comes only from His holiness and our violation of that holiness through idolatry and other sin. That’s why we need a savior: Jesus Christ.

3. Exodus 32:14

Moses says “Yes” to God’s own plan, and God responds to affirm that plan. Moses doesn’t ask God to do anything He hasn’t already planned to do by His own power.

The turning point of 32:14 follows several reminders: the people belong to God (32:11); God led them out of Egypt (32:11); God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (32:13); and that God’s promise was made by God’s own power – that God swore by His own self (32:13).

4. Exodus 32:11

Moses’s intercession appeals to God’s plan and promise and does not deny what the people deserve.

Moses’s intercession is described with the word “besought.” The Hebrew word is חלה, defined in this context as “mollify, pacify, appease,” seeking favor in place of wrath (Brown-Driver-Briggs). The same dynamic seems to take place in 33:13. The connotation acknowledges the reality of God’s wrath and seeks favor despite it. Moses places that search for favor in the promises of God (32:13).

5. Exodus 32:7-8

The relationship of Moses toward God is characterized by trust.

Moses learns about the people’s rebellion at first, not by sight, but by God’s words. Moses’ response (32:11-13) indicates Moses believes God.

6. Exodus 32:12

God wants the nations of the world to recognize who He is. God’s promise and plan is for the world.

The words of Moses acknowledge that the way God deals with His people will be seen by the Egyptians. Even though the people have been delivered from slavery in Egypt, the reader of this passage is reminded that the nations are watching.

7. Exodus 32:9-10

God’s promises and covenant, not His wrath, constitute God’s plan to overcome the pride and stubbornness of the people. God’s focus is on restoration, not retribution.

Although Moses asks God to turn from His anger, Moses does not express any disagreement with God that the people are stiff-necked. The Hebrew word for “stiff-necked” is קשה ערף, a figurative description of Israel’s obstinance (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Moses reminds God immediately of His promises to the ancestors of the people.

8. Exodus 33:12-16

Intercession is corporate. Individual relationship with God has a corporate impact and is for the sake of the people. Moses identifies with God’s people and approaches God corporately on their behalf. The characteristics that God has given to Moses in approaching Him are meant for the entire people. Corporate intercession is focused on God’s larger plan of restoration in the world.

This passage interweaves Moses’ personal interactions toward God along with Moses’ corporate identification with the people he belongs to. Twice Moses mentions “I and thy people” (33:16). When Moses asks for favor, he speaks first personally and then reminds God that the people are God’s (33:13). Moses identities himself with the nation and reminds God that the nation is God’s. Moses reminds God about qualities that characterize their relationship (presence, favor), and he connects these with a larger corporate relationship.

9: Exodus 32:8-13, 33:16

God allows intercession despite the scope of the people’s sinful disposition. The turning away of God’s wrath is not because punishment was undeserved or because His holiness could tolerate idolatry and rebellion. Rather, the turning away of His wrath was for the sake of the bigger picture of God’s mission in the world and His desire to bring restoration to His people. God is faithful to keep His promises for the sake of His mission in the world – not because anyone has earned it, but because He has a plan.

Moses pleads with God despite the people’s rebellion, idolatry, self-absorption, worship and sacrifice to a false god, and stiff-necked obstinance. Moses reminds God of the details of His history with these people. Here the scope of this passage widens for the reader, so the current rebellion can be set against God’s larger work in the nation of Israel and in the world. There is a common factor in Moses’ first and third attempts at intercession that both receive a positive response from the LORD. That common factor is Moses’ mention of how God’s relationship with Israel is distinct in the world.

10. Exodus 32:30-35

Sin has a corporate impact. Corporate relationship with God is just as important as individual relationship. The role of intercessor between the people and God does not carry the power of atonement.

Moses offers himself as atonement for the people’s sin. God does not seem to accept Moses’ offer. Throughout this paragraph, the author refers to “the people.”

This last observation and inference are very important because this passage points us to Jesus as our ultimate intercessor (Hebrews 7:25; 4:14-16). As intercessors, we invite Jesus into each situation, and we say “Yes” to His plan.

Moses has a lot to teach us about intercession: corporateness, God’s holiness, God’s plan for the restoration of His people, God’s mission in the world.

Most importantly, this passage about Moses as an intercessor points us toward the only One whose intercession carries the power of atonement and the gift of salvation: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who leads us as intercessors in God’s great big mission in the world.

Shalom: A Biblical Hebrew State of Being

“Shalom” (peace) is one of my favorite words in biblical Hebrew. I yearn for God’s peace, especially in areas of my life where I don’t have it.

