We all love to find the meaning of Biblical Hebrew names.  But some have no clear meaning.  Others don’t have one that looks good or simple for a Hallmark card.  From what I can see, the name Rivkah is one of them.  The name of Rivkah also shows us that you can’t do the word to word translation with Hebrew.

The best way to determine what a word means in Biblical Hebrew is to see how it is used in the Bible.  The verb רבק from Rivkah’s name isn’t actually used.  Instead, it is used as a noun.  Sometimes when Hebrew wants to make a noun out of a verb, it puts a מ in front.

Let me try to explain the concept here:  when a farmer planned to use an animal, usually a calf, for slaughter, he wanted it to be meaty or fat.  In order to get the calf fat, he would tie it up so it couldn’t exercise.  (This may make you want to go on an exercise program at the gym.)  He would fetter the animal in a stall in order that it would gain weight.  American Literature has the expression from the Christian New Testament to “kill the fatted calf” when the father knew the prodigal son was coming home.   This depicts a Jewish celebration/sacrifice.

Why is Rivkah’s name taken from this process?  Some commentators wax poetic and say that she was so beautiful that Isaac was captured or fettered by her beauty.  Others say it talks about the yolk of two animals.

I don’t know; maybe you do.  Perhaps it talks about her life being a life of sacrifice, of not being able to do what she wanted to do because her life would have the ultimate purpose.  Her marriage tied her to an ultimate purpose, giving birth to Jacob, who would father the twelve tribes of Israel.


rivka hebrew root


Defining words in Biblical Hebrew



I monitor a Facebook group called Hebrew Learn E-Vreet.  It’s always good when members participate.  We had one member talk about the meaning of El-Shaddai.  Well, there have been many discussions on this name of God by many scholars and rabbis for hundreds of years.

But you want to know the best way to define a Hebrew word in Biblical Hebrew?  See how the Hebrew word is used in the Bible.  First, see how it is used in Genesis.  Then, in the Torah, and finally, in the Tanakh.

But the most important thing is to let the whole verse, the whole chapter speak to you.  The reason we learn Biblical Hebrew is to understand what God is trying to tell us in the Bible.  So let’s look at El-Shaddai אל שדי in the first-mention, Genesis 17:1 in the JPS translation:

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine,

the LORD appeared to Abram,

and said unto him:

‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.

El אל is the short for for Elohim אלהים .  We cover this in our course, Learn Hebrew from the Bible.

The root verb of El-Shaddai is SDD שדד

The verb is not used in Genesis.  It’s not used in the Torah.  We don’t see it until Judges.  It is used in its negative sense–to destroy.  Hebrew verbs can be used negatively or positively.  You can use strength for good or bad.  Obviously, God uses it for good.

There are no easy answers for the meaning of Shaddai.  So let’s focus on what God is trying to tell us in the verse.  He’s talking to Abram, before the name change to Abraham.  He’s directing Abram to follow Him, follow in His ways, His manner.  He asked Abram to be wholehearted.  What does that mean?  The word in Hebrew is תמים T’MIM and it means integrity, not to be of two minds–be fully engaged.

This is just a quick blog to stir your heart.  Read the whole chapter; read the chapters surrounding Genesis 17, giving you context.  And that will give you the meaning of אל שדי

By the way feel free to join our Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/evreet/

Jaffa means Beautiful, my Darling!

The word Jaffa in Hebrew means beautiful. When you see a “J” begin a Hebrew word, you can change it to a “Y”. So that makes Jaffa into Yaffah. The accent is usually on the last syllable, so that’s why I put the “h” at the end. So it’s Yaf-FAH. The city in Israel is pronounced like that–Yaf-FAH. So those of you who are planning a trip to Israel, you can sound like a native. The Hebrew nickname for a native is tsabrah (prickly pear–prickly on the outside but soft on the inside).

The Egyptians thought Sarai was very yaffah, and that is what got Abram into trouble. Leah was not yaffah, but Rachel was.

See Song of Solomon 1:15–Wow, you are yaffah, my darling, (ra’ati) wow, you are yaffah! Dove’s eyes! The word for my darling (ra-ati) here is only used in Song of Solomon. The root of the word ra’ati comes from the word for friend or companion. So if you want to say my darling to someone in Hebrew, you can say ra’ati.

What does the name Jared and the name for the Jordan river have in common?

Do you know that you know how to say “He descended” in Hebrew? Well, if you know the name Jared, then you do. Ya-RED (Jared in Hebrew–there are no J’s in Hebrew–so what does that tell you about the name of Jesus?)

So anyway, Ya-RED means “He descended”.

So if you wanted to say that “Avraham descended” in Hebrew, you say, “Avraham yared.”  You never know when you might want to say that in Hebrew.

It’s also the verb used in Psalm 133 when talking about the oil dripping down Aaron’s beard.  So you won’t be surprised to know that yaRED is used for rain coming down.

It is also how the Jordan river got its name. The river goes down from the sea of Galilee which is in the north of Israel and travels south to the Dead Sea, which is really called the Salt Sea.


Why are there so many good Jewish comedians?

saac literally means “He laughs” in Hebrew…or he’s laughing…I mean, he’s having fun!

If you want to pronounce his name in Hebrew, you have to say “Yeetz-Hack”. (Root is “tsa-xhak”). The word is meant to sound like what it means–hahahahahhah! Literally. I’m serious. I did not make this up. You can check Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon. So now do you believe me?

By the way, just for the record, Sarah was NOT the first to laugh at the angels, or to just laugh when the angels gave the prophecy of Isaac. It was actually Avraham. Gen17:17, Avraham actually fell on his face isaking (tsa-hak). Then Sarah isaked (tsa-hak). And the Lord asked her why she tsa-haked.

So you know where this is going–they called the kid “He laughs.” “”And Sarah said, “God hath made me to isaac (tsa-hak), so that all who hear will isaac (tsa-hak) with me.” So make sure you tsa-hak with Sarah.

Playing with Isaac’s name doesn’t end there! When Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, Hagar ws mocking. Hagar was isaaking (tsa-hak)!

But this is my favorite verse: Gen26:8 “And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.” Isaac himself was isaaking (tsa-hak)! The Hebrew literally reads Yits-hak tsa-hak Rivkah (Rebekah). It means they were goofing around. Isaac was living up to his name! What a gene pool. And that’s why there are so many brilliant Jewish comedians. Now you know. Because you study Biblical Hebrew.