Aug 31, 2013

Hebrew Readings

[Updated 6/10/14: Updates: Jonah]

One of my favorite components of Hebrew poetry is the study of sound patterns.  At the beginning of my Hebrew classes, I typically begin with a devotional study of a passage in Hebrew, usually a psalm that contains a readily observable sound pattern or other interesting device, e.g. acrostics. This helps students that don't yet know Hebrew develop an appreciation for the brilliance of Biblical Hebrew in general, and poetry in particular.  To that end, each week this semester, I'll be recording the reading and translations of the passages we study and will post them here for my students.  Students can listen in order to review; others can follow our progress by checking back here weekly (i.e. the below list & readings will continue to develop).  Eventually this should provide a good representative cross-section of passages employing a variety of devices beyond that of sound patterns.  As this expands, I'll include commentary, outlines, or other pertinent data that helps clarify the significance of the respective poetic device.

Though I will mostly employ a classical pronunciation, occasionally, I'll vary this (with explanation) to show how different approaches render different results. Those who employ a modern pronunciation may think any phonetic model unfamiliar to them is peculiar.  However, consider Watson's explanation of poetic devices involving sound in his pivotal book, Classical Hebrew Poetry.  He states,
 "When considering poetic devices involving sound—assonance, alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia and wordplay—the pronunciation of a language is very much to the fore.  This applies to classical Hebrew as well as to Ugaritic and Akkadian.  There is no need to repeat here what is set out in the standard grammars, although there is no complete consensus of opinion.  Two points have to be borne in mind.  Firstly, there is no such thing as the pronunciation of Hebrew (or of Ugaritic and Akkadian).  Like any other language, Hebrew developed and evolved, so that its pronunciation changes over the centuries.  Also, Hebrew had its share of dialects and idiolects both regional (particularly North and South) and social.  Secondly, in spite of a certain leveling effect brought about by the collection of Hebrew poetry into the canon, relics of these language variations remain.  And, in the absence of other guides, the Masoretic vocalization is very reliable—any alteration must be vouched for.  With these provisos, the study of sound patterns in Hebrew poetry is rewarding and interesting.” –W.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, p. 222.
One simple illustration of sound play is that of paronomasia.  Watson defines this as, "the deliberate choice of two (or more) different words which sound nearly alike” (CHP, p. 242).  An English example provided by R. Jakobson is as follows: 
“The girl used to talk about ‘the horrible Harry.’  ‘Why horrible?’ ‘Because I hate him.’ ‘But why not dreadful, terrible, frightful, disgusting?’  I don’t know why, but horrible fits him better.  Without realizing it, she clung to the poetic device of paronomasia.”—R. Jakobson, “Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics,” in Style and Language (ed. T.A. Sebeok; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1975), p. 357.
A biblical example of this device is found in Ps. 15:3, as follows:

  Psalm 15:3 לֹֽא־רָגַ֙ל׀ עַל־לְשֹׁנ֗וֹ לֹא־עָשָׂ֣ה לְרֵעֵ֣הוּ רָעָ֑ה וְ֜חֶרְפָּ֗ה לֹא־נָשָׂ֥א עַל־קְרֹֽבוֹ׃

Can you find the paronomasia here? Hint: it's related not to a horrible Harry, but to a nasty neighbor. :)

If you have any thoughtful questions/comments re. the particular reading you hear, feel free to drop a note in the comment section of this blog.  Thanks!

Note: (1) For a classic, dramatic reading by a native speaker, though one which inconsistently treats massoretic accents and is generally difficult to follow for stylistic reasons, check here:  You may want to listen to both (him and me) for comparison of different phonetic models. (2) You can own your own copy of the OT in Hebrew with the above digital reading for your IPhone ($10) by going to the App. store and searching for Hebrew Bible.  Find the one called
חי--well worth it. (3) My own readings and translations of the below passages will be impromptu and will occur wherever/whenever it is convenient, i.e. these will not be sound studio quality (you may hear background noise such as a barking dog, squirrel, traffic, or even a stuffy nose.)