It’s an interesting journey to look up “shalom” in the lexicon. I encourage you to try it, and use this opportunity also to pray for greater “shalom” in your life.

When you look up “shalom” in your lexicon, remember to include the letter “vav.” My tendency is to look for the three-letter cluster: “sh – l – m.” But that will only bring me to a list of verbs with that root. The noun – the word for “peace” – includes the letter “vav.” It looks like this:

שָׁלוֹם

It also sometimes appears in writing without the “vav,” but you need the “vav” when looking in the lexicon. That’s where you’ll find it.

If you have taken a class with me, you know I recommend the Holladay lexicon. Let’s see what this lexicon has to say about the word “shalom:”

“Being whole, intact; prosperity, peace” (p. 371; 1996 ed.).

It is interesting that “shalom” includes a state of being. It is not just an objective idea of “peace,” but it also includes a state of being in the fullness of God’s peace – “being whole, intact.”

When we pray for peace in our lives, this is what we are praying for: the state of being in peace, of being completely whole as the person God created us to be, in His image. When we are at genuine shalom peace, we are resting in who God made us to be. We are intact and whole. When we are not at peace, we are out of joint from who He made us to be.

If you can use more “shalom” in your life (we all can), this is a great time to start using this biblical Hebrew word in your prayers.

God bless.

*****

Would you like to learn the Biblical Hebrew alphabet and some words from the Hebrew Bible? I offer a self-paced online video course for absolute beginners. No prior knowledge of Hebrew is required. That course is available for you online at any time. Visit “Beginning Biblical Hebrew” to learn more.

Biblical Hebrew Alphabet: The Letters “Sin” and “Shin”

Near the end of the biblical Hebrew alphabet are two interesting-looking letters:

שׂ

The name of this letter in biblical Hebrew is “sin” (pronounced: “seen”). The letter itself makes the sound “s.”

שׁ

The name of this letter in biblical Hebrew is “shin” (pronounced: “sheen”). The letter itself makes the sound “sh.”

These letters are beautiful. To me, they look like a candelabra, and that image is how I remember them.

Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Languages
Photo by Daniel von Appen at Unsplash

When you first learn these letters, it is hard to tell them apart. They look almost identical. The difference between these two letters is in the placement of the dot. Notice that “sin” has the dot in the upper left corner while “shin” has the dot in the upper right corner.

The letter “sin” (upper left dot) makes a sound like the English “s.” The letter “shin” (upper right dot) makes a sound like the English “sh.”

The letter “sin” comes before the letter “shin” in the biblical Hebrew alphabet.

You will encounter the letter “shin” (upper right dot) many more times than the letter “sin” (upper left dot). It’s just more commonly used in more words.

However, you need to pay careful attention when you learn a new word that contains one of these letters. Look closely and make sure your eyes are seeing it clearly. Is it a “shin” like you’re used to seeing? Or could it possibly be a “sin” this time? That letter “sin” will sneak up on you.

Often, I miss the fact that I’m looking at a “sin,” and I think it’s a “shin.” I find out otherwise when I try to look up the word in the lexicon. I can’t find it! If you are flipping through pages and pages of words that start with “shin,” and you simply cannot find the word, double-check and make sure it’s not a “sin.” When you realize the letter really is a “sin,” move one section over in the lexicon, and you will find the word there. This has happened to me so many times, and yet I still do it.

And now, here’s a lexicon practice exercise for you, using “sin” and “shin.” Invite God to join you in this exercise and enjoy spending this time with Him.

Take a look in your lexicon right now and go to the words listed under “sin” and “shin.” Spend some time looking through the words and definitions. Find one word that starts with “sin” and one word that starts with “shin” that you would like to learn and memorize. Read through the definitions. Look up the biblical references. Work on pronunciation.

Can you make a simple prayer (in English) using your two new words? Not necessarily together, but a simple, one-sentence prayer for each word? Say that prayer to God, inserting your new biblical Hebrew words into your prayer.

Shalom.

שָׁלוֹם

*****

Would you like to learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet and some words from the Hebrew Bible? I offer a self-paced online video course for absolute beginners. No prior knowledge of Hebrew is required. That course is available for you online at any time.  Visit “Beginning Biblical Hebrew” to learn more.

“If My People” – Biblical Hebrew Words for Intercessors

I think Biblical Hebrew is a wonderful language for intercessors to learn. That doesn’t mean we have to learn many words or entire verses in Hebrew. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Just learning a few words from the Hebrew Bible – from verses related to prayer or inspiring verses for intercessors – can be so meaningful. If you can learn a few biblical Hebrew words to use in your own prayers to God, it will help you pray in a new way with a new awareness of who He is.

