Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language

Learn how to read the Hebrew Bible in its original ancient language.
Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 143.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Content of Biblical Hebrew Learning a Sacred Langu Extremely rich in content. Has all the material covered in the first two or three standard courses on biblical Hebrew. Warning however, because there is so much content per lecture, count on listening to each lecture several times. Do the course correctly, and you'll have listened to the first ten lessons several times before you've heard them all.
Date published: 2021-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Teacher is Great I had studied Biblical Hebrew informally in an adult ed class in my synagogue, but had been away from it since before the pandemic. I've only done the first couple of lessons from this course, about the alphabet and vowel sounds, but found it thrilling. The teacher is lively, funny, and patient. Highlighting on-screen the words being pronounced is very helpful. Occasional forays into Aramaic and Arabic parallels are enlightening. I can't wait to get deeper into the grammar and syntax, and to get to work with Biblical texts. A wonderful, accessible course.
Date published: 2021-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course:Biblical Hebrew For several years I have attempted, with far less than successful results, to learn Biblical Hebrew along with using a high end Bible software program. A friend purchased this course as a gift to me earlier this year. I initially began with little expectation! Very quickly I was and continue to be immersed in this course. I am currently on my fourth time through and I have observed the following. First, I’ve relearned many English grammar concepts that became dormant in my mind. Second, I am gaining an increased appreciation for Bible translators, both those in the past and those continuing today. Third, I have become familiar with many of the features (related to the Biblical Hebrew) in the software. For example, when a verb is discussed, I learned how to use the Hebrew keyboard and was able to search for all occurrences of that particular verb or the root including the number of times the verb occurs and in which verses. Fourth, the course provided excellent Biblical texts for learning which I have taken the time to memorize. Speaking a text in Hebrew such as Genesis 1:1-5 and imagining these same words spoken for a few thousand years makes the Biblical text a much deeper and meaningful experience. Fifth, each time through the course I am ready to learn something new I did not grasp previously. For me, this course has been great. Many, many pieces of the puzzle have started to come together. Although I have a ways to go to become proficient, I am grateful for the way this course is structured and for the delivery style of Professor Carasik. The hours put into study and research has been extraordinarily rewarding. This is not a “fast food” course but a delightful meal prepared by a master chef.
Date published: 2021-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptionally good course! This is by far one of the best courses I ever encountered. It is really good, but at the same time quite challenging. You have to repeat it a lot (but that's what intended). It starts rather slow and gives new comers (novice Hebrew learners like me) a chance to pick it up rather confidently. But then builds further on supposedly gained knowledge (by doing serious study and the exercises in the course book) and from lesson 7 the difficulty and speed definitely increases. So, one has to pause a lot and listen again and let it sink in. It's not an easy course, but very good. Each course has a lot of information one has to process. This course is by no means suitable to binge watch, to watch it non stop after each other, like some sort of Netflix series. No, it is serious learning and study. Michael is not a moment boring, and pleasant to watch and he explains everything very, very well. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2021-06-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great teacher - excellent course So why 4 stars? I have been studying Hebrew for a good few months before starting this course. I think I would have been a little lost if not for that experience. The reason: The Professor is excellent but for me personally is not emphatic only in certain aspects. He speaks very clearly, gives examples and allows for repetition- this is all great but I feel that some of the really pertinent aspects of the grammar are mentioned only in brief - more gravitas is needed for in certain instances. Don’t get me wrong - everything important is presented and covered but sometimes can be seem greyed out amongst the narrative. That aside the exercises are also very good indeed. The word search and grammar points are cleverly used with actual scripture so you can immediately see the fruits of your labour come into ‘fruition’ (tautology intended). In addition you are speaking complete verses and even paragraphs in Biblical Hebrew right from the start. The only other minor point I have (just my POV) is that I don’t like the ‘vav’ rendition of the ‘waw’ Highly recommended
Date published: 2021-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn’t be happier! Michael Carasik is a fantastic teacher! He makes Hebrew fun. Not only do you learn the language but he has all kinds of interesting factoids for you. I highly recommend this course and I am really hoping for a Hebrew II.
Date published: 2021-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So Far Love It Although a native English speaker, I'm weak in English grammar and words like participle, article, perfect, irregular etc: intimidate and frighten me. I was not that good at languages so I truly feared taking this course. I'm almost half way thru the course and I must congratulate the Professor who has not only been helping me learn Hebrew but also English ! He is an enthusiastic excellent teacher. The course is densely packed with little fluff. I need to take notes as I listen and rewind over and over again so It takes me hours to get thru each lecture but it is worth it. I also use a Hebrew Dictionary which has the primitive roots vowelized. It has been really helpful because you can start with the vowelized primitive root and see how grammar changes it. It helps your understanding when the Professor explains some history behind the grammar. (Disclaimer I already knew how to sort of read a lot of Hebrew, knew a bunch of vocab and could sometimes feel if a translation was off, but knew very little about grammar.) Somebody starting from scratch will most probably find the course brutal. This is not the Professors fault because Hebrew is both different than English and complicated, but he makes it as easy as it gets. My advice is to watch the lectures carefully and rewind plenty. Spend a lot of time just learning the alphabet, vowel points, pronouncing and some vocab via the primitive roots. Practice copying words. Maybe get a Hebrew Grammar book. Hoping the rest of the course is as helpful for me as the first half. Still scared but cautiously optimistic I can get thru the entire series. Thank you so much Professor Michael Carasik
Date published: 2021-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant !!! Wonderfully clear and engaging. Possibly one of the best courses TGC has to offer. Wish there would be a similar course on other Semitic languages (Arabic, Akkadian) or even Sanskrit. But it will be hard to find a professor as good as Michael Karasic. I wasn't really planning on learning Hebrew, but this course changed my mind. PS: This course is well paced and challenging. Don't expect to zoom through these lectures. Expect to spend about 1 week on each lesson, practicing the material (possibly with the help of a text book) and watching the lectures multiple times. In fact, Prof. Karasic recommends to start all over after lesson 10 - which is very good advice!
Date published: 2021-03-09
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Overview

