7 Ways Learning Hebrew Benefits Your Christian Faith

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Astonishingly, we live in a time when God’s Word is readily available in our language! The Bible is available in 670 languages, and the New Testament can be found in 1,521 languages! With the Old and New Testaments available in many different versions to English-speaking Christians, why would we need to learn Hebrew?

1. To strengthen our relationship with God.

As Bible-believing Christians, our highest priority is to have a relationship with the God of the Bible. As we study His Word, we learn of God’s character and thus get to know Him better. Since the Bible is where we learn about Him, we should be diligent students of it, and it should be our life’s work to understand and unpack its truths fully, and learning the Hebrew language aids us in that.

Picture a Shakespearean literary scholar. A Hindi-speaking one. Now imagine that he proceeds in his studies and teaches, writes, and speaks on the subject of his life’s work without ever learning English but instead uses a Hindi translation of the writings. Wouldn’t that be strange? We’d expect him to study the language these plays were written in. Beyond that, we’d expect that he would also become adept at understanding the details of Elizabethan English. His not doing so would cause us to question his authority and understanding of the subject.

It’s the same when we study the Bible. We could make better use of our years of bible study as we mature as Christians if we incorporated insight into the Hebrew language into our studies. To deepen our understanding of the Bible, we must immerse ourselves in the study of it. As we put years in on digging deeper into biblical truths, we should become at least some level of expert on the subject. Returning to my example of a literary scholar or an earnest student of any topic, Christians should become adept at more and more aspects of biblical study as we mature.

2. It helps us better understand the scriptures.

While some details will be lost in translation between any two languages, some translate more easily into English than others. Take the word peace, for example. In Spanish, it’s “paz,” meaning tranquility or peacefulness, much like what it means in English. So, paz = peace and vice versa. But in Hebrew, shalom is the word for peace. Shalom doesn’t just mean peace, though. Its full Hebrew meaning encompasses completeness, welfare, prosperity, perfection, soundness, safety, health, and more. Yet when translated into English almost everywhere it appears in the Bible; in nearly every English bible translation, it is merely translated as “peace.”

The inaccurate translation is not the fault of bible translators. They are brilliant and well-educated, using their knowledge to replace Hebrew with the best possible English words to preserve the meaning. The confusion comes from the vast differences between the two languages. Even with such valuable resources as we have in the development of today’s numerous bible translations, some meaning will still be lost.

The other source for potential confusion is how a word or phrase is translated, depending on the translator. Without their own understanding of the scripture’s original language, the reader must lean on the translator’s interpretation. Take 1 Sam 2:30 (emphasis mine in both verses).

The ESV version of the verse reads this way:

“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”

Yet the NIV version is this:

“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”

So, which is it? Will those who despise God be disdained or merely lightly esteemed?

We can find the answer in the Hebrew. The root of the word used here is qalal. Its meaning includes lightly esteemed and disdained but also trifling, treated with contempt, dishonored, cursed, and insignificant. Neither of these translations is wrong, but neither fully conveys the word’s meaning.  

The Christian student of the Hebrew language will shed light on this inevitable confusion. By learning to understand Hebrew – both the word meanings and how the words relate to the context, one gains a greater overall understanding of the scriptures concerning their original intended language.

3. It helps us understand Jewish culture.

While I don’t subscribe to all of Martin Luther’s beliefs and reject some of his teachings, he advocated for Christians to learn Hebrew. I love the following quote from his book Table Talk about Christians learning Hebrew.  

“The Hebrew language is the best language of all, with the richest vocabulary… If I were younger I would want to learn this language, because no one can really understand the Scriptures without it.  For although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of Hebraisms and Hebrew expressions.  It has therefore been aptly said that the Hebrews drink from the spring, the Greeks from the stream that flows from it, and the Latins from a downstream pool.”

Martin Luther

Luther concludes, as do many Christians, that even the New Testament can be better understood through the Hebrew language. However, we need to know more than just the words to understand the Bible. Jewish culture in the time of both the Old and New Testaments was very different from our American culture. Learning Hebrew culture illuminates the Bible in a way that merely reading our English versions can’t.

Idioms – There are Hebrew idioms (sayings) in the Bible – even the New Testament. These are some of what Luther calls “Hebraisms” or “Hebrew expressions.” An idiom is a statement that conveys a message but must be previously defined to be understood. Some English idioms are “kick the bucket” or “see eye to eye.”

The meaning of some of these idioms, understood in ancient culture, is lost to us by translating from Hebrew word for word. For example, in Exodus 3:8, God tells of His plan to bring the Israelites out of Egypt to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” This phrase doesn’t mean a land where milk and honey are flowing literally but a fertile land that will meet their needs and even provide luxury.

In Romans 12:20, Paul uses an expression from his Hebrew culture by quoting Proverbs 25:21-22, “‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” From the standpoint of our modern American culture, heaping burning coals on someone’s head seems like a pretty horrific way to treat them! But Paul calls it overcoming evil with good. Proverbs says that God will reward people who treat their enemies this way.

