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6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version

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Lashon HaKodesh -
A Brief History of Hebrew

Disclaimer: This page provides a rudimentary overview of the history of the Hebrew script
and is by no means intended to replace careful study of paleolinguists and other specialists
in the field of ancient writing systems. For scholarly research, please see the Links page.

About the Name "Hebrew"

Hebrew (Ivrit: ) is the name given to one of the world's oldest languages.

The name derives from Eber ('ever) ( ), the son of Shem; 'ever means "region
across or beyond" and derives from a root that means to pass over.

Shem is called , "the father of all of the sons of Eber" (Gen 10:21);
and therefore Hebrew descendants are called Semites.

In the Scriptures, Hebrew is used as an adjective ( ) to describe Jews who are
"from the other side" (i.e., of the Euphrates River). Modern Hebrew is called Ivrit.

In Genesis 31:47, Laban and Jacob refer to a heap of stones in their native speech.
Laban uses the phrase "Yegar Sahaduta" which is Aramaic, but Jacob uses ( )
"Gal-Ed" which is Hebrew.

Primordial Origins

The Garden of Eden, or gan eden ( ) is known as the first paradise, the location
for the origin of man made b'tzelem elohim, in the image of God. This image included
the ability to use a God-given language (a theory that an original source language
was given in Eden is called "Edenics"). Man was exiled from Eden, however, and
began to be dispersed upon the face of the earth.

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version.html 1/8

The Tower of Babel.html 2/8 . proto-Canaanite script may be called ketav Ivri. The language in Canaan at that time has been called "proto-Canaanite. Hivites. since the earlier script was considered profane and riddled with paganism. and Sephard styles of ketav Ashurit for Sifrei Torah (torah scrolls).hebrew4christians. Noah's son Shem is also called .g. Proto-Canaanite Pictographs http://www. An article of orthodox Jewish faith is that God originally revealed the Torah to Moses using Ketav Ashurit (from ashrei). Modern soferut (scribal arts) include the Bet Yosef. After Moses broke the first set of tablets. After the Babylonian captivity. This same script has been used until this day for the writing of Torah scrolls. 1800 BCE? to the land of Canaan.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version. Perizites. ketav Ashurit was fully restored to the Jewish people by Ezra the Scribe and came to be called Lashon HaKodesh (the holy language). the Hebrews still spoke a Canaanite variant (e. The only survivors were the direct descendants of the clan of Noach. During the 400 years that Abraham's clan was in Egypt (Genesis 15:13). A Midrash on the Migdal Bavel (Tower of Babel) teaches that at the end of time all people will once again speak one language. and that will be a purified form of the Hebrew tongue. Perhaps the tower was a form of idolatrous ziggurat meant to unify the ancients." the parent language of the dialects of Hittites. In relation to the Hebrews. Amorites. God wrote the second set using the profane script. however. or mabul ( ) effected judgment upon the antediluvian clans for their constant wickedness before the LORD. Jebusites. "the father of all of the sons of Eber" (Gen 10:21). There is also d'rash on the verse: "For then I will make the peoples pure of speech. his toldot is given in Genesis 11:10ff. or migdal bavel ( ) located in the "plains of Shinar" of ancient Mesopotamia (Gen 11:1-9) is historically identified as the original site of ancient Babylon.. Joseph's brothers in Egypt: see Genesis 42:23). was called by God from Ur of the Chaldees (i. Bet Ari. Abraham. not ketav Ivri. The Toldot b'nei Noach (the generations of Noah. so that they all invoke the LORD by name And serve Him with one accord" (Zeph 3:9) that indicates the same.e.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) The Great Flood. or Table of 70 Nations as listed in Genesis 10) indicate some of the earliest migration of clans. kasdim) c. a descendant of the clan of Eber.

click here.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) Like other ancient writing systems. the Hebrew alphabet originally was written using a pictographic script: Note: For more information about pictographs and their meanings. which was created sometime between the 18th and 17th centuries BC. The Phoenecian Script The Phoenician alphabet developed from the proto-Canaanite alphabet.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version.hebrew4christians.html 3/8 . Im age courte sy of O m niglot http://www.

