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How to Read an Ancient Hebrew Word Out-Loud in 10 Minutes Or Less

Here's a short and simple 12-step-guide to pronouncing Jewish Hebrew square script words and phrases from the Hebrew Bible—in the Ancient Hebrew language. Forget mastering nikkud (vowel-pointings) and ever-changing vowel letters! This system is far simpler. With a bit of practice you'll be reading Ancient Hebrew straight from square script. Work through the 10 examples provided to maximise your experience.

How to Read Words Out-Loud

1) Install the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer (ISA2) (free) program onto your computer.

2) Open the program.

3) Search for the AV (KJV) word you want to read out-loud.

Example a: Satan
Example b: sabbath
Example c: arrow
Example d: morning
Example e: Esau
Example f: love
Example g: Reuben
Example h: David
Example i: Michal (David's wife)
Example j: Michael (the archangel)

4) In the "concordant view" field type in the Strong's reference number and hit "enter" (or double-click on the Strong's number under the English word you want in the "interlinear" view field).

Example a: H7854
Example b: H7676
Example c: H2671
Example d: H1242
Example e: H6215
Example f: H157
Example g: H7205
Example h: H1732
Example i: H4324
Example j: H4317

5) Locate the longest Jewish Hebrew (square script) version of the word (letters-wise, ignore vowel-points for now)—even if is is only found a few times (or once even)—in the Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC) (Hebrew Bible).

Example a: שטן
Example b: שבת
Example c: חץ
Example d: בקר
Example e: עשו
Example f: אהב
Example g: ראובן
Example h: דויד
Example i: מיכל
Example j: מיכאל

6) Correct the word if it has: i) Had one of its non-changeable vowel-letters (not changeable/acquiescent vowels—they don't exist) removed by the Massorites/Masoretes and replaced with one of the nikkud (vowel-pointings), and/or, ii) Been defectively spelled by the Massorites (a [usually consonant] letter has been switched). The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible by Jeff A Benner is good for doing these two things. It labels dropped vowel-letters as [ms] and defective spellings as [df]: within entries. if you cannot find a name in the Lexicon or its e-sword module, use Strong's Concordance to find the root of the name; usually the Lexicon will give you a meaning of that root (as in the case of example e [Esau]).

Example a: סטן
Example b: שבת
Example c: חץ
Example d: פוקר
Example e: עסו
Example f: אהב
Example g: ראובן
Example h: דויד
Example i: מיכל
Example j: מיכאל

7) Transliterate (map) the Jewish Hebrew letters into their English (shape [graphologically] and historically) equivalent letters using our Ancient Hebrew Alphabet Chart (not the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer's transliteration [WLC_t or WLC_tm]—although it's fairly accurate there are still some errors in it).

Example a: NðX (right to left), XðN (left to right)
Example b: TB∫ (right to left), ∫BT (left to right)
Example c: SH (right to left), HS (left to right)
Example d: RQUP (right to left), PUQR (left to right)
Example e: UXO (right t left), OXU (left to right)
Example f: BEA (right to left), AEB (left to right)
Example g: NBUAR (right to left), RAUBN (left to right)
Example h: DIUD (right to left), DUID (left to right)
Example i: LKIM (right to left), MIKL (left to right)
Example j: LAKIM (right to left), MIKAL (left to right)

8) Convert any Old and Middle English letters (there are only two: ∫ and ð) into their Modern English transcriptions (sound equivalents); [SH] and [TH].

Example a: X-TH-N
Example b: SH-B-T
Example c: H-S
Example d: P-U-Q-R
Example e: O-X-U
Example f: A-E-B
Example g: R-A-U-B-N
Example h: D-U-I-D
Example i: M-I-K-L
Example j: M-I-K-A-L

9) Convert any transliteral English letters that do not have the same transcription (sound) as their transliteration—into transcriptions. There are only two: H and S. These are said as [CH] (or [KH] or [HH]), and [TS].

Example a: X-TH-N
Example b: SH-B-T
Example c: CH-TS
Example d: P-U-Q-R
Example e: O-X-U
Example f: A-E-B
Example g: R-A-U-B-N
Example h: D-U-I-D
Example i: M-I-K-L
Example j: M-I-K-A-L

10) Add a default "a" (the "ah" sound in the Received Pronunciation/Queens/Oxford/BBC English) between i) Any two consonants, and ii)Before the vowel-letter named AL (incorrectly known as [ika] aleph) if the letter AL is sandwiched between two consonants. The latter is required to distinguish between words like "Michal" and "Michael" (see Examples i and j).