Get an authoritative primer on a fascinating ancient tongue with Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language. Covering everything from the Hebrew alphabet and punctuation marks to essential vocabulary words to advanced grammatical rules, Professor Michael Carasik's 36 lectures equip you to read one of the world's greatest books in its original language on your own.

About

Michael Carasik
Michael Carasik

Reading the Bible in Hebrew is like traveling back in time. You can hear voices from 2500 years ago speaking directly to you.

INSTITUTION

University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Michael Carasik has taught Biblical Hebrew since 1991 and is currently adjunct assistant professor of Biblical Hebrew at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2000. He earned his PhD in Bible and Ancient Near East from Brandeis University. A member of the University of Pennsylvania’s Faculty Working Group on Recovered Language Pedagogies, Professor Carasik has also taught at Hebrew College, Northeastern University, the University of Delaware, Gratz College, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Saint Joseph’s University. In addition, he has taught adults in the Kerem, Melton, and Me’ah/ConText programs. Professor Carasik is the creator, editor, and translator of The Commentators’ Bible (The JPS Miqra’ot Gedolot), an English-language version of the traditional Jewish Bible commentaries dating from the 11th to the 16th centuries. He also is the author of Theologies of the Mind in Biblical Israel, a description of the Israelite understanding of psychology as revealed in the Bible, and The Bible’s Many Voices, a layperson’s guide to what the human authors of the Bible meant by their writing. Professor Carasik’s other publications include numerous articles, reviews, reference book entries, and translations. Professor Carasik has worked for the National Hebrew Proficiency Guidelines Committee, has been a columnist for Jewish Ideas Daily, and has spoken at synagogues around the United States. He has served the Philadelphia Jewish community as vice president of the Center City Eruv Committee and president of the Center City Kehillah, and has hosted the weekly Torah Talk podcast since 2009. He is the weekday Torah reader at historic congregation Kesher Israel in Philadelphia and blogs as The Bible Guy on WordPress.com.