Poem and Song – Poetic structure is also lost in translation. Much of the Old Testament was written in song or poem form to aid in memorization or clarify concepts, but these things are lost when these scriptures are translated into English, where the verses then lose their cadence. Old Testament scripture read in Hebrew has a beautiful sound that cannot be reproduced when translated from the original language. One prominent example of this is the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:7-9.

Separation of the words from the culture encompassing them results in a loss of meaning. An in-depth understanding of Hebrew can help us discover the scriptures’ implications beyond their mere translation..    

4. It’s the language used in synagogues.

One of the most apparent differences between worship in a Messianic Synagogue vs. a traditional Christian church is the use of the Hebrew language. The Hebrew liturgy shocked me since I walked into the first synagogue I attended with a complete knowledge of maybe 20 words in Hebrew!

But over years of studying Hebrew and attending Messianic Synagogues, it’s no longer shocking; it’s beautiful! I love hearing the blessings, prayers, and scripture readings in their original language. What may be lost in translation to English is retained, and all can appreciate the beauty of the language combined with centuries-old traditions surrounding it.

5. Hebrew is spoken in Modern Israel.

Once considered a dead language, Hebrew is now the national language of Israel. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is credited with reviving spoken Hebrew near the end of the 19th century. He created words for everyday use, making Hebrew user-friendly and a single language to replace the many languages used in that area at that time.

There are differences between Biblical Hebrew (the language used in Hebrew scrolls, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Modern Hebrew (spoken in Israel today), but learning one will excel the process of learning the other.

Many Christians travel to the Holy Land, and a grasp of Hebrew would greatly benefit a trip like this one. There are plenty of other reasons that it’s beneficial to learn Hebrew. Knowledge of another language is helpful in various areas of life, such as career and mission work.

6. Our Messiah Jesus learned Hebrew!

What a privilege we have to be able to learn the same language and study the very scriptures that Jesus did! Aramaic was the language he would have probably spoken, but Hebrew was the language of the synagogues in his day, much like today.

In the area where Jesus lived, the people spoke many languages. Judging from his activities and those he conversed with in the New Testament, he probably knew at least some Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and possibly others.

Since he was raised in a Jewish household, he would have learned the Torah (the first five Old Testament books) in Hebrew, as all Jewish boys did. He conversed with religious leaders in the synagogue when he was twelve (Luke 2:39-52). Due to the Hebrew language being used in the synagogue, even then, we can conclude that this conversation either took place in or contained much Hebrew.

What a unique way to learn about and from Jesus! To understand one of the same languages he used to study the scriptures is a gift we should readily accept!

7. Many resources for learning Hebrew.

The availability of information in our day can be for good or evil. There are plenty of both out there, but Christian students of the Hebrew language certainly have a significant advantage right now. There are numerous resources for learning Hebrew; many are custom-made for Christians interested in learning Hebrew. Check out my Hebrew Language resources page for some beginner-friendly resources.  

Given the availability of sources for American Christians to learn Hebrew, it is now relatively easy for us to study Hebrew in our spare time and obtain a solid understanding of it. We can use this to deepen our faith and grow closer to God in the process.

Why not learn Greek or Aramaic?

If this question crosses your mind, you’re not alone! Much of the Old Testament is in Hebrew, but it also contains some Aramaic. The New Testament is in Koine Greek, so why wouldn’t I encourage Christians to learn those too?

Well, honestly, I would! Going back to my example of a Shakespearean scholar, I think we should employ all the resources God makes available to us to better learn His Word and His character.

However, if you’re going to start somewhere, the above seven reasons show that Hebrew is the best place to start. Once you get a firm grasp on Hebrew, make sure not to stop there! Continue to be a student of the Bible until God chooses to end your time on earth!

Whether or not you start down the path of learning the Hebrew language, make sure you are continually a diligent student of the Bible. Unlike any other book, it is alive with words from the Creator of the universe, written for you to get to know Him personally. Don’t miss the gifts He has in it for you!


I am a Gentile Believer and mother of five wonderful children, blessed with an amazing husband. I love nature, gardening, and travel. If I ever find spare time, I use it for playing the piano, gardening, ballroom dance, or studying Biblical Hebrew. And I will drop pretty much anything to play cards with someone.
My quest for a genuine relationship with the God of the Bible caused me look deeper into His Word to find out how to live, which is how I arrived here, as a Hebrew Roots mom.

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  1. […] be discerning about consulting others for deeper understanding. If you haven’t yet committed to learning the original Biblical languages, use a tool like Blue Letter Bible to find out what the original texts said. Pray for the […]

  2. Serenity says:

    I love how this is for the Christian Faith!!!

  3. Mia Evans says:

    I like that you pointed out that knowing the language he actually used for the scriptures would be a gift. With that in mind, I should include that in my journey in seeking knowledge in God this year. It might be a huge help for me to achieve the comfort and enlightenment that I need due to how the pandemic has affected my mental health badly.

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