Courses

Introduction

Hebrew is classified as a Northwest Semitic language. The Northwest Semitic languages are subdivided into the Canaanite and Aramaic branches, with Hebrew falling under the Canaanite branch. The writing system used by the Canaanite and Aramaic branches diverged from each other so far as the shape of the letters are concerned. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people adopted the Aramaic script and replaced the writing system they had been using with it. Thus, the Hebrew alphabet in use today in Israel and in all printed versions of the Bible is actually the Aramaic alphabet. It is also the alphabet of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Alphabet

The Hebrew alphabet is listed below. Notice that the kaph k, mem m, nun n, pe p, and tsade c have two forms. The second form is what is called the "final" form of the letter. The final form is used at the end of a word. The other form is used everywhere else in a word.

There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The shin/sin # is counted as a single letter.

Hebrew texts are written from right to left, the opposite of English.

Notice, also, that all these letters are consonents. As with many Semitic languages, the vowels were not originally indicated by the writing system (both Modern Hebrew and Arabic write only the consonents). Vowel pronunciation was understood from a knowledge of the language and context.

As Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language, the letters vav and yod came to be used to sometimes represent the o or u and i or e vowels respectively, and later the Masoretes (scholars in Tiberias between 700 and 1100 AD) developed a system of dots and dashes placed above and below the consonents to represent the vowels. You will learn this system in Lesson Two.

Letter Name
Letter
Pronunciation
alef )glottal stop
bet bb as in boy or v as in have
gimel gg as in go
dalet dd as in dog
he hh as in hate
vav wv as in valley
zayin zz as in zoo
het xch as in German Bach
tet+t as in tick
yod yy as in yellow
kaph k, Kk as in kitty or ch as in German Bach
lamed ll as in look
mem m, Mm as in moon
nun n, Nn as in nanny
samek ss as in silly
ayin (glottal stop
pe p,Pp as in peace or f as in infant
tsade c, Cts as in cats
qof qk as in kitty; usually transliterated as q
resh rr as in rat
shin, sin #$, $# sh as in sheep or s as in silly
tav tt as in tick

Note:

Write the letters, don't draw them. Keep in mind that just as English letters when printed in a book have extra serifs and such, the same is the case with Hebrew. Write the letters as simply as possible. Notice the "Simplified Square" script on page 25 of Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step. That is how you should write your letters.


Reading

Please read pages 3-28 in Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step.

Exercises

1. Memorize the Hebrew alphabet.

2. Do the Exercises on pages 12, 16-17, 22, and 27-28.