I. Acrostics
A. Comments. Biblical acrostics are alphabetic selections of Scripture, usually psalms, which are built on the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet.  Below are some things to note about them as well as a list of all the ones occurring in Scripture (that I know). 

(1)  The first letter of each line follows a certain sequence, "usually alphabetic so that each line begins with a successive letter of the alphabet.”  Notice in the examples below, that the first line begins with Aleph, the next with Beth, etc.

(2)  They are often considered to be "artificial" in scheme, non-oral in nature, and intended to appeal to the eye rather than the ear.  I'm not personally convinced of this.  Since the first sound of each line is the expected letter of the alphabet, this creates an expectation and builds drama as one listens to the poem read aloud.

(3)  The structure of the acrostic sets the poem or part of the poem off in an unusual way.  It adds variety to the poem and it utilizes poetic or artistic skill.  It is generally agreed that acrostics are used as an aid in memorization.  Personally, I find these very effective as a memory aid as the acrostic serves as it's own mnemonic device.

(4)  Acrostics inherently present thematic ideas expressed by the words of the acrostic and which serve as the focal point of each line/verse. 

B. List. 
Below are all known occurrences of biblical acrostics.  
·      Psalm 9  (a - k) 
·      Psalm 10 (l, vs. 12-17= q - t)--Difficult 
·      Psalm 25, 34: both miss at least the waw verse and have peh repeated at the end.
·      Psalm 37, 111, 112, 119 (every 8 verses begins with the same letter; each strophe contains the eight leading words of Psalm 19).
·   Psalm 145
·   Lamentations 1-4 (p before [in chap. 3 every three verses begin with the same initial letter; chap. 5 has the same number of verses as letters in the alphabet)
·   Proverbs 31:10-31
·   Nahum 1:2-10—Extremely Difficult

C. Examples of Selected Texts.
     1. Psalms.  Below are the texts and readings of Psalm 111 and 112.  These two Psalms occur as a pair.  I regularly employ these in worship services around the Thanksgiving holiday.  Here are some things to note.
Psalm 111 and Psalm 112 are parallel in structure and should be studied together.     
      i.  Both are built on an acrostic structure
      ii. They are equal length.
     iii. Both have two lines per verse through verse 8.
     iv. Verse 9 then transitions to three lines per verse for the last two verses (vv. 9, 10).  This structure results in exactly 10 verses for both Psalms.  The significance from a poetic standpoint may be that since the Hebrew numerical system employs a 10 base model, this structure provides a perfect unit.  Additionally, Hebrew poems regularly lengthen the last verses of the poem to bring a punctuation to the poem's conclusion. 
      v. Pre-acrostic hallelujah phrase/command/call to worship
     vi. There is a parallel in thematic structure: the themes of both are introduced in the first line (also their conclusions are parallel in structure). 
·   The theme of 111 is: A psalm of thanksgiving to Yahweh.  The theme of 112 is the benefits of fearing Yahweh; in other words, 111 is on God, 112 is on God’s man. 
·    The pair of psalms begins with God and then ends with man.
·    There is a correspondence between verses, lines and vocabulary throughout the Psalms.
·    Both psalms identify the same two individuals.  There is the Worshiper and the Worshiped.  In Psalm 111 we see the worshiper who thanks God with whole heart as the blessed man of Psalm 112.
·  The man who fears God in 112:1 is the man whose whole heart was worshiping in 111:1
·   Notice, however, that when thanking God the psalmist personalizes the psalm (אוֹדֶה יְהוָה בְּכָל־לֵבָב).  However, when describing the blessing of being the worshiper, the psalmist generalizes the principle.  
·    Cf. Delights “חָפֵץ ” from Ps 112:1 with 111:2 “לְכָל־חֶפְצֵיהֶם
·      Line B of verse 3 of both psalms are parallel with : "וְצִדְקָתוֹ עֹמֶדֶת לָעַד"
·     Verses 4 contain parallel wording: "חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם וְצַדִּיק"
·     What other observations can you make? 


