The Hebrew Word Game the “Wannabe Scholars” Like to Play
Hebrew words often have radically different meanings. So when some King James Bible critic tells you: “We need to go to the Hebrew to find out what it REALLY means”, they often have no idea what they are talking about. And they certainly have NO inerrant Bible to show you either.
As we will see in this study, the same Hebrew word can mean either “day” or “year”, or another can mean “mercy” and “reproach”, and another one can be either “to bless” or “to curse”.
Or a single word (#3709 kaph) can mean such varied things as “sole” and “hands” and “paws” and “spoons” and “clouds”
In Psalms 78:25 we read that “man did eat ANGEL’S food”.
Yet this single word, #47 ab-beer, is shown in the NASB complete concordance that they have translated this single Hebrew word as “ANGELS, BULLS, STALLIONS, chief, mighty man, strong, valiant and stubborn-minded.” The same Hebrew word!
The NIV Complete Concordance for their 1984 edition tells us that they have translated this same Hebrew word as “ANGELS, STALLIONS, STEEDS, BULLS, warriors, great, head, strong, valiant men and stubborn-hearted.”
“TO CURSE” and “TO BLESS”
The same Hebrew word, # 1288 barak, is translated as both “to curse” and “to bless” in the KJB, NKJV, Revised Version, ASV, NASB, NIV, ESV, etc.
We see this in places like in Job 1:5 “it may be my sons have sinned and CURSED God in their hearts”; Job 1:11 - “he will CURSE thee to thy face”, Job 2:9 “CURSE God and die.” and Job 1:10 “THOU hast BLESSED the work of his hands” and Job 1:21 - “BLESSED be the name of the LORD.”
“Mercy”, “goodness”, “loving kindness” AND “reproach”!
The single Hebrew word # 2617 gheh-sed has multiple different meanings, and some are the opposite of the others. This word is often translated as “mercy” - “his mercy is everlasting”. But it is also translated as “goodness”, as in “the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD”, and “good deeds” (Nehemiah 13:14 “wipe out not my good deeds”)
But the very same Hebrew word is also used in Proverbs 14:34 where it says: “but sin is A REPROACH to any people”. (KJB, R.V., ASV, NKJV, ESV) NIV - “condemns”; NASB - “disgrace”
The NASB complete concordance shows that they have translated this single Hebrew word, gheh-sed #2671 in such varied ways as: “devotion, faithfulness, good, kindness, mercies, loyalty, and DISGRACE.”
“Day” or “Year”?
The Hebrew word is #3117 yohm. This word is usually translated as "day", but not always.
We find that the KJB has translated this word 15 times as "year".
The NASB translators themselves translate this same Hebrew word yohm as "years" not just 15 times as the KJB, but 29 times as "years" or "yearly" - almost twice as often.
The NIV likewise has it as "years" some 25 times and 65 times they have not translated it at all.
Some examples of where the NASB, NIV, ESV, NKJV and KJB have # 3117 yohm as "years" are Exodus 13:10 when speaking of the yearly Passover: "Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from YEAR TO YEAR." (yohm to yohm)
In Numbers 9:22 the children of Israel journeyed when the cloud was taken up "whether it were two DAYS (yohm) or a month, or A YEAR“ (yohm). NASB, NIV, NKJV.
ESV - “whether it was two DAYS (yohm) or a month, or A LONG TIME (yohm)”
Not only has the "more literal" NASB translated the word yohm as years almost twice as often as the KJB, but it also has "literally" translated this same Hebrew word as: "afternoon, age, always, battle, birthday, Chronicles, continually, course of time, daylight, each, entire, eternity, evening, ever, fate, first, forever, full, life, long, now, older, once, period, perpetually, present, recently, reigns, ripe age, short-lived, so long, some time, survived, time, usual, very old, when, while, whole and yesterday" !!!
Many of these words have the exact opposite meaning when compared to the others.
Likewise the NIV 1984 edition has translated the Hebrew word yohm not only as "days" but also as "years (25 times), time, when, annals, life, times, reigns, some time, date, daytime, during, live, age, fate, light, season, sun, two" and 65 times just didn't translate it at all.