Here is one of my favorite Bible verses – it’s a favorite for many intercessors like me –

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Let’s look at some of these words in Hebrew:

וְיִכָּנְעוּ

The verse starts with the word “vuh-yik-ka-nuh-oo” which means “and if will humble themselves.” How significant that this verse – such a key verse for corporate prayer – begins with an invitation to be humble. That speaks volumes about God’s heart and what He is calling us, as intercessors, to be and do. It’s a reflexive verb, so it means we have to take the initiative to make ourselves humble before God.

וְיִתְפּלְלוּ

This word “vuh-yit-pal-loo” means “and (they will) pray.”

וַאנִי אֶשְׁמַע

What happens when all the earlier conditions of this verse are met? God says, “Then I will hear” – “vah-ah-ni” (then I) “esh-mah” (will hear).

If you have a Hebrew Bible (or want to look at one online), turn to 2 Chronicles 7:14 and see if you can recognize those words.

Then use these words in a prayer to God:

Lord, thank You that You tell us: “vuh-yik-ka-nuh-oo” “vuh-yit-pal-loo” “vah-ah-ni” “esh-mah.”

Lord, thank You that You tell us: “If will humble themselves and pray [My people], then I will hear.”

God bless!

Shalom.

שָׁלוֹם

Here is one of my favorite music groups singing about 2 Chronicles 7:14. Enjoy!

If My People Will Pray

*****

Would you like to learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet and some words from the Hebrew Bible? I offer a self-paced online video course for absolute beginners. No prior knowledge of Hebrew is required. That course is available for you online at any time.  Visit “Beginning Biblical Hebrew” to learn more.

Learning the Biblical Hebrew Alphabet: The First Four Letters

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, when I teach a biblical Hebrew class, I introduce 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:

א

Aleph

This letter is silent and takes the sound of whatever vowel goes along with it.

בּ

Beit

This letter (when it has a dot in the middle) sounds like the English “B.” (Without the dot, it has a “V” sound.)

ג

Gimel

This letter sounds like the hard “G” in English (like the “g” at the beginning of the word “gazelle”).

ד

Dalet

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:

אָב

father (pronounced “av”)

דָּג

fish (pronounced “dag”)

בֶּגֶד

garment (pronounced “beged”)

בְּ

in, at, with, by (pronounced “buh”)

בַּד

solitude (pronounced “bad”)

By learning just a few letters at a time, you can grasp the shape and sound of each letter. Once you have a solid understanding of those letters, you can move on to the next group. As you come across new letters that look or sound similar to those you have already learned, it won’t be as confusing. You will already have a good grasp of the letters you have learned, and you’ll have already practiced using them and recognizing them in words from the Bible. In learning the biblical Hebrew alphabet, slow and steady (with frequent repetition) is the most effective way.

Biblical Hebrew Courses

Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone come alongside and guide you through the process of learning biblical Hebrew. I would not have learned it without the help of my teachers and fellow students. I probably would have given up.

If you are looking for a very basic biblical Hebrew class that teaches you the alphabet and 40 words from the Hebrew Bible, along with 4 Bible verses, some biblical names, and a blessing, I offer a self-paced online video course: Beginning Biblical Hebrew. This is an absolute beginner’s class with no prior experienced required.

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.

Biblical Hebrew Mini Lesson: The LORD Is God

In biblical Hebrew, often the verb “to be” is implied rather than included. At other times, the verb “to be” is included.

When there is no verb “to be,” there may be nothing at all to link the subject and predicate. You have to look at the context to find the meaning – which is often the case in biblical Hebrew.

Sometimes, in between the subject and predicate, you will find a third-person pronoun, like “he” or “she.” That pronoun substitutes for the verb “to be.”

Let’s look at two examples:

Who is God?

מִי הִוּא אלֹהִים

Mi hu elohim?

If you recall from our Beginning Biblical Hebrew course, the word “hu” means (in English) “he.”

(Remember the joys of biblical Hebrew? “Hu” means “he,” “he” means “she,” and “me” means “who”!)

Literally, the biblical Hebrew sentence above would translate in English: Who he God?

But the smoother translation would say, Who is God?

In this case, “he” substitutes for (and means) “is.” A native speaker reading biblical Hebrew would automatically know that. As foreigners (in language and time), we need to learn to recognize when the third-person pronoun substitutes for the verb “to be.”

The LORD is God.

יְהוָה הוּא אלֹהִים

YHWH hu elohim.

This sentence answers the one above: Who is God? The LORD is God.

Again, literally, this sentence translates: The LORD he God.

