Ancient Hebrew was the tongue of the ancient Israelites and the language in which most of the Old Testament was penned.
Isaiah calls it “the language of Canaan,” while other verses label it “Judean” or “language of Judah” or even “Jews’ language” or “language of the Judeans“.
18 In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear by the Lord of hosts; one will be called the City of Destruction.
2 Kings 18:26/ Isaiah 36:11,13/ 2 Chronicles 32:18/ Nehemiah 13:24
26 Then said Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebna and Joah, unto Rabshakeh, “Speak, I pray thee, to thy servants in the Syrian language, for we understand it; and talk not with us in the Jews’ language in the ears of the people who are on the wall.”
11 Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to Rabshakeh, “Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.”
13 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria!
18 They were shouting loudly in the language of the Judeans to the people of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) who were on the wall in order to terrify them and make them fearful, so that they could capture the city.
24 and their children, who spoke half in the language of Ashdod and couldn’t speak in the language the Judeans spoke but only in the language of each people.
2 Kingdoms- Judah & Israel
Kingdom of Judah = the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
Kingdom of (Northern) Israel = the (lost) 10 tribes of Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun.
22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.
Ancient Semitic Language Hebrew
Ancient Hebrew is a Semitic language that dates back past 1500 BC. Its alphabet consists of 22 characters, all consonants (vowels were eventually added), and is written from right to left.
While Hebrew remained the sacred tongue of the Israelites, its use as a common spoken language declined after the Israelites’ return from exile (538 BC). Despite a revival of the language during the Maccabean era, it was eventually all but replaced in everyday usage by Aramaic- the other language of the Bible.
Aramaic & Syriac
Aramaic`s original home may have been in Mesopotamia in Aram (Aram is also a son of Shem), and its eastern form it is known as Syriac.
In its occurrence in the Old Testament, it formerly, though incorrectly, generally bore the name Chaldee” (“Aramaic Language”).
In the earliest stages of the history of Aramaic, the language was only spoken in Aramean locales, including the area where Laban lived (Genesis 31:47, Deuteronomy 26:5). However, as the Syrians and Chaldeans gained prominence in the ancient Near East, their tongue became established as an international language of commerce and diplomacy, gradually displacing Akkadian.
Akkadian & Assyria
Akkadian was still the official language of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but Aramaic was already becoming established as a lingua franca (standard language) of the ancient Near East by 700 BC.
As Old Aramaic had served as a standard language in the Neo-Assyrian Empire from the 8th century BC, linguistic contact with even the oldest stages of Biblical Hebrew is easily accounted for.
During the Babylonian exile, Aramaic became the language spoken by the Israelites, and Aramaic square script replaced the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. After the Achaemenid Empire captured Babylon, Aramaic became the language of culture and learning. King Darius I declared Imperial Aramaic to be the official language of the western half of his empire in 500 BC, and it is that Imperial Aramaic that forms the basis of Biblical Aramaic.
Babylon & Persia
After the conquest of Babylon by Persia, the Persians also established Aramaic as the official language of their vast empire. This is why the portions of Ezra which record official correspondence are composed in Aramaic.
Biblical Hebrew was gradually reduced to the status of a liturgical language and a language of theological learning, and the Israelites of the Second Temple period would have spoken a western form of Old Aramaic until their partial Hellenization from the 3rd century BC and the eventual emergence of Middle Aramaic in the 3rd century AD.
In Israel today Jews, who are also Israelites, continue to use Hebrew but nearly all speak also English fluently.
Biblical Aramaic is closely related to Hebrew, as both are in the Northwest Semitic language family.
Aramaic In The Old Testament
Ancient Aramaic originated among the Arameans in northern Syria and became widely used under the Assyrians. A few passages in the Old Testament were written in Aramaic.
As a language closely related to Hebrew and spoken extensively in areas bordering Canaan, the descendants of Abraham had some exposure to Aramaic during the time preceding the establishment of the ancient nation of Israel.
Aramaic in the Old Testament:
Other suggested occurrences:
Genesis 15:1; Numbers 23:10; Job 36:2a; Psalm 2:12.
Like Spanish & Portuguese
Some have compared the relationship between Hebrew and Aramaic to that between modern Spanish and Portuguese: they’re distinct languages, but sufficiently closely related that a reader of one can understand much of the other.
Aramaic was very popular in the ancient world and was commonly spoken in Yeshua`s (Jesus’) time and the first-century Jews.
In fact, a few of Messiah’s words, spoken by Him in Aramaic, are recorded in Aramaic in our English translations of the Bible.
Aramaic And The Israelites
After the descendants of Abraham had been slaves in Egypt and lived through the time of the judges and the Golden Age of Israel under Solomon, and the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive by Assyria (about 750- 700 BC)— the great Assyrian army approached Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) with the intent of subjugating the kingdom of Judah.
While God delivered the Israelites from this Assyrian invasion, years later God allowed the nation of Judah to fall to the Babylonians (also called Chaldees; about 610-580 BC).
Shortly before the fall of Judah, the prophet Jeremiah admonished the Israelites to resist idolatry (in Jeremiah 10).
Of particular interest is Jeremiah 10:11, which is written in Aramaic.
