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The King James Bible Old Testament 

Pronunciation, spelling and meaning of Old Testament Biblical Place Names and Personal Names

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Names in the Bible - Pronunciation, spelling and meaning of Old Testament Biblical Place Names and Personal Names

Hebrew place names and personal names and some Hebrew words that appear in the King James and other versions of the bible were transliterated according to an often incorrect and arbitrary method, and sometimes several words were run together either in the Hebrew original or gratuitously in the translation.

These errors originated before the publication of the King James Version, but one of the rules adopted by the translators was to retain the "vulgar" or common pronunciations, just perpetuating distorted pronunciations such as Jehosaphat for Yehoshaphat.

Very often, the biblical name of a place or person has a meaning in the context of the story being told, as names of persons were often assumed names or nicknames. Sometimes the original is unintelligible from the English transcription, which came by way of Latin and Greek.

The following will give some idea of the distortions and how to restore the original.

Letter J - Hebrew has no letter "J." In all names having a "J" in them, the J should be pronounced as "Y" or i at the beginning of the syllable. For example:

Adonijah should be Adoneeyah (meaning, "My lord is God")

Jedediah should be Yedidiah  (meaning, "Friend of God")

Jeremiah is Yermiyahu in Hebrew.

Joel is YoEl in Hebrew (meaning "Jehovah is God")


This error was transmitted indiscriminately, even when the Hebrew spelling was Aleph Yud rather than Yud:

Job should be iyov.

Jezebel should be Iyzevel. The name means "pile of garbage" in Hebrew, and was certainly not the real name of the Queen taken to wife by King Ahab. She was given that name because of her idolatrous practices, and because the compilers of the Bible and the book of Kings obviously did not like her. It is not clear what the actual name should be, or what she was called in her lifetime by her subjects.

The name Ye'hezkel (God will strengthen) , on the other hand, was transmuted to "Ezekiel" in English.

The name Yishayahu (God will save) was transmuted to "Isaiah" in English.

Letter S - The letter "S" is often used instead of the Hebrew or Semitic "Shin" which is pronounced as "sh". Thus, for example:

Jerusalem is Yerushalayim in Hebrew (Meaning "City of Peace" perhaps originally "Yeru Shalem or Ur Salem")

Jehoshaphat is Yeho-Shahfaht (meaning "God Judged"). Sometimes called "Jehosaphat" in English.


Letters B and V - In the middle or end of a syllable, the Hebrew Bet (B) is always "soft" and is pronounced as "v." Thus for example:

Abigail is Avigahyil in Hebrew.

Abinadab is Avinahdahv in Hebrew.

Abimelech is Avi Melech in Hebrew (meaning "Father of a king")

Ebenezer is Evenehzehr in Hebrew.

Jeraboam is Yerahvahm in Hebrew.

Jerubaal is Yerubaal in Hebrew because the "B" in Baal begins a new syllable. The name means "Fears (worships) Baal (the god of the Canaanites).

Joab is Yoav, meaning perhaps "God is the father."

Letters th - The th dipthing combination was often used to signify the letter "taf" in the middle or end of a syllable, were it is softer than "T." In modern Hebrew these are not distinguished. Thus, "Jonathan" is "Yohnahtahn" (God Gave) in Hebrew.

Common components of biblical names - Some commonly used components of biblical names and their meaning:

Avi - Father. Always transliterated incorrectly as "Abi" in the King James version.

Melech - King.

El - God

Ya - God. Usually transliterated as JA in the King James Bible.

Yahu - God

Yo - God

Natan - gave

Ram - mighty. Abram (av ram) may have meant "mighty father," or "father of the mighty."

Tsedek - Justice. Melkitzedek = My king is justice.

Nouns mistaken for names and incorrect plurals - The translators sometimes mistook ordinary nouns for names of nations. Thus, for example, Anahkim means giants. It is the plural of Anahk. The translators apparently took "Anahkim" to be the name of a people, and therefore added an "s" at the end and rendered it as "Anakims." Likewise, Seraphim (plural of Saraph) is rendered in English as "Seraphims."

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The bible and Zionism

The Bible, the Old Testament, has become a mainstay of human culture, but it is first and foremost a historical document of the Jewish people and our culture. It tells the story of our ancient kingdoms and civilization in the Land of Israel, and therefore it kept alive the tie of the people of Israel to the land of Israel for 2000 years. It forms the moral and cultural basis of Zionist ideology and aspirations.

The Bible, the Old Testament, is accepted by the three major Western faiths. It is a major work of Western civilization. The Bible documents the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, even for those who do not believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and even for those who do not believe in God at all. It is the historic epic of the Jewish people in our land.  

Additional Background

Maps of Israel (Canaan, Palestine)in Bible Times

Map of Canaan (Israel) in the time of Joshua (Black and White)
Map of ancient Canaan (Palestine) after the Conquest by the Israelites
Palestine (Israel, Canaan) in the Time of the Judges
Map of Ancient Israel (Canaan) in the reigns of Kings David and Solomon (Black and White)
Map of Judah (Judea) in the Divided Kingdom
Map of Judah (Judea) in the Maccabean Kingdom of Alexander Janeus (Yannai)
Map of the Roman Province of Judea

Map - Canaan Before the Hebrews

Map - Canaan and the Early Israelite Kingdom

Map - The kingdoms of Israel and Judea; Judea and Samaria in the time of Jesus

Map and article - Judea (Judah) and Judea and Samaria

Map of Palestine 1845 - Showing biblical and contemporary sites

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