Biblical Hebrew Mini Lesson: The LORD Is God

In biblical Hebrew, often the verb “to be” is implied rather than included. At other times, the verb “to be” is included.

When there is no verb “to be,” there may be nothing at all to link the subject and predicate. You have to look at the context to find the meaning — which is often the case in biblical Hebrew.

Sometimes, in between the subject and predicate, you will find a third-person pronoun, like “he” or “she.” That pronoun substitutes for the verb “to be.”

Let’s look at two examples:

Who is God?

מִי הִוּא אלֹהִים

Mi hu elohim?

The word “hu” means (in English) “he.”

(This takes some getting used to. “Hu” means “he,” “he” means “she,” and “me” means “who”!)

Literally, the biblical Hebrew sentence above would translate in English: Who he God?

But the smoother translation would say, Who is God?

In this case, “he” substitutes for (and means) “is.” A native speaker reading biblical Hebrew would automatically know that. As foreigners (in language and time), we need to learn to recognize when the third-person pronoun substitutes for the verb “to be.”

The LORD is God.

יְהוָה הוּא אלֹהִים

YHWH hu elohim.

This sentence answers the one above: Who is God? The LORD is God.

Again, literally, this sentence translates: The LORD he God.

But we would more smoothly translate it: The LORD is God.

The third-person pronoun “he” is substituting for “is” (the verb “to be”).

To recap (in English):

“Who he God?” is the same as “Who is God?”

“The LORD he God” is the same as “The LORD is God.”

Now practice reading those two sentences out loud in biblical Hebrew:

Mi hu elohim?

(Who) (is) (God)?

YHWH hu elohim.

(The LORD) (is) (God).

It’s a great statement of your faith!

Shalom and God bless.

Biblical Hebrew lesson

Interested in getting a taste of biblical Hebrew? There’s more to discover on my Biblical Hebrew Lessons page.