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Emphasis in Biblical Hebrew

The following comes from

One cannot be certain of the intonation meant for certain phrases in Hebrew because of the lack of punctuation. In Hebrew there are various linguistic techniques used for emphasis.

Term repetition

Some examples of this include “slave of slaves” (Gen 9:25) to indicate the lowest of slaves; “ever more of ever mores” (Isa 34:10) meaning forever; “gladness my joy” (Ps 43:4) where two synonyms for “joy” are repeated.

Another similar technique there is a repetition of the same word with a change in the form of one of the words. For example, in Gen 2:17 the word “die” is repeated in the form of “dying” and is translated as “surely die.” This is a standard Hebrew form used for emphasis and does not mean “a state of dying” as some seem to suggest. Gen 2:17 “you shall surely die” (Heb, *mot tamut*) the first form of the word “die” is in the infinitive absolute form (i.e., *mot*) meaning “dying”; the basic form is *mut* and appears as the second word.

The technique of term repetition is not totally foreign to English speakers. In Shakespeare’s English the double negative (e.g., “no not”) was used to emphasize “no.” In the 19th century the “linguistic logicians” destroyed this technique for modern English.


Another form to emphasis words is the word “very” (Hebrew, “meod”). Some examples of this word can be found in Gen 1:31, I Ki 1:4, and Ezek 9:9. But in Ezek 37:10 we have a combination of this word with the repetition technique discussed earlier. In Ezek 37:10 it
literally says: “army great very very” which is translated to “an exceedingly great army.” The double usage of ephasis paints a picture of a truly vast army!


Idioms are also used for emphasis. Nineveh is described as “a city great to God” in Jonah 3:3. This Hebrew idiom, “great to God,” indicates very large, magnificent, important, or significant. Jonah also uses an idiom to indicate his great anger when he says that he is
“angry unto death” (Jonah 4:9).


Sometimes a word out of its normal order is used to emphasis it by drawing attention to it.

A word or phrase that does not fit in with the pattern of an image being
drawn also draws subtle attention to itself.

A word or phrase used in a peculiar grammatical way draws attention to itself creating a form of emphasis. 

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