  • Jonah
  • Psalm 111 Hebrew Reading (classical pronunciation) with English Translation
  • Psalm 112 Hebrew Reading 
  • Proverbs: Prov. 31:10-31:The Excellent Wife
  • Psalm 3 Reading: To hear this Psalm sung by Messianic Jews in Hebrew, listen to track 3 of this album; Psalm 3 is the title song
  •  Though not usually regarded as a sound pattern, here the interrogative particle (covered this week in class) is employed as a rhetorical device and so definitely arrests the attention of the listener/reader 
  • Psalm 1--Psalm 1 is chosen for the reading this week for 4 key reasons: 1.) it's use of the relative pronoun "asher"; 2.) it's use of the "ki im" conjunction; 3.) interesting use of massoretic accents (covered last week), and 4.) use of the poetical feature known as simile.
  • Psalm 136 (Hebrew Reading + English Translation)
  • Genesis 4
  • Ruth 1:1-4
  • Psalm 51--A Plea for Purity--this Psalm is chosen for the week's reading.  Consider the following notes: 

  • Psalm 51: A Plea for Purity
    1.) Superscription identifies the occasion
    2.) Key Opening Ideas:
    i. First line of text (v. 3) opens with a chiasm calling attention to David’s plea for God’s gracious cleansing away of transgression based on His covenant loyalty and compassion.  The words of this chiasm draw attention to: cleansing based on God’s character, i.e. not the sin itself.  Words of the chiasm are the juxtaposition of: חָנֵּ֣נִי  with מְחֵ֣ה and  רַ֜חֲמֶ֗יךָ with כְּחַסְדֶּ֑ךָ, i.e. “be gracious to me” with “blot out” and “according to your loving kindness” with “your compassion.”
    ii. Notice also the following line (v. 4) where  כַּבְּסֵ֣נִי (cleanse me) is juxtaposed with  טַהֲרֵֽנִי (purify me), and  מֵעֲוֹנִ֑י  (from my iniquity) is juxtaposed with  וּֽמֵחַטָּאתִ֥י (and from my sin). 
    iii. Following, in vs. 5, is a parallelism between the words for sin (פְ֭שָׁעַי and וְחַטָּאתִ֖י) and the words expressing David’s knowledge of his guilt (אֲנִ֣י אֵדָ֑ע andנֶגְדִּ֣י תָמִֽיד , i.e. “I know” with “before me continually.”
    3.) Note the synonyms employed in the Psalm for sin, identifying a thematic key of the Psalm:   פֶּ֫שַׁע (3x), עָוֹן (3x), חַטָּאת (6x), רַע (1x) = 13 occurrences of words for sin. However, note the synonyms employed for right character indicating another, more amplified thematic key, including: purity, repentance, faithfulness, salvation, etc.  Representative forms as they occur are:מְחֵ֣ה   (2x), כַּבְּסֵ֣נִי  (2x), טַהֲרֵֽנִי (1x)   אַלְבִּֽין  (3x), תְּחַטְּאֵ֣נִי (1x), וְאֶטְהָ֑ר  (3x), נָ֜כ֗וֹן  (1x), הָשִׁ֣יבָה  (2x), הַצִּ֘ילֵ֤נִי  (1x), תְּשׁוּעָתִ֑י   (2x) = 18 occurrences of these words (not including words for personal brokenness, vs. 19, etc.).  This means that there is both greater variety as well as a higher number of occurrences for the words on purity, plus additional words for the desired condition of the psalmist. 