But we would more smoothly translate it: The LORD is God.

The third-person pronoun “he” is substituting for “is” (the verb “to be”).

To recap (in English):

“Who he God?” is the same as “Who is God?”

“The LORD he God” is the same as “The LORD is God.”

Now practice reading those two sentences out loud in biblical Hebrew:

Mi hu elohim?

(Who) (is) (God)?

YHWH hu elohim.

(The LORD) (is) (God).

It’s a great statement of your faith!

Shalom and God bless.

Biblical Hebrew lesson

Sun, Moon, and Stars in Biblical Hebrew

The Old Testament makes several references to the sun, moon, and stars. Let’s look at these words in biblical Hebrew:

Sun

שֶׁמֶשׁ

That’s one of those “exception” words where the stress is on the first syllable.

Moon

יָרֵחַ

Star

כּוֹכָב

Looking up the verses listed below in your Hebrew Bible, see if you can recognize those words. Some verses contain one or two of these words, and some contain all three.

Remember, biblical Hebrew nouns will sometimes have a conjunction, definite article, plural ending, or possessive indicator attached to them. Look for the basic form of the word amid the prefixes and/or suffixes.

Use the lexicon if you need help.

Bible Verses with Sun, Moon, and/or Stars

Genesis 37:9

Deuteronomy 17:3

Joshua 10:13

Psalm 104:19

Psalm 148:3

Job 25:5

Jeremiah 31:35

There are more Bible verses that contain these words. This is just a sampling to help you practice word recognition.

Lord God, Creator of all things, we thank You for giving us the lights in the sky to remind us of Your eternal brightness. In Jesus’ name. Amen

If you would like to learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet and basic words from the Hebrew Bible, I offer a self-paced, online video course: Beginning Biblical Hebrew. Come on in!

Biblical Hebrew Adjectives – Our Great God in the Smallest of Ways

In my Beginning Biblical Hebrew online course, we learn mostly nouns, with a few verbs introduced toward the end of the course. So I thought it might be interesting to learn a few adjectives to go with those nouns:

רַב = many, much (“rav”)

צַדִּיק = righteous (tzaddiq)

גָּדוֹל = great (gadol)

קָטֹן = small (katon)

Interesting how those adjectives describe the body of Christ, thanks to the righteousness of Jesus.

Those adjectives can also describe God – our YHWH יְהוָה Adonai אדֹנָי Elohim אלֹהִים. Bear with me on that. It’s easy to see how “much,” “righteous,” and “great” describe God. But “small”?

Think about it. God’s Spirit moves mightily in the smallest ways. His Spirit can move into a drop of medicine and bring health, life, and joy into the cells of a body that is sick. He can nurture the entire planet by sending the tiniest raindrops with His love. We are told He can speak in “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV). And if you think God’s Spirit isn’t present in the smallest places, look at an ultrasound of a baby He has placed with love and life in the womb.

God’s presence is with us through the big things and the small things. He is with us and wants to be part of our lives as much in the momentous occasions as in the everyday ordinary moments.

Now, put all the biblical Hebrew words in this lesson together and thank our YHWH Adonai Elohim for being righteous (tzaddiq), for being great (gadol) and much (rav) in our lives, for being many (rav) through the Trinity, and for being present with us in the smallest (katon)* of moments and everyday miracles of life.

*Note that biblical Hebrew doesn’t have comparative or superlative versions of adjectives like we do in English (small, smaller, smallest). The context will tell you the meaning. So the word “katon” really can mean “smallest.” 

God bless you. Shalom. שָׁלוֹם

If you would like to learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet and basic words from the Hebrew Bible, I offer a self-paced, online video course: Beginning Biblical Hebrew. Come on in!

A Hebrew Prayer

It has been a busy day of prayer ministry here, so I did not have time to prepare a Hebrew lesson to share.

Instead, I would like to share the first line of a Hebrew prayer, at the close of this beautiful day, in thanksgiving to God.

For those who have taken my beginning biblical Hebrew class, this will be a review, and good practice.

This is the opening line of several Hebrew blessings, and other lines are added depending on the occasion. It goes like this, and let’s pray this together:

 

בָּרוּך אַתָּה יְהוָה אְֶלֹהֵנוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם

Ba-ruch   a-tah   A-do-nai   E-lo-hey-nu   me-le-kh   ha-o-lam

Blessed are you, LORD God, King of the universe.

 

May God bless you. Shalom. שָׁלוֹם

 

If you would like to learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet and basic words from the Hebrew Bible, I offer a self-paced, online video course: Beginning Biblical Hebrew. Come on in!