Hebrew Word for “Word”: Dabar/Davar

by | Feb 12, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

“The Word” itself is among the most important words in Scripture. This term is the opening thought in the Gospel of John in which he echoes the structure and thought of the Genesis opening passage. Words form the world’s creative energy; the universe came into being through God’s words. So, what is “word” in Hebrew?

The Hebrew translation of “word” is dabar or davar, with the letter “bet” pronounced as “v.” This interpretation refers to spoken words and divine communication from The Lord. The term’s Biblical concept carries a deeper meaning and is considered God’s living, active word. It’s effective and powerful to accomplish His purpose. The word can also mean “order” and “thing.” 

Different Translations of the Hebrew Word for “Word”

The Hebrew term davar has multiple translations highlighting the ancient Hebrew meaning of the term word. The primary ones are:

Dabar In Relation To “Order”

The Hebrew word for “word” derives from the parent root Dor, translating to order. Its verb form, davar, commonly refers to “speak” in Biblical text. This is evident in the phrase “vayidaber YHWH el Moshe l’mor,” which essentially translates to “Yahweh spoke to Moses.” Ancient Hebrews’ understanding of speech or speaking was an ordered word arrangement. 

Davar is a masculine noun, and Devorah (Deborah) is its feminine form. The latter also means bee, an insect known to form perfectly ordered colonies.  

Another popular derivation from the noun davar is midvar, which translates to wilderness. In the ancient Hebrew mind, wilderness is a place of order. This is quite in contrast with the city, which is mostly considered chaotic. 

The term “Ten Commandments” doesn’t appear directly in the Hebrew Bible in this state. Rather, the phrase appears as is aseret ha-devariym, which translates to “the ten orders.” Therefore, the Ten Commandments are orders from God. When we follow this ordered arrangement of ideas, we’ll achieve harmony. 

Dabar Meaning Thing

The Hebrew term “davar” reveals a fascinating facet of Hebrew philosophy. This specific word is commonly translated as “thing,” as evident in the verse, “all the things of the altar” (Numbers 18:7). In the Hebrew perspective, “words” hold equivalent substance to any other tangible “thing.” 

This inference helps us understand several things in the Bible. For instance, when Jacob nabbed his brother’s birthright, he essentially parted with his father Isaac’s “words” meant for his sibling (Genesis 27). When Essau arrived to claim his blessing, Isaac informed him that he had already issued it to Jacob.  

The Word of the Lord – DABAR YHWH

The Hebrew translation of the term “word” also has numerous meanings. But when you place it alongside the word Yahweh, the new phrase translates to the Word of the Lord. 

Dabar Yahweh is among the few ancient Hebrew titles or names of God in the Scripture. But the phrase doesn’t receive its deserved recognition. We first encounter this beautiful name in Genesis 15:1, where we learn that Abraham actually saw and interacted with the Word of the Lord. God visited Abraham in a vision and conveyed His formal message, as with most other prophets. 

God’s first words are even more fascinating: “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I am your protector; a substantial reward awaits you.” 

God’s Word Is Powerful

Everything around us demonstrates the power of speaking. The Lord created the entire universe this way: He spoke it forth. After finishing creation, he created man in His likeness after the proclamations. 

“And the Lord God created man of the dust. He then breathed into him the breath of life. As such, man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7). This verse deems man as a speaking spirit. 

The Lord later brought animals to Adam one at a time, and he didn’t name all these animals. Instead, Adam spoke over each of the different animals, and they adopted the attributes associated with the name they got. We are made in the precise image of The Creator. So, we hold the same power in our spoken words as Adam.  

Saying Is More Important Than Believing

 “Without a doubt, I affirm to you that anyone who Says to the mountain, ‘Relocate and plunge into the sea,’ and holds steadfast faith in his heart, but believes that whatever he says will happen; he will indeed achieve whatever he says.” (Mark 11:23)

The term say appears thrice in the opening verse. On the other hand, the Scripture mentions “believe” only once in this section. This isn’t by chance. Whenever the Holy Spirit captures a statement three times, you can be sure what follows deserves the utmost importance. 

  • Whoever says to this mountain
  • Believe the things he says
  • Will achieve whatever he says

Notice how these words appear in these powerful statements? There’s a pattern here. Clearly, the Scripture emphasizes “saying,” not believing. Of course, believing is important, and its role cannot go unmentioned. But the Scripture infers that God wants a lot more speaking. 

We Should Be Mindful of Our Words

Some of us wonder why Isaac couldn’t simply tell Jacob that the blessings he issued didn’t count since he (Isaac) got it undeservingly. But in the ancient Hebrew mind, we cannot take back words after speaking them.

The same applies to if Isaac had given his son a physical item, like a glass of milk. Isaac couldn’t recover the contents of the glass after Jacob consumed the milk. Therefore, we should always have this in mind every time we speak because our words can leave a profound effect on others. 

“A hasty speaker can be compared to the wounds caused by a sword, while a wise person’s tongue brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:8)

Conclusion

The Hebrew word for Word isn’t a mere translation but sheds light on just how powerful words can be. In fact, the first verse of the gospel of John emphasizes this by equating the “Word” to God himself.

So don’t be shaken when proclaiming God’s word. Rather, do so with the utmost confidence, knowing that The Lord will shield you just like Abraham. Moreover, it’s always wise to watch our words. Speaking is irreversible, and we cannot take back what we say.

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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