This script was used during in the First Temple period (though it was also used as a symbol of nationalistic revival in the Second Temple Period. Vav).e.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) The Proto-Hebrew Script This is also called early Aramaic Script. Im age courte sy of O m niglot Note: Ketav Ivri was essentially the Phoenician alphabet that added semantic meaning through the novel use of dual-purpose "vowel letters" (i. For this reason Ezra chose the Aramaic square script (called Ketav Ashuri or Ketav Meruba). The Samaritan Script While the Jews adopted the Aramaic alphabet (under the leadership of Ezra the Scribe). A modified version of this script (Samaritan) is still extant today (see next).html 4/8 .hebrew4christians. according to Orthodox Jews. Aleph. until the Exodus from Egypt). The key extant example is the Moabite Stone. At the end of the 6th century BC ketav Ivri was replaced by the Hebrew square script (ketav meruba). Hey. the Samaritans held on to the original forms of proto-Hebrew. perhaps to show themselves the true heirs of Judaism. http://www. This was the Hebrew (ketav Ivri) used by the Jewish nation up to the Babylonian Exile (or.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version..

The Aramaic characters were chosen as the official script for the Torah scrolls in the 5th century BC (the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were written during a transitional period where both the older ketav Ivri script is used with ketav Ashurit).html 5/8 . This was done probably to distance themselves from Samaritanism. This classical Hebrew script was used for centuries before the time of Messiah. and has remained unchanged unto this day: Modern Hebrew Cursive The modern Hebrew script (used in Israel today) derives from Polish-German Jews.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) Classical Hebrew Script (ketav Ashurit) After the Babylonian captivity. http://www.hebrew4christians. ketav Ashurit was adopted by the Jews (under the leadership of Ezra the Scribe) and called Leshon HaKodesh (the holy language).

whereas Yiddish uses the standard square script. Jesus knew and spoke Biblical Hebrew.k. Aramaic was the common language. Ladino uses a Rashi-style script.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version. Periods of Hebrew Scholars often divide the Hebrew language into four basic periods: 1.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) Rashi-Style Hebrew The Rashi style is used mainly to write commentaries on texts.html 6/8 .a. by the time of Jesus. but Hebrew was used in synagogues and in Temple worship. http://www.hebrew4christians. one of the greatest medieval Jewish scholars and bible commentators: Note: Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) and Yiddish (Judeo-German) both evolved during the middle ages and use the Hebrew characters for transliteration only. Rashi. Biblical Hebrew – aka Classical Hebrew. It is named in honor of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 AD) a.

you will see how Hebrew has developed over time. Note that the grammar and vocabulary of this Hebrew is very different than Biblical Hebrew. Maimonides and other medievalists.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) 2. High color. Frank Seekins. 2nd century AD. www. Medieval Hebrew – Used to translate Arabic works into Hebrew. Talmud and Midrash. 4. After immigrating to Israel in 1881. Eliezar Ben Yehuda (1858- 1922) led the rebirth of Hebrew as a spoken language.hebrew4 c hris tians .25 X 12. Return to Unit One Hebrew for Christians C opyright J ohn J .hebrew4christians.5. e. Using this chart.com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version. 3. laminated: 16. he began promoting the use of Hebrew at home and in the schools. P ars ons All rights re se rve d. Ancient Hebrew Alphabet Chart. Of Related Interest Hebrew Word Pictures by Dr.g. Mishnaic Hebrew – aka Rabbinic Hebrew.html 7/8 .. with over 20 alphabets arranged so you can easily compare Hebrew to any of the Click for details languages of Biblical and Modern times.c om http://www. This is the ultimate Alphabet Chart. Modern Hebrew – 19th century to present. The book that shows how the ancient Hebrew letters declare the Gospel! Discover the ancient script that reveals penetrating truth about the Word of God! Includes an Click for details Audio CD that will help you learn the word pictures and hear all the examples.

com/Grammar/Unit_One/History/Printer_Version/printer_version.html 8/8 .hebrew4christians.6/16/2014 A Brief History of the Hebrew Language (Printer Version) http://www.