PRIESTS or CHIEF RULERS?
In 2 Samuel 8:18 we read in most Bible translations: "and David's sons were CHIEF RULERS."
The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 18:17 tells us: "and the sons of David were CHIEF about the king."
Other translations that agree with the King James Bible's "chief rulers" in 2 Samuel 8:18 or something similar are the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) bible of 1917, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "chief rulers", The Jewish Family Bible 1864 - "chief rulers", The Hebrew Publication Society bible 1936 - "chief rulers", The Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops' bible 1568, the Geneva bible - "chief rulers", Douay-Rheims 1610, Lesser O.T. 1835, The Revised English bible 1877, Darby 1890, Young's 1898 - "ministers", ASV 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized bible 1902 - "chief rulers", NKJV 1982, NASB 1995 - "chief ministers", God's First Truth 1999 - "chief rulers", World English Bible 2000, Apostolic Polyglot bible 2003, The Jewish Complete Tanach 2005, Complete Apostle's bible 2005, The Mebust Bible 2007, New Heart English Bible 2010, The Hebrew Transliteration Bible 2010 - "chief rulers", New European Version 2010, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011, NIV 2011 - "royal advisors", the Modern English Version 2014, The Voice 2012 - "advisers", The Biblos Bible 2013 - "chief rulers", the Hebrew Names Version 2014, Holman Standard 2017 "chief ministers"
And this online Hebrew Interlinear O.T. - "chief rulers"
And The Jewish Virtual Library Tanach 1994 - "chief ministers"
Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac - "PRINCES."
Greek Septuagint - "princes of the court"
The Hebrew word used in and found in all Hebrew texts is # 3548 kohen. It is used some 744 times in the Old Testament.
The NASB complete concordance shows that they have translated this word as PRIEST, or PRIESTS 743 times and only once as "CHIEF MINISTERS" and that is here.
David's sons could NOT be "priests" under the law, because only the house of Aaron and the Levites were ordained by God to be priests, and David was from the tribe of Judah.
Likewise the NIV has translated this word that is used hundreds of times as "PRIESTS" and yet only ONE time as "ROYAL ADVISORS" and that is here.
However the ESV (NET, RSV, NRSV) wrongly tells us that David's sons were PRIESTS! They couldn't have been "priests" because they were not part of the Levitical priesthood.
The Pulpit Commentary notes: "In 1 Chronicles 18:17 the language is completely changed, and we read, "and David's sons were CHIEF at the king's hand." We may feel sure that the Chronicler knew what was the meaning of the phrase in the Books of Samuel, and that he was also aware that it had gone out of use, and therefore gave instead the right sense. Evidently the word cohen had at first a wider significance, and meant a "minister and confidant." He was the officer who stood next to his master, and knew his purpose and saw to its execution. And this was the meaning of the term when applied to the confidential minister of Jehovah, whose duty it was to execute his will according to the commands given in the Law; but when so used it gradually became too sacred for ordinary employment."
John Gill comments: "and David's sons were chief rulers; princes, princes of the blood, or "chief about the king", as in 1 Chronicles 18:17; they were constant attendants at court, waiting on the king, ready at hand to do what he pleased to order; they were the chief ministers, and had the management of the principal affairs at court."
Ellicott's Bible Commentary for English Readers says: "Chief rulers.—So these words are rendered in all the ancient versions except the Vulg., and the same term is applied in 1 Kings 4:5 to Zabud, with the explanation “the king’s friend,” and also in 2 Samuel 20:26 to Ira, “a chief ruler about (literally, at the side of) David.” The word, however (cohen), is the one generally used for “priest,” and there seems here to be a reminiscence in the word of that early time when the chief civil and ecclesiastical offices were united in the head of the family or tribe. Such use of the word had become now almost obsolete, and quite so in the time when the Chronicles were written, since they substitute here (1 Chronicles 18:17) “chief about (literally, at the hand of) the king.”
"TO LOVE", or "TO HAVE MERCY"
In Psalms 18:1 we read: "I will LOVE thee, O LORD, my strength."