By This Professor

Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language
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Biblical Hebrew: Learning a Sacred Language

Trailer

Studying Biblical Hebrew

01: Studying Biblical Hebrew

Use the word “hallelujah” as a gateway to exploring the three different components of the Biblical Hebrew writing system: letters, vowels, and diacriticals. Then, start learning Hebrew the natural way with a look at Genesis 1:3 and the first thing God does in creating heaven and Earth.

30 min
Learning the Aleph Bet

02: Learning the Aleph Bet

Get to know the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and how Biblical Hebrew is pronounced. Surprises include the silent letter aleph (the first letter of “God”), the tricky letter samekh, which resembles an “o” but sounds like an “s,” and nearly identical pairs of letters such as gimel and nun.

30 min
The Tiberian Vowel System

03: The Tiberian Vowel System

The Tiberian system of marking vowels in Hebrew has been used exclusively for more than 1,000 years. In this lecture, discover the signs that mark short and long vowels, and learn how vowels can change their spelling (and, slightly, their sound) without changing their meaning.

33 min
Roots of Semitic Verbs

04: Roots of Semitic Verbs

Every Hebrew verb, and almost every noun and adjective, is based on a root, a group of three (or sometimes two) consonants. Here, Professor Carasik teaches you how to begin recognizing the roots of verbs in Biblical Hebrew—then discusses how God is referred to in the Hebrew Bible.

35 min
Hebrew Verb Forms and the Definite Article

05: Hebrew Verb Forms and the Definite Article

Get an introduction to the five different Hebrew verb forms: finite, infinitive, adjective, participle, and imperative. Plus, learn three ways of identifying something as definite (rather than indefinite): by using the definite article (ha), by labeling it with a personal pronoun, and by naming it.

36 min
Hebrew’s Attached Prepositions

06: Hebrew’s Attached Prepositions

Explore three Hebrew letters that attach to the beginning of other words to create a new word. Then, armed with this new knowledge, read your first complete paragraph in Biblical Hebrew from start to finish: the story of the first day of creation in Genesis 1:1-5.

31 min
Adjective Forms and Agreement in Hebrew

07: Adjective Forms and Agreement in Hebrew

Unlike English, Hebrew adjectives have four forms, not one—and they must agree with their nouns based on whether they’re singular or plural, and masculine or feminine. Learn the four forms of adjectives (tov, tovah, tovim, tovot), several adjectives, and two ways to put nouns and adjectives together.

33 min
Irregular Hebrew Nouns and Adjectives

08: Irregular Hebrew Nouns and Adjectives

Sometimes it’s the simpler nouns that are the most likely to surprise you. Examine several of the most common non-obvious nouns (irregular nouns) and adjectives (demonstratives) in Biblical Hebrew. These include family names (daughter, son, brother), as well as “this” (zeh, zot) and “these” (éleh).

33 min
Hebrew Pronouns and Pronominal Suffixes

09: Hebrew Pronouns and Pronominal Suffixes

Hebrew has a ton of different pronouns. In this lecture, get an introduction to pronouns like “I” (ani, anokhi) and “we” (anahnu), as well as three different flavors of pronominal suffixes. Then, practice your new skills with a Bible verse describing the fourth day of creation.

32 min
How Hebrew Letters Behave

10: How Hebrew Letters Behave

What do different letters do differently? Here, take a comprehensive look at the different ways Hebrew letters behave and start deciphering words in Biblical Hebrew that you don’t already recognize. Topics include guttural letters (the orneriest consonants in the Hebrew language) and roots that start with yud.

35 min
Perfect and Imperfect Hebrew Verbs

11: Perfect and Imperfect Hebrew Verbs

Focus on two of the five forms of Biblical Hebrew verbs: the perfect and the imperfect, both of which have person, gender, and number. The perfect, as you’ll learn, is always marked by endings. The imperfect, however, is marked by prefix letters as well: aleph, nun, tav, and yud.

38 min
Segholate Nouns and Pausal Forms

12: Segholate Nouns and Pausal Forms

Turn now to segholate nouns—nouns that feature seghols (“-eh” vowels). By looking at segholate nouns in real Hebrew phrases from the Bible, you’ll start to get more comfortable with what Professor Carasik calls the “EH-eh rhythm” and the various grammatical forms that use the pattern.

