Concordant Hebrew English Sublinear
for WLC
version 2.2
© Copyright 2015 Menno Haaijman

This edition is still a work-in-progress,
with further revisions and editing forthcoming.

Abbreviation key

CHES : word choice

As mentioned in the Introduction, the CHES in the ISA program is based on the vocabulary of the Concordant Version of the Old Testament (CVOT).
The CVOT, in turn, is based on Wigram's Englishman's Concordance. By a process of comparison and elimination, the translators of the CVOT made an exhaustive investigation of the whole biblical Hebrew vocabulary in order to find the single most exact English equivalent for each Hebrew word: one which will not only fit each context in which the original word appears, but one which is not needed for any other Hebrew word. This vocabulary method deals with each word as having a definite province for the realm of its thought, and the idiomatic variants chosen are carefully kept within this etymological and contextual boundary.
This process of comparison and elimination was continued with frequent changes and revisions, over a long period of time, until the words in the divine vocabulary were given their nearest English equivalent.
As an example, we will take the well-known stem כפר  [kphr], which sounds like our word 'cover', and is generally given this meaning by scholars. This word is often translated 'atonement' in the Authorized Version.
It may help us to grasp the basic meaning of this stem if we combine its renderings in the KJV. These are : appease, atonement (make), bribe, camphire, cleanse, disannul, forgive, merciful (be), mercy seat, pacify, pardon, pitch, purge, put off, ransom, reconcile, satisfaction, sum of money, village; besides bason, hoarfrost, lion and young .
It will be seen from these that the stem does convey the general idea of a cover. But the examination of another stem,  כסה [kse], will show that this must be rendered 'cover'. It is almost always so translated in the Authorized Version. Only occasionally we find : clad, close, conceal, hide, overwhelm, raiment, vesture, all of which are closely allied to 'cover'. No other English word will do as well as 'cover' for the Hebrew כסה [kse].
But we should not use the same term, 'cover', for both כפר [kphr] and כסה [kse]. A closer examination of כפר  [kphr] will show that it always refers to a protective cover, a 'shelter'. This will be found a far more satisfactory equivalent.
The word 'atonement' in the KJV does not convey the full sense. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses 'propitiation'. To keep the connection between this and later revelation and, at the same time, show the simple force of the stem, it should be rendered : 'propitiatory shelter'.

Since the vocabulary was fixed by analysis prior to translation, and because this analysis is based on concordances, it is called the concordant method.

The CHES in the ISA program stays as close as possible to the text of the CVOT, in its translation of the MT, but differs in cases where the CVOT, in its translation, chooses a variant reading, away from the MT, such as the LXX.
The ISA interlinear text, however, in each case, follows the MT, and translates the Hebrew text consistently, even when it makes no sense. It is left to the reader to extract a rational rendering.

CHES : grammar

The grammar of the CHES has been keyed to the Westminster Hebrew Morphology (WHM), to meet the needs of Bible students to follow intelligently the traditional interpretation of the MT.
Although this introduction is not intended as a primer for Hebrew grammar, the attempts to maintain grammatical literalness demands that the elements of Hebrew grammar be briefly discussed in relation to the way they affect the translation.