"LOVE" is also the translation found in the NASB, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, Holman Standard, NET, Revised Version, ASV, 1917 Jewish Publication Society bible, Bishops' bible, Geneva Bible, Lamsa's translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the Greek Septuagint, Darby, Young's, The Orthodox Jewish Bible 1998, Modern English Version, etc.
Yet when we look more closely at the Hebrew words used here (#7355 recham) we find that it is used some 49 times in the Hebrew text, and that some 48 of these times most of these versions translate this same word as "TO HAVE MERCY", "TO HAVE COMPASSION" and "TO HAVE PITY" and only ONE time do many of these versions translate this word as LOVE.
The NASB complete concordance tells us that 48 of the 49 times this word occurs they have translated it as "to have mercy" or "to have compassion" and only ONE TIME did they translate it as "LOVE". The same is true of the King James Bible.
Another example of James White's hypocrisy
In the ninth chapter of James White’s book, The King James Only Controversy, which is titled "Problems in the KJV", on page 231 Mr. White states: "Jack Lewis notes that the KJV is also well known for the large variety of ways in which it will translate the same word.
Now certainly there are many times when one will wish to use synonyms to translate particular terms, and context is vitally important in determining the actual meaning of a word, but the KJV goes beyond the bounds a number of times. For example, the Hebrew term for "word" or "thing" is rendered by EIGHTY FOUR different English words in the KJV!
Another term, "to turn back" is rendered in one particular grammatical form by SIXTY different English words! Those who have attempted to follow the usage of a particular Hebrew or Greek term through the AV know how difficult such a task can be, and the inconsistency of the KJV in translating terms only makes the job that much harder." [End of quote.]
Most people who read this in Mr. White's book would think something like: "Oh, that nasty KJV. What a lousy translation it is and how unscholarly. Why would anybody want to use that?"
Most people would never take the time to verify if there is any validity to what Mr. White says here; they would just accept his statements as facts.
Well, Surprise Surprise!
The word for "word" or "thing" is # 1697 Dabar. I only counted 78 different meanings found in the KJB, but I'll give Mr. White the benefit of the doubt and let him have his 84.
James White supposedly knows both Hebrew and Greek and professes to be an expert in textual matters. He either didn't check the validity of the claims of Jack Lewis, or he is deliberately misrepresenting the facts to bolster his attacks on God's preserved words in the King James Bible. In either case, his hypocrisy is inexcusable.
A simple look at the complete NASB concordance shows that the NASB has translated this single word Dabar in at least NINETY THREE very different ways while the NIV has over 200 different English meanings for this single Hebrew word.
Among the 94 different English words the NASB uses to translate this single Hebrew word are: “account, act, advice, affair, agreement, amount, annals, answer, anything, asked, because, business, case, cause, charge, Chronicles, claims, commandment, compliments, concerned, conclusion, conditions, conduct, conferred, consultation, conversation, counsel, custom, dealings, decree, deed, defect, desires, dispute, doings, duty, edict, eloquent, event, fulfillment, harm, idea, instructed, manner, matter, message, nothing, oath, obligations, one, order, parts, pertains, plan, plot, portion, promise, proposal, proven, purpose, question, ration, reason, records, regard, reports, request, required, rule, said, same thing, saying, so much, some, something, songs, speaks, speech, talk, task, theme, thing, this, thoughts, threats, thus, told, trouble, verdict, way, what, whatever, word and work.”
As I said, the NIV has over twice this amount of different meanings - well over 200 - as compared to the KJB's 84.
The second word mentioned by Mr. White is "to turn back" and it is # 7725 Shub, and in this case Mr. White is correct in that the KJB does translate it some 60 different ways.
However what James forgot to mention is that his favorite NASB has translated this same single Hebrew word at least 104 different ways! while the NIV again has over 200 different meanings!
For example, that second word # 7725 shoov or shub. It is used some 1,200 times or more. The KJB has about 60 different meanings including "returned, gone back, come again, turn away, go home, certainly, to cease, go back, again, to reward, convert, restore, restorer, recover, bethink, bring back, withdraw, deliver again, recompense, in any case, fetch home again, requiting, to bring again, to answer, restore, to deliver, to give again, to say nay, to refresh, to render, to recompense, to draw back and to relieve."