    Solomon’s Argument that all is Vanity 
    By R. Brian Rickett
    I.               Superscription (v.1)
    II.             The Argument that all is Vanity (2-11)
    A.    The Problem Stated (2, 3)
    1.     The Problem Exclaimed—all is vanity (v. 2)
    2.     The Problem Explained—man’s accomplishments are temporal (v. 3)
    B.    The Problem Illustrated by Nature (4-7)
    1.     The cycles of generations—transitory yet immutable (v. 4)
    2.     The cycles of the sun—transitory yet immutable (v.5)
    3.     The cycles the wind—transitory yet immutable (v. 6)
    4.     The cycles of the rivers—transitory yet immutable (v. 7)
    C.    The Problem Illustrated by Experience (8-11)
    1.     The frustration of human inquiry (v. 8)
    2.     The insignificance of accomplishment (v. 9)
    3.     The finitude of knowledge (v. 10)
    4.     The impermanence of legacy (v. 11)

                In verses 2-11, Solomon introduces the book of Ecclesiastes with a 10 verse poem arguing that life from an “under the sun perspective” (v. 3) is absolute futility.  The poem may be divided into three sections.  The introductory section  is comprised of vv. 2, 3, and then two equal stanzas of four verses each comprise the body of the poem for a total of 10 verses.
                In the first introductory verse (v. 2), Solomon exclaims the problem that all is vanity.  In verse 3, he then identifies the reason for his exclamation—due to the virtual immutability of creation, including the unceasing passing of generations, all of life’s accomplishments are utterly futile, from an “under the sun perspective.”  In verses 4-7 (Stanza 1), he illustrates the problem of vanity from nature and in verses 8-11 (Stanza 2) he illustrates the problem of vanity from human experience. 
                In the first stanza, Qoheleth demonstrates by analogy that the transitory yet virtually immutable nature of the solar cycles, cyclical climatic patterns, and movement of streams represents the passing of time, which erases all individual significance.[1]  In Stanza 2, Qoheleth builds on in his argument that because of passing of generations and inherent transient, finite nature of man, the physical individual along with his temporal, i.e. under the sun accomplishments are annihilated by the passing of time.  Citing common experience, Qoheleth shows that the individual has an utter lack of significance, from an under the sun perspective.  He shows the frustration of human inquiry (v. 8), the immutability of existence (v. 9), the finitude of knowledge (v. 10), and the impermanence of legacy (v. 11).  

    [The above is an excerpt from my in progress commentary.  For the answer to the above problem, see Ecclesiates 12:13]

    Note: Ecc. 1:1-11 contains an unusual amount of assonance that corresponds to the message of the poem.  Listen to the reading here and compare the sound with the message of the poem as identified in the above outline. 

                  [1] It’s helpful to recall that weather patterns producing the constant flow of rivers are also cyclical.  Streams flow into the seas, water evaporates from the oceans producing clouds which produce rain which feed rivers and streams.

    Aug 8, 2013

    Rationale Statement from GRK 621: GREEK EXEGESIS I

    For those considering the value of studying the biblical languages in seminary, here is the opening statement/rationale from my Greek Exegesis I syllabus. 

    Rationale: Despite frequent dismissals and even hostility by detractors, competency in New Testament Greek is highly important for the man aspiring to the office of overseer.  The Christian minister must make maximal effort to ensure the proper interpretation of Scripture positively, as well as the avoidance of theological error negatively.  In fact, the pastor’s commission requires that he take the greatest pains necessary to base his life, teaching, and ministry on the Word of God accurately handled (1 Tim 3; Titus 1; 2 Tim 2:15).  In other words, when God calls an individual to ministry, He calls him to a life of the highest level of discipline (1 Tim 4:7; Col 2:5) and study (2 Tim 2:15) so that he may be able to understand and apply the Word of God, to the glory of God.  Though not the only means to this end, Greek exegesis provides an invaluable tool in the accomplishment of this goal.  

    As expressed by Moreland and Craig,

    Study is itself a spiritual discipline….One who undergoes the discipline of study lives through certain types of experiences where certain skills are developed through habitual study: framing an issue, solving problems, learning how to weigh evidence and eliminate irrelevant factors, cultivating the ability to see important distinctions instead of blurring them, and so on. The discipline of study also aids in the development of certain vi­­rtues and values; for example, a desire for the truth, honesty with data, and openness to criticism, self reflection and an ability to get along non defensively with those who differ with one. —JP Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations.