35 min
The Construct Form: Hebrew’s Trailer Hitch

13: The Construct Form: Hebrew’s Trailer Hitch

By allowing you to attach another noun to your first noun, the construct form acts as a sort of trailer hitch in Biblical Hebrew. Once attached, the first noun in construct “belongs” to the second. Here, learn construct forms by revisiting the first and fourth day of creation.

31 min
Forming Hebrew Construct Chains

14: Forming Hebrew Construct Chains

Continue your study of construct forms with prepositions in Biblical Hebrew that are combinations of simple prepositions you’ve already learned (example: lifnei, or “before”). Then, look at irregular nouns with unusual construct forms whose frequent occurrence makes them critical to understanding Biblical Hebrew.

32 min
Hebrew Verb Classifications: Binyanim

15: Hebrew Verb Classifications: Binyanim

In Biblical Hebrew, the binyan acts as a sort of stem or conjugation for verbs. Get a re-introduction to verbs with their binyan identification, learn how the binyanim got their names, and focus on a single root in different binyanim to get a feel for what the binyanim do to a verb’s meaning.

33 min
Question Words in Hebrew

16: Question Words in Hebrew

From mi (“Who?”) and lama lo (“Why not?”) to eikh (“How?”) and matai (“When?”), discover how to recognize the words that tell you when a question is coming up in Biblical Hebrew. Why is this so important? Because there’s no such thing as a question mark in Biblical Hebrew.

36 min
Hebrew Participles

17: Hebrew Participles

Return to the verbal system with Professor Carasik’s helpful explanation of the third of the five Hebrew verb forms: the participle. One of the ways you’ll master the verbal adjective in Biblical Hebrew is by working your way through Genesis 22:7.

36 min
Counting in Hebrew

18: Counting in Hebrew

In this fun lecture, start to count in Hebrew, from one to 10,000. You’ll learn a children’s rhyme for counting from one to four, the construct form of numbers, the ordinal numbers, some helpful shortcuts such as how to refer to a “pair” of something, and more.

31 min
Hebrew Roots with Guttural Letters

19: Hebrew Roots with Guttural Letters

Focus your attention here on categories of verbs from the Qal binyan with roots whose guttural letters (hey, het, and ayin) tend to “misbehave.” Central to this lecture are three rules about how gutturals behave, as well as relevant examples in passages from the Hebrew Bible.

33 min
Hebrew’s Lamed-Hey Roots

20: Hebrew’s Lamed-Hey Roots

Lamed-hey roots are those roots where, in the dictionary, the third radical of a verb (the lamed) is a hey. Here, learn how to work with some of the most common lamed-hey roots, including banah (“build”), hayah (“live”), anah (“answer”), panah (“turn”), and kalah (“be over”).

34 min
Hebrew's Roots Beginning with Yud

21: Hebrew's Roots Beginning with Yud

Roots that begin with yud are plentiful in Hebrew—and very common. Professor Carasik walks you through a list of some of the most common first-yud verbs, including yada (“know”), yatza (“go out”), yarash (“take possession”), and yashav (“settle”).

35 min
Irregular Hebrew Verbs

22: Irregular Hebrew Verbs

Very few verbs in Hebrew are irregular. Those that are, as you’ll learn here, are not very difficult—but they do work a little differently than what you’re used to seeing. In this lecture, learn how to master irregular Hebrew verbs by focusing on them individually.

35 min
Hebrew’s Hollow Verbs

23: Hebrew’s Hollow Verbs

Welcome to what may be the strangest verb roots of all: those that have only two consonants, not three. Here, explore the general rules about these hollow verbs, and build a list of commonly used hollow verbs you can refer to when reading Biblical Hebrew.

36 min
The Infinitive in Hebrew

24: The Infinitive in Hebrew

The infinitive verb form is used to describe the action of a verb (as in “There’s a time to rend … and a time to mend.”). Professor Carasik walks you through the different infinitive forms, then guides you through Ecclesiastes 3—what he calls the “mother lode” of the Hebrew infinitive.