But the NIV translates this word as "to return, turn, bring back, go back, again, restore, turn away, repent, give back, recover, answer, bring, change, go, refuse, relent, reward, take, withdrew, regain, start back, stop, brought, come, give, keep, left, oppose, to pay, rebuilt, reject, reply, repulse, restrain, retreat, revert, revoke, rewards, sent, take vengeance, turn around, withdraw, again be used, again give allegiance, another, arrived, break, bring in, broke off, brought down, call to mind, changed, changed mind, continually, cover up, depart, did, dole out, drew back, dwell, escaping, flow back, forced to restore, gave, get back, give up, go on, hold back, keep themselves alive, keeps saying, lose, left behind, made prosperous again, made pay for, made retreat, make full restitution, make go, marauding, mislead, no longer, not angry, overruling, overthrows, paid, paid back, pass again, penitent, prompt to answer, pull back, pursues, raised, ran, reappears, recoil, reconsider, recover, refreshes, refund, renew, renounce, repay, rescue, respond, rest, restitution, restore again, restrained, retire, retreat, reversed, revived, revoke, roll back, say, send, shy away, something else, strayed, subsides, supply, take away, take back, try again, turned again, to vent, to ward off, withdraw, withhold, and 33 times leaves as untranslated."
So you begin to see how utterly ridiculous and hypocritical James White is for bringing up this example of how badly the KJB translates Hebrew words.
What makes this whole section in White's book all the more ridiculous and hypocritical, is that Jack Lewis (the man Mr. White quoted in his book) is one of the translators of the NIV, which is far more "guilty" of the very thing he criticizes the KJB of doing! This is the type of scholarship men like James White employ to discredit the truth of the King James Bible.
One More Example Among the Many
Exodus 26:14 KJB - "Thou shalt make a covering for the tent of ram's skins dyed RED, and a covering of BADGER'S skins".
ESV - "And you shall make for the tent a covering of TANNED rams' skins, and a covering of GOATSKINS on top."
NIV 1978 & 1982 editions, The Voice 2012 - "Make for the tent a covering of ram skins dyed RED, and over that a covering of hides of SEA COWS."
NIV 2011 edition - "Make for the tent a covering of ram skins dyed RED, and over that a covering of OTHER DURABLE LEATHER."
ISV (International Standard Version) - "You shall make a cover for the tabernacle of ram skins dyed red and a covering of DOLPHIN SKINS above that."
ASV - " And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed red, and a covering of SEALSKINS above."
NASB - "You shall make a covering for the tent of rams' skins dyed RED and a covering of PORPOISE SKINS above."
Holman Standard - "Make a covering for the tent from rams skins dyed RED, and a covering of MANATEE SKINS on top of that."
The Jewish Family Bible 1864 - "a covering of TACHASH skins"
The Ancient Roots Bible 2010 - "a covering above THE MOHAIR SKINS"
So called Greek Septuagint - "and BLUE SKINS as coverings above."
Modern Greek bible - επικαλυμμα υπερανωθεν εκ δερματων θωων. = covering on top of JACKAL skins.
To see the entire study on Exodus 26:14 and the “badger’s skins” fiasco in the Bible Babble Buffet versions, and why the King James Bible is right, as it always is, see -
Exodus 26:14 “Badgers' skins”, “porpoise”, “goats”, “violet colored skins”, “seal skins”, “dolphin”, “sea cows”, "jackal", "blue skins" or “durable leather”?
Don’t let some self inflated, version rummaging Bible agnostic who is his own authority talk you out of your faith in the King James Bible as being God’s complete and infallible Book by his telling you that “We need to go to the Hebrew and the Greek” in order to find out what God REALLY said.
These people will NEVER actually show you a copy of ANY Bible in ANY language that they honestly believe IS now or ever WAS the complete and inerrant words of God. They are usually just too dishonest to admit it.
ALL of grace, believing the Book - the King James Holy Bible.
If interested, See my article - “God’s Historic Witness to the Absolute Truth of the King James Holy Bible.”
And as for how thoroughly not literal the “literal” NASB and other versions are, See my article “You Better Hope Your Surgeon Is NOT a Modern Versionist”