O.T. Hebrew Idioms Explained

Old Testament Hebrew Idioms (Oh, so that’s what it means!)

Okay, just because I’m Jewish doesn’t mean that when I read a phrase like“beginning of his strength” (Gen 31:35), I automatically consult my gene pool and come up with the correct meaning: his firstborn. Actually, throughout the Hebrew bible there are hundreds of cultural idioms that, through translation into English, have lost their concrete, colorful meanings. But thanks to electronic scholarship and my Jewish upbringing, modern English speaking readers who wonder about the significance of phrases such as suck the milk of nations, can confidently raise a hand in Sunday School and with knowledge straight from the horse’s mouth (American idiom) explain it as: getting the wealth of other countries.

Most scripture was originally written in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages. For hundreds of years, Hebrew idioms have been literally translated into English. So ancient manuscript which were written to a Jewish culture have been altered to fit modern society. When we read the scriptures, we read the work of translators and scholars who have transformed an ancient document by substituting English words for the original Hebrew. Consequently, Hebrew thought is lost. The words are there, but the meaning is missing.

Lack of knowing Hebrew and not understanding the unique Jewish mindset has robbed our scripture study of the richness and variety of Hebrew scripture with its poetic, visually descriptive metaphors and analogies. Here, for the benefit of my readers is a short list of O.T. scriptural verses, idioms and meanings. Print out this post and amaze your friends with your acumen. Be sure to tell them where you found it!!


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