Sage Advice on Learning Hebrew

Charles Halton

How to Learn Hebrew

How to Have a Successful First Semester

1. Have a good attitude.

a. Learning Hebrew can be hard at times, but it is rewarding—find joy in your

studies.

b. You are fluent in at least one language already. Therefore you have proven that

you have the ability to learn languages—no excuses.

2. Do not fall behind in your studies.

a. At the pace that first year Hebrew moves, if you fall behind it will be hard to

catch back up again.

b. Learn the vocabulary of each chapter well—it will bite you later if you don’t.

c. Learn everything thoroughly unless I specifically tell you otherwise.

3. Studying consistently is much better than studying in large blocs once or twice a week.

a. Pick a specific time and place each and every day (besides Sundays) that is

specifically designated as your Hebrew study time and place. Design your

schedule around this time, not the other way around.

Ideal Study Sequence While at Seminary

1. First Semester—Alphabet, nouns, strong verbs, preliminary syntax, vocab.

2. Second Semester—Weak verbs, intermediate syntax, simple readings, vocab.

3. Rapid Reading—Read Hebrew narrative, nail down vocab.

4. Hebrew Composition—English to Hebrew, accents, advanced syntax, vocab.

5. Narrative Exegesis

6. Poetry Exegesis

How to Prepare for a Lifetime of Studying the Old Testament in Hebrew

1. Learn Hebrew vocabulary well. It will be very frustrating and you will likely give up if

you don’t. Recommended resource: George M. Landes, Building Your Biblical Hebrew

Vocabulary, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

2. Get to the point while you are at Seminary where you do your daily devotional reading in

Hebrew.

3. Do not read the Bible out of BibleWorks. Only use it when you are stuck and don’t know

how to read a specific word or phrase or when you are doing searches.

4. Read a Hebrew grammar once every year.

5. Read Hebrew in a group. Get to know at least one person, possibly another pastor in the

area, who is willing to meet with you weekly or biweekly to read Hebrew together.

6. Preach half of your sermons and teach half of your lessons out of the Old Testament.

Prepare your sermons and lessons from the Hebrew text.

7. Complete your study of the text before you look at commentaries or helps.

8. Understand why a translation(s) rendered your passage of study the way it did.

9. Use solid commentaries that deal with the Hebrew text. Eschew preaching commentaries

for textual study.

10. Follow at least one high-level academic journal that includes Old Testament studies. Get

a subscription or find a local library that carries them. For examples see the links to

journals on awilum.com.

7 Responses to Sage Advice on Learning Hebrew

  1. Dirk Littlefield October 9, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks for your encouragement. Having been through your Hebrew class I can attest that this is very helpful advice. Several times I got bit for not keeping up. –Dirk

  2. jakeporter October 10, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    Taking my first semester of Hebrew now. This is good stuff. Thanks.

  3. Matt Jones March 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    Thanks for the post! Do you have any suggestions on taking Hebrew and Greek at the same time and how to manage studying time between the two? I will probably be taking Elementary Hebrew and Greek Syntax and Exegesis next semester.

  4. Cris March 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Here’s a fun suggestion that should work after the first semester of Hebrew. Buy the Hebrew edition of Scrabble and find some study friends to play Hebrew Scrabble.

    It’s a good way to train recall of “vocab” and to apply pronoun suffixes and verb forms as you make points building on words and making larger words. There’s an OT prof at Erskine who used to play Heb scrabble with me back at WTS. There’s the proof it can pay off!

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