32 min
Jussives, Cohortatives, and “Hava Nagila”

25: Jussives, Cohortatives, and “Hava Nagila”

Explore how Biblical Hebrew expresses intention (as in phrases like yehi or, or “Let there be light.”). You’ll encounter jussives, which are only found in lamed-hey, hollow, and Hiphil verbs; and cohortatives, which invite collective action (as in the famous song, “Hava Nagila”).

38 min
The Imperative Form in Hebrew

26: The Imperative Form in Hebrew

Turn now to the imperative form in Hebrew and the simplest way to think of it (in the Qal): by taking off the tav prefix from second-person imperfect verbs. You’ll learn imperatives from a variety of weak and strong verbs, and use your skills to work through several biblical verses.

35 min
Verbs of the Hiphil Binyan

27: Verbs of the Hiphil Binyan

Focus on a new binyan: Hiphil, which can be thought of as the causative binyan. (One example: l’haqtir, or “to burn incense.”) Then, go back to Genesis, collect a list of Hiphil infinitives, and see what the different root categories do when you put them into this Hiphil shape.

34 min
Piel Verbs and Passive Binyanim

28: Piel Verbs and Passive Binyanim

Take a closer look at another major binyan: the Piel. The goal of this lecture is to give you the skills to distinguish this binyan when you need to, so you can learn the verbs as they come along. Then, examine two more binyanim: the passives Pu’al and Hophal.

37 min
Reflexive Binyanim: Niphal and Hitpa'el

29: Reflexive Binyanim: Niphal and Hitpa'el

Conclude your survey of the seven different binyanim by taking a closer look at two reflexive patterns: the Niphal and the Hitpa’el. Along the way, Professor Carasik introduces you to an important root that appears only in these two binyanim: nun-bet-aleph, or “to be/act like a prophet.”

35 min
Reading the Bible in Hebrew: Joshua 1

30: Reading the Bible in Hebrew: Joshua 1

Now you’re ready to start reading longer passages in the Bible in Hebrew. Here, follow Professor Carasik as you read Joshua 1:1-9, which deals with God’s charge to Joshua. You’ll translate the text, talk about the passage’s meaning, and spend time parsing every single verb it contains.

36 min
Geminate Verbs and Reading Numbers 22

31: Geminate Verbs and Reading Numbers 22

In this lecture, explore geminates: roots where radicals two and three are the same. Along the way, you’ll learn how to spot these common two-letter combinations, consider a fascinating example from Ezekiel’s vision of the messianic future Temple, and begin reading Numbers 22 from start to finish.

38 min
Hebrew’s Object Suffixes

32: Hebrew’s Object Suffixes

You’ve seen object suffixes in previous lectures. Now, focus on them directly. You’ll learn some obvious (and not-so-obvious) combinations of verbs and object suffixes, and ponder some questions about phrases and sentences in the Bible that appear more than once, but with slight variations.

34 min
Hebrew Oaths and Other Idioms

33: Hebrew Oaths and Other Idioms

Study idioms that are common in Biblical Hebrew, but sound strange when translated into English. You’ll explore different ways to take an oath in Biblical Hebrew, the customary way to state someone’s age, and the danger of “crossing the mouth” of the Lord.

35 min
Understanding Hebrew Punctuation Marks

34: Understanding Hebrew Punctuation Marks

In the Hebrew Bible, every word has a punctuation mark that serves three functions: telling you where the accent falls, indicating how to chant the text musically, and telling you how to group words in a sensible way. Use this knowledge to move forward in your reading of Numbers 22.

40 min
Choosing a Hebrew Bible

35: Choosing a Hebrew Bible

What’s the best Bible from which to read Hebrew? Professor Carasik offers insights and recommendations on four printed Bibles as well as several electronic sources, and shows you how to navigate your way to a specific chapter and verse in an all-Hebrew Bible. Close by resuming your reading of Numbers 22.

35 min
Helpful Hebrew Reference Books

36: Helpful Hebrew Reference Books

Look at some essential Hebrew reference books out there (besides biblical translations and commentaries), including reference grammars and three major Biblical Hebrew dictionaries. Close out the course by completing your line-by-line reading of Numbers 22.

37 min