    When keeping in mind the fact that in all matters of faith and practice the Word of God is the final authority, one inherently assumes that authority must be correctly interpreted before it can be correctly applied.  Unfortunately, many pastors have minimized the importance of obedience in the area of studying to show one’s self approved with the result that they have dishonored Christ.  As expressed by Martyn Lloyd-Jones,

    [I]n a situation of difficulty and of crisis, the first thing we must do is to make sure that we have grasped the New Testament teaching. I do not want to be controversial, and I am particularly anxious not to be misunderstood, but if I may put it in a phrase, in order to call attention to what I have in mind, I would say that in a situation of crisis the New Testament does not immediately say, “Let us pray.” It always says first, “Let us think, let us understand that truth, let us take a firm hold of the doctrine.” Prayer may be quite useless and quite void. The Bible has a great deal to tell us about prayer and as to how it should be made. Prayer is not a simple thing in one sense: it may be very difficult. Prayer is sometimes an excuse for not thinking, an excuse for avoiding a problem or a situation [bold not in original].

    Have we not all known something of this in our personal experience?  We have often been in difficulty and we have prayed to God to deliver us, but in the meantime we have not put something right in our lives as we should have done.
    Instead of facing the trouble, and doing what we knew we should be doing, we have prayed.  I suggest that at a point like that, our duty is not to pray, but to face the truth, but to face the doctrine and apply it.   Then we are entitled to pray, and not until then. —Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Fellowship with God [Recall Ps. 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear….”]

    As should be obvious, Lloyd-Jones is not minimizing prayer, he is elevating obedience particularly in the area of understanding and obeying truth. He who best knows the God of the Word is the one who best knows the Word of God. It is because knowledge of the original languages serves as a tremendous aid in the correct interpretation and application of God’s Word, as well as in the defense of the faith, that it is so important to a theological curriculum.  A failure to be so committed to exegesis often results in theological error, for all theological error is simply the result of saying less than the Scriptures say, more than the Scriptures say, or other than the Scriptures say.  If such a commitment to the primacy of rigorous biblical analysis over autonomous theologizing were valued by all ministers/theologians, many theological problems in the contemporary setting would be avoided.  In short, the key differences between theological perspectives is: (1) how the text of God’s Word viewed, and (2) how the text of God’s Word is handled. 


    Aug 6, 2013

    Fall 2013 Hebrew at BMATS

    Come and Study Biblical Hebrew at BMATS This Year

    1. For a little on the BMATS Arkansas campus and what you’ll get, see here; for the physical site and our sister institution, see here.

    3. For the BMATS Texas campus (main site), see here.

    4. For my Fall syllabi, keep checking here.  However, I hand out most of my materials as the class goes. Just a few more weeks, and we'll be studying God's Word in Hebrew together, so sign up soon.  
    If you enroll in our M.Div. program, we'll also study Greek, apologetics (including the implementation of biblical languages in apologetics) together, and more.

    5. To register, contact the registrar at the number on the BMATS site. 

    Aug 5, 2013

    Harriet Beecher Stowe on the Biblical Languages

     Need another reason to study the biblical languages?  Consider how they are a factor in Uncle Tom’s Cabin from the pen of Harriet Beecher Stowe.   She puts the following words into the mouth of John, the farmer. To the Senator, he states, "I tell yer what, stranger, it was years and years before I'd jine the church, 'cause the ministers round in our parts used to preach that the Bible went in for these ere cuttings up,--and I couldn't be up to 'em with their Greek and Hebrew, and so I took up agin 'em, Bible and all. I never jined the church till I found a minister that was up to 'em all in Greek and all that, and he said right the contrary; and then I took right hold, and jined the church,--I did now, fact...."

