May 25, 2024

As I did my regular biblical studies I noticed that more than 30 different Hebrew words were being translated as ‘gather’. Being the curious type, I searched the old testament for the word to see just how many words were interpreted as ‘gather’ and why.

The nature of the Hebrew language and Hebraic thought tells me that there is only one word for ‘gather’ that all others must mean something else or something more specific. So I studied it and this is what I found.

Two Letters Say Gather

Before we get to the details, let’s discuss the nature of the Hebrew language by looking at two letters that also mean gather.

I am always impressed by the Hebrew language and how its letters define all things Hebrew. A little known fact: There are two Hebrew letters that mean gather.

  • The first is the ג (gim) which means to gather gradually or accumulate.
  • The second is ק (qoph) which is to gather quickly or to snatch or suck up.

Although both refer to a gathering, these letters don’t actually mean the same thing… In fact, the distinction is important because these two are opposites since they don’t only describe a gathering but specifically how things are gathered.

Hebrew words can be the same way. What is interpreted as identical, may actually be significantly different. This is what I found when looking at the 30 ways English bibles interpret ‘gather’.

An Anaylisis of Facts

Did you know that English Bibles translate 34 different words as ‘gather’ and that those same words are interpreted as completely different things more than 79.4% of the time?

Here’s some information about the 8 Hebrew words most frequently translated as ‘gather’…

Hover over each word to see the exact number of times each Hebrew word is translated as ‘gather’.

In the above figure, the bigger are those that occur more frequently in scripture translated ‘gather’. But the figure below shows that the amount of times a word is translated a certain way doesn’t necessarily imply that it is translated correctly, or as was common among early translators.

In this figure, the size of the words represents the rate at which they were translated as ‘gather’. The larger the word, the higher the rate of translation as ‘gather’. It measures the consistency in translations, a better measure of accuracy than frequency. So it can be understood that the bigger the word, the higher the rate of consistency in that translation. In which case, קבץ (kobets) and גור (gore) are the words with meanings that most closely relate to the English word ‘gather’. The smaller the words get, the less likely they are Hebrew equivalents of ‘gather’.

Were you aware that 18% of the Hebrew terms translated as ‘gather’ is done so at a rate less than 1 in 20. In other words, for every 20 times that same Hebrew word occurs in scripture, it is translated as something OTHER THAN gather 19 of those times? This implies that translators took some liberties in their interpretation of ancient Hebrew manuscripts.

Were you aware that only 14% of all instances of these words are translated as ‘gather’? In many cases, the other 86% are interpreted as completely different words that have nothing to do with gathering at all? As such, we can deduce that most translators did not understand most of these words to mean gather at all.

When studying the Bible, do you considered these facts? To get to the bottom of God’s truth we must consider these things rather than taking early translators’ at their word.

The fact is that even 6th-century Mesoretic scholors were far removed from the original Hebrew text and language. Our earliest English translations of scripture came about 1000 years after theirs, in the 1600s, conveniently around the height of European slavery of Africans and colonization of the Americas.

Do you remember who early translators were and times they lived in? How did they decide when a word that doesn’t usually mean something, did indeed mean just that in a subset of instances?

Although this study is on the word ‘gather’, it is not the only evidence of individual and intentional interpretation verses pure translation in English Bibles. This isn’t to say that English Bibles are completely wrong, but that deeper understanding of scriptures requires a deeper look at the language of those who wrote them – Hebrews!

The same can be said with any interpreted/translated work. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to Hebrew scriptures but one close to my heart. It’s for this reason that I am using technology and my Hebrew studies to create a more unbiased translation and interpretation of Ancient Hebrew texts!


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