With so many Israelites in captivity in the Aramaic-speaking empire, a great many Israelites were now bilingual, speaking both Hebrew and Aramaic. They understood Hebrew as the language spoken at home, among themselves, and in the reading of the Scriptures, while Aramaic was the language spoken in broader society. The Israelites had not learned Aramaic in the Promised Land, but they had to learn it in exile, since it was the language of their captors. “After the return from the Captivity, Aramaic displaced Hebrew as the spoken language of the Israelites in the Promised Land. This explains why the Jewish leaders who canonized the Old Testament were comfortable having both Hebrew and Aramaic in the sacred writings.
Aramaic And The New Testament
In the 1st century, Aramaic continued to be the language spoken at home by Israelites- including Yeshua (Jesus) and His disciples and Apostles. While Hebrew was used sparingly outside of the Bible, Aramaic was used very broadly. Because of this, a minority of scholars believe that at least parts of the New Testament may have first been written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek. My opinion is that the whole New Testament was first written in Aramaic; by the time the gospels were being written, many Israelis didn’t even speak Hebrew anymore.
Aramaic words or phrases in the New Testament:
Talitha cum meaning “Little girl, get up!” (Mark 5:41)
Ephphatha meaning “Be opened.” (Mark 7:34)
Abba meaning “Father” (Mark 14:36)
Raca meaning “fool” (Matthew 5:22)
Rabbouni meaning “teacher” (John 20:16)
Eli Eli lema sabachthani meaning “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Hosanna meaning “O Lord, save us.” (Mark 11:9)
Maranatha meaning “Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)
Maranatha ( 1 Corinthians 16:22 ) consists of two Aramean words, Maran’athah, meaning, “our Lord comes,” or “is coming.” If the latter interpretation is adopted, the meaning of the phrase is, “Our Lord is coming, and he will judge those who have set him at nought.” (Compare –> Philippians 4:5 ; James 5:8-9 )
Link to –> Above said Bible verses + some more
Yet at least 268 verses of the Bible were written in a language called Aramaic.
Despite the relatively small percentage of Scripture that is written in this language, the Aramaic portion of the Bible is disproportionately significant because of the importance of the book of Daniel to biblical prophecy.
Aramaic is also important in the New Testament, as several direct quotes from Yeshua (Jesus) and others are preserved in the original Aramaic that was spoken by Israelites of the Second Temple period. Aramaic is the language of the captivity and of the Redeemer.
Because of the importance of Aramaic in the Second Temple period, Hebrew gradually began to be written in Aramaic letters during that time, and Hebrew has used the Aramaic square script ever since. However, Syriac and other dialects of Aramaic use different scripts, while the Targumim have a system of pointing that differs from the Masoretic pointing of the Old Testament.
Both Aramaic and Hebrew are West Semitic languages. Thus, Aramaic and Hebrew share many of the same linguistic characteristics and modes of expression. Overall, Hebrew grammar and morphology is somewhat closer to proto-Semitic, especially in its patterns of vocalization nowadays, though Aramaic has a fuller complement of distinct verbal stems.
Aramaic was also the primary trade language of the ancient Near East. It was also the primary spoken language of the Israelites, Syria, and Mesopotamia at the time of Messiah.
Against common opinion, Aramaic never died out completely, and is still spoken in pockets of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Aramaic is possibly the language with the longest continuous written record in the world.
The Greek Of The New Testament
The Greek of the New Testament was influenced by Aramaic, and so contains some Aramaic idioms and forms of expression, such as the phrase “answered and said.”
Although the degree of Aramaic influence on the Greek of the New Testament has been a subject of much debate, it is fair to say that the style of New Testament Greek is Semiticized to one degree or another.
After the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus), the Syriac dialect of Aramaic became the language of the Syrian church. Aramaic also remained an important language for the Israelis. Because of this, there are two major Aramaic translations of the Old Testament, the Jewish Targums and the Syriac Peshitta. There are a number of important Syriac versions of the New Testament. Much of Jewish rabbinic literature, and nearly all Syrian Christian literature, is written in Aramaic. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were also written in Aramaic.
The Aramaic / Hebrew letters have a formula which reveals deeper meaning into biblical words. Unlike our English (or Greek) alphabet, each individual letter in the Aramaic and Hebrew language has a known ancient symbol and meaning.
Just like most languages have root words, the Aramaic and Hebrew language has a root meaning in every single letter.
Lets look for example at the letters in the name Yeshua in Aramaic (ישוע):
י Yod- hand
ש Shin – shank
ו Vav – hook
ע Ayin- eye
Hand and shank remind me of Messiah on the Roman execution stake-
and what He did for me !!
Hook reminds me of the fishers of men.
Eye reminds me of my God who sees everything.
13 Hagar named Yahweh, who had been speaking to her, “You Are El Roi.” She said, “This is the place where I watched the one who watches over me.”
And the name of YHVH/ Yahweh (יהוה):
י Yod- hand (or forearm)
ה Hey- raised hands/ arms in praise
ו Vav- hook
ה Hey- raised hands/arms in praise
Those meanings of the letters reminds me of praising God with my hands raised and fishers of men.
Be blessed in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) !!
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