Hebrew Words for “Teach” -- By: Roy B. Zuck

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:483 (Jul 1964)
Article: Hebrew Words for “Teach”
Author: Roy B. Zuck


Hebrew Words for “Teach”

Roy B. Zuck

[Roy B. Zuck, Editor, Training Hour Publications, Scripture Press, Wheaton, Illinois.]

Christian education principles and procedures should be based squarely on God’s Word and be fully consistent with it. Otherwise one may question if it is really Christian education.

Bible teachers and Christian education workers in churches and schools should constantly be checking their teaching to see that they are following Biblical principles.

One of the ways Christian teachers can check their teaching with the Word of God is through knowing something of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “teach.” What these words mean and how they are used illustrates the teaching-learning process as God designed it to be. This article will deal with the Hebrew words, and a future article will deal with the Greek words.

אלף Alaph

The word אלף occurs only four times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its basic meaning is “to become familiar with, to accustom oneself to, to befriend.” From this verb comes the adjectival noun form אלוף, “friend, companion.” When used of animals, אלוף means “tame, docile.”

In the simple Qal form, אלף means “to learn by being familiar with.” This is its meaning in Proverbs: “Make no friendship with an angry man…lest thou learn (אלף, become familiar with) his ways and get a snare to thy soul” (Prov 22:24–25). In its three other uses, all in the Book of Job, this verb occurs in the Piel form. The Piel form usually intensifies the simple Qal (for example, the verb “to ask” means in the Piel “to beg, to ask repeatedly”), but here it has a causative force: “to cause to learn, to cause to become familiar with.”

In Job 15:5, Eliphaz stated that Job’s mouth taught Job to

sin. In Job 33:33, Elihu stated that he would teach Job wisdom (i.e., he would cause Job to be familiar with wisdom). And according to Job 35:11 God teaches us more than He teaches the animals.

בין Bin

The word בין means basically “to distinguish, to separate.” From this is derived the common meaning, “to discern, to see distinctions, to perceive.” In the ca...

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