Tag Archives: numbers

The inspiration of scripture: divine dictation

Charlton Heston as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten CommandmentsNote: If this is your first exposure to this series, I’d appreciate it if you’d start with the introduction to the series so that you’re able to put this post in context.

I grew up with the notion that the phrase “God inspired the Bible” was functionally equivalent to “God wrote the Bible.” In my young mind, the biblical writers were essentially stenographers, more or less taking dictation from God. In the churches that nourished my childhood faith, the phrases “the Bible says” and “God says” meant the same thing.

As it turns out, the Bible does in fact portray divine dictation as one way in which the creation of a text might be prompted and guided.

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Math word problems in Biblical Hebrew

Photograph of an abacusRemember the word problems that you used to solve back in your grade-school math classes? I thought that simple word problems like those would serve as good exercise to help students learn, use, and retain their Biblical Hebrew numbers, so I created two sets of four word problems each. I delivered the first set online via Pepperdine’s “learning management system,” casting them as multiple-choice questions. I delivered the second set on paper so that students would need to compose their answers, and of course I expected the students to answer in Biblical Hebrew, not using Arabic numerals. If you wish, you can download the second quiz and its answer key. Three of the four questions on this quiz feature actual biblical situations, and incorporate biblical quotations either word-for-word or with minimal alteration. This quiz focuses students’ attention on larger numbers (from twenty up into the hundreds); it achieves attention to both genders of single-digit numbers primarily by including numbers that go into the hundreds. Question ג׳ involves nouns that I actually expected my students not to know (specifically, כֹּר סֹלֶת and כֹּר קָמַח), much like a grade-school word problem might ask a student to calculate how many blargs Jane has if she starts with two blargs and gets two more blargs from Tom. I intended question ד׳ as much for entertainment value in a late-semester quiz as much as for anything else; take a look and see whether I succeeded.

As usual, if you use this quiz to teach or learn Biblical Hebrew, please leave a note to that effect in the comments. Also, if you find that I’ve made any errors in the quiz, please let me know so that I can correct them. Finally, I’d receive any additional questions with great interest; perhaps some of us Hebrew teachers should put together a question bank for this sort of thing.