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SELECTED FROM HEBREW SCHOOL-BOOKS MOST APPROVED AND
ADDITIONS, KEYS, AND GLOSSARY,
ADAPTED FOR ENGLISH LEARNERS,
HERMANN HEDWIG BERNARD,
HEBREW TEACHER IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE,
AUTHOR OF THE
CREED AND ETHICS OF THE JEWS EXHIBITED IN SELECTIONS FROM THE
JOHN W. PARKER, WEST STRAND.
WHEN a Student directs his attention to a language heretofore unknown to him, he is naturally led to inquire for some Elementary Reading-book, which, containing easy compositions or selections, furnished with Keys and other helps, may serve as a preparatory means of introducing him to the Classics of that language. Now, it is a remarkable fact, that, while the acquisition of almost every other language has been facilitated by a copious variety of such aids, the Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament Scriptures, has, in this country, been hitherto destitute of them. Scarce has the Hebrew learner made himself acquainted with some of the grammatical rules, and hastened through a few examples quoted as elucidations of them, when, without further preparation, he opens a Volume at once the most ancient, the most classical, and (perhaps we may add) the most difficult-the Hebrew Bible!
Here anomalous forms, and sentences of intricate phraseology, retard his progress at every step; Masoretic notes, intelligible only to the consummate Hebraist, bewilder him in every line; Keris and Kethibs assail him on every page; and Accents, diversified in use as in shape, oppose a formidable barrier in every word. And even if, after long and patient labour, he so far succeeds as to work his way through a few verses of Genesis, it remains
a question, whether his success is attributable to the actual progress that he has made in the Original, or to his previous familiar acquaintance with the English translation. To measure the Student's advancement with any degree of exactness, some easy book, in pure and Biblical Hebrew, should be put into his hands, with the passages of which he is not so fully acquainted, as to forestall his lesson by verbatim recollections of its version in his native tongue. Thus only can there be made a fair calculation of his real progress and acquirements at each successive step. But how can an object so desirable be satisfactorily attained, so long as no book, in pure and Biblical Hebrew, is open to the learner, except the Bible itself?
The want of elementary Hebrew works, that might serve as an Introduction to the Hebrew Sacred Scriptures, was felt by the Jews in Germany; and it was supplied by Wolfsfohn, Head Master of the Royal William School at Breslau, and by Ben Zeeb, Author of the well-known and justly celebrated Hebrew Grammar* (written in Hebrew), at Vienna. To these two great Hebraists Germany is indebted for Hebrew School-books, the value of which has been so highly appreciated, that they have already passed through several editions. They are deservedly considered as the most powerful engines ever employed for successfully attacking and ultimately mastering the Hebrew language.
But if the Jews in Germany, who from their earliest childhood are taught to read, to write to pray, and almost to think in Hebrew, and with whom Hebrew learning incontrovertibly stands in the zenith of its glory; if they,
תלמוד לשון עברי Entitled *
who can boast of having produced, in our day, such Masters in Hebrew literature as Mendelsfohn, Wessley, Eichel, Bril, Wolfsfohn, and Ben Zeeb, (men whose respective works, essays, and commentaries, written in Hebrew, will be read with admiration by all future generations);* if these have judged the Hebrew Bible to be a Volume too sublime and too difficult for the tyro; if they have deemed it necessary, by introductory works, to smooth and level the steep and arduous path that leads to that Sanctuary : -it appears to be an axiom needing no demonstration, that the same assistance is requisite for students in this country, who, without any previous bias of education or early training, usually commence their pursuits in Hebrew literature at a much maturer age. To afford such assistance, to provide the English Student with a Book that may serve him as a Guide and Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, is the object contemplated in the following pages.
With the exception of some additions,† and a few very slight alterations, the following sheets are selected from the Hebrew School-books published by Wolfsfohn and Ben Zeeb. The language will be found to be that of the purest Biblical Hebrew; the Keys after each paragraph, as far as they extend, are ample; and the Glossary at the end of the work full and extensive. Here some few words may have been occasionally omitted which occur in the text; but those that are given will be found not only with the various acceptations in which they are used in the work itself, but also, for the most part, with all their
* See note at the end of the Preface.
The Editor, by no means desiring to mix up and confound the productions of such names as Wolfsfohn and Ben Zeeb with those that are from his own humble pen, has uniformly affixed the signature [Ed.] to the latter.