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Hebrew—An Introduction to Reading the Old Testament
About this course
Lesson 1: The alphabet
Reading: Exodus 1:1-4 (step 7 of 8)
Are you serious?

You have just learned the Hebrew alphabet, a worship song and a few familiar Hebrew words (mostly names). Are you really able to now read three verses from the Hebrew Bible and understand them? Yes!

In the text of Exodus 1:1-4 below, you will see that we have done several things to help you. First, most all of the words in verse 1 have been translated for you, as this verse is not technically a part of your reading in this lesson step. (It has been provided for context.) Second, all word prefixes and suffixes have been colored to help you begin distinguishing them from the base words. We will, of course, be learning all about these prefixes and suffixes later in the course. Finally, you will find that all the words in this reading are clickable, providing you with a short definition and parsing information. But be sure to only click as a last resort! The goal is to read. In fact, you will be best served in your learning throughout this course if you practice reading texts aloud.
וְאֵלֶּה
and these [are]
שְׁמוֹת
[the] names
בְּנֵי
[of] the sons
יִשְׂרָאֵל
[of] Israel
הַבָּאִים
the ones coming
מִצְרָיְמָה
to Egypt
אֵת
with
יַעֲקֹב
אִישׁ
a man
וּבֵיתוֹ
and his house
בָּאוּ׃
came
רְאוּבֵן
שִׁמְעוֹן
לֵוִי
וִיהוּדָה׃
and...
יִשָּׂשכָר
זְבוּלֻן
וּבְנְיָמִן׃
and...
דָּן
וְנַפְתָּלִי
and...
גָּד
וְאָשֵׁר׃
and...
The vocab

Let's take a look at a few of these names which have other important Hebrew words contained within their meaning.
רְאוּבֵן
72x
a son of יַעֲקֹב
יְהוּדָה
818x
a son of יַעֲקֹב
בִּנְיָמִין
166x
a son of יַעֲקֹב
דָּן
71x
a son of יַעֲקֹב
Reading (and listening) on your own

As you learn Hebrew, the more you expose yourself to it, the more you will learn. Thus, while you know very little at this point and would have a hard time reading and understanding almost any passage in the Bible (other than the one you read above), you will want to be opening your Hebrew Bible more and more as you progress in the course. As you do, you will note another difference—besides versification—between your English and Hebrew Bibles. That difference is the order of the books. 

While the Hebrew Bible contains the exact same books and content as our English Old Testaments, these books are organized in a different fashion. Our English Old Testaments are primarily ordered chronologically, whereas the Hebrew Bible is primarily ordered categorically. As we learned in an earlier lesson step, another name for the Hebrew Bible is the תנ״ך, which stands for תּוֹרָה (law), נְבִיאִים (prophets) and כְּתֻבִים (writings). These are the categories that frame the ordering of books in the Hebrew Bible.
A question to ponder

Before this lesson step is complete, let me pose a question for you to think about. As you read the text above, you discovered that it was listing the sons of יַעֲקֹב. However, if you were counting, you would have noticed that only 11 out of the 12 sons are listed. Why? Who is missing? (Open to Exodus 1 to read the context if you are unsure.)