Hebrew word puns

The Hebrews love word plays. They are part of Hebrew poetry. Someone with a western culture background (Europe, North America, Australia & New Zealand) would say (for example):1

The artist painted the canvas.

In western (Greek) culture, we try to avoid this these repetitions since they are perceived as boring. In Hebrew, however, word puns are something they loved to do. So they would write something like:

The painter painted the painting.


Then the Lord God formed the man (adam) of dirt (adama) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Gen. 2.7

This kind of word plays are found everywhere in the Hebrew Old Testament (Tanakh, תַּנַ”ךְ). And interestingly, they are also found in the New Testament, as soon as the Greek text is translated back into Hebrew:1

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones (ebenim) to raise up children (benim) for Abraham.
Mat. 3:9

And directing the crowd to sit (yashav) down on the ground (esev), he took the seven (sheva) loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke (shavar) them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied (seva), and seven (sheva) baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
Mat. 15:35-37

This can not be a coincidence. The authors of the gospels deliberately chose their words to reach out to people with a Hebrew culture.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man (adam) should scatter (zara) seed (zera) on the ground (adama).”
Mark 4:26

Another common Hebrew technique is shown in this example: The two middle words (zara zera), the center of the message, are encased in adam and adama.


1 Benner, Jeff A., Ancient Hebrew Research Centre in Semitic Origins of the NT


One thought on “Hebrew word puns

  1. Repeating words is an impediment to the modern languages, that having a poorer vocabulary requires extensive linguistic diversity as to be sufficiently expressive. Hebrew language on the contrary, with a variety of words available afford to use repetition without any injury to broadcast messages, which can become more expressive . Even so called cacophony can have a positive effect. Hebrew Scripture Language has some features including a game of words in the verses. This is because the Hebrew words are not mere abstract notion, but having a large energy load, they get to translate thought into action. So they tend to fulfill the mission to the end, do not remain mere empty words without coverage. Therefore they play in front of the reader, they depict the video in our minds. The OT and NT Scripture Language excels puns. Even NT wants to fill between the lines, using the methods of literary, lifestyle of a Hebrew geographical area. But instead, our translations reveal the mentality of the nations, namely the Greeks and Romans. So often we lose sight of many colors we paint a picture of Scripture, because bravery translators who translate into fur true Jews, and linguistic boundaries in wich were made translations.
    Another idea.
    Given the reluctance of Jews to Greek and then Roman occupation, it is hard to believe that Mary gave to her child the Greek name Jesus, and it is hard to believe that the Angel has recommended that name.
    Our Saviour spoke later to Paul in Hebrew language, then the angel also spoke Hebrew language to Mary, and recommended to appoint her son Yahsuah, which means the Savior. That thing can not be said about the name Jesus. If in difficult moments still have to call for help, why not call the true original name of Our Savior? This could be further evidence of respect that can be added beneficially our prayer.
    I do not think the Bride of Our Saviour is one of the nations. It could possibly be of those who were close to the faith of the 12 Apostles, but not of those who have departed from the groom, and were closer to the heathen, than to the truth.

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