Learning to Read

Child reading

by Mary Okkema

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3

Child readingBecoming like children has a different meaning for each one of us. It can mean playing on the floor, being spontaneous with sounds, learning to see things with childlike eyes, and many other things.

For me, learning to read Hebrew feels a lot like becoming a little child again. Since this language is new to me, there are still so many words that are unfamiliar, but those I do recognize seem to jump off the page. I want to study them in great detail, much like a child wants to look at every bug and stone and leaf while taking a walk.

Taking a closer look at Genesis in Hebrew, brings questions to mind like, “Haven’t we heard this word somewhere else in scripture?” It helps us understand how the disciples would have heard and recognized when Jesus was quoting Old Testament scripture, as He so often did in His teachings.

Familiar words like “ruach” (wind/spirit), “ha-aretz” (earth/ground), and “ha-shamaim” (heavens/sky) from Genesis 1 enhance our appreciation of the creation story. Adam’s rib gets a second glance knowing that the word for “rib” can also mean “one side.” We see the word “basar” (flesh) used for the filling in of Adam’s side, is the same word used for the substance of beings used for sacrifices like a bull or ram (as in Deuteronomy 12:27).

The story of the first temptation in Genesis 3 can also be so familiar in our minds, yet when we read it again we see that the word “nahash” (snake, serpent) is repeated over and over as the one doing the talking, and “Satan” is not mentioned. Could other animals speak too at this point?

Sometimes the Hebrew language can be much stronger as in the case of Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (NASV)

In English a “bruise” is a minor injury but the Hebrew word here, “shuph,” has the action of pounding, which is much more violent.

So as we begin to see, it can be a wonderfully rich experience to go back to the beginning and look for the Lord like a little child again.

Photocred: GMR Akash