(1) The nominal system

  Nouns. Hebrew nouns are rendered as English nouns, unless the Hebrew nouns are also used as adjectives. In the latter case they are rendered as adjectives. Only proper names (e.g., Jacob) and place- names (e.g., Canaan) are capitalized.
  Number. Hebrew singulars are rendered as singulars, Hebrew plurals as plurals.
  Gender. In Hebrew gender will be seen consistently in the pronouns and the verbal system, discussed below.
  Absolute and construct structure. Possession and other genitive functions are expressed by the construct structure. The word in construct in Hebrew is indicated in the translation by the use of the word of as a suffix (e.g., Gen. 12:15,  בית פרעה  [bith phroe], 'house-of Pharao').
 Adjectives. Adjectives are rendered in the same way as nouns in regard to number and gender. Plurality is indicated by the addition of the word 'ones' (e.g., Gen. 1:16, המארת הגדלים  [e·marth e·gdlim], 'the·lights the·great-ones').
  Article. The Hebrew article is always translated by the English definite article (see example of Gen. 1:16 above). It is translated everywhere it appears, even when not needed in English (e.g., Gen. 22:9, האלהים [e·aleim], 'the·God'). It is never supplied in translation where it does not occur in Hebrew.
 Pronouns. Pronouns are consistently rendered according to person, number, and gender. Since Hebrew, unlike English, has no neuter gender, inanimate objects are referred to as 'he', or 'she', not as 'it'. This gender distinction will often aid in the identification of a subject with its verb or a noun with its modifier, as they will share the same gender. In the translation, moreover, pronominal suffixes are suffixed to the word they modify (e.g., Gen. 6:18 בריתי   [brith·i], 'covenant-of·me').
Because no special pronouns are used in Hebrew to refer to God and because such reference is often a matter of interpretation, no pronouns are capitalized.
Although modern English does not distinguish between second person masculine and feminine, singular and plural (using 'you' for all the forms), or between third person plural, masculine and feminine (referring to both as 'they'), the interlinear text makes a differentiation by adding the sign '(p)', or '(f)', to draw attention to this matter.
The following chart shows all the possible spellings of these pronouns, both independent and suffixed.

  Interrogatives. As interrogatives introduce a question, they are always followed by a question mark, when they are independent words (e.g., Gen. 4:9, אי [ai], 'where?'). The prefix ה [e], (e.g., Gen 4:7, הלוא [e·lua], '?·not') is rendered by placing the question mark first.

(2) The verbal system

  Stem. A characteristic of Semitic languages is the verbal system. Unlike the Indo-European languages known to most of us, Semitic languages do not have a three-tense system (past, present, future). Rather, there is something like aspect, the verb-form describing an act or a state that is complete or incomplete.
A second feature of the verbal system is the use of derived stems (wrongly called 'conjugations', the Hebrew term בונה [bune], 'building' is preferable), to indicate reflexation, causation etc. of the action.
Aspect and stem modification of the verb root are accomplished by alterations of the consonantal and vowel pattern, usually along with the adition of certain preformative (prefixed), sufformative (suffixed), and infixed elements.
The CHES follows closely the parsing provided by the WHM, so there is no need for memorization of the basic vowel patterns of the verbal system, or consulting lexicons when in doubt about the inflection of a verb. All the Hebrew stems have been distinguished in translation.

  Person, number, and gender. The person, number, and gender of all finite verbs are indicated by the use of pronouns as subjects, even when the subject is expressed by means of a noun or independent pronoun (e.g., Gen. 1:1 אלהים ברא  [bra aleim], 'he-created God'). The possibility of confusing the expressed subject with the object of the verb is usually eliminated by pronouns or the definite direct object indicator (see את [ath], below).
The problem of distinguishing second person, masculine and feminine, singular and plural, as well as third person plural, masculine and feminine, has been handled in the same way as the pronouns (see Pronouns above). Most questions should be answered by consulting the WHM, (recommended!), or the following chart, which lists all the perfect and imperfect preformative indicators used consistently in all stems to distinguish person, number, and gender.