    People have always manipulated Scripture to support their political agendas.  Sometimes they twist it.  Sometimes they dismiss it.  Sometimes they attempt to undermine it through faux scholarship—this is a popular approach today, but it is not new.  In this section from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a simple farmer named “John” is explaining to the Senator how ministers employed biblical languages to support “these ere cuttings up,” i.e. the shameful practice of slavery.  However, it wasn’t until he found a minister who could stand up to the apostates on their own terms employing the languages in a manner superior to that of the apostates that he could “jine the church.”  In our day, ministers are manipulating Scripture to support a different sort of “cuttings up,” but we must be able to withstand with superior scholarship in addition to superior character so as to honor the Lord and further His Kingdom purposes.

    Aug 3, 2013

    Guide to Developing Hebrew Reading Proficiency

    [2nd Draft Updated 08/04/13]

    This week I was contacted by a student from the first Hebrew course I taught back in 1998—16 years ago, asking for tips on improving his Hebrew.  He was an A student, and in fact, was the best student in the class.  Yet, here we are a decade and half later and he is asking for some tips on improving his Hebrew.  Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario.  Language skills are similar to musical and other comparable skills—they are perishable, meaning that they can become dull or even go away if not deliberately developed and regularly employed. 

    It is important for beginning students to know that there is more to learning a language than completing the required course work and earning an A. As a beginning Hebrew student, I was seldom in the top of my class grade-wise, but some things happened for me that greatly aided me in this effort.  