Example a: XaTHaN (requires two default "a"'s)
Example b: SHaBaT (requires two default "a"'s)
Example c: CHaTS (requires one default "a")
Example d: PUQaR (requires one default "a")
Example e: OXU (requires no default "a"'s)
Example f: AEB (requires no default "a"'s—AL and EA [ika aleph and heh] are always vowel-letters)
Example g: RAUBaN (requires a default "a" but not before the vowel-letter AL [ika aleph])
Example h: DUID (requires no default "a"—UU and ID [ika vav and yod] are always vowel-letters)
Example i: MIKaL (requires one default "a" between the two consonants KaP and LaM [ika koph and lamed])
Example j: MIKaAL (requires one default "a" between the consonant KaP [ika koph] and the (never-changing) vowel-letter AL [ika aleph]. This is to distinguish this name [MIKaAL] which means "Who is [like] AL (God)?" (Strong's) [derived from the root MI—AHLB#: 1286-A (N)]—from the name MIKaL (KJV Michal) which means "Vessel" [derived from the parent root KL—AHLB#: 1242-L (h)]).

11) Write the word purely as a transcription (as you would pronounce it) using the Ancient Hebrew Alphabet Chart; place emphasis on the final syllable (if it has more than one syllable).

Example a: xah-than
Example b: shah-bat
Example c: chats
Example d: pooh-qar
Example e: ox-ooh
Example f: ah-eb
Example g: rah-ooh-ban
Example h: dooh-eed
Example i: meeh-kal
Example j: meekah-al

12) Read the word out-loud!

How to Read Phrases Out-Loud

Simply string your words along.

However note that in the Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC) (Hebrew Bible) joining words of one consonant like "to" and "in" are often placed right before another word (without any gap). This brings up the need for some more default "a" rules:

1) Words consisting of one consonant that are placed BEFORE a word which starts with a consonant or vowel-letter (other than AL [ika aleph])—need a default "a" AFTER it. This is similar to how "le", "la" and "l'" are used in French.

In French, when the following noun begins with a vowel, le or la becomes l'. For example "L'ordinateur" the computer, or "L'île" the island

Example 1: The Letter Named LaM (ika lamed) (Meaning "to") Followed by a Word Starting with a Consonant—Default A Needed

Transliteration Only: L-M∫E
Transliteration-Transcription (with deafult "a"'s): La-MaSHE
Transcription Only (Sound): lah-mah-sheh

Example 2: The Letter Named LaM (ika lamed) (Meaning "to") Followed by a Word Starting with a Vowel Other Than AL (ika aleph)—Default A NOT Needed

The above phrase comes from SHaMUT Exodus 28:36. Here there is a Massoritic Jewish Hebrew vowel pointing (sometimes they're useful) called chireq (horizontal line) which has the sound of a short "i" as in "sick" under the letter LaM (L) (ika lamed)—in the Westminster Leningrad Codex. This sound [ih] is similar to the Ancient I [eeh] (normal chireq [long]) sound of the ID (ika yod).

Transliteration Only: L-IEUE
Transliteration-Transcription (with deafult "a"'s): L-IEUE
Transcription Only (Sound): leeh-eh-ooh-eh

Example 3: The Letter Named LaM (ika lamed) (Meaning "to") Followed by a Word Starting with an AL (ika aleph)—Default A Needed

Transliteration Only: B-ARS
Transliteration-Transcription (with deafult "a"'s): Ba-ARaTS
Transcription Only (Sound): bah-ah-rats

Note: The word in Hebrew for "the" is the letter EA (ika heh). The above translation has added the word "the" to help with readability not because the actual word for "the" is present in the Hebrew text.

2) Two-letter-long words (like LA and BA) ending with an AL (ika aleph) which start with a letter that can act as a single-consonant word (like "to" [LaM (ika lamed)] and "in" [BaT (ika beit)]) which are BEFORE a word which starts with a consonant—need a default "a" AFTER them.

Example 1: The Word LA [lah] (H3808) (Made Up of the Letters Named LaM and AL [ika lamed-aleph]) (Meaning "not") Followed by a Word Starting with a Consonant (eg TA [ika tav])—Default A Needed

Transliteration Only: LA TOXE (the shin should be a samech [AHLB])
Transliteration-Transcription (with deafult "a"'s): LAa TOXE
Transcription Only (Sound): lah-ah-toh-xeh

Example 2: The Word LA [lah] (H3808) (Made Up of the Letters Named LaM and AL [ika lamed-aleph]) (Meaning "not") Followed by a Word Starting with a Vowel (eg EA [ika heh])—Default A NOT Needed

Transliteration Only: LA EMðIR
Transliteration-Transcription (with deafult "a"'s): LA EMaTHIR
Transcription Only (Sound): lah-emah-theer

Exercise: Look Up the Words: Love, Faith, Hope, Peace, Thanks and Jerusalem (Answers Below)

(The third line down in these posters shows the Old English letters transliterated from the Hebrew The "f" looking letter ʃ is the Old English letter named "esh" which retains the ancient Hebrew "sh" sound.)

Article Last Updated Oct 15, 2016

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