  Tense, or aspect, and mood. The two major tenses , or aspects - perfect and imperfect - are carefully distinguished in the interlinear text. As mentioned above, the Hebrew language, strictly speaking, has no verb forms which express either past or future. When the verb inflections of person and number are indicated by postfixing equivalent endings to the verb stem, the emphasis remains on the fact, for which the stem stands. Such forms are rendered by the Indefinite (e.g., Gen. 37:19  בא [ba], 'he-comes'), or the Past Tense ('he-came').
When the pronoun part of the verb is prefixed, the emphasis shifts to the subject pronoun, thus indicating that it is in the process of carrying through an action. These forms are rendered by the Present Tense (e.g. Ex. 18:15 יבא [iba], 'he-is-coming') or the Future Tense ('he-shall-come').
Imperative forms are indicated by an exclamation mark (e.g., Gen. 12:1, לך [lk], 'go!'), and are distinguished to number. As the imperative uses the same afformatives as the perfect, the chart above, or the WHM parsing, will serve to make the necessary distinctions as to gender.
  Infinitives. The infinitives, absolute and construct, are always prefixed with 'to' in translation, (e.g., Gen. 2:17 מות [muth], 'to-die'). The preposition ל [l], often prefixed to the infinitive construct, receives an additional 'to' in translation (e.g., Gen. 25:32 למות [l·muth], 'to·to-die-of').
  Participles. Participles are translated by English participles that end in -ing (e.g., Gen 1:2,  מרפת[mrchphth], 'vibrating'). However, in the case of most passive participles and of words that do not have a participle form in English, the word being is used as a helper (e.g., Ex. 39:9,  כפול [kphul], 'being-doubled'). Gender is not indicated, but plurals are rendered with the addition of the word ones (e.g., Ex. 25:20, סככים [skkim], 'ones-overshadowing').
Many participal forms in Hebrew have become fixed as substantives (e.g., Gen. 14:18 כהן [ken], 'priest') and are therefore rendered as nouns, though they could have been rendered as participles. As always, the CHES translates the Hebrew according to the WHM.

(3) Particles

  Prepositions. Prepositions - prefixed or independent - are always translated, whether or not they are necessary in English (e.g., Gen.27:27  וישק־לו  [u·ishq-l·u], 'and·he-is-kissing to·him').
All prefixed prepositions have been separated from the verb for identification, in accordance with the WHM parsing.
  Conjunctions. As in the case of prepositions, the conjunction ו [u], 'and', when prefixed, has been separated from the verb for identification, in accordance with the WHM parsing.
  Other particles and parts of speech. The following deserve attention :
את [ath], the definite direct object indicator, is never translated. When standing independently, it is rendered with two arrows (»). When prefixed or suffixed, the direct object indicator is also rendered (e.g. Gen. 1:1  ואת  [u·ath], 'and·»'; Gen. 2:3, אתו [ath·u], '»·him').
ה, the directive suffix, is translated as a preposition (e.., Gen. 12:10, מצרימה [mtzrim·e], 'Egypt·ward').

(4) The Divine Name and Titles

The three different forms of the principal Divine Title are usually rendered, indicriminately, 'God' in the popular versions. The concordant interlinear text CHES consistently preserves all the minute distinctions of these forms. Thus אלהים [aleim], becomes 'Elohim', אלה [ale], or אלוה [alue], becomes 'Eloah', and אל [al], becomes 'El'.
These titles are also used of foreign deities. To avoid interpretation these 'elohim' are consistently rendered 'Elohim' with a capital 'E'.

The Name of the Deity, יהוה [ieue], is rendered with the commonly accepted 'Yahweh'.

(5) Abbreviation key



Select bibliography


Kohlenberger III, John R., The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament; Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., 1987

Clayton, E.H., et al., The Concordant Hebrew-English Sublinear; Concordant Publishing Concern, Santa Clarita, California, U.S.A. (unpublished)


WHM Westminster Hebrew Morphology Database Version 4.4, 2005, Westminister Hebrew Institute, Westminster Theological Seminary. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

Kohlenberger III, John R., The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament (Introduction); Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., 1987

LaSor, William.S., Handbook of Biblical Hebrew; Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., 1978

Knoch, A.E. Introduction on the Concordant Version of the Hebrew and Chaldee Scriptures; Concordant Publishing Concern, Santa Clarita, California, U.S.A., 1957

Lexicons and concordances

Wigram, George V., The Enlishman's Hebrew Concordance of the Old Testament; Hendricksons Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusets, U.S.A., 1997

Hough, Dean et al., The Concordant Vocabulary of the Old Testament, Concordant Publishing Concern, Santa Clarita, California, U.S.A. (unpublished)


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