    Each year that I have taught, I have recounted some of the key things in my journey that I hope will help my students.  The below is my testimony, in outline form, and which I am sharing with the hope that it may help others, especially my own students, in their language courses.  
    1.  Conviction.  I was a B+ language student until one day my professor listed 7 or so common exegetical fallacies on the board.  These fallacies resulted from ministers who mishandle the text of Scripture due to laziness, carelessness, ignorance, or general incompetence in the languages.  I was immediately struck with the reality that I had committed some of these fallacies, and would likely commit more.  By the standards of 2 Tim 2:15, I had reason to be ashamed.  I also knew that faithfulness in this area was a criterion for elder qualification. If I did not address this, I would be unfit for ministry (Titus 1:9). The point—this is not about a grade, or a program, but about honoring the Lord.  I was deeply convicted, even destroyed, by this realization.
    2. Repentance and Dependence.  I was broken by this realization and committed myself to plead with God, without stop, until He gave me the desire necessary to work hard at this task.  I recalled Phil 2:12, 13 that it is my responsibility to work, but the will to do so and the enabling to do so come from God.  This means He helped me to realize that I did not possess the necessary will or stamina to accomplish the task before me without His enabling.  However, since He had called me to the ministry, I believed He would supply the requisite qualities/skills that I lacked.  So, I prayed—hard for about a week asking God to do something so extraordinary in my life, that all who knew me would recognize His hand at work in the weakest of vessels, and glorify Him.  After a week of pleading, God dramatically answered this prayer.
    3. Resolve and Dependence  (Yes, "dependence" is in here twice). At the end of the week, I had a new passion for God’s Word in the original languages.  I then resolutely took some steps to master Biblical Hebrew.  The following is what I did.
    Step 1. Vocabulary Development.  My goal was to develop functional Hebrew skills, not merely to complete a program.  This meant that if I wanted to be proficient in BH, I needed to know the words.  It was now summer, so I committed my summer to this effort.  The result: I picked up John Watt’s Lists of Words Occurring Frequently in the Hebrew Bible and began memorizing vocabulary.  Pleading with God for aid, I inhaled words like a drowning man sucks in air.  Within 5 weeks, I added the most common 600 words from Watts to my vocab.  Gaining additional words became very difficult at this point.  However, I found that I was now able to make out the majority of words in the narrative sections of the OT, so I shifted focus.   
    Step 2. Devotional Reading. I was already committed to daily devotional study of Scripture.  At this point, however, I committed to not have devotionals at all unless I did so in my Biblia Sacra (Hebrew OT and Greek NT in a single volume).  This did two things: i. created additional dependence on God as I read and pleaded with Him for help, ii. generated excitement as I saw my new abilities developing and my new vocab. functioning in the wild, so to speak.  By the end of the summer I had added around 1,000 new words to my vocab. and had translated Genesis. Note: I did not focus on parsing or syntax at this juncture, but read with my NASB or with BibleWorks nearby so I could check parsing or grammatical forms as needed and just focused on recognition and muddling my way through the text.
    Step 3. Synthesizing.  By the end of the next semester, I had spent up to a couple of hours a day, every day, in my Hebrew Bible for months.  I had also translated the first 26 chapters of Exodus.  At this point synthesis began to happen.  Here’s how:
         i. Rehearsing. Whenever I sensed my skills regressing, I would immediately reread Ruth and Jonah, two small books I had translated in my previous course work and could move through rapidly.  This helped my morale, refreshed my vocab., stimulated me spiritually, and reminded me of aspects of grammar/syntax that I could then generalize and appropriate in other texts.
         ii. Incorporation. For my devotional times, I was also translating the Psalms (though not writing out my translations).  These greatly enhanced the spiritual aspect of my study.  I then began teaching a Bible study from the various Psalms that I was meditatively translating.  This added great depth to my teaching and my students responded positively, which fueled my passion both in teaching and in personal study. 
         iii. Progression. I continued enrolling in exegesis language courses and gained permission to take Aramaic as an M.Div. elective.  At this point, my professor recognized that something extraordinary had occurred to me and we discussed this one day after class.  He then invited me to read Hebrew with him over the summer, along with another professor and a friend who was planning to enroll in Ph.D. studies in Semitics at UCLA.  This affirmation and privilege was exciting and fueled additional passion as I continued to plead with God for aid praying that He would glorify Himself through these efforts.   
         iv. Teaching.  That summer, I was then invited to teach beginning Hebrew grammar for a local Bible institute.  This effort was very natural, gave me an outlet for what I had been learning, and provided opportunity to articulate and simplify difficult aspects of Hebrew grammar.  I was also able to think through different linguistic pedagogical models.  I taught beginning Hebrew to everyone who would listen, whether 1 student or 30, whether compensated or uncompensated, school age or senior citizen.  This refined my teaching skills and prepared me to begin teaching at the seminary level.  Three years later, I had acquired additional research languages and was teaching Latin on Mondays and Wednesdays, Hebrew twice on Thursdays, teaching a Bible study from my Hebrew Bible on Fridays, and Sunday afternoons, and preached two separate sermons on Sunday morning, one from my Greek NT, one from my Hebrew Bible (this was while I was a full time Th.M. student). 
    Within 6 or 7 years, I had taught Aramaic, Advanced Hebrew readings, and other similar courses at the post-graduate level but still taught at the institute level.  By this time, I had memorized most of the Torah in Hebrew as well as had translated most of the OT, including the Aramaic sections. 
    v. Listening.   At some point, I also began listening to the Hebrew Bible on tape read by a well known Rabbi.  This was helpful, because it taught me variations of pronunciation, like how to deal with ayin, what resh sounds like when it acts as a guttural, proper use of massoretic accents in reading, etc.  This allowed me to access components of poetry related to sound, such as assonance, rhyme, various sorts of word and sound play, etc.  This remains an exciting component of Hebrew study for me and I regularly listen to the Hebrew Bible aloud on my smart phone via the חי app. 
    ConclusionIn the end, true mastery of the biblical languages is less like an academic exercise, and more like being in love.  Their acquisition must be passion and dependence driven if you really want to know them.  Know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and by God’s enabling, develop an unquenchable love for the languages, for they are the medium God has chosen to reveal Himself to His people, and to you if you will give yourself to their acquisition.  

    Note: For a list of my publicly available audio files of Hebrew text, see here: