How Hebrew Plays With Words Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Jewish World

How Hebrew Plays With Words

In just the first few chapters of Genesis, we are introduced numerous times to the Bible’s playful use of Hebrew

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It probably comes as no surprise that the Hebrew Bible uses puns and word plays, but the creativity, imagination, and humor used to enrich the stories are often missed by most English speakers.

It all begins with Adam. There is an obvious play between the name Adam and “adamah,” Hebrew for earth, the kind you get your hands dirty in. Of course “adam” also means “man” in Hebrew. When we are introduced to the first man (adam) in Genesis, “There was no man (adam) to work the earth (adamah) (2:5), the pun is that “Adam” (proper name) is being addressed. Trust me, it is funny in Hebrew. Like Peter peters out.

Later, we are told that God says to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow, you shall eat your bread, until you return to the earth (adamah), from which you were taken” (3:19). How humbling. It’s good to laugh at ourselves.

Many may not be familiar with extensive play on Abraham’s name, which seems simple at first glance. The text…

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